New Year, New Beginnings

by Mary Newkirk- Adult Services Librarian

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in.  A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.  ~Bill Vaughan.  To make a New Year’s Resolution is to be an optimist.
A few weeks of this new year have already passed but 2012 is still merely an infant.  With nearly 350 days left which we can either wisely use or waste, may I suggest a few books to spark your interest in making improvements or changes in your life. Enjoy the quotes from the famous and infamous that reflect humor and wisdom in each of these categories.

To improve intellect or brain power– Do you feel one taco short of a combination plate or dumb as a fence post?  These books will challenge your thinking and exercise your brain.
Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything Joshua Foer
How to Be a Genius  John Woodward – Children’s department
Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind  Daniel Tammet
Brain Power Game Plan: Foods, Moods and Games to Clear Brain Fog, Boost Memory and Age-Proof Your Mind  Editors Prevention and Cynthia R. Green, PhD
The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About Genetics, Talent and IQ is Wrong  David Shenk

Self Improvement– We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.  Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.  ~Ellen Goodman
One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this:  To rise above the little things.  ~John Burroughs
Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.  ~Oprah Winfrey
18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction and Get the Right Things Done  Peter Bregman (new book, soon to be available)
Fortytude: Making the Next Decades the Best Years of Your Life Through the 40s, 50s, and Beyond  Sarah Brokaw
Empowerment: The Art of Creating Your Life As You Want It  David Gershon
The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and In Life  Leo Babauta

Spirituality– You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass-produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the earth by the Master Craftsman. ~Max Lucado
Glory to God in highest heaven, Who unto man His Son hath given; While angels sing with tender mirth, A glad new year to all the earth. ~Martin Luther
Nearing Home: Life, Faith and Finishing Well  Billy Graham
Falling Upward: Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life  Richard Rohr
Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words  Brian McLaren
Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy  Donald Kraybill
Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life James S.J. Martin

Diet and Exercise– People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas.  ~Author Unknown
Chic & Slim Toujours: Aging Beautifully Like Those Chic French Women Anne Barone
21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart: Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, and Dramatically Improve Your Health  Neal Barnard
Carrots ‘n’ Cake: Healthy Living One Carrot and Cupcake at a Time  Tina Haupert,
Cleanse Your body, Clear Your Mind: Eliminate Environmental Toxins to Lose Weight, Increase Energy, and Reverse Illness in 30 Days or Less  Jeffrey A. Morrison.
20 Years Younger: Look Younger, Feel Younger, Be Younger  Bob Greene

Humor–  A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.  ~Author Unknown
Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve.  Middle age is when you’re forced to.  ~Bill Vaughn
I Didn’t Ask to be Born (but I’m Glad I Was)  Bill Cosby
Best Friends, Occasional Enemies: The Lighter Side of Life as a Mother and Daughter  Lisa Scottoline
Cool, Calm and Contentious  Merrill Markoe
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)  Mindy Kaling

Organization and Time Management– Nothing is as far away as one minute ago.  ~Jim Bishop
How Did I Get So Busy?:  The 28-day Plan to Free Your Time, Reclaim Your Schedule and Reconnect With What Matters Most Valerie Burton
One Year to an Organized Life: From Your Closets to Your Finances, The Week-by Week Guide to Getting Completely Organized For Good  Regina Leeds
Getting Things Done:  The Art of Stress-free Productivity   David Allen
The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth and Purpose   Robert Pagliarini

Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past.  Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.  ~Brooks Atkinson

 

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

Classic and Award-Winning Westerns

by Susan Withee
Adult Services Manager

Every month, the librarians of Manhattan Public Library’s Adult Services Department read and discuss books from a different chosen fiction genre or subject area.  We do this in order to keep informed about good books to recommend to our readers and also to challenge ourselves to read outside our usual preferences.  This month we tackled Westerns, and for most of us it’s been a departure and a pleasant surprise.
Genre fiction is considered to be written according to a roughly recognizable formula.  The most popular fiction genres are mysteries, science fiction, fantasies, romances, and Westerns.  Traditionally, Westerns have been short adventure novels of the legendary Old West (not necessarily factually accurate Western history), taking place on the moving edge of the American frontier throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.  They offer a simple writing style and straightforward plot featuring lots of action and strong and self-reliant heroes (or heroines) who are engaged in the timeless conflicts of good vs. evil, man against nature, culture vs. culture.  Westerns have made the transition to film with great success and have been updated and re-interpreted into stories of superheroes and Star Wars’ space cowboys.
Just as mysteries have come a long way from Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple to Jeffry Lindsay’s Dexter Morgan, Westerns have come a long way from the early novels of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour.  Today’s Westerns offer a wider spectrum of settings, characters, and time frames, and also more depth and moral ambiguity in their plots.  In spite of the concept of formula fiction, there are endless permutations to the formula and literary quality is often superb.  Reading a good Western can be an engrossing, enjoyable, and satisfying experience.
If you’re not already a Western fan and want to give one a try, a great source for book suggestions is the list of nominees and winners of the Spur Award, annual prize of the Western Writers of America.  In addition to such classics of print and film as The Virginian by Owen Wister, The Ox-bow Incident by Walter Clark, Shane by Jack Schaefer, and True Grit by Charles Portis, you’ll find recent winners and best-sellers like:

