Month: December 2017

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Women Around the World

Women Around the World

By Linda Henderson, Adult Services Librarian

This year’s Kansas Humanities Council BookTalk theme, Women Around the World, explores both familiar and exotic challenges faced by women in South America and Africa. Join us at the library February through April,  2018, for three of BookTalk discussions sponsored by Manhattan Library Association and the KHC. Ground-breaking writers like Senegal’s Mariama Ba have evoked aspects of their respective national histories to relate women’s narratives.  Though the settings may be foreign, the books touch on issues familiar to women everywhere: coming-of-age struggles, marital challenges and triumphs, and the ordeals faced by mothers and daughters to gain respect and establish identity.  The search for community and individuality remains universal; stories of that sort are here for everyone to read, enjoy, and share.

Our first selection, Nadine Gordimer’s None to Accompany Me, reflects the chaotic racial politics of South Africa right after the fall of apartheid.  The intermingled hopes and hazards of the post-apartheid area are illustrated in the evolving relationships of two couples, one black, one white.  Vera Stark, a middle-aged woman who has spent her life helping blacks reclaim land taken from them by whites, comes to feel increasingly distant from her husband.  The white couple’s disintegration leads them into conflict with a black couple, Mpho and Sibongile Mazoma.  The meeting of these two households shows the lives of real human beings struggling against personal limitations and moments of selfishness to experience sacrifice and touching insight.

Marilyn Klaus, who teaches Religious Studies and African and African-American Studies at KU, will present None to Accompany Me at the Manhattan Public Library on February 22, 2018, at 7:00 PM.

The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende, follows three generations of a family though loss, sorrow, and love. Justice calls for forgiveness, even during the rise and fall of Chilean democracy. The Trueba and del Valle families, united through the marriage of the gentle, clairvoyant Clara and the tyrannical, greedy Esteban, embody Chile’s fall from democracy and the rise of a turbulent new dictatorship.  The House of the Spirits may be intended as a metaphor for Chile, itself, but the “spirits” within manifest in the courage and compassion of women like Clara, her daughter, Blanca, and granddaughter, Alba.  Their whimsy, magic, and, ultimately, redemption through love enable them to transcend the chaos of warfare, torture, and tyranny.

Nicolas Shump, instructor of Western history, political science, and the humanities at KU and the Barstow School in Kansas City, will lead a discussion on The House of the Spirits at the Library on March 29, 2018, at 7:00 PM.

So Long a Letter, by Mariama Ba, is a shorter narrative written as an extended letter by recently widowed Ramatoulaye to her lifelong friend, Aissatou.  Set in Senegal, where non-Arabic Islamic polygamy and female illiteracy remained common, it is a record of Ramatoulaye’s emotional struggle with her husband’s decision to take a second wife, his sudden death, and how she rebuilds her life and regains serenity.  This, Ba’s first novel, has been translated into 16 languages in order to share its powerful portrayal of African women’s lives.  Ba, one of the few educated Senegalese women of her generation, creates a moving account of a life so familiar in its emotions and struggles that it speaks to women on every continent. “My heart rejoices each time a woman emerges from the shadows,” says Mariama Ba’s main character in So Long a Letter.

Dr. Michaeline Chance-Reay, instructor in women’s studies and education at KSU, will lead the discussion of So Long a Letter in the Library on April 26, 2018, at 7:00 PM.

Captivating books, ready to enliven and enlighten, await your attention.  You are invited to check out these titles at the 2nd floor Reference Desk at the Manhattan Public Library!

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Children’s Books Celebrating Females

Children’s Books Celebrating Females

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager

The current New York Times Best Sellers list for children’s books includes four titles celebrating women throughout history. The popularity of these books is indicative of a movement that includes raising our young girls to be confident, to demand respect from others, and to follow career paths without allowing obstructions to keep them away, particularly because of gender bias. All these titles are available at the library:

Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky – 48 weeks on NYT Best Seller list

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton – 28 weeks

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo – 24 weeks

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison – new last week

Check out the best sellers for teens and you will find Wonder Woman: Warbringer and Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s book Fierce.  Additionally, Andrea Beaty’s fiction picture books Rosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist, have been on the list for 119 weeks and 43 weeks respectively. They are positively fun and entertaining, showing girls who cannot stop their passion to figure things out. If you are seeking more amazing children’s literature on this topic to share with all genders, here are a few titles that are not on the best seller lists (yet).

