Kids on Monday took off into outer space for an adventure with superheroes, princesses and scientists, and they did it all without picking up a video game or watching TV.
Dan Wardell, from Iowa Public Television, was back Monday for his eighth annual Reading Road Trip. He led two interactive storytimes at the Fort Dodge Public Library attended by about 400 kids and adults total.
Kids jumped up and down, flapped their arms, provided sound effects and danced to help tell the story, and to see if they would be picked to play the role of any of the superheroes - such as Gorilla Boy, Cheetah Girl or the Human Frog.
Dan Wardell coaxes Denny Ehn, 8, to give his best gorilla howl in preparation to play the role of one of Snow White’s seven superheroes. Wardell had his young audience up and down through the entire story jumping, flapping, howling and growling, as he told how eating healthy and playing outside can make you a superhero.
"Remember," Wardell told the kids, "the Superhuman Puppy, like all of our superheroes, acquired powers by turning TVs -"
"Off," the kids said along with him.
"By going outside to -"
"By using our imagi- -"
"By reading lots of good -"
"And eating healthy -"
Wardell told a story of Princess Snow White, who was locked in a high tower by an evil witch. But Snow White was also a scientist, and excelled in math and engineering, so she turned her tower into a rocket and with her crew of seven superheroes, sailed away from the witch's grasp.
Along the way, the group crash-landed on the Junk Food Planet, where the superheroes started pigging out and lost their powers. Snow White had to help power them up by replacing corn dogs with bananas, caramel apples with regular apples, and soda with milk.
Afterward the kids were given magnifying glasses as a prize, and challenged to check out three books.
The event was a highlight of the summer for Gavin Tyre, 6, and his brother Deven Tyre, 3, who especially liked the jumping part.
"It's fun, the boys love it," their mother, April Tyre said. "We make sure we get here every year."
Layla Nore, 8, was especially happy she got to play the Flying Zebra in the story.
"I was a superhero!" she said.
Nore said she likes to read books about "important stuff."
"All kinds of science," said her mother, Tonya Nore. "She loves books about tornadoes."
Children's Librarian Laurie Hotz was also a big fan.
"It's the best day of the year," she said.
Assistant Library Director Rita Schmidt echoed that sentiment.
"We wait all year for this," Schmidt said.
She said it was a good way to encourage people to read.
"Hopefully by now, everyone is signed up for our summer reading program," she said. "But if not, they still have until August."
Wardell has been on the road since early June visiting 68 different towns.
Something like 180 towns wanted to be on that list, he said, so during the school year he travels to schools and keeps doing programs.
"I have the greatest job in the state," Wardell said.
It's easy for him to get enthusiastic along with the kids.
"I think just like them," he said. "My body grew up but my mind never did."
Fort Dodge has been on his list of stops since he began the tours eight years ago.
"You guys have such a fantastic library," he said. "You saw almost all the kids had library cards. In some libraries there will be a line of just tons of people. Afterwards they all check out books, which is fantastic."
After the presentation, ice cream was served out on the square by the Webster County Cultural Diversity Team and the Fort Dodge Young Professionals.
Wardell also held a program at 1:30 p.m. Monday in Rockwell City. Today his stops are in Coralville and Cedar Rapids.