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Promising Books from New Authors

by Marcia Allen, Collection Development Librarian

We all know that Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is the book to read this summer.  We’ve seen the reviews, both good and bad, that make the title very tempting, and the high number of requests at the library attests to the demand for this newly published tale about Maycomb, Alabama. We’ve also seen the latest by perennial favorite authors such as Daniel Silva, Mary Higgins Clark, and Stephen King.   The newest spy thrillers, puzzling mysteries, and shocking tales of horror are readily available from those old favorites. But there are also lots of promising new stories from authors who may not be so familiar to readers looking for something different.  A sampling of fiction titles just received at the library reveals the following potential hits:

 

  • The Wild Inside by Christine Carbo. This one’s a nice selection for those who are fans of the Nevada Barr series.  Special Agent Ted Systead, who works for the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service, is one of few trained to investigate crimes committed in parks in the western half of the U.S.  He has a particular interest in homicides, like the one that has just brought him to Glacier National Park.  His trouble is that he witnessed the mauling and death of his own father during a grizzly attack some years ago.  This recent murder would also seem to have the same savagery of that long ago grizzly attack, but the victim is found tied to a tree.  Ted will have to deal with his own nightmarish memories, as well as the reticence of the locals.  Author Carbo has a clear talent for realistic descriptions of the Glacier setting, so this mystery’s rich with atmosphere.

 

  • Buell: Journey to the White Clouds by Wallace J. Swenson.  In the Idaho territory of 1873, young gunman Buell Mace has become something of an outcast and heads off to the gold fields to offer protection to those whose claims are threatened.  Buell is hired by Emma Traen to protect her gold interests, but there are lots of others willing to seize her claims in desperate ways.  Buell has new friends on which to rely, but they, too, are in danger, and he will learn what loss is.  This is a violent western, depicting a young man’s struggle in an untamed country.

 

  • The Lost Concerto by Helaine Mario.  Here’s a thriller from a debut author.  The book  opens with the doomed flight of a mother and her small son.  Their brutal follower  manages to kill the mother to regain the boy, but in the confusion and mist of the mountain shrine where the runaways are cornered, the youngster disappears.  The        boy’s godmother, Maggie O’Shea was a famed pianist, but recent losses of loved ones have sidetracked her career.  The discovery of a photo of the missing boy leads her on a journey that will reveal lost artifacts as well as another chance for a fulfilling life.  Romance, intrigue, and new discoveries make this an unforgettable read.

 

  • The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka.  Eric Argus is a quantum physicist with a serious problem:   He was at the top of his game as a university research physicist, but the work dragged him through a serious breakdown.  Now he’s been given another opportunity to do research with an old friend.  In the course of his experiments, he discovers impossible truths:  until an observer notes results, the result remains only probability.  Hence, we have terms like “retrocausality” that are of major concern.  This is a thoughtful work of science fiction, one that questions the nature of the real and the role of human understanding in the universe.

 

  • One final title worth mentioning is Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop.  This lovely piece of fiction has made various bestseller lists,  and it has to be among the most heartwarming books of the summer.   It concerns one Monsieur Perdu, the proprietor of a floating bookstore, who helps customers select purchases based not on wants but on what he feels  those readers need in their lives.  A remarkable book.

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How to be a Great Storyteller

by Danielle Schapaugh, Public Relations Coordinator

The act of storytelling is a big part of what makes us human. Nigerian writer Chris Abani told a TED audience “What we know about who we are comes from stories.” We share knowledge from generations past, explore meaning, delve into our own psyches, and generally figure out this thing called life by telling stories to each other. Stories are nothing less than essential.

I’m not telling you this in order to add pressure to your evening storytime routine, but I do hope to add some weight to it. Becoming a good storyteller is worth the effort and can add meaning and understanding to your child’s life. By reading and telling stories to your kids, you’re not only helping them learn to read, but also helping them learn to solve problems and develop empathy. Reading and telling stories makes us better people.

So, what does it take to be a good storyteller? Here are a few tips from WikiHow, the 6 by 6 Ready to Read program developed by the State Library of Kansas, and the story-telling experts in the children’s department at the Manhattan Public Library.

