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Access YA e-Books and Audiobooks Online

Access YA e-Books and Audiobooks Online
By Grace Benedick, Teen Services Librarian

Freading | Kansas State Library, KS - Official WebsiteIf you’re anything like me, staying home sounds like a lovely idea, but after a while…the cabin fever sets in. Audiobooks and walks around the block pair wonderfully! Here are some library resources for downloadable audiobooks you may not have used yet. You can access them all from:


Freading is a digital library provided by the State Library of Kansas. You’ll need a State Library eCard to borrow titles from Freading, but you can browse the collection before logging in. If you don’t have an eCard with the Kansas State Library, you can register for one easily by emailing Manhattan Public Library at or using the chat feature available on our online catalog between 1 and 6 p.m M-F. All titles in Freading can be borrowed simultaneously by multiple users, meaning that there is no need to place holds.

If you enjoy a slow-burn romance, try “This Train Is Being Held” by Ismee Williams about two teens whose chance meetings on the subway eventually lead to something more.

If you want to read about a career-oriented teen, “With the Fire on High” by Elizabeth Acevedo follows a teen mom in 12th grade, who has a passion for cooking and dreams of turning her talent into a career.

For fantasy fiction, try “Shadow of the Fox” by Julie Kagawa, about a half-yokai, half-human girl who must protect a fragment of magical scroll from a pursuing army of demons.

Graphic Novels on Freading

There are several popular graphic novel series published by Boom Studios! available on Freading. If you enjoy sports stories, try “SLAM!” by Pamela Ribon about a roller-derby team or “Avant-Guards” by Carly Usdin, which features a basketball team at an all-girls’ school.

If music is your jam, there’s “Heavy Vinyl” by Carly Usdin, about a group of teen girls who work in a record shop by day and fight crime by night.

b.b. free” by Gabby Rivera is about a teen just quietly running her own radio show until she suddenly develops super powers, then heads out on a road trip with her best friend to save the planet.

John Allison has three series on Freading: “By Night”, about two teens who find a portal to another universe; the popular “Giant Days”, about girls getting through undergrad; and his brand-new series, “Wicked”, about a teen detective suddenly forced to grow up when she’s accused of murder.

The Backstagers” by James Tynion IV follows a backstage crew at an all-boys’ school with storage rooms that are pure magic: you never know where a door will lead you!

RB Digital

RB Digital is a library of online audiobooks. You’ll need to register and create an account to borrow audiobooks from RB Digital, which you can do from the State Library of Kansas’s “Digital Book eLending” page. Like Cloud Library and Sunflower e-Library, there are finite copies of titles, and you’ll need to place holds on popular items.

Although there are some great fantasy titles on RB Digital, there are more recent realistic and historical fiction available without a wait-time:

Butterfly Yellow” by Thanhhà Lai follows a Vietnamese teen reuniting with her long-lost brother after the war and the process of making a new home.

Free Lunch” by Rex Ogle, which won the 2020 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award, relates the author’s experiences in 6th grade.

Hey, Kiddo” by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, which won the 2020 YALSA Odyssey Award, given to the best audiobook recording, is a memoir about growing up in a family dealing with addiction.

Loveboat, Taipei” by Abigail Hing Wen is inspired by a real-life summer learning program, where young adults spent 6 weeks in Taiwan, taking immersion language courses and making life-long friends.

Dig” by A.S. King, which won the 2020 YALSA Printz Award, is a multi-generational saga revealing the history of a troubled family.

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Free, Online Entertainment to Keep Your Kids Occupied

Free, Online Entertainment to Keep Your Kids Occupied

by Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian

BookFLIX | Nashville Public Library            Within the past couple weeks, coronavirus has swept the country, affecting most aspects of our lives. Schools have closed, the library has closed, and businesses are increasingly encouraging their employees to work from home instead of coming into the office. All of this is to encourage social distancing—essentially, staying at home as much as possible so as to slow the spread of germs. This is a wonderful concept for introverts like me, but it can be a bit more difficult for parents, who have to keep their kids entertained while also making sure they wash their hands thoroughly. Fortunately, the library has plenty of free, online resources that can help. All of these can be found by visiting the library’s website,, and going to the “Online Resources” page.

For beginning readers, BookFlix is a great online reading option. BookFlix pairs fiction and nonfiction books on many topics, like spring, farms, and dinosaurs, allowing children to read along with a narrator or by themselves. After kids finish each pair of books, they can play through simple puzzles to help with reading comprehension. BookFlix is a state resource, meaning it’s automatically available to anyone living in the state of Kansas.

