Month: December 2022

by Cassie Wefald Cassie Wefald No Comments

Books and Resources about Poverty

Books and Resources about Poverty

by Crystal Hicks, Collection Services Manager

Though it’s the start of a new year, Manhattan Public Library (MPL)’s ReadMHK program is still going strong, and we hope you’ll join us in reading about our January topic, poverty awareness. Whether you’re among those struggling with poverty in our community, or you’d like to gain greater understanding and empathy, this article contains books and resources that may help you on your journey.

Stephanie Land’s “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive” broke ground when it came out in 2019, shedding light on the imbalance between the rich and those who are paid to clean their houses. Soon after having her first child, Land left her abusive relationship and began working as a maid to support herself and her child. “Maid” covers Land’s long journey from a homeless shelter (where her daughter learned to walk), through the difficulties of government-assisted housing, all while being paid a pittance for hours of grueling labor. MPL is hosting a discussion of “Maid” on January 26 at 7 PM, so stop by to register and pick up a free copy of the book to read before the discussion.

For a recent read-alike to “Maid,” check out Amanda Freeman and Lisa Dodson’s “Getting Me Cheap: How Low-Wage Work Traps Women and Girls in Poverty.” Freeman and Dodson interviewed hundreds of women, and their book details the sacrifices made by women who often only find work in the service industry. Acting as nannies or waitresses, their children are made to take on the mantle of adulthood too young, with long-lasting consequences.

Teen readers may be interested in “The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly” by Jamie Pacton. Kit works as a “Serving Wench” at The Castle, a local medieval-themed restaurant, but she dreams of being a Knight. Not only is it a cooler job, but the pay is better, meaning Kit could help her mom pay off the mortgage and still save up money to attend her dream college. Though this book includes a girl-power narrative and your typical will-they-won’t-they romance, what really stuck with me is the realistic depiction of Kit’s family’s poverty. Kit steals napkins and toilet paper from restaurants, and she spends the night with friends when the power is shut off, but she goes to great lengths to keep her friends from knowing the truth of her family’s circumstances, for fear they’d help her out of pity. This was a wonderful read on many levels, one of them being its focus on the working poor, a rare topic in teen fiction.

Children are not too young to learn about poverty, for many of them are growing up affected by it. “The Cot in the Living Room,” written by Hilda Eunice Burgos and illustrated by Gaby D’Alessandro, follows a girl whose mami lets children stay in their living room while their parents work overnight. Initially the girl is jealous, but slowly she develops empathy and comes up with a way to help those children feel more at home while they spend the night. “Still a Family,” written by Brenda Reeves Sturgis and illustrated by Jo-Shin Lee, focuses on a family that’s lost their house and has to live in shelters. It’s hard to feel like a family when the dad has to stay at a different shelter from the mom and daughter, but they find a way to spend time together, including sharing a birthday cupcake. In “Maddi’s Fridge,” written by Lois Brandt and illustrated by Vin Vogel, Sofia learns that her best friend Maddi has no food in her fridge, despite the fact that their lives look identical from the outside. Maddi asks Sofia to keep the secret, but is that really the best way for Sofia to help her friend?

MPL recently put together a new resource, “For Neighbors in Need,” a listing of local organizations that help those in need. This resource lists locations where people can go for assistance with food, clothing, laundry, hygiene, shelter, mental health and physical health. You can find this list at, or as a handout at the Reference Desk on the second floor.

For more book suggestions, check out our ReadMHK book lists on the MPL website, or stop by the library to talk to a librarian. We’ve got plenty of books and resources that can expand your worldview or help you find the support that you need.

by Cassie Wefald Cassie Wefald No Comments

Learning Craftsmanship from the Library

Learning Craftsmanship from the Library

by Jared Richards, Public Services Manager

The majority of my checkouts from the library recently have been about woodworking, joinery and furniture-making in particular. I recently finished a small table for my wife and now I’ve got it in my head that I want to make a couch. There will be several random projects between now and the couch, because I tend to get lost in the planning stages, and it takes a while to get psyched up enough to make that first cut. But all of that planning pays off in the long run, and luckily for me there are no shortage of books at the library for me to peruse for ideas.

One of my favorite books has been “Joinery” by the editors of “Fine Woodworking” magazine. My main goal for the couch is that I will be able to easily assemble and disassemble it, so that when it needs to be moved I will be moving parts of a couch, not a couch. Couches are heavy and, despite the fact that you might find people willing to help you move one, no one is sitting around waiting to be asked to help move a couch. I have recently settled on using knock-down hardware to accomplish this goal, but I originally aspired to rely solely on joinery.

