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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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Reading is Your Superpower!

By Jennifer Bergen, Children’s Services Manager

This summer, reading is your superpower! We are highlighting literacy and encouraging reading for all ages with our superhero summer reading program at the library.

Popular shows like Teen Titans Go, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ninjago have comic book series in our graphic novels neighborhood, along with many titles for the popular DC and Marvel characters.  Here are some more fun superhero books for kids:

The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosoczka has silly plot lines with the school lunch ladies saving the day using tools such as the mustard grappling hook, fish stick nunchucks, the spork phone, whisk whackers and the spatula-copter.  Watch Krosoczka’s TED talk to find out why lunch ladies and men are true heroes in our midst!

Sidekicks by Dan Santat is a longer stand-alone graphic novel with fabulous illustrations and an enticing story.  Captain Amazing is growing older and needs a new sidekick.  Unbeknownst to him, his pets decide to take on superhero personae and help him out.  With help from a former feline sidekick, the pet dog, hamster and chameleon learn some crime fighting skills, but will they be able to defeat an evil villain and save Captain Amazing? Prepare to have this book passed around among all your kids and their friends.

Squish by Jennifer and Matthew Holm features Squish the Amoeba as its main character. He is an ordinary amoeba, but he is inspired by his favorite comic book hero, Super Amoeba. While he may not be a superhero himself, somehow Squish and his best friend Pod end up finding courage to do the right thing, including saving their friend Peggy the Paramecium from the very hungry new kid in class.

These funny, action-packed graphic novels are a great fit for kids who say they don’t like to read.  It’s like sneaking spinach into the lasagna – they will enjoy reading, learn vocabulary words, and sharpen their skills for following both text and illustrations without complaining.  In fact, you might catch them trying to sneak in more reading time because they can’t wait to see what will happen next.

In our early chapter books row, there are plenty of exciting superhero books for kids at a second or third grade reading level. These chapter books are shorter, have larger text and still include frequent illustrations.  Stone Arch is a book publisher that has many options for this age group, including a series of DC Super Heroes chapter books that are 50-80 pages long with full color illustrations of favorite characters in action: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Green Lantern.

Another fun option from this section is Captain Awesome by Stan Kirby.  Second-grader Eugene McGullicudy turns into an awesome super hero to solve crimes, protect his town and win the spelling bee.  Kids who like Captain Awesome will probably also enjoy Zapato Power by Jacqueline Jules, The Adventures of Jo Schmo by Greg Trine, and Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot books by Dav Pilkey, who also writes the ever popular series Captain Underpants.

Shannon Hale’s The Princess in Black is another great read with colorful illustrations by LeUyen Pham.  Princess Magnolia is a very proper princess taking tea with the Duchess Wigtower when her monster alarm rings.  She quickly excuses herself and does what princesses do not do: “Princesses do not stuff frilly pink dresses into broom closets…Princesses do not slide down secret chutes and high-jump castle walls,” but this princess has a secret. She is the Princess in Black, with a mask, cape, tall black boots and her tiara, of course.  Her job? Stopping the monsters who sneak up from Monster Land.  She is pretty good at it, and luckily book two in the series comes out this fall.

Super readers can still sign up for the library’s free summer reading program to earn coupons for free stuff around town and choose up to two free prize books to keep.  It is a fun way to encourage more reading for the whole family. More than 2,000 children and teenagers have already signed up, along with about 400 adults, and have logged more than 300,000 minutes of reading time!

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Summer of Heroes

Jessica Long, Children’s Library Assistant

Summer reading begins May 30 for all ages!

Every hero has a story, and you can discover them all at the library this summer. Super heroes will take over the library during summer reading with books, prizes, and programs for everyone from babies to adults.

Everyone is invited to kick off the summer on May 30th from 10:00-12:00 with activities for all ages. Magician Ken Garwick will perform in the auditorium at 11:00. Kids can try out their super hero moves in an obstacle course in the storytime room and conceal their identity by making masks in the arts and crafts neighborhood. Teens and adults can play a variety of board and card games in the Groesbeck Room. Come dressed as your favorite superhero and join our selfie photo contest that morning!

