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Introducing the Middle School Collection

Introducing the Middle School Collection

by Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian

In addition to our regular summer reading-related shenanigans, library staff have been hard at work on another project this summer: creating the new Young Adult Middle School Books Collection. Due to sixth grade joining the local middle schools this fall, we decided to highlight books that appeal to middle schoolers as a group by creating a collection just for them. The new middle school collection has joined the rest of the young adult books on the second floor of the library, located on the shelves closest to the atrium.

The middle school collection contains books for youth in grades 6-8 (ages 11-14), pulling in books from both children’s fiction and young adult fiction. The middle school collection includes plenty of coming-of-age books of all stripes and a wide variety of adventure. Many bestselling fantasy series are now in the middle school collection (think Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl), as are newer excellent series (like Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond and Tristan Strong), along with many of the current William Allen White nominees and this year’s Newbery winner, “When You Trap a Tiger” by Tae Keller.

For many people, middle school is a time of change. Friendships and relationships can begin and end, and many young teens are exploring their identity and the world around them. Fittingly, many books for middle schoolers reflect and explore these changes. However, escapism provides comfort during times of change, and there are still the classic genre standbys of survival, fantasy, and science fiction. Here are some of the major genres and themes that you can find in the middle school collection, alongside a recent book on each topic.

Friendships:Turning Point,” by Paula Chase, revolves around the friendship of Mo and Sheeda as they spend a summer apart. Mo tries to fit in as a Black girl at a mostly-white ballet program, and Sheeda worries about being forgotten by Mo while also spending time at her aunt’s church and with Mo’s brother.

First romance: Ami Polonsky’s “Spin with Me” looks at the budding romance between Ollie, a nonbinary tween who’s struggling to find an identity outside of their queer activism, and Essie, a girl who’s in town for one semester with her visiting-professor father.

Exploring new hobbies: In “The Chance to Fly,” a local summer production of “Wicked” is the perfect opportunity for Nat, a thirteen-year-old wheelchair user, to finally get cast in a musical. “The Chance to Fly” is clearly written by people who know and love musicals: Ali Stroker was the first wheelchair user to appear on Broadway, and Stacy Davidowitz is a playwright.

Puberty and body image: In “Taking up Space,” by Alyson Gerber, Sarah finds that her changing body keeps slowing her down on the basketball court. Her solution inadvertently gives her an eating disorder, and the book follows her through intervention and treatment.

Racism:Finding Junie Kim,” by Ellen Oh, focuses on Junie as she and her friends deal with anti-Black, -Jewish, and -Asian graffiti at their school. While working on an oral history project for school, Junie also learns about her grandparents’ childhood experiences during the Korean War.

Survival: Rebecca Behrens’s “Alone in the Woods” combines a classic survival tale with a friendship story, as ex-best friends Alex and Joss get lost in the woods and fight to survive while working through why their friendship ended.

Fantasy: The middle school collection has many mythology-inspired series from the Rick Riordan Presents line, including “City of the Plague God” by Sarwat Chadda. When a Mesopotamian plague god mistakenly believes that he has the secret to immortality, Sik and his friends must team up to save New York City.

Science fiction: Kwame Mbalia collaborated with Prince Joel Makonnen to write “Last Gate of the Emperor,” an Afrofuturist book set in the city Addis Prime after the fall of the Axum Empire to the evil Werari. When he reveals his real name while logging into a game, Yalen ends up on the run with his bionic lioness, Besa, and his former rival, the Ibis, looking for his missing Uncle Moti.

There are too many wonderful books in the middle school collection to mention them all, so do yourself a favor and go take a look. We’ve rearranged the entire young adult area as part of this change, so go ahead and familiarize yourself with the new shelving arrangements, too. I’m sure you’ll find some excellent books (middle school or otherwise) that you can read as you work toward your summer reading goal.

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Drought Gardening

Drought Gardening

by Bryan McBride, Adult Services Librarian

See the source imageDid you hear the one about how dry it is out there?  It’s so dry the cows are giving evaporated milk! (Ba-dum, crash!) We are knee-deep in a drought. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about cattle in times of heat and drought, but I do spend a lot of time thinking about my gardens in these conditions. For me personally, the problem is even more concerning this year as we are trying to start new gardens on a new property.

