Mercury Column

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Young Adult Fantasy by Black Authors

Young Adult Fantasy by Black Authors

by Rashael Apuya, Teen Services Librarian

I am a long-time fan of fantasy books. When I was about 10 years old, I picked up “Artemis Fowl” by Eoin Colfer and fell in love with magical stories. From there, I devoured modern classic fantasies like “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Stardust” by Neil Gaiman, and the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. Because these stories are full of magic and mythical creatures, I never recognized or questioned the lack of diversity of their human characters. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized I hadn’t read any fantasy books with a main character who wasn’t white or a magical creature. Similarly, I couldn’t recall reading any fantasy books by Black authors.

Fantasy is one of the most popular subgenres in Young Adult (YA) fiction. In recent years, there have been more Black authors getting published in YA. There has been a much-needed influx of realistic fiction, romance, and nonfiction books starring Black characters. Fantasy is slowly becoming more diverse, but there is still a lot of progress to be made. Black authors are historically underrepresented in fantasy for all ages, so it is important for publishers, librarians, and book stores to promote their work. As Black History Month ends, I’d like to highlight some new YA books by Black authors – and encourage you to learn about, support, and enjoy works by Black authors year-round.

Inspired by West African folklore, “A Song of Wraiths and Ruin” by Roseanne A. Brown tells the story of Malik and Karina. Malik wants to escape his war-torn home and find a new life for his family. When one of his sisters is kidnapped by a vengeful spirit, he makes a deal to kill the Crown Princess in exchange for his sister’s freedom. Karina, the Crown Princess, needs the heart of a king to bring her recently assassinated mother back to life with ancient magic. She decides to offer her hand in marriage to the winner of the Solstasia competition, so that she can kill him. When Malik enters the contest, their paths are set to collide. This August you can anticipate the sequel to this story, “A Psalm of Storms and Silence!

Legendborn” by Tracy Deonn is a contemporary fantasy about 16-year-old Bree Matthews, who recently lost her mother in a car accident. To get away, she does a residential program for bright high school students at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her first night there, she witnesses a magical attack and is introduced to a secret society, Legendborn, that hunts demons. Legendborn members claim to be descendants of King Arthur and his knights, and warn that there is a magical war coming.

Looking for a diverse demi-god story? “Wings of Ebony” by J. Elle follows Rue, who is taken from Houston by her father after her mother is killed, leaving her younger sister behind. She is the only half-human, half-god on Ghizon, a hidden island full of gods with magical powers who thrive on human suffering. Rue breaks a sacred rule on Ghizon by leaving to try and reunite with her sister, and finds that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. Rue needs to find her true identity and her powers to save her neighborhood before it is destroyed by the gods.

A Song Below Water” by Bethany C. Morrow is a modern siren story about Tavia, who has always had to hide her identity and powers. Luckily, she has her best friend, Effie, by her side as they navigate family, crushes, and being high school juniors in Portland. Everything changes when the aftermath of a siren murder trial rips through the nation. Now, Effie is being haunted by literal demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally reveals her siren voice in front of the police. Suddenly, Portland isn’t safe anymore, and the girls have to save themselves from drowning. Look out for the sequel, “A Chorus Rises,” coming out this June!

Find these titles and more at the Manhattan Public Library!

The Manhattan Public Library also has fantasy books in our children’s and adult collections. If you’d like personalized book recommendations, you can fill out a request at

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Routine Trees

Routine Trees

By Jared Richards, Learning and Information Services Supervisor

To alter a proverb just slightly, I’d say routine is the spice of life. That spice might be the sprinkle of paprika on top of a deviled egg, more there for aesthetics than flavor, but you eat with your eyes first, so aesthetics are important. In this analogy, the deviled egg is your day, and the paprika is that one routine that makes your day a little more appealing.

Now, despite these analogies, my latest routine has nothing to do with food. Sorry to disappoint, but the cookbook section at the Manhattan Public Library is rather large, so if I’ve unintentionally whetted your appetite, come on down to the library.

My new daily routine, beginning this year, is to draw a tree each day. I have no formal training in art, and that would go without saying if you could see most of my trees, but the whole point is to have fun and get better, and so far I’m ticking both of those boxes.

