Mercury Column

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Fantastic Children’s Books from 2018

Fantastic Children’s Books from 2018

By Laura Ransom, Children’s Services Coordinator

I have the great privilege of seeing hundreds of new children’s books at our library each year. Here are a few stand-outs from 2018 that you won’t want to miss.

I Lost My Tooth by Mo Willems is the first book in the new series Unlimited Squirrels by Willems. His previous books include the bestsellers Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and the Elephant and Piggie series. This new book features a large cast of energetic squirrel friends, including Zip Squirrel, Zoom Squirrel, and Research Rodent, just to name a few. One of the squirrels lost his tooth, and before he has time to elaborate, the squirrel gang is ready to investigate this new mystery. This book is perfect for children who are just beginning to read on their own but would also be a fun read-aloud for younger folks.

My Friends Make Me Happy! by Jan Thomas is another excellent book for beginning readers. Sheep, Duck, Dog, and Donkey are the best of friends, but sometimes they forget how to listen to each other. The animals learn about taking turns in this story, which is part of a new series by Thomas called the Giggle Gang. Our children’s librarians had the pleasure of meeting Jan Thomas a few years ago when her book Is Everyone Ready for Fun? was featured as the Kansas Reads to Preschoolers selection. Her exuberance and love for children is evident in all of the books she’s written.

Although picture books often feature happy characters and energetic themes, I’m Sad by Michael Ian Black is a welcome exception to the genre. A pink flamingo tells his friends that he is feeling sad, and they offer encouraging words and wisdom to cheer him up. They don’t offer a quick fix for his sadness, however, and that is why I would highly recommend this book. 

A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes is another stellar story with colorful elephants bounding across the pages. Henkes includes simple counting skills and introduces readers to the concept of opposites: over, under, up and down. Besides being cute and colorful, the elephants also have a magical ability to trumpet stars from their trunks! It is a truly lovely read-aloud for toddlers and preschoolers alike.

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora is a stunning debut by this new author. “Omu” is what Mora called her grandma in her Nigerian family. At the start of the story, Omu is cooking a fragrant pot of thick stew. The aroma is so enticing that a little boy stops by and asks for a sample! Omu gladly shares with him, but he isn’t the only one who wants to try her stew. A policewoman, a baker, the mayor, and several others are drawn to the stew, and Omu is happy to feed all of them. When she realizes that the stew has been steadily devoured by all of her visitors, she is saddened that there is none left for her to eat. But when she hears a knock at her door, all of the people she fed are back with their own food to share. What a heartwarming story about generosity and building a community!

Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera could be the crown jewel of the entire year. Herrera writes about his childhood as a son of migrant farm-workers. This isn’t a heavy story, however; he describes the struggles from his younger years with optimism and hope for the future. Illustrations by Lauren Castillo add to the dreamy quality of the story. Herrera never stopped imagining what could be possible, and he flourished as an adult, becoming the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017. Imagine really shows us what children’s books are all about: inspiring the little ones from the next generation to dream big dreams.

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Adventuring with a Book

Adventuring with a Book

By Jared Richards, Adult & Teen Services Assistant Supervisor

Every adventure starts with a good book, at least mine do. When a potential adventure is presented tome, the first thing I do is look for a book. I’m generally not one for spontaneity – I’m not going to jump in headfirst without first figuring out how deep the water is. I like knowing what I’m getting myself into, and how to get out of it.

I will admit I’m fairly liberal with my use of the word “adventure.” Not to the extent that “awesome” or “amazing” get thrown around, but I don’t restrict the definition to something unusual or hazardous. I’ve had some pretty great, mundane adventures. My working definition for an adventure is any activity, preferably a fun one, that has an unknown outcome. Like going to the grocery store after they’ve rearranged the aisles, or going left instead of right on a poorly-marked trail. I would classify those as adventures that are more on the mundane side, and they don’t necessarily require a book. So let’s go bigger.

