Mercury Column

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Quick Reads

Quick Reads

By Jared Richards, Learning and Information Services Supervisor

In the last few months, I haven’t had as much time or the attention span to focus on reading books. Because of this, I have found myself gravitating towards quick reads. I have always been a fan of this format, particularly short stories, but I appreciate it now more than ever. It allows me to jump into new worlds, experience new things, and be home in time for lunch.

I was initially drawn to “The Souvenir Museum” by Elizabeth McCracken because of the cover. It is bright yellow with a teal balloon animal in the center, and I can say with certainty that I have yet to read a bad book that has a balloon animal on the cover. To be honest, this is the first one I’ve come across that meets that description, but one-for-one is still one-hundred percent, and now the bar is set pretty high because I enjoyed this collection.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is that it has several stories featuring the same main characters at different points in their lives. We meet them in the first story as a fairly new couple visiting Ireland to attend the boyfriend’s sister’s wedding. And after popping into their lives several more times, the book ends with them, twenty years later, finally getting married themselves.

Most of the books I read tend to happen in a very short period of time, relatively speaking. A few days or years in a person’s life, or even the history of an empire in the context of all human civilization. Blips on their relative radars. But I do enjoy when I stumble across a story where I can follow characters and get to know them at various points throughout their lives, and it’s even better in McCracken’s collection because it’s just a quick peek, and then you’re off to something else.

In a similar, bite-sized vein, there are essay collections, different from short stories because they typically feature commentary on a specific topic, rather than following a traditional story format. “You Don’t Know Us Negroes and Other Essays” by Zora Neale Hurston, was published earlier this year, and contains not only familiar Hurston essays, but also ones that have never before been published.

Hurston was a prolific writer, publishing work on various topics for more than thirty years. Following her death in 1960, Hurston’s work fell out of the public consciousness but has since come back, more popular and powerful than ever.

The titular essay, which was originally supposed to be published in 1934 but never was, feels timelier than ever, and it is hard to believe it was written so long ago. Hurston points out that how Black people are portrayed, often by white authors, fails to capture who Black people actually are, generally relying on exaggerated stereotypes. She uses the analogy of margarine and butter, saying “In short, it has everything butterish about it except butter.” Hurston goes on to say that not including the nuances that all people have, and just collecting the highlights, doesn’t allow you to capture the whole person. She also paraphrases American humorist Josh Billings in saying, “It’s better not to know so much, than to know so much that ain’t so,” calling out the people who think they have it figured out but inevitably miss the mark. It is a very enlightened take on the importance of people writing their own stories, written over eighty years ago.

Lastly, to quickly diverge from the more traditional quick-reads realm of short stories and essays, we have cookbooks. There may be people out there who read cookbooks cover-to-cover, and to be fair, some are written that way, but that is not for me. I jump in, grab a recipe, and walk away with some good food to eat while reading short stories and essays.

Ruffage” by Abra Berens features vegetables as the main characters. Berens tells you how to buy and store each vegetable before going into multiple recipes for each, in different forms like raw, roasted, and pureed, and includes variations for each recipe to help you change things up and keep it interesting.

Her latest book, “Grist,” is similar but features grains, beans, seeds, and legumes. Whereas vegetables tend to be seasonal items that can spoil quickly, the main characters of this book are pantry staples that have a long shelf life and will be there when you need them. No matter the season, you will find recipes worth trying in these books.

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Young Adult Thrillers by Black Authors

Young Adult Thrillers by Black Authors

By: Savannah Winkler, Library Assistant 2

Cover of "Ace of Spades" by Faridah Abike IyimideThere is nothing I love more than a good thriller. Whether it be about ghostly hauntings or mysterious crimes, I can’t get enough of stories that make me double check my doors at night. Growing up, though, I wasn’t familiar with many thrillers for young adults. When I thought of thrillers back then, I thought of books like R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series, and I pictured the ominous illustrations and terrified faces of white teens on almost every cover. While I still enjoy and appreciate classic thrillers like Fear Street, the genre has thankfully become more diverse, and Black authors in particular have finally started to be represented. While there is still much progress to be made, I’d like to highlight a few of these YA thrillers by Black authors that may send a chill up your spine.

