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Learn to Learn

by Mary Estle-Smith on January 28th, 2015

Ways to effectively learn have always been interesting to me.  In my quest for information/validation for the way I personally choose to gain new knowledge and skills I came across some pretty interesting material.

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Make it Stick by Peter C Brown.

As I started reading  finals week at the U of I was just beginning. Every day students were in the library pouring over materials  from the semester.   I was learning that cramming was a pretty ineffective method to really learn. Making errors was  cited as a particularly lasting learning tool IF timely corrections are made.The author points out that the more effort that is put forth during the acquisition of new material, the better the retention and ability to apply the knowledge will be in the  future. If this is valid, I will have a better retention of this book because I retrieved the information from my head for this blog post.

One example given is that of a professor who changed his class structure to several periodic quizzes rather than a final exam at the end of a course.  He (and researchers) discovered that by retrieving information throughout the semester that students were better able to retain what was covered during the course and as a byproduct, increased their grades by a significant amount.

He also discusses and pretty much debunks the whole theory of learning styles (visual, auditory, kin-esthetic) from the angle that one style suits an individual for all types of learning.  Research indicates that successful teaching/learning methods depend much more on the material/skills being taught than on what an individual perceives to be “their” learning method.  I know that this is certainly true for me.

This title in ICPL’s collection  is available in both print and audio.

 

 

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

by Vickie Pasicznyuk on January 27th, 2015
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole Cover Image

Sam and Dave have dug a hole in my mind. At the risk of sounding like a heretic in the realm of children’s librarians, I’ll admit that I’ve not been a fan of Jon Klassen’s hat books. Grim humor is just not my thing. So with reluctance, and only after hearing all the buzz, I decided I did need to read Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. And my first reaction was bewilderment—“What happened there?” So I read it again. And again. And yet again. And then looked at the illustrations. And then looked at them some more. I shared it with my teenage daughter, who shared it with her friends. (“Freaky!” was their verdict, which was a compliment.) And somehow, it has grown on me. I still don’t really understand it. Neither does anyone else, I’ve learned. There are many theories about what it really means. But what did the dynamic duo of Barnett intend for it to mean? And will we ever find out where Sam and Dave really are? The ending is unnerving, and I keep turning it over in my mind. The spare text, subdued illustrations, and determined characters remind me a bit of The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson, though a bit grimmer. (Still, The Carrot Seed family is a bit harsh, too, don’t you think?) Will Sam and Dave achieve the same classic status? If you haven’t read it yet, get your hands on Sam and Dave Dig a Hole. And please…explain it to me!

P.S. Check out Barnett and Klassen’s other collaboration Extra Yarn, which I love. It’s sweetly satisfying and will always remind me of Iowa City’s Tree Huggers!

Like Roz Chast? Consider these two books.

by Melody Dworak on January 27th, 2015
Like Roz Chast? Consider these two books. Cover Image

Roz Chast’s graphic memoir of taking care of her ailing parents has captured a lot of hearts in 2014. Can’t We Talking About Something More Pleasant? spent 20 weeks on the NPR Hardcover Nonfiction Bestseller list, and made Maureen Corrigan’s Favorite Books of 2014. Here at  the library, we could barely keep the book on the shelf and saw a surge in interest just after the New Year.

 

If you itching for more Chast, I have two books for you. 101 Two-Letter Words is a collaboration she did with Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields fame. Her expressive illustrations accompany the poems Merritt wrote to honor the 101 two-letter words allowed in Scrabble. With Chast’s illustrations and Merritt’s clever songwriting abilities, the book is sure to bring a ton of smiles. Read the rest of this entry »

Jackson Pollock’s “Mural”

by Heidi Lauritzen on January 15th, 2015
Jackson Pollock’s “Mural” Cover Image

Mural, the 1943 painting by Jackson Pollock, has been much in the news over the last couple of years as it made its journey from the UI Museum of Art to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the remarkable conservation work done there, and then back to Iowa where currently it is exhibited at the Sioux City Art Museum.  “Jackson Pollock’s Mural:  The Transitional Moment” by Yvonne Szafran and others is a fascinating look at the painting’s history and the conservation work that was completed in 2014.

The painting was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim and was first exhibited in her home.  She donated Mural to the University of Iowa in 1948, although it did not arrive in Iowa until 1951.  The painting is now acclaimed as a masterpiece of American mid-century modernism.