I discovered “Out on the Wire” by Jessica Abel when looking for books about podcasting. A podcast is basically an on-demand radio show that you can listen to whenever you want,wherever you are. “Out on the Wire” gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at how some of the most popular narrative storytelling shows on NPR are made. For fans of “This American Life,” “The Moth,” “Snap Judgment,” and “Serial,” Abel’s book offers insight into how these shows craft their stories, as well as the nuts and bolts of recording audio and then editing those recordings. It may be surprising, but “Out on the Wire” is actually a graphic novel, and that is the perfect medium for breaking down all of the technical information found in this book, making it fun and far less overwhelming. It is also a great book for anyone interested in starting a podcast, because you’re given tips and the lessons learned by some of the most popular podcast creators.

Starting a podcast and broadcasting it to the world is an adventure that can take place from the comfort of your own home. Let’s scale things up a bit now and look at international travel. Again, I’m not one for the hazardous types of adventure. You won’t find me jumping off bridges or climbing Mount Everest, but I would say, within reason, international travels falls within my limits.

Lonely Planet has a series of books called “Make My Day” that include destinations like Barcelona, Paris, and Tokyo, to name a few. The pages of these books are cut into three tiles,the top representing the morning, the middle is the afternoon, and the bottom is the evening. This allows each period of the day to be mixed and matched independently. Lonely Planet gives you their top three perfect days, but you have full control to create your own perfect day. Combine these with a Fodor’s travel guide, which goes into far greater detail, to get the most out of your adventure.

And for the seriously adventurous among us, why not take the reins and fly yourself to your destination? Given the time of year, you might feel compelled to take that literally, but you’ll need to pump the brakes on that sleigh ride. That jolly fellow is probably pretty busy, and I doubt he has any spare reindeer. Alternatively, why not grab the figurative reins, and learn how to fly an actual plane?

The Student Pilot’s Flight Manual” by William K. Kershner covers everything from your first flight to flying at night or cross-country. One of the most interesting bits of information is a list of the types of fields you may have to land in during an emergency, listed from good to very poor. At the top of the list is a pasture, but it is noted that you should land as far away from any cows as you can because they like to eat airplane fabric. Who knew?

This is the perfect segue into a lengthy discussion of all the culinary adventures you can embark on, thanks to our substantial cookbook collection, but with that whetting of your appetite, I’ve run out of time. So, whether you want to create the world’s next viral podcast from the comfort of your home or you want to fill up your passport, the Manhattan Public Library can help you along the way. Come on down and start your next adventure by checking out a book.

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The Deciding Battle of the American Revolution

The Deciding Battle of the American Revolution

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

I first encountered the wonderful writing of Nathaniel Philbrick when I read In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex some years ago.  That nonfiction tale recounted the disabling of the whaleship Essex in 1820 as the result of an impact with a maddened sperm whale.  Philbrick’s lively history gave us a detailed description of the suffering of the crew as they drifted for months at sea.  The book received great honors when it was selected as the winner of a National Book Award later in the year 2000.

Next, I read Mayflower which Philbrick published in 2007.  In the course of another engrossing true story, Philbrick explained the truths behind the violent beginnings of our country.   This book tells of the rigors of Plymouth Colony, as well as compelling biographical information about the Pilgrims.  Like In the Heart of the Sea, this book is riveting.

New this fall is Philbrick’s story of the final year of the Revolutionary War. In particular, the book focuses on the efforts of the French navy to aid the American cause.  In the Hurricane’s Eye is a masterful account of George Washington’s frustrated attempts to end the conflict.  Benedict Arnold, once a valuable supporter of the American cause, was now a traitor and a capable leader for the British. 
The once-enthusiastic American forces were discouraged by poor equipment and lack of payment, so many were reluctant to continue war efforts.  Food supplies were short, weather and poor roadways inhibited movement, and Congress had done little to maintain the war effort.

Why the necessity for the French navy?  At that time, the world knew about the British superiority as sea.  American ships of war lacked both numbers and strength when compared to the British vessels.  The French naval leaders were willing to aid the Americans, but they knew they would also need additional help.  Thus, the French helped the Spanish regain territory lost to the British in the Caribbean, in return for backing from the Spanish in the American cause. 

