Author: Luke Wahlmeier

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Reflecting on David McCullough’s “The Pioneers”

Reflecting on David McCullough’s “The Pioneers”

By Marcia Allen, Collections Manager

No book written by historian David McCullough has failed to fascinate readers.  “John Adams” and “Truman” not only merited bestseller status, but each also earned the Pulitzer Prize. “The Path between the Seas” and “Mornings on Horseback” were recipients of the National Book Award.  And McCullough has received some fifty-six honorary degrees for his extensive writing about American history.

McCullough’s latest book, “The Pioneers,” is no exception to that long list of excellent titles. The book traces the settlement of what was the Northwest Territory during the late 18th century.  In particular, it follows the exploration and the creation of communities along the Ohio River.  While reading of such endeavors could be very dry, McCullough magically brings the era to life, and we readers are a part of the long ago struggle.

The major personalities of the adventure were remarkable.  Manasseh Cutler, who became the spokesperson for the Ohio effort, was a pastor who never lost a passion for learning.  Fascinated with anything that had to do with science, he studied medicine, astronomy, botany and any other scientific pursuit that aroused his curiosity.  He work tirelessly with members of Congress to establish a territory that espoused education, freedom of religion and an end to slavery.  Because of his work, Congress agreed to form the Northwest Ordinance, thus laying the groundwork for government and land for the Ohio Company.

An equally talented leader, General Rufus Putnam, was chosen to lead the first pioneers to their new home.  Putnam, who suffered a grim childhood and a limited education, caught the attention of General George Washington when he masterfully designed American fortifications that helped defend Dorchester Heights during the Revolutionary War.  Recognizing great capabilities, Washington appointed Putnam chief engineer of the army.  Thus, his creativity and determination made him an ideal candidate for leadership.

And so the adventure began.  A small party of surveyors, carpenters and other tradesmen set off near the last day of the year in 1787.  Early on, they ran into horrendous storms that closed a road that was a mere trail cutting through the wilderness.  Along the way, they had to stop to build boats to carry supplies.  When they finally arrived at their destination, they began plotting streets for a city and felling trees to build both cabins and an immense fort for safety. Fertile land and plentiful game made life a little easier.

Of course, there were obstacles, some recognized and dealt with by careful planning.  Hard work, sturdy shelters, and dedicated planting of crops helped to avert some hardships.  There were other threats, however, that were carelessly overlooked.

Initially, encounters with tribal leaders were respectful and peaceful.  During the next couple of years, increasing encroachment on traditional hunting and sheltering lands angered the Shawnee and Cherokee tribes.  A couple of their raids on homes of settlers ended with casualties, and so plans were made by Congress and President Washington to raise an army for defense in the wilderness.

General Arthur St. Clair was chosen for leadership of that army.  Ranks were composed of unemployed men selected from larger towns.  They were poorly paid, poorly outfitted and poorly trained for their arduous assignment.  Desertions along the route were common.  St. Clair’s attitude as they advanced into the wilderness was nonchalant.  Despite sightings of tribal groups, he ignored warnings and continued his advance.  When an attack took place one early November morning in 1790, troops became easy targets.  Of the 1400 Americans making that trek, some 1000 plus were brutally killed and mutilated.  The massacre led to the very first congressional investigation into events of American history.

So, what makes this an exceptional book?  A combination of many well-planned features.  McCullough is a careful researcher, so much of his book is based on journals and letters rarely seen.  The combination of those eyewitness descriptions and McCullough’s talented writing brings a little-known American history to life.  And the courage and determination of those early explorers were incredible.  “The Pioneers” is yet another outstanding treasure of American experience, one you won’t regret reading.

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A Universe of Stories for Kids at the Library

A Universe of Stories for Kids at the Library

By Jennifer Bergen, Program & Children’s Services Manager

This summer, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, and our summer reading program is on board with an exciting space theme. Storytimes and clubs kick-off tomorrow, and we have events for all ages related to space, lunar explorations, and even cheese-making (since the moon is made of cheese, of course).

Children’s books are a great place to look if you want to travel the universe. We will be featuring these titles and more during our summer programs:

In the PreK Storytime Stars programs, Miss Gretchen will read Tiny Little Rocket by Richard Collingridge. It’s an exciting, intergalactic adventure that zips the reader through our solar system with beautiful illustrations and poetic text.

