Spotlight on Short Stories

by Heidi Kuchta on March 23rd, 2017

civilwarlandI love short stories! They’re a fun way to try out a writer’s work without a 300 page commitment. If you don’t like one of the stories, you can pick another at random or put the whole collection aside.

2017 has been a great year for new short story collections, but my all time favorite is from twenty years ago, Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders. “Set in a dystopian near-future…these stories constitute a searching and bitterly humorous commentary on the current state of the American Dream (Goodreads).” Upon re-reading, this book is still very relevant and very funny. Civilwarland, the brilliant setting for one of the stories, is a Civil War reenactment theme park staffed by hilarious and doleful characters. A side note: check out Saunder’s first novel that just came out, Lincoln in the Bardo (2017).

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It’s here: Book Madness Sweet Sixteen!

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on March 20th, 2017

Here are the titles that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen round of our 2017 Book Madness competition:


Banned Books

  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  • Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss

Read the rest of this entry »

This Won’t End Well: Tragic Middle-Grade Reads

by Anne Wilmoth on March 17th, 2017

If, like me, you don’t mind wallowing in despair, as long as a good story has led you there, try one of these new works of juvenile literature.  Eye-opening and morally challenging for middle-grade readers, and equally moving for adults, these two novels and one biography will be read through tears.

Thumbnail   The Dog, Ray by Linda Coggin

Dog books are notoriously sad, and this one is no exception.  However, instead of doggie death coming at the end of the story, in this book tragedy occurs right at the beginning – 12-year-old girl Daisy is killed in a car crash, and her soul returns to Earth in the body of a dog.  A mistake has been made, though, that allows her to recall her previous life as a girl while living her new life as a dog.  Daisy’s one goal is to find her former home and return to living with her parents, but as their dog.

This intriguing concept plays out in a story that is heartbreaking but also sweet and humorous at times.  Daisy finds that “the responsibilities of a dog are enormous” and though her life may be heading in a completely new direction she can’t control, there is meaning and love and hope in store for her.


Thumbnail   The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero by Patricia A. McCormick

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German minister who conspired with others to assassinate Hitler at the height of the Holocaust.  Long a crusader for social justice, Bonhoeffer was one of the earliest critics of the Nazi regime.  At first, he sought the support of other church leaders in condemning Nazism – few did.  Later, Bonhoeffer graduated to espionage, traveling widely outside Germany to share news of the horrors being leveled against Jews – almost no one believed him.  Finally, Bonhoeffer determined that he had no choice but to take part in a daring scheme to end Hitler’s life.

This juvenile biography raises fascinating moral and ethical questions; through reading, we are privy to Bonhoeffer’s decision to turn to violence, despite his religious convictions and commitment to pacifism and nonviolent social change.  Bonhoeffer’s courage and willingness to stand alone is breathtaking; readers will relish this page-turning volume that exposes little-known history.


Thumbnail   The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz

To escape gang violence in their small Guatemalan village, 12-year-old Jaime and his cousin Angela embark on a risky journey north, through Mexico and across the border to Texas and safety.  The drug-trafficking gang that controls their town has killed their cousin and promises they’ll be next; their impoverished family, terrified, scrapes together the money needed to finance their escape.  Along the way, Jaime and Angela are locked in a sweltering boxcar for days, dodge murderous gangs as well as the police, endure hunger, and put their lives in the hands of strangers.

This morally complex book is an important read at a moment when immigration is a hot topic around the world. As USA Today reported, in the first 11 months of the 2016 fiscal year, 54,052 unaccompanied minors made the trek from Central America into the United States.  Based on true events, this novel is the tense, heartfelt story of two of these children, for whom an incredibly dangerous journey is their only hope for the future.




Wonder Woman’s Rebirth

by Dennis Cooper on March 13th, 2017
Wonder Woman’s Rebirth Cover Image

While Superman supposedly represents the values of “Truth, Justice, and the American Way”, there is no greater champion of “Truth” than Wonder Woman with her magic lasso.  Her creator, psychologist William Moulton Marston, invented the lie detector, (check out The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore for more), so one could say that Truth is in her DNA.  Unfortunately, not even Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth can help her discover the actual nature of her origin.  Was she formed from clay by the queen of the Amazons and given life by the gods of Olympus?  Or is she the biological offspring of Queen Hippolyta and Zeus, ruler of the gods?  As she observes in the opening pages of Wonder Woman: The Lies, the first volume of DC Comics’ Rebirth era, her story keeps changing. Read the rest of this entry »

2017 Book Madness: Time to vote for the Sweet Sixteen

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on March 13th, 2017

The Book Madness brackets have been updated to show titles advancing to the Second Round.