  • Last Train from Cuernavaca by Lucia St. Clair Robson, winner of a 2011 Spur Award and a rare woman-authored, female-protagonist Western;
  • Summer of Pearls by Mike Blakely, featuring a riverboat community and the Great Caddo Lake Pearl Rush of 1874;
  • Far Bright Star by Robert Olmstead, described by the Dallas Morning News as a “thinking reader’s Western”;
  • Bound for the Promise-Land by Troy D. Smith, the saga of Alfred Mann, a freed slave, Civil War soldier, Buffalo Soldier, and Medal of Honor winner, and his quest to rise above ignorance and intolerance;
  • Masterson by Richard S. Wheeler, a “sprightly romp” (Publisher’s Weekly), featuring legendary gunfighter Bat Masterson as an aging, hard-drinking curmudgeon intent on revisiting the locales of his past adventures with his young common-law wife Emma;
  • Valdez Is Coming or 3:10 to Yuma by Elmore Leonard and The Undertaker’s Wife or The Branch and Scaffold by Loren Estleman, both prolific writers of bestselling contemporary fiction as well.

Other titles to look for:  Stranger in Thunder Basin or Trouble at the Redstone by John D. Nesbitt; The Hanging Judge by Lyle Brandt; Vengeance Valley by Richard S. Wheeler; The Way of the Coyote by Elmer Kelton; The Trespassers by Andrew J. Fenady; A Cold Place in Hell by William Blinn; Dreams Beneath Your Feet by Win Blevins; Killstraight or Camp Ford by Johnny D. Boggs; The Sergeant’s Lady by Miles Swarthout.
For readers wanting books with a woman’s perspective on the Western experience, try winners of the Willa Award, an annual prize given by the writers’ group “Women Writing the West,” named in honor of author Willa Cather (O Pioneers, My Antonia).  Look for popular authors Sandra Dallas, Jane Kirkpatrick, Molly Gloss, Cindy Bonner, Jeanne Williams, Jo-Ann Mapson, Jana Richman, Bess Streeter Aldrich, Pamela Nowak, Loula Grace Erdman, Elizabeth Crook, Augusta Locke, Nancy E. Turner, Sandi Ault, and Kim Wiese, to name just a few.

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (1) →

Inspiration from the Refugee Experience

>
Library column printed in The Mercury, Jan. 1, 2012

Several books featuring refugee children have left me in awe of the rebounding spirit of children and their amazing ability to hope, dream and find their place in the world. Though these are all fictional accounts, several authors had personal experiences that led them to write, and their openness adds integrity and genuineness to the characters’ tales.

Betti on the High Wire by Lisa Railsback is an engrossing read told from the point of view of 10-year-old Babo/Betti. Babo is one of the “leftover children” in a worn torn country when two “melons” (as she calls them) from America decide to adopt her and rename her Betti. Betti’s honesty about losing the world she understood, however strange and difficult it was, and her struggle to understand American life is fascinating. Betti clings to what she knows of her past, of being born into a circus camp where her parents were famous, and is sure her parents will one day return for her, which is why she needs to convince Mr. and Mrs. Buckworth that she is so bad they need to send her back. Railsback, who has worked with children in refugee camps, creates a strong character in Betti that readers will love to get to know, and seeing from her perspective might make kids interact with more kindness and understanding when they meet other children who have moved here from different countries.

Similar in some ways, 10-year-old Ha’s refugee story comes alive in Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again, which recently won the 2011 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Ha’s family flees South Vietnam in 1975, leaving behind everything they know and taking with them the unsettled sadness of their father missing in action for nine years. Lai gives the story a unique feel by writing in sparse verse. “Ten-year-olds, especially Vietnamese, think in tight images. I cut out every word I didn’t need,” she said in an interview. The words flow and match the tone of each experience as Ha describes her Saigon landscape, travel by sea, and acclimating to the strangeness of Alabama.

Ha’s story mirrors Lai’s own childhood when she moved with her mother and eight siblings from Saigon to the U. S. in the 70’s. “Life got more complicated, with me not speaking English and never having tasted a hot dog,” Lai recalls in her biography on the publisher’s website. “Add that to my looks. I was the first real-life Asian my classmates had ever seen.” In the story, Ha endures bullying from classmates, mean comments and alienation, but she also finds kindness, friendship and a determination to succeed in her new life.

Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water is a real gem. It is based on the true story of Salva Dut, one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, starting with the day soldiers burst into his village and burned his school. Young Salva ran into the bush and had to find his way without his family to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, and later to a camp in Kenya. Park says that some aspects have been “fictionalized,” but she interviewed Salva extensively and made the story as true to his experience as possible. Salva’s fear and daily trials are entwined with another story, that of teenage Nya who must walk two long trips every day to a pond to get water for her family. Although Nya’s story takes place years after Salva’s, they intersect with each other in the end.

Salva’s story is both upsetting and inspiring. The realities of war are so harsh and cruel, but Salva learns to take one step and one day at a time to persevere, which he says (in a letter at the end of the book) is the important thing that he would like to pass on to others.

Linda Sue Park flawlessly captures the essence of Salva’s remarkable story. Readers may want to start raising money for Water for South Sudan, a not-for-profit organization created and led by Salva Dut. More than 100 wells have been drilled, allowing children like the fictional Nya to go to school every day instead of walking miles to get water, and keeping families healthier with clean drinking water. It is amazing to read about the many close calls Salva survived in order to be at this point where he is helping hundreds from his country live better lives.

Finally, What You Wish For is a new short story compilation honoring the children of Darfur, with well-known children’s authors contributing like Meg Cabot (Princess Diaries), R. L. Stine (Goosebumps), Cornelia Funke (Inkheart), and Jeanne DePrau (City of Ember). The foreword by Mia Farrow describes one of her many encounters with children in refugee camps. “And this is the amazing thing,” she says. “No matter how dire the circumstances or bleak the prospects, every child I have met in Chad, Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, or Angola has a dream.” The stories are quite varied, going from an abandoned baby floating down a river in a box to a clique of teenage girls living in a futuristic, overcrowded world. They all contain the themes of wishing and hoping for something better, and often doing something about it. Sprinkled with poetry, photos of refugee children, and even a comic-book-style story, What You Wish For is perfect for short reading breaks or for sharing in a classroom setting.

Review by Jennifer Adams

Posted in: Children's Dept, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (1) →

London Subterranean

By Marcia Allen
Technical Services & Collections Manager

City fathers decided the city of London required a new county hall in 1910.  When construction crews began excavating the site, they stumbled upon the immense ruins of a Roman galley.

The bombings of London during World War II obviously caused massive destruction.  From the ruins, however, were exposed the foundations of an ancient Roman fort.  Further reconstruction revealed a complete Roman bath-house located beneath Thames Street.

Treasure-seekers frequently stumble upon dusty mugs and other half-hidden artifacts near the Fleet River.  The site once housed the Gaol of London, an 800-year-old prison that was leveled in 1845.

Those fond of reading history, archaeology, or travel literature will find a rare treasure in Peter Ackroyd’s new book entitled London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets.  This thin book is an astounding guide to the unexpected ruins left behind by the passing of the years.  As Ackroyd says in his opening paragraph:

“Tread carefully over the pavements of London for you are treading on skin, a skein of stone that covers rivers and labyrinths, tunnels and chambers, streams and caverns, pipes and cables, springs and passages, crypts sand sewers, creeping things that will never see the light of day.”

Given that caution, who could resist the promise of Ackroyd’s expertise? What follows immediately captures readers’ attention.  There is, for example, an entire section on London sewers.  The oldest known treatment of sewage is said to have occurred during the thirteenth century, when pipes were installed in some areas to carry waste underground.  As early as 1531, London had a formal board of officials who supervised the sewers and authorized the installation of new ones.  That was certainly an improvement over the open fetid pits previously used, but still there were some serious problems.  Methane gas explosions and “the great stink” of 1858 were major setbacks for human hygiene.  And the horrifying tales of cholera outbreaks and the reports of gargantuan rats roaming the dark tunnels go on and on.

Yet another section describes the burial grounds, some of them quite old, located throughout the city.  The grave of Celsus, a policeman from long ago, was located in Camomile Street.  Ackroyd assures the reader that there were as many as 200 separate burial sites located within the city, many of which are no longer marked.  He reminds us that the cemetery of Christ Church, Spitalfields, was open for 130 years beginning in 1729, and that during that time, an unbelievable 68,000 people were interred within its walls.

Obviously, London has undergone great cosmetic change.  The first established community, for example, began to sink almost before it was completed.  This was due to the mixture of sand clay, chalk and gravel upon which the city was built.  As a result, above-ground housing soon became basement-level dwellings.  How did the citizens deal with the sinking?  They continued to build atop ground level, so that now the original dwellings lie some 30 feet below the surface.  Of course, old roadways, houses and personal belongings became part of the well-packed detritus of history.

