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Waverley by Sir Walter Scott

by on September 18th, 2014
Waverley by Sir Walter Scott Cover Image

Until recently, the first thing that came to mind when Sir Walter Scott was mentioned is that he is one of the authors in my Game of Authors card deck.  When I heard about the exciting upcoming programs on Scott and his Waverley novels, though, I knew I had to read at least one of the novels, and I’m very glad I did.

Waverley; or, ‘Tis Sixty Years Since was published anonymously in 1814 to great acclaim; for the next thirteen years Scott continued publishing novels which were known as “by the author of Waverley” and he only officially claimed authorship of them in 1827.  Some of Scott’s better-known titles today are Rob Roy, Ivanhoe, and the long poem The Lady of the Lake.

Waverley often is called the first historical novel, and is about a young Englishman–Edward Waverley–who is posted to Scotland, and whose loyalties become torn between his English origins and the Scottish Highland clans in the Jacobite rising of 1745.  Scott is a terrific story-teller, bringing to life characters from all levels of 18th century society and painting beautiful pictures in my mind of the Highland lochs, stones and mountains.   I was prepared for the long, descriptive sentences but surprised—happily—by Scott’s dry sense of humor; I found myself smiling often as I read.  Reading Waverley now, as modern-day Scotland is voting on whether to separate from the United Kingdom, reinforces just how old and complex this quest for independence is.

Scott was a contemporary of Jane Austen and she had this to say about Scott and Waverley:  “Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones. – It is not fair. – He has Fame & Profit enough as a Poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths. – I do not like him, & do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it – but fear I must…”  I should have taken Austen’s word for it a long time ago.  And I will definitely read more of the Waverley novels.

Don’t miss learning more about Sir Walter Scott and the Waverley novels at ICPL’s program at noon on Friday, September 19th, and on October 5 at the Iowa City Book Festival.

ICPL’s Sunday Fun Day Presents: October Improv! The Story’s the Thing

by on September 18th, 2014

The Iowa City Public Library invites children interested in the performing arts to join them every Sunday in October for October Improv! The Story’s the Thing. Drama-Club-poster2

Using a variety of drama techniques to bring popular children’s stories to life, October Improv! will explore the many ways there are to tell stories, and how actors can experience the character, action, and themes inside of stories.

These weekly drama sessions will be led by AmyRuth McGraw and students from the University of Iowa’s “Drama in the Classroom” course. AmyRuth has a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre for Youth from Arizona State University. She spent four years as the Associate Director of Education for Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York, and was an Outreach Specialist for Sunshine, Too, a touring theatre company sponsored by the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Caps for Sale, designed for children in grades kindergarten through second grade, will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5 in the Storytime Room, in conjunction with the Iowa City Book Festival. Children are invited to take on the role of monkeys and experience this well-loved story in a new way. They’ll also learn to build a story with their bodies, voices, and an empty room.

The Legend of the Shooting Star, designed for students in third through sixth grades, will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12 in the Storytime Room. Participants will explore how storytelling devices prepare them for drama work, music inspires movement, and playing broadens the creative mind.

The Little Engine That Could, designed for children in grades kindergarten through second grade, will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19, in the Storytime Room. Participants will use their bodies as building blocks, creating machines and exploring how to give trains personalities.

Stone Soup, for students in third through sixth grades, will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26, in the Storytime Room. Participants will explore the difference between drama and reader’s theatre, learning how an actor communicates character and action by blending narration, vocal work, and limited movement.

October Improv! The Story’s the Thing is free to attend, but registration is required. To register, call the Library at (319) 356-5200.

Ride and Read at Your Library!

by on September 16th, 2014

Did you know your Library Card is a ticket to ride an Iowa City Transit bus? The program is called “Ride and Read.”  Two times a week, patrons with a valid Iowa City Public Library card may present their card to the Help Desk, Children’s Desk or Reference Desk and get a FREE bus pass to ride an Iowa City Transit bus.  The bus pass is stamped with the current date, and must be used on that day.  The Ride and Read program is for people of all ages – the only requirement is a valid Library card.  This is another great reason to make sure you always have your Library Card handy.

