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We All Scream for Ice Cream

We All Scream for Ice Cream

By John Pecoraro, Associate Director

     You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream. July is over. Did you remember to eat copious quantities of ice cream during July, National Ice Cream Month? The average American consumes more than 26 pounds of ice cream per year. But the biggest lovers of ice cream are the folks of New Zealand who cool themselves down with over 35 pounds per person per year.

There are dozens of ways to eat ice cream, and countless flavors. Here is a selection of some of the books at the library that can help you create all sorts of frozen treats.

Food52 Ice Cream and Friends,” by Amanda Hesser, offers a survey of frozen desserts from the editors of Food52.com.  Impressive in its variety, the book includes all-new and reader-contributed recipes, such as the Saltine Cracker-Brownie Ice Cream Sandwich, and Lemongrass Chile Ginger Ice Cream. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of good old chocolate and vanilla as well. There are also helpful tips and tricks for enlivening melted ice cream, getting creamier scoops, and making store-bought ice cream a little more exciting.

Who invented ice cream? Mixing ice or snow with fruit, honey, spices, and other flavors has been around since about 500 BCE. Modern ice cream made with milk and cream was first made by hand in a large bowl placed inside a tub filled with ice and salt. In 1843, Nancy Johnson received a U.S. patent for a hand-cranked churn that replaced the pot-freezer technique.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts,” by Jeni Bauer, shows you how to make frozen custard, soft-serve, and dairy-free ice cream. Of course you can use store-bought ice cream in all the desserts listed in her book, but where’s the fun in that? Instead try making Cumin & Honey Butterscotch, Extra-Strength Root Beer, or any of 30 new flavors.

Kris Hoogerhyde, owner of San Francisco’s Bi-Rite Creamery, presents 90 recipes for making ice cream and frozen treats in “Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones.” The book is organized by flavors, including vanilla, caramel, chocolate, and nuts. Each chapter features Bi-Rite versions of the classics, as well as elaborate variations. Brown Sugar Ice Cream with Ginger-Caramel Swirl, for example, or Chai-Spiced Milk Chocolate Ice Cream. Don’t forget the recipes for crusts, cookies, cones, and toppings to make your creations unforgettable.

Sample a nation’s worth of ice cream in “Scoop Adventures: the Best Ice Cream of the 50 States,” by Lindsay Clendaniel. The author offers the best from the best from across America. She also provides over 80 tested recipes for you to try in your own ice cream maker. Try Rhode Island’s Seaport Salty Swirl made with peanuts, pretzels, and caramel, or Alaska’s Refuge Wild Berry Snap made with blueberries, cranberries, and gingersnaps. The Kansas selection is Thai Peanut Curry ice cream from Glacé Artisan Ice Cream in Leawood (unfortunately the location has moved to KCMO since the book’s publication).

Sandwiches and good. Ice cream is better. Why not combine to two? Natasha Case, co-founder of Coolhaus, does just that in her debut cookbook, “Coolhaus Ice Cream Book.” The book provides a humorous introduction to the history Coolhaus and offers readers the opportunity to recreate some of their signature ice cream sandwiches. Try the Bananas Norman Foster, the Oreo Heckman, or the David Rocky Roadwell made from S’mores Cookies and Nutella Toasted Almond Ice Cream. Recipes range from traditional to experimental and include vegan and gluten-free choices.

In 1978, 2 childhood friends, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, opened an ice cream parlor in a converted gas station in Burlington, Vermont. The rest is history. In “Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book,” the ice cream making legends share both their story, and dozens of recipes for delicious ice creams and desserts. The book was published in 1987, so their 11 greatest hits, while including New York Super Fudge Chunk and Cherry Garcia, does not include Chunky Monkey.

This is just a sample of the dozens of books available to help take the heat out of summer with delicious frozen treats.

