Mercury Column

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Finding Inspiration in Children’s Books

Finding Inspiration in Children’s Books

by Jared Richards, Learning and Information Services Supervisor

Once upon a time, I decided I was going to draw a tree every day, and I haven’t missed a day yet. I now have over two hundred drawings and what amounts to a part-time job, because some of the drawings take more than five hours. This is caused by a mix of inexperience and trying to draw more complex ideas in an attempt to keep things interesting. Occasionally, these ideas come to me without much effort, but I have recently found myself leaning more heavily on external inspiration.

One of the best sources for this is children’s books. They are often filled with beautiful illustrations, from simple line drawings with flat colors to highly detailed drawings with varied textures and complex shading.

Chris Van Allsburg began his art career as a sculptor but is probably best known for his books “The Polar Express” and “Jumanji.” His first book, “The Garden of Abdul Gasazi,” features black-and-white illustrations drawn with a charcoal pencil, and they look amazing. The entrance to the garden features an ivy wall with countless leaves meticulously drawn to the point of just looking like a photograph with a grainy filter. Throughout the book, there are also numbers of different trees, both coniferous and deciduous, featuring basic tree shapes in the background and more realistic trees in the foreground that you can easily imagine rustling in a breeze.

Anno’s Journey,” by Mitsumasa Anno, is based on the author’s own travels in Europe and is filled with finely detailed pen-and-ink with watercolor illustrations. It is purely a picture book, no words, and every time you flip through the pages, you’re bound to find something new because each page is packed with activity and really gives the sense of a living world. This book pre-dates “Where’s Waldo?” but I kept expecting to find him peeking out front behind a building because it has that same investigative feel.

One of my new favorite illustrators is Erin Stead, who often teams up with her husband, author Philip Stead. “A Sick Day for Amos McGee” features a combination of woodblock printing for color and pencil for detail. She starts by carving out the shapes she wants color for, like the animals, in blocks of wood. Paint is applied to the carved wood, and the blocks are used like stamps on the page. Stead then adds detail and creates the scene itself with pencil drawings. It’s a really cool effect, especially when you can see the woodgrain in the color.

For another one of their books, “Bear Has A Story to Tell,” Stead created her own paint by grinding up chalk pastels and mixing them with water. This creates an interesting textured look for the illustrations, which she again penciled on top to add detail.

The grass is always greener on the other side, so sometimes I like to entertain the idea of becoming an illustrator, conveniently ignoring all the time and effort required, and the stress that can come with creativity. To help feed these entertainments, we have two practical books at the library that have helped me explore this imagined future. In “Illustration that Works,” Greg Houston covers everything from what an illustrator is, the different mediums that are used to create illustrations, tips and tricks, and even includes exercises like designing a book cover or drawing a portrait.

How to be An Illustrator” by Darrel Rees dives into the specifics of topics like preparing a portfolio, promoting yourself, and explaining how to create an invoice for your work. My favorite part, however, is that it is filled with interviews with illustrators and art directors, so instead of getting one perspective on what it is like to be an illustrator, you’re getting over a dozen.

Lastly, sometimes the best inspiration is to actually see someone create art, not just looking at the final product printed on a page. This gives you a greater appreciation for the process and proves that it is actually doable by human hands, with a lot of practice.

CreativeBug is a great online resource for this, that is available free through Manhattan Public Library. You’ll find full classes, like “Drawing and Illustration Basics” with Heather Ross and “Daily Observations: Drawing Objects from Life” with Mou Saha. They also have a collection of live videos during which they sit down with artists like Lisa Congdon and George McCalman, and create art while having a conversation or cover interesting techniques like adding salt to watercolor paintings, who would have thought?

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LGBTQ+ Fantasy

LGBTQ+ Fantasy

By Alex Urbanek, Library Assistant 2

Cover of "Cemetery Boys" by Aiden Thomas: Two Latino teenagers stand back to back amongst gravestones as a robed skeleton in a flower crown floats behind them, backlit by the moon against a maroon skyI have been passionate about fantasy stories for years, and especially more so since the pandemic. Being stuck inside, it has been wonderful to escape into magical and fantastical worlds. In particular, I’ve made it my mission to read more fantasy titles by LGBTQ+ authors, many of which have LGBTQ+ protagonists, and I have found some fantastic stories. Whether they’re contemporary fantasy with hints of realism, or high fantasy that happens to have queer characters, fantasy is finally showcase characters with a variety of genders and sexualities.