Even our littlest storytimers attending Baby Rhyme Time will get a dose of science with the board book Baby Loves Thermo-Dynamics. No, we’re not kidding: it is a real thing. Ruth Spiro’s “Baby Loves” series takes science down to the simplest level with engaging illustrations that even your pre-walker, pre-talker will love. There’s also Baby Loves Quantum Physics, Baby Loves Quarks, and more.

Kids going into kindergarten and 1st grade can join our Sensational Supernovas summer club on Wednesday or Thursday afternoon for some super silly space stories that are sure to leave them giggling all day. Green Wilma: Frog in Space, Aliens Love Underpants and There Was an Old Martian Who Swallowed the Moon are just a few from Miss Chelsea’s LOL list of titles.

Older students will be exposed to fascinating space facts, activities and crafts with Miss Rachel, as well as some really cool books. Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover by Markus Motum explains the mission of this robotic spacecraft, which is still out there roaming around the red planet. Earthrise: Apollo 8 and the Photo That Changed the World by James Gladstone conveys the “profound effect” this incredible 1968 photo had on the astronauts who captured the earth in color rising above the darkness, and the impact the photo had when it was published.

For the Nifty Nebulas (2nd-3rd graders) and Quizzical Quasars (4th-6th graders), these books will be interspersed with short videos from Science Crash Course and some high energy activities, like astronaut training in agility and coordination. Facts from The Space Adventurer’s Guide: Your Passport to the Coolest Things to See and Do in the Universe by Peter McMahon and Josh Holinaty, and National Geographic Kids Ultimate Space Atlas, will open their brains to a universe of wonder. Some of the take-homes they will create include a star clock and an orrery, a model of the solar system to show revolution and rotation.

The anniversary of Apollo 11’s mission has sparked the publication of many new space books. Just browse the new science books and you will likely find several. Try Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything by Martin W. Sandler, or the kids’ version of Douglas Brinkley’s American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race, to up your knowledge. These are written as children’s nonfiction but easily cross over as adult reading for those of us too short on time to take up a hefty volume.

A new Space backpack kit has been added to our Discovery Packs collection for young readers. It contains several new books like Daring Dozen: The Twelve Who Walked on the Moon by Suzanne Slade, and Counting on Katherine, a short biography of Katherine Johnson and her accomplishments working for NASA, as well as a space card game and a planisphere to locate objects in the night sky. Discovery Packs can be checked out for 3 weeks, just like books.

Younger kids will love Dogs in Space by Vix Southgate, which illustrates the “amazing true story of Belka and Strelka,” two stray dogs in Moscow who orbited the earth in 1960 and returned healthy and fine. Young scientists will be inspired by Alice B. McGinty’s picture book biography, The Girl Who Named Pluto: The Story of Venetia Burney, and the power of sharing a good idea!

Join us on June 14 for a fascinating program, “Astronomy for Everyone: Size and Scale of the Universe” from 7:00-9:00 p.m., presented by Kevin Manning from Look Up to the Stars. It will be a virtual journey throughout the cosmos. Weather permitting, we will venture outdoors around 8:30 to view celestial objects, such as the ice crystal rings of Saturn and craters on the moon, through a powerful, hand-crafted telescope. Suggested for ages 8 and up. Check the library’s webpage for more details at

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Remembering America’s Wars Through The Movies

Remembering America’s Wars Through The Movies
By John Pecoraro, Associate Director

On Memorial Day we remember and honor men and women who have died while serving in the armed forces. America has endured many wars, and scholars have written countless histories of these events. Hollywood too has tackled the subject of America’s wars in a myriad of movies over the years. Here are a few examples of the wide variety of movies about America’s wars available at the library.

In “The Patriot,” directed by Roland Emmerich, Benjamin, a veteran of the French and Indian War and now a peace-loving farmer, renounces his pacifism to rescue his son Gabriel, who has been captured by the British and sentenced to hang. Father and son form a regiment of like-minded patriots to fight the British in their South Carolina home. The action is loosely adapted from the true story of Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox.

The American Civil War has been the topic of countless films. “Glory,” directed by Edward Zwick, is based on the exploits of the all-black 54th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), the son of influential abolitionists. The film shows the prejudice black soldiers had to endure from their white counterparts. They are given menial, demeaning tasks, but when given the chance to fight, they show tremendous courage.

World War I ended over 100 years ago. “Sergeant York,” directed by Howard Hawks is a biopic of Medal of Honor recipient Alvin York. York was a rabble-rouser in his Tennessee youth who underwent a religious conversion. When drafted into the army York was a pacifist, and declared himself a conscientious objector. York’s commanding officer convinces him that sometimes the only way to defend Democracy is to fight. York does just that. In the Argonne Forest, York kills 25 and captures dozens of German soldiers. As a result, York becomes an American hero.

Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan,” is a stand out World War II. Three Ryan brothers have all been killed in the same week during June 1944. Private Ryan is the surviving brother serving with the airborne somewhere in northwest France in the days after the Normandy landings. Captain John Miller’s (Tom Hanks) job is to find Ryan and deliver him to safety. This film features graphic, realistic depictions of D-Day. The story follows the small group of soldiers looking for one man in the midst of the confusion of war. When one of their group is killed, some begin to question the logic of losing more lives to save a single soldier.

While the United Nations Command, Chinese, and North Koreans negotiated the Korean Armistice Agreement, UN and Chinese forces fought the Battle of Pork Chop Hill. In the movie “Pork Chop Hill,” directed by Lewis Milestone, Gregory Peck plays the Lieutenant who leads a 135-man unit on the attack of the Chinese-held hill. When reinforcements finally arrive, only 25 of Peck’s men have survived. Less than three weeks after the Battle of Pork Chop Hill, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed ending hostilities.

Over 2.7 million Americans served in uniform in Vietnam. “The Deer Hunter,” directed by Michael Cimino, chronicles the lives of three Pennsylvania steelworkers and hunting buddies, Mike, Nick, and Steve, and their tour of duty in Vietnam. Enduring capture and torture by Viet Cong, they are forced to play Russian roulette for their captors’ amusement. Each is forever altered by the experience. Steve loses his legs, Mike returns changed to the point where he can no longer kill a deer, and Nick remains in Vietnam lost in a continuous game of Russian roulette will Saigon falls around him.

Jarhead,” directed by Sam Mendes brings to life Marines during the 1991 Gulf War. Swofford and Troy, trained to be snipers, find themselves in the middle of a desert under a blazing sun where they’re up against an enemy they can’t always see. They endure the long bouts of boredom and brief moments of terror with their sense of humor and their friendship for their brothers in arms.

Chronicling a year in a small outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, “Restrepo,” is a documentary by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger. The remote 15-man outpost is named for fallen platoon medic Juan Restrepo. In this film the cameras never leave the valley, and there are no interviews with generals or diplomats. The entire focus is on the soldiers of Second Platoon as they fight the War on Terror.

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Mental Health Awareness and Books

Mental Health Awareness and Books

By Mary Swabb, Learning and Information Services Supervisor

Nationally, Mental Health Awareness Month is observed in May and has been since 1949 ( states, “mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.” Over the past seventy years, mental health has become a prevalent issue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, “problems with mental health are very common in the United States, with an estimated 50% of all Americans diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.” The chronicity of mental illness has made many people more mindful of the need for mental health services. During May, national and local organizations increase their outreach to help garner awareness of mental health issues, and emphasize various ways people can reach out to gain assistance. In Manhattan, Pawnee Mental Health Services (, Ascension Via Christi Behavioral Health ( and Katie’s Way ( are three organizations that offer a wide range of outpatient services for children, adolescents, and adults seeking assistance with their mental health. While Manhattan Public Library does not offer outpatient services, its collection contains a wide selection of fiction and non-fiction materials on mental health and mental illness for children, adolescents, and adults.


Books about mental health for children and juveniles:

In “The Princess and the Fog, Lloyd Jones utilizes the classic fairy tale and humor as vehicles to create a relatable and enjoyable story that describes symptoms of childhood depression. This book helps children learn about depression and the many ways they can deal with difficult feelings. It’s also a wonderful starting point for explaining this topic to children who may have a parent or close family member who struggles with depression.

Pilar, the protagonist of “Pilar’s Worries” by Victoria M. Sanchez, utilizes coping techniques, like positive thinking and talking with her friends, to overcome her fears and feelings of anxiety surrounding tryouts for her favorite ballet.

In “My Family Divided: One Girl’s Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope” by Diane Guerrero and Erica Moroz, Guerrero shares her battle with depression and suicidal thoughts in the wake of her parent’s deportation. This book is both heartbreaking and hopeful.

Finley Hart, the protagonist of “Some Kind of Happiness” by Claire Legrand, goes to live with her grandparents and cousins while her parents work out their marital differences. Finley copes with her intensifying depression by escaping to Everwood, a fantasy kingdom, that at one point only existed in her notebook, but becomes a real physical space to her and her cousins.