Ackroyd’s accounts of found treasure are perhaps the most fascinating tales of the book.  He reminds us that a huge stone head, crafted to resemble the emperor Hadrian, was discovered in the bed of the Thames in 1832.  Further, an intact crypt of a long-forgotten monastery was exposed when workers were digging on Bouverie Street in 1867.  A long-hidden trap door was uncovered in 1865 when workers were repairing Oxford Street.  Curious investigators pried open the door to reveal a large room, in which a formal pool or bath was still being fed by a bubbling spring.

Ackroyd’s London underground is surely a place of evil, of trepidation.  Prisons, he reminds us, were originally built underground.  And the tunnels beneath the city were used extensively by criminals for hundreds of years.  A natural fear of the unknown adds to uneasiness toward what lies beneath the surface.
But Ackroyd’s underground is also a place of grand adventure.  The forgotten booty of another age frequently astonishes those who find such treasures.  And the old reminders of past lives tell their own wonderful stories.  This lovely little book is a brief glimpse of the world as it once was.

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

Grammy Nominated Music Available at Your Library

Although many of us are rushing around getting ready for theholidays right now, this is also the time of the year for awards nominations,including the Grammy nominations which were announced last week.   For your listening pleasure, we have a goodcollection of the nominated titles available for you at Manhattan PublicLibrary.
The two most prominent performers that you’ll be hearingabout are Adele and Bruno Mars.  Adele isa British singer classified as Pop, although her album 21 exhibits influencefrom blues, gospel and even country. Also classified as Pop, Mars’ album doo-wops & hooligans carriesstrains of Reggae, R&B, soul, and hip hop.
The Best Pop Duo category has some genre-crossing songs, aswell.  “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster thePeople is on the album Torches which is also nominated in the BestAlternative Album category.  A tributealbum called Rave On Buddy Holly includes “Dearest” performed by The BlackKeys.  Other nominated Pop albums you cangrab at the library are Teenage Dream by Katy Perry, Born This Way by LadyGaga, Loud by Rihanna, The Road From Memphis by Booker T. Jones, and The Gift by Susan Boyle who rose to world-wide fame after a TV appearance on “Britain’s GotTalent.”
For those who want their music a bit more on the edge, checkout Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons, a London indie rock quartet that strives tomake “music that matters, without taking themselves too seriously.”  Recorded entirely on analog, Wasting Lightby the Foo Fighters brings in 4 nominations.
If you like Rock, you might like this royal roundup: The King is Dead by The Decemberists, The King of Limbs by Radiohead, and Come Around Sundown by the Kings of Leon. You might also enjoy the Alternative category nominations Codes and Keys by Death Cab for Cutie and Circuital by My Morning Jacket.
The highlighted R&B albums are Love Letter by R.Kelly, which pays tribute to Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke and F.A.M.E. by ChrisBrown, which includes collaborations with Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne andothers.  Also in the R&B category is theBob Marley cover “Is This Love” from Corinne Bailey Rae’s album The Love EP,Raphael Saadiq’s “Good Man” from his album Stone Rollin’, and El DeBarge’s Second Chance, which he describes as his “spiritual memoir”.
Moving into rap, we have Lasers by Lupe Fiasco, which hecalls “an album with a mission.”  WizKhalifa’s debut album, Rolling Papers has songs that were nominated for bothBest Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. A nomination for Best Rap/Sung collaboration comes from the ever-popularBeyoncé along with André on her album 4.
Going in a completely different direction, the Countrynominations are led by recent Country Stampede performer Blake Shelton’s Red River Blue and Taylor Swift’s entirely self-composed album, Speak Now withnominations also for My Kinda Party by Jason Aldean, Play On by CarrieUnderwood, Blessed by Lucinda Williams and Own the Night by LadyAntebellum.  The group Civil Wars appearsin both Country and Folk categories for their album Barton Hollow.  In other Folk nominations, we have SteveEarle’s tribute to Townes Van Zandt entitled I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, Helplessness Blues by the Fleet Foxes, and The Harrow & the Harvest by Gillian Welch.  InBluegrass we have Paper Airplane by Alison Krauss and Rare Bird Alert bySteve Martin, yes that SteveMartin.  Remember the banjo he often usedin his comedy?  Now we get to hear thefull range of his talents.
Starting off our Blues category is husband/wife teamTedeschi Trucks Band with their album Revelator, followed by Gregg Allman’s Low Country Blues and Warren Haynes’ Man in Motion.  Rounding things out with a bit of Jazz is Bird Songs by Us Five.
Quite a list and there’s still time to listen before theawards are given!  Stop by and we’ll behappy to assist you.  Or you can alwayscheck our online catalog to see what’s  available or to place a hold on an itemthat’s currently checked-out.  If youjust like to see what new music we have, there is always a list on the frontpage, “Library Info” tab, of the catalog.

