Same story, different cover

By Emilyn Linden
<style="font-family: new="" roman",serif;"="" times,"times="">Adult Services Librarian

It’s a popular belief that there are no new stories, only different ways of telling them. And sometimes that isn’t such a bad thing. The old myths and fairy tales became popular for a reason. They are stories that tell us about people’s deepest desires and fears. Retellings of the old myths and fairy tales go in and out of style periodically. This is one of those periods of popularity, and there have been some recent imaginative, worthwhile retellings.

If you’re interested in reading retellings by some of the best writers currently writing fantasy, horror, and young adult fiction, you’ll want to pick up Happily Ever After, an anthology of 33 myth and fairy tale retellings from the past two decades. Some of the authors included are Susanna Clarke, Gregory Maguire, Kelly Link, Garth Nix and Holly Black.

A new book that came out in February of this year that has received a lot of attention is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. The novel is based on the Russian folk tale, transplanted to 1920s Alaska. Jack and Mabel are a childless couple who move to Alaska from Pennsylvania to start over after a heartbreaking miscarriage. After two years they are each slowly succumbing to despair. To distract themselves from their worries one evening, they build a girl out of snow. The next day the snow girl is gone and Jack sees a real, seemingly feral, child running in the woods.

Another book set in the winter but meant for middle-grade readers, is Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. Jack and Hazel have been best friends for five years, so when Jack suddenly stops talking to Hazel, she’s devastated. We find out a shard of magic mirror has made its way into Jack’s heart, and he later disappears without a trace. Hazel must brave the cold Minnesota winter and enter the woods to find her friend. This imaginative tale contains many allusions to beloved children’s stories from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to A Wrinkle in Time.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer is meant for teenage readers, but it’s proved very popular with adults, too. This may be because the title character, Cinder, is a cyborg mechanic who has a hopeless romantic of an android for a sidekick. Cinder is a second-class citizen, as are all cyborgs, in this futuristic retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale. Cinder lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters and supports her family through her work as a mechanic. Her reputation reaches Prince Kai, the heir to the throne, who brings her an android to repair.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman is not a new novel. It originally came out in 2001, but a new, enhanced edition came out in 2011. This is a novel about the complex religious and mythological heritage of America and is, therefore, complex and meandering itself. Shadow is released a few days early from prison when his wife dies in a car accident. He accepts a job from Mr. Wednesday, a former god, and embarks on a trip across America, where he encounters the old gods and creatures of myth immigrants brought with them to the United States. If you’ve read American Gods before, it’s probably worth it to pick it up again, since the 10th Anniversary edition has a new introduction and contains Gaiman’s preferred text.

The end of the world seems like a good place to end this list. In Norse mythology, the end of the world comes with the deaths of the gods and the world being squeezed by a serpent that has grown so large she encircles the world and crushes it. Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt takes this story and presents it through the eyes of a young girl living through World War II who has been presented with a book of the Norse myth Asgard and the Gods.

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The Cure for the Downton Abbey Blues

by Susan Withee
Adult Services Manager

If you’re one of the millions of viewers of the PBS Masterpiece series Downton Abbey, no doubt you’re feeling the first pangs of loss on the brink of tonight’s second-season finale.  Downton Abbey is an award-winning, lavishly-detailed period production and costume drama which has a stellar cast and a legion of fans.  The series’ first season opens in Edwardian England in 1912 at Downton Abbey, a stately English country house, and follow the lives of the wealthy Crawley family and their servants as the clouds of World War I loom and break.   Season two takes the story through the upheaval and tragedy of the war back to peacetime, but to a world where personal relationships, social structures, and politics have all been irrevocably altered.  Although season three is in production, scheduled to air first in Britain in autumn 2012 and later in the U.S, the coming months will be a long, long wait for diehard fans.  But it’s my happy task to tell you that Manhattan Public Library has plenty of diversions to help get you through the coming Downton-Abbey-less months.
Firstly, if you’ve missed out on the series so far, you have plenty of time to catch up, starting with Downton Abbey’s first season on DVD and moving on to season two, both now at Manhattan Public Library.  There is also a companion book to the series, The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes, filled with photographs and illustrations, production sketches and research.   Downton Abbey was filmed at Highclere Castle, the real-life ancestral home of the Earls of Carnarvon, and screenwriter Julian Fellowes drew inspiration from the history of the great home and the life of Almina, the Countess of Carnarvon during the same time period.  Read more about the Almina’s life and times and the history of the castle, including its use as a wartime hospital, in Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: the Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Fiona, current Countess Carnarvon.  Downton Abbey fans can also check out Below Stairs: the Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir that Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey by Margaret Powell, a book which rocketed to best-seller status in the UK following the airing of Downton Abbey.
While you’re waiting for DA season three, why not revisit that other classic PBS series focusing on the intertwined lives of the upper class and the servant class, Upstairs, Downstairs?  The library has all five seasons of the series, which originally aired in the 1970s and enjoyed an audience of nearly one billion viewers in over 40 countries.  Also set during the Edwardian Age, Upstairs, Downstairs takes place in a large London townhouse, home to the wealthy Bellamy family.  In its entirety, the combined seasons of this series offer an intimate view of the lives of both masters and servants from 1903 to 1930, as well as a panoramic overview of the social and technological changes taking place during those years.

