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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 manhattanks.librarycalendar.com.

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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 rileycountyks.gov/1906/Coloring-Book.

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 mhklibrary.org 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.

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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 www.MHKlibrary.org.

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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 https://mhklibrary.org/for-neighbors-in-need/, 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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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 mhklibrary.org day or night from the comfort of your own reading chair.

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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.

 

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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 Alex H. Alex H. 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.

 

 

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