by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

The Wondrous Worlds of Science

The Wondrous Worlds of Science

by Crystal Hicks, Adult Services Librarian

I’ve always liked science, but not quite enough to study it in college, so I’d figured my required science classes were the most I’d ever learn about it. Imagine my surprise, then, when I started working at the library and discovered popular science books! These are books about science written for people without a scientific background, and they cover every aspect of science imaginable. Mind. Blown. My first foray into these books was with Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, which covers the basics of quarks, dark matter, gravitational waves, and more in just over 200 pages. With that quick and witty reminder of how awe-inspiring science can be, my reading life was changed.

If you love chemistry, like I do, then Napoleon’s Buttons might be worth a look. In this book, organic chemists Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson explore how 17 different molecules have shaped history. This sounds like a bit of a stretch at first—chemistry impacting the course of the world?!—but makes sense once the authors get into it. After all, the spice trade was responsible for much of the world’s exploration, and that would never have come to pass without piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper, which helped with preserving meat and masking the taste of food gone bad. Each chapter covers various groups of unrelated molecules, so there’s no reason to read the book in any particular order. If you’re a completionist, you can read the book from front-to-back, but otherwise you can pick and choose what you read, spending time with explosive “Nitro Compounds” before skipping on ahead to the intriguing “Molecules of Witchcraft.”

Among science writers, Mary Roach is known for covering weird and borderline-taboo topics with wry humor and plenty of gusto. Her works include: Packing for Mars (all about humans in space), Gulp (the science of the human digestive system), Bonk (sex and science), Stiff (what we do with human cadavers), and Spook (you guessed it—ghosts). Her most recent book, Grunt, looks at the science behind how we go to war. Not the science of guns or military battles, but the science of human bodies as it impacts war. Roach gleefully investigates sweat, diarrhea, and maggots, finding out the very real influences these things have on military operations. If you’re eager for a look at the mundane-yet-bizarre scientific goings-on of the military, give this book a try.

Christie Wilcox has long been fascinated by venomous animals, going so far as to become a scientist in order to spend more time with these terrifying, strangely-captivating creatures. In Venomous, Wilcox writes with infectious, bright-eyed enthusiasm for her subject, telling of the many kinds of venomous animals in the world and what we can learn from them. Equally fascinating are the scientists who study them, like Justin Schmidt, who felt the stings of more than 100 insects in order to make his Schmidt Pain Index for insect stings, or Wilcox’s invertebrate biology professor who used to bring her pet leech to class (there’s a reason why she stopped). Venomous not only has plenty to teach about biochemistry, but it also makes me feel like a kid again, morbidly curious about how a viper can kill with such lethal efficiency or entranced by the deadly beauty of a swarm of jellyfish.

My last book is for anyone interested in any aspect of science, no matter how much or little you already know. Randall Munroe, the author of an online comic featuring stick figures, already knows how to simplify images to their most important elements—next, he challenged himself to write a science book using only the 1000 most common words in the English language, and Thing Explainer is the result. With Munroe’s straightforward line drawings and simplified text, a dishwasher becomes a “box that cleans food holders,” the tectonic plates become “big flat rocks we live on,” and the International Space Station becomes a “shared space house.” Science can seem daunting to the uninitiated, with so many big words to learn and complicated concepts to understand, and Munroe helpfully breaks down those barriers and makes science accessible in this fun, wide-ranging book.

If you’re new to an area of science or refreshing dusty memories from high school, the library’s guaranteed to have a popular science book that’ll interest you. Come browse our collection for yourself, or stop by the Reference Desk for a personalized recommendation.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

  William Allen White Book List Provides Diverse Experiences

William Allen White Book List Provides Diverse Experiences

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager

The William Allen White Children’s Book Award was founded in 1952 and was the first statewide book award set up for kids to vote on, not adults. Most other states have followed suit and have children’s choice book awards as well.  Kansas schools and libraries promote the WAW reading lists to third through eighth graders, and often hold schoolwide voting days to see which titles will win in their schools, and then send their tallies on to the award committee for the statewide vote. Some popular previous WAW Award Winners include Old Yeller (1959 winner), The Mouse and the Motorcycle (1968), Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (1974), Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic (1984), and The Giver (1996). Kansas kids choose some pretty great books when given the chance!
The WAW master list for the 2017-18 school year is out, and kids are sure to find some favorites from this stack. Here are a few titles to start off. The full list is available at