First, choose a story that will interest your child. Does your daughter love trucks? She will probably enjoy a picture book with trucks in it and having fun is important. In fact, fun is a serious part of this process. Log your fun on a nightly fun meter and track the enjoyment quotient over time to determine the success of your storytelling skills. (Just kidding. See, fun can hide anywhere!) For older children, select a chapter book and read one chapter each evening. Librarians can help if you need ideas and recommendations. We love recommending books; it’s one of our favorite things to do. Please never hesitate to ask.

Next, remember to read the story to yourself before you read it aloud. Think of it like reading a script. An actor can’t build drama in a scene if he doesn’t know where the story is going, right? Building anticipation for the next page will help keep your child interested. Knowing the story also helps you relax, which helps your child relax. And what if you’ve accidentally picked up a scary story, or one that doesn’t fit your parenting style? Take a few minutes to read the book first, to make sure things go smoothly.

Asking questions is also a good way to hold your child’s interest during the story. During library storytime, the storyteller will ask questions, such as “What does a frog sound like?” “Have you ever been to a lake?” “Do any of you like carrots?” You can ask questions about the action in the story, or ask your child to count objects on the page or look for colors.

As you’re reading, use your finger to follow along so your child can start associating print with sound and meaning. Point out the first letter in a word, sound it out, spell it, or ask your child to tell you a word that rhymes. This has more to do with the mechanics of reading, and starting early is a good idea. It isn’t necessary for you to sound out every word, just sprinkle in the learning when it feels right.

The library can help you identify the six skills your child should have by age six, so he is ready to start school. Just ask us the next time you visit, or check out the 6 by 6 Ready to Read resources on the KS State Library’s website www.kslib.info. You will find tips, plus links to fun rhymes and songs. Don’t worry: fun is always going to be part of the process.

Last, but certainly not least, use inflection and play with the sounds of the words anytime you tell a story. In essence, “do the voices.” Come up with character voices whenever possible. It will make all the difference. What does the frog sound like when he speaks? Give it your best shot, without a trace of self-consciousness, and you will do just fine.

However, as you well know, stories aren’t always about reading. Children love to hear stories from your own childhood. Tell tales of your adventures, real or imagined. Talk about your parents, siblings, and friends. Tell your child the story of her birth (kids never got tired of that one), and how you felt the first time you held her in your arms. Form your story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Then ask your child to tell a story of her own. Help her along by asking questions when she struggles, and let the magic unfold.a librarian reading to a group of children

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Reading is Your Superpower!

By Jennifer Bergen, Children’s Services Manager

This summer, reading is your superpower! We are highlighting literacy and encouraging reading for all ages with our superhero summer reading program at the library.

Popular shows like Teen Titans Go, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ninjago have comic book series in our graphic novels neighborhood, along with many titles for the popular DC and Marvel characters.  Here are some more fun superhero books for kids:

The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosoczka has silly plot lines with the school lunch ladies saving the day using tools such as the mustard grappling hook, fish stick nunchucks, the spork phone, whisk whackers and the spatula-copter.  Watch Krosoczka’s TED talk to find out why lunch ladies and men are true heroes in our midst!

Sidekicks by Dan Santat is a longer stand-alone graphic novel with fabulous illustrations and an enticing story.  Captain Amazing is growing older and needs a new sidekick.  Unbeknownst to him, his pets decide to take on superhero personae and help him out.  With help from a former feline sidekick, the pet dog, hamster and chameleon learn some crime fighting skills, but will they be able to defeat an evil villain and save Captain Amazing? Prepare to have this book passed around among all your kids and their friends.

Squish by Jennifer and Matthew Holm features Squish the Amoeba as its main character. He is an ordinary amoeba, but he is inspired by his favorite comic book hero, Super Amoeba. While he may not be a superhero himself, somehow Squish and his best friend Pod end up finding courage to do the right thing, including saving their friend Peggy the Paramecium from the very hungry new kid in class.

These funny, action-packed graphic novels are a great fit for kids who say they don’t like to read.  It’s like sneaking spinach into the lasagna – they will enjoy reading, learn vocabulary words, and sharpen their skills for following both text and illustrations without complaining.  In fact, you might catch them trying to sneak in more reading time because they can’t wait to see what will happen next.

In our early chapter books row, there are plenty of exciting superhero books for kids at a second or third grade reading level. These chapter books are shorter, have larger text and still include frequent illustrations.  Stone Arch is a book publisher that has many options for this age group, including a series of DC Super Heroes chapter books that are 50-80 pages long with full color illustrations of favorite characters in action: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Green Lantern.

