Mercury Column

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Reading local: Good reads from local authors

Reading local: Good reads from local authors

By Allie Lousch, community engagement lead at Manhattan Public Library

140 Years of Soul: A History of African-americans in Manhattan, Kansas 1865 - 2005: Geraldine Baker Walton: 9780979778810: Books

“Addiction is a compulsive condition … you are driven toward your own ruin,” Manhattan author, Mike Matson, wrote in “Courtesy Boy: A True Story of Addiction,” his story of compulsion and recovery. Published in 2021, “Courtesy Boy” is Mike’s second book and a memoir about his young adult life, how the behavioral traits he exhibited as a young man like dishonesty, lack of loyalty, cutting corners, not recognizing true friendship and not knowing how to keep friends, were “part and parcel” to his addiction.

Courtesy Boy” was written with wit and a voice that becomes more clear as the story of his addicted life moves into sobriety and recovery. Recovery is defined as “the continuing process of regaining possession of something lost,” according to Oxford Languages online. Mike had much to recover, like his ability to be honest with himself.

“I am not unique,” Mike said. “There are people we know, we love, friends, neighbors … relatives that suffer from addiction. There is so much stigma associated with addiction. It’s seen as a moral failure. By being honest, open and no-holds-barred, I hope to put a dent in this stigma so people can help someone they know or help themselves get help.”

You’ll find “Courtesy Boy” and “Splifficated,” Mike’s first book originally written for his family, at Manhattan Public Library. He intends to write a screenplay of “Courtesy Boy” this summer.

140 Years of Soul: A History of African-Americans in Manhattan, Kansas 1865-2005,” is Gerry Walton’s story of the people and place in Manhattan’s Southside. Long-time library patrons may remember Gerry, who retired as the head of the reference department prior to writing her book.

“In 2005, Manhattan, Kansas, celebrated its 150th birthday and I wanted the story of my people to be included in the festivities,” Gerry wrote. “Of the 150 years Manhattan has been a community, Blacks have been a part of it for 140 years. That is something to be proud of.”

There are many people readers will meet in “140 Years” who may be familiar, including Veryl Switzer, charter member of K-State Athletics Hall of Fame, who developed university programs to support students of color, many that are still in use today. Earl Woods, father of Tiger Woods, was raised in Manhattan, graduated from K-State and served in the U.S. Army for 20 years. He is buried in Manhattan. Former Kansas City Monarchs player, George Giles, attended Douglass School where he learned to play baseball, and later operated “the only Black-owned motel ever in town.”

140 Years” is like listening to your grandmother and her friends tell stories of growing up around MHK’s Yuma Street. Readers will meet the first Black people who came to the area as Exodusters following the Civil War and the people who came later. Some still call Southside home.

Gerry wrote of the women and men and children who lived and worked in Manhattan, contributed to the community and served internationally in the military, education and more. You’ll find “140 Years of Soul” at the library. Fun Fact: Wandean Rivers, Gerry’s daughter-in-law, now serves as the library’s technology trainer.

Folks interested in the Konza Prairie will discover more about the land they love in Jill Haukos’s “The Autumn Calf” picture book illustrated by Joyce Mihran Turley. “Autumn Calf” follows a baby bison while the calf follows its mother along their Tallgrass Prairie home. Rich in color and story, readers will discover facts about Konza Prairie’s operations.

Did you know wild bison can’t be herded? Read how bison can learn to follow cowboys into the corral for vaccinations, and how “baby” bison can weigh nearly 200 pounds and still need their mothers’ protection from natural predators.

Let your curiosity take you to the library for a copy of “The Autumn Calf” or other “local reads.” Then drive the few miles to explore the Konza Prairie. Remember to leave your pets at home, stay on existing trails and leave the bison to their peace.