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Right from the start, fifth grader Jackson is at the beach and notices that, out on the waves, there is a giant surfboarding cat, wearing a t-shirt and carrying a closed umbrella.  “He also looked awfully familiar. ‘Crenshaw,’ I whispered.” Jackson knows it is crazy to be seeing this and hopes the cat, his old imaginary friend, will go away, but he doesn’t. In fact, Crenshaw arrives just as Jackson is realizing things are not right at home. There’s no food in the cupboards for him and his little sister, Robin. Jackson knows his parents are running out of money, and he worries they will have to start living in their van. Again.
But isn’t a fifth grader too old to have an imaginary friend? Why did Crenshaw come back to him? And is Crenshaw…real?  This is a powerful story about a child who feels disconnected from his parents and out of control in his life.  Despite the downward spiral of events, Jackson, with the help of Crenshaw, finds a way to cope and even help his family.

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
Draper’s historical novel is based on the life of her grandmother, Estelle Mills. Stories passed down and a treasured journal of Estelle’s give authenticity to the story, of which Draper says in a video, “It took all my life for these stories to become a part of me and finally emerge so that I could retell them.” The opening chapter hooks the reader with a tense and shocking scene. Stella and her little brother, Jojo, are hiding behind a tree in the middle of the cold night, watching men in white bedsheets set fire to a large cross. Klan. They rush home to inform their parents. It is 1932, the Ku Klux Klan has not been active in Bumblebee, North Carolina, for a few years, and all the men in their community know this is a very bad sign.
Stella feels compelled to write about unjust and frightening situations, but knows she must keep the writing secret. What could an eleven-year-old girl do, if even the adults could not find a way to do anything about the Klan? Stella’s instinct and bravery are on display more than once as life-threatening
situations arise, and as lives are intertwined in the most unlikely ways. Draper’s hope is that “from books of historical fiction, we can learn something that can help us in the present.” Stella is an admirable heroine from whom we all can learn.

George by Alex Gino
From the outside, George appears to be a boy and that is how everyone sees her, but inside, George knows she is a girl. A girl named Melissa. This secret inside of her makes her feel sad and alone. When George tries out for the part of Charlotte in the fourth grade Charlotte’s Web play, the teacher believes it is a joke. Frustrated and miserable, George confides in her best friend, Kelly, and discovers the support she needs to show her class and family who she is inside.
Gino’s book is such an important work, not just for transgender kids, but for their peers, teachers, parents and siblings. The author’s prologue, “Frequently Asked Questions (And Other Things Alex Wants to Say),” describes some reasons Gino wrote the book, answers many questions for readers, and provides tips for being a supportive friend, family and school.
Books like these are sure to garner discussion in homes and classrooms. The William Allen White committee has released a master list that will encourage kids to see many different perspectives, learn new things and reflect more thoughtfully on the various experiences people have in our world, both historically and in the present.

by MHKLibrary Staff MHKLibrary Staff No Comments

Welcome to the Tumblebook Collection

TumbleBook Collection - Read Watch Learn

Tumble Books Library

 For young children

Animated, talking picture books, which teach kids the joy of reading in a format they’ll love. TumbleBooks are created by taking existing picture books, adding animation, sound, music, and narration to produce an electronic picture book which kids can read, or have read to them online.

Tumble Book Cloud Jr.

For kids in K-6th grade

Videos and chapter books in categories which include: ebooks, read-alongs, graphic novels, videos (from National Geographic!), and audiobooks. Over 400 titles!

Tumble Book Cloud

For students in 7th – 12th grade

eBooks, enhanced novels, graphic novels, and audiobooks.


For adults and advanced readers

Streaming audio books with no need to dowload, just click and listen.


Note: The TumbleBook Collection are created in Flash and require the Flash plug-in to view and hear the animation. The majority of computers and operating systems are already preloaded with Flash, but if you are unable to view the books you can download the Flash plug-in for free at

by MHKLibrary Staff MHKLibrary Staff No Comments

HCCI Financial Counseling at the Library

Financial Counseling Available at Manhattan Public Library

Beginning May 1, 2017,  the library will offer a new service to provide financial counseling using a web-based video-connection with Housing and Credit Counseling, Inc. (HCCI) in Topeka.

