Month: September 2020

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Falling into Magical Colors

Falling into Magical Colors

By Stephanie Wallace, Library Assistant 2

Nights are officially growing longer, shadows are creeping farther, and a chill is rising on the back of your neck when you leave your car these days. Maybe it’s just leaves scuttling over the sidewalk or branches creaking in the wind, but our minds are telling us there are secrets waiting for us to discover them. Touches of magic that alight our imaginations and our fears, hoping to surprise us.

If you’re looking for titles that make you want to look twice at where you live, consider taking a peek at these books. They combine contemporary fantasy with mysteries rooted in diverse cultures to transform familiar locales into magical worlds.

Let’s start with “Shadowshaper” by Daniel José Older, which introduces us to Sierra Santiago, a Brooklyn native with a Puerto Rican family. She’s been painting a mural of a dragon on an abandoned construction project when tragedy strikes her family, and soon all of the murals in the city are starting to cry or fade away. It becomes up to her find out why, learn how to use the power her family carries, and stop the person responsible before the spirits of her neighborhood are lost forever.

“Pet” by Akwaeke Emezi is a story set in a near-future, utopian city called Lucille, where angels have eradicated all evils and monsters from the world. At least, that is what Jam thought. She’s a Black transgender girl who accidentally summons a creature made of horns and colors and claws. This creature, Pet emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, and has come with a goal – to hunt a monster hiding somewhere in her best friend, Redemption’s house.

In Maggie Stiefvater’s “All the Crooked Saints,” magic also runs in the Soria family, who came from Mexico to Bicho Raro, Colorado to perform miracles. Pilgrims travel from all parts of the country to ask the Saint of Bicho Raro to fix their lives, but miracles are a tricky business, and few are prepared for the cost it takes. Owls and current pilgrims who have yet to solve the riddle of their miracles haunt the ranch. When Daniel ends up in trouble trying to help one pilgrim in particular, it is up to his cousins Beatriz and Joaquin to learn how to work with the pilgrims to save themselves from their own inner darkness.

Twelve-year-old Sunny is also wishing for a miracle in “Akata Witch” by Nnedi Okorafor. She was born in America, but lives in Nigeria. She wants to play soccer and fit in with her peers, but her albinism makes her burn terribly in the sun. It’s only after a power outage that she discovers an incredible secret – she’s one of the Leopard People, a person with magical powers. Soon she’s called to join other students in magic, and when a serial killer goes on the hunt, Sunny and her friends are put to the test to stop him.

In each of these stories, a diverse cast must learn about their family’s roots in order to fight the darkness encroaching in their worlds. Sierra embraces the power of being a Shadowshaper, Jam unburies secrets with Pet, the Soria family works together with the pilgrims, and Sunny makes a new family with the Leopard People. Magic is woven throughout their lives, protected from outsiders who don’t understand. The fantasy elements in these stories can be viewed as metaphors or enjoyed as they stand. Either way, every one of these titles is sure to make you look twice at everything there is to be enjoyed this fall.

For more book recommendations, please contact Manhattan Public Library at 785-776-4741 ext. 200 or . If you’d like personalized book recommendations, please fill out a request for a personalized reading list at

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New and Noteworthy Picture Books

New and Noteworthy Picture Books

by Laura Ransom, Children’s Programming Coordinator

I am a huge fan of children’s picture books! This is not surprising since I am a children’s librarian, but I contend that picture books are not just for kids. “Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes” by Eric Litwin and James Dean is one example. This popular blue cat has been sharing his groovy, optimistic attitude with readers since 2008. Pete even has his own animated show on Amazon Prime. The book features Pete walking along and singing about how much he loves his shoes. Throughout the story, however, Pete’s lovely white shoes start to get a little more colorful with each page. He steps in strawberries, blueberries, and more items on his journey, but he doesn’t let the messiness get him down. The best quote from the book is, “No matter what you step in, keep walking along and singing your song. Because it’s all good.”

