Author: Jared Richards

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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.

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Take a Trip and Embrace the Journey

Take a Trip and Embrace the Journey

by Jared Richards, Learning and Information Services Supervisor

When it comes to train travel, the most on-the-nose saying is that life is about the journey, not the destination. My family recently went on a train trip that started with a seven-hour delay, then we broke down in the desert, then we were overly-polite (or just a stickler for the rules) and let every freight train go by, and finally we arrived over twenty hours late. But I would still highly recommend the experience, assuming you don’t need to get somewhere in a timely manner. The actual journey consisted of hanging out with my family, eating good food, and taking in the scenery as it rolled by, all of which is much harder to do behind the wheel of a car.

Although I am a fan of trains, I must admit I don’t spend a lot of time reading about them, despite my dream of one day getting into model railroading. But there are plenty of good books not involving trains that focus on the journey.

One of the more literal ones is “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne. Professor Otto Lidenbrock and his nephew, find a coded note that tells them that the center of the earth can be reached via the volcanic tubes found beneath a volcano in Iceland. They enlist the support of an Icelandic guide to help them discover the wonders hidden beneath the earth’s crust. This includes a large ocean, giants, and prehistoric animals. As a kid I was enthralled by Jules Verne. His books featured epic journeys to the moon, under the ocean, into the earth, and around the globe. These stories were written in the 1800s, which makes them all the more interesting.

Also in the 1800s, we have “Three Men in a Boat” by Jerome K. Jerome. Jerome intended to write a travel guide, which is why there are historical bits spread throughout the book, but it’s really just a funny book about the misadventures of three friends traveling on the Thames by boat. It’s one of the few books that has actually brought me to tears from laughter.

For a slightly-more-recent adventure, there is “An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green. Colin and his friend Hassan set off on a road trip after graduating high school, following Colin’s most recent breakup from a girl named Katherine. This is Colin’s nineteenth relationship with a girl named Katherine, hence the title. Starting in Chicago, they end up picking up a summer job in Tennessee interviewing the locals for an oral history project, while also maybe kindling a relationship with someone not named Katherine.

Bill Bryson is known for his humorous travel books. My favorite Bryson book is “A Walk in the Woods,” which features his attempt, with a friend, to hike the Appalachian Trail. I’ve had enough experience hiking that this book is very relatable. With modern forms of transport, it is rarely necessary to walk long distances anymore (speaking for myself, obviously). This means that long hikes are purely for the sake of the journey. It allows you to slow down, focus on your steps, listen to the world around you, and hopefully ignore the annoying traits of your hiking companions, like their inability to maintain an even pace, or not securing their gear so it’s banging and clanging all over the place.

To be fair to my initial anecdote, I feel compelled to at least mention a couple train books that are now in my queue because spending over fifty hours on a train has piqued my interest into other experiences. The first is “Off the Rails” by Beppe Severgnini, in which he talks about various train trips he has taken in his life around Europe, Asia, Australia, and the United States.

And lastly, we have Paul Theroux’s “The Great Railway Bazaar.” This book, first published in 1975, recounts his journey from the UK to Japan and back, over the course of four months. I am intrigued to find out if my experience was unique or relatively commonplace when it comes to train travel.

It would be hard for you to throw a rock and not hit a book that was all about the journey and not the destination. I know this. You know this. It’s a cliché for a reason. But also, don’t throw stones. If you need help finding a new book and going on a journey, just ask a librarian. We’re all over the place at the library, and we’re here to help.


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Young Adult Manga for Summer

Young Adult Manga for Summer

by Alex Urbanek, Collection Services Librarian

Laid-Back Camp Vol. 1 eBook : Afro, Afro: Books -

Since I was little, summertime was a time to go to the public library, and fully immerse myself in  manga. My school library never really had a selection of graphic novels or manga, so the public library was my haven. Even now as an adult I always get the itch to read new manga as soon as the weather turns warm. As a collection development librarian, I get the honor to supply our children’s and young adult collections with many books, and I’ve greatly enjoyed getting to purchase and read much of the manga we have on the shelves, including some that is less well known than say, Black Butler or Spy X Family.