I always consider planting perennials that are heat and drought-tolerant, having success with iris and daylilies. Water conservation is perhaps most efficient in gardens that feature native plants and flowers that you can find growing in pastures and ditches in Kansas. If you walk out in grasslands of Kansas, you find an amazing array of flowers and color. Primrose, hyacinth, coral bells, honeysuckle, blue cornflower and columbine are just a few examples of what you’ll find on a nature walk. These can be transplanted into your own yard, and, once established, they seldom need to be supplemented with extra water, and they hold their ground against encroaching weeds.

If you’d like more ideas about drought gardening, we have several books in our collection that offer a variety of gardens. “Planting Design for Dry Gardens” by Olivier Filippi describes a variety of flora for dry gardens. A great aspect of this book is its descriptions of what “invasive” means and how to plan gardens that include plant species considered invasive. The book is loaded with pictures that show off the beauty of flowers available for dry gardening.

Another book that covers a lot of ground, no pun intended, is “The Water-Thrifty Garden” by Stan DeFreitas. How to improve the chemistry of your soil and how to map out a garden to make the most efficient use of water are just a couple of aspects of this book.

Did you know you can have your own soil tested by sending samples to K-State Research and Extension? They can do simple testing of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, or more extensive testing that might include pH levels, or even electrical conductivity. Seriously! These tests can help you determine the kind of plants that will thrive in the soil you have, or suggest potential alterations in your soil for the gardening you have in mind. Putting the right plants in the right soil is a good way to make efficient use of your water. The extension staff has an incredible amount of knowledge based on horticultural research. There is a brochure rack full of free publications in our community corner produced and distributed by K-State Research and Extension.

Another book that focuses on drought-tolerant plants is “Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens” by Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden. They include only plants that, when established, require less than one inch of water every two weeks in the hottest part of the peak growing season. One plant per page gives the reader ample information for choosing plants for your own property. Flora attributes are listed for each plant, such as how much sun is required, unattractiveness to deer, and attractiveness to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Gardening with Less Water” by David A. Bainbridge is filled with ideas for setting up irrigation systems. With this book’s publication seven years ago, Bainbridge accurately forecasted the deepening California drought. I saw a recent news story that Northern California’s Lake Orville, the second-largest reservoir in California, is expected to go offline with its hydroelectric power plant due to dropping water levels in the reservoir. (CNN, 2021) In his book, Bainbridge offers illustrated maps for laying out gardens as well as ideas for rainwater harvesting and setting up your landscape to capture water.

An attractive alternative might be a rock garden. I mean, this is the Flint Hills! The library has a couple of books, “The Prairie Rock Garden” by Donna Balzer and “Rock Gardening” by Joseph Tychonievich, which detail how to design rock gardens and the kind of flora that excels among rocks. In his book, “Essential Succulents,” Ken Shelf describes projects created with succulents, which often thrive with a minimum amount of water.  Although not limited to succulents, rock gardens are a good place for succulents like agave, cactus, and sedum, alongside other flowering perennials.

The bad news is climatologists predict furthering drought in future years.  The good news is a well-planned, drought-resistant garden can provide low-maintenance beauty in your environment despite this dire prediction.

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Celebrating Juneteenth and Pride Month

Celebrating Juneteenth and Pride Month

By Julie Mills, Learning & Information Services Supervisor

Summer can be a great time to explore your inner activist.  There are several ways one can go about making changes whether you are looking for a quiet revolution or attending marches in the streets. As I write this, Juneteenth, celebrated by African-Americans since the late 1800’s, was just honored by becoming a Federal Holiday.  This is a wonderful start but there is still much more work to be done. Juneteenth commemorates the ending of slavery in this country, but not the end of racism. However, the celebration continues to resonate in new ways, given the sweeping changes and widespread protests across the U.S. over the last year and following a guilty verdict in the killing of Mr. Floyd.

Also, as I look ahead to next week, the fifty-second anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising is soon to be here along with the end of this year’s Pride Month celebrations. On June 28, 1969, there was a series of protests that centered around the Stonewall Inn, a gay tavern in New York City. This is meaningful as it marks a turning point in the movement for gay rights. The Stonewall uprisings became the symbol of resistance to the social and political discrimination for the LGBTQIA community and an international gay rights movement began.

Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement” by Angela Y. Davis is a collection of essays that connect the struggles here and around the world. Shining a light on the connections between Ferguson, Palestine, and Anti-Apartheid, the author shows us that what we need is a movement for human rights and liberation in the entire world. Throughout history there have been many battles fought for basic human rights and their legacies can continue to teach us and hopefully bring us together in the fight.

