Month: December 2019

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

This Tender Land

This Tender Land

by Bryan McBride, LIS Librarian

Image result for this tender landAbout twenty years ago, William Kent Krueger began writing a Native American mystery series that takes place in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota with a main character named Cork O’Connor. In these books, Krueger introduces us to folklore of the Ojibwe tribe. The inclusion of Native American folklore places the series in one of my favorite mystery genres, alongside Craig Johnson’s Longmire and James Doss’ Charlie Moon mysteries. In 2013, Krueger set aside the Cork O’Connor series and wrote a book called “Ordinary Grace,” winner of the Edgar Award for best mystery. Despite it being an older book in our collection, patrons often still need to place a hold on the library copy and wait for their chance to read it. That’s the way it worked for me, but it was worth the wait.  American literature filled with common philosophy, theology, and insights into human nature.

This year, Krueger released a novel called “This Tender Land.” It is a coming-of-age story about four children, whose lives intersect in 1932 at the Lincoln Indian Training School, on the banks of Minnesota’s Gilead River.  The school is a brutal place, where Native American children are taken from their families and placed to have their culture stripped away from them by whatever means necessary. The central character is Odie O’Banion, who is at the school with his older brother, Albert. They lost their parents at a young age and are the only white children at the school.  Albert fares okay because he toes the line. Odie, on the other hand, is always in trouble due to his rebellious nature and frequently spends a lot of nights in an isolation cell the Brickmans call “the quiet room,” where the evil DiMarco disciplines with a whip, and sometimes worse. A young Native American they call Mose is the third member of this friendship.  Mose’s traumatic life began at an early age when his tongue was cut, leaving him unable to speak.

One day, while the three of them are performing hard labor on a nearby work farm, they are swept away by the kindly Cora Frost, who has arranged for their daytime work to be transferred over to her. A short time later Cora has made preparations to take them in for the summer. Just as the boys are feeling like maybe something good is finally happening in their lives, a tornado rolls through Cora’s farm and kills her, orphaning her young daughter, Emmy. Odie and Albert’s hope is lost. The brutal headmistress Mrs. Brickman takes in Emmy, which is intolerable for the boys, who are concerned about Emmy’s welfare in Mrs Brickman’s home. One night, while out of the dormitory, they are caught out by DiMarco, and in a struggle he is accidentally killed by Odie.  Now Odie, Albert and Mose are on the run, but they refuse to leave Emmy behind with the headmistress, so they kidnap Emmy. An odd girl who has a gift for not only sometimes being able to look into the future, but somehow even affecting the future, she seems to be waiting on them when they show up to take her with them.

On the run from the Brickmans and the law, the four take to the river for their escape. They are a tight group of four children who learn about their strengths and weaknesses as they are forced into an early maturity.  Many adventures await them on the river, good and bad. It seems that Krueger is using the twists and turns of the river as a vehicle for the twists and turns their lives will collectively and individually take on their journey.  What Odie comes to realize is that these events test their friendship, ultimately pulling them in different directions as they all find new life following the river.

Those who enjoy coming-of-age stories and the bonds of youthful friendship should put this book on their reading list.  Historical fiction and theology from the Great Depression, as well the twists and turns and the “I didn’t see that coming” sensation, all combine to create time well-spent with “This Tender Land.”

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

Remembering the Alamo

Remembering the Alamo

by Marcia Allen, Collection Services Manager

Sam Houston.  Davey Crockett.  Jim Bowie.  William Travis.  All are remembered in history because of their involvement in the siege of the Alamo in 1836, but of those four men, only one survived the struggle for Texas independence.  While many books have been written about that struggle, few have the vibrancy and the fast pacing of Brian Kilmeade’s new book, Sam Houston and the Alamo AvengersFor those of us who love history or tales of the West, this new narrative is a standout.

Kilmeade’s thrilling account opens with the recognition that the Mexican and American hostilities are already building.    Repeated skirmishes had left casualties on both sides.  General Santa Anna was determined to drive the Texians from the territory and reclaim the land for Mexico, but President Andrew Jackson and his friend Sam Houston were equally determined to claim the Texas territory for the United States.  As word of the hostilities began to spread, American frontiersmen and ex-military fighters traveled to the territory for their own patriotic reasons.  Many legendary characters, like Jim Bowie and Davey Crockett, vowed to fight for their country.  And they, like others, had run into difficulties elsewhere that made them want to seek new adventures.