Though this book is not new, I chose to write about it this month to highlight a new activity called StoryWalk Downtown. Manhattan Public Library is partnering with Downtown Manhattan, Inc. to share this book in a different format: separated pages of the story are hanging up in business windows along Poyntz Avenue and nearby streets. After reading the story, children and families can receive a prize button, sticker, or bookmark from the library or Downtown Manhattan office. We will be featuring different picture books in October and November as well. Exercise your mind and feet at the same time!

Colorful illustrations can also be found in two new books by author and illustrator Grant Snider, “What Sound is Morning?” and “What Color is Night?” Garbage trucks rumble and breakfast sizzles in the morning, while the book’s pages gradually light up with splashes of orange and pink sunrise. Nighttime can be filled with color, as Snider demonstrates, with yellow car headlights lighting up a dark street. I was happy to discover that the author is a resident of Wichita, Kansas. It’s wonderful to have books in our library written by local authors.

“Prairie Days” by Patricia MacLachlan and Micha Archer transports us to the prairies of Wyoming, the author’s home state. She describes the slower paced life of her childhood in the 1940s. Her family plowed and harvested grain from their farmland, and she spent lazy summer days swimming in the pond and riding horses. Unique wildlife also pops up in the story, including prairie dogs, magpies, and other colorful birds.

“Goodnight, Veggies” by Diana Murray and Zachariah OHora captivated me with its colorful cover. Purple-red beets are snoozing underground next to a smiling worm and bright, green plants. A community garden is home to these sleepy beets, plus some cauliflower cuddling and potatoes closing their eyes. I had never contemplated what an eggplant might dream about, so thankfully the book lets me know that they dream of exploring outer space! The sparse, rhyming text is the perfect bedtime story.

The three little pigs join up with the wolf in “One of These Is Not Like the Others” by Barney Saltzberg. Children can recognize similarities and differences when they see the familiar pigs jamming with the wolf in a rock band. Other pages include three cows and one elephant, and they join together in a happy conga line. The dancing animals proclaim that being different is “just fine with us!” Embracing differences is a great concept for children of all ages to understand.

A top hat and a rabbit magician named Hattie are the stars of “Hat Tricks” by Satoshi Kitamura. Hattie magically pulls out several animals from her hat, including a squirrel, moose, octopus, and more. This story is definitely an exciting read-aloud choice, and who wouldn’t love the chance to shout along with magical Hattie, “Abracadabra, katakurico!”

For more excellent children’s book recommendations, please give us a call at Manhattan Public Library, 785-776-4741 ext. 400 or .

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Books About Books

Books About Books

Rhonna Hargett, Associate Director of Learning & Information Services

It probably won’t come as any surprise to you that I love books. So, when I find a book about the importance of language and reading, it makes my heart skip a beat. Through reading, I have recently traveled to inland China and the hills of Kentucky, with characters that brave the elements and danger because they value books so much.

Library of Legends” by Janie Chang is set in 1937 China. As the story starts, Japanese air raids have become a regular occurrence, pushing the Chinese population inland and making travel difficult at the same time. After a failed attempt to meet her mother, Hu Lian was forced to join the rest of her remaining classmates from Minghua University as they travel 1000 miles inland to set up a safe temporary campus. They were each charged with protection of one book from the “Library of Legends,” a 500-year-old record of myths and folklore, requiring them to guard each volume with their lives, and read and learn the stories along the way. They had to walk most of the way, sleeping on hard floors wherever they found them, and avoiding the occasional strafing from Japanese warplanes. Lian had always tried to blend into the background and remain unnoticed, but the common struggle and the close conditions forced her to interact more closely with her classmates, leading to new revelations about friendship. At the same time, the atmosphere was charged with political zeal. Some students discussed the rising Communist movement, and students from wealthy families saw poverty that they never imagined existed. “Library of Legends” is a detailed and captivating account of this historical event as it would have been felt in the lives of those who lived it. As we progress in the book, we see that the stories from the books they carry are interwoven with the world around them, and that there is magic even in the most forbidding of surroundings.

