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Trash to Treasures

by Maeve Clark on July 16th, 2015
Trash to Treasures Cover Image

Summer the season of sun, fun and Rummage in the Ramp!  This year Rummage in the Ramp is calling on you creative types out there to upcycle a castoff into a work of art.  Rummage ReDux, a new event which supports the creation of artwork from items donated to Rummage in the Ramp, Iowa City’s annual mega-reuse and recycling event. Rummage ReDux will take the concept of reuse one step further by demonstrating how a little love, creativity and skill can convert usable, as-is, donated items from something that’s simply serviceable to something downright spectacular.

Selected applicants, who may include Johnson County individuals or businesses, will be allowed to choose one item from Rummage in the Ramp at no charge to repair, repurpose, or upcycle. Participants will be invited to work on their item during the last day of Rummage in the Ramp at a “meet the artist” event on Sunday, Aug. 2. Finished items will then be showcased at up to three public events in October and November.

If you are looking for inspirations, the Iowa City Public Library can help.   Two books by Danny Seo “Upcycling : create beautiful things with the stuff you already have” and “Upcycling celebrations : a use-what-you-have guide to decorating, gift-giving & entertaining” as well as “ReCraft: how to turn second-hand stuff into beautiful things for your home, family and friends” by Sara Ducahars and Sarah Marks  might be just what you need to get that creative spark.  If you recrafting is more than you want to tackle this summer, but you love a bargain and the hunt, take a look at the books in the library under the subject heading Found Objects (Art) in Interior Decoration.  Nothing is more satisfying to me, (well, except maybe ice cream and the perfect summer night), than finding an object on the side of the road or at a garage sale, taking it home and having it fit right in. Try it, you might be surprised.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

by Kara Logsden on July 15th, 2015

Kent Haruf’s beautiful, lyrical final novel was a bit of serendipity I recently discovered on the Fiction Express shelf. I love Haruf’s novels. They are set in Eastern Colorado and have a strong sense of place. Haruf develops his characters in a way that brings them alive on the page and he has a gift of writing beautifully about the complexities of human relationships. Haruf is a 1973 graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop who died late last year at age 71.

According to a New York Times article, “Kent Haruf pulled a wool cap over his eyes when he sat down at his manual typewriter each morning so he could “write blind,” fully immersing himself in the fictitious small town in eastern Colorado where he set a series of quiet, acclaimed novels, including “Plainsong,” a 1999 best seller.”

I first discovered Haruf’s writing when I read his 1999 novel, Plainsong. I was drawn into the beautiful writing and the compelling story. I vividly remember the characters in that book – two bachelor brothers who took in a pregnant teenager, creating an unlikely but loving family. Equally memorable are the two main characters in this novel. Addie Moore is a lonely widow who takes a big chance in her life. Louis Waters is also lonely but rediscovers a purpose for his life through a new relationship and responsibility.

Our Souls at Night is a quick read, but one that will make the reader smile and appreciate human relationships and love.

Teachable moments @ the IC Farmer’s Market

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on July 15th, 2015

Now that my kids are teenagers (insert clichéd “Where did the time go?” mental photo montage here), I don’t experience as many teachable moments as I did when they were little. Don’t get me wrong, we still have teachable moments, but now they are more “OK, time to practice parallel parking” and “No one knows how to fold fitted sheets; you’re fine” instead of “What color is the apple?”

Visiting the Iowa City Farmer’s Market is a great activity for families because the place is filled with teachable moments. Preschoolers can show off their color knowledge, older students can practice their math skills, and babies can take in the scenery and, hopefully, be so exhausted by the time they get home, they take a long nap.

But what about teens? What teachable moments can they have at the farmer’s market?Farm to table pic1

A lot, actually.

My daughter accompanied me to the market last fall as part of her social studies’ world hunger unit. She had a BINGO card of activities she needed to complete and one was to go to a local farmer’s market and interview a vendor. She had to ask about what they sold, how they grew and/or made it, how far they traveled to get to the market, etc.

It was fun to watch her approach a vendor, explain the purpose of her assignment and go through her list of questions. Not only did she learn something new, she was able to practice her interview and note-taking skills, and patience, as their conversation was interrupted several times so the vendor could help a customer.

I’m teaching my children how to cook this summer. Correction. I’m teaching them how to cook something besides toast and hot dogs. They recently visited the Library’s cookbook collection (check out our Farm to Table cookbook display on the second floor), found recipes they want to try, and then went to the farmer’s market to buy their ingredients.

I took photos. I was told not to put them on Facebook. When I said it was for work, I got the look. If you have (or had) teens, you know what look I’m talking about.

Here’s a teachable moment for parents: pick your battles.

