Archive for Mercury Column

Summer Reading for Adults

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

The River of KingsLast week was the annual North Central Kansas Libraries System Book Fair.  Many librarians from around the region attended, and all had the opportunity to learn more about marketing, cost-cutting measures and recently released books.  The following are a few of the newer book titles we discussed.

  • The River of Kings is the latest from Taylor Brown, author of the historical romance, Fallen Land. Interwoven throughout this new fictional adventure are three distinct stories: the exploration of the Altamaha River in Georgia by the French in 1564, the misadventures of one Hiram Loggins in the latter part of the 20th century, and the efforts of Hiram’s sons, Hunter and Lawton, to take their now-deceased father’s ashes to the sea.  This is a violent tale, with all parties the victims of some treachery or other while traveling this rugged river.
  • A Single Spy by William Christie is all that a good spy novel should be. Sixteen-year-old Alexsi is captured while running guns in Azerbaijan in 1936.  Given the choice of death or spying on Nazis, he chooses to travel to Germany to spy in behalf of the Russians.  Soon, his skills are noticed by high-ranking Nazis, and he is recruited by them to spy on the Russians.  Alexsi, who speaks fluent Russian and German, also possesses other traits, like lock-picking and combat skills, so he finds himself in a precarious situation.  This one has lots of betrayals and violence.
  • Setting Free the Kites by Alex George is a nicely done coming-of-age novel. Middle school student Robert Carter is routinely bullied, until a new student, Nathan Till, assaults the tormenter.  Soon Robert and Nathan become fast friends, and as they grow older, they rely on each other when family tragedies strike.  Nathan is usually the daring leader of the exploits the two discover, and at some point old secrets will come into play.  This is a great story about maturity and about love.
  • The Great Outdoors by Brendan Leonard is a terrific selection for nature-lovers. This nonfiction book is full of excellent advice about trekking, camping, skiing and just about any outdoor adventure.  Selections like “In the Water” present loads of good sense tips, as well as warnings about dangerous behavior.  Outdoor expert Leonard has an excellent sense of humor, and his cautionary advice about bison behavior and selfies is outstanding.  Leonard’s book is clad in a nice hard plastic cover, so it’s meant to be well-used.
  • Himself by Jess Kidd is a novel/mystery heavily dependent on Irish folklore. Young Irishman Mahoney has just learned that he grew up in an orphanage, not because his single mother had abandoned him, but because something caused her to disappear.  To learn more about her, Mahoney travels to the little village of Mulderrig and meets some unusual local characters.  He also encounters deceased folks who died violently in the village, and they seem to be trying to tell him something.  It seems Mahoney possesses some of the same supernatural skills that may have led to his mother’s disappearance.
  • Will It Skillet? By Daniel Shumski is an astounding collection of no-hassle recipes that can easily be created in a cast iron skillet. Chocolate chip cookies turn out beautifully, and there’s a 30-minute recipe for macaroni and cheese that skips the boiling water completely.  This is the kind of book that could easily lead to all kinds of variations. Simple steps, appealing photographs and the promise of some delectable dishes.
  • Her Secret by noted inspirational author Shelley Shepard Gray gives us the story of Hannah Hilty who lives contentedly with her siblings and parents until a young man’s attentions turn into stalking. Hannah’s parents, who do not trust law enforcement, decide the only solution is to relocate the family far away.  And so they all move where Hannah and family have to make new friends.  The attentions of a young man named Isaac frighten Hannah at first, but she gradually learns to trust him.  And then the stalker from before comes back into her life.

It’s always fun to talk about books with other readers, and this year’s Book Fair was no exception.  It was special day we all enjoyed.

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Graduating to the Next Level

By Vivienne Uccello, Public Relations Coordinator

Daring GreatlyThis spring, if you find yourself on the cusp of a new chapter in life – or yearning for one – you might also find yourself completely terrified! Not to worry, once again books are here to help. You can find a mountain of good advice in books, but sometimes that mountain of advice can be a little frustrating to climb. To save you some time, here are a few of my favorite authors. They give coaching that is based on both personal experience and academic research. Their advice is packaged in good humor and relatable experiences, which makes their books even more enjoyable.

