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Valiant Ambition: Nathaniel Philbrick Brings History Alive

by Marcia Allen, Collection Development

Though it was published some fifteen years ago, Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea has remained a terrific account of 19th century whaling adventures, complete with day-to-day details of the hardship, cannibalism and the mayhem caused by a violent sperm whale.  In fact, Philbrick’s account of the true tale that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick netted the National Book Award that year for the quality of its dramatic recreation of that period in history.  That was but one bestselling historical account that Philbrick produced.  In 2007, he released yet another stirring tale, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War.  Steeped in violence and treacherous relationships, this one presents an account of early colonization that is much more realistic than what some histories would have us believe.  This book, too, earned widespread attention for readers around the world, was a finalist for the Pulitzer, and made the New York Times Book Review top ten of the year.

If you consider Philbrick one of your favorite nonfiction authors as I do, you’ll love his latest account that just came out this May.  Valiant Ambition traces the events of the Revolutionary War with the author’s usual candor and painstaking research, and what a story it is. Here’s what you might like about the book:

First of all, Benedict Arnold is one of the key players.  Long considered a traitor and unscrupulous human being, Arnold was initially one of the better generals under Washington’s command.  He was a courageous fighter and a seasoned combat veteran who strongly believed in the American cause.  He was the victim of political maneuverings that he could not stomach, and he came to resent being passed over for the promotions which he deserved.  Thus, Philbrick’s Arnold is a flawed but skilled commander who could not accept the deceit of those in power.

Obviously, George Washington is the leading figure in the book, but the image of the dignified and courageous leader that history has often portrayed him is absent, at least in the early part of the book.  At first an unseasoned commander, Washington made horrendous mistakes in leadership that could have easily cost the American forces the war.  In fact, he once intercepted a letter, not intended for his eyes, in which one American leader was highly critical of his botched combat tactics.

There is the also the added drama of accounts of the many witnesses that brings the battles to life.  Included, for example, is John Greenwood’s account of the siege of Trenton during which he saw the horse pulling the Americans’ only artillery struck by a six-pound cannonball.   Greenwood also tells of the panic when the Americans realized their soaked weapons would not fire, so they were forced to mount a bayonet charge against the trained Hessians they feared so much.

In addition, there is this intriguing playing out of strategy throughout the book.  We learn, for example, that British General Howe didn’t really want to engage the American forces in battle in the early days of the war.  Because of the inexperience, the high death rates, and the heavy losses of cannons and cannonballs, the American cause was viewed as a failure from the beginning.  Howe felt that all he had to do was wait for the inevitable.  We discover that Washington learned to focus on maneuverings that were the least expected.  One prime example was his re-taking of Princeton.  That operation succeeded because he led his troops at night to the rear of the British forces, only to attack on slippery, frozen fields at the break of day.

What makes this book as much a resounding success as the other Philbrick books is its attention to the way events and personalities really were.  Philbrick is a master of research, (see the 28 pages of his bibliography), and this vivid tale gives us the personality flaws, the glaring mistakes, and the horrors of that long ago war.  Magnificent reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Debut Authors to Freshen Up Your Reading List

by Rhonna Hargett – Adult Services Manager

We’ve put away the coats and sweaters and pulled out the sandals and shorts. It’s time to tuck winter away and breathe in the fresh air of spring. Along with the new leaves, flowers, and grass, this is a great time to freshen up your reading with new authors. At Manhattan Public Library we have some fantastic books by debut authors that will invigorate your transition into summer.

In Dodgers by Bill Beverly, East, 15-year-old gang member from LA is sent on a road-trip to kill a witness in Wisconsin. Traveling in a minivan with three other gang members, including his younger brother, he is unprepared for the lessons forced upon him about his own identity and how he fits into the world around him. This bildungsroman/crime/road novel will appeal to fans of HBO’s The Wire.

Julie McElwain delivers mystery and romance with A Murder in Time. While FBI agent Kendra Donovan attempts to wreak revenge upon the criminal who killed her fellow agents, she is accidentally transported to 1815. She attempts to adapt to her surroundings, jumping in to offer her assistance in solving a murder. Described by Library Journal as “absolutely captivating,” McElwain leaves us in anxious anticipation for sequel.