The TumbleBooks Library has a wide variety of kids’ books for all ages and types of readers, ranging from picture books to graphic novels. Picture books and beginning readers have a read-along option, while graphic novels and higher-level ebooks offer a more traditional reading experience. The best part of the TumbleBooks Library is that there’s no waiting and no checkout limits, meaning kids can read their favorite Geronimo Stilton comics or Kate DiCamillo books for hours without worrying about stopping. AudioBookCloud is also available, with audiobooks for kids through adults, including loads of Mary Poppins and other classics.

Sunflower eLibrary is an ebook staple at the library, offering a robust library of ebooks and digital audiobooks. Patrons can only check out 5 items at once, but just return items you’re done reading in order to check out more books. Sunflower does have limited copies of books available, so you may have to wait in line for popular books. Kids, teens, and adults can all find books to read on Sunflower, including some read-along beginning readers and a good variety of comics. Best of all, many popular series are on Sunflower, like Paw Patrol, Dora the Explorer, Dog Man, and Harry Potter.

Hoopla offers ebooks, audiobooks, comics, movies, TV shows, and music, all for kids and adults. Hoopla has a limit of 5 checkouts per month per library card, but everything is immediately available to read. Alongside oodles of popular ebooks and audiobooks, Hoopla’s got a nice catalog of Nickelodeon shows and Disney soundtracks, but the comics are my favorite part. From Big Nate to Minecraft and Lumberjanes to Phoebe and Her Unicorn, Hoopla seems to have most popular kids’ comic series out there.

For free movies, look no further than Kanopy Kids. Kanopy provides movies galore, and Kanopy Kids is its children’s section. Unlike the main section of Kanopy, which has a 10-checkout-per-month limit, Kanopy Kids allows unlimited views of kids’ movies and TV shows. And, boy, what movies and shows does it have! PBS Kids shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Berenstain Bears, and Wild Kratts, and select seasons of Sesame Street. On top of that, Kanopy Kids has a wide variety of movies and animated versions of picture books, like Mo Willems’ Pigeon books. If you want something a little more educational, try the language-learning videos to teach your kids a new language.

There are also non-library resources available which can further enrich your kids’ days. Scholastic Learn at Home has brief, themed lesson plans available to teach children about different subjects, for a range of age levels. You can also find online storytime videos at both Storyline Online and World Book Day—these won’t replace the fun of storytime, but they may help. There are also many lists of good educational games for kids, which can help your children while away the hours until schools are back in session.

Though we’re closed for the time being, the library will do all it can to support our patrons during this uncertain time. Our online resources will continue to be available 24/7, and we’ll be sharing other fun resources and news on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Until we see you again, happy reading, and please wash your hands.

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Spring into Spring with Healthy Habits

Spring into Spring with Healthy Habits

by Brittani Ivan, LIS Library Assistant 2

Spring is upon us at last! For a lot of us, warmer weather means we can really buckle down on New Year’s resolutions to get healthy. Of course, it isn’t always easy to find the motivation to go out for a run or play tennis in City Park, especially when it seems like everything we learned as children about exercise and nutrition is wrong now! Luckily Manhattan Public Library has got you covered, with some fascinating and up-to-date books that will help you put your best foot forward.

Bill Bryson’s “The Body, a Guide for Occupants” comes in at a hefty four hundred and fifty pages, making it just as useful for strength training as it is for giving you an inside look at how your body works. Bryson’s conversational style and extensive citations make it a great choice for anyone who has ever wanted to know more about how their body works and the ways it might go right (or wrong) based on their behaviors.

On that note, did you know that icing may actually slow down the healing process? Neither did I, but Christie Aschwanden’s “Good to go: what the athlete in all of us can learn from the strange science of recovery” has the science to prove it. As Aschwanden tries out some of the most hyped recovery methods in today’s athletic world, you’ll learn about the importance of sleep, how recovery works, and just how many common sense practices in athletics today are backed up by nothing but hot air.

If your goal is less improving athletic performance and more improving your overall health, Lauren Kessler’s “Counterclockwise: my year of hypnosis, hormones, dark chocolate, and other adventures in the world of anti-aging” may be the book for you. Kessler deftly takes her own advice and weaves together “the power of fact and the resonance of story” to present a compelling narrative about the search for better health as we age. You’ll be enlightened by her straightforward explanations and charmed by her self-deprecating account of the effects (or lack thereof) of various anti-aging methods, from diet detoxes to daily exercise on your overall health and biological youth.