For a different and highly-entertaining twist on life in a great English country house, check out the 2001 Robert Altman film, mystery-drama-comedy Gosford Park.  This time landed gentry, their upstairs guests, and the downstairs servants gather for a “shooting party” in 1932 and are joined by members of the local village police constabulary as mayhem, drama, and high-jinks ensue.  In addition to the interdependence of privileged and servant classes, the film subtly explores changing sexual mores of the time and the impact of the First World War.  With a script by Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes, the film features a large ensemble cast that includes the indomitable Maggie Smith as well as Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Gambon, Stephen Fry, Derek Jacobi, Clive Owen, Alan Bates, and others.
Or look for Flambards, another great series on DVD at the library, which was based on the novels of  K. M. Peyton and originally aired on PBS in 1980.  Orphaned heiress Christina Parsons is sent to live with her tyrannical, bitter Uncle Russel and his two sons at their neglected and decaying country estate, Flambards. Speculation is that Russell plans to marry her to brutal, fox-hunting-obsessed son Mark and then use her inheritance to restore Flambards and the family’s finances.   Christina, however, befriends second son, William, who is involved with early experiments in flight, hoping to become an aviator.
And finally, treat yourself to John Galsworthy’s absorbing, monumental work (in print or on DVD), The Forsyte Saga, which chronicles the lives and trials of generations of the upper-middle-class Forsyte family from 1906 into the 1920s.

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Party, Party, Party!

>Library column printed in The Mercury, February 12, 2012

I am sure “party” is not the first word that comes to mind when thinking of libraries, but we like to break out of the mold sometimes. We have parties and programs for kids and teens this month, so don’t be surprised if you smell yummy food or hear distant music and laughter while you are passing through.

Our ten weekly storytimes started in January, averaging about 20 children at each session. Last week, we added another option – Spanish Storytime! Marisol Teran-Apadaca from the Bebe Language Academy will be presenting these bilingual storytimes every month on the 2nd Friday and Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Spanish storytimes will feature picture books read in both English and Spanish, interspersed with traditional rhymes and songs. Spanish speaking families are encouraged to come, as well as children who do not know any Spanish. Last Friday and Saturday, Ms. Marisol read Biscuit/Bizcocho, Wiggle/A Tu Ritmo, and Good Boy, Fergus/Muy Bien Fergus. Join us again March 9-10 for Spanish and English zoo stories, including an all-time favorite: Brown Bear, Brown Bear/Oso Pardo, Oso Pardo.

We celebrated Chinese New Year on Friday afternoon when USD 383 kids were out of school. Children who came to the “Year of the Dragon” party led a Dragon Parade through the library, ending with party “poppers,” and participated in a “Sweep out the Bad Luck” broom relay. The group made cool crafts such as Chinese lanterns, good luck Kanji, lucky money envelopes, and dragons. Children’s librarian Melendra Sutliff-Sanders came up with the idea for this party because “it’s a celebration that is fun to all different cultures and, at the same time, exposes kids who are not from China to some important traditions of another society.”

We will continue celebrating the year of the dragon at the library with our newest early literacy station activities. These simple games and puzzles are designed to go with the picture book Dragon Dancing by Carole Lexa Schaefer, and they are available for young children to play with in the Children’s Room for the next six weeks. Create an alphabet dragon on our magnet board, make new poems with alliterative action words from the book (like “slip-sliding” and “mish-mooshing”), or don a mask and scarf to perform a dragon dance.

