Month: February 2021

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Young Adult Fantasy by Black Authors

Young Adult Fantasy by Black Authors

by Rashael Apuya, Teen Services Librarian

I am a long-time fan of fantasy books. When I was about 10 years old, I picked up “Artemis Fowl” by Eoin Colfer and fell in love with magical stories. From there, I devoured modern classic fantasies like “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Stardust” by Neil Gaiman, and the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. Because these stories are full of magic and mythical creatures, I never recognized or questioned the lack of diversity of their human characters. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized I hadn’t read any fantasy books with a main character who wasn’t white or a magical creature. Similarly, I couldn’t recall reading any fantasy books by Black authors.

Fantasy is one of the most popular subgenres in Young Adult (YA) fiction. In recent years, there have been more Black authors getting published in YA. There has been a much-needed influx of realistic fiction, romance, and nonfiction books starring Black characters. Fantasy is slowly becoming more diverse, but there is still a lot of progress to be made. Black authors are historically underrepresented in fantasy for all ages, so it is important for publishers, librarians, and book stores to promote their work. As Black History Month ends, I’d like to highlight some new YA books by Black authors – and encourage you to learn about, support, and enjoy works by Black authors year-round.

Inspired by West African folklore, “A Song of Wraiths and Ruin” by Roseanne A. Brown tells the story of Malik and Karina. Malik wants to escape his war-torn home and find a new life for his family. When one of his sisters is kidnapped by a vengeful spirit, he makes a deal to kill the Crown Princess in exchange for his sister’s freedom. Karina, the Crown Princess, needs the heart of a king to bring her recently assassinated mother back to life with ancient magic. She decides to offer her hand in marriage to the winner of the Solstasia competition, so that she can kill him. When Malik enters the contest, their paths are set to collide. This August you can anticipate the sequel to this story, “A Psalm of Storms and Silence!

Legendborn” by Tracy Deonn is a contemporary fantasy about 16-year-old Bree Matthews, who recently lost her mother in a car accident. To get away, she does a residential program for bright high school students at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her first night there, she witnesses a magical attack and is introduced to a secret society, Legendborn, that hunts demons. Legendborn members claim to be descendants of King Arthur and his knights, and warn that there is a magical war coming.

Looking for a diverse demi-god story? “Wings of Ebony” by J. Elle follows Rue, who is taken from Houston by her father after her mother is killed, leaving her younger sister behind. She is the only half-human, half-god on Ghizon, a hidden island full of gods with magical powers who thrive on human suffering. Rue breaks a sacred rule on Ghizon by leaving to try and reunite with her sister, and finds that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. Rue needs to find her true identity and her powers to save her neighborhood before it is destroyed by the gods.

A Song Below Water” by Bethany C. Morrow is a modern siren story about Tavia, who has always had to hide her identity and powers. Luckily, she has her best friend, Effie, by her side as they navigate family, crushes, and being high school juniors in Portland. Everything changes when the aftermath of a siren murder trial rips through the nation. Now, Effie is being haunted by literal demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally reveals her siren voice in front of the police. Suddenly, Portland isn’t safe anymore, and the girls have to save themselves from drowning. Look out for the sequel, “A Chorus Rises,” coming out this June!

Find these titles and more at the Manhattan Public Library!

The Manhattan Public Library also has fantasy books in our children’s and adult collections. If you’d like personalized book recommendations, you can fill out a request at

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Routine Trees

Routine Trees

By Jared Richards, Learning and Information Services Supervisor

To alter a proverb just slightly, I’d say routine is the spice of life. That spice might be the sprinkle of paprika on top of a deviled egg, more there for aesthetics than flavor, but you eat with your eyes first, so aesthetics are important. In this analogy, the deviled egg is your day, and the paprika is that one routine that makes your day a little more appealing.

Now, despite these analogies, my latest routine has nothing to do with food. Sorry to disappoint, but the cookbook section at the Manhattan Public Library is rather large, so if I’ve unintentionally whetted your appetite, come on down to the library.

My new daily routine, beginning this year, is to draw a tree each day. I have no formal training in art, and that would go without saying if you could see most of my trees, but the whole point is to have fun and get better, and so far I’m ticking both of those boxes.

