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Polar: A Photicular book

by Maeve Clark on December 13th, 2015
Polar: A Photicular book Cover Image

Dan Kainen is back with another wonderful Photicular book. His two other books Safari and Ocean were showstoppers. Polar, written by Carol Kaufman, a National Geographic writer, highlights a number of animals which inhabit the polar regions of the earth.  Kainen,  uses the Photicular process to provide video-like images of the animals and the aurora borealis.  The polar regions were selected because the rapid changes taking place at both the North and the South Poles. The warming of the planet has caused the ice to melt.

The book opens with an essay by Kaufman detailing the polar areas, the current conditions and the animals and peoples that live in the oceans and on the land.  She also warns that the consequences of the melting ice to the rest of the planet.  What happens n the polar regions will affect us all. The spectacular images begin with the Adelie penguins that grace the cover.  The next is the polar bear and her two cubs. Included with the image is a short essay and details on the animals including size, habitat, range, diet, life span in the wild, threats and the current estimated population.  The other subjects are the snowy owl, the walrus, sled dogs, beluga whales, reindeer and the final image is that of the aurora borealis. It is Kainen and Kaufman’s hope that their book, Polar, will bring into even sharper focus the perilous state of the most northern and southern environments.

The best time for cookies is now.

by Anne Mangano on December 12th, 2015

Need recipes for cookies? Need them now? Whether you need to make cookies to serve at holiday gatherings or to give as gifts, you can check out, download, and read cooking magazines on your computer, phone, or tablet from the Iowa City Public Library. You don’t have to come downtown. You don’t have to wait until the library is open. All magazines are available to you right now in your home. For more information on our digital magazines, check out

But to save you even more time, here’s what recipes you can find in the December issues:

betterhomesBetter Homes and Gardens

Dorrie Greenspan developed a vanilla cookie dough recipe with four different twists that will specifically stand up to wrapping and shipping. Find her recipes for double-ginger crumb cookies, vanilla polka dot cookies, Christmas spice cookies, and white chocolate-poppy seed cookies.

bonappetitBon Appetit

Bon Appetit has given some punch to classic cookie recipes. They’ve added green tea powder and freeze-dried raspberries to rainbow cookies, sesame seeds to the black and white cookie, and spiced brown butter to the Linzer. Nothing boring here. Also try the chocolate-nut rugelach and Danish salted-butter cookies.

countrylivingCountry Living

You’ll find recipes for red velvet snowballs, triple chocolate hazelnut cookies, white chocolate and peppermint blondies, biscuit and jam cookies, spiced shortbread, fruitcake cookies, sugar cookies; Making sweets as gifts? Packaging ideas included.

marthastewartMartha Stewart Living

Tired of the traditional chocolate fudge? Martha Stewart Living added a layer of white chocolate and peppermint.

Find these magazines and many more at Enjoy!

Food on my mind

by Tom Jordan on December 5th, 2015

I tend to read articles and books about particular subjects in phases.  I’ll read a couple of books on parenting, a few biographies of athletes, maybe some philosophy or some histories.  Maybe most of us do this.  Exercise and food are two subject areas I often circle back to.  The idea is that some of it might sink in and actually affect the way I eat and move.  Experience tells me that my natural position is sitting down with my feet propped up while eating a bowl of ice cream. Eating on the wild side

One book that made a big impression on me was Eating on the wild side by Jo Robinson.  It’s all about vegetables and fruits – their origins, nutritional value, and how to get the most out of eating them.  Robinson, an investigative journalist, writes about how the plants we eat have been cultivated over time to be the way they are now.  In general, we’ve selected them to be less fibrous and more sugary.  They’re also less nutritious.

Even if you aren’t interested in changing the way you eat, there’s plenty to make it a worthy read.  From Chapter 2: “The Menominee Nation of the Great Lakes region laid claim to an extensive field of wild garlic, or ramps, that was located on the southern tip of Lake Michigan.  The area was so rife with ramps that their odor perfumed the air for miles.  The Menominee called their prized field Shikako, or ‘skunk place.’  The name lives on today in its anglicized form, Chicago.” food

Jim Gaffigan approaches food and eating from a different angle.  In Food: a love story, he writes less about things like vegetables and nutrition and more about things like cheese and gravy.  He covers restaurants and culinary specialties in various regions of the country.  Gaffigan, a comedian, describes himself as an “eatie” rather than a foodie.  If you want to read about food and feel okay about yourself and your diet regardless of what you’re eating, then give this one a try.

