Posts Tagged ‘books’


The Best Books I Read in 2018

by Anne Wilmoth on January 3rd, 2019

As a new reading year dawns, I’d like to recommend some of my favorite reads of the past year. Mind you, these are books not necessarily published in 2018, but all are books that I eagerly devoured during 2018.

Adult books: 38 nonfiction; 29 fiction

Juvenile/YA books: 3 nonfiction; 44 fiction

Total: 114

Because it’s impossible to judge adult and children’s books on the same plane, I have to enthuse about my favorites in each category.

Top 5 Adult Fiction I Read This Year:

ThumbnailNine Perfect StrangersLiane Moriarty (2018)

In Moriarty’s newest book, nine strangers meet on a remote Australian health retreat. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different guest, and we learn incrementally about the background of each and their reasons for joining the retreat. This book is laugh-out-loud funny and then becomes creepy – Moriarty is a master of the slow-building thriller. Events become more and more outlandish as the plot builds but in a completely delicious way. The ending is a little weak but by that point you don’t care because the roller coaster has been so exciting.

ThumbnailEligible Curtis Sittenfeld (2016)

I feel defensive of this book because I don’t want people to dismiss it as fluffy “chick lit.” The cover image doesn’t help, but please believe me when I say that Sittenfeld has some of the most sharp, incisive, crisp (and hilarious) writing you’ll ever read here. (If a man writes a book about relationships, it’s taken for granted as valuable literature appropriate for the edification of all, whereas if a woman writes about relationships, it’s frivolous, idiotic “chick lit” that would only appeal to other women [i.e., no one important]…okay, that’s a whole other blog post.) Anyway, this is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, in which the five single, adult Bennet sisters return to their childhood home in Ohio after their father’s health scare and their mother obsesses about marrying them off.

ThumbnailThe Underground RailroadColson Whitehead (2016)

Despite the fact that this book won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and was an Oprah’s Book Club pick, I was skeptical when I heard that in this book, the Underground Railroad is a real, literal train operating underneath the ground. BECAUSE I DON’T LIKE MAGICAL REALISM. However, I gave it a try anyway, and I was so glad I did, because my mind was absolutely blown by this book. Protagonist Cora endures unthinkable suffering in bondage before her daring escape North, state by state, on the Underground Railroad, launching a twist-filled, page-turning narrative (and the train thing just works). It’s difficult to read, to say the least, but the sanitized version of slavery that fills school history books is not enough to understand our American legacy.

ThumbnailClock DanceAnne Tyler (2018)

Tyler has written 22 novels, but this is the first of hers I’d ever read. This book’s protagonist is Willa, and the book is divided into four sections that describe the four defining periods of her life. In the final section, her son’s ex-girlfriend (who Willa barely knows) is temporarily sidelined with an injury and Willa ends up moving in with the ex-girlfriend and her young daughter in an unfamiliar city. Tyler’s style is fairly understated, in that the details are richly observed, the characters are deeply developed, and the reader is left to largely draw her own conclusions. Some conclusions: women’s choices have been constrained in different ways throughout history; women have been taught to be quiet and not make a fuss about anything; in the modern world, you might have to actively create your own community.

ThumbnailMrs. FletcherTom Perrotta (2017)

In case you haven’t noticed, I like female-driven fiction. In this book, Eve Fletcher is a middle-aged single mother of one son. When he leaves for college, Eve is at loose ends. Then she experiences something of a sexual reawakening when she receives an anonymous late-night “sext,” at the same time she is trying to decide how to address her son’s casual misogyny. Her fixation on this digital overture begins to affect other areas of her life – this book is filled with ethical dilemmas and has much to say that is timely and relevant about gender relations and expectations.

Top 5 Adult Nonfiction:

ThumbnailNomadland: Surviving America in the 21st CenturyJessica Bruder (2017)

You know how you see older adults rambling down the highways of America in their RVs, and you think they’re taking it easy now that they’ve retired, seeing the sights on a great road trip? Well, that might not be the case. This book describes a new, low-cost labor pool exploited by America’s corporations: transient older adults, who lost everything in the Great Recession or simply can’t afford to retire at all, who live full-time in vehicles and work as campground hosts, seasonal Amazon warehouse workers, Adventureland ride operators, or at other short-term, scattered hustles across the country, many of which offer poor working conditions. Prepare to have your eyes opened by this stunning work of investigative journalism, in which author Bruder spent months living in a camper van to document this group, hidden in plain sight.

ThumbnailStranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True HermitMichael Finkel (2017)

This book tells the shocking true story of Christopher Knight, who unceremoniously took to the woods in 1986, when he was 20 years old, and reemerged almost three decades later. During that time, Knight lived alone, year-round, without once seeing or speaking to another human being, in the woods of Maine. Knight had no real agenda or statement to make – he just really, really preferred to be alone. So much so that he stole from nearby summer cabins and camps to survive and evaded law enforcement for thirty years. This is a fascinating account of one man’s dedication to life on his terms.

ThumbnailThe Not Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USADoug Mack (2017)

This was the first book I read in 2018, and it stuck with me the whole year. If, like me, you know nothing about America’s territories beyond a vague awareness that they exist, you will find this book incredibly enlightening. There is a section dedicated to each of America’s five inhabited territories, and interesting facts abound – for example, I didn’t know American Samoa has the highest rate of military enlistment of any U.S. state or territory. (This is despite the fact that those born in American Samoa, unlike those born in any of the other five inhabited territories, are considered U.S. nationals, not U.S. citizens). This book is written as an exciting travelogue, as Mack travels to each territory and writes about the culture, landscape, and history of each location.

ThumbnailSmall Animals: Parenthood in the Age of FearKim Brooks (2018)

It all started when Brooks ran briefly into a suburban Target and left her three-year-old son alone in the car. After she was arrested and battling child-endangerment charges, Brooks began researching the modern-day hysteria surrounding child safety. (Spoiler alert: kids have a literally one-in-a-million chance of being snatched by a stranger off the street.) Brooks, self-deprecatingly and with humor, examines how parenting has changed over the years and the role fear plays in modern parenting.

 

ThumbnailNorthland: A 4,000 Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten BorderPorter Fox (2018)

Fox travels by canoe, car, foot, and steamship along the longest land border between two countries in all the world: the border between the U.S. and Canada. Along the way, Fox examines the history of the border region, including the indigenous peoples and European exploration; how climate change has affected the Great Lakes region; the political climate’s influence on borderlands; and the modern culture of those who live along the border. Fun fact: though the vast majority of American resources go to protecting our border with Mexico, the only two known terrorists who have crossed overland into America have come in from Canada. Also, Fox lovingly describes the breathtaking landscapes so you’ll want to go canoe and camp in the Boundary Waters immediately.

Top 5 Juvenile/YA Fiction:

ThumbnailThe Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 Christopher Paul Curtis (1995)

I have never laughed so hard while reading a book! This multi-award-winning book by autoworker-turned-author Curtis describes one summer in the life of 10-year-old Kenny, a kid tortured by his teenage brother Byron, who is an “official juvenile delinquent” in early-1960s Flint, Michigan. In an attempt to straighten Byron out, the Watsons embark on a road trip to Alabama to visit an intimidating older relation. Some poignant moments hint at what’s to come, but the stunning ending will take your breath away.

 

ThumbnailLong Way Down Jason Reynolds (2017)

In another multi-award-winner, Will’s older brother is shot and killed in an act of gang-related violence, and Will, consumed by with shock and grief, grabs his brother’s gun from their home and goes to avenge his death. However, on the elevator ride down from their apartment to the street, the elevator begins stopping at every floor to admit the ghost of a person from Will’s life who was killed previously by gun violence. They all have a story to tell that influences Will’s understanding of the code of the streets by which he’s always abided – in the end, what will Will choose to do? This book is written in staccato verse, takes place over just 60 seconds, and will leave you reeling. A good choice for reluctant readers, as it can be read quickly and the story is extremely compelling.

ThumbnailMidnight Without a MoonLinda Williams Jackson (2017)

This work of historical fiction describes a summer in the life of Rose Lee Carter, who lives a harsh existence with her grandparents on a sharecropper plantation in Mississippi in 1955. When Emmett Till is murdered nearby, fear and anger reverberate through the community, ultimately leading to some hard choices for Rose Lee. What I enjoyed most about this book are the fully-developed, multi-faceted characters, the nuanced – never simplistic – portrayal of conditions in the American South in this period, and the bold dialogue.

