Author Archive for Ella Von Holtum



Way Cool Chemistry Recap

by Ella Von Holtum on August 4th, 2015

On Saturday, ICPL hosted the last Way Cool Chemistry of the summer. It was a great program: Sally showed us some experiments relating to gardening, plant care, and soil conditions.

Science is all about asking questions, so before we began playing in the dirt (literally!) we came up with some of the questions we might ask about plants: What will we grow? What does it need to grow? How big do we want it to get? What about the environment where we’re growing it? We examined three common store-bought growing mediums – they all had different appearances and mineral compositions. Below, you can see us using some simple chemicals to determine the pH (how acidic or not the soil is) of each sample:IMG_20150801_143320510

IMG_20150801_143313510

We found that each soil had a safe pH for growing our hypothetical planting project, an ash tree, so we moved on to measure the soil density. Below we’re finding out that with some cool beakers, a scale, and a simple math equation, soil density is easy to find. Each of our three soils had very different densities, so some plants with very delicate roots might have trouble with the more dense stuff:

IMG_20150801_143621923

IMG_20150801_145228395

After all that careful work learning about how different soils have different properties, we dug into the Box Of Physics to build a bridge (using only three pieces of tape). The goal is to suspend as much weight as possible on the bridge…below you can see most of the contents of the box suspended over three strings! I think the plastic humanoids are helping too.

IMG_20150801_151655719IMG_20150801_151736083

 

Keep your eyes peeled for more Way Cool Chemistry on the ICPL calendar!

Is July imaginary road trip month?

by Ella Von Holtum on July 2nd, 2015

We’ve got a new display up in the Teen Center, seven books about road trips of all kinds. July seems like the perfect time of year to dream about road trips, even if you don’t drive. I didn’t drive until after high school, and I spent the years before my first vehicle planning the road trips I would take if I could.

The library is always a great place to work out these hypothetical travels. Come up to the second floor, head left to the main nonfiction collection, and you’ll find a wealth of potential adventures.

All the way down by the windows are a great place to start: aisle 29 has books about US states in case you need some historical inspiration, and aisles 26 and 27 have plenty of books about US Travel.  Call number 917.305 is all road trip books – they’re big and full of pictures and routes and ideas. For my imaginary road trip I’d pick Road Trip USA to start. From there, books are organized East Coast to West Coast. We, of course, are somewhere in the middle. I’ll probably grab the Compass Guide to Maine, because that seems like a perfect and far-flung summer escape.infi I’ve been to Maine already, but my imaginary road trip will take me there again. If you were dreaming of New York City or Florida beaches, those books are here too. ICPL of course has a bunch of books about Iowa travels, found in 917.7704. Nearby is Chicago – a totally feasible roadtrip and one I make regularly! But back to the far-fetched: the Infinite City atlas is an intriguing book of San Francisco. That was a city that was always at the top of my road trip list in high school, so I’d add this to my pile. Move along the aisle and I’m definitely imagining the World Famous Alaska Highway. That would be a long drive, but since it’s all in my head, why not?

Okay, since it’s all in my head, I should probably wander a little farther. A Map of the World: according to illustrators and storytellers is full of pictures to pore over. Or how about the Atlas of Exploration? Historical maps are so cool, and it’s fun to imagine wandering roads long gone. If you’re looking for even more flights of fancy, try the catalog search for a few relevant subjects: Atlases or Cartography yield lots of possibilities.

What I’d do next, now that I have my stack of books, is find a little table space, maybe over near the Teen Center. I’d spread out and start opening books. Now, I’m definitely a person who opens a bunch of tabs when I’m using the internet, but there is really no substitute for a pile of books all open to the most interesting pages. Maybe that’s why I always liked planning these imaginary road trips, even after I got a car. Plus, a wander through the library shelves is its own kind of fun.

 

cadPostscript: the road trip-related books on display in the Teen Center right now (for inspiration, perhaps?)

