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Notable November

by Brian Ingalsbe, Youth Services Library Assistant

October is already behind us, and our lives seem to get more eventful as the holidays draw near. Manhattan Public Library is no exception. Throughout the month of November, the Youth Services Department has a wide variety of programs and parties that will keep you on your toes!

Read with a Dog is one of the most engaging programs MPL has to offer – occurring Sundays, November 8th and 16th. At this event, children can sign up for a fifteen-minute time slot to read to a dog. All dogs are certified therapy dogs; they are eager and waiting to hear your favorite stories! Read with a Dog is a great program because it offers a lot of flexibility for all ages. What if your child doesn’t read? No problem! These dogs thrive on human contact and would love nothing more than to sit and keep your child company. Let’s be honest: is there anything more exciting than corgis in the library?

Fast forward to the week of November 16th. This is when the real excitement begins! Kansas Reads to Preschoolers (KRP) is a statewide event that celebrates a love of all things literacy. Every year, an esteemed board chooses a book, which is featured during this week-long celebration. This year’s winner – Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino – features a young llama, comparing his mother’s attributes to those of his close animal friends.

MPL will be endorsing this book at our regular storytimes throughout the week, by focusing on animal families and llamas. A FREE book will be given to children attending a storytime. The week will culminate with the wonderful Zoofari Tails storytime, a partnership between MPL and the Sunset Zoo, which will feature animal bio facts pertaining to llamas. Can you think of a better way to celebrate early literacy?

If KRP is not enough of a reason to come and visit the library, let me give you another: story quilts – courtesy of the Konza Prairie Quilter’s Guild – will be on display the same week as KRP. The guild’s theme, Cuddle Up in a Good Book, was chosen to commemorate the 2014 children’s expansion. Each quilt will feature children’s works in some capacity – including Dr. Seuss books, Harry Potter, Charlotte’s Web, and The Pokey Little Puppy, as well as some more traditional quilts with fabric and shapes inspired by children’s literature. I have not seen them for myself, but my sources have informed me that these quilts are absolutely stunning. Do not miss this wonderful opportunity.

The week of November 16th keeps its momentum moving forward until the very end of the week. As mentioned above, Zoofari Tails will be hosted Friday, November 20th. That same day, Youth Services staff will host a Holiday Card Crafts party. Children ages three to twelve will have an amazing time creating crafts and cards for the upcoming holiday season. The party is a come-and-go event beginning at noon – meaning you can craft till your heart’s content, or until 4:00, whichever comes first. If you have a teen – grades seven to twelve – we will be hosting a Holiday Pinterest Party on Saturday, November 21st. This party will be full of crafts and creations inspired from the near infinite number of Pinterest boards. Do you have the crafting ability to create a masterpiece? Come and find out!

As the week of November 16th comes to a close, MPL has one more event to keep your child occupied before Thanksgiving. The Youth Services Department will be hosting a kids’ movie marathon on Wednesday, November 25th. A movie for preschoolers will be shown beginning at 10:00, followed by a school-aged-appropriate movie at 2:00. Feel free to bring your own easy-to-clean-up snacks!

MPL is a great resource, and our staff is always ready to help you find your next great read, explore the online world, or answer any question you may have. You can contact the Youth Services Department staff at or (785)776-4741 ext. 125.

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Special Celebration for Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week 2015

Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week is an annual event that promotes reading to all Kansas children from birth to age five. Through the statewide program, parents, librarians and caregivers are encouraged to read the chosen title to every young child in Kansas during the week of November 15-21. This project is made possible by the State Library of Kansas and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

A copy of this year’s featured book, “Is Your Mama a Llama?” by Deborah Guarino, will be given to every preschooler who attends storytime at the Manhattan Public Library between November 15 and 21. Storytimes will be held Monday through Thursday at 9:30am and 11:00 am, and on Saturday at 11:00am. Visit the Manhattan Public Library’s online events calendar for more details.

As a special part of the celebration, quilts created by members of the Konza Prairie Quilters Guild will be displayed in the children’s library that week.  Each quilt was inspired by a children’s book, and the theme “Cuddle Up in a Good Book” was selected to honor the completion of the children’s library expansion project.

More information about Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week can be found on the Kansas State Library’s website

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What’s Tween and Why Does It Matter?

Rachael Schmidtlein
Teen and Tween Services Coordinator

Across the far reaches of the Internet are articles, surveys, and studies about how to raise children to be reasonable, functioning human beings (some day). Children approach learning differently, and those approaches differ depending on their age, attentiveness, activity level, etc. New research is constantly being published to help parents and educators figure out how to increase literacy in children. This is a wonderful thing! A side effect of all of this research is that new age groups are constantly emerging.