Brené Brown, Ph.D., is an inspiring TED Talk speaker and a research professor at the University of Houston. Her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead debunks myths about perfection and vulnerability – which she believes often cause us to resist new challenges and opportunities. She suggests that being vulnerable is the most courageous thing a person can do. Her book walks us through ways to embrace vulnerability so we can open our lives to an entire world of possibilities.

Brown shares her academic research as well as personal experiences as a wife and mother. “For me, vulnerability led to anxiety, which led to shame, which led to disconnection, which led to Bud Light,” writes Brown. This book isn’t about becoming perfect; it’s about finding the courage to be yourself and allow others to do the same. I consider Daring Greatly a road map to the idea of authentic living and recommend Brown’s work very highly.

Starting a new chapter in life can also mean shouldering new financial responsibilities. Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover is a National Bestseller and is chock full of useful financial advice. He goes through practical steps to change your approach to wealth and break bad habits. “Winning at money is 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge. What to do isn’t the problem, doing it is,” says Ramsey. His “Baby Step” plan is focused on getting you out of debt completely, which may sound like a fairy tale at the moment. After reading the book, you will have the tools to make debt-free living a reality.

Speaking of changing our habits, David Allen is a bestselling author and professional productivity consultant who can help you figure out how to establish new behaviors. His book Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity also includes tactics for breaking larger tasks into smaller action steps, putting all notes and papers in one place, and focusing on one thing at a time. His advice can help take some of the “overwhelm” out of your life.

Many of Allen’s ideas sound like common sense but I was surprised how much I needed to read them. Simple solutions often escape us when we’re in the throes of a modern, scattered, and overbooked life. His advice is refreshing and original, and addresses the root of several universal problems such as clutter, multi-tasking, and planning ahead. Allen will calmly walk you through simple steps to begin gaining control of your time and space.

David Allen also has a lynda.com video course entitled “Getting Things Done” in which he talks you through the steps to change your patterns. The courses on lynda.com are accessible for free through the library’s website at www.MHKLibrary.org. A library card is required, so stop by the library if you don’t yet have one or if you would like advice about accessing the service online.

While exploring lynda.com, you will find other courses such as “Overcoming Procrastination,” and “Managing Stress” along with video tutorials for interview skills and computer programs. These expert-taught courses can help you take on new challenges with grace and forethought.

The final book on my list has been plastered all over social media lately. I Hope I Screw This Up by Kyle Cease sounded like a very exciting read. Cease describes himself by saying “If Eckhart Tolle and Jim Carey had a baby, that baby would be Kyle Cease.” His promotional videos on Facebook show a dynamic speaker who is able to change lives, but his best work might be saved for the stage. I’ve only just started, but so far, the book has mostly been about his anxiety over writing the book. I’m holding out hope for meaty content, but have found only mild entertainment value in the title so far.

We all need guidance from time to time, that’s no secret. The world’s experts are available to help you along your journey with tender advice, tough love, and age-old wisdom. All of these treasures are available to you for free at the local library. Good luck on your journey!

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Time for a Hike

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager

The Autumn CalfIt is time to get out and go for a hike! The library recently hosted a book reading and signing on Earth Day for Jill Haukos’ The Autumn Calf, which tells the story of a baby bison born on the Konza Prairie. Illustrator Joyce Mirhan Turley was also present to talk about the artwork for the picture book. Haukos has offered to give away free copies of The Autumn Calf to any teachers, libraries or schools who contact her; just e-mail konzaed@ksu.edu.

The story includes some information on the tallgrass prairie ecosystem, and it is the perfect introduction for kids to start learning more about the Konza, even visiting it to hike the trail. Lately, articles and facebook posts have highlighted how the Konza Prairie Biological Station’s trail is sometimes misused. Luckily, Haukos, who is the director of education there, says they are keeping the trail available for hikers, and they continue to educate the public about their rules and explain why it is so important to follow them.

We can all help by following any posted rules at outdoor sites, and by instilling those values in our kids or students, no matter where they are encountering nature. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics website, LNT.org, includes resources for promoting good habits when exploring nature, camping or hiking.

A number of new titles at the library will inspire children who seek to understand the world around them, to treat our environment with respect, and to learn from nature.

The New Ocean: The Fate of Life in a Changing Sea by Bryn Barnard describes the current state of the Earth’s waters, and how the changes in pollutants, climate, and people’s eating habits and use of technology within the ocean are affecting ocean life. The book’s succinct and understandable format covers six “sea dwellers,” and shows how they have changed and what consequences may come in the future. While jellyfish and blue-green algae thrive, some of the “losers” in this scenario are orcas, sea turtles, tuna and coral reefs…and ultimately, us.

