Month: February 2019

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Three Book Discussions Explore “A Woman’s Place”

Three Book Discussions Explore “A Woman’s Place.”

By Linda Henderson, Learning and Information Services Librarian

Image result for their eyes were watching god

Mark your spring calendars!  Join us at Manhattan Public Library for three afternoon BookTalk discussions.  The theme is A Woman’s Place.  What is a woman’s place, and who makes that decision?

The discussion of women’s roles in society has advanced rapidly in the last two hundred years, and the books in this series each reflect a different period’s perspective on that dialogue.  Each author explores how women have developed personal strength of character, while dealing with their society’s and their loved ones’ perceptions of who and what they ought to be.  The stories they tell dramatically reveal the constant tensions between mothers and daughters, wives and husbands, careers and family. Humanities Kansas’s Talk About Literature in Kansas book discussions draw on our diverse literatures to help us see more clearly who we are as people.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, an American classic by Zora Neal Hurston, is the luminous and haunting novel about Janie Crawford, a black woman of the 1930s’ South.  Her journey from free-spirited girl to independent woman of substance has inspired readers and authors ever since.  The story is a tribute to a black woman who made herself heard despite the strictures of the times. 

Michaeline Chance-Reay will lead the discussion on Thursday, March 28, at 2:00 p.m.  Dr. Reay taught courses in Women’s Studies and Education at Kansas State University, and holds a Ph.D. in Humanities Education and an MSW in Social Work from Ohio State University.  Her research resulted in a 1998 exhibition at the Riley County Historical Museum, with an accompanying book: Land Grant Ladies: Kansas State University Presidential Wives.  Her current research deals with the Harvey Girls, the independent young women who served as waitresses along the Santa Fe Railroad in the 1880s. 

The Joy Luck Club, a remarkably imaginative and moving book by Amy Tan, continues to speak to many women, mothers, and growing daughters about the persistent tensions and enduring bonds between generations and cultures.  The mothers, all Chinese immigrants, tell about grueling hardships, as well as the tyranny of family pride and the fear of losing “face.”  The daughters, in turn, must try to reconcile their personalities, shaped by American surroundings, with the discordant expectations of their mothers. 

Anne Hawkins will lead the discussion of The Joy Luck Club on Thursday, April 25, at 2:00 p.m.  Hawkins teaches American History at Washburn University, as well as U.S. and world history to homeschooled children across northeastern Kansas.  She received her M.A. in History from the University of Kansas.  She has published numerous historical articles and scripts, and also performs as pioneering women, like abolitionist Mary Jane Ritchie of Topeka and author Louisa May Alcott.  She has led discussions for the Kansas Humanities Council since 2012.

A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather, centers on Marian Forrester and her husband Captain Daniel Forrester.  Mostly told from the perspective of Niel Herbert, a young admirer of Marian, it recounts their lives in the small western town of Sweet Water on the Transcontinental Railroad.  As he describes the decline of both Marian and the old West in which they reside, a tale of the shift from pioneering spirit to corporate exploitation emerges.  Exploring themes of social class and modernization, A Lost Lady is considered to be a major influence on the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald. 

The discussion of A Lost Lady will be led by Margy Stewart at Manhattan Public Library, May 23, 2019, at 2:00 p.m.  Dr. Stewart previously taught English at Washburn University, and is co-founder of the Prairie Heritage Institute, a non-profit corporation devoted to preservation of the tallgrass prairie and the culture of the Flint Hills.  She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin, and has published numerous essays on many topics, including Flint Hills history, prairie ecology, writing education, American literature, and the birds of Kansas.

All three books are now available to check out at the 2nd floor Reference Desk at Manhattan Public Library.  Take a look, and join us for these lively afternoon discussions, sponsored by Humanities Kansas and the Manhattan Library Association. 

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New Picture Books to Share With Your Young Ones

New Picture Books to Share With Your Young Ones

By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager

With so many new books coming out each month, it is hard to keep up with the wonderful stories and illustrations in children’s picture books. Here are a few new titles to check out for the little ones in your life.

All the Animals Where I Live by Philip C. Stead

Caldecott winner Stead’s books are always a treat, filled with his graceful sketches, enhanced with quiet hues and textures, alongside carefully chosen words to tell a story that requires you to slow down and absorb it. There is not really any plot, just the narrator’s account of memories, animals in the backyard, and a very special teddy bear from Grandma Jane. To read it silently to yourself is a disservice; this story is meant to be read aloud, and if possible, shared.

Ira Crumb Feels the Feelings by Naseem Hrab & Josh Holinaty

What does it feel like to have your happy-go-lucky day with your best friend ripped out from under you? Ira and Malcolm do everything together. They always laugh together, eat together and play together…until everyone else wants to play tag except Ira. This is what happens when the emotions sneak up on you: “My tummy hurts. My chin is wibbling. My eyes are leaking. Even my feelings are feeling feelings!” Read this one out loud to your child when you want to explore how sadness feels, and what you can do about it. Warning: telling fart jokes might help, so if that’s something that will always cheer your child up, this is the book for you.