While you’re here for the kick off, be sure to sign up the whole family for summer reading. Keep track of the time you spend reading and listening to audio books to earn prizes like gift certificates to local businesses, free books and more.

Weekly storytimes and clubs for children, birth through sixth grade, will begin on June 1 and run through July 18.

The Power of Cute book cover

Baby Rhyme Time is designed for infants and young toddlers who will learn about their very own super power – being cute. In The Power of Cute by Charise Harper, they will discover a young protagonist who conquers a monster by making it undeniably adorable.

Move and Groove Toddler Storytime is geared toward older toddlers who want to get up and go. They’ll let their imaginations run wild with He Saves the Day by Marsha Hayles. This little boy can tackle anything – from daring flights to jungle adventures to fighting dragons – with a little help from mom.

Preschoolers can come to Move and Groove Preschool Storytime to hear about the adventures of an action figure who finds villains in his very own home. In Traction Man by Mini Grey, Traction Man and his owner make quite the team as they tackle mysteries like the Lost Wreck of the Sieve and the Mysterious Toes that steal the scrubbing brush.

Today I Will Fly book cover

Kindergarteners and first graders can join the Agents of Adventure Club. They will read a story and a non-fiction book each week, and then follow up with a craft. For the first week, agents will be studying a favorite super hero power – flight. In Today I Will Fly by Mo Willem, Piggie is determined to fly, but his elephant friend, Gerald, is skeptical. Kids will also learn the story of a real life hero in I Am Amelia Earhart by Brad Meltzer.

Second and third graders will become Guardians of the Library this summer. For their club, origin stories of super heroes will be paired with biographies related to that hero’s secret identity. After hearing the story of Ironman, kids will learn about Nikola Tesla in Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World by Elizabeth Rusch.

Boys of Steel book cover

Fourth to sixth graders can join the Bionic Bevy of Bibliophiles. They will explore the history of comics with Boys of Steel: the Creators of Superman by Marc Nobleman. They will also recycle old comics into new wallets to take home.

In addition to the weekly programs, we will host special events throughout the summer. Check our webpage at www.mhklibrary.org for dates and times.

 

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Storytime at Sunset Zoo on Friday, May 22!

Get ready for a fantastic treat! ZOOfari Tails Storytime will be held at Sunset Zoo on Friday, May 22 at 10:00 a.m. with free admission to families attending the event. We’ll growl, roar, dance, and sing while we listen to fun stories told by librarians and zoo staff. This storytime is suggested for infants, toddlers, and preK children. Meet in the Nature Exploration Center. We hope to see you there!
Families laughing and playing at Zoofari Tails storytime at Sunset Zoo

 

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Library Card Day on Saturday, April 25 from 10-2

Members of the Junior League of the Flint Hills will be giving away free books to kids ages 0-13 at the library on Saturday, April 25 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. This is their annual Library Card Day event to encourage families to use the library.

To get a free book, children need to show that they have their own library card. Parents need to be present to open a child’s library account for the first time, and should bring a photo ID plus proof of current address if it does not appear on the ID.

Having a library card opens amazing doors for kids, giving them access to thousands of books and DVDS, computers, and free eBooks for children. Remember to stop by the library on Saturday morning with your kiddos!

child smiling

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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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Nonfiction for Young Readers

By Amber Keck, Children’s Librarian

When you think about your reading life as a child, do you remember going through phases?  Maybe you couldn’t get enough of the Berenstain Bears as a preschooler?  Maybe there was a time when Nancy Drew was the only fiction you would read?  A lot of readers might remember devouring nonfiction in the early elementary years.  This trend is still true today, with boys and girls alike asking for nonfiction throughout their elementary years.  Publishing companies invested in children’s reference books have made great strides in producing quality material for all ages.  In the Children’s Room, we have nonfiction books for preschoolers, sixth graders, and every age in between.  Here are some great series of books to consider for your young nonfiction reader.

dk“DK Kids”:  Dorling Kindersley is the world’s leading illustrated reference publisher, and it is very apparent in their kids’ publications.  DK Eyewitness books are aimed at older elementary readers and teens, while DK Eyewonder books are intended for younger elementary readers.  Full of color pictures and information on subjects like animals and history, these books are perfect for children wanting to explore new topics.

