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New Year, New Room!

By Jennifer Bergen, Children’s Services Manager

It has been nearly a full year since Kelley Construction Company broke ground outside the library to begin the children’s room expansion. Now, on January 17, 2015, just 358 days after the ceremonial groundbreaking, we will have a grand opening celebration to showcase the new Children’s Room, including fantastic reading areas, imaginative play spaces, and a larger Storytime Room for programs.

Already, the room is drawing crowds of kids, from an excited after-school bunch needing a place to hang out before evening ball games, to little tots discovering the secret doors into the playhouse.

kidsWalking into the room, anyone familiar with the library will immediately notice changes. Colorful carpet tiles lighten up the room, and an innovative bookshelf in the entryway draws readers in to have a look at the newest books available.  Kids who find something they like can crawl right into the bookshelf and begin reading in a comfy built-in nook.

Picture books have grown in popularity, so that space is enlarged with more book displays to show off the fantastic illustrations that define this genre.  The area formerly used for storytime has been renovated to encompass both an early literacy space for preschoolers and toddlers, as well as a parent and teacher resource center with a collection of books for adults.  Parents can browse for the perfect “toddler years” guide while their little ones are entertained with puppets, puzzles and books.

The new Storytime Room is a fabulous space with media capabilities that will allow for innovative programs.  There will be plenty of room for all the kids an  caregivers and even the double strollers.  Our first storytime in the room will be January 19.  Until then, children are enjoying the large, open space, bean bag animals, and bright colored cubes for seating.  On nicer winter days, families can slip out the side doors and enjoy the fenced-in garden area, free to explore nature, read outdoors, draw with chalk or play with items on the outside table.  Our new storytime schedule includes a Nature Storytime twice a week that will take place outdoors as often as possible.

roomOn the other side of the room, a special feature kids of all ages seem to enjoy is the climbable “Mount Verde”, a large, lime green, multi-level structure where kids can sit, lounge, or pose as King of the Mountain.  The structure resides in the Reading Corner amidst giant pillows, puzzle shaped seats, and soft comfy chairs.  The oval sloped lounge chair and blue wavy couch are other fun pieces on which kids or adults can relax as they preview their library choices.  This is the scene passers-by see as they drive past the windows of the library on Poyntz, and it is often teeming with children and parents.

Nestled around the edges of the room next to the Reading Corner are “neighborhoods” of books: Arts & Crafts, Science & Nature, Graphic Novels, Transportation, Geography, History, Animals, and Fairy Tales & Folklore.  Excellent selections of books on these subjects are perfect for young browsers who want to find everything on their favorite topics.  Children are drawn in with interactive features such as a magnetic gear and propeller wall, an enormous globe to spin, crafts to make on the spot, rotating displays, objects to build with, and even some live fire-bellied toads.  The fairy tale dress up clothes have been very popular, too.

The library’s large collection of children’s fiction is also relocated to this part of the room, and it includes divisions for beginning readers and early chapter books to help younger children find titles at the right reading level.

The additional space has allowed room for the children’s media collections that had been housed next to the adult media.  Children’s movies are now next to the librarians’ service desk, along with the children’s music CDs and audiobooks.  Customers have commented that they didn’t know the library had books on CD or music CDs for children until now.

studySoon, the Technology Zone in the children’s room will be upgraded with twelve touchscreen computers just for kids, loaded with entertaining and educational games, and quick links to kid-friendly websites.

Check it all out first hand, and tell us what you think. We are interested in hearing feedback as we continue to organize all our new furnishings and materials to make it the best library possible for all the kids and families who come in.  Join us on January 17, between 1:00 and 4:00, as we celebrate this new space with donor recognition, fun activities around the room for children, a musical performance by Rockin’ Rob at 2:00, and costumed characters Olivia and Curious George roaming the library.

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

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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  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.

Posted in: Adult Services, For Adults, Mercury Column, News

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Icons in the World of Music: The Latest in Unforgettable Biographies

By Marcia Allen, Collection Development

Hard times were a daily reality for Elmo and Mamie Lewis in the state of Louisiana during the 1930s. Elmo made a living sharecropping and sometimes cooking whiskey, until he was caught and sentenced to five years in prison. Son Elmo, Jr., who often sang in church and who cared for his younger brother Jerry Lee, was killed at the age of nine when a drunken driver struck him. That left Mamie and little Jerry Lee to make the best of the situation.

jerryIn 1940, four-year-old Jerry Lee realized the path his life was to take. During a visit with his mother’s sister, he pressed down a single key on his aunt’s piano. He later described the experience as one similar to fire reaching through his head. With no previous experience, he immediately began the opening chords of “Silent Night.”

