Author: Luke Wahlmeier

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by Jared Richards, Technology Supervisor

In times of stress, I find myself escaping into nostalgia, taking a break from my current existence and losing myself in a simpler time. To be fair to my present, that simpler time probably wasn’t any better, but time has the welcoming ability of blurring the harsh edges and giving everything a rose-colored hue, thus allowing me a bit of escapism and a chance to catch my breath.

I first noticed myself doing this in grad school when I needed an escape that wouldn’t increase my mental load. This led to rediscovering old favorites from my childhood. Today I go back, not only to escape stress, but also to revisit different periods in my life and rekindle old memories.

In my twenties, I worked at a movie theater and had all the time in the world to read stacks of books. My interests were all over the place, but I spent a lot of time reading historical nonfiction. A few of my favorites are “Salt” by Mark Kurlansky, which showcases the importance of salt throughout the history of the world; “Longitude” by Dava Sobel, the story of how John Harrison came to invent the marine chronometer to help sailors at sea determine their location; and “Colossus” by Michael Hiltzik, about the building of the Hoover Dam. Prior to construction of the Hoover Dam, J. Gregory Tierney fell from a survey barge and drowned in the Colorado River on December 20, 1922. Exactly thirteen years later, on December 20, 1935, Tierney’s son, Patrick Tierney, became the last person to die during construction, after falling to his death. As Hiltzik put it, this was a rather “mordant bookend of the project’s record of human loss.”

In college, I read the classics, because I feel like that’s the time in life when you not only have the time to do that, but you’re also still trying to figure out your place in life. I read Ayn Rand, both “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.” I found both to be interesting, if unnecessarily long, but neither was really my thing. I enjoyed “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller because it was humorous and had an interesting format. After reading it, I purchased the movie through Blockbuster (gone but never forgotten) and liked it almost as much as the book. Library patrons now have access to Kanopy, an online video streaming service, where you can check out up to 10 movies a month, including the original “Catch-22.”

Kurt Vonnegut dominated my high school years, “Welcome to the Monkey House” in particular, and Jules Verne dominated my time in middle school. Reading my grandpa’s old copies of “Popular Mechanics” featuring flying cars, and Verne’s visions of the future, led to hours of trying to envision what my future would look like. I’m sad to admit my predictive prowess pales in comparison to Verne’s, and is certainly far less grand.

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Lackey, introduced me to the “Goosebumps” series by R. L. Stine. I was a bit distracted in class that year, maybe even distracting, so things could have turned out much differently. Instead, I walked away with only positive memories, a bag of confiscated toys, and a fondness for “Goosebumps,” a series that was creepy and funny, and maybe just a little bit scary, but nothing I couldn’t handle with the lights on.

As a child, I was enamored with Laurel & Hardy. My grandpa had a collection on VHS tapes, and I am still impressed with how durable VHS tapes are. I must have watched each one somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand times, and, much like Laurel & Hardy, they never failed me. One of my favorites was “March of the Wooden Soldiers,” which you can check out any time you want using Hoopla, another one of our online resources. I’d also recommend the 2018 film “Stan & Ollie,” featuring Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy. Both actors clearly cared for the person they portrayed and went to great lengths to personify them, even down to the smallest mannerisms.

Recommending something to someone can be tricky because we all like different things, but I bet you know yourself pretty well. So instead, I’ll simply suggest, that every once in a while, you escape into nostalgia. Hit the pause button on whatever is currently stressing you out, take a break from living in the future rather than the present, and indulge in your past. The familiarity is comforting.

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by Rhonna Hargett, LIS Associate Director

One of the things I love about Manhattan is how diverse it is. This is partially thanks to K-State and Fort Riley, but if we look back a bit further we can see how Manhattan’s African-American community has been here from near the beginning of the town and really exploded when the Exodusters moved to Kansas in the late 1870s. The Riley County Genealogical Society has recognized the 140th anniversary of the occasion with their new book “The Exodusters of 1879: And Other Black Pioneers of Riley County, Kansas” which inspired me to dig into this topic and highlight the titles we have that help tell the story.

Kansas was formed at the height of the slavery debate and became the center of tensions that eventually led to the Civil War. In “Frontier Manhattan”, Kevin G. W. Olson shares the story of Manhattan’s abolitionist settlers, who moved west to cast votes to make Kansas a free state. This abolitionist background may have sown the seeds for more inclusiveness than many other places in Kansas experienced. Manhattan’s first black citizens started coming during the Civil War, and K-State (called Kansas State Agricultural College at the time) welcomed African-American students in its very first class in 1863.

