Month: February 2023

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Why National Disability Awareness Month Matters

Why National Disability Awareness Month Matters

by Eric Norris, Library Director

President Ronald Reagan established March as National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month February 26, 1987. The proclamation was a call to recognize and celebrate people with disabilities and to encourage expanding opportunities for all people to reach their full potential.

Persons with disabilities have long been disregarded by employers, overlooked and ignored as customers and patrons. President Reagan’s proclamation signaled “significant changes in the public perception of young people and adults with developmental disabilities, opening new doors to independent and productive lives” by design and decree. Visit Ronald Reagan’s presidential online library to read the entire proclamation,

President Reagan’s 1987 proclamation helped Congress move the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, ADA, forward. The ADA is a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination and harassment, and was foundational to secure persons with disabilities as a protected class founded on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Disability Pride: Dispatches for a Post-ADA World,” by Ben Mattlin, a journalist, essayist and editor, explores the vibrant diversity of the ADA Generation, the generation having grown up with wheelchair ramps, Braille wayfinding signs, closed captioning and disability rights as a cultural norm. This book is not a history of the movement that led to the establishment of the ADA, but an exploration of disability rights activism since. Mattlin acknowledges the strides made to develop access and remove the physical limitations prior to ADA — he was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a congenital muscle weakness, and uses a wheelchair — but this book dives deeper.

Mattlin explores disability culture from the politics of beauty in fashion and pop culture to how the neurodiversity movement and autistic self-advocacy are changing assumptions of what it means to live along a continuum of abilities. He closes “Disability Pride” with a chapter titled “Trending or Truly Empowering?” and asks if what has been gained can be sustained and what the future holds. There are many new approaches in the fight for equity and parity, and this is an “inclusive reexamination of society’s treatment of those it deems different.”

For teen readers of the ADA Generation who might be looking for a role model or mentor, meet Alice Wong. Wong is a disabled activist, writer, editor, media maker, consultant and the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project, “an online community dedicated to creating, sharing and amplifying disability media and culture,” In 2021, Wong updated a collection of essays and edited the release of “Disability Visibility (Adapted for Young Adults): 17 First-Person Stories for Today,” featuring reflections of 17 disabled individuals on the topics of being, becoming, doing and connecting.

Though many of the featured authors share distressing stories about what they’ve endured as people with disabilities, there is a strong current of humor and a determined sense of self throughout this anthology that will make readers challenge their own thoughts about disability, accessibility and ableism. Ableism is a social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that archetypical abilities are superior.

Disability Visibility” challenges readers to avoid viewing disabled persons as broken, or faulty and in need of being fixed. Readers are encouraged to view people with disabilities as members of a thriving community with its own history, culture and social importance. Wong also offers reassurance for young disabled people. “You are enough,” Wong writes. “Don’t let anyone ever make you feel less than or unworthy of love, access, attention and care. You deserve everything.”

Will you take a moment to reflect on your own experiences with disabilities? If you are interested in challenging your own thinking about what equality and parity mean in a world of diverse abilities and bodies, your Manhattan Public Library can help.

Visit the library for resources to discover stories and essays of the lived experience of past and present people with disabilities. Join the March Storywalk, which explores “We’re All Wonders.” Participate in our March 23 ReadMHK Disability Awareness book conversation. That’s why your public library is here, to create access to information and exploration so every person in our community can live as learners and know they belong. Visit to learn more.

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New Picture Books Kids Will Love

New Picture Books Kids Will Love

by Laura Ransom, Children’s Program Coordinator

I love discovering new picture books at our Manhattan Public Library. Here are a few notable newcomers that captured my attention.

Little Hearts,” written by Charles Ghigna and illustrated by Jacqueline East, features friendly animals strolling through nature. A rabbit, bear, fox and wild boar discover heart-shaped tree branches, clouds and even butterflies! Kids of all ages can spot the hearts on every page. The endpapers of “Little Hearts” also include a map of the friends’ travels, which might inspire readers to go on their own nature walk to look for hearts.

Roxie Munro’s “ABCity” is a fabulous choice for kids who love “Where’s Waldo?” or Richard Scarry’s “Busytown” books. The illustrated buildings and sidewalks are all shaped like letters of the alphabet. Each page has a list of items to find such as balloons and books hidden on the “B” page. You’ll find even more unlisted items hiding in the pictures. There are many tiny details for kids to discover.