Books about mental health for young adults & adults:

In “The Weight of Our Sky” by Hanna Alkaf, sixteen-year-old Melati Ahmad battles with her obsessive-compulsive disorder while she searches for her mother during the historic race riots of 1969 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Shaun David Hutchinson courageously shares his struggle with being depressed and gay in “Brave Face: A Memoir.” Hutchinson’s memoir highlights his struggle to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn’t see himself. He provides a candid, good-humored recollection of depression, self-loathing, and eventual self-respect.

In “Sparrow” by Sarah Moon, a young girl who struggles to make friends attempts suicide after her favorite teacher, Mrs. Wexler, is killed in a freak car accident. With the help of her therapist, Sparrow discovers an outlet in rock and roll music. Moon does an excellent job of conveying the isolation people sometimes feel, and illustrating how beneficial therapy can be.

Everything Here Is Beautiful” by Mira T. Lee evocatively illuminates the tumultuous relationship between Miranda and her younger sister Lucia, a brilliant journalist who struggles with periodic descents into severe psychosis. The book explores numerous topics such as the helplessness of family members wishing to fix distressing situations, and the difficulty surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses like schizoaffective disorder.

These are just a few of the titles featuring mental health and mental illness that Manhattan Public Library has to offer. Please feel free to visit us online at or come in and stop by a service desk to ask for alternative suggestions.

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Can You Read These Out of Order?

Can You Read These Out of Order?

By Hannah Atchison, Children’s Librarian

Summer is approaching. I know: How did that happen? That means…more time to read! When I was younger, summer was for re-reading a series in preparation for the next book or movie or catching up on a series on audio during vacation. However, it seemed like everyone else had the same idea. The next book in the series would almost always be checked out. And the one right after would be sitting on the shelf, taunting me. The parents of our younger patrons at the library are frequently asking me: Do you have to read this series in order? Usually my answer is yes. I want to have something to offer, so I did some research.

There are four criteria that book series typically follow if they make sense out of order. First, character storylines resolve by the end of the book. Second, the plot also reaches a summation. Third, each book contains a single storyline. And fourth, each book has its own protagonist. Mysteries, thrillers, and romances are the most likely to follow these rules. Since these are fairly broad terms, I made a list of both regular children’s chapter books and early children’s chapter books, our transition books between our beginning readers and the larger chapter books in the children’s collection. All the books on my list are in series which may be read out of order.

Here are some of the early chapter books I chose for my list:

The “A to Z Mysteries” by Ron Roy. Each book in this series has a title featuring a letter of the alphabet with corresponding alliteration. You can read them in alphabetical order, but you do not have to. In each book, Dink Duncan and his friends, Josh Pinto and Ruth Rose Hathaway, solve a new mystery.

The “Geronimo Stilton” series by Geronimo Stilton, concept of Elisabetta Dami. These books are mysteries about Geronimo Stilton, a mouse who runs a newspaper and works as a detective.

The “Notebook of Doom” series by Troy Cummings. Alexander Bopp moves to Stermont and finds a scary notebook of monster drawings. He begins to see monsters everywhere. Each book has a new monster.

The “Puppy Place” series by Ellen Miles. Charles and Lizzie Peterson’s family fosters puppies. Each book has a different puppy and lessons to learn.

The “Jake Maddox Sports Series” by Jack Maddox. The books in this series all have a main character who plays a sport. If you have a sports lover who likes to read, these books are a good place to start.

And these are some of my selections from our regular juvenile fiction:

The “Hank the Cowdog” series by John Erickson. These are hilarious adventures told from the perspective of Hank, a dog who thinks he is the head of ranch security where he lives.

The “Encyclopedia Brown” series by Donald J. Sobol. Leroy Brown, son of the Idaville police chief, solves mysteries. The solutions to each mystery are in the back of the book, so the reader can solve the cases, too.

The “Goosebumps” series by R. L. Stine. If you like scary stories, these are the books for you. Unless the title has the words ‘return of’ or ‘again’ you can read without fear of spoilers.

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci” by Diana Wynne Jones. These are fantastical magical adventures set in parallel universes.

The “Redwall” series by Brian Jacques. The characters of these books are animals who have many exciting adventures. Though each book is set during a different time in their history, you can read the books in whatever order you please.

The “Royal Diaries” is a series written by multiple authors. Each book is a diary from a different famous princess in history.