Manhattan Public Library is a cornerstone of free and equal access to a world of ideas and information for the Manhattan, Kansas, community. Manhattan Public Library serves more than 75,000 people in the Riley County area through curated book and other media collections, knowledgeable staff, relevant programming for all ages, and meeting space. Learn more at

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Books for Quick Reading

Books for Quick Reading

Savannah Winkler, Public Services Supervisor

June 2023

Convenience Store Woman: A Novel: 9780802128256: Murata, Sayaka, Tapley Takemori, Ginny: Books -

Finding the time to read an entire book can be difficult. As someone who works full-time while completing my master’s degree, I know too well the struggle of actually finishing a book. I recently counted the number of books I’ve read this year and was disappointed with my progress. I’ve checked out dozens of books from the public library in 2023, but I read almost none of them. I started feeling a sense of defeat each time I returned a stack of unread books to our Circulation desk. Then it dawned on me. The books I had checked out were long, most between 400 to 600 pages. I simply didn’t have the time to finish these large books. After that realization, I decided to make a change. For a couple of months, I would only check out books that were 200 pages or less. Here are a few titles I enjoyed.

The novellas that make up Seanan McGuire’s “Wayward Children” series are the perfect bite-sized fantasy stories. The first book, “Every Heart a Doorway,” introduces readers to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children and its unusual residents. The young people who live at the Home have one thing in common, they’ve all gone through a doorway and found themselves in a magical land. And like Alice or the siblings from “Narnia”, they eventually return to the normal world. But this world no longer feels like home and most would do anything to find their doorways again. Each novella follows a different character’s journey. If you end up loving this series as much as I do, you’ll be happy to learn there are currently eight books with more on the way.

The best way to experience “Comfort Me with Apples” by Catherynne M. Valente is by knowing little about the plot before reading. This mysterious story follows Sophia, a woman who is happily married to her husband. Everything about Sophia’s life is perfect. Her husband is hardworking and her home in Arcadia Gardens is beautiful. But despite everything being perfect, Sophia begins to worry about strange things she can’t explain. Like why her husband is gone for long periods of time and the locked basement she isn’t allowed to enter. As strange and dark events unfold, Sophie begins to question everything she’s ever known.

Another title I enjoyed this year was “Convenience Store Woman” by Sayaka Murata. The protagonist of this short and unique story is Keiko Furukura, a thirty-six-year-old woman who has worked in a Japanese convenience store for eighteen years. Keiko has been considered strange her whole life and her family worries about her future. But when she starts working at the convenience store, she finds security in the repetitive tasks and easy-to-follow rules in the employee manual. Keiko is content with her life, but she knows she’s not living up to her family’s and society’s expectations. And when a cynical new employee begins working at the store, Keiko starts to wonder if it’s time for a change.

Checking out books at the library is easy, but actually reading them is much harder. I found that checking out shorter novels meant I was much more likely to finish them. As a result, I felt motivated to read even more books. If you’re looking for another motivator to read, consider joining the library’s Summer Reading Challenge. This year’s theme is “All Together Now” and the reading challenge is going on now and will continue until the end of July. All ages are welcome to join and win prizes such as coupons and books. If you’d like to join, stop by the library or sign up at

Manhattan Public Library is a cornerstone of free and equal access to a world of ideas and information for the Manhattan, Kansas, community. Manhattan Public Library serves more than 75,000 people in the Riley County area through curated book and other media collections, knowledgeable staff, relevant programming for all ages, and meeting space. Learn more at

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A Book Sale for Everyone

A Book Sale for Everyone

Allie Lousch, Community Engagement, Manhattan Public Library

Recently, I asked an old friend about his favorite book. He said he loved mysteries and had grown up reading Nancy Drew novels, he enjoyed figuring out the plots. It was the Hardy Boys that kept me junior-sleuthing while the Army moved us across continents. Though my friend and I may not have a lot in common, we share a history with those iconic mystery series for kids. A good library, like a good book, can connect us when some of us may appear at odds. And if you’re looking for a good book, come to Manhattan Library Association’s (MLA) Book Sale this weekend in the Wefald Pavilion at City Park to find your old “friends” or discover new ones.

At Manhattan Public Library, we love to help you find your next favorite novel, information you need and a community that is welcoming. We are able to accomplish this, in part, because of MLA’s annual book sale, which provides the library resources for summer reading, special performances and more. Think of this weekend’s book sale as a giant “Rosie’s Corner,” that special corner of our library where you can pick up photo-rich coffee table books, audiobooks to keep the kids entertained when traveling, novels, movies, old hardback books and even sheet music!

