For Kansas Travelers: 8 Wonders of Kansas! Guidebook

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services & Collections Manager

While some Kansans will have no idea of the location of the town of Inman, and more may have never heard of the Kansas Sampler Foundation, there’s always time to discover a regional treasure.  Inman author Marci Penner published the first of her Kansas guides in 2005, entitled The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers.  That lovely first effort was a guide to towns, restaurants, and local details grouped by region throughout the state.  It remains a perennial favorite, and interested travelers are quick to search its pages for undiscovered locales.
With hot summer days and dreams of vacations yet to be taken, I can think of no better way to pass a little time than by exploring Penner’s gorgeous second book, 8 Wonders of Kansas! Guidebook.   Like her first title, Penner’s latest is a guide to Kansas attractions, but the book is so much more.
The groundwork for this book began as a contest.  From June 2007 to October 2010, participants were invited to nominate Kansas attractions that fit into one or more of eight select categories (architecture, art, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history, and people).  In all, more than 100,000 people from around the world voted, and an amazing 1000 stories, articles, blogs, etc. were generated.  The result?  A compiled display of 216 of the best of what Kansas offers, a terrific book that is a delight to read as well as an excellent travel companion.
Photographer Harland J. Schuster is to be complimented on the breadth of his work.  His introductory remarks allude to the early morning shots, aerial panoramas, and late afternoon vistas that were part of the typical day’s work.  He also notes the generous help that he received from the many local citizens eager to be a part of the project.  And the photography is excellent.  A double-page spread for Konza Prairie, for example, boasts shadowed photos of a distant hillside.  A display of Pillsbury Crossing features a sun-sparkled view of pooled water, as well as a sidebar feature of the falls. And the other 214 wonders are just as appealing as those from the Manhattan area.
Among the overall winners is Greensburg’s Big Well.  Penner supplies us with the history of the project, a 109-foot-deep venture that took a year to finish. Until 1932, the well served not only the town but also the steam locomotives that regularly made stops in the town.  The photo of the well, taken from the depths of the excavation, awes the reader with its focus on obviously hand-tooled walls.
Treated as one top selection are Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.  At 41,000 acres in size, Cheyenne Bottoms is the largest fresh-water marsh in the interior of the United States, says Penner.  She tells us it is also considered the most important migration point in the Western Hemisphere.  And nearby Quivira National Wildlife refuge hosts an amazing 500,000 birds.  If we’re not already convinced these two refuges are to be included, the breathtaking photos of water birds in flight should do the trick.
You can probably guess a few of the other top winners (think of former presidents, salt reserves, and space exploration for starters), but plan to check out the individual category winners as well.  You’ll be surprised how many you recognize.
For architectural honors, for example, one can’t omit the dramatic Chase County Courthouse in Cottonwood Falls.  For art recognition, the Stan Herd Earthwork located in Atchison was selected for its exceptional utilization of earth as a medium and farm equipment as a means of application.  Among winners for customs is the old farming habit of using post rock for fencing, particularly in LaCrosse and the Smoky Hills region.
Each selection also includes location, contact information and hours of operation.  And the fold-out cover lists tips on how to use the guidebook and a state map that sports each winner’s exact location in relation to all the others.
Looking for a fun way to spend lazy summer days?  If so, this book is right for you.  It’s perfect for family exploration as well as individual ventures.  Take a little time to explore the many riches of Kansas.

Dreaming, Owning, Waking – Summer at MPL

By Janene Hill, Young Adult Librarian

Where do I begin? So many great things are happening this summer at Manhattan Public Library, it is hard to decide what to share first.

I guess we start with the themes. Inspired by the nighttime, this year’s children’s theme is “Dream Big-Read,” the teen theme is “Own the Night,” and the adult theme is “Wake Up and Read.”

Readers of all ages can sign up for Summer Reading at MPL online or by coming to the library where a staff member will help get you registered. Online sign-up has begun and registration at the library can be done beginning this Friday.

Once registered, participants track their reading time (adults can choose to track number of books instead). This time can be tracked online or with a paper record provided by the library. All readers can have a chance to earn prizes by turning in their reading time.

Adults (ages 18 and up) are entered for weekly drawings with each book or for every 4 hours they read. Additional credit can be earned by doing any of 10 bonus challenges. A complete list is available at the library. Seven prizes will be awarded each week in random drawings from sponsors such as The Chef, Hy-Vee, Starbucks, and Panera Bread.

Teens (those entering 7th grade through high school) have a 15 hour goal at which time they can get a free book and a gift certificate to Quiznos. After that, teens can continue to track time and turn those hours in for additional prizes (like tickets at an arcade). All teens who record time will also be entered into drawings for Prize Baskets to be awarded at the end of the summer.

Children (birth through 6th grade) can earn prizes at 250 minutes (ice cream from Vista and toy choice), 500 minutes (book and choice of Applebee’s or Quiznos kids’ meal), and 1000 minutes (Super Reader bookmark and choice Chili’s kids’ meal or Papa Murphy’s cookie dough).

Reading logs can be recorded for all reading done for June 1 through July 31.

In addition to the reading part of Summer Reading, several programs and events have been scheduled for kids and teens throughout June and July.

These events kick off this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon as MPL hosts the annual Summer Reading Kick-Off On the Lawn.

Once again there will be games, prize drawings, activities and live entertainment. This includes carnival games for kids, activity and display tables from the Beach Museum, the NCK Astrological Society, and Pathfinder

Taking the stage at 10:20 will be the K-State Tap Dance Ensemble. Between songs, the group will teach tap steps to any interested children. At 11:00, Mr. Steve will use his acoustic guitar to present his sing-along program for kids.

In the case of inclement weather, the event will be moved to the library auditorium.

Several events will take place each week throughout the summer. Storytimes and clubs for elementary school children begin the week of June 4 and go through the week of July 23.
Children can also participate in special events such as the “Lucky Stars Juggling” show, After Hours Pajama Party, programs by the Beach Museum and the Milford Nature Center, ZOOfari Tales, movies, and more.
Teen-focused events are held at least once a week. Many of these events include a variety of nighttime themes such as dreams, astrology, stargazing, relaxation, and more. Events for teens culminate in the End-of-Summer Teen After Hours.
A detailed list of all events, clubs, and storytimes is available on the MPL website or at the library.
Groups visits are encouraged to visit the library during the summer. By calling the Children’s Department, groups can schedule one storytime per month presented by a Children’s Librarian. Large groups are also encouraged to let the Children’s Department know when they would like to visit so overcrowding in the Children’s Room can be avoided. Contact the department at 776-4741 ext. 125.
All events and activities at the library are free and open to the public.
More information can be found by visiting the library at 629 Poyntz Avenue, online, or by calling 785-776-4741.