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Hank the Cowdog 2

Hank the Cowdog 2

By Bryan McBride, Learning and Information Services Librarian

“It’s me again, Hank the Cowdog.” These words begin every book in the Hank the Cowdog series, followed closely by “Head of Ranch Security.” There are currently 73 volumes in this series, and they do not need to be read in order. Hank can be found on the shelves of the children’s library, and these books are fun! He has a sidekick named Drover, whose “bum leg” seems to act up any time there’s trouble on the ranch and Hank needs help with security. Hank’s nemesis, Pete the Barncat, shows up to keep him in line when he gets a little too big for his britches. Also present to keep Hank in his place is the ranch hand, Slim Chance, and Slim’s boss, Loper.

Other characters who are present from time to time include a lazy, no-account bird dog named Plato, as well as Beulah, the canine of Hank’s dreams. Hank also thinks highly of Missy Coyote, but her brothers, Rip and Snort, are not the kind of running mates that Hank wants helping with security. There would be concerns about his own safety as well as that of the henhouse. Then there are the two vultures, Wallace and Junior, always looking for their next meal.

The suggested reading level for Hank the Cowdog is ages 8 – 12 years, but here’s the thing: they are terrific read-aloud books for all ages. I started reading these books to my boys when my youngest was four years old, and he was far too young to understand much of what was happening in the stories. For me, it was fun to do the voices, and the boys enjoyed my efforts, so we kept at it. And kept at it, until my oldest was about sixteen years old, by which time they fully understood what was happening and we laughed and laughed and laughed at the adventures of ol’ Hank the Cowdog, Head of Ranch Security. We must have read at least 40 books in all. I just can’t overemphasize what an important bonding experience it was. As an alternative to reading aloud as children grow into teens, some parents find value in reading the same books as their kids as a way to connect.

We don’t often consider the social aspect of reading, although there was a time in our history when people discussed books they were reading rather than the current television shows of today. Thank goodness for book discussion groups, like our TALK series. If you enjoy book discussion groups, inquire at the library’s reference desk about the TALK series. They meet monthly in the spring and fall, and you can pick and choose which discussions interest you.

The aspect of social reading we are most likely to consider is the art and science of teaching children to read by reading aloud to them. There is research that backs up the adage: “Through third grade, kids learn to read. After third grade, kids read to learn.” An Annie E. Casey Foundation report summarizes: “The ability to read by third grade is critical to a child’s success in school, life-long earning potential and their ability to contribute to the nation’s economy and its security.”

The most effective way to teach reading to children is to read aloud to them. This practice will help ensure that when they reach the fourth grade, they will be reading to learn. Formal literacy programs like our summer reading and 1000 Books before Kindergarten programs are important steps in learning to read. For more than 100 years, education researchers have been studying the phenomenon that has various names, including summer learning loss, summer setback, or summer slide. The skills of children who are not engaged in summer reading digress, or slide, from the end of the last school year to the beginning of the next school year. Summer reading programs combat this by encouraging kids to practice reading.

If you need a recommendation, don’t forget about ol’ Hank the Cowdog. After a decade of getting to know Hank, I know he’d love to tell you about his successes in keeping ranch headquarters secure. Even without Drover’s help.

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Blast Off with Books About Space Travel

Blast Off with Books About Space Travel
By Eric Matthews, Circulation Supervisor

With this week marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission, there is a renewed interest in all aspects of the early days of rocketry and the 1960’s fever pitch of space travel. From the first testing of V-2 rockets that ultimately propelled us to that “one giant leap for mankind” and through the end of the NASA Apollo program in 1972, the Manhattan Public Library has a nice selection of material that focuses on those heady days of the space race so many years ago.

The book I have enjoyed the most thus far, and highly recommend, is “American Moonshot” by Douglas Brinkley. This book is able to juxtapose John Kennedy’s seemingly lifelong desire to explore new frontiers and expand the boundaries of human possibility with German scientist Wehrner von Braun’s borderline obsessive desire to master the technology of ballistic missile and rocket technology until it seems that those forces were destined to merge and create something that had never been accomplished in the history of human exploration.