After a brief history of the painting and the artist, the book goes into detail about the conservation process.  The painting had dulled over the years, mostly due to a coating of varnish in the 1970s, the technique in use at the time to protect paintings.  The meticulous effort to remove the varnish is described in words and and photographs; artists who paint will get more out of the detail than I did, but I was happy to skim the technical bits and focus on the illustrations.  Cross sections of the paint on the canvas illuminate Pollock’s technique as well as show the varnish that is not original.

The painting is very large–roughly 8 feet by 20 feet–and the photographs of the conservation staff working on the painting give one a sense of the huge effort the project required. There are before-and-after fold-out pages showing the complete painting.

ICPL was fortunate to host author Yvonne Szafran, Senior Conservator of Paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum, on October 21, 2014 for a lecture on the painting and its conservation.  You can stream a recording of that talk from our website.

Mural will be at the Sioux City Art Center until April 1, 2015.  It then is destined for exhibitions in Europe, before it returns home to a new UI Museum of Art building.  “Jackson Pollock’s Mural” has made me much more appreciative of this locally owned treasure.  I can’t wait to see the real thing again.

Deep Down Dark : The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Héctor Tobar

by Bond Drager on January 12th, 2015

deep down dark

Just in time for those with the common New Year’s resolution to “Read More Books,” NPR’s Morning Edition has started their own book club. The premise of the club is simple:

A well-known writer will pick a book he or she loved. We’ll all read it. Then, you’ll send us your questions about the book. And about a month later, we’ll reconvene to talk about the book with the author and the writer who picked it.

This month’s choice, selected by author Ann Patchett, is “Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free” by Hector Tobar. Morning Edition is taking questions for Hector Tobar on their Facebook page, and Twitter and Instagram under the hashtag #morningreads. On January 20th the show will select questions and have a conversation with the author.

I heard the description of the book on NPR and while it’s not a book I think I normally would have picked up, I’m glad I did. My main concern during the first chapter or two was whether I would be able to keep straight the many different characters. With 33 miners, all men with sometimes similar names, I started to wonder how I would remember who was who. I needn’t have worried: the author does a terrific job using callbacks and reminders to help the reader along. The story was gripping and well told.

Patchett described the author’s writing thusly: “He’s taking on all of the big issues of life,” she says. “What is life worth? What is the value of one human life? What is faith? Who do we become in our darkest hour?”

Though I remembered how the story ended because of the massive news coverage at the time, I had not realized the details of what was truly a miraculous and surprising rescue. It was fascinating reading about how the miners dealt with such a grim situation only to be faced with a media storm as soon as contact was made – though they remained trapped for many more weeks.

This was a terrific read; it’s a page turner that I would recommend to a broad audience.

Find the book in our catalog record here:

http://alec.icpl.org/record=b1442811

Listen to NPR’s interview with Hector Tobar here:

http://www.npr.org/2015/01/20/377462181/book-club-hector-tobar-answers-your-questions-about-deep-down-dark

 

 

The Secret Place – Tana French

by Jason Paulios on January 7th, 2015
The Secret Place – Tana French Cover Image

Teenager Holly Mackey (daughter of a Detective featured in French’s previous detective novels) is living and studying at an all-girls boarding school outside of Dublin, Ireland. The administrator of the school posted a notice board where students can anonymously leave notes called, “the secret place”.  The novel opens with her having discovered a note saying, “I know who killed him.” She understands it refers to the unsolved murder of a student from the nearby all-boys school whose body was found on the grounds the previous year. She takes the note to the only cop she trusts, cold case Detective Stephen Moran. He wants a promotion to the murder squad and is savvy enough to know he can approach the newly partner-less, gruff Detective Antoinette Conway and hope to impress.

The story is told mostly from the Detective’s point of view with chapters interspersed following the back-story of Holly and her friends’ experiences at the school the prior year. The solve happens over the course of a day of intensive interviewing at the school; the Detectives’ frustration and desperation for a collar ends up creating a locked-room mystery vibe that can feel quite suffocating. Since most of the book is devoted to the testimony of independent teenagers (e.g. puberty, rebellion, in-fighting, and inherent distrust of adults) you soon find yourself suspecting everyone and wondering if these cops should just give up.

French’s books are always extremely detailed and, since you’ve the Detective’s point of view, you get the feeling that you’re meant to be taking good notes in order to solve this. There’s generally a foreboding feel, sometimes hinted as supernatural but often manifested as unease about every character’s motives. Her stories are dark and meticulously plotted, they lean towards police procedural rather than the more typical bestseller suspense.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

by Kara Logsden on January 1st, 2015
Yes Please by Amy Poehler Cover Image

Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

My takeaway from Amy Poehler’s Yes Please is she has worked hard, taken risks, cultivated friendships, laughed at herself, experienced good & bad in life, and made people feel good.