While knowing how different training and recovery regimes actually effect long-term health makes it a lot easier to feel motivated, you can’t outrun a bad diet. As eating well can be difficult, here are some great cookbooks to help you out:

While I’m not really much of a runner myself, “Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.: Quick-Fix Recipes for Hangry Athletes: A Cookbook” by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky is a stand-out for me. It combines recipes with advice on how to meal plan and budget effectively, and even includes some short exercise routines after each section. It’s much easier to remember to do strength training when your cookbook gives you a routine to do while you wait for your salmon to bake! I’m a particular fan of the Miso Butter Salmon and Amy’s Recovery Pizza.

If you, like me, want to improve both your health and the state of your wallet, Makiko Itoh’s “The Just Bento Cookbook” may be the book for you. The quick cooking times and “bento box” organization make it easy to craft balanced lunches to take to work or class. Some of my personal favorites are the Ginger Pork, Chicken Karage, and Edamame Tofu Nugget bentos, though one of the best features of this book is the ability to mix and match recipes to make personalized lunches that are still nutritionally balanced.

Lunch isn’t the only meal of the day, though, which is why I like Bree Drummond’s “The Pioneer Woman cooks dinnertime: comfort classics, freezer food, 16-minute meals, and other delicious ways to solve supper.” I’m a huge soup fan, and the Vegetarian Chili and the Hamburger Soup are filling, delicious, and best of all, reheat well. I tend to use this cookbook to create a healthy, large-batch meal to cut down on how much cooking I have to do throughout the week itself. And as an aside, I’ve got to say that the chocolate chip cookie recipe in this book is the best I’ve ever had!

So let’s all strap on our running shoes and start making our health and fitness goals a reality! If you want more recommendations on good non-fiction books about the science of athletics or a new cookbook to try out, come on by Manhattan Public Library and ask a librarian.

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Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

by Rachel Cunningham, Circulation Supervisor

Many of us have sensitively said these words to a friend, family member, or co-worker. Although the stigma surrounding mental health and asking for help have begun to improve, many people reach out to friends or family before beginning the process of finding a professional. Because they’re often the first place we turn, it’s imperative that each of us finds our family, tribe, herd, team or other support group. In “Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond,” Lydia Denworth discusses research suggesting social relationships can increase survival by over 50%, surpassing healthy weight, exercise, or dropping a smoking habit. These relationships allow us to be seen and heard by others, and offer a built-in safety net. These are the people with whom we share our daily joy, turmoil, annoyance, and stress. These are the people who see our struggles and may lovingly say to us, “maybe you should talk to someone.” A therapist herself, Lori Gottlieb reached out to friends and some of her colleagues before scheduling her first appointment with her new therapist, Wendell. Yes, even therapists need a therapist.

In her memoir, “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone,” Gottlieb encounters cardigan-sporting Wendell after her partner of two years, flatly referred to as “Boyfriend” throughout the book, reveals he wants to break off the relationship. Blindsided by his decision, Gottlieb initially attempts to carry on as usual. She conducts her scheduled therapy appointments with the patients at her practice and discusses the event with a friend, who is also a therapist. However, as her breakdowns become more frequent and difficult to control, Gottlieb recognizes she must enlist the help of a professional, if anything, to prove that Boyfriend is indeed a narcissistic sociopath. After consulting colleagues to find a good therapist for “a friend,” she’s referred to Wendell, an experienced therapist, to provide “crisis management” for her unexpected breakup.

Unfortunately, therapy turns out to be much more challenging than Gottlieb hopes it will be. Instead of providing a Boyfriend-Is-A-Narcissistic-Sociopath stamp and supplying steps to mend, Wendell questions a key statement Gottlieb makes. Between sobs she explains, “You have to understand, I was expecting that we would spend the rest of our lives together. This was how things were supposed to go, and now it’s all up in the air. Half my life is over, and I have no idea what’s going to happen.” As Wendell begins to unpack this statement, it becomes clear that Gottlieb might not be mourning the relationship as much as she is grieving the time she feels she’s lost in a life that has more years in the rearview mirror than awaiting her. This was not the work Gottlieb signed up for when she made her appointment, but as is often true for therapy, the presenting problem isn’t always the most important one.

