Posts Tagged fantasy

A Fable for Our Times: The Buried Giant

by Marcia Allen,  Collection Development

I just finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel, The Buried Giant, and I was stunned by the superb quality of the writing and the subtle levels of meaning within the story. I am sure that I will return to this book again and again, because I know I missed some of the nuances the author has so carefully woven throughout the story. This seemingly simple little tale has much that is hidden.

The story concerns Axl and Beatrice, an older Briton couple living in a rough village long after the fall of Rome, who have decided to attempt a walking journey to visit their son. The two are lovingly devoted to each other, and Axl always addresses his wife as “Princess.” But something is amiss: Despite their eagerness to visit their son, they have little memory of the boy and are not quite sure where he actually lives. Like everyone else in their village, their memories have been clouded by the presence of an obliterating mist.

Nevertheless, off they go on their quest during which they will have all kinds of adventures. Among other events, they will encounter ogres and mysterious boatmen. They will meet treacherous monks and hostile Saxons. They will encounter odd-behaving children and a slumbering dragon. As they travel, it becomes clear to the reader that the one constant in their lives is their love for each other.

Buried GiantLike the travelers of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, they are joined by others seeking their own quests. They meet Wistan, a well-trained Saxon knight, who seeks something that will change the course of British history. They meet Edwin, a young boy accompanying Wistan, who bears an unusual wound. And they meet Gawain, a knight once dedicated to the service of King Arthur, whose quest brings him into brutal conflict with that of Wistan.

So, what is this delightful book telling us about humanity? It says much about the nature of memory. While we readers are appalled that the main characters have forgotten their son and don’t recall much about their own lives, we soon realize that their failing is not their fault. As Axl grasps at shadowy recollections of his past experiences, we come to understand that there was a deliberate plan for mass forgetfulness, one that robs the soul of individual memory but also averts some of the evil in the world. If memory returns, so, too, will forgotten grudges and hurt feelings that have long been buried.

The book also has much to say about death and the way the dying are conveyed from life. Both Axl and Beatrice are frail older people, and this journey they have undertaken will bring terrible stress to them. Troubled by both rough terrain and terrifying creatures, they will struggle valiantly to complete their quest, discovering as they go that their beliefs about their lives are far from fact. The final passages of the book are a poignant reminder of the uncertainty of life and a testament to the ability of letting go.

To whom will this book appeal? To anyone who treasures tales of the distant past. To those who love a bit of fantasy in their stories. To folks who appreciate symbolic meaning in everyday events of ordinary people. To anyone who loves a story of exquisitely worded language. This book will appeal on many different levels, and readers lucky enough to sample it will surely feel that they have been enthralled by a master storyteller.


Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column, News

Leave a Comment (0) →

Harry Potter – Played Out or Prolific?

When I came to Manhattan Public Library in June 1999, a steady buzz was rippling around the community…and the world. It sounded like this: harrypotterharrypotterharrypotter. I did not realize at the time that I had entered my new career in children’s librarianship at a phenomenal turning point.  The Harry Potter craze that ensued has given way to other high profile adolescent bestsellers like “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games.”  This summer, we are celebrating the 15th anniversary of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, an interesting time to look back at how children’s literature has changed.

Dr. Karin Westman, K-State’s Department Head of English and Harry Potter scholar, says, “The success of the Harry Potter series reminds us that both children and adults enjoy long, complicated stories filled with complex characters who grapple with moral choices within a richly detailed setting. The series paved the way for a new age in children’s literature publishing, too: 400+ page books could become the norm, and midnight release parties could be part of a standard marketing campaign.”

Harry Potter opened the door for many adults to read a children’s book, something they may not have ever considered before, and also drew in people who had never been readers of fantasy.  As each Harry Potter novel got lengthier and more involved, young readers amazingly kept up with the challenging literature and formed book discussion groups, clubs and fan websites.

In 2013, does the legacy of Harry Potter live on?  While the buzz has died down considerably, our well-used copies of the seven book series at the library certainly do not show any signs of dust.  The movies produced by Warner Brothers kept interest up for many years, and the Harry Potter and Lego Harry Potter video games are quite popular. This summer, I noticed the Harry Potter books on our summer reading prize cart are still some of the most coveted prizes we give away.

