Omaha Public Library wants to help readers find new books — or at least books new to them. Every month in this space, Omaha Public Library employees will recommend reading based on different writing genres, themes or styles. This May, staff have suggested some of their favorite books about or relating to animals. Find these books and more at your local branch or omahalibrary.org.
Joanne Ferguson Cavanaugh, manager at Bess Johnson Elkhorn Branch
“Redwall” series, by Brian Jacques. This is a fantasy series set around Redwall Abbey in Mossflower Woods and populated with a variety of hero and villain talking animals, including mice, rats, ravens and wearets (half weasel, half ferret), etc. These are lengthy books for middle school readers. There is also a more digestible graphic novel series based on the books geared toward reluctant readers.
Jennifer Jazynka, manager at Milton R. Abrahams Branch
“Down Girl and Sit” series, by Lucy Nolan. There are four books written from the point of view of a couple of lovable, slightly mischievous dogs who think their names are “Down Girl” and “Sit.” Each book is as funny as the previous one, as they embark on adventures far out west on a dude ranch or as close as their own backyard. My children and I laughed until our bellies ached as we turned each page of this excellent series geared for early chapter book readers. It will definitely get kids to enjoy reading, and the grown-ups will love these, too!
Book 1: “Down Girl and Sit: Smarter Than Squirrels”; Book 2: “Down Girl and Sit: On the Road”; Book 3: “Down Girl and Sit: Bad to the Bone”; Book 4: “Down Girl and Sit: Home on the Range.”
Theresa Jehlik, strategy and business intelligence manager for Omaha Public Library
“A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home,” by Sue Halpern. When Halpern decides that her dog Pransky needs a job, she pursues therapy dog certification. After completing a torturous path to the coveted license, they begin weekly visits to County Nursing Home in their small Vermont town. As both become more accustomed to being around elderly people, lots of life lessons occur in a year. Fans of Anne Lamott’s approach to life and writing will appreciate this book.
“Squirm,” by Carl Hiassen. Hiaasen lightens up his dark humor a bit for the younger reader. Billy Dickens lives a nomadic life in Florida as his mother moves to follow bald eagle nesting patterns. When Billy discovers that his father is living in Montana, he flies out there and finds that his dad has a secretive job and a new family. As Billy delves into his father’s activities and gets to know his dad’s new wife and daughter, he also learns about different varieties of wildlife. This story would appeal to boys who love the outdoors and a mystery.
Elizabeth A. Johnson, senior manager of operations for Omaha Public Library
“The Immortals” series, by Tamora Pierce. I love this fantasy series for its detailed world-building, brisk plotting, and endearing characters. The main character, Daine, can communicate with animals via her wild magic, and works with them to fight off an invasion of fantastical creatures known as immortals. Many animals are fascinating characters in their own right, including a wolf pack and the no-nonsense pony Cloud.
Marvel Maring, manager at South Omaha Library
“How To Be A Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals,” by Sy Montgomery. Naturalist and author Sy Montgomery has traveled the globe to study animals great and small. From tarantulas to octopi, she tells of the deep heart connections she’s developed with them that defy reason. The book is divided into 13 chapters, depicting a significant animal in her personal life and academic research. She shares how her lifetime of loving animals has taught her what it means to be most human. Illustrated by Rebecca Green, the book is as beautiful as it is moving.
Lynn Sullivan, library specialist at W. Dale Clark Main Library
“Listening for Lions,” by Gloria Whelan. Rachel Sheridan’s parents are doctors/teachers at a mission in Tumaini, East Africa (Kenya) in 1918. Both parents perish in the Spanish Influenza epidemic, and Rachel is forced to assume a rich, dead girl’s identity as part of a scheme to try to collect an inheritance. This tale stands apart because of Rachel’s connection to the African land, animals and people.
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The Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum will host a Helicopter Day Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Helicopters from the Nebraska National Guard, law enforcement and more will begin their descent to the museum at 10 a.m. Guests can tour the helicopters after they land or head inside for a drone workshop, free balloon helicopters, make-and-take projects and hands-on activities. Due to a possibility of high winds throughout the day, helicopter rides will not be available this year. The event is free with general admission, which is $12 for adults and $6 for kids ages 4-12. More.
Saturday is free park entry and fishing day at all Nebraska state parks, state recreation areas and state historical parks. So come enjoy a day of fishing or state park activities without the need to purchase a fishing or park entry permit. More.
The Celebrate CB parade will take place Saturday at 10:30 a.m. in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa. After the parade, stay and check out the many activities in Bayliss Park, including kids activities, carnival rides and more. Bayliss Park is located at 100 Pearl St. in Council Bluffs. More.
On Saturday, come to Wildlife Safari Park in Ashland, Nebraska, for the March for Monarchs, a family fun walk for monarch conservation. Guests can dress in their favorite butterfly outfit and join the migration around the trail system and learn more about the monarch’s incredible journey. The walk will take place at 8 a.m. Tickets are $20 for members, $25 for non-members and $35 to register the day of the event. Children 2 years old and younger are free. More.
