Entries from blogs tagged with “Lawrence”

Local Artist & Author Stephen T. Johnson Shares a Serendipitous Love of Letters

I have a deep sense of pride for our community’s most creative citizens; savoring local artists’ and authors’ works is often more satisfying than fine dining. Lawrence-based artist and author Stephen T. Johnson’s work is among the finest. His children’s picture books are award-winning: "A is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet" was named one of the Best Illustrated Books of the Year by the New York Times, and "Alphabet City" was the recipient of a Caldecott Honor, in addition to other accolades.

With Johnson’s newest book, "Alphabet School," you can enjoy a visual celebration featuring images from Lawrence area schools. Vivid imagery depicts letters of the alphabet in ordinary objects at schools to encourage a child’s curiosity, observation, and comfort with a new school environment. This book can also be used as a classroom companion with Johnson’s previous book, "Alphabet City."

This Sunday, August 28, Johnson will visit the library for a special storytime at 3:30 PM. He’ll talk about the making of "Alphabet School" and how many of the ideas in this book came from students. Kids will be called to find library objects that resemble letters, and whoever who finds the most will win a signed copy of Johnson’s book. Librarian Linda Clay will be reading stories, and there will be a craft for those who aren't searching for letters around the library. The Raven Book Store will have copies available of Stephen’s books at the event, including “Alphabet School,” “A is for Art,” and even a few copies of his highly interactive piece books like “My Little Blue Robot”.

If you can’t make it to the library, tune in to Kansas Public Radio on Sunday, September 11th at 7:00 PM to hear an interview with Johnson and a discussion of several other 2016 Kansas Notable Authors. You can also check out one of Johnson’s many fabulous public art pieces, such as “Freedom Rings” near Clinton Lake at the Wakarusa River Valley Heritage Museum in Bloomington Park.

He explains its concept and significance:

“Highly reflective circular hoops establish physically and conceptually the relationship of the Underground Railroad to the areas’ ten extinct and extant communities and revolve around a historical windmill tower, positioned in relation to the North Star, which functions as the focal point of the site.”

There is so much more to know about the work of Stephen T. Johnson; see his website here. He’s very involved in the community with his art: he is a finalist for public artwork at a new branch of the Johnson County Public Library, and he is teaching two drawing classes in the School of Architecture, Design & Planning at KU this fall. Johnson is also among the commissioned local artists selected for the East Ninth Street art project.

Upcoming opportunities to see Johnson’s art include the Lawrence Art Walk October 21- 23 and a solo show at the Cider Gallery in November. Check out more rich, illuminating books by Stephen T. Johnson and other picture books that are beautiful, educational, and fun for younger readers on this list in the library’s catalog: Books for Kids by Lawrence Authors.

- Shirley Braunlich is a Readers Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library


Local author Karen Vaughn talks T. rex with short story debut

It’s been a good month for Lawrence writers. Author Karen Vaughn brings us the most recent piece of local literature with her debut, "A Kiss for a Dead Film Star," a genre-blending collection of short stories.

Each story is tightly crafted with vivid and weird—yet oddly relatable—situations. In “The Piscine Age,” an aging couple, still deeply in love, must cope with the husband’s sudden and tragic growth of fish-like scales. It embodies themes of transformation, loss, and the unknowable mysteries of the world that surface throughout the collection as a whole.

Fans of writers like Karen Russell and George Saunders will especially enjoy "A Kiss for a Dead Film Star," but there’s something here for everyone in this artfully written collection of uncanny and human tales.

I was able to talk to with Karen about her work ahead of the book's release earlier this month:

EH:What are some of your influences?

KV: Obviously, I am a tremendous fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I remember reading "One Hundred Years of Solitude" for the first time, thinking, my God, I didn't know you were allowed to write like this. Other writer influences are Jeanette Winterson, Vonnegut, Yann Martel, Dostoevsky, and Francesca Lia Block. I'm also hugely inspired by film and the ways it can tell stories using purely visual language. Sergio Leone is very high on my list of favorite directors, as well as Guillermo del Toro, Danny Boyle, and Ridley Scott. Basically, I'm passionate about any art that attempts something truly visionary, whether or not it fully succeeds. I am probably the only person on earth who will defend Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain." Yes, it's crazy, but I love it!

EH: You have a background in medical writing, and the story collection is described as “psycho-medical-magical realism.” How do you go about incorporating the medical style in your fiction writing? Is it a natural tendency or something you actively weave in?

KV: I would say it's a natural tendency at this point, given my overexposure to medical language and my personal tendency toward hypochondria. But really I've always had a fascination with the workings of the body. It's this strange machine that propels us through the world, our whole experience is funneled through it, but in many ways, even to scientists, its processes are unknowable. Who knows what is happening inside our body at any particular moment? It might be battling a virus, or it might be growing an extra liver. I love the idea that somewhere, right now, there is someone experiencing some kind of evolutionary leap.

EH: Per your bio, I have to ask: what’s the famous eyeball issue?

KV: Ha! It was an issue of the journal I worked on that was devoted entirely to trauma of the eyeball. There were graphic pictures of all sorts of things: ruptures, hemorrhaging, etc. The highlight, though, was this wonderfully gruesome photograph of an eyeball with a fishhook stuck through it. I was inured to a lot of the gorier medical images by that point, but this one was so horrible that I had to stick a post-it note over the picture while I was editing it in order to keep my lunch down. That issue was notorious among the staff: it freaked out every single one of us.

EH: What are your favorite places in Lawrence to write?

KV: The Roost, Aimee's, Java Break, although lately, much of my writing has been done at home. I love coffee shops because there is almost always good music playing and there's a constant hum of conversation that makes it easier for me to immerse myself in my stories. They are also fantastic places to people watch.

EH: If you had to pick one of the six stories in the collection to adapt into a full-length novel, which would it be? It seems like a few of them have much more space to explore.

KV: That would probably be "A Kiss for a Dead Film Star," because it's my favorite story of the collection, and because I could honestly write about 1920s New York forever and never get tired of it. I did so much research for that story—I even visited Valentino's tomb!—and I'd love an excuse to do more poking around in libraries and cemeteries, gathering material. It could be my War and Peace.

EH: What are you working on right now, with your writing or otherwise?

KV: A lesbian gunslinger novel!

EH: What inspired “Still Life with Fossils” ? The premise seems both very specific and very unusual, to the point of the story feeling oddly real.

KV: My husband and I went to New York City a while back, and one of our stops was the American Museum of Natural History. In the dinosaur room, there was a skeleton of a fully-grown stegosaurus, and alongside it was this tiny skeleton of a baby stegosaurus. That just hit me in the gut and made me think of these creatures as real animals in a way I hadn't before. So I started writing about what that mama stegosaurus' experiences might have been, before and after her death, and then I added a T-Rex, because who doesn't love a T-Rex? I just love the idea of two dinosaurs having an ontological debate, because in a way it's no more ridiculous than human beings trying to resolve these difficult questions.

"A Kiss for A Dead Film Star" is available now at the library.

-Eli Hoelscher is a Reader’s Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


Take Two Anne Tylers and Call Me in the Morning

I have a new mantra. Here it is: Welcome to your old age, Randi. OK. So it’s more of a mantra phrase, but still, it’s the repetition that gives a mantra its calming mojo. I use it whenever I feel a twinge where I’ve not twinged before, whenever an injury doesn’t heal quite as quickly or neatly as it used to, and whenever there’s some change in my overall sense of myself — of the me I have grown used to over the years.

