Month: October 2020

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

“Iron Lake” by William Kent Krueger

“Iron Lake” by William Kent Krueger

by Bryan McBride, LIS Librarian

What happens when a Windigo calls your name? Has Cork O’Connor heard the Windigo call his name? That is only one of the mysteries in this novel by Krueger. “Iron Lake” is the first book in the Cork O’Connor mystery series set in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. O’Connor is part Irish-Catholic, part Anishinaabe Indian. With red hair and pale skin, he doesn’t look like one of The People, and opinions on the reservation are divided about his loyalty to them. It dates back to when Cork was the local sheriff, in which a dust-up between the local tourist industry and the Anishinaabe tribe over fishing rights for Iron Lake leads to a shooting that has taken the lives of a protester from Chicago and a tribal elder. Cork is held responsible by many from both Aurora and the reservation. A recall election ousts Cork from his position as sheriff. Cork blames himself and doesn’t fight his recall.

Now Cork has a difficult time disentangling his current life from his past life as sheriff, partly because many residents of both Aurora and the reservation continue to turn to him for help with their struggles, especially those that bump up against the justice system of Aurora, Minnesota. Cork is also struggling with a recent separation from his wife, who has a well-earned reputation for offering legal aid to those on the reservation. Recently removed from his job as sheriff and with marital issues which have also created some separation from his children, Cork is struggling mightily.

Paul LeBeau is an exceptional boy of mixed blood who delivers newspapers in Aurora. An Eagle Scout, he takes great pride in the skills he has honed.  As he delivers the papers, he often thinks of all the ways he could handle various disasters that might befall Aurora.  “Be prepared” is a motto precious to him.

But now Paul has disappeared. School closed early for the day due to an impending blizzard but that only heightened Paul’s desire to carry out his delivery responsibilities, and he hasn’t returned home following his deliveries. At the request of the boy’s mother, Cork begins a search for the boy, which begins at the last stop on the boy’s route to first discover if Paul finished his deliveries. That is the home of the local judge, and the judge is dead.  And now Cork is first on the scene, just like the sheriff he once was.  His first call is to the current sheriff who brings in the medical examiner, which like in many small towns, is barely competent and part-time as an M.E. With his quick intuitive skills of observation honed as a Chicago cop, Cork begins to doubt the medical examiner’s opinion of a suicide. And where is the boy? Did Paul hear the Windigo call his name?

Just as he can’t seem to disentangle his time as sheriff, he can’t separate the death of the judge from the missing boy. His search for the boy begins to expose harsh local secrets, and soon threatens Cork’s life.

Mysteries against a Native American backdrop are my favorite books within the mystery genre.  For readers who enjoy the Walt Longmire mysteries by Craig Johnson, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee series by Tony Hillerman, or Charlie Moon mysteries by James Doss, this series by William Kent Krueger needs to be on the reading list.  For a long time, the James Doss books were my favorite from this genre for their mix of Native American mystic and humor.  Sadly, James Doss has passed away and the Charlie Moon series ended a few years back.  But Johnson and Krueger carry on, delivering mystic known to Native Americans while Walt Longmire and Cork O’Connor solve local mysteries.

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

The 19th Amendment for Kids

The 19th Amendment for Kids

By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Manager

The 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was ratified 100 years ago in August of 1920. Our unofficial history librarian in the Children’s Room, Ms. Rachel, has explored some great new titles for young readers on the topic. Here are some highlights from new publications this year.

“History Smashers: Women’s Right to Vote” by Kate Messner is a history of the fight for the 19th Amendment. It includes short comics and insets to give additional information and talks about the early fight for women’s rights leading up to the 19th Amendment, and how things changed (or didn’t) after it was ratified. Messner writes, “In the end, the story of women’s fight for the right to vote is a much messier one than history books like to share.” There’s a lot of information, but it’s a fast-paced book that will keep readers tuned in.

“Give Us the Vote! Over 200 Years of Fighting for the Ballot” by Susan Goldman Rubin is a more complete history of voting in the United States, from the earliest days of white male property owners through the fight for women to be allowed to vote, denial of citizenship (and voting rights) to Native Americans and Chinese People, up to recent voter suppression controversies. There is a lot of information crammed in to 120 fascinating pages.

“Lifting As We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box” by Evette Dionne covers women who are often overlooked in the popular understand of the suffrage movement. However, there were many Black women involved in those early days, fighting for both suffrage and abolition, and they continued to fight for civil rights after their white sisters had retired. Hopefully, through this book, many more fascinating women will receive the same attention as Susan B. Anthony.

