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So I’m rereading Harry Potter…

by Ella Von Holtum on April 9th, 2015

hpThe 15th anniversary has come and gone, and I myself haven’t read a word of Harry Potter since I finished The Deathly Hallows in 2007. The teens in Iowa City’s Home School Assistance Program have a monthly book club in the library, and we’ve been discussing Harry Potter books every other month. A lot of small things have accreted to plant the seed. Last weekend I got a cold and I decided it was finally time to reread Harry Potter.

We have all the books (and Ebooks!) here at ICPL, so after work on Friday I grabbed the first two. I’m on book three, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s great how little time it’s taken me to get this far – the books are an effortless read, and hours zip by as chapters unfold. Admittedly, the books are about to get long, so I’m savoring these fast reads while I can.

hp4Part of what makes them an easy read for me is the ways they are so familiar.I came to Harry Potter a little late, starting in 2003, and was too old to have grown up with them. I was an adult living in Scotland, and after some P.G. Wodehouse and Stephen Fry it felt like a logical leap. Winter in Glasgow was really the perfect moment for the story to take root in me, but it’s been awhile since I started and finished the series. So I was less surprised at how many details and plot points I’ve forgotten. Things as major as who opened the Chamber of Secrets or as small as the name of the Weasleys’ perpetually exhausted owl were all new to me this time through. I can’t wait to see what surprises await me as I continue reading!

It’s funny, too, how many conversations I’ve had in the last week about my re-read, entirely with people in their 20′s, who grew up with the books. One friend is rereading them for the first time too, and loving it. Another friend had been pondering a reread and posed an interesting question: “how do you think HP’s gonna age?” Not the character, but the series. How will it weather in the cannon?Will it be for kids in the next few generations and beyond like The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia were for me? Will children get excited when they are finally tall enough to reach the shelf where the books live on their parents’ shelves? Will people read them to their young ones as they fall asleep, maybe skipping over the real nightmare material? Or will they fade away, another momentous but momentary cultural phenomenon, something that people who were kids at a certain time remember so well, and everyone else just doesn’t get -what’s all this fuss about Quidditch and Wingardium Leviosa?

hp2I gave my copies away the last time I moved – they were just so much book to haul around from apartment to apartment – so I won’t be loaning them off my shelves. And I wonder too how appealing the series would be to a hesitant young reader when they can clearly see just how long the last four books really are. Maybe only the most dedicated will undertake the quest. On the other hand, they are still so ubiquitous, and so much has been made of Harry Potter’s role in introducing reading to so many kids of a certain generation. And the series still circulates in all the libraries I’ve visited. These marks are indelible for now, and I do wonder, how indeed will HP age?

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

by Brian Visser on April 8th, 2015
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Cover Image

I’ve been pretty excited for the movie adaptation of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews since it debuted to universally positive reviews at the Sundance Fim Festival this year.  It won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize, which are the two big awards at Sundance.  The first trailer just hit.  You can watch it here (warning: There’s a little colorful language).  The buzz is that it will be the next The Fault in Our Stars, and the book commonly came up as a TFiOS read-alike.  You can beat the rush and read the book (or eBooknow!

Want to contribute to teen programming in the library?

by Ella Von Holtum on March 20th, 2015

Joining the Teen Activity Group at ICPL is a great way to have a say in what happens in your library! We meet once a month, eat snacks, talk about books, TV, and movies, and discuss what’s coming up in the Teen Center. If you need volunteer hours, TAG counts! If you want to meet people, come to TAG! If you have an idea about an event you’d like to see in the library, come to a TAG meeting and talk about your idea! Recently we’ve had video game tournaments and TV show parties with the help and input of TAG members. And with summer coming up, we need more volunteers and people with good ideas.

The next TAG meeting is tomorrow, Saturday, from 1-2pm, in the Koza Family Teen Center. We have a meeting every month, usually on a Saturday, so come whenever you can. Check the calendar to confirm.

Teen Homework Help

by Brian Visser on March 18th, 2015

Homework Help

Stuck with your homework?  The Library can help!

The Iowa City Public Library has teamed-up with Envision Tutoring to provide free weekly tutoring sessions in all subjects for students in grades 7 through 12.  The tutors are volunteers–both university students and former educators–qualified to teach all subjects. Each tutor undergoes a background check and training to ensure students get the most benefit from the sessions, and tutoring sessions are confidential.

All tutoring will take place within the Koza Family Teen Center on the Library’s second floor. To sign up for your session, visit

Once you have chosen a slot that works for you, use the form at the bottom of the page to schedule that slot. We will get back to you within two weekdays to confirm your tutor reservation.

Video Game Tournament Tomorrow

by Ella Von Holtum on March 17th, 2015

Happy spring break! The Teen Center is open for extended tech times all week (1-8pm), and tomorrow we’re hosting…


The Naruto shippuden ultimate ninja storm revolution video game tournament. Be here at 1pm to get your spot in the tournament, which will run until 2pm. There will be a prize for the champion!