Starting off with a very relaxed manga is, “Laid-Back Camp” by Afro. This series follows Rin Shima, Nadeshiko Kagamihara, and their camping club as they travel Japan to different camp sites. The manga focuses on friendships, camping, and camp cooking. Detailing the recipes they prepare and the different tools needed to make them while camping. The art of the backgrounds, both camp sights and mountainous views is gorgeous. This series is not high stakes at any point, just cozy camping fun.

What happens to an adventuring party when the adventuring ends? “Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End” by Kanehito Yamada gives us a glimpse of life from the perspective of an elf mage Frieren, after her and her party defeat the demon king. Frieren decides to travel on her own after the adventure and comes back to visit her friends after 50 years. As an elf, 50 years is nothing to Frieren, but her old friends have continued to age and one is on his deathbed when she finally sees him. He insists she take on his charge as an apprentice while she continues to adventure, and Frieren begrudgingly accepts. It was really great to read a story about life after the adventure, especially from the point of view of a magical being who ages achingly slowly, while the rest of the world continues on.

Love Me for Who I Am” by Kata Konayama is an extremely cute manga set in an unconventional maid café. Non-binary student Mogumo can’t find a place where they feel like they belong and dress in the very soft and cute way they like. When one of their classmates, Iwaoka Tetsu, mentions his sibling’s maid café, where men dress up as cute maids, Mogumo is immediately interested. While working at the café Mogumo may finally find a place to belong with the other staff, some of who are transgender or gay.

When an adventuring party is defeated by a dragon, losing all of their food, money, and a party member, they have to find a way to survive while going back to save their friend. “Delicious in Dungeon” by Ryoko Kui is a story about adventurers figuring out how to eat the monsters in the dungeon so they can make their way back without needing to sell their gear. With help from a dwarf who himself knows quite a bit about monster cooking, they show the recipes they make and how to prepare all variety of monster. This is a very fun take on dungeon crawling, focusing on the usefulness of the monsters they find instead of blindly killing.

Mika was a regular human heading home from Comiket, but the next thing she knew she woke up reincarnated in a magical world. “A Witch’s Printing Office” by Mochinchi has Mika trying to find a spell to get home. The best way she can think of is to create her own Convention style event “Magic Market”. The convention gets much more traffic than Mika thought it would and ends up turning into a staple for the magical world. This book is pure fun. Seeing Mika struggle to contain the crowds, even with the help of royal guards who severely underestimated the excitement of the crowd, rings true to the struggle of an overexcited and overpacked comic convention.

These titles and other amazing manga can be found in our graphic novel sections of the Manhattan Public Library. They are a great way to get your reading time up for summer reading and get some fun and exciting prizes!

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Explore a Variety of Food and Drink Recipe Books

Explore a Variety of Food and Drink Recipe Books

by Amber Hoskins, Adult Services Librarian

Anyone who has been tasked with writing a paper or an article knows that the hardest part can be coming up with a topic. Luckily, the month of July left me plenty to choose from. It is National Grilling Month, National Ice Cream Month, and the day calendar is full of celebrations dedicated to food and drink as well: Macaroni day, Hot Dog Day, Daquiri Day, and Mojito Day, only name a few. In honor of this month, dedicated to food and drink, I have gone through our catalog and found some books that are great for celebrating all of the days of July.

Being a fan of true crime and puns, the first book that caught my eye was “Serial Griller” by Matt Moore.  This book is focused on making all things by way of the outdoor grill from meat, to side dishes, to veggies. However, you do not necessarily need to have a grill to make all of the recipes featured. From this book, I made the ‘redneck potatoes’ recipe. It is easy to put together and was finished in less than 40 minutes. It instructs you to put your cast iron on coals, but since I do not have a grill, I put it in the oven at 400 degrees instead. Turns out, this worked just as well and this side dish was excellent. I would definitely make this again and found many other recipes that I would like to try in the future.