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

Books for Wonderstruck Readers

>Library column printed in The Mercury, December 4, 2011

When kids start reading longer novels, many are captivated by the magical qualities they can experience through the pages of a book. This is not a new phenomenon, considering children’s classics like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), to name just a couple. Luckily for our kids, children’s book authors continue to combine magical adventures and imaginative plots with skillful writing, creating avid young readers who clamor for more. Here are few titles that might top the list this year:

In Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier, Peter is a blind orphan who works for a cruel master. He has enhanced senses to make up for his loss of sight, which have helped him become a stealthy, skilled thief. One day he steals a mysterious box from a charismatic haberdasher, but the contents of the box are puzzling – just six strange little eggs. When he cracks the eggs open, he finds the yolks are inedible, but they feel powerful to Peter. Finally, in a moment of realization, Peter recognizes the yolks as eyes! “Ever so gently, he slipped the two eyes into his sockets. He blinked. And just like that, Peter Nimble vanished into thin air.” Thus his great adventure begins.

Auxier’s debut novel reminds me a bit of Baum’s Wizard of Oz. Peter picks up some eclectic friends along the way (including a part-cat, part-horse knight, Sir Tode), and these characters help him as much as he helps them. Like Dorothy and her cohorts, they encounter a number of extreme environments, going from a vast ocean with giant fish to an endless desert run by ruthless ravens to the inner walls of a clockwork castle. References to age-old nursery rhymes are scattered throughout, as in the name “Nimble” and a rock shaped like a teapot, giving the book a fairytale quality. If originality is what you crave, you will not be disappointed. Watch the enticing book trailer or read the first chapter on Auxier’s website, thescop.com.

Another fantasy that spins off the fairytale world is Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. The title invites readers to conjure up images of Hansel and Gretel escaping the woods, but the plot is more centered on Hans Christian Andersen’s haunting tale, The Snow Queen. I haven’t finished this novel yet, but I am intrigued by the connections between the stories main character Hazel reads and tells, and the way pieces of these tales come alive in her world that is otherwise grounded in harsh reality. Will Hazel become the heroine needed in her story, like the ones she admires in Narnia and The Golden Compass? Kids who have read a lot will appreciate Hazel’s references throughout to many children’s books, from A Wrinkle in Time to Coraline.

No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko is told from alternating viewpoints of three siblings: India, the annoyed fashion-minded teenager; Finn, the responsible worrywart brother; and Mouse, the super intelligent youngest sister. Everything makes sense at the beginning. The children’s mother reveals that their house is going to be taken by the bank, and the children must go live with their uncle. After a bout of turbulence on the plane ride, the story takes a surreal turn. The children exit the aircraft to find they have mysteriously landed in “Falling Bird” instead of Denver. Their taxi is “shocking pink with silky white feathers,” the driver turns out to be a kid with a fake mustache, and it feels as though they are flying through clouds instead of traveling on roads. However strange this seems, the ride is warm and comfy, lulling the children to sleep.

When they wake up, they find that Falling Bird is rather well-prepared for their arrival, greeting them with signs of “We love you, India,” and “Mouse is our favorite.” In fact, everything in Falling Bird seems to be a dream come true for each child. But maybe it’s a little too good. Finn is the first to notice that something is off kilter, and staying in Falling Bird might be a detrimental decision. The question is, how do you leave a place if you don’t know how you go there? A surprising twist at the end kept me thinking about this story long after I finished.

Finally, an excellent new novel-picture book by the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret (soon to be released as a movie) is Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. It is not a fantasy per se, but certain coincidences in the plot have a magical edge to them. Twelve-year-old Ben’s life has gone a little haywire since his mother was killed in a car accident and a freaky lightning storm causes him to go totally deaf. Meanwhile, Selznick weaves in a story that takes place 50 years earlier, involving another deaf child, Rose, and her desire to explore New York City. Like Hugo Cabret, this 637-page book is filled with more than 450 pages of black and white sketches that tell much of the story through pictures. Ben’s journey leads him to the American Museum of Natural History, where he stumbles upon a new friend and a place to hide out while he discovers the secrets of his past. Rose emerges, too, with her own masterpiece to share.

Enjoy settling in with a cup of hot cocoa and any of these marvelous adventures to add a little magic to your reading this winter.

Review by Jennifer Adams

Posted in: Children's Dept, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

What’s New in Downloadable Content?