In 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes ended Reconstruction and removed troops from the southern states. This removed the protection for black Americans and ushered in a new era of violence and persecution, pushing many to leave the place of their birth and move north. Kansas, with its proximity and history as a free state, was the destination for many. The first two railroad cars bringing “Exodusters” to Manhattan arrived April 24, 1879. In the Riley County Genealogical Society’s “The Exodusters of 1879,” Marcia Schuley and Margaret Parker researched documents from the past and have compiled them into a comprehensive work about this vital period in our community’s history.

“The Exodusters” begins with a summary of the history surrounding the Exodusters (or Exodites, as they were called in Manhattan). With several photographs and newspaper clippings, Schuley and Parker have fleshed out a rich part of our community’s history. The summary is followed by profiles of the Exodusters and other African-American residents in the 1860s through the 1880s. They have gathered information from several sources to give deeper insight into the lives of this group that shaped the town we live in today. By gathering information from the census, newspaper articles, and other sources, they manage to create a reasonably thorough view of each individual. They have often been able to determine the makeup of the families, what work people did, and how they died. The appendix discusses the Old Paper Mill (where the Exodusters were housed when they first came to town), maps of where their homes were, those that served in the Civil War, and more resources that expand upon the information in the book.

We can’t talk about the history of Manhattan’s black population without mention of Geraldine Baker Walton’s book “140 Years of Soul: A History of African-Americans in Manhattan, Kansas 1865-2005.” Walton was the head of Reference at Manhattan Public Library, and during her time in that position, developed a curiosity for her own family background and the history of Manhattan’s black community. She shares background for many families in the community and also gives more detail about Manhattan’s black institutions, such as the Douglass Center, the churches, businesses, clubs, and connections with Fort Riley. The appendix includes several family trees.

Kansas’ role in the history of African-Americans has been significant, if not well-known, and Manhattan has always been heavily involved in that history. The Riley County Genealogical Society and the Riley County Historical Society have done excellent work in preserving that history and we at the library are delighted to help make their research available to the public.

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Diversity in Picture Books

Diversity in Picture Books

by Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager

In 2014, a new movement began in children’s literature to increase the number of diverse characters found in books. “We Need Diverse Books” is a nonprofit organization that grew from the frustration many people felt when they noticed 90 percent or more of children’s books focused on white characters (not including books featuring animals as main characters).

The intelligent, talented and impassioned people who started or joined the movement have helped to make a real impact on the publishing industry, with programs that support writers and artists of color with awards, grants, internships and mentorships. They bring attention to the high quality books being published, and recognize publishers and booksellers who are championing the cause. In 2018, the percentage of books depicting people from diverse backgrounds increased somewhat to 23 percent, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center.

We Need Diverse Books has a mission to “create a world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book,” and “to help produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.” Now these books are put into our hands to share with children, read aloud and bring into the classroom and the home. Here are just a few recently added picture books from the Children’s section at the library that include every day diversity.

First Laugh-Welcome, Baby! by Rose Anne Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood tells the precious story of a Diné (Navajo) family watching their new baby’s tiny developments and waiting for that first amazing laugh. The Navajo have a tradition of celebrating a baby’s first laugh, the end notes explain, and the person who is able to get the baby to laugh has “the honor of hosting the First Laugh Ceremony” (“Latse Awee’ ch’ideeldloh”). Jonathan Nelson’s illustrations convey the wonder and excitement of interacting with a new baby.

In Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison, Zuri appreciates that her curly dark hair can look differently depending on her mood. But one morning, none of the hairstyles her dad tries are right. One rubber band pops off a puff of hair and hits dad in the eye. When mom returns home from a trip, she loves Zuri’s “funky puff buns” that go perfectly with her superhero cape. Dad wears his hair in long dreds, and mom wears a head scarf covering her hair, and everyone is full of hair love.

Here and Now by Julia Denos is a beautifully illustrated picture book about being in the moment you are in, which is reading this book. Children and parents of all colors serenely painted by E. B. Goodale show people in the midst of various activities in different locations, just living their lives. It is a quiet but powerful message that “Right here, right now, YOU are becoming.”

Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds have teamed up for another winner, I Am Love, which Verde calls her “love letter to the world.” As in I Am Human, I Am Peace and I Am Yoga, a child sets out to help others he or she sees in distress, describing how each action is a part of love. With simple text and drawings, this team shows how love is comfort, and also effort; love is tiny gestures, and connection. Love is for and in all people, if we follow our hearts.