The conflict came to a head at the city of San Antonio at the site of a missionary church.  American forces decided to defend the weak fortifications and await the arrival of more defenders, hoping that General Santa Anna’s forces would arrive later.  That was not to be.  Nearly 200 defenders lost their lives during the standoff, and to the shock of the nation, the Texian survivors were executed outside the walls of the fortress.  As Kilmeade tells us, battle losses were nothing new to the country, but General Santa Anna’s dispatching of the survivors was unforgiveable.

“Remember the Alamo” soon became a battle cry, perhaps coined by Sam Houston, to rally troops for further confrontations with the Mexican forces.  Though not in good health, Houston realized he would have to take responsibility for the defense of Texas, and so he began elaborate plans to change the direction of the war.  His followers were often dissatisfied with his leadership because he did not share his major plans with them and because they felt he was delaying  confrontation for too long, but Houston was determined to avoid another crushing defeat like that at the Alamo.

Ultimately, the clash took place at San Jacinto.  This time, there were plenty of American forces for the battle, and Houston’s lengthy training regime paid off.  Too, the Americans had a favorable geographical advantage and elements of surprise in their favor.  General Santa Anna was not only defeated but also captured while posing as a messenger.  This was the confrontation that turned the war in favor of the Americans.

There are many reasons to appreciate and enjoy this book.  One is that Kilmeade’s accounts of specific battles have an immediacy and drama that make them excellent stories.  Another reason is his careful research that allowed him to convey relatively unknown details, taken from memories of those who witnessed these moments of history.  And his clearly worded passages about those historical events make them easy to understand.

Perhaps the best reason for enjoying the book is depiction of characters.  We know why Bowie and Crockett are there; we know their histories and their wilderness skills.  We come to understand them, not as characters from a book, but as real personalities who were players in a particular period.  “Deaf” Smith, for example, is little known in history, and yet he appears again and again in the conflicts as a colorful messenger/fighter/planner who accomplished so much for a newly assembled fighting force.  He is one of many loyal followers for the American cause.

If you share my enthusiasm for this book, you will be pleased to learn that Kilmeade has written other equally captivating accounts of history.  George Washington’s Secret Six and Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans are also available at the library.  I’m sure that you will find them just as appealing as Sam Houston and the Alamo Avengers.

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

Most Popular Titles of 2019

Most Popular Titles of 2019

by Mary Swabb, Learning & Information Services Supervisor

Another year is almost in the books, and, betwixt all the holiday hubbub, you might have become aware that just sixteen days remain before we ring in the new year. Now might be a good time to look back and take stock of what’s happened, what you’ve read, what’s been written, and make plans for the future, like what books you’re going to read in the upcoming year. Here’re a few of this past year’s top titles that you won’t want to miss:

In her debut book, “Educated,” Tara Westover tells her coming-of-age story about growing up in a survivalist family residing in the mountains of Idaho, where she stockpiles canned goods, makes homemade remedies with her mother, and helps her father by working in his junkyard. Growing up, Westover was forbidden to seek medical attention, other than the herbalism provided by her mother, and she did not receive any formal education, so she began educating herself. Westover ending up attending Brigham Young University, and then went on to attend Harvard and Cambridge. Westover’s journey is one of self-invention, family loyalty, grief, and struggle. It’s a story that presents insight into what an education is, and what it offers- perspective on one’s life, and the opportunity to change it.

Helping women unpack their restrictive mindsets and embrace forward momentum, Rachel Hollis, lifestyle coach, seeks to share her tips for living a better and less fear-driven life in her first book, “Girl, Wash Your Face.” Hollis expands in more detail on how to let go of excuses, adopt positive behaviors, and believe in yourself in her new book, “Girl, Stop Apologizing.”

In “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth,” Sarah Smarsh weaves a lyrical and poignant tale of her fifth-generation wheat farming family, speckled with young mothers and people who understand a hard day’s work. Smarsh, primarily raised by her grandmother on a farm thirty miles west of Wichita, enjoyed the freedom of a country childhood but observed the economic hardships and limited opportunities surrounding her family. Combining personal narrative with cultural commentary, Smarsh challenges readers to acknowledge the class divide in our country and to re-examine the idea that if you make less, you’re worth less.