The idea that a child is not, in fact, just a short adult is relatively new. Until 1836, no labor laws existed. The first children’s department within a library didn’t even come about until the Boston Public Library opened their children’s room in 1895, which was followed quickly by the practice of storytelling in the library.

Young adult literature and services were still slower coming. After World War I, children stopped going into the job market at the age of 14 (instead finishing school or even attending college). Libraries realized that by designating materials for teenagers, they could give them a sense of belonging and keep them engaged in continuous learning. In the 1990’s, libraries began dedicating services and librarians exclusively to teenagers.

A pattern, however, began to emerge. Children’s services were seeing a huge drop between the number of children using library programs and the number of teens using library programs. Even more troubling, children who were initially “reluctant readers” stopped reading entirely and would continue to have trouble in school. What was happening? Where did they go?

As most parents know, in grades 4-6, kids start get super busy. They become less easy to attract to library programs. Sports, religious activities, mountains of homework: the list just keeps going. To make the over-programmed juggling act more difficult, parents have to drive their children from place to place because kids can’t start driving until high school. We know that keeping preteens connected with reading is an important step in creating lifelong learners, especially for reluctant readers, but the question is how?

That’s where I come in! My name is Rachael Schmidtlein, and I am the new Tween and Teen Services Coordinator at the Manhattan Public Library. Our Youth Services staff at MPL has already been working on some awesome tween programs. At the Manhattan Public Library, we’ve defined a Tween as someone between the 4th and 6th grade. Every time we have an event that is specifically for tweens, we witness kids excited that they have a place to come just for them. Our programs may not seem like they are directly related to literature, but no matter if it’s a haunted library after hours, a holiday card craft or something equally as cool, we make sure that the tweens know that there are resources here for them to read and study on every subject imaginable.

Tweens are at the perfect age for library programming. They’re starting to get into the more complicated elements of their subjects at school, and the library offers them a fun, free place to explore those core learning elements, without the restrictions of state education standards. We often offer programs that are based in popular culture, like Doctor Who, and then we dig even deeper into the STEAM, science, technology, engineering, arts, and math components of the topic. This leads to some seriously creative and out-of-the-box thinking. Our tween programming is just beginning to take off, and we have a lot of ideas planned for the future! If you have any questions about tween or teen services at the Manhattan Public Library, you can email our staff at

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Finding Diversity in Reading

by Amber Keck, Youth Services Librarian

The artful act of reading is a beautiful thing to observe.  Different people have different motives and end goals when they participate in reading.  For some, it is done in order to gain knowledge and facts.  For others, reading is a pleasurable activity, meant to allow readers to indulge and escape.  For many, reading is a way to escape AND a way to gain knowledge.  Readers might find themselves engrossed in the story of a person living a life they will never have.  By reading about that character, readers can experience a life different from their own.  Reading diversely allows people to enter into a world that is not their past, present or future reality.  While they may not be able to understand the full experience of the character, they gain a bit of insight into a life.

The summer and fall of 2015 offered many new book releases that can help you diversify your reading.  Here are just a few picks for you to consider.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a journalist and educator, specializing in social, political and cultural issues in America.  His 2008 memoir, The Beautiful Struggle, revisited his childhood, growing up in a poor Baltimore neighborhood with a father determined to raise his son right.  Between the World and Me seeks to help readers understand race culture and the struggles that African-Americans face today and have faced in the past.  This book is written as a letter to his son, as Coates lays bare life as a black man in America.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Plus-sized teenager Willowdean is comfortable in her own body and not afraid to say it.  When she gets a crush on a boy and starts to lose her swagger, she decides to enter a local beauty pageant.  Author Julie Murphy takes the classic bildungsroman to a whole new level with this young adult novel.  With a character comfortable in her own skin, she sends a message to girls of all sizes, to embrace their inner beauty and outer beauty at the same time.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Award-winning author Jenny Lawson is not afraid to tell the truth about how she was raised and how her brain functions in the context of mental illness.  Her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, stunned readers with its vulnerability and comfort in the truth of living with depression and anxiety.  In Furiously Happy, Lawson goes even further in an effort to help readers truly accept the “crazy” moments and the “normal” moments, to make them memorable and wonderful.  Lawson writes about mental illness in a fresh way that leaves readers crying and laughing.

