Author Archive for Anne Wilmoth



Everything’s coming up roses in the Children’s Department…er, petunias, that is.

by Anne Wilmoth on July 7th, 2017

The fun was growing at Earth Friendly Friday on July 7!     img_0015

Children and parents “upcycled” tin cans by covering them with brightly-patterned tape.  Then they planted colorful petunias to enjoy on a windowsill or front porch all summer long.  Teaching children how to plant and care for their flower was Jenni Mettemeyer with Field to Family, an Iowa City organization that works to create a more local, healthy and sustainable regional food system.

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Exclamations of “That was fun!” and “This is beautiful!” were overheard.  Join us next Friday, July 14, from 1-2pm to learn about recycling with Iowimg_0004a City Recycling and Landfill representatives.

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Kids and Families: Earth Friendly Fridays start June 9!

by Anne Wilmoth on June 5th, 2017

We’ll be having lots of fun every Friday this summer – drop in between 1 and 2 p.m. each week for sustainability, conservation, and nature-themed activities for school-age children during a program called Earth-Friendly Fridays!img_0010

Our first week will be spent mixing up homemade suet and making “upcycled” bird feeders out of kitschy coffee mugs.  Later in the summer, we’ll make wildflower seed bombs, rock and bone necklaces, tee shirt tote bags, local food snacks, and much more.

Some special guests will join us from time to time, too!  You won’t want to miss Professor K.W. Therm and his Energy Extravaganza, for instance – plus Johnson County Master Gardener Jackie Wellborn will tell us how to save the honeybees.

Check out the full Earth Friendly Fridays calendar here.

 

 

 

Read to Get Ready for STEAM Fest!: Picture Book Biographies of STEAM Pioneers

by Anne Wilmoth on May 15th, 2017

There’s nothing I love more than a good picture book biography of a little-known historical figure; something that makes you let out a surprised “Huh!” when you turn the final page.

In honor of this week’s STEAM Festival for children (that’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) here are a handful of books on STEAM trailblazers that promise to fascinate the adult reading them aloud just as much as the child listening.

ThThumbnaile Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman

When Paul Erdos was four years old, he liked to amuse strangers by asking them their age, then announcing how many seconds they’d been alive, after just a moment of mental calculation.  Paul grew up into a brilliant but eccentric mathematician – “he didn’t fit into the world in a regular way” and needed his mother and friends to see to his basic needs – who traveled the world working with other mathematicians, doing math up to nineteen hours a day, and coming up with new kinds of math.  Numbers are sprinkled throughout this simply-told, charming story.

Thumbnail Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone

Society tried to thwart her at every turn, but the first female doctor in America (she graduated from medical school in 1849), wouldn’t be dissuaded.  In a situation that seems laughable today but was all to real in our country’s history, all the other tenants in the building where she opened her first practice were so horrified that they immediately moved out.  Today, more than half of all U.S. medical school students are women, thanks to Elizabeth Blackwell.

Thumbnail Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wellmark

Who wouldn’t be fascinated by trying to wrap their mind around the leap from the first computer to the sophisticated, lightning-fast information machine that we all now carry around in our pocket?  Women have been instrumental in computer technology since its inception, starting with Ada Byron Lovelace.  This thinker, tinkerer, and girl fascinated by numbers went on to write the algorithm that allowed her colleague’s Thinking Machine to work – making her the world’s first computer programmer.

Thumbnail Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis

The Ferris wheel, that mainstay of summer amusement parks across America, got its start at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., a mechanical engineer, won a contest seeking a design more spectacular than the Eiffel Tower, which had wowed attendees at the previous World’s Fair.  The fair committee thought his design couldn’t possibly work and refused to give him the money to build it.  George, despite being laughed out of most banks, eventually secured a loan and paid for the wheel himself; he and wife took the first ride.  The story of this feat of engineering and nostalgic piece of Americana is depicted in illustrations washed in blue and purple that evoke twilight at a state fair, alongside text bursting with fascinating bits of detail.