Are you a fan of “Gossip Girl?” Or perhaps Jordan Peele’s award-winning horror film, “Get Out?” If so, “Ace of Spades” by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé might be the book for you. Devon Richards is a quiet but talented musician, and headgirl Chiamaka Adebayo has ambitious plans for her future. When they are both are chosen to be Niveus Private Academy’s class prefects, it seems like nothing could ruin their senior year. Then the anonymous text messages start. The texter, who goes by Aces, is determined to ruin Devon and Chiamaka’s lives one text at a time. Soon the whole school knows their most private secrets, and their once-bright futures are suddenly threatened. When the harassing texts start to turn into something deadlier, Devon and Chiamaka must team up to stop Aces once and for all.

High school is hard and being able to see the dead doesn’t make it any easier. In “The Taking of Jake Livingston” by Ryan Douglass, sixteen-year-old Jake has enough complications in his life. He’s one of the few Black students at St. Clair Prep, and the school hallways aren’t exactly inviting. Not just because of the bullies, but the ghosts, too. Jake has been able to see spirits of the dead for most of his life, and normally they’re harmless. That is, until Sawyer, the ghost of a school shooter who took the lives of six students, begins to haunt him. Jake becomes a tool in Sawyer’s plan for revenge, and more atrocities devastate the town. Jake soon realizes he is the only one who can stop Sawyer’s unrelenting vengeance—if he can survive.

In “White Smoke” by Tiffany D. Jackson, Mari Anderson is also haunted by ghosts. Mari struggles with anxiety and substance abuse. Following a stay in rehab, she and her blended family move into a historic house in the Midwestern city known as Cedarville. Mari immediately knows there is something wrong with their new home. Doors open and close on their own, household items disappear, and a horrible smell that only Mari notices moves through the house. Then her stepsister, Piper, suddenly has an imaginary friend that isn’t interested in keeping Mari around. As she begins to learn more about her new city, Mari realizes that her house isn’t the only thing wrong with Cedarville—the local legends about the abandoned houses along their street may be more fact than fiction. But as her anxieties begin to worsen, Mari must do everything she can to hold it together and find out what’s truly haunting their home.

February is Black History Month, and you can find more book recommendations on the library catalog at  www.mhklibrary.org/catalog. Also keep an eye out for the library’s monthly ReadMHK podcast for more recommendations and discussion on this month’s topic, Black authors.

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Books by Black Authors for Kids

Books by Black Authors for Kids

By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager

In February, the library’s ReadMHK reading challenge focuses on Black authors, encouraging everyone to enjoy the diversity of literature produced by African-American authors and illustrators. Last week, the American Library Association announced their children’s literature awards, several of which went to “Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre.” Written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Floyd Cooper, this picture book account of the 1921 massacre in Oklahoma received the Coretta Scott King Author Award and the Illustrator Award, a Caldecott Honor, and a Sibert Honor for best children’s nonfiction.

The first half of “Unspeakable” shows the birth of the Greenwood district where 10,000 Blacks from various backgrounds created a thriving community, which Booker T. Washington called the “Negro Wall Street of America.” Cooper features specific businesses, houses, old cars and fancy hats, theaters, barber shops, and hotels. Weatherford’s straightforward writing paired with Cooper’s expressive painting skillfully carry the horrific story to an end that is hopeful and inspiring. Children must know our sad history in order to ensure a better present and future, “to reject hatred and violence and to instead choose hope.” Both Weatherford and Cooper have many other wonderful books that explore and Black history.

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky” by Kwame Mbalia is the first of a fabulous fantasy series based in African-American mythology and part of the “Rick Riordan Presents” collection. Tristan’s best friend Eddie has died in a tragic bus accident where Tristan tried to help him but couldn’t save him. Now Tristan must work through his feelings of sorrow, guilt, and anger, and the only thing that comforts him is knowing he has Eddie’s precious journal.