Arts and Crafts @ the IC Farmer’s Market

by Kara Logsden on July 7th, 2015

Bird Houses from the Iowa City Farmer’s Market

One of my favorite parts of the Iowa City Farmer’s Market is not the produce or the yummy food, but the arts and crafts available at the Market. I have some awesome garden art purchased at the Market as well as sweet-scented soap and bird feeders.

One of my favorite Market purchases was bird houses. We had a beautiful weeping cherry tree in our front yard. We think it may have been struck by lightning because there was suddenly a big, gaping split down one side of the tree. Then the tree started look a bit sickly, the leaves shriveled up and the tree died. We trimmed the beautiful bent branches back to near the tree trunk and then had an inspiration. What if we turned our beloved tree into a bird colony?

We had a pin oak tree in the back yard that died about five years ago. As we were cutting off the branches we realized the post that was left would be great for a bird house. We purchased an awesome bird house at the Iowa City Farmer’s Market to put at the top of the trimmed-up trunk. The birds love it and we enjoy watching the birds come and go.

But … I digress. Back to the weeping cherry tree. The trimmed tree looked a bit like it was from a Dr. Seuss book and maybe some Who’s from Whooville may want to move it. Once we added birdhouses from the Farmer’s Market, though, it became a bit of an art installation in our yard.

First Bird House

First Bird House

The good news is the birds also love it. This year we have many bird families living in these new houses. We thoroughly enjoy the birds singing in the morning and are happy our weeping cherry tree was re-purposed without leaving an empty spot in our yard.

If you have questions about yard art, bird houses, or feeding wild birds, remember the Library has great books on these topics and many more!

See you at the Market!

 

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

An Iowa Tale

by Mary Estle-Smith on July 1st, 2015

I have long been a fan of Jane Smiley’s work. While I haven’t read everything she has written, as I am sometimes not too interested in the  subject matter, she does tell a good story.

I am particularly fond of her titles with a horse theme including a recent series targeted to older children, and her Iowa based titles.

Her newest books are parts one and two of a trilogy.  I think of them as multi-generational family sagas.  The first book,  Some Luck,  begins in 1920 on a small family farm in Denby Iowa.  The story follows a couple, Walter and Roseanna Langdon, their children and extended family through World War II and into the early 1950′s.

some luck               early warning

 

The second of the series, Early Warning,  picks up in the early 1950′s and goes on through 1986 with a third generation of the Langdon family coming into adulthood.

Smiley draws characters who are multifaceted and just like real people,  sometimes you really like them and sometimes you don’t.  These stories can be read as a “light” history of the economy and evolution of  life on a family farm as well as the social and political climate of the times.

I feel like this family could have lived down the road from me growing up.  I can’t wait to see how they all end up in the next volume!

Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt

by Katherine Habley on June 30th, 2015
Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt Cover Image

Eleven-year-old Tate P. Ellerbee needs to write to a pen pal for the school year and her teacher wants her class to choose a child from a school in Japan so they will get to know someone from a different country.  Some kids hesitate because this story is set in 1949 and World War II is still fresh in the minds of all.  Glimpses of the prejudice and anti-communist feelings are obvious.  Tate decides she wants to write to Hank Williams, an up-and-coming country and Western singer she’s heard on a Saturday night radio program each week with her family.  Although the story is told entirely via letters Tate writes to Mr. Williams (and his only response is sending autographed photographs), she is not deterred because he never writes back.  Once you get past the idea that Tate never gets any letters in return from the singer (I would have found a different pen pal who wanted to correspond with me!), the reader will enjoy the narrative. Her letters are almost journal entries as she tells about her day-to-day life practicing her singing for a talent show, laughing with uncle Jolly’s girlfriend, and cuddling with her dog.  Tate’s parents are absent and she lives with Aunt Patty Cake and her Uncle Jolly.  We later learn that her actress mother is serving time in prison because of a bad choice she made and her father is off supposedly taking photographs all over the world for his job. Tate has not been dealt a fair hand in life but she is still a positive and upbeat character who loves her caring aunt, funny uncle, and especially her dog, Lovie.  Her annoying brother, Frog, adds an important element to the story, especially in the surprise ending to the book.  As Tate continues writing to a complete stranger, her personality and outlook on life unfold revealing a very real character with spunk, humor, and hope for the future.  I love historical fiction and have enjoyed other books by Kimberly Willis Holt so this story was a great choice for me to read and be able to recommend to 4th-6th grade readers this summer.  A tender, and at times heartbreaking story, this book will surely take the reader on a memorable ride in a by-gone time.