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray, Blood Red Road by Moira Young, Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, Cadillac Chronicles by Brett Hartman, The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour, The Paradox of Vertical Flight by Emil Ostrovski, and In a Handful of Dust by Mandi McGinnis

YA Displays help you sort out Summer Reading

by Ella Von Holtum on June 18th, 2015

We’ve got so many good books in the Young Adult collection that sometimes it can be overwhelming to pick something. Have you noticed the displays around our space on the second floor? These are a good place to start if you just can’t decide what to read next.

There are two tables within the collection that feature nine different themed bookmarks as well as book picks from each of them. Here are some of the books I’ve picked out for my own summer reading that I found on our bookmarks:

 

riotRiot by Walter Dean Myers: It’s been years since I’ve read one of Myers’ books, but this summer would be a great time to explore some of his titles in our collection. Riot centers around Claire, the daughter of an Irish mother and a black father, who faces some harsh realities in Civil War era New York City. This book can be found on our Historical Fiction bookmark.

 

shipbreakerShip Breaker by Paulo Bacigalupi: Bacigalupi is an amazing speculative fiction writer. I am looking forward to diving into this book about a teenaged scavenger in a futuristic world who has to decide whether or not to rescue a girl he finds in a ship’s wreckage. Find this and other titles on our Adventure and Survival bookmark.

 

girl geniusGirl Genius: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank by Phil and Kaja Foglio: This graphic novel, about a girl genius descended from mad scientists, sounds like a fun summer read. Find it on our Bio/Gear/Steampunk bookmark, and at  741.593/Foglio/Girl in the main 2nd floor collection.

 

huntressHuntress by Malinda Lo: It’s hard for me to pick just one book from the Girl Warriors bookmark. I’ve been eager to read this one since it came out. Summer is a great time for catching up on reading, and this story about two seventeen year olds on a dangerous journey to the city of the Fairy Queen is way up on my list.

 

terrierTerrier by Tamora Pierce: I’m a fan of Pierce, and I have been since fifth grade. I loved this first book in the Provost’s Dog series – Beka is a tough and smart hero, and she uses her police training to help the people in the lower city where she grew up. Despite its place on our Nomance bookmark (books that feature little or no romantic elements), there are so many rich human and animal relationships in this book that it’s utterly satisfying. It would be a great summer re-read.

 

pegasusPegasus by Robin McKinley: I’ve recently begun reading McKinley’s books, and am looking forward to this one, from the Here Be Dragons bookmark, about a world where human-pegasi bonds are the norm, but an intense one may threaten the world.

Honorable mention from theunlundun Here Be Dragons bookmark is Un Lun Dun by China Mieville – Deeba goes on a beautiful and frightening journey through an alternate London-verse and finds herself becoming a hero.

 

You’ll also see LOL: Humorous Books, Mystery/Thriller, and Contemporary bookmarks. We have an upright shelf which currently features some of the amazing books that have come out over the last year – both the Iowa Teen Award and Iowa High School Book Award have their own bookmarks so you can catch up on the good new stuff. And don’t forget to stop in the Teen Center – right by the magazines we have a display that changes monthly based on feedback from our Teen Advisory Group.

 

You may be stumped about what to read next, but we’ve got some places you can look!

Summer Stuff for Teens to do

by Ella Von Holtum on April 21st, 2015

We are getting ever more excited to announce the Summer Reading Program events for teens, but it’s not time just yet. When it is, you’ll see it here.

 

But there’s other awesome stuff going on in and around Iowa city all summer for young people. Browse some of these resources to find things to do – from two hour classes resident camps.

 

The University of Iowa isn’t just for college students, you know! They offer all kinds of classes and camps for Junior High and High School students. These all sound fun, and many will give you a head start in school next year.

 

CorridorParents also has a huge list of camps and events for young people of all ages. Check it out here.

 

Iowa City Parks and Recreation has a ton of programs. If you want to go swimming on hot afternoons, you can find out pool hours. If you want to learn to make pottery or do Tae Kwon Do, you can find those classes too. (The document is a big PDF, it might take some time to load. But you can also get a copy at the Library and  other places in the area.)

 

Meanwhile, keep your eyes peeled for the ICPL Summer Reading Program. We’re looking forward to it!

