Mercury Column

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Tragedies at Sea: Outstanding Historical Writing

Tragedies at Sea: Outstanding Historical Writing

By Marcia Allen, Collections Manager

Are you familiar with the story of the Andrea Doria?  She was a luxury liner, built after World War II, well known for elegantly appointed rooms and gourmet meals. The ship frequently hosted celebrities such as film actresses and business CEO’s. With a capacity of some 1200 passengers and a crew of about 500, she was touted as one of the safest and speediest ships on the ocean. A freakish tragedy in July of 1956, however, proved otherwise.

Greg King and Penny Wilson have just published an excellent piece of historical nonfiction entitled “The Last Voyage of the Andrea Doria” that dramatically recounts that final excursion. We learn of the craftsmanship that went into the liner; we learn of its sterling reputation as something of a floating palace; we discover the roster of passengers who ventured to travel from Genoa to New York on the fateful voyage.

What makes this book exceptional? The backgrounds of a few of the personalities is a start. Because we learn so much about their past experiences, their plans, and their relationships with other passengers, we come to see them individuals which lends a personal immediacy to the story. We learn, for example, that Captain Piero Calamai was a shy fellow, devoted to the welfare of his passengers and his beloved ship, a man who never raised his voice to erring crew members. We discover the heartbreak of Thure and Martha Peterson, a couple devoted to each other, who had saved money for many years to travel to sites where their parents were born in Sweden. They were able to extend their trip to sightsee in France, but their delayed return to the U.S. placed them on the decks of the Andrea Doria.

What also elevates this book is its excellent research into the last hours of the voyage. In dramatic detail, King and Wilson recount the coincidental chain of events that caused a horrendous collision. Thick fog off the coast of Nantucket and a change in the departure route by the stoutly built liner called the Stockholm brought the two ships into contact. Last-minute efforts to avoid collision drove the raked and reinforced bow of the Stockholm into the starboard side of Andrea Doria, penetrating several decks.

The outcome is what you would expect. Lives were lost, but most passengers stranded at sea were rescued by immediate responses of all available watercraft. The Andrea Doria sank some hours later, and legal courts later determined who was to be blamed. King and Wilson have written a masterful account of all that occurred that day in July.

To my amazement, King and Wilson had written a previous book about the sinking of the Lusitania. Entitled Lusitania, that older book has some of the same flavor of the Andrea Doria story, with personality studies, ship history, and vivid details about the actual sinking. But that is where the similarities between the two stories ends.

First of all, the demise of the Lusitania was no accident. In the midst of World War I, British forces had chosen to ignore standard Cruiser Rules, under which ships were required to post their authentic flags and avoid any camouflage of colors or markings. The British decided to ignore such rules. Secondly, the Lusitania was known to carry munitions intended for the British, as America had agreed to be a wartime supplier for the British. That made the ship fair game for German forces.

It was only by luck that Kapitanleutnant Schwieger, commanding U-20, spotted the British liner. Seeing his opportunity in the middle of a war zone, he fired a torpedo that inflicted a death blow to the ship. The Lusitania, long thought to be unsinkable, foundered on its side, disabling lifeboats and crippling many passengers, and managed to stay afloat only 18 minutes more.

The loss of life in this book is heartbreaking. Hundreds of victims were never found, and many of those who did survive were emotionally shattered. Because there were no preparations for evacuation on board and because there was a shortage of life jackets, loss rates skyrocketed. And subsequent court trials did little to assure that future disasters could be avoided.

I strongly advise reading one or both of these books. While we may not be drawn to disaster reading, both create a sense of immediacy that is so often missed in historical accounts. We become close observers of tragedies at sea and we realize a clearer understanding of the causes. And the eyewitness testimonies are incredible to read. Excellent reading.

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Quick Picks for Kids

Quick Picks for Kids

By Jennifer Bergen, Program Manager

We all know kids need good books that inspire them, amuse them, and spark their curiosity. With library stacks closed from browsing, it can be a struggle to find new children’s books for every child in your family. Most kids are not reading the New York Times’ bestseller lists or listening to author podcasts (although I know you hardcore readers are out there!).  That’s where the expertise of children’s librarians can be of help.