Another fun option from this section is Captain Awesome by Stan Kirby.  Second-grader Eugene McGullicudy turns into an awesome super hero to solve crimes, protect his town and win the spelling bee.  Kids who like Captain Awesome will probably also enjoy Zapato Power by Jacqueline Jules, The Adventures of Jo Schmo by Greg Trine, and Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot books by Dav Pilkey, who also writes the ever popular series Captain Underpants.

Shannon Hale’s The Princess in Black is another great read with colorful illustrations by LeUyen Pham.  Princess Magnolia is a very proper princess taking tea with the Duchess Wigtower when her monster alarm rings.  She quickly excuses herself and does what princesses do not do: “Princesses do not stuff frilly pink dresses into broom closets…Princesses do not slide down secret chutes and high-jump castle walls,” but this princess has a secret. She is the Princess in Black, with a mask, cape, tall black boots and her tiara, of course.  Her job? Stopping the monsters who sneak up from Monster Land.  She is pretty good at it, and luckily book two in the series comes out this fall.

Super readers can still sign up for the library’s free summer reading program to earn coupons for free stuff around town and choose up to two free prize books to keep.  It is a fun way to encourage more reading for the whole family. More than 2,000 children and teenagers have already signed up, along with about 400 adults, and have logged more than 300,000 minutes of reading time!

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Summer Teen Reads

Keri Mills,  Young Adult Librarian

Parents, are you trying to get your teens reading over the summer? Sign them up for the Teen Summer Reading Program where they can earn incentives for reading this summer, including restaurant coupons and a free book. Teens also have the chance to win the grand prize which is a Kindle Fire HD tablet, or a number of other raffle prizes such as gift cards to area businesses. Teens can sign up for the program on the library’s website: www.mhklibrary.org or by coming into the library. Here are a few book suggestions to get them started reading:

I am Malala: How One Girl Stood up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition)” by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick

This is the inspiring memoir of Malala Yousafzai, who is the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Malala recounts what it was like living in Pakistan as the Taliban began to take hold. Despite the constant danger, Malala’s family still allowed and encouraged her to attend school and publicly speak out about education. Because of this, at age 14, Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban on her way home from school. Miraculously, she survived and is now an international spokesperson for education.

The Shadow Hero” by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

In this graphic novel, Yang creates a backstory for the Green Turtle, a little known comic book character who was likely the first Asian superhero. Hank Chu is a Chinese American teen growing up in 1930s Chinatown. Hank’s aspirations include being a grocer like his father. His mother, however, has other ideas for him. When she is rescued by one of the local superheroes, she decides that Hank should also become a superhero. She sews Hank a costume and tries to help him get superpowers by exposing him to toxic chemicals and other tried and true methods. All her efforts fail, but when tragedy strikes, Hank receives assistance from an unlikely source, and becomes a real hero.

 

We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart

Cadence Sinclair is the oldest grandchild of a wealthy family headed by her grandfather who owns a private island off of Cape Cod. The extended family vacations there each summer. Cadence hangs out with her two older cousins and friend Gat, who have all been inseparable since they were young. During her 15th summer, however, Cadence is involved in a mysterious accident where she sustains a blow to the head, and now suffers debilitating migraines and amnesia. She is only able to make it through most days with the help of painkillers. Two years after her accident, Cadence returns once again to the island, where she tries to piece together exactly what happened two years ago.

How It Went Down” by Kekla Magoon

In an inner city neighborhood, an African American teen rushes out of the local market wearing a hoodie and carrying something in his arms. The owner shouts for him to come back. A car pulls up in the middle of the street. Someone shouts, “He has a gun!” That quickly, Tariq Johnson, 16-years-old, is on the ground, dead from gunshot wounds. The shooter, a white man, goes free after claiming self-defense, but no weapon is found on Tariq. Everyone has an opinion about what really happened, but the only person who knows for certain is dead. Seventeen different narrators tell this story, which is ripped from the headlines. Read this with your teens for a great discussion

 

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs

Sixteen year old Jacob is traumatized by his grandfather’s brutal murder. He decides to travel to Wales to find the orphanage where his grandfather was sent to live during World War II. When he arrives, he gets more than he bargained for. The children from his grandfather’s stories are still alive and living at the orphanage. What’s more, even though it is 70 years later, they are still kids. And now, the same monster that killed his grandfather is after these children. The story is enhanced by the inclusion of almost 50 vintage photographs appearing throughout the book. Read the book now before the movie comes out next year.