The “I Survived” series by Lauren Tarshis. This series follows the lives of kids during infamous disasters in history.

The “You Choose” series was written by multiple authors. These books are interactive stories in which the reader gets to make the decisions and choose the outcome of the story. Each one takes place during an important moment in history.

Hopefully, these options will satisfy your young, insatiable readers this summer. If you need more assistance finding other series that can be read out of order or something else to satisfy your reader’s tastes, you know where to find me.

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Teens’ Top Ten Nominees

Teens’ Top Ten Nominees

By Grace Benedick, Teen Services Librarian

The Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, gives out a number of literary awards for books selected by committees of librarians. However, there is one award that allows teens to get in on the fun: the Teens’ Top Ten award.  Every October, teens can vote for their favorite books from a list of 25 titles published in the previous year. Teens also choose the nominees through participating book clubs throughout the U.S. The nominated books are announced in April, and voting takes place online between August 15 and October 13, 2019. Then, this year’s Teens’ Top Ten Winners will be announced during the week of October 20th, 2019.

Overall, the list leans more toward fantasy, but there are several novels that address the difficulties that real life can throw at us.

There isn’t a John Green title on the list this year, but don’t worry, his brother wrote a book, and it’s on the list. “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” by Hank Green, deals with finding fame on the internet, and the fallout that almost inevitably follows.  

Gloria Chao’s “American Panda” features Mei, a freshman at MIT struggling to reconcile her parents’ goals for her with her own dreams, as the gap between their plans widens.

Darius, the protagonist of “Darius the Great Is Not Okay” by Adib Khorram, grapples with clinical depression. Although he’s half Persian, he’s more interested in Tolkien’s fictional languages than Farsi and isn’t very interested in connecting with his Persian heritage, until a trip to visit family in Iran brings him right next door to the friend he needed and never expected to find.

In “Girl Made of Stars” by Ashley Herring Blake, Mara’s beloved twin brother is accused of rape by a mutual friend. This book explores the hard question of how to respond when a loved one harms a friend.

The fantasy selections start off on a morbid note with “#MurderTrending” by Gretchen McNeil, a novel about a dystopian society where criminals are sent to a prison called Alcatraz 2.0. Prisoners there are killed in brutal and creative ways on film, which is released through an app. Dee is wrongfully sentenced and sent to Alcatraz, where she finds friends and fights to escape the twisted system.

Dhonielle Clayton sets her novel “The Belles” in a totally different kind of dystopia: a land where people are nearly all born plain, but a few are born as Belles: able to control beauty and transform others into beautiful people. Thus, the Belles are in high demand, and Camellia seeks to rise to the top and be appointed as the Queen’s favorite. Once she achieves her goal, though, she finds that her world is not what she once thought.

Unsurprisingly, Tomi Adeyemi’s “Children of Blood and Bone” also makes the list. Zélie Adebola lives in a land filled with magic, but a tyrant king rises who kills those who practice magic, including Zélie’s mother. Left with her grief and her abilities, Zélie must find a way to overthrow the new king and return magic to her land.

In 2018, Laini Taylor’s “Strange the Dreamer” won a place in the Teen’s Top Ten, and this year the sequel, “Muse of Nightmares,” has also been nominated. Although Lazlo and Sarai have transformed, the struggle continues as they face off against enemies both old and new. Marie Lu also has a sequel to one of last year’s winners on the nominee list, with “Wildcard,” which follows her sci-fi novel, “Warcross.”

Three graphic novels were nominated in 2019, which is a delightful surprise, as there were no graphic novels nominated in 2018. The graphic novels nominated for 2018 include: “The Prince and the Dressmaker” by Jen Wang, an exploration of gender expression set in a whimsical European fairytale world; “Speak: The Graphic Novel” by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Emily Carroll, adapted from Anderson’s classic novel; and the only non-fiction title on the nominee list, “The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees” by Don Brown.

To browse more of the Teens’ Top Ten nominees, as well as last year’s winners and other award-winning young adult titles, please check out the young adult award-winners display near the Teen Zone on the 2nd floor of Manhattan Public Library.

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These Are a Few of My Favorite (Recently-Read) Books

These Are a Few of My Favorite (Recently-Read) Books

By Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian

I don’t have a favorite book. I know that sounds like heresy, but it’s true. I have favorite books in different genres and subcategories (favorite Shakespearian comedy, favorite “Star Wars” novels, favorite “Sleeping Beauty” retelling), but not one definitive Favorite Book Ever. Nonetheless, I’m constantly reading books, and they’re some pretty good ones, if I say so myself. Here are some of my recent favorites.