Yes, Jerry Lee went on to lead a scandalous personal life, shocking his followers with his many marriages and his exploits with drugs and alcohol, but he also produced a phenomenal library of songs that few have matched. Songs like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” which were considered provocative when they were first released, are now deemed groundbreaking rock and roll with hillbilly overtones
What makes “Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story” remarkable is author Rick Bragg’s flair for retelling the musician’s story. Bragg, author of award-winning tales like “All over but the Shoutin’” and “Ava’s Man,” brings to the story an incredible skill for southern storytelling and a genuine fondness for Jerry Lee. This story packs a wallop as a colorful character study. (more…)

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column, News

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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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In Defense of the Graphic Novel

By Amber Keck, Children’s Librarian

The concept of telling stories through images has been around since the beginning of time. The idea has evolved in many ways, including the introduction of the comic book. From superhero stories to biographies, one can find a graphic novel about almost any subject. In recent years, the literary merit of reading comic books has come under fire, and many educators and librarians have joined the debate in defense of the graphic novel.

Reading visuals and text together requires the reader to make inferences about what is happening in the scenario or storyline. Think about the experience of reading picture books to your child. Very rarely will the characters’ emotions be portrayed through text; often, the illustrator allows the character to emote through illustrations. These inference skills start developing at the beginning of a child’s life and should continue on throughout the rest of his young adult and adult reading life.

Graphic novels also allow the reader to explore time and motion in a different way. As a young reader’s comprehension and reading levels increase, he wants to read stories with more characters and complicated circumstances. The same concept applies to graphic novels, as authors add more panels and more scenarios. A graphic novelist may make the storyline move faster and slower by modifying panels and introducing visual transitions. (more…)

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Bedtime Books for Summer Nights

by Grace Benedick, Children’s Librarian

As a child, I loved the long summer days and the warm summer nights, but if there was one thing I really hated about summer, it was bedtime. I think we can all remember the childhood trial of trying to fall asleep before the sun had set—when it seemed the whole world was still wide awake. Fortunately, for all of you grown-ups with children undergoing that yearly trial, the library is full of wonderful bedtime stories to appease your wakeful children. In fact, over 200 titles will come up if you search our catalog for picture books about bedtime, so here’s a small selection of summery favorites to get you started:

atnightJonathan Bean’s debut picture book, At Night is all about one of those restless nights when sleep just won’t come. The story moves at a poetic, quiet pace, following a restless girl as she chases the night breeze up to her city roof. With her curious mother trailing behind, she takes her pillows and blankets upstairs to the rooftop terrace, where she can see the moon and feel the breeze, and better yet—fall asleep.



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Not Just For Dummies

Linda Henderson, Adult Services Librarian

Interested in understandable information? Hungry for a new hobby? Manhattan Public Library offers over 300 “For Dummies” and “Complete Idiot’s Guides” that you can borrow today!

“For Dummies” books provide newcomer-friendly information and instruction on a broad variety of topics — everything from art to welding. Despite the title, their publisher has taken great pains to emphasize that the “For Dummies” books are not literally for “dummies”; the subtitle explains that they are simply, “A Reference for the Rest of Us!” To date, over 1,600 “For Dummies” titles have been published in numerous languages to worldwide acclaim.

The “For Dummies” series began in 1991 with “DOS for Dummies.” The book became popular due to the rarity of beginner-friendly instructions for using the notoriously user-unfriendly DOS interface. Later, the series branched out beyond computer technology, adding titles as diverse as “Dad’s Guide to Pregnancy for Dummies,” “Chess for Dummies,” and “Buddhism for Dummies.” Our library offers many of these great guides. (more…)

Posted in: Adult Services, Mercury Column, News

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Snowflakes Fall and Other Important Books of 2013

Steven Kellogg is a children’s book author and illustrator who has touched the lives of most of us in one way or another. You may recall reading aloud his fun picture books about the big white dog Pinkerton in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, or The Day Jimmy’s Boa at the Wash and other strange tales like The Island of Skog and The Mysterious Tadpole.  He retold tales of larger than life characters like Pecos Bill and Johnny Appleseed and illustrated books that became classics in children’s literature–Is Your Mama a Llama and How Much is a Million.  I’ve admired his intricate artwork for years. I did not know that for most of those years, he was working and raising his family in a quiet Connecticut neighborhood called Sandy Hook.  With the publication of his newest book, Snowflakes Fall, a collaboration with Patricia MacLachlan (author of Sarah, Plain and Tall), Kellogg pays tribute to the lost lives of children and adults in the tragic school shooting of December 14, 2012. 