What If Everybody Thought That? by Ellen Javernick is a conversation starter with children. In each scenario presented with a double-page spread, one child is working up the courage to try something. Children are shown struggling with a sport, having a skin condition, eating ethnic food, or misspelling words. The other kids around them are silent, but their thought bubbles are clear. They assume the child can’t do it, that the child is embarrassed or just doesn’t belong. “What if everybody thought that?” is the book’s refrain. The page that shows the child’s success answers, “They might be wrong.” This book goes deeper than addressing outright name calling or unkindness. Instead, it makes us think about our assumptions and how our silence can hurt others, too. We might be wrong, so we should give everyone a chance and “be more thoughtful.”

Many good lists of diverse children’s books for the whole range of ages are out there, including some from the We Need Diverse Books website ( If you find the library collection lacks books with characters that reflect your child’s life, let us know about it.

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Movies That Keep You on the Edge of your Seat

Movies That Keep You on the Edge of your Seat

by John Pecoraro, Associate Director

     Suspense is defined as that state of uncertainty that makes us anxious. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but one we often enjoy in books and movies. It’s related to surprise, but not exactly. Alfred Hitchcock explained the difference in this way. Surprise is when a couple is sitting in a café and a bomb goes off. Suspense is when we, the audience, witness someone placing the bomb under the table, we watch the couple sit at the table, and maybe we even see the timer ticking down, before the bomb explodes. We’re not surprised there was an explosion, but we were in suspense anticipating it.

The website lists the best of suspense on film. All of these movies are available at the library.

Several films directed by Alfred Hitchcock, including “Psycho,” “Rear Window,” and “North By Northwest,” are included on the list. Mother-dominated Norman Bates manages the Bates Motel in “Psycho.” Marion Crane, with the $40,000 dollars she has stolen from her employer, decides to stop for the night at the Bates Motel. She’s the first guest in weeks, Bates tells her, along with strange stories about his mother. Exhausted from hours of driving Marion decides to take a relaxing shower. You know what comes next, and wait until you meet Mother Bates.

Rear Window,” features photographer L.B. Jeffries whose broken leg has him confined to a wheelchair in his apartment. He entertains himself using binoculars to watch the neighbors. One set of neighbors in particular are Lars Thorwald, and his nagging wife. When one afternoon Mrs. Thorwald’s nagging suddenly stops, Jeffries makes up a scenario where Thorwald has murdered his wife and disposed of her body. The trouble is that Jeffries theory might be correct.

North by Northwest,” is a tale of mistaken identity. Innocent advertising executive, Roger Thornhill, is kidnapped and chased across the United States by agents of a mysterious organization. They are convinced he is a spy and they are trying to prevent him from blocking their plan to smuggle government secrets on microfilm. Anything else I tell you would be a spoiler.

Movies based on novels by Stephen King, including “Misery,” directed by Rob Reiner, and “The Shining,” directed by Stanley Kubrick also made the list. In “Misery,” novelist Paul Sheldon survives a severe car wreck, only to end up in the nursing clutches of a reclusive fan of his work, Annie Wilkes. She becomes distraught when she discovers that Sheldon has killed off his popular character, Misery Chastain. She holds him captive until he can write a new Misery novel.

Jaws,” directed by Steven Spielberg, and based on the novel by Peter Benchley, frightened millions of movie goers from ever going to the beach again. It’s the height of tourist season, and a shark is terrorizing the sun loving beach goers of Amity Island. Mayor Vaughn sends Police Chief Brody, visiting ichthyologist Hooper, and local fisherman Quint to take on the Great White in Quint’s boat “The Orca.” Chances are they’re going to need a bigger boat.

The Departed,” directed by Martin Scorsese is the tale of questionable loyalties and identities set in the South Boston organized crime scene. Billy Costigan is a young cop assigned to infiltrate the inner circle of crime boss Frank Costello. Collin Sullivan is a street-smart criminal who has penetrated the police department in order to report their every move to that same crime boss. Each man is in a race against time to reveal his counterpart before his identity is exposed by the other.

Alien,” directed by Ridley Scott follows the crew of the commercial space tug Nostromo and their encounters with the Alien, a deadly extraterrestrial set loose on the ship. The crew lands on a rocky moon to investigate a distress signal, discovering that it comes from a derelict alien ship. Warrant Officer Ripley translates part of the transmission, determining it to be not a distress signal, but a warning. Meanwhile, Executive Officer Kane discovers a chamber containing hundreds of large egg-like objects.

