Month: July 2019

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Blast Off with Books About Space Travel

Blast Off with Books About Space Travel
By Eric Matthews, Circulation Supervisor

With this week marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission, there is a renewed interest in all aspects of the early days of rocketry and the 1960’s fever pitch of space travel. From the first testing of V-2 rockets that ultimately propelled us to that “one giant leap for mankind” and through the end of the NASA Apollo program in 1972, the Manhattan Public Library has a nice selection of material that focuses on those heady days of the space race so many years ago.

The book I have enjoyed the most thus far, and highly recommend, is “American Moonshot” by Douglas Brinkley. This book is able to juxtapose John Kennedy’s seemingly lifelong desire to explore new frontiers and expand the boundaries of human possibility with German scientist Wehrner von Braun’s borderline obsessive desire to master the technology of ballistic missile and rocket technology until it seems that those forces were destined to merge and create something that had never been accomplished in the history of human exploration.

“…this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in the period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

With those words spoken in front of a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy expected that America would pick up the gauntlet he had boldly laid down and be at the forefront of space exploration, and in the process, beat the Russians in this crucial game of global (and now universal) one-upsmanship. Keep in mind, when he said the above quote, Alan Shepard had been the only American in outer space and for no longer than 15 minutes. In the almost decade leading up to the moon landing, there would be numerous setbacks and failures along the way for both sides. The Americans would lose Astronauts Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom and Ed White in the Apollo 1 fire and the Russians losing Cosmonauts Vladimir Komarov and the first human in outer space, Yuri Gagarin. With these tragic problems, it was debated whether or not America should even continue such a dangerous, and incredibly expensive endeavor. Despite all of this, the methodical milestones and triumphs would lead to the ultimate success that came to define the exceptionalism of the American space program.

Another solid recommendation you can pick up at the library is the movie “First Man” directed by “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling as the titular first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong. This film really gives you the feeling of all the hard work, sacrifice and alienation that astronauts and their families had to contend with.

Sticking with movies, “Apollo 11” is a fantastic documentary that chronicles every aspect of the first moon landing mission from the transport of the Saturn V rocket to the launchpad, to seeing Johnny Carson in the spectator grandstand to finding out that the Eagle nearly ran out of fuel before landing on the moon, meaning a crash would have been likely, stranding Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon and marking a complete and utter failure of the entire space program. (Spoiler alert: they made it)

As a kid that grew up in the 80’s (in the shadow of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster), having missed the excitement of those Space Race days, it’s such a treat to have these titles out on the library shelves. In addition to these recommendations, there’s many more items to explore about space travel, our astronauts and the deeper reaches of the galaxy. Other items in our collection you should look into are “Shoot for the Moon” by Jim Donovan, “Mission to Mars” and “Magnificent Desolation” by Buzz Aldrin and for the early days of supersonic test flights, “Chasing the Demon” by Dan Hampton and Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff” which was also adapted into an epic classic film in 1983.

You’re able to find all these and so many more in our online catalog or just by dropping in and searching the shelves or asking at our Reference Desk or Children’s Desk.

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Recent Children’s and Young Adult Books on Immigration

Recent Children’s and Young Adult Books on Immigration

by Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian

Immigration is a large, complex issue, one that can be especially challenging to explain to children, tweens, and teens. There are many books on this topic at the library for our younger patrons, books which can be read together or in tandem with children to help broach the topic. These books cover all aspects of the immigrant experience, from the initial journey through acclimating to life in a new country and living with the risk of deportation.

Wendy Meddour’s picture book “Lubna and Pebble” provides a gentle introduction to immigration, focusing on the friendship between Lubna, a young immigrant, and a pebble she found on the beach. Pebble listens to all of Lubna’s concerns and is her dearest friend while she and her father live in the World of Tents, until they move to the next stage of their journey.

Another picture book, “Marwan’s Journey” by Patricia de Arias, recounts young immigrant Marwan’s determination to “walk, and walk, and walk” until he reaches a better place. This book is more somber, depicting the “darkness” of war that “swallowed up everything,” but also ends on a hopeful note, as Marwan thinks about returning to his homeland and “paint[ing] the walls with happiness.”

For older readers, there are graphic novels that tackle the immigrant journey, including “Zenobia” by Morten Dürr and “Illegal” by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin. Both of these comics begin in boats crossing to Europe, alternating the end of the journey with remembrances of the wars the main characters are fleeing and their journeys thus far. These books don’t shy away from tragedy and may be best for more mature readers.

There are also books about what immigrants can expect after they’ve arrived in a new country. Picture books include “Mustafa” by Marie-Louise Gay and “Saffron Ice Cream” by Rashin Kheiriyeh. In these books, Mustafa and Rashin are both learning about their new, sometimes strange homes in America, one by playing in the park and the other by visiting the beach. These books are both bittersweet and hopeful, showing how much immigrants have to adjust to in their new lives.

Anne Sibley O’Brien’s “Someone New” is a companion picture book to her earlier “I’m New Here,” focusing on the same three immigrant children as they acclimate to their new classrooms. “Someone New” follows the immigrants’ classmates, including their initial reactions to the newcomers and how they eventually discover common ground (soccer, writing, and drawing) that they can use to build friendships.