When my kids were younger, I’d give them a few dollars to spend at the sale. Flush with great spending potential, they would find books that became familiar friends like “The Paper Bag Princess” written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Micheal Marchenko, and videos like “There Goes a Firetruck” by the irrepressible “Firefighter Dave” better known as Dave Hood. It is something special for a kid of any age to find a book that can accompany them to the beach without worrying about damaging a library book.

Are you into James Patterson’s books? You’ll probably find several at the book sale this weekend. And if you are looking for Patterson’s stories in large print, as an audiobook or some that he wrote for kids, we can help you with find them. Visit the library or logon to and search our catalog for the books you love and resources you need.

One of my favorite books I found, at a past MLA sale, was Ken Burns’ “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea: An Illustrated History.” It turns out our library has a copy and at least 45 other titles related to national parks. Are you into tropical fish or fishing Kansas waters? Classics your thing or are you more likely to read a self-published recent book? You might find what you’ve been hunting at the book sale.

Wanting to spice up your cooking game? You should really come to the book sale and look for a treasure of taste. If after the sale you are still hungry for more, swing by the library at 629 Poyntz Avenue, and you’ll find more than 2,000 titles like “Smitten Kitchen Keepers” by Deb Perelman, “The Blue Zones American Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100” by Dan Buettner, and a slew of culturally delicious, preference-diverse others.

If you are or know a teen reader that is looking for a new story or series, this weekend’s book sale could be a goldmine of opportunity. In the past, there have been Manga titles for sale, vintage and current young adult (YA) books to discover. With a few thousand Manga-related titles in our collection, fans of any age and a library card can find something new to read.

We’d love to see you treasure-hunting this weekend at the book sale. Your support and the support of our Manhattan Library Association members make all the difference in what we are able to do in the library and community throughout the year. Thank you to our book sale partners: City of Manhattan Parks and Recreation, Target volunteers and friends we’ve made through the Manhattan Afghan Resettlement Team.

Manhattan Public Library is a cornerstone of free and equal access to a world of ideas and information for the Manhattan, Kansas, community. Manhattan Public Library serves more than 75,000 people in the Riley County area through curated book and other media collections, knowledgeable staff, relevant programming for all ages, and meeting space. Learn more at

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April brings Manhattan’s Little Apple Pride Festival

April brings Manhattan’s Little Apple Pride Festival

Audrey Swartz, Adult Services Librarian and Readers Advisory

Image result for king and the dragonflies

April showers bring May flowers, our community’s Little Apple Pride Festival and the Manhattan Public Library’s (MPL) April 20 ReadMHK focus on LGBTQIA2S+ Authors. This year Manhattan’s pride parade and festival are scheduled for April 22. The parade begins at 3 p.m. at City Park, 1101 Fremont Street. A festival follows the parade at the Band Shell and Wefald Pavilion with a vendor fair from 6-8 p.m. In honor of April’s events, I’ll focus on queer authors and their work.

Neil Patrick Harris, of Doogie Houser and How I met Your Mother fame, has been writing his “Magic Misfits” series since 2017. Lissy Marlin and Kyle Hilton illustrate the books. With four books currently in the series, the central story follows a street magician named Carter as he runs away and finds friends and magic. “Misfits” includes a greedy villain, magical adventures and illustrated magic tricks! While these young reader chapter books are sure to entertain, readers can also practice the magic tricks, code- and cipher-breaking tips, and make their own magic. The “Misfits” series is recommended for ages 8-12 and all are available for check out at the library.

In “King and the Dragonflies,” award-winning children’s fiction author, Kacen Callender, delivers a heart-breaking story of death and rebirth. Brothers Khalid and King share stories of their dreams of other worlds. They dream of places with trees that are as tall as mushrooms and Khalid dreams of having dragonfly wings. After Khalid’s death, he returns to King as a dragonfly. Dragonfly Khalid guides King to find his former best friend and save him from his abusive home. As reviewer Em Nording writes “This book will make your heart ache in the best possible way. It’s a riveting, emotionally real thing—as lived-in as a childhood bedroom, and incredibly kind and generous at its core.” “King and the Dragonflies” and others by Kacen Callender are recommended for children of middle school age and are available for check out at MPL.

