Mercury Column

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Literary Rabbit Holes

Literary Rabbit Holes

By Jared Richards, Adult Services Librarian

In 1865, Lewis Carroll sent Alice down a rabbit hole. Fast forward 150 years and the rabbit hole, although rarely literal anymore, remains a popular literary trope. Whether protagonists find themselves in an alternate reality, a parallel world, or on the other side of the universe, the rabbit hole, in all its various forms, can get the job done. Books in general already provide us a rabbit hole into new and exciting worlds that we can get lost in, but sometimes it is nice to follow a character and discover a new world through their eyes. You may consider some of these books a stretch, but fiction is pretty flexible, so I think we’ll be okay.

There are countless retellings, adaptations, and stories set in the world of Wonderland, but I would like to focus on other stories. Classic stories in the same vein include Peter Pan, in which the children fly off to Neverland, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which involves a tornado and an entire house. Some stories even let you know in the title how the characters will reach their destination, like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe or James and the Giant Peach. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire is the first in a novella trilogy that posits the idea that some of these classic stories were actually based on real events, like the children finding secret doorways into fantastical worlds. They have now returned and live in a home with similar children after they or their parents found their return too difficult.

V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic and The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter both involve parallel worlds. In A Darker Shade of Magic, magic is used to traverse among four very distinct versions of London. In The Long Earth, parallel versions of Earth can be traveled to by creating a simple device, called a Stepper, which is powered by a potato. These parallel worlds are devoid of humans and become more and more chaotic the farther you get from our Earth.

In Coraline by Neil Gaiman, our protagonist, Coraline, discovers a small door that should lead into the vacant apartment next door but instead leads to a nonsensical version of her world. Here she finds her Other Mother and Other Father who have buttons for eyes and may not have Coraline’s best interests in mind.

Chris Van Allsburg’s Jumanji, and its sequel Zathura, utilize a board game for their rabbit hole. In each book there are slight variations in how the games work, but the idea is the same, where the moves in the game are manifested around the children playing. Rather than falling down a hole or stepping through a doorway, the world is brought to them with a roll of the dice or the push of a button.

Many novels over the years have used technology to create a rabbit hole to a virtual world. Ernest Cline did this effectively with his novel Ready Player One, in which people can connect to a virtual world called the OASIS and go to school or become legendary heroes. One of the best parts about this book is all the ‘80s references.

The best way to fall down a rabbit hole at the Manhattan Public Library is to come in, wander through our shelves, and engage in a little serendipitous browsing. Stumble across new books and discover your next favorite author. Another good rabbit hole is NoveList Plus, one of our online resources that you can access from home. It lets you browse books by age group within certain genres, like diverse speculative fiction books for teens or historical fiction books about immigrant experiences for adults. You can also search by appeal factors, like the types of characters, pace, or tone you like in a story. They even have a growing list of suggestions for fans of various movies, books, and TV shows, like Gilmore Girls, The Girl on the Train, Doctor Who, and The Handmaid’s Tale. Lastly, you can search for your favorite author or book and get a list of similar authors or books with a reason for why they are comparable. It is easy to fall down a rabbit hole looking for your next book, but at least you don’t have to worry about losing your head or being trampled in a stampede.

by Vivienne Uccello Vivienne Uccello No Comments

Books to Help You Capture Beautiful Moments on Camera

by Vivienne Uccello

photo of the book cover for "Expressive Photography"Photography is so important in modern society, that there are thousands of books on the subject. While we can all admit that it’s not necessarily the camera that takes a good picture, you may be tempted to invest in expensive equipment as the first step to improve your photographs. However, you would be wise to invest time and effort in mastering photography technique before making that purchase. These are a few books which I’ve found useful and inspiring, and have helped me become a better photographer.

Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters’ Guide to Shooting from the Heart is full of gorgeous images with explanations of their elements. Learn about composition, find basic techniques for capturing beautiful shots, and enjoy a wealth of photo examples. One great point the authors offer is to “imagine what the world might look like through the eyes of your subject.” For instance you might lie down in the grass to capture a photo of your puppy and create a story instead of a routine snapshot. After flipping through these pages, you will start noticing new things. One day, you will see the quality of light coming through the window and usher your children outside to capture a few special moments. It will feel wonderful and you will be rewarded with incredible images.

The authors also provide ideas to overcome common problems. For example, if you are trying to capture a picture but the background is unattractive, try shooting from below the subject and using the sky as a backdrop instead. Also, one trick to making your photos more interesting is to move in extra close and capture small details the casual observer might have missed.

The information in Expressive Photography would be helpful for any photographer, no matter the level of experience. One of the main things I liked about this book: the photos take up more space than the text so you don’t have to wade through too much information to find useful points.