Poehler is best known for her work on Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation, but Yes Please reveals there’s a lot more to this actor than laughs and feeling good. She is a Mom, humanitarian, advocate for girls and women, community builder, and “bossy” in the very best way.

I listened to this book and because it was narrated by Poehler, with help from family and friends, the listening experience felt intimate and revealing. Kathleen Turner introduces the chapters and we hear from Amy’s parents, Carol Burnett, Mike Schur, Patrick Stewart, Seth Meyers, and others. Poehler has an infectious laugh and I found myself laughing along with her while thoroughly enjoying the listening experience.

I started this review with a quote Amy Poehler included in the book. I’ll end with Poehler’s words:

The only way we will survive is by being kind. The only way we can get by in this world is through the help we receive from others. No one can do it alone…

Happy New Year!

ICPL Staff Top Picks for 2014: Best of the Best

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 31st, 2014

Here they are; the Iowa City Public Library’s Best of the Best Books for 2014. The books that made this list received nominations from more than one staff person.

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (fiction)
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson (fiction)
  • The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak (children’s)
  • Sisters by Raina Telgemeier (children’s)
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (children’s)
  • The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Levy (children’s)
  • The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems (children’s)
  • Lock in by John Scalzi (mystery/science fiction)
  • The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (mystery/science fiction)
  • Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? By Roz Chast (non-fiction)
  • What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe (non-fiction)

Children’s books had a strong showing on this year’s list, but in the end, two fiction books share the honor of being ICPL’s Most Recommended Book of 2014 — All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and Lila by Marilynne Robinson.

anthony_doerrDoerr’s All the Light We Cannot See tells the story of two people struggling to survive while maintaining their morality during World War II. Marie-Laure is a blind girl who flees to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo after the Nazis invade Paris. Werner is a gadget-obsessed orphan whose skills admit him to a brutal branch of Hitler Youth. It isn’t until Werner is sent to Saint-Malo to track Resistance activity that Marie-Louise’s and Werner’s paths cross, but their alternating stories weave a tale that draws readers in long before their worlds collide.lila

Robinson’s Lila revisits the beloved characters and setting of her Pulitzer Prize–winning Gilead and Home. Homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, Lila steps inside a small-town Iowa church and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the life that preceded her newfound security.

What was your favorite read of 2014?

ICPL Staff Top Picks for 2014: Children’s Books

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 30th, 2014

The Library’s Children’s Staff stepped things up this year, providing the longest list of recommended titles. These books range from stories perfect for bedtime stories to chapter books for independent readers. Perhaps your child’s new favorite is on this list!

ICPL BEST CHILDREN’S BOOKS OF 2014

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove

A Library Book for Bear by Bonny Becker

The Way to the Zoo by John Burningham

Hermelin the Detective Mouse by Mini Grey

Revolution by Deborah Wiles

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

Gabriel Finley & the Raven’s Riddle by George Hagen

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Levy – II

Puddle Pug by Kim Norman

Space Case by Stuart Gibbs

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Sparky by Jenny Offill

Quest by Aaron Becker

The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc

Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Mix It Up! By Herve Tullet

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

Maple by Lori Nichols

Moo! By David LaRochelle

Underwater Dogs: Kids edition by Seth Casteel

Found by Salina Yoon

Best Food Writing 2014

by Maeve Clark on December 29th, 2014
Best Food Writing 2014 Cover Image

Best Food Writing 2014, edited by Holly Hughes, is a delightful collection from food writers of all stripes; from chef-writers and food bloggers to food magazine and cookbook writers. Now in its 15th year, Best Food Writing continues to provide a tasty sample of the best in food writing found in print and online.   Divided into eight sections readers can sample from 50 pieces beginning with The Way We Eat Now and ending with Extreme Eating.

One of my favorite pieces is The Science of the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, the Managing Culinary Director of Serious Eats, where he writes the weekly Food Lab column.  Lopez-Alt’s selection comes from the Home Cooking section and lists 20 Cookie Facts which explain the science behind the recipe and why modifying ingredients and instructions can change the results.  He ends with his recipe for The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie.  I think it is definitely worth a try.

If you enjoy cooking and/or eating or reading about cooking or food, Best Food Writing 2014, (or earlier years in the series), might just be the perfect book for you.

 

 




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