Ryan La Sala’s, “Be Dazzled,” is described by the publisher as “Project Runway goes to Comic Con in an epic queer love story about creativity, passion and finding the courage to be your most authentic self.” “Be Dazzled” follows the crafting, be dazzling love story of two young men, competing against each other in the largest cosplay competition. While together, they tried to compete as a team, but insecurities and perfectionism were their downfall. Once again they are assigned to work together and will have to overcome their heartbreak and self-doubt. This book is recommended for ages 15-18 and is available at the library.

Juliet Takes a Breath” by Gabby Rivera features Juliet Palante, a young Puerto Rican lesbian from the Bronx. Juliet just came out to her mother and is pretty sure they will never speak again. She is headed to Portland to intern with her favorite author and knower of all “gay-sounding stuff.” While she is away, Juliet focuses on trying to figure out her life. The original book was published in 2017, reprinted in 2019, and turned into a graphic novel in 2020 and illustrated by Celia Moscote. This book and graphic novel are recommended for high school to adult age groups. It should be noted the graphic novel has received challenges for being sexually explicit.

Check out our April Beanstack and Library Catalog booklists for more reading recommendations.

Manhattan Public Library is a cornerstone of free and equal access to a world of ideas and information for the Manhattan, Kansas, community. Manhattan Public Library serves more than 75,000 people in the Riley County area through curated book and other media collections, knowledgeable staff, relevant programming for all ages and meeting space. Learn more at

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Young Adult Books from Queer Authors

Young Adult Books from Queer Authors

Alex Urbanek, Collections Librarian, They/them

Lakelore: 9781250624147: McLemore, Anna-Marie: Books -

Manhattan Public Library’s April ReadMHK prompt is to read titles written or starring LGBTQIA2S+ individuals. April is the perfect month to focus on these stories, as Manhattan, Kansas celebrates Little Apple Pride, one of my favorite celebrations. For this month, I’m focusing on books in the library’s young adult collection written by queer authors and featuring queer protagonists.

Anna-Marie McLemore (they/them) is one of my favorite queer writers. They tend to mix magical realism with gender and sexuality struggles, as well as young love. Their latest book “Lakelore” is a story of two non-binary, neurodivergent teenagers who are the only people to interact with the rumored world under the lake. Bastian has been exploring the world under the lake for most of their life, but has avoided it since they’ve begun releasing their alebrijes, brightly colored Mexican folk-art animal sculptures, into the world as a way to regulate their emotions. Lore moved into town after visiting several years ago and interacting with the world, which they thought was only a dream. As the world under Lakelore threatens to come to the surface, the teens find friendship and companionship with each other, working through their problems together instead of alone.

Magical Boy” by The Kao, also known as Vincent Kao (he/him), began as a webcomic and now has two volumes in print. Max is a transgender boy dealing with typical problems: coming out, dealing with parents and schoolmates dead-naming and mis-gendering him, and the family “blessing” of being a “magical girl.” With the help of his friend Piper, Max has to come to terms with his birthright and fight evil in the world. This comic does a great job of showing the highs and lows of transitioning, with a twist on the magical girl trope. If you’re interested in more of The Kao’s work, he also has a web series “Mondo Manga” that he updates regularly.

Meredith Russo (she/her) writes from her transgender femme experience in both her books, “If I Was Your Girl” and “Birthday.” In “Birthday,” we follow two friends from their thirteenth to sixteenth birthdays, switching character perspective in each chapter. Morgan is starting to come to terms with her trans female identity, while still struggling with her mother’s passing. She is terrified of ruining her friendship with Eric and her relationship with her very masculine father. Meanwhile, Eric is worried about his friendship with Morgan, while also worrying about the future and his changing sexuality.  Russo does a fantastic job of writing trans stories that aren’t as focused on the trauma aspect, instead focusing on the coming out narrative and young love in high school.

Magdalena “Maggie” Gonzalez has put any quest for love on hold. She’s decided just to focus on her photography career and her friends. However, with her sister’s quinceañera around the corner, Maggie needs to find a date. Picking from three different people proves difficult when she has to come to terms with the feelings she harbors for each of them. “Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster” by Andrea Mosqueda (she/her) is a fun love story that turns the love triangle trope on its head with the bisexual conundrum.

