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Have You Read These? You Should Have

Have You Read These? You Should Have

By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Everybody has an opinion on the best books to read. There are hundreds of lists online of the 10 best books to read, or the 25 books everyone should read, or the 100 books you need to read before you die. But if you’re looking for a dozen great novels, look no further than the list of the Greatest Books Ever Written on the website of the “Encyclopedia Britannica.”

Anna Karenina,” by Leo Tolstoy is the tragic story of Anna Karenina, a married noblewoman and socialite, and her affair with the affluent Count Vronsky. Called by Dostoyevsky “flawless as a work of art,” the novel explores several topics, including politics, religion, morality, gender and social class.

To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee.  Small town lawyer, Atticus Finch, takes on the task of defending a black man accused of raping a white woman in Depression era south. Despite the serious topics of rape and racial inequality, Lee diffuses her storytelling with warmth and humor.

The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The story of the young, mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his obsession with the beautiful former debutante Daisy Buchanan. The novel explores the idealism, social upheaval, and excess of the Jazz Age. It is a cautionary tale of the American Dream.

One Hundred Years of Solitude,” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The story of seven generations of the Buendía Family in the fictional town of Macondo, and the inevitable and inescapable repetition of history. The characters in the novel are controlled by their pasts and the complexity of time.

A Passage to India,” by E.M. Forster. The novel centers on the alleged assault of a young Englishwoman and an Indian doctor in 1920s India. It explores both the chasm between races, and between individuals struggling to make sense of their humanity.

Invisible Man,” by Ralph Ellison. This tells the story of an unnamed African American man whose color makes him invisible. It addresses the social and intellectual issues facing African-Americans early in the twentieth century, including Black Nationalism, and issues of individuality and personal identity.

Don Quixote,” by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. The story follows the adventures of a nobleman who sets out with his squire to revive chivalry and bring justice to the world, under the name Don Quixote de la Mancha. Don Quixote does not see the world for what it is, but prefers to imagine that he is living out a knightly story.

Beloved,” by Toni Morrison. Set after the American Civil War, it tells the story of Sethe born a slave and escaped to Ohio, who eighteen years later is still not free. She is haunted by the memories of Sweet Home, the farm where she was enslaved, and where many hideous things occurred.

Mrs. Dalloway,” by Virginia Woolf. The novel chronicles a June day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares for a party she will host that evening. The story moves forwards and backwards in time, and in and out of the characters’ minds to construct both an image of Clarissa’s life and English society during the years between the world wars.

Things Fall Apart,” by Chinua Achebe. The novel tells the tale of Africa’s encounter with Europe as it establishes a colonial presence on the continent. Told through the fictional experiences of Okonkwo, a wealthy Igbo warrior in the late 1800s, it explores one man’s futile resistance to the devaluing of his traditions by British political and religious forces.

Jane Eyre,” by Charlotte Bronte. The novel follows the emotions and experiences of Jane Eyre, including her growth to adulthood and her love for Mr. Rochester, master of Thornfield Hall. The novel contains elements of social criticism, and explores classism, sexuality, religion, and proto-feminism.

The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker. This is the story of the life of African-American women in the Southern United States in the 1930s. An eloquent portrayal of black women’s lives supported by faith, love, and trust in the face of brutality, poverty, and racism.

The choice of what you read is up to you, but have you read these books? They are all available in multiple formats at your library. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but every one of the books on this list have been recreated on film.

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Library Resources

Library Resources

By Linda Henderson, Adult Services Librarian

“I didn’t know they did that!”  When I do presentations in the community about our online resources, people always remark about the variety of online services we offer at no cost.  The Manhattan Public Library offers online access for you at home to magazines, genealogy, auto repair, e-books and audio books for adults and young people, movies, instructional videos, foreign language tutorials, and many other resources –all available with just a Manhattan Public Library card.

The library offers 22 full-text magazines online.  Better Homes & Gardens, Popular Mechanics, National Geographic, Seventeen, This Week, Ranger Rick, The New Yorker, Men’s Journal, Wired, Rolling Stone and more give our public a wonderful chance to read, just as if you were holding the magazines in your hands. No need to squint at fine print or small photos; if you are online, it’s easy to enlarge text and zoom in on images to catch every detail.