The remainder of the book interweaves Gottlieb’s own therapy journey with her patients’. Readers meet John, an egocentric TV producer; Julie, a newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness; Rita, a senior resigned to end her life on her next birthday; and Charlotte, a young woman battling unhealthy relationships with alcohol, her family, and men. While preserving their privacy, Gottlieb supplies scenes from her patients’ lives that add depth and vulnerability to their character. At each small breakthrough, the reader feels a cathartic release and with each slip, the reader feels equally disappointed and frustrated after being tightly intertwined in the patient’s wavering progression forward. Unconcerned with painting perfect patients, Gottlieb shows the victorious and weak moments alike; yet, she leaves the readers with hope that each one is a little stronger than they were before walking into the therapist’s office. As Gottlieb writes, “Most big transformations come about from the hundreds of tiny, almost imperceptible, steps we take along the way.”

With her background as a therapist, Gottlieb shows how difficult the process of self-healing can be, even for those who understand the value of the work that needs to be done and have the determination to do it. Therapy can be a stressful place; yet, with her wonderful balance of empathy and humor, I often found myself chuckling as I listened to the book while walking my dog. Small attributes of each character, including the author, were relatable, which served to remind the reader that ordinary people, just like you, go to therapy. Think you might want to talk to someone? Psychology Today provides a free search tool for therapists in your area at

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Celebrate Women’s History Month

Celebrate Women’s History Month

by Rhonna Hargett, Associate Director

The world lost an American icon this week with the death of Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician who played a big part in moving the U.S. ahead in the space race against the Soviet Union and the main subject in the book “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly. We celebrate Women’s History Month in March every year to honor contributions like Johnson’s and make sure that they are remembered. Here are a few titles to help you mark the occasion.

In “All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation,” author Rebecca Traister explores the lives of single women, both historically and contemporarily. She shares that the quest for more independent lives for unmarried women has improved the lives of all women. Unmarried women have often been a force behind such ground-breaking societal changes as abolition, suffrage, and labor movements. Both informative and engaging, this New York Times Notable Book selection explores an often ignored part of our history.

Do you ever long for your childhood days when books had all the pictures? The Smithsonian has collaborated with respected children’s publisher DK to produce a study of women’s history that will keep your eyes absorbed, along with your mind. “Women: Our Story” is chock full of images and text ranging from all the way back in pre-history up to very recent times, including the lives of famous women and the day-to-day activities of the average woman. Good for browsing as well as for real learning, this book feels very much like a visit to a museum.

American Indian Women” by ethnologist Patrick Deval is a thorough exploration of an often dismissed population. The book is divided into three sections: cultures before colonization, encounters with colonists, and the American Indian Renaissance. Examining both primary research and oral tradition, Deval attempts to look beyond the idealized images of popular culture to the real lives and accomplishments of Native women. He discusses the objectification experienced when European explorers arrived, the effects of American Indian Schools, and some forgotten stories, such as the warrior women who battled against the English in the 1600s. Rich with illustrations, Deval’s book is a fascinating look into a neglected part of women’s history in America.

Author Cokie Roberts, another American icon recently lost, has done much to cast light on history from the perspective of women. Her last book, “Capital Dames,” tells the story of life for women in Washington D.C. during the years surrounding the Civil War. The conflict leading up to the war and the war itself transformed the capital from an inward-looking political hub into an army camp. Women who were accustomed to very limited roles in society, found that their help was needed in nursing, reporting, and other important tasks. This shift affected how they viewed themselves after the war, creating a shift that led to societal changes for decades to come. Roberts researched government documents and newspapers from the time period, but also personal letters and diaries, allowing her to give her readers a glimpse into the innermost thoughts of the women as they were going through this challenging time.

Black women’s stories have historically been hushed or ignored. Diana Ramey Berry and Kali Gross seek to rectify this wrong with “A Black Women’s History of the United States.” The authors started with the individual stories of eleven women and incorporated their research to illuminate the issues Black women have faced and often overcome throughout history. Berry and Gross have managed to contribute an update to American history in the most inspiring and concise way.

We are living in an exciting time in publishing, when more and more “hidden” stories about women of the past are being shared, providing insight and inspiration for the generations of today and tomorrow. Manhattan Public Library is honored to be a place where these stories can be found.

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Teaching Emotional Intelligence with Children’s Picture Books

Teaching Emotional Intelligence with Children’s Picture Books

By Hannah Atchison, Children’s Librarian

Everyone feels things differently. Even for grownups, understanding our feelings and putting them into words is difficult. For a child it is even harder. Teaching a child what a complex emotion feels like and how it should be processed and expressed is hard work for everyone involved. Have no fear; your local children’s librarian is here. In the children’s section at the public library there is a variety of picture books about characters who are learning about their emotions and how to understand and express them in a healthy way. Here are a few of my favorites.