Thumbnail Balloons Over Brodway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

The little boy who designed a rope-and-pulley system so he could feed the family’s chickens while lying in bed grew up to become the entirely self-taught “father of American puppetry,” the man behind those giant character balloons that millions of people watch on TV every Thanksgiving.  When Tony Sarg came to America, he designed mechanical marionettes for a Macy’s window display.  Later, Macy’s asked him to come up with something more spectacular for the parade than live animals, which were frightening the children – and Tony Sarg’s innovative balloons have risen on Thanksgiving Day every year since 1928.

After finding some inspiration in these books, come down to ICPL’s STEAM Festival and do some problem-solving and discovery of your own!  The STEAM Festival takes place on Friday, May 19 from 9:30-2:30 and Saturday, May 20 from 10-4.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? celebrates 50 years!

by Anne Wilmoth on May 3rd, 2017

This week only, stop by the ICPL Chilimg_4509-1dren’s Department and bask in the rainbow glow of our homage to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, a children’s classic celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Eric Carle, already successful in the advertising industry, never planned a career in children’s books.  But Brown Bear‘s author, Bill Martin, Jr., spotted one of Carle’s advertisements featuring a red lobster in his distinctive collage style.  “The art was so striking,” said Martin, “that I knew instantly I had found the artist to illustrate my next book.”

After Brown Bear was published in 1967, Carle went on to write and illustrate over 70 more children’s books, many of which are similarly beloved by generations of readers.  Brown Bear has been translated into 31 languages and is a wonderful read-aloud for the very young, with its rhythmic text and bold animal illustrations.  (It was the first book I ever read aloud to my firstborn, when she was just four days old.)

If you want to chImage resulteck out the book, the library owns this beloved children’s favorite in English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, and Braille, as well as a board book and “big book” format.  (Find it in the catalog.)  Once you’ve found your copy, you can also go on a scavenger hunt around the Children’s Department for all 11 hidden Brown Bear characters (get a special Eric Carle prize!) and make a Brown Bear stick puppet.

At toddler storytime on Tuesday, each child created one of these stick puppets.  The room was filled with a rainbow of horses, fish, frogs, cats, and birds!  We then told the Brown Bear story three ways simultaneously: with the book, with flannel board characters, and with puppets – children held up their animal when it appeared in the story.

Happily, this week is also Children’s Book Week, an annual celebration of books for kids and teens.  Children’s Book Week was launched in 1919 and is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country.  So we expanded our celebration at storytime to include another Eric Carle favorite, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which I told with puppets and giant story cards.  “I know this book!” one child excitedly whispered.

For more Brown Bear, check out the website of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art for a video of Carle talking about Brown Bear, printable activity sheets, and a slideshow of fun facts about the book (a grey mouse and a pink elephant appear in the 1970 edition!).

 

 

Celebrating National Library Week at Preschool Storytime!

by Anne Wilmoth on April 13th, 2017

In the mid-1950s, the American Library Association grew concerned over research that showed Americans were “spending less on books and more on radios, televisions and musical instruments.”  In response, the ALA launched the first annual National Library Week in 1958 with the theme “Wake Up and Read!”

Since then, National Library Week has been observed across the country each year during the second full week in April, as a time to “celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support.”  (For more on National Library Week, check out this ALA fact sheet.)

The 2017 theme is “Libraries Transform,” and preschool storytime today was transformed into a jubilant celebration of all the things we love about being kids at the library!  It was difficult to choose which picture books about libraries to share with the children – there are so many good ones in our collection (see photo).  I finally settled on Bonny Becker’s A Library Book for Bear, a side-splitting read-aloud with sweeping watercolor illustrations about a bear’s first experience of the library – he’s initially skeptical (who needs more than seven books, really?) but is won over when he stumbles onto a storytime featuring a book about pickles and bears (subjects that resonate with him).  We also read Deborah Bruss’s Book Book Book, a fun read-aloud about a group of farm animals attempting to make themselves understood by the librarian and receive the books they’re after – a book that engages young listeners with a series of participatory animal sounds.

