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Boredom Busting Books for Winter Break

By Grace Benedick, Youth Services Library Assistant

How to Code in 10 Easy LessonsWinter break is approaching and although the weather has been mild, the fact remains: winter break means kids cooped up at home. To help keep cabin-fever at bay, come to the library and stock up on some of these fun books with activities for the indoors.

If your kids are crafty, check out some titles from our Arts and Crafts Neighborhood. Given some duct tape and time, your child can make everything from bags to bracelets following the directions in “Sticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects” by Sophie Maletsky. They can learn the basics of fiber arts in “Knit, Hook, and Spin” by Laurie Carlson, which has sections on felting, knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving and even dyeing, with simple but fun projects. Noisemakers can use household materials to make musical instruments as outlined in “High-Tech DIY Projects with Musical Instruments” by Maggie Murphy. Fans of Star Wars or the Origami Yoda series will love “Art2-D2’s Guide to Folding and Doodling” by Tom Angleberger, which contains origami and drawing instructions for Star Wars characters.

If your kids are more artsy than crafty, they’ll love “Art Lab for Kids: 52 Creative Adventures in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Paper, and Mixed Media” by Susan Schwake, which is chock-full of projects and techniques for elementary-grade artists. Her other book, “Art Lab for Little Kids: 52 Playful Projects for Preschoolers!” will keep the little ones busy.

All the diligent LEGO builders can find inspiration in “The Lego Architect” by Tom Alphin, with photos of wonderful LEGO recreations of famous structures and instructions on making some of the simpler buildings. LEGO architects can challenge themselves with the house and vehicle instructions in “The LEGO Adventure Book” by Megan H. Rothrock or “Awesome LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have” by Sarah Dees, which has instructions for building everything a LEGO aficionado could want: houses, vehicles, furniture, plants, animals, and even LEGO versions of board games.

Kids can combine screen-time with education, while they learn their first computer coding language, building computer games with the instructions in “Coding in Scratch: Games Workbook” by Jon Woodcock. For older kids, there is “How to Code in 10 Easy Lessons” by Sean McManus, which also uses MIT’s Scratch website. Or they can learn to use and hack different kinds of code in “Top Secret: a Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing” by Paul B. Janeczko, with stories about the origin and uses of famous codes and samples of various codes for the reader to decipher.

Budding chefs will enjoy “The Help Yourself Cookbook for Kids” by Ruby Roth. This cookbook has healthy and easy recipes for snacks and a few main dishes that older kids could make by themselves. Then, kids can turn the kitchen into a lab with “Exploring Kitchen Science” by the Exploratorium or “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids” by Liz Lee Heinecke, which both use household items and kitchen ingredients to explore scientific concepts through straightforward experiments.

For fans of picture puzzles, “Art Auction Mystery: Find the Fakes, Save the Sale!” by Anna Nilsen is an advance “look-and-find” book that asks the reader to help solve the mystery and find the forger by comparing images of the original paintings with images of fakes.

No matter what your children enjoy, they can find something at the library to pique their interest over winter break.

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Comics for the Non-Comics Reader

By Crystal Hicks, Adult Services Librarian

How to Fake a Moon LandingNever been into comics? Don’t worry—I wasn’t, either. I’d always felt there was a barrier between me and comics, like you had to be part of an “in club” to understand them, and there was no way I had enough nerd street cred to manage it. This feeling held true for me all the way into adulthood, until I took a class on comics and stumbled into the amazing world of alternative comics. At last, here were comics I could read without knowing decades of arcane DC backstory. Here were comics that explored serious topics, from science and geopolitics to relationships and identity. Here were comics that became art.

The term “alternative comics,” strictly speaking, refers to comics that offer an alternative to the mainstream superhero comics published by Marvel, DC, and other major publishers. Alternative comics come in a wide variety, including your standard fiction offerings, but also venture into nonfiction through memoir, biography, and even explanatory scientific texts. The art can range from all-black outlines to delicately painted watercolor panels, and the art styles can be deceptively simple, ragged and sketchy, or blisteringly complex. There’s a wide, diverse world of alternative comics out there, and I believe it holds something for everyone and every reading taste. Allow me to introduce you.