More days off from school this week may leave some kids (and parents) looking for free entertainment. Make your way to the library on Thursday afternoon for our “Origami Yoda” Party. For those of you who don’t know, Tom Angleberger’s hilarious children’s novel, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, has been on the New York Times bestseller list, along with the sequel, Darth Paper Strikes Back. Fans of the popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are eating up this new, silly series about sixth graders who begin to believe the weird kid’s origami Star Wars finger puppet can actually predict their futures and provide wise advice. Kids who come to our party on February 16 at 2:00 will get to make their own origami characters and Star Wars masks and participate in some fun games. Children’s librarian Jessica Long adds that “Someone will get to destroy the Death Star piñata!” A couple of lucky kids will get to take home a prize book, too. Following the party, the library will show an animated movie following the adventures of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Count Dooku.

Friday is our kids’ Wii Play Day from 2:00-3:30, recommended for ages 5 and up. We will have two Wii stations with games projected onto big screens. Kids can sign up when they arrive for a spot to play Smurf Dance Party or Mario & Sonic Olympic Winter Games. Staff and volunteers will be on hand to make sure all kids get a chance to play, and parents are asked to stay with children under age 8. Teens can play Wii games at the monthly “Last Tuesday Gaming” in the Groesbeck Room on February 28, 4:00-6:00.

Speaking of teens, young adult librarian Janene Hill has planned an interesting and tasty event for kids in middle school and high school on Saturday, February 18, at 2:00: Microwave Experimentation! Do you know what happens when a frozen grape or bar of soap gets nuked? You’ve heard you should never put aluminum foil in the microwave, but have you ever seen what it looks like? Join us at the library to see what we can light up, fire up, and melt down with several interesting experiments, followed by yummy microwave snacks (not made in the same microwaves).

You can support teen programming at the library by visiting the Teen Library Advisory Board’s bake sale on Saturday, March 3, from 10:00-2:00. Eat your baked goodies while you browse for cheap books at our Friends Group’s Annual Book Sale that day. Book sale proceeds and other donations help fund our fun programs and parties, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

By Jennifer Adams

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All in the Family of Authors

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree; sometimes literary talent doesn’t either.  Consider the Bronte family. Most people have heard of the sisters: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. Charlotte is best known for Jane Eyre, with its portrayal of a strong, rational female character (which was something new at the time). Charlotte published under the pen name Currer Bell.

Emily Bronte’s only novel, Wuthering Heights, the story of the doomed love of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, was met with mixed reviews on publication. It provided a stark depiction of mental and physical cruelty. It’s not surprising that Emily also published under a pseudonym, Ellis Bell.

Anne, the youngest sister, wrote two novels. Agnes Grey, dealing with the oppression of women and governesses, was an autobiographical novel paralleling Anne’s own experience as a governess. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, with its depictions of alcoholism and debauchery disturbed the sensibilities of nineteenth-century readers.

The Bronte sisters were not the only gifted members of their family. Their brother, Branwell, was also a poet and artist. The head of the family, Patrick Bronte, an Anglican curate, was a published poet, as well as contributor to a biography of his daughter, Charlotte. Tragically, the father of the Bronte clan survived all his children.

The twentieth century is also replete with writing families. Stephen King, the master of horror, is married to Tabitha King, author of several novels including Caretakers, The Book of Reuben, and Candles Burning. The writing talent doesn’t stop there. The King’s sons are also writers. Joe Hill has published several graphic novels, the horror novel Heart-Shaped Box (a chip off the old block), and the dark fantasy Horns, as well as a collection of stories 20th Century Ghosts. His younger brother, Owen King, is the author of a book of stories We’re All in This Together and has recently sold his first novel to Scribner’s.

John Steinbeck, winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature, and author of such American classics as The Grapes of Wrath, and East of Eden is the father of Thomas Steinbeck. Thomas is the author of Down to the Soundless Sea, In the Shadow of the Cypress, and the forthcoming Silver Lotus. Much like his father’s, Thomas Steinbeck’s books chronicle events of California life.

Sons aren’t only following in their fathers’ footsteps; sometimes they’re following in their mothers’. Sandra Brown, well known and prolific author of mysteries and romance novels (Lethal, Chill Factor, Thursday’s Child) is the mother of Ryan Brown. The son has written a thriller entitled Play Dead, a zombie shocker combining football and the undead.

P. J. Tracy, author of the Monkeewrench series, is actually the pseudonym for the mother-daughter writing team of Patricia Lambrecht (Mom) and Traci Lambrecht. Titles in the series featuring the Monkeewrench crew of computer geeks include Shoot to Thrill, Snow Blind, and Dead Run.

