Month: September 2019

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Silly and Creepy Stories to Welcome the Fall

Silly and Creepy Stories to Welcome the Fall

by Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian

Image result for scary stories for young foxes            It’s no secret that I’m impatient for fall to come—I started baking with pumpkin spice weeks ago, and I’ve been eyeing any trees I pass for hope of changing colors and falling leaves. Fall brings with it many great things, including that creepiest, most sinister of holidays: Halloween. We’re finally passing summer and entering autumn, when it’s time for the ghoulish, ghastly, and even more-silly-than-scary books. For those who eagerly wait all year to break out the cobwebs and jack-o-lanterns, for those who prefer monsters and ghosts, for those kids who can’t wait to dress up and come home loaded with candy, here’s a book list for you.

For the youngest of Halloween aficionados, we have plenty of picture books to amuse and delight. “Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies!,” by Megan and Jorge Lacera, features a zombie boy who prefers vegetables over brains, horrifying his parents. Revisit the catchy theme song for “The Addams Family” (and get it stuck in your head before seeing the movie next month) with a new picture book set to the lyrics, illustrated by Lissy Marlin. Learn all about skulls, which are “like a car seat for your brain,” in Blair Thornburgh and Scott Campbell’s “Skulls!,” which gleefully covers all the reasons why we should love skulls instead of fearing them. And just in case the weather turns cold and wintry in time for Halloween, curl up with “Snowmen at Halloween” by Caralyn and Mark Buehner for an idea of what snowmen might get up to on Halloween.

Children’s fiction has its fair share of not-so-scary, monster- and ghost-inspired books, too. “Jaclyn Hyde,” by Annabeth Bondor-Stone and Connor White, is a fun take on “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” about a perfectionist who takes a “Perfect Potion” with unexpected consequences. In Katherine Sparrow’s “Little Apocalypse,” an earthquake brings with it monsters only visible to children, combining apocalypse stories, the supernatural, and fairy tales. “Archimancy,” first in the Shadow School series by J.A. White, follows Cordelia Liu as she starts attending the ominously-named Shadow School and discovers that the school is filled with ghosts.

More traditional, slightly scarier children’s fiction also abounds, both in short stories and longer books. For short stories, try Josh Allen’s “Out to Get You,” which is filled with thirteen short stories of normal kids encountering strange and alarming situations where they least expect them, like settling down on the couch. “Scary Stories for Young Foxes,” by Christian McKay Heidicker, contains seven shorter tales held together by a frame story of seven fox kits desperate to hear stories so frightening their tails will go white. Kathryn Siebel weaves a more traditional ghost story in “The Haunting of Henry Davis,” a tale of séances and Ouija boards and a boy being haunted by a ghost named Edgar. In “Guest,” Mary Downing Hahn takes inspiration from Irish folklore, focusing on a girl whose baby brother is switched with a changeling and her quest to get him back.

Teens can look forward to some spine-chilling, supernatural-infused books, too. Those familiar with the legendary Edgar Allan Poe may be interested in “His Hideous Heart,” an anthology reimagining thirteen of his stories for a modern audience. For those wanting to revisit his original stories, thirteen of Poe’s stories and poems are included in the back of the anthology. Comics readers can pick up Terry Blas and Claudia Aguirre’s “Hotel Dare,” a fantasy comic on the tamer side of scary, which follows teens encountering the supernatural at a hotel which is actually a portal to other worlds. “Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist,” a short story written by David Almond and illustrated by Dave McKean, bridges the gap between fiction and graphic novel but is hair-raising nonetheless. Joe Quinn’s been telling everyone about his poltergeist, and narrator Davie finds himself drawn in despite himself and his initial disbelief in ghosts. Almond’s eerie storytelling is heightened by McKean’s art, which twists reality to unsettle the reader and convey Davie’s confusion, angst, and fear.

Beyond books, we’ve plenty of Halloween goodness in store for October. Kids and families can join us for Trunk-or-Treat at the Library on October 27 at 6:30 PM, and preschoolers can enjoy a monstrously fun time at our Monster Mash Dance Party on October 31 at 11 AM. If those all seem too far away to bear, then go ahead and put on your Halloween costume early, break out the pumpkin juice, and pick up some silly and spooky books to help pass the time.