Sunflower E-Library: A New Downloading Experience

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director and Marcia Allen, Technical Services & Collection Manager
ManhattanPublic Library
Why is the downloading option ending at Manhattan PublicLibrary on Monday, December 5th?
Because ofchanges and increased rates for the state-wide consortium, the  currentdownloading option is ending. Unfortunately, any requests that you may have inplace will disappear along with the old platform.  Currently, the state is in theprocess of building the  OneClickDigitalservice for audiobooks, as well as the 3MCloud Library service for ebooks.  Oncethese services are in place, borrowerswill be able to follow links from the library website to browse and checkouttitles.
Are there other options offered through the library?
Beginning on Monday, November 28th,those who prefer reading devices can download ebooks from thelibrary.  MPL is now a part of theSunflower eLibrary Consortium, a cooperative effortamong several Kansaslibraries that enables participantsto share the same platform as well as purchased titles.
What about all the different devices that readers might use?
Most of thetitles are available in epub format.  Thatwill allow users to manage a varietyof different devices with the same process. In addition, most titles will download onKindle devices with the same quick results.
How can I register for the Sunflower eLibrary service?
You musthave a Manhattan Public Library card and pin number to use this collection.  Then you can begin borrowing items andplacing holds on the contentsthat you desire.
What kinds of limits are there?
 Readers canborrow five titles at a time and place as many as seven requests onitems that are unavailable.  There arealso checkout period limitations. Borrowerscan determine at the time of checkout whether they wish to borrow for seven or fourteen days.  Readers can also opt to return items early sothat others may usethem.  Our goal is to make titlesavailable to readers as quickly as possible.
Is this just available for adults?
At thistime, we have several young adult and children’s titles available.  As the collectioncontinues to grow, we will add more content.
What about audiobooks? I prefer them to ebooks.
Again, thestate has contracted with Recorded Books to provide audiobooks for readers whoprefer to listen.  That collection willalso have a wide range of titlesthat can be downloaded on a portable device. Readers will go to OneClickDigitalto register and begin the borrowing process.
Can I use my Manhattanlibrary card to gain access to the state’s audiobooks?
Readersmust have a Kansas Library Card (available at MPL) to register.
For those contemplating thepurchase of an ebook reader or listening device, there are plenty of resourcesfor nice, new titles at the library.  Andwe will continue to refresh the collection, adding new materials as we areable.  List of upcoming titles will allowus to keep informed of new possibilities.
            As the holidays near, it might be agreat time to expand your electronic holdings and venture into newformats.  Not sure which device topurchase?  It’s up to you and your needs.  Most of what we have selected is compatiblewith Nooks, Kindles and ipads, as well as other selected devices.  There are many website that review portabledevices.  Take a look at e-Book Reader 2011 at http://ebook-reader-review.toptenreviews.com/,for example, or 2011 Tablets ProductComparisons at http://tablets-review.toptenreviews.com.   For a more comprehensive review source,check out the
Ultimate Tablet ReviewComparison Guide, http://www.groovypost.com/howto/review/the-ultimate-tablet-review-comparison-guide-matrix/.  You might also take a look at the article ontablets, e-book readers, and smart phones in the December issue of Consumer Reports, available at thelibrary.
            Look forthese new services on the library’s web page www.manhattan.lib.ks.us beginningMonday, November 28th.

Posted in: For Adults, For Kids, For Teens, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

Great Gift Books (for Yourself or Others)

