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The Taller the Better: Bigger-than-life American Folk Heroes

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Is there anyone who doesn’t know the legend of Paul Bunyan? How it took five storks to deliver him, and how he formed the Grand Canyon by dragging his axe along behind him as he walked. The Paul Bunyan myth also explained the Great Lakes, formed as a watering hole for Paul’s Blue Ox, Babe.

Bunyan’s character originated in tales circulated among lumberjacks in the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada, possibly as early as the Papineau Rebellion of 1837. Michigan journalist, James MacGillivray, published the first Bunyan stories in 1906. William Laughead reworked the stories for a logging company’s advertising campaign in 1914. The 1922 edition of Laughead’s tales inspired a host of imitators and spread the Paul Bunyan legend far and wide.

Today young readers can learn about Paul Bunyan in several books including “Paul Bunyan: a Tall Tale,” by Steven Kellogg; and “The Tall Tale of Paul Bunyan,” by Martin Powell. In “The Story of Paul Bunyan,” Barbara Emberley tells the tall tale of the legendary woodsman, the biggest man who ever lived. His shirt buttons were wagon wheels, and his double-edged axe took an entire town a whole month to build.

Pecos Bill is another big man among American folk heroes. Pecos Bill was said to have fallen out of a covered wagon near the Pecos River in Texas. He was raised by coyotes, used a rattlesnake as a lasso, and his favorite food was dynamite. He rode a horse named Widow-maker, when he wasn’t riding a mountain lion, and he had a girlfriend by the name of Slue-foot Sue (who Pecos was smitten with when he saw her riding a giant catfish down the Rio Grande). Pecos Bill was actually the creation of Edward O’Reilly, who first published stories of the larger-than-life cowboy in 1917.

Young readers who want to know more about Pecos Bill should check out “Pecos Bill: a Tall Tale,” by Steven Kellogg, or “Pecos Bill, Colossal Cowboy,” by Sean Tulien.

John Henry was more powerful than a steam-powered hammer. This African-American steel-driver may have been based on a man who worked on and died at the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad’s Big Bend Tunnel around 1873. It could be that John Henry was based on a 20-year-old New Jersey-born African-American freeman, John William Henry. Henry drifted down to Virginia to work on the clean-up of the battlefields after the Civil War. Henry was arrested and tried for burglary, and released by the warden to work as leased labor on the railway. The story of John Henry is told in a classic folk song, which exists in many versions, and has been the subject of numerous stories, plays, books and novels. In “John Henry, Hammerin’ Hero,” by Stephanie True Peters, the bigger-than-life folk hero challenges a steam-powered steel driver to prove that he is the match for any machine.

Our own Johnny Kaw is younger than most other big men of American folklore. His legend was created in 1955 by George Filinger to celebrate Manhattan’s Centennial. He might be younger, but Johnny Kaw is no slouch. He dug the Kansas River Valley, planted wheat, invented sunflowers, and grew giant potatoes. Johnny Kaw chopped the tops off tornadoes and ended droughts by wringing out clouds. His pets were a wildcat and a Jayhawk (what else?), who caused the dust bowl with all their fighting. You can read more about this Kansas hero in several books including “Johnny Kaw: a Tall Tale,” by Devin Scillian, “Johnny Kaw: the Pioneer Spirit of Kansas,” by Jerri Garretson, and George Filinger’s own “The Story of Johnny Kaw: the Kansas Pioneer Wheat Farmer.”

Finally, editors David Leeming and Jake Page have gathered together the great myths and legends of America in “Myths, Legends, and Folktales of America: an Anthology.” Beginning with the creation stories of the first inhabitants, the editors reveal how waves of immigrants adapted their religion and folklore to help make sense of a new and strange land. This collection illuminates the myth making process, and sheds light on what it means to be American.

Today is Paul Bunyan Day, but the giant lumberjack and his big blue ox aren’t the only larger than life heroes in American folklore. “Every Hero Has a Story” is the theme of this year’s summer reading program. Visit Manhattan Public Library to read about your favorite hero.

 

 

 

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How to be a Great Storyteller

by Danielle Schapaugh, Public Relations Coordinator

The act of storytelling is a big part of what makes us human. Nigerian writer Chris Abani told a TED audience “What we know about who we are comes from stories.” We share knowledge from generations past, explore meaning, delve into our own psyches, and generally figure out this thing called life by telling stories to each other. Stories are nothing less than essential.