Joy” by Corinne Averiss. A girl tries her best to bring joy to her grandmother. She gathers some useful objects for catching things and takes them to the park to look for ‘joy.’ She has trouble catching it and worries that she won’t have any to give to her grandmother.

This Beach is Loud!” by Samantha Cotterill. A boy goes to the beach with his dad. He is very excited, but when they get there he becomes overwhelmed and experiences sensory overload. His father is patient with him and talks him through it until he feels better.

Simon and the Big, Bad, Angry Beasts: A Book About Anger” by Ian De Haes. Whenever Simon gets mad, his anger turns into a beast. The beast gets bigger and fiercer until one day Simon gets mad for no reason at all and his beast becomes a dragon. Simon must learn how to control his temper.

The Snurtch” by Sean Ferrell. When Ruthie goes to school, the Snurtch, which appears as a floating ‘beast,’ is always with her. He throws crayons, pulls hair, burps loudly and makes the other kids not want to play with her.

The Little Bit Scary People” by Emily Jenkins. The girl in this book talks about some of the people she sees who scare her a little because they look or act a little different, but then she thinks about what kinds of nice qualities they have, things they do when they are home or having fun, and that helps her not feel afraid of them.

Can I Keep It?” By Lisa Jobe. This book is about learning empathy. A boy catches different animals outside and asks his mother if he can keep them. His mother tells him what the animals like to do and asks him where he thinks they would like to live.

How it Feels to Be a Boat” by James Kwan. In this book you learn empathy while imagining you are a boat. The book tells you about all the things you are experiencing and how it might make you feel.

“F is for Feelings” by Golden Melanie Millar. This book is an alphabet of feelings with examples for each.

The Brain Storm” by Linda Ragsdale. This book is about a boy who wakes up in a very bad mood, which is pictured as a scribbly ‘storm’ that follows him around above his head. He can not make it go away and brings it to his grandmother who tries to help him understand it. This book is entirely made of pictures. There are no words.

I am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness” by Susan Verde. This book is about finding peace and making sense of emotions using yoga.

My Blue is Happy” by Jessica Young. This book uses colors to talk about emotions. The girl in this book talks about how colors feel differently to her than to other people.

It is important for caregivers reading these stories to ask their child questions while they are reading to make sure they are engaging with the story. This is always a good thing to do when reading to children but is especially important when the stories are about complex subjects like emotions. With books like “The Brain Storm” and “How it Feels to Be a Boat” where there are pictures without words, caregivers can use these as an opportunity to ask questions. For example, “How can you tell Simon is feeling angry? What is his body doing?” This is a difficult subject to teach. If you need more resources or suggestions, your librarians are here to help.

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Looking Back as We Look Forward

Looking Back as We Look Forward

by Chelsea Todd, Children’s Services Librarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Liz Moore’s “Long Bright River”

Liz Moore’s “Long Bright River”

by Marcia Allen, Collections Services Manager

I just finished a wonderful new book that straddles a couple different genres.  Liz Moore’s “Long Bright River” is one captivating piece of fiction that manages to be both a riveting mystery and an intimate portrayal of damaged family dynamics.  Let me explain what makes this an outstanding read.

Mickey is a deeply troubled police officer.  Why the difficulties?   Her younger sister, Kacey, is a drug addict with a long criminal record.  Alternating chapters in the book are flashbacks to a childhood of neglect the two shared.  The mother of the girls died of a drug overdose, the father abandoned them to the girls’ grandmother when he could no longer tolerate the older woman’s hostility, and the grandmother is bitter and cold toward the girls, a woman who doesn’t want the children.  A school trip to a ballet when the girls were small is particularly poignant in its depiction of neglect. As a result, both girls flee home early: Mickey to a career in law enforcement, and Kacey to a world of crime and drugs that worsens over time.  Mickey lives each day in fear that Kacey will overdose as she has done a few times in the past.

And that’s where Mickey’s concern only deepens.  The section of Philadelphia where the siblings grew up is riddled with opioid-related crimes and deaths.  While Mickey is hardened to drug-related deaths, she’s now become aware that a predator is killing young women who use drugs and who are involved in prostitution, exactly like Kacey.  Several recent deaths have similar patterns of brutality.

What does this mean to Mickey?  She anticipates that soon she will find that Kacey has suffered the same fate as the other victims.  Since she hasn’t seen Kacey for some time and since another prostitute has said that Kacey is missing, she begins an investigation on her own, trying to locate her sister before another murder takes place.  Working solo as she does, she begins taking desperate measures in searching for her sister.