Things get weird quickly when Tristan notices an odd glow coming from the journal, and then a small, very impertinent creature hops through his window and tries to steal it. Tristan has a lot to learn when he accidentally enters the world of Alke, where real-life Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit, John Henry, Gum Baby and the elusive Anansi have powers and agendas. “Tristan Strong Destroys the World” and “Tristan Strong Keeps Punching” continue the adventurous tales, and Mbalia’s anthology “Black Boy Joy” is currently on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

Basketball lovers who enjoyed Kwame Alexander’s Crossover series will love reading the graphic novel adaptation of the first book with illustrations by Dawud Anyabwile. “The Crossover” feels like it was made to be interspersed with Anyabwile’s emotive and action-packed illustrations of black, white, and orange. The text itself seems to be making basketball plays as it moves wildly across the pages. Even if you have read the novel already, the startling plot will surprise and grip you as Filthy and his brother JB work through family quarrels, secrets, and tragedy, with a tender conclusion any sibling will appreciate. Jason Reynolds’s new middle grade book, “Stuntboy, In the Meantime,” is a similar format with the words of the humorous story intermingled with fun illustrations by the super-cool Raúl the Third.

The new “Twins” graphic novel by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright is a perfect fit for Raina Telgemeier fans. Francine and Maureen are identical twins, and everyone has trouble telling them apart, until now. “Fran” wants to look different when they enter middle school as sixth graders and begins to separate herself from Maureen in classes, friendship circles and interests. When they both decide to run for class president, tensions grow to epic proportions. Wright’s colorful panels depict the ups and downs of middle school and family life, and Johnson captures both the insecurities and excitement of finding out who you really are.

Finally, there are hundreds of excellent biographies of Black men and women who have made their mark on America’s history throughout the ages. New short biographies in the “She Persisted” series include Harriet Tubman, Ruby Bridges and Florence “Flo-Jo” Griffith Joyner. Vashti Harrison’s Little Leaders series for kids has two volumes on the best sellers list – “Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History” and “Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History.” Harrison’s board book adaptations of these books are accessible for preschoolers, and other picture books she has illustrated are some of my favorites: “Hair Love,” “Cece Loves Science,” and “Sulwe,” which is written by actress Lupita Nyong’o about learning to love the darkness of her skin.

February is Black History Month, but exploring the amazing books by contemporary Black authors in fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, young adult, and children’s literature is valuable all the time. Check out our booklists available from mhklibrary.org/readmhk. You can also sign up for ReadMHK, a 9-month community wide reading program, and come to a book discussion at 7 p.m. on February 17 for a relaxed small group discussion of what books we have read and enjoyed by Black authors. A zoom option will be available for the book discussion.

 

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Books For Worldbuilding Inspiration

Books For Worldbuilding Inspiration

by Evren Celik, Library Assistant

Have you ever lent someone your favorite book and been told it was too boring to finish? Do you spend more time in a video game’s character creation screen than you do actually playing it, or have notebooks full of worldbuilding ideas for a novel with no plot?

Welcome to the club! I’d recommend looking into running tabletop roleplaying games, if you haven’t already. If you have, or if you’re just interested in some ideas for building out your next world, here’re some books with interesting characters, mysteries, or narrative styles to inspire you:

One of the first things I think about when building a world is magic. If it exists, where does it come from? How does it work? While I love books full of everyday magic, or secret wizard societies existing unseen among the ordinary world, “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig is one of my favorite examples of a fantastical story that never feels like it leaves reality.  The novel follows depressed, regret-filled Nora Haig, who explores real-life problems through an exaggerated version of what people do all the time – disappearing into a book. The story could be described as magical realism, though it’s on the list because of how the worldbuilding relies on magic to further the plot without ever focusing on it or feeling completely removed from real life. The balance of escapism and themes like mental health is why I’d especially suggest it to anyone who has to continuously resign themselves to not being kidnapped by dragons.

Next there’s Edith Pattou’s middle grade books, “East” and its sequel “West.” The titles allude to the significance of cardinal directions in the books, and the Scandinavian folk tale the series is an adaptation of, “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.”  Pattou’s worldbuilding involves taking a seemingly small, specific detail like cardinal directions and using it to create a mystery in a book that isn’t technically a mystery. This can be seen on the first page, where the narrator, titled “Father,” explains, “Ebba Rose was the name of our last-born child. Except that was a lie. Her name should have been Nyamh Rose. But everyone called her Rose rather than Ebba, so the lie didn’t matter. At least, that is what I told myself.”