For me, the most thought-provoking alternative comics feature international affairs, exploring how people interpret and respond to major international crises. The comics format takes politics and makes it understandable; instead of being a complex, distant issue, politics becomes human and relatable through the lenses of comics creators. In Rolling Blackouts, Sarah Glidden details her travels through the Middle East with a team of journalists. As they travel, Glidden learns about the lives of refugees and the effects of war, while also exploring the ideas behind journalism. In The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks, Igort depicts the horrors of life under Soviet rule, while Amir and Khalil’s Zahra’s Paradise brings haunting life to the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election in Iran.

Biographies are another group I was pleasantly surprised to find within comics, and there are always more intriguing biographies to choose from. Steffen Kverneland’s Munch is the most impressive comics biography I’ve seen this year, pulling from many sources to craft an exquisitely bizarre and nuanced portrait of Edvard Munch, the artist best known for “The Scream.” In The Imitation Game, by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis, you can explore the life and science of Alan Turing, the man who cracked the German Enigma code during World War II. For mystery fans, Anne Martinetti’s Agatha depicts the life of Agatha Christie, beginning with her mysterious ten-day disappearance and traveling throughout her life from there.

Comics also can explore the more technical side of nonfiction, in that they combine explanatory text with detailed drawings in order to explain complex ideas to non-scientists. Andy Warner tackles science humorously with Brief Histories of Everyday Objects, looking at everything from toothbrushes and vacuum cleaners to instant ramen and ice cream cones. Darryl Cunningham explains how to tell science myth from science fact in his books How to Fake a Moon Landing and Science Tales. Finally, Philippe Squarzoni’s Climate Changed combines memoir and documentary as Squarzoni researches climate change in an effort to be knowledgeable about this major issue.

On the fiction end of things, comics also excel as a medium for exploring dramas both interpersonal and internal. Moyoco Anno confronts eating disorders in her work In Clothes Called Fat, as her main character Noko struggles to find what she really wants in a world that dictates how she should feel about her body weight. Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor goes the magical realism route, following David, a sculptor who decides to die early in exchange for being able to sculpt anything with his bare hands. Needless to say, trading life for art is harder than David had originally bargained for. For science fiction fans, Daniel Clowes’s Patience offers a psychedelic thriller love story that doesn’t let up till the last mind-blowing page.

I hope I’ve piqued your interest about the alternative comics we have to offer here at Manhattan Public Library, especially since we have a strong collection to choose from. If you’d like any help picking out comics, feel free to stop by the Reference Desk on the second floor, or request a personalized reading list on our website. We’d love to help you find some comics that resonate with you.

 

 

 

 

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Dehumanized Dystopias

By Brian Ingalsbe, Children’s Library Assistant

UgliesOctober is – in my humble opinion – one of the best months of the year. The weather is consistently cool, the leaves are changing colors, and the full anticipation of Halloween is in the air. For me, enjoying this month means snuggling up with a pumpkin spice chai and reading a great book. With Halloween so close, what better way to prepare than with a YA staple: the dystopia?

Dystopias are some of my favorite reads because they are fast-paced, action-oriented, and feature a skewed world, alarmingly similar to our own. Beyond The Hunger Games, The Giver, and The Maze Runner, the young adult collection has hundreds of other dystopian novels, just waiting to be discovered!

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

In a world where higher education is a privilege, sixteen-year-old Cia Vale dreams of being chosen for “the testing” – a program geared at further educating the best and the brightest of the Five Lakes Colony. Cia is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate, eager to prove her worthiness as a future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies: trust no one. Can she trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? To survive, Cia must choose love without truth or life without trust. In this thrilling story, Joelle Charbonneau tells a tale that is as enticing as it is flawed, begging readers to turn page after page. Anyone who enjoyed the Books of Ember or The Maze Runner trilogy is sure to love this book.