Booklist Reviews notes that “Despite the unsettling statistics, including ocean acidification and dead zones, the evolutionary wonders on display will hopefully inspire readers to help protect this vulnerable, vital Earth system.” Rather than protecting our children from learning the disturbing facts, Barnard informs young readers and then calls on them to study science and nature to find new solutions.

In Wonderful Nature, Wonderful You, author Karin Ireland and illustrator Christopher Canyon, use each double page spread to feature two or more animals or parts of nature, and relate them to a child’s emotions or attitudes. In one set, Ireland focuses on the lion not always catching its dinner, and zebras moving until they find grass to graze on. She adds, “Life isn’t always fair. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you want them to. Don’t blame someone else, and don’t blame yourself, either. Just try again.” Children will gain some understanding by comparing their own experiences to those of animals and nature, knowing these shared experiences are a part of living and learning.

This book provides a great entry into exploring nature with kids in a thought-provoking way. An appendix adds activities for home or the classroom. A simple one is to release a child into a natural area and have them choose one object to study, and then complete these sentences about it: “I notice,” “I wonder,” and “It reminds me.” Every child’s story will be unique and meaningful to them.

For a truly harrowing adventure, both children and adults will appreciate Samantha Seiple’s Death on the River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Amazon Adventure. In 1913, Roosevelt was offered the high-risk opportunity to travel with the explorer Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon down an uncharted river in the Amazon, the River of Doubt. He jumped at the chance, and brought along his son Kermit as well.

In 190 pages, Seiple details the many challenges, dangers and life-threatening encounters with piranhas, malaria, poisoned arrows, and river rapids to name a few. Roosevelt’s charisma, loyalty and persistence add much to the tale, which includes quotes and stories from the diaries, letters, articles and lectures of T. R. and his son, as well as others from the Roosevelt-Rondon Expedition. Before his death in 1919, Roosevelt wrote to a friend, “I am an old man now, and I did have a murderous trip down South, but it was mighty interesting.” Teddy Roosevelt will never look the same to these kids when they study the 26th president.

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Folklore beyond Grimm & Mythology beyond the Greeks

By Crystal Hicks, Adult Services Librarian

Akata WitchI love books that tie in folklore, so it’s no surprise that I recently read Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, a veritable love letter to Russian folklore.  What I wasn’t expecting was to be completely caught in its thrall—Arden weaves a brilliant, impeccably-detailed tapestry in her debut novel, and it absolutely captivated me.  Not only is Arden a wonderful storyteller, but the vast Russian folklore she draws from felt like a fresh breeze after so many books that call on the same stories.  You know the ones: Beauty and the Beast, or Sleeping Beauty, or even Zeus and Odysseus and Achilles.  Arden’s book whet my appetite for alternative folklore and mythology, so I went looking, and I’ve found plenty to feast upon.

Helene Wecker delves into both Jewish folklore and Arabian mythology with her book The Golem and the Jinni.  A Golem is created aboard a ship, and then her master suddenly dies; a Jinni is awoken, hundreds of miles from the Syrian Desert.  Unexpectedly, both magical creatures find themselves in New York City in 1899, unmoored and struggling to find their way in the modern world.  Wecker’s fish-out-of-water narrative is delightful and unusual, bringing together many different worlds in a satisfying, oddly plausible manner.

If you’d like to dive further into Arabian mythology, look no further than One Thousand and One Nights.  Hanan al-Shaykh helpfully retells these classic tales for a modern audience, focusing on just nineteen stories from the original collection.  Al-Shaykh’s straightforward, almost blunt prose reminds me of reading fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, but she smartly interlinks these stories so that each feeds back into the previous one, creating an endless chain of storytelling.  For a young adult spin on these same tales, check out Renée Ahdieh’s The Wrath & the Dawn, which develops the relationship between the quick-witted Shahrzad and Khalid, the murderous Caliph of Khorasan.  Though Shahrzad is determined to stay her death in order to exact revenge on Khalid, there’s more to his story than there first seems.