If you don’t immediately want to know why Rose’s name matters so much, the book’s mystery also involves similar themes to Clare Vanderpool’s “Moon Over Manifest.” Both explore hidden family secrets and local legends, narrated through multiple perspectives using a nonlinear timeline. This can be a fun example of how to reveal a world through characters rather than omniscient narration – the family often recalls the same events across chapters, but each recollection provides a different focus, level of understanding, or version of events than the previous ones.

Another middle grade novel inspired by folktales is “13 Treasures,” the first book in a series by the same name, written by Michelle Harrison. The book follows 13-year-old Tanya, who can see fairies. This sounds like a gift…except that nobody else can see them, and these fairies are more fae folk than Tinkerbelle. In alignment with the legends inspiring the series, Tanya’s faeries do not appreciate little girls trying to tell everyone about them.

Harrison’s work shares themes with “East” like a years-old mystery involving a faraway world, though the mystery is more central in “13 Treasures.” I’ve included it because, along with having intricate worldbuilding based on mythology, the series has unique examples of common story elements, like: what counts as a “disguise;” rules for keeping magic secret; conditions for deterring magic; the definition of self-sacrifice; and, most specifically, the technicalities of how one measures time. The last one especially is an interesting way to think about whether magical beings would be beholden to human rules, which is fun to use when building puzzles.

These are by no means all of the books with inspiring worldbuilding elements. I didn’t even have room to talk about “The Silmarillion” (though neither did Tolkien). Luckily, you can find these books and similar titles through our catalog’s NoveList feature – just go to the bottom of a title to see tags such as “world-building” and “multiple perspectives,” then click on them to see recommendations.

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Finding helpers and mentors in young adult literature

Finding helpers and mentors in young adult literature

by Jan Johnson, Teen Librarian

We’ve all heard the often-quoted inspirational words of the beloved Mister Rogers “’When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. ‘” When I’m feeling disheartened by the negativity that seems to be everywhere, it really does help to “look for the helpers”, in this case, read about them.

When we started the ReadMHK program, while we were deciding what to do for January, I remember typing “what month is January” into google and National Mentoring Month popped up. Yes! Perfect! What has always amazed me about Manhattan is that we have an incredible amount of people who are always willing and eager to offer help to those who might benefit from their support. Helping comes in so many different forms. Whether it’s a group of friends who rally around each other to drop off animal crackers or soup to one of them who is not having the greatest day, to a kind stranger buying someone’s groceries at Dillons, to an individual giving their time to help foster kids and their families. Helping others doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, as you’ll see in the books below, simply offer a kind word, inspiration, or just a listening ear. Young adult books are plentiful when it comes to looking for the helpers.

The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby is a story about Mari, an Instagram star, who posts about her perfect life and boyfriend, and is an inspiration to her thousands of followers. We find Mari on her 18th birthday starting the day with a picture-perfect healthy smoothie, inspirational yoga session and surprise perfect present from her boyfriend. We end the day with her breaking down on her feed admitting that her life is not perfect and that feels like a fake. Mari shares a birthday with her cousin Bri. But Bri isn’t turning 18 this year. Bri died in a hiking accident while she was training for her dream trip of hiking the 221-mile John Muir Trail, which was supposed to start a few days after her 18th birthday. Mari gets a huge package from her aunt containing Bri’s backpack, hiking boots, and notebook with the information that she had put Mari on the hiking permit with her. Mari misses the closeness the two cousins had shared and sees this as a sign that she should go pick up the permit and hike to the first leg of the journey that Bri had planned. Along the trail Mari meets a girl who Bri helped overcome her self-doubt by offering the simple words “every day is a chance to be better than you were the day before”. Mari takes these words to continue hiking, meeting others along the way who help her. A simple “you got this” from a passing stranger fuels her desire to push on. As she navigates the challenging trail, she discovers that help comes when you least expect it from the people you meet along the trail and is the catalyst for how to find she finds her way back to herself.