Legend by Marie Lu

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Fifteen-year-old June is an elite – born with the highest family status, groomed for success in the Republic’s most prestigious military circles. Day is the Republic’s most wanted criminal. They are polar opposites in every way. But when Metias – June’s brother – is found murdered, and Day is named the main suspect, all bets are off. Forming an unlikely duo, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its terrible secrets. In this exhilarating story – much like The Hunger Games – Marie Lu transforms two “average” characters through the most terrifying experience imaginable. The result will not disappoint!

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

In the not-so-distant future, the Second Civil War – fought over reproductive rights – has left a country that is fearful and rash. As a result, life is deemed sacred, but only from birth to age thirteen. For the next five years, parents can choose to have their children “unwound” by which their organs are harvested for alternative use, therefore deemed “a continuation of life.” During this horrific age, three children face being unwound: Connor, an out of control child, Risa, a ward of the state, and Lev, a tithe –a child conceived only to be unwound. Separate, they are powerless, but together they may be able to survive. In Unwind, Neal Shusterman creates a chilling world dominated by the effects of population control. Readers who enjoyed The Giver or the Shadow Children are sure to devour this series.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

What can be wrong with a world full of pretty people? Wouldn’t you want to be pretty? For sixteen-year-old Tally, becoming pretty is the end all. In the weeks preceding her operation, Tally can think of little else besides the carefree pretty lifestyle, in which her only real job is to have fun. But when Tally’s new best friend – Shay – rebels from society and flees, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty lifestyle, and it isn’t very pretty. Now Tally must make a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty herself. What will she choose? Her choice will change her world forever. In this well-crafted novel, Scott Westerfeld expertly creates a shallow world of external beauty. Ridden with its own vernacular and relatable characters, Uglies is a story that is sure to hit close to home. Readers who enjoy the writing style of Lauren Oliver will definitely love these books.

No matter what resources you are looking for, Manhattan Public Library has them. Our staff is always willing to help you find your next great dystopia and answer any questions you may have. You can contact the Youth Services Department at (785) 776-4741 ext. 400 or kidstaff@mhklibrary.org.

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Stimulate Your Brain with S.T.E.M.

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager

Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the WorldS.T.E.M. education is opening doors for young people by offering them different ways to learn about science, technology, engineering and math, and by seeing how those disciplines are incorporated into our every day lives, from our homes, our world, and beyond.  The library is the perfect place to explore S.T.E.M. ideas, no matter your age.

Here are some titles that could be starting points for introducing S.T.E.M. concepts through stories of real people. As ideas spark, children can wonder off through the subject “neighborhoods” in the Children’s Room and take home a pile of books to peruse later.

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark follows Lovelace from her childhood, estranged from her father Lord Byron and encouraged by her mother to learn mathematics, through her friendship with inventor Charles Babbage when Ada created the first computer program. Gorgeous illustrations by April Chu will keep young readers hooked, and they can continue reading about famous females in Women Who Launched the Computer Age by Laurie Calkhoven or Trailblazers: 33 Women in Science Who Changed the World by Rachel Swaby.

In Elizabeth Rusch’s Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World, kids learn how Tesla first came up with his idea for alternating currents, and how his invention was chosen above Thomas Edison’s for lighting the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Remember learning about the Fibonacci code? Joseph D’Agnese’s Blockhead is an intriguing picture book about Leonardo Fibonacci’s challenging life and his special discovery of number sequences in nature. Similarly, Paul Erdos’s unusual life is recounted in Deborah Heiligman’s The Boy Who Loved Math. “Uncle Paul” Erdos was strange and socially inept, yet he was beloved by many, and he furthered the study of mathematics in numerous areas.

More topics can be explored by identifying a child’s interests or passions, and using that as a springboard to learn more. This summer, we added four books from the Science of the Summer Olympics series. Check out titles like The Science Behind Swimming, Diving and Other Water Sports if you had a great time watching the Olympics as a family.

