Month: January 2020

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Talk About Literature in Kansas: “Living with the Land”

Talk About Literature in Kansas: “Living with the Land”

by Bryan McBride, Learning and Information Services Librarian

Image result for “Prodigal Summer”Join us at the Manhattan Public Library for Talk About Literature in Kansas (TALK) book discussions on March 19th, April 23rd, and May 21st.  The theme is “Living with the Land.” (The following descriptions are provided by Humanities Kansas.)

Much of human history viewed nature as an enemy to be tamed, conquered, or endured. Today, faced with accelerated loss of the natural world, increasing numbers of people have begun to recognize the natural world’s value and worry about how best to keep its ways – and the livelihoods and cultures that have specifically adapted to exploit a certain kind of environment – from being lost. The characters in this series ask themselves what the place of nature can or should be when the world is becoming increasingly complex and “unnatural.”

In Pearl Buck’s “The Good Earth,” Wang Lung, a poor peasant who “makes good” by caring about and acquiring land, has unfailing help from his wife but values her only for her labor and sons she supplies. Their sons, brought up in an industrializing China, stray from their father’s commitment to the land and to older values.

Rachel Waltner Goossen will lead this discussion on Thursday, March 19, at 2:00 p.m. She is a history professor at Washburn University specializing in 20th century U.S. and women’s history. She received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Kansas. Rachel joined the TALK program in 2008.

The novel “Prodigal Summer” by Barbara Kingsolver focuses on three sets of intertwined lives. Forest ranger Deanna Wolfe tries to protect coyotes from a Wyoming rancher. City-girl Lusa Landowski must decide whether to take up her dead husband’s farm despite the in-laws’ disapproval. Long-time neighbors feud about changes and choices in the modern world.

Anne Hawkins will lead the discussion of “Prodigal Summer” on Thursday, April 23, at 2:00 p.m.  She teaches U.S. history at Washburn University, and U.S. and world history to homeschooled youth across northeast Kansas. She received her M.A. in History from the University of Kansas. Hawkins joined the TALK program as a discussion leader in 2012.

Set at the end of colonial Africa, Dinesen’s memoir, “Out of Africa,” idealized the African land and those living in harmony with it, as compared with what she saw as the failings of the industrialized West. The beauty of Africa and its animals, along with the relatively undisturbed life of its people, are all lovingly described.

The discussion of “Out of Africa” will be led by Anne Hawkins as well, and will be held at the Manhattan Public Library on Thursday, May 21, at 2:00 p.m.

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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Circadian Novels to Spend a Day with

Circadian Novels to Spend a Day with

by Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian

Related image            Nothing feels quite as exhilarating as finishing a book within a single day, but circadian novels are almost as delightful. These are books in which the entire action of the title transpires within a single 24-hour span. Being the young adult novel lover that I am, now seems a perfect time to examine the library’s offerings of YA novels that occur within a single day.

This first one, “The Sun Is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon, may already be familiar to you, but that makes it no less wonderful of a book. Natasha’s a science-minded teen whose family faces deportation to Jamaica, while Daniel’s a romantic optimist struggling against his family’s expectations for his future. When the two meet, they spend a day in New York City that may changes their futures. Yoon heightens an already engrossing story by including snippets of the lives of people Natasha and Daniel interact with, reminding readers that everyone around you is living their own multifaceted lives.

Maurene Goo’s “Somewhere Only We Know” is the perfect book for K-pop fans, as it follows fictional K-pop idol Lucky on a stolen day off in Hong Kong. With the help of Jack, an irresistibly cute boy with motives of his own, she explores the city and realizes all she’s missing. Goo’s writing thrums with the electric attraction between Lucky and Jack, making for a book good enough that I finished it within a day.

Jennifer E. Smith’s “Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between” provides a more melancholy take on the circadian teen romance. The night before they leave for their separate colleges, Clare and Aidan have to decide whether they should break up or try a long-distance relationship. Unlike most books in this article, which feature extraordinary circumstances or a meet-cute worthy of a rom-com, this scenario is heartbreakingly plausible and all the more bittersweet because of it.

For the full bittersweet, single-day experience, look no further than Adam Silvera’s “They Both Die at the End.” With the advent of Death-Cast, everyone receives a phone call the day they will die, so they can live their last day to the fullest. Mateo and Rufus both receive notice that they’re about to die and so connect on Last Friend, an app for people looking for a friend to share their End Day with. Though the title of this book may spoil the ending, it doesn’t make the journey any less meaningful.