Need a new bedtime story? Check out “Tiptoe Tiger” by Jane Clarke with illustrations by Britta Teckentrup. Tara the tiger does not want to go to bed. She looks around the jungle for a friend to play with, but her loud roars scare away the owls, butterflies and other animals who want to be quiet. Kids can help with the story by telling Tara she needs to tiptoe! Each illustration also gives the reader a clue to which animal she will meet next. Teckentrup’s illustrations are eye-catching, especially Tara’s neon orange fur.

I loved “Yes You Can, Cow!” by Rashmi Sirdeshpande and Rikin Parekh, inspired by the nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle.” The characters from the rhyme are about to put on a show, but Cow is feeling extremely nervous. She’s supposed to jump over the moon, but what if she crashes? What if the audience laughs at her? The animals let her know they believe she can do it, and Cow finally decides to practice jumping. Cow’s friends inspire her to have courage instead of hiding and giving up. It is such a sweet book about overcoming fear and helping one another.

Super Pizza and Kid Kale” by Phaea Crede and illustrator Zach Smith is a goofy story about a super friendship formed after a freak accident in the school cafeteria transforms kale and pizza into superheroes. Their mighty strength helps kids lift heavy stacks of books and rescues the children when they fall on the playground. Super Pizza starts to get more attention, and Kid Kale feels left out of the fun. When the superheroes remember how awesome their teamwork can be, their friendship is saved. I love the quirky artwork and puns in this book, including the last line of the story, “Best foods forever!”

Kids who are fans of “Arnie the Doughnut” will love “Wake Me Up in 20 Coconuts!” by the same creator, Laurie Keller. In this new book, an apartment building is filled with friendly neighbors who love to chat and visit each other every day. One lady asks her neighbor to “Wake me up in 20 coconuts,” and he is completely puzzled. How long do 20 coconuts last and how could you possibly count time that way? This neighbor is known throughout the building as the know-it-all, so he starts to panic when others ask him to explain what “20 coconuts” means. All of Mr. Know-It-All’s neighbors rally around him and let him know that it’s okay not to know something. Not knowing can turn into an opportunity to learn and receive help from the people around you. This is a light-hearted story that teaches a meaningful lesson in humility and cooperation!

For more great children’s book recommendations, stop by the library and ask a librarian in the Children’s Room. Call us at 785-776-4741 ext. 400 or email You can also find book recommendations on our website at

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Graphic Novels for Lovers Young and Old

Graphic Novels for Lovers Young and Old

by Stephanie Wallace, Library Assistant

Pink and red hearts have dominated stores’ holiday aisles, my friends have invited me to an elementary school-themed party, and I’ve purchased squeaky stuffed truffles for my puppy. That’s right, Valentine’s Day is upon us. As part of your holiday celebration, consider dropping by the Manhattan Public Library to pick up a few romance graphic novels — my current favorite kind of book.

The first title I’m recommending isn’t a conventional romance, but I love how “I Want to Be a Wall” by Honami Shirono plays with rom-com tropes. It is a manga about a marriage of convenience between an asexual woman and a closeted gay man. Shenanigans ensue as the newlyweds navigate their new life together and develop their platonic partnerhood.

For another fresh take on marriage, check out “That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story” by Huda Fahmy. This autobiographical graphic novel tells the story of how Fahmy met and fell in love with her husband. It’s not always easy to find a spouse as an observant Muslim, but she recounts her experience with equal parts candor and humor.

If you want a more serious sort of love story, try “Blankets” by Craig Thompson, an award-winning graphic memoir beginning during a winter in Wisconsin. The meditative style softly pulls readers into Craig and Raina’s lives when they meet each other at a church camp. As they grow together, dream of the future, and fall apart under tragedy, every moment lingers long after each page turn.

To enjoy a sweeter side of young love, “Bloom” by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau is a delightful young adult graphic novel about two boys. The son of a family of bakers, Ari wants nothing more than to leave their small town. While interviewing people to find his replacement for his family’s bakery, however, he meets Hector, a laid-back newcomer whose love for baking is irresistible. They grow closer together little by little, but it’s another question entirely if Ari can make it all work.

Want another young adult graphic novel, but with a fantasy flair? “The Girl from the Sea” by Molly Knox Ostertag is a coming-of-age story about two girls who live on different sides of the water. Morgan is desperate to escape her stifling family and the picture-perfect facade she’s created to hide all of her secrets from even her closest friends. But when she’s saved from drowning by a strange girl named Keltie, her secrets become harder to keep under the surface, and she has to decide what matters most.