So I’m rereading Harry Potter…

by Ella Von Holtum on April 9th, 2015

hpThe 15th anniversary has come and gone, and I myself haven’t read a word of Harry Potter since I finished The Deathly Hallows in 2007. The teens in Iowa City’s Home School Assistance Program have a monthly book club in the library, and we’ve been discussing Harry Potter books every other month. A lot of small things have accreted to plant the seed. Last weekend I got a cold and I decided it was finally time to reread Harry Potter.

We have all the books (and Ebooks!) here at ICPL, so after work on Friday I grabbed the first two. I’m on book three, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s great how little time it’s taken me to get this far – the books are an effortless read, and hours zip by as chapters unfold. Admittedly, the books are about to get long, so I’m savoring these fast reads while I can.

hp4Part of what makes them an easy read for me is the ways they are so familiar.I came to Harry Potter a little late, starting in 2003, and was too old to have grown up with them. I was an adult living in Scotland, and after some P.G. Wodehouse and Stephen Fry it felt like a logical leap. Winter in Glasgow was really the perfect moment for the story to take root in me, but it’s been awhile since I started and finished the series. So I was less surprised at how many details and plot points I’ve forgotten. Things as major as who opened the Chamber of Secrets or as small as the name of the Weasleys’ perpetually exhausted owl were all new to me this time through. I can’t wait to see what surprises await me as I continue reading!

It’s funny, too, how many conversations I’ve had in the last week about my re-read, entirely with people in their 20’s, who grew up with the books. One friend is rereading them for the first time too, and loving it. Another friend had been pondering a reread and posed an interesting question: “how do you think HP’s gonna age?” Not the character, but the series. How will it weather in the cannon?Will it be for kids in the next few generations and beyond like The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia were for me? Will children get excited when they are finally tall enough to reach the shelf where the books live on their parents’ shelves? Will people read them to their young ones as they fall asleep, maybe skipping over the real nightmare material? Or will they fade away, another momentous but momentary cultural phenomenon, something that people who were kids at a certain time remember so well, and everyone else just doesn’t get -what’s all this fuss about Quidditch and Wingardium Leviosa?

hp2I gave my copies away the last time I moved – they were just so much book to haul around from apartment to apartment – so I won’t be loaning them off my shelves. And I wonder too how appealing the series would be to a hesitant young reader when they can clearly see just how long the last four books really are. Maybe only the most dedicated will undertake the quest. On the other hand, they are still so ubiquitous, and so much has been made of Harry Potter’s role in introducing reading to so many kids of a certain generation. And the series still circulates in all the libraries I’ve visited. These marks are indelible for now, and I do wonder, how indeed will HP age?

New Games in the Teen Center

by Ella Von Holtum on March 26th, 2015

Image9
We’ve just received a fresh batch of card and dice games for the Koza Family Teen Center!

I’ve never played Get Bit! Deluxe or Bang! The Dice Game, but I’m looking forward to trying them out. Get Bit! is all about being a swimmer escaping a hungry shark, and includes little action figures with removable limbs, a shark, and a deck of cards. It takes about 20 minutes to play, and 3-6 people can play against one another, using bluffing and strategy to play the cards that will get them farthest from the pursuing shark. Bang! The Dice Game takes place on dry land, in the Wild West in fact. 3-8 people can play as the Sheriff, a Deputy, an Outlaw, or a Renegade. The game takes about 15 minutes to play one round, rolling dice with each turn and choosing who to attack. A little bit of luck and you’ll be the one to survive the game.

I have, however, enjoyed many a game of Bohnanza. It sounds a little silly, but it’s a highly-rated, fast and fun game. 2-7 people can play, each assuming the role of a bean farmer. There are 11 types of beans in the game, and each player starts with two bean fields. Each field can only grow one type of bean at a time, and the goal is to make as many sets of the most valuable beans as possible before the cards run out. Each time you harvest a set of beans you can plant whatever you want next, but you are constrained by the order of the cards in your hand – you’re not allowed to re-order your hand, and you must play the first two cards each turn. Players have a chance to make deals with each other on their turns, bargaining and trading cards with one another. But you want to be careful – you might get a good card in a trade, but your opponent might get just what they need to win! Bohnanza takes about 45 minutes to play, and it’s a blast.