Why Not Me? By Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling is a TV writer, actress and creator of the The Mindy Project, a show in which she also stars.  Her first set of essays, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, gave readers a glimpse into the life of a young minority woman working in Hollywood.  Why Not Me? is a second set of personal essays, offering even more insight into finding success in television.  Kaling discusses her ongoing relationship with co-writer B.J. Novak, as well as America’s fixation on the weight of actresses.  Kaling’s wit and snark make her essays enjoyable, while her honesty and vulnerability keep her writing accessible.

These titles are just a few among many that can diversify your reading life.  The Manhattan Public Library staff would love to help you find your next great read.  Talk to a staff member today, or request a personalized reading list at the library or online.


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Fall Fun for Kids at the Library

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager
Looking for some fun activities for your kids this month? The library has planned some fun parties and events that will bring out your child’s creative juices and keep them begging to visit the library.

A Cardboard Creations Party on October 22 for kids in K-3rd grade will allow kids to see what happens when boxes meet their brains. There are so many possibilities when you have some paper towel tubes, boxes, tape and markers. We have no idea what they will dream up, but we’ll be ready with the camera. After making their cardboard creations, kids are invited to stick around and play with their new inventions, as well as a large cardboard playhouse and rocket ship. Don’t be surprised if this inspires new found fun at home with leftover tubes, cereal boxes and other bits and pieces from the recycling bin. For more ideas, kids can check out books from the Arts & Crafts section such as The Cardboard Box Book, Fun Things to Do with Cardboard Tubes or The Paper Playhouse.

Tweens in 4th-6th grade can register to attend our first ever “Tween After-Hours Party” on October 24 from 5:30-8:00 p.m. Has your child been wondering what it would be like to be in the library after it has closed and everyone’s gone home? This thrilling concept, along with the “Haunted Library” theme, will let kids see the library in a new light and keep them busy on a Saturday night (while Mom and Dad catch a relaxing dinner out). Activities led by library assistant Mr. Brian will include an ice-breaker game called “Wink Murder,” followed by a “Humans vs. Zombies” scavenger hunt around the library, (low level) Fear Factor challenges, and a spooky tale from Anthony Horowitz’s children’s book series “Horowitz Horror: Stories You’ll Wish You’d Never Read.” Also, there will be plenty of snacks! Register tweens for this event by visiting the library’s webpage at on the Events for Tweens page.

Younger children are invited to come dressed in costume for our annual Halloween storytime on October 30, with sessions at 9:30 and 11:00. Fun stories will include Click, Clack, Boo! by Doreen Cronin and the classic tale The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, as well as action songs and rhymes. After storytime, children are invited to trick-or-treat at a couple of stations in the Children’s Room. Also, this year members of the Flint Hills Junior League will be in the atrium to give storytime trick-or-treaters a free book. What a great way to start the Halloween weekend!

Look for more programs this month on USD383’s “no school” days including a movie tomorrow afternoon, Minecraft gaming on Friday, plus the monthly Sunset Zoo visit for an animal-themed storytime on October 23. October is also the month for National Friends of the Library week, a great time to join our fabulous Friends group that funds our youth programs and events. Look for the link to Manhattan Library Association (MLA) or ask about it at our service desks.

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Using the Fall for Developing Early Literacy Skills

Amber Keck, Children’s Librarian

As summer changes into fall, there are lots of opportunities to introduce literacy concepts to your child.  At Manhattan Public Library, we encourage parents and caregivers to embrace organic ways to instill a love of reading in children.  One of the important factors in a child’s learning to read is their enjoyment of the books and stories.  It is important to find stories that your children enjoy and look forward to reading with you.  In the Children’s Room, there are numerous books on leaves, hibernating animals and other aspects of fall. Here are a few books that you can read with your children, followed by any or all of the described activities.

Apples and Pumpkins
by Anne Rockwell

In Apples and Pumpkins, a little girl and her parents visit Comstock Farm, where they pick apples and pumpkins.  Visit an apple orchard and a pumpkin patch with your children.  Ask them questions about what they observe around them.  What does the air feel like? How many people do they think are there picking apples or pumpkins? Are they feeling happy?  When you get home, count how many apples were picked.  Have your children join you in making a special treat with the apples or carving the pumpkin.  Suggest that they call a friend or family member to tell them about the experience that they had.

Imitating activities from books gives deeper meaning to the story that your children are reading.  Retelling stories and experiences builds the concept of “beginning, middle and end.”

