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Icons in the World of Music: The Latest in Unforgettable Biographies

By Marcia Allen, Collection Development

Hard times were a daily reality for Elmo and Mamie Lewis in the state of Louisiana during the 1930s. Elmo made a living sharecropping and sometimes cooking whiskey, until he was caught and sentenced to five years in prison. Son Elmo, Jr., who often sang in church and who cared for his younger brother Jerry Lee, was killed at the age of nine when a drunken driver struck him. That left Mamie and little Jerry Lee to make the best of the situation.

jerryIn 1940, four-year-old Jerry Lee realized the path his life was to take. During a visit with his mother’s sister, he pressed down a single key on his aunt’s piano. He later described the experience as one similar to fire reaching through his head. With no previous experience, he immediately began the opening chords of “Silent Night.”

Yes, Jerry Lee went on to lead a scandalous personal life, shocking his followers with his many marriages and his exploits with drugs and alcohol, but he also produced a phenomenal library of songs that few have matched. Songs like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” which were considered provocative when they were first released, are now deemed groundbreaking rock and roll with hillbilly overtones
What makes “Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story” remarkable is author Rick Bragg’s flair for retelling the musician’s story. Bragg, author of award-winning tales like “All over but the Shoutin’” and “Ava’s Man,” brings to the story an incredible skill for southern storytelling and a genuine fondness for Jerry Lee. This story packs a wallop as a colorful character study. (more…)

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Holiday Baking

by Keri Mills, Young Adult Librarian

It’s already time to get started on your holiday baking if you haven’t already. Many of us have favorite, traditional family cookie recipes, but if you are looking to switch things up a little bit, the library has plenty of cookie cookbooks to help you out.

 

decoratingOne of my favorites is “Decorating Cookies: 60+ Designs for Holidays, Celebrations, & Everyday” by Bridget Edwards. This is the book for you if you have always wanted to get your sugar cookies to look like those beautiful bakery frosted sugar cookies. There are only a few basic recipes included for sugar cookies and for royal icing, but the specific step-by-step decorating instructions are easy to follow and perfect for beginners. Only a handful of the decorating ideas are specific to Christmas cookies, but they should be enough to spark your own creativity.

 

If you want to make some cookies for a Christmas party, but are short on time, try “Smart Cookie: Transform Store-Bought Cookies into Amazing Treats” by Christi Farr Johnstone. As the title indicates, learn how to spruce up store-bought cookies into something unique and beautiful. There are only a few cookie ideas that pertain directly to Christmas, but there are many other ideas that could be adapted for the holidays. My favorite part about this book is that you don’t have to be an expert decorator to create most of these cookies!

xmasFor more traditional Christmas cookies, start with “A Baker’s Field Guide to Christmas Cookies” by Dede Wilson. This cookbook has a wealth of information in a very easy-to-use format. Each cookie has its own page with a picture of the finished product. There is also information on its type (dropped, rolled, bar, etc.) country of origin, description of its flavors, traditions, tips, variations, and length of time the cookies will keep. Helpful symbols are included that tell you which cookies are good to make with kids, freeze well, are quick to make, and sturdy enough to send in the mail.

 

Can’t figure out what type of holiday cookies to make? There is always the good ole American chocolate chip cookie, which is featured in the book, “The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book” by Carolyn Wyman. There are over 75 recipes in this book for chocolate chip cookies and chocolate chip dessert variations like truffles and brownies. One interesting page gives suggestions on simple additions/substitutions to the basic Toll house cookie recipe, such as bacon, cereal, donuts, ice cream cones, and Brussel sprouts. While your cookies are baking, read up on the fascinating history of the chocolate chip cookie in the United States which is included in this book.

 

Cookie swaps are particularly popular this time of year. If you don’t have time to bake 50 different kinds of cookies this holiday season, then, hold your own cookie swap. “Cookie Swap!” By Lauren Chattman tells you exactly how to organize one. There is a handy checklist for planning your party and an example invitation. And, of course, there are also a number of cookie recipes suggested for your swap.

veganIf you are vegan yourself or baking for vegan friends or family, try “Chloe’s Vegan Desserts” by Chloe Coscarelli. There is a whole chapter that focuses on cookies and bars. There are full color photos of most of the recipes. Bake homemade Oreos, ginger molasses cookies, snowballs, black and white cookies, or the many others included in the book.