Banned Books

  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

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Fresh Picks: Strong Heroines

by Morgan Reeves on March 9th, 2017
Fresh Picks: Strong Heroines Cover Image

I grew up reading stories filled with strong female characters, from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne to Roald Dahl’s Matilda to Tamora Pierce’s Alanna the Lioness. I also loved reading biographies about my real-life heroines, Susan B. AnthonyEleanor Roosevelt, and Amelia Earhart. Reading about strong female characters is important for both girls and boys, as reading has a strong influence on children’s ideas and opinions about themselves and others. In honor of Women’s History Month, here are some new books full of both fictional and factual heroines.


The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim

After being sold as a bride to a wealthy family that treats her poorly, eleven-year-old Jing, with the help of her animal spirit friends, runs away. Her subsequent journey is filled with both magic and adventure.

The Runaway by Kate O’Hearn

In the second installment of the Valkyrie series, Freya and Archie are sent back to Earth by Odin in order to locate a banished Valkyrie and bring her back to Asgard. But Brunhilde has built a life for herself on Earth and has no desire to return. And what Freya learns about that life, changes her understanding of her own family.

Disenchanted :The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison

For generations the Charming men have been cursed, but now that the witch Envearia is dead the curse should be broken–however things are complicated at Charming Palace: King Clement is still nasty, Queen Maud has fled with the help of her son, Prince Dash, and Ella Coach (called Cinderella) would rather be at home sewing than living in the palace at Charming Prep school.


Hidden Figures : The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women Who Helped Launch Our Nation into Space by Margot Lee Shetterly

In this young reader’s edition of the adult title, discover the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, a group of dedicated female African-American mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Fannie Never Flinched : One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights by Mary Cronk Farrell

Fanny Sellins was a union activist who fought and gave her life for equality and labor reform. This biography shines a light on the long and often dangerous fight for worker’s rights, with the period photographs providing stark reminders of the reasons for the fight.

Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter, Nellie Bly by Deborah Noyes

A biography of Nellie Bly, the pioneering journalist whose showy but substantive stunts skyrocketed her to fame. Her exploits included impersonating an inmate at an asylum for the mentally ill and reporting on the terrible conditions, as well circling the globe in 72 days and interviewing a controversial anarchist.

You’ll find these titles on the Children’s Room New Shelf for the next couple of months. While you’re there, you might find other heroines to be inspired by.

Modern Reads for Women’s History Month

by Bond Drager on March 6th, 2017

I recently wondered how March came to be National Women’s History Month. Luckily National Women’s History Project had some great information.

If you’re like me and you like to celebrate holidays by nerding out on information overload, here’s a great list of book titles to pick up from ICPL. For this list, I’m choosing to focus on more recent choices that highlight great feminist literature and nonfiction.

My Real Children by Jo Walton

I won’t go into too much detail about this book because I don’t want to give this wonderful book away. If you’re a fan of realistic fiction like John Green and Rainbow Rowell, but you’re willing to read something written for and about adults, you’d like this book. This is a story about what it means to have choices in life, and ultimately how women function and age within society.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This book has won a zillion awards for its powerful story of race and identity. Bonus: North Liberty Community Library has selected it for its Bring Your Own Book Club on March 31 at Beer Burger – you’ve still got time to participate.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

There’s a reason the City of Literature recently awarded Roxane Gay with the 2016 Paul Engle prize. She’s a tremendous writer doing important work across media and genre. This book of essays is a great introduction to her writing, and it’s also really fun to read.

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

So much of the story of 90s music in the pacific northwest comes from the perspective by and about men, that it’s particularly interesting to read this story of a young woman finding her calling as part of that scene.

Not only is this story riveting, but Brownstein is a just a fantastic writer and I often recommend this as one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. She not only chronicles her turbulent journey but is impressively self-aware, finding deeper meaning as she looks at her story in hindsight.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This debut novel from Angie Thomas just came out in February and is already proving very popular. It’s a YA book that everyone should read. The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books describes it as follows: “Ultimately the book emphasizes the need to speak up about injustice. That’s a message that will resonate with all young people concerned with fairness, and Starr’s experience will speak to readers who know Starr’s life like their own and provide perspective for others.”

Elementary Reads

by Anne Mangano on March 1st, 2017
Elementary Reads Cover Image

This year marks the 125th anniversary of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s collection of the first twelve Sherlock stories. These short stories created a sensation among readers of the day. Holmes became so popular that Doyle was publically pressured for more stories, even though he killed off the character to write something different. Unlike Victorian readers, we will never have new Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Book Madness Time at the Library!

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on March 1st, 2017

Grab your brackets and a pencil (or pen, if you’re feeling lucky) — it’s Book Madness time at ICPL!book-madness

Visit our display on the Library’s first floor to see which titles will face off in this year’s literary competition. Be sure to pick up a bracket! Anyone who returns their bracket by March 5 is in the running for a $25 gift certificate to Prairie Lights! (We’ll have two winners; one in the Children’s bracket and another in the Teens and Adults bracket).