Bingo Love” by Tee Franklin (they/she), among others, is a quick graphic novel showcasing the love story between Hazel and Mari. They meet at church bingo in 1963 and quickly fall in love. Their families and social pressures push them apart, and they both end up marrying men and having families. Years later in their 60’s, Hazel and Mari run into each other at, yet again, church bingo. With full families and adult responsibilities, these sweet grandmothers have a big decision to make.

If sci-fi stories are more your thing, “The Sound of Stars” by Alechia Dow (she/her) follows the tale of human Janelle “Ellie” Baker and M0Rr1S, one of the invading Ilori. Dow utilizes her own experience being asexual to easily discuss Ellie’s asexuality without it being a big deal. When the Ilori first invaded, human kind responded with violence, making the Ilori believe that any form of emotional expression by humans should be outlawed, including books and music. When M0Rr1s finds Ellie’s illegal library, and gets introduced to music, an unlikely friendship develops.

If none of these titles called out to you, you can access one of our many resources to find some new titles. Our librarians are well versed in finding just the book for you. Happy Pride!

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Books for Women’s History Month

Books for Women’s History Month

By; Amber Hoskins

From the beginning of time, women have been contributing to the world’s history in various ways. Often times overlooked, more recent years have led to a surge in books that explore the achievements and struggles of women throughout the ages. Since it is Women’s History Month, this is a great time to explore some of what Manhattan Public Library has to offer. As I was looking through our catalog, I found that there is are myriad of books to choose from, but luckily, I somehow found a way to narrow it down to five books for this session.

The first book, “Lady Killers” by Tori Telfer and with illustrations by Dame Darcy, caught my eye right off the bat. As a fan of true crime and psychology, this is probably the book that I found most entertaining of them all. Telfer challenges the stereotype of the male serial killer by showcasing the stories of women who have committed gruesome murders. The book examines the motivations and psychological makeup of these women, shedding light on a subject that is often sensationalized in popular culture. This book is a great reminder that all humans are equally capable when it comes to committing evil deeds.

Because I am also a fan of medical science, I wanted to make sure I got a book on this topic as well. In the past, women have faced exclusion when it comes to medicine and research. “Women in White Coats: How the First Women Doctors Changed the World of Medicine,” by Olivia Campbell, tells the stories of pioneering women in the medical field. This book explores the difficulties that were faced in a male-dominated field and celebrates the achievements of those who persevered. From Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in the United States, to Mary Edwards Walker, who became a surgeon during the Civil War, this book highlights the impact that these women had on the future of curative arts and society.

If you are a fan of graphic novels, “Wake, The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts” by Rebecca Hall with illustrations by Hugo Martínez, might be something of interest to you. Hall, who is a granddaughter of slaves, gives us insight on how black women were key players in the fight for freedom. From the journey of slave ships through the Middle Passage, to the revolts in colonial New York, these brave women are celebrated for their courage to fight back against those who constrained them. Hall’s research through historical court records and slave ship captains’ logs allows her to bring the story to vivid life alongside the images in the book.

Similarly, “The Light of Days” by Judy Batalion is another riveting account of defiance. This story revolves around the Jewish resistance in Poland during World War II, with a particular focus on the role that women played in the movement. This book came about through extensive research and interviews with surviving members of the resistance. Known as “Ghetto Girls,” some of them only teenagers, these heroines built underground bunkers, smuggled bread and guns, and ultimately saved countless lives.

Finally, in “History vs. Women: The Defiant Lives They Don’t Want You to Know” by Anita Sarkeesian and Ebony Adams, with illustrations by T.S. Abe, we are presented with a collection of stories about women from different eras. Sarkeesian and Adams cover a broad range of fields, from science to politics, and from rebels to scholars. This book has good illustrations and includes short biographies. I really enjoyed this one for its entertaining way of presenting information. I also liked that it had several people that I knew of but had not found in a book before.