 

ThumbnailThree Times LuckySheila Turnage (2012)

Strong female protagonist Moses LeBeau, a “rising sixth grader” in the tiny town of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, has a mystery to solve. When a local eccentric turns up dead, Mo and her best friend Dale (named after Dale Earnhardt), find themselves evading a smooth-talking, out-of-town lawman while they attempt to pinpoint the killer themselves. Mo’s own existence is something of a mystery, seeing as she washed ashore in a hurricane and is being raised by two more eccentrics, who own the local cafe. Mo’s Southern voice is delightful here, and wisdom and wit fill every page (“I’m Baptist. So far, Fast or Never is the only speeds I got with forgiving.”) The book is funny, and the suspenseful mystery keeps the pages turning.

ThumbnailA Case in Any CaseUlf Nilsson (2016)

I don’t know why, but any children’s book translated from the Swedish is a pure delight, and this book is no exception. The third in a series (the first two were just as good), lovable curmudgeon Detective Gordon (a frog) and his deputy Detective Buffy  Then, when two mouse children go missing during a class outing, Gordon and Buffy must find them! A sweet and gentle mystery perfect for reading aloud to children ages three and up, this book is so cute and funny that I had to read certain bits over several times, just to let the pleasure sink in. (“It was all the forest children from the kindergarten on an expedition. Buffy saluted the teacher mouse at the front of the line. The children all wore flowery tops and backpacks.”) The messages of kindness, community, and looking out for one another were welcome, too.

Happy reading! Did you have a reading goal in 2018? What were some of your favorites?

12 Days of Bookmobile: Find Out What the Bookmobile Can Give to You!

by Anne Wilmoth on December 8th, 2018

According to Vox, the earliest known version of the song “The 12 Days of Christmas” appeared in a children’s book in 1780. Most scholars agree it was designed as a memory game where singers tested their recall of the lyrics – and had to give a kiss or favor of some kind if they made a mistake.

In 1909 a French composer set the words to the melody we now know and love (or loathe), including the long, drawn out “five go-old riiings!” verse. Vox also mentions the cost of all the gifts named in the song would total a mind-boggling $39,049.93 in 2018 dollars.

ICPL’s Bookmobile, on the other hand, is the gift that keeps on giving. We have things more useful and less annoying than eleven pipers piping; we come right to your neighborhood; and best of all, EVERYTHING IS FREE. So now, in festive song form, let me remind you of the plethora of gifts the Bookmobile is just waiting to share with you…

On the first day of Christmas, the Bookmobile gave to me

a free, convenient parking space.

 

On the second day of Christmas, the Bookmobile gave to me

two program sign-ups

and a free, convenient parking place.

 

On the third day of Christmas, the Bookmobile gave to me

three storytimes,

two program sign-ups,

and a free, convenient parking space.

 

On the fourth day of Christmas, the Bookmobile gave to me

four family films,

three storytimes,

two program sign-ups,

and a free, convenient parking space.

 

On the fifth day of Christmas, the Bookmobile gave to me

five bars of Wifi,

four family films,

three storytimes,

two program sign-ups,

and a free, convenient parking space.

 

On the sixth day of Christmas, the Bookmobile gave to me

six toys to play with,

five bars of Wifi,

four family films,

three storytimes,

two program sign-ups,

and a free, convenient parking space.

 

On the seventh day of Christmas, the Bookmobile gave to me

seven brand-new novels,

six toys to play with,

five bars of Wifi,

four family films

three storytimes,

two program sign-ups,

and a free, convenient parking space.

 

On the eighth day of Christmas, the Bookmobile gave to me

eight downtown holds,

seven brand-new novels,

six toys to play with,

five bars of Wifi,

four family films,

three storytimes,

two program sign-ups,

and a free, convenient parking space.

 

On the ninth day of Christmas, the Bookmobile gave to me

nine baby board books,

eight downtown holds,

seven brand-new novels,

six toys to play with,

five bars of Wifi,

four family films,

three storytimes,

two program sign-ups,

and a free, convenient parking space.

