Month: May 2019

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Remembering America’s Wars Through The Movies

Remembering America’s Wars Through The Movies
By John Pecoraro, Associate Director

On Memorial Day we remember and honor men and women who have died while serving in the armed forces. America has endured many wars, and scholars have written countless histories of these events. Hollywood too has tackled the subject of America’s wars in a myriad of movies over the years. Here are a few examples of the wide variety of movies about America’s wars available at the library.

In “The Patriot,” directed by Roland Emmerich, Benjamin, a veteran of the French and Indian War and now a peace-loving farmer, renounces his pacifism to rescue his son Gabriel, who has been captured by the British and sentenced to hang. Father and son form a regiment of like-minded patriots to fight the British in their South Carolina home. The action is loosely adapted from the true story of Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox.

The American Civil War has been the topic of countless films. “Glory,” directed by Edward Zwick, is based on the exploits of the all-black 54th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), the son of influential abolitionists. The film shows the prejudice black soldiers had to endure from their white counterparts. They are given menial, demeaning tasks, but when given the chance to fight, they show tremendous courage.

World War I ended over 100 years ago. “Sergeant York,” directed by Howard Hawks is a biopic of Medal of Honor recipient Alvin York. York was a rabble-rouser in his Tennessee youth who underwent a religious conversion. When drafted into the army York was a pacifist, and declared himself a conscientious objector. York’s commanding officer convinces him that sometimes the only way to defend Democracy is to fight. York does just that. In the Argonne Forest, York kills 25 and captures dozens of German soldiers. As a result, York becomes an American hero.

Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan,” is a stand out World War II. Three Ryan brothers have all been killed in the same week during June 1944. Private Ryan is the surviving brother serving with the airborne somewhere in northwest France in the days after the Normandy landings. Captain John Miller’s (Tom Hanks) job is to find Ryan and deliver him to safety. This film features graphic, realistic depictions of D-Day. The story follows the small group of soldiers looking for one man in the midst of the confusion of war. When one of their group is killed, some begin to question the logic of losing more lives to save a single soldier.

While the United Nations Command, Chinese, and North Koreans negotiated the Korean Armistice Agreement, UN and Chinese forces fought the Battle of Pork Chop Hill. In the movie “Pork Chop Hill,” directed by Lewis Milestone, Gregory Peck plays the Lieutenant who leads a 135-man unit on the attack of the Chinese-held hill. When reinforcements finally arrive, only 25 of Peck’s men have survived. Less than three weeks after the Battle of Pork Chop Hill, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed ending hostilities.

Over 2.7 million Americans served in uniform in Vietnam. “The Deer Hunter,” directed by Michael Cimino, chronicles the lives of three Pennsylvania steelworkers and hunting buddies, Mike, Nick, and Steve, and their tour of duty in Vietnam. Enduring capture and torture by Viet Cong, they are forced to play Russian roulette for their captors’ amusement. Each is forever altered by the experience. Steve loses his legs, Mike returns changed to the point where he can no longer kill a deer, and Nick remains in Vietnam lost in a continuous game of Russian roulette will Saigon falls around him.

Jarhead,” directed by Sam Mendes brings to life Marines during the 1991 Gulf War. Swofford and Troy, trained to be snipers, find themselves in the middle of a desert under a blazing sun where they’re up against an enemy they can’t always see. They endure the long bouts of boredom and brief moments of terror with their sense of humor and their friendship for their brothers in arms.

Chronicling a year in a small outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, “Restrepo,” is a documentary by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger. The remote 15-man outpost is named for fallen platoon medic Juan Restrepo. In this film the cameras never leave the valley, and there are no interviews with generals or diplomats. The entire focus is on the soldiers of Second Platoon as they fight the War on Terror.

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Mental Health Awareness and Books

Mental Health Awareness and Books

By Mary Swabb, Learning and Information Services Supervisor

Nationally, Mental Health Awareness Month is observed in May and has been since 1949 ( states, “mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.” Over the past seventy years, mental health has become a prevalent issue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, “problems with mental health are very common in the United States, with an estimated 50% of all Americans diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.” The chronicity of mental illness has made many people more mindful of the need for mental health services. During May, national and local organizations increase their outreach to help garner awareness of mental health issues, and emphasize various ways people can reach out to gain assistance. In Manhattan, Pawnee Mental Health Services (, Ascension Via Christi Behavioral Health ( and Katie’s Way ( are three organizations that offer a wide range of outpatient services for children, adolescents, and adults seeking assistance with their mental health. While Manhattan Public Library does not offer outpatient services, its collection contains a wide selection of fiction and non-fiction materials on mental health and mental illness for children, adolescents, and adults.