For me, these five books are essential reading for anyone interested in the stories of women who have made a significant impact in various fields. However, we do have a vast collection of books on the subject of women’s history that is sure to entertain anyone interested in learning more. If you are into history dating back to the Middle Ages, we recently added a couple of books that reevaluate how women were treated during this era. They are “Femina” by Janina Ramirez, and “The Once and Future Sex” by Eleanor Janega. This article is only covering a tiny fraction of what MPL has to offer on the subject of women, so I hope you feel encouraged to browse our collections for something you will enjoy.

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Books about Bicycling

Books about Bicycling

by Crystal Hicks, Collection Services Manager

As the weather slowly warms up, my thoughts turn inexorably towards biking. You might’ve seen my family biking around town—my husband’s bike looks like it was crossed with a wheelbarrow, and our toddler rides contentedly in front. We splurged on our electric bikes last spring, and they’ve brought us all the joy and none of the pain of bicycling. Now that I’m back into biking, it’s almost my favorite activity—second, of course, to reading books. Fortunately, the Manhattan Public Library has books about biking, so I can pursue both interests simultaneously.

It seems best to start with the books most useful for bicycling: repair manuals.  DK’s “The Complete Bike Owner’s Manual” uses DK’s signature image-heavy style to walk readers through basic maintenance and repair, like fixing a flat tire. For a more thorough look at bicycle maintenance, check out “The ‘Bicycling’ Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance and Repair for Road and Mountain Bikes” by Todd Downs. Downs goes beyond the basics, with tips for adjusting seat position, chain repair, and more. Both books cover a variety of bicycles, so most riders should find them useful.

Jody Rosen, who commutes by bike in New York City, combines bicycle history with memoir in “Two Wheels Good.” Bicycles are a revolutionary force, both loved and hated in equal measure. Rosen explores how the bicycle, which should be considered antiquated, endures through its simplicity and versatility and is currently enjoying its biggest boom yet. For a more specific look at the history of bicycles on American roads, check out James Longhurst’s “Bike Battles.

The library also has books on cycling history in our children’s collection. Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome’s “Major Taylor, Champion Cyclist” brings to life the story of Marshall Taylor, a Black cyclist who raced from 1896 to 1909. Warm oil paintings depict Taylor’s journey, from trick riding through his professional debut to his 1901 win against Edmond Jacquelin. Allan Drummond’s “Pedal Power” turns to Europe, showcasing how Amsterdam became the bicycle capital of the world following a grassroots push. In the early 1970s, Amsterdam teemed with both cars and bicycles, making the roads unsafe. After public outcry over the number of deaths from accidents, Amsterdam decided to prioritize bicycles over cars, creating a city where bicycling is the norm.

For children who prefer fiction, there are a few books that center on cycling. Christina Uss’s “The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle” follows Bicycle, a quiet girl who was taken in by the Mostly Silent Monastery and named after the bicycle shirt she was wearing. When Sister Wanda decides Bicycle needs to make friends, Bicycle pedals off across the United States instead, heading for the San Francisco Blessing of the Bicycles to meet her cycling idol. In “Sarai and the Around the World Fair,” by Sarai Gonzalez and Monica Brown, Sarai comes to a crossroads when she outgrows her first bike. Her Tata offers to patch up an old bike for her, but will it turn out like the new bike she dreams of? In Haifaa Al Mansour’s “The Green Bicycle,” ten-year-old Wadjda longs to ride a bike like her friend Abdullah, but it’s frowned upon in Saudi Arabia. Despite the obstacles in her way, Wadjda enacts a plan to earn enough money to buy the bike for herself.

Picture books can also help generate excitement in kids new to biking or making the transition from a tricycle to a bicycle. Elizabeth Verdick and Brian Bigg’s “Bike and Trike” features a rivalry between trusty-old Trike and shiny-new Bike. When they race to determine the Winner on Wheels, they discover that they both have their purpose and do their best work together. In “Together We Ride,” by Valerie Bolling and Kaylani Juanita, a young girl learns how to ride a bicycle under her father’s careful guidance. Though she falls at first, slowly she gets the hang of it, and the book ends with a joyful bike ride with the whole family. “Biking with Grandma,” by Chris Santella and Vivienne To, follows Grandma Rose and Sam as they bike across the world, visiting national parks and more. Told via postcards to Sam’s parents and accompanying images, this book will make anyone itch to jump on a bike and get traveling.