“Quick Picks for Kids” is a library service we offer for parents or older kids to call and speak with a children’s librarian, Mon.-Fri. between 10:00-4:00, and we will put together a pile of books to suit your children’s interests and reading level. Using the “holds” system already in place, we can pull up to 15 books per library card. You will be notified when your stack for your super-readers is ready to be picked up in the library lobby.

Why ask a librarian? This can save you time, especially if you or your kids do not have specific titles in mind. Librarians may ask about books your child has read and enjoyed, which helps us find “read-alikes.” For example, if your child has enjoyed the “Dog Man” books by Dav Pilkey, we might pull “Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Adventure” by Jeff Kinney. This spinoff of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series is told from the little brother’s point of view and includes a ridiculous misadventure he is writing with his brother’s help. “Dog Man” readers might also go the route of “Zo Zo Zombie” by Yasunari Nagatoshi, a manga (Japanese style) graphic novel with outrageous humor similar to Pilkey’s stories.

Reading level is another important aspect librarians will inquire about when choosing titles for your child. A child who is still learning to read and is having success with Mo Willems’s popular “Elephant & Piggie” books might like Jan Thomas’s silly stories about cow, duck and friends, or “Pete the Cat” books from the “I Can Read” series. Other go-to authors at this level are Ethan Long and David Milgrim for early vocabulary and sight words. Young readers can go through a stack of these books in a day or two sometimes, so load up.

Maybe you have a reluctant reader at home who complains about reading time or always finds other things to do. The question is, what are those other things you child loves to do? We can find some great nonfiction books about Legos, art, pets, video games or athletes. Tie-ins to popular TV shows, movies and games can draw a reader in, even if it doesn’t interest the parent at all. Maybe they want to read the “Lego Star Wars Character Encyclopedia” from beginning to end. That will include some unfamiliar words building their vocabulary, and complex thinking when they relate what they read to other information they already know.

Does your child like a variety of books on many topics? Perfect! Librarians have been paying attention to the new books coming in, and they always have a list of favorites in their heads, so being asked to just pull a bunch of good books is like a little gift.

Young readers may have missed out on books recent publications like “Fire Truck vs. Dragon,” or “The Guide to Minecraft Dungeons,” or the new series “Unicorn Diaries” by Rebecca Elliott (author of “Owl Diaries”.) We don’t want you or your kids to miss out anymore. Please, make our day, and ask us to find some library books that your kids will love.

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Alex Award Winners

Alex Award Winners

By Grace Benedick, Teen Services Librarian

Every year the Young Adult Library Services Association gives out a number of literary awards. Although many awards are given to just one book or author, the Alex Awards are given to ten books written for the adult market but which may have special appeal to young adults, ages 12-18. Often the protagonists of the winning titles are teens. Winners are always selected from the previous year’s published titles and usually include a few best-sellers that are already highly popular titles. Keeping that in mind, some of these titles may have long wait lists!

Dystopian Fiction

An eerie futuristic tale, “A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World” by C. A. Fletcher is set in an earth with very few humans left after a mysterious wave of infertility led to a dwindling population. Griz lives with his parents and dogs on a quiet island. One day a stranger steals their supplies and one of their precious dogs. Griz gives chase, only to discover that the outside world is not quite what he was led to believe.

“Do You Dream of Terra-Two?” by Temi Oh is sci-fi with a focus on the interpersonal. After NASA determines that there is another inhabitable planet called Terra-Two, a small crew of young astronauts are sent to settle there. But before they can reach it, the 23-year journey will test them all to their limits.


“Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, who uses the pronouns e/em/eir is a graphic novel relating the ups and downs of growing up and finding eir identity as nonbinary and asexual. A great memoir for all readers, this book will be especially meaningful for teens still exploring their own identities.

Sara and Tegan are twins and a successful indie music duo. Their memoir, “High School,” focuses on their teenage years and their tumultuous relationship as siblings, as well as exploration of their lesbian sexuality and an emerging musical career.

AJ Dungo’s “In Waves” is a graphic novel memoir of a romantic relationship and a tribute to his late partner. Dungo weaves back and forth through time sharing episodes of their time together and highlighting her determination to keep surfing against all odds, even after losing a leg and even while fighting bone cancer.