Like Wecker’s novel, M.H. Boroson’s The Girl with Ghost Eyes takes place in turn-of-the-century America, though this time it’s 1898 in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and Li-lin can see spirits.  As a young widow with yin eyes, Li-lin is considered doubly unlucky; as a ghost hunter from the Maoshan tradition of Daoism, Li-lin is also the only person who can save Chinatown.  Li-lin narrates with a simple voice, concretely describing every fantastical thing in her world, and the story flies along, propelled by Li-lin’s kung fu expertise and deft touch with her peachwood sword.  To top all this off, Boroson provides an author’s note indicating where he blended facts and mythologies in order to create a cohesive story, and he encourages readers to continue the story by doing their own research and searching out local legends.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things roots itself in Aztec mythology, but from there it spreads to include mythological beings from across the globe.  Domingo is a lonely nobody, collecting trash in Mexico City, so he’s surprised when the confident and beautiful Atl takes an interest in him.  Even more surprisingly, Atl is a Tlahuihpochtli, a Mexican variety of vampire, and she’s snuck into one of the few havens left from vampires.  Moreno-Garcia combines Latin American mythology with a noir sensibility for a darkly sensuous urban fantasy book that’s delightfully conscious of all the vampire lore around the world.  For those curious, she ends with a glossary fully outlining the different species of vampires and the rules she created for their world.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the book I’m currently reading, Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch.  Okorafor’s narrative takes place in Nigeria, effortlessly swirling together local lore and magic.  Sunny, an albino girl born to Igbo parents while they lived in New York, has never fit in since they moved back to Nigeria.  Then, Sunny learns that juju is real and there’s a reason she’s so different.  Akata Witch is already a captivating read, and I can’t wait to see where Okorafor’s imagination will lead me.

If you’re interested in finding more retellings of folklore or on any topic, feel free to stop by the Reference Desk and strike up a conversation.  You can also request a personalized reading list and receive a list of books picked specially for you by one of our librarians.

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Laugh a Little, at the Library

By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Airplane!I hope you’ve been laughing, because April is National Humor Month. What better time to look at some of the funniest movies of all time.

What any one individual thinks is funny is a matter of personal opinion. There are many lists of the funniest films, but no two lists include the exact same titles. Comparing the all-time greatest comedy films as judged by the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com/list/ls000551766/) and the American Film Institute (www.afi.com/100Years/laughs.aspx), only five films appear among the top ten of both lists. They are:

Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” 1964, directed by Stanley Kubrick. This dark comedy satirizes Cold War fears of nuclear war. Air Force General Jack Ripper believing that the Soviets have used the fluoridation of drinking water to pollute Americans’ “precious bodily fluids,” orders bombers to deliver a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. The President of the United States (Peter Sellers), his advisers, and the Joint Chiefs are successful in recalling or assisting the Soviets in destroying all the bombers, but one. The Dr. Strangelove of the title (Peter Sellers again) is a former Nazi scientist who hasn’t quite resigned himself to the fact that he’s no longer working for der fuhrer.

Annie Hall,” 1977, directed by Woody Allen. In this romantic comedy, comedian Alvy Singer (Allen) falls in love with nightclub singer Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). Alvy’s insecurities sabotage the affair, unfortunately, driving Annie to Los Angeles with a new life and lover. Realizing that he may lose Annie forever, Alvy braves the LA freeways to recapture the only thing that ever mattered to him, true love.

Duck Soup,” 1933, directed by Leo McCarey. In this Marx Brothers classic, Groucho (Rufus T. Firefly) is president of small, bankrupt Freedonia, a country in dire need of financial assistance. Neighboring Sylvania, in an effort to annex Freedonia, sends in spies Chico (Chicolini) and Harpo (Pinky) to infiltrate the Freedonian government. In the process Chicolini is made Secretary of War. War is declared and a hilarious battle ensues. Classic comic sequences include the mirror scene in which Pinky dressed as Firefly pretends to be Firefly’s reflection in a missing mirror.

Blazing Saddles,” 1974, directed by Mel Brooks. Its 1874 and the railroad is coming through the town of Rock Ridge. Governor Le Petomane (Brooks) and Attorney General Hedley Lemarr (Harvey Gorman) scheme to drive the citizens of Rock Ridge away from their homes and drive down the price of land by hiring a black man, Bart (Cleavon Little), to be their sheriff. Facing a hostile reception, Bart teams up with recovering alcoholic gunslinger The Waco Kid (Gene Wilder) to save the town. If you’ve seen this movie, you’ll remember the campfire scene.