Cemetery Boys” by Aiden Thomas is the story of Yadriel, a transgender brujo who is struggling to prove he belongs among his traditional Latinx family. After completing the ritual to become a brujo, Yadriel summons a ghost to banish as proof, but soon becomes stuck with easily-excited and troublesome Julian. As Yadriel tries to help Julian understand what killed him, running behind the backs of his family, he begins to feel connected to Julian in a way he never expected.

Working as a Case Worker for the Department of Magical Youth, Linus Baker lives his life by the book. He follows the rules and regulations of his job to a T and has a quiet home life with his cat Calliope.  In “The House in the Cerulean Sea” by T.J. Klune, Linus is charged by Extremely Upper Management to travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, a high security orphanage that few know about, and decide if it’s worth keeping open. Within the orphanage, he finds several children (a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the 6-year-old Antichrist), as well as the caretaker, effortlessly charming Arthur Parnassus. Linus has been given one month to fill out his paperwork and decide if the home should be shut down or if this crazy little family should be allowed to stay together.

Anna-Marie McLemore is easily one of my favorite writers; their magical realist books combine young love, LGBTQ+ struggles, and the beauty of magic throughout. The first book I read by them was “When the Moon Was Ours.” Miel is a young girl with roses growing out of her wrist, and rumors say she appeared out of the water tower when she was five. Her best friend Sam paints lit-up moons to hang in trees and keeps his history before moving to town a secret. Even though most kids find Miel and Sam weird, even they keep their distance from the Bonner girls, four sisters rumored to be witches. When the Bonner sisters decide that Miel’s roses can make anyone fall in love, they’re determined to get the roses no matter what it takes.

For something with a more classic fantasy feel, “Girls of Paper and Fire” by Natasha Ngan is a great read. Within this story, Lei, a member of the lowest caste, is chosen to be one of eight Paper Girls selected to serve the king. However, this year, instead of eight girls, there are nine. The king has heard of Lei’s beauty and her golden eyes and sends his guards to retrieve her. Once in the castle, Lei has weeks of training with the eight other girls to learn what it is to be a king’s consort. However, during her training she ends up falling into a forbidden romance.

Charlie Jane Anders’s “All the Birds in the Sky” has a curious mix of sci-fi and fantasy. From childhood, we follow the stories of Patricia Delfine, a witch, and Laurence Armstead, a genius and slightly-mad scientist. Once childhood friends, they have grown into adulthood in very different environments. Patricia has worked at magic school and now travels with a small band of magicians secretly righting wrongs. Laurence has worked his way up within a tech company that is determined to save humanity with space trouble or end it by trying. While both are trying to help the world in their respective ways, they find their way back to each other with the help of a mysterious force. Now they have to see who has the right idea to fix the world, and if it can even be fixed.

If any of these titles got you in the mood to read some great fantasy, all of these books, and many more can be found at the Manhattan Library!

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You Are Not an Imposter

You Are Not an Imposter
By Hannah Atchison, Children’s Librarian

The imposter phenomenon, sometimes known as imposter syndrome, is the feeling that you don’t belong or deserve a title. Any skills or accomplishments do not feel sufficient or deserved. This internalized self-doubt sits on my shoulders. And I know I’m not the only one.
When I was young, I used to devour books. When I got to college, I barely read for pleasure at all. In the last two years, I purposefully made more time for reading and felt a bit better. I was able to fight off the nagging thought that I couldn’t really be considered a ‘real’ librarian if I was only reading three chapter books a year. But then a new unpleasant thought appeared. Do audiobooks and graphic novels really ‘count’? Yes. They absolutely do. And our brains need a break. You need a break.
If you’re reading for fun, it’s supposed to be, well, fun. It doesn’t have to be another thing you have to cross off your list. It can be a time for reflection, mindfulness, or an escape or vacation if that is what you need. Here is a list of graphic novels and audiobooks that I have enjoyed, all of which count towards summer reading by the way!

