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National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month

by Rhonna Hargett, Associate Director of Learning and Information Services

“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” Rita Dove aptly described her art as she accepted the position of our nation’s Poet Laureate in 1993. As I read poetry collections, I find it striking how many forms of literature are represented in each book. In just a few pages, one skips through history, memoir, and romance. This makes poetry an effective way to explore the world through other perspectives. Poetry also has the unique ability to capture the ordinary and celebrate it.

In “How to Hang the Moon,” Huascar Medina, the Kansas Poet Laureate, writes about love, family, and, of course, Kansas. His poems take us from the fields of rural Kansas in “Per Aspera Ad Astra” to the streets of Kansas City in “Surrogate City,” exploring what it means to be a Kansan, even when one isn’t born here. Medina’s true gift, though, is his ability to capture the small moments in life with poems of streetlights, jazz, cicadas, and cats. His occasional incorporation of Spanish only adds to the exquisite rhythm of his writing.

Rita Dove is one of the most well-known American poets of our time, and her reputation is well-deserved. Throughout her 2021 book “Playlist for the Apocalypse”, we get an insider’s view into the perspective of a Black woman on many aspects of history and current events, such as the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, which killed four young Black girls. She also draws from her time living in Venice, Italy to create a series of poems about the origins of the word “ghetto” with the Jews that were relocated in 1516 in Venice. Another series explores illness and pain, somehow managing to find grace in the midst of both. Dove is a creative writing professor at the University of Virginia, and her expertise shines through in her ability to switch between formats to find the best fit for each subject.

Our current U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo, visited K-State in the fall of 2020. Since she lives in nearby Tulsa, she regularly makes appearances in Kansas. As a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, she interprets the Trail of Tears in her 2019 collection “An American Sunrise.” Harjo’s book is a brilliant mixture of historical detail and the lingering effect of history on the lives of the descendants.

Another Poet Laureate (2004-2006) that hails from close to home is Ted Kooser, from Garland, Nebraska. Kooser’s trademark is his ability to capture the smallest moments, like an estate sale or coming across a frog on his porch, and find the beauty and human condition that lives within them. His folksy style and rural topics will be very familiar to Kansans, but he has a gift for noticing details that others pass by.

If you’ve wandered away from poetry and are interested in but tentative about returning to the genre, it might help to return to what you may have experienced in your high school English classes. The poetry of Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and William Wordsworth are still alive and well (and available at your public library). We even have a series called “Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets” with collections from some recognizable poets and selections on love and other popular poetry topics. If you prefer to listen, we have poetry available in both audio CD and digitally, with my favorite being “Voices of Poetry” on Hoopla, featuring poets such as Tolkein, cummings, and Hughes reading their own works.

April is National Poetry Month, and we are celebrating at Manhattan Public Library with our ReadMHK program. Join us by attending our book discussion on April 14th, listening to our ReadMHK podcast, or finding a new poet in our book lists, all available at www.mhklibrary.org.

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Read MHK Young Adult Books by Female Authors

Read MHK Young Adult Books by Female Authors

by Alissa Rehmert, Library Assistant

A wise woman once sang, “Who run the world? Girls! Who run the world? Girls! Who run the world? Girls!” Beyoncé’s words ring truer and truer as time goes on. Since the time Beyoncé released “Run the World (Girls),” the percentage of female authors went from 46% to 50% in a span of just eight years (Zippia “Author Statistics and Facts in the U.S.”). The more that women share their stories with the world, whether fiction or non-fiction, the more society benefits. Now more than ever before, women authors have the opportunity to give new and fresh perspectives, while also highlighting uniquely feminine struggles and urging readers to make changes.

The representation of women authors is particularly important when it comes to young adult literature. Being a teenage girl can be difficult, but having access to the stories of women who have endured similar hardships may help guide young adults through their own struggles. When I was a teen, I, like many young women, found sanctuary in the written word. Women authors like Suzanne Collins, J.K Rowling, and Stephanie Meyer greatly influenced my teen, and even young adult, life. Since I graduated high school, several more women authors have pushed out thousands of novels with just as much power!