Don’t forget to bring the kids to the library parking lot at 6:30 pm on Sunday, October 27 for Trunk or Treat at the Library, sponsored by the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

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Standouts in Adult Fiction for This Fall’s Readers

Standouts in Adult Fiction for This Fall’s Readers

by Marcia Allen, Collections Manager

Image result for rage of dragons evan winterThe autumn publishing season is always exciting for adult readers.  Cooler weather coincides with one of the biggest annual releases of new books, and the library is receiving new titles almost daily.

As always, there are long-awaited books from favorite authors, as well as surprises from new writers.  You might consider one or more of the following if their plots appeal to you:

THE DUTCH HOUSE by Ann Patchett marks the return of a perennial favorite author.  Patchett, the author of BEL CANTO, which won both the Orange Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2012, has written another outstanding novel.  This lovely book follows the travails of Danny and Maeve Conroy, whose lives are disrupted when their wealthy, divorced father remarries a younger woman with two daughters.  When the father dies unexpectedly, the stepmother eases them out the door of the family mansion, and informs them that she has inherited the father’s wealth.  While Maeve is a grown woman, Danny is still a child, and so Maeve becomes the parent he no longer has.  Thus, the book follows the closeness that Maeve and Danny share, and we see the siblings struggle to build new lives.

What’s remarkable about this book is the complexity of relationships.  Danny, for example, does not remember his real mother who deserted the family when he was a baby, so when the mother comes back into the lives of her children, he feels a great deal of indifference toward her and resentment toward Maeve for her renewed attachment to her mother. The language of the book rings true: we feel the rejections and the recoveries that are part of the human condition.

THE CHESTNUT MAN by Soren Sveistrup is ideal for fans of Stieg Larsson (GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) or Jo Nesbo (THE BAT).  This new Nordic crime mystery takes place in Copenhagen, where the tortured and mutilated body of a young mother has been found.  Near her body, detectives Thulin and Hess locate a little doll made of chestnuts.  When a second mutilated victim is found, yet another chestnut doll is found, so signs seem to point to a serial killer at large.  Further investigations pinpoint a connection to the long missing teenage daughter of the minister for social affairs.

Those who like grim murder tales with graphic violence will find the book appealing.  Set against a dismal background of approaching winter, this mystery has a complicated link to past savagery.  Author Sveistrup is a creator of successful TV series, and this book will be adapted for a Netflix series.

RAGE OF DRAGONS by Evan Winter is an action-driven epic fantasy.  Though the book really came out in the summer, it’s ideal for late night reading in cooler months.  In an ancient Africa cursed with ever-present war, a young man named Tau is determined to avoid war by injuring himself purposely.  But when he witnesses the murder of his father at the hands of an upper caste bully, he changes his plans and vows to become a great warrior so he can seek revenge.  Thus, his life becomes a pain-ridden struggle to become the best of combatants.

What makes this a standout?  It’s an initiation story of a young man who will not let himself be discouraged from his goal.  It’s also a story of the mysteries behind the power of dragons that can change the course of a battle.  And it’s a discovery of brutal techniques used in hand-to-hand combat.  I thoroughly enjoyed this fantasy and am happy to tell you it’s the first part of a projected trilogy.

Yet another book worthy of mention is CILKA’S JOURNEY by Heather Morris, author of THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ.  This new historical novel is based on a true story of a struggle to survive.  It involves a sixteen-year-old girl who is sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942.  She does what she has to do to survive the horrors of the camp, and is charged with sleeping with the guards when the war is over.  Sent to a Siberian camp after the war, she adjusts to the harsh life of the prison camp as best she can.  This incredible tale of one woman’s fortitude is a must from an award-winning author.

For the books mentioned above and so much more, take a little time to scan the new book shelves in the library.  You’ll be happy to find that title that’s just right for you.

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Mental Health In YA

Mental Health in YA

by Grace Benedick, Teen Services Librarian

If you have any affiliation with Kansas State University, the following title may be familiar to you by now: “Darius the Great is Not Okay,” by Adib Khorram is the Kansas State Book Network choice for the 2019-2020 academic year. Written by a Kansas City author, the book follows Darius, an Iranian-American teen, as he navigates clinical depression, visits Iran for the first time, and has the life-changing experience of making a friend who truly sees him. The book explores multiple themes, but mental health is a major focus. Mental health is a subject that is rife with stigma and misunderstandings that can make it difficult for young people to find the support and help that they need. In light of that, we are working to expand our collection of young adult nonfiction that addresses mental health in some way. Today, I am sharing a few titles from our collection.