When a naked newborn girl is found in the snow, 8-year-old Aurelia Vennaway takes her home and insists that her wealthy and unkind parents take the baby in. As they grow, Aurelia and the newly named Amy Snow grow to be the best of friends. When Aurelia dies unexpectedly, she leaves a letter that sends Amy on a treasure hunt to unlock a long-held secret. Set in Victorian England, Amy Snow by Tracy Rees delivers a tale of friendship and intrigue.

On a lighter note, Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen shows how one little black dress brings a bit of magic to the lives of nine women. From a Bloomingdale’s sales clerk mooning over her ex to a Brown grad with no job but a fabulous fake life on social media, all their lives are touched in this laugh-out-loud delight of a book. A great read for those who adored the movie Love Actually.

In We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenridge, Laurel Freeman is recruited by the Toneybee Institute to use their sign language skills to teach a chimpanzee named Charlie to speak. She and her family welcome Charlie into their home, not realizing how the relationship will interfere or the questionable background of the institute. Exploring issues of race, religion and communication, Greenridge’s novel exhibits her deft storytelling skills.


Rush Oh!
by Shirley Barrett takes us back to 1908 in New South Wales, Australia. Mary Davidson is responsible for the care of her five younger siblings, as well as cooking for the members of her father’s whaling crew. In this view into the domestic side of whaling, Barrett shares some of the nitty-gritty details, humorous tales, and Mary’s romance with a former Methodist minister on her father’s crew.

Shelter by Jung Yun explores the dilemma of Kyung Cho, a college professor who is drowning in debt. He resists moving his family to live with his wealthy, abusive parents, but is beginning to accept this as his best option. When his parents are the victims of a brutal crime, they instead move in with him, creating a stew of resentment and tensions. Booklist calls Yun’s debut “a work of relentless psychological sleuthing and sensitive insight.”

Yaa Gyasi’s saga Homegoing covers seven generations in Ghana and the United States, starting with the half-sisters Effia and Esi. Alternating chapters tell the stories of Effia’s life married to a British colonizer and Esi’s captured into slavery in the American South and of the descendants that followed them. Reminiscent of Alex Haley’s Roots or Lalita Tademy’s Cane River, Homegoing is painful at times, but Gyasi’s beautiful use of language skillfully considers how individual lives can shape the fabric of a nation.

Find out more about these titles at www.mhklibrary.org. If you would like to get the scoop on upcoming titles, go to our Books page to sign up for newsletters that we email out each month.

 

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Cookies Anyone?

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Who doesn’t want a cookie right now? Children, adults, even big, blue, furry monsters love cookies. They can be round, square, flat, fat, soft, crisp, with nuts, chocolate, coconut, or fruit. The cookie combinations are endless. Everyone has their favorite, but the most popular cookie in the United States is the chocolate chip variety. Today, 25% of all the cookies baked in the United States are chocolate chip.

The library is the place to go for cookie cookbooks. “The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book,” by Carolyn Wyman offers a fun, historical perspective on this popular cookie. She traces the development of the chocolate chip cookie from its 1930 inception at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, and expands it to include recipes inspired by cookbooks, chefs, and businesses. She also profiles famous cookie makers such as Otis Spunkmeyer and Famous Amos.

 

Nothing says love like a warm, home-made cookie. In today’s busy world, however, we sometimes have to settle for store-bought. Not to worry. Christi Farr Johnstone shows how to jazz up those store-bought cookies in “Smart Cookie: Transform Store-Bought Cookies into Amazing Treats.” By following the 50 decorating designs included, readers of all ages can turn store-bought cookies into eye-catching custom creations. In each project, Johnstone presents easy techniques so that the recipes require minimal time and equipment and no baking.

For those of us short on time there is also “Slice and Bake Cookies: Fast Recipes from your Refrigerator or Freezer,” by Elinor Klivans. The author shares 50 recipes that are quick to mix up, stash in the refrigerator or freezer, and have ready when the cookie monster in your house raises his hungry head. Included are classics such as old-fashioned oatmeal raisin cookies and Linzer hearts, and modern takes on savory cookies and crackers.

