Author: MHK Library staff

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International Mysteries

International Mysteries

by John Pecoraro, Associate Director

There is nothing better than reading a good mystery. That is, unless you are reading a mystery that takes place in another country. International mysteries add to the mystery of the story with the flavor of another country’s culture, customs, and cuisine. The library’s collection of downloadable materials on Hoopla features hundreds of mysteries by authors from dozens of places around the world.

The first stop on our tour of world mysteries is Mussolini’s Italy of the 1930s. Maurizio di Giovanni introduces Commissario Ricciardi in “I Will Have Vengeance.” Commissario Ricciardi has the uncanny ability (gift or curse) of seeing the final seconds in the lives of people who have died violent deaths. It has helped him become one of the most successful homicide detectives on the Naples police force, but at a cost. Ricciardi drinks too much and doesn’t sleep enough. It’s March, 1931, when Arnaldo Vezzi, famous opera tenor, is found murdered in his dressing room. While adored by millions of opera fans, Vezzi, arrogant and bad-tempered, is also hated by not a few. As Ricciardi investigates, there doesn’t seem to be a want of suspects happy to see Vizzi dead.

Next we visit the Low Countries. The Belgian police force send veteran Walter Eekhaut, along with his authority problem, to Amsterdam to assist the Dutch security service in investigating the activities of a well-connected Russian oligarch. So begins Guido Eekhaut’s (no relation) “Absinthe.” While investigating the Russian, Eekhaut finds himself pulled into the case of a murdered young dissident who might have stolen a sensitive list from the Amsterdam offices of an ultra-right-wing political party. A list with the name of secret donors. The hunt for the killer leads to shady dealings that set the Russian mob, Dutch politicians, and business leaders against the police and anyone else who tries to get in their way.

Now travel further north to the Sweden of Camilla Lackberg.  In “The Hidden Child,” crime writer Erica Falck makes a shocking discovery. She finds a Nazi medal among her late mother’s possessions. Digging into her family’s past leads her to the home of a retired history teacher who was one of her mother’s friends during the Second World War. He answers her questions with only bizarre and evasive answers, and two days later turns up dead. Detective Patrik Hedström, Erica’s husband, soon becomes embroiled in the murder investigation. Erica’s reading of her mother’s wartime diaries uncovers a secret that could endanger her husband and child. Light is shining on the dark past, and the truth will out.

Kwei Quartey is a writer from Ghana. His inspector Darko Dawson of the Accra police is investigating the ritualistic murder of a prominent, wealthy couple washed up in a canoe at an offshore oil rig. They are pillars of the community, mourned by all. The more Dawson learns about the case, the more complex it becomes. Real estate entrepreneurs and oil companies have been bribing the traditional fishing population to move out. Soon Dawson discovers an abundance of motives for murder from personal vendettas to corporate conspiracies in “Murder at Cape Three Points.”

When a woman’s body is discovered in the wardrobe warehouse of Israel Television, Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon takes off on a tangled and bloody trail of detection in Batya Gur’s “Murder in Jerusalem.” While Ohayon has spent his career surrounded by perplexing cases, nothing disturbs him more than what this woman’s murder reveals. The media, so often where political tensions, and social and religious divisions come together, may indeed be at the root of an unspeakable evil.

From Cuba, Leonardo Padura, gives us “Havana Blue,” the first in his series featuring Lieutenant Mario Conde. His head bounding with a New Year’s Eve hangover, Conde is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a high-level business manager, Rafael Morin. Conde remembers Morin from their student days as the guy who always got what he wanted. That included Tamara, the girl Conde hoped would be his own. But there is something hidden beneath Morin’s rise from the barrio into his perfect, successful life. In his investigation, Conde is forced to confront his lost love for Tamara, along with the dreams and delusions of his entire generation of Cubans.

This is just a sampling of the hundreds of mysteries from around the world available 24/7 as downloadable ebooks and audio from Hoopla. As always free with your library card.

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A Pirate’s Life is Not for Me

A Pirate’s Life is Not for Me

Jared Richards, Learning and Information Services Supervisor

A couple weeks ago was International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Inspired by this, I started playing a video game about pirates. You get to sail the seas, find treasure, fight skeletons and krakens, and defend your ship against other players. Despite the theme of the game, it turns out I’m not terribly interested in being a pirate. It can take hours to complete quests and find treasure, and having that stolen from you can be frustrating. I don’t need that level of stress, so I spend my time fishing from the bowsprit of my ship, while reading and listening to books about pirates. I prefer my pirating to take place vicariously.