In the past year, two anthologies on mental health written by young adult authors were released. The first, “Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles,” edited by Jessica Burkhart, includes essays by some very popular authors, including Ellen Hopkins and Lauren Oliver. The recommended resources at the back are limited, including only three websites and a hotline. The collection has a simple goal: the authors just want to let teens know that they are not alone.

The second anthology,  “(Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health,” edited by Kelly Jensen, includes pieces by authors and celebrities, such as Libba Bray, Adam Silvera, Meredith Russo, and Kristen Bell. This volume has a variety of work, with essays, poems, and comics. The goal is slightly higher here, as the authors wish to reach a wider audience than just the reader, by giving readers the tools to bring the subject of mental health up with others. Consequently, the resource list at the back of this book does not skimp, giving options for different ways to foster conversation about mental health. It has the requisite non-fiction, hotlines, and websites, putting teens in touch with help and reference material, as well as listing young adult fiction and films that could serve as an opening to talk about mental health in a group.

While the anthologies cover a broad range of mental health experiences, there are also books that are more specific. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 13.3% of youth between the ages of 12 and 17 experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2017.  “Depression: a Teen’s Guide to Survive and Thrive,” by Jacqueline B. Toner, PhD and Claire A.B. Freeland, PhD is an example of a book designed to help teens address a specific mental health challenge. This slim book is a product of the American Psychological Association. The first part of the book is accessible explanations to give teens the context they need to understand depression. It includes guidance on finding appropriate help, describes what therapy is like, and what teens can expect if they choose to visit a therapist. The authors write from the perspective of cognitive therapy, and the bulk of the book focuses strongly on giving teens a variety of coping mechanisms to help alleviate symptoms of depression.

All the titles reviewed in this column can be found in our young adult collection, which is housed on the second floor of Manhattan Public Library. If you wish to browse non-fiction for mental health books, start at the Dewey call number 616.85 and 616.89. If you’re interested in finding more young adult fiction addressing mental health, see the resources list in “(Don’t) Call Me Crazy,” edited by Kelly Jenson, or chapter six of “Better with Books,” by Melissa Hart, a title released this fall which lists fiction for pre-teens and teens by topics such as adoption and foster care, body image, immigration, learning challenges, race and ethnicity, and more. And of course, you can always ask a librarian!

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Silly and Creepy Stories to Welcome the Fall

Silly and Creepy Stories to Welcome the Fall

by Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian

Image result for scary stories for young foxes            It’s no secret that I’m impatient for fall to come—I started baking with pumpkin spice weeks ago, and I’ve been eyeing any trees I pass for hope of changing colors and falling leaves. Fall brings with it many great things, including that creepiest, most sinister of holidays: Halloween. We’re finally passing summer and entering autumn, when it’s time for the ghoulish, ghastly, and even more-silly-than-scary books. For those who eagerly wait all year to break out the cobwebs and jack-o-lanterns, for those who prefer monsters and ghosts, for those kids who can’t wait to dress up and come home loaded with candy, here’s a book list for you.

For the youngest of Halloween aficionados, we have plenty of picture books to amuse and delight. “Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies!,” by Megan and Jorge Lacera, features a zombie boy who prefers vegetables over brains, horrifying his parents. Revisit the catchy theme song for “The Addams Family” (and get it stuck in your head before seeing the movie next month) with a new picture book set to the lyrics, illustrated by Lissy Marlin. Learn all about skulls, which are “like a car seat for your brain,” in Blair Thornburgh and Scott Campbell’s “Skulls!,” which gleefully covers all the reasons why we should love skulls instead of fearing them. And just in case the weather turns cold and wintry in time for Halloween, curl up with “Snowmen at Halloween” by Caralyn and Mark Buehner for an idea of what snowmen might get up to on Halloween.

Children’s fiction has its fair share of not-so-scary, monster- and ghost-inspired books, too. “Jaclyn Hyde,” by Annabeth Bondor-Stone and Connor White, is a fun take on “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” about a perfectionist who takes a “Perfect Potion” with unexpected consequences. In Katherine Sparrow’s “Little Apocalypse,” an earthquake brings with it monsters only visible to children, combining apocalypse stories, the supernatural, and fairy tales. “Archimancy,” first in the Shadow School series by J.A. White, follows Cordelia Liu as she starts attending the ominously-named Shadow School and discovers that the school is filled with ghosts.

