Edited by J. Patrick Lewis, U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate, this new volume of children’s poetry about the animal world is a stand-out. 200 poems with beautiful color photographs of each animal comprise this collection produced by the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. The compilation includes poems by such noteworthy poets as Robert Frost, Jack Prelutsky, Emily Dickinson, Ogden Nash, Jane Yolen, Lilian Moore, Valerie Worth, David McCord, and J. Patrick Lewis. As with most books of poetry, the reader does not have to read it straight through, but can open it anywhere and start reading. The poems are more than just a description of various animals; many are a revelation. The poems in these pages resonate with wonder at the variety, beauty, and strangeness of the animal world around us. They are arranged by chapters that are described as the big ones, the little ones, the winged ones, the water ones, the strange ones, the noisy ones, and the quiet ones. There is an index by title, poet, first line, and subject. The photos are first-rate as would be expected. Book of Animal Poetry; 200 Poems With Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar! would make a wonderful birthday present for some lucky child who loves animals. Check it out and enjoy it during April which is National Poetry Month.
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Do you ever find yourself standing in front of the DVD collection completely unable to find something “good” to watch? You’re in the mood for a movie, but just can’t think of a particular title, and nothing seems to pique your interest?
Well according to Rob Christopher’s new book “Queue Tips: Discovering Your Next Great Movie” finding a good movie spontaneously is really a crap shoot. Just like most other things in life, it takes a bit of thought or planning to find a good movie – if “good” is really what you’re in the mood for.
This book is by no means a “Best List.” Christopher and his 10 guest contributors (including comedian Julia Sweeney, author Barry Gifford, and jazz musician Ken Vandermark) have come up with 24 themed lists that will hopefully help you create your own list of movies you want to watch – your own personal queue.
What do Psycho (1960), The Thin Man (1934) and Die Hard (1988) have in common?
Psycho and Other Surprising Christmastime Movies
How about: Seven Samurai (1954), Mad Max (1979) and Outland (1981) ?
“Nine Westerns That Aren’t Westerns”
Or Reefer Madness (1938), Logan’s Run (1976) and Showgirls (1995) ?
“Ten Movies So Bad They’re Good”
The lists in this book just might surprise you: “Better Than the Book”, “Movies Guaranteed To Make you Cry,” “Flops That Actually Aren’t Half Bad” and my two favorites “Bettter Than The Book!” and “Favorite Late-Night Spooky Films.” This book is definitely worth getting in the queue for.
Since June, the Iowa City Public Library has been offering free downloads of local music at music.icpl.org. Fifty-eight albums are available, and more are coming over the next few months. What’s there that you might like? Most of the local heavyweights from the last few decades — Dave Zollo, Euforquestra, Big Wooden Radio, Mike and Amy Finders Band, the Salsa Band, and others — a good introduction to the local music scene.
Beyond that lie any number of gems. Too Much Yang, for instance, was an acoustic female trio with talent to burn. Their tight harmonies and jazzy arrangements suggest Dan Hicks or Asleep at the Wheel.
Amazingly, almost a generation has grown up never seeing High and Lonesome play. Not only was this the massively talented Dave Zollo’s first band, but guitar player Darren Matthews often seemed possessed by Keith Richards. ICPL offers all three of their releases. (Best of luck finding these for sale anywhere.)
Iowa City isn’t known for producing concept albums, but check out Let’s Get Clecky. When a band wants to record a wide variety of styles, from British Invasion pastiche to polka to county to Japanese cartoon theme music (!), why not just call it a compilation album by a nonexistent record company? Borges would approve.
Iowa boasts just a few world-class bluesmen, and you can own records by two of them. Catfish Keith dazzles with his picking and charms with his take on early blues. Joe Price (and wife Vicki) bring a more electric, rowdier vibe.
Scott Cochran’s band Flannel features Steve Ellis on guitar and up-and-coming Ryan Bernemann on bass and vocals. Think Townes Van Zandt. Think Gram Parsons. The Java House recording is unreleased, except through the Library.
Dustin Busch is quietly putting together a career as a musician’s musician, a go-to guy for tasteful guitar. His Down Home offers his take on blues standards.
One of the best parts of working on this project is being reminded how good Ben Schmidt is. The man can turn a phrase, feels things deeply, and his playing is impeccable.
This won the Man Booker Prize in 2009, but it was all the subsequent references to it in reviews that convinced me to give it a try. It’s become something of a landmark.
Wolf Hall tells a great story all the more fascinating for being true. It traces the rise of Thomas Cromwell as an advisor to Henry VIII, and encompasses Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, which led to the establishment of the Church of England. It’s a well-known story, but fleshed out in human terms, if by human we mean impossibly witty banter, jaw-dropping hypocrisy, and astonishing accomplishment which changed the course of western civilization.
Henry and Cromwell made the argument (apparently with straight faces) that Katherine, whom Henry had married, lived with for 20 years and had a child with, was not, in fact, his wife. She had been married briefly to his brother, and so was actually his sister. While 20 years of incest was regrettable, a merciful God could forgive that, and Henry could marry Anne Boleyn, who was more likely to provide a male heir.
Nearly as bizarre, this argument took place in the context of the Reformation. While Henry’s regime was burning heretics, he was himself moving toward a schism with the Catholic Church. Hilary Mantel’s achievement is to show Cromwell making such paradoxical arguments in good faith, with a fair degree of intellectual and moral rigor.
It will be fun to rewatch A Man for All Seasons after this, which tells the story of Thomas More, a heroic martyr in the movie, a fanatical torturer in Wolf Hall.