With the knowledge that many people do not eat meat, I wanted to include a book that focused solely on vegan and vegetarian barbeque. I found this in Nadine Horn’s “VBQ: The Ultimate Vegan Barbeque Cookbook.” This compendium has everything one would could imagine to host a vegan meal and it details all of the equipment you might need as well. I made the grilled corn on the cob with lime and cilantro butter. Getting this recipe accomplished required me to visit a friend who had a grill, which is always a great excuse to have a get together. Luckily it was a hit and nobody was disappointed, or had to wait too long, as the corn was done in 15 minutes.

For the dessert portion, I checked out the “Salt and Straw Ice Cream Cookbook” by Tyler Malek. This Portland-based ice cream shop has some of the world’s most innovative flavors. Their main idea for making ice cream was to create a base recipe that can be used to make a substantial number of different flavors. Think of it like stock and how it is used to flavor different soups. Depending on how adventurous you are feeling, you can create almost any flavor you want, from strawberry to mashed potatoes and gravy. Malek even consulted with brewers if you are interested in beer ice cream. With the help of my sister, we made the snickerdoodle flavor. The base was very easy to create and the ice cream was amazing. If you have an ice cream maker, I would highly recommend this book as a good way to be creative on days that may be too hot to run around outdoors.

Finally, I wanted to highlight “The World’s Best Drinks: Where to Find Them and How to Make Them” by Victoria Moore. This Lonely Planet publication has drink recipes from all around the world and is a good fit for anyone looking to try a new beverage, or an old favorite. It includes cocktails (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), as well as coffees, teas, floats and other signature drinks from various countries. I like that this book gives a history of where many drinks originated from, and also includes what kinds of foods go well with them. I wanted to try a drink I had never had before, so I made the Singapore Sling. There are quite a few ingredients involved, but it was a refreshing beverage to sit down to after being out on a hot day.

These are just a sample of what you can find in the food and drink section of the library. Choosing the books I wanted to use most was a tough decision, as there are so many good ones. If you are looking to experience something different this summer when it comes to meals and beverages, feel free to stop by and check out some cookbooks from your local library!

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Escape the Heat with Indoor Hobbies

Escape the Heat with Indoor Hobbies
by Crystal Hicks, Collection Services Manager

Temperatures are through the roof, with heat indexes even higher, which means I’m cranking the AC and finding things to do indoors. I’m normally content to read books or watch TV, but with this current unending heat wave, I’m itching for some variety in my hobbies. Fortunately, the library has gotten several new hobby, crafting, and cooking books that give me plenty of alternative indoor hobbies to pursue.

I’ve been knitting since high school, and I’m always looking for new projects that easily travel. Though I know many knitters favor socks, every method I’ve learned thus far has been finicky in one way or another, so I haven’t made more than a couple pairs. Enter “Knit 2 Socks in 1” by Safiyyah Talley, in which she proposes a new method for making two socks at once. Talley essentially knits one long sock from toe to cuff, inserting lifelines for the heels and for splitting the sock in two. After knitting the extra-long sock, Talley splits the sock in two at the middle and adds another toe, another cuff, and heels on each sock. I’m eager to try this technique out, maybe with a pair of socks for my toddler.

I come from a family of sewers, but sewing has never caught my interest until this past month, when I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole about Victorian and Edwardian clothing styles and sewing techniques. Written by YouTuber Bernadette Banner, “Make, Sew and Mend” is an essential introduction to the art of hand sewing and creating clothing. Banner focuses on presenting the basics of sewing, starting with necessary materials and understanding fiber content of fabrics, going through stitches and ending on practical applications for the skills learned. This book doesn’t include patterns, but it contains a lot of background knowledge required for knowing where to start with a book of patterns. I’m eager to finish it and begin my sewing journey.

Likewise, stained glass is a hobby I’ve yet to begin, but my interest was also sparked by delightful YouTube tutorials. When I’m ready to dip my toes, “Kicking Glass” by Neile Cooper is where I’ll begin exploring this gorgeous hobby. Cooper’s thorough tome walks beginners through setting up a space, picking out supplies, and basic techniques required for creating stained glass. Cooper also covers many safety measures, including an essay by Missy Graff Ballone about reducing the harm that comes from repetitive movements on hands and wrists. Patterns make up the latter portion of the book, including both two- and three-dimensional objects, along with patterns that incorporate found objects within the finished project.