“…this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in the period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

With those words spoken in front of a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy expected that America would pick up the gauntlet he had boldly laid down and be at the forefront of space exploration, and in the process, beat the Russians in this crucial game of global (and now universal) one-upsmanship. Keep in mind, when he said the above quote, Alan Shepard had been the only American in outer space and for no longer than 15 minutes. In the almost decade leading up to the moon landing, there would be numerous setbacks and failures along the way for both sides. The Americans would lose Astronauts Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom and Ed White in the Apollo 1 fire and the Russians losing Cosmonauts Vladimir Komarov and the first human in outer space, Yuri Gagarin. With these tragic problems, it was debated whether or not America should even continue such a dangerous, and incredibly expensive endeavor. Despite all of this, the methodical milestones and triumphs would lead to the ultimate success that came to define the exceptionalism of the American space program.

Another solid recommendation you can pick up at the library is the movie “First Man” directed by “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling as the titular first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong. This film really gives you the feeling of all the hard work, sacrifice and alienation that astronauts and their families had to contend with.

Sticking with movies, “Apollo 11” is a fantastic documentary that chronicles every aspect of the first moon landing mission from the transport of the Saturn V rocket to the launchpad, to seeing Johnny Carson in the spectator grandstand to finding out that the Eagle nearly ran out of fuel before landing on the moon, meaning a crash would have been likely, stranding Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon and marking a complete and utter failure of the entire space program. (Spoiler alert: they made it)

As a kid that grew up in the 80’s (in the shadow of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster), having missed the excitement of those Space Race days, it’s such a treat to have these titles out on the library shelves. In addition to these recommendations, there’s many more items to explore about space travel, our astronauts and the deeper reaches of the galaxy. Other items in our collection you should look into are “Shoot for the Moon” by Jim Donovan, “Mission to Mars” and “Magnificent Desolation” by Buzz Aldrin and for the early days of supersonic test flights, “Chasing the Demon” by Dan Hampton and Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff” which was also adapted into an epic classic film in 1983.

You’re able to find all these and so many more in our online catalog or just by dropping in and searching the shelves or asking at our Reference Desk or Children’s Desk.

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Recent Children’s and Young Adult Books on Immigration

Recent Children’s and Young Adult Books on Immigration

by Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian

Immigration is a large, complex issue, one that can be especially challenging to explain to children, tweens, and teens. There are many books on this topic at the library for our younger patrons, books which can be read together or in tandem with children to help broach the topic. These books cover all aspects of the immigrant experience, from the initial journey through acclimating to life in a new country and living with the risk of deportation.

Wendy Meddour’s picture book “Lubna and Pebble” provides a gentle introduction to immigration, focusing on the friendship between Lubna, a young immigrant, and a pebble she found on the beach. Pebble listens to all of Lubna’s concerns and is her dearest friend while she and her father live in the World of Tents, until they move to the next stage of their journey.

Another picture book, “Marwan’s Journey” by Patricia de Arias, recounts young immigrant Marwan’s determination to “walk, and walk, and walk” until he reaches a better place. This book is more somber, depicting the “darkness” of war that “swallowed up everything,” but also ends on a hopeful note, as Marwan thinks about returning to his homeland and “paint[ing] the walls with happiness.”

For older readers, there are graphic novels that tackle the immigrant journey, including “Zenobia” by Morten Dürr and “Illegal” by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin. Both of these comics begin in boats crossing to Europe, alternating the end of the journey with remembrances of the wars the main characters are fleeing and their journeys thus far. These books don’t shy away from tragedy and may be best for more mature readers.

There are also books about what immigrants can expect after they’ve arrived in a new country. Picture books include “Mustafa” by Marie-Louise Gay and “Saffron Ice Cream” by Rashin Kheiriyeh. In these books, Mustafa and Rashin are both learning about their new, sometimes strange homes in America, one by playing in the park and the other by visiting the beach. These books are both bittersweet and hopeful, showing how much immigrants have to adjust to in their new lives.

Anne Sibley O’Brien’s “Someone New” is a companion picture book to her earlier “I’m New Here,” focusing on the same three immigrant children as they acclimate to their new classrooms. “Someone New” follows the immigrants’ classmates, including their initial reactions to the newcomers and how they eventually discover common ground (soccer, writing, and drawing) that they can use to build friendships.