Savvy consumers still check Consumer Reports for professional reviews, and it is also available online and fully searchable through the library, with new reviews, comparisons, and articles on all sorts of products.  Yearly run-downs of the best new autos, appliances, phones, and other devices offer consistent, readable insight into which products offer solid value, and which bargains shouldn’t be missed.

For in-depth financial research and analysis, check Morningstar or Value Line. Comprehensive investment info is searchable with your library card.

As librarians, we take pride in recommending new books for patrons to read, but you can also search Novelist Plus to get recommendations, reviews, articles, and reading lists.  Hoopla is a new and very popular source for streaming or downloading music, audiobooks, movies, tv episodes, and e-books.  Download the Libby app to access e-books and audiobooks from the Sunflower eLibrary.

Many educational sites are available through the library offering chances for growth, from children’s learning to advanced technical materials for adults.

Young children can develop reading skills using a variety of excellent sites.  BookFLIX lets kids read along with videos of many classic storybooks, on any e-device.  Tumblebooks offers online picture books, ebooks, and graphic novels, along with puzzles and games for children to enjoy.

Learning Express Library includes tutoring for elementary, high school, college, and adult students.  Prepare for SAT, GRE, and other standardized tests; gain skills in computers, in math and grammar, and in office work to improve writing, business skills, resumes and more.

Mango Languages specializes in language tutoring, offering fun, conversational courses in 74 different languages, naturally including English instruction courses for those that speak other languages.

Popular provides beginning and advanced courses in business work, software, and technical and creative skills, including design, programming, graphic art, animation, and web development, all using suites like Adobe Creative Suite, AutoCAD and many others.

Car trouble?  From loose panels to engine overhauls, and all types of maintenance in between, the Auto Repair Reference Center offers repair and service information for your specific vehicle by year, make and model. There is guidance on how auto components work, and all sorts of care tips to extend the life of your car or truck.

The library site offers access to quite a few general research sources, as well.  Explora offers flexible searching for books, journals, and more.  Encyclopedia Britannica remains an authoritative work with children’s, young adults and adult reference portals. Images, videos, dictionaries, and more e-books and magazines are available.

Explore family roots.  Heritage Quest has expanded with much more information.  Genealogy Connect serves up over 600 genealogy and reference publications.  Note that our other resource, Ancestry, is only available at the library, but you can e-mail articles, save them to USB media, or print your results.

Kansas State Library Online Resources offers many more opportunities—Skill building, business, health, and history. Spanish resources are also available. You may need a Kansas Library Card which we can give you quickly with just a phone call.

You only need a Manhattan Public Library card, and a library card is simple to acquire: just bring a photo ID (like a driver’s license) and a proof of address to the library, and we will handle the rest.

To access all the resources in this article, go to and click on “Online Resources,” then log in with your library card number. If your group would like a demonstration of these resources in the library or at a meeting place, please contact Linda Henderson at  I would love hearing from you!

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Talking Teen Award Books

Talking Teen Award Books

By Rachael Schmidtlein, Teen & Tween Services Coordinator

Every winter, thousands of US librarians gather at the Public Library Association’s conference to hear rock star speakers, attend topical sessions and decide which books will win this year’s prestigious book awards. All-in-all, it’s every librarian’s dream. The Youth Media Awards are my particular favorite and are live-streamed for those poor souls who can’t make it to PLA, i.e. me. It’s always especially interesting to see what teen titles made the cut and which ones got snubbed. The whole thing is a little like March Madness: either entirely predictable or a complete surprise. This year held a pleasant amount of both.

The Michael L. Printz Award honors the best book written for teens and is named after a school librarian from Topeka, Kansas. As a girl from Topeka, I hold this as a special award, which is why when We Are Okay by Nina LaCour was announced as the winner of this year’s Printz Award, I was surprised. It’s not a book that I had heard a lot about before but many of my librarian comrades exclaimed their adoration for it after it won. How had a book this good been off my radar when apparently everyone has loved it since last spring?