One such author is Mindy McGinnis, an award-winning novelist who writes dark, gritty YA fiction perfect for teens eager for introspection and deep contemplation. Her 2016 novel, “The Female of the Species”, is, simply put, the story of Alex, a teenage girl who must find a way to survive high school after mourning the untimely death of her older sister. Of course, that’s how the story seems on the surface, but, like most things in life, there is more to the story than the veneer. Throughout the story, McGinnis highlights the struggles that come from simply being an adolescent girl facing the challenges that come with the modern world. Whether it be cheating boyfriends, mean girls, drug and alcohol use, or striving for vengeance against the man who murdered your sister: McGinnis addresses it all.

Through Alex’s story, McGinnis invites her audience to consider the bigger societal expectations placed upon adolescents, particularly women, as they make the inevitable move from childhood to adulthood. What does it mean to be a woman? How does the human woman fit within the animal kingdom as a whole? How far might a woman go to protect those she loves? These are just a few of the topics McGinnis ponders through her novel. There are many graphic scenes depicted throughout this fast-paced novel, but McGinnis doesn’t exploit these violent situations for mere shock value, rather utilizing them in an effort to highlight societal issues that often mirror real-life stories. Alex is the type of woman who isn’t afraid to stand up for the people she loves, even if it might entail social alienation. I personally wish I would have read a book like this when I was younger and naiver to the dangers of the world around me!

McGinnis’ genius didn’t stop there, though! Just last year, she released a new YA novel titled “The Initial Insult,” which acts as a sort of homage to Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story, “The Cask of Amontillado.” In it, Tress Montor loses her entire family under mysterious circumstances. Montor’s best friend, Felicity Turnado, holds the key to finding out where Montor’s family is, only she can’t remember anything from that night. This suspenseful mystery is sure to pull you in quickly and keep you guessing what might happen next. What’s even more exciting is that this novel has an upcoming sequel called “The Last Laugh” which releases this month, March 15, 2022.

Whether you kick back and listen to Beyoncé or crack open a new YA novel by an up-and-coming female author, make sure to find time this month to celebrate the hard-working, world-running women around you!

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Women Authors for Women’s History Month

Women Authors for Women’s History Month

by Rhonna Hargett, Associate Director of Learning and Information Services

Women have been sharing their stories for centuries. They have often been disrespected or pushed into the background, but from Sappho to Phyllis Wheatley, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Zora Neale Hurston, Sandra Cisneros, and Amy Tan, women have written down their perspectives of the world. Manhattan Public Library is celebrating women authors for Women’s History Month in March. The female authors of the past have paved the way for the current rich selection of fantastic books by women.

Sleeping Beauty is one of the more troubling of the classic fairy tales when viewed through the lens of modern values, but in “A Spindle Splintered,” author Alix E. Harrow manages to reform it into a story of women’s strength. Due to a rare illness, Zinnia Gray has known her entire life that it is unlikely she will reach the age of 22. Her illness drew her to the story of Sleeping Beauty from a young age, so her best friend Charm creates a themed party based on the tale for Zinnia’s 21st (and likely last) birthday, even set in a tower, with a spindle at the ready. But the magic of the party becomes all too real when Zinnia pricks her finger on the spindle, finds herself spinning through time and space, and encounters other “Sleeping Beauties” living their own stories. “A Spindle Splintered” is an engaging tale full of adventure, reflection, renewed hope, and strong women.

Some women’s stories have been written in thread. In the nonfiction narrative “All That She Carried,” author Tiya Miles shares the story of a sack that was found at a flea market. It was embroidered with the story of an enslaved mother named Rose, packing up this sack with a few necessities for her beloved daughter Ashley, who was soon to be sold to another household. In 1921, it was embroidered by Ashley’s granddaughter Ruth, “It held a tattered dress 3 handfulls of pecans a braid of Roses hair. Told her ‘It be filled with my Love always.’” Miles, a Harvard history professor, carefully weaves together the researched history of the item with the representational power that it carries. She tells how strongly the sack affects visitors in the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where it now resides. People have been brought to tears by this evidence of the cruelty of American slavery that also clearly demonstrates a mother’s hope for her daughter. Although the book is full of researched details, Miles’ engaging writing style draws one in and brings life to two women who lived over a century ago. “All That She Carried,” like Ashley’s sack, tells a brutal story combined with hope for a better future.