A remarkable and wonderful aspect of their book is that it is filled with joy. MacLachlan’s poem flows lightly and delicately as snow falling from a clear sky, and the children in the pictures are grinning with delight as they make tracks, go sledding, and jump in the snow drifts.  This beautiful winter picture book will once again touch the lives of so many readers. It is a celebration of snow and of childhood excitement about the wonders of our world. Perhaps it can also help heal hearts as the snow angels left by the children lift off the last page and fly into the snowy sky. 

Kadir Nelson’s book Nelson Mandela is another extraordinary picture book from 2013, which shares Mandela’s history and legacy with a new generation.  The biographical information is extremely brief, but significant moments in Mandela’s childhood and adult life are marked with poignant and inspring illustrations, from the opening page showing silhouetted children playing on a grassy hill to the final portrait of Mandela boldly addressing his people after being elected president of South Africa.  The most recent issue of The New Yorker features a painting of Mandela by Kadir Nelson, as well as pictures from the book which came out just 11 months before Mandela’s death.

Aaron Becker’s new wordless picture book Journey has received much attention for its amazing sketches that manage to convey a whole story and range of emotions without using language.  A bored child leaves her house with a red crayon which opens a door to a new, colorful world.  Like Harold with his purple crayon from many years ago, the child is able to draw the items she needs to transport her and save her – a boat, a hot-air balloon, and even a magic carpet. Unlike Harold, she is not trying to find her way back home, but instead saves a beautiful purple bird from capture which, in turn, opens another door. 

Last Saturday, the library hosted a “Mock Caldecott” discussion led by the Children’s and Adolescent Literature Community (ChALC) and the KSU English Department.  More than 30 picture books from 2013 were considered by the group, and Journey was voted the winner. With allusions to Crockett Johnson (Harold and the Purple Crown), Miyazaki (Spirited Away) and David Wiesner (Tuesday and Art & Max), it still stands on its own as a singularly beautiful and fantastical story.  One person noted that the art looked like “something you could actually fall into and explore.” Journey will engage children’s imaginations and let them feel their own power to take action and do the right thing. The real Caldecott award winner will be announced by the American Library Association on January 27th.

Reveiwed by Jennifer Adams
Published in The Mercury, December 15, 2013


Posted in: Children's Dept, Mercury Column

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Colorful Picture Books to Highlight Read to Preschoolers Week

Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week is November 17-23, highlighting the importance of reading aloud to young children daily.  Our library was honored to be chosen as the site for the statewide kick-off with a special storytime on November 19 at 11:00. First Lady Mary Brownback will read this year’s selected book, Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd, and children’s librarians will lead other fun songs, rhymes and stories.  Following storytime, we will host “Dog’s Colorful Play Day” during which children can create a dog craft with spots of all colors, play with balloons, games and puzzles related to literacy, colors, shapes, and other early concepts and skills, and take home a free book, courtesy of the Manhattan Library Association and a Ready to Read grant.

The library has thousands of other great picture books to read aloud with young children.  Here are just a few new ones that will spark their imaginations:

A great follow-up to Dog’s Colorful Day is Dog Loves Counting by Louise Yates. Dog counts his way through various animals, finding different traits to count, like the lines on a five-lined skink or the rings on a raccoon’s tail.  Another fun dog story is Chris Raschka’s new Daisy book, Daisy Gets Lost.  Raschka’s illustrations, sometimes described as abstract or “fluid,” blend colors and lines, capturing motion and emotion at the same time. Daisy gets distracted from playing catch and chases a squirrel, leaving her owner behind.  The reuniting hug at the end is a satisfying ending for any dog lover.

David Wiesner, winner of multiple Caldecott Medals, has a new, nearly wordless picture book to please both cat lovers and alien hunters.  Mr. Wuffles! appears to be a typical cat – too lazy to play with the toys his owner buys him, but endlessly watching through cracks in the wall while twitching his tail.  Wiesner shows us what is happening behind Mr. Wuffles’s walls – tiny aliens have landed, and they need help to repair their ship damaged by the cat’s paws.  Enjoy this delightful, playful book as children describe what is happening and what they think the aliens are saying to each other.

Fantastical animals will carry you away in Emily Winfield Martin’s Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey.  Beautiful paintings show children riding animals – a bear, a fox, a narwhal – to dreamy landscapes that combine real animals with fairies, elves and imaginary beasts, making the transition from bedtime story to dreamland seamless.