Joseph Bannister was a respected merchant captain, trusted to make transatlantic voyages between London and Jamaica, with expensive cargo. In 1684, he gave that up, stealing his ship, the Golden Fleece, and becoming a pirate. Over the next three years he was captured, escaped by stealing his ship a second time, and won a battle against two Royal Navy ships, before finally being captured again.

During the battle with the Royal Navy, the Golden Fleece was sunk, and seemingly lost to history for over 300 years. “Pirate Hunters” by Robert Kurson follows the story of two shipwreck hunters, John Chatterton and John Mattera, as they search for the final resting place of Bannister’s ship.

Kurson goes into great detail describing the increasingly expensive and technologically advanced process of searching for shipwrecks. He takes the same amount of care in telling the stories of Chatterton and Mattera, from childhood to professional successes, and the path that led them to this latest hunt. It’s written in such a way that pulled me in and made me stay up late because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. The audiobook is narrated by Ray Porter, who is very easy to listen to, but the physical book has some neat pictures. You should probably just check out both.

I’d heard the terms before, but only recently did I learn the difference between a pirate and a privateer. That difference is a government issued piece of paper that says the latter is allowed to do all the pirate stuff legally, on behalf of the government. Privateers were basically used in place of a large naval force, which would be hard to maintain, in order to protect a foreign country’s interests overseas. “The Pirates’ Pact” by Douglas R. Burgess, Jr. goes into detail about the interesting, and precarious, nature of these relationships, focusing on colonial America.

Diving deeper into the history of pirates, and learning about the exploits of Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, and Edward Low, made me think of a pirate from my childhood, Captain Hook. I revisited him in “The Annotated Peter Pan” by J. M. Barrie, edited by Maria Tatar. Barrie developed the character of Peter Pan in the early 1900s. First mentioned in “The Little White Bird” in 1902, Pan took center stage in a successful play in 1904, with the novel following in 1911.

This annotated version is fantastic. Along with the insightful annotations of the story, it also includes a history of the story, the original pen-and-ink illustrations by F. D. Bedford, and a survey of the films, and much more.

My memory of the story had been obscured by the Disney film, which I watched countless times growing up. And then I kept growing up, despite my best efforts. As is often the case with old stories, the original story is a bit darker, including a lot more death than I remember. It isn’t anywhere on par with actual pirates, but I guess it’s fitting for a story featuring a fictional one, even if it’s a children’s story.

None of the books I’ve come across so far in the Manhattan Public Library’s large collection of pirate books, have made any attempt to capture a pirate’s speech. Luckily, we have Mango Languages, offering courses in over seventy languages, including Pirate. I like to mention this resource to the other players in my video game, who I can only generously assume are attempting to speak like a pirate. There’s little evidence they have listened to me.

I may not want to act like a pirate, but the library is a great place to learn about pirates. Being a few centuries removed from the Golden Age of Piracy (1650 – 1730), and their questionable behavior, has turned their incredible exploits into an intriguing curiosity, rather than a terrifying reality.

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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 https://www.mhklibrary.org/personalized-reading-list-2/.

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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 www.mhklibrary.org. “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 www.mhklibrary.org 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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Teen Fantasy Fiction Novels with Strong Female Protagonists

Teen Fantasy Fiction Novels with Strong Female Protagonists

Mary Swabb, Learning & Information Services Supervisor 

Fantasy fiction has always been a favorite of mine. Specifically, young adult or teen fantasy fiction. For those who may not favor fantasy fiction, the Encyclopedia Britannica states that it is, “imaginative fiction dependent for effect on strangeness of setting (such as other worlds or times) and of characters (such as supernatural or unnatural beings).” My passion for fantasy solidified after reading “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” when I was twelve. There was a huge fandom surrounding the novels at that time.  My siblings and I all devoured the first three novels in the series before attending a midnight release party, at our local Walden Books, for the fourth novel. It seemed like there was something in Harry Potter for everyone: adventure, mystery, magic, strong friendships, triumph over adversaries, etc. Perhaps this was why the books had mass appeal. Personally, I enjoyed reading Harry Potter and other fantasy novels because they allowed me to traverse worlds full of magic and wonder, meet characters with a variety of personalities and abilities, and experience the thrill of adventure. Two decades have passed since my passion for fantasy novels began, but I still enjoy them.