More traditional, slightly scarier children’s fiction also abounds, both in short stories and longer books. For short stories, try Josh Allen’s “Out to Get You,” which is filled with thirteen short stories of normal kids encountering strange and alarming situations where they least expect them, like settling down on the couch. “Scary Stories for Young Foxes,” by Christian McKay Heidicker, contains seven shorter tales held together by a frame story of seven fox kits desperate to hear stories so frightening their tails will go white. Kathryn Siebel weaves a more traditional ghost story in “The Haunting of Henry Davis,” a tale of séances and Ouija boards and a boy being haunted by a ghost named Edgar. In “Guest,” Mary Downing Hahn takes inspiration from Irish folklore, focusing on a girl whose baby brother is switched with a changeling and her quest to get him back.

Teens can look forward to some spine-chilling, supernatural-infused books, too. Those familiar with the legendary Edgar Allan Poe may be interested in “His Hideous Heart,” an anthology reimagining thirteen of his stories for a modern audience. For those wanting to revisit his original stories, thirteen of Poe’s stories and poems are included in the back of the anthology. Comics readers can pick up Terry Blas and Claudia Aguirre’s “Hotel Dare,” a fantasy comic on the tamer side of scary, which follows teens encountering the supernatural at a hotel which is actually a portal to other worlds. “Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist,” a short story written by David Almond and illustrated by Dave McKean, bridges the gap between fiction and graphic novel but is hair-raising nonetheless. Joe Quinn’s been telling everyone about his poltergeist, and narrator Davie finds himself drawn in despite himself and his initial disbelief in ghosts. Almond’s eerie storytelling is heightened by McKean’s art, which twists reality to unsettle the reader and convey Davie’s confusion, angst, and fear.

Beyond books, we’ve plenty of Halloween goodness in store for October. Kids and families can join us for Trunk-or-Treat at the Library on October 27 at 6:30 PM, and preschoolers can enjoy a monstrously fun time at our Monster Mash Dance Party on October 31 at 11 AM. If those all seem too far away to bear, then go ahead and put on your Halloween costume early, break out the pumpkin juice, and pick up some silly and spooky books to help pass the time.

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The Art of Hick-Lit

The Art of Hick-Lit

By Rachel Cunningham, Circulation Supervisor

We’ve all heard the antiquated phrase “flyover country” when referring to the Midwest. Nebraska has even adopted a tourism campaign stating “honestly, it’s not for everyone,” and many of us have seen the local merchandise proclaiming, “Kansas – it’s not that bad!” While Midwesterners may joke about the perception others have of their homeland, they bring to light the under appreciation and underrepresentation of rural life. Wander through the fiction stacks at a library or bookstore and you can find novels and series alike taking place in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and other metropolitan settings, yet few of these stories settle in the Midwest. However, popular mediums have recently developed a fascination with rural life (see films “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and “Nebraska,” and top 40 songs “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus and “Meant to Be” by Bebe Rexha feat. Florida Georgia Line). If the interest in (non-romanticized) country life is growing, where can one go to find literature that resonates with their personal life experience, or perhaps, enlighten the circumstance of their neighbors?


I began with J.D. Vance’s popular “Hillbilly Elegy.” Vance’s memoir  provides excellent and necessary background to the underrepresented people of the Midwest, but if you’re interested in a perspective closer to home, Sarah Smarsh’s memoir “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth” details life on a southern Kansas farm, and her upbringing in a working class family. Like Vance, Smarsh attempts to bring light to the socioeconomic factors that plague an often forgotten group of citizens in the Midwest. The experiences of these men and women sparked my journey to discover the niche genre of rural noir books – also affectionately tagged as “country noir” or “hick-lit”. Please note these titles may contain profanity, illegal substances, and sexual material. Ask a librarian for more details if you are sensitive to any of these topics.  