One obvious inspiration for this is Bob Ross. I grew up watching him, and he was all about the happy little trees. In thirty minutes he could go from a blank canvas to a colorful landscape that you could imagine wandering off and getting lost in. I was most inspired when he added a giant streak of dark paint down the front of the canvas, surely ruining everything he just painted, but then he turned it into a tree that looks like it was meant to be there all along.

I am drawing and painting digitally, so my bold strokes can be easily undone, but I have learned not to be afraid to try things out and see how they look. That experimentation has led to some interesting outcomes that wouldn’t have happened without Bob Ross. We have one Bob Ross DVD at the library, “Getting Started with Bob Ross,” in which he explains his painting technique and demonstrates it with a painting. We also have access to several seasons of “The Joy of Painting” through Hoopla, one of our online resources.

When I first decided I was going to focus on trees, I checked out books specifically about drawing trees, because that seemed logical. “Drawing Trees and Leaves” by Julia Kuo has a simplistic art style and proved to be a nice starting place to dip my toes in the water. Each drawing starts with basic shapes, like a dome for willows or a triangle for conifers, and you work your way down to the details.

Drawing Trees” by Denis John-Naylor is a short handbook that quickly goes through needed materials, tips, and techniques, using various types of trees as examples. Stanley Maltzman takes it a step further in “Drawing Trees: Step by Step.” Along with materials and techniques, Maltzman goes into greater detail, covering unique aspects of the different types of trees, details in nature to add to your scene, composition, and he briefly touches on mediums other than pencil and charcoal.

This led me to books that weren’t specifically about trees, but covered other mediums, like paint and papercutting, both of which I can at least experiment with digitally. “Watercolor: A Beginner’s Guide” by Elizabeth Horowitz features a section on negative shapes, which are the empty areas around the main focus of the painting. One particular example used to demonstrate this shows what looks like an inverted painting, where all the negative space between the branches is colorful and the tree is just a white silhouette.

In Jessica Palmer’s “The Art of Papercutting,” the negative shape is physically cut out, leaving behind the scene. Both of these books have given me a new way to look at and approach my drawings.

Finally, I looked for books with actual pictures for real-world references. We have a number of books on landscaping and gardening that serve as great reference material. I have really enjoyed “Shrubs” by Roger Phillips. Not really a title that jumps off the shelf, but the pictures inside are fantastic. Each aspect of the shrub, like the branches, leaves, and flowers, is laid out on the page and photographed in great detail.

I don’t know how long I’ll keep up with this daily routine. I’m over fifty trees deep at the moment, and I’m still enjoying the challenge. And I encourage you to find a routine to spice up your day. Maybe it’s actual cooking, and you’ll get to use paprika for more than just aesthetics. How cool would that be?

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Fill Your Heart with Books and More

Fill Your Heart with Books and More

by Stephanie A. Wallace, LIS Library Assistant

Love of all shapes, sizes, and colors is in the air this week as we celebrate Valentine’s Day with our special people, both near and far. While some of us have gotten more time than we ever planned to have with our partners, kids, and pets, others have had to send their love through the magic of the Internet. To help make this holiday a delight, check out these recommendations from the Manhattan Public Library.

When people think of Valentine’s Day, sweet treats are always at the top. Save yourself the trip to the candy isle and consider making your own unique confections. My personal favorite baker with an obsession with sprinkles is Sally McKenney, who created foolproof recipes in “Sally’s Candy Addiction” and “Sally’s Cookie Addiction.”

If candies and cookies aren’t your favorite, you might instead be interested in “Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats” by Bakerella. Young ones in the family will love decorating their own cake pops, and they can be wrapped up in plastic wrap and tied off with ribbon to drop off on friends’ doorsteps.

For even more ideas to try out in the kitchen, check out some of our numerous cooking magazines on Flipster, which is available 24/7 through our website’s online resources.

Besides edible gifts, you might enjoy making crafts for yourself or to send to your loved ones. Fresh flowers can be expensive and usually don’t last very long, so consider making your own with “The Fine Art of Paper Flowers: A Guide to Making Beautiful and Lifelike Botanicals” by Tiffanie Turner. With materials you likely already have at home, you can spruce up your space and bring in a bit of spring to ward off the wintry weather.