Historical Fiction

“The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead also won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. At the start of the novel, teen protagonist Elwood is an idealist with a bright future until a chance encounter ends with him in Nickel Academy, a horrific and abusive reformatory. There he befriends Turner, who has a more cynical view. Together they attempt to survive an institution bent on destroying them. The novel is based on the history of Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Florida.

Opening in the 1960’s, Angie Cruz’s “Dominicana” is the story of young Ana, who is pressured to marry an older man and move from the Dominican countryside to New York City. In New York City her husband’s brother cares for Ana in her husband’s absence, allowing her greater freedom than she has ever known. Can she return to the way things were when her husband comes back home?

Other Genres

Best-seller, “Red, White & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston is a light-hearted rom-com. The son of the president of the U.S. is forced to into a performative friendship with longtime rival, the prince of Wales, after news outlets publish photos indicating that the two do not get along. A fresh take on the hate-to-love trope, the budding romance in this story is complicated by the characters’ political roles and very public lives.

“The Swallows” by Lisa Lutz is a psychological thriller with a revenge plot. Set at a prestigious prep school, a newly hired teacher sparks a revolt with a simple writing prompt. The assignments turned in reveal a deeply harmful environment. Unable to stand by, she joins the girls in a plot to bring down sexual predators among the boys at the school.

“Middlegame” by Seanan McGuire is a dark fantasy that follows two children as they grow up and into immense power. Created by an alchemist intent on using them to gain control of the world, the twins were raised apart from one another. In spite of the separation, their connection is unbreakable and their powers are their own.

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Funny Books and Spontaneous Laughter

Funny Books and Spontaneous Laughter

by Jared Richards, Technology Supervisor

Let’s talk about funny books and spontaneous laughter. In general, spontaneity isn’t for me. I can appreciate spontaneity in others, but I like a good plan. I want to consider thoughtfully, and be prepared for, all possible contingencies. I envision spontaneity as flinging oneself into the void and hoping there’s a sufficient amount of water or a trampoline to catch you. I’ll pass.

I’ve qualified my feelings on spontaneity, however, because spontaneous laughter is great. I’ve always been amazed by the ability of words on a page to conjure all the emotions and their byproducts. One minute your eyes are scanning across the page, and the next they’re welling up with tears. Even better, though, is when a laugh escapes your mouth, that you didn’t even know was hiding in there. I’m always up for that type of spontaneity.

Many years ago, my sister introduced me to one of my favorite books, “Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)” by Jerome K. Jerome, which was originally published in 1889. I’ve read it several times, and recently listened to the audiobook, which we have at the library. It follows three men (and a dog) taking a boat trip on the Thames. Loosely framed as a travelogue, it’s really just a collection of anecdotes, each more humorous than the last, told with a straight face, making them all the funnier. I laugh every time I read about them trying to set up a tent in bad weather, having flashbacks to my own, less entertaining, experiences as a Boy Scout.

For a slightly more timely book, there is “My Man Jeeves,” a collection of short stories by P. G. Wodehouse originally published in 1919. Our main character, describing his own brain as being “constructed more for ornament than for use,” relies on the advice of Jeeves to get him and his friends through various predicaments, to varying degrees of success.

In the first story, “Leave it to Jeeves,” Corky, a struggling artist, has been commissioned to paint the portrait of a baby. Corky and the baby don’t get along, at least if you ask Corky, and the conversation about the appearance of the baby in the final painting, brought me to tears.

Another one of my favorite books is “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole. My sister also introduced me to this book. If you don’t have a sister, I’d recommend looking into getting one. In my experience, they’ve got some pretty solid book recommendations.

Toole’s novel follows various characters around 1960s New Orleans. The main character is Ignatius J. Reilly, an odd duck to say the least, who is skilled at not only getting himself into undesirable situations, but also landing on his feet on the other side. The writing is clever, and I found myself laughing at the ridiculousness throughout.

The book, originally written in 1963, was not published until 1980, but won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction the following year. Sadly, Toole committed suicide in 1969, so he never got to see how successful his novel became.