If you really want to switch things up, make an ice cream cookie sandwich from “Cookies & Cream: Hundreds of Ways to Make the Perfect Ice Cream Sandwich” by Tessa Arias. The recipes in this book are as aesthetically pleasing as they are delicious. They are almost too pretty to eat (almost). Can’t decide what cookies to start with? Try a few from the “Holiday” chapter, such as Maple-Nut, Gingerbread, Hot Cocoa, Candy Cane, or Eggnog ice cream sandwiches.

The library has all of these cookbooks mentioned, and many more to satisfy all of your holiday baking needs, so get started today!

 

 

 

 

 

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Yummy Reads

The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber‘Tis the season for merry-making, generosity, sentimentality, and most importantly, gathering together to eat. The food we eat is an important part of our stories and our cultural identity. It is a vital way through which we build community, bond as families, and demonstrate love. The act of cooking can help us to feel a sense of accomplishment and the joy of sharing with others. It can even help us work through family conflicts and grief. I recently lost a beloved relative. In the midst of frantic planning and the rush of details and needing to provide food for gathering family, I found myself pulling down her cookbook. The final product wasn’t as good as hers, but it was such a comfort to me to go through the act of preparing a meal that she once prepared for us.

The richness that food brings to our lives is demonstrated in some of my favorite books. My love of food writing probably began with Diana Abu-Jaber. In her memoir, “The Language of Baklava” she shares the challenges of growing up straddling two cultures, which included her Jordanian father’s Middle Eastern cooking and her American grandmother’s roast beef. Her father tries to hold on to the culture and food of his home country, filling Diana’s childhood with the scents of Jordan and she learns from him and from her aunt how food forms us and draws us together.

Many already know this title, but it can’t help but be mentioned when talking about great food writing. Julie Powell was despondent about her dead-end career when she decided that she would cook every recipe in Julia Child’s classic cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Over the next year, she created a few disasters, expanded her horizons, and took charge of her life. Her memoir of the experience, “Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen” provides cooking commiseration, laughs, and hope for those of us who are still mastering the art of home cooking.

Speaking of mastering the art of cooking, another fascinating memoir about food is “Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking” by Anya von Bremzen. The author, who grew up in the Soviet Union but immigrated to the U.S. in her early childhood, is a food critic for the New York Times who is clearly fascinated by nostalgia and food. Sharing the history of Russia through its food, from the austere apple cake of Lenin’s era, through the food shortages of the 1940s, and the banning of American foods during the Cold War, this culinary memoir explores the links between food, culture, history, and family.

Not all great books about cooking are nonfiction, though. In Anthony Capella’s novel “The Wedding Officer,” British officer James Gould is sent to Naples during World War II to monitor the marriage requests between British soldiers and the local Italian women. His staid and regimented life runs up against the draw of passion when Livia Pertini comes to cook for him. Her amazing cooking disorders his outlook and opens his heart. A beautiful story of love blooming even in the midst of devastation that touches the heart and inspires in the kitchen.

Ruth Reichl has an established reputation as a food writer, but her debut novel “Delicious” is aptly described by the title. Billie struck out on her own, moving to New York to start her job as an assistant for a food magazine. She is revealed as a natural foodie early on, but assiduously avoids the kitchen. When the magazine abruptly folds and she is asked to stay on to respond to letters, she discovers a treasure-trove in the archives. Her exploration of letters about making the best of what food is available in the worst of circumstances helps her to gingerly pick her way through her own difficult associations with cooking and to open up to love. The descriptions of the food district in New York were so vivid I could almost taste it.

The holiday season is the perfect time to reflect on food and traditions. Go forth to cook, eat, and read!