Airplane!,” 1980, directed by David and Jerry Zucker. In this parody of the disaster film genre, traumatized ex-combat pilot, Ted Striker (Robert Hays) nervously boards a Chicago to Los Angeles flight to win back his wartime girlfriend, flight attendant Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty). After contracting food poisoning from the fish served for dinner, both the pilot and co-pilot are incapacitated. It falls to Striker to fly the plane, assisted from the ground by his former commanding officer, Rex Kramer (Robert Stack), and an odd assortment of air traffic controllers.

In additional to the official list, here are a few of the titles that library staff consider to be among the funniest films of all time.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” 1975, directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. The troupe of Monty Python’s Flying Circus take on the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

The Sandlot,” 1993, directed by David Mickey Evans. In 1962, Scotty Smalls learns to play baseball and much more in this coming of age story.

Groundhog Day,” 1993, directed by Harold Ramis. Weather man Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is stuck in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, reliving Groundhog Day over and over and over again.

Young Frankenstein,” 1974, directed by Mel Brooks. Frankenstein’s grandson, Frederick (Gene Wilder) inherits his family’s estate in Transylvania and resumes his grandfather’s experiments in reanimating dead tissue.

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Books That Sarah Made Me Read

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager

The Thirteenth TaleAround my house, we call Sarah “the book pusher.” I have several friends who exchange recommendations, but Sarah takes it a step further. She starts with “You have to read this book.” I respond politely, putting it on my list of books I might get around to. But then she checks up on me. This would be annoying, except that she’s always right. Each and every one has turned out to be an amazing book that I can’t put down and lingers with me for weeks after I finish. You would think I would eventually learn to stop fighting the recommendation magic and maybe this article is a turning point to acceptance. Hopefully, you will be more open to the treasures than I have been as I share with you the books that Sarah made me read.

In The Fault in Our Stars John Green explores what life is like for a teen with cancer – both the good and the bad. Sixteen-year-old Hazel has been dealing with a terminal cancer diagnosis for three years and she’s depressed. Her doctor recommends Cancer Kid Support Group, where she meets Augustus. The two of them become fast friends and show us that, even in the midst of the pain and fear of cancer, there can be love, joy, and adventure.

Katherine Howe takes us back to 17th century Salem, Massachusetts in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. While going through her grandmother’s things after her death in 1991, Connie Goodwin comes across a scrap of paper with the name “Deliverance Dane,” setting off a hunt into her family’s past. Alternating chapters go back and forth between Connie and Deliverance, a woman accused of witchcraft. Howe creates a gripping story, as well as an insightful look into the context of the lives of women during the witch-hunt period of American history.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles teaches us how to make the best of a bad situation. In Moscow in 1922, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to house arrest. Fortunately, his current residence is the luxurious Metropol Hotel. Even after being moved to a more austere room, Rostov manages to find delight in expanding his social circle and appreciating the small pleasures in life.

In The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, Vida Winter is a world famous author, but has scattered inconsistent details about her life. Now that she is unwell, she agrees to finally reveal the truth. Winter reveals to her biographer, Margaret, an eerie narrative of mysterious sisters, a tragic fire, and disturbing specters.

I’m especially drawn to mysteries with great characters, and Louise Penny fits the bill with the Chief Inspector Gamache series, starting with Still Life. When Jane Neal, beloved retired teacher, is found dead in the woods on Thanksgiving Day, Armand Gamache is called to the scene. With a humble demeanor and excellent listening skills, he immerses himself in the small community to solve the crime. The complex characters and the insight into rural Québec make for an engaging story.

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild is a charming romance that doesn’t read like a romance. Annie McMorrow is 31, just lost her boyfriend, and is struggling to establish her career as a chef. When she picks up a dusty painting in a junk shop, her life and her apartment are turned upside down. Exploring both the intrigue of the art world and a passion for good food, Rothschild creates an absorbing novel that truly satisfies.

Even librarians get in a reading rut. We all get comfortable with our genres and rarely venture out. Fortunately, I have friends who keep my suggestion list full. If you ever need a suggestion, stop by the Reference Desk on the 2nd floor of the library and we will gladly help you out.