 

On the tenth day of Christmas, the Bookmobile gave to me

ten current cookbooks

nine baby board books,

eight downtown holds,

seven brand-new novels,

six toys to play with,

five bars of Wifi,

four family films,

three storytimes,

two program sign-ups,

and a free, convenient parking space.

 

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the Bookmobile gave to me

eleven recommendations,

ten current cookbooks

nine baby board books,

eight downtown holds,

seven brand-new novels,

six toys to play with,

five bars of Wifi,

four family films,

three storytimes,

two program sign-ups,

and a free, convenient parking place.

 

On the twelfth day of Christmas, the Bookmobile gave to me

twelve fines avoided,

eleven recommendations,

ten current cookbooks

nine baby board books,

eight downtown holds,

seven brand-new novels,

six toys to play with,

five bars of Wifi,

four family films,

three storytimes,

two program sign-ups,

and a free, convenient parking place.

The Bookmobile runs year-round, even in the winter! Find our current schedule here. We do cancel our stops for the day if there is inclement winter weather – find cancellation information on our social media channels or here.

We can do all kinds of things on the Bookmobile: set you up with a new or replacement library card, recommend your next favorite book or movie, entertain your children with an array of on-board toys, and sign you or your children up for our Winter Reading Program, Summer Reading Program, or Begin with Books Program.

We have materials for all ages! No matter what you check out, it can be returned back to the Bookmobile, to the downtown Library building, or at our two remote drops around town. Downtown items can be returned on the Bookmobile, too. You can even call us and we can bring anything from the downtown Library building out to you on the Bookmobile at the stop most convenient for you.

There are also NO FINES on children’s items on the Bookmobile! Best of all, we have the hottest, newest items on the Bookmobile often with no wait, while these same items have LONG hold lists at the downtown Library building. We are cranking out the heat with our state-of-the-art heating system, too – come see us this winter!

 

Storytime Recap: Royal Wedding Celebration

by Anne Wilmoth on May 23rd, 2018

Children’s storytimes over the weekend and early this week were designed to celebrate the wedding of Prince Harry and Miss Meghan Markle on May 19 in Windsor, with books, songs and rhymes focused on princes and princesses, British culture, and fairy tales.

We read the Robert Munsch classic The Paper Bag Princess, in which a princess saves her prince from a dragon, only to be rejected by him for not looking princess-like enough, prompting her to call him a “bum” and happily skip off into the sunset alone. Children also enjoyed hearing The Queen’s Handbag by Steve Antony, in which the Queen chases a swan who has made off with her handbag around the United Kingdom, stopping in at such vaunted British landmarks as Stonehenge, Oxford, and Edinburgh Castle.

We sang songs that allowed us to practice bowing and curtsying like princes and princesses; recited Mother Goose rhymes about serving and drinking tea; marched like the Grand Old Duke of York; tapped our boots like knights; made hats out of scarves; and had some color identification and math practice with flannel stories about a rainbow of sparkly crowns and a troupe of multicolored dragons.

The British library recently put two medieval manuscripts on display that feature stunning images – gold and ermine, gifts and feasting – of royal weddings of the past. Take a look and compare royal weddings then and now. Also, in case you missed it, enjoy the best candid photos of the recent royal wedding published by Harper’s Bazaar and view the official photographs shared by CNN.

ABC’s Saturday: Art, Books & Children 2018

by Mari Redington on May 22nd, 2018

 

The Arts Fest is the unofficial kick-off of summer in Iowa City, so be sure to bring your whole family down to Clinton Street for all of the fun, free activities perfect for children of all ages.

On Saturday June 2nd, 11 am-3 pm, we are celebrating Art, Books and Children, or the ABC’s, during the Iowa Arts Festival!  Mark your calendars now for this annual event, formerly known as Children’s Day, produced by the Iowa City Public Library with Summer of the Arts. Due to construction in the Ped Mall, all of the children’s activities will be concentrated on Clinton Street between the College Street crosswalk and Washington Street, with the Family Stage at the south end and the bookmobile at the north end. This is a great time to sign up for the ICPL’s summer reading program—Libraries Rock! and visit the ICPL bookmobile!