The answer is, because it’s a quiet sort of story. We Are Okay isn’t about headline-gripping topics or current events. It follows Marin who moved away to college and cut ties with everyone she knows. That all changes when Mabel, Marin’s maybe more than best friend, comes to visit over winter break. LaCour’s book flips back and forth between Marin’s time in high school and present day to dissect the meaning of family, loss and friendship.

If you’re stuck on hold for We Are Okay, consider checking out I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, or The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle to pass the time. They are all highly recommended reads that take in-depth looks at loss, family and relationships from the teen perspective.

Not surprising was the award love for The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This book set itself apart early on and it stayed there. In addition to winning the Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/ or young adults, it earned both Coretta Scott King Book Award and the William C Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens. This hot topic title is also enjoying its fifty-fourth week on the New York Times best sellers list.

You’ve likely heard something about The Hate U Give, unless you’ve been hiding in a closet somewhere, and hey, it was a bad winter, so I don’t blame you. Starr is a student at a fancy suburban prep school who lives in a poor neighborhood. She does a balancing act between these two worlds until her unarmed best friend is shot by a police officer. As a witness to the shooting, Starr is thrust into national headlines, debates and politics.

Some people loved this book and others thought it was just good. Either way, it’s definitely worth taking a look, especially since KSU just announced that it is going to be this year’s Common Read. Be prepared for lots of book discussions and events centered on The Hate U Give in the coming months. Also, if young adult fiction depicting current events is your type of read, then you might consider All American Boys by Jason Reynolds, The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater, or Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.

There are more young adult books being published than ever before and the topics are increasingly more relevant to teen readers. The award winning titles this year reflect the unique contemporary issues that teens are facing. It’s an exciting time in the teen literature world!

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Read-Walk-Run: Running Books at the Library

Read-Walk-Run: Running Books at the Library

By Diedre Lemon, Adult Services Librarian

As the weather warms up, you may start to notice more people outside enjoying the weather. Many of them are walking, riding bikes, or taking their dogs for a walk around the park, but then there are those few who are running. The number of runners outside has increased with spring, and so have the number of emails in my inbox about upcoming races. But does that have to do with books?

Well, the Manhattan Public Library has an excellent diverse collection of running books. And no! All running books are not the same. One of the first running books that I have picked up, put down, picked up a few years later, read some, then put down again is Jeff Galloway’s The Run-Walk-Run Method. When I first started running, I thought that I was past this book in fitness level; however, after a couple years off from running, this was a great choice. Galloway tells runners to begin walking then run. As the days and weeks go by, you can increase the amount of time running and decrease the walking. I like the mix of information and charts to help plan workouts. He also includes running schedules.

While Galloway gives readers and runners a mix of information, personal history and charts, Matt Long and Charles Butler give readers more of a runner’s biography in The Long Run. Long writes about his life and how it was changed when he was hit by a bus while cycling to work. He talks about the healing process and running. Long had to learn to walk and run again. He talks about how running helped him heal physically and psychologically. Another great running memoir is What I Talk about When I Talk about Running by Haruki Murakami and translated into English by Philip Gabriel. Murakami talks about how the act of running has influenced and helped his writing.

For distance runners who want to read about long races like ultramarathons, the library has a few books for you. Scott Jurek’s book, Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness, reads like a biography with vegan recipes for ultramarathon fans. Those runners who are looking for a running cookbook and inspirational story will also enjoy Jurek’s book. Just how long is an ultramarathon? Ultramarathons are longer than the traditional marathon of 26.2 miles. Ultramarathon runners can run 50 to 100 kilometers or 50 to 100 miles for their races and training. For runners who want know and learn about traditional marathons, the library has several books specifically about running half and full marathons. One of my favorites is Dean Karnazes’ Run!: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss. Karnazes’ book contains his running experiences when tackling 26.2 miles and other running adventures he has had along the way. I like that the chapter numbers are also mile markers: chapter 1 equals mile 1.