While the murders and the absence of Mickey’s sister are focal points for this tale, the character-building of this complicated story is equally compelling.  Mickey suspects her old partner might know more about the predatory killings, but when she attempts to shadow him, she learns about his compassion for those who live on the streets of Philadelphia.  When Mickey confronts her grandmother about hurt feelings of the past, she realizes the older woman had her own heartbreaks. When Mickey temporarily leaves her young son with her landlord, Mrs. Mahon, she learns about the woman’s amazing past.  And we learn, as does Mickey, that Kacey is much more than just another drug addict on the streets.

What else is so appealing in this story?  The revelations that Mickey confides in the book’s flashbacks.  We know, for example, the difficulties that Mickey has finding safe care for her son, yet we don’t know that full story until late in the book.  We know that the father of the girls abandoned them to the grandmother, yet we don’t know about a cache of letters and cards long concealed until the latter part of the story.  We realize that Mickey deeply loves her struggling sister, yet we don’t know the depth of Kacey’s suffering until we reach the conclusion.

This fine tale is gritty and ridden with betrayals and hard feelings, but it is also uplifting.  We discover with Mickey that there are those for whom love is always present.  Don’t miss this affecting tale of complex family relationships.

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Best of the Best in Children’s Books

Best of the Best in Children’s Books

by Jennifer Bergen, Programs & Children’s Services Manager

Looking for new children’s books with a range of styles, topics and diverse characters?  Try the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) list of Youth Media Awards for 2019.

In 1922, the Newbery Medal for the most distinguished American children’s book became “the first children’s book award in the world,” according to ALSC’s webpage. On the newer end, the Pura Belpré Award was established in 1996 for outstanding books that portray the Latino cultural experience, and the American Indian Youth Literature Award was started in 2006. Getting a shiny sticker on the cover of your book means selling more copies, making it onto more booklists, and most importantly, reaching more readers and inspiring more young minds.

Here are a few titles from the amazing books on the awards list at

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, is a short but powerful work of art. The text is a poem which was first performed by Alexander in a video on ESPN’s website,, a site that highlights “the intersections of race, sports and culture.” The poem’s video is inspiring on its own, but the poem paired with Kadir Nelson’s striking illustrations will leave readers in a dazzle of emotions — proud, angry, sad, amazed, hopeful. The Undefeated is a poem to be read aloud, and then studied again alone, feeling the power behind the bold, persistent, and talented black leaders, athletes, soldiers, slaves, musicians and children. It’s no wonder The Undefeated walked away with not one, but three impressive awards last week – the Caldecott Medal for best picture book, the Coretta Scott King Award for best art by an African-American illustrator, and a Newbery Honor for most outstanding contribution to children’s literature.

This year’s Newbery Medal winner is a graphic novel by Jerry Craft called New Kid, the tale of 12-year-old Jordan Banks’ entrance into a mostly white, elite middle school in a current day setting. Jordan finds out quickly that the new school brings many challenges, from racism and bullying to making new friends and trying new activities. His old friends don’t know what to think of him anymore. He doesn’t know what to think of girls anymore. Luckily, Jordan has his Dad and Mom to fall back on, as he humorously records his trials and failures by drawing in his notebook. Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, calls his book “funny, sharp and totally real!”

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael Lopéz, won the Belpré award for best illustration. Beautiful, bright scenes of Venezuela contrast with the dreary grays and browns of war, there and in the United States, when Teresa Carreño’s family is forced to flee her country in 1862. Teresa’s amazing talent at the piano is soon recognized, though, and at the age of 10 she had already performed with famous orchestras and large audiences when President Lincoln invited her to play for his family. The picture book focuses on her visit to the White House and the power of music to lift broken hearts.

Winning the picture book award for American Indian Youth Literature, Bowwow Powwow: Bagosenjige-niimi’idim celebrates an Ojibwe powwow through the eyes of a young child, Windy Girl, and her dog Itchy Boy. Brenda J. Child’s story, translated into Ojibwe by Gordon Jourdain and illustrated by Jonathan Thunder, brings together the historical and present day powwow traditions. As the dancing goes late into the night, Windy falls asleep and dreams of amazing dog dancers and all of their dance styles, fancy clothing and drum beats. The American Indian Library Association (AILA) also gives an award to best middle grade and young adult books, and lists several honor books, creating a great booklist for anyone wanting to read more stories with Indigenous characters.