The most recent book I’ve read is Max Wirestone’s “The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss,” a very funny, nerdy mystery. Dahlia, who has no prior detective experience, is hired to track down the thief of a digital spear from an online video game. And then the plot thickens considerably, spilling over into the real world.

I have a history of liking side characters more than I like main characters, and Charice, Dahlia’s eccentric roommate, comes close to repeating that history. But Dahlia wins out in the end. She’s highly relatable, very likeable, and she is briefly concerned about her library books not getting returned. Can’t go wrong with a responsible library patron.

There’s also a very brief reference to Laurel and Hardy, which automatically wins me over.

Some books manage to elicit a smirk or an appreciative grunt. If you’re lucky, though, you’ll find the ones that can trigger spontaneous laughter. The kind that garners sidelong stares from the people around you, and maybe a little concern as you wipe the tears from your eyes and try to catch your breath.

During the uncertain times in which we find ourselves, I take comfort in knowing I can count on the library to cheer me up. I can flip through the pages of a physical book, swipe through them on my phone, or hit play on a digital audiobook, and turn off the outside world for a bit.

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Short Stories for Short Attention Spans

Short Stories for Short Attention Spans

By Brittani Ivan, LIS Library Assistant 2

One weird side-effect of the pandemic for me is that although on paper I have far more free time, I’ve found it hard to settle down with a nice fat book the way I used to. Gone are the days of lazy evenings filled with “Outlander” sized novels- I just can’t seem to commit to longer works of fiction! Since my attention span has been a lot shorter lately, I’ve been turning to short reads instead, and thought I’d share some of my personal favorites with you in case you’ve found yourself in a similar predicament.

For people who just want a little bit of everything in their short story collections, “All New Tales” may be right up your alley. With twenty-seven stories ranging from realistic fiction to horror to mystery to fantasy, there’s something for everybody in this collection edited by Neil Gaiman. It’s also got a lot of big-name contributors, including Roddy Doyle, Michael Moorcock, Diana Wynne Jones, and Jodi Picoult, so you may find something new by one of your favorite authors!

Lovers of fantasy and science fiction literature, why not give “How Long ‘til Black Future Month” by N.K. Jemisin a go? While she’s more well-known for her fabulous full-length speculative novels, her intriguing short stories meld fantastic elements with the mundane in seriously thought-provoking ways. I especially enjoyed “Valedictorian”’s exploration of the heart-breaking challenge of being yourself in a world based on distrust of the other. Ted Chiang’s “Exhalation” is also a good choice for readers with a hankering for quick, interesting science fiction reads. In this collection of nine short stories, Chiang explores humanity’s place in the universe, the nature of free will, and bioethics through a hefty helping of A.I., time travel, and virtual reality that is certain to entertain.

If, on the other hand, you thrive on horror or suspense, I recommend trying “Being Dead” by Vivian Vande Velde. The line between the living and the dead has never felt quite so thin as in this collection of horror stories. It’ll definitely send shivers down your spine! For more of an old-school scare, check out “The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe” by American master and enigmatic mystery man himself, Edgar Allen Poe, for some of his most spine-tingling tales and poems. While you can’t go wrong with well-loved classics like the madness-inducing still-beating heart of “The Tell-tale Heart,” anyone who likes a good scare will also enjoy his other stories like “Masque of the Red Death” or “Three Sundays in a Week.”

While a story that makes you shiver can provide a good distraction, sometimes a soft, gentle read is best. If gentle realistic fiction is more your taste, “Uncommon Type” by Tom Hanks may be just the book for you. Told with Hank’s signature empathy and heart, the whimsical and sweet stories of this collection are a nice counter to all the darkness of our daily news cycle. Hanks himself reads the audiobook, which makes the stories come alive and allows you to enjoy them while you accomplish other tasks!

Speaking of other tasks, approaching our daily lives more mindfully can be another good respite from our current situation. One good book full of bite-sized mindfulness tips is Shunmyo Masuno’s “The Art of Simple Living: 100 daily practices from a Japanese Monk for a Lifetime of Zen and Joy.” The book is split into one hundred single-page reflections on mindful ways to approach each day, from going on an early morning walk in nature to carefully lining up your shoes by the front door. While you can read multiple entries at a time, it’s nice to have the book’s permission to approach settling your mind via one tiny habit a day.

