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The Goblin’s Puzzle by Andrew S. Chilton

by Morgan Reeves on February 29th, 2016
The Goblin’s Puzzle by Andrew S. Chilton Cover Image

Diversity in middle grade fantasy is hard to come by, particularly high fantasy featuring dragons, goblins, princesses, and kings. The Goblin’s Puzzle by Andrew S. Chilton provides all of these, as well as a good dose of humor and plenty of logic puzzles.

A dark-skinned slave boy with no name finds himself suddenly free, and for the first time in his life able to choose how to live his life. His choice to free a similarly enslaved goblin may provide him with more adventure than he bargained for, as goblins are notoriously tricky creatures. When the goblin tells him that it was not the boy’s fate to be a slave, he sets off to find his true destiny. With the goblin in tow, he learns many things along they way, including how to catch bats with a sling.

At the same time, a dragon has kidnapped Plain Alice, a case of mistaken identity, as he meant to capture Princess Alice. As the dragon goes off to rectify his mistake, Plain Alice begins doing what she does best, thinking. The soon-to-be-captured Princess Alice is at the center of a royal mess, as her father is trying to make her his heir to skip over the obviously evil Duke Geoffrey. To pay for the costly process, Princess Alice is to be married to a suitably wealthy person, to be decided upon by everyone but Princess Alice. All of these plans go literally out the window when Princess Alice is captured by the dragon. If ever there was a need for a nameless hero in search of his destiny, it is here in the Kingdom of West Stanhope.

The boy volunteers to rescue both Alices, though finds he needs their help just as often as they need his. The multiple threads of the story are finally and carefully woven together in a rooftop duel, a royal declaration, and one last trick from the goblin. In another rarity in recent middle grade fantasy, the story ends without a cliff-hanger to lead us to a sequel. Final word: A fantastic, thought-provoking, stand-alone fantasy adventure.

ICPL to Host Crazy 8s Math Club for Kids

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on February 24th, 2016

What do you get when you add hands-on activities plus fun-loving kids? Crazy 8s Math Club!Crazy8sLogo

The Iowa City Public Library is joining the national movement to make math the cool thing to do after school by hosting a Crazy 8s Math Club for kindergarten through second grade students. Beginning March 2, this fun and educational program will meet from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the Storytime Room every Wednesday for eight weeks.

Crazy 8s was created by the Bedtime Math Foundation to get kids fired up about math. Participants will build things, run and jump, make music – even make a mess – while making friends and increasing their understanding of math. First launched in the winter of 2014, there are currently more than 6,000 clubs nationwide serving 80,000 kids.

The Library’s club is open to any child in kindergarten through second grade ready to have fun. Registration isn’t required and participants don’t need to attend every club meeting – but they’ll probably want to! Here’s what we have planned:

March 2: Glow-in-the-Dark Geometry. Join us as we make geometric shapes with glow sticks, including a gleaming Egyptian pyramid!

March 9: Let’s Get Loud. We’ll experiment with water and straws to create different sounds, then build a working flute out of milkshake straws. Find out exactly how loud you are down to the number!

March 16: Time of Your Life. Are you ready to find out what makes you tick? Get ready to race through some crazy stunts, “be” a clock, and see if you have the winning birthday!

March 23: Toilet Paper Olympics. Test your Olympian skills in the shot put, long jump and relay race!

March 30: Spy Training. See if you have what it takes to be a spy. Work to break the clues to find the hidden treasure!

April 6: Flying Marshmallows. Send marshmallows flying through the air using Popsicle sticks and rubber bands. You’ll need to figure out what positions work best and then measure the flight to prove it.

April 13: Zip Line Zoo. It’s time to build a zip line for brave stuffed animals and race them across the room. Measure the distance and time their rides to see how fast they can go!

April 20: Bouncy Dice Explosion. This is your chance to throw things because you’re supposed to! Find out your chances of rolling a 2 or a 5, and then try to be the winning chip on a giant human Bingo board.