My fifties seemed to be the adolescence of old age: things changed, but not for the better; I worried that every small thing that went wrong or hurt was a harbinger of death. Here in my sixties, well, I don’t worry (as much) that every small thing that goes wrong or hurts is a harbinger of death; I accept that every small thing that goes wrong or hurts is a harbinger of death and, as unlikely as this may sound, it’s a comfort. Welcome to your old age, Randi.

Naturally this line of thought makes me think of books, specifically books that deal with aging. Not one of those books on how to age (as if we needed instructions), or how to fight aging (as if it were a battle), or how it’s the best time of your life (it’s not). I mean novels about aging.

The queen, in my opinion, of writing novels about aging is Anne Tyler. She writes about us with sweetness and quiet humor and familiarity (she’s 74 herself). She reveals with love the failures and fears that accompany getting older at the same time that she reveals the concomitant freedom and wisdom that can also follow. There’s no pity in her portrayals of humans grappling with the recognition of the inevitable, by which I mean, of course, death. Her stories are about aging people realizing something about their lives and dealing, in their own idiosyncratic ways, with the effects this revelation has on themselves and their families.

The revelations aren’t necessarily thunderous—no voice on high suddenly reveals a universal truth or the existence of a heaven—they’re more about the way memories suddenly permeate the present, about a surprising perspective on the way things turned out and the way they didn’t, about the way our perception of what it means to be an adult changes as we age. Not thunderous, no, but nonetheless potent.

My favorite of Anne Tyler’s books about aging people is "Back When We Were Grownups" (2001) whose main character, Rebecca Davitch, is dealing with the reality of being in her fifties and having become, as she laments, “the wrong person,” a thought, I imagine, that has hit all of us upside the head at some point. Tyler tells Rebecca’s story in gentle prose and with gentle humor. The writing is lyric, and the character population is human, and Rebecca is endearingly flustered as she attempts to go back to resurrect and follow the path that she believes would have led her to become the “right” person, the person she believes was meant to be.

Additionally, Tyler’s novel "A Spool of Blue Thread" (2015) is quite simply a perfect book. It’s perfect. The main characters are in their 70s, dealing with aging, with children who are less than perfect and still needy, with the stories we tell ourselves about our lives, and with the loss of self and the touch of dementia. The Whitshanks are a charming, flawed family, and Tyler acquaints us with them in words that are realistic but not dramatic, hard-hitting but not injurious and always affectionately humorous.

And so, if you are facing your own graying (or the graying of someone you love), may I suggest turning to Anne Tyler for a perspective adjustment? Her grace and her honesty can shepherd us all to a place where we can say with at least a wry curl of the lip and a knowing shake of the head, “Welcome to your old age, YOUR NAME HERE.”

-Randi Hacker is a public services assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


The Hour of Land Explores Shared Stories and Shared Space

They look pretty good for 100 years old, don’t they? Happy Birthday to our National Parks! Well, this doesn’t date the ageless glory contained within the parks, but rather the National Park Service, established on August 25, 1916.

Even now, there are parks that have not had their stories fully told; how did I not know about a parade of massive earthen bears lining a section of the Mississippi River? Hundreds of these centuries-old earthworks quietly reside at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa, one of the 412 units of the Park Service, and I have writer Terry Tempest Williams to thank for introducing me to them.

Good nature writers will introduce us to the unknown; better nature writers at the same time re-imagine the known. Terry Tempest Williams excels at such re-imagining, whether it be of landscapes, myths, politics, or, often, the intersection of the three.

Her new book, "The Hour of Land," takes us on a tour of 12 pieces of the U.S. National Park System, from the Gates of the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico, from Acadia to Alcatraz, all just in time for the Park Service’s centennial. The Hour of Land isn’t what I expected, but I should have known. Author of 15 books and innumerable essays and articles, Williams has written such different yet compelling works as "Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place," "Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert," "When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice," and "Leap," a meditation on Hieronymus Bosch and Mormonism. Note the subtitles– she may be labeled an environmentalist, but she’s always unpredictable.

The subtitle of her new book is “A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks.” The parks, monuments, and recreation areas she visits are not so much described; instead, they are used as campfires around which we sit while Williams tells stories. The “open air of democracy” is where she does her best reimagining, getting personal while at the same time discussing often-hidden histories. Some parks exist because their previous inhabitants were removed, she reminds us, as at Yosemite. People with deep pockets and agendas have funded parkland acquisition, as at Grand Teton and Acadia. And park stories have changed for the better, too, as at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, originally called Custer Battlefield National Monument.

Reimagining the present and future is where it gets really interesting. I particularly enjoyed Williams’ visit to Alcatraz National Recreation Area, where she and activist Tim DeChristopher viewed dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s installation, as well as her trip with her father to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, an intact island of grass in a stormy sea of fracking. She also describes wildfires in Glacier National Park that trapped her and her family even while the park’s namesake glaciers recede — a metaphor for our time.

To further inspire the reader, "The Hour of Land" is literally bookended by photos — Carleton Watkins’ 1870s image of El Capitan in Yosemite and Ansley West Rivers’ 2011 “Lunar Trace” from the Grand Canyon — and each chapter is accompanied by a gorgeous black and white image by a different photographer. The collection is then nicely gathered and annotated in the back.

Williams, usually with her husband or family, traversed many miles in the course of "The Hour of Land," revealing both the sheer diversity and beauty of our parks, and of her writing. Along the way she tips her hat to friends and influences, many of whom will be familiar to readers. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner was one, who said:

“If we preserved as parks only those places that have no economic possibilities, we would have no parks. And in the decades to come, it will be not only the buffalo and the trumpeter swan who need sanctuaries. Our own species is going to need them too. It needs them now.”

Now is the time to visit a National Park or two. From Aug. 25 to 28, in celebration of their 100th birthday, your National Parks are free! Get out there!

— Jake Vail is an Information Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


The Rules and the Exceptions of Reading

I’m a natural-born rule follower. If there’s a rule in place, it almost never occurs to me to ask why it’s there or whether it’s worth following; it’s a rule, so unless it’s a pile of ethical garbage, I’m probably going to follow it.

My preference for strong, clear guidelines in all things (Obligers, am I right?) even bleeds over into my reading habits. I’ll often set rules for myself about what I can and can’t read; it’s one of the reasons I’m so drawn to reading challenges, which lay out the rules in no uncertain terms: read books about these topics in this order. Ah, sweet, sweet order.

Some people would find this incredibly limiting, I know, but I find it tremendously freeing! I know my general preferences, my likes and dislikes, and so rather than spend lots of time trying to convince myself to enjoy a genre or style that just isn’t for me, I remind myself that Book X or Movie Y isn’t in the rules, and I steer myself toward the things that have a higher success rate.

But every rule has exceptions, and that’s what this post is about.

Rule #1: No audiobooks more than 12 hours long.

I resisted audiobooks for a long time, primarily because listening to them took me so much longer than just reading the book. I’m now a hard-core audiobook convert (thanks, Hoopla!), but I’ve found that 10-12 hours is my threshold of enjoyment. It doesn’t matter how much I’m loving the book or the performer; at about 12 hours, I’m ready to Swear Off Books Forever.

Sticking to that limit has led me to some pretty great shorter audiobooks. Some of my favorites:

● "The Crossover," by Kwame Alexander (2.25 hours)

● "Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe," by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (7.5 hours)

● "A Monster Calls," by Patrick Ness (4 hours)

● "Kill the Boy Band," by Goldy Moldavsky (7 hours)

The Exception: "The Book of Strange New Things," by Michel Faber (19.5 hours)

This sprawling novel follows a minister, Peter, who leaves his wife on earth to minister to an alien species living on a remote planet newly colonized by humans. It’s a dense, sprawling, layered novel containing dozens of characters, and the audiobook performer brings them all beautifully to life - including the alien species, who learn to speak English despite having no vocal chords.