Jasmine Warga’s middle grade novel “Other Words for Home” is about Jude, a girl who immigrates to America from Syria with her mother. This novel-in-verse combines big topics, like immigration and war, with more everyday youth concerns, like auditioning for a school play. Above all, it’s about Jude trying to find her identity as everything she knows shifts around her.

Mango Moon,” by Diane de Anda, is a picture book about deportation, showing how it affects the family members who are left behind. Maricela’s papi has been deported, and, as she looks at what he called the “mango moon,” she thinks about him and the changes that have occurred in her life since he was deported. This book brings up a lot of questions and doesn’t resort to giving out easy answers.

Memoirs are also good for helping put faces to the large, sometimes-abstract issue of immigration. Actress Diane Guerrero talks about her experience as a child of immigrants in “My Family Divided.” Born in America to undocumented Columbian immigrants, Guerrero’s life was shattered when they were deported while she was at school for the day.

For the experience of an undocumented immigrant teen, check out “Americanized” by Sara Saedi, whose family left Iran when she was two years old. Growing up thoroughly American, Saedi didn’t know she wasn’t an American citizen until her older sister was unable to get a part-time job due to the lack of a Social Security number.

Malala Yousafzai recently published “We Are Displaced,” a memoir that incorporates the stories of many young refugees she met during her travels. Yousafzai writes of her struggles adjusting to a new country and knowing she couldn’t return home, then introduces stories from refugees and volunteers from around the world.

These are only some of the recent books available at the library covering immigration; we have many others touching on similar themes. For help finding these books or books on any other topic, feel free to ask for assistance at the Children’s Desk and the Reference Desk.

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Cookbooks

Cookbooks

By Jared Richards, Technology Supervisor

I have previously written about the oft-maligned, but perfectly acceptable, practice of judging a book by its cover. Now I am back to judge books by the pictures contained within them. In this case, I am not referring to picture books for children, but as an aside, those books aren’t just for children. Along with the fantastic artwork, they’re often humorous, quick reads, which distill important life lessons in easily comprehensible ways, and we should all be reading them. But this article isn’t about those books.

This article is about cookbooks. Our cookbook collection is tremendous, both in terms of scale and quality. We have books that feature cuisines from around the world, and our books can accommodate all skill levels, from those who think they may have a kitchen but aren’t quite sure, to experienced home bakers who dream of baking in a British tent.

Cook Fast, Eat Well” by Sue Quinn advertises 160 recipes that only require five ingredients and ten minutes to cook. Each recipe is on a two-page spread, and a single image spans both pages. On the left page you will find the ingredients neatly arranged and clearly labeled on a kitchen table, along with needed equipment, like a blender or pan. On the right page you will find the continuation of that table, featuring the finished dish, along with the recipe itself. I like the choice of displaying the actual ingredients, rather than just listing them, because it encourages you to get everything out and ready before you start, so you’re not scrambling around later.

Comfort food varies for everyone, but “How to Feed Yourself” has made me rethink my life. The photograph accompanying their recipe for honey-sriracha Brussels sprouts makes my mouth water, and I now know of the existence of the tater tot waffle grilled cheese. This beautiful monstrosity is a grilled cheese sandwich that has replaced the bread with tater tots cooked in a waffle iron.

I’m a fan of sauces, or at least the idea of them, because they seem like an easy way to change up the flavor of any meal. Elisabeth Bailey offers up over sixty sauces in her book “The Make-Ahead Sauce Solution.” The idea is that these sauces can be made ahead of time and frozen until needed. Each recipe tells you how much sauce you will need for a given base (chicken, rice, pasta, sandwich, etc.) as well as meal suggestions for each base. Each sauce is displayed on a wooden spoon and often shown in use on a nicely-photographed plate of food.

East Meets Vegan” by Sasha Gill provides an array of plant-based recipes inspired by Asian cuisine from China, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, India, and Thailand. This book makes classic dishes, which are often prepared using meat or other animal products, accessible to those whose diets skew towards vegan. The photographs also show that the food is wonderfully colorful, which is up there with taste in terms of importance.