Run Your First Marathon: Everything You Need to Know to Reach the Finish Line by Grete Waitz is the perfect book for first time marathon runners. This one is less memoir or story, as Waitz provides training plans, nutrition, and mental preparedness advice. While most running books discuss mental toughness of the sport, Waitz includes a section on self-confidence in the training section, because part of running is believing you can run the distance even before you take the first step. More advanced marathon runners might be interested in Hansons Marathon Method: Run Your Fastest Marathon by Luke Humphrey with Keith and Kevin Hanson or Vijay Vad’s The New Rules of Running: Five Steps to Run Faster and Longer for Life. These titles give runners insight on how to build up their endurance and run PR (personal record) races.

The library also has copies of Runner’s World Magazine that patrons can check out; these is a great way for patrons to decide how invested they want to get in the sport, or for those patrons who prefer a short quick read. New runners can check out Start Running!: A 5K Training Schedule for Beginners by Tony Yang. This book is available on Hoopla, one of our digital providers. Patrons can check out books on Hoopla without having to wait in line, and multiple readers can read the same title at once. Hoopla also has a number of running books for patrons to check out, too. With all these great running books, be sure to include a run to the library!

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One Woman’s Education

One Woman’s Education

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

Imagine growing up without ever attending school, without ever visiting a doctor, and without ever being issued a valid birth certificate.  While that sounds fictitious, those facts are among the many astounding realities of Tara Westover’s memoir, EducatedI was captivated by this book as soon as I began reading, and I’m sure that many others will be equally rapt.  Tara’s story will remind readers of Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls in that it’s an inspirational read about overcoming seemingly impossible odds.  Here’s what the story entails.

Tara was born one of several children to a fundamentalist religious father and an herbalist/midwife mother in the wilds of Idaho.  The family had little contact with the outside world, because the father distrusted the government, and he felt that his religious views were law.  His ownership of an adjacent junkyard enabled the family to have some income, but the dangers and serious injuries that the children suffered while working there were unbelievable.  Those serious injuries were routinely treated by the mother with a variety of herbal treatments.

It became clear early in the story that Tara’s dad was bipolar.  While things went smoothly in the home for some time, at other times he became unpredictable and violent.  Most family members, the mother included, learned to stay away from him during bizarre episodes.  In fact, he made elaborate plans for the millennium chaos and was deeply disappointed when nothing happened.  One of Tara’s brothers was just as troubled as the father and often brutalized Tara in an attempt to force the girl to repent for her transgressions.  These imagined sins repeatedly earned Tara violent dunkings in the toilet.

As Tara matured, she realized that things were very wrong in her household, and she decided to attend school.  She failed a first attempt at the ACT, but was determined to try again.  And so she began a regimen of self-education that gave her the opportunity to attend Brigham Young University.  There she learned about humiliation.  Having no past experience in education, she found herself woefully unprepared to deal with college issues.  During one particular class, she appalled her classmates with her lack of knowledge about the Holocaust.

But Tara was determined to succeed.  She had an older brother who broke with the family and attended college, and so she had his successful experience for a model.  Tara astounded her instructors and her classmates with her dedication to her studies, and she eventually earned a PhD from Cambridge University.

What’s to like about this book?  The author’s determination and her hunger for better things.  Her enthusiasm despite many setbacks demonstrates an incredible strength of character.  Her willingness to gain life experiences is  admirable.  She refused to perpetuate the ignorance from her upbringing and traveled to see the world.

What’s not to like about this book?  The family rift caused by Tara’s goal to make a new life.  Other family members distrusted her educational experiences.  Her brother, who had abused her when she was young, resumed his torment, until Tara realized she had to avoid all contact with him.  The fact that her parents came to one of her graduations was heartbreaking, not because they were proud of her, but because they wanted to make one last attempt “to save” her from herself.  Tara ultimately realized that there would be a permanent break with her family, one that would cause her a great deal of sadness and loss.

Though this book was released a couple of weeks ago, it has already earned a spot on the New York Times list of bestselling books.  You’ll want to read this outstanding memoir.

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Leadership Lessons at the Library

Leadership Lessons at the Library
By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” ~ Warren Bennis, leadership expert

Most of us, at some point, find ourselves at a place in life where leadership skills are vital, whether at work, in family interactions, or as part of an organization. Developing these skills provides benefits for us individually, as well as for the entire community. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of quality literature published on the subject every year. Here are some of the best that have come our way recently.