One obvious inspiration for this is Bob Ross. I grew up watching him, and he was all about the happy little trees. In thirty minutes he could go from a blank canvas to a colorful landscape that you could imagine wandering off and getting lost in. I was most inspired when he added a giant streak of dark paint down the front of the canvas, surely ruining everything he just painted, but then he turned it into a tree that looks like it was meant to be there all along.

I am drawing and painting digitally, so my bold strokes can be easily undone, but I have learned not to be afraid to try things out and see how they look. That experimentation has led to some interesting outcomes that wouldn’t have happened without Bob Ross. We have one Bob Ross DVD at the library, “Getting Started with Bob Ross,” in which he explains his painting technique and demonstrates it with a painting. We also have access to several seasons of “The Joy of Painting” through Hoopla, one of our online resources.

When I first decided I was going to focus on trees, I checked out books specifically about drawing trees, because that seemed logical. “Drawing Trees and Leaves” by Julia Kuo has a simplistic art style and proved to be a nice starting place to dip my toes in the water. Each drawing starts with basic shapes, like a dome for willows or a triangle for conifers, and you work your way down to the details.

Drawing Trees” by Denis John-Naylor is a short handbook that quickly goes through needed materials, tips, and techniques, using various types of trees as examples. Stanley Maltzman takes it a step further in “Drawing Trees: Step by Step.” Along with materials and techniques, Maltzman goes into greater detail, covering unique aspects of the different types of trees, details in nature to add to your scene, composition, and he briefly touches on mediums other than pencil and charcoal.

This led me to books that weren’t specifically about trees, but covered other mediums, like paint and papercutting, both of which I can at least experiment with digitally. “Watercolor: A Beginner’s Guide” by Elizabeth Horowitz features a section on negative shapes, which are the empty areas around the main focus of the painting. One particular example used to demonstrate this shows what looks like an inverted painting, where all the negative space between the branches is colorful and the tree is just a white silhouette.

In Jessica Palmer’s “The Art of Papercutting,” the negative shape is physically cut out, leaving behind the scene. Both of these books have given me a new way to look at and approach my drawings.

Finally, I looked for books with actual pictures for real-world references. We have a number of books on landscaping and gardening that serve as great reference material. I have really enjoyed “Shrubs” by Roger Phillips. Not really a title that jumps off the shelf, but the pictures inside are fantastic. Each aspect of the shrub, like the branches, leaves, and flowers, is laid out on the page and photographed in great detail.

I don’t know how long I’ll keep up with this daily routine. I’m over fifty trees deep at the moment, and I’m still enjoying the challenge. And I encourage you to find a routine to spice up your day. Maybe it’s actual cooking, and you’ll get to use paprika for more than just aesthetics. How cool would that be?

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Fill Your Heart with Books and More

Fill Your Heart with Books and More

by Stephanie A. Wallace, LIS Library Assistant

Love of all shapes, sizes, and colors is in the air this week as we celebrate Valentine’s Day with our special people, both near and far. While some of us have gotten more time than we ever planned to have with our partners, kids, and pets, others have had to send their love through the magic of the Internet. To help make this holiday a delight, check out these recommendations from the Manhattan Public Library.

When people think of Valentine’s Day, sweet treats are always at the top. Save yourself the trip to the candy isle and consider making your own unique confections. My personal favorite baker with an obsession with sprinkles is Sally McKenney, who created foolproof recipes in “Sally’s Candy Addiction” and “Sally’s Cookie Addiction.”

If candies and cookies aren’t your favorite, you might instead be interested in “Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats” by Bakerella. Young ones in the family will love decorating their own cake pops, and they can be wrapped up in plastic wrap and tied off with ribbon to drop off on friends’ doorsteps.

For even more ideas to try out in the kitchen, check out some of our numerous cooking magazines on Flipster, which is available 24/7 through our website’s online resources.

Besides edible gifts, you might enjoy making crafts for yourself or to send to your loved ones. Fresh flowers can be expensive and usually don’t last very long, so consider making your own with “The Fine Art of Paper Flowers: A Guide to Making Beautiful and Lifelike Botanicals” by Tiffanie Turner. With materials you likely already have at home, you can spruce up your space and bring in a bit of spring to ward off the wintry weather.

To use up your paper scraps or leftover gift-wrap, “The Complete Photo Guide to Cardmaking” by Judi Watanabe is another fun idea. Friends and family outside your household may love to receive a personalized card made by your own hands to feel closer, even when you’re apart.

Hundreds of other craft ideas are available for free every day on our website through Creativebug. Using your library card, you can access countless video tutorials and printable activities to become a crafting wizard.