Like many adults, I’ve been cooking myself food for years, but I’ve never taken a cooking course and have only a muddled knowledge of food science. America’s Test Kitchen comes to the rescue with “The New Cooking School Cookbook: Fundamentals,” a hefty volume perfect for novice and intermediate home cooks who want to learn more about food science and proper cooking technique. This book boasts 400 recipes incorporating 200 different cooking skills, all divided up into easy-to-approach courses. Love eggs? Start with scrambling, then progress to frying, boiling, and poaching. Prefer vegetables? Skip eggs and learn to boil, steam, sauté, roast, broil, and grill veggies. Basic bread and dessert recipes are also included, for home cooks looking to expand into the realm of baking. A second volume, “Advanced Fundamentals,” comes out this November.

Last year I took up bullet journaling and started dabbling in calligraphy as an easy way to decorate my journal’s pages. At its simplest, calligraphy can be done by anyone with pen and paper, and Joyce Lee’s “Joy of Modern Calligraphy” provides an accessible introduction to this beautiful craft. Lee breaks down the strokes and proportions that form the backbone of calligraphy, with a strong emphasis on repetition and proper form. Lee explains that calligraphy can be a lifestyle, incorporating aspects of mindfulness to ensure the best results. The book includes 20 different practice pages, which can be photocopied, and several project ideas as starting points.

I hope you take the opportunity this summer to stop by the library, enjoy our AC, and check out some books. Whether you’re investigating a new hobby, researching a topic, or just looking for new fiction, the library has plenty of books to cater to anyone’s interests. While you’re here, make sure you’re signed up for our summer reading program, which runs through the month of July and is open to everyone, including adults!

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Fun with Words: Wordplay in Children’s Picture Books

Fun with Words: Wordplay in Children’s Picture Books
by Hannah Atchison, Children’s Librarian

The first step to developing a love of reading is to develop a love of words. To nurture a love of words, you need to create positive memories and associations. Reading picture books that use wordplay with your child is one of the best ways to associate comfort and love with a good book. Encourage your child to play with words and sounds the way they play with other things.

Here are a few of my favorite picture books that use wordplay.

Amelia Bedelia” by Herman and Peggy Parish. I grew up reading these. They made me laugh and laugh. The originals are actually in our beginning readers collection, but we have some in our picture books and chapter books too. In the picture books Amelia is only a child, but in the beginning readers, Amelia Bedelia works as a housekeeper. The books are about her confusion with odd phrases. Instructed to dress the turkey, she sews him clothes. The kids will learn what these phrases mean and enjoy all of Amelia’s hilarious mistakes.

The Book with No Pictures” by B. J. Novak. This book has no pictures, but will keep your kid engaged. It is filled with funny words and sounds that the grown-up who is reading has to say.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Bill Martin. I read this one when I was little and I use it frequently in my storytimes. The lowercase alphabet is climbing up a coconut tree. But the tree gets crowded and they all fall out. This book uses rhyming and rhythm to teach the kids their letters. Reading a book with rhythm and tapping your legs or clapping your hands is also a great way for the kids to learn about and practice syllables.

The Great Dictionary Caper” by Judy Sierra. This is a playful book about the different kinds of word groups that ‘hang out’ and what they do together. The action verbs are very active and the interjections are always interrupting. When the words have a parade, everyone shows off.

Llamaphones” by Janik Coat. This is a book about homophones, words that sound the same, but mean different things, that uses llamas to illustrate them. This book is part of a collection that also includes, “Comparrotives” and “Hippopposites”. The library has all of these in board book format so that even the smallest humans may enjoy them.

Moose, Goose, and Mouse” by Mordicai Gerstein. Moose, Goose, and Mouse need a house. This book plays with rhymes and word sounds.