Brad Meltzer’s adult thrillers have earned spots on the NYT Best Seller lists frequently over the years, and now his series of children’s biographies have been found there as well, including I am Amelia Earhart in 2014. Inspired by his desire to make sure his own daughter and son were exposed to amazing heroes from the past, he created the “Ordinary People Change the World” series that also includes Jane Goodall, Sacagawea, Lucille Ball, Harriet Tubman and more. These treasures are short enough to share with the youngest listeners, with engaging illustrations by Christopher Eliopoulos. A child of a co-worker was so moved by the Rosa Parks story that, at age 5, she memorized the entire book and recited it one year at the Manhattan community Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration.

Isabel Sanchez Vegara has four titles in her picture book biography series “Little People, Big Dreams”: Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie and Audrey Hepburn. Similar to Meltzer, the famous women’s stories are told as short read-alouds with colorful and energetic illustrations. The focus is not only on achievements, but also on the challenges they overcame and their important qualities like determination and perseverance.

Strong is the New Pretty by Kate Parker is the perfect coffee table book for every home with girls. Parker’s powerful photographs show girls doing every kind of activity, from the mundane to the amazing, along with their own inspirational quotes. Booklist reviews calls it “positively moving and totally glorious,” a book that you can look through again and again, “invit[ing] browsers to linger and contemplate the girl-positive messages.” Readers are sure to find at least one or two that particularly inspire them.

In The Little Book of Little Activists, parents get a superb resource for helping young children understand political marches they see or participate in. Inspired by the Women’s March on January 21, the small book features photographs of children holding signs or marching, with simple definitions of words like activism, feminism, democracy and freedom. Quotes from children fill in the rest of the text, which will help young listeners see that they can be a part of changing the world to make it a better place for all.

Two new picture books were published this year about Malala Yousafzai. Malala herself wrote Malala’s Magic Pencil to describe how she grew from hoping for a magic way to rid the world of problems to her determination to find real ways to solve problems using her own voice. Raphaele Frier’s Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education is another informative picture book that provides some details of Malala’s life and highlights her accomplishments with beautiful illustrations by Aurelia Fronty. Malala Yousagzai is also featured in Rad Women Worldwide, a compilation of one to two page biographies of lesser known females (for the most part) representing 30 countries and a very broad range of time. This is a great book to turn to after finishing Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.

If you were a fan of Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess and want to pass on those confident, wise, strong values to all the girls you know, there’s no shortage of great literature out there, with more to come.

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Thank Charles Dickens for Christmas

Thank Charles Dickens for Christmas

By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Mention Christmas and “A Christmas Carol” is sure to come to mind. Charles Dickens published his classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and a trio of spirits, for Christmas 1843. “A Christmas Carol” has been adapted for both the large and small screen dozens of times over the years, and is as familiar as Christmas cookies. But what some people may not know is that Dickens wrote several Christmas stories.

For Christmas 1844, Dickens wrote “The Chimes.” This is the story of Toby Veck, a poor working class man who has lost his faith in humanity, believing that his poverty is the result of his unworthiness. On New Year’s Eve he is visited by spirits to help restore his faith and convince him that nobody is born evil, but rather that crime and poverty are things created by man.

Dickens wrote “The Cricket on the Hearth” for Christmas 1845. The cricket of the title acts as a barometer of life at the home of John Peerybingle and his much younger wife Dot. The cricket chirps when things go well, but falls silent when there is sorrow. After Tackleton, a jealous old man, poisons John’s mind about Dot, arousing his jealousy, the cricket restores John’s confidence in his wife.

Dickens wrote “The Battle of Life” for Christmas 1846. The setting is a village on the site of an historic battlefield. The characters are two sisters in love with the same man. Dickens’ message is that in every person’s live there is a battle being fought. The battle can be won either peacefully or by hurting others. This is a choice each of us has to make.