  • Strange Planet” by Nathan Pyle. This is a graphic novel about humanoid alien creatures and their everyday life in our world. Their words for things and descriptions of tasks are quite humorous. There is an eBook available on Hoopla through the library’s online resources and a new picture book recently arrived about their cat called “The Sneaking, Hiding, Vibrating Creature.”
  • Catana Comics” by Catana Chetwynd. These are about the life of a romantic couple and the way they experience the world together. “In Love and Pajamas: A Collection of Comics about Being Yourself Together”, “Snug: A Collection of Comics about Dating Your Best Friend”, and “Little Moments of Love” are all available as eComics on Hoopla.
  • The Tea Dragon Society” by Katie O’Neill. There are now three graphic novels in this series. Book 3 just arrived! These graphic novels are children’s fantasy. There are many types of dragons in these books. Book 1 focuses on the domesticated form of dragon called tea dragons. Tea dragons can be temperamental and challenging to look after, but once attached to a caregiver (dragons are not the only fantastical species in these books), they can produce teas that are infused with happy memories of their times with their loved ones. All three books are available at the library, and books 1 and 2 are also available on Hoopla.
  • Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Watterson. These were my favorite graphic novels to read when I was little and I still enjoy them quite a bit. These are about a young boy named Calvin and his imaginary adventures with his best friend, a stuffed tiger, who in Calvin’s mind is very much alive, named Hobbes. The two of them get into all sorts of mischief. Most of these are in the children’s section, with the exception of “The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes: a Calvin and Hobbes Treasury” in the adult graphic novels.
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon” by Kelly Barnhill. This is a children’s fantasy story about a young girl who is rediscovering her magical abilities that have been hidden from her. The book and book on cd are in the children’s section, and the audiobook is available on Hoopla and Sunflower eLibrary through the library’s online resources.
  • Aru Shah and the End of Time” by Roshani Chokshi. This is book one in a children’s adventure series. If you enjoy mythology and magic, you will enjoy this story about a young girl in a fight against time and fate as she struggles to save the world and rescue her mother. The audiobook is available on Sunflower eLibrary.
  • Coraline” by Neil Gaiman. This book may be written for a middle-grade audience, but it can still scare the pants off you. If you like the movie, this is one of those rare cases where the movie actually did the book justice. The audiobook is available on Hoopla and Sunflower eLibrary.

Give yourself permission to relax. Reread an old favorite or find a fun new picture book. Remember: reading does not have to be hard and picture books are for everyone! Sit in your favorite chair or hammock. Grab a glass of tea or your preferred beverage and settle in.

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Quilting Stories

Quilting Stories

by Rhonna Hargett, Associate Director of Learning & Information Services

Quilts are often associated with stories: sometimes the story is sewn into the quilt, and sometimes quilts are woven into the story.   So it is appropriate that the Manhattan Library Association collaborated with the Konza Prairie Quilt Guild, the Prairie Star Quilt Guild, and other creative library supporters to celebrate our “Tales & Tails” Summer Reading Program with a quilt raffle. Local quilters have used their talents to make a variety of designs, including Dr. Seuss, the Konza Prairie, dinosaurs, Eric Carle, and more. Purchase raffle tickets by the end of July for a chance to win one of these beautiful quilts. The proceeds will benefit literacy programs and projects at the library. While you’re waiting for the raffle, we have some great titles to keep you occupied.

We can’t talk about quilting books without discussing the “Elm Creek Quilts” series by Jennifer Chiaverini. Centered around Sylvia Bergstrom Compson and the quilter’s retreat she created at her family estate, this popular series consists of heartwarming tales of friends and family, with a little light romance thrown in. Many of the books are about the relationships between the quilters, but some of the titles in the series focus on Sylvia’s ancestors and their place in American history, all with a tie-in to quilts and accurate details of quiltmaking. The series starts with “The Quilter’s Apprentice,” in which we learn about Sylvia’s background and the origins of the retreat. With likeable characters and a relaxed pace, the “Elm Creek Quilts” series is among the best in gentle reads.

In “Confessions from the Quilting Circle” by Maisey Yates, the three Ashwood sisters gather after their grandmother’s death to clear out her shop and home. All of them have secrets they are carrying that they feel they must handle on their own. When they decide to work together with their mother on an unfinished quilt left by their grandmother, they find healing and support with one another. Touching and complex, Yates’ novel is a vivid tale of the family bonds among women.

If you’re looking for how-to books, we have a huge collection for you. Beginners might enjoy “Sarah Payne’s Quilt School.” TV personality Sarah Payne breaks down the basics of quilting into quick projects, such as cushions, tote bags, and table runners, to teach the skills needed to tackle a quilt. Packed with good information, but also full of beautiful photographs and easy-to-follow instructions, this is a great book for beginners. For those with a little more experience, we have “Quilt Block Genius” by Sue Voegtlin. This go-to guide contains over 300 pieced quilt blocks for those who want to be creative and try something new. With basic quilting tips, thorough instructions for planning a quilt, and helpful illustrations, this guide will help expand your quilting horizons. We also have quilting tutorials available online through CreativeBug if you prefer video format.