Kids who are into popular mainstream shows will appreciate the Batman Science series which explores the “real-world science and engineering” of Batman’s suits, vehicles and utility belt. The Max Axiom, Super Scientist graphic novel series presents S.T.E.M. topics through comic book adventures.

Hands-on kids will enjoy the many books with instructions and ideas for projects they can create themselves.  3-D Engineering: Design and Build Your Own Prototypes with 25 Projects provides enough instruction for kids to test strategies for building anything from bridges to alarms. Lego has produced a whole slew of big, exciting books full of ideas for new things to build, such as the Lego Adventure books. The books foster imaginative creations and experimenting with structures.

No one is too young to experience S.T.E.M.  Babies and toddlers have a natural curiosity that leads them to taste, touch, explore and experiment with everything around them.  While this can make childcare a little hectic, parents can easily encourage children by asking and answering questions, describing things to increase vocabulary, and allowing children to play safely with a variety of household items.  A new board book series called “Baby Loves” by Ruth Spiro captures the enthusiasm for S.T.E.M. In Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering, simple sentences and colorful, bright illustrations present questions and answers about things that fly – birds, airplanes, and a rocket. Andrea Beatty’s picture books — Ada Twist, Scientist, Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect – are also good introductions for younger listeners.

Experience S.T.E.M. at library programs, too! Every Tuesday, Chess Club for all ages and abilities meets on the first floor of the library, starting at 5:30.  It is run by the K-State Chess Club, and beginners are welcome.  S.T.E.M. Club for K-3rd graders meets on the second Thursday of the month from 4:00-5:00 in the Children’s Room.  This week, kids will find out if they really know the story of The Three Little Pigs. Activities include exploring various building materials, learning about their properties, and even building little houses to test against the big bad wolf. Later in the year, library staff will be incorporating Sphero robots into some programs for different ages. The library is a great resource for getting your kids excited about S.T.E.M.

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Exploring Modern Folklore

By Danielle Schapaugh, Public Relations Coordinator

Eva LunaWatching the Olympics always makes me curious about other cultures. What are their values? What bedtime stories do they tell? For answers, I turn to literature, because I find storytelling more interesting than nonfiction, and because I think it’s possible to learn a lot about other cultures by exploring their folklore.

To begin, I selected a book from one of the masters of modern folklore (often referred to as magical realism), Isabel Allende, who is an award-winning author from Peru.

Allende’s books are steeped in magic and passion. Her most recent work, Island beneath the Sea is a visceral and shocking tale of endurance and triumph. Not only does this book explore other cultures, but it also takes a look at history.

Island beneath the Sea tells the story of Tété, a slave in Saint Dominique, who has been raised with the ways of the voodoo loa (deities). The story chronicles Tété’s life as a beloved child, a concubine, a slave, a servant, a revolutionary, and a voodoo priestess. Throughout her life, the loa guide, frustrate, play tricks, and provide Tété with the power to overcome.

“I strike the ground with the soles of my feet and life rises up my legs, spreads up my skeleton, takes possession of me, drives away distress and sweetens my memory. The world trembles. Rhythm is born on the island beneath the sea; it shakes the earth, it cuts through me like a lightning bolt and rises toward the sky, carrying with it my sorrows so that Papa Bondye can chew them, swallow them, and leave me clean and happy.” – Tété

If you like this book, and I think you will, then I suggest exploring other titles by Allende, such as The House of the Spirits or Eva Luna, both set in the recent past and full of cultural identity.

Laura Esquivel is another fantastic author from Latin America. Like Water for Chocolate is probably her most famous work and would make an excellent choice for a book club! There are so many recipes, themes, and striking characters that you will want to discuss with friends.