Need even more magic in your romance? “Life of Melody” by Mari Costa is an adorable and hilarious slow burn between a fairy named Razzmatazz and a beast named Bon. Razzmatazz has been assigned to be the Fairy Godparent of an orphan baby girl destined to be the protagonist of a future fairy tale. Deciding that the easiest way to fulfill his role is to raise this girl, he ends up meeting Bon, who has also already decided to raise the girl himself. Though fairies and beasts are natural enemies, the two of them work together and find love along the way.

Do you prefer historical fiction? “The Prince and the Dressmaker” by Jen Wang might be your style. Frances is a young woman used to living in the shadows, resigned that her beautiful dress designs will never make it into the world. That all changes when a mysterious client turns out to be Lady Crystallia, Prince Sebastian’s secret alter ego. With Frances’s fashion skills propelling Lady Crystallia into the spotlight, Frances and Sebastian’s relationship is put to the test. Both of them must answer the question, can they pursue their dreams without leaving behind the people who make it possible?

Whatever kind of book you might be dreaming about reading, I hope at least one of these titles will lead to a happily ever after for you.

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Build New Habits, One Step at a Time

Build New Habits, One Step at a Time

by Jared Richards, Public Services Manager

One of my favorite pastimes is picking up a new habit – only good ones, of course. Not the bad habits like procrastinating or overthinking or buying Pringles whenever I see them in the grocery store. Habits are the building blocks of any good routine, and I like routines because I do not like making monotonous decisions. The more things in my life I can automate with routines, the fewer decisions I will have to make.

For me, the hardest part of starting something new, especially when it comes to habits, is taking the first step. The end goal for that habit may seem unrealistic. The idea of becoming fluent in another language or running a marathon can feel overwhelming, and if I can’t reach that end goal, then not only have I not become fluent or run a marathon, I have also failed at something. And the easiest way not to fail at something is to never try. But a slight shift in perspective might be all that’s needed to get started.

One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way” by Robert Maurer focuses on the kaizen approach of continuous improvement. According to Maurer, kaizen formed from the Training Within Industries courses developed by the U.S. government in the 1940s, with the goal of improving manufacturing processes for goods needed for the war effort. Engineers didn’t have the resources to make major changes, so they were encouraged to focus on the smaller changes that would add up over time.

Following the war, this concept was introduced in Japan to help rebuild their economy. People were having to start over and didn’t have the capacity to go for innovation, so the concept of making small improvements was a big hit. This concept slowly lost favor in the U.S. after the war and did not really return until the 1980s, when it was brought back from Japan and referred to as kaizen.

Maurer explains kaizen with these steps: Ask small questions, think small thoughts, take small actions, solve small problems, bestow small rewards and identify small moments. So, if your goal is to learn how to swim, even before you go near the water, you might ask yourself what color your swimsuit will be. Visualize yourself swimming across the pool, and drive by the pool to see what it’s like. The goal is to take such small steps so you sneak around the fear often associated with change. You’ll be in the pool before your brain even knows what’s happening.

BJ Fogg founded the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University, created the Tiny Habits Academy, and is the author of “Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything.” Through his study of human behavior, Fogg has developed his tiny habit method that includes an anchor moment, a new tiny behavior and an instant celebration.

The anchor moment can be an existing routine, like making coffee in the morning. While waiting for the water to heat up, you can introduce a tiny version of the new habit you want, like doing two push-ups. As soon as you finish those push-ups, celebrate your small victory to create positive emotions.

The core of the book covers the Fogg Behavior Model, which states that motivation, ability and a prompt combine to create a new behavior. Without one of those things, a behavior isn’t going to happen. Knowing this will not only help create new habits and behaviors, it can also be useful for removing a habit from your life. For example, if you have a bowl of candy sitting on your desk and you want to eat less candy, remove the prompt by placing the bowl out of sight – off the desk.

One of my favorite parts about “Tiny Habits” is the appendix. It creates a quick reference with prompts to help work to develop new habits, including a list of one hundred ways to celebrate your successes, like bowing gracefully or blowing kisses like a movie star. There are also specific recipes to help people develop tiny habits, whether they are trying to reduce stress or be more productive or even trying to stop a habit. These give readers a jumping-off point and help get the ball of change rolling.

Along with these two books, Manhattan Public Library has a large selection of books and online resources to help develop your new habit, whether it’s cooking, a new craft, or professional development. Stop by the library or visit us online at