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Bedtime Books for Summer Nights

by Grace Benedick, Children’s Librarian

As a child, I loved the long summer days and the warm summer nights, but if there was one thing I really hated about summer, it was bedtime. I think we can all remember the childhood trial of trying to fall asleep before the sun had set—when it seemed the whole world was still wide awake. Fortunately, for all of you grown-ups with children undergoing that yearly trial, the library is full of wonderful bedtime stories to appease your wakeful children. In fact, over 200 titles will come up if you search our catalog for picture books about bedtime, so here’s a small selection of summery favorites to get you started:

atnightJonathan Bean’s debut picture book, At Night is all about one of those restless nights when sleep just won’t come. The story moves at a poetic, quiet pace, following a restless girl as she chases the night breeze up to her city roof. With her curious mother trailing behind, she takes her pillows and blankets upstairs to the rooftop terrace, where she can see the moon and feel the breeze, and better yet—fall asleep.



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Exploring the Great Outdoors

by Danielle Schapaugh, Public Relations Coordinator

bison grazing at the tall grass prairie preserve

Bison grazing at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.  Wash your spirit clean.” –John Muir

If you’ve ever visited one of the 401 locations in the national parks system, you know how powerfully beautiful and restorative a trip to the outdoors can be.  July happens to be “National Parks and Recreation Month,” and this is a perfect time to get outdoors to do some exploring, even if you’ve never ventured any farther than your own backyard.

Kansas offers several short trips to get a beginning trekker started. The Konza Biological Preserve, located just southeast of town off McDowell Creek Road, offers six miles of hiking trails through native tallgrass prairie. At the highest points you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the Flint Hills and might even spot a few members of a bison herd in the distance.

The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve presents opportunities for closer contact with bison, if you’re lucky, and more than 44 miles of trails through pristine prairie grasses. You’ll find this national park about two miles north of Strong City, along Highway 177. The visitor’s center has many resources to help you explore the park, including cell phone tours of the historic buildings on the site, a short orientation film, and books for sale.

The Flint Hills Discovery Center in downtown Manhattan is another wonderful place to start your journey. It has exhibits and interactive features to explore the geology, biology, and cultural history of the Flint Hills. Plus, they have a fun gift shop full of local products, artwork, and books by local authors.

Speaking of books, if you would like to find suggestions for exploration, naturalist inspiration, or if you prefer armchair travel, the library has a wealth of outdoor adventure books, both fiction and non-fiction, to aid in your quest.

If you are looking for a volume to carry with you, try one of the comprehensive plant identification books, such as Wildflowers and Grasses of Kansas by Michael John Haddock. The detailed descriptions and great pictures will help you find everything from big bluestem to western yarrow.

Or, you might want to try a nice bird-watching guide. The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Sibley  is the most comprehensive book available. It features hundreds upon hundreds of detailed illustrations to help you identify every bird in North America. This book can be a little intimidating at first, but I suggest you dive right in and see what you can find.  If you’re a budding naturalist, just start with the index and explore from there!

I would also suggest sampling some of the outdoor inspirational classics like the works of John Muir, located in the library at call number 508.794. His Eight Wilderness Discovery Books are available bound in one volume or in smaller groupings. They are fantastic reads, but probably won’t fit in your day pack!

For armchair adventure, I strongly recommend Wild by Cheryl Strayed (813.6). This memoir chronicles a young woman’s 1,100-mile journey alone along the Pacific Crest Trail. It is a heart-wrenching tale of struggle, sorrow, determination, and redemption that will leave you wondering how far you could push yourself if you tried.

After you visit the Tallgrass National Preserve, that still leaves about 400 more places to explore. If you’re planning a trip to another state, the library has handbooks and field guides available for many different regions, identifying plants, trees, birds, and insects. It’s a lot of fun to point out butterfly milkweed or old plainsman when you pass them in the field. Plus, you look pretty smart when you do!

You’ll also find maps of Kansas, local bike trails, local rivers, and much more when you visit the Manhattan Public Library. Have fun exploring the great outdoors!