Channel Kindness: Stories of Kindness and Community by Born This Way Foundation and Lady Gaga is a collection of inspirational stories from young people who turn everyday acts of kindness into encouragement for us all to do more where we can.  Listening to the audiobook of this was an added treat of hearing some of the stories read by the changemakers who wrote the stories themselves. Within this book you will find stories that tell of everyday acts of kindness that show the priority of helping others reminding us what’s important offering a kind word to a stranger experiencing an anxiety episode, starting a mentorship program at schools to connect kids of differing abilities to encourage friendships, a transgender youth describing their transition online and in doing so helping others going through similar situations, and simple acts of everyday kindness.

You will find many more stories of inspiration, mentorship, helpers and kindness in our booklists on our site www.mhklibrary.org/catalog as well as displays in our young adult and children’s sections. If you would like to participate in our ReadMHK nine month long reading program, you can register on our website or come into the library.

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Helping Others

Helping Others

by Rhonna Hargett, Associate Director of Learning and Information Services

cover of "What are you going through" by Sigrid Nunez. A grey cat sits on the arm of a navy couch on a blue background. The title words are blue, then orange, sky blue, yellow.Through the difficulties of the recent years, the shining stars of our society have been the helpers. Our healthcare workers and first responders have gone above and beyond to keep us safe in a world that sometimes feels chaotic. The January theme for the Manhattan Public Library reading program ReadMHK is “Helping and Mentoring Others.” In my experience, an important role we can all play is to help each other through rough times by just being present and providing community. I’ve found a few books that help us to explore what that can look like.

In the sweet and humorous book “Anxious People” by Fredrik Backman, a group of people at an open house for an apartment are accidentally taken hostage by a failed bank robber. Ro and Julia are about to have a baby and need a bigger place. Roger and Anna-Lena are spending their retirement avoiding conflict by flipping one apartment after another. Estelle is looking for a place for her granddaughter to live. Zara has been obsessed with apartment shopping for years. They end up trapped in the apartment together, with a relentlessly positive real estate agent, an unsuccessful bank robber, and an unexpected character locked in the bathroom. The story goes back and forth between the events taking place in the apartment and the investigation carried out by a frustrated father and son police team. What could be a terrifying situation ends up unexpectedly touching all of their lives in positive ways because they are forced to help each other as they have never done before. We know the main plot from the very beginning, but Backman is an expert at peeling back the layers of underlying stories until we learn the heart of the matter for each character.

What Are You Going Through” by National Book Award winning author Sigrid Nunez is the narration of a series of encounters that the main character experiences while moving through the world. She shares about her interaction with the host of her guest lodgings, her ex-husband, the grouchy neighbor she visits, and especially her friend from her youth. She listens to their struggles and triumphs, quietly allowing them to process their thoughts while we get to read her inward observations. The book is introspective and thoughtful, with observations on the meaning of life and death, but also has moments of humor. Nunez’s avoidance of named characters adds to a feel that this is a story of the human condition, that these encounters could have happened to anyone, anywhere. Throughout the book, her presence and listening ear provide support to those around her, even though she isn’t always sure whether she’s made the right choices.

In “The Music of Bees” by Eileen Garvin, rural Oregon beekeeper Alice Holtzman suffers from panic attacks after the sudden death of her husband. During an attack, she barely avoids running over Jake Stevenson, a young adult who was confined to a wheelchair after a stunt gone wrong during his senior year. During their encounter, Alice discovers Jake’s difficult home situation and invites him to live in her bunkhouse. Soon after, Alice offers some carpentry work and a home to Harry Stokes. Through their care for the bees and one another, the unlikely group creates a family and finds a way to start healing the wounds they each carry.

ReadMHK is a 9-month community-wide reading program during which we can make community connections through similar reading experiences.  To find more ways to participate in ReadMHK, including our podcast in which we interview Manhattan community members, themed book lists, and upcoming book discussions, go to our website at www.MHKlibrary.org.

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Baking for the Holidays

Baking for the Holidays

by Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian

Cover of "Pastry Love" by Joanne Chang. The title in white cursive font is over a close up of toasted square pastries with figs in the middle, which are being dusted with sugar. The holidays have come around again, and for many people (myself included) that means baking. Due to busy schedules, my family’s holiday celebrations will be happening late this year, which gives me plenty of time to decide what I should bake for them. Should I bake my favorite chocolate cookies? Should I try a new cupcake recipe? Or should I go with a classic pie? Here are some of the cookbooks I’ll be perusing as I determine which desserts to bake for the holidays and into next year.