I’m not telling you this in order to add pressure to your evening storytime routine, but I do hope to add some weight to it. Becoming a good storyteller is worth the effort and can add meaning and understanding to your child’s life. By reading and telling stories to your kids, you’re not only helping them learn to read, but also helping them learn to solve problems and develop empathy. Reading and telling stories makes us better people.

So, what does it take to be a good storyteller? Here are a few tips from WikiHow, the 6 by 6 Ready to Read program developed by the State Library of Kansas, and the story-telling experts in the children’s department at the Manhattan Public Library.

First, choose a story that will interest your child. Does your daughter love trucks? She will probably enjoy a picture book with trucks in it and having fun is important. In fact, fun is a serious part of this process. Log your fun on a nightly fun meter and track the enjoyment quotient over time to determine the success of your storytelling skills. (Just kidding. See, fun can hide anywhere!) For older children, select a chapter book and read one chapter each evening. Librarians can help if you need ideas and recommendations. We love recommending books; it’s one of our favorite things to do. Please never hesitate to ask.

Next, remember to read the story to yourself before you read it aloud. Think of it like reading a script. An actor can’t build drama in a scene if he doesn’t know where the story is going, right? Building anticipation for the next page will help keep your child interested. Knowing the story also helps you relax, which helps your child relax. And what if you’ve accidentally picked up a scary story, or one that doesn’t fit your parenting style? Take a few minutes to read the book first, to make sure things go smoothly.

Asking questions is also a good way to hold your child’s interest during the story. During library storytime, the storyteller will ask questions, such as “What does a frog sound like?” “Have you ever been to a lake?” “Do any of you like carrots?” You can ask questions about the action in the story, or ask your child to count objects on the page or look for colors.

As you’re reading, use your finger to follow along so your child can start associating print with sound and meaning. Point out the first letter in a word, sound it out, spell it, or ask your child to tell you a word that rhymes. This has more to do with the mechanics of reading, and starting early is a good idea. It isn’t necessary for you to sound out every word, just sprinkle in the learning when it feels right.

The library can help you identify the six skills your child should have by age six, so he is ready to start school. Just ask us the next time you visit, or check out the 6 by 6 Ready to Read resources on the KS State Library’s website www.kslib.info. You will find tips, plus links to fun rhymes and songs. Don’t worry: fun is always going to be part of the process.

Last, but certainly not least, use inflection and play with the sounds of the words anytime you tell a story. In essence, “do the voices.” Come up with character voices whenever possible. It will make all the difference. What does the frog sound like when he speaks? Give it your best shot, without a trace of self-consciousness, and you will do just fine.

However, as you well know, stories aren’t always about reading. Children love to hear stories from your own childhood. Tell tales of your adventures, real or imagined. Talk about your parents, siblings, and friends. Tell your child the story of her birth (kids never got tired of that one), and how you felt the first time you held her in your arms. Form your story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Then ask your child to tell a story of her own. Help her along by asking questions when she struggles, and let the magic unfold.a librarian reading to a group of children

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Escape the Ordinary this Summer!

by Linda Henderson, Adult Services Librarian

Escape the ordinary this summer! Entertain your brain with one of the more than 200 magazines available at the public library.  A wonderfully varied collection stands ready to expand your reading choices this summer.  Familiar favorites like Time, Good Housekeeping, and Sports Illustrated sit next to numerous specialty magazines that cover diverse topics: lifestyle magazines about hobbies, home decor, cooking, and gardening; up-to-date coverage of news, science, and politics; and wide-ranging material on history, art, and entertainment.  On the go?  Borrow back issues and read them when and where you choose.  Or, scan materials using our free scanner, then save them to a flash drive or e-mail them anywhere using a simple touch-screen panel.

Indulge your nesting instinct!  Our home collection boasts titles like Dwell, a unique magazine that stylishly explores both interior and exterior home design by showing modern ways to put identity, creativity, and harmony into living spaces.  Check out Elle Décor, which bridges high fashion and home design with decorating trends to create personality-packed interiors.  And, don’t miss other home-making titles such as This Old House, Victorian Homes, and Fine Homebuilding. 

Get some dirt under your fingernails!  The green-thumbed will surely enjoy many of our gardening titles, like Fine Gardening, Country Living, and Heirloom Gardening.  Don’t miss Taproot Magazine, an ad-free independent homesteading quarterly that also digs into food, farm, family, and craft.  These titles burst with ideas and inspiration to help you make your summer garden fresh.