Jodi Picoult weaves a nuanced story that tackles complicated issues in “A Spark of Light.” Picoult entwines the narratives of a variety of characters who find themselves at the Center, a women’s reproductive health services clinic, on the day an avenging angel solicits vengeance at gunpoint. This unique narrative is told in a backward structure that shows how each person arrived at the Center. The novel’s directness combines with Picoult’s trademark sentimentality to engage readers in a dialogue on this difficult subject.

At a luxurious health resort in the Australian countryside, nine people gather for various reasons to relax and recover. They are all given blood tests upon arrival by the spa owner, Masha, an ominously beautiful women with huge green eyes who seems too beautiful to be real. But the blood tests don’t turn anyone away from the experience, and of course the nine guests are not strangers like the title would suggest. Obviously, something odd is going on. Read “Nine Perfect Strangers” by Liane Moriarty to find out what happens to these “strangers.” Moriarty’s dark humor does not disappoint.

In “Long Road to Mercy,” David Baldacci introduces readers to his newest protagonist, Atlee Pine, an FBI special agent assigned to the remote wilds of the western United States. Baldacci’s intricate plots, double crosses, and fast-paced suspense are hard at work as Atlee Pine investigates a string of disappearances, the most recent being the rider of a mutilated mule found in the Grand Canyon. Will Atlee Pine be able to unravel these missing persons cases in the canyon?

If you’ve already read all these titles, or they just don’t capture your interest, Manhattan Public Library has plenty of other titles to add to your 2020 reading list. Feel free to stop by the library and ask a staff member for a recommendation. We’d be happy to help you find your next great read.

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

Sit Back and Relax with a Good Book

Sit Back and Relax with a Good Book

by Rhonna Hargett, Associate Director

Some call the holidays the “most wonderful time of the year,” but it can also be the most stressful time of the year. In the midst of your planning, shopping, and socializing, take some time for yourself with a good book. According to research, reading is a great stress-buster, sort of a mini-vacation for your brain. Here are some great titles, perfectly designed to help you recharge.

The Turn of the Key” by Ruth Ware is the story of Rowan Caine, the new nanny at Heatherbrae House in the Highlands of Scotland. She thinks she’s gotten lucky when she lands the high-paying position in a sumptuous house and meets the attractive and ideal-seeming family, but it doesn’t take long before it becomes clear that something isn’t right. Consisting of her correspondence with her lawyer from jail after the death of one of the children, the novel details her growing trepidation as soon after her arrival, she is left alone with children that turn out to be nothing like the angels she was led to believe they were. Constant electronic monitoring and a “smart-house” system that randomly turns lights off and on increase her fear. Based on “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James, “The Turn of the Key” is a riveting and disturbing mystery.

In “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris, Lale Sokolov is a charming Slovakian Jew that is popular with the ladies. When he is sent to Auschwitz, he is given the advantageous job of tattooing his fellow prisoners with their numbers, a position that he uses for his own gain. When he tattoos the young beauty Gita, he falls in love. As their relationship grows, his hope to marry her inspires him to become a man worthy of her. Based on a true story, Morris’s novel portrays the horrifying life in the prison camps, as well as the power of love to survive in the worst of conditions.

American Spy” by Lauren Wilkinson begins in 1992 with Marie Mitchell fleeing her home with her young sons. When she reaches a place of safety, she begins to chronicle the story of her career as an FBI intelligence officer so that her sons can read it when they are older. When she began her career in the mid-80s, her status as a black woman restrained her to desk duties, so she jumped at the opportunity when her race makes her the best candidate for the task of infiltrating the inner circle of Thomas Sankara, the president of Burkina Faso, in order to sabotage his position. A Communist-leaning trail-blazer, Sankara is more complex than he is portrayed by the bureau, and Mitchell spends the next year experiencing upended perceptions of herself and her career, even while accomplishing her mission. A mix of espionage and literary fiction, “American Spy” provides suspense along with an insightful exploration of family and race in the era of the Cold War.