There’s a cookie recipe for every day of the year, and you can sample them all in “The Daily Cookie: 365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of your Life.” Blogger and Pillsbury Bake-Off grand prize-winner Anna Ginsberg includes recipes for cookies, brownies, and bars for celebrating major holidays and every-day events. Her categorical indexes make it easy for readers to browse recipes by type, pan size, or batch size.

 

Cookies can be plain or fancy. For those looking for a truly high class cookie, look no farther than “The Gourmet Cookie Book,” by the publishers of “Gourmet” magazine. This book includes the Gourmet Magazine’s best cookie recipe for every year from 1941 through 2009. The recipes reflect changes in American tastes, such as the prevalence of coconut in the 1960s, and espresso in the 1990s.

Whether you called their biscuits or biscottis, cookies are a world-wide phenomenon. Try out some of the many recipes included in “Cookies: 1,001 Mouthwatering Recipes from Around the World,” by the publishers of “Reader’s Digest.” All kinds of cookies are represented: drop cookies, rolled cookies, brownies, icebox cookies, tea cakes, macaroons and more. Following the recipes in this book, an ambitious baker could bake a different cookie every weekend for 19 years without repeating a recipe.

Sometimes it’s a challenge getting the cookies in the oven before the cookie dough is eaten, raw eggs and all. Lindsay Landis offers an egg-free alternative in her “The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook.” Using her cookie dough, you can make dozens of delicious cookie dough creations from cakes, pies, candies, and even cookies.

May 15 is National Chocolate Chip Day. Ruth Graves Wakefield’s creation of the original chocolate chip cookie was a happy accident. Ruth intended to bake chocolate cookies for her guests, but she ran out of baker’s chocolate. When she substituted chopped up semi-sweet chocolate, she discovered that the pieces did not melt into the dough as she expected. Her cookies were an instant hit, and they still are today.

 

 

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We Like Sports and We Don’t Care Who Knows

by Amber Johnson, Youth Librarian

With only a few weeks left of school, the Youth Services Department at Manhattan Public Library is gearing up for the summer reading program and all the summer events planned for children of all ages.  Parents: you might be gearing up for summer in a different way, stocking your minivans with snacks and sports equipment, preparing for a summer of activities with your children.  For many students, summer is the time to try out a new activity or improve their skills in their favorite sport.  With NBA finals in motion, are your children obsessed with the Golden State Warriors?  We have books for them.  Do your children watch the Royals and wonder how Alcides Escobar knows how to make such great plays?  We have books for them.  Here are a few of my favorite titles about sports:

Jake Maddox series

An early chapter book series, the Jake Maddox books are perfect for students reading at a kindergarten to 2nd grade level.  Book topics range from dance to football to paintball.  Each book takes place over just a few days, so the comprehension level is low, but the action level is high.

Comeback Kids series by Mike Lupica

As a sports columnist for many publications, Mike Lupica knows how to write and talk about sports.  But in his Comeback Kids series, it is evident that he knows how to write about life as well.  This middle grade series, recommended for 2nd-4th grade reading levels, details the sports lives and personal lives of students.  As they deal with issues at home or issues at school, playing on a team gives them an escape and a way to process how life works and how to become the person they want to be.

Baseball Great series by Tim Green

Similar to the Comeback Kids series but for older readers, Tim Green pairs sports and personal issues to offer books that will entertain sports lovers, and give them a gateway to reading other types of realistic fiction.  Green’s books are full of action, and readers will enjoy the play-by-play of the games being experienced by the characters.

Nonfiction series about teams and athletes

The Children’s Library has many series and books on individual athletes and professional sports teams.  Look in the general non-fiction section under the call number 796, or ask a librarian to help you find a specific title.

Parents and caregivers: the library has books for you as well.  Whether you are spending hours on the bleachers at games, or traveling to weekend tournaments, there are multiple ways to access audiobooks for free.  Check out a physical copy of an audiobook on CD, download from the Sunflower eLibrary, or download the Hoopla app to access even more free titles.  Here are a few titles you might enjoy listening to:

Those Guys Have All the Fun by James Andrew Miller

A compilation of over 500 interviews, this history of the sports media tycoon that is ESPN brings to light just how it grew to be what it is today.