Rule #2: No contemporary romances.

I’m a big romance reader, but I veer hard toward the historical side of things. Whatever issues keep the protagonists apart are usually easier for me to accept in a historical setting than in a contemporary one. It’s the difference between “ooh, this is ripping my heart out, when are they going to kiss?” and “UGH, Big Issue Z isn’t THAT big a deal, just get over yourselves and make out.”

Here are four historicals that make me swoon:

● "Ravishing the Heiress," by Sherry Thomas (my favorite romance of all time!)

● "Follow My Lead," by Kate Noble

● "Think of England," by K.J. Charles

● "The Duchess War," by Courtney Milan

The Exception: "Bet Me," by Jennifer Crusie

This novel is incredibly funny and charming, full of interesting characters acting in believable ways. The leads have a wonderful, sexy chemistry that builds up naturally and never descends into We Cannot Be Together Because syndrome, but it’s still as full of feelings as I like my romance to be! (This novel is so great it even redeems the odious “asked out on a bet” plot.)

Rule #3: No mysteries.

I tend to care more about character than plot, so mysteries, which are often very plot-driven, are a hard sell for me. But my real problem with mysteries usually comes down to one of two things: either 1) they’re way too easy to figure out, or 2) there’s no way you could have figured them out. Finding mysteries that strike that perfect note of “all the clues were there, and I could have figured it out if only I’d been smarter” is so difficult! When books in this genre work for me, they tend to be more character-focused suspense than pure mystery.

If you’re also a suspense-instead-of-mystery fan, give these a try:

● "Winter’s Bone," by Daniel Goodrell

● "The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder," by Charles Graeber

● "The Paying Guests," by Sarah Waters

● "As Meat Loves Salt," by Maria McCann

The Exception: Any of the Phryne Fisher mysteries, by Kerry Greenwood

This absolutely delightful book series follows the adventures of Miss Phryne Fisher, lady detective, in 1920s Australia. I first met Miss Fisher through her equally delightful TV series, "Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries," which I devoured over a couple of long weekends; the books are a little less frothy than the series, but no less fun. Whip-smart, fashionable, and sure of herself, Miss Fisher keeps me coming back for more - and with nearly two dozen books in the series, I won’t run out anytime soon.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who thinks this way. What about you? What are your reading rules and their exceptions?

-Meredith Wiggins is a Reader’s Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


Lawrence Author Bryn Greenwood Debuts with Novel “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things”

Lawrence’s own Bryn Greenwood comes from a long line of Kansans, a heritage that suffuses her Midwest-set debut, “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.” The novel follows the young life of Wavonna “Wavy” Quinn, daughter of an Oklahoma meth baron and an unstable, germophobe mother.

While living at the family’s desolate ranch, eight-year-old Wavy meets Kellen, a man eager to love and nurture her—while also doing the dirty work of her father. What follows is a story of bonds forged in a landscape of desperation, conflict, and beauty.

The years speed by as the chapters progress, and as Wavy grows closer to adulthood, her relationship with Kellen becomes all the more vital, but also nebulous. This is only the beginning of the dizzying challenges each character must face.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things,” but you can pick one up at the library on Tuesday, Aug. 9, when we (in partnership with The Raven bookstore) host the official release party for the book. Greenwood will be there to give a reading, and there will also be an interview and Q&A session with the audience.

Luckily, I can report that in terms of literary merit, Greenwood’s debut is definitely much more wonderful than it is ugly. The novel’s lifeblood is its wide cast of characters, each drawn with vivid and complex detail. The chapters alternate viewpoint—an impressive writing feat, to juggle all the different voices—allowing the reader to get an immersive, kaleidoscopic view of the story.

No one in “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” is without their flaws. At the same time, though, even the most questionable acts do not leave any one character fully condemned or beyond sympathy. The result is a starkly human novel that explores the damage and love between people; no matter how precarious things get, you can never truly judge Wavy and Kellen’s story, as she declares: “I’m real. I’m as real as you are. My family is real like your family.”

There isn’t any other love story out there quite like “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.” With compelling, true-to-life prose and fascinating characters, Greenwood has created a novel that is hard to put down—and hard to forget.

Remember to come by the library on Tuesday, August 9th to see the author and get a copy.

-Eli Hoelscher is a Reader’s Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


Read Harder Challenge Check In

We’re more than half way through the year – you haven’t forgotten about Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge have you? Many of us here at LPL have been plugging away at the 24 challenges, ever expanding our literary horizons. Here’s a look at some of my favorite challenges and reads so far:

Challenge #1: Read a horror book

"Ring" by Koji Suzuki

This is the novel that inspired the movie "The Ring." The story follows Asakawa, a hardworking journalist, as he investigates his niece's death. He discovers a videotape that ends by alerting viewers they will die in seven days unless they complete a certain task. There’s one problem: the instructions have been recorded over. I personally didn't find the novel as chilling as the movie, but it’s still a good read.

Challenge #10: Read a book over 500 pages

"The Bone Clocks" by David Mitchell

Fifteen year old Holly Sykes runs away from home and encounters the "Radio People" - a group of psychics who follow her throughout her life. I found Mitchell's prediction of the future world most fascinating. With a number of shifts in perspectives and jumps through time settings, this is a dense one!

Challenge #11: Read a book under 100 pages

"Albert Nobbs" by George Moore

Albert Nobbs is a woman disguised and working as a male waiter at an early 20th century English hotel. Albert meets another female working as a male painter who tells her that she's married to another woman, and this encourages Albert to find a wife of her own. Albert Nobbs is a quick read, but it was turned into a film starring Glenn Close, which is one of the most touching things I've ever watched.

Challenge #12: Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender

"Symptoms of Being Human" by Jeff Garvin

This well written, informative story follows Riley Cavanaugh, a gender fluid teenager struggling to find acceptance and self-love. Riley's story is inspiring and an important one for those who can relate, and also for those wanting to learn more about gender fluidity and the transgender community.

Challenge #13: Read a book that is set in the Middle East

"Children of the Jacaranda Tree" by Sahar Delijani

This was a heartbreaking read. Delijani illustrates the effect that war and political unrest in Iran has had on mothers, fathers, children, and families. Among many others, she relates the stories of a girl born in a prison in Tehran who is then taken from her mother, and that of a three year old whose political activist parents were arrested in front of him.

-William Ottens is the Cataloging & Collection Development Coordinator at Lawrence Public Library.


Autism is no joke to comedy troupe Asperger’s Are Us

Asperger’s Are Us has a few requests for audience members in advance of the Boston-based comedy troupe’s Aug. 5 performance at the Lawrence Arts Center.

First and foremost, don’t expect to see the guys – that would be Noah Britton, Jack Hanke, New Michael Ingemi and Ethan Finlan, all of whom are openly autistic — poking fun at their condition or using the show as a lofty platform for autism awareness.

And also: bring snacks. Canned goods, cereal, Pepsi and bananas are all on the guys’ wish list.

"‘Cause in RV parks, the only food available is whatever you can hunt from the slower people staying in the RV park,” jokes Britton, the self-described “old man” of the group.

From left: Ethan Finlan, New Michael Ingemi, Jack Hanke and Noah Britton make up the comedy troupe Asperger's Are Us. The comedians, all of whom are openly autistic, will perform Aug. 5 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., at 7:30 p.m., followed up a Q-and-A session.

From left: Ethan Finlan, New Michael Ingemi, Jack Hanke and Noah Britton make up the comedy troupe Asperger's Are Us. The comedians, all of whom are openly autistic, will perform Aug. 5 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., at 7:30 p.m., followed up a Q-and-A session.