On Saturday from noon to 3 p.m., come to the Steve Hogan Golf Course, 6315 N. 30th St., for free golf, hot dogs, chips and pop. Plus there will be bounce houses and kids can take their best shots at the “GOLFzilla.” More.
As part of Celebrate CB, the annual celebration in Council Bluffs, Iowa, there will be a Superhero Night at the Farmers Market Council Bluffs Thursday from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. The fun will happen in Bayliss Park, 100 Pearl St. There will be vendors selling a wide variety of products, as well as local musicians, yoga in the park and a kids zone. More.
In honor of National Pizza Party Day on May 17, the South Omaha Library will host a Tween Hangout: Pizza Garden Party for kids ages 10-15 on Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. After pizza, stay to plant a pizza garden, which will include peppers, basil, oregano, tomatoes and other potential pizza toppings. The plants will grow all summer long at the library, which is located at 2808 Q St. More.
On Sunday, enjoy a stroll around Turner Park while checking out some cool cars at the Midtown Car Show. The event will feature the area’s finest in collector and one-of-a-kind rides. The show will go from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Midtown Crossing at Turner Park is located at 31st Avenue and Farnam Street. More.
The fourth annual food truck will take place Friday from 4 to 11 p.m. in downtown Benson along Military Avenue. There is no cover charge to attend and the event is open to all ages. There will be 15 food trucks, along with a beer garden, multiple outdoor bars, outdoor seating and tables. More.
On Saturday, Nebraska Furniture Mart is hosting a Block Party from noon to 3 p.m. The event will include carnival snacks, food trucks, games and more. Nebraska Furniture Mart is located at 700 S. 72nd St. More.
Join Kerfuffle for an interactive play session, “Firefly,” which focuses on light and darkness, at the Omaha Children’s Museum, 500 S. 20th St. The show is best enjoyed by children 6 years old and younger and their families. All sessions are drop-in and included with museum admission. The show will take place Thursday and Friday at 11 a.m. More.
Teens are invited to the Millard Library, 13214 Westwood Lane, Saturday to play board games and eat food. The fun will go from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Board games will include some old-school games as well as newer options. More.
There are tons of organizations that host weekday and weekend storytimes.
Lauritzen Gardens will host a “Read and Grow” storytime Friday from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Stories will celebrate gardens, plants, insects and more. This Friday’s theme is “Gnomes, Fairies and Garden Magic.” The event is free but pre-registration is requested. Lauritzen Gardens is located at 100 Bancroft St. More. Other storytimes include Barnes and Noble (Oak View and Crossroads), Pottery Barn Kids, Leader Reader at the Omaha Children's Museum, the Omaha Public Library branches, the Gretna Public Library, the Bellevue Public Library, the La Vista Public Library, the Sump Memorial Library in Papillion, the Baright Public Library in Ralston and the Plattsmouth Public Library.
Omaha is home to more than 200 parks, and many include playgrounds, trails and other attractions. Check out the list here, and explore a new park with your kids.
The Omaha metro area has several indoor play areas for families to enjoy. They include Pump It Up, Backyard Playworld and BounceU in Omaha, and Jumpin Jax in Papillion. Oak View Mall and Westroads Mall also have fun indoor play areas. Check out Approach Climbing Gym at 4923 S. 72nd St. It offers day passes, instructional classes, youth programs and more. Several local gymnastic places also have open gym time, including Metro Stars Gymnastics, Premier Gymnastics, Airborne Academy, Go! Kids Gym and Kid's Body Shop. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, 28500 W. Park Highway in Ashland, Nebraska, features an on-site indoor activity center.
Take an afternoon to go roller skating with your kids. You can laugh at each other while you fall down again and again. Check out Skate City, 1220 S. Fort Crook Road in Bellevue.
Do Space, Omaha's community tech space, is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Plus it's free. Check out five things to do at Do Space here.
Are your kids animal lovers? If so, there are several ways they can help the animals at the Nebraska Humane Society, including reading to them during adoption hours. Check out more fun ways here.
The Omaha, Bellevue and Council Bluffs Public Libraries are currently offering free day passes to Fontenelle Forest. Each pass admits two adults and children from their household. More information can be found at each library.
Community centers offer something for every member of your family — from infants to senior citizens. For a full list of community centers, click here.
Several area organizations host craft time for children every weekend. Kids can create a free craft Saturday at Lakeshore Learning Store from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Finally, kids 3 and older can make paper flowers for mom Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon with the Michaels Kids Club. Sign up online or drop in. The cost ranges from $2 to $5 per project, supplies included.
The Ralston Arena offers public ice skating for $5, with free ice skate rental. The Motto McLean Ice Arena inside Hitchcock Park near 45th and Q Streets offers Family Skate time Sunday from 4 to 6:15 p.m.
We put together a list of must-see spots across the state. How many of these destinations can you cross off your Cornhusker bucket list?