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

Storytime Recap: Black History

by Morgan Reeves on February 21st, 2016
Storytime Recap: Black History Cover Image

Saturday’s family storytime was in honor of Black History Month. We started off by singing a favorite welcome song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” After clapping, stomping and saying hello, I talked to everyone about how February is a month full of celebrations. We have Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, plus Black History Month. This is a time to honor the many historic accomplishments and current contributions of black Americans.

The first book we read was We March by Shane W. Evans. This simple story follows a family as they join in the crowds marching to Washington, D.C. to demonstrate for civil rights.

Next we all stood up and moved together as we did the action rhyme “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” One time slow and one time fast is always a fun way to repeat these.

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
And eyes and ears and mouth and nose
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

Then I introduced our next book by talking about how many contributions black Americans have made to music styles over the years. This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt takes the tune of “This Old Man” and adapts it to a swinging jazz band counting from one to ten. This is a joy to read with the rhythmic beat and scat-style interjections.

Next I asked everyone to join me in singing and moving to “Mr. Sun”

Oh Mr. Sun. Sun. Mr. golden sun. Please shine down on me.
Oh Mr. Sun. Sun. Mr. golden sun. Hiding behind a tree.
These little children are asking you. To please come out so we can play with you.
Oh Mr. Sun. Sun. Mr. golden sun. Please shine down on me

Then I reminded everyone that black or white or somewhere in between, we all start out as babies, so our last story was Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee. This is a sweet and funny story about a parent asking their mischievous baby to behave.

Then we finished up with our call and response goodbye rhyme.

GoodbyeSong

Our movie today was the animated version of This is the Rope by Jacqueline Woodson, which follows a rope’s uses as it travels with a family from South Carolina to Brooklyn.

 

ICPL children’s event celebrates George Washington Carver

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on February 9th, 2016

The Iowa City Public Library invites students in kindergarten through third grades to celebrate botanist and inventor George Washington Carver during a special Black History Month event from 4 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, in the Storytime Room.

George Washington Carver was born into slavery in the 1860s. After slavery was abolished, he attended several schools before earning his high school diploma in Minneapolis, Kansas. He studied botany at Iowa State Agriculture College in Ames. He was the college’s first black student and, eventually, its first black faculty member before serving as Director of Agriculture at the upstart Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

Carver is famous for his agricultural discoveries and inventions. He introduced the idea of crop rotation in the rural South, in which farmers would rotate cotton, which depleted the soil of nutrients, with peanuts, which replenished them, from year to year. Carver devised more than 300 uses for peanuts, including dyes, paints, plastics and gasoline.

Using books, music, artifacts and toys, the Library will celebrate the life and accomplishments of George Washington Carver in an engaging program designed to make history fun.

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

Just what is 1000 Books?

by Angela Pilkington on February 2nd, 2016

The 1000 Books Before Kindergarten initiative is set to launch in Iowa City this Friday, February 5th! The program is based on an idea that other libraries across the nation are doing, with great success. The program encourages parents of newborns to 5 year-olds to read a wide range of books to their child to help them get a jumpstart on learning and school. Every word you say builds your child’s brain!

The concept is simple, the rewards are priceless. Read any book to your newborn, infant, or toddler. The goal is to have read 1,000 books before your little one starts kindergarten. Does it sound hard? Not really if you think about it. If you read just 1 book a night, you will have read about 365 books in a year. That is 730 books in two years and 1,095 books in three years. If you consider that most children start kindergarten at around 5 years of age, you have more time than you think! The best part? You can repeat books and books they hear at storytimes count too!

The key is perseverance. The program was specifically designed to give babies and toddlers the best start on lifelong reading and learning skills, as well as to help parents and children get in the habit of reading on a regular basis. Doing so will improve kids’ language skills before they enter kindergarten. Can you and should you read more than 1,000 books? YES! Again, this is aimed at getting your child in a good routine of reading every day! So once you hit the goal of 1,000 books, keep on reading!