Britton has been tasked with RV maintenance — a daunting task, as the 30-year-old pre-used vehicle has taken to breaking down quite a few times already — during the troupe’s cross-country summer tour. He’s about a decade older than his fellow performers and friends, whom he met 11 years ago as a counselor at a summer camp (Hanke, Ingemi and Finlan were all campers) for kids with Asperger’s.

The age gap doesn’t matter much to the guys, who all share the same quirky, absurdist sense of humor (anticipate that, plus plenty of word play, at the Lawrence show) and a disorder that so often makes socializing and communicating a challenge.

“When I met them, I desperately needed to meet other Aspies. I hadn’t known about my own diagnosis long, and I was like, ‘I need to find somewhere where I can find my own people,’” recalls Britton. “You know, you spend your whole life (having Asperger’s) and are like, ‘What? I’ve never even met anyone who speaks the same language as me,’ and then you do, and it doesn’t even matter if they’re 12. You’re so psyched.”

Since 2010, the friends (aside from Britton, they’re all in their twenties and in college, though academics have been put on hold for the moment) have performed as Asperger’s Are Us, though this summer’s tour is their biggest foray into the national comedy scene yet.

Their biggest break may arrive in the form of a documentary, also called “Asperger’s Are Us,” executive produced by Mark Duplass. The film, which debuted to a warm reception at the South By Southwest festival in Austin earlier this year, is slated to hit Netflix in the fall.

Growing up, Hanke used humor as a “shield” in social situations. It was his way of “making people like me” and finding likeminded friends – a hobby, he says, that has now become a career, oddly enough.

“In the small scale, it feels normal. We’re used to touring by now, somewhat,” Hanke says of the group’s recent successes. “But I guess in the big sense, I still have a hard time believing that this is our life right now. It’s utterly unlike anything I expected to be doing at 23.”

At the moment, that entails anything from spelunking in Ohio to gigging at such prestigious venues as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. That’s life on the road, and so far, audiences have been receptive to the Asperger’s Are Us brand of humor.

Mainly, the guys are there to make each other laugh — their influences include Monty Python, Andy Kaufman and Steven Wright — but if audiences find it funny too, well, the more the merrier. A one-on-one conversation, Hanke explains, is harder to navigate for a person with Asperger’s than performing to an impersonal auditorium packed with row after row of anonymous faces.

As much as the group prefers to shy away from an ambassador role, they don’t mind talking about Asperger’s with those who are genuinely curious. After every show, the troupe does a Q-and-A session with the audience, fielding questions from parents and teachers and others looking to better understand autism.

“Honestly, if someone wants to hire us to do some kind of educational lecture, we will, but we’re very happy to just be funny on stage and appeal to people who have similar senses of humor,” Britton says, “And that’s really, I think, what every comedian wants.”

Catch Asperger's Are Us at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5 at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St. Tickets cost $10, and can be purchased at the Arts Center ticket office or at www.lawrenceartscenter.org.


Lead-off hits: best rookie authors of 2016

Summertime is in full-swing, which means more time for some of our favorite things — baseball games, new books and popsicles (which are officially their own food group from May to September.) While we can't offer you any frozen treats, we can combine the other two to give you...

Lead-off Hits: The Best Rookie Authors of 2016

These first-timers have nailed it out of the park across various genres and age groups. They've entered the publishing world with a big hit. They've earned bragging rights for their RBIs (that's Readers Batted In). They'll be sure to give you a batch of HRs (Hours of Reading). They ... OK, you get it, let's just get to the books.

Click here to get on the holds list for one (or all!) of the books.

— Kate Gramlich is a Reader's Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


Knisley does it: a journey through illustrated memoirs

As a reader, I usually don’t know where my next read is going to come from. It could be found in a magazine article, by listening to NPR, or from a person convincing me that I need to drop everything and read this book that will apparently change my life. This is the tale of my journey with author and artist Lucy Knisley (pronounced Nicely), who I discovered while researching food memoirs via the NoveList feature on the library website.

Residing in Chicago, Knisley is a serial artist who excels at infusing a personal narrative with her signature visual style. She’s a talented young woman with a unique voice that is self-deprecating and humorous, yet universal. Now, I have been around comic books and graphic novels for as long as I can recall, yet I don’t remember encountering any with an autobiographical narrative. Personally, as a visual artist, I have an immense respect for those who pursue and can actualize storytelling through the form of serial artwork.

For Knisley to have both of these qualities within the same bound pages, well, it just seemed too good to be true! Below is a tour guide on my voyage through Lucy Knisley’s work and perhaps you, dear readers, will be as endeared by her work as I have been.

Published in 2008, "French Milk" offers an introspective and intimate portrait of Knisley’s life during a pivotal time in her early 20s. The plot involves a six-week trip to Paris with her mother, Knisley’s impending 24th birthday, and her thoughts of what future awaits her upon graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago.

The narrative is portrayed through personal black and white photographs, drawings from her Moleskine notebook, as well as Knisley’s accompanying handwritten anecdotes. While the drawing style feels simple in comparison to Knisley’s other works, it supports the temporal setting of a trip abroad. French Milk almost reads like a graphic novel Moleskine edition of Noah Baumbach’s film "Frances Ha," another coming of age tale that could be categorized as Millennial French Noir.

In 2013, Knisley produced "Relish: My Life in the Kitchen," a food memoir graphic novel. You read that correctly: It’s a memoir about food relayed through an illustrated format. Relish is quite possibly the most personal of Knisley’s works once you discover just how much she not only loves food, but relishes it.

As the daughter of a chef and gourmet, Knisley weaves the thread of food and the pleasure of eating into just about every facet of her life. In addition to the lovingly crafted illustrations, there are family recipes that accompany each chapter. I offer one warning: Do not read this book when you are hungry because it will prove to be absolutely torturous.

"An Age of License: A Travelogue" follows Knisley as she travels solo for a publisher-funded book tour through Europe and Scandinavia. This work is a great combination of her writing style, like what is found in "French Milk," and the visual stylings of "Relish." In combination with her innate sense of humor, Knisley crafts not only a travelogue for her journey, but an inner diary as well.

She followed up with "Displacement: A Travelogue" in 2015, which chronicles a cruise taken by Knisely and her aging grandparents. This work is a true love letter for those who have a close knit relationship with elders in their family. Displacement continues the physical, internal journeying from "An Age of License" and adds a temporal quality with anecdotes from the storied lives of Knisely’s grandparents.

This year brings Lucy Knisley’s latest release, "Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride," and completes a romantic story arc that began in "French Milk." This opus is not only a wonderful mix of Knisley’s previous works, but it also offers a refreshing perspective of what it’s like to plan a wedding and insight on what it means to be married. This book garners a newfound respect for do-it-yourself nuptials and the work that goes into crafting a ceremony with meaning.

— Ilka Iwanczuk is a Reader's Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


Vintage Players to perform annual ‘Senior Moments’ Saturday at Theatre Lawrence

The retirees-turned-thespians of Theatre Lawrence’s Vintage Players call it “An Evening of Senior Moments,” but, as members of the group will attest, the annual comedy performance is more than colonoscopy jokes and predictable bits about failing memory.

“It’s funny,” Vintage Players director Mary Ann Saunders says of that particular brand of comedy. “But at the end of the day, it’s sort of depressing.”

“Senior Moments,” she says, is more about the kind of idiosyncrasies and human foibles we all experience, even those of us yet to experience the worst of the aging process. This year’s production — a mix of one-liners, “old vaudeville jokes” and improvised skits, from the minds of Vintage Players themselves or outside scribes — will be staged at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Theatre Lawrence, 4660 Bauer Farm Drive. The performance is free, but a suggested donation of $5 (or more, if you're feeling generous) is appreciated.