More International Mysteries

by Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager
Last year I wrote about how the bestselling novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, had fueled an explosion of interest in Scandinavian crime novels and in international mysteries in general. They continue to be in high demand with readers, and publishers have responded with more and more hot titles from around the world.  Mysteries with an international setting combine exposure to unfamiliar cultures, the atmospherics of an exotic locale, and the intellectual challenges of a crime story into an absorbing and satisfying reading experience.  Here’s a list of more great international mysteries at Manhattan Public Library.
Greece:  Murder in Mykonos by Jeffrey Siger.  Newly promoted to police chief of the island paradise of Mykonos, Andreas Kaldis must catch a killer while navigating the island’s convoluted local politics and religious orthodoxy, and without risking the island’s tourism.
Turkey:  The Kiss Murder by Mehmet Murat Somer.  Called “a delightfully over-the-top drag queen campfest” by one reviewer, this unexpected and entertaining mystery set in Istanbul features a transvestite sleuth, a quirky and refreshingly human cast of characters, and delicious dialogue.
Denmark:  The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol.  A noir mystery investigating criminal mistreatment of women and children, written by two women and starring female characters.  The New York Times called this “another winning entry in the emotionally lacerating Scandinavian mystery sweepstakes.”
Mongolia:   The Shadow Walker by Michael Walters.  It’s winter in post-Soviet Mongolia, and Minister Negrui, Harvard MBA and head of the Serious Crimes Unit, is working with a visiting British police inspector to find a serial killer. Booklist recommends this series for readers “who like plots filled with global political complexity.”
Canada:  Still Life by Louise Penny.  Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec investigates a murder in the tiny village of Three Pines, south of Montreal.  This is a traditional procedural mystery, full of clues hidden in plain sight, red herrings, engaging characters, and complex relationships.  Author Penny has been compared to P. D. James, Ruth Rendell, Martha Grimes – and even Agatha Christie.
Ghana:  Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey.  Darko Dawson, police inspector in Ghana’s Criminal Investigation Division, has been sent to investigate the murder of a young female medical student and AIDS worker in a village outside the city of Accra. There he confronts powerful traditional beliefs, brutal local authority, and a long-standing mystery in his own life.
France:  Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker.  One reviewer wrote, “If you can’t afford that vacation in the south of France this year, Bruno may be the next best thing.”  In the quiet, friendly village of St. Denis, chief of police Bruno Courrèges, formerly with UN forces in Bosnia, hopes to find a peaceful life, but crime and the problems of contemporary French life inevitably intrude.
Israel:  The Collaborator of Bethlehem by Matt Rees.  For many years, Omar Yussef, a good man in a tragic and difficult place, has taught history to the children of Bethlehem.  When Israeli snipers kill a PLO soldier, one of Omar’s former students, a Palestinian Christian, is accused of being an Israeli collaborator and faces almost-certain retribution. Omar determines to save his friend, and his investigations take him deep into the complicated, violent, and corrupt world of the occupied West Bank.
Botswana: A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley.  Game park rangers in the Kalahari come across a hyena feasting on a human corpse, and Detective Kubu (“Hippopotamus”) Bengu is called in to investigate.  Kubu, like his namesake, is huge, amiable, determined, and ferocious.  Publishers Weekly said, “The intricate plotting, a grisly sense of realism, and numerous topical motifs (the plight of the Kalahari Bushmen, diamond smuggling, poaching, the homogenization of African culture, etc.) make this a compulsively readable novel.”
Saudi Arabia:  Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris. In this literary mystery-thriller set in contemporary Jeddah, the teenaged daughter of a wealthy family disappears days before her marriage and is soon found dead – and pregnant.  Her family turns to conservative Muslim Palestinian Nayir al-Sharqi to investigate the death, and he turns to Katya Hijazi, medical examiner and highly-educated modern woman, for assistance.  An engrossing look into the complexities and cultural struggles of modern Saudi society.
India:  The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall. Vish Puri is India’s Most Private Investigator and the Indian answer to Rumpole or Precious Ramotswe in this series full of humor, food, and delightful dialogue.  Nicknamed “Chubby,” Vish is “portly, persistent, and unmistakably Punjabi,” and he draws on up-to-date investigative techniques as well as ancient Indian principles in order to solve mysteries in modern Delhi.

Sustainable Gardening in Kansas

By Judi Nechols, Adult Services Librarian

Gardening in Kansas can be challenging at times—heat in summer, extreme cold and wind in winter, heavy rains or drought conditions. All of these factors combine to make it difficult to develop a thriving garden in our area. Using plants and techniques that are adapted to our local climate makes gardening easier, less costly and more sustainable. Choosing the right plants for the right place in your yard helps reduce the need for chemical fertilizers, pesticides and watering, as well as providing plants beneficial to native pollinating insects and birds.

Manhattan Public Library has several books that offer advice specific to gardening in the Midwest.

The Complete Guide to Western Plains Gardening by Lynn Steiner offers practical information and step-by-step photographs to help you through the basic techniques of gardening. Written for areas of the Midwest from Southern Canada through Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas, this book can help you choose just the right plants for your garden.

Prairie Lands Gardener’s Guide by Cathy Barash features 167 plants suggested for our area for a successful garden, ranging from flowering annuals and perennials to ornamental grasses. Full color photographs of each plant accompany advice on planting, growing and care of each plant, as well as sun requirements and, information on birds and other wildlife attracted by the plantings.

Perennials for Midwestern Gardens: Proven Plants for the Heartland by Anthony Kahtz contains 140 in-depth plant profiles as well as 260 additional recommendations. Each plant entry gives the  common name of the plant as well as descriptions of its flowers, soil and sun requirements, propagation, insect or disease problems, and recommendations on where and how to plant.

Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens: 200 Drought Tolerant Choices for All Climates by Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden is a guide to all types of plants selected for their wide adaptability. Although this book suggests plants for gardens across the U.S.,each of the entries discusses soil and sun needs, mature size, creative design ideas, and recommendations for companion plants.
Their suggestions make creating gardens that require less water easier and more practical.

Armitage’s Native Plants for North American Gardens by Allan M. Armitage is an excellent authoritative guide to native plants. Concise information on hundreds of species of native perennials and annuals is discussed, with entries including descriptions of plants and their habitats, hardiness and growing requirements. In addition, the author has included internet sites, addresses of nurseries, and other recommended publications for further information.

Xeriscape Handbook:  A How-To Guide to Natural, Resource-Wise Gardening by Gayle Weinstein focuses on growing plants in arid and semi-arid areas, conserving natural resources in our gardens, creating an awareness of the natural environment and applying the principles of xeriscaping to your garden. Besides suggestions for selecting the correct plants for the area, the author also discusses the landscaping and maintenance techniques that will help your low-water garden thrive.