In keeping with the theme of the article, that’s the last of my recommendations today. If you want more recommendations on good short fiction or nonfiction collections, please reach out to us here at Manhattan Public Library! You can contact us via phone or in person, or, if you want a whole list of possible books based on your interests, try filling out a personalized reading list request form. We’re feeling the effects of social-distancing too, and would love to help you find your next good read.

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by Rhonna Hargett, Associate Director

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts ...The past few months have been a time of stress, upheaval, and unpredictability for many of us. It can feel like we’re just trying to stay afloat in our work and home lives. It may help to pause and take the time to examine our practices and habits in order to prepare for the next change or opportunity that may be right around the corner.

There have been few times in our history when the need for courage in leadership was more clear than it is right now. We are all having to make decisions when there is no guidebook, and there may be new information tomorrow that forces us to steer in a different direction.  Fortunately, Brené Brown has some guidance to help us through this challenging time with her book “Dare to Lead.” Brown discovered in her research that what is needed most in future leadership is the courage to have tough conversations and tackle tough problems, so she and her team developed a method to develop courage in oneself and in others. The author’s name has been well-known since her TEDx talk on vulnerability went viral 10 years ago. Although her primary field of study is social work – she’s a research professor at the University of Houston – she has established a reputation in the business world for her teaching on building trust and improving work cultures. In “Dare to Lead,” she shows us how to be open to the ideas and perspectives of others while remaining grounded in our core values.

Atul Gawande, surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, shares his simple yet brilliant philosophy in “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get things Right.” As the world becomes more and more complex, it is more difficult for anyone to retain all of the information they need, even an expert. Human memory is faulty, and it is difficult to maintain attention when a process becomes routine. The solution may be as simple as an old-fashioned checklist. Experts in their field have a tendency to avoid such simple tools, believing their experience will help them to remember all of the steps that will lead to success, but studies have shown that simple checklists help us make sure the basics are covered, freeing up our brain power for creative solutions. Although targeted at the medical field, Gawande’s common sense approach shows how simple solutions can really make a difference for all of us.

So you’ve finally reached that position you’ve been working for. That’s great, but it’s not the time to sit back and rest on your laurels. We all have habits that keep us from reaching our full potential, whether in our paid work, community work, or home life. In “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful,” Marshall Goldsmith helps us to find what behaviors are getting in the way. He lists particular habits that can trip people up, but his most helpful advice is how to get honest and helpful feedback, and what to do with it once you get it. Filled with engaging anecdotes, Goldsmith’s book is a helpful tool for self-examination to improve leadership abilities in all areas of life.

The library has been challenged over the last few months to find ways to provide services to the community while keeping our patrons and staff safe. Currently, you can pick up items placed on hold and summer reading prizes in our atrium, and use our public computers by appointment. We have also expanded our online offerings for ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, business tutorials, craft ideas, and much more. You can find the above titles and more through our website at or by calling us at 785-776-4741.

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Secret Lives and Guarded Hearts

Secret Lives and Guarded Hearts

by Stephanie Wallace, LIS Library Assistant 2

In three very different places, bare feet skip down a silent, waterlogged tunnel beneath an ancient university of magic; steam pumps through pipes to power the spindly talons stomping over a rocky cliff; and the clamor of a thousand strangers’ wishes fills a clay woman’s mind. Each of these moments reveal a glimpse into the secret lives and guarded hearts found in “The Slow Regard of Silent Things” by Patrick Rothfuss, “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones, and “The Golem and the Jinni” by Helene Wecker.

I’ve always been fond of stories about people who have mysterious homes, like “All the Crooked Saints” by Maggie Stiefvater, or who have special powers other people don’t understand, such as “Fire” by Kristin Cashore. The people in these kinds of tales usually feel alone or misunderstood, a feeling many of us are familiar with, and yet they always find hope somehow. Since hope and a safe place to escape is something we especially need right now, it seems apt to recommend stories that can help. The titles I’m featuring stand out in particular because of how their authors use outstanding world building to develop unique, memorable characters.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things” is a fantasy novella and a companion to Patrick Rothfuss’ “The Kingkiller Chronicle” series. It follows Auri, a wisp of a girl some think is more spirit than human, as she tries to find the rightful – if unconventional – places for the many strange and wonderful things she finds in her labyrinthine home underground. Auri’s story has the charm of a fairy tale, yet also a somber tone that is cathartic and soothing. It’s a must-read for anyone with anxiety or too many problems on their plate.