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The Art of Hick-Lit

The Art of Hick-Lit

By Rachel Cunningham, Circulation Supervisor

We’ve all heard the antiquated phrase “flyover country” when referring to the Midwest. Nebraska has even adopted a tourism campaign stating “honestly, it’s not for everyone,” and many of us have seen the local merchandise proclaiming, “Kansas – it’s not that bad!” While Midwesterners may joke about the perception others have of their homeland, they bring to light the under appreciation and underrepresentation of rural life. Wander through the fiction stacks at a library or bookstore and you can find novels and series alike taking place in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and other metropolitan settings, yet few of these stories settle in the Midwest. However, popular mediums have recently developed a fascination with rural life (see films “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and “Nebraska,” and top 40 songs “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus and “Meant to Be” by Bebe Rexha feat. Florida Georgia Line). If the interest in (non-romanticized) country life is growing, where can one go to find literature that resonates with their personal life experience, or perhaps, enlighten the circumstance of their neighbors?


I began with J.D. Vance’s popular “Hillbilly Elegy.” Vance’s memoir  provides excellent and necessary background to the underrepresented people of the Midwest, but if you’re interested in a perspective closer to home, Sarah Smarsh’s memoir “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth” details life on a southern Kansas farm, and her upbringing in a working class family. Like Vance, Smarsh attempts to bring light to the socioeconomic factors that plague an often forgotten group of citizens in the Midwest. The experiences of these men and women sparked my journey to discover the niche genre of rural noir books – also affectionately tagged as “country noir” or “hick-lit”. Please note these titles may contain profanity, illegal substances, and sexual material. Ask a librarian for more details if you are sensitive to any of these topics.  


Iowa native Laura McHugh paints a gritty and dark atmosphere within the Ozark Mountains, driving a strong, suspenseful narrative in McHugh’s first novel, “The Weight of Blood”. The narrative follows sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane’s investigation into the murder of her friend, and the possible link to the fable surrounding her own mother’s disappearance years before. A discovery will force Lucy to question where her loyalty lies. In keeping with the themes of missing girls and family secrets, McHugh’s second novel “Arrowood” follows the homecoming of Arden Arrowood, returning to her family’s abandoned estate after her father’s death. Upon arriving, Arden discovers an armchair detective has been researching the disappearance of her twin sisters twenty years before, determined to find an answer to the unsolved mystery. Together, they reconstruct the timeline of the hazy summer day and uncover family secrets that have been buried for almost twenty years. Located in a once thriving, but now failing town in Iowa, McHugh uses details from her upbringing in small Iowa towns to create a believable atmosphere despite the unreliable narrator. Her latest work “The Wolf Wants In” takes the reader to Blackwater, Kansas, a rural suburb of Kansas City while retaining McHugh’s themes of family secrets, missing people, and murder. McHugh currently resides in Columbia, Missouri. 


Hailing from Hugoton, Kansas, Bryn Greenwood holds an MA in Creative Writing from K-State and nominations for her novel “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things”. With a lyrical writing style, readers are introduced to Wavy, the daughter of a drug dealer, who has been forced to grow up much faster than other children her age. The Oklahoma-based tale follows Wavy through multiple narrators from childhood to early adulthood. Greenwood introduces many difficult topics like child abuse, sexual abuse, intergenerational attraction, and others, which may be upsetting to some readers. Greenwood creates an incredibly resilient, resourceful, and complex character in Wavy, if readers are willing to be challenged by her harrowing childhood. Greenwood currently resides in Lawrence, Kansas. 


Breaking from her previous works of young adult fiction, Amy Engel debuted her first adult novel with “The Roanoke Girls”. Lane Roanoke arrives at her grandparents’ home in fictional Osage Flats, Kansas after her mother’s suicide. Lane quickly begins to discover unspoken pieces of her mother’s childhood and uncovers reasons she’s been forbidden to meet her family. Engel introduces difficult topics including abuse, incest, suicide, sexual content, and violence. Engel currently resides in Missouri.

The titles listed above are the tip of the hick-lit iceberg. For more recommendations, visit NoveList with your Kansas eCard!

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A Day in the Virtual Life of a Library Card

A Day in the Virtual Life of a Library Card

By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager

On average, about 980 people visit our library every day. But did you know that 13 percent of our checkouts actually happen outside the library using our digital resources to check out eBooks, audiobooks, movies and music? September is Library Card Sign-Up Month. If you don’t have a library card, you might be missing out.

The other day, I realized I had requested items, downloaded books and checked out a movie without ever needing to be in the library. Here’s the virtual path my library card took:

My first use was to place a hold on Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars, which was recommended by a coworker. It’s an alternate history taking place during the 1950’s space race when a cataclysmic disaster suddenly means that a lot more humans will need to attempt to leave the planet. This time, women won’t be left behind. Their cause is led by Elma York, a former WASP pilot and a mathematician for the space program, who will make sure that she and other women will be part of the astronaut team. After being inspired by Hidden Figures, I knew this would be a fun way to satisfy my need for both sci-fi and girl power. From the library webpage, I looked up the book, and chose “Place Request,” typed in my card number and password, and viola, I am next in line for the book.