    Just in time for gift-giving or your own reading wish list, there are great new books out for the winter holiday season.  You can find books for almost everyone, no matter their taste or interest, and you can also look forward to your own hibernation reading when the holiday bustle is over.  Here are some non-fiction picks for good winter reading from Manhattan Public Library.
            Deadline Artists: America’s Greatest Newspaper Columns edited by John Avlon, Jesse Angelo, and Errol Louis.  This anthology of great American writing is enthralling reading for lovers of history, politics,current affairs, and the art of journalism. It features selections on war, humor, crime, sports, politics, hard times, and civil rights from an overflowing wealth of writers – William Allen White, Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass, Damon Runyon, Dorothy Thompson, H. L.Mencken, Langston Hughes, Ernie Pyle, Will Rogers, Red Smith, Jimmy Cannon,Mike Royko, George Will, Maureen Dowd, William F. Buckley, Jimmy Breslin, DaveBarry, Molly Ivins, Mike Barnicle, Anna Quindlen, Carl Hiaasen, Peggy Noonan,Walter Winchell, Erma Bombeck, Pete Dexter, Cynthia Tucker, Steve Lopez  – to name just a fraction.  I couldn’t put it down.
            Heartland: The Cookbookby Judith Fertig.  Beautiful photographs,interesting narrative, and recipes featuring Midwest regional ingredientsdistinguish this scrumptious coffee table cookbook by a Kansas author.  Baked Eggs with Prosciutto and AsiagoCream?  Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie?  Grilled Duck Breast with Wild Rice-DriedCherry Pilaf?  Oh, yeah.
           The Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard. The short presidency of James Garfield in 1881, seemingly a footnote inhistory, in fact came at a key time for the United States, and the era comesvividly to life in this lively and entertaining book.  Written as a suspense-filled historical taleof crime, medicine, scientific invention, and politics during the post-CivilWar era, this book is drawing rave reviews.
            100 Yards of Glory: The Greatest Moments in NFL History by Joe Garner and Bob Costas.  If you have a football fan on your gift list,this compendium from writer Garner and broadcaster Costas is a sure winner,covering the most memorable games, plays, coaches, and players in nearly 100years of NFL history.  Great photos,great writing and analysis, AND it comes with a video!
            The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt.Newly-announced winner of the 2011 National Book Award, this page-turnercombines history, biography, philosophy, and theology to describe how the 14thcentury re-discovery and translation of a forgotten ancient manuscriptinfluenced the thinkers of the day and set in motion the massive cultural“swerve” we now know as the Renaissance.
           The Ecstasy of Defeat: Sports Reporting at its Finest from the editors of The Onion.  Another wonderful, raw, and hilariouslysatirical look at the American way of life from the wildly offbeat “news”website TheOnion.com.  When the coverboasts headings like “Creepy Lifeguard Turns out to be Nine-Time Olympic Gold MedalistMark Spitz” you know you’ve stumbled into another adventure in irreverence, inthe same vein as the Onion’s previous bestseller, Our Dumb World.
            Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie.  Massie, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra,and The Romanovs, has created anothermasterful portrait of a captivating character in Russian history.  A poor princess from an obscure Germanprincipality, Catherine married into the Romanov dynasty at age fourteen.  Ambitious, determined, and shrewd, she roseto become Empress, brought the Enlightenment to Russia, and improved the lives ofher people dramatically.  A woman ofgreat courage, intelligence, passion, and ruthlessness, Catherine led afascinating life.
            Martha Stewart’s Handmade Holiday Crafts: 225 Inspired Projects for Year-Round Celebrations  Withthe beautiful illustrations and creativity that are Martha Stewart trademarks,this book is chock full of unique craft and entertainment ideas for celebratingholidays throughout the year.  A surewinner for Stewart fans.
           Inside Pee-Wee’s Playhouse: The Untold, Unauthorized, and Unpredictable Story of a Pop Phenomenon by Caseen Gaines. Okay, boys and girls, for fans of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, today’s secretword is FUN!  An entertaining andnostalgic look back at the wildly-popular 1980s character and creative andground-breaking TV series.  “This book isso good, you’ll want to marry it!”
by Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Have Some Fun in Our Room

>Library Column printed in The Mercury, November 13, 2011

Each year, the State Library of Kansas and the Kansas Center for the Book designate a week in November to focus on the benefits of reading aloud to young children. Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week begins today, and it’s easy to participate. Grab a book and your favorite toddler or preschooler and have a rollicking good reading time.

The featured book for Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week is a beloved alphabet book written in 1989 by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. The rhythm and rhyme of the story makes it a wonderful chant, and the little alphabet letters climbing up the coconut tree have personalities all their own with colorful illustrations by Lois Ehlert. The book was chosen to honor Bill Martin, Jr., a Kansan who grew up in Hiawatha and attended college in Emporia, which ties into the yearlong celebration of Kansas’s Sesquicentennial. Martin passed away in 2004, but he left behind a legacy of amazing children’s books, including Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Knots on a Counting Rope.

Manhattan Public Library is celebrating Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week in several special ways. First, the Manhattan Library Association, our friends group, provided funds to purchase paperback copies of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom that were delivered to more than 100 local daycares, preschools and child care centers by Marsha Tannehill and staff at Child Care Aware and Smart Start. We will also give the book to children who attend our storytimes November 14-19. We will read Bill Martin, Jr. books at the November 18 ZOOfari Tails at 10:00, including Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Barn Dance and Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Claflin Books‘ staff will be on hand with Bill Martin books for sale, so you can start your holiday shopping at the program.

We have also created an “early literacy” station in the Children’s Room that will be set up when we are not using the storytime space for programs. The activities in this area feature Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and they encourage children to develop early literacy skills. Johnson County Library refers to these skills as “6 by 6” because “researchers have identified 6 important pre-reading skills that children need to know before they learn to read – around the age of 6.” The skills are not really anything new, and most parents and teachers will find they are already doing all of them with their toddlers and preschoolers:

  1. Print motivation, which simply means that children have fun with books. From bedtime stories to visits to the library, parents and other adults can make sure all children have positive experiences with books and reading.
  2. Print awareness, which occurs when children notice print all around them, from street signs to cereal boxes. Pointing out words and letters to children helps them understand that these lines and symbols create words and have meaning.
  3. Vocabulary, which increases greatly if parents talk to their children a lot, read books aloud, and explain what new words mean instead of choosing a more simple word.
  4. Narrative skills are a child’s ability to tell stories. This starts at a very young age when babies babble using the inflection of an adult’s storytelling voice and continues as preschoolers learn how to tell us what they did during the day, retell a story, or even make up a story from their imagination.
  5. Letter knowledge includes recognizing specific letters of the alphabet, but it also starts at a young age when toddlers learn to distinguish and name the different shapes. As they grow older, children can look for the letters in their name or play “Letter Day” games where they look for everything they can find that begins with a certain sound or letter.
  6. Phonological awareness, a fancy word for recognizing rhyming words and hearing the different sounds within words, is a fun skill to work on. Sing songs together, recite nursery rhymes, play word games, and try clapping or drumming the rhythm to songs and chants.