“Equality’s Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America” by Deborah Diesen is a picture book that walks children through the progression of voting rights in a short poem. While the text of the main portion of the book is brief, intended to inspire readers to find out more, in the back of the book is an extensive list of important people in the movement and a summary of all the voting-related amendments and legislation in America’s history. This list is fascinating for all age readers, reminding us that Native Americans weren’t granted citizenship until 1924, and some states still restricted their right to vote. Another interesting fact: Mabel Ping-Hua Lee campaigned for the 19th Amendment even though Asian-Americans were restricted from citizenship until 1952.

These books and more are featured on a board in the library’s Children’s Room, which is now open for browsing by appointment. Just call the library to set up a time to visit, or stop by and we will do our best to fit you in. The library is also the Ward 1 Precinct 1 polling site, and we will accommodate voting this November using our Storytime Room and direct outdoor entrance to keep the process as safe as possible. You can find your polling site by visiting or other county government websites. Find out if you are registered to vote at, and get non-partisan candidate info at, powered by The League of Women Voters Education Fund. However you choose to do it, we hope you will vote!

The epilogue from Lifting As We Climb leaves readers, young or old, with powerful words to consider:

“The battle for voting rights will—and should—continue long after all the celebrations of the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment. It is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Continuing to lift as we climb—by registering to vote, encouraging friends to register to vote, contacting congressional and state representatives to demand they take steps to protect voting rights, and keeping the universal suffrage conversation going—is essential. Voting is a hallmark of being an American citizen, and preserving the right to vote still matters—forever and always.” – Evette Dionne

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

International Mysteries

International Mysteries

by John Pecoraro, Associate Director

There is nothing better than reading a good mystery. That is, unless you are reading a mystery that takes place in another country. International mysteries add to the mystery of the story with the flavor of another country’s culture, customs, and cuisine. The library’s collection of downloadable materials on Hoopla features hundreds of mysteries by authors from dozens of places around the world.

The first stop on our tour of world mysteries is Mussolini’s Italy of the 1930s. Maurizio di Giovanni introduces Commissario Ricciardi in “I Will Have Vengeance.” Commissario Ricciardi has the uncanny ability (gift or curse) of seeing the final seconds in the lives of people who have died violent deaths. It has helped him become one of the most successful homicide detectives on the Naples police force, but at a cost. Ricciardi drinks too much and doesn’t sleep enough. It’s March, 1931, when Arnaldo Vezzi, famous opera tenor, is found murdered in his dressing room. While adored by millions of opera fans, Vezzi, arrogant and bad-tempered, is also hated by not a few. As Ricciardi investigates, there doesn’t seem to be a want of suspects happy to see Vizzi dead.

Next we visit the Low Countries. The Belgian police force send veteran Walter Eekhaut, along with his authority problem, to Amsterdam to assist the Dutch security service in investigating the activities of a well-connected Russian oligarch. So begins Guido Eekhaut’s (no relation) “Absinthe.” While investigating the Russian, Eekhaut finds himself pulled into the case of a murdered young dissident who might have stolen a sensitive list from the Amsterdam offices of an ultra-right-wing political party. A list with the name of secret donors. The hunt for the killer leads to shady dealings that set the Russian mob, Dutch politicians, and business leaders against the police and anyone else who tries to get in their way.

Now travel further north to the Sweden of Camilla Lackberg.  In “The Hidden Child,” crime writer Erica Falck makes a shocking discovery. She finds a Nazi medal among her late mother’s possessions. Digging into her family’s past leads her to the home of a retired history teacher who was one of her mother’s friends during the Second World War. He answers her questions with only bizarre and evasive answers, and two days later turns up dead. Detective Patrik Hedström, Erica’s husband, soon becomes embroiled in the murder investigation. Erica’s reading of her mother’s wartime diaries uncovers a secret that could endanger her husband and child. Light is shining on the dark past, and the truth will out.

Kwei Quartey is a writer from Ghana. His inspector Darko Dawson of the Accra police is investigating the ritualistic murder of a prominent, wealthy couple washed up in a canoe at an offshore oil rig. They are pillars of the community, mourned by all. The more Dawson learns about the case, the more complex it becomes. Real estate entrepreneurs and oil companies have been bribing the traditional fishing population to move out. Soon Dawson discovers an abundance of motives for murder from personal vendettas to corporate conspiracies in “Murder at Cape Three Points.”