P is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever: All the Letters that Misbehave and Make Words Nearly Impossible to Pronounce” by Raj Haldar. This book has been one of my favorites for a few years now. It has a sequel which is equally enjoyable. “No Reading Allowed: The Worst Read-Aloud Book Ever: A Confusing Collection of Hilarious Homonyms and Sound-Alike Sentences.” These books are a great way to laugh some of the more frustrating elements of language.

7 Ate 9: The Untold Story” by Tara Lazar. Private I is solving a missing person, or number, case. Number 9 is missing and rumor is, 7 ate 9. This book plays with both numbers and words.

Where’s the Baboon?” by Michael Escoffier. Using different colored font, this book hides the answers to questions in other words. This is a good introduction to anagrams, new words you create by mixing up letters, and compound words.

The Whole Hole Story” by Vivian McInerny. This is another new favorite of mine. If you enjoy stream of consciousness and a good bit of nonsense, give this book a try.

Wordplay” by Ivan Brunetti. This book is actually a beginning reader in our collection included in the Toon Books series. Several examples of compound words are given with silly illustrations and stories to go with them.

Wordplay is both silly and informative. Reading picture books that use wordplay with your child will allow them to explore how language works in a fun and meaningful way. Find a book that you both will enjoy. It doesn’t have to be from this list. It could be another one from the library collection, or one you have at home. Learning doesn’t have to be serious. Thank goodness.

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“Last Night at the Telegraph Club” by Malinda Lo: A Review

“Last Night at the Telegraph Club” by Malinda Lo: A Review

by Savannah Winkler, Library Assistant

In the opening pages of “Last Night at the Telegraph Club,” 17-year-old Lily Hu’s life is suddenly changed by a newspaper advertisement. The year is 1954, and Lily lives in San Francisco’s Chinatown with her family. The ad promotes a male impersonator named Tommy Andrews and her performances at the local Telegraph Club. Lily quickly hides the ad, and it becomes her secret, but it isn’t her only one. On trips to the pharmacy, she flips through pages of pulp romance novels, particularly one about two women. As she begins to understand her sexuality, Lily becomes even more determined to hide her growing feelings—that is, until fellow classmate Kath Miller discovers her secret. But instead of the shame and humiliation she was anticipating, Lily realizes Kath may share her feelings.

As their friendship grows, Kath and Lily sneak out and visit the Telegraph Club. They meet women who openly flirt with one another and share kisses in the club’s shadows. They watch Tommy Andrews’s electrifying performance, and Lily is captivated by her. But Tommy isn’t the only person Lily crushes on. Lily’s feelings for Kath grow into love, but outside forces continue to complicate their relationship. McCarthyism and the fear of communism threatens the livelihoods of Chinese-Americans. When her father’s citizenship papers are taken by the FBI, Lily realizes her actions affect not just her, but her entire family. She faces an impossible choice: her family or being true to herself.

Malinda Lo’s book has become one of my favorite historical fiction novels. I will never get to truly experience 1950s San Francisco, but while reading this book, I felt like I stood under the glow of the neon signs and smelled the smoke inside the club. This book provides the opportunity to learn more about LGBTQ+ history, including lesbian clubs and male impersonators (better known today as drag kings). A timeline of real historical events that coincide with the book’s happenings is included throughout the chapters. The amount of historical detail brings the book alive.

I enjoyed the historical setting, but the characters are truly what make the story. The romance between Lily and Kath is tender and honest. Readers easily root for them, and I found myself unable to stop reading because I needed to know if their relationship survived. I often hesitated while turning the pages and became increasingly nervous about the fallout if their relationship was discovered. “Telegraph Club” is a realistic novel, and it does not gloss over the discrimination that gay and lesbian couples faced in the 1950s. Despite this, Lo’s story remains unwaveringly hopeful.

This past March, Lo gave a talk to K-State affiliates and community members over Zoom. During her presentation, she explained her motivation behind writing this story. She wanted to bring people—specifically gay Chinese-Americans—out from the shadows and into the spotlight. These Americans were forced to live in secrecy for so long, and their stories were at risk of being lost forever. Authors like Malinda Lo have thankfully assured that will not happen. Without question, “Last Night at the Telegraph Club” succeeds at giving a voice to those who were once voiceless.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club” is a great read for those who enjoy young adult literature, historical fiction, or romance. The novel has been widely recognized, winning the Stonewall Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Youth Literature, and the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Lo has authored numerous other YA books, including the thriller “A Line in the Dark” and the fantasy “Ash.”