Dickens’ final Christmas book was “The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain,” written in 1848. Professor Redlaw is a teacher of chemistry dwelling on his past sorrows and mistakes. A spirit haunts him and proposes a way to escape his painful recollections of the past by erasing his memory. Instead of easing his mind, the absence of memory makes Redlaw an empty man devoid of emotions. At the story’s end, Redlaw regains his memories, and is a changed and better man.

In addition to these book length stories, Dickens produced Christmas-themed issues of his two penny journal, “Household Words,” between 1850 and 1858, collaborating with writers such as Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell.

To learn more about Charles Dickens and his connection to Christmas, read “The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits,” by Les Standiford. Standiford tells the story of how and why Dickens, whose career was on a downward track in 1843, wrote the classic Christmas story. Its publication didn’t solve Dickens’ financial woes, but it did jumpstart his flailing career, and continues to give the world joy every season.

You might also enjoy “Inventing Scrooge: the Incredible Story Behind Dickens’ Legendary A Christmas Carol,” by Carlo DeVito.  DeVito uncovers the real-life inspirations from Dickens’ own world that led to his creation of “A Christmas Carol.” By understanding how much of his own past and present Dickens wove into the characters and themes of his story, we may gain a deeper appreciation of this holiday classic.

Among the many derivations and variations of “A Christmas Carol,” are several available at the library. For example, “The Annotated Christmas Carol,” with notes by Michael Patrick Hearn.  Hearn begins with a history of the story, including background information about Dickens’ life. He includes quotes from contemporary reviewers, authors, friends, and other sources.  He also provides photographs and illustrations, many from the several illustrators who worked with Dickens.

A Christmas Carol and Other Stories,” includes “The Chimes,” and “The Haunted Man,” in addition to “A Christmas Carol.” “The Complete Christmas Books of Charles Dickens,” is available for free download from Hoopla.

Dickens’ classic Christmas tale on the silver screen is available in several versions at the library.  “Greatest Classic Films Collection. Holiday,” includes “A Christmas Carol” from 1938, starring Reginald Owen. Other versions include “A Christmas Carol,” starring Alastair Sim, 1951; the musical “Scrooge” from 1970; George C. Scott as Scrooge in the 1984 “A Christmas Carol;” “The Muppets Christmas Carol” of 1992; “Disney’s A Christmas Carol,” featuring the voice of Jim Carrey as Scrooge from 2009; and even “The Smurfs. A Christmas Carol” from 2013.

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Heartwarming Reads from Local Authors

Heartwarming Reads from Local Authors

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager

I know it’s the season to be jolly, but sometimes that’s difficult. Sometimes the world is overwhelming and it seems like hope is futile. I have found that often a good story can change my outlook and help me to believe in the good in the world. Luckily I have found two local authors who have shared their stories of community and family connections guaranteed to warm the heart.

It’s probably not a surprise that is nearly impossible for me to resist a book about Carnegie libraries, let alone one that has a picture of the original Manhattan Public Library on the inside cover, but I enjoyed “To the Stars Through Difficulties” by Manhattanite Romalyn Tilghman even more than I expected to. This delight of a novel is centered around the old Carnegie library in fictional New Hope, Kansas. The building was repurposed as an arts center when the library moved into a newer building, but it still acts as the heart of the community. The story focuses on a collection of women who meet there for the “No Guilt Quilters Guild.” Angelina comes to town to finish her dissertation on Carnegie libraries and to connect to memories of her beloved grandmother who had lived in the town. Traci escapes an overwhelming situation back east to take a job providing educational opportunities at the arts center, even though she really isn’t qualified. Gayle comes to the quilting group for something to force her to get out while she recovers from the destruction of her home in a nearby town. These women, along with a host of other engaging characters, work through challenges and kindle a spirit of community that spreads far beyond the limestone walls of the center.