Small Walt and Mo the Tow by Elizabeth Verdick and Marc Rosenthal

This picture book caught my eye with its nostalgic nod toward Virginia Lee Burton (Katy and the Big Snow, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel), a favorite author/illustrator from my childhood. In Verdick’s second “Small Walt” book, driver Gus and snow plow Walt are taking action from the get go, and Rosenthal’s friendly illustrations will draw kids right in. There’s been a blizzard and it’s time to plow and spread the salt. “Wipers, swish the slush! Tires, turn that snow to mush!” When he sees a car slide into the ditch, Gus calls for help from Mo the Tow and his driver, Sue. It’s not easy work. It takes tools and lots of great sounds like “Rugga-brum-brum, HUMMAROOOM!” This will satisfy truck lovers and lead perfectly into a Mike Mulligan reading up next.

What Do You Do With a Chance? By Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom

This third book in a series of picture books about abstract ideas is another treasure. A child encounters a bright, shining, yellow “chance”, but isn’t sure what to do with it, and the chance is lost. As life continues, more and more chances drop into the child’s path, and each time the chance seems a little too scary to actually take it. Finally, the child decides to grab the next chance, but it seems none are coming anymore. What can be done? It may take even more courage and determination to seek it out, to chase it down and to make sure it doesn’t get away. This time, everything is right for taking the big chance. This metaphor will not be lost on young children, and it’s something to refer back to when a real opportunity comes along for your child. Feeling a little scared is normal, but sometimes you can be brave and just go for it! Check out their first two titles as well, What Do You Do With an Idea and What Do You Do With a Problem.

Hush, Little Bunny by David Ezra Stein

Award-winner Stein’s sweet and tender illustrations create the perfect bedtime book, which can actually be sung to the tune of “Hush, Little Baby.” Share this with your toddler for a reassuring lullaby that shows little bunny’s parent always being there for him. “And when the spring has come and gone, I’m still gonna love you all year long.” This would make a great gift for baby showers and first birthdays. Looking for more great books to share? Stop by the library and visit with our children’s librarians, browse the library shelves, or sign up for the monthly e-newsletter featuring new picture books at www.mhklibrary.org under Reading & Research – Newsletters.

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Guy Friendly Romance Novels that aren’t Fifty Shades of Grey

Guy Friendly Romance Novels that aren’t Fifty Shades of Grey

By John Pecoraro, Associate Director

   

  OK men, Thursday is Valentine’s Day. If you are looking for a gift for that someone special a little more creative than the usual flowers and chocolates in a heart-shaped box, look no further than the library. Choose among the wide assortment of romance novels to read, share, and impress.

     Thousands of new romance titles are published every year. To help make sense of the overwhelming number and variety of romance fiction available, here are a few of the more guy friendly selections.

      A mysterious plague has taken over the quaint English village of Meryton, and the dead are returning to life, as zombies. This is the premise of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” by Seth Grahame-Smith. The author maintains the structure and language of Jane Austen’s original. Elizabeth Bennett is still beautiful and intelligent, but now is an expert in the “deadly arts.” She is determined to destroy the zombie menace. Enter the arrogant Mr. Darcy, who distracts Elizabeth from her quest. As much comedy and satire as romance, there is enough blood spilled in this book to satisfy everyone.  

     Librarian Henry DeTamble suffers from Chrono-Displacement Disorder. He travels involuntarily through time. His wife, artist Clare Abshire’s life follows a natural course. This is the impossibly romantic trap in which these lovers find themselves in “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” by Audrey Niffenegger. Henry and Clare tell the story from their own perspectives at various times in their lives. In Henry’s time travels he visits Clare as a little girl and later as an aged widow, and explains how it feels to be living outside the constraints of time. Both fantasy and love story, this creative tale explores the themes of fate and the belief in the bonds of love.

     Agnes Crandall is a food writer and cookbook author whose future with her fiancé, Taylor Beaufort looks rosy in “Agnes and the Hitman,” by Jennifer Crusie. They’ve bought an old house owned by widowed mob wife Brenda Fortunato, and promised to host a Fortunato family wedding. Maybe that’s where things began to go wrong. Someone broke into the house, fell down the stairs into a hidden basement, and died. Enter hit men, Shane and Carpenter to investigate. Who sent the intruder? Who sent the hit men? This is a romantic comedy mixed with a measure of action adventure.  

     British spymaster Robert Grey came to France to track down Annique Villiers, the notorious spy known as Fox Cub. In “The Spymaster’s Lady,” by Joanna Bourne, the spymaster and the spy must enter into a reluctant partnership to escape from prison. Grey must get the Fox Cub back to London to thwart Napoleon’s plans to invade England. But Annique is determined to block him at every turn. She’s never met a man she couldn’t deceive, but has she finally met her match?