In “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens, Kya Clark raises herself from a young age in the marshes of North Carolina after being abandoned by her family. As she grows into a young woman, she encounters two men who befriend her. When one of them dies in a fall from a fire tower, Kya is the lead suspect. Although the mystery adds suspense, the true star of this 1970s story is the expressive language. Kya becomes intricately attached to the life in the marshes, and the descriptions of her relationship with the natural environment that surrounds her are accomplished. This is a good read-alike for those that enjoy Barbara Kingsolver’s work.

Take a few moments for yourself during this busy holiday season to stock up on a few fun reads at Manhattan Public Library, then put your feet up and escape into another time or place. You deserve it!

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

An Apple a Day, as They Say

An Apple a Day, as They Say

by John Pecoraro, Associate Director

     An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Oh, if it were only true. There are over 7,500 varieties of apples, but a 2015 study found no evidence that, while apples are good for you and tasty, eating one a day won’t necessarily keep the doctor away. Today is Eat a Red Apple Day. It is the perfect time to sample a few of the books on growing and cooking apples available at your library.

The Apple Lover’s Cookbook,” by Amy Traverso, is the most complete cookbook for enjoying and cooking with apples. This full-color guide to fifty-nine apple varieties comes with flavor descriptions, history, and, how to use apples in the kitchen. The author gives us a front row seat to meet farmers, cider makers, and other apple enthusiasts. There are one hundred recipes in this book running the gamut from simple cobblers to exotic fare such as Cider-Braised Brisket or Apple-Gingersnap Ice Cream.

Apples, From Harvest to Table,” by Amy Pennington, features 50 delicious recipes organized into five chapters, from Breakfast & Brunch to Jams, Jellies & Preserves. This book is illustrated with beautiful food photography and vintage botanical drawings. It also includes essays on topics including how to make your own apple juice, heirloom apple varieties, and recipes and apple crafts for kids.

The Apple Cookbook: 125 Freshly Picked Recipes,” by Olwen Woodier, is a revision of the author’s 1984 classic. It has been updated to include guides to newer varieties and cultivars, along with 30 new recipes, and full-color photography. This book offers descriptive information on the history of apples, as well as apple selection, storage, and cooking methods. While recipes for apple pies are featured, the author also provides unique savory preparations such as Apple Meatloaf and Ground Lamb Kebabs with Apple Mint Raita.

Apples to Cider: How to Make Cider at Home,” by April White and Stephen Wood, is a beginner’s guide to making hard cider. This book begins with information about the roots of hard cider in America, giving the history and styles of cider. It then focuses on equipment, the types of apples to use, and how to set up the space for fermentation. Along with the step-by-step directions for cider making, the authors suggest techniques for evaluating each batch to further improve the end product.

We’ve all heard the tale of a man wandering in the American wilderness, wearing a pot on his head, and throwing apple seed. John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, was more than a myth. Born in 1774 in Massachusetts, by the 1790s, Chapman was making his way west into Pennsylvania and Ohio, planting apple trees and spreading Swedenborgian philosophy.

In “Johnny Appleseed: the Man, the Myth, the American Story,” author Howard Means attempts to separate history from the folklore surrounding John Chapman. The rag-clad, barefoot nomad with a tin pot for a hat, was welcomed into frontier cabins despite his appearance.  Chapman was known for his boundless love of nature, his kindness, generosity, and bravery.  The seeds Chapman planted generally grew to trees bearing scrawny, sour apples, better suited for cider than anything else. While much of Chapman’s life is legend, Means pulls together his research on a fascinating figure and the myths that surround him.

Additional titles about Johnny Appleseed for younger readers include “Seed by Seed: the Legend and Legacy of John “Appleseed” Chapman,” by Esme Codell, and “Johnny Appleseed: a Tall Tale,” by Steven Kellogg.  Codell portrays a man who sometimes traded his trees for clothing. Chapman also gave away seedlings, lent his books to settlers, planted medicinal herbs, and, showed great kindness to animals.

Kellogg chronicles Johnny Appleseed’s travels, his legendary scattering of apple seeds, and his telling of Bible and adventure stories to the children and adults he meets along the way. Both picture books are brilliantly illustrated.

Food for Fines is coming again to the library. On Saturday, December 7, from 10:00 to 5:00, you can donate nonperishable food items for the Flint Hills Bread Basket in exchange for vouchers to pay your overdue fines. Vouchers are limited to $10 per account, and must be used during December. That’s a sweet way to get rid of your overdue fines, and help your neighbors.