 

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Celebrate “Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week”

By Laura Ransom, Children’s Librarian

“Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week” is an annual event that promotes reading to all Kansas children from birth through age five. Parents, librarians, and caregivers are encouraged to read the chosen book during the week of November 16-22.

funI am especially excited about this year’s selection, Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas. Three happy cows and a frustrated chicken bounce through the pages of this light-hearted picture book. We love promoting this event at Manhattan Public Library, and each child who attends a storytime during the week will receive a free book! Funding for the free books is generously provided by the Manhattan Library Association.
My love for books began when I was very young. I have such fond memories of sitting in my mom’s lap while she read Don Wood’s The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear to me night after night. She later told me that she had the book memorized since I requested it so many times. What a patient parent! Another of my all-time favorites is The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. I remember chanting along with that brave engine, “I think I can, I think I can!” These engaging books stirred a desire in me to learn how to read the words on the pages.
readaloudAs a children’s librarian, I obviously endorse reading aloud to children, but research supports it, too. One example is a study by the U.S. Department of Education, which concluded with these words: “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” This quote is from The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, a wonderful book filled with read-aloud suggestions and helpful tips for parents. Books include a wider vocabulary than we often encounter in television shows or everyday conversations. Even though children are unfamiliar with these new words, exposure to them is a stepping stone to reading independently. If they have heard the word before, they will be better equipped to know how to read it on the printed page.
A love for reading is just as important as the actual reading process. The fancy name for the desire to read is called print motivation. This is one of six skills children need in order to read successfully. The other skills are: Notice Print All Around; Talk, Talk, Talk; Tell Stories About Everything; Look for Letters Everywhere; and Take Time to Rhyme, Sing, and Play Word Games. These skills were originally identified by the American Library Association’s Every Child Ready to Read Program. Johnson County Public Library modified the information that program first developed, and they renamed it “6 by 6: Six Skills by Six Years.” Many of these skills are things parents already practice with their children without taking much time to consider the educational benefits. Things like pointing out the letters on a stop sign or words on a billboard can actually help children notice that words are all around them. Little habits like this can truly make a big difference in a child’s attitude toward reading.

Our librarians love to help children discover the joy of reading. Come visit us at the library for great book recommendations and resources for growing readers.

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Learn about Thanksgiving with these titles!

The holiday season is upon us and we’re counting down to Thanksgiving. I like Thanksgiving; for a major holiday, it remains relatively straightforward and uncomplicated. It’s comparatively free of the cumbersome traditions, frenetic activities, and crippling expenditures that come with some holidays (I’m looking at you, Christmas!), big stressors that can get in the way of fundamental enjoyment, not to mention spiritual gratification.

Granted, Thanksgiving does have its own daunting potential for stress – travel and logistical chaos, inter-personal and family drama, intensive food prep and consumption, hours of digestive recovery, and overwhelming kitchen clean-up! But the day can also be celebrated with a simple shared meal, quiet reflection and rest, even solitude or a private getaway, and when it all comes together well, Thanksgiving can be deeply meaningful and spiritually strengthening.

Our celebration of the Thanksgiving feast as a national historical event also has its baggage, a mythology of Pilgrims and Native Americans that is rooted in history but that has grown over time to barely resemble the actual event. As is nearly always the case with history, the truth turns out to be far more complicated and vastly more interesting than the myth. This year, pick up one of the following books to help you sort out the real story of the Mayflower Pilgrims and broaden your understanding of our country’s fascinating history.

philbrick   “Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War” by Nathaniel Philbrick details the history of the Pilgrims as religious Separatists in England and as political refugees in Holland, then follows them through their voyage on the Mayflower, the settlement and early years of the Plymouth colony, and the meeting of European settlers and Native Americans. Philbrick adds depth to what we know of familiar historical figures like William Bradford, Chief Massasoit, Squanto, Miles Standish, Priscilla Mullins, John Alden, Edward Winslow, and numerous secondary characters, revealing unexpected and surprising historical details.

In “Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World,” another richly detailed history, author and Englishman Nick Bunker writes about the Mayflower Pilgrims as Englishmen themselves, and places them in the context of the political world in which they lived. An exhaustively detailed recounting of the first years of settlement, this book tells a stirring tale of “indomitable courage, religious faith, commercial ambition, international rivalry, and domestic politics” (Publishers Weekly).

indexH4IDI2ML   If you only have time for a short read and want a more condensed recounting of the Mayflower Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, Glenn Alan Cheney has hit the high points and given a broad overview in his well-researched and -organized history of 1620-1621, “Thanksgiving: The Pilgrims’ First Year in America.” An easy-to-read and enjoyable page-turner, it is nevertheless written in evocative, descriptive prose. As one reviewer said, the book is “full of surprising information, and sympathetic to the humanity of all the participants.”