For younger readers, we have “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend” by Susan Goldman Rubin. Gee’s Bend is a community that was originally a plantation in Alabama. When those enslaved there were freed, they stayed as sharecroppers, and eventually were able to buy the land. Through all of the challenges they faced, the women shared a love of quilting that they handed down to their descendants. They turned scraps of work clothes and flour sacks into works of art. In recent years, they have been displayed in art museums and featured in books, shining the spotlight on these talented artists.

We also regularly have quilting books for sale in Rosie’s Corner, if you prefer to take your time with books or refer back to them again and again. You can find out more about the titles I’ve listed, the quilt raffle, or Rosie’s corner at our website,

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Introducing the Middle School Collection

Introducing the Middle School Collection

by Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian

In addition to our regular summer reading-related shenanigans, library staff have been hard at work on another project this summer: creating the new Young Adult Middle School Books Collection. Due to sixth grade joining the local middle schools this fall, we decided to highlight books that appeal to middle schoolers as a group by creating a collection just for them. The new middle school collection has joined the rest of the young adult books on the second floor of the library, located on the shelves closest to the atrium.

The middle school collection contains books for youth in grades 6-8 (ages 11-14), pulling in books from both children’s fiction and young adult fiction. The middle school collection includes plenty of coming-of-age books of all stripes and a wide variety of adventure. Many bestselling fantasy series are now in the middle school collection (think Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Artemis Fowl), as are newer excellent series (like Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond and Tristan Strong), along with many of the current William Allen White nominees and this year’s Newbery winner, “When You Trap a Tiger” by Tae Keller.

For many people, middle school is a time of change. Friendships and relationships can begin and end, and many young teens are exploring their identity and the world around them. Fittingly, many books for middle schoolers reflect and explore these changes. However, escapism provides comfort during times of change, and there are still the classic genre standbys of survival, fantasy, and science fiction. Here are some of the major genres and themes that you can find in the middle school collection, alongside a recent book on each topic.

Friendships:Turning Point,” by Paula Chase, revolves around the friendship of Mo and Sheeda as they spend a summer apart. Mo tries to fit in as a Black girl at a mostly-white ballet program, and Sheeda worries about being forgotten by Mo while also spending time at her aunt’s church and with Mo’s brother.

First romance: Ami Polonsky’s “Spin with Me” looks at the budding romance between Ollie, a nonbinary tween who’s struggling to find an identity outside of their queer activism, and Essie, a girl who’s in town for one semester with her visiting-professor father.

Exploring new hobbies: In “The Chance to Fly,” a local summer production of “Wicked” is the perfect opportunity for Nat, a thirteen-year-old wheelchair user, to finally get cast in a musical. “The Chance to Fly” is clearly written by people who know and love musicals: Ali Stroker was the first wheelchair user to appear on Broadway, and Stacy Davidowitz is a playwright.

Puberty and body image: In “Taking up Space,” by Alyson Gerber, Sarah finds that her changing body keeps slowing her down on the basketball court. Her solution inadvertently gives her an eating disorder, and the book follows her through intervention and treatment.

Racism:Finding Junie Kim,” by Ellen Oh, focuses on Junie as she and her friends deal with anti-Black, -Jewish, and -Asian graffiti at their school. While working on an oral history project for school, Junie also learns about her grandparents’ childhood experiences during the Korean War.

Survival: Rebecca Behrens’s “Alone in the Woods” combines a classic survival tale with a friendship story, as ex-best friends Alex and Joss get lost in the woods and fight to survive while working through why their friendship ended.

Fantasy: The middle school collection has many mythology-inspired series from the Rick Riordan Presents line, including “City of the Plague God” by Sarwat Chadda. When a Mesopotamian plague god mistakenly believes that he has the secret to immortality, Sik and his friends must team up to save New York City.

Science fiction: Kwame Mbalia collaborated with Prince Joel Makonnen to write “Last Gate of the Emperor,” an Afrofuturist book set in the city Addis Prime after the fall of the Axum Empire to the evil Werari. When he reveals his real name while logging into a game, Yalen ends up on the run with his bionic lioness, Besa, and his former rival, the Ibis, looking for his missing Uncle Moti.

There are too many wonderful books in the middle school collection to mention them all, so do yourself a favor and go take a look. We’ve rearranged the entire young adult area as part of this change, so go ahead and familiarize yourself with the new shelving arrangements, too. I’m sure you’ll find some excellent books (middle school or otherwise) that you can read as you work toward your summer reading goal.