Xeriscape Color Guide: 100 Water-wise Plants for Gardens and Landscapes by David Winger offers suggestions for adding color to your garden through all seasons of the year. This is a perfect book for gardeners wanting to conserve water and mix colors and textures of flowers, shrubs and trees in their landscape.

In addition to browsing the books  available at Manhattan Public Library, the best resource for local gardening advice is our Riley County K-State Research and Extension office, located in Room 220 at 110 Courthouse Plaza. Extension agents can offer lawn and gardening advice and have many KSU Extension publications available. Stop by their offices or check their web site to find a wealth of information about gardening in Kansas. Their publication “Low Maintenance Landscaping” is available online.

Check out one of our books or stop by the Riley County Extension office to learn more about sustainable and low maintenance gardening using the best plants for our area and have a beautiful garden even in the most difficult Kansas growing conditions.

Dystopian Fiction: Something’s Not Right with the World


by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” With these seemingly innocuous words George Orwell began his view of the near future in 1984. Orwell’s vision, published in 1949, was one of pervasive government surveillance by Big Brother, perpetual war, and continuous public mind control.

While Orwell’s novel is a classic in the genre of dystopian fiction, John Stuart Mill actually coined the word dystopia in 1868 by adding the Greek prefix for bad, abnormal, or difficult (dys), to utopia. Sir Thomas More had originated the word “utopia” in 1516, from the imaginary island he described in his book by the same name. More’s Utopia was an ideal place, a place of political and social perfection (utopia comes from the Greek for “not a place”). Dystopia describes the opposite.

The worlds described in dystopian fiction are deeply flawed. While the societies they picture may seem utopian on the face of things, the perfection of the utopian dream is often repressed by government or societal control over behaviors, thoughts, and even dreams.

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells is a classic example of late nineteenth-century dystopian fiction. Its time-traveling hero journeys to the far future where humankind has evolved into two species. In this ultimate example of the haves and the have-nots, the Eloi live on the surface of Earth, living an idyllic life of leisure without fear of hunger. The Morlocks, condemned to life underground, are monsters who feed on the Eloi whom they raise as cattle.

While dystopian fiction usually takes place in the future, the authors’ visions are often fueled by present events. In We, author Yevgeny Zamyatin described the One State with its ranks of “ciphers” all marching in step, living in rooms made of glass, with every moment planned by “The Table.” Zamyatin, writing his novel during the early 1920s in the fledgling Soviet Union, characterized the rising totalitarianism of his time.

Nobel laureate Sinclair Lewis did much the same thing in It Can’t Happen Here. In this story of a populist politician who becomes a dictator after his election, Lewis mirrored events in 1930s Nazi Germany.

Aldous Huxley, in his novel Brave New World portrayed the ultimate in planned society. In Huxley’s world new members are incubated in factories, where their intelligence, ability, and occupation are predetermined. There are no individual parents; society is the parent of all, and everyone has a specific place in the scheme of things.

Kurt Vonnegut painted a picture of a future run by engineers and scientists in Player Piano. In this author’s future, machines do much of the work once performed by men and women, making most of the population superfluous. Vonnegut offered a dystopian version of the great wealth and prosperity promised in the aftermath of the Second World War.

What is harmless and even helpful in the present day is taken to its furthest, most absurd extreme in dystopian fiction. In Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, for example, firemen burn books as a means to protect society from the harmful influences of ideas. Bradbury also predicted both the ubiquity of television and reality shows in his portrayal of a future where multiple large screen televisions are the rage, and the audience participates in the programs.

The popularity of dystopian fiction continues today. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and its sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, tell the tale of Panem (post-apocalyptic North America), and its capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. As punishment for an earlier rebellion, each year the districts are forced to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.

An extensive list of titles in the dystopian genre written between1835-2011 is available at wikipedia. Many titles in this genre from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are available as free e-books from sites such as Project Gutenberg, and Many Books. Many of the titles discussed in this article are available at Manhattan Public Library in print or electronic format. You can learn about the possibilities of your e-reader or tablet computer and the library’s e-book collection at free workshops on May 12. For more information, go to

Springtime in Paris

by Susan Withee
Adult Services Manager

Paris is a city of legendary charm and for centuries has been an international center of political power and social change, culture and the arts, science and learning, Epicureanism, sensuality, and fashion.  The past few years have seen a publishing explosion of books about Paris – from novels to cookbooks to travel guides, memoirs, and histories.

If you’re lucky enough to be planning a trip to Paris, Manhattan Public Library has travel guides galore to hotels and cafes, historic landmarks, flea markets, museums, famous neighborhoods, and hidden destinations.  And if, for the moment, you can only dream about making the trip, come to the library for the next best thing, books that will transport you there in spirit to discover the fascinating people, beautiful architecture, storied locales, and passionate joie de vivre of the City of Light.  Put an Edith Piaf CD on the player, pour a glass of Chablis, and treat yourself to a vicarious adventure in Paris.

To start your journey, check out Paris: Biography of a City by Colin Jones, a chronological history that is comprehensive in detail and scope. Or for a more creative approach try Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb which explores the geography and history of the city using surprising biographical vignettes of the famous and the obscure.  In The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, bestselling author and historian David McCullough tells of famous Americans, from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Mary Cassatt to Samuel Morse, who lived in and learned from Paris.

Andrew Hussey’s Paris: The Secret History, highlights the lives and hangouts of some of the city’s shadier and more subversive historical individuals and groups, and in The Invention of Paris: A History in Footsteps, author Eric Hazan takes us through the streets of radical Paris to reveal the riots and revolutions of the 19th and 20th century.

For a unique tour of the city’s architecture, check out Paris Then and Now by Peter Caine, a past-and-present photographic history of the city’s most famous buildings, or Paris: An Architectural History by Anthony Sutcliffe.

For a more personal vision of life in Paris, indulge in the memoirs of people who, for reasons of love, work, adventure, or desperation, have gone to Paris and learned for themselves what it’s like to live la vie en rose.  Paris in Mind: Three Centuries of Americans writing about Paris is an anthology of memoirs as well as essays and excerpts that is enjoyably eclectic and fun to read.  La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life by Elaine Sciolino, longtime Paris bureau chief of The New York Times, is a delightful memoir and treatise on how the French use the art of seductive charm not only in love and relationships, but in every other part of life as well, from politics to daily commerce.

Fans of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love will enjoy Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull or Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard. In his offbeat and funny book, The Sweet Life in Paris, renowned chef David Lebovitz tells of his adventures in moving to Paris to start a new life, and includes recipes for over fifty delicious dishes and desserts.  More memoirs to savor:  Paris in Love by Eloisa James; Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik; C’est la Vie: An American Conquers the City of Light by Suzy Gershman; and Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down by Rosecrans Baldwin.