Kellerman is a name well known to mystery aficionados. Jonathan Kellerman, whose Alex Delaware series includes When the Bough Breaks, Mystery, Bones, and Deception is married to Faye Kellerman. Faye is the author of the Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus series, including Sacred and Profane, Hangman, and The Mercedes Coffin. As a team, the husband and wife have collaborated on Capital Crimes and Double Homicide. As if this weren’t enough, the Kellermans’ son, Jesse, has written a few mystery/suspense titles himself, including The Executor, The Genius, and Trouble.

Want more? How about Frank Herbert, creator of the Dune series of science fiction novels? Frank’s son, Brian Herbert, took over the franchise after his father’s death. Kingsley Amis, English novelist, poet, and critic, author of Lucky Jim and The Anti-Death League, is the father of Martin Amis, author of The Pregnant Widow, Night Train, and other writings that explore the absurdities of the postmodern condition.

If you are interested in reading theses titles, or other titles by these authors, visit the Manhattan Public Library. Or, for your convenience, access the catalog from home twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Selected titles from many of these authors are also available in electronic format as e-books or e-audiobooks. Visit the library’s website at for more information.

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Life on the Edge: Smithsonian’s Mountaineers

By Marcia Allen
Technical Services and Collections Manager

Dorling Kindersley Publishing has long enjoyed a respected reputation for high quality books, particularly those with beautiful photography and interactive layout.  Each title seems to be an engrossing, all-encompassing tour of its topic, one which treats the reader to a visual feast.   Local readers may well be familiar with the lovely Eyewitness books that so many children love, or the Eyewitness travel books for adults that do so much more than simply describe a destination.
Fairly new to the library is one of the nicest books I have seen in the last year.  Mountaineers, which was sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, was written by Ed Douglas and polished by a team of consultants.  I invite you to browse this wonderful book; though you may have little interest in mountaineering, you will be stunned by the audacity and determination of the central characters.
There are excellent references to climbers of ancient times.  In 1991, for example, German hiker Helmut Simon was exploring the Italian-Austrian border with a friend.  To the dismay of the two men, they discovered a skull protruding from a shelf of ice.  They reported what they thought were recent remains of a lost hiker, but further research indicated the man to have lived during the Neolithic Age, some 5000 years earlier.  The man, called “Otzi the Iceman” by scientists, had died as the result of an arrow wound that caused massive internal bleeding.
The Japanese monk Kukai, born in 774, is one of the more unusual climbers mentioned in the book.  He ascended Mount Koya located near Osaka in 818 to begin work on a monastery designed for meditation.  Avid followers brought about a permanent Buddhist refuge that is still in use today.
Albert Frederick Mummery was an avid pioneer of alpinism during the 19th century.  Though dogged by childhood ailments, this determined Englishman climbed the Matterhorn at the age of eighteen and went on to espouse unguided climbing.  He even wrote a seminal memoir about climbing, entitled My Climbs in the Alps of Caucasus.  Like so many other enthusiasts of the sport, he disappeared during a climb, probably the victim of an avalanche.
Another equally famous climber, Charles Houston, is featured in the book.  Houston, a 20th century American physician, was involved with several climbs, among them two tries at scaling K2.  His failed attempts nearly caused his death, but they also brought about a greater good.  Houston wrote a book entitled Going Higher: Oxygen, Man and Mountains, that has been a valuable resource for other climbers, particularly on the subject of altitude sickness.
Women climbers are also prominently featured in this book.  Lucy Walker, for example, was the 19th century daughter of Francis Walker, a British advocate of the adventure of climbing.  Lucy suffered from rheumatism and sought relief from it by joining her father and brother in a trek through the Alps.  Taken by the beauty of her new sport, she went on to become the first woman to scale the Matterhorn.
Lest you think the book omits the most famous of the climbers, rest assured that George Mallory, Edmund Hillary, and Reinhold Messner are not forgotten.  Their stories, along with those of the many other successful , as well as tragic, climbers are highlighted by drawings,  photographs and maps that make each venture a treat for the reader.
Mountaineering gear featured in the book is absolutely fascinating.  The ergonomically designed 20th century crampons that replicate the shape of the foot are now standards for serious climbers.  But 16th century wood and rope boot attachments, designed to steady steps in the snow, are also pictured.  The climbing rope, another vital component of a successful ascent, is also explained.  Hawser ropes from the 17th century, as well as highly specialized ropes from the 21st century, are featured along a timeline that illustrates clever uses by famed explorers.
Beyond hiking up a couple of the Colorado Fourteeners with my family several years ago, I have never climbed a mountain.  Nor do I intend to.  But the breathtaking photographs and thrilling adventures stories will bring me back to this book again and again.  It’s that good.