“Let’s Read and Find Out Science”: Books in this series range from topics on weather and the earth, to how our bodies work.  Hand-drawn illustrations are used, helping children to transition from picture books to nonfiction.  These books are shorter, intended for preschoolers or younger elementary age students.

“National Geographic Kids”: The National Geographic Society has a wealth of information and photos about the world around us, so it should come as no surprise that their children’s publications are stellar.  The titles are a great stepping stone for early readers, as they each contain a picture glossary, captions, and large text.  This series comes in four reading levels, allowing students to “graduate” to the next level of reading but stay in the same format of book.  National Geographic Kids also has many titles for older readers, such as bird guides, almanacs, and atlases.

“You Wouldn’t Want To” series: Aimed at older readers starting to think critically about science and history, this series examines what it was like to live at a certain time period.  Titles include “You Wouldn’t Want To Sail with Christopher Columbus” or “You Wouldn’t Want To Work on the Great Wall of China.”  Told in second-person narrative, these books allow readers to truly enter into the lives of people in history.

amelia“Childhood of Famous Americans”: This series explores the early years of important American figures.  Though each book is a fictionalized account of one life, the stories are true to the values and experiences of Americans during that time.  Readers can find out what gave Thurgood Marshall a passion for justice, or what made Mark Twain such a gifted and honest writer.

If your children are interested in nonfiction reading, make it a priority to encourage them down this path.  There is so much to learn about history, nature, and how things work.  If you don’t know where to start, ask a librarian.  We will be your advocates in exploring this part of your child’s reading life.

 

 

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Zoofari Tails: A Quacky Storytime!

Get ready, because Zduckoofari is tomorrow! Join us this month as we present a duck-themed Zoofari Tails Storytime! Stories read will include “Duck to the Rescue“, “Ducks” a short non-fiction book, and even “Duck Says Don’t“. Along with these great stories, we will also be waddling and quacking up a storm – trust me you don’t want to miss this! Sunset Zoo docents will also present biofacts AND a live duck! Due to lack of parking, we will start a few minutes after 10:00, so don’t be discouraged if you come a little late. We hope to see you there! Quack, Quack!

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It’s a winter wonderland out there! Or is it?

by Amber Keck, Children’s Library Assistant

picture of young girl reading

Winter is definitely still upon us, and parents and caregivers may be scrambling to find indoor activities for their toddlers, preschoolers, and older children.  Thankfully, Manhattan is a great community which offers a lot opportunities to stay indoors and still have tons of fun.

Flint Hills Discovery Center (FDHC) currently has a Kansas exhibit where students and their families can learn interesting facts about our great state.  On the third floor of the FDHC, you’ll also find an excellent play and exploration area for younger children, including a fort, bouncy area, and lots of fun toys.  Admission is $9 for adults and $4 for children ages 2-17. Opt for a yearly pass at a cost of $22.50 per adult, and $10 per child.

The Riley County Family and Child Resource Center offers several playgroups throughout the week for younger children ages 0-5 years.  Staffed by Parents as Teachers, these playgroups give parents and children the opportunity to socialize, engage in imaginative play, and learn the basics of parenting from early childhood educators.  The playgroup schedule caters to specific age groups each time the playroom is open.  View the complete schedule here.  All playgroups are free of charge and do not require pre-registration.

Manhattan Public Library has so much to offer families who are looking for free activities in the wintertime!  Storytimes are currently in session, with ten weekly programs for children from birth to early elementary.  These sessions are free and do not require pre-registration.

The newly expanded children’s library has many activities available all the time, including a puppet theatre, reading corner, arts and crafts table, and science toys.  The children’s library staff is more than happy to assist you in finding more activities in the community to do with your children.

Manhattan is a wonderful community comprised of many families with children.  Though the winter months are sometimes difficult to get through, especially with small children, there are many opportunities throughout the city to enjoy playtime indoors.

If you know of any fun winter activities for kids that aren’t mentioned here, tweet them to us @ManhattanPL.

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