We sang a wacky song called “Bananas Unite,” with plenty of movement, silliness, and an eventual invitation to “GO BANANAS!”  I told the children I selected this song not only because it’s super fun, but also because it’s okay to go a little bananas in the children’s library!  We don’t have to whisper or tiptoe, but can get excited about books and be regular kids in the children’s department.  We also shook egg shakers to the beat along with Tom Knight’s boogie-woogie tune “The Library Song,” a little ditty that lists the wonders to be had at the library – “all you need is a library card!”

Finally, we capped off our half-hour of library love with a mini “behind the scenes” tour of the library – we put some books through the book return slot, then went to the “other side” of the book return to find our books there.  While we were there, several patrons passed by and put materials in the slot – the children gasped and cried, “WHOA!” as they watched the books tumble through the slot and thump into the bins below.  They seemed content to hang out and watch the book return in action for as long as I might let them, but we eventually returned to the storytime room to watch a hilarious classic Sesame Street clip wherein Cookie Monster nearly gives a straight-laced librarian an aneurysm by repeatedly requesting a box of cookies.

If you couldn’t make it today, don’t despair!  National Library Week storytime is happening again on Saturday, April 15 at 10:30am, with some new books, songs and activities.  Come celebrate libraries with us!

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This Won’t End Well: Tragic Middle-Grade Reads

by Anne Wilmoth on March 17th, 2017

If, like me, you don’t mind wallowing in despair, as long as a good story has led you there, try one of these new works of juvenile literature.  Eye-opening and morally challenging for middle-grade readers, and equally moving for adults, these two novels and one biography will be read through tears.

Thumbnail   The Dog, Ray by Linda Coggin

Dog books are notoriously sad, and this one is no exception.  However, instead of doggie death coming at the end of the story, in this book tragedy occurs right at the beginning – 12-year-old girl Daisy is killed in a car crash, and her soul returns to Earth in the body of a dog.  A mistake has been made, though, that allows her to recall her previous life as a girl while living her new life as a dog.  Daisy’s one goal is to find her former home and return to living with her parents, but as their dog.

This intriguing concept plays out in a story that is heartbreaking but also sweet and humorous at times.  Daisy finds that “the responsibilities of a dog are enormous” and though her life may be heading in a completely new direction she can’t control, there is meaning and love and hope in store for her.

 

Thumbnail   The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero by Patricia A. McCormick

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German minister who conspired with others to assassinate Hitler at the height of the Holocaust.  Long a crusader for social justice, Bonhoeffer was one of the earliest critics of the Nazi regime.  At first, he sought the support of other church leaders in condemning Nazism – few did.  Later, Bonhoeffer graduated to espionage, traveling widely outside Germany to share news of the horrors being leveled against Jews – almost no one believed him.  Finally, Bonhoeffer determined that he had no choice but to take part in a daring scheme to end Hitler’s life.

This juvenile biography raises fascinating moral and ethical questions; through reading, we are privy to Bonhoeffer’s decision to turn to violence, despite his religious convictions and commitment to pacifism and nonviolent social change.  Bonhoeffer’s courage and willingness to stand alone is breathtaking; readers will relish this page-turning volume that exposes little-known history.

 

Thumbnail   The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz

To escape gang violence in their small Guatemalan village, 12-year-old Jaime and his cousin Angela embark on a risky journey north, through Mexico and across the border to Texas and safety.  The drug-trafficking gang that controls their town has killed their cousin and promises they’ll be next; their impoverished family, terrified, scrapes together the money needed to finance their escape.  Along the way, Jaime and Angela are locked in a sweltering boxcar for days, dodge murderous gangs as well as the police, endure hunger, and put their lives in the hands of strangers.

This morally complex book is an important read at a moment when immigration is a hot topic around the world. As USA Today reported, in the first 11 months of the 2016 fiscal year, 54,052 unaccompanied minors made the trek from Central America into the United States.  Based on true events, this novel is the tense, heartfelt story of two of these children, for whom an incredibly dangerous journey is their only hope for the future.