This Is Where It Ends” by Marieke Nijkamp spans only 54 minutes, told from the perspectives of four different teens. It’s the first day of a new semester, and Opportunity High School’s principal has just wrapped up her welcome speech, when the students discover that the auditorium doors are locked. Shots are fired. Autumn, Claire, Sylv, and Tomás all know Tyler, but none of them would have expected him to be a school shooter.

Those wanting a more traditional thriller can try Caleb Roehrig’s “White Rabbit.” The same night Rufus’s ex-boyfriend shows up wanting to “talk,” he receives a cryptic call for help from his half-sister, April. When they find April, she’s covered in blood, clutching a knife, next to her dead boyfriend. April swears she isn’t the murderer, and so Rufus and his ex-boyfriend spend the night looking for the truth and fighting to stay alive.

Circadian novels can also cover rather ordinary days, like Jo Knowles’s “Read Between the Lines,” which uses a single day to explore the lives of nine teenagers and one teacher during a regular school day. The book works as interconnecting short stories, each examining the conflicting outer face and inner circumstances of every character. Knowles excels at depicting each character and making the reader consider how little we know about other people’s lives.

In “Release,” Patrick Ness follows the worst day of Adam’s life. In dealing with his fundamentalist Christian parents, rejecting sexual advances from his boss, untangling his feelings for his current- and ex-boyfriends, and attending a farewell party for his best friend and his ex, Adam faces a turning point in his life. His story intertwines with that of a ghost, bringing in an element of magical realism to a story already rife with references to Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” and Judy Blume’s “Forever.”

For more circadian novels, YA or adult, or any other novels, feel free to stop by the library and ask for book recommendations.

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Resolutions

Resolutions

by Jared Richards, Technology Supervisor

Image result for molly on the rangeCarol singers and observant elves perched high on shelves are so last year. We’re now in the season of resolutions. I enjoy the process of resolving to do something, and then doing the research to make it a reality. Like many people, however, I’m not the best at following through. Lacking any immediate consequences for not succeeding in my resolve tends to have a significant impact on my motivation. Yarn piles, discarded devices, and dusty tools can attest to this.

One solution I have come up with this year to aid my motivation is library due dates. Unlike previous years, I’m going to take broader themes and break them into smaller goals, based on the due dates of my library books. Making things with wood and cooking more interesting meals are going to be my broad themes, but I’m going to break them into more easily attainable goals that I can accomplish within three weeks. At which point, I’ll have either accomplished my goal or I’ll return the book. Renewing will only be allowed if I complete my first goal. Regimentation is the key, but I also know myself, and know that concessions will be made. You get to make your own rules, though, that’s the best part.

More often than not, you’ll come across woodworking books and magazines at the library, both physical and digital, that are project-based. Easy-to-follow steps and copious images make these books a perfect solution for my three-week goals.

A classic first project is a birdhouse, and if that floats your boat, or flaps your wings, the library has got you covered. “Audubon Birdhouse Book” takes a deep dive and stresses the importance of building houses that are beneficial to the birds you’re trying to house, not just something that will look good in your yard. One stereotypical feature for birdhouses is a perch below the opening, like what you see on birdfeeders. It turns out the birds using the house don’t need that perch, but predators can use the perch to gain access to the birds inside. I also like this book for the detailed information they give about each bird, along with the appropriate house to build for each one. This book, along with many other birdhouse books, is not only available as a physical book, but can also be accessed digitally as an ebook through Hoopla, one of our online resources.

For the traditionalists, there’s “The Woodwright’s Shop” by Roy Underhill, which is only available on Hoopla. I grew up watching his show on PBS, and my fascination with his exclusive use of hand and non-powered tools has continued into adulthood. This particular book, first published in 1981, starts with finding the right trees for wood, moves on to building small projects, and ends with the timber-frame construction of his shop. That last one is a bit beyond my three-week scope.

Scaling back a bit, to the construction of individual meals, we have cookbooks. Like woodworking books, these are also project-based. I get easily overwhelmed by choice, and cookbooks are filled to the brim with choices. This year, however, rather than being moved to indecision by all the wonderful pictures, I’m going to flip through the book, find the first recipe that looks good, and make it.