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Summertime Fun — Out and About with Books

By Jennifer Adams, Children’s Services Manager

It is summer break, and the kids here are reading maniacs! In June, more than 30,000 children’s books and audiobooks were checked out from the library.  So far, 2,000 children have registered for the library’s summer reading program and read more than 600,000 minutes.  They are earning cool prizes to keep them motivated, including squirt toys, magnifying glasses, free books, and a wide choice of free food coupons or free kids’ day passes to the zoo and Discovery Center. The last day to collect prizes is July 31, and it is not too late to get your children signed up and include all the reading they have been doing since June 1st. 

Amidst the kids checking out books and getting their prizes, you may have noticed construction crews on the grounds, up on the roof, and in and out of the building.  The Children’s Room is shrinking while this phase of the construction project proceeds with renovations inside the current space, and with connecting the room to new spaces on both the north and south ends of the Children’s Room.  This will double the size of the space when the project is completed at the end of this year.

blue chickenLuckily, we are able to keep all our children’s materials available to the public, but space is getting more and more crowded for children’s events.  Children’s librarians will be doing some fun programs out and about the community during this phase.  Ms. Amber is leading weekly storytimes at Bluestem Bistro.  Meet on the patio on Wednesday mornings at 10:00 during the month of July to hear fun stories, rhymes and songs about colors.  This week’s theme is “blue” featuring Deborah Freedman’s Blue Chicken. What happens when an energetic chicken stumbles off the page and into a pot of blue paint?  Join us on the patio to find out. (more…)

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Safe to Surf

by John Pecoraro
Assistant Director, Manhattan Public Library

Is the Internet safe for my children? This is the question most parents want answered. Parents, grandparents, and caregivers all want to keep their children safe wherever they are and whatever they are doing. That certainly includes online. But it’s a jungle out there. Stories of online predators, identity thieves, cyberbullies, and child pornographers fill the daily news. Where can adults turn to find resources for keeping their children safe online?

Start at the public library. There are several books available that can assist parents anxious about the online safety of their children.

facebook“Talking Back to Facebook: A Common Sense Guide to Raising Kids in the Digital Age,” by James P. Steyer offers parents essential tools to help filter content, preserve good relationships with their children, and make common sense, value-driven judgments for kids of all ages. This comprehensive, no-nonsense guide to the online world, media, and mobile devices is a must-have for all parents and educators raising kids in today’s digital age.

It’s no secret that the availability of the Internet and social media has erased the boundaries that protect children from some of the more unsavory aspects of adult life. In “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age,” renowned clinical psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair offers insights and advice to help parents achieve greater understanding, authority, and confidence in confronting the technology revolution unfolding in their living rooms. (more…)

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Savoring “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services & Collection Manager

lightAre you looking for a novel with exquisitely beautiful language?  If so, I have the perfect story for you.  “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr is a book that will dazzle you with its turn of phrase, with its amazingly precise imagery. When a little blind girl, for example,  is finally able to navigate the streets of her town without fear and arrive home with her father, the author tell us, “In another half second her father’s hands are under her armpits, swinging her up, and Marie-Laure smiles, and he laughs a pure, contagious laugh, one she will try to remember all her life, father and daughter turning in circles on the sidewalk in front of their apartment house, laughing together while snow sifts through the branches above.”  This book will also astound you with the ugliness that it conveys.  To bombardiers approaching the city they are to shell, “…the walled city on its granite headland, drawing ever closer, looks like an unholy tooth, something black and dangerous, a final abscess to be lanced away.”