And speaking of bus rides, we recently received information from Iowa City Transit staff about utilization of the Summer Library Bus program.  We think this program is awesome, and many others thought so too because 2,943 people hopped on the Summer Library Bus and caught a ride downtown this summer.  What’s even more awesome is that utilization of this program was spread throughout Iowa City – the busiest routes were Lakeside and Oakcrest.  There’s a chart below that shows how use was spread across the Transit routes..

For those who don’t know about the Summer Library Bus program, the Library provides free bus rides to children through 12th grade, and the adult caregivers who are with them, on any Iowa City Transit bus route, from the day after Iowa City Schools dismiss until the day before school start, on weekdays between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm.  Bus riders show their Iowa City Public Library card to the bus driver to gain free access to the bus.
Happy Reading and Happy Riding!
2013 Summer Library Bus





Bus Route # Rides
Lakeside 514
Oakcrest 426
Court Hill 350
Broadway 326
Westwinds 253
Rochester 213
Towncrest 206
N Dodge 106
Crosspark 84
Manville Hgts 79
Westside Hosp 77
Mall 74
Plaen View 72
Westport 67
Eastside Exp 58
Melrose Exp 33
7th Avenue 5
Total Rides 2,943

I am Iron Man – Teen Comic Book Club

by on September 15th, 2014


The next meeting of ICPL’s Teen Comic Book Club will be on Thursday, September 25 in the Teen Center.  We’re discussing all things Iron Man.  Pick any Iron Man comic to read and we’ll geek out about it at the meeting.  Need some ideas?  Here are a few comics about Marvel’s Armored Avenger:

Iron Man Season One - Re-tells the origin and early adventures of billionaire weapons manufacturer Tony Stark and his superpowered alter-ego, Iron Man.

Extremis - Extremis has created a new generation of twenty-first century technologies which threaten Earth, and it is up to Iron Man to save humankind.

Armor Wars - Tony discovers that the same technology he used to create the Iron Man armor is now in the hands of several deadly super-villains. In the face of objections from his friends and fellow super heroes, Stark swears to use the power of Iron Man to bring the evil to an end – and to take back what’s his.

Enter the Mandarin - Iron Man battles the Mandarin, a Chinese revolutionary leader with strange powers acquired through alien technology who is bent on world domination.

Children’s Garden Update from Scott Koepke

by on September 15th, 2014

Garden 2014 postTwo of my favorite words together are “edible landscapes.” What a beautiful way to describe creative uses of public green space for food in addition to flowers. Year three of the City Plaza Children’s Garden will be over already before you know it, so I thought I’d check in with a brief update on some highlights from this past summer.

We harvest food from the garden every Wednesday, and all produce is donated to Table To Table. Our annual rain dance with the pre-schoolers ultimately worked. Perhaps a bit too well. It seems to be feast or famine with rainfall this year. A good rain soaker can often take a gardener through a couple of weeks, and is much more preferable than using tap water. Luckily, we haven’t had to water supplementally that much. Raised beds typically dry out quicker, but the better we take care of the soil with plenty of organic matter, the more effectively it holds onto water molecules to get through dry spells. And, as anyone who knows my teaching knows, it’s all about the soil. We also did a fun “balanced diet promise” with the kiddos the other day. They all put their hands over their hearts before we read some carrot stories, and promised me that they’d eat their veggies!

The bumper crop this year has been eggplant. That purple is the color of summer. Cherry Tomato jungle got a haircut recently. And, of course, the ever-popular natural trellis of cucumbers climbing the sunflowers continues to be a big attraction. That discovery, by the way, like many discoveries, was a serendipitous accident: a couple years ago on children’s day at Arts Fest, when we were planting, some cucumber seeds fell out of my pocket near the sunflower seeds and, voila! Cukes climbing sunnies. Companions forever. Next year I’d love to do one bed just with root crops: more ‘taters, beets, onions, carrots and garlic. It’s important to remember the distinction between above and below ground plants.

