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Bob Books are back!

by Karen Gordon on October 1st, 2014


By popular demand, Bob Books by Bobby Lynn Maslen and John R. Maslen are back on our shelves. I’m so thrilled these wonderful readers are available. They fit perfectly in a child’s hands, have brightly colored jackets, and have colored illustrations throughout which makes reading so much more fun for our youngest patrons!   images

I’m frequently asked by families and homeschoolers for early reader recommendations. We have a variety of readers marked with all reading levels, but levels on these books can be confusing. One publisher labels a book level 1; another publisher marks a similar book as level 2. Many early readers contain words that are too difficult for a child who has just learned the sounds of the alphabet. So many parents are looking for readers to help make this process simple, positive, and fun, which is why I recommend the Bob Books.

Parents, do you want to capture your child’s interest in reading? Do you want your child to feel confident reading? It’s so good to hear your child say, “I read the whole book all by myself!” The Bob Books series makes learning to read so simple. I think these are the “best learning to read on your own,” books.

30349The next time you visit the Children’s Room, look for fun Bob Books apps on our children’s ipads and AWE Early Literacy Station. This app makes Bob Books characters come alive!

Now Starring….You!

by Vickie Pasicznyuk on September 30th, 2014
Now Starring….You! Cover Image

Librarians love picture books that are interactive and encourage kids to participate with the story, making it a more meaningful and memorable experience. I’ve recently had fun exploring a genre of picture books that take “interactive” to a whole new level, involving the reader as an integral character in the book. These books give the reader instructions to follow—physical activities that build the story—like an app in paper format!

One of the original books in this genre is The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone, featuring Grover from Sesame Street. Readers are instructed to not turn the pages because Grover has heard about the monster at the end of the book and he’s scared. Or course, this just makes us turn the pages until we discover what kind of monster is at the end of the book—Grover himself! First published in 1971, this book stirs nostalgic memories for many parents.

The concept of including the reader as part of the story has become more popular with children’s pictures books in the past few years. Jump into this genre with these titles:

Press Here and Mix It Up by Herve Tullet—Learn about colors and design while playing with paint splotches in these two books.

Can You Make a Scary Face? By Jan Thomas—A bossy ladybug initiates a game of pretend.

Shout! Shout It Out! By Denise Fleming—Show off your knowledge of numbers, letters, colors, and more by shouting it out!

Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett—Embark on crazy escapades in an attempt to count monkeys.

Warning: Do Not Open This Book by Adam Lehrhaupt—Really? Who can follow that advice? But beware of letting the monkeys out!

On October 18, I’ll be featuring some of these titles during our family storytime. Join us to play a leading role in some favorite picture books!

Listen Up to Neil Gaiman on Disc

by Morgan Reeves on September 30th, 2014

I listen to very few books on disc. I am generally just not able to immerse myself in the audio version of a book as well as I can in the print version. I end up listening to the same passage multiple times because I zoned out or got busy doing something else. If that sounds like you, try listening to anything written and narrated by Neil Gaiman. So far I have listened to three of his audiobooks; The Graveyard Book, Fortunately the Milk, and Odd and the Frost Giants. In the telling of all three stories Gaiman is engaging and brings each character to life with a distinct and unique voice. As the author, he of course has special insight into how characters are supposed to sound, but his range of believable voices is impressive. Gaiman can imitate the confused innocence of a child and in the next breath reply in the piercing tones of a talking eagle. In addition to Gaiman’s performance, the stories themselves are always imaginative and full of life. I imagine they would be riveting in any format, not just audio.

The Graveyard Book  follows the story of young Nobody Owens, or Bod for short. His entire family was murdered when he was just a toddler. He would have been killed too, if not for wandering into a graveyard and being adopted by the resident ghosts. He grows up under the tutelage of his two ghost parents and his guardian Silas, who may or may not be a vampire. As a child given the freedom of the graveyard Bod learns lessons both practical, moving through shadows, and personal, how to do what is right even when it is hard. At times scary, this is great coming of age story for grades 3rd-6th.

Odd and the Frost Giants introduces Odd, a perpetually grinning Norse boy with a bit of bad luck. His leg has been crippled, his father died in a Viking raid, and winter has gone on much too long. In an attempt to get away from it all, he retreats to his father’s old woodcutter’s hut in the woods. While out walking he befriends a bear, a fox, and an eagle, who quickly reveal they are the gods Thor, Loki and Odin. They have been trapped in animal bodies by a Frost Giant who has taken over Asgard and is the cause of the long winter. With his usual good humor Odd decides he has nothing to lose by attempting to defeat the Frost Giant, returning the gods to their true forms, and ending winter. Nothing too scary here, good fantasy adventure for grades 1st-5th.

Fortunately the Milk is a shorter story about the extraordinary adventure a father endured in order to bring his children some milk for their breakfast. Dinosaur scientists, volcanic sacrifices, time travel, pirates, aliens, and even ponies are all a part of this very funny book. An amusing tale that can be enjoyed by the whole family, particularly grades 1st-5th.

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

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman 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.

Children’s Garden Update from Scott Koepke

by Rachael Carlson 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 Meredith Hines-Dochterman 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 Casey Lambert 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.


Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

by Katherine Habley on September 2nd, 2014
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper Cover Image

Two-time Coretta Scott King Award winning author, Sharon M. Draper, has written a stunning novel for upper-elementary school children that opens like this:  “Words have always swirled around me like snowflakes–each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands.  Deep within me, words pile up in huge drifts.  Mountains of phrases and sentences and connected ideas.  Clever expressions.  Jokes.  Love songs …. But only in my head.  I have never spoken one single word.  I am almost eleven years old.”  So begins the story of fifth grader Melody Brooks who has cerebral palsy but doesn’t want to be defined by it.  Although she can’t walk, talk, feed herself, or go to the bathroom without help, she can read, think, remember, and feel.  She is a brilliant girl trapped in her own weak body and confined to a wheelchair.  Melody learns of a computer with technology that will allow her to communicate to others and her world changes big time!  But there are still ignorant doctors, thoughtless teachers, and cruel classmates to deal with.  Fortunately, Melody has a fierce advocate in her mother, not unlike the author whose own daughter has cerebral palsy, thus providing great authenticity and accuracy in the writing.  This book is a compelling read that will hopefully make all readers more compassionate and understanding toward those with disabilities and the misconceptions that go with them.  I especially loved Melody’s sense of humor and fortitude despite her many challenges.  This is one book you won’t be able to put down until you come to the final page.

Raise a Reader

by Vickie Pasicznyuk on August 28th, 2014

reading aloud 3

Do you have a child just learning to read? Congratulations! Your child is on the verge of exploring a whole new world! The path to becoming an independent reader can seem slow and arduous at times, but here are some tips to help your child stay the course and discover the joy of reading.

Let your child choose books he wants to read. This sounds simple, but so often we get derailed by two little words—“reading level.” Kids need to read “easy” books to build fluency and comprehension, so let them choose books below reading level. Just like practicing an instrument, reading an easy book or an old favorite will refine skills. Kids need to read what they’re interested in—even if it’s hard. So let them choose books above “reading level,” and they’ll tackle challenging vocabulary just because they care. And if they need help, you’ll be there to ease the way.

Which brings up the next tidbit of advice- kids need you to read to them. Don’t abandon reading aloud once your child begins reading. Your reading models skills they need—cadence, speed, inflection, pronunciation, vocabulary. Even more, your read-alouds remind them why they’re working so hard—for the love of story and information! So the next time they choose a book that’s above their reading level, help them meet the challenge—share the reading, model for them, and let them echo you.

The mechanics of learning to read can be hard work, but be careful about making it a “chore.” Your child’s motivation to read is a huge indicator of how accomplished he’ll become. And, let’s face it, how motivated are we by our chores? Beginning readers are encouraged to practice their skills at least 20 minutes a day, but it’s important to not become clock-watchers. Keeping track of time is fine, but shift the focus away from that in hopes that your child will one day completely lose track of how long he’s been reading.

While your child is practicing, be a great listener. Don’t correct mistakes unless it changes the meaning. Help your child when he needs it. Be patient and nonjudgmental. Find fun and alternate ways your child can practice—with siblings or family pets, or even leading a stuffed animal storytime. Soon, you’ll discover that you’ve raised a reader!

The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi

by Morgan Reeves on August 25th, 2014
The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi Cover Image

The Search for WondLa has been on my “To Read” list for awhile now, since it was published in 2010. But having learned a valuable lesson in series anticipation from Harry Potter, I put off starting this trilogy until the last book was published. This May the final book was published, The Battle for WondLa, and the time was ripe to start this series.

DiTerlizzi has mixed a good bit of science fiction into his fantasy to create a fascinating world. Eva Nine is a human girl being cared for and trained by Muthr, a humanoid, multifunctional robot. They live in an isolated Sanctuary with no contact with other humans. Eva longs to go outside and venture into the real world, but up until now Muthr has prevented this, deeming it safer to stay inside. But when their home comes under attack from an outside force, Eva is forced to flee on her own. Outside, her encyclopedic Omnidroid cannot identify any of the strange creatures she encounters. Feeling increasingly unprepared for life on the surface, Eva is captured by the strange hunter Besteel, but is able to escape and free his other captives at the same time. Thus, she has made her first friends, Rovender Kitt, a tall blue alien, and Otto, an enormous water bear.

Rovender has some news for Eva, instead of being on Earth as she had assumed, they are on a planet known as Orbona. To help make sense of this new world, she insists on rescuing Muthr from the ruins of their home. Reunited, the group sets off in search of other humans using Eva’s most prized possesion, a photo of a girl, robot and book with only the letters “Wond L a” still visible. Along their journey they encounter both kindness and cruelty from the natives. Eva and Muthr soon realize that they are oddities that no one has seen before, and thus valued for their rarity. The mystery of their origins is left unanswered for most of the book, with the only tantalizing hints coming at the end. Told in four parts with short chapters, this a fairly quick read accompanied by DiTerlizzi’s sylistic illustrations. An interesting tale that leaves you wanting to more, a demand that can gladly met by the sequel, A Hero for WondLa.