Dr. Westman points out another interesting development.  “Even though the series is complete and films have been released, the Harry Potter phenomenon continues through charitable organizations like the Harry Potter Alliance, which channels the love fans have for Rowling’s series into social change. As the mission statement explains, HPA members seek to ‘destroy real-world horcruxes like inequality, illiteracy, and human rights violations,’ thanks to a staff of over 60 volunteers, more than 85 HPA chapters, and a network that reaches well over one million people across five continents.”

In Manhattan, the Children’s and Adolescent Literature Community (ChALC) and the K-State HPA chapter host an annual Hallows & Horcruxes Ball featuring bands named after characters or places from Rowling’s series. Proceeds from the concert are donated to First Book, which provides new books for children in need.

A new generation is being introduced to Harry Potter by their parents who felt its magic when they first read the books a decade or more ago.  In a few weeks, Scholastic will release new editions of the entire series, with brand new cover art and a promotional campaign to heighten interest once again.

We invite kids to join us for two Harry Potter Parties at the library this semester (We just couldn’t fit everything in to one!): August 27 at 4:30 and September 27 at 2:00.  Children’s librarian Chelsea Todd is helping plan the parties, which she says will “give our librarians the opportunity to promote and share their love for this series and their passion for reading with children who will make the same connections and find someone to relate to, whether it be a character in the books or new friends they meet who like Harry Potter, too.”

With decorations and props, kids at the library will get to enter Hogwarts with house colors and banners, an enchanted ceiling, wall portraits and quotes from the novels. Some activities planned for the events include meeting characters like Professor Snape and Luna Lovegood, attending favorite Hogwarts classes, making a wand or other crafts, exploring Diagon Alley and playing Harry Potter trivia. On September 27th, we will also show the first movie from the series on the big screen in our auditorium.

Reviewed by Jennifer Adams

Published in The Manhattan Mercury, Aug. 11, 2013

Posted in: Children's Dept, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

In Praise of One Writer’s Imagination

Marcia Allen
Technical Services & Collections Manager

He’s won more awards and honors than most people could ever imagine. Among those honors are a World Fantasy Award, a Nebula Award, a Carnegie Medal, a Hugo Award, a Newbery Medal, a Ray Bradbury Award, and multiple Locus awards. He’s also the recipient of an honorary doctorate from the University of the Arts (Philadelphia). Do you neil.gaimanknow who he is?
He began his writing career as a journalist who also had a particular talent for writing biographies. One of his early books traced the life of the colorful Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” He went on to develop a talent for penning graphic novels and made a name for himself when he wrote the famous “Sandman” series that earned distinction as the first graphic novel to win a World Fantasy Award.
That’s right: I’m talking about the prolific Neil Gaiman, author of both children’s and adult books, whose writing includes not only novels, but also graphic novels, picture books, short story collections, screenplays, and films. What makes his books intriguing is the fact that they never adhere to a single genre; instead, it is common for him to test the bonds of horror and fantasy with touches of humor in a single book.
TheGraveyardBook_Hardcover    If you are unfamiliar with Gaiman, “The Graveyard Book” is an excellent starting point.   This curious children’s book begins with a frightening scene during which a small boy witnesses the murders of the rest of his family. Miraculously, the little boy escapes the carnage and toddles to a graveyard nearby. The graveyard is not deserted.  In fact, it is inhabited by a whole community of benevolent ghosts who recognize the boy’s helplessness and vow to protect and raise him.  And so they do.  They assign him the name “Nobody” (“Bod”) and see to his needs, as they also prepare him for a life beyond the graveyard. A story that begins as horror but morphs into a unique take on compassion and love.
Another possible children’s choice: “Coraline,” an incredible tale of a mirrored universe accessed through a locked door in a young girl’s home. When young Coraline ventures into that other world, she discovers “other” parents who closely resemble her own, but there is something ominous about their black button eyes.  These parents aim to possess her forever and seem determined to prevent her from returning to her family. Coraline’s challenge, to recover the souls of other captured children and those of her parents, is sparked by a memory of her father’s devotion and love. Filled with magic and horror, this fairy tale features a most unusual wicked witch.
For those who would rather tackle an adult title, consider Gaiman’s skill with short fragile.thingsstories. “Fragile Things,” a collection of some thirty different tales, features stories and poems that vary from bleakly humorous to oddly disturbing. “Other People,” for example, is a brief little lesson that explores the nature of the afterlife in hell. The newly arrived learns what torture and self-realization are all about.  In “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” two young men make a late discovery that all is not what it seems. And “A Study in Emerald,” which was the recipient of a Hugo Award for best short story, is Gaiman’s wildly creative effort to thrust Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes into the world of H.P. Lovecraft.
Gaiman’s latest novel for adults is clearly among his -OceanLane-HC-c-1306211838_3_4_r537_c0-0-534-712better works.  “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” is a flashback that blends together magic, horror and epic confrontation with the forces of evil.  An unnamed man has returned to his childhood neighborhood to attend a funeral. While in the area, he locates a pond he remembers from a childhood adventure.  And so the flashback begins.  Memory tells him that as a young seven-year-old, he had become a conduit for the forces of evil.  Fighting that evil would have been impossible, but the boy had powerful allies in the gifted women of the Hempstock family, who sheltered him and unleashed benevolent forces at his behest.  A dreamy, eerie tale of discovery and courage.
Fortunately, the library has a large collection of Gaiman’s talented works.  If you have not already discovered these amazingly inventive stories, it’s time for a visit to Gaiman’s incredible worlds.