Sarah Kieffer’s aptly-named “Baking for the Holidays” is the obvious place to start. Bakes are divided up by occasion, starting with breakfast and going through all manner of desserts to make and share. Desserts include the usual winter flavors of mint, hot chocolate, and winter fruits like pears and cranberries. The best part of Kieffer’s book may be shortcuts for making fiddly doughs for croissants and Danishes, which place difficult pastries within the reach of less-experienced home bakers.

Dorie Greenspan quickly became one of my personal favorite bakers after I discovered the glorious tome “Dorie’s Cookies.” Her newest book, “Baking with Dorie,” continues to be a joy, with simple-yet-complex recipes that could be used for many occasions. Better yet, Greenspan frequently offers advice for different situations (like mixing by hand or with a stand mixer) and suggests ways to improvise and make the recipes your own. The hardest thing about baking from this book may be picking one recipe to get started with. I’ll be starting with her World Peace Cookies 2.0, an easier version of her classic chocolate cookies that are so good they could start world peace.

My go-to baking cookbook is “Pastry Love” by Joanne Chang, a book that boasts recipes for two of the best foods I’ve ever baked. As soon as I first made them, Apple Cider Sticky Buns seemed destined for a winter morning shared with family, and Chang’s recipe for Billionaire’s Shortbread is perfect to make in large batches for cookie exchanges. “Pastry Love” also includes recipes for desserts with traditional winter flavors like Eggnog Cheesecake with Gingerbread People, Peppermint Kisses, and Vanilla-Mint Marshmallows. If you’re an intermediate-level baker, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

The King Arthur Baking Company just updated their compendium of cookie recipes, “The Essential Cookie Companion,” which includes over 400 recipes for cookie goodness. Though this book doesn’t include full-color photographs of cookies, it more than makes up for that with the breadth and depth of information included. Not only are there hundreds of cookie recipes, but there’s information about gluten-free flours, high-altitude baking, and even how to package up your treats for sharing.

If pies are more your speed than cookies, Erin Jeanne McDowell’s “The Book on Pie” has you covered. Not only does McDowell love pie, but she has a gift for explaining and simplifying the science behind it. McDowell covers everything from troubleshooting dough problems to picking which kind of fat to use in a crust to determining how much dough you need for various sizes of pies. Truly, this book is a wonder for pie-baking enthusiasts!

            If there’s a young’un in your life, you may be planning on baking with them this holiday season. The Children’s Room has many cookbooks that can facilitate such efforts, but America’s Test Kitchen’s “The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs” would be my first choice. Not only does this book have easy recipes that are ideal for kids, but it also walks young bakers through the baking process with straightforward steps and photos of every recipe. Maybe best of all, there’s a pumpkin pie recipe that’s impossible to burn (it’s made with gelatin and chills to set).

Whenever your family celebrates this holiday season, I hope there are books and baked goods aplenty. And as always, we’ll be here for you in the new year, ready with books on all topics of interest to you and yours.

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Picture Books of 2021

Picture Books of 2021

By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Youth Services Manager

Title of the Littlest Yak by Lu Fraser - featuring a group of Yak's standing in the snow with colorful hats. One in the front is very small. So many wonderful children’s picture books came out this year, some of them light-hearted, some serious, and some with amazing illustrations – all of them begging to be shared with a young person. Pre-readers depend on their grown-ups to spend time reading stories and delighting in them together, and reading aloud forms a strong bond as well. Here are some new books at the top of my list to share:

Change Sings” by Amanda Gorman is just a beautiful book, from the colorful flowing illustrations by Loren Long to the lyrical poetry of the text. It follows one girl with a guitar who befriends a boy while they pick up trash in the neighborhood. With each page turn, more children are added. Each child is given an instrument to play along as they find ways to positively impact their environment and people around them. Gorman’s remarkable talents for composing poetry and inspiring others are both evident in this book which reminds us all that we can change our world.

Chez Bob” by Bob Shea (we see what you did there, Bob!) will have your kids giggling from the start as a very lazy alligator named Bob plans to get his dinner without having to put in any work. How can he get delectable birdies to come to him? He decides to open a bird restaurant on his snout! This plan actually works, as birds flock to Chez Bob, “which is a real restaurant and not a trick,” Bob assures them. But, as Bob Shea says, this is “not a European picture book.” Violence is averted, and Bob is sure to steal your heart by the end.