Add texture and zest to your Paris experience by wandering off the beaten track with the following:  Forever Paris: 25 Walks in the Footsteps of Chanel, Hemingway, Picasso, and More by Christina Henry de Tessan; The Flaneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris by Edmund White; Walks Through Lost Paris: A Journey into the Heart of Historic Paris by Leonard Pitt; Quiet Corners of Paris by Jean-Christophe Napias; and Paris Discovered: Explorations in the City of Light by Mary McAuliffe.

For travelers based in Paris and looking for day trips beyond, try Paris to the Past: Traveling Through French History by Train by Ina Caro.  From the outstanding Vintage Departures series, Paris: The Collected Traveler is a must-read, a meaty traveler’s companion that includes excursions outside the city, expert advice and extensive recommendations for unique experiences, and an enticing list for further reading including novels, histories, memoirs, cookbooks, and guidebooks.  Bon voyage.

I Geek my day at 2012 KLA

>by Janene Hill
Young Adult Librarian

“I Geek Kansas Libraries”
That was the theme of the 2012 Kansas Library Association Conference in Wichita, which took place last Wednesday through Friday. The annual convention is touted as the state’s premier opportunity for librarians to gather, learn, and network, then “return to your library recharged and energized.”

I hope you will endulge me while I take today’s column to walk you through a few of the highlights from Day 1 for me at this year’s convention.

7:12 Car loaded, breakfast eaten, car gassed up and audiobook cued up. Guess I’m ready to go.

I’m listening to The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. A Young Adult book that I still haven’t quite figured out but is a little paranormal, a little science fiction and some fantasy. A long trip will be great for seeing how this thing turns out.

9:25 Conference registration complete. Unfortunately, I chose to enter at the completely opposite of the end of the convention center. I’m sure I’ve already gotten a mile of walking in for the day. The trek did, however, allow me to see several friends and colleagues along the way.

9:33 Putting the convention badge around my neck is an action that always instantly gets me excited for the upcoming days.

This year’s theme “I Geek Kansas Libraries” is derived from the national awareness campaign sponsored by OCLC, a nonprofit library cooperative, and by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The campaign is dedicated to spreading the word about the vital role of public libraries and raising awareness about the funding issues many public libraries face. The State Library of Kansas has co-sponsored the initiative since December 2010.

9:36  Stopped by the Gift Basket Raffle table on my way and drop a few bucks to support Kansas Library Association Educational Foundation, and take a stab at possibly winning some good loot (I really would enjoy that relaxation-themed basket!).

10:08 First session of the day has begun. Listening to the very in-depth introduction of Cory Doctorow. This guy is smart, accomplished, and busy!

Doctorow is the author of the best-selling YA book Little Brother. His biography says he considers himself a science fiction author, activist, journalist, and blogger (he is the co-editor of He is known for speaking out about copyright, technology issues, and other hot-button topics relating to information sharing.

10:22 Cory says when writing, finishing in the middle of a sentence gives you a starting point for the next day. All authors have their own methodology and it is always interesting to hear how a writer works.

10:42 Realized Cory is wearing some pretty quirky black and white striped slacks. A little whim that makes me appreciate him just a little more.

11:35 A panel of authors (including Doctorow) tout the importance of libraries in the art of “hand-selling” a book. It is reassuring to hear author appreciation for librarians’ efforts to get books into the hands of those who may not otherwise access them.

12:52 Finished eating at Ty’s Diner just west of downtown with some co-workers. Great burger and fresh-cut fries. I recommend it if you like a little bit of a dive, hometown, old-school burger joint.

1:27 Networking with other Young Adult/Teen Services Librarians from across the state at the Young Adult Roundtable Meeting. It is always reassuring to know there are others out there trying to accomplish the same things as you.

2:14 Hearing how Pittsburg Public Library reorganized their non-fiction into categories based on subject. It’s such an interesting concept. Not without it’s ups and downs though. Listening to the presenter, PPL’s Director, is fun. She’s really energetic and inspiring.

3:18 I’m getting all sorts of great ideas of new and fun ways to approach reader’s advisory for teens. Look out Manhattan Middle School kids – this year’s pre-summer visits are going to be different and fun!

3:35 “Life is too short to read books you don’t like.” One of my favorite rules of thumb regarding books.

4:41 In the past half an hour I’ve been mistaken for a Hotel manager and been called ‘young miss’. I’m not sure which one I was more flattered by – looking like I could be in charge or being thought of as young by someone around my same age. A nice change from all of the teens who think I’m “old”.

5:02 Trying not to spill my popcorn all over the table as I munch and type. Whoever decided popcorn and lemonade would make a good pre-supper snack is brilliant! Now, if we could just pull that huge container with the cheesy popcorn over to our table without anybody noticing…

7:15 Pull into the hotel room for the night. Kick off shoes, dump bags, and hook up the laptop to check email and Facebook. Then get down to work – have to make sure I’m ready for both of my presentation sessions tomorrow.

10:28 Done with a last run-through for tomorrow’s presentations. It’s not the actual presenting I worry about, it is wanting to make sure the audience is engaged and entertained and that the presentation is the right length. It’s the little things that make or break presentations like this. If all else fails – the candy I’m providing should smooth over the rough parts.

11:18 Put the finishing touches on this column. Now it is time for bed. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings and find lots of good ideas to bring back to do my part in making Manhattan Public Library an even better place.

Thanks for joining me in my day at KLA.

Library Services You May Have Missed

>by Linda Henderson
Adult Services Librarian

Have a new E-Reader?  Want to know how to use your E-Reader?   Want to download e-books and audio books to your mobile device?  Manhattan Public Library scheduled four help sessions in April which, to our delight, filled quickly!  If you didn’t get the news in time to schedule one of these sessions, please let us know at  776-4741, ext. 200, weekdays  between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. , or e-mail Marc Nash at .  If people indicate an interest, another training session may be scheduled in May.  We also offer individual help sessions.

Manhattan Public Library offers free downloadable e-books, audio books, music, and videos on our homepage at  Click on the Sunflower E-Library  icon and log in with your Manhattan Public Library card.  In the “Getting Started” box, you will find “Help/FAQs” which offer a tour, help with downloading, and information about lending periods.  The many compatible devices are listed on the website with helpful explanations. You can download available items, keep a “wish” list for future use, or place items on hold for future downloads.