“The Mayflower Papers: Selected Writings of Colonial New England,” edited by Nathaniel and Thomas Philbrick, is a compilation of 17th century primary source material about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower voyage, and the founding of the Plymouth Colony. It contains “Of Plymouth Plantation” by Governor William Bradford, the seminal first-person account of the early days of the settlement. Written in the Elizabethan English of the times, it is not easy reading but it nonetheless is a detailed, emotional recounting of an enterprise that took immense courage, devotion, and fortitude. In addition, this anthology contains “Mourt’s Relation,” an account of the colony’s first year in New England and the original story of the first Thanksgiving celebrated in autumn 1621, and “Good News from New England,” a continuation of the history, both by Edward Winslow.

times     “The Times of Their Lives: Life, Love, and Death in Plymouth Colony” by leading Plymouth archaeologist James Deetz is a social history that is especially strong in its descriptions of the daily lives and society of the colony. Drawing on the archaeological evidence, it touches on crime, food, sexual and social relationships, legalities, and material culture, and upends many of our misconceptions about Pilgrim society.

 

 

 

 

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Tempting Fall Fiction for Adults

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burtonby Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

The fall book season always provides a nice helping of new fiction surprises. This year’s list of standouts includes many offerings by bestselling favorites, but it also includes some unusual stories from authors who may not be familiar. I invite you to sample some of my latest discoveries in the hope that you may find some appealing new fiction.

The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton is that rare piece of historical fiction that manages to create memorable characters in an authentic period setting. Recently contracted bride, Nella Oortman, arrives in 1686 Amsterdam only to find that her new husband has no real interest in her. Compounding Nella’s loneliness are the facts that the household is dominated by her husband’s rigid sister, and the family sugar trading business may be failing. Nella’s only joy is the puzzling gift of a cabinet house that her husband has purchased for her. When a life-like series of tiny figures and furniture soon arrives, Nella is determined to meet the artist who created them. What makes this book memorable is the dynamics among the characters, as well as its vivid portrayal of the city and its strict adherence to religious code. Author Burton delivers a young heroine forced to accept what she cannot change.

A Sudden Light” by Garth Stein is the latest from the author who gave us the magical “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” an emotional story told from the point of view of the family dog. This new tale is a flashback with supernatural elements. When Trevor Riddell was fourteen years old, he and his father traveled to Riddell House, the dilapidated family estate, in order to convince Grandpa Samuel to sell the place to developers so that all could share the proceeds. Complications arise because the grandfather has mental lapses, and the home seems to be haunted by family ancestors who died under tragic circumstances. While the story does have its eerie moments, it’s more a tale of old hurts and odd family dynamics. Trevor is a sharp young character who wants to heal old wounds, so he finds himself caught between opposing loyalties.

The Queen of the Tearling” by Erika Johansen is a very pleasant surprise for those who can’t get enough epic fantasy. Life will never be the same for nineteen-year-old Kelsea Glynn, as soldiers of the Queen’s Guard have come to remove her from her adopted parents’ home and place her on her rightful throne. Since her queen mother’s death, ambitious forces, like her greedy uncle and the Red Queen of Mortmesne, have struggled for control of the kingdom and have often shipped the Tearling citizenry off to slavery. Kelsea is a kind and decent heroine, but she knows little of governance. This first installment in a planned trilogy features well written magic touches, like gigantic hawks and a mysterious glowing sapphire that Kelsea wears, and it effectively pits good and evil forces against one another throughout.

The Boy Who Drew Monsters” by Keith Donohue is a disturbing tale of horror. This supernatural tales features an isolated Maine setting under cover of snow and a boy who suffers from crippling psychological problems. Young Jack Peter refuses to leave the house, communicates little with his parents, and constantly draws sketches of threatening monsters. At some point, the monsters of the drawings begin to take on lives of their own, and the boy’s parents and neighbors sight unbelievable creatures. Is the story eerie? You bet! The fleeting visions, the impending danger, the isolation and the confusion about what is real make for an uneasy reading experience.