Beginning March 6, you can vote for your favorite title in our Book Madness brackets. To start, we have 64 titles in four categories. Submit a vote for your favorite(s) – if you want to vote for just one book, you can, or you can choose 32 titles to move forward in the first round; it’s up to you! – and watch as the titles progress.

Here are the voting dates to remember:

  • First Round: March 6 through March 12
  • Second Round: March 13 through March 19
  • Sweet Sixteen: March 20 through March 26
  • Elite 8: March 27 through April 2
  • Final 4: April 3 through April 9
  • Championship Game: April 10 through April 16

The winning book in each bracket will be announced on Monday, April 17.

Here’s a list of this year’s books. Who do you think will win it all?


Banned Books

  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  • And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
  • George by Alex Gino
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  • Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  • It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
  • Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss
  • Bone by Jeff Smith
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  • It’s a Book by Lane Smith

Best Book Artists

  • Oliver Jeffers
  • Rosemary Wells
  • Jan Brett
  • LeUyen Pham
  • Mo Willems
  • Eric Carle
  • Tomie dePaola
  • Sandra Boynton
  • Kevin Henkes
  • Jerry Pinkney
  • Lois Ehlert
  • Graeme Base
  • Jon Klassen
  • Brian Selznick
  • Pamela Zagarenski
  • Molly Idle

Forgotten Classics

  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  • Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  • Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
  • The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
  • Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
  • Half Magic (Tales of Magic, #1) by Edward Eager
  • The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
  • A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  • George and Martha by James Marshall
  • Higglety Pigglety Pop! by Maurice Sendak
  • Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander

Series and Sequels

  • Big Nate by Lincoln Pierce
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  • Galaxy Zack by Ray O’Ryan
  • Geronimo Stilton by Various Authors
  • The Princess in Black by Shannon and Dean Hale
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
  • American Girl by Various Authors
  • Who Was … by Various Authors
  • Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Olivia by Ian Falconer
  • Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
  • How Do Dinosaurs… by Jane Yolen
  • Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems
  • Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
  • Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
  • Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo


Dystopian Fiction

  • The Passage by Justin Cronin
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Testing Trilogy by Joelle Charbonneau
  • When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
  • The Children of Men by D. James
  • The Fireman by Joe Hill
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • California by Edan Lepucki
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • The Red Rising Series by Pierce Brown
  • The Last Policeman Trilogy by Ben H. Winters
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
  • Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Graphic Novels and Comics

  • All Star Superman by Grant Morrison
  • Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore
  • Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley
  • Locke & Key by Joe Hill
  • Palestine by Joe Sacco
  • March Trilogy by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin
  • Blankets by Craig Thompson
  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  • Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson & Shannon Watters
  • Epileptic by David B.
  • Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto
  • Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan
  • Bone by Jeff Smith
  • Peanut by Ayun Halliday
  • The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
  • Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama

Historical Fiction

  • Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
  • Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
  • Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
  • City of Thieves by David Benioff
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  • The Alienist by Caleb Carr
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe


  • Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  • Tell No One by Harlan Coben
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
  • Death of a Red Heroine by Qui Xiaolong
  • In The Woods by Tana French
  • Death of the Mantis by Michael Stanley
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
  • Bill Hodges Trilogy by Stephen King
  • Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny
  • Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
  • Baby Ganesh Agency series by Vaseem Khan
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Bruce Springsteen Reads Me Bedtime Stories

by Kara Logsden on February 28th, 2017
Bruce Springsteen Reads Me Bedtime Stories Cover Image

My New Year’s Resolution was to switch from listening to audiobooks via CDs in my car to listening on my smart phone. WOW! I love listening to eAudiobooks on my phone! They go everywhere with me – in the car, on a walk, while eating breakfast, and yes, to bed with me at night. More information about eAudiobooks via ICPL and OverDrive is available here.

I’m currently listening to Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen and the audiobook is narrated by The Boss himself. I am not typically a biography reader, but I am loving this book. The other morning, while driving into work, the E Street Band was formed. I may have had tears. I now understand why I don’t like Springsteen’s earlier music, but I’m going to give it a new try after listening to the book. I think I’ll understand it better. Today I listened to his music while driving into to work. The songs have been bumping around in my head and I wanted a day to listen. Born to Run, Born in the  USA, Streets of Philadelphia, My Home Town, I’m on Fire … all songs from my youth and just as fun to listen to today.

If you want to take a trip down Springsteen Memory Lane, check out Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Bruce Springsteen Songs of All Time. It’s a great tribute and there are many photographs and fun links.

Born to Run is a well written book that is fast paced and engaging. I would highly recommend it to Springsteen fans and people who grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s. And yes, if you take it to bed at night, Bruce Springsteen will read you bedtime stories. Enjoy!