If you’re looking to level up your relationship with your significant other, I can’t recommend enough the power of “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts” by Gary D. Chapman. It lays out many helpful tips to better understand your partner, and it’s organized in easy to read sections. It’s also the original that kickstarted his collection of books on other kinds of love, such as “The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively” and “The Five Love Languages for Singles.” Whether you read these on your own or with your loved ones, there is plenty to gain by learning how to best show your appreciation for each other.

With so many ways to connect with those dear to you, you might be wondering how to kick back and enjoy some time just for yourself. My favorite downtime activity for my own self care is reading, so here are some books I recommend to tuck into with a cozy blanket and a warm drink.

In my opinion, the best author who blends fantasy and romance is Maggie Stiefvater, who’s written YA bestsellers such as the “Shiver” trilogy and “The Raven Cycle” series. Rainbow Rowell’s “Carry On” has the same flavor of magic and mystery, and gets bonus points for featuring LGBTQ characters. “When We Were Magic” by Sarah Gailey is one book I’m particularly excited to read for the same reason.

No matter how you spend Valentine’s Day, whether it’s on your own or with someone special, I hope these ideas will brighten up the rest of your week. You can find all of these resources and more at our website,, or call 785-776-4741 ext. 300.

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New Nonfiction Books for Kids

New Nonfiction Books for Kids

By Laura Ransom, Children’s Programming Coordinator

A new year is a great time to discover new books. We currently have a surplus of new children’s books at the library! Because of the pandemic, shipments from our book supplier have been delayed by several months. I have found several intriguing nonfiction titles that kids can dive into.

“Teatime Around the World” by Denyse Waissbluth is filled with facts about the origins of tea and how people enjoy it today. This informational picture book has colorful illustrations of friends and families drinking tea from cups, wooden bowls, and even bags! I love warming up with a cup of hot tea on cold winter nights, and this book taught me so much more about the seemingly simple drink.

This title is a helpful book for crafty kids, “Friendship Bracelets” by Keith Zoo. It includes ten different bracelet styles and detailed, easy-to-follow instructions for each one. Our library also has other crafting books by this author, including how to make paper airplanes, tie knots, and braid hair. Check them out for the kid in your life that says, “I’m bored!”

“Cardboard Box Engineering” by Jonathan Adolph can entertain those bored kids, too. With simple materials like cardboard boxes, tape, and paper cups, kids can learn how to make a mini wind-powered cardboard car. Aluminum foil can transform cardboard into a solar oven that actually works! Templates and instructions are included, along with some information about engineers throughout history.

“Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance” by Nikki Grimes is a collection of both classic and new poetry. Grimes includes poems by female African-American poets that flourished during the Harlem Renaissance in the early 1900’s. She also selected some of their work and created new poems that spring from the originals. Beautiful illustrations decorate the pages of this unique book.

Playful animals take center stage in Douglas Florian’s “Ice! Poems About Polar Life”. This picture book of poetry transports kids to both the North and South Poles. Alongside poems about animals like polar bears and narwhals, Florian sprinkles in facts about their everyday lives in their frozen homelands. Snowy owls and wolverines were my favorite animals featured in the book. Poetry has been one of my favorite things to read since my third-grade teacher introduced it to me so many years ago!

“Countries of the World” by Andrea Mills is a recently updated book from DK Publishing. DK does a fabulous job of presenting information in a succinct manner with wonderful photos to accompany the content. I always love learning about other countries, and this book is a great way for me to immerse myself in faraway cultures. The book includes entries similar to an encyclopedia, with facts, maps, and information about the country’s famous people. When I read the page about Cyprus, I learned that it has been full of cats since ancient times! Their island nation has almost 300,000 more cats than people. I highly recommend this title to any curious kid, or even grown-ups like me.

“Everything Awesome About Sharks and Other Underwater Creatures” by Mike Lowery might be my favorite book title so far this year! Comical illustrations of sharks, jellyfish, and other ocean animals make this nonfiction book truly enjoyable. The back of the book also includes instructions for how to draw the creatures. For kids who love dinosaurs, Lowery previously published “Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts”.

Stop by the Children’s Room at the library to find even more excellent books for kids. The children’s collection is open for browsing by appointment. Our librarians can also select books on topics of your choice with our Quick Picks for Kids service by calling 785-776-4741 ext. 400.