Spice up your cuisine!  The library serves up a regular buffet of cooking magazines.  Some aspire to gourmet tastes, like Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Cook’s Illustrated.  Others have a down-home touch, like Cook’s Country, full of easy-to-follow recipes for putting together honest home-cooked meals.  Many more cater to specific tastes, including Eating Well, Vegetarian Times, and Mary Jane’s Farm, which also explores organic farming methods and handicrafts.

Stray away from the beaten path!  Explore our collection to find magazines on bicycling, flying, and running, like American Cowboy, Cycle World, and Runner’s World; catch up on well-seasoned favorites like Outdoor Life and Sports Afield.  Backpacker offers straightforward “you can do it–here’s how” advice for packing more into your wild excursions and charts the best locations, gear and techniques for camping and hiking, including fold-out maps and stunning photography.

Make something unique!  The library’s craft magazines offer information and projects that will let you hone your skills while making things you will treasure.  Sew things up with Interweave Crochet and Interweave Knits; build up some steam with Model Railroader; work the grain with Woodcarving, Fine Woodworking, and loads of other hands-on titles from skilled artisans of all stripes.

Reshape yourself!  Grow healthier, exercise effectively, and build the right “you” with advice and encouragement from current exercise, wellness, and nutritional magazines. Women’s (and Men’s!) Health, Yoga Journal, Fitness, and Eating Well are only some of the titles on our shelves that can help you develop confidence and energy through better health.

Learn something truly new!  Titles like Air & Space, Astronomy, Discover,  and Scientific American Mind push the bounds of nature and technology.  Go beyond with Ad Astra, the award-winning magazine of the National Space Society, featuring the latest news in space exploration along with dazzling photography.

Beat the trends!  Titles like Brides, Elle, Vogue, Lucky, and Instyle will help you keep your closet current.  Marie Claire offers a classy perspective on fashion, beauty, celebrities, careers, and love.

Rediscover the Sunflower State!  Magazines such as KC Magazine, Kansas, and Kansas History explore the current and historical happenings that make Kansas a unique place to live­.  Also, free copies of Manhattan Magazine are available at the Information Desk.

Shine a new light on today’s news!  Utne Reader is a quarterly American news magazine that collects and reprints articles on politics, culture, and the environment, generally from alternative media sources including academic journals, regional weeklies, amateur zines, and music papers.  Many more perspectives on life and current events can be found in Week, Humanist, American Spectator, and many more magazines.

Keep your trade current!  Up-to-date business news and insightful financial commentary is yours to command in publications like Inc., Investor’s Business Daily, and Black Enterprise.  Don’t miss the Kiplinger Letters from our newsletters section, or the Wall Street Journal, just one of many newspapers available at the library.

Go beyond hard copies!  The library offers access to several research databases that provide full text articles from thousands [right??] of professional magazines and journals.  Ask for assistance at the Information and Reference desks, and find the right materials for your research needs.

*Summer Reading—The adult summer reading theme is “Escape the Ordinary!” To be eligible for prizes you are invited to sign up online at Manhattan Public Library’s main page (www.MHKlibrary.org)  or at the Information Desk on first floor.

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A Summer of Salads or Burgers, You Decide

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

May is National Salad Month, so that’s good news for those of us who want to eat lean and green this summer. May is also National Hamburger Month. That’s also good news for those of us who love all things burgers and grilling. There’s no reason in the world that you can’t enjoy both.

For  salad lovers, Manhattan Public Library has a wide variety of books available. You don’t have to be a vegan to appreciate “Salad Samurai,” by Terry Hope Romero. This book includes 100 cutting-edge, ultra-healthy, and easy-to-make salads. Based on whole food ingredients and seasonal produce, these versatile recipes are organized by season. Selections for gluten-free and raw-ready options are also included.

If you’re looking for salads a little out of the ordinary, look no farther than “Salads Beyond the Bowl,” by Mindy Fox. This author pairs produce with grains, beans, legumes, cheeses, fish, and meat to create extraordinary salads as starters or main courses. One-hundred inspired recipes are included with flavors from a variety of cuisines, such as Cubanelle Peppers and Ricotta Salata, and Peanut Soba and Chicken Salad with Lime.

Salads are usually considered part of the sideshow to a meal, but often the salad can be the meal itself. In “Salad as a Meal: Healthy Main-Dish Salads for Every Season,” Patricia Wells gives readers hundreds of delectable ideas for main course salads. She also includes recipes for breads of all kinds, including Crispy Flatbread, Tortilla Chips, Ham and Cheese Bread, and Multigrain Sourdough Bread. “Salad Suppers,” by Andrea Chesman, is another source of fresh inspirations for satisfying one-dish meals. From Warm Asparagus and New Potato Salad with Pan-Seared Trout to Vietnamese Beef Salad, Chesman includes plenty of healthful possibilities.