Reviews of the The Calculating Stars mentioned a sequel, The Fated Sky, but I didn’t see it when I searched the online catalog. I clicked on “Suggest a Purchase” at the top of the page and put the sequel’s information in a form to suggest that we order a copy for the library collection. I’ll be first on the waiting list for that one.

The next stop for my library card was at the doctor’s office waiting room. I looked to see what I could start reading on my favorite library app, Hoopla. It’s super easy to use and there are no waiting lists. Forever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter is on this year’s William Allen White list for 6th-8th graders, and it popped up as one that I checked out previously. I borrowed it by clicking “resume,” and it picked up where I had left off a few weeks ago. The story immediately sucked me back in as I became wrapped up in Flora’s language and thought process.

Flora, a former foster child with a traumatic early childhood, adopted by a mother she thinks of as “Person,” is trying to pass fourth grade for the second time. Sometimes her words come out right, when she has enough time, and Ms. K and Person let her explain. Her story is heart-wrenching and fascinating, even as it is pieced together disjointedly.

When I got ready to take an evening walk, I checked Libby on my phone to see what audiobooks were available for me to listen to. Libby is the name of the app that gives easy access to the Sunflower eLibrary titles, a consortium of several libraries, including Manhattan Public, with digital resources. Not in the mood to start a second gripping novel for the day, I looked for something light and funny, and landed Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis. Ellis, author of American Housewife, writes with the self-deprecating, witty, sometimes shocking humor of a party storyteller. In case you are wondering, Southern Lady Code is “a technique by which, if you don’t have something nice to say, say something not-so-nice in a nice way.” For example, if someone were to say Helen Ellis’s husband married a creative woman, “’creative’ is Southern Lady Code for slob.” I ended up taking a longer walk than usual, just for the entertainment.

Later, I looked through the library’s newest downloadable movie app, Kanopy, marveling at how the library has expanded in the number of choices and accessibility through all the digital resources. Mr. Rogers: It’s You I Like came up as an option. I knew the DVD was in the library collection as well, but I was able start watching it immediately on my phone.

Former First Lady Laura Bush once said, “I have found the most valuable item in my wallet to be my library card.” Considering what it would cost to purchase the materials I borrowed in a single day, I would say it is true for me. This is one card you definitely want in your wallet.

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Books for the Transition Between Juvenile and Young Adult Literature

Books for the Transition Between Juvenile and Young Adult Literature

By Hannah Atchison, Children’s Librarian

Transitions are uncomfortable and difficult. The transition between child and young adult is probably one of the hardest. How do you find a book to read when you are done with children’s books, but are not sure where to begin in our teen section? The difference between our children’s books and our young adult books is that the books in our teen section have more mature themes. Mature, here, meaning that the story contains violent, romantic, or morally complex themes that are considered to be more than what a child is capable of understanding.

Here are a few recommendations for you:


  • Eragonby Christopher PaoliniThis is the first book in a series about a fifteen-year-old boy named Eragon whose adventures begin when he discovers a dragon egg.


  • The Lightning Thief -First in a series that follows the adventures of Percy Jackson, a boy who finds out he is a demigod, the son of Poseidon.


  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare -Fifteen-year-old Clary discovers a world that exits within our world where there are monsters and demons and those that hunt them: the Shadowhunters.


Science Fiction

  • Fullmetal Alchemistby Hiromu Arakawa -This is a graphic novel about Fullmetal, the codename of Edward Elric, a boy with the gift of alchemy. A ritual left Edward with mechanical limbs and his brother a walking, talking suit of armor. They seek the Philosopher’s Stone, convinced it can help them.


  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer -A retelling of Cinderella that takes place in New Beijing where humans and androids live together. Cinder is a cyborg mechanic involved in an intergalactic conflict threatening everyone on Earth.



  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner -Thomas wakes in a large outdoor space surrounded by high walls with his memory almost blank. Several boys are there, all of whom lost their memories. Doors open in the wall in the mornings revealing the maze surrounding them. One day a girl arrives with a message.


  • The Giver by Lois Lowry -At age twelve, during the Ceremony, Jonas is given his job as the receiver of memories for his community. Jonas learns secrets and uncomfortable truths about the community he once loved, and he decides to escape.



  • I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter -There is a boarding school for girls, which is actually a secret spy school. Cammie Morgan, the daughter of the headmistress, has fallen for a completely normal boy. She is incredibly smart and capable, but has no idea how to have a normal relationship.


  • A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro -Jamie Watson is at Sherringford Prep School in Connecticut where he meets Charlotte Holmes, the great-great-great-granddaughter of the detective Sherlock Holmes who has inherited his talents. The two work to solve the mysterious death of a student.

