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Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod

by Kara Logsden on February 18th, 2015
Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod Cover Image

I dream of Paris. I’ve only traveled to Southern France, so my ongoing travel to Paris is vicarious through books. Author Janice MacLeod also dreamed of Paris and made her dream a reality through planning, checklists, and determination.

Janice MacLeod was “living the dream” working as a copywriter in Southern California. Unfortunately her life was more of a nightmare as she faced 12-hour work days, burnout and exhaustion. One day she doodled on a notepad, “How much money does it take to quit your job?”

Soon she was writing lists and making plans in her journal. Her first step was to save $100 per day, her estimated cost for what an escape to Paris would cost. To meet this goal she changed social plans (instead of dinner, let’s go on a hike and have a picnic), weeded her wardrobe (goal: all clothes fit in one suitcase) and downsized everything that tied her to California.

Soon the journey to transform her life became an adventure as she sets out for Paris. Along the way, and through continued journaling, she created a new life through words, art and friends … oh and a cute Polish dude she met while sitting in a cafe writing.

Paris Letters was a fun book to read … determination and serendipity along with some great letters.

Thinking Ahead to Summertime

by Ella Von Holtum on February 7th, 2015

Days like this, when the sun is out, the snow is melting, and people are out walking with no coats on, make me wish summer was a little nearer. Sure, it may be February. And maybe the temperature’s going to drop again next week, but for one sunny Saturday we can pretend, right?

We have some great titles in the Young Adult collection that can keep you in that summer frame of mind.  When it gets cold again, this is what I recommend!

white bicycle

The White Bicycle by Beverly Brenna: “Taylor Jane Simon, an eighteen-year-old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, travels to France, as she struggles to become independent of her controlling mother and meets a new mentor.”

vast

The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd: “The summer after graduating from an Iowa high school, eighteen-year-old Dade Hamilton watches his parents’ marriage disintegrate, ends his long-term, secret relationship, comes out of the closet, and savors first love.”

swimSwim the Fly by Don Calame: “Fifteen-year-old Matt Gratton and his two best friends, Coop and Sean, always set themselves a summertime goal. This year’s? To see a real-live naked girl for the first time–quite a challenge, given that none of the guys has thenerve to even ask a girl out on a date. But catching a girl in the buff starts to look easy compared to Matt’s other summertime aspiration: to swim the 100-yard butterfly (the hardest stroke known to God or man) as a way to impress Kelly West, the sizzling new star of the swim team”

thatsummer

That Summer by Sarah Dessen: “During the summer of her divorced father’s remarriage and her sister’s wedding, fifteen-year-old Haven comes into her own by letting go of the myths of the past.”

boyfriend

The Boyfriend League by Rachel Hawthorne: “Being a tomboy did not prepare Dani for romance. But new boyfriend potential opens up when her and her best friend’s families host a summer league of baseball players.”

alltheright

All the Right Stuff by Walter Dean Myers: “The summer after his absentee father is killed in a random shooting, Paul volunteers at a Harlem soup kitchen where he listens to lessons about “the social contract” from an elderly African American man, and mentors a seventeen-year-old unwed mother who wants to make it to college on a basketball scholarship.”

 

empress

Empress of the World by Sarah Ryan: “While attending a summer institute, fifteen-year-old Nic meets another girl named Battle, falls in love with her, and finds the relationship to be difficult and confusing.”

 

All of these books are available upstairs at ICPL, in the Young Adult collection. If you find yourself dreaming of warmer days, come check one out!

 

Watch My Baby Grow

by Anne Mangano on February 6th, 2015
Watch My Baby Grow Cover Image

There are many books on infant development that contain pages and pages of text. Authors use word after word after word after word to explain the science behind this and the philosophy behind that. These books are great. They are fascinating and I want to read them someday. But if you are a new parent, your attention span is limited. You are tired, overscheduled (or unscheduled), and if you have extra time, it’s probably not devoted to reading anything extensive. However, there is a natural curiosity to know what is happening and what is coming up next. It is an exciting time of rapid development with changes occurring weekly. That is why I really like DK’s Watch My Baby Grow. This book provides week by week (for the first month) and month by month information on developmental milestones during the first year. But, like any DK book, it also has a lot of visuals, charts, and photographs. It provides a perfect mix for a tired, but curious mind.

The book follows the growth of one baby, Melisa, through her first year. The editors took a picture of Melisa at regular intervals to depict her development. The photographs are beautiful and well-laid out with Melisa in a white infant bodysuit amongst a white background. For scale, a white rabbit stuffed toy was placed next to her for each shot. The photographers had specific photos they wanted to capture in their depiction of infant development. Not all of them worked and there are little blurbs about what they wanted to photograph and why they were babyunable to do so. You will also find dedicated sections on newborn life, the development of the senses, physical and intellectual growth, communication, and personality.

Watch My Baby Grow is a fun and rewarding book. If you want to dive deeper, there are many great infant development books in our parenting section.

100 Foot Journey

by Kara Logsden on February 5th, 2015
100 Foot Journey Cover Image

I love books made into movies. I like to compare the two, think about which one I like better (it’s usually the book), and talk to others about what they think.

The 100 Foot Journey (Book and Movie) is a coming of age story of Hassan, a young aspiring chef from Mumbai with a loving family who has experienced great tragedy, and Madame Mallory, a Michelin-starred French chef who experiences a spiritual awakening after involvement with one of the tragedies experienced by Hassan and his family.