Books about mental health for children and juveniles:

In “The Princess and the Fog, Lloyd Jones utilizes the classic fairy tale and humor as vehicles to create a relatable and enjoyable story that describes symptoms of childhood depression. This book helps children learn about depression and the many ways they can deal with difficult feelings. It’s also a wonderful starting point for explaining this topic to children who may have a parent or close family member who struggles with depression.

Pilar, the protagonist of “Pilar’s Worries” by Victoria M. Sanchez, utilizes coping techniques, like positive thinking and talking with her friends, to overcome her fears and feelings of anxiety surrounding tryouts for her favorite ballet.

In “My Family Divided: One Girl’s Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope” by Diane Guerrero and Erica Moroz, Guerrero shares her battle with depression and suicidal thoughts in the wake of her parent’s deportation. This book is both heartbreaking and hopeful.

Finley Hart, the protagonist of “Some Kind of Happiness” by Claire Legrand, goes to live with her grandparents and cousins while her parents work out their marital differences. Finley copes with her intensifying depression by escaping to Everwood, a fantasy kingdom, that at one point only existed in her notebook, but becomes a real physical space to her and her cousins.


Books about mental health for young adults & adults:

In “The Weight of Our Sky” by Hanna Alkaf, sixteen-year-old Melati Ahmad battles with her obsessive-compulsive disorder while she searches for her mother during the historic race riots of 1969 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Shaun David Hutchinson courageously shares his struggle with being depressed and gay in “Brave Face: A Memoir.” Hutchinson’s memoir highlights his struggle to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn’t see himself. He provides a candid, good-humored recollection of depression, self-loathing, and eventual self-respect.

In “Sparrow” by Sarah Moon, a young girl who struggles to make friends attempts suicide after her favorite teacher, Mrs. Wexler, is killed in a freak car accident. With the help of her therapist, Sparrow discovers an outlet in rock and roll music. Moon does an excellent job of conveying the isolation people sometimes feel, and illustrating how beneficial therapy can be.

Everything Here Is Beautiful” by Mira T. Lee evocatively illuminates the tumultuous relationship between Miranda and her younger sister Lucia, a brilliant journalist who struggles with periodic descents into severe psychosis. The book explores numerous topics such as the helplessness of family members wishing to fix distressing situations, and the difficulty surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses like schizoaffective disorder.

These are just a few of the titles featuring mental health and mental illness that Manhattan Public Library has to offer. Please feel free to visit us online at or come in and stop by a service desk to ask for alternative suggestions.

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Can You Read These Out of Order?

Can You Read These Out of Order?

By Hannah Atchison, Children’s Librarian

Summer is approaching. I know: How did that happen? That means…more time to read! When I was younger, summer was for re-reading a series in preparation for the next book or movie or catching up on a series on audio during vacation. However, it seemed like everyone else had the same idea. The next book in the series would almost always be checked out. And the one right after would be sitting on the shelf, taunting me. The parents of our younger patrons at the library are frequently asking me: Do you have to read this series in order? Usually my answer is yes. I want to have something to offer, so I did some research.

There are four criteria that book series typically follow if they make sense out of order. First, character storylines resolve by the end of the book. Second, the plot also reaches a summation. Third, each book contains a single storyline. And fourth, each book has its own protagonist. Mysteries, thrillers, and romances are the most likely to follow these rules. Since these are fairly broad terms, I made a list of both regular children’s chapter books and early children’s chapter books, our transition books between our beginning readers and the larger chapter books in the children’s collection. All the books on my list are in series which may be read out of order.

Here are some of the early chapter books I chose for my list:

The “A to Z Mysteries” by Ron Roy. Each book in this series has a title featuring a letter of the alphabet with corresponding alliteration. You can read them in alphabetical order, but you do not have to. In each book, Dink Duncan and his friends, Josh Pinto and Ruth Rose Hathaway, solve a new mystery.

The “Geronimo Stilton” series by Geronimo Stilton, concept of Elisabetta Dami. These books are mysteries about Geronimo Stilton, a mouse who runs a newspaper and works as a detective.

The “Notebook of Doom” series by Troy Cummings. Alexander Bopp moves to Stermont and finds a scary notebook of monster drawings. He begins to see monsters everywhere. Each book has a new monster.

The “Puppy Place” series by Ellen Miles. Charles and Lizzie Peterson’s family fosters puppies. Each book has a different puppy and lessons to learn.

The “Jake Maddox Sports Series” by Jack Maddox. The books in this series all have a main character who plays a sport. If you have a sports lover who likes to read, these books are a good place to start.

And these are some of my selections from our regular juvenile fiction:

The “Hank the Cowdog” series by John Erickson. These are hilarious adventures told from the perspective of Hank, a dog who thinks he is the head of ranch security where he lives.