My post-vacation reading list

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on June 29th, 2015

A week ago at this time, I was … I’m not quite sure where I was. I know was somewhere on the East Coast, but after two weeks on the road, the days and states start to blend together.schulz

Vermont played the biggest role in my summer vacation. My family and I spent six days in White River Junction so our two teens could attend a week-long Create Comics summer workshop at the Center for Cartoon Studies.

(It was strange to wave goodbye to the kids as they left the hotel for class every morning while my husband and I got to explore. We tried to make up for it by bringing them back trinkets from our day trips, but our daughter has yet to forgive us going on the Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour without her.)

We used travel guides when planning our trip, but the quest for knowledge doesn’t end simply because the suitcases are unpacked. Now I’m browsing the Library’s collection for books to supplement the vacation experience, beginning with our graphic novel collection.

schulz2The Center for Cartoon Studies is home to the Schulz Library. Named after Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, the library is home to more than 9,000 zines, graphic novels, cartoon collections, etc. My kids visited the library to make lists of graphic novels they want to read, many of which can be found at ICPL. We also have several books in our collection by CCS alums, including Adventures in Cartooning by James Strum, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost; Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert; and French Milk by Lucy Knisley.

The tour of the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury left me with new-found appreciation for the company that started with a home study ice cream course. Ben & Jerry’s Double-Dip: Lead with Your Values and Make Money, Too by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield is now on my reading list. As you might expect, we bought a lot of maple syrup, so The Maple Syrup Book by Janet Eagleson and Rosemary Hasner will come in handy, too.

What books have you picked up after traveling?

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

by Katherine Habley on June 25th, 2015
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler Cover Image

Consummate storyteller Anne Tyler has written her 20th novel to great reviews. This is the story of four generations of Whitshanks who lived in a house in Baltimore beginning in the 1920′s.  Recounting her romance with Red that began on a glorious “yellow-and-green afternoon” in July of 1959, the matriarch, Abby, relates all their complicated lives full of love, jealousy, and secrecy.  The author touches on her insights into assumptions about class, gender, race and age and the story is told with humor and great dialogue.  Her family is now trying to figure out how best to care for Abby and Red in their old age and some wish to sell the old homestead.  The novel switches back and forth in time as it unfolds the family’s history and this may be a bit confusing for some readers.  The conversations, the stream of consciousness, the wisdom and wit all make for a great choice for Book Group discussion.  The three-dimensional characters are memorable such as Linnie Mae, Junior’s wife; Stem, Red and Abby’s adopted son who still feels like he plays second fiddle; Denny, who can’t be counted on and comes in and out of everyone’s lives bringing his young daughter into the mix; and sharp-tongued Amanda.  A Spool of Blue Thread is a story about family–the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Tyler’s prose is as touching and truthful as ever when dealing with a family in all its complexity–something most of us can surely relate to in our own families, especially those of use in the sandwich generation. Bravo, Anne Tyler, you’ve done it again.

When Good is So Very, Very Good!

by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on June 23rd, 2015

It’s officially summer and that means lovely weather and longer days!  Such conditions are favorable for reading these enthralling books.  “Just one more page” actually translates into missing my bus stop and an unexpected hike home.

Ready Player One cover.phpThe first culprit was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline in the summer of 2011.  To escape his awful Real Life, Wade Watts spends a lot of his time immersed in an online world called OASIS.  His goal is to locate an Easter Egg, an object much like Charlie’s Golden Ticket, that upon redemption will make him the heir to the eccentric founder’s estate.  After discovering the first key he must battle enemies, real and virtual, to claim the prize.  Although this novel is written by a self-proclaimed gamer geek, the pop culture references and intense action appeals to a diverse readership.

Scarlet cover.phpEach book in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer feature a well-known fairy tale character with a science fiction twist.  For example, Cinder (2012) is a 16-year-old girl with an evil stepmother and a life of drudgery. . . and part cyborg.  She lives in New Beijing where she meets Prince Kai when he patronizes her mechanical repairs stall.  The second book introduces Scarlet (2013) who lives on the other side of the world.  How do their stories intertwine?  When will they meet?  How do I get to my house from here?  Needless to say, the third installment Cress (2014) was read safely at home.

Loop cover.phpLastly, Loop (2014) by Karen Akins is not a run-of-the-mill time travel book.  In the 23rd century, the ability to move through time is biological and regulated.  Bree Bennis is a clumsy 16-year-old Shifter who, during an ordinary mid-term exam, accidentally takes a 14-year-old boy hostage.  When she goes back to try to fix the blunder, she doesn’t go far enough.  Finn is now 17 and “totally hot”.  To compound the situation, he then follows her back into the future.  Naturally, this messes up the time-space continuum and they must work together to save their worlds.

I suggest reading these addicting novels featuring debut authors and imaginative stories tucked away in a cozy place; if not, the friendly bus drivers give excellent girl directions!




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