The video-counseling is available for people in all income levels but will primarily benefit:

  1.  individuals and families wanting to budget well, reduce debt, and save for short-term and long-term financial goals; and
  2. low and moderately-low income working families wanting to build good credit and get ahead.

A typical HCCI counseling session is 1.5 hours and includes a thorough review of spending habits, debts, credit report data and score, any garnishments and the client’s short and long-term financial goals.  Each client develops – with guidance from their HCCI Counselor:

  • a personal Spending Plan (budget), and
  • “Next Steps Action Plans” to meet their short and long-term financial goals.

To make an appointment:

Call HCCI at 800-383-0217.  HCCI staff will arrange a time that is convenient for you to come to the Manhattan Public Library to connect online for a video-counseling session.  Staff here can help you with this web-based connection.

You will be able to visit with your HCCI Counselor directly and view (on a computer screen) the helpful forms HCCI uses to guide people to develop a practical budget of their own.  HCCI will pull your credit report and explain what lenders and employers look for in a credit report.  You will also receive an Action Plan and guidance from HCCI about the steps you can take to reduce debt, build your credit, and begin to save for emergencies.  Everything you need will be e-mailed or mailed to you by your HCCI counselor.

HCCI tells us 70% of the people they counsel qualify for free counseling because their income or household qualifies for grant funding HCCI receives to help cover counseling costs.  For example:  there is no charge to military personnel or their families.  There is no fee for people earning lower-incomes.

 For all others, a one-time counseling fee of $45 covers the initial 1.5 hour session plus continuing counseling, as often as needed, at no charge.  Additional counseling visits may be by phone, e-mail and video-counsels at the library.

To learn more go to HCCI’s website at or call 800-383-0217.

HCCI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency, founded in 1972.  HCCI is certified by HUD (Housing and Urban Development) and is licensed and regulated by the Office of the Kansas State Bank Commissioner.  HCCI is funded in part by United Ways in Emporia, Junction City, Lawrence, Manhattan and Topeka, by government grants, and by corporations, foundations and individuals.  HCCI’s CSO License # is 0000003.

by MHKLibrary Staff MHKLibrary Staff No Comments

Solar Eclipse Events at the Library


MANHATTAN, KS—A total solar eclipse will take place in the Midwest on Monday, August 21 from 11:30 to 2:30, with totality beginning at 1:00 p.m. and ending at 1:05.* This is the first total eclipse to be visible in the U.S. since 1978.

The Manhattan community is invited to a free “Eclipse Viewing Party” at Manhattan Public Library, located at 629 Poyntz Avenue, from noon to 4:00 p.m. Participants can view the partial eclipse outdoors using free safety glasses provided by STAR_net, or relax indoors and watch live video of the total eclipse as it passes over North America.

In addition to the viewing party, the library is offering two free programs leading up to the big event.

On Tuesday, August 8 at 2:00 p.m., kids in kindergarten through sixth grade can “Get Ready for the Solar Eclipse.” Kids will learn about the eclipse and explore information about astronomy. They will also craft an eclipse viewer to take home.

Then on Thursday, August 10 at 11:00 a.m., preschool-aged kids can hear stories about the stars and planets at the “Solar System Storytime.”

Librarians will also be available to visit about the eclipse at the Flint Hills Discovery Center’s Community Day on Saturday, August 6 from noon to 6:00 p.m.

Anyone interested in learning more about the eclipse, astronomy, or the solar system should explore the many resources available at Manhattan Public Library.

These solar eclipse programs are made possible by a grant secured by STAR_net Science-Technology Activities & Resources for Libraries and funding from Manhattan Library Association. All programs at the library are free and open to the public. For more information, contact the library at (785) 776-4741 or, or visit 629 Poyntz Avenue.

*Time estimates are based on information from NASA for the Lincoln, NE area, which is the closest location where the total eclipse can be observed.

by MHKLibrary Staff MHKLibrary Staff No Comments

The West by Linda Henderson

The West: Manhattan Mercury Leisure Section August 6, 2017

by Linda Henderson, Adult Service Librarian

The West.  Wide-open spaces, pioneer spirit, hardships, and opportunity — the frontier era continues to inspire the American imagination.  So long as we can see these spaces and recall our history, authors will keep telling stories about them.

My love of westerns began in childhood, with the tales of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.  I still have two hard-bound copies of Snowden Miller’s work: Gene Autry and the Badmen of Broken Bow, and Roy Rogers and the Outlaws of Sundown Valley, published in 1950.