What is the book about?  When the story opens, we read of the now-sixteen-year-old Marie-Laure who is alone on the sixth floor of a house on the coast of a French city.  Left in the care of her great-uncle, she worries that he will not or cannot return home, as the year is 1944, and the city is under siege by American bombers.  For comfort, she uses her hands to explore a tiny model of her uncle’s city, one her father constructed for her some years earlier when she first lost her sight.  A puzzle with a series of steps that opens hidden recesses, the model also contains a priceless jewel that might well be a treasure linked to her father’s position of locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. (more…)

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Waiting for “The Fault in Our Stars”? Try a Read-Alike

Keri Mills, Young Adult Librarian

With the acclaim of both the book and the resultant movie, “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green is the hot book to read this summer for teens and adults alike. Unfortunately, due to its popularity, there is a waiting list to check out the book from the library. However, there are a number of great books to read while you are waiting your turn.

me youOne such book is “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews. Greg and Earl, social outcasts at school, spend their free time making their own versions of cult movie classics by Herzog and Coppola. Their movies are terrible, but Greg and Earl aren’t making them for other people, that is until Rachel comes along. Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia, and Greg’s mom suggests that he should befriend her. When Rachel decides to stop her cancer treatment, Greg and Earl make a film that forces them to step into the spotlight. The book is humorous and moving with a sarcastic tone.




Posted in: For Teens, Mercury Column, News, Young Adult Dept

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Not Just For Dummies

Linda Henderson, Adult Services Librarian

Interested in understandable information? Hungry for a new hobby? Manhattan Public Library offers over 300 “For Dummies” and “Complete Idiot’s Guides” that you can borrow today!

“For Dummies” books provide newcomer-friendly information and instruction on a broad variety of topics — everything from art to welding. Despite the title, their publisher has taken great pains to emphasize that the “For Dummies” books are not literally for “dummies”; the subtitle explains that they are simply, “A Reference for the Rest of Us!” To date, over 1,600 “For Dummies” titles have been published in numerous languages to worldwide acclaim.

The “For Dummies” series began in 1991 with “DOS for Dummies.” The book became popular due to the rarity of beginner-friendly instructions for using the notoriously user-unfriendly DOS interface. Later, the series branched out beyond computer technology, adding titles as diverse as “Dad’s Guide to Pregnancy for Dummies,” “Chess for Dummies,” and “Buddhism for Dummies.” Our library offers many of these great guides. (more…)

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Susan Withee, Adult Services Department Manager

If you’re a fan of romantic comedies and wedding flicks both classic and irreverent, celebrate June, the wedding month, with movies from Manhattan Public Library.

father of the brideStart with “Father of the Bride,” a comedy classic in which a father’s comfortable life quickly unravels as his daughter’s wedding approaches.  Choose either the elegant and charming 1950 version, starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor, or the goofy but satisfying remake of 1998 starring Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, and Martin Short as the hilariously manic wedding coordinator.

Fans of big-screen musicals can check out “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954), starring Jane Powell with Howard Keel and a large supporting cast.  The music and dance numbers are outsized and over the top and the story line a bit schmaltzy (hey, it’s a musical!), but it’s also a rollicking good time.

For a more recent take on movie musicals, “Mamma Mia” (2008) is the story of a bride-to-be’s search for her real father, all set improbably on a beautiful Greek island as the wedding venue and featuring the hits of ‘70s pop group ABBA.  Suspend your disbelief, soak in the scenery, sing along, and enjoy!  Starring Pierce Brosnan, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, and Amanda Seyfried.

If you enjoy films with great ensemble casts, check out “In and Out” (1997) starring Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack, Matt Dillon, Tom Selleck, and Debbie Reynolds.  It’s an endearing and hilarious small-town comedy of manners and mores with a subject of substance but a slapstick vibe. Kevin Kline and Joan Cusack are wonderful.

bestFor outstanding romantic comedies with weddings in the story line, you can’t beat Julia Roberts’ films.  “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (1997), stars Julia Roberts as a commitment-phobic career woman who suddenly realizes, on the eve of his wedding, that she’s in love with her ex-boyfriend and best friend, played by Dermot Mulroney.  Entanglements and schemes ensue as she tries to derail the marriage and win him back.  Co-stars Cameron Diaz and Rupert Everett will win your heart.