You can find more information on the national celebration of salad at http://www.saladaday.org, or http://www.gone-ta-pott.com/national_salad_month.html.

So maybe the greens aren’t for you. If burgers are what you crave, checkout “The Book of Burger,” by Rachael Ray. This cookbook is packed with over 300 recipes for burgers, sliders, sides, sloppies, hot dogs, sandwiches, sauces, toppings and more. Burger recipes are as varied as Turkey Tikka Burgers with Indian Corn, to Mac ‘n’ Cheese-Burger Sliders, and Spicy Spanish Meatball Subs.

Or try “Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries, & Shakes” by Chef Bobby Flay. It doesn’t get much better than a burger, fries, and a shake, and Flay shows you how to do it right from the shape of the burger to what you put on top. Try the Santa Fe Burger, topped with a blistered poblano, queso sauce, and crumbled blue corn tortilla chips.

One hundred recipes for mouthwatering burgers every day every way is the claim of “The Great Big Burger Book,’ by Jane Murphy. These burgers aren’t limited to beef, but include burgers made with chicken, turkey, duck, fish and shellfish, and veggie burgers too. The average American consumes three hamburgers a week. So to avoid growing bored with the same old hamburger, Murphy offers recipes for Barbecue Cheese Burgers, Pecan Pesto Turkey Burgers with Caramelized Fennel, and Salmon Burgers in Grape Leaves.

There is a burger for every occasion and every taste, and “Burgers: From Barbecue Ranch Burger to Miso Salmon Burger” by Paul Gayler covers them all. The 100 innovative and fascinating recipes include almost every meat imaginable. The final chapter of the book is all about accompaniments with ideas for salsas, relishes, and dips as well as varieties of breads that can be used if you’re tired of the same old sesame seed bun.

Get all the beef on National Hamburger Month at http://www.gone-ta-pott.com/national_hamburger_month.html.

There is no need to feel conflicted this month. Salads for the green-eaters, and burgers for the carnivores, or, why not have your salad and eat your hamburger too. Discover the many possibilities at the library.

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The Best New Books!

By Marcia Allen, Collection Development

There’s always a bounty of wonderful new adult books at the library in the spring.  With so many to choose from, it’s difficult to narrow your picks to just a special few.  Here’s a very limited sampling of what has recently arrived:

  • “Inside the O’Briens” by Lisa Genova. Genova, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard, became an instant celebrity when she released “Still Alice,” a heartbreaking novel aboutAlzheimer’s disease.  This time, she focuses on the effects of Huntington’s disease, often called  the “cruelest disease known to man.”  Joe O’Brien, a veteran Boston police officer, earns his family’s concern when he begins stumbling and when he exhibits wild mood swings.  Once diagnosed, he learns that there is a 50% chance that his four grown children may also develop symptoms.  This novel is a realistic look at a fatal disease with horrendous effects.

 

  • “Reykjavik Nights” by Arnaldur Indridason is the latest from one of Iceland’s most recognized mystery writers. A number of well-written mysteries about Inspector Erlendur have featured the patient detective unraveling tales of murder, but this book differs in time period.  This story, the puzzling account of two perhaps unrelated murders, features a much younger Erlendur when he was a police officer.  Already displaying the dogged curiosity and interest in missing persons that Indridason’s many readers enjoy, our determined officer wants to know why a misplaced earring, a missing woman, and the drowning of an old alcoholic are connected.
  • “The Siege Winter” by Ariana Franklin is a nice piece of historical fiction. Franklin, the author of the bestselling “Art of Death” mystery series, wrote this new tale to convey the horror and uncertainty of the year 1141, when King Stephen and Empress Matilda fought each other for the throne of England.  It is now the year 1180, and the dying Abbot of Perton has arranged for a scribe to record the events that took place some forty years earlier.  Important players in the story from the past include Gwil, an archer bent on revenge, and Penda, a brutalized child who becomes a very talented archer.

 

  • “Bill O’Reilly’s Legends & Lies of the Old West” by David Fisher serves as a companion piece to the Fox News series for the Bill O’Reilly docudrama. This is a must-have for those readers who can’t get enough about the real West.  Colorful characters like David Crockett and Doc Holliday have dedicated chapters, while O’Reilly and Fisher expose the myths and answer mysterious questions about the now-famous westerners.  We learn, for example, more about Crockett’s self-promotion, as well as the probable cause of his unwitnessed death at the Alamo.