Wonder Girl by Don Van Natta, Jr.

Babe Didrikson was quite possibly the most phenomenal female athlete of the early 20th century.  After achieving All-American status in basketball and winning gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Olympics, she moved on to try her hand at golf.  Finding success there as well, she used her skill and influence to make a name for women in sports and conquered personal difficulties in the public eye.

The Long Run by Matt Long

New York City firefighter Matt Long suffered a tragic accident that had him in the hospital for five months, enduring through more than 40 operations.  After being told he would be lucky to walk again, Long went on to run the NYC marathon a mere three years later.  The Long Run details the physical and psychological difficulties that he faced during this journey.

Summer can be a rich time for students and parents, and the library is here to help you make the most of your time.  Ask a librarian for help finding your next great book or audiobook.

 

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Garden for Wildlife

Janet Ulrey, Adult Services Librarian

Gardens are a wonderful way of gaining joy from the outside world. The visual beauty of flowers and plants is pleasing to the eye, but when a butterfly drops in for a visit, another dimension is added to heighten your gratification. It doesn’t matter if you have an apartment balcony or a 20-acre farm, a garden that attracts beautiful wildlife and helps restore habitat can be created. The month of May is “Garden for Wildlife” month, so, it is a fitting time to plant your own wildlife-friendly garden. Find significant resources at the library to help you get started.

“Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants” by Douglas Tallamy, will get you off to a great start. Tallamy indicates that the gardener plays an important role in the management of our nation’s wildlife. The plants in your garden attract insects which are necessary to attract wildlife. He tells us which particular insects are best to have in your garden and what particular plants will lure them. This is a comprehensive book that will also help you decide which native plants will work best for your area to draw in desired wildlife.

What is more native to the garden than the bee? “The Bee-Friendly Garden: Design an Abundant, Flower-Filled Yard that Nurtures Bees and Supports Biodiversity” by Kate Frey, is filled with beautiful photos. Frey tells us that spending time in a bee garden can be a source of pleasure, as well as therapy in your own backyard. Bee-friendly gardens also attract butterflies, moths, bats, and hummingbirds. It’s important to remember that bees provide many benefits, and they only sting when provoked.

Wildlife that you expect to see in the backyard are birds. “Backyard Birding: Using Natural Gardening to Attract Birds” by Julie Zickefoose, explains what type of plants you’ll need for different types of birds. The plants invite birds to the yard because of the food or shelter that they provide. Water is especially important to keep birds coming back, and Zickefoose shares some creative ways for you to supply the water they need. No matter which birds frequent your backyard, the experience of sharing your plot of earth with them will be rewarding.

Whether you want to attract birds, bats, or butterflies, “Welcoming Wildlife to the Garden: Creating Backyard and Balcony Habitats for Wildlife” by Catherine Johnson is an impressive asset. She not only shares which plants you should grow to entice the wildlife of your choice, but also gives simple instructions for building feeders, nesting boxes, and arbors.

The garden is an awe-inspiring place for children to discover nature. In April Pulley Sayre’s book “Touch a Butterfly: Wildlife Gardening with Kids”, simple steps are given that families can follow to create their own wildlife habitat. April reminds us that sound is often the first clue to the presence of wildlife. Children learn to listen, then look for the creatures that have tickled their ears. She also points out that the winter garden is a place of discovery; footprints in the snow give substantial clues to the wildlife that visit and can be a magnificent source of entertainment. Sharing life in a garden with children is sure to be lots of fun.

In this book, “Nature-Friendly Garden: Creating a Backyard Haven for Plants, Wildlife, and People” by Marlene Condon, the author not only gives insight on how to attract the right kind of insects, but also gives guidance in selecting the right binoculars for up-close viewing. Ms. Condon likes to use nesting boxes in her garden. As a result, she has seen eastern screech-owls, southern flying squirrels, and opossum take-up residency in them. She tells us that a gardener must plan to coexist with wildlife as well as their predators to make gardens imitative of the natural world.

There are many other selections available at the library to help you attract and enjoy wildlife in your own backyard. Why not get started today?