French intervention led to a crucial turning point in the war: the Battle of the Chesapeake.  Highly talented French Admiral de Grasse lured British forces away from the bay, thus preventing them from aiding Lord Cornwallis in Battle at Yorktown.  In the meantime, the American troops had made use of extensive redoubts for fortification.  Losing troops, losing control of battlements, and lacking reinforcements, Lord Cornwallis, the much-feared leader of British forces, decided to capitulate.  Thus the determining battle of the Revolutionary War was declared an American victory when American ships were not even involved in the crucial battle of the bay.

That’s the background, but Philbrick’s story does so much more.  He brings to historical events lots of little ironies and bits of both humor and tragedy that are fascinating.  For example, he includes written testimonials of events, like those of American Captain John Ewald who described the night of the Battle of Yorktown as “dark as a sack.”  The author includes accounts of the snubs that the British troops exhibited as they refused to cast eyes on the shabbily clad Americans.  He tells of Washington’s refusal to accept the demands of the defeated Cornwallis, instead insisting that British soldiers walk a gauntlet between French and American troops and cast their weapons to the ground in a large pile.  He tells of the bravery of American leaders, like Nathanael Greene, who never clearly won a battle but who managed to be a significant force in slowing British advancement. 

For those interested in the events following the war, Philbrick’s section entitled “Aftermath” is a real treasure.  Here we discover quick summations of the rest of the lives of the major players of the book. Here is a frustrated Benedict Arnold carping about money he felt the British still owed him.  Here is Nathanael Greene, dead at forty-three of sunstroke, praised as a genius by Alexander Hamilton.  And here is George Washington who died at the age of sixty-seven, probably felled by pneumonia.

There’s so much to like and enjoy about a book of this caliber.  Nathaniel Philbrick remains one of our better writers of American history. 

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The Joys of Family

The Joys of Family

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult and Teen Services Manager

As we dive into the holiday season, one consistent theme isfamily. Families always look so great in commercials, but we all know that reallife is more complex than that. I’ve selected some fiction that exploresfamilies in many different forms, along with the joys and sorrows thataccompany family dynamics.

In The Clock Dance by Anne Tyler, we read about the points on the clock of Willa Drake’s life. In 1967, her mother disappears and we see through her young eyes how she copes with this and how it changes her. In 1977, we meet her boyfriend, get a view into her thoughts as she considers a marriage proposal, and read about a disturbing incident on her first airplane ride. Finally in 2017, she drops everything to fly off and help someone with whom she only has the most tenuous of connections. This exposes Willa to a very different life than what she has experienced in the past and forces her to examine what family means to her.Pulitzer Prize-winning Tyler demonstrates her established reputation as a master of the re-examined life to this touching and ultimately optimistic novel.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen explores how World War II reverberated through families for decades after it ended. In 1973, Joanna Langley is recovering from an upheaval in her life when she receives the news that her father has died. Although their relationship was fractious, she finds herself mourning as she sorts through his belongings and discovers parts of his life that were hidden from her. She knew that he had fought in the war and that he had been shot down over Italy, but the treasures in a small box make her wonder if there is more to the story. When she finds a love letter that was returned unopened right after the war, she goes to Italy in an attempt to understand more about the man her father was. In Tuscany she finds little information and more mysteries, but also a place of healing. Bowen is known for her mystery writing, and there is a satisfying who-dun-it tucked in the novel, but it is really a story of a daughter coming to terms with the choices her father made and the consequences of them on her own life. Although there’s a contemplative and bittersweet undertone throughout the book, Joanna’s drive to find contentment and her pleasure in the sights and tastes of Tuscany make for an enjoyable read.

In A Place for Us, debut author Fatima Farheen Mirza tells the story of an Indian-American Muslim family in California. During the planning of eldest daughter Hadia’s wedding,she announces that she will be contacting her long-estranged younger brother, Amar, and asking him to fulfill his role as brother of the bride. The book goes back and forth in time, exploring the unique dynamics of being a first generation immigrant family, the mistakes that parents make with the best of intentions, and rising above all else, the powerful love that continues to dwell in a family even when it is broken. A Place for Us is an opportunity to delve into the unique perspective of immigrants, but it also illuminates the similarities that run through many families in our society. Although the novel broke my heart a little bit, it is ultimately inspirational in the hope that love and light will show through the cracks in the walls that families sometimes build.