Manhattan Public Library also offers one-hour computer use classes, one-on-one  with a librarian, to learn Mouse Basics, Beginning Computers, Intro to  E-mail, using the Internet, and navigating Manhattan Public Library’s online catalog.  We will also help you learn to use the library’s online resources listed under the Research tab on the MPL website, covering subjects like basic auto repair, genealogy searches, learning another language, business and investment, career resources, test preparation, and more .  World Book Encyclopedia is also free online, and phone numbers and addresses nationwide are available on Reference USA.   You can make an appointment for a class at the Information Desk on 1st floor, or by calling 785-776-4741, ext.  173, or via e-mail: 
For local history research, Manhattan and some Riley County newspapers are available on microfilm at the library, beginning in the late 1850’s.  Many microfilms are now indexed, which makes name-searching easier.  Manhattan Public Library has new computerized microfilm readers which allow much better viewing, adjustment of the image for darkness and size, and the ability to isolate specific articles for printing.  Articles may be printed in the library, or may be e-mailed to your home computer or added to a flash drive.  Library staff are available to help you get started.

If MPL does not own an item you want, you have two options.  For recently published materials, you may place a Request for Purchase at the Information or Reference Desk or from the Manhattan Public Library website.  For other items, you may fill out an Interlibrary Loan request at the Information or Reference Desks or on the library’s website.  To place your own interlibrary loan requests online, you will first need to register in person at the Information Desk,  at the Reference Desk or by calling 785-776-4742, ext . 141 or ext. 173.  If the item is available from other libraries in Kansas, there is no charge for the service.  If the item is requested from a library in another state, the lending library may charge for the service.  An active MPL Library card is required.

Homebound Book delivery services are available if you have physical limitations and are unable to come to the library.  Once a month, an Adult Services librarian will bring a selection of books based on your reading preferences and pick them up the following month.  There is a simple application form which can be mailed to you.  Again, you will need an active MPL card.  Please call 785-776-4741, ext. 141 or e-mail for details.

Your Manhattan Library Card Patron Account offers a number of services—by logging into your account with your library card number and your pin number (the last four digits of your phone number), you can review your account, renew books if no one else has a hold on the item, check due dates , check on your “hold requests” and any fines or fees.   Did you know that you have the option to keep a list of the books you check out? You can also make your own lists of interesting items for the future.  Adult Services staff will be happy to show you how to use any of these options.

A Century of Memories: The RMS Titanic

>By Marcia Allen
Technical Services & Collections Manager

    She was the pride of the White Star Line.  Built over the course of two years in the shipyards of Belfast, the RMS Titanic was not only the largest ship afloat at the time, but she was also labeled “unsinkable,” due partly to her watertight compartments. On her maiden voyage she carried a wide mix of passengers: steerage quarters were filled with new immigrants, and upper levels hosted the wealthy and famous.  She sailed on April 10, 1912 and ran into disaster in the North Atlantic in the late hours of April 15, 1912.  While her initial collision with an iceberg was not considered lethal, the fact that some five of her 16 airtight compartments were compromised proved fatal.   In a little over two hours, the ship foundered and sank, leaving some 1500 people of over 2200 passengers to perish in the icy sea.
    This month marks the 100th anniversary of that terrible tragedy.  For those who curious to learn more, there are countless resources available designed to inform about the ship’s specifications, the passenger lists, and the even the resulting courtroom investigations. We can read of survivor testimonials and burial sites for the unfortunate, as well as efforts to salvage the wreckage.
    Of course, Walter Lord’s 1955 fascinating book, entitled A Night to Remember, remains a classic.  Lord’s account follows the passengers and the crew as each faced the disaster in his or her own fashion. Destined to become a film of the same name, this story remains among the more famous of the retellings.
    Dr. Robert Ballard is considered a scientific authority on the event, given his expertise in locating and exploring the wreckage.  With the aid of a small robotic submarine, Ballard was able to locate the debris field that others had been unable to pinpoint for so long.  Titanic Revealed, a haunting dvd documentary, recalls Ballard’s original discovery.  Ballard also assembled an excellent picture book of photographs taken during his exploration.  Called Titanic: The Last Great Images, the book offers us eerie glimpses of the crusted bow and the battered remains of children’s shoes found on the ocean floor.  The book also offers period photos taken both during the ship’s construction and as she departed.
    Another beautifully arranged book of photographs, Titanic: An Illustrated History, involves the work of author Don Lynch.  Among other highlights, Lynch presents a foldout of the ship’s layout and interior shots of the first class staircase, the second-class public rooms and the third-class dining room.  The book also supplies a valuable overview of the tragedy as it unfolded.  Readers can even see the position of various lifeboats over the course of the sinking.
    For those who seek a more personal look at the tragedy, Titanic Voices: Memories from the Fateful Voyage seems the perfect book.  Donald Hyslop, Alastair Forsyth and Shelia Jemima assembled this fine collection of letters, photos and testimonials.  Of particular interest are the personal recollections supplied by the many survivors and the heartbreaking photographs of various memorials, such as the White Star Company’s church service in Southampton.
    For those who wish to do more reading on the event, Stephanie Barczewski’s Titanic: A Night Remembered includes detailed biographies of some of the dead.  Among them are the ship’s captain, Edward Smith, and band member Wallace Hartley, who played music to the end.
And Brad Matsen, author of Titanic’s Last Secrets, adds more to what we know by retelling the explorations of John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, who not only investigated the wreckage of the Titanic, but also the remains of the Britannic. 
     Interested in one of this year’s titles?  Shadow of the Titanic by Andrew Wilson is one of the finer offerings.  Wilson’s take is unique, however, in that he conveys the dismal lives of the survivors after the collision. So many suffered from what we now recognize as survivors’ guilt.   For example, Madeleine Astor, widow of John Jacob Astor, went on to marry several more times and eventually lost her portion of the Astor fortune.  Duff Gordon, one of the many wealthy, never overcame rumors that he had paid lifeboat rowers to ignore those struggling in the icy waters.
     Reflection on the fate of the Titanic leads to thoughts on the nature of heroism, vulnerability, and randomness of chance.  The library has an excellent collection of titles that can offer you more about that fateful trip aboard the pride of the White Star Line.  

>Busy Spring “Break” ahead; Call for Teen Volunteers


by Janene Hill

There’s no Breaking this Spring at Manhattan Public Library! While there are no regular storytimes this week, several events have been planned for all ages to help keep the family occupied while school is out.

Events begin this afternoon as a Saxophone Quartet from Fort Riley’s 1st Division Band performs at MPL. This is the third time a group from the Band has made an appearance at the library and performances are always enjoyable. The quartet performs in the Auditorium beginning at 2 p.m.

Also today, the weekly R.E.A.D. With Dogs program takes place in the Storytime Room of the Children’s Department from 2 to 4 p.m. During this program, children can read to a certified therapy dog which gives them the opportunity to practice and enjoy reading in a fun, non-judgmental environment. Pre-registration is not required, but participants are asked to sign up for a time slot upon arrival.