To use up your paper scraps or leftover gift-wrap, “The Complete Photo Guide to Cardmaking” by Judi Watanabe is another fun idea. Friends and family outside your household may love to receive a personalized card made by your own hands to feel closer, even when you’re apart.

Hundreds of other craft ideas are available for free every day on our website through Creativebug. Using your library card, you can access countless video tutorials and printable activities to become a crafting wizard.

If you’re looking to level up your relationship with your significant other, I can’t recommend enough the power of “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts” by Gary D. Chapman. It lays out many helpful tips to better understand your partner, and it’s organized in easy to read sections. It’s also the original that kickstarted his collection of books on other kinds of love, such as “The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively” and “The Five Love Languages for Singles.” Whether you read these on your own or with your loved ones, there is plenty to gain by learning how to best show your appreciation for each other.

With so many ways to connect with those dear to you, you might be wondering how to kick back and enjoy some time just for yourself. My favorite downtime activity for my own self care is reading, so here are some books I recommend to tuck into with a cozy blanket and a warm drink.

In my opinion, the best author who blends fantasy and romance is Maggie Stiefvater, who’s written YA bestsellers such as the “Shiver” trilogy and “The Raven Cycle” series. Rainbow Rowell’s “Carry On” has the same flavor of magic and mystery, and gets bonus points for featuring LGBTQ characters. “When We Were Magic” by Sarah Gailey is one book I’m particularly excited to read for the same reason.

No matter how you spend Valentine’s Day, whether it’s on your own or with someone special, I hope these ideas will brighten up the rest of your week. You can find all of these resources and more at our website,, or call 785-776-4741 ext. 300.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

New Nonfiction Books for Kids

New Nonfiction Books for Kids

By Laura Ransom, Children’s Programming Coordinator

A new year is a great time to discover new books. We currently have a surplus of new children’s books at the library! Because of the pandemic, shipments from our book supplier have been delayed by several months. I have found several intriguing nonfiction titles that kids can dive into.

“Teatime Around the World” by Denyse Waissbluth is filled with facts about the origins of tea and how people enjoy it today. This informational picture book has colorful illustrations of friends and families drinking tea from cups, wooden bowls, and even bags! I love warming up with a cup of hot tea on cold winter nights, and this book taught me so much more about the seemingly simple drink.

This title is a helpful book for crafty kids, “Friendship Bracelets” by Keith Zoo. It includes ten different bracelet styles and detailed, easy-to-follow instructions for each one. Our library also has other crafting books by this author, including how to make paper airplanes, tie knots, and braid hair. Check them out for the kid in your life that says, “I’m bored!”

“Cardboard Box Engineering” by Jonathan Adolph can entertain those bored kids, too. With simple materials like cardboard boxes, tape, and paper cups, kids can learn how to make a mini wind-powered cardboard car. Aluminum foil can transform cardboard into a solar oven that actually works! Templates and instructions are included, along with some information about engineers throughout history.

“Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance” by Nikki Grimes is a collection of both classic and new poetry. Grimes includes poems by female African-American poets that flourished during the Harlem Renaissance in the early 1900’s. She also selected some of their work and created new poems that spring from the originals. Beautiful illustrations decorate the pages of this unique book.

Playful animals take center stage in Douglas Florian’s “Ice! Poems About Polar Life”. This picture book of poetry transports kids to both the North and South Poles. Alongside poems about animals like polar bears and narwhals, Florian sprinkles in facts about their everyday lives in their frozen homelands. Snowy owls and wolverines were my favorite animals featured in the book. Poetry has been one of my favorite things to read since my third-grade teacher introduced it to me so many years ago!

“Countries of the World” by Andrea Mills is a recently updated book from DK Publishing. DK does a fabulous job of presenting information in a succinct manner with wonderful photos to accompany the content. I always love learning about other countries, and this book is a great way for me to immerse myself in faraway cultures. The book includes entries similar to an encyclopedia, with facts, maps, and information about the country’s famous people. When I read the page about Cyprus, I learned that it has been full of cats since ancient times! Their island nation has almost 300,000 more cats than people. I highly recommend this title to any curious kid, or even grown-ups like me.