For adult patrons, there is “The Stonewall Reader”. It is an anthology published by the New York Public Library for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and is edited by Edmund White. From the New York Public Library’s own archives, this is a collection of first-person accounts, journal entries, and many articles from that time. One key aspect of this book is to showcase both the myth and reality of the riots from the perspectives of everyone from participants to journalists.

Along the same lines but for young adult or juvenile readers, “The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets” by Gayle Pitman is a collection of interviews and historical information leading up to and including the riots. Along with illustrations, there are photos, newspaper articles and historical artifacts. The interviews even include one with a woman who was ten years old at the time.

For a local connection to activism try “No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas” by C.J. Janovy. The author explores the reason why many LGBT people stay in such a red state, when it is better known that most leave Kansas.

When you find yourself feeling frustrated with the way things have always been done, it is critical to discover new ways to make a difference. Here are a few more books that may help you get started. “How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation” edited by Maureen Johnson is located in the Young Adult area, but is an excellent resource for adults as well.  I especially enjoyed the prose by Junauda Petrus titled “Could We Please Give the Police Departments to the Grandmothers”. I personally believe the world would be better off for it!

Also, in the Young Adult section is “We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World” by Todd Hasak-Lowy. And for even younger readers there is “How to Make a Better World” by Keilly Swift located in the Children’s Room.  These are two excellent books for budding young activists.

Perhaps you’re interested in learning more about these parts of U.S. history. Or maybe as a modern activist, you’re interested in learning more about the roots of the LGBT rights movement in order to start your own grass roots movement. Whatever the reason, the Manhattan Public Library has several selections to check out and help you learn more about what some call the beginning of Pride and ways to create a revolution.

Email us at or call 785-776-4741 ext. 300 for other recommendations!

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Worlds Away

Worlds Away

by Hannah Wright, Library Assistant 2, Learning and Information Services

Let’s be honest, sometimes it feels like the whole world has gone crazy. It’s gone so crazy that people are trying to leave the world entirely. With companies like SpaceX trying to take off into a galaxy far, far away, it’s hard not to imagine what it might be like to live in space. Luckily for us, we don’t have to wonder. There are books out there that let us leave Earth behind and set sail for the stars, without having to drop thousands of dollars on a ticket.

You think your last breakup was bad? Try going through a breakup on the same day your planet is invaded! That’s exactly what happens to Kady Grant and Ezra Mason in “Illuminae.” Written by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, “Illuminae” follows Kady, Ezra, and the rest of the survivors through space as they try to outrun the enemy ship hunting them down. Help is nowhere to be found and they’re running out of supplies. Just when you think it can’t get worse, the ship’s artificial intelligence program, AIDEN, goes haywire. Instead of keeping the passengers safe, it starts attacking them. With Ezra conscripted to help defend the ships and Kady using all of her hacking skills to get AIDEN back on their side, they’ll have to work together if they want to survive this space race. After that breakup? Talk about awkward.

Meanwhile, in Marissa Meyer’s “Cinder,” the Earth is in danger of marriage gone awry. Aliens from Luna are attempting to take over Earth by marrying their Queen Levana to New Beijing’s crown prince, Kai. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that Levana is capable of mind-control, and she’s not afraid to use it. All other members of the royal family who could claim the Lunar throne have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. That’s where Cinder comes in. Cinder is the adopted daughter of a disgraced New Beijing family, but she’s treated more like a servant. Cinder dreams of running away, but running is difficult when you’ve only got one leg. Due to a hovercraft accident when she was a baby, Cinder has two mechanical limbs. She’s a cyborg. When she meets the crown prince, she agrees to help him find a long-lost Lunar princess to take the throne from Levana. But can she do it without being killed by the evil queen?

The only things that can make space better are space pirates. Luckily for us, “Starflight” by Melissa Landers has one of the best crews around. When Solara turns 18, she decides to move across the galaxy to start a new life. It’s difficult though, since she’s just been released from jail and she’s broke. The only person who can help is Doran, her high school bully. He’s a spoiled, rich kid with nothing to lose. That is, until he’s framed for conspiracy. The two jump on a pirate ship and head for the stars before the law catches up to them. They split their time on the ship between figuring out who framed Doran and trying not to punch each other. With the help of the captain, the crew, and the adorable sugar glider named Acorn, Doran and Solara are in a race against the police to make it to Planet X and find out who’s really behind the end of the world as they know it.

