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A Summer of Salads or Burgers, You Decide

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Summer of Heroes

Jessica Long, Children’s Library Assistant

Summer reading begins May 30 for all ages!

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

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

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

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

The Power of Cute book cover

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

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

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

Today I Will Fly book cover

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

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

Boys of Steel book cover

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

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

 

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The Best New Books!

By Marcia Allen, Collection Development

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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It’s Gardening Time!

by Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Scared of technology?

By Danielle Schapaugh, Public Relations Coordinator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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A Playful Destination

By Jennifer Bergen, Children’s Services Manager

kids climbing on furniture in children's room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Take a Moment: Enjoy a Poem

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

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

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

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

One clover, and a bee,

And revery.

The revery alone will do

If bees are few.”

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

“Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”


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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Spring (Cleaning) is in the Air

by Alphild Dick, Adult Services Librarian

Marie Kondo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Fable for Our Times: The Buried Giant

by Marcia Allen,  Collection Development

I just finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel, The Buried Giant, and I was stunned by the superb quality of the writing and the subtle levels of meaning within the story. I am sure that I will return to this book again and again, because I know I missed some of the nuances the author has so carefully woven throughout the story. This seemingly simple little tale has much that is hidden.

The story concerns Axl and Beatrice, an older Briton couple living in a rough village long after the fall of Rome, who have decided to attempt a walking journey to visit their son. The two are lovingly devoted to each other, and Axl always addresses his wife as “Princess.” But something is amiss: Despite their eagerness to visit their son, they have little memory of the boy and are not quite sure where he actually lives. Like everyone else in their village, their memories have been clouded by the presence of an obliterating mist.

Nevertheless, off they go on their quest during which they will have all kinds of adventures. Among other events, they will encounter ogres and mysterious boatmen. They will meet treacherous monks and hostile Saxons. They will encounter odd-behaving children and a slumbering dragon. As they travel, it becomes clear to the reader that the one constant in their lives is their love for each other.

Buried GiantLike the travelers of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, they are joined by others seeking their own quests. They meet Wistan, a well-trained Saxon knight, who seeks something that will change the course of British history. They meet Edwin, a young boy accompanying Wistan, who bears an unusual wound. And they meet Gawain, a knight once dedicated to the service of King Arthur, whose quest brings him into brutal conflict with that of Wistan.

So, what is this delightful book telling us about humanity? It says much about the nature of memory. While we readers are appalled that the main characters have forgotten their son and don’t recall much about their own lives, we soon realize that their failing is not their fault. As Axl grasps at shadowy recollections of his past experiences, we come to understand that there was a deliberate plan for mass forgetfulness, one that robs the soul of individual memory but also averts some of the evil in the world. If memory returns, so, too, will forgotten grudges and hurt feelings that have long been buried.

The book also has much to say about death and the way the dying are conveyed from life. Both Axl and Beatrice are frail older people, and this journey they have undertaken will bring terrible stress to them. Troubled by both rough terrain and terrifying creatures, they will struggle valiantly to complete their quest, discovering as they go that their beliefs about their lives are far from fact. The final passages of the book are a poignant reminder of the uncertainty of life and a testament to the ability of letting go.

To whom will this book appeal? To anyone who treasures tales of the distant past. To those who love a bit of fantasy in their stories. To folks who appreciate symbolic meaning in everyday events of ordinary people. To anyone who loves a story of exquisitely worded language. This book will appeal on many different levels, and readers lucky enough to sample it will surely feel that they have been enthralled by a master storyteller.

 

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column, News

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Nonfiction for Young Readers

By Amber Keck, Children’s Librarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Posted in: Children's Dept, For Kids, Mercury Column, News, Parents

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