 

Learn about art, music, science and more with activity booths from local groups and enjoy a show on the Family Stage. With live performances, arts and crafts, fun activities, and the ICPL Bookmobile, there’s something for everyone!

The fun doesn’t end on Saturday! On Sunday, check out the Children’s Global Village, featuring activity booths representing different countries and cultures. Find out more about the Arts Festival, ABC’s: Art, Books and Children on Saturday and Children’s Global village on Sunday from Summer of the Arts!

 

Renowned children’s musician Dino O’Dell

 

Family Stage Schedule:

11:00 AM      After School Specials

11:45 AM      Dino O’Dell

12:30 PM     Herky and the Hawkeye Cheerleaders

1:15 PM         Dream Divas

2:00 PM       Family Folk Machine

 

 

 

 

Activity Booths:

  • ICPL Bookmobile and Summer Reading Program Sign-up
  • Recycled Craft and Games with the 100 Grannies
  • Mason Bee Habitats with Green Iowa AmeriCorps and Iowa City Park and Recreation
  • Furry Friends with Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center
  • Rock Painting with the Iowa City Public Library
  • Make Your Mark with the City of Literature
  • Tiles for a Mural with Big Picture Young Artist Studio
  • Paint the Town with ICPL and Blick Art Materials
  • Making Music Together with the Preucil School of Music
  • Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois
  • Iowa Children’s Museum
  • Spin Art with Johnson County 4-H
  • Jingle Bracelets with West Music
  • Summertime Shrinky Dinks with ICPL

Votes Are In for the 2018 Children’s Choice Award!

by Anne Wilmoth on April 2nd, 2018

Throughout the month of March, ICPL’s young patrons in kindergarten through 6th grade cast their votes for the 2018 Children’s Choice Award. 

The Children’s Choice Award is the only national literary award given completely by children – children in select schools across the country choose the finalists in preliminary voting, after which all kids are invited to make their voice heard in selecting the best book for children published during the previous year.

143 votes were cast, and the winners, in each age category, were tabulated today. The breakdown:

K-2nd grade 

Thumbnail Billy Bloo is Stuck in Goo by Jennifer Hamburg; illustrated by Ross Burach – 14 votes

Thumbnail Pete With No Pants, written and illustrated by Rowboat Watkins – 14 votes

Thumbnail Books That Drive Kids Crazy: Did You Take the B from my _ook?, written and illustrated by Beck and Matt Stanton – 11 votes

Thumbnail This Book Will Not be Fun by Cirocco Dunlap; illustrated by Olivier Tallec – 10 votes

Thumbnail Poor Louie, written and illustrated by Tony Fucile – 7 votes

3rd-4th grade

Thumbnail 50 Wacky Things Animals Do by Tricia Martineau Wagner; illustrated by Carles Ballesteros – 18 votes

Thumbnail Thunder Underground by Jane Yolen; illustrated by Josee Masse – 10 votes 

Thumbnail Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander; illustrated by Ekua Holmes – 7 votes 

Thumbnail Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers; illustrated by Floyd Cooper – 6 votes 

Thumbnail Manjhi Moves a Mountain by Nancy Churnin; illustrated by Danny Popovici – 3 votes

5th-6th grade

Thumbnail Malala by Raphaelle Frier; illustrated by Aurelia Fronty – 18 votes 

Thumbnail The Losers Club by Andrew Clements –14 votes

Thumbnail This is Just a Test by Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg – 3 votes

Thumbnail Finding Mighty by Sheela Chari – 1 vote

Thumbnail Disaster Diaries: Spiders! by R. McGeddon – 0 votes

ICPL’s votes have now been officially submitted to Every Child a Reader, the organization that administers the Children’s Choice Award as well as other national literacy initiatives. When the winners are announced on May 7, ICPL’s patrons will have had a hand in selecting them!

The good news is, it’s not too late to vote! Individual kids can vote up to May 6 (instantly and without entering any personal information) by visiting http://everychildareader.net/choice/.

 

Kids: Vote at ICPL for the 2018 Children’s Choice Book Award!

by Anne Wilmoth on March 2nd, 2018

Kids, here’s your chance to make your voice heard at the ballot box: vote for the Children’s Choice Award in the ICPL Children’s Department throughout the month of March!