Aurora Rising” by Amie Kaufman; Two hundred years ago, a mission left Earth to explore the planet known as Octavia III. Sadly, the mission was a failure and the ship was lost. Until it wasn’t. The day before he’s promoted to Alpha status, Tyler not only finds the lost ship, but a passenger still alive. Auri was cryogenically frozen at some point during the mission. She just can’t remember why. With the help of Tyler and his crew, Auri tries to recover her missing memories while coping with the fact that she’s 200 years in her future. But something’s off about Auri. It’s like something has invaded her mind. Something ancient and powerful. Too bad no one can tell if it’s good or evil.

Have I convinced you to jump on a spaceship yet? Maybe not. Hopefully I’ve convinced you to check out some books though. Don’t forget to log your reads in the library’s Summer Reading Program. We’ve got tons of prizes to give out, and luckily, we’re a lot closer than a world away.


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Backyard Vegetable Gardening

Backyard Vegetable Gardening

By John Pecoraro, Associate Director Support Services

In order to raise awareness of the importance of fruits and vegetable in nutrition, the United Nations has proclaimed 2021 to be the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables. June is also National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, the goal of which is to increase the daily consumption of fresh produce. As such, and since we have entered the backyard planting season, this is the perfect time to sample a few of the vegetable gardening books available at your library.

Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook” is the perfect companion for every vegetable gardener. This book demystifies gardening by demonstrating proven methods for sowing, growing, and harvesting. With plentiful color photographs, and reference tables and charts, this handbook provides step-by-step advice for growing over 30 varieties in any plant hardiness zone.

As its subtitle claims, “Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix” presents 224 new plants to shake up your garden. Jabbour introduces vegetable varieties from around the world, providing detailed information on how to grow each plant. She also presents fun facts and plant history. After perusing this book, you’ll be a little more familiar with cucamelons, mizuna, and Jerusalem artichokes, while also expanding your knowledge of tomatoes, potatoes, and greens.

Growing Good Food,” by author and climate activist Acadia Tucker, is a beginner’s guide to growing herbs, fruits, and vegetables using organic and sustainable practices. She offers advice on preparing and clearing land, and cultivating healthy soil. She also explains how to protect your plants from pests and disease without damaging the environment. In the end the author will teach you how to grow 21 popular perennials and annuals, including fruit trees, herbs, and vegetables, while also describing the climate changes happening in your own backyard.

For the novice with that little plot of ground who doesn’t know where to start, “Growveg: the Beginner’s Guide to Easy Vegetable Gardening,” by Benedict Vanheems is the place to begin. The friendly instructions and step-by-step photographs explain in detail more than 30 small-scale gardening projects. Chapters cover everything from choosing the best location to plant, to starting from seeds, transplanting, and harvesting. For gardeners without a lot of ground, Vanheems presents alternative methods such as growing potatoes in a trash can, carrots in a basket, and chilis in a bucket.

Turkish orange eggplant, rat-tail radish, walking-stick kale, sweetleaf, and fuchsia berry, these are just a few of the out of the ordinary edibles Matthew Biggs explains how to grow in “Grow Something Different to Eat.” In addition to step-by-step instructions on growing some unusual crops, Biggs includes cooking and preserving suggestions. All the plants detailed in this book can be started indoors and transplanted, grown outdoors in the garden, or kept as houseplants.

The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest,” by Michael VanderBrug demonstrates how to grow your own food in the Heartland. This title focuses on the uniqueness of the Midwest gardening calendar with its month by month format. Perfect for Kansas gardeners. Available as an eBook from Hoopla.

The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Great Vegetables,” by Lorene Edwards Forkner is another title available for free download on Hoopla. This gardening primer covers 30 of the most popular vegetables and herbs, planting charts for every region, and instructions on what to do in your garden every month of the year. This eBook is bursting with color photographs, and filled with the information budding backyard agriculturalists need.

Edible Paradise: How to Grow Herbs, Flowers, Veggies and Fruit in Any Space,” by Vera Greutink, is useful both to container gardeners, and those with the space and ambition to start and maintain a garden. Chapters cover everything you’ll need to know from making compost and building raised planters to incorporating flowers with your herbs and vegetables. This work will help you create your own edible paradise on your patio or balcony, or in your yard.