As an adult, I discovered westerns with The Light of the Western Stars by Zane Grey.  Set in 1914, Madeline, a rich, sheltered young woman from the East, arrives at a train station in New Mexico expecting to meet her brother and visit his ranch.  After a frightening experience with a local cowboy, she survives to become a rancher herself, enamored of the lifestyle.  The language is sometimes crude, but was typical of the times.

I went on to read many more of Zane Grey’s novels, then turned to Louis L’AmourDon ColdsmithJames Michener’s CentennialWilla CatherOwen Wister, and a personal favorite: Bess Streeter Aldrich’s A Lantern in Her Hand, set in pioneer-era Nebraska.

I do enjoy western romance, whether set in modern times or in the Old West.  Linda Lael Miller’s 15-volume McKettrick series begins with High Country Bride.  Rafe, obliged to take a bride to inherit his father’s ranch, sends for a mail-order bride.  Emmeline arrives, with secrets of her own, to marry a man she’s never met. Miller, writing with a sure hand, ably portrays the hardscrabble old-western life, weaving a winding, winsome romance full of appealingly stubborn characters.

Janet Dailey’s ten-book Calder saga really shines in its third book, This Calder Sky.  Everyone knew a Calder’s word was law and that one day Chase Calder would carry the name’s prestige forward.  Yet, the handsome but arrogant Chase would meet a new challenge in Maggie O’Rourke, whose innocence stirred in him a deep, insistent longing He is stymied by Maggie’s determination to find freedom from the harsh rules of harsher men.

Jodi Thomas’s contemporary Harmony series begins with Welcome to Harmony, in which young Reagan rides into Harmony, Texas, in the bed of a pickup truck, searching for an ever-elusive place to call home. She learned enough of the small town’s history and inhabitants to pass as one of the founding family’s descendants.  Reagan settles into a rhythm of school and chores, but remains standoffish despite the attentions of junior rodeo champion, Noah McAllen. The characters grow and intermingle pleasingly through the eight-book series.

Cold Dish, by Craig Johnson, begins the nine-book set that inspired the Longmire television series.  After 24 years as sheriff of Absaroka County in Wyoming, Walt Longmire’s hopes for a peaceful end to his tenure collapse with the murder of Cody Pritchard near the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.  Working with lifelong friend Henry Standing Bear and a cast of characters brimming with both tragedy and humor, Walt Longmire begins to learn that revenge, cold or not, is a dish better not served at all.

C.J. Box’s continuing 17-book Joe Pickett series uniquely blends adventure, danger, and family. Open Seasonintroduces Joe Pickett, soft-spoken game warden of Twelve Sleep County, Wyoming. He is an instantly-relatable everyman hero: a bit plodding, a bit bungling — he even loses a gun to a poacher in the opening scene. Meanwhile, he experiences both trying and humorous aspects of close kinship with his wife, children, and in-laws. Yet, he responds to crisis courageously and decisively — just as we’d hope for ourselves.

Many different genres interest me, including mysteries, science fiction, biographies and more. But for pure enjoyment, I turn to stories about pioneers and western living.  Visit Manhattan Public Library and be amazed at our collections featuring many different western authors in historical accounts and fictionalized sagas.

by MHKLibrary Staff MHKLibrary Staff No Comments

The Collection is Virtually Unlimited by John Pecoraro

It’s been a long, hot summer, but just in time, the new school year is about to begin. You’ve had a lot on your plate over the past couple of months, with work, vacations, swimming, and sunning. Unfortunately you didn’t have quite enough time to read or listen to all the books you’d planned to. Well, not to worry. You can access an entire library of materials without actually visiting the library.

Manhattan Public Library, in addition to thousands of physicals items, offers hundreds of thousands of books, audio books, comics, music, movies, and television shows you can download for free.

The Sunflower eLibrary powered by Overdrive is a collaborative collection of ebooks and eaudio books. Access is via your Manhattan Public Library card, and the library’s web page, or you can download the free app, Libby, from Google or Apple. Ebooks and eaudio books check out for either 7 or 14 days, you decide. The checkout limit is 5 items. There are no late fees, because it’s impossible to keep any item past its due date. And there is nothing to return, because it’s automatic.