At its core, Like Water for Chocolate is a story of unrequited love and family dynamics. It is full of longing and sorrow, magic, and triumph. Tita is the youngest daughter of a respected Mexican family. She will never be allowed to marry or have her own life. Instead, it is her duty to devote herself to the care of her aging mother. Sounds a bit like Cinderella, doesn’t she? The themes are similar and both tales include magic, but Like Water for Chocolate is not a Disney version of the story.

Tita begins her lifetime of work in the kitchen where she learns to express all of her emotions through food. Since she pours herself into her recipes, the food she makes is imbued with the magic of her feelings and has the power to affect those who eat it. Imagine what happens to the wedding cake when her sister marries the man Tita loves! This beautiful tale of Mexican folklore has also been made into a movie which is available at the library.

I also read Esquivel’s The Law of Love, which is set in the future. The book includes a CD of music to be played at certain points in the text. You will enjoy every “interlude for dancing!” As you read, you’ll learn about the relationships and achievements valued in Esquivel’s culture.

Finally, a book that really surprised me was Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan, a fascinating author from Indonesia. The “rich and astonishing strangeness” of this story makes it very difficult to put down and even more difficult to forget. Visions of fireflies who rob the site of a man with a guilty conscience, a tornado of a mother who makes the house shake and drives out a cheating husband, and bees who drown out rational thinking will stay with you long after you finish this story.

It was interesting to me how the lines between “good” and “evil” characters are blurred in Of Bees and Mist. I’m used to clear distinctions in moralistic tales. Characters suffer because of bad decisions and bad influences, but at times it is difficult to figure out who the “bad guy” is. Every character is complicated, and I found myself slightly frustrated because this style is out of step with my native culture. It was a pretty cool discovery!

Of Bees and Mist has received mixed reviews, and the plot certainly doesn’t take a direct path to the finish line. Before you dive in, I suggest reading a few pages from the middle to see if you enjoy the tone and style. I certainly hope you decide to give it a try.

Literature and folklore provide powerful lenses for seeing into cultures around the world. I encourage you to explore new cultures by traveling as many places as you can and by finding new ideas in books.

If you need any more recommendations, please visit us at the Manhattan Public Library.

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Take Me Out to the Ball Game

By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

The SandlotIt’s the end of July, the all-start game is a thing of the past, and more hot summer lies ahead. In a 162 game season, there’s a lot of baseball left to play. And that’s only the regular season. From opening day in April through the first cooling days of October, baseball is America’s pastime. There’s nothing like being at the ballpark on a green and glorious day, watching your favorite team, munching on a hotdog, and cheering with the crowd. But if you can’t make it to the ballpark, you can always watch one of these great baseball-inspired movies.

Baseball-almanac.com lists “Major League” (1989) as number 10 on its list of the top 10 baseball movies. The film deals with the exploits of a fictionalized version of the Cleveland Indians. Rachel Phelps, the new owner of the Indians, wants to move the team to Miami, but the move hinges on poor ticket sales in Cleveland. To help drag the team down, Phelps hires the most incompetent players available, including a near-blind pitcher and an injury-prone catcher. But fate has other plans.

Number 9 on the best list is “The Sandlot” (1993). Scotty Smalls, the shy new kid on the block wants to join the pickup baseball team that plays every day in the neighborhood sandlot. Only problem is, he doesn’t know how to catch a baseball. He learns to play, but soon sets in motion adventures that bring the gang face to face with The Beast. You have to watch the movie to see what happens next.

“A League of Their Own” (1992) follows at number 8. This comedy portrays a fictionalized account of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The league, founded by chewing gum magnate, Philip Wrigley, was active 1943-1954, and kept baseball in the public eye when so many male players were off to war.

Movie number 7 is “The Natural” (1984) starring Robert Redford, and based on the novel by Bernard Malamud. Sixteen years after a mysterious woman lead to the premature end of his budding baseball career, a once-promising pitcher comes back to baseball armed with his childhood bat “Wonderboy.”

Walter Matthau, Tatum O’Neal, and Jodi Foster follow in “The Bad News Bears” (1976) at number 6. Called the best pure baseball comedy, this movie will remind you what Little League was really like.