“Everything Awesome About Sharks and Other Underwater Creatures” by Mike Lowery might be my favorite book title so far this year! Comical illustrations of sharks, jellyfish, and other ocean animals make this nonfiction book truly enjoyable. The back of the book also includes instructions for how to draw the creatures. For kids who love dinosaurs, Lowery previously published “Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts”.

Stop by the Children’s Room at the library to find even more excellent books for kids. The children’s collection is open for browsing by appointment. Our librarians can also select books on topics of your choice with our Quick Picks for Kids service by calling 785-776-4741 ext. 400.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Christian Romance

Christian Romance

by Rhonna Hargett, Associate Director of Learning & Information Services

When the world feels overwhelming and uncertain, I often turn to a Christian Romance novel. Christian Romance tends to have settings that are challenging, but characters with positive outlooks and a guaranteed happy ending. It often helps me to turn around my outlook when I read stories of good people overcoming adversity while maintaining their values. The following titles take us to an Oregon farm retreat, a rescue on Mount Denali, Texas Hill Country in the 1850s, and a small town in North Carolina.

In “The Happy Camper” by Melody Carlson, Dillon Michaels retreats to her grandfather’s farm to regroup after finding herself stuck in an unhappy rut with her career and love life. With a crowded farmhouse, he offers her his old camper as a temporary home. With the help of the local hardware store owner, she fixes up the camper, healing her heart through the process. Carlson uses eccentric characters, rural charm, and a story of restoration to create a breezy and enjoyable novel. Readers of Robin Jones Gunn might enjoy this novel.

The Way of the Brave” by Susan May Warren is the story of a rescue attempt on Mount Denali. Orion Starr is a former pararescue jumper living in Alaska and trying to put his memories of Afghanistan behind him. Jenny Calhoun, an undercover CIA profiler, is having trouble dealing with her tragic mistake of trusting the wrong person. Her mistake led to the deaths of four soldiers in the attack when Starr was injured. When an avalanche leaves Jenny stranded on Mount Denali, and Orion is in the rescue team, they are both forced to reckon with their pasts and work together to save lives. This combination of thriller and romance will keep you in its grip to the end. You might like “The Way of the Brave” if you have enjoyed Dee Henderson’s work.

Out of the Embers” by Amanda Cabot is a classic example of Western Historical Christian Romance. Evelyn Radcliffe has lived in an orphanage since her parents died in a fire. After going to town for supplies with one of the younger girls, Polly, she returns to find the orphanage in flames. Evelyn and Polly are the only survivors, and Evelyn suspects that the fire is connected to her parents death. They turn the wagon and head off to try to find a safe place, eventually stumbling upon Wyatt Clark’s horse ranch. He and his mother and sister take the girls in and form a fast friendship. Evelyn starts to heal, and is even able to pursue her dream of running a restaurant, but danger still lurks, and she wonders if she will ever truly be safe. “Out of the Embers” is a sweet and satisfying story, with just enough suspense. This is a good read-alike for fans of Tracie Peterson’s fiction.

I haven’t been able to get my hands on it yet, but I’m looking forward to reading “Til I Want No More” by Robin Pearson when it comes out in February. Publishers Weekly describes it as “Pearson (A Long Time Comin’) delivers a satisfying tale of one woman’s secrets returning to haunt her. . . Pearson’s excellent characters and plotting capture the complexity and beauty of family, the difficulty of rectifying mistakes, and the healing that comes from honesty. Pearson rises to another level with this excellent story.” This should be enjoyable for readers who like Denise Hunter’s books.

Manhattan Public Library has a variety of Christian Romance available in print, books on CD, downloadable audio, or ebooks. You can find more suggestions in our Christian Fiction newsletter or by exploring “Read-alikes” in the library catalog. Find these resources and more at our website,, or call 785-776-4741 ext. 300.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Climate Anxiety and Heartland Book Discussions

Climate Anxiety and Heartland Book Discussions

By Jan Johnson, Adult Programming and Outreach Librarian

Manhattan Public Library’s programming looks a little different these days as we navigate these past nine months of physical distancing. We aren’t able to gather, we can’t share the spaces we all love in the library and we can’t offer all of the same wonderful in-person programs that bring our community together. We can shift to stay connected and serve you, our community. By now, we’re all (well, most all) accustomed to seeing our co-workers, distant family members and friends through computer webcams. It’s a necessary but impersonal tool to continue our lives as best as we can during this global pandemic. So we shift.