Currently, I favor reading fantasy with strong female protagonists who overcome insurmountable odds to achieve their goals. I find the strength within these female characters inspiring, and their stories of adventure thrilling. Take Kamzin in Heather Fawcett’s, “Even the Darkest Stars,” for example. Kazmin was selected to become her village’s shaman, but secretly desired to become one of the emperor’s royal explorers (elite climbers) who are responsible for mapping the Empire’s arctic mountains. Kamzin’s path was set until Shara, the greatest royal explorer, came to her village needing her family’s help. Kamzin is more than willing to help Shara if he would take her on his next expedition, a quest to retrieve a talisman from the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. And so, Kamzin’s journey begins amidst a chance encounter, a shocking betrayal, and a promising adventure that may just shed light on Kamzin’s family history. Kamzin’s story continues in, “All the Wandering Light.”

If you find the paranormal and supernatural interest you, in addition to non-linear narratives, then check out Rin Chupeco’s,“The Bone Witch.” A dark and captivating tale about Tea, a young girl from a small town who accidentally raises her deceased brother from the dead. This catches the attention of the empire’s asha, elemental magicians, who are revered and commodified for the wealth and health of the empire. Tea’s gift for necromancy is rare and makes her a bone witch, a witch who can raise the dead and battle daeva, monsters who terrorize villages. Tea follows Lady Mykaela, her new mentor and the only other bone witch in the kingdom, to the capitol to train as an asha for House Valerian. While training in the capitol, Tea begins to learn that not all asha are created equal and her experiences highlight the cracks in the foundation of capitol society. Tea’s ominous journey continues in, “The Heart Forger,” and culminates in, “The Shadow Glass.”

Historical fiction and fantasy pair well together in my opinion, and I find that I quite enjoy narratives that reimagine history or seamlessly blend the historical with the fictional. “Sky in the Deep” by Adrienne Young is such a novel. Young weaves elements of Vikings and seafaring Scandinavians with a fictional setting and characters to create a bold and beautiful tale of survival, discovery, adventure, family, and love. “Sky in the Deep,” begins on the battlefield following Eelyn, a seventeen-year-old Aska warrior as she fights with her father and best-friend against the Riki clan. The Aska and the Riki have a long running feud that leads to skirmishes every season. As an Aska warrior, Eelyn’s life seems straightforward, until she sees her deceased twin brother on the battlefield fighting for the Riki. Eelyn attempts to follow her brother, but is taken captive and enslaved. As she lives among her enemies, Eelyn is forced to question who she can trust, and ultimately how she can unite two clans to face an even greater enemy. Young continues the chronicles of the Aska and Riki clans in “The Girl the Sea Gave Back.”

For more book recommendations, please contact Manhattan Public Library at 785-776-4741 ext. 200 or . If you’d like more personalized book recommendations, please fill out a request for a personalized reading list at https://www.mhklibrary.org/personalized-reading-list-2/.

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Tragedies at Sea: Outstanding Historical Writing

Tragedies at Sea: Outstanding Historical Writing

By Marcia Allen, Collections Manager

Are you familiar with the story of the Andrea Doria?  She was a luxury liner, built after World War II, well known for elegantly appointed rooms and gourmet meals. The ship frequently hosted celebrities such as film actresses and business CEO’s. With a capacity of some 1200 passengers and a crew of about 500, she was touted as one of the safest and speediest ships on the ocean. A freakish tragedy in July of 1956, however, proved otherwise.

Greg King and Penny Wilson have just published an excellent piece of historical nonfiction entitled “The Last Voyage of the Andrea Doria” that dramatically recounts that final excursion. We learn of the craftsmanship that went into the liner; we learn of its sterling reputation as something of a floating palace; we discover the roster of passengers who ventured to travel from Genoa to New York on the fateful voyage.

What makes this book exceptional? The backgrounds of a few of the personalities is a start. Because we learn so much about their past experiences, their plans, and their relationships with other passengers, we come to see them individuals which lends a personal immediacy to the story. We learn, for example, that Captain Piero Calamai was a shy fellow, devoted to the welfare of his passengers and his beloved ship, a man who never raised his voice to erring crew members. We discover the heartbreak of Thure and Martha Peterson, a couple devoted to each other, who had saved money for many years to travel to sites where their parents were born in Sweden. They were able to extend their trip to sightsee in France, but their delayed return to the U.S. placed them on the decks of the Andrea Doria.

