Month: November 2022

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

ReadMHK Explores Beliefs

ReadMHK Explores Beliefs

by Rhonna Hargett, Assistant Director

We are in the midst of our second year of ReadMHK, an all-ages reading program to encourage our community to build connections through books. If you live in Manhattan, it’s likely that you have a neighbor, coworker, or classmate that has beliefs that are different from yours. Manhattan Public Library has books to help you understand the beliefs of those around you, or join others on their exploration.

When Anjali Kumar had her first child, she realized that she didn’t feel at all confident of the answers she would give to the inevitable “big questions” that she would eventually be asked. Kumar had been raised by Jainist parents, but attended Catholic school as a child. In her book “Stalking God: My Unorthodox Search for Something to Believe In,” she embarks on a one-year journey to explore different beliefs, both religious and non-religious, walking a fine line between openness and skepticism along the way. Her journey takes her all over the world, but she also explores some ideas closer to her home in New York City, examining her own beliefs each step of the way. She learns about Wicca, Vipassana meditation, and other concepts. It’s debatable whether Kumar finds the answers to her questions, but she still learns a lot in her journey.

For a more straightforward guide to religious beliefs, we have “World Religions” by John Bowker, published by DK. DK is traditionally a publisher of books for children, but they tackle this broad subject with their typical informative and image-filled approach for an adult audience. The book covers religions from all over the world, discussing the history, beliefs, foundational documents, practices, and festivals, with thorough coverage of many of the religions most commonly practiced in the U.S., such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to World Religions” by Brandon Toropov and Father Luke Buckles covers a broader spectrum of beliefs, and its lack of images gives room to explore each topic more thoroughly. The limitation with any book that attempts to cover the entirety of world religions throughout history is that there is just too much material. These guides should be viewed as a way to scratch the surface. To find out more on a particular religion, ask at our Reference Desk and we will help you find more in-depth materials.

For children, we have “What Are Religions and Worldviews?,” a Keywords book. Filled with colorful images for each belief, there are sections on what it is, the history, the holy books, how they worship, and how they live. “Our Favorite Day of the Year,” written by A.E. Ali and illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell, shares the story of a group of boys who are all from different backgrounds getting to know each other. As they learn about each other’s holidays, family foods, likes and dislikes, the better friends they become.

The real strength of our young adult section is fiction, and we have a great selection of teens exploring their beliefs. In “All-American Muslim Girl” by Nadine Jolie Courtney, Allie Abraham is popular and successful in school, but is not being honest about the fact that her family is Muslim. As she starts to hear more discrimination against Islamic people, she is inspired to explore her faith and realizes she has to decide whether to be honest about what she believes. Courtney’s evocative novel thoughtfully portrays a teen’s deep dive into her religious beliefs and society’s perceptions.

In “How to Find What You’re Not Looking For” by Veera Hiranandani, it’s 1967 in Connecticut. Ariel Goldberg escapes from anti-Semitic bullying and the social issues of the day by losing herself in Wonder Woman comics. When her sister elopes with a naturalized citizen from India, Ariel is inspired to confront the upheaval around her, finding her own voice in poetry and speaking publicly. Hiranandani’s novel is a moving story of bravery and taking ownership of one’s religious identity.

Whether you’re exploring your own beliefs or wanting to learn about others, the library has materials for you. Watch the ReadMHK website for lists of recommendations, or listen to our podcast to find out what your fellow community members are reading.


by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

Not Turkey Again

Not Turkey Again

by Amber Hoskins, Adult Services Librarian

Whether you celebrate the holidays or not, spending a day off with loved ones and/or friends always gives us an excuse partake in food and conversation. If you’re like me, you might be bored with the usual turkey meal that ends up on the table this time of year. In lieu of all the turkey throughout the decades, my family has decided to do something different for meals during this season.

While trying to decide what we would have, I did some research on what meals would be good for a gathering of people. With that thought in mind, why not have several different dishes from around the world, or challenge yourself to make it all from your local area? From Beijing-style Hot Pot to a biryani recipe provided by a Kenyan grandmother, the limits are endless. Depending on your guests’ preferences, there is something out there that everyone can enjoy, with the help of your library.

The first book I came across while thinking about regional foods was “Local Dirt” by Andrea Bemis. This cookbook is a reminder that one of the best ways to connect with our community is to eat food resourced from the people that live in it. Many of the recipes in this book contain ingredients that are grown locally right here in the Manhattan area. Visiting the local farmers’ market and buying meat from our local cattle ranchers to feed our loved ones helps us give back to the community we reside in. Our region is also lucky enough to have local wine and beer to add to the festivities, if you imbibe. This book contains recipes that incorporate meat, as well as vegetarian dishes.