Federal guidelines recommend adults consume 1.5 to 2 cups of fruits and 2-3 cups of vegetables each day depending on age and gender. The results of a recent study indicated that only 9% of adults met those recommendations. Are you part of the 9%? Growing your own vegetables can help you get there, or you can always visit the Downtown Farmer’s Market

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Summer Reading: Tails and Tales Prize Books

Summer Reading: Tails and Tales Prize Books

By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager

Cover image for the book "Not Norman: A Goldfish Story" by Kelly Bennet, Illustrated by Noah Z. JonesThe children’s room of the library has been busy this week! Everyone is stocking up on reading material and signing up for the annual summer reading program. Kids, teens and adults can all join summer reading and get prizes and free books. These are just a few of the great prize books available for kids to choose from:

Bird & Squirrel: On the Run” (book 1) by James Burks is great little graphic novel that covers fear and trust, friendship, adventure, cleverness and cunning, and most of all, multiple ways to simultaneously annoy your friends and also save their lives. When Bird convinces Squirrel to head south together for the winter, the mean old cat decides to follow them, looking for a tasty lunch. It becomes clear that they won’t survive without each other, so Bird and Squirrel live out their catchy theme song while narrowly escaping many dangers.

Titanosaur: Discovering the World’s Largest Dinosaur” was written by the paleontologists who led the dig: Dr. José Luis Carballido and Dr. Diego Pol. The story begins with a gaucho in Argentina searching for a lost sheep when he happens upon a piece of exposed fossilized bone. He later recognizes the shape when looking at a dinosaur skeleton in a museum…only what he saw was “much bigger than that one.” Paleontologist José checks it out, and then brings in a team of scientists and diggers that “uncovered more than 100 bones from 7 different dinosaurs” in that area. When the new Titanosaur skeleton is assembled, it stretches 122 feet and is the largest dinosaur ever found. Dinosaur lovers will really dig this book!

The Bad Guys” (book 1) by Aaron Blabey is so entertaining, kids won’t even know they are reading. Mr. Wolf has been pegged as a bad guy, of course, but he says that is not true. He puts together the perfect team – a snake, a shark and a piranha – to go out and change their images from bad to good. All they need to do is become heroes! That works better if you have a “rock ‘n’ rollin’ chariot of flaming coolness” with “A – Wicked powerful V8 engine that runs on undiluted panther wee. B – Fat wheels for just looking insanely cool.” Etc. If you have a 3rd or 4th grader who rolls their eyes whenever you say it’s time to shut off screens and pick up a book, this is the perfect choice.

Gregor the Overlander” is a riveting fantasy written by Suzanne Collins prior to her fame with “The Hunger Games”. Kids who like to get sucked into a book so they won’t even hear their parents call them for dinner will appreciate this imaginative tale. Gregor is just a normal kid dealing with a little more trauma than usual. His dad has disappeared, and now Gregor has to watch his two-year-old sister, Boots, and look after Grandma whose memory is failing. When Boots falls down an old air duct, he has to go after her. That is how they end up in an underworld with rats, bats and a kingdom he never knew existed… a kingdom he and Boots are now tangled up in.

There’s a Pest in the Garden” by Jan Thomas is a hoot, and it is just right for kids in the early stages of learning to read. What will the farm animals do when they discover a pest is in their garden eating all the beans? Then the corn, and the peas? Maybe Duck has a plan. Thomas’s characters are expressive and funny, using word bubbles to tell their silly story, similar to the popular Elephant and Piggie books.

Not Norman: A Goldfish Story” by Kelly Bennett is about not getting the pet you wanted. Who wants a pet that just swims around and around and around and around? Norman’s owner comes up with some ideas for getting rid of his boring goldfish, but he also learns a few things about Norman in the process. Maybe he’s not so bad after all.

Signing up for summer reading is super easy. You can come to the library or call us, or download the free Beanstack Tracker app and look for Manhattan Public Library. Sign yourself and all your kids up to get some free books, coupons and other fun things while participating as a community that values literacy and reading!

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Classics Refreshed

Classics Refreshed
By Marcia Allen, Collection Services Manager

image of book cover :"Circe" by Madeline MillerYou likely remember the tales of ancient Greece, the bickering of the Olympian gods and their interactions with mortals. Maybe you remember reading Homer’s epic poems, “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” which spoke of the deeds of the heroes of the Trojan War. It’s time to rekindle an interest in those epic adventures, and contemporary fiction writers are penning some outstanding retellings of those classic tales.

Madeline Miller, who earned her BA and MA in the classics, has written some excellent fiction books. “The Song of Achilles” humanizes Achilles in all his glory and in his shortcomings. She focuses on Patroclus, a prince who lived with and fought alongside the famous Achilles. We learn of the two heroes’ love for each other, their larger-than-life battle experiences, and their reliance on the capriciousness of the gods. We also learn of their ill-fated journey to Troy to avenge Helen’s kidnapping and we discover the heartbreak that followed. Miller’s use of the original tone and accurate historical detail make this book one for the ages.