Realistic Fiction

  • One Week Friends by Matcha Hazuki -In this graphic novel, Yuuki notices that his classmate Kaori is always alone. They become friends, but he finds out that she loses her memories at the end of every week. Yuuki decides to become friends with her every week, even though she forgets him.


  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas -Starr Carter is a sixteen-year-old navigating the disparities between the poor black neighborhood she lives in and her suburban prep school. Starr witnesses the death of her best friend, Khalil. When his reputation is destroyed, and the police aren’t giving his death the attention it deserves, Starr takes the case into her own hands.


  • I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez -Julia left home after high school, but her sister Olga stayed home with the family. When Olga is killed in an accident, Julia comes back home to her family, but her mother is not happy with her.


  • Paper Towns by John Green -Quentin Jacobsen has been head over heels for the enigma Margo Roth Spiegelman since they were kids. When Margo climbs through Q’s window one night and asks him to help her he jumps at the chance, but the next day she disappears. Q bravely sets out to find her, convinced they are meant to be together.


Hopefully, these suggestions will help make at least one part of the transition between child and young adult a little bit easier.

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Humanities Kansas TALK About Literature in Kansas

Humanities Kansas TALK About Literature in Kansas

By Linda Henderson, Learning and Information Services Librarian

When so much in life denies people a way to feel belonging, when love and compassion seem forgotten, when a search for purpose seems absurd, how have people around the world come to experience strong spiritual faith?

This fall, the Manhattan Library Association, along with Humanities Kansas, will host a series of three lively, deep-reaching BookTALK discussions with the theme: “Faiths in Fiction: World Faiths.”  Readers will encounter characters who have shaped their lives through the experience of faith, both as inherited religious tradition, and in personal struggles with doubt, free will, and redemption.

Join us for lively discussions.  Copies of each month’s BookTALK title are ready now for patrons at the Manhattan Public Library’s second floor reference desk and no registration is necessary for the Thursday afternoon events.

James Baldwin’s “Go Tell It on the Mountain begins the fall season in September. In a semi-autobiographical novel, Baldwin chronicles a fourteen-year-old boy’s struggle for identity as the stepson of a tyrannical Pentecostal minister of a storefront church in 1935 Harlem. John is supposed to become a preacher like his father, Gabriel, but at 14 he feels morally betrayed and wrestles with rejecting the strict teachings of a family and community that have sabotaged his sense of worth.

Nicholas Shump will lead the discussion September 26, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. in the Groesbeck Room on the 2nd floor of Manhattan Public Library.  Nick teaches humanities, history, and political science for the Barstow School and the Hybrid Learning Consortium in Kansas City, Missouri. He has taught Humanities and Western Civilization and American Studies courses at KU and has served as a volunteer coordinator of Adult Education in Lawrence.

For October, “Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya, relates the story of a peasant woman in developing India.  A child bride to a tenant farmer she had never met, Rukmani works side by side in the field with her husband to wrest a living from a land alternately ravaged by monsoon floods, ruinous drought, and insect swarms.  Yet, she perseveres, meeting changing times and fighting poverty and disaster. Throughout it all, Rukmani never loses her faith in life or her love – and hope – for her family.

Miranda Ericsson will lead the discussion of “Nectar in a Sieve on October 24, at 2:00 p.m. in the Groesbeck Room. Miranda Ericsson is the Readers Librarian for the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, where she specializes in programs for readers and writers. Ericsson earned her Masters of Library & Information Science from Emporia State University. In her role at the Topeka and Shawnee Public Library, she leads programs and discussion groups that engage readers and writers.

The last presentation of the fall season is “The Romance Reader” by Pearl Abraham.  Abraham, who grew up in a Hasidic community herself, presents the story of Rachel, a girl caught between the strictly-regimented world of ultra-Orthodox Judaism and the yearnings of her own heart. Rachel comes to find a more enticing world in the pages of her forbidden paperback books, giving her a window into the larger world she lacked in her limited exposure to secular people.  “The Romance Reader” is both a coming-of-age story and a brave, beautifully rendered expose of a hidden, insular world.

Rosemary Kolich will lead a discussion of “The Romance Reader” at 2:00 p.m. on December 5, 2019, in Manhattan Public Library’s Groesbeck Room.   Sister Rosemary Kolich teaches English for the University of Saint Mary at both the main campus in Leavenworth and the Overland Park campus.  Kolich joined the TALK program in 2008.

Humanities Kansas (formerly Kansas Humanities Council) connects communities with history, traditions, and ideas to strengthen civic life. Last year, the Kansas Humanities Council supported 610 events in 119 communities across the state, reaching nearly one in six Kansans. “Humanities Kansas is a familiar face with a new name,” said Julie Mulvihill, executive director.