When I noticed a cookbook that mentioned recipes from grandmothers, I knew I had to look further into it, as the majority of grandmas I have come across have been amazing cooks. This book is called “In Bibi’s Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean” by Hawa Hassan. The first recipe that caught my eye was Ma Kauthar’s recipe for chicken biryani. Biryani is one of my favorite dishes, but I was intrigued by this one because it is different than the usual one I make. In Kenya, tomatoes and potatoes are incorporated in this recipe, and it appears that it would be pretty amazing. This book also includes several recipes that do not include meat or are meat optional. Many of the drinks and other foods listed in this book look tasty and would be great for a gathering.

While looking for ideas on this subject, I came across a dish that is meant to be shared, Hot Pot. Shirley Chung, a Top Chef alum, has a cookbook called “Chinese Heritage: Cooking from My American Kitchen.” This book has a lot of crowd-pleasing recipes, from potstickers to ribs. In this collection, Chung gives her instructions for Beijing-style Hot Pot. This particular recipe will be a hit for anyone who enjoys meat and veggies. It also works well for those in your group who are not a fan of spicy food. Unlike Sichuan Hot Pot, Beijing-style does not include spicy heat and can be enjoyed by all ages.

Finally, I would like to highlight our cookbooks that focus on Indigenous cooking. My father’s family is Cherokee, and I am excited to try some of the recipes that involve foods that our ancestors would have made. Navajo chef Freddie Bitsoie recently released “New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian.” This book includes soups, desserts, and everything in between.  Another cookbook we have is by Oglala Lakota Sean Sherman, called “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen.” I like the variety that both of these cookbooks have, while also focusing on being a “locavore.” Even if we stick to only our area for food resources, we can still make most (possibly all) of the dishes included.

After browsing through the cookbook selection here at MPL, I know that I am not short on options, but I must admit that it is putting my indecisiveness to the test. I am grateful that I have people to help with these choices, otherwise we may never get this meal done. I trust that I have given you an excuse to jump off the turkey wagon if you have been considering it.  Whatever your preference may be, I hope that you get a chance to enjoy time with friends or family during these winter months.

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

Read-Alongs for Kids Are Wonderful

Read-Alongs for Kids Are Wonderful

by Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager

Some of us can remember playing records that went along with storybooks, with that satisfying “bing” that meant, “Turn the page.” Then came books on cassette tape, and books on CD, and now downloadable audiobooks. Through all the changes, kids have always loved the option to have a book read aloud to them when all the grown-ups are too busy to read with them.

Recently, the company that produces Playaways – books that come preloaded on a small MP3 device – started a new line called Wonderbooks. The brilliance of Wonderbooks is that, like Playaways, the player device is included as part of the audiobook so there is no need for a CD player or a smartphone to get it going. The audio part is embedded in a physical copy of the book, so it is an all-in-one read-along that only requires recharging after 15 or more hours of use. The library started a collection of read-alongs this year with 84 titles added so far. Here are a few:

Stellaluna” by Janell Cannon is a classic favorite among animal lovers. The Wonderbook reader begins by explaining when to turn the page, and starts with Cannon’s rich language. “In a warm and sultry forest far, far away, there once lived a mother fruit bat and her new baby.” Stellaluna’s mother carries her as she flies to get fruit, but an encounter with an owl jostles the baby, and she falls into a bird’s nest. There, the mother bird and baby birds adopt Stellaluna and care for her, although the bat is not too happy with their diet of bugs and their habit of sleeping right-side-up. Stellaluna’s tale is enticing and enchanting for young listeners. It has stood the test of time since 1993. You will find other beloved classics in the read-alongs like “Corduroy,” “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do you See?,” “The Snowy Day,” and Magic School Bus books.

Wonderbooks offer many diverse titles. “Mixed Me!” by Taye Diggs and illustrated by Shane W. Evans is about Mike, a biracial child who gets questioned by others about who he is. Mike is just himself, a perfect “blend of dark and light,” and he refuses to be seen as just one or the other or as being “mixed up.” Diggs’s book opens the conversation about being biracial and shows how Mike enthusiastically embraces this part of himself. More diverse titles in the library’s read-alongs include “I Am Golden” by Eva Chen, “Amira’s Picture Day” by Reem Faruqi, “The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family” by Ibtihaj Muhammad, and “We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know” by Traci Sorell.