            I started out the year reading “Strange the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor, swiftly followed by its companion novel, “Muse of Nightmares.” Immediately, I knew these could be the best books I read all year. Taylor’s duology is YA high fantasy, a genre I adore, and these books follow, of all things, a librarian. Lazlo Strange has always been obsessed with the Forgotten City, lost to mythology and memory, so he jumps at the chance to go on an expedition to save this city from an unknown threat. The plot only begins there, but it’s hard to say more without spoiling the wonder and enchantment of it all. Taylor masterfully weaves together myth and magic to create a world that’s new, spellbinding, and both timeless and timely. I’ll be rereading these frequently.

            One of my favorite authors, Lucy Knisley, pens graphic memoirs about periods of transition in her life: becoming an adult, getting married, and, most recently, becoming a parent. “Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos” really covers a couple years of Knisley’s life, from fertility challenges and miscarriages to a successful pregnancy, difficult delivery, and the early weeks of parenthood. Knisley’s memoirs are always thoughtful and introspective, and this one is no different, as she analyzes the grief, helplessness, and joy she felt on her journey. Throughout the book, she interweaves lesser-known information about pregnancy and the history of reproductive health, making for a fascinating and informative read.

            A soft spot for teen romances and Broadway musicals led me to the refreshingly optimistic-yet-realistic “What If It’s Us” by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. Unlike a lot of teen romance I’ve read, this one does not go swimmingly from the beginning—Arthur and Ben meet-cute but then neglect to get each other’s contact information. Even after they do reconnect, they suffer not one, not two, but three unsuccessful first dates and several miscommunications, on top of the fact that Arthur’s only in New York for the summer. As Arthur and Ben grapple with whether they’re meant to be a couple, they learn that, even if something isn’t guaranteed to last, the experience can still be worth pursuing and the memories worth cherishing.

            I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the excellent children’s books I’ve read lately. Dominic Walliman’s Professor Astro Cat books spring immediately to mind, with my favorite being “Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventure.” These books are as informative as DK’s photo-laden Eyewitness books (you know the ones) but combine the look of comics and infographics for an energetic, brightly-colored reading experience.

            Picture book “Little Doctor and the Fearless Beast” by Sophie Gilmore reads like a fable, about a Little Doctor who treats crocodiles but may be stumped by Big Mean, a crocodile of mythically-big proportions. Gilmore’s detailed illustrations and down-to-earth approach to her fantastical tale take me to a place of nostalgia, echoing “Where the Wild Things Are” and other books that stand out from my childhood. I’d read it again in a heartbeat.

            A vibrant and lively story, Loredana Cunti’s “Karate Kakapo” follows a kakapo who’s training for her black belt in karate. The problem? She may have to perform a flying kick, which is patently impossible, since kakapos can’t fly. This story will give you the courage to try things you thought you couldn’t do, and the charming illustrations contain plenty of karate poses for young children (or childlike adults) to try out. Of course, there are many, many more great children’s picture books out there, but I’ll save them for next time.

            It seems to be my fate in life to keep reading great books, and you can have the same if you come by the Manhattan Public Library. None of these books your speed? Don’t worry—we can recommend others you might like. Just stop by a service desk and ask for a suggestion, or go look through NoveList Plus for some more ideas of new books to read. Great books are constantly coming out, so there are dozens and dozens from which to choose.

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First Ladies

First Ladies

By Rhonna Hargett, Associate Director

Tomorrow, First Lady Melania Trump will host the 141st White House Easter Egg Roll. This long-standing tradition is just one of the many duties carried out by the First Lady, as part of a position that isn’t a formal government position and yet has very clear expectations attached. As we hear analysis of whether or not Mrs. Trump fulfills this role well, it is helpful to look to the words of First Ladies of the past.

In “Becoming,” Michelle Obama shares her experiences growing up and in the White House. Mrs. Obama grew up on the South side of Chicago. Although her parents were not wealthy, her family provided a rich environment that supported her very active mind. She had a mother that advocated for her to receive a quality education, a grandfather that nurtured a love of music, and an aunt that taught her piano. Her father had multiple sclerosis, and his response to his diagnosis taught her about strength and resilience. She overcame financial obstacles and academic doubters to go on to receive degrees from both Princeton and Harvard. Her achievements alone are enough to make this an interesting read, but I was really drawn into the book when she discussed her struggles as a working mother and her efforts to find the balance between her obligation to her country, her children, and her sense of self.