I’m struck by how much of this went over my head. Whence the title, for instance? Very little of the action takes place at Wolf Hall. The place names are just names to me, but the characters know them and react to a place’s characteristics.
A connection to Wikipedia filled me in on many details I didn’t know. That shy, awkward girl attending the queen, to whom Cromwell nearly proposes marriage? Turns out Jane Seymour becomes Henry’s next wife, and learning this added layers of meaning and irony to her every appearance.
The sequel to Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies has just been published and longlisted for the Booker. I’m in line.
Scottish author Denise Mina is a favorite of mine — not always easy to follow, but then, people are more her thing than a plot. Both the plot and the people in this second title featuring DS Alexandra Morrow are grim indeed. The story skips back and forth between two deaths — bad boy millionaire banker Lars Anderson hangs himself from a tree on his palatial estate, Sarah Erroll is kicked and beaten to death by home invaders. Dysfunction doesn’t even begin to describe both of these people and their families as Alex, five months pregnant with twins, discovers links between the two. Alex has her own dynamics to deal with after the death of her father, issues with her delinquent nephew and the appeareance of an old friend linked to one of the victims. Family is the overall theme — what people will (and won’t) do for flesh and blood. It’s a long, dense story and at times my attention wavered, but then I would get pulled back in by the complex characters.
Henry House was born in 1946 and spent his first year as “practice baby” in a college home economics program designed to teach young women how to be mothers. (Yes, this was really a common practice across the country). Typically babies were orphans and were put up for adoption after one year. Henry, however, steals the heart of the program director, Martha Gaines, and stays on, moving upstairs with her and seeing a succession of practice babies come and go. What he learns is not a good lesson — how to make a variety of women think they’re his favorite. At the age of 10 Henry learns who his biological mother is and loses his trust in Martha. Baby boomers will enjoy the side characters in Henry’s story — Benjamin Spock, Walt Disney, the Beatles– as he wanders from college towns to New York, Los Angeles, and London before returning to Wilton College. Henry is an engaging character and the mid-twentieth century setting is fun in this coming of age story.
Booktalk lunches returned to Iowa City Public Library today when City of Literature USA and Iowa City Public Library partnered to celebrate World Book and Copyright Day. If you were in attendance, you heard how books inspired notable people in our community. If you missed it but would like to check out the books they introduced, what follows is a list of the speakers and the books they introduced. Links are provided for each title to the Library’s catalog. Many are also available as audiobooks or eBooks so if one of these formats is your preference, search the catalog by title.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
introduced by Nancy Quellhorst, President of the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce
Here Lies Linc by Delia Ray
introduced by businessman and City Councilor, Terry Dickens
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
introduced by Nate Kaeding, former West High and Hawkeye football player, now with the San Diego Chargers
The Time of Our Lives by Tom Brokaw
introduced by Mary Ferentz, community volunteer
Pranks! by V. Vale (the Library owns Pranks 2!)
introduced by Kembrew McLeod, UI Associate Professor of Communication Studies
Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith
introduced by Prairie Light’s book buyer, Paul Ingram
The Miracle of St. Anthony by Adrian Wojnarowski
introduced by Charlie Funk, President of Midwest One Bank
This intriguing novel starts in Minnesota, at a big pharmaceutical research lab, where Marina Singh has worked for several years. Dr Singh’s colleague, Anders Eckman, went to the Amazon area to get a progress report from veteran researcher, Dr Annick Swenson, who has not been forthcoming on the outcome of her studies and the corporate funders are growing anxious. A brief report of Anders death arrives in Minnesota and Marina is sent to find out the details by her married lover, and boss, Mr Fox. The contrast between Minnesota and the Amazon region where the Lakashi tribe lives could not be more stark. Marina finds herself cut off from the world she knows, even wearing native attire after her clothes are stolen, as she tries to learn more about Anders’ death and the status of Dr Swenson’s research into the fertility of women of the tribe who routinely gnaw the bark of a certain species of trees and continue to have babies well into their 70′s. As Annika observes, what 70 year old woman wants to have babies? Good question, and one that this novel explores along with many others including the place of commercialism in medicine, culture and identity, good and evil. It’s a real tale, well told.
420 Characters began its life as a collection of Facebook updates back in the day when they were limited to just 420 characters. Lou Beach is an acclaimed artist and illustrator and 420 includes several fantastical collages. One of my favorite stories is from page 8.
Mouse and I lie on our stomachs on the warm and weathered planks. The little bridge spans the stream two feat below and the sun lays its hands on our backs. We drop pebbles into the creek and startle the water striders, add to the trove of shining rocks and stones. Preteen bombadiers, we laugh at splashes. Twenty feet away, in another world, our parents and their friends sit on blankets, eat sandwiches and drink beer.
The stories are fanciful, clever and short.
The 2012 All Iowa Reads title is Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains, only the second nonfiction book in the program’s nine year history. Strength in What Remains tells the story of Deogratis, or Deo, who as a 22 year old medical student barely escapes the Hutu slaughter of Tutsis in Burundi. He finds himself in New York City in 1994 with no English skills and $200. The story moves back and forth in time and place — from Africa to New York. And. although the horror of events in Africa is almost undescribable, living poor on the streets of New York as a young black man with no money is not an easy life either. Deo is helped by remarkable, generous people — but, the personal courage and fortitude needed to prevail is his. As a member of the All Iowa Reads Committee I recently did a program on this book with Kirkwood instructor, George Minot. He said the key to good nonfiction writing is to “make what is true believable.” Everyone should read this inspiring story from a great author who succeeds in that goal.