A favorite picture book of mine is “A Book for Escargot” by Dashka Slater, and it is especially delightful as a Wonderbook. I overheard someone listening to it and loved the snail’s French accent. Escargot is a fancy French snail on his way to the library to check out a French cookbook. He is a daring snail with a sense of humor and a flair for drama. The silly plot builds when he finds out the cookbook he seeks “is not about cooking food for Escargot! The cookbook is about cooking Escargot for food!” Will the drama ever end? Check out this and more funny Wonderbooks like “Interrupting Chicken” by David Ezra Stein, “Ice Cream and Dinosaurs” by Eric Litwin, and “Llama Llama Mad at Mama” by Anna Dewdney for fun reading.

In addition to listening to the story, each Wonderbook also has a “learning mode” that can be switched on for a more interactive experience. Learning mode asks the reader questions, like “Who was your favorite character, and why?” or “Would you like to write a book? What would it be about?”

Kids are having fun with the read-alongs, and even though check outs are limited to 1 per card due to the size of the collection, they are going out like hotcakes. Collection Development Librarian Alex Urbanek is adding more titles every quarter, including several in Spanish, and eventually will add beginning readers and chapter books. Try out a wonderful Wonderbook today.



by Jared Richards Jared Richards No Comments

Books for Children Dealing with Military Life

Books for Children Dealing with Military Life

by Alex Urbanek, Collection Services Librarian

The Manhattan Public Library serves a wide variety of patrons, including many military families from nearby Fort Riley. This month for ReadMHK, we’re focusing on military life. Our Children’s department has several titles focusing on military families to help explain to children what their caregivers’ jobs are, as well as help them cope with deployments.

Hero Dad” and “Hero Mom” by Melinda Hardin focus on the wide variety of jobs that military parents can have. A varied group of children list off what their dad or mom does in the military, in comparison to a superhero. So, while some moms have the super healing power of being a medic, instead of a sidekick the dad has a battalion. Both books lightly touch on deployment, saying that sometimes mom or dad has to go away for a while but that’s ok because superheroes do too. These are both great books for showing the love and pride of having a military parent.

Moving with the military can be rough on children, especially when they have to leave people, or even pets, behind. “Sometimes Love” by Katrina Moore tells the story of a young girl and her beloved dog. The book starts with a toddler receiving a new puppy and shows all the shenanigans the two get up to. But when the mom gets a new assignment and the family has to move away for a while, they have to leave their pet behind with a service. Even though it’s hard, the girl knows that her dog will be well taken care of and that they’ll be reunited soon. The tale ends when the family comes back and an older girl and her adult dog are back together and happier than ever. This is a very warmly-colored book that can be helpful during a tough moving situation.

It can be hard for children when their parents are away on a deployment, but “Brave Like Me” by Barbara Kerley can be used as a helpful discussion tool for these times. Kerley explains the different emotions a child can feel when their parent is away: sadness that their parent can’t be there, anger that they’re missing things, and fear for their parent far away doing a difficult job. However, she also highlights the good things, like talking to their parent on the phone or with letters, and appreciating the people around them who support them while their parent is gone. This title has resources in the back for dealing with separation, talking about the different branches of the military, as well as a note to caregivers and further resources.

In “Deployment: One of Our Pieces Is Missing” by Julia Cook, a family of puzzle pieces tries to make things fit again after a deployment. The family has two military parents and when dad goes away on deployment, both children and mom have to fill in his space in the family to keep things running smoothly. After they finally get into a smoother routine, it’s time for dad to come back. Even though they are so excited to have him back, he doesn’t quite fit in the space he left. Eventually, they go to a “frame fitter,” a therapist, to get the tools necessary to adjust their family structure for all of them to fit better. This book is excellent for families trying to get back into a normal groove after a deployment, particularly, to explain to children why things aren’t exactly how they were before and how reaching out for help can be for the best.

My Dad’s Deployment: A Deployment and Reunion Activity Book for Young Children” by Julie LaBelle can easily be used as a tool for any parent’s deployment. The book is filled with activities like a deployment time capsule, ways to identify feelings, and making a growth chart. It also has crafts for when the parent comes home like making a welcome home sign and thinking about how both the child and parent have changed since they’ve been apart. A great toolkit for parents to use with many projects to help the transition into and back from deployment.

Many of the titles listed here can be found in our Children’s room’s Parent and Teacher section. This section holds titles that are geared towards some of the tougher discussions we have to have with children, such as deployment, adoption, or death of a family pet, as well as resources for teachers and homeschool parents. Check them out at the Manhattan Public Library.