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

Some Humor for the End of Summer

index (53)It is the quietest time of year in Manhattan.  Most of the summer activities have come to an end and we still have some time before the energy of returning students and school starting up.  The recent heat has caused us all to be a bit wilted.  A good laugh can help you through the end-of-summer doldrums so you can be cheerful when all our new residents come pouring in.

You might have heard of Lisa Scottoline’s suspense novels.  What is less well known is that she partners with her daughter to write nonfiction that will crack you up.  Her latest, Best Friends, Occasional Enemies: the Lighter Side of Life as a Mother and Daughter talks about the close and challenging relationships in families, while making sure to see the humor in life.  Another nonfiction favorite is Bill Bryson, known best for his travel memoirs.  Whether he’s on a trip across the pond in Notes from a Small Island or traveling back in time with The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid Bryson’s work is known for causing annoyance to those near readers because of the constant chuckling and the repeated phrase “You’ve got to hear this.”

Romance is a genre ripe with scenarios of people making idiots of themselves for our reading enjoyment.  In Summer at Seaside Cove by Jacquie D’Alessandro, Jamie Newman escapes New York for the beach in an attempt to regroup after a failed relationship, only to face a run-down shack, an ever-present family, and a difficult (but of course attractive) neighbor/landlord.  The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig takes us back to the French Revolution with the story of Amy Balcourt.  Amy heads out to France with hopes to become a spy with the league of the Purple Gentian.  Secrets, misunderstandings, and clumsy spying attempts don’t bode well for her career, but the Purple Gentian finds that he wants her close by anyway.

If you like your romance heavy on the humor but light on spice, you might like these Christian authors.  A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist tells the story of Washington settler Joe Denton who needs a wife to keep his land and Ana Ivey who unknowingly signs off as a bride when she just hopes to escape to the west to find a job cooking.  Full of witty dialogue and likeable characters, Gist’s books are a treat.  In Fancy Pants by Cathy Marie Hake, Lady Syndey Hathwell escapes to her long lost uncle’s ranch disguised as a man.  Ranch manager Tim Creighton is disgusted by his new ranch hand’s hardworking but inept and weak attempts to live up to his expectations.

For humor with a more mysterious turn, you might try The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.  Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, takes up the case when characters suddenly begin to disappear from great works of literature.  A mix of fantasy and mystery is delightfully witty.  Alan Bradley takes you into the world of the engaging Flavia de Luce, eleven year old chemist in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  When she discovers a dying man in the garden, she revels in the joy of investigation.

Some of us like our humor to be a little otherworldly.  In A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, neurotic hypochondriac and recent widower, Charlie Asher, is faced with the challenges of a new baby and a new and unwanted job as a merchant of death.  Scott Rockwell has adapted Terry Pratchett’s Discworld into Graphic Novel format, maintaining the bizarrely humorous feel from the original novels about a parallel world that rests on the backs of four elephants balanced on a giant turtle hurtling through space.