Celebrate reading to preschoolers with us this week. Have some fun at the library using our magnet board, homemade drums, and puzzle rhymes to practice 6 by 6 skills. Then share a great book like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom or one of your own favorites with a preschooler in your life, and know that you have played an important role in that child’s journey to success.

Posted in: Children's Dept, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

Thanksgiving Has a Tasty History to Feast On

            The fall holiday season is upon us, with Halloween past and Thanksgiving coming up.  I like Thanksgiving; for a holiday, it’s straightforward and uncomplicated.  Simply put, we take time off from our daily preoccupations to recognize and give thanks for our blessings.  Compared to some other holidays (I’m talking about you, Christmas!), it’s relatively free of the labor-intensive traditions, frenetic activities, and crippling expenditures that can get in the way of enjoyment, not to mention spiritual gratification.  Granted, Thanksgiving can be trying in its own way.  When organizing festive family gatherings, there’s always a risk of logistical chaos and inter-personal drama,and, what with prodigious food preparation and consumption followed by hours ofdigestive recovery and kitchen clean-up, it can all overwhelm and exhaust.  But the day can also be celebrated with a simple shared meal, quiet reflection and rest, even solitude or a private getaway, and when it all comes together well, Thanksgiving can be personally meaningful and spiritually strengthening.
            The story of the first Thanksgiving does have its own traditional baggage, though, a mythology rooted in history but grown over the centuries to barely resemble the actual events.  It’s a reassuring and cherished story, but, as is nearly always the case with history, the truth turns out to be far more complicated and vastly more interesting than the myth.  This year, as part of your celebration of the season, pick up one of the following books that illuminate the real story of the Mayflower Pilgrims and expand our understanding of our country’s complicated, fascinating history.
            Mayflower:a story of courage, community, and war by Nathaniel Philbrick details the history of the Pilgrims as Separatists in England and as religious refugees in Holland, then follows their voyage on the Mayflower, chronicles the settlement and early years of the Plymouthcolony, and examines relations between European settlers and  Native Americans.  Philbrick adds depth to what we know of familiar historical figures like William Bradford, Chief Massasoit, Squanto, Miles Standish, Priscilla Mullins, John Alden, Edward Winslow, and numerous secondary characters, revealing unexpected and surprising historical details.
            In Makinghaste from Babylon:the Mayflower Pilgrims and their world, another richly-detailed historic overview, author and Englishman Nick Bunker writes about the Mayflower Pilgrimsas Englishmen themselves and places them in the context of the political world in which they lived.  An exhaustively detailed recounting of the first years of settlement, this book, according to Publishers Weekly, “scoops up every relevant character and links all to the basic tale of indomitable courage, religious faith, commercial ambition, international rivalry, and domestic politics.”
            If you only have time for a short read and want a more condensed recounting of the story of the Mayflower Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, Glenn Alan Cheney has hit the high points and given a broad overview in his well-researched and organized history of 1620-1621, Thanksgiving: the Pilgrims’ first year in America.  An easily-read and enjoyable page-turner, it is nevertheless written in evocative, descriptive prose.  As one reviewer said, the book is “full of surprising information, and sympathetic to the humanity of all the participants.” 
            TheMayflower Papers: selected writings of colonial New England edited by Nathanieland Thomas Philbrick is a compilation of 17th century primary source material about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower voyage, and the founding of the Plymouth colony.  It contains Of Plymouth Plantation by Governor William Bradford, the seminal first-person account of the founding of the settlement.  Written in the Elizabethan English of the times, it is not easy reading but is a detailed,emotional recounting of an enterprise that took immense courage, devotion, and fortitude.  In addition, this anthology contains Mourt’s Relation, an account of the colony’s first year in New England which relates the celebration of the first Thanksgiving in autumn 1621, and Good News from New England, a continuation of the history, both byEdward Winslow.
            The Timesof Their Lives: life, love, and death in Plymouth Colony by leading Plymouth archaeologist James Deetz is a social history that is especially strong in its descriptions of the daily lives and society of the colony. Drawing on the archaeological evidence, it touches on crime, food, sex,legalities, and material culture, and upends many of our misconceptions about Pilgrim society.
            Two out standing video documentaries of the Mayflower journey, Plymouth settlement, and the first Thanksgiving are: Desperate crossing: the untold story of the Mayflower, an A&E presentation from 2007; and We shall remain: America through native eyes:Disc 1 Massasoit, part of a 2009 PBS series.

by Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →
Page 78 of 79 «...5060707576777879