Rosemary Wells: A ‘beary’ special author reading

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 1st, 2015

Like most kids, I had a lot of stuffed animals when I was little, but there was one who was my favorite.

Peabody the bear with the book that inspired his name.

Peabody the bear with the book that inspired his name.

Peabody came into my life shortly after I woke up from having my tonsils removed the year I was in first grade. He was given to me by Dr. Marner, and remained by my side during the next week of Jell-O, ice cream and watching cartoons on the couch. About this same time, one of my brothers received a copy of the picture book Peabody by Rosemary Wells.

Comparable to The Velveteen Rabbit and Pixar’s Toy Story, Peabody is the story of a teddy bear who is given to his person, Annie, on her birthday. They have a great first year together. They ski in the winter, plant a garden in the spring, and collect seashells during their summer vacation. Peabody shows some wear and tear from these adventures, but Annie assures him that he isn’t growing old; he’s growing in.

Soon it’s Annie’s birthday again, and she receives doll (Rita) that walks and talks. Peabody can’t compete with Rita and is put on a shelf, where he is eventually forgotten. Luckily for him, Annie has a mischievous little brother, Robert, who plays with Rita when he shouldn’t and breaks her. (Reading this story now, I see definite similarities between Annie and Robert, and Wells’ popular brother-sister bunny duo, Max and Ruby.)

Losing Rita reminds Annie of how much she loves Peabody, a toy who doesn’t require bells and whistles to bring her joy, and the friends are reunited.

I named my bear Peabody after this book. I took him to camp. I took him to college. He moved with me to my first grown up job after college — and every job since. He now has a place of honor on my nightstand. His nose and smile are long gone, one plastic eye is scratched from a tussle with a dog, and his neck flops around after years of being lovingly choked while I slept.

He is the greatest stuffed bear in the world. And on Sunday, I’ll meet the author of the book that inspired his name.

Rosemary Wells will be at the Iowa City Public Library from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday in Meeting Room A. Her visit, which is co-sponsored by Prairie Lights Books, will include a video tour of her studio, as well as her thoughts about reading, writing and illustrating. Prairie Lights will have copies of her books for sale before and after the presentation.

Peabody is no longer in print, but I still have the copy I swiped from my brother years ago (Sorry John!) and look forward to asking her to sign it.

Peabody will be so happy.

A Piano for Hancher

by Susan Craig on November 30th, 2015

I read an interesting story in the Cedar Rapids Gazette this morning  about six Hancher representatives visiting Steinway to pick out a new piano for the new building.  The piano will be on display at West Music until it moves next fall.  I can’t play a piano, but I like to listen to piano music and I have always been intrigued by the construction of such a large, complex instrument.  As part of our Music is the Word series we showed a couple of documentaries in November about piano construction, both of the DVDs are available in our collection.

Pianomania,  tells the story of a  Steinway & Sons’ chief technician and master tuner in Vienna.  He pairs his world-class instruments with world-class pianists, juggling the demands of both the pianist and piano.  Note by Note follows the manufacture of one Steinway piano — one year, 12,000 parts and 50 employees.

The Library is a great place to find documentaries that are not available online.  Enjoy learning about pianos … or anything else you are interested in.  Documentaries are located on the second floor.

Stories of Imagination

by Allison Smith on November 28th, 2015

On March 12, 2015, one of my favorite authors died. On November 23, 2015, I finished reading the last book of his most famous series.

I’m a bit at a loss.

I’m speaking, of course, about the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett and his marvelous Discworld books, the last of which was published posthumously and I just finished reading it. There aren’t going to be any more of them ever. I will never find out about Moist von Lipwig’s next big challenge, or see if anyone ever tries to overthrow Lord Vetinari. I won’t see Young Sam grow up or see Sam Vimes retire from the Watch. I won’t know what happens with the witches, if Tiffany Aching and Preston finally settle down in the same place. It’s all a bit devastating.