Many people may be more familiar with the animated adaptation of “Howl’s Moving Castle,” but the original young adult fantasy novel has just as much to offer, if not more. The headstrong main characters, Sophie and Howl, learn as much about themselves as they do about each other. Their bickering is both hilarious and heartfelt, and Sophie’s no-nonsense attitude carries the whole story. Howl’s magic, enchanted home, and lively companions all complement each other and showcases exactly why this novel has captivated readers for generations.

The titular characters of “The Golem and the Jinni” are unique in that their home is in the people they befriend when they both find themselves stranded in 1899’s New York City. The Golem, a woman born of clay on a ship bound for the New World, and the Jinni, an ancient fire demon released from a dented bottle of oil, are as different from each other as the elements they came from. The people who shelter them, a rabbi and a metalsmith respectively, and the rest of the characters in the well-developed Jewish and Syrian neighborhoods are all connected in brilliant, subtle ways. All of their lives intersect or run parallel with each other while they each try to keep their origins a secret, growing ever closer until the explosive moment everything comes together.

For the characters in each of these stories, the places they’ve built for themselves define who they are. Auri, the finder of lost things, finds the perfect place for herself amongst broken and beautiful relics. Howl, a self-made magician, built his own castle, and Sophie transforms it into a home. The Golem and the Jinni, both outcasts with overlooked gifts, join neighborhoods that accept even the strangest newcomers. Without the homes they made, their stories would be not have been complete.

Home may not always be an easy place to find, but it is always there, patiently waiting. I hope you can find a second home with the characters of these stories, too.

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Book & Media Bundles at the Library

Book & Media Bundles at the Library

by Mary Swabb, Learning & Information Services Supervisor

The Missing American: Quartey, Kwei: 9781641292122: BooksWe’re living in a time of incredible change. The COVID-19 pandemic, #Black Lives Matter Movement, census, and presidential election are making 2020 a year for the history books. All of these things have coalesced, forcing Americans to take stock of what’s important and how to move forward.

The library isn’t any different. It’s experiencing an unprecedented time of change. This year was the first time in my nine years at Manhattan Public Library when the library was forced to temporarily close its doors. This closure has not only disrupted services to our patrons, it’s affected our staff’s ability to do their jobs as they normally would. Rather than succumb to the frustration that can be found in change, the library chose to adapt our services to meet the needs of our patrons. We’ve created new services like our carryout service. We’ve digitized many of our services like our children’s storytimes, teen clubs, adult book talks, and library card registration. Other services that were already available digitally, like our digital library materials, personalized reading lists, NextReads newsletters, hold requests, and Summer Reading logs have been expanded. Over the next few weeks, the library will continue to expand integral services. On June 29th, we’ll be increasing the number of items patrons can check out, and patrons will no longer need an appointment to pick up their holds. We will also be offering book and media bundles geared toward children, teens, and adults. Book and media bundles will be a collection of three items connected by a unifying topic or theme. A selection list will be available in the library’s atrium, and the bundles can be requested at the checkout desk.

To kick off the library’s book and media bundles, we’re offering the following bundles:

The Culturally Diverse Mysteries book bundle features titles with characters from various countries with a variety of genders, sexual orientations, backgrounds, problems, and experiences. If you’re interested in protagonists solving enigmas in strange locals, then this bundle is for you. It features titles like Deepa Anappara’s “Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line,” that delves into a crowded Indian market to follow young Jai as he uncovers why his classmates are disappearing at an alarming rate. “The Missing American,” by Kwei Quartey, introduces Emma Djan, a Ghanaian private investigator on her first case, who is on the hunt for Gordon Tilson, a middle-aged American widower, who disappeared in West Africa after meeting a young Ghanaian widow in an online support group. “This Town Sleeps,” by Dennis E. Staples follows Marion Lafournier, a mid-twenties gay Ojibwe man, who struggles with being openly gay in a small town as he uncovers what happened to a murdered seventeen-year-old Ojibwe basketball star.