 

  • “Into the Nest” by Laura Erickson and Marie Read is absolutely outstanding. If you like birds, this book will entrance you for hours.  Subtitled “Intimate Views of the Courting, Parenting, and Family Lives of Familiar Birds,” this is an encyclopedia of photographs and descriptions of all our favorites.  The passages on the Ruby-throated hummingbird, for example, describe the dive displays the male uses to court the female.  It also displays a typical nest, often located 40 feet above the ground atop a branch.  And these swift little birds, we learn, migrate an amazing 500 miles when autumn nears.
  • “The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough needs no introduction. This is the long-awaited next title from the author of such magnificent books as “Mornings on Horseback” (National Book Award title) and “John Adams” (Pulitzer Prize winner).  Lauded by “The New York Times Book Review,” “Publishers Weekly,” and “The Economist,” this book is destined, like so many other McCullough titles, to become an instant bestseller.

 

Still puzzled by what to read next?  Come browse the new book shelves in the adult collection to find your next winner.  You’re bound to find something that grabs your attention.

 

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It’s Gardening Time!

by Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager

The tulips, redbuds, and forsythia of early spring have given way to lilacs, bridal wreath, and iris. It’s time to clean out the planting beds, wander home stores and nurseries, and browse catalogs in search of plants and design ideas to brighten your flowering garden spaces. Manhattan Public Library has a wealth of gardening books ready to inspire you with great ideas, from garden design and soil preparation to plant selections and garden structures.  Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Colorful, sturdy and easy-to-care-for, with long-lasting blooms perennials are the mainstays of the flower garden.  “Essential Perennials: The Complete Reference to 2700 Perennials for the Home Garden” by gardening experts Ruth Clausen and Thomas Christopher is a gorgeous book and a comprehensive A to Z guide for choosing, planting, tending, and enjoying perennials.

Other outstanding guides for perennials in your garden are: “Perennial Combinations: Stunning Combinations that Make Your Garden Look Fantastic Right from the Start” by C. Colston Burrell; “The Well-tended Perennial Garden” by Tracy DiSabato-Aust; and “The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden” by Roy Diblik.

Enthusiasts for the garden’s greatest perennial all-stars can find inspiration in books that focus on their favorite flowers, for example:  “Landscaping with Daylilies: A Comprehensive Guide for the Use of Daylilies in the Garden” by Oliver Billingslea; “Right Rose, Right Place: 359 Perfect Choices for Beds, Borders, Hedges and Screens, Containers, Fences, Trellises, and More” by Peter Schneider; and “A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts” by Kelly D. Norris.  (Note to iris lovers:  the annual Iris Day at the KSU Gardens, hosted by the Flint Hills Iris Society, will be next Sunday, Mother’s Day, May 10th.)      

For the ultimate in carefree gardening with a big payback, check out “Plantiful: Start Small, Grow Big with 150 Plants that Spread, Self-sow, and Overwinter” by Kristin Green.  Or create your own prairiescape with“Prairie-style Gardens: Capturing the Essence of the American Prairie Wherever You Live” by Lynn Steiner; “Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes” by Sally Wasowski; or “The American Meadow Garden” by John Greenlee.

Gardening space limited to your doorstep, balcony, windowsill, or hanging planter? “Small Space Garden Ideas” by Philippa Pearson is packed with creative, smart ideas to make even the tiniest garden space lush and full. Look for more ideas for tight garden spaces in “The Ultimate Book of Small Gardens” by Graham Rice, “Container Gardening” by Hank Jenkins, or “The Potted Garden” by Daria Price Bowman.

Embellishing your outdoor space can add dramatically to the beauty and impact of your gardening efforts.  For creative and inspired ideas, take a look at: “Handmade for the Garden : 75 Ingenious Ways to Enhance your Outdoor Space with DIY Tools, Pots, Supports, Embellishments, and More” by Susan Guagliumi; “Salvage Style for the Garden: Simple Outdoor Projects Using Reclaimed Treasures” by Marcianne Miller;  “The Well-decorated Garden: Making Outdoor Ornaments and Accents” by Laura Dover Doran; or “Handmade Garden Projects: Step-by-step Instructions for Creative Garden Features, Containers, Lighting and More” by Lorene Forkner.

Perhaps you’re more of a philosophical or armchair gardener?  One who applauds the effort and appreciates the outcomes, but, say, at a distance?  As an intellectual rather than a physical exercise?  Not a problem; the Library has you covered.