From left, Judith Scheff and Chuck Mosley perform a scene driving a make believe automobile as Jerry Morton pretends to be a officer giving a ticket to the pair during a Vintage Players performance at Vermont Towers, 1101 Vermont St., on Tuesday, July 12, 2016. The comedy troupe is staging its annual "An Evening of Senior Moments" show Saturday at Theatre Lawrence, 4660 Bauer Farm Drive.

From left, Judith Scheff and Chuck Mosley perform a scene driving a make believe automobile as Jerry Morton pretends to be a officer giving a ticket to the pair during a Vintage Players performance at Vermont Towers, 1101 Vermont St., on Tuesday, July 12, 2016. The comedy troupe is staging its annual "An Evening of Senior Moments" show Saturday at Theatre Lawrence, 4660 Bauer Farm Drive. by Richard Gwin

A Theatre Lawrence staple since 2002, the comedy troupe performs regularly at area nursing homes and schools, including Cordley and Deerfield Elementary, where the actors share fairy tales with second graders through re-enactment. The idea, particularly with audiences who are older and often not as active as they once were, is to lift spirits and challenge preconceived notions of senior citizens.

“It lets us entertain them, because they’re confined and some of them are in ill health,” says longtime Vintage Players member Jane Robshaw. “And to see older people, that we’re still out there and performing. I’m 74 and I’m still going.”

Over the years, Saunders has seen Players come and go. Some are more active in the summer months after vacationing outside of Lawrence during the winter. Others, tasked with caring for sick loved ones, might not make every meeting, but find themselves healed — at least momentarily — when they do.

“We read new materials and share stories and laugh at each other quite a bit,” Saunders says, recounting anecdotes from fellow members with chronically sick loved ones. “I think there’s a lot of therapy in laughing. Good therapy.”

But mainly, she says, it’s about having fun. The mission statement of the Vintage Players quite literally is “Just have fun.” And that they do.

Saturday’s iteration of “Senior Moments” (Vintage Players never performs the same show twice in a row, as Saunders prefers to review new scripts and devise new material every year) will make use of the upcoming summer Olympics, bits inspired by “The Ellen Degeneres Show” and other topical elements.

And even though there’s more than a sprinkling of retiree-centric comedy involved, Saunders hopes the show will have a broad appeal.

“Some of the humor is based on the fact that we can’t hear as well or see as well, but there’s an awful lot of stuff in the world that’s funny no matter at what age you’re experiencing it,” she says. “You can find humor in just about everything, and I’m a firm believer that there’s not much out there that you can’t laugh at.”


Shakespeare 400 at your library

Perhaps you’re all up to date on all #Shakespeare400, but I (and here I hang my librarian head) have only paid glancing attention to the worldwide celebration of the Bard’s “passing through nature to eternity.”

Thankfully, I’ll be given the chance to remedy my oversight when on Final Friday, July 29 at 6 p.m., Lawrence Opera Theatre (LOT) will be showcasing their seventh season in the library auditorium. Luminous voices from LOT will be performing songs and arias from the coming season, which captures the words of William Shakespeare set to music.

Shakespeare changed the English language forever, and for the better, as far as I’m concerned. Thanks to Will, I’m able to leapfrog, misquote, and be zany. I can marvel at a dewdrop, revel in pageantry, and identify that I am heartsore when necessary. Artists through the ages have performed his works, and transformed his words into music, operas, plays, movies, novels and more.

As part of the celebration, LPL has created two reading lists highlighting Shakespeare’s varied contribution to the arts. Some of these books investigate Shakespeare’s life and influence on the world. ("Shakespeare Saved My Life" would be great, discussable pick for you book group.)

Some choices view his work through another lens. (Be sure to check out "The Women of Will" and "Worlds Elsewhere"). Some of our picks are direct tellings, some are glorious resettings, and there are books about opera, recordings, and DVD’s for those who want to learn more about what you’ll be hearing and seeing.

Check out:

Best Shakespearean Resettings: The influence of Shakespeare's works runs rampant through new books and movies. Over the years, these classic tales of love and tragedy have been re-imagined in wildly different settings-- often creating an intriguing juxtaposition.

Shakespeare 400 - The Art of Will: The world and words of William Shakespeare captured in books, music, film and stage. A list to help you celebrate the Bard.

Be sure to include the library presenting Lawrence Oprea Theatre on your Final Friday rounds. You’ll find refreshments and a place to stop and wonder at the transformative nature of art around the world and right here in Lawrence KS.

-Polli Kenn is the Reader's Services Coordinator at Lawrence Public Library.


Reading under the influence with James Patterson’s Bookshots

If Nike gave out shoe deals for authors, James Patterson would be the first to have a line of $120 premium sneakers. Literary tastes aside, there’s no denying that he’s running the popular fiction game right now, with scores of best-selling titles coming out every month.

How does he do it? I think it’s time to ask a daunting question, one that might have revelatory, world-changing consequences — is James Patterson actually a human being?

As it turns out, Patterson has actually developed an extensive network of co-authors that help him churn out a steady stream of Alex Cross et. al. novels. In some ways, he is more than a mere writer now; he is a meta-author, the pulsating central brain of a mystery/thriller-themed hivemind.

And this is only the beginning.

Last month, Patterson launched a self-described “revolution in reading,” a supposed evolutionary leap for the literary form: Bookshots. His website explains: “Let’s face it — far too many books are far too long. … You try to resist the urge to turn on the TV or scroll Facebook, while the voice in your head grows louder with every page: CUT TO THE CHASE! JUST TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS! — James Patterson feels your pain.”

Essentially, Bookshots are full-length stories that play out in 150 pages or fewer. Other taglines for the books include “Stories at the speed of life” and “All thriller, no filler.” I know what you’re probably wondering: Is this actually a new thing? This is just a highly-branded novella, right?

So I read one to find out.

The first wave of Bookshots rolled out a handful of titles, like "Zoo 2," a sequel to Patterson’s novel about animals attacking humans en masse because we use cellphones too much. Though I skipped the first installment, I was hoping to grab a copy of "Zoo 2," since that sounds incredible. It was checked out, sadly, so I was forced to venture outside my reading comfort zone and instead got a copy of "The McCullagh Inn in Maine," a title from the Bookshots romance subcategory, Bookshots: Flames.

"The McCullagh Inn in Maine" is primarily written by Jen McLaughlin with input from Patterson. The cover makes it appear as a cozy, gentle read with its looping pink script and picturesque Maine beach scene. I cracked it open at 9 in the evening, expecting a heartwarming — yet fast paced — love story. I quickly grew more interested when it became clear that drug cartels and betrayal were the central conflict of the story; with a Bookshot, all bets are off.

Two hours and 137 pages later, I finished the tale of Chelsea O’Kane, a woman on the run who wants to escape her checkered past and renovate her family bed and breakfast, and Jeremy Holland, the hunky accountant who shows up in her time of need. When Patterson claimed that Bookshots were “All filler, no thriller,” he wasn’t kidding. Every scene of The McCullagh Inn in Maine involves either sensual, this-is-so-wrong-but-so-right nuzzling or hails of cartel gunfire. Just enough backstory is sprinkled in to keep the gears turning and the tension high, like a thin mortar stretched between bricks of high-octane action.

The editing must have been ruthless. The narration is frenetic and hyper efficient — I could tell that McLaughlin had many more details imagined for the this world, but only the most vital and electric made it to print. The Bookshots editors clearly know how to turn a story, though; "The McCullagh Inn in Maine" is pretty interesting, easy to follow, and has a satisfying ending that wraps it all up.