It hasn’t all been sunshine and roses. This has been the first season that we’ve had a bit more vandalism and theft. Some plants ripped out and signs stolen. But, overall, as I say every year, I’m still so grateful for the respect this space is given. And you know what? Those rare events of disrespect, in my experience at least, have been valuable, teachable moments. I even had one person come up to me this year and apologize for removing one of the two celery bunches.

The city is still on track to remodel the ped mall, likely in the next couple of years or so. City Staff has been very supportive of the children’s garden, and have told me that they indeed plan to retain enough sunlight-adequate space to continue this precious community resource. I will never tire of watching families walk around the beds, identifying veggies. But I’m a man of simple pleasures.

Soon to come, as well, will be the annual “Putting The Beds To Bed” routine: broadcasting a cover crop of rye seed. I recommend this for any gardener. Soil should never lay bare. Rye is a regenerative cover that will return in spring, unlike oats & peas, for instance, which are “winterkill” – both methods, however, do their job: building organic matter to provide chemically-available nutrients to root systems.  So, to come full circle, let’s return to the essential theme of taking care of the soil first. Then we have plants. Then we have food and oxygen for people and animals. And then we’re here.

Thanks again, Iowa City, for honoring the City Plaza Children’s Garden. And a huge thank you to Rachael Carlson, Scott Spak and Mara Cole who help each summer tremendously with Children’s Day planting, produce deliveries and signage! As I always tell all of my students, the best is yet to come. – Scott Koepke, New Pi Soilmates.

Iowa City Public Library Presents Totally Tweens

by on September 15th, 2014

After a successful summer of tween-focused events during the Summer Reading Program, the Iowa City Public Library is pleased to present Totally Tweens, a once-a-month program featuring hands-on activities specifically for students in third through sixth grades. free-knitting-patterns-2

Totally Tweens begins Tuesday, Sept. 16, with Knit-In. This program will teach beginners how to knit. Already know how? Experienced knitters will be on hand to help you with your current knitting project.

Yarn will be available along with a limited number of knitting needles for those who don’t own their own. Knitting books will be available for check-out and refreshments will be provided.

Knit-In will be held from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16, in the Storytime Room. The event is free and registration is not required.

For more information, call the Library at (319) 356-5200.

Little Elephant, Big World

by on September 12th, 2014

Meet Pomelo.   He’s a tiny little “garden elephant” who has big imagination and an even larger vocabulary.   Written by Ramona Badescu and illustrated by Benjamin Chaud, the Pomelo series is by far one of my favorite ongoing picture books series for all ages.  Raucous, inventive, heartfelt and surreal each of Pomelo’s stories blends into the next not only giving readers a glimpse of what being a garden variety elephant entails but instilling us with the desire to see more of this little pink adventurer.

His journey begins with Pomelo Begins to Grow in which our little elephant wonders if, when and how he’ll grow and what will come with this new Pomelo 7stature. “Could it turn out that one day Pomelo is the biggest of all?”

Next, Pomelo Explores Color.  From”the silent white of the blank page” and “the comforting white of  the dandelion” to “the magnificent black of fade-out endings”, Pomelo sees and knows it all, especially the shades in between.Pomelo

In Pomelo’s Opposites we take a deeper look at his character, his world and consequently at ourselves.  Exploring opposites from up and down through dream and reality, this whimsical page turner will keep you laughing from start to finish.

The latest installment in the Pomelo series, Pomelo’s Big Adventure, sees our little friend off into the wide world after packing everything he needs, of course.  Aside from adventure, Pomelo discovers much along the way and perseveres through a “world ruled by chance”.  full emptyThese are books that I can read over and over and not only are they always enjoyable but each one brings a little more of Pomelo to the table showing his readers combined whimsy and verity.  I can hardly wait for the next installment in the series and am in fact thinking of finding all of the original publications, in French, of which there are eleven.


Iowa City Public Library Presents “Why are so Many Towns Named Waverly?”

by on September 12th, 2014

Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley: or ‘Tis Sixty Years Since was published anonymously in 1814, although his identity didn’t remain secret for long. The success of what some call the first historical novel in the western tradition led to Scott’s writing a series of works on similar themes, collectively called the Waverley Novels.waverley

Join Anne Stapleton, Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Iowa, from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, in Meeting Room A as she presents “Sir Walter Scott’s Legacy in the Midwest: Why are so Many Towns Named Waverly?”