As a librarian, I’ve always had a positive perception of Laura Bush, but her book “Spoken from the Heart” gave me a deeper understanding of her as a person. The initiatives she advocated for during her husband’s presidency were mostly focused on education and literacy, although she was led to become more outspoken for women’s rights after September 11 and the United States’ increasing involvement in Afghanistan. She has been considered a traditional wife and mother, and in many ways she is, but she is also the woman that stood in front of the World Economic Forum in Jordan and said, “Now we know that a nation can only achieve its best future and its brightest potential when all of its citizens, men and women, participate in government and in decision making,” causing the delegation from Saudi Arabia to walk out.

One thing that struck me was in how many ways they were similar. They were both raised in loving families of modest means, and both had mothers who read to them, which probably helped both of them to be successful academically. Both of them married loving husbands that were politically savvy, but not so great at housekeeping. Laura tells the amusing story of the state of their home when they got married, while Michelle was chastened on the campaign trail for being a bit too honest about her husband leaving his dirty socks around.

Both women tell of the camaraderie that develops among First Families, no matter their personal differences. Mrs. Bush shares a story of Hillary Clinton showing her favorite view from a private dressing room out to the White House rose garden, and Mrs. Obama tells in her book of how much she appreciated Mrs. Bush sharing the same view. I also enjoyed the story of the Bushes’ twin daughters giving a welcome tour to Sasha and Malia Obama.

Both of their autobiographies give lots of interesting tidbits about White House life, but more than that, I appreciated their personal reflections on the challenges they faced, the complications of holding onto a sense of self in the public eye, and their own feelings about the world events that occurred while their husbands were in office.

To find out how to access these books in both print and audio – read by the authors – go to

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Digital Resources and eBooks for our Youngest Patrons

Digital Resources and eBooks for our Youngest Patrons

By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Manager

It is a fine line parents and educators walk between limiting screen time and allowing the persistent technology of our culture to infiltrate down to our youngest minds. If your little ones can’t seem to stay away from screens, the library has some literacy-focused options that have been vetted by educators and include listening to stories, reading or learning words, and discovering appealing nonfiction content. Multiple language options are available on some of these as well.

BookFlix is available from the library’s webpage at under “Online Resources.” It includes videos of popular children’s books made by Weston Woods from Danny and the Dinosaur to Mo Willems’s hilarious pigeon stories. Weston Wood book videos were around when I was young, and we watched them in the classroom as a treat.

The newest videos have high production quality and excellent voice actors, such as Steve Buscemi in I’m Dirty. This story of a backhoe with a dirty clean-up job to do is paired with the children’s nonfiction book, Backhoes, from the Mighty Machines series. Text is highlighted throughout the stories so kids can read along or begin to make connections between the text and the words they hear. Along with the books, children can play literacy games and find other good links. This resource is provided by the State Library of Kansas and will identify Kansas I.P. addresses as users, so there’s no need for a log in or password.

TumbleBooks is another library resource that focuses on children’s books. This database is easy to navigate with 10 category tabs at the top. Storybooks, the first category, is where you will find eBook versions of favorite picture books. You can choose to view all titles which are shown as book covers, making it easier for young children to choose what they like. Parents can create playlists of favorite books for a personalized story time. Some books are also in Spanish and French, and a section called TumbleTunes has illustrated songs like “B-I-N-G-O” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

TumbleBooks sticks with kids as they grow and learn, and many school districts use it as well. The Read-Alongs category has chapter books as eBooks or audiobooks, and the leveled reading measurements for Lexile and Accelerated Reader programs are included. The video category has 190 National Geographic educational videos that are only 2-6 minutes each. Library users should be prepared to type in their Manhattan library card number and password to get into TumbleBooks.

Unite for Literacy is a fabulous site for children (or adults) whose native language is not English. It is listed in the Kansas State Library resources for children’s eBooks, but you can go there directly at All of their content is original, so they do not have to worry about subscriptions or copyright.