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All That Jazz @ the Library

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Celebrate International Jazz Day this April 30. In 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), designated April 30 as International Jazz Day. Its purpose was to bring communities, schools, artists, historians, academics, and jazz enthusiasts from all over the world together to celebrate and learn about jazz. This year’s global host city for International Jazz Day is Washington, D.C.

But you don’t have to travel to D.C. to learn about and experience jazz. Manhattan Public Library has an extensive collection of jazz music cds, as well as books and dvds, and thousands of items in the genre for streaming.

Experience jazz through film by checking out “Jazz,” by documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns. The ten dvd set presents the history of jazz from its birth in New Orleans, through the Big Band era, modern jazz, and the fusion of jazz and rock and roll. Along the way, you’ll hear selections from about 500 pieces of music. “Jazz: a History of America’s Music,” by Geoffrey C. Ward, is the companion volume to Burns’ film.

In the same vein, “Jazz,” by music critic Gary Giddings and historian Scott Deveaux has traced the development of jazz from its nineteenth-century precursors to the present. The authors present the story of jazz in the broader cultural, political, social, and economic factors of the times. The book includes a detailed glossary, as well as a list of recommended jazz recordings and jazz-related motion pictures and documentaries.

Don’t know your be bop from your downbeat? Beginners to the world of America’s quintessential music will benefit from reading “The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Jazz,” by Loren Schoenberg. This is a concise history of jazz highlighting noteworthy composers and musicians, including a list of the most influential jazz recordings. Also a complete guide to jazz terminology.

If you need something a little simpler, there is always “Jazz for Dummies,” by Dirk Sutro. An informative reference to the music and its musicians, it also includes tips for building your own jazz collection and a list of more than 100 recommended recordings.

When we think of jazz, certain American cities come to mind. New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz; Chicago, where Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke set the standard in the 1920s; New York, where bebop was born in the 1940s; Los Angeles and San Francisco, with the development of the West Coast sound; and, of course, Kansas City.

“Kansas City Jazz,” by Frank Driggs and Chuck Haddix, gives the history of Kaycee jazz from ragtime to bebop. The Kansas City style of jazz developed during the 1930s, and marked the transition from big band orchestration to the improvisation of bebop. Kansas City is considered one of the “cradles of jazz.” Considered one of the most influential jazz saxophone players of all time, Charlie Parker, the Bird, was born in Kansas City. Future band leader, Count Basie played in Kansas City for several years, influencing the development of jazz.

Kansas City is also home to the American Jazz Museum. “Kansas City and All That’s Jazz,” published by the museum is full of historical photographs, and includes several articles about Kansas City jazz in its heyday.

The library has a diverse collection of jazz music cds available for checkout. But you don’t even have to leave your living room to access the more than 14,000 jazz recordings available for streaming through the library’s hoopla service. All you need to access the hoopla collection is a library card. Click the Digital Library link on the library’s web page, go to http://www.hoopladigital.com, or ask a librarian.

For more information about International Jazz Day, go to http://jazzday.com/. For all things jazz, visit the All about Jazz website at http://www.allaboutjazz.com. Next time you’re in the Kansas City area, don’t forget to visit the American Jazz Museum. Go to http://americanjazzmuseum.org for more information.

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 “Weirdo Fiction with a Shot of Southern Gothic Influence”

By Danielle Schapaugh

Not often will you find a witty, southern gothic, heartfelt, fiercely-loving, mystery story featuring Hindu mythology, but that’s just what Joshilyn Jackson’s latest novel “The Opposite of Everyone” has to offer.

Jackson is one of my favorite writers, always surprising readers with plot twists and engaging us with the kind of irreverent humor it takes to overcome hardship.  Her characters are authentic and original, and if you like to get wrapped up in a good story, she is a perfect author for you to explore.

“The Opposite of Everyone,” published in 2016, is the story of Paula Vauss, a smart and smart-mouthed divorce attorney who transformed herself after getting her gypsy-spirited mother arrested and imprisoned. Paula was only ten at the time and she was left to finish growing up in foster care with a new identity shaped by regret.  Her emotional armor expresses itself as sarcasm and outlandish behavior, but never does she seem crass or uncaring.  She’s someone you’ll want to meet. Paula’s mother has many secrets, but her love for her daughter and her unique approach to life and storytelling leave a deep imprint.