In Stardines: Swim High Across the Sky, a new book of poetry by Jack Prelutsky, the author creates new critters by changing or adding just one (very important) letter to each animal’s name, followed by a poem about its humorous habitat and behaviors.  Learn about bluffaloes, chormorants, slobsters and more.  The tattlesnake is a rattler with a megaphone for a head – “Tattlesnake, Tattlesnake, Overly keen to tattle repeatedly – Truly, you’re mean. You’re noisy, annoying. You’re venomous, vile. You don’t mind your business. We don’t like your style.” I’m sure Mr. Prelutsky would approve of kids making up more new animals and poems themselves after reading this volume!

Magic Colors and Magic Opposites by Patrick George are fun books to share with children.  Each double-page spread is separated by a clear plastic page with a single shape or color.  Turning the clear page from one side to the other illustrates a color change or an opposite image.  An umbrella in the rain on one side becomes a beach umbrella in the sun on the other side.  Children will marvel over the way a pink semi-circle can be a pink and brown ice cream scoop on one side, and an orange sunset on the other.  This is a great way to introduce the idea of mixing colors to make new ones. Get out the paint set next!

Reviewed by Jennifer

Published in The Mercury, Nov. 3, 2013

Posted in: Children's Dept, Mercury Column

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Harry Potter – Played Out or Prolific?

When I came to Manhattan Public Library in June 1999, a steady buzz was rippling around the community…and the world. It sounded like this: harrypotterharrypotterharrypotter. I did not realize at the time that I had entered my new career in children’s librarianship at a phenomenal turning point.  The Harry Potter craze that ensued has given way to other high profile adolescent bestsellers like “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games.”  This summer, we are celebrating the 15th anniversary of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, an interesting time to look back at how children’s literature has changed.

Dr. Karin Westman, K-State’s Department Head of English and Harry Potter scholar, says, “The success of the Harry Potter series reminds us that both children and adults enjoy long, complicated stories filled with complex characters who grapple with moral choices within a richly detailed setting. The series paved the way for a new age in children’s literature publishing, too: 400+ page books could become the norm, and midnight release parties could be part of a standard marketing campaign.”

Harry Potter opened the door for many adults to read a children’s book, something they may not have ever considered before, and also drew in people who had never been readers of fantasy.  As each Harry Potter novel got lengthier and more involved, young readers amazingly kept up with the challenging literature and formed book discussion groups, clubs and fan websites.

In 2013, does the legacy of Harry Potter live on?  While the buzz has died down considerably, our well-used copies of the seven book series at the library certainly do not show any signs of dust.  The movies produced by Warner Brothers kept interest up for many years, and the Harry Potter and Lego Harry Potter video games are quite popular. This summer, I noticed the Harry Potter books on our summer reading prize cart are still some of the most coveted prizes we give away.

Dr. Westman points out another interesting development.  “Even though the series is complete and films have been released, the Harry Potter phenomenon continues through charitable organizations like the Harry Potter Alliance, which channels the love fans have for Rowling’s series into social change. As the mission statement explains, HPA members seek to ‘destroy real-world horcruxes like inequality, illiteracy, and human rights violations,’ thanks to a staff of over 60 volunteers, more than 85 HPA chapters, and a network that reaches well over one million people across five continents.”

In Manhattan, the Children’s and Adolescent Literature Community (ChALC) and the K-State HPA chapter host an annual Hallows & Horcruxes Ball featuring bands named after characters or places from Rowling’s series. Proceeds from the concert are donated to First Book, which provides new books for children in need.

A new generation is being introduced to Harry Potter by their parents who felt its magic when they first read the books a decade or more ago.  In a few weeks, Scholastic will release new editions of the entire series, with brand new cover art and a promotional campaign to heighten interest once again.

We invite kids to join us for two Harry Potter Parties at the library this semester (We just couldn’t fit everything in to one!): August 27 at 4:30 and September 27 at 2:00.  Children’s librarian Chelsea Todd is helping plan the parties, which she says will “give our librarians the opportunity to promote and share their love for this series and their passion for reading with children who will make the same connections and find someone to relate to, whether it be a character in the books or new friends they meet who like Harry Potter, too.”

With decorations and props, kids at the library will get to enter Hogwarts with house colors and banners, an enchanted ceiling, wall portraits and quotes from the novels. Some activities planned for the events include meeting characters like Professor Snape and Luna Lovegood, attending favorite Hogwarts classes, making a wand or other crafts, exploring Diagon Alley and playing Harry Potter trivia. On September 27th, we will also show the first movie from the series on the big screen in our auditorium.

Reviewed by Jennifer Adams

Published in The Manhattan Mercury, Aug. 11, 2013

Posted in: Children's Dept, Mercury Column

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