Our online resource, Novelist Plus, has suggestions for related fiction in the list Family Ties, available from the Reading & Research page at

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Predicting the Winner for Best Illustration

Predicting the Winner for Best Illustration

By Jennifer Bergen, Children’s Services Manager

Once again, K-State students studying children’s literature are hosting a Mock Caldecott voting session for Manhattanites. The real Caldecott medal is the prestigious American Library Association (ALA) award given to the illustrator of the “most distinguished” picture book of the year. That award will be announced January 28 at the ALA conference. But, if you admire the artistic quality found in many of today’s books for kids, join us for our own mock Caldecott discussion and voting session on December 1st. Below are a few of the titles we may be looking at:

Dreamers, written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

Certain to win some awards this winter, Dreamers is a book everyone should experience. It is based on the author’s true story of immigrating from Mexico to the U. S. in the 1990’s, and a way to navigate this new world. A Kirkus review called Dreamers “a resplendent masterpiece,” and the gorgeous mixed-media paintings will cause readers to stop and ponder both the amazing art and the expressive text.  The magical moment when Yuyi discovers the public library is striking: “Suspicious. Improbable. Unbelievable. Surprising. Unimaginable. Where we didn’t need to speak, we only needed to trust.” Morales leaves readers with a feeling of hope, which is important for any type of dreamer. Check this title out now for free on the library’s Hoopla app to see the Dreamscape video version of the book, as well as the author’s autobiographical notes.

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

How would you illustrate the beginning of the universe and time? Holmes stretches herself as she accompanies Bauer’s powerful poetry to take us from nothingness to the very moment “YOU burst into the world.” Marbled swirls and splashes of paint progress to outlines of animals, planets, and finally people — “All of us the stuff of stars.” This book takes an abstract idea to the heart of the reader through beautiful language and art.

Love by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Loren Long

Describing many different ways love can show itself in a child’s life, de la Pena provides reassurance that through happiness or sadness, you will always have love. Loren Long is often associated with his popular picture book series about Otis the tractor, but in this book he deftly draws not just humans, but people with character and soul. The double-page spread of a child searching her own eyes in her reflection is powerful. Alongside de la Pena’s message, this image will may cause readers to stop and dwell on the statement, “And the face staring back in the bathroom mirror – this, too, is love.” Self-love is as important as showing love to all those we care about.

A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Lane Smith

Readers will be smitten by Smith’s gorgeous illustrations from the beginning. The story of two children finding an old, abandoned house is revealed almost wistfully with dainty flowers and demure splashes of color. The notes on the copyright page explain that the effect was created by using India ink “drawn on vellum with a crow quill pen, then pressed while wet onto watercolor paper creating a blotted line effect,” and the colors were added later underneath. As the children dream up stories to go with the artifacts left behind by the house’s last owners, their imaginative stories take shape with more solid illustrations. Then it’s back to the blotted, nostalgic renderings as the children head home from their dreamy afternoon adventure, leaving a mystical impression on the reader.

Anyone is welcome to join us at the library for the Mock Caldecott discussion on Saturday at 1:30, co-sponsored by the K-State English Department, Children’s and Adolescent Literature Community (ChALC), and the library. It is a time to celebrate some of the amazing books being published for the next generation and to appreciate the talent that goes into their creation.

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World War One Ends at 11:00 on November 11, 1918

World War One Ends at 11:00 on November 11, 1918

By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the guns of August finally fell silent across the Western Front. The Great War, the War to End All Wars, what later came to be known as the First World War, came to an end.

The term “First World War” was used by Charles à Court Repington in 1920 as a title for his memoirs. The term “World War I” was coined by Time magazine in its June 12, 1939 issue. In the same article, the term “World War II” was first used to describe the new approaching war.