When a woman’s body is discovered in the wardrobe warehouse of Israel Television, Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon takes off on a tangled and bloody trail of detection in Batya Gur’s “Murder in Jerusalem.” While Ohayon has spent his career surrounded by perplexing cases, nothing disturbs him more than what this woman’s murder reveals. The media, so often where political tensions, and social and religious divisions come together, may indeed be at the root of an unspeakable evil.

From Cuba, Leonardo Padura, gives us “Havana Blue,” the first in his series featuring Lieutenant Mario Conde. His head bounding with a New Year’s Eve hangover, Conde is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a high-level business manager, Rafael Morin. Conde remembers Morin from their student days as the guy who always got what he wanted. That included Tamara, the girl Conde hoped would be his own. But there is something hidden beneath Morin’s rise from the barrio into his perfect, successful life. In his investigation, Conde is forced to confront his lost love for Tamara, along with the dreams and delusions of his entire generation of Cubans.

This is just a sampling of the hundreds of mysteries from around the world available 24/7 as downloadable ebooks and audio from Hoopla. As always free with your library card.

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

A Pirate’s Life is Not for Me

A Pirate’s Life is Not for Me

Jared Richards, Learning and Information Services Supervisor

A couple weeks ago was International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Inspired by this, I started playing a video game about pirates. You get to sail the seas, find treasure, fight skeletons and krakens, and defend your ship against other players. Despite the theme of the game, it turns out I’m not terribly interested in being a pirate. It can take hours to complete quests and find treasure, and having that stolen from you can be frustrating. I don’t need that level of stress, so I spend my time fishing from the bowsprit of my ship, while reading and listening to books about pirates. I prefer my pirating to take place vicariously.

Joseph Bannister was a respected merchant captain, trusted to make transatlantic voyages between London and Jamaica, with expensive cargo. In 1684, he gave that up, stealing his ship, the Golden Fleece, and becoming a pirate. Over the next three years he was captured, escaped by stealing his ship a second time, and won a battle against two Royal Navy ships, before finally being captured again.

During the battle with the Royal Navy, the Golden Fleece was sunk, and seemingly lost to history for over 300 years. “Pirate Hunters” by Robert Kurson follows the story of two shipwreck hunters, John Chatterton and John Mattera, as they search for the final resting place of Bannister’s ship.

Kurson goes into great detail describing the increasingly expensive and technologically advanced process of searching for shipwrecks. He takes the same amount of care in telling the stories of Chatterton and Mattera, from childhood to professional successes, and the path that led them to this latest hunt. It’s written in such a way that pulled me in and made me stay up late because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. The audiobook is narrated by Ray Porter, who is very easy to listen to, but the physical book has some neat pictures. You should probably just check out both.

I’d heard the terms before, but only recently did I learn the difference between a pirate and a privateer. That difference is a government issued piece of paper that says the latter is allowed to do all the pirate stuff legally, on behalf of the government. Privateers were basically used in place of a large naval force, which would be hard to maintain, in order to protect a foreign country’s interests overseas. “The Pirates’ Pact” by Douglas R. Burgess, Jr. goes into detail about the interesting, and precarious, nature of these relationships, focusing on colonial America.

Diving deeper into the history of pirates, and learning about the exploits of Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, and Edward Low, made me think of a pirate from my childhood, Captain Hook. I revisited him in “The Annotated Peter Pan” by J. M. Barrie, edited by Maria Tatar. Barrie developed the character of Peter Pan in the early 1900s. First mentioned in “The Little White Bird” in 1902, Pan took center stage in a successful play in 1904, with the novel following in 1911.

This annotated version is fantastic. Along with the insightful annotations of the story, it also includes a history of the story, the original pen-and-ink illustrations by F. D. Bedford, and a survey of the films, and much more.

My memory of the story had been obscured by the Disney film, which I watched countless times growing up. And then I kept growing up, despite my best efforts. As is often the case with old stories, the original story is a bit darker, including a lot more death than I remember. It isn’t anywhere on par with actual pirates, but I guess it’s fitting for a story featuring a fictional one, even if it’s a children’s story.

None of the books I’ve come across so far in the Manhattan Public Library’s large collection of pirate books, have made any attempt to capture a pirate’s speech. Luckily, we have Mango Languages, offering courses in over seventy languages, including Pirate. I like to mention this resource to the other players in my video game, who I can only generously assume are attempting to speak like a pirate. There’s little evidence they have listened to me.

I may not want to act like a pirate, but the library is a great place to learn about pirates. Being a few centuries removed from the Golden Age of Piracy (1650 – 1730), and their questionable behavior, has turned their incredible exploits into an intriguing curiosity, rather than a terrifying reality.