One remarkable feature is the number of languages that viewers can choose. While the text of the books remains in English (except for some that are also available in Spanish), the read-aloud narration is available in more than 40 languages (depending on the title), including many that are harder to find like Vietnamese, Danish or Tagalog. The site is simple to use, but it does not have an option for reading the entire story aloud. Parents may need to help children learn to click the arrow to turn pages, and click “English” or another language to hear the narration. For more language options, check out the International Children’s Digital Library, another free eBook site where you can search titles by country or global regions.   For more eBook resources, try the library’s digital eLibrary options for Libby (the app for the OverDrive Sunflower eLibrary) and Hoopla, which has a “kids” interface. Flipster online magazines has a few children’s titles as well. You can click on the Kansas State Library link and try out their digital book eLending resources, especially their eBooks for kids section where you will find Britannica E-Stax, CloudLibrary, Enki, Freading and RB Digital Audiobooks, which all have children’s titles.

by Luke Wahlmeier Luke Wahlmeier No Comments

No Land, No Problem: Gardening in Small Spaces

No Land, No Problem: Gardening in Small Spaces

By John Pecoraro, Associate Director


    April is the month when nature at last sheds its winter coat (we hope), and ushers in the greens and colors of the spring garden. April is also National Garden Month, and so the best time to dust off the gardening tools and get your hands dirty. However, not everyone has the acreage, or even the yard, to plant that garden. That’s not a problem.  Gardening can be as small an investment as you want. In fact, you can plant a garden in some very small spaces. The library can show you how with a variety of books on the subject.

     If you have a window and a box, why not create a window box. Chantal Gordon shows you how in “How to Window Box: Small-Space Plants to Grow Indoors or Out.” Gordon is one of the founders of the popular gardening blog The Horticult Her book is a guide to 16 indoor and outdoor projects featuring succulents to vegetables, and a variety of both sun and shade loving plants.

     A few square feet is all you need to grow healthy vegetables in “Grow All You Can Eat in 3 Square Feet.” This book is loaded with information on window boxes, potted plants, patio gardening, raised beds, and of course small square-foot gardening. Bursting with colorful photographs, this book will teach you what to grow, how to use the available space efficiently, and how to maximize your yield. 

     “Grow Your Own in Pots,” by Kay Maguire offers techniques to growing more than 60 vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers in containers. Her 30 step-by-step projects explain the best pairings, such as growing tomatoes with basil, as well as identifying the best vegetables that thrive in small spaces. For each project, Maguire explains the size and type of container, and lists materials and tasks involved in insuring healthy plants.

     You can garden anywhere. That’s Alys Fowlers’ contention in her book, “Garden Anywhere.” Fowler explains how you can grow gardens in containers, as well as herb gardens, and kitchen gardens, all without busting your bank account. She shows how to create an oasis in the smallest of spaces and outlines everything the aspiring gardener needs to know to sow a thriving garden.   

     “Crops in Pots,” by Bob Purnell includes plant lists, step-by-step instructions, and at-a-glance symbols of growing requirements that make each of the 40 projects included in the book a cinch.  Purnell explains how to group your containers around culinary themes such as leafy greens or savory herbs. His projects include small spaces on patios, window boxes, and decks. He even shows the possibility of growing apples, oranges, and cranberries in small containers.

     Herbs are the perfect plants for pots and small gardens. In “The Culinary Herbal: Growing & Preserving 97 Flavorful Herbs,” author Susan Belsinger highlights an alphabet of herbs from anise to watercress. Along the way you’ll learn how to grow, harvest, and preserve herbs. You’ll even learn how to use herbs in making herbal vinegars and butters, among other delicacies.

          “The Cook’s Herb Garden,” by Jeff Cox is a practical guide to successful growing and cooking with herbs. In it you’ll find notes on herb flavors, as well as the best growing conditions, storage, and how to use them in the kitchen. This book includes more than 50 recipes for rubs and marinades, sauces and salsas, and herbal butters, among other dishes. It also includes charts on best herb-food pairings.

     “The Encyclopedia of Herbs,” by Arthur Tucker, is a comprehensive reference to herbs. Its 500 entries provide information on growing, identifying, harvesting, and preserving herbs. Each entry gives the history of the plant and its uses in landscapes, cooking, and crafts. 

    Don’t forget to check out the collection of free downloadable eBooks from Hoopla. Titles available all the time include “Pot It, Grow It, Eat It,” by Kathryn Hawkins. This book begins with looking at the tools and materials you’ll need, and about choosing the right container. What follows is a directory of the vegetables, herbs, and fruits suitable for container gardens, and recipes for the produce you’ve grown. Among the dozens of other gardening titles on Hoopla are “Small-Space Vegetable Gardens,” by Andrea Bellamy, and Jessica Walliser’s “Container Gardening Complete.” Both provide a wealth of information on making the most of your limited gardening space.