World War One was a costly four years in terms of the human toll. Combat deaths from all belligerents totaled over 8 million, with total military deaths (including those missing in action) were estimated at between 8.5 and nearly 11 million. Total casualties, including civilians, were estimated at between 15 and 19 million. The greatest loss of life as a percentage of total population was the Ottoman Empire with over 3 million dead, amounting to over 15% of the population. In comparison American casualties totaled 117,465, or 0.13%.

There have been countless books about the war. The library has a collection of titles on individual battles and other aspects of World War One, including a few titles about the end of the war and its aftermath.

In his book “A World on Edge: The End of the Great War and the Dawn of a New Age,”   Daniel Schönpflug describes the aftermath of the Great War that has left Europe in ruins. He writes that with the end of fighting comes the possibility of a radical new start. That with new politics, new societies, new countries, new art and culture, the window of opportunity suddenly opened for Europe and the world. Unfortunately, that window closed again too soon.

Nicholas Best presents the final days of the Great War in “The Greatest Day in History: How, on the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month, the First World War Finally Came to an End.” He gives firsthand accounts of the war’s end from the viewpoints of the famous such as Charles de Gaulle, Harry S. Truman, George Patton, and Marie Curie, as well as the lowly private soldier, and a certain Corporal named Adolf Hitler. Some of the survivors of the Great War were caught up in the next great conflagration that burned the world a mere two decades later.

The consensus among historians is that the Versailles Peace Conference was a failure. Not only a failure, but it set the stage for World War II. In “Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World,” Margaret MacMillan provides perceptive portrayals of the key players at the conference. Individuals such as David Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau, and especially Woodrow Wilson. MacMillan characterizes Wilson as often rigid, arrogant, and vague about concepts like self-determination that confused even his own advisors. This book is a must for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of one of history’s most tragic failures.

While November 1918 saw the end of the global war, it was in the middle of another worldwide tragedy. The outbreak of Spanish Influenza beginning in the spring of 1918 claimed the lives of between 50 and 100 million people. In “Pandemic 1918: Eyewitness Accounts from the Greatest Medical Holocaust in Modern History,” Catharine Arnold focuses on the challenges that World War One posed on containing the flu. Mass troop gatherings and movements helped spread the disease. Authors including Katherine Anne Porter and Thomas Wolfe wrote of the flu’s destruction in fiction, and survivors recalled that there were no medicines to cure the disease, and very little any doctor could do. Arnold’s is a well-researched history serving as a stark warning of the threat of pandemic disease.

The spark from an assassin’s bullet in Sarajevo that set off a fire the likes of which the world had never known, was finally quenched on November 11, one hundred years ago. For more information on the Great War, visit the National World War One Museum and Memorial in Kansas City

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All Creatures Great and Small

All Creatures Great and Small

By Linda Henderson, Adult & Teen Services Librarian

My first hardcover book, Eric Knight’s Lassie Come-Home, kindled in me a love of animal stories that has never gone away.  As a child growing up without a local library, I had mostly read comic books (at ten cents apiece) and Little Golden Books.  Lassie influenced my reading choices from then on and I still display my original copy on my piano at home.  The titular Lassie is prize collie and companion to young Joe; when Joe’s father loses his job, they have to sell the dog.  She escapes her new owner three times, fighting great odds in the highlands of Scotland to return to her place waiting outside school for Joe.  I begged for and eventually received a collie of my own – of course named “Lassie.”

Our close relationships with pets and other animals have inspired many great animal stories and also inspired excellent movie adaptations.

The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford, is an incredible tale of a cat and two dogs braving a 250-mile journey to rejoin their family.

Fred Gipson’s Old Yeller might be the quintessential “boy meets dog” tale of a stray dog helping 14-year-old Travis defend the family farm in the 1860s Texas Hill country.

The Call of the Wild, by Jack London, stirs a longing for adventure and the unique relationship between dog and man. London’s descriptive, yet natural writing can make you feel like you, yourself, are on the snowy flats in Alaska pulling a heavy sled. The dog, Buck, is torn from a comfortable home to face abuse and hardship as a Klondike sled dog and eventually returns to the wild.