The Children’s Choice Award is the only national book award given only by children and teens. There are five books nominated (also chosen by kids in school libraries around the country) in each of three age group categories: kindergarten to second grade, third to fourth grade, and fifth to sixth grade.

Visit our voting booth and fill out the secret ballot for your age group category. The winners will be announced when voting ends everywhere on May 6!

For a full list of this year’s nominees, click here.

Kids can also vote online (instantly and without entering any personal information) by visiting http://everychildareader.net/vote/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Library “Shelfie” Day!

by Anne Wilmoth on January 24th, 2018

In 2014, the New York Public Library declared the fourth Wednesday in January to be National Library Shelfie Day – that’s a day dedicated to snapping selfies in front of library shelves, of course! Launching an Instagram campaign encouraging library users to post “shelfies” alongside the hashtag #libraryshelfie, NYPL hoped to reach tweens, teens, and young adults – those demographics for which the selfie seems to be omnipresent.

Well, I’m a late adopter of the smartphone and not totally comfortable with the selfie as a concept, but I do love libraries and books. And I realized this morning that in just one day of work as an Iowa City Public Library children’s librarian, I encountered numerous library shelves beyond the traditional downtown building. We are out in the community bringing the library to you! 

Here’s my #libraryshelfie on the bookmobile!

Find our current bookmobile schedule here.

The bookmobile is a “boutique” library service – we have limited space, so only the best books make it to the shelves here. Better yet, new and popular books that are perpetually checked out at the downtown building can often be found on the bookmobile!

Next I snapped a #libraryshelfie in front of our outreach collection at the Pheasant Ridge Neighborhood Center. The Neighborhood Center serves as a family resource center for the residents of the Pheasant Ridge Apartments, where a large portion of Iowa City’s immigrant and refugee population settles. The library maintains a collection here for residents to enjoy – and each month, we stop in and switch up the books on display, reshelve items, and ensure it’s looking tidy and inviting. Find out more about the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County here.

 

Then I went to Alexander Elementary School for storytime with the preschoolers there! Each month, ICPL children’s librarians visit over thirty-five preschools to extend their classroom curriculum with early literacy activities and encourage them to visit the library with their families. At some sites, students also visit the bookmobile and select books for their classroom.

After I shared books, flannel board stories, fingerplays, and musical instruments with these kids, I asked them to pose for a #libraryshelfie in front of their classroom library!

And then I was back at the downtown library for one last #libraryshelfie. Happy Library Shelfie Day! 

 

 

 

Reading the Night Away With the Jólabókaflóð

by Amanda on December 15th, 2017

What the heck is Jólabókaflóð? Literally, it means “Christmas Book Flood,” and it’s pronounced “Yo-la-bok-a-flot.” Maybe you’ve heard of it, since all things Nordic are very trendy right now (hygge, Nordic noir, Scandinavian minimalism, et cetera). It’s the Icelandic tradition of exchanging books on Christmas Eve, then spending the night reading those books. In Iceland, the holiday season kicks off in November with the delivery of the Bókatíðindi—the annual Book Bulletin, distributed by the Icelandic Publishers Association for free to each Icelandic home.

This tradition began during World War II after Iceland gained its independence from Denmark. Paper was one of the few commodities not rationed during the war, so books became the gift of choice, as other types of gifts were scarce. Iceland loves its books: 93% of Icelanders read at least one book a year (compared to 73% of Americans), and it is the third most literate country in the world (Finland and Norway are the first and second). In Iceland, one in ten people will publish a book in their lifetime, and in 2011 Reykjavík was designated a UNESCO City of Literature, three years after Iowa City received the same distinction.

Jólabókaflóð is easy to adapt to your family’s needs. While the original tradition is tied to Christmas, yours doesn’t need to be! Simply gather your family together, and enjoy each other’s company while exchanging your favorite books. Check out used bookstores, thrift stores, and library sales to get the best deals on your Book Flood gifts, or use library books for a totally free exchange (just be careful about overdue books). This article has some really fun ideas for creating your own Book Flood tradition.