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YA Books About Mental Health That Get It Right

By Rachael Schmidtlein, Teen & Tween Services Coordinator

I Was HereLet me start off by explaining that I have a weird number of friends who are nurses and a disproportionate number of those nurses work in pediatrics. Recently, one of those nurses frustratingly ranted to me about how the number of suicides they handle by people between the ages of 11 and 18 has increased exponentially since she began her career four years ago.

Medical professionals have all sorts of statistics about the correlation between suicide rates and certain times of year and other contributing factors. The sad fact of the matter is that today’s teens are experiencing mental health issues in a world where encountering mental illness comes with a stigma. Thus, we have mentally ill teens who don’t know where to find the resources to help themselves. As a teen librarian (aka professional nerd who thinks teens are awesome), I want to help.

Luckily for us, Manhattan is a place where that stigma seems to be dissipating. In the 2015 Community Needs Assessment done by the City of Manhattan, Manhattanites rated availability to mental health care among the top needs in the city. The library administration took that statistic very seriously. Keep an eye out for future programming and events at the library that help support people in need of mental health care.

In the meantime, check out this list of Young Adult books that get it right:

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness is about the kids who aren’t the chosen ones. You know, the chosen ones: the kids at school who are at the heart of every paranormal, romantic, dystopian-esq happening. This book is not their story. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is the story of the other kids, the normal kids, who are just trying to graduate from high school, avoid their parents and kiss their high school crush before the indie kids blow up the school, again. Mr. Ness does a really good job of discussing dysfunctional families, mental illness and LGBTQ relationships with humor and wit.

Sarah Dessen won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults this year. When it comes to YA books about contemporary teen issues, her titles are a great place to start. Dessen’s Just Listen tackles the hard topics of mental illness and sexual assault. The main character, Annabel, is battling a sister with a dangerous eating disorder, a family in disarray, and a horrible secret. The story leads you along the ride that Annabel takes in order to reclaim her life and her voice. Her introspection makes the journey that readers take worth it.

In I Was Here by Gayle Forman, Cody is devastated when her best friend, Meg, commits suicide. While helping pack up Meg’s things in her college town, she begins to learn that there was a lot she didn’t know about her best friend. Still not believing that her friend would end her own life, Cody decides to dig deeper into what really happened. Her journey is painful and sad but ultimately redeeming. This story is very hard to read, but even more difficult to put down; definitely a read for more mature teens.

The term “mental health” encompasses a wide variety of issues and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is often overlooked as an insignificant disability. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone tackles the difficulties of OCD head on. Samantha hides the constant stream of obsessive worries and dark thoughts beneath a perfect exterior of her popular but fake friends. A new friend offers a reprieve from the daily struggles of her disorder. The story maintains a good read while respectfully handling a mental illness that effects so many people.

If nonfiction is more your style, you should considering reading Out of Order: Young Adult Manual of Mental Illness and Recovery by Dale Carson. This title is comprehensive with a capitol “C” and full of personal accounts, advice and counseling options. You really can’t go wrong with this one.

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

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Dodge City at Its Wildest

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American WestTom Clavin’s latest nonfiction book, Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterton, and the Wickedest Town in the American West, has appeal on multiple levels.  It’s a thrilling western, with all of the shootouts, heroes, and villains you’ll find in well-written fiction.  It’s also an almost unbelievable tale of actual historical events that helped shape the West.  And it’s a remarkable window on our Kansas heritage.

The story takes place in the 1870s.  For many years, the cattle drives from Texas had used Dodge City (among other Kansas towns) as a final stopping point for the herds.  After long hours on dusty trails, the newly paid cowboys were ready for a celebration that usually involved quite a bit of drinking and some unplanned gunplay.  And the building of the rail lines, with Dodge City as a connecting point between cattle herds and a shipping hub, spurred rapid growth.  Buffalo hunters also frequently visited the town, and they, too, took part in the celebrations. Fairly quickly, Dodge became a rough and violent town with several drinking establishments and a profitable trade in prostitution.   In fact, census records indicate that, at one time, there were nearly 50 prostitutes in a town with a population of only about 700.

It was also something of a magnet for criminals looking for quick money.  Characters like Dynamite Sam and Dirty Sock Jack were known for their unpredictable behavior, and it was up to the newly hired law enforcement to control such threats.  And that’s when Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson came into the picture.