Reading Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, a classic story told from the horse’s point of view, led me to a great series by Walter Farley, entitled, The Black Stallion.

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, tells the story of a man and his dog, also narrated from the dog’s point of view; it has been adapted to children’s stories, as well.

Another canine narrator, Bailey, journeys through multiple lives, often humorous and emotional, in A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron.  Bailey wonders, each time he wakens in another place, if there he will find a purpose.

Catl mysteries also abound: Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy series, and Lilian Brauns Cat Who series have multiple titles.

Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, focuses on a single gull, but his journey to think and fly differently than the rest of the flock, may be a lesson for us.

Imagined stories and tales are wonderful, but sometimes the true stories are even more remarkable.

All Creatures Great and Small was my first James Herriot book.  I first read it during a trip with friends, and I broke out laughing so many times that they insisted I read aloud.   Herriot’s descriptions of his experiences as a young veterinarian in 1930’s Britain are alternately touching, funny, and sad.  Herriot wrote three more volumes which became a PBS series.      .  Check out the DVD at Manhattan Public Library. His son, Jim Wight, has added a memoir.

Dewey the Library Cat by Vicki Myron, is the true story of an abandoned kitten found by a librarian one morning in the bookdrop. In time, Dewey transformed that small library through friendships made during his 19 years at the library.

A parrot that talks – and listens? Alex & Me  by Irene Pepperberg relates how a scientist and a parrot uncovered a hidden world of animal intelligence—and deeply bonded in the process for over thirty years.

The Man Who Listens to Horses is the true story of Monty Roberts, a horse trainer who helped pioneer nonviolent methods of breaking in and training horses.

A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life, by James Bowen, tells of how a stray street cat helped a struggling street musician and recovering heroin addict turn his life around. The ginger tomcat Bob and James appear in YouTube videos, and a DVD you may check out at Manhattan Public Library.

For a bit of pure fun, see Underwater Dogs, Seth Casteel’s exhilarating photography series of dogs underwater, for a chaotic ballet of bared teeth, bubbles, paddling paws, and ears billowing in currents.

Writers around the world have penned countless animal stories and memoirs.  I read many genres – westerns, romance, biography – but animal stories offer me special joy, and I eagerly read a wide assortment of books as they become available at Manhattan Public Library.

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By Hannah Atchison, Children’s Librarian

If you love to lose yourself in a good book, chances are during at least one point in your life you have experienced book-withdrawal. This can happen when you have recently finished a really good book or series or are waiting for the next book in a series. As a lover of all things fantasy I have fallen for new worlds, creatures, and characters multiple times and am more than familiar with book-withdrawal.

The first time I experienced it was when I had to wait for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, book six in J.K. Rowling’s famous series. It has been years and the phenomenon still rages. I see evidence of that with the young readers I have the honor of assisting every day in their quest for interdimensional travel. I see the same panicked look in parents’ and children’s eyes that I once had. What should they read next? Here are a few of my go-to suggestions:

The “Pendragon” series by D.J. MacHale –In book 1, The Merchant of Death, fourteen year old Bobby Pendragon unintentionally discovers another dimension, Denduron, and fights to accept not only the existence of other worlds besides Earth, but also the important role he now has to play.

The “Keys to the Kingdom” series by Garth Nix –Arthur Penhaligon, a seventh grader in book 1, Mister Monday, is given an odd key shaped like the minute hand of a clock. Mister Monday sends dog-like creatures to take the key. As Arthur battles Mister Monday and his creatures, he encounters many strange, new creatures and discovers there is much more to his world than he thought.

The “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series by Rick Riordan –Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, book 1 in the series, is about a boy named Percy who struggles in school until his mother takes him to Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp for demigods, and he finds out his father is Poseidon the sea god. He makes friends with a satyr and a daughter of the goddess Athena and together they leave Camp Half-Blood on a journey to prevent a battle between the gods.

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien –Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit leading a normal and comfortable life until Gandalf the wizard and a group of dwarves arrive at his hobbit-hole home one evening. They convince him to join them on a quest to rid The Lonely Mountain of the dragon Smaug and reclaim the treasure and the once-great dwarven kingdom of Erebor.