The Home Again Romance book bundle features titles whose characters have returned home and found love. If you’re a fan of gentle contemporary romances, then you’ll be sure to enjoy these books. In “Home With You,” by Liza Kendall, Julie Riggs, an aspiring ranch owner, grapples with an old flame, Rhett Braddock, as he returns home to mend fences and buy her family’s ranch to save them from financial ruin. Kristan Higgins’ newest title, “Always the Last to Know,” follows the Frosts sisters, Sadie and Juliet, as they return home to help tend to their ailing father. While both sisters are extremely successful in their careers, they struggle with relationships. Sadie, a New York City art teacher rekindles her first love; while Juliet struggles with feeling a failure as a mother and wife. In “The Billionaire in Boots,” by Julia London, Nick Prince returns to his family’s ranch to find office manager, Charlotte Bailey, who’s been tasked with helping him rescue the ranch. Nick wants to save the ranch and leave, but his attraction to Charlotte is giving him other ideas.

To request one of these bundles, please contact the library at or 785-776-4741 ext. 300. If none of these books caught your interest, we’ll have more available in the library atrium when you come to pick up your holds. If you are interested in personalized book recommendations based on your interests, consider filling out a personalized reading list request form, which can be found on our website at We’ll curate a booklist just for you.

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Enjoying the Classics in Graphic Novel Format

Enjoying the Classics in Graphic Novel Format

by Marcia Allen, Collections Manager

It’s a wonderful, old epic and one of too few examples of literature written in Old English.   Experts don’t know when it was composed or by whom, but they believe it to have been written around the year 1000.  It’s the tale of a Scandinavian hero who makes a sea journey to the hall of the Danes to fight a marauding monster called Grendel.  “Beowulf,” the name of the both the hero and the poem recording his adventures, is one of our oldest English classics.

Of course, the circumstances and customs are far removed from our own, but an outstanding graphic novel, illustrated and retold by Santiago Garcia and David Rubin, is an excellent depiction of the story which brings the tale to life. Filled with grisly images of battle, “Beowulf” is a thrilling and violent testimony to the nature of the poem.  The cursed hall, the mother’s revenge, and the final struggle are all here in colorful panels.

For another look at a treasured epic, try Homer’s poem, “The Odyssey,” retold and illustrated by Gareth Hinds.  This marvelous adventure follows the trials that Odysseus and his men suffered on the voyage home from the siege of Troy.  It opens with Odysseus’s son bemoaning the greed of his mother’s would-be suitors, who freely feast on the family’s bounty.  From there, we follow the treacherous voyage through perils like the hungry cyclops, whom Odysseus must blind in order to avoid becoming a meal.

What’s remarkable about this illustrated version is the lavish attention to characters and to action-filled scenes.  Many of the panels are truly beautiful, especially the ocean views, while others, like Odysseus’s encounter with his deceased parents, are shadowy representations of ghostly figures.

Hinds has also created a graphic novel adaptation of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s more familiar works.  Entitled “Poe:  Stories and Poems,” the book is a lavishly-illustrated tribute to the eerie literature we all love.  “The Tell-Tale Heart,” for example, has an unsettling depiction of the soon-to-be victim’s eye, and the stealth of the murderer is drawn in dark blue panels.  The final revelation conveys all the horror of the crime hidden beneath the floor.

Hinds’ illustrations of “The Raven” are also compelling.  This time, he uses full-page artwork to accompany lines of the poem.  In fact, his drawing of the raven subtly blends skulls and skeletal hands into the feathers of the bird, and the final page features Poe’s grave with raven atop the stonework.

Ready for another famous tale?  Try “The Complete Don Quixote,” originally by Miguel de Cervantes, but illustrated and adapted by Rob Davis.  We see the famous old gentleman reading books of the lost days of chivalry.  While he desires to write a book about chivalry, he suddenly discovers that he can become an adventurous knight, and off he goes to begin his hilarious adventures.  The dialogue of the book and the constantly changing facial expressions make this graphic novel a standout.