Miller’s second fictional effort is equally appealing. “Circe” presents the goddess as something of an outcast. Bereft of the special gifts that so many of the deities had, she chooses mortals as her companions and learns that she is gifted with witchcraft. She helps with the birth of the Minotaur, the bloodthirsty bull kept in the labyrinth at Knossos. And Daedalus, the creator of the labyrinth, encounters the tricky Circe. She even meets Odysseus on his return trip to Ithaca after the war, and she bewitches his men, turning them into swine. Again, Miller’s use of the Homeric word flow and her adherence to the original details make for captivating reading.

Jennifer Saint, another author who studied the classics, just published her first effort at retelling those epics with “Ariadne.” Half-sister to the Minotaur, she is love struck when she first meets the young prince, Theseus. Young and reckless, she helps Theseus to kill the Minotaur, and she flees her homeland with the prince, only to be abandoned by him the next day. Her younger sister, also led astray by the handsome Theseus, becomes the prince’s wife, only learning later what a braggart and liar he is. This adventurous story brings to life the love between the god Dionysus and the mortal Ariadne, and cleverly reveals the heartbreak that follows the powerful gods when mortals get involved.

The final title I’d like to mention is my clear favorite, “A Thousand Ships” by Natalie Haynes. This grand book, like the others, also mimics the language of the ancient tales and speaks of the many tragedies of the Trojan War, but it does so much more. Instead of recounting the battle scenes of the war, Haynes chooses to tell of the fate of the women because, as she proves so well, “This is the women’s war, just as much as it is the men’s.” Thus, we witness the horrors that Cassandra accurately predicted, like the fall of Troy and the killing of her brother, Hector, as she mourns the past. We shudder at Hecuba’s revenge against Polymestor who was supposed to protect the queen’s young son, but chose instead to murder him. We witness Penelope’s impatient letters written to the long-gone Odysseus, when she is plagued by the would-be suitors. We also see the part the gods played in the tragic events, and we follow their bitter rivalries.

What is really touching about “A Thousand Ships” is the revelation of the characters of the women. Their monologues reveal their fears and their heartbreak, but also a resignation to their fates. They reflect on a past that has been swept away by war, and they allude to an uncertain future over which they have no control.

So, if you have an inclination to revisit the classics you read long ago, these wonderful books will help. Each is a lively retelling of those distant treasures.

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Teen Summer Reads

Teen Summer Reads

Rashael Apuya, Teen Services Librarian

cover of Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal MaldonadoThe Manhattan Public Library is getting ready to launch its 2021 Summer Reading Program! The program is for all ages and runs from June 1st to July 31st. Participants receive prizes for reaching reading goals and participating in fun activities. You can find more information about the Summer Reading Program, and register, on the library’s website here:  .Sign up anytime online or through the free Beanstack Tracker app.

If you are looking for something to read this summer, I recommend checking out a young adult romance book. There is just something about reading teen romance novels in the summer that makes them that much better. I tend to read them when I need a good palette cleanser between hefty fantasy novels or required reading for school. They are great at lifting your spirits and making you invested in the love lives of fictional characters. Even if they don’t always end happily, it’s nice to get a glimpse of characters’ lives on their journey to find love – whether it’s for another person or themselves. Here are some titles to check out this summer:

Happily Ever Afters” by Elise Bryant follows sixteen-year-old Tessa Johnson, a creative writing student and romance novel enthusiast. She has never seen someone who looks like her in the books she loves, so she decides to write about a character she can relate to. Tessa is going to a new school that actually has creative writing in their curriculum, but suddenly she has writer’s block! To fix it, she looks for some real-life romantic inspiration to write about…and her happily ever after may be closer than she thought.

Camp” by L.C. Rosen is about Randy Kapplehoff, who loves going to Camp Outland – a summer camp for queer teens. He met all his closest friends there, and it’s where he fell for his crush, Hudson Aaronson-Lim. The only problem is that Hudson is only into “straight-acting” guys, which Randy definitely is not. Oh, and he barely even knows Randy exists. This summer, Randy is going to reinvent himself as a macho guy – which means giving up show tunes and nail polish – to get Hudson to fall in love with him. Now Randy has to ask himself how much he is willing to change for love – and is it love if you aren’t being true to yourself?

In “Fat Chance, Charlie Vega” by Crystal Maldonado, Charlie struggles to find a good relationship with her body when society (and her mother) keep pressuring her to be thinner. Charlie’s best friend, Amelia, has always been there for her. She is slim, athletic, popular, and a great friend. When Charlie starts dating a cute classmate named Brian, everything is perfect until she finds out that he asked out Amelia first. Does that mean she was his second choice?