The Giver of Stars” by Jojo Moyes also takes place in the 1930s, as the United States was reeling from the Great Depression. The Appalachia area of Kentucky faced unique challenges with lack of electricity, transportation, and literacy. The WPA started a project of delivering books by pack horse, the only way to get to many of the homes in the area. Moyes brings the story alive for us, with Margery, Alice, Beth, Izzy, and Sophia, who came together to spread literacy, but ended up affecting each other and the entire town beyond what any of them could have anticipated. They faced brutal weather conditions, human ignorance, and challenges in their own lives to help children and adults learn to read. Their work helped the mountain people to better navigate the small world around them and imagine the possibilities beyond what they had ever known. “The Giver of Stars” is a heart-warming story about overcoming odds and taking care of one another, all with the help of books.

Both books are available in print by placing a hold from “The Giver of Stars” is also available as a digital eBook or audiobook from Sunflower eLibrary, which you can access through our website.

It doesn’t seem right to discuss books about books without mentioning some of the greats. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows and “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George are both about how books can save us, even in the darkest of times. Go to our website at or call (785)776-4741, and let us help you find stories to join you in your journey, whatever road you take.

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Art Is Everywhere, if You Just Look for It! 

Art Is Everywhere, if You Just Look for It!

by Jan Johnson, Adult Programming and Outreach Librarian

Have you been downtown in Manhattan and noticed the faces in the Riley County Courthouse façade, the intricate metal work of the portico above Harry’s entrance or the new art installations on our downtown sidewalks and buildings?  With the new self-directed Art and Architecture Scavenger Hunt that we are offering from Manhattan Public Library, you and your friends or family can discover these and more objects d’art. Take a walk downtown with our scavenger hunt and look for the photo clues. You just have to match pieces of art and architecture to their location.

With the incredible changes in the Downtown corridor over the years, I focused on not just the unique, older aspects of some of the buildings, but also the new art installations that inspire the overall atmosphere and vibe of our community. With this activity, we really hope that people can  get out, maintain social distance and have fun (and maybe a little learning) while searching out these treasures just waiting for you in Downtown Manhattan.

If you’re an art and architecture buff like me — Thank you, mom, and your love of all things Frank Lloyd Wright— then enjoying the aesthetic of art and buildings isn’t quite enough for you. Even though the stacks are closed for browsing, you can still request and check out books, audiobooks, documentaries and digital resources for every aspect of art and architecture. You’ll find a small sample of what we offer to inspire and educate listed below.

The Human Planet : Earth at the Dawn of the Anthropocene” by George Steinmetz looks at the changes that humans have made to the environment with our “quest to build shelter, grow food, generate energy, and create beauty through art and architecture”. Through beautiful aerial photographs and scientific writing, learn how our human footprint has changed the architecture of the earth.

Maybe something more mystical is where your interest lies. “Marcel Duchamp and the Art of Life” by Jacquelynn Baas looks at Duchamp’s life and all of the aspects of it that grew to be a part of his artistic life. From mathematics to philosophy, his art ”asks us to unlearn what we think we know, both about art and about life, in order to be open to it.”

“Frida in America: The Creative Awakening of a Great Artist” by Celia Stahr looks at how Kahlo’s time in the United States helped to shift and grow her style of painting and the way she looked at life as a young artist exploring a new country. This in-depth biography dives into the young formative years of her creative passions while living in a strange land, fueling an even stronger sense of her Mexican identity.

Of course, you know I’m going to mention Frank. We have several books, fiction and non-fiction, that look at the life of this influential American architect whose creative force has inspired generations to look at architecture and art as part of the environment that surrounds it. “Frank Lloyd Wright: in the Realm of Ideas” by Gerald Nordland is a collection of essays and illustrations that enlighten the reader to some of the aspects of creativity of the man and architect.

If you’re looking for something to inspire your future architect, check out “The story of buildings : from the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond” by Patrick Dillon. This children’s book looks at explanations of building concepts (what is cantilever?) and also how and why buildings have evolved with how we use them.

All of these books are available at Manhattan Public Library. Please check out more books, ebooks, audiobooks, and documentaries on Hoopla, Sunflower elibrary, Kanopy and more! Stop by the library atrium to pick up your Art and Architecture Scavenger Hunt or print it off from our Event Calendar on our website, now through November. When you bring it back for the answer, you will get a fun prize.

Happy Adventuring!


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