Here, at Manhattan’s public library, we shift our programming to online opportunities, rather than meeting in the auditorium or Groesbeck room. We’ve had storytimes, craft classes, technology training and book discussions online via Zoom or YouTube. It’s not the same, but it keeps the library community together. Looking ahead, we can announce two unique and interesting book discussions planned for the next few months.

Our first, is a collaborative book discussion with librarians from Kansas State University’s Hale Library. They received a grant to work on sustainability within the libraries and seed future library projects. A book discussion will be one part of a four-part series that also includes a screening of the documentary “Fire and Flood,” a conversation with Reverend Vernon Walker on social resilience and climate resilience, and a community workshop about Wildcat Creek.

The book chosen for this first discussion is “A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet” by Sarah Jaquette Ray, a professor of  environmental studies at Humboldt State University. University Press of California describes this book as Gen Z’s first existential toolkit for combating eco-guilt and burnout while advocating for climate justice. The author looks at the emotional effects that climate change has on those of us trying to combat the ongoing climate crisis. She offers knowledge from psychology, sociology, social movements, mindfulness and the environmental humanities of why and how we need to let go of eco-guilt, resist burnout, and cultivate resilience while advocating for climate justice. Ray’s strategies offer deep and practical ways to cultivate collective resilience and creative adaptation, and even thrive in a climate-changed world.

We will offer a series of book discussions on this topic. Several copies are available for check out at Manhattan Public Library and KSU Hale Library. For more information on the rest of the series, watch for updates at

For our second book discussion, the Humanities Kansas TALK series once again provides several copies of the book and a phenomenal speaker to guide us through a thoughtful discussion on the chosen title “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth” by Kansan Sarah Smarsh. This nonfiction book reads like an intimate work of fiction on the author’s turbulent childhood where “the forces of cyclical poverty and the country’s changing economic policies solidified her family’s place among the working poor.”  She tells the stories of her life and the lives of her family growing up in Southwest Kansas, and the influence of intergenerational poverty had on them. Heartland combines memoir and with powerful analysis and cultural commentary, with an uncompromising look at class, identity, and the particular perils of having less in a country known for its excess.

Manhattan Public Library has copies of each of these titles for checkout at the second floor reference desk. “Heartland” is available online in ebook and audio from Sunflower eLibrary, found on MPL’s Digital Resources page from the website You can use the Libby app to easily download and read or listen to the book. To register for either of these events, go to the events page from our website.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Young Adult Fiction Retellings

Young Adult Fiction Retellings

By Dustin Vann, Library Assistant 2

While pursuing my master’s degree in English from K-State, I became interested in the concept of retellings as a narrative device. Why are there some stories we seem insistent to revisit? What is it about these stories that demands a fresh perspective? I wrestled with these questions over the course of my graduate studies. I don’t think there’s a definitive answer, but I did come up with a food analogy that helped me understand the appeal of retellings: retellings are like comfort food with a twist. They’re traditional favorites we’ve come to depend on, but a new element (or many) has been added to the recipe. Whatever these new elements might be, they allow us to see—or, if you’re still following the analogy, to taste—what’s familiar in fresh and exciting ways.

Retellings have become increasingly popular in the young adult space, with two recent titles updating two classics of English literature: William Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” and Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice.”

In “These Violent Delights,” author Chloe Gong relocates the drama of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy from Verona to the streets of 1920s Shanghai. The sprawling city is run by two rival gangs, the White Flowers and the Scarlet Gang, whose territory battles often end in bloodshed. At opposite ends of this blood feud stand Roma Montagov and Juliette Cai, who must work together to unite their respective gangs against a disturbing “madness” infecting Shanghai citizens. While you might guess how Roma and Juliette’s relationship will unfold based off your knowledge of “Romeo & Juliet Gong subverts our expectations right off the bat, establishing Juliette and Roma not as star-crossed lovers, but as former star-crossed lovers. This deviation from the original story adds a real sense of tension between these characters that will get readers invested in their relationship. Fans of Shakespeare’s play will delight (pardon the pun) in the Easter eggs Gong nestles into her retelling and admire how, despite setting the novel nearly a century removed from our present, the story feels modernized in its discussions of colonialism and inclusivity.