This sweet tradition is very close to my heart. I grew up in a family of readers—which is probably not surprising, now that I’m working in a library and getting my Master’s in Library Science. For a lot of other families, Christmas day is a loud, boisterous occasion. For my family, it was all about the books. On Christmas Eve, we would gather around the tree and read classic picture books together; the next day was usually spent in pajamas, scattered around the house, reading all the new books we’d received as gifts. To me, there’s almost nothing better than being with people you love, reading.

What books will you give to your loved ones this holiday season?

Family Traveling for the Holidays? Bring Along an Audiobook!

by Anne Wilmoth on November 8th, 2017

Each year, while traveling literally over the river and through the woods to southeastern Michigan for Thanksgiving, I’m determined that the family unity and togetherness will start the moment we back out of the driveway. Translation: no screens, kids. Instead, I cue up an audiobook I’ve carefully selected for family listening pleasure. It can be a challenge to find something that everyone is engaged by – but when I do, it makes the miles zip by. Some we’ve enjoyed recently:

Thumbnail The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, 2014

This was a hit with everyone in the car – my 55-year-old mother-in-law, my husband, my “tween” daughter and my 6-year-old. It moves fast, and it’s written in verse – who doesn’t enjoy listening to poetry read aloud? Those who are into sports will enjoy it, as it’s about a pair of basketball-star twins and their exploits on the court, but it has plenty for the non-sports-fan as well – it’s just as much about family relationships, loyalty, and coming-of-age.

 

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio, 2012

This book about a fifth-grader with a facial abnormality is an excellent bridge to a family discussion about inclusion and kindness. The life of the protagonist has been shaped by the reactions of others to his striking physical differences, despite being a totally “regular kid” on the inside, and now he’s about to start at a new middle school. Different actors narrate the sections of this book, which are told from the perspective of a variety of characters. The dialogue and situations feel very authentic, and the message hits home without being heavy-handed or precious. You’ll be ready to see the screen adaptation that comes out this month!

 

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When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, 2009

A one-of-a-kind historical sci-fi/mystery so suspenseful that you won’t want to press pause at a rest stop! Miranda tries to unravel who – or what – is behind the prophetic notes that keep appearing in her personal items. Other mysterious characters and unexplained events pop up, and there seems to be no earthly way all these intriguing but disparate elements could possibly be tied together by the end – but they are. Also, time travel, if you’re into that.

 

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Ghost by Jason Reynolds, 2016

Ghost is a gifted sprinter, and when he impulsively tries out for a local track team, a tough-love coach sees potential in him. But Ghost has to learn to control his anger to become a team player and succeed on the track. The audiobook is engagingly narrated by the author, who brings laugh-out-loud personality to the coach’s dialogue. This book was recently named the 2018 All Iowa Kids Read selection, so listening to it would be a great way for all your kids to participate at once.

 

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Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm, 2016

10-year-old Beans Curry cooks up schemes and gets into scrapes during one summer in Depression-era Key West. Adults will be fascinated by the historical details of how Key West was deliberately remade from an isolated and impoverished island community into a hot tourist attraction – this novel is based on true events – while kids will thrill to Beans’ wacky adventures and wonder what he’ll do next. Narrated by the author, fans of Holm’s popular Babymouse series will not be disappointed in this listening experience.

 

These audiobooks are available on CD at the library, or in digital, downloadable format via OverDrive. Happy listening, and happy, harmonious traveling this season!

 

Video Staff Picks with Terri: October 2017

by Bond Drager on October 18th, 2017

Terri’s back with more great picks from Iowa City Public Library’s nonfiction collection.

Items mentioned include

Tower
directed by Keith Maitland

Newtown
directed by Kim A. Snyder

Gimme Danger
directed by Jim Jarmusch

Eat that Question: Frank
Zappa in his Own Words
directed by Thorsten Schütte

The New Bloody Mary
by Vincenzo Marianella and James O. Fraioli

In Julia’s Kitchen
by Pamela Heyne and Jim Scherer

Jackie’s Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family
by Kathy McKeon

Twenty-Six Seconds: a Personal History of the Zapruder Film
by Alexandra Zapruder

JFK: a Vision for America in Words and Pictures
edited by Stephen Kennedy Smith and
Douglas Brinkley

Last Man Standing: Mort Sahl and the Birth
of Modern Comedy
by James Curtis