In “The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups”, Daniel Coyle explains that the key to group success is a feeling of connection, shared risk, and shared purpose. Through his research with some of the world’s most successful groups, Coyle developed a philosophy that refocuses leadership studies into the subconscious aspect of what traits cause people to work well together to achieve a goal. Using scientific data and engaging anecdotes, this book is helpful for leaders, but also for anyone that wants to be a valuable contributor to a team.

Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (Almost) Everything Wrong” by Kristen Hadeed is an entertaining and informative narrative on the benefits of failing, learning to pick back up and move on, and how the ability to be vulnerable can open up a world of opportunity. Her motivational story about her rise to success, as well as her sense of humor, teaches that we can achieve more by experimenting than we can by striving for perfection. She also has some helpful ideas on increasing cross-generational understanding.

Leadership Step by Step: Become the Person Others Follow” by Joshua Spodek is the perfect place to begin if you’re new to the leadership field. Spokek lays out four goals that build on each other – understanding yourself, leading yourself, understanding others, and leading others. He encourages self-reflection and learning to understand others. With exercises and questions for reflection, “Leadership Step by Step” helps readers to go a step beyond gathering information and actually build the skills needed to successfully lead a team.

For sports fans, Sam Walker has written “The Captain Class: The Hidden Force that Creates the World’s Greatest Teams.” Walker focuses on effective team captains and how they’ve used their roles to carry their teams to greatness. He examines the leadership skills they used, such as determination, humility, willingness to take on unpopular jobs, commitment, emotional control, and ability to speak the truth. The clear message that comes through is that the best leaders often don’t have the most dynamic personalities or even talent; instead their abilities lie in working behind the scenes to move the team toward a goal.

In “Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times,” Nancy Koehn discusses five exemplary leaders from history. Some, such as Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Ernest Shackleton, are obvious selections. Interestingly, she also includes environmentalist Rachel Carson and Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoffer, who was an active anti-Nazi dissident in World War II. The author clearly believes that leadership isn’t an innate trait, but one that is learned and sometimes forced upon individuals in times of crisis. This absorbing book has an informative perspective on leadership, but also reads like an adventure with its focus on goal oriented and hardy personalities with a vision.

We all have the capacity to become better leaders with a little help. Along with the wealth of books that are published each year, the library also has, which has several courses to help those just beginning to explore leadership or those that want to hone their skills.

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Romance Beyond Regency: Diverse Romance Novels

Romance Beyond Regency: Diverse Romance Novels

By Crystal Hicks, Adult Services Librarian

Like many Kansans, I took ill this winter and faced a day at home recuperating.  Fortunately, my husband had Sonali Dev’s The Bollywood Bride checked out on his Kindle, so I decided to give it a whirl.  One day later, I was feeling better and needed another book to read.  Dev effortlessly combines Indian culture with all the trappings of a great romance novel, captivating me with a book unlike any other romance novel I’d read before.  While I loved the romance, I also enjoyed reading about a different culture, and, after finishing it, I was eager to widen my reading scope and find other diverse romance novel gems.

Once I went looking, I found a variety of culturally-diverse contemporary romance to read.  For instance, Alisha Rai’s Hate to Want You follows two third-generation immigrants who are torn apart by a family blood feud.  Back in her hometown after her mother broke her hip, Livvy and Nicholas find themselves drawn to each other, despite all the reasons they should stay apart.  Secondly, Latina author Priscilla Oliveras has just started a promising trilogy about three sisters, beginning with His Perfect Partner.  Yazmine Fernandez works as a dance teacher in Chicago, where she teaches Maria and clashes with the girl’s workaholic father, Tomás Garcia.  Inevitably, and oh, so sweetly, the pair are drawn to each other and the appeal of a being family together.  Finally, in Cheris Hodges’s I Heard a Rumor, both Chante Britt and Zach Harrington are running from the press and decide to hide out at a South Carolina beach.  When sparks fly, the two agree to start a fling, but feelings deepen and the press inevitably catches up with them.