Tuesday, children are invited to join K-State Riley County Extension staff, Gregg Eyestone and Ginny Barnard, for the How Does Your Garden Grow? event at 2 p.m. in the Auditorium. Kids will hear fun stories and learn how plants grow. Participants will also get to make a garden craft and seed tape.

Wednesday the fun with a G-rated Kids’ Movie beginning at 10 a.m. in the Auditorium. In this movie, a bear named Pooh wakes up absolutely famished, but has no honey. Pooh is joined in the Hundred Acre Wood by friends Tigger, Rabbit, Piglet, Owl, Kanga, Roo, and Eeyore, who has lost his tail.

Everyone can participate in Make & Take Crafts on Wednesday afternoon. This come-and-go event takes place from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Auditorium. Crafting stations will be set up for preschoolers through teens. Parents are welcome to join in the fun.

For the older crowd, the Young Adult Department hosts a Hunger Games Event on Thursday beginning at 6:30 p.m. The evening will include trivia, a Cornucopia Challenge, themed snacks, Tribute Training activities, and door prize drawings for books, a poster, and movie tickets. Hunger Games fans of all ages are welcome.

Also Thursday evening is the monthly TALK Program. This month’s featured book is The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. The book discussion begins at 7 p.m. in the Groesbeck Room.

The week winds down on Friday as Lightning McQueen and his best friend Mater travel overseas for the World Grand Prix. This Kids’ Movie is rated G and begins at 2 p.m. in the Auditorium.

Call for Teen Volunteers

Teen Volunteers play an important role in the success of Summer Reading Programs at Manhattan Public Library. Having teen volunteers throughout the summer makes the experience more fun for participants and less stressful for staff. Kids are proud to speak and interact with the teenagers and staff are ever-grateful for the priceless assistance of the teens.

While being a vital attribute to the summer’s success, volunteers are expected to be dependable, responsible workers who are able to work independently and/or with minimal supervision. Teens gain valuable work experience while having fun, earning service hours, making professional contacts, and learning about the library. Many volunteers also experience a boost of self-esteem and sense of involvement through their work at the library.

Duties vary throughout the summer, but most notably, volunteers work at the Summer Reading Prize Desks where they help children and teens register for Summer Reading and pick up prizes throughout the summer.

Other tasks include a variety of things such as assisting with preparations for storytimes and clubs, assisting with programs and clubs, helping keep book shelves organized and cleaned, along with numerous other responsibilities.

Teen Volunteers must be between the ages of 13 and 17 as of May 25, 2012.  Workers may be on duty 2 to 10 hours per week from the last week of May through the last week of July.

Other qualifications and expectations are listed on the Informational Brochure.

Applications must be completed and turned in at the Information Desk by Monday, May 7. Candidates will be required to participate in an interview prior to being offered a position in the program. A maximum of 15 volunteers will be accepted as MPL Summer Teen Volunteers.

Questions about the program can be directed to Janene Hill, Young Adult Librarian at or 785-776-4741 ext. 170.

In Honor of Willing Volunteers


By Marcia Allen
Technical Services & Collections Manager
    The 2012 Manhattan Library Association Book Sale, which took place last weekend, is one of the busiest annual events the library experiences.  Parking spots were at a premium, as shoppers selected used books, cd’s and dvd’s either removed from the library’s collection or donated by generous patrons of the library.  The sales generated by this three-day event surpassed all previous years, and those patiently waiting in line seemed to be enjoying the experience.  But it takes a monumental effort for that sale to take place.
    Planning and organizing the event, not to mention arranging it and building a schedule for volunteers, take months of work.  Fortunately, the library relies on the expertise of Gary Jeffrey and Bob Newhouse, Book Sale Co-Chairs, who devote countless hours to the project and spend the duration of the sale overseeing all the details.  These two gentlemen worked with the hardworking volunteers from the Flint Hills Job Corps to set up tables and haul boxes of materials from the basement.  They also coordinated efforts with the Rotaractors and the young men from Tau Kappa Epsilon who cleaned up after the sale.  And the co-chairs answered questions, tidied up inventory, and oversaw sales whenever they had time.  Grateful words are insufficient for the work these two performed.
    Heather Lansdowne, President of MLA, also invested time and effort into the project.  Heather not only helped set up the event, but also worked as a cashier for sales.
And Carol Oukrop, MLA Publicity Chair, made sure the event had plenty of publicity around town via signage and announcements, and she worked as a cashier for much of the sale itself.

    Those weren’t the only folks to make the sale a success; there were lots of other volunteers who worked shifts, by greeting buyers and helping them out with their purchases.  There were those who organized tables and cleaned up throughout the process.  There were folks who made sure the auditorium and the Groesbeck Room were clean afterwards.  So many people were kind enough to step in and make a daunting effort manageable for all, and the members of the MLA Board certainly deserve very special thanks for all their unselfish work.
    What happens when the sale is over?  MLA uses the funds generated by the event to support library programs and collections.  If you’ve participated in summer reading or the TALK book discussions (going on right now), you’ve benefited from MLA.  If you’ve signed up for a “One Book, One Community” reading program, you’ve benefited from MLA.  If you’ve admired the beautiful wooden benches or the stunning Aesop’s Fables Trellis in the atrium and wondered how they were funded, MLA was involved.  And MLA has contributed to collections’ budgets in purchasing materials beyond what annual library budgets allow.
    Lest you think the annual book sale is MLA’s only source of revenue, consider Rosie’s Corner, located near the Technology Center on the west side of the library.  Used books, dvd’s and cd’s are arranged on that site, so that buyers have year-round access to used materials in good condition.  Wilma Schmeller, coordinator of Rosie’s Corner, spends hours each week sorting and pricing materials so that there is always a fresh supply of available materials.
    If you’re not already a member of MLA, there is always time to join.  Membership forms are available at the Information Desk on the first floor, in the business office on the second floor, and through the library website.  Varying membership costs and levels of involvement are readily available.  MLA recruited lots of new members during this year’s book sale, and the organization eagerly welcomes any additional interested people.  We invite you to become one of the many who contribute to the depth of service that MPL offers.

Custer in Kansas: Breaking in the Boy General


By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

George Armstrong Custer is one of the most iconic figures in the history of the American West. Colorful and controversial, he was brevetted a general at age 23, a Civil War hero, and dead on the plains of Montana at age 36. Most people know the story of his and the 7th Cavalry’s defeat at the Little Big Horn, but perhaps fewer people realize that Custer spent several years in Kansas.

From November 1866 until 1871, while posted to Fort Riley, Kansas, Custer found some of his greatest success and failure as a commander. Custer’s years in the state are the focus of author Jeff Barnes’ program, “Custer in Kansas: Breaking in the Boy General,” which he will present at the Manhattan Public Library on Wednesday, March 7, at 7 p.m.