But, I can always go back and visit them. Terry Pratchett left behind great stories of imagination, one of the most lasting legacies one can have. I can always go back to the Disc and visit my friends, and there are 41 novels, so I can stay there as long as I want.


A great reading guide from Krzysztof Kietzman

Now, discworld is an intimidating series to start. There are 41 books! But, there are a couple of ways that you can approach the series. You can read them chonologically, starting with The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic or you can start with any of the starter novels in the lovely graphic provided by an avid Pratchett fan.

I read them (mostly) chronologically, because that’s the way I roll, but you really don’t have to. Discworld is more of a universe in which stories take place instead of just a series. They are hilarious and they poke fun at everything from commonly used fantasy tropes to racism. As Terry Pratchett said “G.K Chesterton once said that the opposite of ‘funny’ is not ‘serious’; the opposite of ‘funny’ is ‘not funny’…” And that rings very true in all of his writing.

Included in the purple blobs in the lovely graphic is my favorite series within Discworld, the Tiffany Aching books. Tiffany grew up reading fairy tales and knew she could never be a princess since she was practical, and had brown hair and brown eyes, so she decided to become a witch. The Shepherd’s Crown, the very last Discworld book is a Tiffany Aching book, and it doesn’t tie up loose ends or end happily ever after. That isn’t Pratchett’s style. It ends like stories end in real life, with tons of unanswered questions of where to go next.

Check out Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series in Science Fiction on the first floor and the Tiffany Aching books in YA.

The Annotated Little Women / Louisa May Alcott (edited by John Matteson)

by Anne Mangano on November 25th, 2015
The Annotated Little Women / Louisa May Alcott (edited by John Matteson) Cover Image

I am always happy when an annotated edition of a work arrives at the library. I love the stories behind the stories, the tidbits, the facts, and the history of a book. We have a number of these editions at ICPL. But I am especially excited about the newly published The Annotated Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) edited by John Matteson. Matteson is known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Eden’s Outcasts, which focuses on the relationship between Louisa May Alcott and her father. In this annotated edition of Little Women, he weaves family and personal information, photographs and illustrations, geographical and historical references, as well as recipes into Alcott’s narrative. There is an 1844 recipe for beef tea, which Jo has to fetch when Mr. March surprises the family when he returns from the war. There are a number of May Alcott’s paintings and drawings throughout, including the Greek figures she drew on the walls of her bedroom at Orchard House. And there is a great deal of background information, from the tensions between the current established society and the new Irish and German immigrants in 19th-century New England to explanations of all the Charles Dickens’ references—and there are plenty.

Aside from Matteson’s annotations, it is also a beautiful edition in its own right. I love the way the publisher’s choose to print “The Pickwick Portfolio” with columns, different typeface, and bordering some of the text, giving it the feel of a 19th-century newspaper. There is also a great biographical essay on how the March family resembles the Alcott family and what events inspired the narrative. If you haven’t read Little Women in a while or would like to read it for the first time, this edition won’t disappoint.

Graduate from hand-shaped turkeys

by Stacey McKim on November 24th, 2015

If Thanksgiving has you fondly remembering the days of making hand-shaped turkeys out of construction paper, we have some new books about sculptural paper crafts that will take those skills to a new, more 3-D level.

papergoodsprojectsIn Paper Goods Projects, Jodi Levine (who has spent two decades on Martha Stewart’s staff) shows how to use ordinary materials like paper plates, cupcake liners, and cereal boxes to make brightly-colored flowers, animal sculptures, masks, cake toppers, mobiles, and more. Her previous book, Candy Aisle Crafts, was also full of inventive ideas suitable for both fun adults and families. In the introduction of Paper Goods Projects, Levine writes that transforming everyday supermarket supplies into whimsical works of art “helps us retain the youthful skill to see the potential in things.”