What also elevates this book is its excellent research into the last hours of the voyage. In dramatic detail, King and Wilson recount the coincidental chain of events that caused a horrendous collision. Thick fog off the coast of Nantucket and a change in the departure route by the stoutly built liner called the Stockholm brought the two ships into contact. Last-minute efforts to avoid collision drove the raked and reinforced bow of the Stockholm into the starboard side of Andrea Doria, penetrating several decks.

The outcome is what you would expect. Lives were lost, but most passengers stranded at sea were rescued by immediate responses of all available watercraft. The Andrea Doria sank some hours later, and legal courts later determined who was to be blamed. King and Wilson have written a masterful account of all that occurred that day in July.

To my amazement, King and Wilson had written a previous book about the sinking of the Lusitania. Entitled Lusitania, that older book has some of the same flavor of the Andrea Doria story, with personality studies, ship history, and vivid details about the actual sinking. But that is where the similarities between the two stories ends.

First of all, the demise of the Lusitania was no accident. In the midst of World War I, British forces had chosen to ignore standard Cruiser Rules, under which ships were required to post their authentic flags and avoid any camouflage of colors or markings. The British decided to ignore such rules. Secondly, the Lusitania was known to carry munitions intended for the British, as America had agreed to be a wartime supplier for the British. That made the ship fair game for German forces.

It was only by luck that Kapitanleutnant Schwieger, commanding U-20, spotted the British liner. Seeing his opportunity in the middle of a war zone, he fired a torpedo that inflicted a death blow to the ship. The Lusitania, long thought to be unsinkable, foundered on its side, disabling lifeboats and crippling many passengers, and managed to stay afloat only 18 minutes more.

The loss of life in this book is heartbreaking. Hundreds of victims were never found, and many of those who did survive were emotionally shattered. Because there were no preparations for evacuation on board and because there was a shortage of life jackets, loss rates skyrocketed. And subsequent court trials did little to assure that future disasters could be avoided.

I strongly advise reading one or both of these books. While we may not be drawn to disaster reading, both create a sense of immediacy that is so often missed in historical accounts. We become close observers of tragedies at sea and we realize a clearer understanding of the causes. And the eyewitness testimonies are incredible to read. Excellent reading.

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Quick Picks for Kids

Quick Picks for Kids

By Jennifer Bergen, Program Manager

We all know kids need good books that inspire them, amuse them, and spark their curiosity. With library stacks closed from browsing, it can be a struggle to find new children’s books for every child in your family. Most kids are not reading the New York Times’ bestseller lists or listening to author podcasts (although I know you hardcore readers are out there!).  That’s where the expertise of children’s librarians can be of help.

“Quick Picks for Kids” is a library service we offer for parents or older kids to call and speak with a children’s librarian, Mon.-Fri. between 10:00-4:00, and we will put together a pile of books to suit your children’s interests and reading level. Using the “holds” system already in place, we can pull up to 15 books per library card. You will be notified when your stack for your super-readers is ready to be picked up in the library lobby.

Why ask a librarian? This can save you time, especially if you or your kids do not have specific titles in mind. Librarians may ask about books your child has read and enjoyed, which helps us find “read-alikes.” For example, if your child has enjoyed the “Dog Man” books by Dav Pilkey, we might pull “Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Adventure” by Jeff Kinney. This spinoff of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series is told from the little brother’s point of view and includes a ridiculous misadventure he is writing with his brother’s help. “Dog Man” readers might also go the route of “Zo Zo Zombie” by Yasunari Nagatoshi, a manga (Japanese style) graphic novel with outrageous humor similar to Pilkey’s stories.

Reading level is another important aspect librarians will inquire about when choosing titles for your child. A child who is still learning to read and is having success with Mo Willems’s popular “Elephant & Piggie” books might like Jan Thomas’s silly stories about cow, duck and friends, or “Pete the Cat” books from the “I Can Read” series. Other go-to authors at this level are Ethan Long and David Milgrim for early vocabulary and sight words. Young readers can go through a stack of these books in a day or two sometimes, so load up.