Iowa native Laura McHugh paints a gritty and dark atmosphere within the Ozark Mountains, driving a strong, suspenseful narrative in McHugh’s first novel, “The Weight of Blood”. The narrative follows sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane’s investigation into the murder of her friend, and the possible link to the fable surrounding her own mother’s disappearance years before. A discovery will force Lucy to question where her loyalty lies. In keeping with the themes of missing girls and family secrets, McHugh’s second novel “Arrowood” follows the homecoming of Arden Arrowood, returning to her family’s abandoned estate after her father’s death. Upon arriving, Arden discovers an armchair detective has been researching the disappearance of her twin sisters twenty years before, determined to find an answer to the unsolved mystery. Together, they reconstruct the timeline of the hazy summer day and uncover family secrets that have been buried for almost twenty years. Located in a once thriving, but now failing town in Iowa, McHugh uses details from her upbringing in small Iowa towns to create a believable atmosphere despite the unreliable narrator. Her latest work “The Wolf Wants In” takes the reader to Blackwater, Kansas, a rural suburb of Kansas City while retaining McHugh’s themes of family secrets, missing people, and murder. McHugh currently resides in Columbia, Missouri. 


Hailing from Hugoton, Kansas, Bryn Greenwood holds an MA in Creative Writing from K-State and nominations for her novel “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things”. With a lyrical writing style, readers are introduced to Wavy, the daughter of a drug dealer, who has been forced to grow up much faster than other children her age. The Oklahoma-based tale follows Wavy through multiple narrators from childhood to early adulthood. Greenwood introduces many difficult topics like child abuse, sexual abuse, intergenerational attraction, and others, which may be upsetting to some readers. Greenwood creates an incredibly resilient, resourceful, and complex character in Wavy, if readers are willing to be challenged by her harrowing childhood. Greenwood currently resides in Lawrence, Kansas. 


Breaking from her previous works of young adult fiction, Amy Engel debuted her first adult novel with “The Roanoke Girls”. Lane Roanoke arrives at her grandparents’ home in fictional Osage Flats, Kansas after her mother’s suicide. Lane quickly begins to discover unspoken pieces of her mother’s childhood and uncovers reasons she’s been forbidden to meet her family. Engel introduces difficult topics including abuse, incest, suicide, sexual content, and violence. Engel currently resides in Missouri.

The titles listed above are the tip of the hick-lit iceberg. For more recommendations, visit NoveList with your Kansas eCard!

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A Day in the Virtual Life of a Library Card

A Day in the Virtual Life of a Library Card

By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager

On average, about 980 people visit our library every day. But did you know that 13 percent of our checkouts actually happen outside the library using our digital resources to check out eBooks, audiobooks, movies and music? September is Library Card Sign-Up Month. If you don’t have a library card, you might be missing out.

The other day, I realized I had requested items, downloaded books and checked out a movie without ever needing to be in the library. Here’s the virtual path my library card took:

My first use was to place a hold on Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars, which was recommended by a coworker. It’s an alternate history taking place during the 1950’s space race when a cataclysmic disaster suddenly means that a lot more humans will need to attempt to leave the planet. This time, women won’t be left behind. Their cause is led by Elma York, a former WASP pilot and a mathematician for the space program, who will make sure that she and other women will be part of the astronaut team. After being inspired by Hidden Figures, I knew this would be a fun way to satisfy my need for both sci-fi and girl power. From the library webpage, I looked up the book, and chose “Place Request,” typed in my card number and password, and viola, I am next in line for the book.

Reviews of the The Calculating Stars mentioned a sequel, The Fated Sky, but I didn’t see it when I searched the online catalog. I clicked on “Suggest a Purchase” at the top of the page and put the sequel’s information in a form to suggest that we order a copy for the library collection. I’ll be first on the waiting list for that one.

The next stop for my library card was at the doctor’s office waiting room. I looked to see what I could start reading on my favorite library app, Hoopla. It’s super easy to use and there are no waiting lists. Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter is on this year’s William Allen White list for 6th-8th graders, and it popped up as one that I checked out previously. I borrowed it by clicking “resume,” and it picked up where I had left off a few weeks ago. The story immediately sucked me back in as I became wrapped up in Flora’s language and thought process.

Flora, a former foster child with a traumatic early childhood, adopted by a mother she thinks of as “Person,” is trying to pass fourth grade for the second time. Sometimes her words come out right, when she has enough time, and Ms. K and Person let her explain. Her story is heart-wrenching and fascinating, even as it is pieced together disjointedly.

When I got ready to take an evening walk, I checked Libby on my phone to see what audiobooks were available for me to listen to. Libby is the name of the app that gives easy access to the Sunflower eLibrary titles, a consortium of several libraries, including Manhattan Public, with digital resources. Not in the mood to start a second gripping novel for the day, I looked for something light and funny, and landed Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis. Ellis, author of American Housewife, writes with the self-deprecating, witty, sometimes shocking humor of a party storyteller. In case you are wondering, Southern Lady Code is “a technique by which, if you don’t have something nice to say, say something not-so-nice in a nice way.” For example, if someone were to say Helen Ellis’s husband married a creative woman, “’creative’ is Southern Lady Code for slob.” I ended up taking a longer walk than usual, just for the entertainment.