Onward and Upward in the Garden” by Katharine White is a collection of her classic essays originally written for the gardening column of The New Yorker magazine and now newly reissued, a book the publisher called a “sharp-eyed appreciation of the green world of growing things…and of the dreams that gardens inspire.”

Or check out “Rhapsody in Green: The Garden Wit and Wisdom of Beverley Nichols,” about which one reviewer wrote, “Be prepared for delight…you won’t want to put it down…and you may never look at gardens in the same way again.”

 

 

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Scared of technology?

By Danielle Schapaugh, Public Relations Coordinator

There’s a secret group of people out there (code name EVERYONE) who can sometimes feel intimidated by technology. It almost seems as if technology has constructed a new culture with a set of encrypted rules and customs that are frightening to outsiders. If you didn’t learn the language of the tech-y as a child, never fear! There are plenty of ways to catch up, and the library is here to help.

Here are a few best practices that will serve you well. If you’re a pro, it’s still a good idea to brush up on the basics now and again, so keep reading.

First, you need a system for keeping your information safe online. This is the most important step. Once you’re safe, you can explore and try new things without fear.

Which brings us to PASSWORDS. *Cue scary music.* You need strong passwords for every account, and it isn’t safe to re-use them. Think of the Titanic: if there’s a breach, you want all the security measures and safety locks in place to keep the ship from going down. But how do you manage to remember it all? You don’t. You get to write it down in a password book.

A password book is like an address book for all your accounts. “But how is that safe?” you ask. It’s safe because it’s kept in a physically secure location, and you can write hints rather than passwords if you want to be extra sure the information won’t leak out. Step 1) Find a password book, address book, or even a notebook to use. Step 2) Write down your information whenever you add an account, and keep it up-to-date. Step 3) Stash the book in a safe place that you can still access when needed. Don’t keep the password book on top of your desk or in your purse. Create a physical barrier of some sort so the information isn’t easy for someone else to find.

Next, develop a code for creating and remembering your passwords so you don’t always need to check the book. For example, if I am interested in astrology, I might use the signs of the zodiac as my code. I could start with the sentence “Aquarius likes water,” and replace a few of the letters with symbols such as @ for lowercase “a” and $ for “s.” The result is Aqu@riu$like$w@ter. That’s good, but not great. It needs a little more code, so I will use H20 instead of “water,” and add 3 instead of “e”. The result is a rock-solid password like Aqu@riu$lik3$H20 that’s difficult to hack, but relatively easy to remember because it has meaning for me. If you use the same substitutions for all your passwords, you’ve got yourself a secret code. (Which kind of makes you a superspy!)

Once you have solid passwords in place, you can explore the internet without fear. “But what about all the devices, social media, apps, and everything else? What the heck is a hashtag? This is only the tip of the iceberg!” you plead.

It’s difficult for print materials to keep up with the trends, thus it’s almost impossible to recommend a good book for reference. Instead, try learning online so you can practice as you explore. Start with sites like Microsoft.com tutorials, Learning Express training through the library’s website www.MHKLibrary.org, or www.visualsteps.com, which offer the basics.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You will be surprised at how many other people are looking for the answers, too. If you ask, you will either find an ally in your search or a sage who can answer your question. There’s no shame in the search for knowledge!

Just make sure you’re asking for advice from people you trust. Visit the library, talk to a librarian, and use one of our computers if you want to explore risk-free. Type in your questions online and look at sites with names you recognize like Apple and Microsoft, read instruction booklets that come with devices, ask your friends, or enroll in a class.

UFM offers computer training classes, the library has Tech Tuesday courses, and you can make appointments at the library for one-on-one training, too. Call the Manhattan Public Library at 776-4741 ext. 141 to schedule a session.

Most importantly, don’t give up! It’s better to try and fail than to do nothing and succeed. The world of technology is all around us, and it isn’t going away anytime soon.

 

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A Playful Destination

By Jennifer Bergen, Children’s Services Manager

kids climbing on furniture in children's room

The new layout of the Children’s Room has provided opportunity for more interactive features to engage children while they are at the library looking for books, learning about something new, or just playing. Having time to play and pretend is important to a child’s cognitive, social and emotional development, from early childhood on. With busy schedules and more structured activities, spending a few hours at the library can be the perfect time to encourage children’s freedom. They can choose from thousands of books to look through, play with different games or activities, or draw their parents into some free play as well.