Come learn why Scott’s fiction captured the imagination of nineteenth-century readers across the globe, including citizens in our own Waverly, Iowa. This wee bit of background will pave the way for the Scottish literary and musical extravaganza to be held at The Englert Theatre at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 5. This event will feature readings, music, songs, and dances from and inspired by Scott’s work.

“Sir Walter Scott’s Legacy in the Midwest: Why are so Many Towns Named Waverly?” is a free event and is open to the public. It will be broadcast live on The Library Channel, Iowa City cable channel 10.

For more information, call the Iowa City Public Library at (319) 356-5200.

Iowa City Public Library Celebrates Intellectual Freedom

by on September 11th, 2014

The Iowa City Public Library will celebrate the 2014 Carol Spaziani Intellectual Freedom Festival Sept. 22 through Sept. 26.

This annual celebration is named for former librarian Carol Spaziani in honor of her 26-year career at ICPL and for her life-long commitment to the freedom of ideas. This year, the Library is collaborating with University of Iowa Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, the Reading Aloud Group from the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center, the University of Iowa Library and the Departments of English, Cinematic Studies, and Journalism and Mass Communications and the University of Iowa International Writing Program to present a series of programs designed that celebrate our right to think.

Monday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m.: A screening of “Diagram or Delinquents.” This documentary captures the zeitgeist of late 1940s and early 1950s America, and investigates how comics went on trial.IFF Poster 2014

Wednesday, Sept. 24 at noon: The Reading Aloud Group from the Iowa City Johnson County Senior Center will read the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, some of whose poems were censored until well after his death.

Wednesday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m.: Carol L. Tilley, an Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will present “When Comics Almost Died – Readers, Censors, and Innovation.” Tilley’s lecture is based on her research regarding Fredric Wertham, who blamed juvenile delinquency on reading comics.

Thursday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m.: A screening of “Dixie Chicks:  Shut Up and Sing.” This documentary follows the Dixie Chicks over a period of intense public scrutiny, fan backlash, threats, and pressure from both corporate and conservative political elements after lead singer Natalie Maines publicly criticized then President of the United States George W. Bush during a live 2003 concert in London.

Friday, Sept. 26 at 10 a.m.: An adult education class, Social Media Safety: Protecting Your Online Privacy, will be held in the Library’s second floor Computer Lab. This class focuses on the advantages and disadvantages of using privacy settings on several social networking sites.

Friday, Sept. 26, 7 p.m.: Maureen Freely, a 2014 Ida Beam Visiting Professor at the University of Iowa International Writing Program, will speak on censorship. Freely also is the president of English PEN, a global literary center that defends and promotes free expression.

Whenever possible, the Festival coincides with Banned Books Week, an annual event celebrating the freedom to read sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association and the American Society of Journalists and Authors, among other groups and associations.

During Banned Books Week, Sept. 21 through Sept. 27, teen patrons will be able to complete an online scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt is designed to increase awareness of young adult literature that is challenged and banned in the U.S.

Teens with the most correct answers will be entered into a drawing to win a Downtown District Gift Card. The scavenger hunt will be accessible at beginning Sunday, Sept. 21.

For more information on the Iowa City Public Library’s Carol Spaziani Intellectual Freedom Festival, visit

For information about Banned Books Week, visit

How do I get the local TV channels without having cable?

by on September 9th, 2014

TV antennaThis question came in on Saturday, and it was a ton of fun sleuthing it out.

Iowa City currently has 5 local television channels (4, 5, 10, 18, 21). These broadcast from Iowa City itself and are government or community channels like the City Channel, Library Channel, and PATV (public access).

The affiliate stations like CBS, ABC, FOX, and NBC broadcast from farther away, and that’s why they don’t come in as well without the right kind of antenna. PBS/IPTV is a little farther away as well, but word is it comes in a little better than the others. Read the rest of this entry »