ilovepaper_eggsFor something more advanced, check out I Love Paper: Paper-Cutting Techniques and Templates for Amazing Toys, Sculptures, Props, and Costumes by Fideli Sundqvist. Subtle folding, creasing, and layering makes use of shadows to create surprisingly realistic results and elevate the pieces into art. If for any reason you’d like a paper version of a standard eggs-and-bacon breakfast (maybe looking ahead to April Fool’s Day 2016?), Mr. Sundqvist will give you a hand with step-by-step instructions and templates.

papercraftFor the practical crafters out there, try to catch the new Paper Craft book featuring DK’s reliably generous illustrations. With several ideas for accessorizing presents or making customized envelopes, it’s just in time for the holidays. And, if you’re taken by the paper quilling on the cover, you might also like the new Quilled Animals quilledanimalsbook by Diane Boden. Look at that alpaca. Aww.

In the era of 3-D printers, these projects seem especially quaint and honest.  Try your hand at paper sculpture with one of these books published in 2015.

It’s the end of the world as we know it!

by Brian Visser on November 23rd, 2015
It’s the end of the world as we know it! Cover Image

Are you prepared for the eventual collapse of society?  I see you slowly backing away from me, but wait!  Let me put away my tin foil hat and explain.  I was recently searching for a new book to read, preferably something non-fiction. (I always make a reading resolution to read more non-fiction, but I never do).  I stumbled upon a book called Lights Out by Ted Koppel.  Koppel wrote about the likelihood of a cyber-attack against the country’s power grid, and how we’re ill prepared for a lengthy blackout.  There would be no running water or means to refrigerate our food.  The smart phones that we use constantly would be useless within days.  Heavy stuff, right?  Also, Koppel investigated the federal government’s planned response for such an attack, and, apparently, there isn’t one.  So…we’re screwed.

I’m actually not all that worried about our impending doom, but it did get me to think about some common sense preparations in the case of a disaster, natural or otherwise.  While the government hasn’t planned for a power grid attack, it does have suggestions for general disaster preparedness.  The Department of Homeland Security created the Ready website to educate us on how to respond to emergencies, and, hopefully, raise the level of preparedness across America.  If you go to the website, you’ll see a “Navigation” link on the left.  If you click on that, it brings up the site’s content including an (almost) exhaustive list of the terrible things that could happen.  Space weather (!) is on this list.  Which–this gave me a chuckle–talks about damage to the electric grid, but not to the level that Koppel is worried about.

FEMA got in on the action (cause it’s their job) and made a Recommended Supplies List.  Honestly, I need to get my act together.  We don’t have most of the stuff on the list, and it definitely isn’t assembled into an Emergency Supply Kit.  Did you look at that list?  It says to consider having household chlorine bleach and a medicine dropper in your kit.  Why?  Because if things get super dire, you can use it to treat water to make it drinkable by using 16 drops of  liquid bleach per gallon of water.  I did some checking into this, and that’s basically what city water treatment does.  So, it won’t even taste weird.  Fun stuff!  If I sound like I’m making light of all this, I’m really not.  I think it’s smart to be prepared.  I’m going to start making my kit soon…Tomorrow, probably.  I’m sure I’ll get around to it sometime.

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

by Heidi Kuchta on November 19th, 2015

Hunger Brownstein

It has been an exceptional year for women-in-rock memoirs. Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band, Patti Smith’s M Train, and Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein have all come out in 2015. Brownstein’s story about how she went from suburban Seattle kid to Sleater Kinney rock guitarist and singer is engaging and funny, as one would expect if they have watched Portlandia. Brownstein definitely has a sense of humor, even about the darker and embarrassing stuff in her life. She starts the book talking about how the thread of music fandom has been the main current through her life – not musicianship, but fandom and a profound interest in performance and exploration. She writes well about nostalgia, particularly music-related nostalgia: the phenomenon of how albums from our formative years can bring us back to a particular time and place instantly, even while they don’t necessarily hold up sound-wise. There are many people who would like this book: Riot Grrrl history buffs, fans of rock and punk music, and people who enjoy watching Portlandia should check out Carrie Brownstein’s memoir. It’s worth the read!