The “Inheritance” series by Christopher Paolini –Eragon, book 1 of the “Inheritance” series, follows the adventures of fifteen year old Eragon of Alagaesia that ensue after his discovery of a strange-looking stone which turns out to be a dragon egg.

The “Redwall” series by Brian Jacques –In Redwall the first in the series, the peaceful mice of Redwall Abbey are fearful that the rat Cluny and his dreadful followers are preparing to take siege. The fate of the abbey lies on the shoulders of a young apprentice, and his quest for the great sword of Martin the Warrior.

The “His Dark Materials” series by Philip Pullman –Book 1, The Golden Compass is about the journey of Lyra Belacqua and her daemon Pan, an animal companion with whom she shares a soul, as they travel into the Far North to rescue children like herself who have been kidnapped.

“The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis –Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are four siblings who, in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, accidentally stumble into another world known as Narnia, a beautiful land full of magic and magical creatures that has been cursed by the White Witch to be always winter but never Christmas.

If you do find yourself head-over-heels and stuck on a good book and you can’t bring yourself to open another, I have two more suggestions for you. Look for other books by the author. They may not have the same characters you love, but they may still give you a sense of security through a familiar writing style. And my personal favorite, you can recommend your book to a friend. Misery loves company…just kidding.

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Local History and The Food Explorer

Local History and The Food Explorer

By Mary Swabb, Adult & Teen Services Librarian

Humans are naturally inquisitive creatures. At some point in life, many people become fascinated with their family history or the local history of where they live. Detecting one’s family history can be thrilling; however, it can also be a daunting task to begin or continue if information is sparse. Manhattan Public Library (MPL) has numerous resources to help patrons address these curiosities. Not only can be accessed on library computers for free, but there are numerous books within MPL’s collection that residents might find helpful.

If you’re interested in exploring your family’s history in Manhattan, Kansas, MPL has a non-circulating Kansas History Reference book collection where volumes of local historical significance are kept. The Official State Atlas of Kansas: Compiled from Government Surveys, County Records, and Personal Investigations by L.H. Everts & Co. is part of this collection and contains a variety of maps, including historical county maps. These maps allow library patrons to see where family members lived, and how local landscapes have changed overtime.

In addition to the Kansas History Reference book collection, MPL also archives local papers such as the Manhattan Mercury, which can be utilized to find birth announcements, obituaries, marriage announcements, and other articles about family members. Historical back issues of local papers can be accessed via microfilm. The library also has microfilm indices where names or dates can be looked up to help narrow down which microfilm reel needs to be utilized. The newspaper indices are one of the best ways patrons can learn about their relatives’ lives.

If you’re interested in more generally exploring local history, you might check out Frontier Manhattan: Yankee Settlement to Kansas Town, 1854-1894 by Kevin G.W. Olson, Manhattan by James Earl Sherow, or The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats by Daniel Stone.

Frontier Manhattan: Yankee Settlement to Kansas Town, 1854-1894 follows the adventures of Isaac Goodnow and five other New Englanders as they settle between the Kansas and Big Blue rivers on the Great Plains frontier. The book chronicles the first forty years of Manhattan, elucidating the various forces that settlers had to overcome in founding the town amidst the backdrop of the Civil War era. Frontier Manhattan is packed with rich historical details and written in a very amusing and accessible way that will hold readers’ interests.

In Manhattan, Sherow features prominent local events from 1854 to 2013. He provides an overview of Manhattan’s founding and explains how early social reformers established a land grant university that would become Kansas State University, formed a mutually beneficial alliance with Fort Riley, and navigated the ecological forces of the Flint Hills. This book provides valuable details in a concise way, and it’s a great introduction to the history of Manhattan.