    “How to Fall in Love with a Man who Lives in a Bush,” that’s the problem faced by Julia in the novel by Emmy Abrahamson. Julia lives a life of waiting: waiting to think of an original story, waiting to quit her job teaching English. She is convinced that she is content with her dull life, until she meets Ben. Ben is younger, Canadian, strong in his conviction that he is going to marry Julia, and he lives in a bush. Julia’s life from that point on takes a turn stranger than any fiction she can imagine. 

     In “No One Like You,” by Kate Angell, we find Beth Avery running away from her past and landing in the beach community of Barefoot William. She is out of money, but maybe not completely out of luck. Baseball star Rylan Cates needs a personal assistant to organize his life, and to take care of his four dogs. Beth loves the dogs, and Ryan feels safe from romantic entanglement because Beth isn’t his type. But Cupid has another opinion.

     And, of course, anything and everything by Jane Austen. So maybe not guy friendly, but a great way to impress that special someone in your life. Also, Austen’s novels are the closest I’ve ever come to reading Romance.

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New Short Story Collections at MPL

New Short Story Collections at MPL

By Mary Swabb, Learning & Information Services Supervisor

Stories are diverse and varied, but all seek to make something tangible to the reader. It may be a feeling, a place, an experience, or something else. Traditionally, the medium of the short story seeks to portray a story in fewer words (less than 30,000), with fewer characters (one or two), and with a single basic plot. Fewer words to depict a story means that particular care has to be given to each one. Many authors go so far as to see how few words they can utilize to render a story, which is called short, micro-, or flash fiction. Lydia Davis is one author who dabbles with sentence long stories. Other author’s continue to evolve the medium by playing with, different motifs, styles, and genres. Regardless of the type of story that intrigues you, there exists a short story for you. Manhattan Public Library has an assortment of short story collections available to fulfill readers’ interests. Here are a few that came out within the last year:

In her book “The Sound of Holding Your Breath,” Natalie Sypolt illuminates fourteen tales of small town life in present-day Appalachia. Sypolt’s characters live in a small town called Warm, “a place where no one cares if you live in a trailer,” and they struggle with secrets, losses, and the complexities of family. Tragedy and violence coerce Sypolt’s characters into wrestling with who they are in a challenging world. In “Stalking the White Deer,” a woman attempts to come to terms with the life she’s chosen, the man she’s chosen to be with, and the town that they will never leave. Other characters in “The Sound of Holding Your Breath” include siblings who struggle with the death of their sister-in-law, who’s been killed by their brother; a teenage boy who loves his sister’s husband; and a pregnant widow who spends the holidays with her deceased husband’s family. “The Sound of Holding Your Breath” is a collection of haunting stories that deal with emotional conflict depicted through powerful imagery.

Kimberly Lojewski has written eleven bittersweet modern fairy tales about growing older in her debut short story collection entitled “Worm Fiddling Nocturne in the Key of a Broken Heart.” Lojewski’s tales feature evocative imagery and elements of magical realism and bildungsroman. In her titular story, Lemon, a young girl who lives in the swamps with her uncles, seeks the attention of her best friend, an alligator wrestler named Sweets, who only has eyes for an albino beast called Swamp Ghost. In “Baba Yaga’s House of Forgotten Things,” authoritarian grandmas, who “sit on their porches and rock through the night, setting a hair-raising rhythm with the clickety-clack of their knitting needles and the wet, juicy chomping of their toothless gums,” run a summer camp that supposedly reforms juvenile delinquents. “Worm Fiddling Nocturne in the Key of a Broken Heart” is a collection of enchanted stories of change featuring mainly female protagonists.

Death at Sea” by Andrea Camilleri showcases Camilleri’s famous character, Inspector Montalbano, in eight new mysteries set in the fictional town of Vigata, based on the author’s home town in Sicily. Montalbano is a middle-aged, easily annoyed man who is passionate about food, and extremely loyal to his ragtag police team. Camilleri’s stories feature tricky situations and crimes that are not always solved by traditional police work. This short story collection is a fine introduction to readers new to Camilleri’s work.

A debut short story collection by Maxim Loskutoff illustrates an alternative present where an armed occupation of a wildlife refuge is escalating to civil war led by libertarian Western Separatists.  In twelve linked stories, Loskutoff illuminates a rural northwest experience where nature and violence exist in a symbiotic relationship. “Come West and See” showcases the tension between civilization and nature and explores the loneliness, fragility, and heartbreak inherent to love. Fans of dystopian works may be intrigued by this collection. The modern short story continues to evolve, encompassing a variety of motifs and styles. These are just a few of the varied short story collections to be found at Manhattan Public Library. If short stories do not interest you, do not worry – as always, the library has numerous lengthier tomes to delight your interests.

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