Month: January 2023

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

YA Books about Civil Rights

YA Books about Civil Rights

by Savannah Winkler, Public Services Supervisor

A new month means a new topic for Manhattan Public Library’s ReadMHK program. Our reading program is over halfway through its second year, and our community has gathered to discuss fourteen topics since the fall of 2021. February’s topic is civil rights. Civil rights are an integral part of history in the United States and across the world. No matter what decade or century you look to, there have always been people fighting to make their voices heard and enact change. My personal favorite section in the library, the Young Adult collection, has many books that recount civil rights issues and movements in U.S. history.

The civil rights movement monumentally changed the United States and the rights of Black Americans and other people of color. “And We Rise: The Civil Rights Movement in Poems” by Erica Martin guides readers through key events, starting in the late 1800s with Jim Crow laws. “And We Rise” incorporates poems, historical photographs and quotes from civil rights leaders. The civil rights movement comes alive through Martin’s powerful poetry and the real-life images of those who fought for their freedoms.

Movements are successful because of the work done by large groups of people, but their leaders are also important. Civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks sparked change and motivated others to act. Malcolm X was another key leader during the 1950-1960s. Malcolm was assassinated in 1965, and his daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, has continued to tell his story. Shabazz recounts the time her father spent in a Charlestown prison in her novel “The Awakening of Malcolm X,” co-written with Tiffany D. Jackson. Still in his adolescence, Malcolm struggles with the uncertainty of his future and the injustices around him. But through books, his debate team and religion, Malcolm soon transforms into an influential leader.

The 1950-1960s civil rights movement was not the only effort occurring during those years. “Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets” by Gayle Pitman explores the history behind the LGBTQ+ rights movement. This book focuses on the Stonewall Riots, which occurred as a result of a police raid and subsequent violence at the Stonewall Inn. Pitman also details the events leading up to Stonewall and what it was like to be a gay American in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Photographs, objects and witness testimonies are included throughout the book, including an interview with a woman who was ten at the time.

The young readers’ edition of “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Life in Native America” by David Treuer and Sheila Keenan explores the resilience of Native Americans. Truer, who is Ojibwe from the Leech Lake Reservation, chronicles many historical events that impacted the indigenous people of America, such as the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee Creek. Treuer also recounts recent movements, including the 2016 Dakota Access pipeline protests. Readers will discover that Native American cultures and people have always persisted and still exist today despite relentless discrimination.

If you prefer historical fiction rather than nonfiction, then you may be interested in “We Are Not Free” by Traci Chee. Chee’s novel takes place in World War II-era San Francisco and follows fourteen young Nisei, or second-generation Japanese American citizens. The teens’ lives are forever changed when the U.S. government relocates over 100,000 Japanese citizens to incarceration camps. The interconnected stories depict the harsh realities of relocation and the camps. In order to overcome these injustices, the group of friends must remember the bonds that hold them together.

If this topic interests you, consider joining us for our Read-In: Black Authors event on February 23, 7-8 p.m. in the library’s auditorium. Listeners and participants are welcome. Anyone can participate and bring an excerpt to read aloud or perform a favorite book, poem, song, dance, art, recorded music or video. Presented works must be by Black authors and artists. If you’re interested in presenting, please contact the library or register at

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

Unique Picture Books for Kansas Day

Unique Picture Books for Kansas Day

by Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager

Kansas Day is January 29 and recognizes the day Kansas achieved statehood in 1861. It’s a fun time to talk about state symbols like sunflowers and honeybees, and to make Kansas-shaped cakes. You’ll find picture books in the History Neighborhood in our Children’s section that provide opportunities to dive into unique stories and achievements of famous Kansans.

No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas” by Tonya Bolden, illustrated by Don Tate, is a must-read for Kansas fans. Junius was born into slavery in Kentucky around 1859. In 1879, he traveled on foot to Kansas where Junius and his wife worked and saved to purchase 80 acres near Edwardsville. They grew so many potatoes that eventually Junius became known as the “Potato King of the World.” In 1909, Junius was able to build a 22-room mansion overlooking their farm. Charles, their oldest son, graduated from Kansas State Agricultural College — now K-State — in 1904, and Edwardsville still celebrates Junius’s life. “No Small Potatoes” will spark curiosity about Junius and how he made an impact on Black lives in this area of Kansas.

In “Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman” by Sharice Davids, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, kids learn about a Kansan making history now, as she is one of the first Native American women elected to Congress. As the child of a military mom, Sharice grew up moving often, but she was good at making friends. Sharice loved to hear other peoples’ stories and ideas, and she became fascinated with martial arts. Sharice, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, attended law school though she did not know any other Native Americans who were lawyers. She worked to represent Native people and eventually worked in the White House. There, Sharice discovered she wanted to use her big voice in Congress to speak for people who were not well represented in government. A section of the book provides a short history of the Ho-Chunk Nation.