I didn’t discover the book, published in 2010, until I read a review for the 2014 movie. I was intrigued so I asked the Library to purchase the book on disc. I LOVED it – listening felt like a vicarious trip to Mumbai, England and the French countryside. There was strong character development, a strong sense of place, and a compelling story with memorable characters. After listening, I wanted more from the author Richard Morais.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to watch the movie with my family and everyone enjoyed it. The movie was produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey for DreamWorks Pictures. Just like the book, there were memorable characters and a strong sense of place. Helen Mirren was a perfect Madame Mallory and I especially liked Om Puri as the PaPa.

Knowing I’d read the book, my family was curious if I liked the book or the movie better. In this case, and just like To Kill A Mockingbird, I liked both. I enjoyed each in different ways, and would definitely enjoy reading the book or seeing the movie again.

If you watch the movie or read the book, I’d like to hear what you think. Enjoy!

Best in Books for Teens

by Brian Visser on February 5th, 2015

printz award

Earlier this week, the  winner of the 2015 Michael L. Printz Award was announced.  The award honors the best book in young adult literature each year as decided by the Printz Committee.  They also name honor books, which are the close, but no cigar books of the year.  Personally, I usually like the honor books more than the book that wins each year.  Here are this year’s books:

2015 Winner

I’ll Give You the SunI'll Give You the Sun

By Jandy Nelson

Published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group, (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company Once inseparable, twins Noah and Jude are torn apart by a family tragedy that transforms their intense love for each other into intense anger. Timelines twist and turn around each other in beautifully orchestrated stories of love and longing.

2015 Honor Books

And WAnd We Staye Stay

By Jenny Hubbard

Published by Delacorte, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., a Penguin Random House Company.

Reeling from her boyfriend’s dramatic suicide, Emily hides her anguish at a new boarding school, where she finds healing through poetry. Hubbard’s gem-like prose beautifully balances Emily’s poetry.

 

The Carnival at BrayCarnival at Bray

By Jessie Ann Foley

Published by Elephant Rock Books.

In 1993, Maggie is dismayed to leave Chicago and her beloved Uncle Kevin behind when she moves to a small Irish town. Yet it is within this evocative setting that Foley unwinds Maggie’s exceptional coming-of-age tale, where Maggie discovers music and forgiveness as antidotes for grief.

 

GrGrasshopper Jungleasshopper Jungle

By Andrew Smith

Published by Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.

Historian Austin Szerba is in love with his best girl friend, Shann. He is also in love with his best boy friend, Robby. Mastermind Smith takes these tender facts and swirls them into a whirlwind tale of carnivorous praying mantises, the history of the world, the role of the individual, and the end of all we know.

 

This One SummerThis One Summer

By Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Published by First Second

Adolescence in its precarious first bloom is the subject of this sensitive graphic novel. The team of Mariko and Jillian Tamaki show and tell us of one special summer in Rose’s life, in a brilliant flow of pictures and text.

And the winner is….

by Vickie Pasicznyuk on February 3rd, 2015
And the winner is…. Cover Image

On Monday, February 2, the American Library Association (ALA) announced the 2015 Newbery and Caldecott award winners.  These books have won the most prestigious prizes in children’s literature.

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:  The Crossover by Kwame Alexander–Twin brothers Josh and Jordan are basketball stars and great friends, until a girl gets in the way.  A middle grade story of brotherhood and basketball told in a variety of poetic styles.

Newbery Honor Books: El Deafo by Cece Bell and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children: The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, written and illustrated by Dan Santat–An imaginary friend sets out on a journey to find a real child to befriend.

Caldecott Honor Books: Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo, The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock and Mary GrandPre, Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet, and This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki.

For other award winners, see the full list.

 

 

Inspector Ian Rutledge–The Prequel

by Heidi Lauritzen on January 30th, 2015
Inspector Ian Rutledge–The Prequel Cover Image

I long have been a fan of author Charles Todd’s mystery series featuring the character Ian Rutledge.  A Fine Summer’s Day is the just-published, perfectly-presented prequel to the sixteen novels in the series.  It is a satisfying detective story in its own right, but what’s best is learning some of the back stories of the series’ characters.

If you are already a fan too, I think you will thoroughly enjoy this installment.  It takes place just as England is mobilizing to enter World War I.  Rutledge is a detective at Scotland Yard and is courting Jean, the young woman who we know will break their engagement upon Rutledge’s return from the war.  Many other familiar characters whom we have come to know are introduced here as well.

Why do I like the series so much?  Ian Rutledge is an honorable and intelligent man who is haunted by the horror of the war.  How he solves mysteries while trying to regain some emotional stability in his life are complimentary and compelling themes.  His Scotland Yard assignments take him all around England–and sometimes to Scotland–and the places and historical settings come to life.

When I recommend the series to readers, I always suggest that they read them in order.  While there is enough background information repeated in each novel to make them understandable if you don’t read them in order, the character development does flow from book to book and you see the natural progression of the characters’ lives.  Now I will suggest that readers begin with this book.

A couple more notes about the series’ characters:  you don’t get much here about Hamish MacLeod–which makes sense because he becomes part of Ian Rutledge’s life only when Rutledge enters the war.  And there’s a tantalizing reference to Simon Brandon, a name you will recognize if you read the Bess Crawford mysteries, by the same author.  I wonder if we can look forward to a merging of their stories sometime soon?

 

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 »




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