Jasmine Warga’s middle grade novel “Other Words for Home” is about Jude, a girl who immigrates to America from Syria with her mother. This novel-in-verse combines big topics, like immigration and war, with more everyday youth concerns, like auditioning for a school play. Above all, it’s about Jude trying to find her identity as everything she knows shifts around her.

Mango Moon,” by Diane de Anda, is a picture book about deportation, showing how it affects the family members who are left behind. Maricela’s papi has been deported, and, as she looks at what he called the “mango moon,” she thinks about him and the changes that have occurred in her life since he was deported. This book brings up a lot of questions and doesn’t resort to giving out easy answers.

Memoirs are also good for helping put faces to the large, sometimes-abstract issue of immigration. Actress Diane Guerrero talks about her experience as a child of immigrants in “My Family Divided.” Born in America to undocumented Columbian immigrants, Guerrero’s life was shattered when they were deported while she was at school for the day.

For the experience of an undocumented immigrant teen, check out “Americanized” by Sara Saedi, whose family left Iran when she was two years old. Growing up thoroughly American, Saedi didn’t know she wasn’t an American citizen until her older sister was unable to get a part-time job due to the lack of a Social Security number.

Malala Yousafzai recently published “We Are Displaced,” a memoir that incorporates the stories of many young refugees she met during her travels. Yousafzai writes of her struggles adjusting to a new country and knowing she couldn’t return home, then introduces stories from refugees and volunteers from around the world.

These are only some of the recent books available at the library covering immigration; we have many others touching on similar themes. For help finding these books or books on any other topic, feel free to ask for assistance at the Children’s Desk and the Reference Desk.

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By Jared Richards, Technology Supervisor

I have previously written about the oft-maligned, but perfectly acceptable, practice of judging a book by its cover. Now I am back to judge books by the pictures contained within them. In this case, I am not referring to picture books for children, but as an aside, those books aren’t just for children. Along with the fantastic artwork, they’re often humorous, quick reads, which distill important life lessons in easily comprehensible ways, and we should all be reading them. But this article isn’t about those books.

This article is about cookbooks. Our cookbook collection is tremendous, both in terms of scale and quality. We have books that feature cuisines from around the world, and our books can accommodate all skill levels, from those who think they may have a kitchen but aren’t quite sure, to experienced home bakers who dream of baking in a British tent.

Cook Fast, Eat Well” by Sue Quinn advertises 160 recipes that only require five ingredients and ten minutes to cook. Each recipe is on a two-page spread, and a single image spans both pages. On the left page you will find the ingredients neatly arranged and clearly labeled on a kitchen table, along with needed equipment, like a blender or pan. On the right page you will find the continuation of that table, featuring the finished dish, along with the recipe itself. I like the choice of displaying the actual ingredients, rather than just listing them, because it encourages you to get everything out and ready before you start, so you’re not scrambling around later.

Comfort food varies for everyone, but “How to Feed Yourself” has made me rethink my life. The photograph accompanying their recipe for honey-sriracha Brussels sprouts makes my mouth water, and I now know of the existence of the tater tot waffle grilled cheese. This beautiful monstrosity is a grilled cheese sandwich that has replaced the bread with tater tots cooked in a waffle iron.

I’m a fan of sauces, or at least the idea of them, because they seem like an easy way to change up the flavor of any meal. Elisabeth Bailey offers up over sixty sauces in her book “The Make-Ahead Sauce Solution.” The idea is that these sauces can be made ahead of time and frozen until needed. Each recipe tells you how much sauce you will need for a given base (chicken, rice, pasta, sandwich, etc.) as well as meal suggestions for each base. Each sauce is displayed on a wooden spoon and often shown in use on a nicely-photographed plate of food.

East Meets Vegan” by Sasha Gill provides an array of plant-based recipes inspired by Asian cuisine from China, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, India, and Thailand. This book makes classic dishes, which are often prepared using meat or other animal products, accessible to those whose diets skew towards vegan. The photographs also show that the food is wonderfully colorful, which is up there with taste in terms of importance.

For those wanting to take a deeper dive, we have “The New Essentials Cookbook” by America’s Test Kitchen and “Vegetables Illustrated” by Cook’s Illustrated. “Vegetables Illustrated” features over 700 recipes, which are divided by the featured vegetable, from artichokes to zucchini, so it is easy to find a recipe for whatever vegetables you have on hand. And if you want to learn all the things but only want to carry one book home, go with “The New Essentials Cookbook.” It starts out with a tour of what you’ll need in your kitchen, from basic tools to fancy electronic gadgets, and gives you a list of the staples that should be in your pantry. From there, food prep is covered, along with the simplest way to cook all sorts of food. The vast majority of the book contains more advanced recipes, which are accompanied by plenty of instructions and pictures to walk you through the process.

I have recently found myself browsing our cookbooks because I have been sucked into a world of cooking through online videos and documentaries. I must admit that I tend to have an eat-to-live rather than a live-to-eat outlook towards food, but I do enjoy watching talented people who are passionate about what they do. Their creativity and passion are inspiring, beyond the scope of cooking, but if I can channel a little bit of that inspiration into my kitchen, I wouldn’t be opposed. And even if I can’t, the food photography in our cookbooks is top-notch and worth a look.