From twentieth-century Shanghai to modern-day Brooklyn, Ibi Zoboi’s “Pride” offers readers a “remix” of Austen’s 1813 classic, Pride & Prejudice. The novel centers on seventeen-year-old Zuri Benitez, who has big dreams of attending Howard University and developing her poetry. Apart from her literary passions, Zuri has immense love for her big family and their Brooklyn neighborhood, which is becoming increasingly gentrified. The novel’s central conflict kicks in with the arrival of the Darcys, an upper-class Black family who move into the renovated mansion across from Zuri’s apartment building. Zuri immediately clashes with Darius Darcy, the youngest of her new neighbors, and what follows is the classic enemies-to-lovers relationship previously immortalized by Austen’s protagonists, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Zoboi updates Austen’s observations on class with timely commentary on gentrification and organically infuses specific elements of Zuri’s Haitian-Dominican heritage into the story. Additionally, the novel never forgets its teen audience, injecting the narrative with scenes of romance and college woes that will ring true for young readers.

Though both of these novels are classified as retellings, it should be noted that one does not have to be familiar with “Romeo & Juliet or Pride & Prejudice before enjoying these newer titles. Their authors seem keenly aware of this, taking the bones of their inspired texts to rebuild tried and true stories into something wholly new. In fact, it might be fun for teens to start with these titles first before tackling the originals. You can find print copies of both titles at the Manhattan Public Library, and digital copies are available through Sunflower eLibrary.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Nine Months of Reading: Books about Pregnancy

Nine Months of Reading: Books about Pregnancy

by Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian

Amongst the many historic and monumental changes that hit the world in 2020, my life was rocked by another great and terrible change: I became a parent. Parenthood has been wonderful and awe-inspiring, but it’s also terrifying, especially when you’re staring it down while undergoing a long, uncontrollable biological experiment—that is, pregnancy. To say I dislike change is to phrase things mildly, so it’s no surprise that I struggled with pregnancy and all the changes it unleashes. In times of uncertainty, I cleave to books, and so I researched and read all hours of the evenings and weekends. Here are the books that brought me knowledge and reassurance.

I’ve written before about Lucy Knisley, my favorite graphic memoirist, and her memoir “Kid Gloves.” “Kid Gloves” follows Knisley from trying to get pregnant to shortly after giving birth and marked my first foray into books about pregnancy. Knisley expertly punctuates her story with research about the (often awful) history of reproductive health. One caveat about this book: it may not be the best starting point for those newly pregnant. During childbirth, Knisley had eclampsia and almost died, compounding my existing fears about giving birth.

Another excellent memoir by a new millennial parent is Meaghan O’Connell’s “And Now We Have Everything.” O’Connell covers her life from pre-pregnancy musings with friends in New York City (all secretly wanting kids but afraid to take the next step) through childbirth, moving across the country, and a year of postpartum depression. O’Connell reads like a friend giving it to you straight, including the gory details of childbirth, breastfeeding, and the overwhelming exhaustion and chaos of life with a newborn. With O’Connell’s book under my belt, I felt a little more prepared for the emotional and physical havoc that pregnancy and new parenthood might wreak.

Aside from memoirs, I also wanted to know everything there was to know about pregnancy. I turned to the “Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy” as a detailed, well-researched tome to guide me. This book has it all, from week-by-week developmental breakdowns to lists of different potential complications and when to call your doctor. I loved this book, but it is possible to have too much information, especially if you’re prone to anxiety; for a pregnancy book with fewer lists of things that could go wrong, try DK’s “Pregnancy Day by Day” instead.

In “Expecting Better,” Emily Oster goes beyond the standard doctors’ recommendations and evaluates the actual scientific studies used to create those recommendations. An economist specializing in health economics, Oster analyzes study design and statistical analysis, explaining which recommendations absolutely need to be followed and which might allow for some flexibility. This is where I learned that catching most food poisoning is fine while pregnant (hello, raw cookie dough), but you should avoid listeria at all costs (bye-bye, deli meat).