The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats follows voyaging botanist and agricultural explorer, David Fairchild as he searches for “food that would enrich the American farmer and enchant the American eater.” Ultimately, Fairchild’s journey transforms America into a more diverse food system. Fairchild is credited with bringing kale, mangoes, avocados, dates, nectarines, soybeans, and pistachios to American farmers. The book also touches on other native sons of Manhattan, Charles Marlatt and Walter Swingle. Stone’s biography vividly narrates Fairchild’s adventures over five continents and his insatiable desire to discover new produce varieties and promote agricultural development.

If you’re interested in local history, especially, as it revolves around agriculture and food, MPL will be hosting a book discussion of The Food Explorer at 7 p.m. Monday, November 5, 2018. The discussion will be led by William Richter, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and former K-State first Associate Provost for International Programs. This discussion kicks off a series of events taking place during K-State’s Science and Communication Week, many of which revolve around The Food Explorer. Daniel Stone will visit K-State on Tuesday, November 6, 2018 and the Riley County Historical Society and Museum will be offering a driving tour, Where the Adventure Began: Touring the Home Town of the Food Explorers beginning November 7, 2019. More information about Science and Communication week events can be found at

by Luke Wahlmeier Luke Wahlmeier No Comments

New Adult Titles that Defy Categorization

New Adult Titles that Defy Categorization

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

Daniel Mason, who gained much attention for The Piano Tuner some years ago, has written yet another remarkably complex novel.  At first glance, The Winter Soldier seems like a straightforward piece of historical fiction.  But a reading of the novel reveals something altogether different.  You be the judge of this excellent tale’s nature.

Lucius, the son of a wealthy Viennese couple, is a promising medical student at the beginning of World War I.  Because he wants to be a part of the war effort, he has made arrangements to travel to what he believes to be a professional field hospital.  An accidental fall leaves him with a broken wrist, but he continues on his way to his field hospital.  Unfortunately, it is an abandoned church in the middle of nowhere, with few resources and lots of wounded men.  In addition, the doctors in attendance have all deserted because of an outbreak of typhoid.  The only person in charge is a mysterious nun, Margarete, who continues to treat even the most serious of the wounded.  Since Lucius has never previously performed surgery and is hampered by his wrist, she becomes his teacher, and the two form an adequate medical team.

In fact, the two become much more than medical partners.  Gradually, our war story transposes into romance, and Lucius realizes that the person who has taught him so much about medicine and about caring is actually a mysterious character.  When the two are separated by the devastation of war, Lucius begins a journey that becomes more puzzling with each new discovery.  It seems we actually have an historical novel/romance/mystery all in one.  Not a bad thing in a tale that has great emotional depth and realistic psychological repercussions of war trauma.

For an equally complex story, you might also consider Stuart Turton’s The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.  This novel has all the markings of an English murder mystery.  Aiden Bishop is one of many guests at a rather shabby country estate.  When the book begins, he has just regained consciousness in a nearby forest, knowing that he heard a woman scream and believing he saw some kind of pursuit going on.  He is baffled by the confusion of his memory, but thinks his return to the estate will answer all questions.

But that is not to be the case.  Soon he meets an imposing figure known only as the Plague Doctor.   The figure tells him that he has been assigned the challenge of solving the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, and he must do so in the next eight days.  To help him with the investigation, he will be assigned to the body of a different guest each day, so that he can discover what the other guests might know about the circumstances.

That is only the first of the unusual elements of the story.  Time travel becomes crucially important in the story, as the murder has not yet been committed, so Aiden is an actor in a drama that unfolds day by day.   He must determine which characters can be trusted and which pose danger to him.  Further, if Aiden does not uncover the true crime, all events are predicted to begin over again, so the days will be repeated in unending cycles.

Baffling, isn’t it?  That is because author Turton has introduced a whole series of unexpected events.  His lengthy tale swiftly becomes a mystery/ time traveling fantasy that Aiden may or may not be able to crack.  What is initially confusing becomes an intriguing adventure in space and time.  How did Aiden wind up at the estate?  Who is Evelyn Hardcastle?  What is this creepy Plague Doctor?  Too many questions, and only eight days to solve the mystery.

The new fall novels are always special, and this year’s offerings are wonderfully creative.  Stop by the library and check out some more mind-bending tales.