I like “Joinery,” the book, because it packs so much useful information into a relatively small book. As can be expected, it’s filled with various types of joinery, with instructions on how to make each one, including the jigs that will make it easier. They also stress-test eighteen different types of frame joints to see which are the strongest, information that will be useful for the couch build, even if I do use hardware. Spoilers, the half-lap joint was the clear winner, withstanding over 1,600 pounds of racking force.

The last thing I really like about “Joinery” is that, along with the tips and tricks mentioned throughout the book, they also have a section devoted to quick fixes for joinery mistakes. I’ve come across a lot of tutorials that do a good job of showing you how to make the joint, but don’t spend much time showing you how to fix the inevitable mistakes that come about when trying to create something with the precision that some of these joints require. This book has assured me if I end up with a gappy dovetail or an unintentionally loose tenon or a miter that doesn’t quite come together, there’s a fix for that.

One joint I really like is the tusk tenon, where one piece of wood passes through a hole in another piece of wood and is held in place with a wedge. The wedge draws the piece of wood together and is easy enough to knock back out when you want to take the pieces apart.

A popular feature of Arts & Crafts furniture, think Stickley or mission style, is the mortise and tenon joint. “Authentic Arts & Crafts Furniture Projects” by the editors of “Popular Woodworking” magazine and “Furniture of the American Arts and Crafts Movement” by David Cathers are both packed with good reference material and plans for this type of furniture. This style is a little intimidating for my first large furniture project, but for anyone interested in individual pieces or even a whole room in this style, these books would be a great start.

As mentioned before, there will be random projects in between now and the couch, and one of those projects is small wooden toys. Although it’s not necessary, sometimes wooden toys look better with a bit of color. “Natural Wooden Toys” by Erin Freuchtel-Dearing has a section just for this purpose. They mention kid-friendly, non-toxic paint, of course, but they also give instructions for, and examples of, natural dyes like berries, spices and plants. Anything made for small children, and a lot of things not made for small children, are going to end up in their mouths, so I like the idea of natural dyes, like paprika, spinach, turmeric and blueberries.

Woodworking is a hobby that requires a decent amount of time. A large part of that is the physical act of building a project, but there’s also the planning and research phase. I have found our collection of woodworking books at the library to be invaluable for this phase. You’ll find everything from the basics of how to get started to instructions for more advanced techniques that will take you years to master. Come on down and browse.

by Cassie Wefald Cassie Wefald No Comments

Mindful Reading with Thich Nhat Hanh

Mindful Reading with Thich Nhat Hanh

by Alex Henton, Library Assistant


Since this month’s theme for ReadMHK is exploring beliefs, I decided to write about an author who is personally important to me and has helped heal people all over the world, for nearly a century: Thich Nhat Hanh.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (known by his students as “Thay,” meaning “teacher” in Vietnamese) was born in Vietnam in 1926 and ordained as a monk at the age of 16, when he chose to dedicate his life to reducing the suffering of all living beings, a Buddhist principle. He did so in many inspiring ways, such as practicing non-violence and neutrality in the midst of war-ridden polarization in Vietnam, as well as later establishing several monasteries throughout the world during a 39-year exile from his home country.

Here at Manhattan Public Library, we have 20 physical books written by Thich Nhat Hanh and several more available on Hoopla and the Sunflower eLibrary. Altogether, he published over 100 books throughout his life. Although Thay recently passed away in January 2022, his spirit continues to live with us through his stories.

The first book I ever read by Thay is called “Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.” This book is such a breath of fresh air—and not just metaphorically. Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings are centered around the practice of mindful breathing, and he writes with words that generate real peace within our minds and bodies. Like many of his books, this one transcends religious boundaries and emphasizes taking your daily practices seriously, regardless of your religious traditions or whether you even consider yourself spiritual at all. I came across this book during a really difficult time in my life, but I am so glad that I did, because I’ve been on a path of healing ever since. Thank you, Thay.

Another great introduction to Thich Nhat Hanh and his teachings is “The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation.” Although the book was originally published in 1975, Thay’s advice is timeless. He favors practicality over theory, offering meditation exercises that are actually helpful in everyday life.

Do you find it difficult to approach others or talk to people with whom you’re in conflict? Another book I recommend checking out is “The Art of Communicating.” Published in 2013, Thay recognizes that, ironically, it’s harder to communicate with others in today’s globalized society, and especially with those who have hurt us in some way. This book could be read in just a few hours, but if you’re like me, each page will have so many helpful tips that you might not want to read more than a few pages at a time.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s books are generally short and written with simple language, but if you want a super-quick read, see “How to Relax.” This pocket-sized book, with illustrations by Jason DeAntonis, will bring you back to the present moment, allowing you to deeply relax your body and mind. He also provides easy-to-follow meditation guides at the end of the book.