“The Pride of the Yankees” (1942) is at number 5. This movie chronicles the life of Lou Gehrig, the legendary first-baseman who succumbed to a fatal neurodegenerative disease at the peak of his career. You won’t have a dry eye as you watch Gary Cooper, as Gehrig, give his “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech.

“Eight Men Out” (1988) is number 4 on the list. This is a dramatization of the Black Sox scandal when the underpaid Chicago White Sox accepted bribes to deliberately lose the 1919 World Series. One of the characters that figures in the story is none other than Shoeless Joe Jackson, who later returns to Iowa in another of the best baseball movies of all time.

Number 3 is “Bang the Drum Slowly” (1973). This film tells the story of the friendship between a star pitcher, wise to the world, and a mentally challenged catcher played by Robert de Niro, as they cope with the catcher’s terminal illness through a baseball season.

One of my personal favorites, “Field of Dreams” (1989) is ranked at number 2. This movie is an adaptation of W.P. Kinsella’s novel “Shoeless Joe.” Farmer Ray Kinsella hears a voice, and believes that if he builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield, Shoeless Joe Jackson from the infamous 1919 Chicago “Black” Sox will return. But that’s just the beginning.

And the number 1 best baseball movie as ranked by Baseball-almanac.com is “Bull Durham” (1988). This list calls “Bull Durham” the most authentic portrayal of baseball. This romantic comedy deals with a very minor minor-league team, an aging baseball groupie, a cocky foolish new pitcher, and the older, weary catcher brought in to wise the rookie up.

So head out to the ballpark before the season ends. Or, head over to the library, checkout one of these great films on DVD or Blu-ray, get your popcorn ready, and enjoy.

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Books Reviewed by Our Summer Readers

by Rachael Schmidtlein, Teen and Tween Services Coordinator

Every summer a *magical* thing happens. Like the Monarchs that migrate to Mexico, crowds converge on the library in June and July to craft, to play video games, and to read. It’s a wonderful time of year that makes our librarian hearts expand with pride. However, summer is also a very busy time when our staff is giving out summer reading prizes, planning around 20 events a week and restocking the shelves as fast as humanly possible.

We love reviewing and recommending books, we really do, but during June and July we sometimes have to put that duty on the back burner. Luckily, we have a really great community that helps us out with that!

When anyone turns in their summer reading minutes, they have the opportunity to review a book they read during that time frame. Incredibly, when we were reviewing the most recent submissions, we realized that over six hundred and fifty books have been reviewed this summer.

Without further ado, I give you five books reviewed by YOU, our incredible Manhattanites.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman (Young Adult Fiction)

“New Twist on Sleeping Beauty”

This masterfully written reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White is another work of art from the whimsical mind of Neil Gaiman. In this retelling, Snow White is a queen on a journey to rescue Sleeping Beauty and Sleeping Beauty isn’t quite in need of rescuing. Told in his typical creepy and dark fashion, Gaiman gives these tired stories a reboot.

Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline (Adult Fiction)

“Real page-turner. Couldn’t put it down!”

Christine and Marcus find themselves facing the difficult reality of being unable to conceive a child. After an incredibly difficult road, they decide to use a donor. Now happily pregnant, they are ready to move on with their family. That is until Christine sees a man on TV being arrested for a series of brutal murders. The man also happens to undeniably remember her donor. Scottoline take the reader through an emotional and fast-paced journey that poses the question: what decisions would you make if the biological father of your unborn child was a killer?

 

Stolen by Lucy Christopher (Young Adult Fiction)

“This book is very gripping and at times heart-wrenching. At first you see Ty as a monster and Emma as a victim but, will that change? Will Emma learn to love Ty or will she escape and turn Ty in? There is no way to know…”

Sixteen year old Gemma has been kidnapped and taken to the Australian outback. However, her captor Ty is nothing like you would expect. Written as a letter, this story explores the complicated and unsettling nature of love and reliance. The desolate but beautiful Australian outback acts as a silent character, and readers are constantly torn between reality and unreliable characters.