Isabel Allende captured the attention of readers throughout the world in 1982 with her book of magical realism, “The House of the Spirits.” She has since published 26 books, a mix of fiction and nonfiction, making her one of the most read Spanish-language authors in the world. Her books cover many different subjects, but her stories often give us a view of the lives of women and how they affect and are affected by the world around them.  Her book “A Long Petal of the Sea” is about the Dalmaus, a Spanish family living in the midst of civil war. We follow Victor, an Army doctor, and Roser, his brother’s pregnant young widow as they flee over the mountainous French border and finally to Chile. They arrive to a country and a family that neither one of them wanted, but they are survivors and eventually find a new version of home. In “A Long Petal of the Sea,” Allende once again demonstrates her trademark ability to show the small moments of beauty that exist in even the most difficult of circumstances.

Manhattan Public Library’s celebration of female authors is part of our ReadMHK program. Go to www.mhklibrary.org to find lists of recommended books and our podcast, and join us for a book discussion focused on women authors on the evening of Thursday, March 17th.

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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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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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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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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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Indigenous Cooking and New Traditions

Indigenous Cooking and New Traditions

Jennifer Jordan, Children’s Librarian

Cover image of "The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen". Grey background with a circle in the middle, split evenly into four photos of berries, herbs, and chopped fruit. With Thanksgiving coming up and the pandemic still affecting our family gatherings, I’ve started thinking about my plans. My partner and I decided that we’ll have a small dinner for us and our toddler and maybe video chat our families throughout the day. I don’t want to do the “traditional” Thanksgiving like I had growing up and I do not want to teach my child the schoolhouse story of the first Thanksgiving.  I want him to celebrate Indigenous culture and learn the long history of what the United States, along with other countries, have done to Indigenous populations. The first step I want to take as a family is to learn and celebrate Indigenous food.

As I was searching recipes and ideas of what to make for two adults and a small child, I came across the idea of making all Indigenous food to help learn about their culture. In my search through the Manhattan Public Library’s catalog for the perfect cookbook, I found “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” by Sean Sherman (Oglala Lakota). This book is full of amazing recipes from Omníča Aǧúyapi Saksáka (Crispy Bean Cakes) to Pté Wasná (Bison Wasna).

The first recipe that caught my eye will be the main dish for my family, Ȟaŋte úŋ Pté Lolóbyapi (Cedar-Braised Bison). I love slow cooking and having all the flavors mix and soak into meat to create a tender and savory meal. Sherman has a simple recipe that merges sweet, nut and herbal flavors. As a side to pair with the slow cooked bison, I will make his Wagmíza Aǧúyabskuyela (Crispy Corn Cakes). It’s a simple, four ingredient recipe using cornmeal, salt, water and oil. Serving tender bison over a dense and crispy corn patty will create an amazing bite filled with tons of flavor and textures. As the second side, I will make Čhaŋnákpa na Bló Skúya na Omníča Waháŋpi (Hearty Mushroom, Sweet Potato and Bean Soup). This warming soup will also pair with the corn cakes and add a lightness when eating the savory bison. The last dish I will be making is Ptaŋyétu Wóksapi Aǧúyabskuyela (Autumn Harvest Cookies) and Psíŋ Čhaȟsníyaŋ (Wild Rice Sorbet). The cookies are a mix of acorn flour and cornmeal for the base and allows for any optional mix-ins like dried cranberries, wild rice or walnuts. The sorbet is a creamy and nutty frozen dish that will serve well with the warm cookies. These desserts will be a sweet but not too sweet way to finish our meal.