You might be surprised to know that Thich Nhat Hanh has also written some wonderful children’s books. “Where Is the Buddha?” illustrated by Nguyen Quang and Kim Lien, is about a young monk named Minh who comes to find out that the Buddha is not actually where he thought he was. When Minh asks his head monk, the response he receives is delightful. If you are interested in exploring Buddhism with your child, this is a great book to read with them.

Finally, one of my overall personal favorites is called “Living Buddha, Living Christ.” I highly recommend this book for Christians, especially if you have certain doubts about your faith. This book has certainly played a key role in my own understanding of the Gospels, as Thay references the Bible often. Also, learning about other religious traditions is extremely powerful. It not only allows you to see the beautiful similarities and differences between yourself and another, but it also strengthens your own faith. Although Thay is a Buddhist, it’s clear that he has a deep love for Christianity.

With this, I hope I’ve convinced you to pick up a book written by Thich Nhat Hanh, or at least participate in exploring beliefs with us here at Manhattan Public Library. These cold winter months are a great time to read, and I hope that the knowledge you receive will allow you to truly heal yourself, your family, your community, and the world.


by Cassie Wefald Cassie Wefald No Comments

Books as gifts! Yes, please!

Books as gifts! Yes, please!

by Jan Johnson, Teen Librarian

What’s more magical than walking into a bookstore to look for just the right book for a loved one or friend? At Manhattan Public Library, we’re here to help with your librarian-approved guide to gifting the perfect book for everyone on your list — and maybe find a great read for you, too.

Our children’s librarians have come up with their favorite newer books for younger book lovers. Rachel suggested the best of the best, Sue Farrell Holler’s “Raven, Rabbit, Deer”, illustrated by Jennifer Faria.  It’s a sweet, wintertime adventure between a young boy and his grandfather as they walk through a forest, discover animal tracks, and give Ojibwemowin names to the creatures they encounter. This book is full of love and wonder.

Anything by Mo Willems is sure to be a hit with young readers. The “Unlimited Squirrels” series has a delightful cast of squirrels, acorns, and other friends. Each book features a funny, furry adventure and bonus jokes, quirky quizzes, nutty facts, and so, so many squirrels!

Is your grade-schooler a lover of history and graphic novels? The two latest History Comics editions should be on your list! “History Comics: The National Parks: Preserving America’s Wild Places” by Faylynn Koch introduces the visionaries, artists, and lovers of the American wilderness who fought to protect these spaces for future generations. “History Comics: The Stonewall Riots: Making a Stand for LGBTQ Rights” , illustrated by A. Andrews, follows three teenagers who are transported from their modern lives to the legendary Stonewall Inn in the summer of 1969. Escorted by Natalia’s eccentric abuela, the friends experience firsthand the Stonewall riots that made the struggle for LGBTQ rights front-page news.

For the teens in your life, you’re going to need to ask some questions! Which graphic novels and manga do they love and already have? Pick up the new art or recipe books from their favorite series. My teen has “The Promised Neverland: Art Book World” authored by Kaiu Shirai and illustrated by Posuka Demizu on their list. If your anime fan is also an aspiring chef, try “The Unofficial Studio Ghibli Cookbook” by Jessica Yun, which brings together Japanese recipes inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s most beloved films. It’s sure to be a delicious treat.

If your teen loves novels, this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature is “All My Rage” by Sabaa Tahir. This brilliant, moving, and heart-wrenching contemporary young adult novel about family, forgiveness, love, and loss is a compelling story crossing generations and continents. Another book on my list-for-teens is “Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Women, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants.” This adaptation for young readers of the 2013 adult bestseller of the same name is by Potawatomi botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Monique Gray Smith of Cree and Lakota descent. This adapted version beautifully expresses the value and relationships with nature that many Indigenous people hold.

When it comes to the adults in your life, focus on what they love. If they are Barbara Kingsolver fans, her new book “Demon Copperhead” was released in October. Or if your best friend loves cooking blogs, check out “Smitten Kitchen Keepers: New Classics for Your Forever Files” by Smitten Kitchen blogger and Bon Appétit columnist, Deb Perelman. Perelman has collected her favorite no-fail recipes for her third cookbook.

Have a Trekkie in your life? “Phasers on Stun!: How the Making (and Remaking) of Star Trek Changed the World” by Ryan Britt chronicles the entire history of Star Trek and reveals its enduring place in pop culture thanks to innovative pivots and radical change.

Next time you’re in the library, ask the staff for our lists of reading recommendations. They are updated each month and focus on the ages and interests of our community of readers. Also check out Rosie’s Corner, your first stop for gently-used books, coffee table books, CDs, and DVDs for all ages at awesome prices! Bonus: Proceeds from Rosie’s Corner help fund your library’s programming. For more Manhattan Public Library resources and information, visit day or night from the comfort of your own reading chair.