Julia does it again in 1999’s “Runaway Bride.”  Small town resident Maggie has been engaged multiple times but always bolts at the last minute, leaving her betrothed at the altar.  Big city newpaper man Ike Graham (Richard Gere) writes a column ridiculing Maggie’s situation which earns her wrath and gets him fired.  To redeem himself, Ike goes to Maggie’s home town to do an in-depth story and finds himself entangled in the life of the community and attracted to Maggie.  The critics were lukewarm, but really, who cares?  It’s a romantic comedy with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere!  It’s fun and entertaining, and has a corny storybook ending.

Another delightful rom-com is “27 Dresses” (2008).  Katherine Heigl stars as Jane, the perennial maid of honor with a closet full of themed bridesmaid dresses and a secret crush on her boss (Edward Norton).  She despairs of being always a bridesmaid and never a bride, so she determines to change her life for good. James Marsden plays a rumpled, cynical reporter who confronts Jane with her wedding obsessions, even as he falls for her himself.

bella“A Wedding for Bella” (2001) starring Scott Baio (yes, Chachi!) is a film you’ve probably never heard of.  Dominic is a successful corporate raider whose real love is working in the Italian bakery he owns with his brothers, watched over by elderly neighbors Bella and Massimo.  When Dominic discovers Bella is sick, he is willing to do anything to make her happy, including marry her daughter Lucca.  A delightful movie full of family, love, and amazing food.

More great movies with weddings (an eclectic list):  “Four Weddings and a Funeral” with Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell; “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” starring Nia Vardalos, Michael Constantine, and Andrea Martin; “Mystic Pizza,” a charming small-budget movie with Julia Roberts in her film debut; and “Diner,” another sleeper that has endured, with early-career performances by an unbelievable cast – Kevin Bacon, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin, Tim Daly, Steve Guttenberg, and Paul Reiser.  If you haven’t seen these yet, you’re in for a treat.

bridesmaidsFinally, in a category all their own, are the blockbuster, over-the-top buddy/romantic comedies “Wedding Crashers” with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, “Bridesmaids” starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Melissa McCarthy, and “The Wedding Singer” with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.   Although probably not for those with delicate sensibilities or discerning cinematic tastes (you have been warned!), they are contemporary classics with legions of devoted fans who can watch them over and over and still laugh out loud.  Enjoy.



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Fizz, Boom, Read!

by Jennifer Adams, Children’s Services Manager

We’ll be popping and fizzing at the library this summer with our super science summer reading theme: Fizz, Boom, Read!  Mad scientists will be on the loose, and we hope all the kids in town will join us.

Fizz Boom ReadJune 1st is the first official day of our summer reading program, and kids can start keeping track of how much time they spend reading or listening to books so they can earn great prizes.  Children or parents can register for summer reading online and then pick up a book bag and reading chart anytime at the library.  Summer reading programs encourage kids to keep reading during the months while school is out, to have fun with books and to avoid “summer slide” when they return to school in August. 

Summer slide, or summer learning loss, is the loss of reading skills and other academic knowledge that leaves kids starting out their new school year at a lower level than when they left last May.  The public library is your free resource for combatting summer slide with an amazing selection of thousands of fiction and nonfiction titles, beginning readers, audiobooks, discovery packs, and a whole month of weekly activities to engage kids.  They will be reading and learning without even knowing it!

Children’s librarians Amber, Grace and Rachel have been concocting some fantastic activities for our summer clubs.  Kids going into kindergarten or first grade can join the Curious Chaos Creators Club Tuesday or Wednesday afternoons in June.  One week, they will study metamorphosis by playing a relay game in which everyone has to go through the metamorphosis process, from squirming caterpillar to chrysalis and finally to flying butterfly. When these young scientists learn about the five senses, they will read and perform “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” picking out how the characters use their senses throughout the story.

Magic School Bus Inside a BeehiveSecond and third graders will become Ms. Frizzle’s Scientists on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons, launching a pretend magic school bus into fascinating places.  In their study of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rock, the 2nd and 3rd graders will make rock formations using Play-Doh. Each week, the students will get a chance to “ride on the Magic School Bus” with Ms. Frizzle by reading books such as “The Magic School Bus inside a Beehive.”