 

Gumption by Nick Offerman (Adult Non-Fiction)

“Nick Offerman makes me feel like there are butterflies in my stomach. #mancrush #mancandymondayeveryday”

A combination of serious history and light humor, Nick Offerman tells of those throughout history who inspired him. This books meanders through the topics of religion, politics, woodworking, agriculture, philosophy, fashion and meat in a seriously funny way.

 

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (Young Adult Fiction)

“If you are any sort of a Sherlockian (that is, any fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his characters), you will love this new take on the amazing duo, Sherlock and Watson. This novel is told from the point of view of a teenage descendant of the original Dr. James Watson. He meets his counterpart, Charlotte Holmes at a Connecticut boarding school called Sherringford. This is the first book in a trilogy about the two and the cases they solve.

I love this book and I love that the author references the original cases Doyle wrote about. I also love the title’s play on words.”

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The Summer Reading List Begins

By Jennifer Bergen, Children’s Services Manager

On your mark, get set…READ!  The library’s annual summer reading program has begun. Everyone, from babies to seniors, can participate by keeping track of reading and earning prizes or tickets for prize drawings. So, what is on your summer reading list?  Here are a few on mine:

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

The author of the Clementine series has written a very different kind of story, switching from her spunky, comedic, Ramona-like character Clementine, to what looks like a quiet, thoughtful, and likely sad tale about a boy and his pet fox.  Booklist gave this a starred review, saying “Pennypacker’s expert, evenhanded storytelling reveals stunning depth in a relatively small package.” It sounds like Pennypacker is able to switch gears with skill and finesse.

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman

Freedman has won many awards for his nonfiction writing, and I have enjoyed several of them. I prefer my nonfiction to read like a novel, and Freedman’s well-researched accounts always deliver that element of storytelling. Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie were Hitler Youth who turned against Hitler, forming the White Rose opposition.  They sacrificed everything to work against the Nazis. Seems like a worthy and important read.

Soar by Joan Bauer

Bauer’s books are always worth a read, and this one sounds inspiring.  Jeremiah Lopper is a baseball fanatic, but he hasn’t been allowed to play since he had a heart transplant two years ago at the age of 10.  When he and his adoptive dad move to Hillcrest, Ohio, Jeremiah simply decides to find a baseball team to coach instead. Words reviewers used to describe this story are “motivating,” “triumphant,” “largehearted,” and “irrepressible.” I will grab this when I need some lifting up.

Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park

Another author veering off into new genre territory, Linda Sue Park has written the first in a fantasy series called Wing & Claw.  Previous books like A Long Walk to Water, Project Mulberry, and Newbery Medal-winning A Single Shard are realistic or even based on true stories.  Now she enters the realm of magic and talking animals. Raffa Santana is a young apothecary who seeks out a rare vine in the Forest of Wonders to create a cure for an injured bat. Unexpectedly, the bat not only recovers but also acquires the ability to speak. Gregor the Overlander comes to mind, and I am in.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Sometimes, I admit I judge books by their covers. When I saw this one with its intriguing gold-lettered message facing out, I had to read the cover. Then I had to quickly place a hold on the book. To top that off, Publisher’s Weekly mentions two favorite books of mine in its review of Wolf Hollow: “Echoing the tone and themes found in To Kill a Mockingbird and Summer of My German Soldier, this WWII story traces the unlikely friendship between a country girl and a shell-shocked veteran.” It is sure to be a good one.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

Well, I wouldn’t be much of a children’s librarian if this was not on my list, would I?  Coming out on July 31 (Harry’s birthday, of course), this play script features Harry’s middle child, Albus Serverus Potter. As expected, there is much news and a plethora of opinions about this “eighth story” in the Harry Potter series that was supposed to end with book seven.  We will see if the Harry Potter craze continues, and if it lives up to the hype. Not much chance I will see the play anytime soon, since it is in London and is sold out through May 2017.