Find all these books and many more on display in the YA area throughout the summer. Also, be sure to check out the free teen events going on this summer at the library by visiting the library’s website: http://www.mhklibrary.org/

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

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Summer of Heroes

Jessica Long, Children’s Library Assistant

Summer reading begins May 30 for all ages!

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

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

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

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

The Power of Cute book cover

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

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

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

Today I Will Fly book cover

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

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

Boys of Steel book cover

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

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

 

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Take a Moment: Enjoy a Poem

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

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

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

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

One clover, and a bee,

And revery.

The revery alone will do

If bees are few.”

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

“Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”


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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Nonfiction for Young Readers

By Amber Keck, Children’s Librarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Read a Tale, Tell a Tale

By Jennifer Bergen, Children’s Services Manager

February 26 is National Tell a Fairy-Tale Day.  I know you already know them, but in case you need some inspiration for your Thursday bedtime story, come visit our Fairy Tale and Folklore Neighborhood in the Children’s room. Look for the banner with the impressive Neuschwanstein Castle pictured atop its woodsy Bavarian hillside. In this section, we have pulled together our fantastic collection of anthologies and picture books so you can find plenty of options, including classic tales, tall tales, new tales, whimsical or “fractured” fairy tales, and stories from around the world.

A few recent additions to this neighborhood include:

chickenBrave Chicken Little retold and illustrated by Robert Byrd. Chicken Little is sure the sky is falling, and he gathers an even larger than usual crowd of animals in his wake when he runs into that sly Foxy Loxy.  This time, Loxy has a wife and seven little kits “who frazzle my wits,” and they are all hungry. Down to the cellar the other animals go, waiting for the stew water to boil. Can little Chicken Little save the day?  Byrd turns the tables on this tale and gives kids an unlikely champion for problem-solving and resourcefulness.

My Grandfather’s Coat retold by Jim Aylesworth. Children love the old Yiddish tale “I Had a Little Overcoat,” with the continual surprises of what the old man will make out of his clothing next.  This retelling has just the right amount of repetition for young listeners to get into the rhythm and start chiming in: “He wore it, and he wore it. And little bit by little bit, he frayed it, and he tore it, until at last…he wore it out!”  Barbara McClintock’s illustrations of family life add a personable tone, showing how the overcoat lasts for generations until “there was nothing left at all. Nothing, that is, except for this story.”

Twelve Dancing Unicorns by Alissa Heyman. In this magical fantasy, a king has 12 unicorns chained to trees in a pen. Only a little girl with a special cloak can discover the mysterious secrets of the mythical creatures and try to save them. This story is sure to satisfy young unicorn lovers with beautiful illustrations by Justin Gerard.

blueThe longstanding favorite anthologies by Andrew Lang are being reissued with the original illustrations, and you can find The Blue Fairy Book, The Yellow Fairy Book and The Green Fairy Book in the library’s collection, each with dozens of tales from around the world including both well-known stories and rare little gems. Lang’s prefaces are worth reading aloud, during which he generally acknowledges the superiority of the child’s mind over the dull thinking of grown-ups.

Two Robert Sabuda pop-up books are also displayed in the Fairy Tales & Folklore Neighborhood: Dragons & Knights and Beauty & the Beast. They are not available for check-out due to their delicate inner workings, but kids and adults love to pore through them while sitting on the fanciful purple bench.  So come read some books, play dress-up with your child, gaze into the “magic” mirror and be inspired to tell a thrilling tale with your own new endings on Fairy-Tale Day.

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The Day is Short; Read Fast

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Today is the Winter Solstice, the first day of winter, and the shortest day of the year. You have 9 hours, 33 minutes, and 11 seconds of daylight to work with today. What will you do with yours? If reading is on your to-do list, you might want to consider reading one of the many influential books that have the added advantage of being short.

animalA search of the Web results in several variations of lists of the best short books. Goodreads lists the most influential books under 100 pages .  Titles include “Animal Farm,” “The Little Prince,” “The Art of War,” “Common Sense,” “Hiroshima,” and “The Constitution of the United States.”