Then one day, her mother’s most treasured secret arrives on Paula’s doorstep and she is forced to crack open her armor to search for clues to her past and discover her mother’s whereabouts. This touching story has sharp edges, strong bonds, and a big heart. Paula is actually one of the minor characters from one of Jackson’s earlier novels “Someone Else’s Love Story,” which brings me to my next recommendation.

“Someone Else’s Love Story” is focused on Shandi Pierce and William Ashe.  Shandi is a young woman trying to raise a three-year-old genius, finish college, and keep her complicated life from jumping the rails—when she falls for William, an older man she meets at a gas station hold-up. As funny and “meet cute” as that sounds, this touching story is full of heartbreak, loss, and forgiveness, as well as humor.

None of Jackson’s characters is a flat stereotype, and that might be what I like most about her work. William Ashe, the hot, older-guy-hero Shandi falls for in “Someone Else’s Love Story,” is not just a good looking guy. William is a genetic scientist with Asperger’s. With the help of his best friend from high school (Paula Vauss from “The Opposite of Everyone”) he has learned to adjust. The chapters told from his perspective are full of the mental calculations he performs in order to read social situations, and they are never boring.

Jackson cares about her characters, and never does them the disservice of making even the minor players one-dimensional. In fact, she has another pair of novels that swap characters, and I think you will be interested to read them. Just between us, you should start with these if you are new to Jackson’s work.

The book that made me fall in love with Joshilyn Jackson’s writing is actually her very first novel, “Gods in Alabama.” This is a whopper of a story full of southern charm, grit, and sincerity.

godsThe tale begins with pressure. Arlene Fleet vowed never to return to Alabama, in fact, she made a deal with God about it. If He kept that dead body hidden, she would never again set foot in her hometown, never again see her family, and never again do the things that landed her in the predicament in the first place. Arlene goes about living a good life in Chicago, but unfortunately, neither party is able to hold up their end of the bargain.

Arlene’s family begs her to return. Her long-time boyfriend demands to meet her family.  Then Miss Rose Mae Lolly, who happens to be the former girlfriend of the dead body, shows up at Arlene’s doorstep looking for her lost love.

When you’ve finished “Gods in Alabama,” it’s time to pick up “Backseat Saints” and learn about the life of Miss Rose Mae Lolly. Rose is a hero in her own right, and Jackson will also show you another side of the dead quarterback. She proves, once again, that humans are more complicated and fascinating than we like to assume.

I can’t say enough about Joshilyn Jackson and I want to sum up my esteem for her saying, she’s just a great storyteller and I think you should start exploring her books immediately. Look for her books on the first floor of the Manhattan Public Library in the fiction section or find them at your local bookstore.

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Perfect Weather and Perfect Books to Share

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager

Spring weather has blown in to Manhattan. It’s a time to appreciate Earth’s beauty, head out on the nature trail or spend an evening at the ball diamond. Here are some children’s books that pair nicely with the season.

Greensburg, Kansas is celebrated in Allan Drummond’s newest picture book, Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future. Beginning with the aftermath of the 2007 tornado, Drummond portrays the damaged town, the worried citizens, and the many decisions that had to be made. Children can see how a few bright ideas about rebuilding Greensburg “green” caught on and took hold throughout the whole community. Sidebars give further information about influential townspeople and building sustainable structures. Published just in time for Earth Day, this will be a popular resource for teachers and an inspiration to young students all over the U.S.

Cricket Song by Anne Hunter will set the mood as your day comes to a close. Beautiful illustrations using watercolor and ink show frogs, foxes, otters and whales settling in for their evening. The calming text intertwines animal sounds with poetic prose, perfect for reading aloud to a toddler or preschooler. “The frogs puff their throats full of cool air from the woods, where the poorwill calls poorwill! poorwill! and listens for the footfall of the fox.” The framework of the story connects one sleeping child at the beginning to another sleeping child at the end, with the land and ocean and all the animals between them. Another gorgeous title to share is Kevin Henkes When Spring Comes, with enticing illustrations by Laura Dronzek. Young children are amazed by the green and the blossoms and the critters that come with springtime. Henkes captures this wonder and the joy it brings.