It Was Supposed to Be Sunny” by Samantha Cotterill is an important book to share with children about the strong emotions that come from disappointment. Part of the “Little Senses” series, Cotterill’s stories are helpful for “wonderfully sensitive kids,” including those on the autism spectrum. When Laila planned her birthday party, she had very distinct ideas about how it would go, including being outside in the sunshine and having a unicorn cake. She and her mother planned activities that suited Laila’s sensibilities, like not having balloons or a loud birthday song, and instead planning a sparkly craft and a “wish jar.” The book begins with a loud thunder boom, and Laila’s party doesn’t look like it will go right. She and her mother have to keep adjusting and finding solutions. This book is every bit as important for the parents as it is for the child to see how to work through frustrations and sadness, and find ways to still have fun!

The Littlest Yak” by Lu Fraser and Kate Hindley is the perfect pick for the child who feels too small, too young, and too left out. Hindley’s extremely adorable-looking yaks do not make fun of little Gertie, but she feels left out just the same. “I’m a yak at the back who is stuck in her smallness, I want to grow UP and have greatness and tallness!” When an even tinier yak is stuck at the end of a narrow mountain ledge, only Gertie is small enough to climb up and save him. As Gertie’s mummy has said, bigness comes in different shapes and sizes. Being small is not so bad after all.

It Fell from the Sky” by brothers Terry and Eric Fan will delight kids and adults with black and white detailed drawings of insects looking like they dropped out of Alice’s Wonderland. The only color is from a magical object that has dropped down from the sky for the ladybug, walking stick and grasshopper to analyze. What could this amazing, round, yellow and green object be? When the finely accessorized spider decides to take it as his own, he creates an exhibit where bugs must pay for a rare glimpse of the Wonder from the Sky. Part cautionary tale, part magical fantasy, the art and story will entice young listeners.

For more great recommendations, visit the library’s ReadMHK website (mhklibrary.org/readmhk) for book lists of new titles from 2021.

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New YA by Debut Authors

New YA by Debut Authors
By Savannah Winkler, LIS Library Assistant

My life would be very different without young adult books. Starting in seventh grade, the stories I found in the teen area of my hometown public library shaped the remaining years of my childhood. From my cozy spot in the library’s bean bag chairs, I faced danger and made impossible choices with Katniss in “The Hunger Games” and learned about first loves with Hazel and Gus from “The Fault in Our Stars.” YA has changed significantly since then, and, despite being a handful of years into adulthood, I still find myself gravitating towards the new and inventive stories that current YA titles have to offer. Luckily, this year has brought us some fresh and exciting titles by debut authors.

Lauren Blackwood’s debut novel, “Within These Wicked Walls,” adds a fantastically gothic and Ethiopian-inspired twist to the classic story of “Jane Eyre.” Andromeda works as a debtera, a kind of exorcist responsible for cleansing houses of curses or malevolent energy. Faced with uncertainty and poverty, Andromeda does not hesitate when the privileged Magnus Rochester offers her a job. However, once she arrives at Thorne Manor, Andromeda soon realizes something even more sinister is lurking inside this lavish desert castle. Andromeda knows she should run, but her growing feelings for Magnus keep her from leaving while she still has the chance.

Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun” by Jonny Garza Villa tells a more light-hearted story, but that doesn’t mean life is easy for protagonist Jules Luna. Jules wants nothing more than to get away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the disapproving looks of those around him—especially his father. Jules plans to lay low and focus on getting into college, but one impulsive post on Twitter changes everything and reveals his secret to the world: he is gay. Jules must suddenly face the rejection and hurt he’s always feared, but he discovers he isn’t alone. Mat, an online crush from Los Angeles, reaches out to Jules when he needs it most. With the help of Mat and friends, Jules learns how live his life authentically and without reservations.