“War and Peace,” weighing in at over 1,400 pages, makes a big impression, but books don’t have to weigh a lot to be heavy hitters. The MentalFloss website lists seven slim books that pack a big punch.  Among the seven are “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine (52 Pages), “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss (72 pages), “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli (82 pages), “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau (26 pages), “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk and E.B. White (52 pages), “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu (68 pages), and “The Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (54 pages).

castleLooking for something a little lighter? Checkout Flavorwire and its list of incredible novels under 200 pages. Titles include “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” a macabre and hilarious book by Shirley Jackson (all in only 146 pages), “Dept. of Speculation,” a book exploring intimacy, trust, and faith by Jenny Offill (a good bet for 179 pages), and “The Buddha in the Attic,” a mesmerizing account of the Japanese “picture brides,” by Julie Otsuka (a breeze at 129 pages).

You can find a list of 55 great books under 200 pages at Reddit.com.  Consider Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” In this 181 page novel, a middle-aged man returns to his childhood home, drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, at age seven, he encountered a remarkable girl. Or try “Last Night at the Lobster,” by Stewart O’Nan, a 146 page tale of an under-performing Red Lobster Restaurant in a run-down New England mall. It’s four days until Christmas, and the manager has to convince a less than enthusiastic staff to serve their customers as if their jobs depended on it.

miceIf a literary classic is what you’re after, you can read one of several short novels by John Steinbeck including “Of Mice and Men” (107 pages), “The Pearl” (87 pages), or “Cannery Row” (196 pages). Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” will only cost you 93 pages, while “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a bargain at 180 pages. Finally, don’t forget one of my personal favorites, Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” At 96 pages, you can afford to read this Christmas classic every year.

The average adult reads between 250 and 300 words, or one page per minute.  At that rate, you can finish “War and Peace” in just under 24 hours, assuming you refrained from sleeping, and didn’t stumble too much on the Russian names. Or, you can enjoy a short book in two or three hours, with plenty of time for other pursuits. You do also have the option of switching on a lamp and reading after the sun goes down on this shortest day of the year. In any case, pick up a good book and enjoy.

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Celebrate “Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week”

By Laura Ransom, Children’s Librarian

“Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week” is an annual event that promotes reading to all Kansas children from birth through age five. Parents, librarians, and caregivers are encouraged to read the chosen book during the week of November 16-22.

funI am especially excited about this year’s selection, Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas. Three happy cows and a frustrated chicken bounce through the pages of this light-hearted picture book. We love promoting this event at Manhattan Public Library, and each child who attends a storytime during the week will receive a free book! Funding for the free books is generously provided by the Manhattan Library Association.
My love for books began when I was very young. I have such fond memories of sitting in my mom’s lap while she read Don Wood’s The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear to me night after night. She later told me that she had the book memorized since I requested it so many times. What a patient parent! Another of my all-time favorites is The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. I remember chanting along with that brave engine, “I think I can, I think I can!” These engaging books stirred a desire in me to learn how to read the words on the pages.
readaloudAs a children’s librarian, I obviously endorse reading aloud to children, but research supports it, too. One example is a study by the U.S. Department of Education, which concluded with these words: “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” This quote is from The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, a wonderful book filled with read-aloud suggestions and helpful tips for parents. Books include a wider vocabulary than we often encounter in television shows or everyday conversations. Even though children are unfamiliar with these new words, exposure to them is a stepping stone to reading independently. If they have heard the word before, they will be better equipped to know how to read it on the printed page.
A love for reading is just as important as the actual reading process. The fancy name for the desire to read is called print motivation. This is one of six skills children need in order to read successfully. The other skills are: Notice Print All Around; Talk, Talk, Talk; Tell Stories About Everything; Look for Letters Everywhere; and Take Time to Rhyme, Sing, and Play Word Games. These skills were originally identified by the American Library Association’s Every Child Ready to Read Program. Johnson County Public Library modified the information that program first developed, and they renamed it “6 by 6: Six Skills by Six Years.” Many of these skills are things parents already practice with their children without taking much time to consider the educational benefits. Things like pointing out the letters on a stop sign or words on a billboard can actually help children notice that words are all around them. Little habits like this can truly make a big difference in a child’s attitude toward reading.

Our librarians love to help children discover the joy of reading. Come visit us at the library for great book recommendations and resources for growing readers.

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

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