Tilghman’s story contains history and a bit of romance, but is really the story of women getting things done. From the women in the early 1900’s working to get a Carnegie library in their community to the current day women saving their community centers, the characters use their strength and talents to accomplish what seems to be impossible. They are very different from each other, and don’t always get along, but they work together and support each other along the way. This is a good selection for those who have enjoyed Jan Karon’s Mitford series or for anyone with a passion for Kansas communities and history. Or if you love libraries, obviously.

In “My Little Valentine: The Story of a Mother and Daughter’s Lost Love,” local author KelLee Parr tells the true story of his search for his mother’s birth mother. Although she had lived a happy life in a loving family, Wanda June always wondered about the woman who gave birth to her. When Parr visits the Kansas State Historical Society to do some research for his 3rd grade class, he had the spark of idea for another angle to help with his mother’s search and started a meandering journey toward answers that changed the lives of his entire family.

The account of his search warms the heart, but when he flashes back to his newfound grandmother’s tale, I was not able to put the book down. The struggles she faced in her life and the agonizing decision she had to make add a complexity to the book that causes it to linger long after the last page is turned. Sprinkled with colorful characters and stories of small-town life, this touching narrative gives reason for optimism in the midst of situations that seem hopeless.

If your spirits need a bit of a boost this holiday season, some authors with strong connections to our very own community have provided just the right medicine – stories of community and family working through life’s challenges together.

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Middle Grade Reads

Middle Grade Reads

By Rachael Schmidtlein, Teen and Tween Services Coordinator

Ah, December. Tis the season when parents and kids swarm the library looking for material to entertain them during long trips and endless family togetherness. December is also one of my favorite times of the year to give out book recommendations because it’s the month when the middle grade readers come-a-calling.

Middle grade books are typically aimed at the interests of 8-12 year olds, also known at tweens or preteens. Some parents fear this time in their children’s lives because it is the beginning of the end, or at least the beginning of teenage angst. What most parents and kids alike don’t realize is that middle grade books are the perfect for families to read, or listen to, together.

Don’t let the fact that you’re not between the ages of 8-12 stop you. In my opinion, middle grade titles are the absolute best for every age. I listen to them when I need to inject some life into my 45-minute commute to work, and they never fail. They’re packed with adventure, vibrant imagery and humor without any of the messiness that comes with the romance that you’ll find in YA and adult titles. Middle grade titles are, in essence, the richest books out there.

Turtle In Paradise by Jennifer Holm is quickly becoming my go-to suggestion for readers looking for a medium length historical fiction. It also has the added bonus of taking place on the beaches of Key West for those of us who can’t actually vacation in a warm sandy location over the holidays. Turtle, yes that’s actually her name, is a smart and tough 11-year-old growing up in 1935. Her mother works as a housekeeper, and Turtle usually tags along until her mother starts working for an employer who doesn’t like kids. At this point, Turtle is sent to Key West to stay with the family she has never met. Key West is sandy, hot and filled with buried treasure and difficult boy cousins. Jennifer Holm is an incredible author and this book is one of my favorites of hers.

In a completely different direction, The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis is a high seas adventure on the ocean of time. Carrie Ryan is known in the YA world for her post-zombie apocalypse love series but changed direction when she teamed up with her husband to write this middle grade fantasy adventure. In The Map to Everywhere, Fin is a master thief looking to find his mother, and Marrill is a regular school girl who gets stranded on the Pirate Stream. The unlikely two, along with their colorful crew, forge a friendship while trying to outrun a sinister ghost ship. The Map to Everywhere does a great job of exploring family relationships, friendships and the far reaches of the imagination.

My final recommendation is one that many may be familiar with, but it’s just so good and worth mentioning anyway. The False Prince is the story of Sage, an orphan chosen by a nobleman of a civil war-torn court to impersonate the king’s long-lost son. Sage and three other orphans compete to be installed as a puppet prince. The competition is fierce, and Sage has his own secrets, which add surprising twists and turns throughout the entire story. Jennifer Nielsen is a rock star middle grade author whose writing typically twists history and fantasy together in a rich and satisfying way. Any of her titles are worth reading, but The False Prince is definitely where you should start.