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Drought Gardening

Drought Gardening

by Bryan McBride, Adult Services Librarian

See the source imageDid you hear the one about how dry it is out there?  It’s so dry the cows are giving evaporated milk! (Ba-dum, crash!) We are knee-deep in a drought. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about cattle in times of heat and drought, but I do spend a lot of time thinking about my gardens in these conditions. For me personally, the problem is even more concerning this year as we are trying to start new gardens on a new property.

I always consider planting perennials that are heat and drought-tolerant, having success with iris and daylilies. Water conservation is perhaps most efficient in gardens that feature native plants and flowers that you can find growing in pastures and ditches in Kansas. If you walk out in grasslands of Kansas, you find an amazing array of flowers and color. Primrose, hyacinth, coral bells, honeysuckle, blue cornflower and columbine are just a few examples of what you’ll find on a nature walk. These can be transplanted into your own yard, and, once established, they seldom need to be supplemented with extra water, and they hold their ground against encroaching weeds.

If you’d like more ideas about drought gardening, we have several books in our collection that offer a variety of gardens. “Planting Design for Dry Gardens” by Olivier Filippi describes a variety of flora for dry gardens. A great aspect of this book is its descriptions of what “invasive” means and how to plan gardens that include plant species considered invasive. The book is loaded with pictures that show off the beauty of flowers available for dry gardening.

Another book that covers a lot of ground, no pun intended, is “The Water-Thrifty Garden” by Stan DeFreitas. How to improve the chemistry of your soil and how to map out a garden to make the most efficient use of water are just a couple of aspects of this book.

Did you know you can have your own soil tested by sending samples to K-State Research and Extension? They can do simple testing of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, or more extensive testing that might include pH levels, or even electrical conductivity. Seriously! These tests can help you determine the kind of plants that will thrive in the soil you have, or suggest potential alterations in your soil for the gardening you have in mind. Putting the right plants in the right soil is a good way to make efficient use of your water. The extension staff has an incredible amount of knowledge based on horticultural research. There is a brochure rack full of free publications in our community corner produced and distributed by K-State Research and Extension.

Another book that focuses on drought-tolerant plants is “Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens” by Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden. They include only plants that, when established, require less than one inch of water every two weeks in the hottest part of the peak growing season. One plant per page gives the reader ample information for choosing plants for your own property. Flora attributes are listed for each plant, such as how much sun is required, unattractiveness to deer, and attractiveness to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Gardening with Less Water” by David A. Bainbridge is filled with ideas for setting up irrigation systems. With this book’s publication seven years ago, Bainbridge accurately forecasted the deepening California drought. I saw a recent news story that Northern California’s Lake Orville, the second-largest reservoir in California, is expected to go offline with its hydroelectric power plant due to dropping water levels in the reservoir. (CNN, 2021) In his book, Bainbridge offers illustrated maps for laying out gardens as well as ideas for rainwater harvesting and setting up your landscape to capture water.

An attractive alternative might be a rock garden. I mean, this is the Flint Hills! The library has a couple of books, “The Prairie Rock Garden” by Donna Balzer and “Rock Gardening” by Joseph Tychonievich, which detail how to design rock gardens and the kind of flora that excels among rocks. In his book, “Essential Succulents,” Ken Shelf describes projects created with succulents, which often thrive with a minimum amount of water.  Although not limited to succulents, rock gardens are a good place for succulents like agave, cactus, and sedum, alongside other flowering perennials.

The bad news is climatologists predict furthering drought in future years.  The good news is a well-planned, drought-resistant garden can provide low-maintenance beauty in your environment despite this dire prediction.

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Celebrating Juneteenth and Pride Month

Celebrating Juneteenth and Pride Month

By Julie Mills, Learning & Information Services Supervisor

Summer can be a great time to explore your inner activist.  There are several ways one can go about making changes whether you are looking for a quiet revolution or attending marches in the streets. As I write this, Juneteenth, celebrated by African-Americans since the late 1800’s, was just honored by becoming a Federal Holiday.  This is a wonderful start but there is still much more work to be done. Juneteenth commemorates the ending of slavery in this country, but not the end of racism. However, the celebration continues to resonate in new ways, given the sweeping changes and widespread protests across the U.S. over the last year and following a guilty verdict in the killing of Mr. Floyd.

Also, as I look ahead to next week, the fifty-second anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising is soon to be here along with the end of this year’s Pride Month celebrations. On June 28, 1969, there was a series of protests that centered around the Stonewall Inn, a gay tavern in New York City. This is meaningful as it marks a turning point in the movement for gay rights. The Stonewall uprisings became the symbol of resistance to the social and political discrimination for the LGBTQIA community and an international gay rights movement began.

Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement” by Angela Y. Davis is a collection of essays that connect the struggles here and around the world. Shining a light on the connections between Ferguson, Palestine, and Anti-Apartheid, the author shows us that what we need is a movement for human rights and liberation in the entire world. Throughout history there have been many battles fought for basic human rights and their legacies can continue to teach us and hopefully bring us together in the fight.

For adult patrons, there is “The Stonewall Reader”. It is an anthology published by the New York Public Library for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and is edited by Edmund White. From the New York Public Library’s own archives, this is a collection of first-person accounts, journal entries, and many articles from that time. One key aspect of this book is to showcase both the myth and reality of the riots from the perspectives of everyone from participants to journalists.

Along the same lines but for young adult or juvenile readers, “The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets” by Gayle Pitman is a collection of interviews and historical information leading up to and including the riots. Along with illustrations, there are photos, newspaper articles and historical artifacts. The interviews even include one with a woman who was ten years old at the time.

For a local connection to activism try “No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas” by C.J. Janovy. The author explores the reason why many LGBT people stay in such a red state, when it is better known that most leave Kansas.

When you find yourself feeling frustrated with the way things have always been done, it is critical to discover new ways to make a difference. Here are a few more books that may help you get started. “How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation” edited by Maureen Johnson is located in the Young Adult area, but is an excellent resource for adults as well.  I especially enjoyed the prose by Junauda Petrus titled “Could We Please Give the Police Departments to the Grandmothers”. I personally believe the world would be better off for it!

Also, in the Young Adult section is “We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World” by Todd Hasak-Lowy. And for even younger readers there is “How to Make a Better World” by Keilly Swift located in the Children’s Room.  These are two excellent books for budding young activists.

Perhaps you’re interested in learning more about these parts of U.S. history. Or maybe as a modern activist, you’re interested in learning more about the roots of the LGBT rights movement in order to start your own grass roots movement. Whatever the reason, the Manhattan Public Library has several selections to check out and help you learn more about what some call the beginning of Pride and ways to create a revolution.

Email us at or call 785-776-4741 ext. 300 for other recommendations!

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Worlds Away

Worlds Away

by Hannah Wright, Library Assistant 2, Learning and Information Services

Let’s be honest, sometimes it feels like the whole world has gone crazy. It’s gone so crazy that people are trying to leave the world entirely. With companies like SpaceX trying to take off into a galaxy far, far away, it’s hard not to imagine what it might be like to live in space. Luckily for us, we don’t have to wonder. There are books out there that let us leave Earth behind and set sail for the stars, without having to drop thousands of dollars on a ticket.

You think your last breakup was bad? Try going through a breakup on the same day your planet is invaded! That’s exactly what happens to Kady Grant and Ezra Mason in “Illuminae.” Written by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, “Illuminae” follows Kady, Ezra, and the rest of the survivors through space as they try to outrun the enemy ship hunting them down. Help is nowhere to be found and they’re running out of supplies. Just when you think it can’t get worse, the ship’s artificial intelligence program, AIDEN, goes haywire. Instead of keeping the passengers safe, it starts attacking them. With Ezra conscripted to help defend the ships and Kady using all of her hacking skills to get AIDEN back on their side, they’ll have to work together if they want to survive this space race. After that breakup? Talk about awkward.

Meanwhile, in Marissa Meyer’s “Cinder,” the Earth is in danger of marriage gone awry. Aliens from Luna are attempting to take over Earth by marrying their Queen Levana to New Beijing’s crown prince, Kai. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that Levana is capable of mind-control, and she’s not afraid to use it. All other members of the royal family who could claim the Lunar throne have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. That’s where Cinder comes in. Cinder is the adopted daughter of a disgraced New Beijing family, but she’s treated more like a servant. Cinder dreams of running away, but running is difficult when you’ve only got one leg. Due to a hovercraft accident when she was a baby, Cinder has two mechanical limbs. She’s a cyborg. When she meets the crown prince, she agrees to help him find a long-lost Lunar princess to take the throne from Levana. But can she do it without being killed by the evil queen?

The only things that can make space better are space pirates. Luckily for us, “Starflight” by Melissa Landers has one of the best crews around. When Solara turns 18, she decides to move across the galaxy to start a new life. It’s difficult though, since she’s just been released from jail and she’s broke. The only person who can help is Doran, her high school bully. He’s a spoiled, rich kid with nothing to lose. That is, until he’s framed for conspiracy. The two jump on a pirate ship and head for the stars before the law catches up to them. They split their time on the ship between figuring out who framed Doran and trying not to punch each other. With the help of the captain, the crew, and the adorable sugar glider named Acorn, Doran and Solara are in a race against the police to make it to Planet X and find out who’s really behind the end of the world as they know it.

Aurora Rising” by Amie Kaufman; Two hundred years ago, a mission left Earth to explore the planet known as Octavia III. Sadly, the mission was a failure and the ship was lost. Until it wasn’t. The day before he’s promoted to Alpha status, Tyler not only finds the lost ship, but a passenger still alive. Auri was cryogenically frozen at some point during the mission. She just can’t remember why. With the help of Tyler and his crew, Auri tries to recover her missing memories while coping with the fact that she’s 200 years in her future. But something’s off about Auri. It’s like something has invaded her mind. Something ancient and powerful. Too bad no one can tell if it’s good or evil.

Have I convinced you to jump on a spaceship yet? Maybe not. Hopefully I’ve convinced you to check out some books though. Don’t forget to log your reads in the library’s Summer Reading Program. We’ve got tons of prizes to give out, and luckily, we’re a lot closer than a world away.


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Backyard Vegetable Gardening

Backyard Vegetable Gardening

By John Pecoraro, Associate Director Support Services

In order to raise awareness of the importance of fruits and vegetable in nutrition, the United Nations has proclaimed 2021 to be the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables. June is also National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, the goal of which is to increase the daily consumption of fresh produce. As such, and since we have entered the backyard planting season, this is the perfect time to sample a few of the vegetable gardening books available at your library.

Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook” is the perfect companion for every vegetable gardener. This book demystifies gardening by demonstrating proven methods for sowing, growing, and harvesting. With plentiful color photographs, and reference tables and charts, this handbook provides step-by-step advice for growing over 30 varieties in any plant hardiness zone.

As its subtitle claims, “Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix” presents 224 new plants to shake up your garden. Jabbour introduces vegetable varieties from around the world, providing detailed information on how to grow each plant. She also presents fun facts and plant history. After perusing this book, you’ll be a little more familiar with cucamelons, mizuna, and Jerusalem artichokes, while also expanding your knowledge of tomatoes, potatoes, and greens.

Growing Good Food,” by author and climate activist Acadia Tucker, is a beginner’s guide to growing herbs, fruits, and vegetables using organic and sustainable practices. She offers advice on preparing and clearing land, and cultivating healthy soil. She also explains how to protect your plants from pests and disease without damaging the environment. In the end the author will teach you how to grow 21 popular perennials and annuals, including fruit trees, herbs, and vegetables, while also describing the climate changes happening in your own backyard.

For the novice with that little plot of ground who doesn’t know where to start, “Growveg: the Beginner’s Guide to Easy Vegetable Gardening,” by Benedict Vanheems is the place to begin. The friendly instructions and step-by-step photographs explain in detail more than 30 small-scale gardening projects. Chapters cover everything from choosing the best location to plant, to starting from seeds, transplanting, and harvesting. For gardeners without a lot of ground, Vanheems presents alternative methods such as growing potatoes in a trash can, carrots in a basket, and chilis in a bucket.

Turkish orange eggplant, rat-tail radish, walking-stick kale, sweetleaf, and fuchsia berry, these are just a few of the out of the ordinary edibles Matthew Biggs explains how to grow in “Grow Something Different to Eat.” In addition to step-by-step instructions on growing some unusual crops, Biggs includes cooking and preserving suggestions. All the plants detailed in this book can be started indoors and transplanted, grown outdoors in the garden, or kept as houseplants.

The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest,” by Michael VanderBrug demonstrates how to grow your own food in the Heartland. This title focuses on the uniqueness of the Midwest gardening calendar with its month by month format. Perfect for Kansas gardeners. Available as an eBook from Hoopla.

The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Great Vegetables,” by Lorene Edwards Forkner is another title available for free download on Hoopla. This gardening primer covers 30 of the most popular vegetables and herbs, planting charts for every region, and instructions on what to do in your garden every month of the year. This eBook is bursting with color photographs, and filled with the information budding backyard agriculturalists need.