Kids using the Beginning Readers and Early Chapter Books area are learning to read or becoming more confident readers. Some fun activities we have had on the magnet/dry erase board include Mad Libs with magnet words to fill in the blanks, and letter stencils to trace and spell. Now, kids can try out a Velcro rhyming tree by sticking leaves with rhyming words on the same branch. Finding fun ways to play with language and words gives kids another way to practice their reading.

In the Arts and Crafts Neighborhood, a craft project is always available at the table. We have used fun die-cut shapes for kids to create pictures, cards, door hangers, headbands and other take-home crafts. To celebrate spring, kids can glue cut-outs of the stages of a growing plant, from a seed under the soil to a tall, leafy stem.

This craft leads nicely into our Science and Nature area next door. One or two games or manipulatives are available at a table or from the Children’s Desk to encourage kids to build, experiment or test their science knowledge. For example, kids can build the “food chain” in order with Mega Bloks, or put together an intricate Lego machine from the Lego Crazy Action Contraptions Set.

Creativity abounds with children, and new outlets for their ideas are exciting. In another section, children are encouraged to create their own comics, using dry erase crayons on the Graphic Novels Neighborhood sign. Blank comic book panels encourage kids to draw and write a short comic strip. Some of our favorites have included librarian superheroes!

The gear wall in the Transportation area is a fun experiment for kids of all ages. Magnetic gears have to be connected to reach a pulley that will spin an airplane propeller high on the wall. Some skill is involved, since the gears tend to slip away if they are turning too fast. We’ve watched kids try different tactics until they get it going just right.

In the Geography space, a two-foot diameter globe with more than 1000 place names spins at just the right height for young knowledge seekers. Families who have moved here from abroad or visited places around the world love finding beloved spots on the globe, and sometimes kids just like to spin it and see where their fingers land. A unique feature is that the globe does not use conventional North American names for places, so Germany is Deutsche Land and China is Zhong Guo, giving children a chance to learn more about the world.

Our History area contains a large portion of the children’s nonfiction and is another great stop along the way. A bulletin board highlights historical facts or events, and a display case showcases special items. Currently, kids can view a collection of vintage model cars and trucks with amazing detail, on loan from Doug Schoning.

Slide down to the Animals Neighborhood to get a glimpse of a baby ball python, borrowed from Sunflower Pets. Our pet snake enjoys basking under the heat lamp, resting in a pool of water, or hanging out under her log. Earlier this winter, two Oriental fire-bellied toads occupied this space, and we hope to switch out with a new pet every few months.

The Fairy Tale and Folklore Neighborhood is a popular stop, with dress-up clothes to reenact stories or make up a new one. It is common to find moms, dads or grandparents sitting on the fairytale bench with a tiara or a wolf hat on their heads. Kids love to see their parents dressed up and playing along.

Putting on puppet shows is another favorite activity in our Early Literacy Center, along with magnet and felt board manipulatives and a variety of puzzles. A table dedicated to “6 By 6” early literacy skills includes fun activities for preschoolers revolving around a great children’s picture book. This month, it is Andy Rash’s “Are You a Horse?” with options to act out the story using puppets and stuffed animals, as well as “sewing” the letters for the word HORSE with mini lassoes.

Each area of the Children’s Room features wonderful collections of books to keep kids interested and coming back for more. We love seeing the library used, not just a stop on the way somewhere else, but a destination – a place to hang out for a while and spend some quality time together.

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Take a Moment: Enjoy a Poem

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

When was the last time you read a poem, and why? If it was in grade school, and you had to memorize it and recite it to the class, you’re not alone. I think many of us of a certain age considered poems a kind of torture inflicted on us by our well-meaning teachers. It’s time to give poetry a second chance, and April, as National Poetry Month, is the perfect time to do it.

Poems, unlike novels and even some short stories, can be read in one sitting. Many poems can even be read in a few seconds. Take this gem by Emily Dickinson, for example:

“To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,–

One clover, and a bee,

And revery.

The revery alone will do

If bees are few.”

In our ever busy, got-to-make-that-deadline world, poems are made to order for the rushed through life. Writers of good poetry have the gift of saying a lot with little. It’s not merely the length of poems that make them great, but the sentiment, the emotion, the feeling that they generate in the reader. Who can forget the first time they read these memorable words by Dylan Thomas?

“Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”


If you’re new to reading poetry, here are a few suggestions on where to begin. “Best Loved Poems of the American People,” is an old standard. There have been over a million and a half copies of this book printed since its original publication in 1936. The book contains over 575 poems, divided by subject and indexed by authors and first lines. Here you’ll find classics by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rudyard Kipling, James Whitcomb Riley, and many more.
Good Poems,” is selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame. Keillor also hosts “The Writer’s Almanac” on National Public Radio during which he reads some of the poems included in this collection. Keillor arranged his selections by broad and sometimes whimsical subject headings including lovers, sons and daughters, beasts, complaint, yellow, and the end.

If you are interested in a comprehensive collection, try “World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time.” Weighing in at over 1300 pages and including more than 1600 poems from dozens of languages and cultures, this book is sure to have a poem for all tastes.

Looking for something a little more concise? Try “The 100 Best Poems of All Time.” This portable treasury offers readers the best-known works by famous poets.

For a daily dose of poetry, look no further than “A Year in Poetry.” This treasury includes classic and modern verses for every day of the year.

 

Of course there are collections by all the poets you might remember from school: Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Not to mention William Blake, Robert Burns, and William Wordsworth. And, of course, Shakespeare.

 

For the young at age, or maybe just at heart, the poetry collections of Shel Silverstein are ideal. “Falling Up,” “A Light in the Attic,” and “Where the Sidewalk Ends” are all classics.

This year’s Poem in Your Pocket Day falls on April 30. Everyone is encouraged to carry a favorite poem on that day, and take every opportunity to share it with others. Or you can share a poem at the Kansas Humanities Council’s “Poetry Potluck.” Go to http://kansashumanities.org/2015/03/poetry-potluck for more information.

Whether your tastes run to poetry that is lyrical or epic, short or long, iambic pentameter, sonnets, haiku or free verse, celebrate National Poetry Month by delving into one of the many collections of poetry available at MPL.

 

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Spring (Cleaning) is in the Air

by Alphild Dick, Adult Services Librarian

Marie Kondo

I’ll admit it. I may not be the most…tidy…person in the world. While I strive to keep my home clean and in good repair, sometimes I feel like my belongings have a secret plot to take over my living space. Books, shoes, coffee mugs, dog toys—they all multiply in unexpected ways. During the winter, I resign myself to a life of clutter, but now that it is spring, I am re-energized and ready to organize my home all the way into Better Homes and Gardens. Where to start, though?

For inspiration, I recently picked up the new book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, the acclaimed “queen of clean” in Japan and creator of the Konmari method of personal organization. Her new, and whimsically titled, book has been all the rage in Japan, and has topped the bestseller charts in the US for months now. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a slim volume, probably requiring no more than a few hours of reading, but within it there are core concepts in the book that really resonate.

One of the most central ideas is that the things in our house should “spark joy.” While this concept might sound a little silly or New Age-y, it actually ends up being both extremely practical and deeply personal. Each person should decide what things make them happy and adds real value to their life. Does looking at that knickknack given to you by your high school best friend make you happy? If so, it stays. If not, Kondo says it goes. This method is, by and large, subjective, although she is utterly ruthless regarding paperwork. Does a mountain of paperwork clogging a desk ever bring anyone happiness, Kondo asks? No. Dispose of it as readily as possible!

She is also adamant about tackling organization projects by categories: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous and sentimental items, and so forth. This is a very different approach to tidying than my usual tactic, which is to move from room to room to room. According to Kondo, however, “Tidying by location is a fatal mistake.” By addressing categories, and not locations, she argues that you will stay focused on determining the value of items to you and therefore eliminate meaningless clutter.

I found that much about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up resonated with me, particularly because of its flexibility. The important thing that I took away from the book are its principles, rather than strict methods that you find in other books on organizing your home. However, if you desire a little more formal guidance in approaching your spring cleaning projects, Manhattan Public Library has many, many books to help you out. I highly recommend Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Home: No-Nonsense Advice That Will Inspire You to Clean Like the Dickens by Thelma Meyer, a guide to cleaning that gets straight to the point with detailed cleaning schedules and techniques (just in case you want a refresher on the best way to wash your windows!). Also excellent is Unclutter Your Life in One Week by Erin Rooney Doland, a great resource for not only getting your living space in order, but also your work space. After all, spring cleaning isn’t just for your house!

Of course, if you are looking for tips on organizing your home but don’t want to add library books to your personal clutter, you can always use the Sunflower eLibrary as a resource. Free to download to your mobile device or computer, you can find numerous titles on housekeeping, cleaning, and home design. And if you need additional motivation on time management to help you work through an especially challenging basement or attic space, definitely check out Lynda.com, which has excellent tutorials on how to stay motivated and on task, even when relaxing with a new novel feels like a much enjoyable way to spend your weekend.

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