One of my most anticipated additions to the horror genre this year was Courtney Gould’s “The Dead and the Dark.” The lives of the two main characters, Logan and Ashley, could not be more different. Logan has traveled the country and chased ghosts with her dads as they host their popular paranormal TV show, “Paraspectors.” Ashley, on the other hand, has never known a world outside of her safe and predictable home in Snakebite, Oregon. Despite their differences, their lives intertwine when Logan’s dads decide to return to their hometown of Snakebite, but what is meant to be a short trip turns into an extended stay as young people begin to disappear and the town’s hidden secrets are slowly revealed.

On the back cover of “Not Here to Be Liked” by Michelle Quach, the book gives its readers a warning: this book contains an unlikable female character. High school junior Eliza Quan has never been concerned with her likability. She’s too busy turning out articles for her school’s newspaper and preparing for the upcoming election for editor in chief. Eliza assumes she is a shoo-in, until the charismatic but less-qualified Len DiMartile is elected instead. Eliza pours her frustrations into an essay that is meant only for herself, but when that essay is published online, she finds herself at the forefront of a feminist movement she never intended to start.

The library’s ReadMHK program continues this month with the topic new and shiny books. If you enjoy discovering new books or are looking to get some new titles for your “To Read” list, consider checking out our librarian-curated book lists on our website.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

Read Something New & Shiny

Read Something New & Shiny

By Julie Mills, Learning & Information Services Supervisor

Cover of "The Book of Magic" by Alice Hoffman. A faded yellow tinted image of a young white woman with light wavy hair smiling at a book. I don’t know about you, but for me there is nothing like opening up a brand-new book for the first time.  Not just a new book to me, but one that has barely been read before and has that hot of the presses shiny cover and the new book smell. I still prefer print books for this very reason; the tactile experience is part of what keeps me reading paper books. Join me and crack open a new and shiny book published in 2021 and read along with us for the ReadMHK December topic. ReadMHK is a community-wide reading program aimed at building connections through reading and sharing experiences with each other.

First off here are a couple of new books that I have been looking forward to reading. Out in October 2021, “The Book of Magic” is the newest and final book in the Practical Magic series by Alice Hoffman. If you read the book or watched the movie “Practical Magic” you will be excited to know that the author has also written a couple of prequels. “Magic Lessons” is the story of the Owens’ ancestor Maria.  Set in the 1600s, it gives fans the way back story of how Maria survived the Witch Hunts and went on to become the matriarch of the family. Next, we have “The Rules of Magic” which fills in the story of Aunts Franny and Jet, and introduces us to their brother Vincent. If, like me, you have been waiting for the fourth book in this series, it is here! “The Book of Magic” focuses on Sally’s daughters, Kylie and Antonia while also finishing the stories of Sally and Gillian from the very popular “Practical Magic”.

In keeping with the theme of sisters and magic we have “The Missing Sister” published in June 2021. This is the seventh and penultimate book in The Seven Sisters series written by Lucinda Riley. In this story, the author takes us across the globe while the six sisters use magic to locate their long lost seventh sibling. The series will conclude with an eighth and final book, “Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt”, coming out in 2023 that will feature the story of the sister’s father.

Black Water Sister” by Zen Cho is a brand-new book published in May 2021. The title may use the word sister; however, the story focuses more on the supernatural with a spirit named Black Water Sister. The author takes us to Malaysia to follow Jessamyn as she hears the ghostly voice of her dead grandmother who used to be a spirit medium. Gods, idols, and family treachery will keep you on the edge of your seat until you read the last line of this book.  Bravely, after all she has been through, Jess can finally come out to her traditional parents.  The author leaves us there but knowing that all will be well.

Gold Diggers: A Novel” is the debut novel by author Sanjena Sathian. It is another new book and has a gorgeous cover if you judge a book by its cover! It came out in April 2021, and tells the coming of age story of Neil and Anita. Both of whom are first generation Americans growing up in an Atlanta suburb with a large Indian family. The second half of the book takes place ten years down the road and we see Neil embrace his heritage. Studying history, he learns we must all embrace where we came from and that all of our stories matter.  If not, those in positions of power may erase who we really are.

Stop by Manhattan Public Library’s new book display, grab something that catches your eye and join us for next month’s ReadMHK book discussion night Tuesday, December 21st, at 7pm. If you need some more suggestions, head over to the Reference desk on the second floor where we have book lists available to help you find your fresh new read.

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