Check out all the games in the Teen Center any weekday after 3pm or Saturday from 1-5!

Want to contribute to teen programming in the library?

by Ella Von Holtum on March 20th, 2015

Joining the Teen Activity Group at ICPL is a great way to have a say in what happens in your library! We meet once a month, eat snacks, talk about books, TV, and movies, and discuss what’s coming up in the Teen Center. If you need volunteer hours, TAG counts! If you want to meet people, come to TAG! If you have an idea about an event you’d like to see in the library, come to a TAG meeting and talk about your idea! Recently we’ve had video game tournaments and TV show parties with the help and input of TAG members. And with summer coming up, we need more volunteers and people with good ideas.

The next TAG meeting is tomorrow, Saturday, from 1-2pm, in the Koza Family Teen Center. We have a meeting every month, usually on a Saturday, so come whenever you can. Check the calendar to confirm.

Video Game Tournament Tomorrow

by Ella Von Holtum on March 17th, 2015

Happy spring break! The Teen Center is open for extended tech times all week (1-8pm), and tomorrow we’re hosting…

download

The Naruto shippuden ultimate ninja storm revolution video game tournament. Be here at 1pm to get your spot in the tournament, which will run until 2pm. There will be a prize for the champion!

Even if you just want to watch, this should be an exciting tournament. Be in the Teen Center on the second floor at 1pm for the fun!

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

by Ella Von Holtum on March 5th, 2015
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson Cover Image

This book, published in 2011, is the first in a young adult fantasy trilogy. This first book follows chosen one Elisa, a sixteen year old princess, on a journey that takes her far from home and safety. Elisa is an unusual chosen one – she isn’t athletic or adored, and she is deeply unsure of her destiny. But like a good hero story, her journey teaches her about what kind of person she is capable of being. For the first time in awhile, I careened through the first book in less than a week. I’ve now begun The Crown of Embers, the second book in the trilogy.

What I liked about The Girl of Fire and Thorns is that, though it is beautifully written, the story is harsh and at times brutal. This is fantasy, but without false gilding. The characters are real and complex, the food sounds delicious, and the political intrigues are wrought just enough to give context. But Elisa makes hard choices and she makes sacrifices. Being the chosen one is a hard job; so is being a princess. But as Elisa manages to scrape by or outright succeed with each new challenge, I’ve grown to like her, and to root for her, which is one of the best things a YA novel can spark in a reader.

I got interested in Rae Carson after first hearing about her new book, Walk on Earth a Stranger. This new book is about a girl living during the gold rush in the United States who finds herself a target because of a special magical ability. Walk on Earth a Stranger doesn’t come out until September 2015, and at this rate I’ll be done with Carson’s first trilogy long before then. But Rae Carson is a YA writer whose work I will watch for from now on.

Inspiration at One Book Two Book

by Ella Von Holtum on February 28th, 2015

I realized this morning that in just a week and a day Daylight Savings time will begin, and that means One Book Two Book is nearly here. There will be so many fun events next weekend, but I want to highlight two that look like a great way to kick off a creative spring fever.

Girls Rock! Iowa City is a fantastic organization focused on fostering creativity and self expression for girls through music. They are having a performance on Saturday, March 7th as part of the One Book Two Book festival. Come to the Main Ballroom of the Sheraton at 10:30 to hear original songs and get a listen of this awesome community organization! If you’re a teen who wants to get involved with Girls Rock!, this would be a perfect place to learn more.

At 10am in the Carver Room at the Sheraton, also on Saturday the 7th, a line-up of professional comics illustrators and writers will host Comic Book Confidential, a workshop for students in grades 5 and up. This is the perfect place to learn more about making comics, see how the pros do it, and try out some of your ideas. Drawing materials will be provided, but you have to register to attend, so get on that!

To learn more about everything going on at One Book Two Book, check out their main schedule here.