However, I didn’t feel like I had just read a novella. Compared to something like John Steinbeck’s well-known "Of Mice and Men," "The McCullagh Inn in Maine" seems shorter (even though it has a longer page count), but it also leaves the story seeming more complete. Frankly, the Bookshot read more like a short story than a novella. But that’s still not the closest analog in form.

Patterson mentions in his Bookshots philosophy that the plots have “cinematic action,” so it makes perfect sense that reading a Bookshot is like watching a two hour Michael Bay film, a la "Bad Boys 2" or "Transformers." It’s also a lot like taking an actual shot. There’s a rush of excitement and burning, and then suddenly the night is over and you’re left with nothing.

In all seriousness though, Bookshots are an intriguing new form of literature. Patterson has a valid point—a lot of people would like to read, but simply don’t have time to bust through 375 pages in a reasonable time frame. His writers and editing team have done something impressive; whereas novellas seem to be expounded short stories, Bookshots are highly-concentrated novels.

Maybe other writers will jump in with their own lines — I’d love to see Diana Gabaldon: Wikipedia Synopses and Nicholas Sparks Presents: SparksNotes. I’m confident that the world will always have a healthy supply of wordy, meandering doorstoppers to balance quick reads.

However, there is a new category of Bookshots that has troubling implications. On bookshots.com, one title is listed: "Trump Vs. Clinton: In Their Own Words, Everything You Need to Know to Vote Your Conscious." No, the category isn’t Bookshots: Flames. It’s nonfiction, but all thriller, no filler.

Just think about the rabbits, Lennie.

— Eli Hoelscher is a Reader’s Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


A block-by-block guide to the Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale

With nearly 100 local businesses slated to participate Thursday, July 21, the 57th annual Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale is again expected to draw at least 10,000 savvy shoppers over the course of the day — that'd be sunup to sundown, or roughly 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

While Massachusetts Street, particularly the stretch between the 600 and 1000 blocks, tends to attract the biggest crowds, bargain hunters would be remiss to not venture off the beaten path, says Sally Zogry, director of Downtown Lawrence Inc. Venues located a little farther down Massachusetts Street — or just off it — boast their fair share of treasures, too.

Also, “Just because a business is not outside does not mean they’re not participating,” Zogry advises.

Among her tips: Dress for the weather, stop by the cooling stations to keep hydrated, visit the portable toilets at the breezeways in the 700 and 800 blocks of Massachusetts Street if you need to, and bring a buddy — “it’s more fun,” Zogry says. Those arriving early in the morning may have more merchandise to choose from, but often the best deals are found later in the evening.

Shoppers check out the deals at Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop, 804 Massachusetts St., during the Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale, Thursday, July 16, 2015.

Shoppers check out the deals at Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop, 804 Massachusetts St., during the Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale, Thursday, July 16, 2015. by Richard Gwin

“There’s a little something for everyone,” she says. “If you’re somebody who wants to get the $5 deal, you can get it. You can outfit your whole house, your closet, your dog or cat.”

Or, forget about the shopping (at least momentarily) and stop by the Journal-World’s booth at the corner of Ninth and Massachusetts streets for Town Talk Live with managing editor Chad Lawhorn (there will also be gift card giveaways, to further entice you) from 8 to 11 a.m.

In the meantime, we’ve compiled a short-ish rundown of a handful of the many businesses (because there are really too many to mention here) participating in the sale this year. We’ve also pointed out where to cool off, find food and get your face painted. Good luck, shoppers!

600 Block

Waxman Candles, 609 Massachusetts St.

Take a respite from the heat (you won’t find goods on the sidewalk here, for obvious reasons) inside Waxman Candles, where all votive candles are marked down to $1.10. Various candle holders and other odds and ends will also be on sale.

The Raven Book Store, 6 E. Seventh St.

Enjoy a 12-percent discount on everything inside the shop, plus markdowns on some greeting cards — 25 cents each or five for a dollar.

700 Block

Ruff House Art, 729 Massachusetts St.

Load up on discounted stationery essentials such as greeting cards, envelopes, cardstock and gift wrap at the letterpress shop, which is also slashing prices by 10 percent storewide.

Dusty Bookshelf, 708 Massachusetts St.

Everything’s marked down inside the shop (employees are keeping things hush-hush on specifics for now) and out, where sidewalk shoppers can snatch up books at $2 or less a pop.

Made, 737 Massachusetts St.

Browse through Made’s inventory of gift-y (and often locally made or local-centric) items — which include jewelry, prints, flatware and other home goods — all at 10-percent off. Also, keep an eye out for deeper cuts on select products around the store.

Cooling station: Take a load off at the Eldridge Hotel, 701 Massachusetts St.

800 Block

Fortuity, 809 Massachusetts St.

Cash-strapped fashionistas, pay heed: Starting at 5 a.m., the trendy boutique will offer racks of clothing with some items marked down to $5. Special giveaways, extra discounts and other surprises will be offered throughout the day.

Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop, 804 Massachusetts St.

Sunflower is historically one of the busiest locales as far as bang-for-your-buck deals go, and this year’s sale is no exception: All past-season inventory — including winter clothing, shoes and accessories — will be marked down by at least 50 percent. All other items, i.e. bikes and summer gear, will be discounted 10 percent.

Love Garden, 822 Massachusetts St.

It’s a music lover’s paradise at the downtown emporium of all things cool, where shoppers can peruse 10-percent-off new CDs and LPs, 30-percent-off used CDs and hundreds of $1 records. The store is also selling limited-edition Love Garden tank tops in honor of the Sidewalk Sale.

Cooling station: Escape from the heat at TCBY, 845 Massachusetts St., and Pickleman’s Gourmet Café, where free cookies will also be handed out, at 818 Massachusetts St.

Refreshments: Air Summer Sno will be selling shaved ice to hungry shoppers in front of the law offices at 808 Massachusetts St. toward the end of the day.

900 Block

Yarn Barn, 930 Massachusetts St.

Stock up on overstock and newly discontinued yarn, plus a few sample garments, for 35- to 50-percent-off. Then get to work on that scarf idea you saved on Pinterest ages ago, because winter is coming.

Weavers, 901 Massachusetts St.

You’ll find pretty much any and everything marked down at the department store, from clothing to home wares. Some noteworthy deals include Weavers’ inventory of high-end Wusthof knives, which will start at $5.99 for the paring variety, as well as unspecified (but steep, Weavers assures us) markdowns on linens and Fiestaware. Also enjoy up to half-off all luggage, 50- to 60-percent cuts in women’s shoes, accessories, sunglasses and jewelry, and hundreds of dresses and in-season women’s sportswear for $9.99 and up. In the men’s section, look out for deals on Bill’s Khakis shorts and long-sleeved shirts.

The Toy Store, 936 Massachusetts St.

Enjoy markdowns of 20- to 50-percent-off at the Toy Store, where you’ll find a large offering of discounted doll furniture, books and Playmobil products in particular.

Refreshments: Fuel up at the Mad Greek, 907 Massachusetts St., where employees will be selling coffee and pastries in the morning hours. Also, check out the food hub at the U.S. Bank Plaza, 900 Massachusetts St., where La Familia Café & Cantina, Fine Thyme Food and Chocolate Moonshine Co. will be selling everything from breakfast burritos to fudge for hungry passersby.

Amusements: Get your face painted (for fun, or because you’re looking to intimidate your fellow shoppers with a little war paint) at Aunt Nancy’s Face Art, 944 Massachusetts St. Also, take a dance break at the U.S. Bank plaza (900 Massachusetts St.) with Jami Amber Lynne during the Brown Bag concert from noon to 1 p.m.

1000 and 1100 Blocks

Urban Outfitters, 1013 Massachusetts St.