June is Pride Month, and the library will have numerous displays highlighting LGTBQ+ voices. If you can’t stop by in person or are looking for more recommendations, check out the booklists featured on our catalog page.

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Learn More About the Bloody Benders

Learn More About the Bloody Benders

by Audrey Swartz, Readers’ Advisory Librarian

As the newest member of the Manhattan Public Library family, I struggled to come up with a topic for my very first column, and a wise colleague told me to pick a topic I’m drawn to. Before diving into the world of America’s first serial-killing family, let me quickly introduce myself. My name is Audrey Swartz, and I am the newest addition to the library and information services department. I work in adult services, creating reading suggestions either through personalized lists or our LibraryAware newsletters. You can find me working the library reference desk on the second floor. Finally, I have taken over the role as the readers’ advisory librarian, making and organizing displays, reading lists, and assigning and writing article like these. With that said, let’s explore Labette County’s true crime history.

I have gotten really into true crime; add that to being a non-native Kansan, and you get that I’ve spent a lot of time digging around to find out what kind of history Kansas has. In doing so, I stumbled across the Bender family, who are more commonly known as the Bloody Benders: a German immigrant family who murdered people traveling along the Osage Mission Trail, a frequently-traveled path from Fort Scott to Independence, between May of 1871 and December of 1872. The Bender cabin and store was located about three-quarters of the way to Independence along the trail. The family consisted of four members: mother, father, daughter and son. They were estimated to have killed 11 people, but the numbers can run as high as 22. Only 11 bodies were discovered during the initial investigation at the Benders homestead. The true fate of the family remains unknown, but rumors vary from a successful bid for freedom to the family being lynched by a posse and sunk to the bottom of a river.

In his book “True Tales of Old-Time Kansas” (1984), David Dary explores Kansas tales spanning from hidden treasure to trail stories to murder. He takes eight pages to retell the commonly-heard story of the Bender family. While the telling is short, it is very informative and goes into more details about the family and their crimes than the more recent short telling by Larry Wood. His book “Murder and Mayhem in Southeast Kansas” (2019) is a fraction of the size of Dary’s and unfortunately has a fraction of the information. In his eight-page telling, Wood almost exclusively covers the aftermath of the Benders’ disappearance and the search to find them. He also takes up considerable space with images gathered from the Kansas Historical Society. While Dary provides some images, he does a much better job at balancing out the before and after.

A very recent addition to the library and to the Bender legacy is “Hell’s Half-Acre” (2022) by Susan Jonusas. She goes deep into the story of not just the Bender family but also their neighbors, the victims’ families, detectives, and other outlaws who may have helped the family escape. She divides her book into five sections, each dedicated to drawing the reader into her extensively-researched story. If one wants to get a clear picture of what frontier Kansas was like and a better understanding of the Bender family, you need look no further than this book. Jonusas paints a brutally clear picture of the grotesque discovery that, as she puts it, lay “beneath an orchard of young apple trees. (book jacket)”

These three books approach the story in a matter-of-fact and researched way. They are the epitome of non-fiction. There are, however, other materials that take the horrid story of the Benders and proceed to concoct more. Normally I would not suggest looking into the fiction surrounding an event, but I would be remiss in my job not to point out that we have these materials. The first is “Hop Alley” by Scott Phillips (2014), and the second is the film “Bender: America’s First Serial Killer Family” (2016). Phillips’ novel is set in western Kansas and embraces the Benders as just another part of the story, another obstacle the protagonist must face to achieve his ultimate goal. The Bender film is a dramatic retelling of the story that sticks fairly close to the original legend. The film won multiple awards at several film festivals and is perfectly chilling.

It only feels right to end this with the words of author David Dary: “The end of the Benders is not known. The earth seemed to swallow them, as it had their victims. (p.131)”