Even if you just want to watch, this should be an exciting tournament. Be in the Teen Center on the second floor at 1pm for the fun!

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

by Ella Von Holtum on March 5th, 2015
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson Cover Image

This book, published in 2011, is the first in a young adult fantasy trilogy. This first book follows chosen one Elisa, a sixteen year old princess, on a journey that takes her far from home and safety. Elisa is an unusual chosen one – she isn’t athletic or adored, and she is deeply unsure of her destiny. But like a good hero story, her journey teaches her about what kind of person she is capable of being. For the first time in awhile, I careened through the first book in less than a week. I’ve now begun The Crown of Embers, the second book in the trilogy.

What I liked about The Girl of Fire and Thorns is that, though it is beautifully written, the story is harsh and at times brutal. This is fantasy, but without false gilding. The characters are real and complex, the food sounds delicious, and the political intrigues are wrought just enough to give context. But Elisa makes hard choices and she makes sacrifices. Being the chosen one is a hard job; so is being a princess. But as Elisa manages to scrape by or outright succeed with each new challenge, I’ve grown to like her, and to root for her, which is one of the best things a YA novel can spark in a reader.

I got interested in Rae Carson after first hearing about her new book, Walk on Earth a Stranger. This new book is about a girl living during the gold rush in the United States who finds herself a target because of a special magical ability. Walk on Earth a Stranger doesn’t come out until September 2015, and at this rate I’ll be done with Carson’s first trilogy long before then. But Rae Carson is a YA writer whose work I will watch for from now on.

Iowa City Public Library’s March Teen Events Announced

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on March 3rd, 2015

A video game tournament, Doctor Who Day and Minecraft are just a few of the activities the Iowa City Public Library has planned for its teen patrons in March.

Do you play Minecraft? All teenage Minecraft fans are invited to the Library’s Minecraft Meetup at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 5, and Thursday, March 19, in the Computer Lab on the Library’s second floor.

CoderDojo Iowa City, the ICPL Coding Club, meets from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturdays in the Computer Lab. CoderDojo is an international movement to teach and inspire kids in the vocation of computer programming. The Library’s program is run by volunteers who take on the task of mentoring attendees. To track progress, virtual badges and belts are awarded for proficiency in a number of computer related topics. Anyone in grades 5 through 12 is welcome to attend and earn belts. We request that parents attend along with their child for their first dojo. Drop-ins are welcome.

Are you prepared to bring your game face? We’re throwing down NARUTO SHIPPUDEN: Ultimate Ninja STORM Revolution during our Spring Break Teen Video Game Tournament. Join us from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, in the Koza Family Teen Center.

Calling all Doctor Who fans! Come geek out about The Doctor and his companions as we watch episodes of the show while creating Doctor Who-inspired crafts and other activities. Whovians will gather from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, March 20, in the Koza Family Teen Center.

TAG, the Library’s Teen Activity Group, is looking for new members. TAG members help plan teen programs and give teenage students a voice in the Library. Members also eat a lot of snacks. Anyone wanting to make a difference in the Library, and earn volunteer hours at the same time, should give TAG a try. The March TAG meeting will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 21, in the Koza Family Teen Center.

All teen events are open to students in grades 7through 12 except CoderDojo Iowa City, which is open to students in grades 5 through 12.

For more information about any of these programs, contact the Library at (319) 356-5200.

Inspiration at One Book Two Book

by Ella Von Holtum on February 28th, 2015

I realized this morning that in just a week and a day Daylight Savings time will begin, and that means One Book Two Book is nearly here. There will be so many fun events next weekend, but I want to highlight two that look like a great way to kick off a creative spring fever.

Girls Rock! Iowa City is a fantastic organization focused on fostering creativity and self expression for girls through music. They are having a performance on Saturday, March 7th as part of the One Book Two Book festival. Come to the Main Ballroom of the Sheraton at 10:30 to hear original songs and get a listen of this awesome community organization! If you’re a teen who wants to get involved with Girls Rock!, this would be a perfect place to learn more.

At 10am in the Carver Room at the Sheraton, also on Saturday the 7th, a line-up of professional comics illustrators and writers will host Comic Book Confidential, a workshop for students in grades 5 and up. This is the perfect place to learn more about making comics, see how the pros do it, and try out some of your ideas. Drawing materials will be provided, but you have to register to attend, so get on that!

To learn more about everything going on at One Book Two Book, check out their main schedule here.

Workshop for Teen Songwriters

by Ella Von Holtum on February 17th, 2015

The Iowa Youth Writing Project is hosting a cool event for people in grades 7 – 12 who are songwriters or who want to learn more about the craft.

The collaborative songwriting workshop will happen on February 28th at the Dream Center, from 10am – 3pm. It will be led by Monte Selby, professional songwriter and recording artist. The focus will be not only on creativity but on songwriting skills, for anyone with an interest in how music is made.

Space is limited for this workshop, so visit the site and register right away!iywp

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.”


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”


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.”


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.”


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 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!