Take 50 percent off (or 55 percent, if you’ve got the Urban Outfitters app) all sale items in the hipster haven, which includes men’s and women’s clothing, shoes and accessories.

Cooling stations: Rest up at the Granada Theater, 1020 Massachusetts St., and the Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.

Refreshments: ManaBar tea lounge, 1111 Massachusetts St., will be parked outside with hand-squeezed lemonade and iced tea (including locally brewed kombucha) for sale.

Reply 7 comments from R.L. Burnett Tony Peterson Rick Masters Erin Adams Brett Hansen Nick Gerik Greg Reno

Republish or perish: An interview with the Purple House Press

Back in third grade, my best friend hipped me to the wonders of Bertrand Brinley’s novel "The Mad Scientist’s Club," about a group of boys who float a mannequin over their town’s Founder’s Day celebration, construct a remote controlled “monster” in a local lake, and wreak further havoc with various other products of their tinkering.

Originally published in 1961, the book had gone out of print until a company called Purple House Press, which specializes in republishing classic children’s books, brought it back to life. Purple House Press has been one of my favorite discoveries in selecting children’s books for the library, and I was lucky enough recently to interview Jill Morgan, who founded the company 16 years ago.

DC: How did you get into the business of republishing out-of-print children’s books?

JM: In 1996 I quit my job as a software engineer to stay home with my two young children. I started collecting books over the internet, finding all the good old books I remembered from my youth. It was expensive, so I started buying and selling out-of-print books to fund my addiction! In the back of my mind was the idea of republishing them someday to bring the cost down, and it grew from there. I wanted people to be able to share with their own children the stories they grew up with. The catalyst was when my favorite book, "Mr. Pine's Purple House," was selling for $300 online. I wanted it to be affordable again so the story wouldn't die out. The book is about doing things your own way and not following the crowd. Mr. Pine actually seemed to be encouraging me to start Purple House Press.

DC: How do you choose the titles you republish? Do you take suggestions? At the library we often wish to replace favorite titles, but can’t due to them being out-of-print.

JM: Many of our books were my favorites as a child, many have been suggested by customers and friends, the rest I've found by researching them on the internet. We're always open to suggestions!

DC: How has the children’s book world changed since Purple House Press began in 2000?

JM: The production side is much easier now, working with our printers, being able to FTP files and see PDF proofs as opposed to burning CD's and overnighting everything. E-books continue to grow but they are a small portion of sales. I personally like them and believe it's the way of the future, but I do hope people continue to buy print books for their kids to hold and interact with. When my son was 5 he went through a stage where he carried around a copy of "Mr. Pine's Mixed-up Signs" everywhere he went for weeks. He even slept with it!

DC: What are your best sellers and personal favorites?

JM: My personal favorite is "Mr. Pine's Purple House" for obvious reasons, and it has been one of our best sellers. A new personal favorite of mine is a book we're releasing this fall, "The Practical Princess" by Jay Williams. Written in 1969, it's the story of a strong heroine who slays the dragon and rescues the prince. Wish I'd had it as a child! "Miss Suzy," "Pickle-Chiffon Pie," "Miss Twiggley's Tree" and "The Chestry Oak" are other top sellers. A large portion of our sales are to the homeschool market; we appreciate our supporters there.

DC: What is it like working with people whose work was beloved, but runs the risk of being forgotten?

JM: The first book I wanted to reprint was "Mr. Pine's Purple House." Back in 2000 I sent letters to the author, Leonard Kessler, through several different sources, and he got them all on the same day. He called me immediately, was quite thrilled to be part of our venture and took a chance with us. He approved of the company name, too. Leonard was 80 years old at the time and never realized how much his little book meant to my generation. Now he does, and his license plate reads “MR P1NE.” He and his kids have said reprinting the Mr. Pine books brought both Leonard and Mr. Pine back to life.

— Dan Coleman is a Collection Development Librarian at Lawrence Public Library.


Tour of Lawrence returns this weekend with an estimated 750 cyclists rolling into town

More than 750 cyclists are expected to roll into town (we’ll try to keep the bicycle jokes to a minimum here) when the eighth annual Tour of Lawrence kicks off Friday.

The three-day event, sanctioned by USA Cycling, is presented by U.S. Bank and made possible by eXplore Lawrence. It is slated to draw upwards of 7,000 spectators as athletes compete in street sprints and races, both of the circuit and criterium variety, in locations across Lawrence.

“It’s matured over the years through word of mouth,” says event organizer Bob Sanner, who alternately describes his title as “head trash collector” of the races. “From the first several Tours of Lawrence, it was people coming through and seeing if Lawrence knew anything about hosting or organizing a cycling event. We’re into year eight, and I think it’s been demonstrated that, yes, we do.”

Cyclists competing in the men's pro race speed around a corner during the Tour of Lawrence downtown criterium Sunday, June 28, 2015.

Cyclists competing in the men's pro race speed around a corner during the Tour of Lawrence downtown criterium Sunday, June 28, 2015. by John Young

The city of Lawrence, he says, provides a perfect backdrop for the tour, which this year includes venues such as the Haskell Indian Nations University campus and the Historic Breezedale District. Downtown Lawrence also plays a vital role, with the stretch of Vermont Street between Seventh and Ninth streets hosting street sprints, the tour’s first official event, Friday at 6:30 p.m.

From 6:30 to 10 p.m. that night, Tour of Lawrence will host a free kids’ zone in the nearby area of Eighth Street between Vermont and Kentucky streets. The fun includes a bounce house, inflatable games, food and drinks — though refreshments will cost you extra — and, once the race ends, live music from Wichita-based alt-country rockers Split Lip Rayfield in a free street party for cyclists and spectators alike.

Saturday’s races through the Haskell campus and Breezedale neighborhood begin at 9 a.m., while Sunday kicks off perhaps the biggest day of the tour with criterium races at 9 a.m. The course starts and ends at the intersection of Ninth and Massachusetts streets, with some of the top names in competitive cycling whirring past spectators on a track looping the blocks between Seventh and 10th streets.

Little ones are invited to get in on the action, too — aside from the return of the kids’ zone from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday on Eighth Street between Vermont and Massachusetts streets, young cyclists will have the chance to compete in a free kids’ race that day at 11 a.m. Mandatory registration will take place between 9:30 and 10:45 a.m. on Ninth Street between Vermont and Massachusetts streets, and helmets are required.

Prizes include a Tour of Lawrence medal for the first 300 participants, coupons for downtown businesses such as TCBY and Ingredient, and the opportunity to win one of three $100 gift certificates to Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop.

Sunday also marks the return of Ad Astra Running Mass Street Mile footrace from 7 to 8 a.m. The event (registration is capped at 200 participants) includes categories for adults and kids.

Event organizers will be on hand throughout the races with water and pop-up tents to provide protection from the sun, Sanner says, though he’s hoping the projected forecast of slightly cooler temps (mid-80s for the weekend, as of press time) holds up.

And even if you’re not necessarily a cycling fan, you’re likely to encounter — and safely negotiate with, ideally — cyclists on the street this weekend, Sanner says.

Bottom line: respect one another and the rules of the road.

“I would encourage motorists to have an even greater awareness of what’s happening around them, and maybe take a second look before they turn or cross an intersection,” Sanner says. “These riders who are coming in have spent a lot of hours and have ridden a lot of miles on the highways and on the streets, so they’re very attune and aware of their surroundings.”

For more information, including a full schedule of events, visit www.touroflawrence.com.


Twins train hogs for Douglas County Fair

Video by Journal-World photographer Richard Gwin:

Twin brothers Lane and Tate Anderson, 13, walk their hogs "Big Large" and "Mr. Pig" Tuesday in preparation for the Douglas County Fair, which takes place July 25 to July 31. The Andersons are members of the Palmyra 4-H club.