When the hot, slow days start to get you down, just remember the words of MarkTwain, “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

Summer Alien Invasion

The summer reading theme this year is “Dream Big,” and we have tied in lots of space decorations, stories and activities.  Most popular among these are aliens – alien stories, crafts, games, and prizes. We even have rubber ducky aliens.  So it seems like the perfect time for me to tout some of my favorite new reads starring beloved, or destructive, invaders from outer space.

I got a kick out of Boom by Mark Haddon, who is best known for his popular adult book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This sci-fi adventure is full of diary-of-a-wimpy-kid style humor, car and motorcycle chases, big blasts, space travel, even romance – it’s just got everything. James (“Jimbo”) is a typical kid who is having some trouble in school, fights regularly with his annoying older sister, and often feels misunderstood. Luckily, his best friend Charlie is right there with him. When the two of them spy on staff in the teachers’ lounge at school, they overhear a mysterious conversation which leads to kidnappings, men in black, and a harrowing adventure for Charlie, Jimbo, and his sister, who turns out to be not quite as bad as he thought. I listened to this rollicking tale on audiobook, which made it easier to understand Jimbo’s British lingo.

Boom reminded me of Adam Rex’s The True Meaning of Smekday, which has gained a large following of young readers, teens, college students and science fiction fans in general since it was published in 2007. It has its own website:  The book is just plain weird and very hard to explain, but the gist is that Gratuity Tucci (nicknamed Tip, hee hee) is traveling in an alien-engineered car, with an alien, across the country searching for her mother who was abducted when the Boov took over Earth and renamed it Smekland.  Tip and her new friend, an AWOL alien Boov named J.Lo, discover something that might stop the Earth’s total destruction, but it isn’t going to be an easy fix.  Readers who love strange creatures and creative storylines will devour this 400-pager, and come up looking for Rex’s newest book, Cold Cereal.

The Daniel X series by James Patterson is in our young adult collection and will appeal to kids who love the Men in Black movies.  Four books are out so far, plus a graphic novel.  Daniel is an alien hunter, and the Earth happens to be quite infested with them.  He’s only fifteen but has some amazing super powers, including the ability to get anything he needs simply by imagining it.  Fast paced with plenty of explosions, slimy aliens, big guns and cute teenage girls, Daniel X is a perfect summer series for middle school guys who are tired of “reading list” books.

Children’s librarians Jessica Long and Rachel Carnes both recommended Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith.  When David, aka Scrub, is shipped off to his estranged grandma’s house for the summer, he doesn’t know what to expect. She runs The Intergalactic Bed and Breakfast, which seems like a silly name until he meets the boarders, including a family walking down the hall on all fours, a little boy with weird lumps all over his head, and other guests that are almost perfectly round. The B & B really is intergalactic! With visitors arriving from all over outer space, Scrub spends his summer vacation helping his grandma making them look human and trying not blow their cover while they take a holiday on our primitive planet.

Laddertop by Orson Scott Card, author of Ender’s Game, is the first volume in a new graphic novel series, co-authored with the writer’s daughter Emily Janice Card and with energetic illustrations by Honoel Ibardolaza.  Set in a future Earth, kids who are smart and meet certain criteria (like being short) are chosen to attend the elite Laddertop Academy.  Extraterrestrials who visited the planet years ago constructed four ladders that have become portals to the stars, rising 36,000 miles into space.  Now humans can use raw materials from asteroids and even begin to colonize space. However, much of what happens at Laddertop remains a mystery to everyone left down below.  Why did “the Givers” really build those ladders?  And why must children be recruited to operate them?  Nevertheless, it is feisty Azure’s dream to go to Laddertop, and her best friend Robbi’s secret dream as well. When both girls are chosen to go through the training and test phase, some inexplicable, strange things begin happening. This volume came out in the fall, and I hope we will not have to wait too long for the next issue.

For a more informational approach, kids will love poring over Allen Gray’s Alienology, a combination of fact and fiction (or supposed fiction, depending on where you stand in the alien debate) packed with illustrations, textured pictures, lift-the-flaps, guides, diagrams and charts. The library has one copy that can be checked out and one that stays here on our “novelty book” cart with other interactive and pop-up books.  So blast off to the library for close encounters of the literary kind.  Summer reading prizes and activities continue through the end of July.