When it comes to historical romance, Beverly Jenkins is the queen of writing about African American life and has been doing so for decades.  Her most recent offerings include Forbidden, first in a series about life in the Old West.  Rhine Fontaine has built up a successful life for himself by passing as White, but when he rescues a Black woman from the desert, all of his choices are thrown into question.  Is it worth giving up everything he’s worked for in order to be with the stubborn, clever Eddy Carmichael?  For a newer African American voice in the historical romance marker, look no further than Alyssa Cole.  In An Extraordinary Union, Cole combines historical romance with espionage for a delightful read.  Elle Burns and Malcolm McCall are both spies for the Union during the Civil War, and they must set aside their instant attraction in order to save their country.

When it comes to LGBTQ romances, I’ve been hearing a lot about Cat Sebastian, and it’s no wonder why.  Sebastian writes queer historical romances, starting with The Soldier’s Scoundrel.  Jack Turner is a lower-class fixer, helping people with problems that they can’t talk to the magistrate about.  When Oliver Rivington, a gentleman and a former soldier, learns that his sister has used Jack’s services, his interest is piqued and he looks in on Jack’s business.  Oliver’s interest is also piqued by Jack, and soon the two men are working to solve Jack’s newest case.  If you’re also interested in contemporary queer romance, it’s worth checking out Vanessa North, whose writing ranges across the LGBTQ spectrum, from Summer Stock’s male/male romance to Roller Girl, featuring a transgender main character.

Along with a good romance novel, I also love young adult literature, so I was thrilled to discover queer romances in that collection, as well.  Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a wondrous ‘80s-based coming-of-age novel, following loner Ari Mendoza as he meets, and eventually falls in love with, the openly-gay Dante.  In Our Own Private Universe, by Robin Talley, Aki meets Christa on a summer trip and decides to stop thinking about things so much and make the most of their time together.  I also found Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk about Love, in which asexual teen Alice struggles with whether or not she can actually find a happily ever after.  Much of Alice’s narrative involves generally-held misconceptions about asexuality, and I was pleased to see a romance that sensitively deals with the topic.

Whatever flavor of romance novel you’re interested in, the Manhattan Public Library has something for you.  If you’d like specific recommendations, feel free to stop by the Reference Desk for a chat, or request a personalized reading list!  We’re more than happy to recommend great books to read.

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New and Notable Picture Books

New and Notable Picture Books

By Laura Ransom, Children’s Services Coordinator

There’s nothing like cuddling up as a family around a great picture book. Picture books aren’t just for preschoolers, though; because of their rich vocabulary and vivid illustrations, even children in upper elementary school (and children’s librarians), can enjoy them. Here is a list of picture books that are sure to delight you.

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell is an almost wordless book that tells the story of a lost wolf pup and a lost human girl. A snowy night causes the characters to get separated from their respective families, but together they make their way back home safe and sound. This satisfying book was just awarded the 2018 Caldecott Medal, which is given to the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Sam, the Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World by Mo Willems is a sequel to his 2005 book, Leonardo the Terrible Monster. Sam is afraid of almost everything, including spiders, dogs, and raindrops. He encounters two other things to be scared of: a girl named Kerry and her monster, Frankenthaler. However, Frankenthaler just happens to be friends with Sam’s monster, Leonardo. The kids have to decide if they’ll keep being scared of each other or make a brave choice to become friends.

Accident! by Andrea Tsurumi is filled with hilarious, detailed illustrations. Lola the armadillo has a small accident at home, and she is so scared of the consequences that she runs away to the library. Along the way, all of the animals she encounters are dealing with their own disasters, and no one knows what to do. Lola and her friends ultimately learn how to start over with an apology and the reassurance that even the most disastrous accidents can be resolved.

Vincent Can’t Sleep by Barb Rosenstock tells the story of Vincent Van Gogh’s colorful life. With short sentences and luminous illustrations by Mary GrandPré, readers get a glimpse into Van Gogh’s beautiful imagination. Rosenstock included this quote by Van Gogh, “It often seems to me that the night is much more alive and richly colored than the day.” The book is a great introduction to his artwork and interesting life story.

La La La by Kate DiCamillo is another nearly wordless story that begins with a lonely little girl. She loves to sing and hopes that someone will join her song, but no one responds and she’s left dejected. When night comes, the moon lights up the sky, and the little girl longs to be closer to its light. In a magical scene, the moon comes down to earth and joins in the girl’s serenade. It amazes me how much an author and illustrator can communicate with just a few words and expressive faces.