moMo Jackson is the star of a beginning reader series by David Adler, who also writes Cam Jansen mysteries, picture book biographies and a slew of other series. In Get a Hit, Mo!, Mo’s baseball team, the Lions, is playing the Bears. Mo was excited about the game, but after he arrives, he remembers that he is the smallest on his team. He always bats last and is stationed in boring right field. The Bears, on the other hand, look big and strong and they pitch fast. Mo strikes out, not once but twice. Many kids will identify with Mo’s moods and will cheer him on to the very end. Adler, a seasoned writer of beginning readers, has the formula down perfectly with just the right amount of text, controlled vocabulary, and illustrations by Sam Ricks that will clue readers in to the story as they decipher harder words.

Headed out to the park with your “helicopter parent” shoes on? Check out some facts and advice from Heather Shumaker’s It’s OK to Go Up the Slide: Renegade Rules for Raising Confident and Creative Kids, a recent addition to our Parent and Teacher Resource Center. There’s a reason why your child wants to go up the slide. In fact, the urge to take risks or try new challenges is part of healthy development. Shumaker uses her Renegade Golden Rule, “It’s OK if it’s not hurting people or property,” to sort through many situations kids and parents encounter. She tackles topics parents may not have even considered questioning, like talking to strangers or doing homework, and includes a helpful section on limits for screen time. With each new chapter, or “rule,” Shumaker includes examples, facts about child development, and practical tools for parents to try. She provides words to say (and words to avoid), as well as how to “take off your adult lenses” to get past preconceived notions. Chapters can easily be read alone, so busy parents or teachers can read what they need instead of tackling a 300+ page book.

Enjoy the transformation of spring with your kids, and if the wind or rain drives you inside, curl up with a good library book.

 

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The Growth of an American Icon:  Georgia O’Keefe in Fiction

By Marcia Allen, Manhattan Public Library

I’ve always been fond of fictional books like Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank, the story of Mamah Borthwick Cheney’s affair with and influence on Frank Lloyd Wright.  Equally appealing to me was Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, which vividly conveyed the early marriage and the fractured relationship between Ernest and Hadley Hemingway.  What is it about such books?  Probably the intertwining of fact and fiction in telling the lives of famous artists.

And now I’ve discovered another jewel of a book.  Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe by Dawn Tripp is a masterful retelling of the love affair between O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, the famed American photographer who promoted O’Keeffe’s art and eventually married her.  I would highly recommend this new title to readers who are also drawn to similar tales for a variety of convincing reasons.

First, the author does an incredible job of developing O’Keeffe’s style.  Those familiar with her stark New Mexico landscapes and striking flower paintings will note the development of her talent throughout the story.   Her initial efforts promised talent, but her gradual creation of a totally new modern art form didn’t come until later.  Stieglitz recognized her potential early on, and encouraged her work, showing and selling it in his gallery.  The novel conveys this through vivid descriptions of settings that compelled the painter, as well as her frustration with pieces of art that she felt were unsuccessful. Vivid colors and open spaces are key throughout the book.

O’Keefe’s character is equally well rendered.  Always a very independent woman, she fought for her own style.  Extended stays in New Mexico gave her the opportunity to experiment with color and light, and she began collecting bones and rocks that inspired her.  A gradual realization that that landscape was essential to her work led to her many lengthening trips to the area and also to the most famous landscape paintings of her career.  Author Tripp’s descriptions of journeys to the Southwest and her lovely references to O’Keeffe’s favorite sites help us better see her creativity in progress.

More important to the book is O’Keefe’s relationship with Stieglitz.  Following a brief correspondence with him, the painter traveled to New York to show him her work.  The two formed an instant bond, and soon they became lovers, despite his marriage and the wide age gap between them.  A very messy divorce allowed the two to marry later.   As their relationship strengthened, Stieglitz arranged displays of her work and encouraged her to explore different mediums.  He also took the famous photographs of O’Keefe, both clothed and nude, that are still considered classics.  Because of Tripp’s careful research and her talent with the writing, we readers witness the intimacy and complexity in the relationship of two very talented and strong-willed individuals.O'Keeffe photographic portrait by Halsman