Romeo and Juliet-inspired “A Pho Love Story” by Loan Le follows Bao and Linh, who are both Vietnamese-American teens with parents who own rivaling Vietnamese restaurants. After years of being kept apart because of their families’ feud, they find each other again. The similarity in their backgrounds and struggles as Vietnamese-American teens draws them closer together, and makes it hard for them to be who their parents want them to be. When they find out the reasons behind the feud, they will have to decide between happiness and family loyalty.

Lara, in “Cool for the Summer” by Dahlia Adler, has had a crush on Chase Harding since freshman year. He is a hot, tall, sweet football player. All of a sudden, Chase starts flirting with her (on purpose), and it’s everything she’s ever wanted. But for some reason, Lara keeps thinking about a romantic summer she spent out of town with a girl named Jasmine. Things get even more complicated when Jasmine walks through the front doors of Lara’s high school.

If you’re looking for a more serious option, “You Have a Match” by Emma Lord is about a teen photographer named Abby. After taking a DNA test, Abby finds out that she’s got a sister – Instagram influencer, Savannah Tully. Abby and Savannah attend summer camp together to get to know each other, along with Abby’s best friend (and crush) Leo.

Don’t forget, anything you read between June 1st and July 31st counts toward your Summer Reading goal – even young adult romance books!



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You’ve Got Interests, The Library’s Got You Covered

You’ve Got Interests, The Library’s Got You Covered

by Jared Richards, LIS Supervisor

Over the past few months, my interests have been all over the place. I haven’t made it a week without falling down a rabbit hole. Most of the fun comes from the free fall and getting lost in something new, but it’s also fascinating trying to figure out what led me to the fall, whether it’s a movie, a song on the radio, or some random thought.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I watched “The Sandlot,” a movie about a group of neighborhood kids who love baseball and battle with a ball-hoarding beast. I first saw it almost thirty years ago, but I still find myself responding to people and inanimate objects with “You’re killing me, Smalls,” and I can’t hear the word “forever” without saying it in slow motion in my head.

As it turns out, rewatching the movie coincided with the start of baseball season and I started getting recommendations for highlight clips online. I haven’t been interested in baseball since I collected cards as a kid, but I’ve now watched countless hours of highlights online and checked out multiple books from the library.

Baseball Miscellany” by Matthew Silverman answers random questions about baseball, including the history of sandlots, how a curveball curves, and the history of team names. A lot of teams are named after what their cities are famous for, like the Milwaukee Brewers or the Boston Beaneaters, a name once held by the Atlanta Braves when they were in Boston. But there are also teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, a name based on their team color, and the Chicago Cubs, based on how young their team was in 1902. The football team named themselves the Bears as a play on this in 1922.

Short stories about famous, infamous, and little-known players can be found in “The League of Outsider Baseball” by Gary Cieradkowski. One such story is about Nemesio Guilló, who is credited with bringing the first baseball bat and ball to Cuba in 1864. When the Spanish outlawed the game during the first Cuban War of Independence, it quickly went underground and became a way to peacefully protest the Spanish ban.

Another recent interest has been jazz music, initially sparked by watching videos of jazz drummers, like Larnell Lewis, who’s incredible. He plays with a group called Snarky Puppy, and we have their music on CD and Hoopla, one of the library’s online resources. Then, on my way to work one morning, I heard “Traffic Jam” by Artie Shaw, and it pushed me over the edge. You can also listen to his music through Hoopla. I’ve since started watching “Jazz” by Ken Burns, which we have as a DVD set but it’s also available to stream digitally through Hoopla and Kanopy. You can also check out the companion book for this documentary series, “Jazz: A History of America’s Music” by Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns.It’s packed with information and pictures, including one of a young Arthur Arshawsky, better known as Artie Shaw, who apparently purposefully got kicked out of high school so he had more time to practice music.

“Dungeons & Dragons,” a fantasy role-playing game involving monsters, imagination, and a lot of dice, has always been on my radar, but I only recently got a chance to play. To create my character, a halfling rogue with a green jacket, I spent hours reading through the official “Player’s Handbook” by Mike Mearls. I also looked through “Dungeons & Dragon Art & Arcana: A Visual History” by Michael Witwer, which does exactly what it says, covering the history of the game from its beginning in the mid-1970s through the present. It’s filled with illustrations showing the evolution of the game, as well as pictures from old advertisements and scans of original documents used for the game. It’s a great visual archive for anyone interested in the game.