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

Leaf Man uses photos of leaves and other pieces of nature to tell the story of how leaves progress through the fall.  Take a nature walk with your children and have them take notes in a homemade or store-bought journal.  They can look for specific things or just simply observe the world around them.  Gather leaves and sticks to bring home.  Use the sticks to make letters on the sidewalk.  Try to find bits of letters or shapes in the veins of the leaves.   Make your own leaf man and exchange stories with your children about what your leaf man has done or will do.

As you observe nature, you will most likely use words that your children don’t yet know.  When children are exposed to a larger vocabulary, they tend to have greater reading success.  Don’t be afraid to use new words to describe the scenery around you.  Making letters out of real objects gives more depth to the letters themselves and emphasizes the fact that they form words and have meaning.

The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri

The Busy Little Squirrel follows a squirrel as he prepares for hibernation, gathering seeds, nuts and fruit.  Make your own “snack mix” with your children and try to form letters out of the pieces of food.  Have them help you cook a meal and talk about what you like to eat in the winter.  The more you talk with your children, the more they will learn about communication, words and stories.

Visit the Animals Neighborhood at the library to find non-fiction books on squirrels and other hibernating animals.  Consider reading non-fiction stories about the changing of the seasons, found in the Science & Nature Neighborhood of the Children’s Room.

Attending a storytime at MPL is a great way to get your child engaged with stories in different formats.  Storytellers coordinate activities during storytime that associate with the books being read.  Visit the website to see the current storytime schedule, or stop by the Children’s Room to pick up a schedule. Youth Services librarians are always willing to offer ideas to help your child develop early literacy skills, even starting from birth.

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Electronic Devices and Resources for Kids

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager

Tired of your child making off with your iPad, tablet or phone?  Soon the library will have kids’ tablets available for check out, preloaded with fun and engaging learning apps for children as young as 3 years old. Playaway has come out with a new product called the Launchpad, a tablet created for libraries to circulate. While many tablets or devices for kids work fine at home, Launchpad touts durability and security as top qualities that make it possible for libraries to lend them out.

The library will eventually have 30 Launchpads available for check out this fall, each with a different theme and various apps for a target age group of 3-5 years, 5-7 years or 8-10 year olds.  The state library has also acquired some Launchpads for a “floating collection” throughout the state, which will be available through interlibrary loan to all libraries in Kansas.

“Beep Beep, Vroom Vroom” is the theme for a Launchpad that will be available at Manhattan Public Library. It includes apps for ages 3-5 for learning letters and numbers, exploring colors and solving puzzles with games featuring cars, trucks and other vehicles. The “Little Picasso” tablet for ages 5-7 encourages imagination and creativity with artistic games and stories.  For older kids, “Math Planet” will challenge their math skills as they explore the galaxy.

Science, reading, cooking, problem-solving and many other areas are covered in apps on different tablets, making each one unique and fun. You can place a request on a specific title if it is checked out.  Take one home for a week and see what the kids can do!

Library account holders also have access to two excellent online learning and literacy databases for kids: BookFlix and TumbleBooks.  Both resources are available through the library’s webpage with a valid library card number and password.

BookFlix is Scholastic’s read-along database with the wonderful Weston Woods video adaptations of popular children’s books.  You can choose “read-along” mode so the words will show up along with the video, highlighting each word as it is read.  They stay completely true to the storybooks, just enhancing the illustrations to create movement, and often well-known actors are the narrators.  “All the World” is favorite picture book of mine, and Scanlon’s poetic text is heightened with narration by Joanne Woodward and the perfect background music touches.  My kids’ favorite is Kate & Jim McMullan’s “I’m Dirty,” the muddy story of a busy backhoe, narrated by Steve Buscemi. Each of their high-quality videos is paired with a nonfiction book that relates to the topic. Kids can try out links to simple games related to story comprehension, a Meet the Author link, and more web pages that are approved by Scholastic.

TumbleBooks is similar to BookFlix and has been around for a while, with many of the local schools using it to enhance language arts and reading skill building.  It also has created videos by animating picture books but still retaining the book-like quality of the stories. You can let the story play in read aloud mode, or adjust the pacing to “manual” so your child can choose when to “turn the pages,” or even mute the narration so your child can read the story on his or her own.  Lots of popular titles are available including “Scaredy Squirrel,” “Mercy Watson” and all of Robert Munsch’s humorous stories narrated by the author. Longer chapter books are available for more advanced readers, including some classics such as “The Wind in the Willows.”  The interactive features make these literacy databases enjoyable for parents and children to view and play together.

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Summer Reading Ends this Week

parent and daughter with summer reading prize bookSummer reading activities are wrapping up and the final day to claim prizes is Saturday, August 1.