New fall titles are arriving on a daily basis, so be sure to check the MPL website for upcoming novels. There’s lots of new romance and adventure, westerns and science fiction yet to be read.

 

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Celebrating All Things Pasta

by John Pecoraro,  Assistant Director

Nothing says Italy like pasta. Some historians believe that Marco Polo introduced noodles to Italy after his journeys to China. There is evidence, however, that the Romans used durum wheat to make a pasta-like noodle called “lagane.” By the 1300’s, dried pasta had gained popularity for its nutrition and long shelf life, but it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that pasta met the tomato. The rest, as they say, is history.

October 25 was World Pasta Day, but it’s not too late to cook up a plate of this versatile food. Check out one of the many pasta cookbooks available at Manhattan Public Library.

The perfect shape plus the perfect sauce equals “The Geometry of Pasta,” by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy. This book features 100 recipes arranged by the name and shape of the pasta, from agnolotti to ziti. In between, you’ll find recipes for cappelletti (little hats), orecchiette (little ears), torchio (torch-shaped), and many more.

giadaIn “Everyday Pasta,” bestselling author and cooking show host, Giada de Laurentiis, presents her favorite pasta recipes for every occasion. Giada makes the most of the many varieties of pasta with recipes for those looking for a lighter dish, as well as quick and easy fixes for the weeknight rush. She also features pastas for special occasions. Most of the pasta dishes included are all-in-one meals, but Giada also supplies recipes for her favorite appetizers, side dishes, and salads.

Want to cook pasta like they cook it in Italy? Look no further than “Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way,” by Oretta Zanini de Vita and Maureen B. Fant. This book continues and complements Zanini de Vita’s “Encyclopedia of Pasta.” The authors first introduce readers to ingredients and equipment before delving into recipes for both novice and experienced cooks.

Rushed for time? Check out Giuliano Hazan’s “Thirty Minute Pasta,” for 100 quick and easy recipes. Aspiring cooks can make most of the recipes featured in under 30 minutes, with fewer than 10 ingredients. This book includes recipes for pasta soups, vegetarian dishes, as well as meat and seafood sauces. It also provides hints on stocking your pasta pantry, and the five simple rules for perfectly cooked pasta.

artisanSupermarket shelves are stocked with a dizzying selection of pastas to choose from, but for some it’s not pasta unless it’s homemade. “Making Artisan Pasta,” by Aliza Green, introduces the adventurous cook to the world of handmade linguine, ravioli, lasagna, and other styles of pasta from Italy. Green also includes instructions on making dozens of other pastas from around the world.

If I had to choose one variety of pasta over all others, it would have to be lasagna. “The New Lasagna Cookbook,” by Maria Bruscino Sanchez offers a crowd-pleasing collection of lasagna dishes from around the world. Tips on ingredients and equipment, and easy-to-follow recipes make this book perfect for beginning lasagna cooks, while the wide variety of classic and new recipes will challenge the experienced.

What’s pasta without the sauce? To avoid the embarrassment of naked pasta, read Pamela Johns’s “50 Great Pasta Sauces.” The rich photographs of pasta smothered or gently caressed by beautiful sauces will make your mouth water. Johns divides her sauce recipes by vegetable (classic tomato), dairy (browned butter & sage), meat (Bolognese), and seafood (pepper & anchovy).

macMacaroni and cheese is the most popular pasta dish in America. It would be a shame to only equate mac and cheese with the packaged varieties from the supermarket. In “Mac & Cheese,” Ellen Brown offers 80 classic and creative variations of the ultimate comfort food. Mascarpone lobster mac and cheese, anyone?

Finally, there are some among us who love the pasta, but don’t love the gluten. “Gluten-free Pasta,” by Robin Asbell presents more than 100 gluten-free and low and no-carb pasta recipes. The recipes fall into three categories: homemade pastas, store-bought brands, and veggie pastas. Store brands include white and brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, potato, and corn pastas. Veggie alternatives include pastas made from spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, zucchini, collards, and cabbage.