Along with the recipes, Sherman wrote about his journey as a chef and the importance of food to Indigenous people. One of the main values Sherman gave us in his writings is respecting the food and ingredients. He says, “nothing was ever wasted; every bit was put to use.” This is something that lines up with my values of keeping food waste down and nature being sacred. This value is what I want to start with and expand when teaching my child about Indigenous culture. One day we may forage for the food around us and start cooking what we grow and find but today we can learn together and teach each other. Sherman’s cookbook and writings are eye opening to how Indigenous people cook and create food. Food is how I connect with my partner, my child, my mother and Filipino culture. Sherman says, “food weaves people together, connects families through generations, is a life force of identity and social structure.”

The Manhattan Public Library has an amazing ReadMHK podcast to go along with the reading program. This month they talked with Dr. Debra Bolton, the Director of Intercultural Learning and Academic Success at Kansas State University, about Native American and Indigenous authors. You can signup for monthly ReadMHK challenges on the library’s website or by stopping in.

by MHK Library staff MHK Library staff No Comments

“Elatsoe” by Darcie Little Badger:  A Review

“Elatsoe” by Darcie Little Badger:  A Review

by Rashael Apuya, Teen Services Librarian

November is Native American Heritage Month, a month dedicated to the history and current culture of the Indigenous peoples of this country. A great way to learn more about Indigenous cultures is to read books by and about Indigenous peoples. If you are participating in the Manhattan Public Library’s ReadMHK reading program, you can read a book by a Native American author and log it for this month’s theme of “Native Authors.” Looking for a young adult option to fulfill the prompt? I encourage you to check out “Elatsoe” by Darcie Little Badger, who is an enrolled member of the Lipan Apache tribe of Texas.

I picked up “Elatsoe” solely because of the book’s cover, which was illustrated by Rovina Cai. It depicts a girl in a hooded jacket surrounded by running white dogs in a painted style. Once I found out the book was about a teenage girl with a pet ghost dog who goes on a journey to investigate the mysterious death of her cousin – I was all in.

The book follows a seventeen-year-old girl named Elatsoe, or Ellie, who is Native American and grounded firmly in her Lipan Apache tradition and culture. Ellie lives in an altered version of modern-day America. There are the usual things like high school, best friends, and over-protective parents; however, there is also magic and monsters that are shaped by the legends of its peoples – Indigenous and otherwise. For instance, Ellie has the gift of “ghost-calling,” allowing her to raise the ghosts of dead animals, thanks to a skill passed through generations of her family. In the book, Elatsoe’s namesake, Six-Great-Grandmother, is legendary for her ghost-calling gift. Woven into the main plot are tales of Six-Great summoning and training the ghosts of ancient animals to serve as guardians for her people.

The inciting incident of the story is when Ellie is informed that her beloved cousin Trevor has died in a mysterious accident, leaving behind his wife and infant son. When Trevor visits her in a dream and tells Ellie he’s been murdered, she knows she needs to figure out what happened so his spirit and family can be at peace. With the help of her family, best friend Jay, and ghost dog Kirby, Ellie uncovers secrets surrounding Trevor’s death. She and Jay are led to the small, mysterious town of Willowbee, Texas, where the population is overwhelmingly white, lawns are surprisingly lush in the scorching Texas sun, and inhabitants experience a lack of injury and illness.

With expert storytelling and worldbuilding, Little Badger blends modern-day America with Lipan Apache lore that plants the reader solidly in the world. The story confronts the grief of losing a family member and the human desire for truth and vengeance. Even as an avid fan of crime shows and novels, I was genuinely surprised by the sinister motives unearthed, and the twists and turns Little Badger takes the reader through.

If you read young adult novels, you know that even YA fantasy books tend to have romance at their centers. It was refreshing to see that Ellie and Jay’s friendship remains a platonic boy/girl relationship. It is even explained in the book that Ellie is asexual, which is an identity not often represented. That doesn’t mean the book lacked any love, though. Ellie’s strong connection with her family members, and deep trust of her best friend are palpable throughout the book.

I highly recommend “Elatsoe” to anyone who enjoys legends, mystery, fantasy, and reading about close familial relationships. If you need more convincing, “Elatsoe” was named on TIME’s list of 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time. Be on the lookout for Darcy Little Badger’s next book coming out this month called “A Snake Falls to Earth,” which weaves together the lives of Nina and Oli in another tale of family, monsters, and magic rooted in Lipan Apache legend.

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