Another fantastic book, with more photos than text, is Capture the Moment by Sarah Wilkerson. This is billed as “the modern photographer’s guide to finding beauty in everyday life.” After reading it I felt the urge to slow down and take a second look at the simple objects around me. One photo featured an abandoned bowl of noodles, to illustrate the chaotic fun of a youngster eating pasta. It’s an object which I would never have thought to photograph, but the photo carried emotion and told a funny story.

While the book has advice for beginners, such as, “turn off the lights, disable the flash, and pose your subject by a window,” I believe the practical and artistic advice would be useful even for a seasoned professional. Be intentional in your approach, she says, and challenge your vision for the shot. Why not try photographing the edges of life? How about obscuring critical elements of the photo to create tension? Wilkerson also provides creativity exercises to develop your sense of composition. The section of black and white photography is very helpful and serves to scratch the surface of this complicated form.

If you would like to delve a little deeper into black and white photography, a new book by Harold Davis, The Photographer’s Black and White Handbook, will give you the tools you need. This text is geared toward the serious amateur who wants to take their work to the next level.

Without the “distraction” of color, principles of composition become even more important. Davis talks about “making the best use of internal and external boundaries, acknowledging and working with the underlying shape in the image; and constructing and depicting exciting and dynamic forms.” These are classic design principles and will help you transition from taking snapshots to creating art, no matter what type of photography interests you.

The next part of the process is working with software to alter the original image. Davis will step you through Photoshop to learn split-toning, selective and soft focus, and tinting a photograph, but actually learning Photoshop might take a little more than the advice he presents in his book.

Photoshop can be a daunting program. As the industry standard for photo editing, it’s what all of the pro’s use. It enables you to do everything from refining your photos to putting a gorilla head on your best friend’s body. It contains all of the tools you need to make almost any visual creation, but it takes some time to learn.

If you are new to Photoshop and would like to jump into the deep end, the library now has a Creation Station in the Tech Center computer lab. This station is equipped with the entire Adobe Creative Suite and has dual, high-quality monitors. You can watch tutorials from on one screen and follow along with the practice files on the second. This is a great tool for anyone who wants to learn Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere, or any of the other fabulous programs offered by Adobe. It’s also a wonderful tool for professionals working on a project. The Creation Station, as well as the tutorials, are available for use at no charge.

Visit the library at 629 Poyntz Avenue to check out any of the books mentioned above or to begin experimenting with the Creation Station.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

2017 Kansas Book Festival and Kansas Notable Books

2017 Kansas Book Festival and Kansas Notable Books

By Diedre Lemon, Adult Services Librarian

This past weekend, the State Library of Kansas hosted its annual book festival at the capitol building in Topeka, Kansas. Authors around the area and those authors who have books about Kansas were invited to read and discuss their work. Also, it is during this event that the Kansas Notable Books are honored. Kansas Notable Book Awards go to authors who are from Kansas or whose books were about Kansas. Over a dozen titles were honored this year.

While at the festival, I heard several of these authors read and discuss their books. One that is on my to-read list is Dodge City by Tom Clavin. Clavin tells the story of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson as young men learning to be lawmen in the west. The book rounds out their friendship by telling about their arrival in Dodge City and their return to the town years later. What appeals to me about this book is not just Earp’s and Masterson’s stories, but also the fascinating characters and adventures they encounter along the way in Dodge City. Clavin painted a vivid picture of all that was happening in western Kansas in the mid-1870s.

Julianne Couch examines small towns in Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas in her book The Small-Town Midwest. Norton and Sedan, Kansas fill two chapters in her book. What drew her to write about these towns? Hope and resiliency are the characteristics each of these small towns possesses. Couch herself lives in a small town where she appreciates people who want to keep small towns alive and resist the pull to urban life. Couch explores–with genuine curiosity– how these small towns keep thriving and are going to survive once the older generations pass on or retire. She raises questions about the towns’ futures and reflects on their solutions.

Never Enough Flamingos, by Janelle Diller, tells the fictional story of the Peters family during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in Kansas. Cat Peters’ family must accept a loan from a wealthy man, Simon Yoder. Cat must work at Yoder’s house to help pay off the loan where she discovers he is more sinister than she expected because Yoder wants to steal the souls of young women. Diller has also written a sequel entitled Never Enough Sisters.