You can call it pasta, you can call it macaroni, or you can call it noodles, but whatever you call it, the result is usually delicious. Enjoy a dish today.

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Share Books to Introduce Fire Safety

By Jennifer Adams, Children’s Services Manager

MHKFDDuring National Fire Prevention Week, our local firefighters visited schools to talk to students about fire safety and prevention, show them some equipment they use and make sure they would never be afraid of a firefighter in uniform. Notes were sent home reminding families to practice with their kids so they know what to do if the smoke detector goes off. Reading books about firefighters and fire safety is a great way to start this discussion with young children and let them talk about their concerns.

The library has an excellent collection of children’s materials on this topic, thanks to the Manhattan Firefighters Union Local 2275. They have donated funds for the past three years to boost the library’s collection, so more kids and teachers can check out books and make sure everyone knows how to stay safe.
For some fun read-alouds to start off with a lighter approach, these picture books are sure to be a hit:

“I’m Brave” by McMullan is told from the point of view of a “good looking” fire engine. He goes through all his equipment, including the usual hoses and axes, as well as duckbill pliers and rabbit ear bolt cutters. Kids who love fire trucks will also enjoy  “Firefighters: Speeding, Spraying, Saving” by Hubbell.

The exciting illustrations in Dale’s “Dinosaur Rescue” make it a perfect book to share with preschoolers, and Scarry’s “A Day at the Fire Station” in Busytown will always be good for some giggles, too. “Fire Drill” is a short picture book by Jacobs that describes the scenario of fire drills in a school setting with simple text and pictures, making the actual event a little less scary.

fire safety 1Some children are fascinated by emergency vehicles, from police cars to fire engines. For facts and photos about fire trucks, check out “Fire Trucks and Rescue Vehicles” from the Mighty Machines series, or “Fire Trucks in Action” by Hanson. “Rescue Vehicles” by Gilpin includes cross-section illustrations to show what is inside fire engines, ambulances, police cars and more. These books are now housed in our “Transportation” neighborhood in the Children’s Room.

A number of books for children have a very direct educational approach, which is great for covering the basics of fire prevention and procedures in case of a fire. “Contain the Flame” by Donahue covers outdoor and campfire safety, and “Being Safe with Fire” by Kesselring provides safety tips in everyday living, as well as steps to make an escape plan. Learn more specifics about firefighters’ jobs in books like “Firefighters Help Us” by Murray or “A Day with Firefighters” by Shepherd.

Our newest additions to the collection this year are two kits that include multiple books plus activities that can all be checked out together. The tote bag story kit, “Firefighters,” is geared toward preschool and early elementary ages. It includes six fun picture books, such as “Miss Mingo and the Fire Drill,” two informational books, a DVD of “Elmo Visits the Firehouse” and a cool firefighter costume for dress-up play.

The discovery pack, “Fire and Rescue,” comes in a backpack and is for kids in grades 2-6. It includes informational books about firefighters, fire dogs, smoke jumpers, rescue vehicles and fire safety. A large maze game will challenge older kids to think about fire safety, as well as test their logic and problem-solving skills.

fire safety 2Special thanks goes out to our local firefighters for all they do to keep us safe, educate us, and provide this kind of support to the whole community.

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2014 Teens’ Top Ten

Keri Mills, Young Adult Librarian

The Teens’ Top Ten is a teens’ choice list sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Each year, teens nominate their favorite books from the previous year. Nominations are posted in April, and teens ages twelve to eighteen can vote on their favorite titles. The winning books will be announced on October 20, so teens still have one more week to vote for their favorites at http://www.dogobooks.com/book_clubs/teens-top-reads. As usual, there are a wide cross-section of genres represented on the list, so if your teen is looking for something to read, this list is a good place to start. Many of the titles have crossover appeal to adults, as well. Here are a few of my picks from the list of nominees this year:siege

“Siege and Storm” by Leigh Bardugo
This is the last book of an excellent trilogy, so be sure to start with the first one, “Shadow and Bone,” or you will be lost. Alina and Mal, who have been best friends since childhood, are soldiers in the First Army of Ravka. Ravka is a harsh place, ravaged by war and currently split in two by the Shadow Fold. The Fold is a place of darkness and danger, where creature called volcra snatch and eat men who attempt to cross through to the other side.  While attempting to cross the fold, Mal is gravely injured and Alina manifests the rare ability to summon light in order to save Mal’s life. Alina is immediately taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, those who can wield magic, and swept up in the intrigue of the court. Those who enjoy fantasy or historical fiction (many elements of the story were based on Russian myth and culture) should give this one a try.

“Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell
I put off reading this book even after hearing all the buzz about it, thinking it was just another typical romance. However, this turned out to be one of those rare books that sticks with you, long after you are done reading it. The year is 1986, and Eleanor is the new girl in town. She is forced to walk the gauntlet of the school bus where she is exposed to taunting and bullying because she is overweight and dresses strangely. She ends up sitting next to Park, who is half-Korean and something of an outsider at school. This is definitely not love at first sight. For awhile the two completely ignore each other, but gradually throughout the course of the year, they begin bonding over comic books and music. Eventually, they fall in love, but there is likely no happily ever after to this story. Park gradually learns about Eleanor’s poverty and her volatile family situation, which finally explodes.steel

“Steelheart” by Brandon Sanderson
This is a fun, fast-paced superhero story that is the first in a projected series. In this story, superheroes are the villains. Twelve years ago when the Calamity came, Epics were created, giving random humans incredible powers (and of course weaknesses). These Epics began subjugating the rest of humanity and taking over different parts of the world. Ten years ago, David’s father was killed by one of the most powerful Epics, named Steelheart. Ever since, David has made it his life’s mission to study the Epics and find their weaknesses. His one goal is to avenge his father’s death and take down Steelheart.

“In the Shadow of Blackbirds” by Cat Winters
Mary Shelley Black, age 16, has been sent to live with her aunt in San Diego. Like many cities in 1918, it is not only dealing with World War II, but also the Spanish flu pandemic which is killing millions all over the world. Surrounded by loss many have turned to spiritualism in an attempt to speak with dead loved ones. Taking advantage of this is Julius, the older brother of Mary’s love Stephen, who claims he can capture ghosts in photographs. Soon after finding out that Stephen has died, Mary begins being visited by his tormented ghost, who talks about the blackbirds who tortured and killed him. Mary embarks on a quest to learn the truth about Stephen’s death.5th

5th Wave by Rick Yancey
There couldn’t be a teen list without some post apocalyptic fiction. This one is the best of the bunch. This time the earth has been decimated by an alien invasion through four separate waves: an electromagnetic pulse, tsunamis, the Red Death, and Silencers (humans who were implanted with alien intelligence as fetuses). One of the rare survivors, Cassie, armed with an M16 and her brother’s teddy bear, is trying to reunite with her brother while escaping Silencers and the 5th Wave.

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Book Discussions at MPL

by Janet Ulrey, Adult Services Librarian
The “Good Books Club” is off and running. If you have a desire to join great book discussions with other book lovers, come talk about books with us! This fall we are launching a monthly Thursday night book discussion series. The meetings will be held at 7 p.m. in the Groesbeck Room of the Manhattan Public Library.

revolThe October “Good Books Club” is scheduled for Thursday, October 30th. It features Diane Eickhoff’s book, “Revolutionary Heart: The Life of Clarina Nichols and the Pioneering Crusade for Women’s Rights.” Eickhoff tells the story of Clarina Nichols, a charismatic Kansas suffragist and abolitionist, who helped pave the way for revolutionary changes. Author Eickhoff will join us for this book discussion.

Diane Eickhoff has been a writer and an editor of educational materials for children and young adults for many years. She received her MA in history from the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Diane has been involved with the Kansas Humanities Council since 2003 and joined the Council’s Speakers Bureau in 2009. She spent six arduous years studying and analyzing Nichol’s writings and papers. In fact, her biography of Clarina Nichols was named a Kansas Notable Book for 2007. Her insight and expertise in history will greatly enhance this discussion. It will be a privilege and honor to have Diane Eickhoff here with us, and we hope you will join us in welcoming her to Manhattan. (more…)

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