For those wanting to take a deeper dive, we have “The New Essentials Cookbook” by America’s Test Kitchen and “Vegetables Illustrated” by Cook’s Illustrated. “Vegetables Illustrated” features over 700 recipes, which are divided by the featured vegetable, from artichokes to zucchini, so it is easy to find a recipe for whatever vegetables you have on hand. And if you want to learn all the things but only want to carry one book home, go with “The New Essentials Cookbook.” It starts out with a tour of what you’ll need in your kitchen, from basic tools to fancy electronic gadgets, and gives you a list of the staples that should be in your pantry. From there, food prep is covered, along with the simplest way to cook all sorts of food. The vast majority of the book contains more advanced recipes, which are accompanied by plenty of instructions and pictures to walk you through the process.

I have recently found myself browsing our cookbooks because I have been sucked into a world of cooking through online videos and documentaries. I must admit that I tend to have an eat-to-live rather than a live-to-eat outlook towards food, but I do enjoy watching talented people who are passionate about what they do. Their creativity and passion are inspiring, beyond the scope of cooking, but if I can channel a little bit of that inspiration into my kitchen, I wouldn’t be opposed. And even if I can’t, the food photography in our cookbooks is top-notch and worth a look.

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Start Off with a Bang

Start Off with a Bang

By John Pecoraro, Associate Director

    This summer we commemorate the 50th anniversary of humanity’s first steps on the moon. We plan to reach the moon again by 2028, and even Mars by 2033. The New Horizons spacecraft flew by Ultima Thule in the Kuiper Belt earlier this year, 4 billion miles from Earth. Voyager 1, launched in 1977, is 12 billion miles from Earth. As immense as these distances seem, there are right next door when you realize that the closest star, Alpha Centauri, is 4.4 light years from Earth, nearly 26 trillion miles.

The universe is a big place, and ever expanding. The expanding universe is just one of the concepts considered in the science of cosmology, the study of the origin and development of the universe. The library has a wide selection of books for the amateur cosmologist.

The Unknown Universe: A New Exploration of Time, Space, and Cosmology,” by Stuart Clark is a groundbreaking guide to the universe and what we know and don’t know about it. In 2013 the European Space Agency published an image of the universe as it was 13.7 billion years ago. That image has sparked ongoing questions and debate about the nature of the universe. Stuart explores these arguments, whittling complex topics into clear ideas.

In “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry,” celebrity scientist and best-selling author, Neil deGrasse Tyson, attempts to explain some of the most complex concepts in terms non-scientists can understand.  He provides an introduction and overview of astrophysics. What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? These are some of the questions Tyson seeks to answer in layman’s terms.

Tyson repeats his performance for younger readers in “Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry.” With characteristic wit, he describes the fundamental rules and unknowns of the universe, introducing an exciting field and the principles of scientific inquiry to young readers

Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time,” originally published in 1988, was on the cutting edge of what was then known about the nature of the universe. Since that time, advances in technology have confirmed many of Hawking’s theoretical predictions made in his book.  “The Illustrated Brief History of Time,” updates and expands Hawking’s classic work. This edition is enhanced with hundreds of full-color illustrations, including satellite images, and photographs made possible with the Hubble Space Telescope.

When Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in 1963 at age 21, he wasn’t expected to live more than 2 years. Hawking died in 2018 at age 76 while writing “Brief Answers to the Big Questions.” This book is Hawking’s parting gift to humanity in which he presents his answers to some big questions. What are black holes? Where did the universe come from? Will humanity survive?

The Big Picture,” by theoretical physicist Sean Carroll, discusses the origins of life, meaning, and the universe.  Carroll presents an impressive display of scientific information with the goal of convincing readers that the universe and everything in it can be explained by science. He uses analogies and thought experiments, as well as familiar references to explain complex topics. Though sometimes highly technical, this book is for a general audience.

In one of the bestselling science books of all times, “Cosmos,” Carl Sagan, traces fourteen billion years of cosmic evolution that have transformed matter into consciousness. Sagan explores a broad range of topics including the origin of life, the human brain, the death of the Sun, and the evolution of galaxies. The book consists of Sagan’s reflections on anthropological, cosmological, biological, historical, and astronomical matters stretching from antiquity to contemporary times.