According to Reading Rockets, a national literacy program, many students enter kindergarten performing below their peers and remain behind as they move through the grades and confront more-challenging reading material. Many children entering Kindergarten are facing up to a 30 million word gap.

I believe that literacy is the cornerstone of learning and reading aloud to children – from the very beginning of a child’s life – creates the best environment for success in school. It’s a gift parents can give to their children that will pay off their whole lives!

The Iowa City Public Library’s new early literacy program 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten will encourage parents to make the time necessary for this essential building block of learning. As children move through the program, they will receive special incentives that have been bought through a generous grant from Pearson. The program will kick off this Friday, February 5. Join us in the Children’s Room for our kick-off event. For more information, log onto our website at: www.icpl.org/1000books or from our press release.

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ICPL to Debut 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on January 29th, 2016

Sharing books and stories is important to a child’s brain development, which is why the Iowa City Public Library is pleased to partner with Pearson for our new 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program.1000 Books Before Kindergarten_GeneralPoster.indd

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten encourages parents and caregivers to do just that: read 1,000 books before the child starts kindergarten. In doing so, they strengthen a child’s language skills and build their vocabulary — two important tools for beginning readers. With the support of a $10,000 Employee Challenge Fund for Literacy grant from Pearson, the Library will assist and encourage parents and caregivers as they help children become lifelong readers.

The program will launch at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 5, following Book Babies. Staff from the Library and Pearson will be on hand to register children for 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. Children also can register at the Children’s Desk during regular Library hours after Feb. 5.

Each participant will go home with a bookmark to track their first 250 books. Once it’s complete, children can bring it to the Children’s Room for their next bookmark, each one in 250 increments, until they’ve read 1,000 books. Children also will receive a prize after completing each level of the program: a book bag after 250 books; a book plate to be inserted in any children’s book in the Library’s collection after 500 books; a growth chart after 750 books; and a new book of their own at 1,000 books.

“We’re so excited to bring this program to our community and want to thank Pearson for their help in making it an experience that will benefit our young patrons for years,” Library Director Susan Craig said.

Mary Cassatt; Extraordinary Impressionist Painter

by Katherine Habley on January 27th, 2016
Mary Cassatt; Extraordinary Impressionist Painter Cover Image

In a new picture book biography by Barbara Herkert, a brief text in language appropriate for K-3 grades tells about the strong-willed girl born in 1860 who wanted to be an artist. At 16 she enrolled in art school and studied at the Academy with all the male students.  She next traveled to Paris to study against her father’s objections.  Like many artists, she copied the Old Masters paintings found in the Louvre Museum.  When her artwork was rejected by the Salon, the impressionist painter, Degas, invited Cassatt to join an independent painters’ group and they broke all the rules by using brilliant tones and splashes of white, pastels and soft blurry images.  She captured on canvas what she saw around her.  For Mary, art was life and life was art.  Although she never married, Cassatt painted many beautiful pastels of mothers and babies.  When her family moved to Paris, she used them as subjects of her heartfelt paintings.  Her art now hangs in museums all over the world.  This book will be encouraging to young artists to pursue their artistic dreams.  Cassatt’s paintings continue to inspire, inform, and uplift people today. The illustrations in this picture book are done by Gabi Swiatkowska of France.  An author’s note and list of sources are included in the back of the book.  Before a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, check out this title and share it with your youngster.

Elusive Moose by Joan Gannij

by Katherine Habley on January 27th, 2016
Elusive Moose by Joan Gannij Cover Image

