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Summer Reading goes to the birds …and the Lions, tigers, and bears

By Dan Cullinane
Freelance Writer

Tails and Tales, the animal-themed 2021 Summer Reading Program at the Johnson County Public Library, got underway on Friday, June 11, and will continue through July 23. The reading program encourages children and teens to read daily and is enhanced by art activities and the energetically enjoyable online storytelling hosted by local theater personality Marie Jo Thume.

“We want to make sure they are reading,” Library Director Linda Icenhour said. “We want to make sure the experience is fun.”

So, following a treasure map created by Johnson County High School senior Macgregor Barnhill, children move from stories about familiar wilderness creatures such as wolves and squirrels down a path towards encounters with more exotic animals like pandas and koala bears. From there, they take a dive into the ocean among the whales and then make their way into a fantasy kingdom populated by dragons and unicorns. Each week, as children bounce back into the library for another book and that week’s activity packet, they will also receive stickers on their map to chart their progress through the program.

Rather than creating a required reading list, Tails and Tales encourages readers to choose their books based on their interests. “Different types of children are different types of readers,” Icenhour said, as she pointed out a number of books, which would be ideal for their journey through the animal kingdom. Prominently on display are Moose, Goose, and Mouse by legendary children’s author Mordecai Gerstein, The Gingerbread Pup by Maribeth Boelts, and Marty the Mailbox Monster by Kim Walker. An author herself, Icenhour’s collaboration with her daughter, illustrator Amber Icenhour, entitled The Adventures of Jam and Jelly, is ideal, but she has a different personal favorite.

“I love Tad, by Benji Davies,” she said. “Tad is a tadpole, and one by one, his friends and family disappear. Then one day, he disappears too and finds them all.”

For middle and teen readers, Icenhour pointed out the Dog Diaries series by mystery author James Patterson and Erin Hunter’s best-selling Warrior’s series about feuding clans of wild cats. But the good books and fun activities all serve a greater goal. Icenhour emphasized that the idea is to keep kids reading. To keep them engaged.

“We want to make sure they don’t lose what they have learned throughout the previous year.”

For more information on Tails and Tales, call The Johnson County Public Library at (423) 727-6544, or visit their website at To pick up books and this week’s activity packet, drop by the library between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or Saturday between 9am and 1pm The library is located at 219 N. Church Street in Mountain City.