We Have No Idea,” by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson, is both the title of their book and their premise that our knowledge of what makes up the stars, planets, and galaxies represent only five percent of what the universe is made of. When it comes to the remaining 95 percent, we have no idea. Cartoonist and animator Cham, along with physicist Whiteson, offer a lighthearted approach to explaining concepts such as dark matter, dark energy, mass, gravity, space, time, dimensions, the big bang, and the possibility of a theory of everything.

Don’t forget to participate in the library’s summer reading program, A Universe of Stories, waiting for you at the library.

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Hank the Cowdog

Hank the Cowdog

By Bryan McBride, Learning and Information Services Librarian

“It’s me again, Hank the Cowdog.” These words begin every book in the Hank the Cowdog series, followed closely by “Head of Ranch Security.” There are currently 73 volumes in this series, and they do not need to be read in order. Hank can be found on the shelves of the children’s library, and these books are fun! He has a sidekick named Drover, whose “bum leg” seems to act up any time there’s trouble on the ranch and Hank needs help with security. Hank’s nemesis, Pete the Barncat, shows up to keep him in line when he gets a little too big for his britches. Also present to keep Hank in his place is the ranch hand, Slim Chance, and Slim’s boss, Loper.

Other characters who are present from time to time include a lazy, no-account bird dog named Plato, as well as Beulah, the canine of Hank’s dreams. Hank also thinks highly of Missy Coyote, but her brothers, Rip and Snort, are not the kind of running mates that Hank wants helping with security. There would be concerns about his own safety as well as that of the henhouse. Then there are the two vultures, Wallace and Junior, always looking for their next meal.

The suggested reading level for Hank the Cowdog is ages 8 – 12 years, but here’s the thing: they are terrific read-aloud books for all ages. I started reading these books to my boys when my youngest was four years old, and he was far too young to understand much of what was happening in the stories. For me, it was fun to do the voices, and the boys enjoyed my efforts, so we kept at it. And kept at it, until my oldest was about sixteen years old, by which time they fully understood what was happening and we laughed and laughed and laughed at the adventures of ol’ Hank the Cowdog, Head of Ranch Security. We must have read at least 40 books in all. I just can’t overemphasize what an important bonding experience it was. As an alternative to reading aloud as children grow into teens, some parents find value in reading the same books as their kids as a way to connect.

We don’t often consider the social aspect of reading, although there was a time in our history when people discussed books they were reading rather than the current television shows of today. Thank goodness for book discussion groups, like our TALK series. If you enjoy book discussion groups, inquire at the library’s reference desk about the TALK series. They meet monthly in the spring and fall, and you can pick and choose which discussions interest you.

The aspect of social reading we are most likely to consider is the art and science of teaching children to read by reading aloud to them. There is research that backs up the adage: “Through third grade, kids learn to read. After third grade, kids read to learn.” An Annie E. Casey Foundation report summarizes: “The ability to read by third grade is critical to a child’s success in school, life-long earning potential and their ability to contribute to the nation’s economy and its security.”

The most effective way to teach reading to children is to read aloud to them. This practice will help ensure that when they reach the fourth grade, they will be reading to learn. Formal literacy programs like our summer reading and 1000 Books before Kindergarten programs are important steps in learning to read. For more than 100 years, education researchers have been studying the phenomenon that has various names, including summer learning loss, summer setback, or summer slide. The skills of children who are not engaged in summer reading digress, or slide, from the end of the last school year to the beginning of the next school year. Summer reading programs combat this by encouraging kids to practice reading.

Know this. It’s not too late to sign up for the library’s summer reading program. This can be done by visiting our website or stopping in to the library. The library’s summer reading program encourages reading for all ages. Plus, adults reading to children counts as minutes read for both the adult’s and the child’s reading log.

If you need a recommendation, don’t forget about ol’ Hank the Cowdog. After a decade of getting to know Hank, I know he’d love to tell you about his successes in keeping ranch headquarters secure. Even without Drover’s help.

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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 MHKlibrary.org.

by Luke Wahlmeier Luke Wahlmeier No Comments

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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