Two weeks ago for my in-house Wednesday preschool storytime and all my outreach storytimes that week, I read books about moose.  I borrowed the Storytime Kit #16, “Moose on the Loose,” for inspiration and to use the cute puppet included, but I also pulled some other moose picture books to share.  One that I really like is Elusive Moose by Joan Gannij with artwork by Clare Beaton.  The text is short–just one sentence for each two-page spread, but it is perfect for preschoolers.  I also think the rhyming words make it a great read-aloud story.  The narrator sees horses, beavers, geese, a brown bear, badgers, frogs, an eagle, Arctic foxes, hares, and squirrels, but wishes that he (she) could see a moose.  What children looking at the pictures will delight in, is that there are moose hiding on nearly every page that the narrator is oblivious to.  So the audience is in on the conceit and the successful picture book demands further readings.  But the highlight of Illusive Moose is the creative picture-making.  Beaton has once again used felt, beads, sequins, and colorful fabrics to cut and sew marvelous scenes and then they are captured as pictures for audiences to enjoy.  Her crafty images so meticulously done are great to share because of their different format compared to the usual techniques used in picture book illustrations.  Also, the author has included additional information in the back of the book about the “Animals of the Northern Lands” that would be fun to show to kids.  A page on “Animal Tracks” in the snow and “Meet the Moose!” provide further facts about this largest member of the deer family.  I’m partial to this animal after seeing a real moose up close in the wild with my grandson while vacationing in the Rockie Mountains last summer.  Check out all the books with Clare Beaton’s fabric artwork in the picture book section of the Children’s Room.

Best of the Best Children’s Books

by Jennifer Eilers on January 26th, 2016

It’s a librarian’s job to know about the best books for the library’s collection; and I’m lucky enough that a bunch of my co-workers bought me their favorite children’s books to help me welcome my second child. Having had the time to read through the books now several times with both of my children, I’ve picked my top five favorites to share with you. To find them in the library’s collection click on the title!

  1. The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc

I had never read a book by Dubuc until I received it as a gift, and I am so thankful I got this one. The book is about the relationship betweenThe_lion_the_bird a lion who finds and cares for an injured bird. The two become friends but eventually the bird must fly away for the winter leaving the lion behind. Like the lion you feel the heartbreak of missing a dear friend through Dubuc’s prose and illustrations. The illustrations are lush and vibrant but somehow understated. Paired with the story, it weaves a magic that is more than the sum of its parts.

2. The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

Sometimes before bedtime you need a laugh and Beaton’s book delivers. Like any kid, Princess Pinecone has some definite princess_ponyexpectations for herself as a warrior and for the pony she hopes to receive as a birthday present. Beaton’s story challenges kids and adults to consider stereotypes and stereotyping in a humorous way – it’s chock-full of sweater-wearing warriors and princesses who can and do hold their own. Plus, who can resist a fat pony that farts?

3. Hide and Seek by Taro Gomi

hide_seek

This clever little board book has bright illustrations that my baby can appreciate while my preschooler plays along with the hide and seek game. On each page there is a group of animals where one animal is cleverly hiding an object, for example, a raccoon hides a striped sock on its tail. Just like in any good hide and seek game, you may need to look twice to find what you’re looking for!

4. Orange Triangle Fox by Sarah Jones

orange_triangleEvery baby needs a book that teaches them shapes, colors, and animals. Jones combines each of these things to create cute and colorful illustrations. While some shapes seem readily built for the colors and shapes Jones chooses for them, others are unexpected. This combination makes this book delightful in its simplicity.

 

5. Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek

Full disclosure – sheep are a BIG deal in my family. My preschooler has a flock ofWhere-Is-the-Green-Sheep-image sheep with names as expected as Lambie and nonsensical as Dr. Higgin Flower Busters. In this book, sheep are limitless. They break away from being black and white and do more than bleat on a farm. These sheep are red. These sheep take baths. These sheep are clowns. So as the book begs the question, “Where is the Green Sheep?” you can challenge your little one to think outside of the box.

 

Fired Up Bowls Ready for Pick Up

by Morgan Reeves on January 26th, 2016

fired upWe had a great time painting ceramic bowls with help from our friends at Fired Up Iowa City last Monday. A great turn out of enthusiastic artists helped make this program a success. I am amazed each year at the creative ability of our patrons. I already can’t wait until next year. In the meantime the bowls have all been glazed and fired and are now ready to be picked up at the library. Come in and ask at the Children’s Desk to claim your finished bowl.

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