Whatever your mode of conveyance, I hope you stop by Manhattan Public Library to check out some books, or visit us online at We’ve got plenty of books to satisfy every reader, whatever you may be looking for.

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Building Better Bridges and Communities

Building Better Bridges and Communities

by Allie Lousch, Community Engagement Lead

Most weeks I share a meal with some of my favorite people. We laugh, break bread, discuss life in depth, listen and talk smack about each other’s politics. I love these people. Over time and with some fits and starts, we have discovered how to vehemently disagree while committing to our cherished relationship. This is one reason why the audiobook “Conversations with People Who Hate Me: 12 things I learned from talking to internet strangers” caught my attention while scrolling through the Libby audiobook app available with a Manhattan Public Library (MPL) card.

In “Conversations,” Dylan Marron describes how he began his award-winning podcast, “Conversations with People Who Hate Me,” after reading noxious messages directed to his inbox. Marron invited several hate-mailers to join him for a conversation. He connected with high school seniors approaching graduation, senior citizens, folks identifying as conservative and liberal, straight, gay and representing a variety of experiences. The one thing all participants had in common was they had sent hateful messages through the internet to Marron. And many talked with him.

“This podcast is not a search for common ground,” Marron said in an interview with USA Today. “It’s an experiment to see what happens when two people with very different views on the world talk to each other.”

Marron asked, “Do you hate me?” during conversations. Most of the people responded “No.” One middle-aged man said, “I no longer hate you, Dylan … because you’re willing to listen. I’m listening to you. You’re listening to me and I no longer hate you.”

“Conversations” participants, including Marron, discovered the jerks on the other side of the screen were “just people.” I’ve been thinking on this audiobook since last year and how I can learn to listen and to discuss hard things. Listening to ideas other than our own appears to be the tipping point toward building healthy relationships and communities.

Another take on bridge- and community building comes in a powerful novella for young adults called “Seedfolks” by Newbery-winning author, Paul Fleischman. It begins in a trash-strewn vacant lot in wintry Cleveland. We first meet Kim, an elementary-aged immigrant girl, planting lima beans in the still-frozen soil to honor the father who died before she was born.

Watching her is Ana, an older Romanian woman who is among the dozen accented voices you’ll encounter in this book. What begins as a futile gesture of memory among discarded tires becomes a vibrant garden where “many grew plants from their native land – huge Chinese melons, ginger, cilantro, a green the Jamaicans call ‘callaloo’, and many more.”

The growth from the first six lima beans to a rich community garden is not an easy one. There are misunderstandings, assumptions and failure in the garden’s and community’s growth. As the garden takes root and branches out, so does a vibrant community once seen as blighted as the buildings it inhabits.

Why “Seedfolks”? Florence, a teacher who joins the garden, describes the first generations of gardeners-who-rooted-a-community as her father described their descendants, as “‘our seedfolks’, because they were the first of our family there.”

You’ll find “Seedfolks” available at MPL in print and on audiobook.

Originally, I had planned to finish with another book but discovered “Them: Why we hate each other and how to heal” by former U.S. Senator from Nebraska, Ben Sasse. In “Them,” he writes of loneliness and isolation as a loss of essential “social infrastructure” and the root of society’s disconnection.

Published in 2018, “Them” attempts to explain the anxiety, distraction and rootlessness Sasse sees in today’s America. Instead of connecting with one another, Sasse explains Americans isolate from potentially meaningful relationships. In this isolation grows anger and fear, which affects how people see themselves and the world they’re in. “We need to be needed … to have roots and belong,” Sasse writes. “Them” is a research-rich encouragement to emerge from isolation and into community for our individual and collective wellbeing.

What do you think? Has American culture fractured? Is it rooted in loneliness and isolation? MPL hosts events for neighbors of every age and many interests, in a warm and welcoming place regardless of their bank statements, pronouns or political leanings.

Visit MPL online at to preview our events calendar and look through our catalog of available resources. We hope to see you in person among MHK’s growing library community.

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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.

by Cassie Wefald Cassie Wefald No Comments

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