Wyatt was drawn to Dodge City because a brother and a sister-in-law had already set up a successful brothel, a business that was not illegal as long as it was kept under control.  Wyatt was attracted by the salary and had some experience in law enforcement in Wichita.  Bat had had enough of buffalo hunting and skirmishes with Native Americans, and he’d nearly been killed in a saloon shootout that left him disabled for some time, so he needed a change in location.

Neither of the young men was particularly frightened by the new responsibilities.  In an early encounter with unruly cowboys ready to celebrate the end of the trail with guns blazing, Wyatt singled out the major troublemaker and punched him twice before the man could pull a gun.  The now-unconscious cowboy was an immediate deterrent for his friends.  Bat, too, had a lack of patience toward crime.  Upon learning that robber Robert Dirty Dave and his followers had been spotted near Dodge, Bat formed a posse and braved blizzard conditions to arrest them and send them to trial.  Bat also served as a partner in the Lone Star Dance Hall and Saloon, so he was making a decent living.

One the factors in the tremendous appeal of this book is author Clavin’s ability to tell a good story.   He not only alludes to events in Dodge, but he also supplies ample background.  We learn, for example, that the only woman buried on Boot Hill was a woman named Alice Chambers.  “Squirrel Tooth Alice,” as she was known, was a local prostitute who became famous when gusty winds pulled several dollars from her stockings.  Local tramps spent the next several hours looking for the dollars with little luck.  Given the high rates of sexual disease and physical abuse, most prostitutes died young, and Alice was no exception.  She suffered an early death due to undisclosed circumstances.

Another appealing factor is Clavin’s insistence on solid research.  When unsure about actual events, he advises readers that eyewitnesses reported events as he presents them.  Clavin is also unwilling to whitewash the lives of his characters.  He reminds us that both Wyatt and Bat made plenty of mistakes on their own, especially when he alludes to Wyatt’s criminal past.

Ultimately, you will be amazed at the colorful characters and events, both tragic and hilarious, who visited Dodge City in the late 1870s.  While other books and ample films have portrayed the West as it may have been, Clavin’s admirable history fleshes out a West that really was.

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The Modern Face of Feminism

By Vivienne Uccello, Public Relations Coordinator

How to Be a WomanAccording to author Rebecca Solnit, women have a long way to go before they are treated as equals to men.

In her book Men Explain Things to Me, Solnit cites alarming statistics about violence against women that back up her claim. One such fact, confirmed by the Center for Disease Control, Women’s Health USA, WebMD, and other reliable sources, is that murder is the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the United States today. This information shocked me and prompted me to investigate the topic of modern feminism.

Solnit’s book begins with a funny but frustratingly familiar anecdote about her experience at a social gathering in Aspen, Colorado. The male host of the party pulls Rebecca aside, asks her what she does for a living, then proceeds to educate her about a fascinating book he recently discovered. The book happens to be her own work, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West. But so convinced is he that a woman could not possibly have been the author that Rebecca’s friend has to interrupt him saying “That’s her book” five times before he will believe it.

The host is embarrassed when he learns he has been explaining something to the person who literally “wrote the book” on it. Rebecca leaves the party ready to dismiss the mistake, but instead she decides to delve a little deeper into the circumstances which created the all-too-familiar situation. Why was it so easy for the host to assume he knew more than she did? Why did she initially take the bait, reacting in a “typical female way” by failing to stand up for herself?

Solnit’s initial essay exploring those questions went viral in 2008, and is credited with inspiring the term “mansplaining.” She compiled several more essays about gender equality and released the collection as Men Explain Things to Me in 2014.

To continue my quest, I checked out How to Be a Woman by humorist Caitlin Moran. This was a lighter read and provided a bit of a break. Moran’s book is full of relatable stories and personal anecdotes which highlight some of the struggles women experience. She shared her memories honestly and with wit, and because of her openness, her book is likely to make you feel less alone in the world. I would not recommend it as a particularly “feminist text,” but it was insightful and personal, and I enjoyed the book.

Searching for another work which would embody feminist ideals, I picked up the classic Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan and my socks were knocked off.

Friedan wrote this groundbreaking work in 1963 and is credited for igniting a revolution. She called the typical expectations and roles assigned to women “soft prisons (which) destroyed the human identity.” She advocated for women to stand up, fight for their own sense of humanity and importance, and not be silenced.