Reviewed by Jennifer Adams, column printed in The Mercury, June 17, 2012

Posted in: Children's Dept, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

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.

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,

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) →

Going Batty at the Library

>Library column printed in The Mercury 10-16-11

Another inky evening’s here—
The air is cool and calm and clear.
We’ve feasted, fluttered, swooped and soared,
And yet…we’re still a little bored…
Then word spreads quickly from afar;
A window has been left ajar.
Can it be true? Oh, can it be?
Yes! Bat Night at the library!

Brian Lies’s introduction to his beautifully illustrated picture book, Bats at the Library, is just the invitation kids need to see a library visit from a new perspective. Bats swoop through shelves, looking for books and playing wingtip tag. They hang upside down from lamps and read Goodnight Sun instead of Goodnight Moon. If you enjoy the fantastic night scenes and creative bat antics, you will also need to check out Lies’s Bats at the Beach (with wingboat races and roasted bug-mallows) and Bats at the Ballgame (“buy me some beenuts and Cricket Jack”). At our next ZOOfari Tails program, Sunset Zoo staff will be reading Bats at the Library, as well as Daft Bat by Jeanne Willis.

For longer novels that feature bats, I highly recommend Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel. Young silverwing Shade gets separated from his bat colony as the others are migrating and is left alone and afraid in a storm. Things turn around when Shade befriends Marina, a bat who has been banned from her colony because she is “banded” by humans, which her colony believes is evil. Together, Shade and Marina travel the perilous journey in search of Shade’s family, narrowly escaping many dangers. Kids who enjoy animal fantasies like Brain Jacques’s Redwall or Erin Hunter’s Warriors series may enjoy following Shade’s adventures, which continue in Sunwing and Firewing, or they may want to try the prehistoric prequel, Darkwing.

Bats also play a significant role in the popular fantasy series beginning with Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (author of The Hunger Games). When 11-year-old Gregor goes after his baby sister down a tunnel from a vent in the laundry room, he lands in an underground world with amazing creatures, including giant cockroaches, rats and bats to name a few, as well as a whole race of violet-eyed people called The Underlanders. To them, Gregor’s fall from above was no coincidence – he may be the prophesied overlander come to save them. But first Gregor must learn to fly on a bat and earn the trust of his new comrades.

If you want to learn more about bats, The Bat Scientists by Mary Kay Carson was recently reviewed by children’s librarian Jessica Long on our blog. Jessica recalls bat-watching with her family when she was young, and she found Bat Scientists to be “absolutely full of interesting tidbits about bats. For instance, only one half of one percent of bats contract rabies, and they very rarely bite humans. But did you know that bats have bellybuttons?” You might not want to get close enough to check that out, but Manhattan does have bats, most commonly the little brown and big brown bat species. Charlie Lee, wildlife specialist at K-State Research and Extension, says that during the summer, you can often find bats at evening ballgames. Just look up at the ball field lights where bats fly around eating insects. Children will be fascinated to learn that bats catch the bugs using echolocation instead of sight.

Other books in the children’s room with facts and incredible photos that capture bats’ night-flying abilities include Amazing Bats by award-winning science author Seymour Simon, and Bats: Hunters of the Night by Elaine Landua. Hello, Bumblebee Bat by Darrin Lunde is an informational picture book that can be shared with preschoolers. Do you think you have bats living in your house? It’s possible. Go to K-State Extension’s bat info page at to find out what to do.

Join us at the library for bat stories at ZOOfari Tails on October 28 at 10:00. Other fun events coming up include READ with Dogs today from 2-4 and Wii Play Day on October 27 from 2-3:30, featuring Mario Kart and Smarty Pants Trivia. Kids can come dressed in costume to Halloween storytimes on October 31 at 10:00, 11:00 or 4:00, and trick-or-treat throughout the library after storytime. As evenings get darker, remember the library is open so you can flit in like a bat to “flutter off and lose yourselves, among the books lined up on shelves…Every evening, one and all will listen for that late-night call: Can it be true? Oh, can it be? Yes! Bat Night at the library!”

Column by Jennifer Adams

Posted in: Children's Dept, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →