Mercury Column

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The Art of Hick-Lit

The Art of Hick-Lit

By Rachel Cunningham, Circulation Supervisor

We’ve all heard the antiquated phrase “flyover country” when referring to the Midwest. Nebraska has even adopted a tourism campaign stating “honestly, it’s not for everyone,” and many of us have seen the local merchandise proclaiming, “Kansas – it’s not that bad!” While Midwesterners may joke about the perception others have of their homeland, they bring to light the under appreciation and underrepresentation of rural life. Wander through the fiction stacks at a library or bookstore and you can find novels and series alike taking place in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and other metropolitan settings, yet few of these stories settle in the Midwest. However, popular mediums have recently developed a fascination with rural life (see films “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and “Nebraska,” and top 40 songs “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus and “Meant to Be” by Bebe Rexha feat. Florida Georgia Line). If the interest in (non-romanticized) country life is growing, where can one go to find literature that resonates with their personal life experience, or perhaps, enlighten the circumstance of their neighbors?


I began with J.D. Vance’s popular “Hillbilly Elegy.” Vance’s memoir  provides excellent and necessary background to the underrepresented people of the Midwest, but if you’re interested in a perspective closer to home, Sarah Smarsh’s memoir “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth” details life on a southern Kansas farm, and her upbringing in a working class family. Like Vance, Smarsh attempts to bring light to the socioeconomic factors that plague an often forgotten group of citizens in the Midwest. The experiences of these men and women sparked my journey to discover the niche genre of rural noir books – also affectionately tagged as “country noir” or “hick-lit”. Please note these titles may contain profanity, illegal substances, and sexual material. Ask a librarian for more details if you are sensitive to any of these topics.  


Iowa native Laura McHugh paints a gritty and dark atmosphere within the Ozark Mountains, driving a strong, suspenseful narrative in McHugh’s first novel, “The Weight of Blood”. The narrative follows sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane’s investigation into the murder of her friend, and the possible link to the fable surrounding her own mother’s disappearance years before. A discovery will force Lucy to question where her loyalty lies. In keeping with the themes of missing girls and family secrets, McHugh’s second novel “Arrowood” follows the homecoming of Arden Arrowood, returning to her family’s abandoned estate after her father’s death. Upon arriving, Arden discovers an armchair detective has been researching the disappearance of her twin sisters twenty years before, determined to find an answer to the unsolved mystery. Together, they reconstruct the timeline of the hazy summer day and uncover family secrets that have been buried for almost twenty years. Located in a once thriving, but now failing town in Iowa, McHugh uses details from her upbringing in small Iowa towns to create a believable atmosphere despite the unreliable narrator. Her latest work “The Wolf Wants In” takes the reader to Blackwater, Kansas, a rural suburb of Kansas City while retaining McHugh’s themes of family secrets, missing people, and murder. McHugh currently resides in Columbia, Missouri. 


Hailing from Hugoton, Kansas, Bryn Greenwood holds an MA in Creative Writing from K-State and nominations for her novel “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things”. With a lyrical writing style, readers are introduced to Wavy, the daughter of a drug dealer, who has been forced to grow up much faster than other children her age. The Oklahoma-based tale follows Wavy through multiple narrators from childhood to early adulthood. Greenwood introduces many difficult topics like child abuse, sexual abuse, intergenerational attraction, and others, which may be upsetting to some readers. Greenwood creates an incredibly resilient, resourceful, and complex character in Wavy, if readers are willing to be challenged by her harrowing childhood. Greenwood currently resides in Lawrence, Kansas. 


Breaking from her previous works of young adult fiction, Amy Engel debuted her first adult novel with “The Roanoke Girls”. Lane Roanoke arrives at her grandparents’ home in fictional Osage Flats, Kansas after her mother’s suicide. Lane quickly begins to discover unspoken pieces of her mother’s childhood and uncovers reasons she’s been forbidden to meet her family. Engel introduces difficult topics including abuse, incest, suicide, sexual content, and violence. Engel currently resides in Missouri.

The titles listed above are the tip of the hick-lit iceberg. For more recommendations, visit NoveList with your Kansas eCard!

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A Day in the Virtual Life of a Library Card

A Day in the Virtual Life of a Library Card

By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager

On average, about 980 people visit our library every day. But did you know that 13 percent of our checkouts actually happen outside the library using our digital resources to check out eBooks, audiobooks, movies and music? September is Library Card Sign-Up Month. If you don’t have a library card, you might be missing out.

The other day, I realized I had requested items, downloaded books and checked out a movie without ever needing to be in the library. Here’s the virtual path my library card took:

My first use was to place a hold on Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars, which was recommended by a coworker. It’s an alternate history taking place during the 1950’s space race when a cataclysmic disaster suddenly means that a lot more humans will need to attempt to leave the planet. This time, women won’t be left behind. Their cause is led by Elma York, a former WASP pilot and a mathematician for the space program, who will make sure that she and other women will be part of the astronaut team. After being inspired by Hidden Figures, I knew this would be a fun way to satisfy my need for both sci-fi and girl power. From the library webpage, I looked up the book, and chose “Place Request,” typed in my card number and password, and viola, I am next in line for the book.

Reviews of the The Calculating Stars mentioned a sequel, The Fated Sky, but I didn’t see it when I searched the online catalog. I clicked on “Suggest a Purchase” at the top of the page and put the sequel’s information in a form to suggest that we order a copy for the library collection. I’ll be first on the waiting list for that one.

The next stop for my library card was at the doctor’s office waiting room. I looked to see what I could start reading on my favorite library app, Hoopla. It’s super easy to use and there are no waiting lists. Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter is on this year’s William Allen White list for 6th-8th graders, and it popped up as one that I checked out previously. I borrowed it by clicking “resume,” and it picked up where I had left off a few weeks ago. The story immediately sucked me back in as I became wrapped up in Flora’s language and thought process.

Flora, a former foster child with a traumatic early childhood, adopted by a mother she thinks of as “Person,” is trying to pass fourth grade for the second time. Sometimes her words come out right, when she has enough time, and Ms. K and Person let her explain. Her story is heart-wrenching and fascinating, even as it is pieced together disjointedly.

When I got ready to take an evening walk, I checked Libby on my phone to see what audiobooks were available for me to listen to. Libby is the name of the app that gives easy access to the Sunflower eLibrary titles, a consortium of several libraries, including Manhattan Public, with digital resources. Not in the mood to start a second gripping novel for the day, I looked for something light and funny, and landed Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis. Ellis, author of American Housewife, writes with the self-deprecating, witty, sometimes shocking humor of a party storyteller. In case you are wondering, Southern Lady Code is “a technique by which, if you don’t have something nice to say, say something not-so-nice in a nice way.” For example, if someone were to say Helen Ellis’s husband married a creative woman, “’creative’ is Southern Lady Code for slob.” I ended up taking a longer walk than usual, just for the entertainment.

Later, I looked through the library’s newest downloadable movie app, Kanopy, marveling at how the library has expanded in the number of choices and accessibility through all the digital resources. Mr. Rogers: It’s You I Like came up as an option. I knew the DVD was in the library collection as well, but I was able start watching it immediately on my phone.

Former First Lady Laura Bush once said, “I have found the most valuable item in my wallet to be my library card.” Considering what it would cost to purchase the materials I borrowed in a single day, I would say it is true for me. This is one card you definitely want in your wallet.

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Books for the Transition Between Juvenile and Young Adult Literature

Books for the Transition Between Juvenile and Young Adult Literature

By Hannah Atchison, Children’s Librarian

Transitions are uncomfortable and difficult. The transition between child and young adult is probably one of the hardest. How do you find a book to read when you are done with children’s books, but are not sure where to begin in our teen section? The difference between our children’s books and our young adult books is that the books in our teen section have more mature themes. Mature, here, meaning that the story contains violent, romantic, or morally complex themes that are considered to be more than what a child is capable of understanding.

Here are a few recommendations for you:


  • Eragonby Christopher PaoliniThis is the first book in a series about a fifteen-year-old boy named Eragon whose adventures begin when he discovers a dragon egg.


  • The Lightning Thief -First in a series that follows the adventures of Percy Jackson, a boy who finds out he is a demigod, the son of Poseidon.


  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare -Fifteen-year-old Clary discovers a world that exits within our world where there are monsters and demons and those that hunt them: the Shadowhunters.


Science Fiction

  • Fullmetal Alchemistby Hiromu Arakawa -This is a graphic novel about Fullmetal, the codename of Edward Elric, a boy with the gift of alchemy. A ritual left Edward with mechanical limbs and his brother a walking, talking suit of armor. They seek the Philosopher’s Stone, convinced it can help them.


  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer -A retelling of Cinderella that takes place in New Beijing where humans and androids live together. Cinder is a cyborg mechanic involved in an intergalactic conflict threatening everyone on Earth.



  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner -Thomas wakes in a large outdoor space surrounded by high walls with his memory almost blank. Several boys are there, all of whom lost their memories. Doors open in the wall in the mornings revealing the maze surrounding them. One day a girl arrives with a message.


  • The Giver by Lois Lowry -At age twelve, during the Ceremony, Jonas is given his job as the receiver of memories for his community. Jonas learns secrets and uncomfortable truths about the community he once loved, and he decides to escape.



  • I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter -There is a boarding school for girls, which is actually a secret spy school. Cammie Morgan, the daughter of the headmistress, has fallen for a completely normal boy. She is incredibly smart and capable, but has no idea how to have a normal relationship.


  • A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro -Jamie Watson is at Sherringford Prep School in Connecticut where he meets Charlotte Holmes, the great-great-great-granddaughter of the detective Sherlock Holmes who has inherited his talents. The two work to solve the mysterious death of a student.

Realistic Fiction

  • One Week Friends by Matcha Hazuki -In this graphic novel, Yuuki notices that his classmate Kaori is always alone. They become friends, but he finds out that she loses her memories at the end of every week. Yuuki decides to become friends with her every week, even though she forgets him.


  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas -Starr Carter is a sixteen-year-old navigating the disparities between the poor black neighborhood she lives in and her suburban prep school. Starr witnesses the death of her best friend, Khalil. When his reputation is destroyed, and the police aren’t giving his death the attention it deserves, Starr takes the case into her own hands.


  • I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez -Julia left home after high school, but her sister Olga stayed home with the family. When Olga is killed in an accident, Julia comes back home to her family, but her mother is not happy with her.


  • Paper Towns by John Green -Quentin Jacobsen has been head over heels for the enigma Margo Roth Spiegelman since they were kids. When Margo climbs through Q’s window one night and asks him to help her he jumps at the chance, but the next day she disappears. Q bravely sets out to find her, convinced they are meant to be together.


Hopefully, these suggestions will help make at least one part of the transition between child and young adult a little bit easier.

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Humanities Kansas TALK About Literature in Kansas

Humanities Kansas TALK About Literature in Kansas

By Linda Henderson, Learning and Information Services Librarian

When so much in life denies people a way to feel belonging, when love and compassion seem forgotten, when a search for purpose seems absurd, how have people around the world come to experience strong spiritual faith?

This fall, the Manhattan Library Association, along with Humanities Kansas, will host a series of three lively, deep-reaching BookTALK discussions with the theme: “Faiths in Fiction: World Faiths.”  Readers will encounter characters who have shaped their lives through the experience of faith, both as inherited religious tradition, and in personal struggles with doubt, free will, and redemption.

Join us for lively discussions.  Copies of each month’s BookTALK title are ready now for patrons at the Manhattan Public Library’s second floor reference desk and no registration is necessary for the Thursday afternoon events.

James Baldwin’s “Go Tell It on the Mountain begins the fall season in September. In a semi-autobiographical novel, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s struggle for identity as the stepson of a tyrannical Pentecostal minister of a storefront church in 1935 Harlem. John is supposed to become a preacher like his father, Gabriel, but at 14 he feels morally betrayed and wrestles with rejecting the strict teachings of a family and community that have sabotaged his sense of worth.

Nicholas Shump will lead the discussion September 26, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. in the Groesbeck Room on the 2nd floor of Manhattan Public Library.  Nick teaches humanities, history, and political science for the Barstow School and the Hybrid Learning Consortium in Kansas City, Missouri. He has taught Humanities and Western Civilization and American Studies courses at KU and has served as a volunteer coordinator of Adult Education in Lawrence.

For October, “Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya, relates the story of a peasant woman in developing India.  A child bride to a tenant farmer she had never met, Rukmani works side by side in the field with her husband to wrest a living from a land alternately ravaged by monsoon floods, ruinous drought, and insect swarms.  Yet, she perseveres, meeting changing times and fighting poverty and disaster. Throughout it all, Rukmani never loses her faith in life or her love – and hope – for her family.

Miranda Ericsson will lead the discussion of “Nectar in a Sieve on October 24, at 2:00 p.m. in the Groesbeck Room. Miranda Ericsson is the Readers Librarian for the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, where she specializes in programs for readers and writers. Ericsson earned her Masters of Library & Information Science from Emporia State University. In her role at the Topeka and Shawnee Public Library, she leads programs and discussion groups that engage readers and writers.

The last presentation of the fall season is “The Romance Reader” by Pearl Abraham.  Abraham, who grew up in a Hasidic community herself, presents the story of Rachel, a girl caught between the strictly-regimented world of ultra-Orthodox Judaism and the yearnings of her own heart. Rachel comes to find a more enticing world in the pages of her forbidden paperback books, giving her a window into the larger world she lacked in her limited exposure to secular people.  “The Romance Reader” is both a coming-of-age story and a brave, beautifully rendered expose of a hidden, insular world.

Rosemary Kolich will lead a discussion of “The Romance Reader” at 2:00 p.m. on December 5, 2019, in Manhattan Public Library’s Groesbeck Room.   Sister Rosemary Kolich teaches English for the University of Saint Mary at both the main campus in Leavenworth and the Overland Park campus.  Kolich joined the TALK program in 2008.

Humanities Kansas (formerly Kansas Humanities Council) connects communities with history, traditions, and ideas to strengthen civic life. Last year, the Kansas Humanities Council supported 610 events in 119 communities across the state, reaching nearly one in six Kansans. “Humanities Kansas is a familiar face with a new name,” said Julie Mulvihill, executive director.

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Hank the Cowdog 2

Hank the Cowdog 2

By Bryan McBride, Learning and Information Services Librarian

“It’s me again, Hank the Cowdog.” These words begin every book in the Hank the Cowdog series, followed closely by “Head of Ranch Security.” There are currently 73 volumes in this series, and they do not need to be read in order. Hank can be found on the shelves of the children’s library, and these books are fun! He has a sidekick named Drover, whose “bum leg” seems to act up any time there’s trouble on the ranch and Hank needs help with security. Hank’s nemesis, Pete the Barncat, shows up to keep him in line when he gets a little too big for his britches. Also present to keep Hank in his place is the ranch hand, Slim Chance, and Slim’s boss, Loper.

Other characters who are present from time to time include a lazy, no-account bird dog named Plato, as well as Beulah, the canine of Hank’s dreams. Hank also thinks highly of Missy Coyote, but her brothers, Rip and Snort, are not the kind of running mates that Hank wants helping with security. There would be concerns about his own safety as well as that of the henhouse. Then there are the two vultures, Wallace and Junior, always looking for their next meal.

The suggested reading level for Hank the Cowdog is ages 8 – 12 years, but here’s the thing: they are terrific read-aloud books for all ages. I started reading these books to my boys when my youngest was four years old, and he was far too young to understand much of what was happening in the stories. For me, it was fun to do the voices, and the boys enjoyed my efforts, so we kept at it. And kept at it, until my oldest was about sixteen years old, by which time they fully understood what was happening and we laughed and laughed and laughed at the adventures of ol’ Hank the Cowdog, Head of Ranch Security. We must have read at least 40 books in all. I just can’t overemphasize what an important bonding experience it was. As an alternative to reading aloud as children grow into teens, some parents find value in reading the same books as their kids as a way to connect.

We don’t often consider the social aspect of reading, although there was a time in our history when people discussed books they were reading rather than the current television shows of today. Thank goodness for book discussion groups, like our TALK series. If you enjoy book discussion groups, inquire at the library’s reference desk about the TALK series. They meet monthly in the spring and fall, and you can pick and choose which discussions interest you.

The aspect of social reading we are most likely to consider is the art and science of teaching children to read by reading aloud to them. There is research that backs up the adage: “Through third grade, kids learn to read. After third grade, kids read to learn.” An Annie E. Casey Foundation report summarizes: “The ability to read by third grade is critical to a child’s success in school, life-long earning potential and their ability to contribute to the nation’s economy and its security.”

The most effective way to teach reading to children is to read aloud to them. This practice will help ensure that when they reach the fourth grade, they will be reading to learn. Formal literacy programs like our summer reading and 1000 Books before Kindergarten programs are important steps in learning to read. For more than 100 years, education researchers have been studying the phenomenon that has various names, including summer learning loss, summer setback, or summer slide. The skills of children who are not engaged in summer reading digress, or slide, from the end of the last school year to the beginning of the next school year. Summer reading programs combat this by encouraging kids to practice reading.

If you need a recommendation, don’t forget about ol’ Hank the Cowdog. After a decade of getting to know Hank, I know he’d love to tell you about his successes in keeping ranch headquarters secure. Even without Drover’s help.

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We All Scream for Ice Cream

We All Scream for Ice Cream

By John Pecoraro, Associate Director

     You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream. July is over. Did you remember to eat copious quantities of ice cream during July, National Ice Cream Month? The average American consumes more than 26 pounds of ice cream per year. But the biggest lovers of ice cream are the folks of New Zealand who cool themselves down with over 35 pounds per person per year.

There are dozens of ways to eat ice cream, and countless flavors. Here is a selection of some of the books at the library that can help you create all sorts of frozen treats.

Food52 Ice Cream and Friends,” by Amanda Hesser, offers a survey of frozen desserts from the editors of  Impressive in its variety, the book includes all-new and reader-contributed recipes, such as the Saltine Cracker-Brownie Ice Cream Sandwich, and Lemongrass Chile Ginger Ice Cream. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of good old chocolate and vanilla as well. There are also helpful tips and tricks for enlivening melted ice cream, getting creamier scoops, and making store-bought ice cream a little more exciting.

Who invented ice cream? Mixing ice or snow with fruit, honey, spices, and other flavors has been around since about 500 BCE. Modern ice cream made with milk and cream was first made by hand in a large bowl placed inside a tub filled with ice and salt. In 1843, Nancy Johnson received a U.S. patent for a hand-cranked churn that replaced the pot-freezer technique.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts,” by Jeni Bauer, shows you how to make frozen custard, soft-serve, and dairy-free ice cream. Of course you can use store-bought ice cream in all the desserts listed in her book, but where’s the fun in that? Instead try making Cumin & Honey Butterscotch, Extra-Strength Root Beer, or any of 30 new flavors.

Kris Hoogerhyde, owner of San Francisco’s Bi-Rite Creamery, presents 90 recipes for making ice cream and frozen treats in “Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones.” The book is organized by flavors, including vanilla, caramel, chocolate, and nuts. Each chapter features Bi-Rite versions of the classics, as well as elaborate variations. Brown Sugar Ice Cream with Ginger-Caramel Swirl, for example, or Chai-Spiced Milk Chocolate Ice Cream. Don’t forget the recipes for crusts, cookies, cones, and toppings to make your creations unforgettable.

Sample a nation’s worth of ice cream in “Scoop Adventures: the Best Ice Cream of the 50 States,” by Lindsay Clendaniel. The author offers the best from the best from across America. She also provides over 80 tested recipes for you to try in your own ice cream maker. Try Rhode Island’s Seaport Salty Swirl made with peanuts, pretzels, and caramel, or Alaska’s Refuge Wild Berry Snap made with blueberries, cranberries, and gingersnaps. The Kansas selection is Thai Peanut Curry ice cream from Glacé Artisan Ice Cream in Leawood (unfortunately the location has moved to KCMO since the book’s publication).

Sandwiches and good. Ice cream is better. Why not combine to two? Natasha Case, co-founder of Coolhaus, does just that in her debut cookbook, “Coolhaus Ice Cream Book.” The book provides a humorous introduction to the history Coolhaus and offers readers the opportunity to recreate some of their signature ice cream sandwiches. Try the Bananas Norman Foster, the Oreo Heckman, or the David Rocky Roadwell made from S’mores Cookies and Nutella Toasted Almond Ice Cream. Recipes range from traditional to experimental and include vegan and gluten-free choices.

In 1978, 2 childhood friends, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, opened an ice cream parlor in a converted gas station in Burlington, Vermont. The rest is history. In “Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book,” the ice cream making legends share both their story, and dozens of recipes for delicious ice creams and desserts. The book was published in 1987, so their 11 greatest hits, while including New York Super Fudge Chunk and Cherry Garcia, does not include Chunky Monkey.

This is just a sample of the dozens of books available to help take the heat out of summer with delicious frozen treats.

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Blast Off with Books About Space Travel

Blast Off with Books About Space Travel
By Eric Matthews, Circulation Supervisor

With this week marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission, there is a renewed interest in all aspects of the early days of rocketry and the 1960’s fever pitch of space travel. From the first testing of V-2 rockets that ultimately propelled us to that “one giant leap for mankind” and through the end of the NASA Apollo program in 1972, the Manhattan Public Library has a nice selection of material that focuses on those heady days of the space race so many years ago.

The book I have enjoyed the most thus far, and highly recommend, is “American Moonshot” by Douglas Brinkley. This book is able to juxtapose John Kennedy’s seemingly lifelong desire to explore new frontiers and expand the boundaries of human possibility with German scientist Wehrner von Braun’s borderline obsessive desire to master the technology of ballistic missile and rocket technology until it seems that those forces were destined to merge and create something that had never been accomplished in the history of human exploration.

“…this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in the period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

With those words spoken in front of a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy expected that America would pick up the gauntlet he had boldly laid down and be at the forefront of space exploration, and in the process, beat the Russians in this crucial game of global (and now universal) one-upsmanship. Keep in mind, when he said the above quote, Alan Shepard had been the only American in outer space and for no longer than 15 minutes. In the almost decade leading up to the moon landing, there would be numerous setbacks and failures along the way for both sides. The Americans would lose Astronauts Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom and Ed White in the Apollo 1 fire and the Russians losing Cosmonauts Vladimir Komarov and the first human in outer space, Yuri Gagarin. With these tragic problems, it was debated whether or not America should even continue such a dangerous, and incredibly expensive endeavor. Despite all of this, the methodical milestones and triumphs would lead to the ultimate success that came to define the exceptionalism of the American space program.

Another solid recommendation you can pick up at the library is the movie “First Man” directed by “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling as the titular first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong. This film really gives you the feeling of all the hard work, sacrifice and alienation that astronauts and their families had to contend with.

Sticking with movies, “Apollo 11” is a fantastic documentary that chronicles every aspect of the first moon landing mission from the transport of the Saturn V rocket to the launchpad, to seeing Johnny Carson in the spectator grandstand to finding out that the Eagle nearly ran out of fuel before landing on the moon, meaning a crash would have been likely, stranding Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon and marking a complete and utter failure of the entire space program. (Spoiler alert: they made it)

As a kid that grew up in the 80’s (in the shadow of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster), having missed the excitement of those Space Race days, it’s such a treat to have these titles out on the library shelves. In addition to these recommendations, there’s many more items to explore about space travel, our astronauts and the deeper reaches of the galaxy. Other items in our collection you should look into are “Shoot for the Moon” by Jim Donovan, “Mission to Mars” and “Magnificent Desolation” by Buzz Aldrin and for the early days of supersonic test flights, “Chasing the Demon” by Dan Hampton and Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff” which was also adapted into an epic classic film in 1983.

You’re able to find all these and so many more in our online catalog or just by dropping in and searching the shelves or asking at our Reference Desk or Children’s Desk.

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Recent Children’s and Young Adult Books on Immigration

Recent Children’s and Young Adult Books on Immigration

by Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian

Immigration is a large, complex issue, one that can be especially challenging to explain to children, tweens, and teens. There are many books on this topic at the library for our younger patrons, books which can be read together or in tandem with children to help broach the topic. These books cover all aspects of the immigrant experience, from the initial journey through acclimating to life in a new country and living with the risk of deportation.

Wendy Meddour’s picture book “Lubna and Pebble” provides a gentle introduction to immigration, focusing on the friendship between Lubna, a young immigrant, and a pebble she found on the beach. Pebble listens to all of Lubna’s concerns and is her dearest friend while she and her father live in the World of Tents, until they move to the next stage of their journey.

Another picture book, “Marwan’s Journey” by Patricia de Arias, recounts young immigrant Marwan’s determination to “walk, and walk, and walk” until he reaches a better place. This book is more somber, depicting the “darkness” of war that “swallowed up everything,” but also ends on a hopeful note, as Marwan thinks about returning to his homeland and “paint[ing] the walls with happiness.”

For older readers, there are graphic novels that tackle the immigrant journey, including “Zenobia” by Morten Dürr and “Illegal” by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin. Both of these comics begin in boats crossing to Europe, alternating the end of the journey with remembrances of the wars the main characters are fleeing and their journeys thus far. These books don’t shy away from tragedy and may be best for more mature readers.

There are also books about what immigrants can expect after they’ve arrived in a new country. Picture books include “Mustafa” by Marie-Louise Gay and “Saffron Ice Cream” by Rashin Kheiriyeh. In these books, Mustafa and Rashin are both learning about their new, sometimes strange homes in America, one by playing in the park and the other by visiting the beach. These books are both bittersweet and hopeful, showing how much immigrants have to adjust to in their new lives.

Anne Sibley O’Brien’s “Someone New” is a companion picture book to her earlier “I’m New Here,” focusing on the same three immigrant children as they acclimate to their new classrooms. “Someone New” follows the immigrants’ classmates, including their initial reactions to the newcomers and how they eventually discover common ground (soccer, writing, and drawing) that they can use to build friendships.

Jasmine Warga’s middle grade novel “Other Words for Home” is about Jude, a girl who immigrates to America from Syria with her mother. This novel-in-verse combines big topics, like immigration and war, with more everyday youth concerns, like auditioning for a school play. Above all, it’s about Jude trying to find her identity as everything she knows shifts around her.

Mango Moon,” by Diane de Anda, is a picture book about deportation, showing how it affects the family members who are left behind. Maricela’s papi has been deported, and, as she looks at what he called the “mango moon,” she thinks about him and the changes that have occurred in her life since he was deported. This book brings up a lot of questions and doesn’t resort to giving out easy answers.

Memoirs are also good for helping put faces to the large, sometimes-abstract issue of immigration. Actress Diane Guerrero talks about her experience as a child of immigrants in “My Family Divided.” Born in America to undocumented Columbian immigrants, Guerrero’s life was shattered when they were deported while she was at school for the day.

For the experience of an undocumented immigrant teen, check out “Americanized” by Sara Saedi, whose family left Iran when she was two years old. Growing up thoroughly American, Saedi didn’t know she wasn’t an American citizen until her older sister was unable to get a part-time job due to the lack of a Social Security number.

Malala Yousafzai recently published “We Are Displaced,” a memoir that incorporates the stories of many young refugees she met during her travels. Yousafzai writes of her struggles adjusting to a new country and knowing she couldn’t return home, then introduces stories from refugees and volunteers from around the world.

These are only some of the recent books available at the library covering immigration; we have many others touching on similar themes. For help finding these books or books on any other topic, feel free to ask for assistance at the Children’s Desk and the Reference Desk.

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By Jared Richards, Technology Supervisor

I have previously written about the oft-maligned, but perfectly acceptable, practice of judging a book by its cover. Now I am back to judge books by the pictures contained within them. In this case, I am not referring to picture books for children, but as an aside, those books aren’t just for children. Along with the fantastic artwork, they’re often humorous, quick reads, which distill important life lessons in easily comprehensible ways, and we should all be reading them. But this article isn’t about those books.

This article is about cookbooks. Our cookbook collection is tremendous, both in terms of scale and quality. We have books that feature cuisines from around the world, and our books can accommodate all skill levels, from those who think they may have a kitchen but aren’t quite sure, to experienced home bakers who dream of baking in a British tent.

Cook Fast, Eat Well” by Sue Quinn advertises 160 recipes that only require five ingredients and ten minutes to cook. Each recipe is on a two-page spread, and a single image spans both pages. On the left page you will find the ingredients neatly arranged and clearly labeled on a kitchen table, along with needed equipment, like a blender or pan. On the right page you will find the continuation of that table, featuring the finished dish, along with the recipe itself. I like the choice of displaying the actual ingredients, rather than just listing them, because it encourages you to get everything out and ready before you start, so you’re not scrambling around later.

Comfort food varies for everyone, but “How to Feed Yourself” has made me rethink my life. The photograph accompanying their recipe for honey-sriracha Brussels sprouts makes my mouth water, and I now know of the existence of the tater tot waffle grilled cheese. This beautiful monstrosity is a grilled cheese sandwich that has replaced the bread with tater tots cooked in a waffle iron.

I’m a fan of sauces, or at least the idea of them, because they seem like an easy way to change up the flavor of any meal. Elisabeth Bailey offers up over sixty sauces in her book “The Make-Ahead Sauce Solution.” The idea is that these sauces can be made ahead of time and frozen until needed. Each recipe tells you how much sauce you will need for a given base (chicken, rice, pasta, sandwich, etc.) as well as meal suggestions for each base. Each sauce is displayed on a wooden spoon and often shown in use on a nicely-photographed plate of food.

East Meets Vegan” by Sasha Gill provides an array of plant-based recipes inspired by Asian cuisine from China, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, India, and Thailand. This book makes classic dishes, which are often prepared using meat or other animal products, accessible to those whose diets skew towards vegan. The photographs also show that the food is wonderfully colorful, which is up there with taste in terms of importance.

For those wanting to take a deeper dive, we have “The New Essentials Cookbook” by America’s Test Kitchen and “Vegetables Illustrated” by Cook’s Illustrated. “Vegetables Illustrated” features over 700 recipes, which are divided by the featured vegetable, from artichokes to zucchini, so it is easy to find a recipe for whatever vegetables you have on hand. And if you want to learn all the things but only want to carry one book home, go with “The New Essentials Cookbook.” It starts out with a tour of what you’ll need in your kitchen, from basic tools to fancy electronic gadgets, and gives you a list of the staples that should be in your pantry. From there, food prep is covered, along with the simplest way to cook all sorts of food. The vast majority of the book contains more advanced recipes, which are accompanied by plenty of instructions and pictures to walk you through the process.

I have recently found myself browsing our cookbooks because I have been sucked into a world of cooking through online videos and documentaries. I must admit that I tend to have an eat-to-live rather than a live-to-eat outlook towards food, but I do enjoy watching talented people who are passionate about what they do. Their creativity and passion are inspiring, beyond the scope of cooking, but if I can channel a little bit of that inspiration into my kitchen, I wouldn’t be opposed. And even if I can’t, the food photography in our cookbooks is top-notch and worth a look.