There are several ways to search for titles. You’ll find carousels featuring new titles in several genres, such as Romance, Mysteries, and Westerns. Kids can also find featured titles of read- along books and audio books for those just starting to read, and most popular titles. You can also search for specific titles. In addition, the entire digital collection from the Sunflower eLibrary will show up when you are searching in the library’s catalog.

Hoopla is a massive collection of materials in multiple formats that you can check out for use on your computer, or download to an Android or Apple device. Again access is through your library card. There is a link on the library’s web page, or you can download the free Hoopla app to your phone or tablet. You can checkout 5 items per month, and again there are no late fees, and no worry about returning these virtual items to the library.

In Hoopla you can search the entire collection, or you can browse by format. Under audio books, for example, there are lists of recommended, featured, and popular titles. Or you can browse by category. Categories range from biography to yoga, and everything in between. Ebooks, audio books, and comics check out for 21 days, music for 7 days, and movies and televisions shows for 3 days.

Hoopla movie selections are grouped in dozens of categories including Disney movies, live performances, Shakespeare, documentary (“The Loving Story”), classics (“Old Yeller;” “The Incredible Journey”), foreign language films, and films based on a true story (“Patch Adams”).

Hoopla music selections are as broad as your imagination. Categories include the standard blues, classical, jazz, and rock selections, but also offer Broadway musicals, emerging artists, music featured on NPR, holiday music, karaoke, comedy, and spoken word. Each selection is the entire album or CD in digitized format.

While both the Sunflower eLibrary and Hoopla offer thousands of titles, there is an important difference between the two services. In Sunflower, titles in the digital collection are like books on the library’s shelf. Once someone has checked out the book, it is unavailable until returned. You are able to reserve items in Sunflower that are checked out. That’s not the case with Hoopla. Hoopla’s entire collection is always available. Multiple users can check out the same title, so there is never a wait.

The library also has magazines for you to borrow, read, and return, without leaving the comfort of your living room. Flipster is a collection of popular magazines including Discover, Oprah, Country Living, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and even Ranger Rick and Highlights for the kids. Read issues online, or download the Flipster app to download issues to read offline.

For more information on the Sunflower eLibrary, Hoopla, and Flipster, click on the Digital Library link on the library’s web page. For more personal assistance, stop by the 2nd floor service desk at the library.

by weteam weteam No Comments

Explore the cosmos from your armchair with these books

By Amber M. Schilling, Youth Services Librarian

Summer may be drawing to a close, but we still have one more exciting event:  the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017! According to NASA, this eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse in the contiguous United States since 1979, and we won’t see another eclipse like this one from coast to coast until 2045. Across the country, libraries are gearing up for this exciting event. The library will host a few special events before the eclipse, and we have eclipse viewing glasses available for free!

For the junior astronomers in your household, several books in our collection will build excitement for the eclipse. We have a wide range of non-fiction books about our solar system and space, but we also have fiction titles that will appeal to young stargazers.

Follow an adventurous young girl and boy through the cosmos to explore planets, constellations, and other celestial bodies in Theresa Heine’s Star Seeker:  A Journey to Outer Space.  Hunt with Orion, lasso Saturn’s rings (while wearing cowboy boots, naturally), and take a ride on Ursa Major, the Great Bear. Our young narrators experience different adventures throughout the galaxy via flying armchair, paper airplane, and North Star.

Heine’s lively, bouncy rhymes introduce these concepts to younger readers. Brazilian artist Victor Tavares’ colorful, rich illustrations pair familiar sights, like ice skating and a day at the beach, with the more unfamiliar, Uranus and Jupiter. The book includes ample information to share with children about space, the solar system, and planets and other bodies. Share this book as a sweet read-aloud with little ones, or as a space exploration with plenty of non-fiction content with older readers.

Optimistic and idiosyncratic Alex Petroski has a lot on his plate:  an out-of-touch mother, a far-off brother, a (supposedly) dead father, and a mission to make it to the Southwest High Altitude Rocket Festival so he can launch his iPod into space. Why is an 11-year-old trying to send his iPod into space? So that if aliens find it, they can use his narration to figure out things work on Earth. In Jack Cheng’s See You in the Cosmos, Alex’s eye-opening adventure takes him from Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas, and finally Los Angeles, making unusual friends along the way.