The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson has the same playful feel as her beloved book, The Gruffalo. Animals are too afraid to go near the rabbit’s burrow because a voice inside bellows, “I’m the Giant Jumperee and I’m scary as can be!” Rabbit and his friends try to overcome their fear of the Giant Jumperee, but only Mama Frog is able to address the thundering voice and command it to come out. Spoiler alert: it’s Baby Frog.

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith describes the perfect day according to a cat, a dog, a chickadee, and a squirrel. A surprise visit from a bear turns their perfect day upside down. Now the bear is enjoying his perfect day with the squirrel and chickadee’s corn, the dog’s water dish, and the cat’s daffodils. The book provides an opportunity to look at “the perfect day” from a different point of view and maybe a challenge to make the most of a disappointing situation.

What Will Grow? by Jennifer Ward invites the reader into a garden guessing game. Seeds are planted and the question is posed, “What will grow?” Lift the flaps to discover sunflowers, carrots, and pine trees, plus intricately illustrated chipmunks, goldfinches, and rabbits. The book also includes facts about the plants from the story and growing directions for your own garden.

Our library is filled with literally thousands of wonderful picture books for you to discover. Stop by and check out some memorable books today.

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Great Love Stories for Valentine’s Day

Great Love Stories for Valentine’s Day

By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Why not try something a little different from the candies and the flowers this Valentine’s Day? Treat that special person or persons in your life to a night at the movies. The American Film Institute (AFI) has identified the 100 greatest love stories on the silver screen. Encompassing multiple genres, these films all feature a romantic bond between 2 or more characters. As stated on the AFI website these movies “possess a ‘passion’ which has enriched America’s film and cultural heritage while continuing to inspire contemporary artists and audiences.”

Instead of listing the top few romantic movies, we’re going to sample the entire list. That should provide a little something for everyone.

Number 1 on the AFI list is “Casablanca,” from 1942 and directed by Michael Curtiz. Everyone knows this movie. It’s Bogart and Bergman. In World War II Morocco, a weary and bitter nightclub owner helps his former lover and her Resistance hero husband escape from the Nazis.

At number 12 is “My Fair Lady,” from 1964 and directed by George Cukor. At one time “My Fair Lady” was the longest-running musical on Broadway. Adapted from the play, “Pygmalion,” by George Bernard Shaw, an arrogant professor attempts to transform a working-class London street vendor into a sophisticated lady.

King Kong,” from 1933 and directed by Merian Cooper weighs in at number 24. Captured during a moviemaking expedition, giant gorilla King Kong, falls in love with the movie’s blonde star (Faye Wray). Taken to the Big Apple, King Kong goes on a rampage, taking the woman he loves to the top of the Empire State Building.

At number 38 is “It Happened One Night,” from 1934 and directed by Frank Capra. A screwball comedy starring Claudette Colbert as the spoiled heiress, and Clark Gable as the recently fired newspaper reporter who helps her get to New York. As they travel through a series of misadventures, the gruff reporter, and the spoiled rich girl fall in love.

Sleepless in Seattle,” from 1993 and directed by Nora Ephron is number 45 on the list. Inspired by the 1957 film “An Affair to Remember” (number 5 on the list), a woman falls in love with a man sight unseen after she hears him on a radio call-in show. Deciding it must be fate, she races across the country to meet him.

Number 58 is “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” from 1967 and directed by Stanley Kramer. Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and Sidney Poitier star in this film about a young white woman who brings home her black fiancé. Both families of the young lovers are forced to examine each other’s level of intolerance and open-mindedness.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” from 1961 and directed by Blake Edwards makes the list at number 61. Audrey Hepburn is Holly Golightly, an eccentric playgirl who befriends her next door neighbor, a writer new to the city. Watch the romance between Holly and Paul (or Fred, as she calls him) blossom to the strains of Henry Mancini’s “Moon River.”