Most rabbit holes turn out to be more of a divot than a hole, only brief distractions, which is good if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands. Every now and then, however, those rabbit holes open up to a whole new world. It’s important to follow those trails and see where they lead. You might only get a fun fact or two, but you might also pick up a new skill or find what you want to do with the rest of your life. No pressure, but maybe indulge in some of those tangents and see where they take you.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Children’s Picture Books Celebrating Spring Holidays

Children’s Picture Books Celebrating Spring Holidays

by Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian

Spring has many major holidays, ranging from religious to secular to cultural. I was overjoyed to see so many new holiday books coming out this year and loved adding them to our collection. Though most of these holidays have passed, I think it’s still worth checking out these books now or making plans to read these books next spring.

Seven Special Somethings” starts us off with Nowruz, the Persian New Year, celebrated on March 20, 2021. Written by Adib Khorram and illustrated by Zainab Faidhi, this book follows Kian as he tries to improve the family’s celebration by adding an eighth item (Sonny the cat) to their haft-seen, a collection of seven items that start with “S.”

The Jewish holiday Passover, celebrated beginning March 27, 2021, comes next. “The Passover Guest,” written by Susan Kusel and illustrated by Sean Rubin, adapts the classic Passover story “Der Kunzen-Macher.” In 1933, Muriel’s family is too poor to afford a proper Passover Seder; nonetheless, she gives her last penny to a juggler, who rewards her kindness by creating a feast for her family.

The library didn’t get any new books about Holi this year, but here is one of my favorites about the Hindu festival, which celebrates spring. “Festival of Colors,” written by Kabir and Surishtha Sehgal and illustrated by Vashti Harrison, follows a pair of siblings as they prepare flowers that will make the colorful powders used during Holi. This year, festivities occurred on March 29.

Next is Easter, celebrated by Christians on April 4, 2021, oftentimes with Easter egg hunts facilitated by the Easter Bunny. In “Peter Easter Frog,” written by Erin Dealey and illustrated by G. Brian Karas, Peter Easter Frog loves Easter so much that he decides to take it on himself to share Easter eggs with all the animals.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began on April 12, 2021, and continues for roughly 30 days. During Ramadan, Muslims fast throughout the day—but only if they’re old enough, as seen in “Hannah and the Ramadan Gift,” written by Qasim Rashid and illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel. Hannah desperately wants to celebrate Ramadan properly, but when she isn’t allowed to fast, her grandfather suggests that she honor the month by “saving the world” through acts of kindness.

As always, Earth Day fell on April 22. “Hello, Earth!,” written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Miren Asiain Lora, is the perfect book for appreciating the planet Earth. Poems and illustrations were composed together and directly address the planet, exploring everything from plate tectonics and ecosystems to the adverse impact of humans on the planet.

Ramadan will probably conclude on May 13, 2021 with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr—the exact date is unknown until the crescent moon appears. Eid al-Fitr includes community celebrations at mosques, so kids have to take off school for the day. Unfortunately for Amira in “Amira’s Picture Day,” written by Reem Faruqi and illustrated by Fahmida Azim, Eid al-Fitr also falls on picture day at school. Amira alternates between feelings of joy and angst, until her family alights on a simple solution.

A Day for Rememberin’,” written by Leah Henderson and illustrated by Floyd Cooper, depicts the events of one of the first Memorial Day celebrations, on May 1, 1865. Following the end of the Civil War, a newly freed boy watches his father work at preparing what is finally revealed to be Decoration Day, a celebration to commemorate the fallen Black and white Union soldiers buried nearby. This year, Memorial Day will fall on May 31.

June takes a place of pride as Pride Month (pun intended), a month-long celebration for the LGBTQ+ community, often punctuated with Pride parades. In “Pride Puppy!,” written by Robin Stevenson and illustrated by Julie McLaughlin, a child and their family lose their dog at a Pride parade. The resulting search makes for a delightful alphabet book that highlights the LGBTQ+ community and everything it encompasses.

Wrap up the spring by celebrating Juneteenth and the end of slavery on June 19. “Juneteenth for Mazie,” written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper, is one of the few picture books on Juneteenth, following Mazie as her father tells her the about the end of slavery, experienced by her “Great, Great, Great Grandpa Mose” on June 19, 1865.

The library has plenty more books about holidays throughout the year, including holiday compendiums. Stop by the Children’s Room and take a look, and we’ll help you find things to celebrate all year long.


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