The first time I had falafel, I was not a fan, but I recently had it twice and really enjoyed it. While flipping through “Molly on the Range” by Molly Yeh, I found a falafel recipe featuring coriander, and I’m looking forward to trying it. “Keepers” by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion, has a recipe for Asian-style slaw that photographs very well. In my head, it just might work with the falafel, and there’s only one way to find out.

The book that piqued my curiosity most recently is “Vegan Cheese” by Jules Aron. As you might have surmised from the title, it’s a book entirely devoted to non-dairy cheese. I haven’t ever really given it much thought, but now I’m intrigued. Especially by the dark chocolate brie recipe.

As you can tell by the date, the year is young, and who knows what it’ll hold, but my resolutions are helping me feel all right about it. And several months from now, when I have forgotten my resolutions and I am questioning all of my life choices, I’ll check out a library book, and be reminded by the due date that, way back in January, I had this great idea to stick to my goals.

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Looking Back as We Look Forward

Looking Back as We Look Forward

by Chelsea Todd, LIS Librarian

Image result for amina's voiceI was watching the previews to a movie recently, when I noticed that almost every preview I saw was a re-make or continuation of a movie I’d already seen. Many of them based on books I read in my childhood. It seems to have become common in both media and literature to tell the same story- sometimes from different perspectives or in different time periods, but with the same themes that drew us in the first time around.

It got me thinking: what is it about these stories that we love enough to see them over and over? Aren’t there new and more exciting stories to tell as time passes?  I’ve concluded that, as time goes by, it is really about wanting to share something that influenced and molded us into the people we are today. It’s about preserving and passing them forward, but also looking at these stories with fresh eyes and new understandings of their relevance.  So, I will choose to enjoy and share each new telling of these stories, but also not forget where they originated or that there are also new stories to enjoy.

If you’re looking for some well-loved stories to dive back into, here are some of my favorites:

Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott is a story, set during the civil war, of four sisters learning to make their way in the world with very different talents and interests to guide them. Any of your historical fiction lovers would enjoy this one! Alcott’s follow-up novel, “Little Men,” continues the story of the March family.

The Princess Diaries” by Meg Cabot: This ten-book series revolves around the life of Mia Thermopolis as she strives to find balance between becoming a princess and being a normal teenager. These books are aimed at high school readers, but there is also a spin-off series for younger readers about Mia’s younger sister, called “From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess.”

Artemis Fowl” by Eoin Colfer is a series that begins with 12-year-old Artemis who is a self-declared criminal mastermind. This series has a wildly entertaining group of supporting characters such as Butler, Artemis’ bodyguard; and Captain Holly Short, a fairy who is a member of the LEPrecon unit determined to stop him. Colfer followed this series by releasing the books as graphic novels, as well as writing a book about Artemis’ younger brothers entitled “The Fowl Twins.”

The Story of Dr. Doolittle” by Hugh Lofting has also had some grand retellings, and will again in 2020, however its worth reading the original classic about the quirky doctor who works better with animals than he does with humans, and the adventures they go on together. There are several sequels to this classic.

The Call of the Wild” by Jack London is a naturalist piece set in the Yukon in the late 1890s that explores the motif Man vs. Nature, and centers around the harsh life of a sled-dog named Buck and his owner Thornton as they struggle to survive the wild unknown.

If you’re looking for some newer stories to love, you might try one of these more recent books:

The Loser’s Club” is written by the late Andrew Clements who has given us many realistic fiction books that humorously reflect adolescent life. Here he tells the relatable story of Alec, a boy who keeps getting in trouble for reading during class, which leads him to starting a club for readers called, you guessed it: The Losers Club.

Amina’s Voice” by Hena Khan explores the trials and tribulations of school, popularity, and finding oneself from the perspective of a Pakistani-American girl. This focuses on 11-year-old Amina who is discovering the importance of her culture amidst all the changes happening in her life.

 “Finding Langston” by Lesa Cline-Ransome is about a young African-American boy in the late 1940s who has lost his mother and moved to a new town where he must face a new school and new bullies, but also discovers the library and his namesake- poet Langston Hughes.

 “Paxby Sara Pennypacker is a recent William Allen White award winner, and tells the heart-warming story of a boy and the fox that he saved as a baby. Ultimately after being separated, both Peter and Pax know that they must find each other again.

Find all the classic or contemporary stories worth reading- or re-reading- at Manhattan Public Library. If you need even more suggestions, our staff are here to help.

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