Science writer Angela Garbes’s “Like a Mother” (available on Sunflower eLibrary) combines research with memoir, compiling the results of research inspired by her own pregnancy and postpartum recovery. Garbes covers some content I’d already learned at that point (for example, the actual risks of consuming some caffeine or alcohol while pregnant), but she plumbs greater depths when it comes to the bizarre biology of what pregnancy entails. Garbes’s book also contains my favorite pregnancy-related fact: the placenta is an organ grown by the baby, not the mother, so it actually contains the baby’s DNA. Mind. Blown.

Finally, I looked for books to help with my mental health. Kate Rope’s “Strong as a Mother” perfectly fit the bill, offering advice and anecdotes from real-life parents covering all aspects of pregnancy and new parenthood. Sections are short and to-the-point, ideal when finding time to research around a busy pre-baby life or while your newborn naps. Rope strongly advocates for self-care and asking for help when you need it, which struck a chord with me and encouraged me to accept whatever help was offered. Rope also discusses scary thoughts, providing reassurance that your mind may not be all sunshine and rainbows even if your baby is the most perfect baby ever. Karen Kleiman’s “Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts” expounds further on negative thoughts, working to undo the secrecy and shame that surround them.

These books all provided great support and perspective during my pregnancy. As a new parent, I’m finding even more questions to research, but books and the library are still by my side, offering me guidance. Rest assured, I’ll return to write about my favorite books for new parents.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Snowy Kids’ Books and a Winter Reading Challenge

Snowy Kids’ Books and a Winter Reading Challenge

By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager

The library is trying something new with the new year – a winter reading challenge. We invite everyone of all ages to register for the Winter Reading Challenge and see if you can read at least 4 hours in January. You can also complete winter reading activities like reading aloud to someone, or telling a friend about a good book. This is just for fun, with a prize of a free book when you complete the challenge.

Reading aloud to your kids counts as reading time for both you and them. If you are looking for some good winter themed stories to read by the fireplace, here are some new and old titles to try.

“Snow Song” by A. K. Riley and Dawn Lo is a beautifully illustrated poem that delights in snow.  Bundled up children are shown walking through the snow, gathering to sled and ice skate and make snow angels. If snow days seem magical to your children, this is the right book. “Snow Song” is also available as an ebook on Hoopla using your library card number.

“Cozy” is Jan Brett’s newest picture book, and it does not disappoint. “Cozy” is a magnificent musk ox who allows smaller animals, one at a time, to take shelter under the warmth of his long, thick fur. He sets “house rules” so the animals will get along – lemmings, a snowshoe hare, arctic fox and more. With a backdrop of snow and northern lights, “Cozy” is the perfect hero of this story reminiscent of “The Mitten”. Brett’s traditional side panels on illustrations give kids a chance to guess which animal will be next to join. Brett studied live musk oxen at a farm in Palmer, Alaska to make “Cozy” come to life. You can even watch Jan Brett read Cozy right now on YouTube, and read her older, beloved tale “The Mitten” as an eBook through Sunflower eLibrary or the Libby app.

“A Polar Bear in the Snow” by Mac Barnett is a quiet story about a polar bear who wakes up. Where is he going? The illustrations by Shawn Harris are captivating in their expansive white spreads of snow and blue sea. This short tale will easily lead to other winter bear books, such as “Bear Snores On” by Karma Wilson and “Bear Has a Story to Tell” by Phillip C. Stead, which can be viewed as read-aloud stories on BookFlix through the library’s website.

“Blizzard” by John Rocco is a favorite read-aloud choice, even for older kids. It recounts the author/illustrator’s own experience during a blizzard. At first the snow is exciting, but then it gets so deep, and snowplows cannot handle the load. The young boy is able to leave his house through a window, and uses makeshift snowshoes so he can walk on top of the snow and not sink. Pulling a sled, he begins a journey to the store, stopping by neighbors’ houses on the way to see what they need most. It’s an uplifting wintry tale that will make every kid wish they could be that hero in the snow.

Don’t forget about wonderful classics like Ezra Jack Keats’ “The Snowy Day” or Jane Yolen’s “Owl Moon”. Both of these stories show the quiet mysteriousness of snow, and the invitation the white-covered world gives to be explored, by yourself or with others. Both of these titles are made into short videos using the book illustrations on our free digital service, Kanopy.

More children’s books about winter and snow will be in our display section of the Children’s Room, which is open for browsing by appointment. Librarians can also pull books on topics or genres of your choice with our Quick Picks for Kids service by calling 785-776-4741 ext. 400. We hope kids and adults will enjoy participating in the Winter Reading Challenge this month.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Exploring Cultural Identity in Young Adult Literature

Exploring Cultural Identity in Young Adult Literature

Rashael Apuya, Teen Services Librarian

When I was a teenager, there weren’t many books that portrayed modern, realistic, diverse main characters. In school, I was reading classics and learning about topics like slavery, the Holocaust, and the Trail of Tears. The historical tragedies of brown (Latinx, Black, Indigenous American, etc.) people were being taught, but not their modern struggles, and certainly not their joys. For fun, I was reading popular books like The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Both of these series have diverse characters, but they aren’t main characters that add to the main plot in a positive or meaningful way. It was years later, when I was 23 years old, that I read a young adult book for the first time that had a mixed-race girl, like me, as the main character (“Everything, Everything” by Nicola Yoon). I remember reading sections that described her hair or skin color and being genuinely shocked that I could relate. And the book wasn’t about her race, which was equally surprising.

There has been a trend in the last few years in young adult fiction toward featuring main characters from minority cultures and their experiences. Sometimes those experiences are harrowing, and sometimes they aren’t. It is equally important to portray the challenges faced by people of color as it is to show that they exist in everyday life. The following books are recent releases that have diverse, modern main characters whose stories may be fiction, but have themes that will resonate with real readers.

The Goodreads Choice Awards 2020 winner for Best Young Adult Fiction, “Clap When You Land” by Elizabeth Acevedo, is a novel in verse. Yahaira Rios lives with her parents in New York City. Every summer, her father travels to the Dominican Republic alone to visit family. Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic with her aunt and looks forward to her father’s visit every summer. Even though both of her parents are from the Dominican Republic, Yahaira doesn’t feel connected to her family’s culture – not like Camino. Camino can only dream of the rich, private school lifestyle Yahaira has. Yahaira and Camino find out they are half-sisters when their father dies in a plane crash.

If you’re looking for a rom-com plot that also confronts what it’s like to be first-generation American, you should check out “Frankly in Love” by David Yoon. It follows high-schooler Frank Li, who is Korean-American and who is trying to find a balance between his parents’ traditional expectations and being an average American teenager. Frank’s parents will only let him date Korean girls, but he’s falling for a White girl. His fellow Korean-American friend, Joy, has the same problem. Frank and Joy decide to fake-date to please their parents while they date the people they want.

Grown” by Tiffany D. Jackson is a hard-hitting commentary on the experience of young Black women in the entertainment industry. It follows Enchanted Jones, who lives with her family in the suburbs and who is the only Black girl at her school. She is a talented singer who gets discovered at an audition by the charming Korey Fields, a legendary R&B artist. Korey’s stardom and lush lifestyle dazzle Enchanted at first, but she sees Korey’s true colors when he becomes controlling. One day, Enchanted wakes up with blood on her hands and no memory of the night before. Korey is dead and the police have questions.

You Should See Me in a Crown” by Leah Johnson is about Liz Lighty, who lives in a wealthy midwestern town and who can’t wait to go off to college and become a doctor. When Liz learns that she will no longer be receiving the financial aid she was banking on, she is forced to consider other options. Her small town is obsessed with prom – so much so that there is a scholarship given to the prom king and queen. Liz feels too Black, poor, and weird to win the title of prom queen, but she is willing to do whatever it takes to get out of Campbell, Indiana and into her dream school.

Find these and more diverse books at the Manhattan Public Library! If you’d like personalized book recommendations, you can fill out a request at


Library Update

For details about current library services click the "Coronavirus [COVID-19] Information page" button for more information.

Coronavirus [COVID-19] Information page