This 2017 release deals with some pretty serious themes with sensitivity and soul. It’s a “riveting, inspiring, and sometimes hilarious” story, according to Kirkus, as Alex learns about family, friendship, and resilience.

If you had to write a list of ten things worth seeing on Earth to save the planet from destruction, what would you choose? At the opening of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, Prez Mellows is still adjusting to life in foster care after he’s removed from the home of his aging grandfather. Space-traveling alien Sputnik arrives in Prez’s life, enlisting his help cataloging Earth’s wonders for an interplanetary guidebook. Sputnik looks like a dog to everyone except Prez, and it’s up to the two of them to save Earth from destruction by shrinking.

Science fiction lovers will enjoy this funny and touching story Kirkus describes as “a raucous adventure with a heart of gold.” Cottrell Boyce delivers a humorous examination of home and family in this must-have for middle school readers.

Sometimes a single event can bring together even the most reluctant of strangers. This is the case for the trio of protagonists in Wendy Mass’ Every Soul a Star. Nature-loving Ally, glamorous Bree, and reclusive Jack experience a total solar eclipse together and find their lives transformed. The teens are gathered at Ally’s family’s campground, which will soon be sold to Bree’s family. The two girls must come to terms with how radically their lives are about to change, while Jack must save his failing science grade and learn to make friends.

Mass brings these characters to life and avoids allowing her characters to fall into boring stereotypes. Each teen discovers “unexpected powers of adaptability and new talents,” according to Publishers Weekly. Mass weaves astronomy facts into this self-reflective novel, building drama and anticipation for the big event.

As you prepare for our own eclipse in August, make sure you stop by the library to pick up some free glasses to safely view the eclipse, and come to our events! We will be at the Flint Hills Discovery Center for Community Day on Sunday, August 6, with activities and glasses, and we will have a viewing party the day of the eclipse at noon.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Unlikely Friendships

Unlikely Friendships

By Vivienne Uccello, Public Relations Coordinator

I’ve often thought that Mark Twain, aka Samuel Clemens, would have made a great friend. He was always game for adventure, always the life of the party, always willing to tell it to you straight (or crooked, as the case may be). I don’t know if I would have had the courage to speak to him, given the sharpness of his wit, but reading his work makes me wish I had been given the chance.

This week, I’m going to use a few Mark Twain quotes to guide us through book recommendations about friendship. If you haven’t read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, Twain’s classic works featuring close friends, I suggest you start there. Otherwise, pull up a hammock and enjoy the following excellent titles.

The Summerhouse by Jude Deveraux was actually recommended to me by a close friend. This book features the chance meeting of three young women on their birthdays in New York City. Their lives spiral off in different directions and they lose touch, but when they are inspired to reunite and rekindle the friendship, magic happens, literally.

The best part of The Summerhouse is the incredible satisfaction it will bring you. The three women get the chance to travel back in time to the point at which they feel their lives took a wrong turn. It’s a fantasy most people have entertained at least once in their lives. Getting the chance to explore it vicariously was incredibly rewarding for me. Thankfully, the story is fun but not frivolous. It has tragedy, loss, redemption, and power, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

The Twain quote, “The trouble is not in dying for a friend, but in finding a friend worth dying for,” made me think of Harry Potter. Harry’s friends rally around him, finding in his legend, his character, and his courage a reason to fight against evil. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy these books, and if you’ve only watched the movies you especially owe it to yourself to read them.

2017 actually marks the 20th anniversary of the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and that provides yet another great excuse to read it. If you’ve been waiting, thumbing your nose at the series, or just haven’t thought about it in a while, I encourage you to pick it up.

Next, Twain’s quote “Love is when two people know everything about each other and are still friends,” sums up the friendship of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Quixote is an elderly knight who had “read himself into madness” by studying too much about chivalry and the knights of old.  Sancho is his trusty squire who is chubby, vulgar, and provides the classic earthy balance to Quixote’s idealism. Quixote and Sancho set out together for misadventures and hilarity, but beware, the language of the text can be a bit daunting.

Miguel Cervantes’ classic tome is not for the faint of heart. You will need to devote some serious “hammock time” to reading Don Quixote, but you will be rewarded for your efforts. Many of our archetypes about friendship come from the pages of this classic novel and the vocabulary will positively affect the formality of your speech, ie. your Facebook posts will probably get a lot more impressive.