Edible Paradise: How to Grow Herbs, Flowers, Veggies and Fruit in Any Space,” by Vera Greutink, is useful both to container gardeners, and those with the space and ambition to start and maintain a garden. Chapters cover everything you’ll need to know from making compost and building raised planters to incorporating flowers with your herbs and vegetables. This work will help you create your own edible paradise on your patio or balcony, or in your yard.

Federal guidelines recommend adults consume 1.5 to 2 cups of fruits and 2-3 cups of vegetables each day depending on age and gender. The results of a recent study indicated that only 9% of adults met those recommendations. Are you part of the 9%? Growing your own vegetables can help you get there, or you can always visit the Downtown Farmer’s Market

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Summer Reading: Tails and Tales Prize Books

Summer Reading: Tails and Tales Prize Books

By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager

Cover image for the book "Not Norman: A Goldfish Story" by Kelly Bennet, Illustrated by Noah Z. JonesThe children’s room of the library has been busy this week! Everyone is stocking up on reading material and signing up for the annual summer reading program. Kids, teens and adults can all join summer reading and get prizes and free books. These are just a few of the great prize books available for kids to choose from:

Bird & Squirrel: On the Run” (book 1) by James Burks is great little graphic novel that covers fear and trust, friendship, adventure, cleverness and cunning, and most of all, multiple ways to simultaneously annoy your friends and also save their lives. When Bird convinces Squirrel to head south together for the winter, the mean old cat decides to follow them, looking for a tasty lunch. It becomes clear that they won’t survive without each other, so Bird and Squirrel live out their catchy theme song while narrowly escaping many dangers.

Titanosaur: Discovering the World’s Largest Dinosaur” was written by the paleontologists who led the dig: Dr. José Luis Carballido and Dr. Diego Pol. The story begins with a gaucho in Argentina searching for a lost sheep when he happens upon a piece of exposed fossilized bone. He later recognizes the shape when looking at a dinosaur skeleton in a museum…only what he saw was “much bigger than that one.” Paleontologist José checks it out, and then brings in a team of scientists and diggers that “uncovered more than 100 bones from 7 different dinosaurs” in that area. When the new Titanosaur skeleton is assembled, it stretches 122 feet and is the largest dinosaur ever found. Dinosaur lovers will really dig this book!

The Bad Guys” (book 1) by Aaron Blabey is so entertaining, kids won’t even know they are reading. Mr. Wolf has been pegged as a bad guy, of course, but he says that is not true. He puts together the perfect team – a snake, a shark and a piranha – to go out and change their images from bad to good. All they need to do is become heroes! That works better if you have a “rock ‘n’ rollin’ chariot of flaming coolness” with “A – Wicked powerful V8 engine that runs on undiluted panther wee. B – Fat wheels for just looking insanely cool.” Etc. If you have a 3rd or 4th grader who rolls their eyes whenever you say it’s time to shut off screens and pick up a book, this is the perfect choice.

Gregor the Overlander” is a riveting fantasy written by Suzanne Collins prior to her fame with “The Hunger Games”. Kids who like to get sucked into a book so they won’t even hear their parents call them for dinner will appreciate this imaginative tale. Gregor is just a normal kid dealing with a little more trauma than usual. His dad has disappeared, and now Gregor has to watch his two-year-old sister, Boots, and look after Grandma whose memory is failing. When Boots falls down an old air duct, he has to go after her. That is how they end up in an underworld with rats, bats and a kingdom he never knew existed… a kingdom he and Boots are now tangled up in.

There’s a Pest in the Garden” by Jan Thomas is a hoot, and it is just right for kids in the early stages of learning to read. What will the farm animals do when they discover a pest is in their garden eating all the beans? Then the corn, and the peas? Maybe Duck has a plan. Thomas’s characters are expressive and funny, using word bubbles to tell their silly story, similar to the popular Elephant and Piggie books.

Not Norman: A Goldfish Story” by Kelly Bennett is about not getting the pet you wanted. Who wants a pet that just swims around and around and around and around? Norman’s owner comes up with some ideas for getting rid of his boring goldfish, but he also learns a few things about Norman in the process. Maybe he’s not so bad after all.

Signing up for summer reading is super easy. You can come to the library or call us, or download the free Beanstack Tracker app and look for Manhattan Public Library. Sign yourself and all your kids up to get some free books, coupons and other fun things while participating as a community that values literacy and reading!


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