Two poetry collections made the Kansas Notable Book list: Fast-Food Sonnets: Poems by Dennis Etzel Jr. and Ghost Sign: Poems from White Buffalo by Al Ortolani, Melissa Fite Johnson, Adam Jameson, and J.T. Knoll. Etzel’s collection sparked my interest at the festival. Hearing the author read poems about the fast-food industry brought to life mundane work tasks and revealed that one can truly write about anything. His sonnets were humorous and relatable even if you have not worked in food service. Etzel’s poems are in the sonnet form while experimenting with subjects in fast-food; consequently, the second collection of poems—which was written by four poets—keeps with tradition in subject. Conversely, Ghost Sign reflects on southeast Kansas, Pittsburg, Kansas. This collection would appeal to those who like history about Kansas.

The Kansas Book Festival, a free event, also offered activities for children. An area on the front lawn of the state capitol building had crafts, balloon animals and face painting for children. Famous storybook characters, like Clifford the Big Red Dog and Curious George, attend this event, too. Children’s authors showcased their work at the festival for children, parents and educators. Andrea Davis Pinkney kept children entertained with her books and stories.

Book vendors and the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library had booths for visitors to shop during the day. A food truck provided snacks and lunch for spending the day at the event too. Author signings took place after the authors spoke to audiences. Save the date for next year’s festival: Saturday, September 8, 2018. Of course, you do not have to wait until next year to read the Kansas Notable Books, as you can come check them out at Manhattan Public Library.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

K-State Book Network Picks ‘Curious Incident of the Dog’ as winner

K-State Book Network Picks ‘Curious Incident of the Dog’ as winner

by Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager

Once again K-State Book Network has picked a winner for their annual common book. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is written from the perspective of Christopher Boone, and what a unique perspective it is. Christopher, a British 15-year-old, is very gifted at some things such as math and physics, but he faces many challenges in other areas like human relationships. Animals are much easier for him to understand.

The book begins with Christopher discovering that a neighborhood dog, Wellington, has been killed. As he writes, “I like dogs. You always know what a dog is thinking. It has four moods. Happy, sad, cross and concentrating. Also, dogs are faithful and they do not tell lies because they cannot talk.” His love of dogs and solving puzzles leads him to investigate the murder, although he is discouraged from doing so. Christopher, however, doesn’t always do what he is asked. His affinity for animals is made clear throughout the book with his determination to find Wellington’s killer and also his love for his constant companion, a rat named Toby. Animals’ thought processes are more understandable than humans’ to Christopher.

His investigation unexpectedly opens up his world, giving him the motivation to talk to his neighbors who know who he is and obviously care for him, but whom he has never found any reason to approach before. The neighbors don’t help him solve the mystery, but they reveal truths and provide him with another source of encouragement. They also provide a glimpse into working-class British life that we don’t always get to see.

Christopher lives with his father, who loves him but isn’t always sure how to best parent him and often gets frustrated. Haddon never names why the boy is in a special education program, but he is clearly challenged in communicating with others and is sometimes overwhelmed with stimuli. His father wants the best for him, but also struggles to keep him safe. He’s been told that his mother died a few years before due to a sudden heart condition and her absence is a huge gap in his life. As the investigation progresses, Christopher keeps uncovering information that he isn’t supposed to know, and his father’s frustration reaches a dangerous and frightening boiling point. Once Christopher’s trust in his father is violated, he seeks out other people to turn to, leading Christopher on the most challenging quest of his life and his father to greater understanding of his son.

The story is told from Christopher’s perspective, which gives us an unreliable narrator, but also an entire book to be completely immersed in the mind of this fascinating character. His behavior is baffling to those around him, but when you see things from his perspective, it becomes clear that he is merely processing the stimuli he’s receiving in the only way he can.

Haddon wraps bildungsroman, adventure, scientific thinking, mystery, and much more into this gripping tale, but really it is just a great story. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a dryly humorous yet bittersweet look into the life of a young man who is trying to figure out how the world works and on whom he can rely. Winner of several awards, including Library Journal Best Books, Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, and New York Times Notable Books, Haddon has created a character who will move you to appreciate those that process life in their own way.

We’ll be discussing the book at the library Thursday, September 7, at noon. You can explore the book further with a series of lectures at K-State. For more detail on the book discussion, go to To find out more about the lectures, visit

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

The Wondrous Worlds of Science

The Wondrous Worlds of Science

by Crystal Hicks, Adult Services Librarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

  William Allen White Book List Provides Diverse Experiences

William Allen White Book List Provides Diverse Experiences

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager

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

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

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

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

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The West by Linda Henderson

The West: Manhattan Mercury Leisure Section August 6, 2017

by Linda Henderson, Adult Service Librarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Vivienne Uccello Vivienne Uccello No Comments

The Collection is Virtually Unlimited by John Pecoraro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Explore the cosmos from your armchair with these books

By Amber M. Schilling, Youth Services Librarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Unlikely Friendships

Unlikely Friendships

By Vivienne Uccello, Public Relations Coordinator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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