Barnes is the author of the newly published “The Great Plains Guide to Custer.” In this historical travel guide, Barnes pinpointed 85 forts, battles and other sites west of the Mississippi associated with the legendary general. A former newspaper reporter and editor, Barnes writes and lives in Omaha. He is a Nebraska native, a journalism graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a frequently requested speaker with the Nebraska Humanities Council.

There is a wide range of titles and resources available to Custer history buffs. Websites of interest include, featuring Custer’s genealogy, a photo gallery, and a list of curious questions and topics. Jeff Barnes’ website,, includes links to historic sites associated with Custer.

Manhattan Public Library has dozens of titles about Custer’s life and the Little Bighorn battle, and hundreds of titles about the history of the American West. In The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, author Nathaniel Philbrick sketched the two larger-than-life antagonists: Sitting Bull, whose charisma and political savvy earned him the position of leader of the Plains Indians, and George Armstrong Custer, a man with a reputation for fearless and often reckless courage. Philbrick reminded readers that the Battle of the Little Bighorn was also, even in victory, the last stand for the Sioux and Cheyenne Indian nations.

A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn by Jim Donovan explored the disastrous battle and the finger-pointing that was its aftermath. Custer, conveniently dead, took the brunt of the blame. The truth, however, was far more complex, and this book related the entire story, bringing to light details of the U.S. Army cover-up.

In The Day the World Ended at Little Bighorn, Joseph Marshall revealed a picture of the battle previously available only in the Lakota oral tradition. He explored the significance of the battle to the Lakota, and considered the consequences it had for all Native Americans.

Louise Barnett investigated the life, death, and mythic afterlife of Custer in her book Touched by Fire. Barnett traced the complexities of Custer’s personality and attempted to understand how this famed military tactician waged an impossible attack at the Little Bighorn.

Evan S. Connell’s Son of the Morning Star is part study of Plains Indian life, part military history, and part character study. This author used meticulous research and a novelist’s eye to tell a story of heroism, foolishness, and savagery.

Elizabeth Bacon Custer remained a devoted widow for fifty-seven years after her husband’s death. She was an outspoken advocate for her husband’s legacy. The myth of Custer, his place as an iconic figure in American history, is largely due to her efforts. Elizabeth Custer, or Libbie as she was known, wrote two books about the experiences and hardships she shared with the General. Tenting on the Plains concerns the Custers’ experiences immediately after the Civil War in Texas and Kanas. In Boots and Saddles, Libbie wrote about their final years on the plains at Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota Territory.

Finally George Armstrong Custer also wrote a book about his experiences, My Life on the Plains: or, Personal Experiences with Indians. In this collection of his magazine articles, Custer recounted his life in the years immediately following the Civil War and revealed his often ambiguous attitudes towards the Indians.

If you’re interested in George Armstrong Custer and Kansas, you won’t want to miss “Custer in Kansas: Breaking in the Boy General,” presented by Jeff Barnes at the Manhattan Public Library on Wednesday, March 7, at 7 p.m.

Same story, different cover


By Emilyn Linden
Adult Services Librarian

It’s a popular belief that there are no new stories, only different ways of telling them. And sometimes that isn’t such a bad thing. The old myths and fairy tales became popular for a reason. They are stories that tell us about people’s deepest desires and fears. Retellings of the old myths and fairy tales go in and out of style periodically. This is one of those periods of popularity, and there have been some recent imaginative, worthwhile retellings.

If you’re interested in reading retellings by some of the best writers currently writing fantasy, horror, and young adult fiction, you’ll want to pick up Happily Ever After, an anthology of 33 myth and fairy tale retellings from the past two decades. Some of the authors included are Susanna Clarke, Gregory Maguire, Kelly Link, Garth Nix and Holly Black.

A new book that came out in February of this year that has received a lot of attention is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. The novel is based on the Russian folk tale, transplanted to 1920s Alaska. Jack and Mabel are a childless couple who move to Alaska from Pennsylvania to start over after a heartbreaking miscarriage. After two years they are each slowly succumbing to despair. To distract themselves from their worries one evening, they build a girl out of snow. The next day the snow girl is gone and Jack sees a real, seemingly feral, child running in the woods.

Another book set in the winter but meant for middle-grade readers, is Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. Jack and Hazel have been best friends for five years, so when Jack suddenly stops talking to Hazel, she’s devastated. We find out a shard of magic mirror has made its way into Jack’s heart, and he later disappears without a trace. Hazel must brave the cold Minnesota winter and enter the woods to find her friend. This imaginative tale contains many allusions to beloved children’s stories from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to A Wrinkle in Time.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer is meant for teenage readers, but it’s proved very popular with adults, too. This may be because the title character, Cinder, is a cyborg mechanic who has a hopeless romantic of an android for a sidekick. Cinder is a second-class citizen, as are all cyborgs, in this futuristic retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale. Cinder lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters and supports her family through her work as a mechanic. Her reputation reaches Prince Kai, the heir to the throne, who brings her an android to repair.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman is not a new novel. It originally came out in 2001, but a new, enhanced edition came out in 2011. This is a novel about the complex religious and mythological heritage of America and is, therefore, complex and meandering itself. Shadow is released a few days early from prison when his wife dies in a car accident. He accepts a job from Mr. Wednesday, a former god, and embarks on a trip across America, where he encounters the old gods and creatures of myth immigrants brought with them to the United States. If you’ve read American Gods before, it’s probably worth it to pick it up again, since the 10th Anniversary edition has a new introduction and contains Gaiman’s preferred text.

The end of the world seems like a good place to end this list. In Norse mythology, the end of the world comes with the deaths of the gods and the world being squeezed by a serpent that has grown so large she encircles the world and crushes it. Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt takes this story and presents it through the eyes of a young girl living through World War II who has been presented with a book of the Norse myth Asgard and the Gods.