This last graphic novel is not dedicated to a single work of literature: it is a compilation of some 25 famous poems, each illustrated in a different fashion.  Artist Julian Peters created the exquisite “Poems to See By” as his own interpretation of each poem. The lines of “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou, for example, are written on panels that appear to be quilt blocks, so the lines dance across the page.  Peters’ drawings that accompany “Musee des Beaux Arts” by W.H. Auden are incredibly detailed, especially his depiction of Brueghel’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” which has the requisite bystanders missing the splash into the ocean.

Each of the books mentioned above is beautifully executed, but they are mere samples of the many talented offerings available for you.  In you have not already done so, please explore the graphic novel selections the library offers.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Dive into Summer Reading with Great Teen Reads

Dive into Summer Reading with Great Teen Reads

by Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian Camp (9780316537759): Rosen, L. C.: Books            School’s out, temperatures are soaring, and summer’s now in full swing.  Though this may be a summer unlike any other, there are still some constants, including teens with a lot of free time.  With so many regular summer pastimes unavailable, this is a great time to explore all the great YA books available, from new titles by favorite authors to escapism and more.  All of these titles are readily available, either digitally on Sunflower eLibrary or physically through our Library Carryout service.

The most popular teen title of the summer already seems to be The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, a prequel to her mega-popular Hunger Games trilogy.  In this book, a young Coriolanus Snow mentors Lucy Gray Baird, the female tribute from District 12, during the 10th annual Hunger Games.  If you would rather listen to the audiobook, you can check it out immediately via Hoopla Digital.

Kiera Cass has built up a loyal following with her books that combine strong-willed heroines, courtly intrigue, and beautiful dresses.  Her newest book, The Betrothed, is sure to appease her fans.  After winning the affection of the king, Lady Hollis Brite thinks she has everything she needs to be happy, but a meeting with a commoner causes her to question what it is she really wants.

Teens missing out on summer camp can still get that summer-camp feel with L.C. Rosen’s Camp.  Though Randy’s always enjoyed being himself during summers at Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens, he’s reinvented himself this year for a chance at love.  As Randy gives up everything from flashy nail polish to the summer musical in order to catch the eye of hyper-masculine Hudson Aaronson-Lim, he comes to question the nature of love if you aren’t accepted for who you really are.

Abigail Hing Wen’s Loveboat, Taipei allows teens to imagine an escape from a summer stuck at home firmly under their parents’ eyes.  When Chinese-American Ever Wong’s signed up for a summer study program in Taipei, she’s expecting the worst, but she discovers it’s nicknamed “Loveboat” for a reason.  When she arrives, Ever is thrown into an exhilarating summer of scant adult supervision, love triangles, and self-discovery that teens will devour.  Best yet, this book’s already been optioned to become a movie by the same team behind the fantastic To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

On the more fantastical side, teens who enjoyed Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone can find another great Afrofuturist book in Amanda Joy’s A River of Royal Blood.  In the Queendom of Myre, potential heirs must fight to the death for the right to the throne.  As her battle with her sister approaches, Eva desperately looks for a teacher for her rare form of magick and for a way to challenge her country’s bloody and prejudiced traditions.

With racial tensions currently at a flashpoint, some teens may want to learn more about racism and anti-racism in America.  Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped is a good starting point, as it provides a thorough and teen-friendly exploration of the topic.  Beginning with the origins of racism over 500 years ago, the book continues through the present day to cover influential figures and different trends in the fight against racism.  Reynolds punctuates this history with moments to pause and reflect, making for an enlightening, but not overwhelming, read.

For more teen book suggestions, check out the Teens’ Top Ten nominees at  Every year, 25 books are selected by teens as nominees for the best books of the year, and teens across the country have the summer to read these titles before voting for their favorites in the fall.  Every title on this list is available both digitally and physically, so teens can pick their favorite format to read them in before voting in the fall.

I hope it goes without saying that all of the above titles count for summer reading, even if read digitally or via audiobook.  What else counts for summer reading?  Any form of reading, including blogs, fanfiction, and webcomics.  I hope that you and yours are all signed up for summer reading, which continues this summer for children, teens, and adults through the end of July.  We’ll be offering programming online, as well, including live Zoom programs for teens.  Prizes can be picked up at the library during select hours, on the west side of the building.  You can sign up for summer reading and learn all about it at


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