From 1942, it’s “Woman of the Year,” directed by George Stevens at number 74. Hepburn and Tracy again in a hilarious excursion into the battle of the sexes. Newspaper columnists both, they fall in love and marry with disastrous results. But despite their divergent personalities, they are truly made for each other, as they realize by the movie’s end.

Number 88 is “The Princess Bride,” from 1987 and directed by Rob Reiner. A tongue-in-cheek fairy tale about stable boy-turned-pirate Westley’s journey to rescue his true love, Buttercup, away from the evil prince.

Grease,” from 1978 and directed by Randal Kleiser dances in at number 97. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John star in this musical revolving around the romance between a teen-age gang-leader and his naive girlfriend, set in the 1950’s. Grease was the highest-grossing film of 1978, and the highest-grossing movie musical ever at the time (now fallen to number 11).

All of the films highlighted here, as well as dozens of other romantic films, are available at the library in DVD and/or Blu-ray format.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Short Stories and Resolutions

Short Stories and Resolutions

By Jared Richards, Adult Services Librarian

We are now fully entrenched in the new year, and I’m sure only a month or two away from not having to turn 7s into 8s when writing 2018. This is also the time of year when New Year’s resolutions begin to fall to the wayside at an astonishing rate. It doesn’t have to be that way, however, and the library can help.

I prefer to make resolutions throughout the year because New Year’s resolutions often feel forced. But New Year’s resolutions can still be a fun test of your willpower, and they allow you to be a more engaging participant in the inevitable conversations surrounding resolutions.

One of my resolutions this year is to write one short story each month. By June, I will have changed it to writing two short stories a month, to make up for not having written anything yet.  That’s the nice thing about resolutions: they aren’t set in stone and you get to make the rules.

Short stories are great because, as you may have guessed from their name, they’re a quick read. You don’t need to commit yourself to an entire book. Rather than sitting down and reading a chapter, only to be forced to put the book down to go about your life, not knowing where the story may lead until you’re able to pick the book back up again, short stories allow you to experience an entire story in one sitting. They cut to the chase and get you to the third act before bedtime.

One of my favorite authors is Kurt Vonnegut, and my introduction to him was his collection of short stories in “Welcome to the Monkey House.” It is a collection of stories written early in his career for a variety of magazines and they showcase the wit, satire, and black humor that can be found in his writing throughout his career.

Trigger Warning” is Neil Gaiman’s third collection of short stories, and in the introduction he provides commentary for each story. As someone who is trying to write my own short stories, I appreciate a glimpse behind the curtain. This collection contains stories set in the worlds of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes, but my favorite is the bedtime story “Click-Clack the Rattlebag.”

When it comes to seeing behind the curtain, “The Curiosities” and the follow-up, “The Anatomy of Curiosity,” both collections by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff, provide even more commentary on the writing process as a whole. “The Curiosities” began as a blog and a way for the authors to experiment with ideas outside of their current projects. The authors introduce their stories, provide commentary throughout, and make comments on the other author’s stories.

“The Anatomy of Curiosity” expands on this idea, with each author writing a single story and providing more extensive commentary on a specific topic, like world building, in the form of marginalia. It is entertaining while also being insightful and educational. I also got to use the word “marginalia,” an opportunity that doesn’t come up as often as it should.

Another unique short story concept can be found in “FaceOff” and “MatchUp,” pairing bestselling thriller authors and bringing their characters into the same stories. I grew up reading Goosebumps books, so the most interesting pairing for me is found in the story “Gaslighted,” that pits Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast against R. L. Stine’s Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy. “MatchUp” is the sequel that changes things up by pairing female and male authors together, like Lisa Scottoline and Nelson DeMille or Sandra Brown and C. J. Box.

These are just a few of the books I’m looking at to find inspiration for my own short stories. And I haven’t even mentioned all of the books we have at the library on the topic of writing, like “Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence” or “How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times.”

It can be tempting to let your resolutions fall to the wayside as the year progresses, but there’s nothing wrong with tweaking them to fit your current needs. And regardless of your resolution, the library has books and classes to help, whether it involves exercise, preparing for retirement, or technology. We’ve even got a series on being a better adult starting on Tuesday, February 13 with a class on renting vs. buying a home, followed by classes on basic first aid, presentations by the police and fire departments, and gardening.