Two special events will finish the season. Tuesday’s Super Reader Night, from 6:30-7:30 p.m., will offer fun for the entire family. Bring the kiddos for games, crafts, a superhero obstacle course, and remember to pick up your summer reading prizes while you’re here. It’s also a perfect time to stock up on books, movies, and audiobooks to prepare for your final summer trip.

Thursday from 1:30-2:30 p.m., staff from the Beach Museum of Art will host a program called “The Hero’s Journey in Art.” Kids in K-4th grade will learn interesting facts about art and participate in a hands-on project to take home.

Congratulations are due to a fantastic community of readers. Summer reading 2015 will finish will every record broken.  2,476 kids, 420 teens, and 500 adults have read a combined total of 2,176,102 minutes, and we aren’t even finished counting! You have done an amazing job, and this group of nearly 3,000 kids and teens will start school with improved reading skills, ready to learn and succeed.

The summer reading program wouldn’t be possible without the support of sponsors and volunteers. Thank you to all the generous donors who have given time, money, and prizes to make this year so successful.

Storytimes and other fun activities for kids will resume August 17. Check the events calendar or the Storytime page for details.

If you have questions about the program or would be interested in helping out next year, please contact Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager, at 776-4741 x.156.

boy holding up summer reading prize books

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Audiobooks for the Whole Family

By Amber Keck, Children’s Librarian

The use of audiobooks is on the rise for all ages, and Manhattan Public Library has a lot to offer, both digitally and in CD format.  With an MPL card, you can check out five physical audiobooks at one time.  After registering the card with the Sunflower eLibrary, you can check out five titles on digital format as well.  Digital audiobooks can be downloaded to any mobile device or tablet via the free Overdrive app.  For help with downloading digital audiobooks, view the tutorials online or speak with a librarian.

The physical and online collection include audiobooks for children and adults.  If your child wants to follow along with the text, MPL has book bags that include a picture book and the audiobook on CD.

Audiobooks offer many benefits to readers of all ages, including the introduction of new vocabulary, critical listening, and a model for good interpretive reading and reading aloud.  When listening to audiobooks, a person can “read” at a higher level than usual and connect with the story in a more visceral way.  Since summer is the season of vacations and long road trips, stop by the library and check out these recommended titles that your whole family will enjoy.

 Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale     If you are going to have a lot of listening time on your hands, this is the series to start with.  Jim Dale is the master of audiobook narration, using multiple voices to bring the characters to life.   If you are unfamiliar with the series, be advised that, as the series progresses, there tends to be more violence and mature content.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series by Maryrose Wood, narrated by Katharine Kellgren     A teenaged Penelope Lumley is hired as a nanny for a family who just adopted three children who were raised by wolves. As she helps them adjust to human life, they come across many mysterious situations and have to problem-solve their way to safety and understanding.  Maryrose Wood’s writing is whimsical and hilarious, and Katherine Kellgren’s narration is filled with entertaining voices and the necessary animal sound here and there.

Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, narrated by Tim Curry     A 13-book series filled with quick wit and extraordinary circumstances, this series will have everyone rooting for the Baudelaire children as they endure through a. . . series of unfortunate events.  Parents can appreciate the puns and seemingly unbelievable events, while kids will appreciate the individual characters and their strengths.

The Ramona series by Beverly Cleary, narrated by Stockard Channing     This classic series follows young Ramona Quimby through struggles with her family, school and just simply growing up.  Everyone will be entertained by her crazy antics and quite literal take on life.  Ramona learns life lessons in a way that is accessible to children and laughable to parents. Stockard Channing reads in a matter-of-fact way as Ramona faces life head-on with occasional confusion.

Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry, narrated by Jim Dale     A prequel to J.M. Barrie’s beloved Peter Pan, this series follows the adventures of Peter and his friends on the high seas.  Because the story is full of action and entertaining characters, each person in the family is sure to have a favorite villain or orphan boy in each of the storylines.

If you have younger children in your family who would like to follow along with the book, here are a few series that can be enjoyed by the parent-driver and child alike:

Henry and Mudge series and Annie and Snowball series by Cynthia Rylant     Cynthia Rylant has been writing early chapter books for kids for decades and still amazes readers with each publication.  The above series follow, respectively, a boy and his dog, and a girl and her rabbit.

Manhattan Public Library staff would love to help you find your next great audiobook.  Stop by any service desk to get a great recommendation for your road trip or other activity in need of a story in your ears.

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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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