The “Encyclopedia Brown” series by Donald J. Sobol. Leroy Brown, son of the Idaville police chief, solves mysteries. The solutions to each mystery are in the back of the book, so the reader can solve the cases, too.

The “Goosebumps” series by R. L. Stine. If you like scary stories, these are the books for you. Unless the title has the words ‘return of’ or ‘again’ you can read without fear of spoilers.

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci” by Diana Wynne Jones. These are fantastical magical adventures set in parallel universes.

The “Redwall” series by Brian Jacques. The characters of these books are animals who have many exciting adventures. Though each book is set during a different time in their history, you can read the books in whatever order you please.

The “Royal Diaries” is a series written by multiple authors. Each book is a diary from a different famous princess in history.

The “I Survived” series by Lauren Tarshis. This series follows the lives of kids during infamous disasters in history.

The “You Choose” series was written by multiple authors. These books are interactive stories in which the reader gets to make the decisions and choose the outcome of the story. Each one takes place during an important moment in history.

Hopefully, these options will satisfy your young, insatiable readers this summer. If you need more assistance finding other series that can be read out of order or something else to satisfy your reader’s tastes, you know where to find me.

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Teens’ Top Ten Nominees

Teens’ Top Ten Nominees

By Grace Benedick, Teen Services Librarian

The Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, gives out a number of literary awards for books selected by committees of librarians. However, there is one award that allows teens to get in on the fun: the Teens’ Top Ten award.  Every October, teens can vote for their favorite books from a list of 25 titles published in the previous year. Teens also choose the nominees through participating book clubs throughout the U.S. The nominated books are announced in April, and voting takes place online between August 15 and October 13, 2019. Then, this year’s Teens’ Top Ten Winners will be announced during the week of October 20th, 2019.

Overall, the list leans more toward fantasy, but there are several novels that address the difficulties that real life can throw at us.

There isn’t a John Green title on the list this year, but don’t worry, his brother wrote a book, and it’s on the list. “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” by Hank Green, deals with finding fame on the internet, and the fallout that almost inevitably follows.  

Gloria Chao’s “American Panda” features Mei, a freshman at MIT struggling to reconcile her parents’ goals for her with her own dreams, as the gap between their plans widens.

Darius, the protagonist of “Darius the Great Is Not Okay” by Adib Khorram, grapples with clinical depression. Although he’s half Persian, he’s more interested in Tolkien’s fictional languages than Farsi and isn’t very interested in connecting with his Persian heritage, until a trip to visit family in Iran brings him right next door to the friend he needed and never expected to find.

In “Girl Made of Stars” by Ashley Herring Blake, Mara’s beloved twin brother is accused of rape by a mutual friend. This book explores the hard question of how to respond when a loved one harms a friend.

The fantasy selections start off on a morbid note with “#MurderTrending” by Gretchen McNeil, a novel about a dystopian society where criminals are sent to a prison called Alcatraz 2.0. Prisoners there are killed in brutal and creative ways on film, which is released through an app. Dee is wrongfully sentenced and sent to Alcatraz, where she finds friends and fights to escape the twisted system.

Dhonielle Clayton sets her novel “The Belles” in a totally different kind of dystopia: a land where people are nearly all born plain, but a few are born as Belles: able to control beauty and transform others into beautiful people. Thus, the Belles are in high demand, and Camellia seeks to rise to the top and be appointed as the Queen’s favorite. Once she achieves her goal, though, she finds that her world is not what she once thought.

Unsurprisingly, Tomi Adeyemi’s “Children of Blood and Bone” also makes the list. Zélie Adebola lives in a land filled with magic, but a tyrant king rises who kills those who practice magic, including Zélie’s mother. Left with her grief and her abilities, Zélie must find a way to overthrow the new king and return magic to her land.

In 2018, Laini Taylor’s “Strange the Dreamer” won a place in the Teen’s Top Ten, and this year the sequel, “Muse of Nightmares,” has also been nominated. Although Lazlo and Sarai have transformed, the struggle continues as they face off against enemies both old and new. Marie Lu also has a sequel to one of last year’s winners on the nominee list, with “Wildcard,” which follows her sci-fi novel, “Warcross.”

Three graphic novels were nominated in 2019, which is a delightful surprise, as there were no graphic novels nominated in 2018. The graphic novels nominated for 2018 include: “The Prince and the Dressmaker” by Jen Wang, an exploration of gender expression set in a whimsical European fairytale world; “Speak: The Graphic Novel” by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Emily Carroll, adapted from Anderson’s classic novel; and the only non-fiction title on the nominee list, “The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees” by Don Brown.

To browse more of the Teens’ Top Ten nominees, as well as last year’s winners and other award-winning young adult titles, please check out the young adult award-winners display near the Teen Zone on the 2nd floor of Manhattan Public Library.