Friedan went on to found the National Organization for Women. She was adamant that women should find their own voice through self-actualization and empowerment. She wrote “Men are not the enemy, but fellow victims. The real enemy is women’s denigration of themselves.” I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It explores underlying issues still facing women and men today, such as personal fulfillment, career vs. family responsibilities, and identity.

If you have a young person in your life who may not be ready to take on the challenge of Feminine Mystique, a new book for young adult audiences has been flying off the shelves. Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World by Kelly Jensen is a compilation of works by forty-four different artists; each contributor shares ideas and stories in a scrapbook format. The works encourage teens to explore identity and cultural norms by challenging perspectives. I appreciated that the book offered many different views, even some which contradicted each other, thus further encouraging readers to think critically.

One important point I want to stress about feminism and Women’s History Month is that stories by and about women are not relevant only to women. Each work I read has relevance for humans trying to live on the planet together, and I encourage people of all backgrounds to read them.

Posted in: Adult Services, For Adults, Mercury Column, News, Uncategorized, Young Adult Dept

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Good Reads for Young Naturalists and Outdoor Lovers

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager

The Dog, RayEarly spring days of tree buds and hungry birds make me look for books that include the outdoors.  Here are some great new children’s books for nature lovers.

Applesauce Weather by award-winning poet Helen Frost is a gentle story made of poems that surround the reader like a soft fall breeze. Faith knows her Uncle Arthur will arrive when the first apple falls from the apple tree, but this year is different because Aunt Lucy is not there with him. Uncle Arthur seems to have lost his stories and his twinkle, but Faith is determined to help him find them both again.  Frost delicately shares this short story of family love and grief, of weather and trees and grass beneath your feet.  Applesauce Weather would be a perfect family read-aloud under a shady tree this spring.

For a page-turning adventure, try Linda Coggin’s The Dog, Ray.  When 12-year-old Daisy meets an unfortunate end, her soul is returned to earth for unfinished business. What makes things tricky is that she returns as a dog. As she makes new friends, she is adopted by a loving homeless boy who names her Ray and sticks with her through danger and uncertainty.  They travel many miles together, both searching for what they need, until Ray remembers less and less what she came for but fulfills her duty as a dog—to protect her family.

In Otherwise Known as Possum by Maria D. Laso, Possum Porter is a rough and tumble tomboy who soaks up country life with her best dog friend, Traveler, and her best human friend, Tully, by her side. But this story begins just after Momma has passed away, along with the new baby, leaving Possum at the mercy of the nosy Town Ladies who are apt to convince Daddy that “LizBetty” needs a proper education.  Shooting pecans from her slingshot while sitting under Momma’s tree, Possum notices, “The Town Ladies were back: It was them Traveler’d heard. They’d swooped onto the porch, all black wings and beady eyes like giant crows, beaks fixing to stick into our business. I considered taking a shot. After all, a crow is a crow, and I have dead-keen aim, on account of I am naturally gifted for such things.” Possum’s honest, rebellious voice is sure to strike a chord with many kids, as she navigates the social hierarchy of the one-room school house, loses friends, makes friends, and saves her daddy from a romance…with the teacher, no less!

Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King is sort of a “boy and his dog” book, except that the critter Obe Devlin has found is not a dog. It is not a cat, possum, pig, or anything Obe has ever seen before. In fact, as Obe reached out to touch it for the first time, he felt it “was totally, unquestionably, certainly, worryingly not a dog.”  Obe is bullied by the kids in his neighborhood so he avoids them and instead spends time at Devlin Creek, pulling out the trash other people have dropped in. When he befriends the plastic-eating animal he names Marvin Gardens, Obe has even more reason to protect the Devlin land, and all of nature, from the pollution and urbanization threatening to take over.  Kids will find an unlikely heroic pair in Obe and Marvin.

Young scientists may also enjoy checking out the library’s Nature Discovery Pack, one of 20 backpacks kids can check out on various themes. The Nature pack includes books such as How Does a Seed Sprout, Nature Ranger, and Crinkleroot’s Guide to Giving Back to Nature. Each pack has media and activities, and this one comes with a Magic School Bus DVD, children’s binoculars and textured rubbing plates to create a nature art project.

Kids can join us during spring break this week for a Nature Storytime at 11:00 on Thursday, and ZooFari Tails Storytime at 10:00 on Friday.  Other events include kids’ yoga, CanTEEN, Chess Club and a free kids’ movie.  Check the library calendar for details.

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

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