Stop by the Children’s Room to sign up for summer reading, and let us know which books you are hoping to read under a shady tree this summer! While you’re here, check into our weekly clubs and storytimes, vote for a winner in the Tournament of Books, and register a teen to attend the “After Hours” party at the library this Saturday for an Iron Chef-inspired culinary competition. It’s sure to be hopping at the library with lots of good options for everyone.

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In A Galaxy Not So Far Away: The Best of Science Fiction Film

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Back in 1977, in a galaxy not so far away, “Star Wars” captured the imaginations and the dreams of billions. In the six additional films in the series, as in the many incarnations of “Star Trek”, and in the hundreds of motion pictures both good and bad in the years before and since, science fiction on film has continued to draw audiences.

Ask 100 people to name their favorite science fiction movies, and you’ll probably get 100 different answers. Search the Internet for the best films in the genre, and you’ll walk away with multiple opinions. To simplify matters, this column will highlight the top ten science fiction films as judged by the games and entertainment media company, IGN, from The Top 25 Sci-Fi Movies of All Time http://www.ign.com/articles/2010/09/14/top-25-sci-fi-movies-of-all-time.

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10) “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” 1991. In this sequel to the 1984 movie, “The Terminator,” a liquid metal, shapeshifting terminator is sent back in time to kill John Connor and prevent him from becoming leader of the human resistance against the machines.

9) “The Road Warrior,” 1981. Also a sequel (“Mad Max” 1979), the film uses a western movie motif to tell the story of a community of settlers who defend themselves against a band of marauders in a post-apocalyptic world.

8) “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” 1951. A humanoid alien, Klaatu, comes to earth with an eight foot tall robot, Gort, to deliver an important message to Earth. Live peacefully, or else. Who can forget those immortal words, “Klaatu barada nikto?”

7) “The Matrix,” 1999. The first in a trilogy about a dystopian future in which “reality” as perceived by humans is actually a simulation called the Matrix, and the real world is ruled by thinking machines.

6) “The Planet of the Apes,” 1968. Based on the novel by French author, Pierre Boulle, astronauts travel to a strange planet ruled by apes, and humans are an inferior species. There were 4 sequels to the original film, as well as a 2001 remake.

5) “The Empire Strikes Back,” 1980. Also known as “Star Wars Episode V,” the title of this film says it all. After the triumph of Luke, Leia, and Han Solo in the original, the galactic empire and Darth Vader strike back at the rebel alliance.

4) “Alien,” 1979. The crew of a spacecraft on its return voyage to Earth lands on a small planet in response to a distress call. They discover an alien spacecraft and the remains of a giant alien. I think you know what happens from there. “Alien” spawned 3 sequels.

3) “Star Wars,” 1977. No, not number one according to IGN. Later retitled “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” this is the film where we first meet Luke, Leia, Han Solo, Obi Wan, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO, and of course, Darth Vader. The rebel alliance seeks to destroy the Galactic Empire’s planet-destroying Death Star.

2) “2001: A Space Odyssey,” 1969. Based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke, this film follows a voyage to Jupiter with the sentient computer Hal after the discovery of a mysterious black monolith affecting human evolution.

2001

And the number one best science fiction film of all time, “Blade Runner,” 1982, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Rick Dekard is a blade runner, a special police bounty hunter tasked with hunting and killing replicants (androids) from off world who have illegally escaped to Earth.

Most of the top ten films on this list are available at the library. If your favorite science fiction movies didn’t make the list, don’t worry, the library has hundreds of other films in the genre. You should also checkout the selections of science fiction films on Hoopla, the library’s streaming service. Thousands of films, television shows, audiobooks, music cds, ebooks, and comics are available for free streaming on your computer, or to download to your tablet or smartphone.

Remember that today is the final day of the Manhattan Library Association’s annual book sale. It’s bag day. Fill a bag or box with books and other materials for one low price. Now that’s a bargain you won’t have to travel to a far off galaxy to find.

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