Maybe you have a reluctant reader at home who complains about reading time or always finds other things to do. The question is, what are those other things you child loves to do? We can find some great nonfiction books about Legos, art, pets, video games or athletes. Tie-ins to popular TV shows, movies and games can draw a reader in, even if it doesn’t interest the parent at all. Maybe they want to read the “Lego Star Wars Character Encyclopedia” from beginning to end. That will include some unfamiliar words building their vocabulary, and complex thinking when they relate what they read to other information they already know.

Does your child like a variety of books on many topics? Perfect! Librarians have been paying attention to the new books coming in, and they always have a list of favorites in their heads, so being asked to just pull a bunch of good books is like a little gift.

Young readers may have missed out on books recent publications like “Fire Truck vs. Dragon,” or “The Guide to Minecraft Dungeons,” or the new series “Unicorn Diaries” by Rebecca Elliott (author of “Owl Diaries”.) We don’t want you or your kids to miss out anymore. Please, make our day, and ask us to find some library books that your kids will love.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Alex Award Winners

Alex Award Winners

By Grace Benedick, Teen Services Librarian

Every year the Young Adult Library Services Association gives out a number of literary awards. Although many awards are given to just one book or author, the Alex Awards are given to ten books written for the adult market but which may have special appeal to young adults, ages 12-18. Often the protagonists of the winning titles are teens. Winners are always selected from the previous year’s published titles and usually include a few best-sellers that are already highly popular titles. Keeping that in mind, some of these titles may have long wait lists!

Dystopian Fiction

An eerie futuristic tale, “A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World” by C. A. Fletcher is set in an earth with very few humans left after a mysterious wave of infertility led to a dwindling population. Griz lives with his parents and dogs on a quiet island. One day a stranger steals their supplies and one of their precious dogs. Griz gives chase, only to discover that the outside world is not quite what he was led to believe.

“Do You Dream of Terra-Two?” by Temi Oh is sci-fi with a focus on the interpersonal. After NASA determines that there is another inhabitable planet called Terra-Two, a small crew of young astronauts are sent to settle there. But before they can reach it, the 23-year journey will test them all to their limits.

Memoirs

“Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, who uses the pronouns e/em/eir is a graphic novel relating the ups and downs of growing up and finding eir identity as nonbinary and asexual. A great memoir for all readers, this book will be especially meaningful for teens still exploring their own identities.

Sara and Tegan are twins and a successful indie music duo. Their memoir, “High School,” focuses on their teenage years and their tumultuous relationship as siblings, as well as exploration of their lesbian sexuality and an emerging musical career.

AJ Dungo’s “In Waves” is a graphic novel memoir of a romantic relationship and a tribute to his late partner. Dungo weaves back and forth through time sharing episodes of their time together and highlighting her determination to keep surfing against all odds, even after losing a leg and even while fighting bone cancer.

Historical Fiction

“The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead also won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. At the start of the novel, teen protagonist Elwood is an idealist with a bright future until a chance encounter ends with him in Nickel Academy, a horrific and abusive reformatory. There he befriends Turner, who has a more cynical view. Together they attempt to survive an institution bent on destroying them. The novel is based on the history of Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Florida.

Opening in the 1960’s, Angie Cruz’s “Dominicana” is the story of young Ana, who is pressured to marry an older man and move from the Dominican countryside to New York City. In New York City her husband’s brother cares for Ana in her husband’s absence, allowing her greater freedom than she has ever known. Can she return to the way things were when her husband comes back home?

Other Genres

Best-seller, “Red, White & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston is a light-hearted rom-com. The son of the president of the U.S. is forced to into a performative friendship with longtime rival, the prince of Wales, after news outlets publish photos indicating that the two do not get along. A fresh take on the hate-to-love trope, the budding romance in this story is complicated by the characters’ political roles and very public lives.

“The Swallows” by Lisa Lutz is a psychological thriller with a revenge plot. Set at a prestigious prep school, a newly hired teacher sparks a revolt with a simple writing prompt. The assignments turned in reveal a deeply harmful environment. Unable to stand by, she joins the girls in a plot to bring down sexual predators among the boys at the school.

“Middlegame” by Seanan McGuire is a dark fantasy that follows two children as they grow up and into immense power. Created by an alchemist intent on using them to gain control of the world, the twins were raised apart from one another. In spite of the separation, their connection is unbreakable and their powers are their own.

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