Tripp’s account of O’Keeffe’s mental breakdown is heartrending.  This collapse took place in the 1930s when a series of events became unbearable.   A contract to paint a mural in Radio City Music Hall fell through when the construction failed to meet deadlines. Stieglitz’s ongoing love affairs became blatant, and O’Keefe could no longer accept his assurances that she was the love of his life.  She found, too, that his insistence on dominating the direction of her career stifled her independence.  The passages in the book that convey this turmoil are fraught with helplessness and despair.  O’Keeffe experienced a grief that became a physical one, because of the death of her long relationship with Stieglitz.  There’s a sad healing realization toward the end that she had to be alone to fulfill her talent.

Like all books that are so well written and so revealing, this one has sparked my curiosity about the life of O’Keeffe.  I plan to re-read Roxana Robinson’s memorable Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life in the near future.  Author Tripp cites it as one of her research sources for this lovely fictional rendition.  You just might wish to do the same.

 

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BOOKBROWSE: YOUR GUIDE TO EXCEPTIONAL BOOKS

by Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager

Are you a reader who goes beyond the bestseller lists? Are you looking for new books that will enthrall you, that will keep you reading far into the night? Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and inspire you, and that you just can’t wait to share with your friends?

BookBrowse is an award-winning online resource for booklovers that offers an outstanding e-magazine and website that are packed with information about new and forthcoming books for discerning readers. It is available from Manhattan Public Library through the library’s website, it’s completely free and simple to use, and it offers:

  • A twice-monthly newsletter for avid readers, delivered directly to your email inbox
  • Previews of new books and notable authors publishing soon
  • Helpful reviews of the latest books in fiction and non-fiction
  • Recommendations of fiction by genre (mysteries, sci fi, romances) and by setting, time, and theme
  • Thousands of read-alikes by book and by author (as in, “if you liked X, you might also like Y or Z”)
  • Resources for book clubs, including book recommendations and reading and discussion guides
  • A readers’ blog with frequent posts about good books and reading lists
  • One-click direct links to our MPL catalog so you can locate the books that pique your interest and place your requests then and there.

The latest issue of “The BookBrowse Review” arrives in your email inbox automatically twice a month, and it’s a gem! With its new book recommendations, sneak previews of upcoming books, professional and reader reviews, and much more, readers can use it for building their reading lists, placing holds on books in the library, and requesting new purchases for the library’s collection.

As an avid reader myself, as well as someone who is frequently asked for book recommendations, I am a huge fan of the BookBrowse magazine. I’m always happy to see it when it pops up in my inbox and in every issue I find new books I want to check out. It’s a cinch to place requests on them in my MPL account (one click takes me to the catalog) or to submit a suggestion for purchase if the library doesn’t have them yet. The website and readers’ blog are equally fun. Just this week I was delighted to see a post in the BookBrowse blog, “A Spot of Britain: 10 Books Set in Britain,” written for grieving Downton Abbey fans!

But, as they say, don’t just take my word for it.  Here’s what others have said about BookBrowse:

“Bookbrowse gets an ‘A’ for easy-to-use info and smart advice; [it’s] the armchair version of browsing your favorite bookstore.” – Family Circle Magazine.

“[Bookbrowse] offers lengthy excerpts from select popular and literary titles.” – San Francisco Chronicle Best of the Web

“Once I discovered your site…all of my [book club] picks are from your lists and recommendations.  Thank you so much for making it so easy for me and others in our club to make great choices easily.” – Kim

 “Excerpts from the best books for sale now,…and we’re not talking teensy fragments.” – Yahoo Incredibly Useful Site of the Day

 “I have to tell you, when I finally found BookBrowse…I swear a light shone down on my monitor and angels began to sing!” – [the appropriately yclept] Angela

To sign up to receive the “BookBrowse Review” twice a month, or to catch up on previous issues, go to the MPL website at www.mhklibrary.org and click on the Books & More tab. Scroll down to click on the BookBrowse link, and then click on SUBSCRIBE in the “Free Newsletters” box.

Or come to the library and talk to one of the librarians at the second floor Reference Desk about BookBrowse and other readers’ services and guides.  They are trained and eager to help you find something good to read.

 

 

 

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