The Mad Science Minions Club for fourth through sixth graders will include hands-on science activities each week, plus demonstrations, videos and information about important scientists throughout history.  The first week, Ms. Rachel will focus on microbiology. Kids will be allowed to swab something germy – their mouths, a doorknob, etc. – and grow their own bacteria in a petri dish.

Storytimes are tons of fun for the littler ones, and even babies can be part of our summer reading program when parents record how much time they spend reading aloud to them.  Attend a storytime each week to add another 20-30 minutes of reading time, and enjoy singing songs together, learning action rhymes and dancing to music.

The Move and Groove Storytimes this June will highlight our five senses. In our All Ages Storytimes on Fridays and Saturdays, one week will feature the book “Rain by Manya Stojic, a story set on the African savannah where the animals smell, see, and even taste the rain. We’ll pretend it’s raining at the end of storytime by dancing with umbrellas and maracas to the classic song “Singin’ in the Rain,” while Ms. Laura tosses down some colorful pompoms on the umbrellas for “raindrops.”

Rain by Manya StojicDuring “sight” week at the Preschool Storytimes, Ms. Chelsea and Ms. Molly will read the treasured picture book “Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young, in which the mice work together to learn how to see. Kids can touch and feel several objects after storytime, including sandpaper, seashells, and bubble wrap.

At Toddler Storytime during “taste” week, we’ll be packing for a picnic. Each child will have a chance to bring an item up to the picnic basket as we sing a song about picnics. Babies and their caregivers at Baby Rhyme Time will have fun during “taste” week as Ms. Jessica and Mr. Brian do a “Yummy, Yucky” flannel board activity. For yummy items, parents will pretend to eat baby’s fingers or tummy. For yucky items, they’ll blow raspberries instead!

See a schedule for June storytimes and clubs; no registration is required to attend a program.  You can also sign up for summer reading from the website and get started on logging your reading time to earn prizes.  Teens and adults can participate, too.  Our summer reading sponsors include the Manhattan Library Association Friends Group,  Sunset Zoo, Flint Hills Discovery Center, Wildcat Creek Golf & Fitness, Manhattan Kiwanis Club, and several fabulous restaurants: Famous Dave’s, Noodles & Co., Papa Murphy’s, Texas Roadhouse, Varsity Donuts, and Vista Drive-In.  So much support for childhood literacy and the library adds up to a summer of fun in Manhattan.

The construction on the children’s room expansion continues to progress on schedule with a completion date of December this year.  Our room may be a little cramped this summer, but our books are all still available, and library staff is always ready to help you find them!

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It’s Grilling Time Again

by John Pecoraro,  Assistant Director

Summertime is almost here. It’s the time of year when our thoughts turn to the smell of the open fire, the sizzling of grilled meat, and the joys of outdoor cooking.

The word barbecue derives from “barabicu,” a word from the Taino people of the Caribbean. The word appropriately translates as “sacred fire pit,” which adherents to the ritual of grilling will tell you, is exactly what barbecuing is.

What you will most likely find barbecued in the U.S., depends on where you live. In the Deep South, barbecue is all about pork, and sauces range from eastern North Carolina’s vinegar-based, to the mustard-base found in South Carolina. In Texas barbecue is brisket and sausage, while Kansas City BBQ uses these along with burnt ends, ribs, and smoked turkey. KC tomato-based sauces can be sweet, spicy, or tangy.

big flavor grillBefore you fire up the grill, visit the library to sample some of the outdoor cooking titles on the menu. “The Big-Flavor Grill,” by Chris Schlesinger, offers hassle-free recipes for steaks, chicken, ribs, chops, vegetables, shrimp, and fish. These recipes are inspired by Asian, Mediterranean, Latin, and Caribbean cuisine. In contrast to long-lead marinating, Schlesinger favors using spice rubs for stronger, better-defined flavors. His no fuss approach translates into faster preparation and grill times. (more…)

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