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MLK, Jr. Art & Writing Contest Winners Chosen

By Janene Hill

Manhattan Public Library was honored again this year to host and help sponsor the Martin Luther King, Jr. Art and Writing Contest. This year’s contest garnered 150 entries, 64 artwork submissions and 86 written pieces.

With the theme “Looking Back, Looking Forward:  50 Years of Change”, this year’s entries acknowledge the importance of integration and cooperation as highlighted by Dr. King’s messages.

Submissions for the contest were accepted at Manhattan Public Library beginning in December, with judging taking place January 9.

Winning entries honor Dr. King and encourage us to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as we strive toward a brighter future in our community and world. All of the participants in this year’s contest understood the importance of Dr. King’s place in the world that still resonates throughout society today.

This year’s artwork came in the form of nail art, photography, chalk drawings, watercolor painting, and drawn artwork in pencil and crayon. Writing included a wide variety of formats including poetry, letters to Dr. King, creative writing pieces, and narratives.

Winning entries were displayed at Manhattan Town Center Mall during Martin Luther King Day activities, and are now on display at Manhattan Public Library (MPL) and on the library website, where they will remain for the next month. Several non-winning entries are also on display at the library in the Children’s Room.

With a grant from the Manhattan Fund of the Caroline F. Peine Foundation and matching funds from the The Gallery for Peace and Justice, along with other contributions, the contest committee is able to award over $1200 in prizes to this year’s winners.

Prizes included gift certificates from Varney’s and, for Best of Show winners, gift certificates from Manhattan Town Center Mall. They also received a book and bag from MPL and the Manhattan Library Association, t-shirts and certificates courtesy of HandsOn Kansas State, and a certificate of recognition from the MLK Art & Writing Contest Committee.

A huge thanks goes out to the Contest Committee Members and judges for this year’s contest. These individuals contribute valuable time and effort into making the contest a meaningful community event.

MLK Art & Writing Contest Committee Members include:  Jennifer Adams, Susan Withee, Laura Miles, and Janene Hill, all of MPL; and Cindy Burr, Director of the Gallery for Peace and Justice.

Judges for the 2012 contest included, writing judges:  Dr. Peter Pellegrin, Instructor of English at Cloud County Community College, Geary County Campus; Marcia Allen, Technical Services Manager at MPL; and John Pecararo, Assistant Director at MPL. Art judges were:  Jay Nelson, Director of the Strecker-Nelson Art Gallery; Amanda Hedrick, Education & Marketing Director at the Manhattan Arts Center; and Grace Benedick, a student at Kansas State University.

Award winners were invited to participate in two community ceremonies recognizing their achievement. The first was the “Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Celebration” sponsored by HandsOn Kansas State. Which took place on Sunday, January 15 at the KSU Leadership Studies building. The second took place during community MLK celebration at Manhattan Town Center Mall on Monday, January 16. Manhattan Mayor Jim Sherow announced the winners in the annual recognition ceremony.

Selected entries may be published or broadcast in or through local media outlets as schedules allow. Winning entries may also be used for development into greeting cards through The Gallery for Peace and Justice. More information is available through Cindy Burr at the Gallery. Last year’s winning art entries are currently available as note cards, on sale at all Varney’s locations.

MLK, Jr. Art and Writing Contest Winners

Best of Show:  Vonnie Neyhart (Adult)
First Place:
Grades K-2nd:  Ava Bahr, Manhattan Catholic School, first grade
Grades 3-5th:  Colin Hohenbary, Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School, third grade
Grades 6-8th:  Kaitlyn French and Nicki Keller, Amanda Arnold Elementary School, sixth grade
Grades 9-12th:  Heather Goodenow, Rock Creek High School, sophomore
Adult:  Mary Gordon, Kansas State University
Honorable Mentions:  Mason Camera, Manhattan Catholic School, fourth grade;  Jazmin Gantt, Lee Elementary School, third grade; and Erin Logan (Adult)

Best of Show:  Karis Ryu, Manhattan Catholic School, seventh grade
First Place:
Grades K-2nd:  Rachel Corn, Manhattan Catholic School, second grade
Grades 3-5th:  Elizabeth Hohn, Amanda Arnold Elementary School, fourth grade
Grades 6-8th:  Macie Frakes, Manhattan Catholic School, eighth grade
Adult:  Christy Sauer
Honorable Mentions:  Breigh Brockman, Manhattan Catholic School, second grade; and Carly Smith, Manhattan Catholic School, eighth grade

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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


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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.

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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

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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.

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