Finally, if you’re interested in non-fiction, An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff is an uplifting story about two unlikely friends who change each other’s lives. A powerful New York executive and a homeless child meet by chance and develop a kinship which has lasted more than thirty years. This book will restore your faith in simple kindness, teach you to look differently at the people you pass every day, and take you to some deeper places in your heart.

Mark Twain gave out a lot of advice during his lifetime, some of which might get a person arrested. However, his proclamation that “good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience” makes an ideal life seems like sound advice to follow. If you agree, stop by the library to check out a few books for the summer, or visit the library’s digital offerings on hoopla or Sunflower eLibrary at

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Tales of the American West

Tales of the American West

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager, and Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

Consider the great American West: a place with a rugged backdrop and unbelievably colorful characters who experienced stunning hardships as well as unexpected good fortune.  Manhattan Public Library’s adult collections include many excellent books, both fiction and nonfiction, that explore those early days in the wilderness.  Let’s take a closer look at some appealing fictional titles.

In The Bones of Paradise, Jonis Agee takes us back to the Nebraska Sand Hills in the early 1900s. Rancher J.B. Bennett is estranged from his wife, Dulcinea, and on difficult terms with his two teenage sons when he is discovered in his pasture, shot in the chest and lying next to a young Sioux woman. His death forces Dulcinea to face her family’s problems, including the father-in-law who drove her and her husband apart. She is joined in her attempt to solve the mystery of her husband’s death by Rose, long-time friend to Dulcinea and sister to the Sioux murder victim. Rose’s persistent grief from the massacre at Wounded Knee, the Bennett’s rocky marriage, and the enigmatic circumstances of the deaths bring tension to the friendship between the two women. Agee’s novel evokes the rugged beauty of the landscape and the harsh life of those that settled there.

El Paso by Forrest Gump author Winston Groom is an epic tale of railroad and ranching tycoon, John Shaughnessy, also called the colonel. The colonel has been yachting while his adopted son Arthur manages his struggling business interests, but when Pancho Villa raids his ranch, stealing cattle and murdering the ranch manager, he rushes in to investigate. He arrives to chaos and the situation gets worse when Villa’s men return and kidnap his grandchildren. When President Wilson ignores Shaughnessy’s call for help, father and son head off into the desert and mountains of northern Mexico to retrieve the children and get revenge, joining forces with Johnny Ollas, a matador trying to rescue his wife who has also been kidnapped by Villa’s men. El Paso brings remarkable personalities to life and records a significant shift in the history of the West.

If you prefer your fiction in smaller bites, Dog Run Moon by Callan Wink is a collection of short stories set in Wyoming and Montana. In the title story, we jump right into the action with construction worker Sid, running naked through the woods to protect a dog that he’s stolen from a neglectful owner. Wink goes back and forth between Sid’s adventure of running through the night and the events that led him to this challenging and awkward moment. Obviously this tale has its share of humor, but there are also ponderings about life and what could bring someone to make such a choice. Exploring the beauty of the West and the human spirit, Dog Run Moon is a quick read with a lot of heart.

For those who prefer nonfiction tales of the great West, one need look no further than books written by Robert M. Utley.  Utley, the long-time chief historian of the National Park Service, wrote a number of critically acclaimed books about characters and events of the West.  The Story of the West, edited by Utley and published by the Smithsonian Institution, is a glorious compilation of history, photographs, and artwork concerning events such as the westward migration and the building of the railroad.  This is an exceptionally fine volume.

On more specific concerns, Utley penned an excellent biography of Sitting Bull entitled The Lance and the Shield.  Born of the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux tribe, Sitting Bull lived in tumultuous times when various tribes fought for control of the buffalo hunting grounds.  He was also a major figure at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, and he later toured the world with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show.  This carefully researched tribute, which won the Western History Association’s 1993 Caughey Prize, is well worth your reading time.

For those interested in the lives of trappers and traders who lived in the West during the 19th century, one can do no better than reading Utley’s A Life Wild and Perilous.  Larger-than-life stories of Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith, and Kit Carson immerse the reader in exquisite natural beauty and unimaginable danger in an unexplored territory.  There are even a couple pages devoted to the deplorable misfortunes of Hugh Glass, the trapper who encountered a grizzly sow with cubs.

Other books by the renowned Utley include volumes about George Armstrong Custer, the American military in the West, forts, and villains of the West.  All have the writer’s meticulous research and lively writing style.