Later, I looked through the library’s newest downloadable movie app, Kanopy, marveling at how the library has expanded in the number of choices and accessibility through all the digital resources. Mr. Rogers: It’s You I Like came up as an option. I knew the DVD was in the library collection as well, but I was able start watching it immediately on my phone.

Former First Lady Laura Bush once said, “I have found the most valuable item in my wallet to be my library card.” Considering what it would cost to purchase the materials I borrowed in a single day, I would say it is true for me. This is one card you definitely want in your wallet.

by Luke Wahlmeier Luke Wahlmeier No Comments

Books for the Transition Between Juvenile and Young Adult Literature

Books for the Transition Between Juvenile and Young Adult Literature

By Hannah Atchison, Children’s Librarian

Transitions are uncomfortable and difficult. The transition between child and young adult is probably one of the hardest. How do you find a book to read when you are done with children’s books, but are not sure where to begin in our teen section? The difference between our children’s books and our young adult books is that the books in our teen section have more mature themes. Mature, here, meaning that the story contains violent, romantic, or morally complex themes that are considered to be more than what a child is capable of understanding.

Here are a few recommendations for you:


  • Eragonby Christopher PaoliniThis is the first book in a series about a fifteen-year-old boy named Eragon whose adventures begin when he discovers a dragon egg.


  • The Lightning Thief -First in a series that follows the adventures of Percy Jackson, a boy who finds out he is a demigod, the son of Poseidon.


  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare -Fifteen-year-old Clary discovers a world that exits within our world where there are monsters and demons and those that hunt them: the Shadowhunters.


Science Fiction

  • Fullmetal Alchemistby Hiromu Arakawa -This is a graphic novel about Fullmetal, the codename of Edward Elric, a boy with the gift of alchemy. A ritual left Edward with mechanical limbs and his brother a walking, talking suit of armor. They seek the Philosopher’s Stone, convinced it can help them.


  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer -A retelling of Cinderella that takes place in New Beijing where humans and androids live together. Cinder is a cyborg mechanic involved in an intergalactic conflict threatening everyone on Earth.



  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner -Thomas wakes in a large outdoor space surrounded by high walls with his memory almost blank. Several boys are there, all of whom lost their memories. Doors open in the wall in the mornings revealing the maze surrounding them. One day a girl arrives with a message.


  • The Giver by Lois Lowry -At age twelve, during the Ceremony, Jonas is given his job as the receiver of memories for his community. Jonas learns secrets and uncomfortable truths about the community he once loved, and he decides to escape.



  • I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter -There is a boarding school for girls, which is actually a secret spy school. Cammie Morgan, the daughter of the headmistress, has fallen for a completely normal boy. She is incredibly smart and capable, but has no idea how to have a normal relationship.


  • A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro -Jamie Watson is at Sherringford Prep School in Connecticut where he meets Charlotte Holmes, the great-great-great-granddaughter of the detective Sherlock Holmes who has inherited his talents. The two work to solve the mysterious death of a student.

Realistic Fiction

  • One Week Friends by Matcha Hazuki -In this graphic novel, Yuuki notices that his classmate Kaori is always alone. They become friends, but he finds out that she loses her memories at the end of every week. Yuuki decides to become friends with her every week, even though she forgets him.


  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas -Starr Carter is a sixteen-year-old navigating the disparities between the poor black neighborhood she lives in and her suburban prep school. Starr witnesses the death of her best friend, Khalil. When his reputation is destroyed, and the police aren’t giving his death the attention it deserves, Starr takes the case into her own hands.


  • I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez -Julia left home after high school, but her sister Olga stayed home with the family. When Olga is killed in an accident, Julia comes back home to her family, but her mother is not happy with her.


  • Paper Towns by John Green -Quentin Jacobsen has been head over heels for the enigma Margo Roth Spiegelman since they were kids. When Margo climbs through Q’s window one night and asks him to help her he jumps at the chance, but the next day she disappears. Q bravely sets out to find her, convinced they are meant to be together.


Hopefully, these suggestions will help make at least one part of the transition between child and young adult a little bit easier.