Did you know the first U.S. female mayor ever elected was a Kansan? Karen M. Greenwald and Sian James’s “A Vote for Susanna: The First Woman Mayor” is a fun book for Kansas Day and women’s history. When Kansas became the first state allowing women to vote and run for local office in 1887, many men were opposed to the change. In the small town of Argonia, some men were annoyed by women taking an active interest in the mayoral election. They decided to put Susanna Madora Salter on the ballot as a joke, hoping to humiliate her and discourage women from their political interest. In “A Vote for Susanna,” Grandma Dora retells Susanna’s story to her grandson, Ed, as they bake a cake. Ed thinks the men were mean, but then Grandma happily tells him how Susanna won the election in a landslide with votes from both women and men. She became the first woman mayor in U.S. history. As the family enjoys their angel food cake, Grandma reveals that she is Susanna Madora “Dora” Salter.

Salter was another Kansas State Agricultural College graduate. I first learned about her in “Coloring the Past: Twenty Riley County Women Who Made History,” a reproduceable coloring book published by the Riley County Genealogical Society and the Riley County Historical Society. You can find it at

The Greatest Thing: A Story about Buck O’Neil” by Kristy Nerstheimer, illustrated by Christian Paniagua, tells a very brief history of Buck’s life, but it’s really all about the pictures. Paniagua’s art is full of action and movement. You can feel the energy coming off the pages! Kids will enjoy learning how Buck played baseball first with a rock that was wrapped in a sock. He practiced hard and pursued his dreams, playing for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. The last section is about the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum that Buck helped found. If young baseball fans haven’t yet heard about Buck O’Neil’s place in history, logon to to reserve this book!

Families are invited to Zoofari Tails Storytime on Friday, January 27, 10 a.m., to hear stories about Kansas animals and examine animal artifacts from Sunset Zoo. We’ll read “Hark! I Hear a Meadowlark!” by Roy Bird and “Prairie Chicken Little” by Jackie Hopkins, two more fun books for you as you celebrate Kansas’s birthday.

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

Healthy and Happy in 2023

Healthy and Happy in 2023

by Rhonna Hargett, Assistant Director


Even for those that don’t rally around a New Years resolution, the flipping of the calendar can be a good time to check in with how we’re doing and look for opportunities to make life a little better. Here are a few books that have inspired me to work towards a healthier and happier year in 2023.

Dan Buettner travelled around the world to the places where there is the highest percentage of people that live to be 100 and studied what they were doing that led to long-term health. His travels led to the book “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.” Buettner narrows down what he learned to nine lessons to achieve a long life. Some of the lessons are what one would expect, like diet and exercise, but he also emphasizes the importance of relationships and emotional well-being on our health. Instead of quick fixes, “The Blue Zones” offers ways to shift our thinking and take gradual steps in the right direction. Buettner’s book has expanded beyond this one title and has really become a movement. Several communities have adopted the Blue Zones Project, which helps communities to work together to make healthier choices easier for all community members. For those of us working on our own, several more books have been published to coach us along the way, including cook books and plans for incorporating the Blue Zones lessons into our daily lives. “The Blue Zones” is a joy to read, motivational while also being practical, and is a good beginning to start one on the road to a healthier, happier life.

Much of America has experienced a challenging time over the last few years. In her book “Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution,” Brené Brown shows us how to recover from adversity and prepare to face the next challenge. In Brown’s previous book “Daring Greatly,” she explored how vulnerability is necessary to achieve greatness. In “Rising Strong” she goes on to talk about how allowing oneself to be vulnerable opens one up to discomfort and possible failure. Going through the challenges is necessary for any significant work, whether in one’s professional or personal life, so it is beneficial to build up resilience and prepare to recover from the difficulties that will inevitably come. Brown uses her down-to-earth language and her own vulnerabilities to make for a relatable and ultimately helpful book. Her concepts are challenging, but she has the ability to convey a message of hope and clear guidance to accompany us along the way.

The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have faced many trials in their lives. The Dalai Lama has lived in exile from his homeland, Tibet, for over sixty years, and the Archbishop was a prominent leader in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Even with the difficulties they have both faced, they are known for their general joyful outlook on life. In “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World,” they worked with Douglas Abrams to document how they are able to experience joy in spite of the suffering that is usually an inevitable part of life. The first aspect of the book that successfully teaches about joy is the tone. This is a fun book to read. They both have an excellent sense of humor, able to poke fun at themselves and lovingly at each other. They respect the seriousness of the issues in the world and in their own lives, but also find the humor wherever they can. The book lays out concrete ways to create more joy in our lives throughout the book and in a chapter, “Joy Practices,” at the end, and also is a true joy to read.

Manhattan Public Library has a wealth of resources to help create a healthy and happy 2023. If this is an area of interest for you, you might enjoy our bimonthly newsletter “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise” which provides book recommendations on life, health, and business. Check it out at