The Cure for the Downton Abbey Blues


by Susan Withee
Adult Services Manager

If you’re one of the millions of viewers of the PBS Masterpiece series Downton Abbey, no doubt you’re feeling the first pangs of loss on the brink of tonight’s second-season finale.  Downton Abbey is an award-winning, lavishly-detailed period production and costume drama which has a stellar cast and a legion of fans.  The series’ first season opens in Edwardian England in 1912 at Downton Abbey, a stately English country house, and follow the lives of the wealthy Crawley family and their servants as the clouds of World War I loom and break.   Season two takes the story through the upheaval and tragedy of the war back to peacetime, but to a world where personal relationships, social structures, and politics have all been irrevocably altered.  Although season three is in production, scheduled to air first in Britain in autumn 2012 and later in the U.S, the coming months will be a long, long wait for diehard fans.  But it’s my happy task to tell you that Manhattan Public Library has plenty of diversions to help get you through the coming Downton-Abbey-less months. 
Firstly, if you’ve missed out on the series so far, you have plenty of time to catch up, starting with Downton Abbey’s first season on DVD and moving on to season two, both now at Manhattan Public Library.  There is also a companion book to the series, The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes, filled with photographs and illustrations, production sketches and research.   Downton Abbey was filmed at Highclere Castle, the real-life ancestral home of the Earls of Carnarvon, and screenwriter Julian Fellowes drew inspiration from the history of the great home and the life of Almina, the Countess of Carnarvon during the same time period.  Read more about the Almina’s life and times and the history of the castle, including its use as a wartime hospital, in Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: the Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Fiona, current Countess Carnarvon.  Downton Abbey fans can also check out Below Stairs: the Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir that Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey by Margaret Powell, a book which rocketed to best-seller status in the UK following the airing of Downton Abbey.          
While you’re waiting for DA season three, why not revisit that other classic PBS series focusing on the intertwined lives of the upper class and the servant class, Upstairs, Downstairs?  The library has all five seasons of the series, which originally aired in the 1970s and enjoyed an audience of nearly one billion viewers in over 40 countries.  Also set during the Edwardian Age, Upstairs, Downstairs takes place in a large London townhouse, home to the wealthy Bellamy family.  In its entirety, the combined seasons of this series offer an intimate view of the lives of both masters and servants from 1903 to 1930, as well as a panoramic overview of the social and technological changes taking place during those years.

    For a different and highly-entertaining twist on life in a great English country house, check out the 2001 Robert Altman film, mystery-drama-comedy Gosford Park.  This time landed gentry, their upstairs guests, and the downstairs servants gather for a “shooting party” in 1932 and are joined by members of the local village police constabulary as mayhem, drama, and high-jinks ensue.  In addition to the interdependence of privileged and servant classes, the film subtly explores changing sexual mores of the time and the impact of the First World War.  With a script by Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes, the film features a large ensemble cast that includes the indomitable Maggie Smith as well as Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Gambon, Stephen Fry, Derek Jacobi, Clive Owen, Alan Bates, and others.
Or look for Flambards, another great series on DVD at the library, which was based on the novels of  K. M. Peyton and originally aired on PBS in 1980.  Orphaned heiress Christina Parsons is sent to live with her tyrannical, bitter Uncle Russel and his two sons at their neglected and decaying country estate, Flambards. Speculation is that Russell plans to marry her to brutal, fox-hunting-obsessed son Mark and then use her inheritance to restore Flambards and the family’s finances.   Christina, however, befriends second son, William, who is involved with early experiments in flight, hoping to become an aviator. 
    And finally, treat yourself to John Galsworthy’s absorbing, monumental work (in print or on DVD), The Forsyte Saga, which chronicles the lives and trials of generations of the upper-middle-class Forsyte family from 1906 into the 1920s.      

All in the Family of Authors


by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

     The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree; sometimes literary talent doesn’t either.  Consider the Bronte family. Most people have heard of the sisters: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne. Charlotte is best known for Jane Eyre, with its portrayal of a strong, rational female character (which was something new at the time). Charlotte published under the pen name Currer Bell.

     Emily Bronte’s only novel, Wuthering Heights, the story of the doomed love of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, was met with mixed reviews on publication. It provided a stark depiction of mental and physical cruelty. It’s not surprising that Emily also published under a pseudonym, Ellis Bell.

     Anne, the youngest sister, wrote two novels. Agnes Grey, dealing with the oppression of women and governesses, was an autobiographical novel paralleling Anne’s own experience as a governess. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, with its depictions of alcoholism and debauchery disturbed the sensibilities of nineteenth-century readers. 

     The Bronte sisters were not the only gifted members of their family. Their brother, Branwell, was also a poet and artist. The head of the family, Patrick Bronte, an Anglican curate, was a published poet, as well as contributor to a biography of his daughter, Charlotte. Tragically, the father of the Bronte clan survived all his children.

     The twentieth century is also replete with writing families. Stephen King, the master of horror, is married to Tabitha King, author of several novels including Caretakers, The Book of Reuben, and Candles Burning. The writing talent doesn’t stop there. The King’s sons are also writers. Joe Hill has published several graphic novels, the horror novel Heart-Shaped Box (a chip off the old block), and the dark fantasy Horns, as well as a collection of stories 20th Century Ghosts. His younger brother, Owen King, is the author of a book of stories We’re All in This Together and has recently sold his first novel to Scribner’s.

     John Steinbeck, winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature, and author of such American classics as The Grapes of Wrath, and East of Eden is the father of Thomas Steinbeck. Thomas is the author of Down to the Soundless Sea, In the Shadow of the Cypress, and the forthcoming Silver Lotus. Much like his father’s, Thomas Steinbeck’s books chronicle events of California life. 

     Sons aren’t only following in their fathers’ footsteps; sometimes they’re following in their mothers’. Sandra Brown, well known and prolific author of mysteries and romance novels (Lethal, Chill Factor, Thursday’s Child) is the mother of Ryan Brown. The son has written a thriller entitled Play Dead, a zombie shocker combining football and the undead.  
     P. J. Tracy, author of the Monkeewrench series, is actually the pseudonym for the mother-daughter writing team of Patricia Lambrecht (Mom) and Traci Lambrecht. Titles in the series featuring the Monkeewrench crew of computer geeks include Shoot to Thrill, Snow Blind, and Dead Run.

     Kellerman is a name well known to mystery aficionados. Jonathan Kellerman, whose Alex Delaware series includes When the Bough Breaks, Mystery, Bones, and Deception is married to Faye Kellerman. Faye is the author of the Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus series, including Sacred and Profane, Hangman, and The Mercedes Coffin. As a team, the husband and wife have collaborated on Capital Crimes and Double Homicide. As if this weren’t enough, the Kellermans’ son, Jesse, has written a few mystery/suspense titles himself, including The Executor, The Genius, and Trouble.

     Want more? How about Frank Herbert, creator of the Dune series of science fiction novels? Frank’s son, Brian Herbert, took over the franchise after his father’s death. Kingsley Amis, English novelist, poet, and critic, author of Lucky Jim and The Anti-Death League, is the father of Martin Amis, author of The Pregnant Widow, Night Train, and other writings that explore the absurdities of the postmodern condition.

     If you are interested in reading theses titles, or other titles by these authors, visit the Manhattan Public Library. Or, for your convenience, access the catalog from home twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Selected titles from many of these authors are also available in electronic format as e-books or e-audiobooks. Visit the library’s website at for more information.