‘Bob’s Burgers Cookbook’ a cure for those burger blues

The Fourth of July was a tough holiday for me. It’s not a lack of patriotism, if that’s what you’re thinking. It’s the barbecues. You’d think I’d have gotten used to not eating meat after so long, but man. Just thinking about some nice grilled hamburgers gets me ready to abandon a decade’s worth of vegetarianism.

Some people stop eating meat because they don’t like the taste. I am not one of them. Every now and then I see a commercial on TV for Wendy’s or something and it gets my mouth watering. Wendy’s.

I find myself in this predicament fairly often. My wife and I finally watched "Breaking Bad" in its entirety a month or so ago. Of everything in the show, that Los Pollos Hermanos commercial from season three is what has stuck with me longest. I’m not knocking the show; it’s great, it’s just that the chicken looked so good. Another show that tempts my carnivorous side is "Bob’s Burgers." Never in my life has a cartoon made me so hungry!

For those of you who haven’t watched, "Bob’s Burgers" follows the Belchers, a fairly functional family of weirdoes. There’s the dad, Bob, the brilliant cook, founder and namesake of the restaurant, and Linda, the optimistic co-owner and sing-a-holic. Together they parent three of the most wonderful children to grace the silver screen: butts-obsessed teen Tina, keyboard enthusiast Gene and their youngest, the street smart Louise.

The kids “help” their parents with the day to day of the restaurant while managing to get into outrageous situations big and small. Through it all they remain best friends, and somehow Bob, and especially Linda, are still proud and loving parents at the end of every episode.

One of the running jokes in the series is Bob’s “Burger of the Day.” Every episode we’re given a terrible, wonderful burger related pun — the I Know Why the Cajun Burger Sings, Sargent Poblano Pepper and the Lonely Artichoke Hearts Club Burger, A Good Manchego is Hard to Find Burger, etc. — and now you can actually try them. Written by the show’s creator, Loren Bouchard, and featuring Cole Bowden’s recipes, "The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book" will humorously teach you how to create 75 Burgers of the Day. Ever wonder how the Bleu is the Warmest Cheese Burger tastes? Wonder no more.

If you’re not vegetarian, that is.

Vegetarians aren’t completely left out to dry. We herbivores get three veggie options. The Rest in Peas Burger, the Mediterr-Ain’t Misbehavin’ Burger, and the I’m Gonna Get You Succotash Burger. For the sake of this review (and my own curiosity), I attempted the Rest in Peas Burger, and it actually turned out pretty well. In my experience, homemade veggie burgers can end up kind of mushy, but this one held together nicely and had a decent texture and taste.

My second go around, I added some diced jalapeños and a little bit of soy sauce, and I really liked it. If you can’t eat four burgers in one sitting, they hold up well after freezing so you can make a bunch and heat 'em up later. My wife tried out the Mediterr-Ain’t Misbehavin’ Burger recipe (eggplant, chickpeas, arugula and tzatziki sauce), and even though we both agreed that we would have preferred the eggplant patties to be baked and breaded, I ate three, so that has to count for something, right?

While I’m sure these new recipes won’t completely alleviate my carnivorous cravings, they have helped to sate my burgerlust. At the very least they’ll help me get through the summer cookouts. Thanksgiving, here I come.

— Ian Stepp is an Information Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


Charlaine Harris: Reaching a supernatural crossroads

I first discovered Charlaine Harris’ acclaimed Southern Vampire Mysteries (aka the Sookie Stackhouse series) while in college. At the time, I worked two jobs while finishing my bachelor’s degree, and I needed a vacation from the dense, academic drivel that consumed my evenings.

Following a recommendation from my mom, who is an avid mystery reader, I became immediately enraptured by Sookie’s paranormal world. It served as the perfect escape from my never ending to-do lists, beckoning deadlines and helped me fall in love with recreational reading all over again.

I not only devoured each of the books published at that point, but I also started my long-term relationship with the Urban Fantasy genre.

When I learned in 2013 that Harris planned a new supernatural series featuring prominent characters from her other mysteries, I couldn’t have been more excited. Imagine my dismay when "Midnight Crossroad" went on sale, and the internet became flooded with negative reviews. Against my better judgement, I decided to pass on reading "Midnight Crossroad" because I feared it would not live up to my expectations ... that is, until about a week ago.

Even though I’m a little late to the club, I learned that "Midnight Crossroad" has been ordered as a new series on NBC. After seeing the trailer for the pilot, the hype became totally real for me as it brought me back down memory lane to when I first watched season one of "True Blood," one of my all-time favorite shows. I knew that I needed to revisit my initial misgivings about "Midnight Crossroad" and give it a read despite what the critics said.

The novel opens as the young and erratic online psychic Manfred Bernardo (from Harris’ Harper Connelly books) moves to Midnight, Texas, to go completely off the grid. Little does he know that the town of Midnight is full of individuals who wish to exist in anonymity like himself. There’s Bobo Winthrop, the owner of a local pawn shop that fans of Harris’ Lily Bard series will be sure to recognize, the rakish Lemuel who only comes out at night, the beautiful Olivia, who may or may not be a trained killer, Chuy and Joe, a gay couple who own an antique mall and nail salon, the introspective Reverend, and Fiji, a new age witch with a curious cat.

When Bobo’s missing girlfriend Aubrey is found dead, the Midnighters must band together to solve the mystery while truths simmer to the surface that threaten to reveal the deep rooted secrets they each possess.

Harris has a knack for crafting some of the most complex and relatable characters in fiction. Each of the town’s residents are shrouded in mystery, and there are so many underlying facets that make each of them feel like people you might know. And yet, none of the characters are who they claim to be, which results in a degree of peculiarity that keeps the residents of Midnight from fading into a mundane reality.

Following the unspoken rule of Midnight to avoid prying into business that isn’t your own, Harris employs a third person perspective that allows the reader to feel like an active member of the Midnight community. This evokes a rich world that could actually exist even with the presence of paranormal forces. Harris’ intricate worldbuilding and emphasis on character development is part of what makes "Midnight Crossroad" such an addicting read.

Although many won’t agree with me, I believe that Harris is a contemporary incarnation of Agatha Christie. She does an exceptional job of not only crafting an engaging mystery, but also pacing the novel in a suspenseful way that would make Shonda Rhimes proud (Any "How To Get Away With Murder" fans out there?).

I will warn everyone that "Midnight Crossroad" has a bit of a slow start, as it introduces its denizens in Dickens-esque, detailed glory, but the story takes on a relentless pace once the murder victim is discovered. Even if I didn’t guess the killer correctly, reading "Midnight Crossroad" was one heck of a journey. It had me wanting to reread the novel to see if I could discover the subtle trail of breadcrumbs Harris left for readers to follow.

If I’ve learned one thing from this experience, it’s that life is too short to read what critics recommend or society discerns as “quality literature.” From now on, I plan to follow my gut, read what I want, and I’ll decide how I feel about it instead of forming an opinion based on the critiques of others. Are you in the mood for a gripping mystery with supernatural flair and a touch of camp? Then give "Midnight Crossroad" a chance. If it isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty more books in the proverbial sea.

— Fisher Adwell is an Information Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.


Lawrence cook takes home top prize, scholarship at national culinary competition

Zach Frieling was sweating, his body wracked with nerves as the results began to roll in at last month’s SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Ky.

He remembers the “shock” that came with the news that he’d won first place in the conference’s culinary arts competition, and also the pride in his supporters’ faces — his family, including a teary-eyed Mom, was in attendance, as were his instructors and coach.

“It was the best moment of my life, probably,” recalls Frieling, who works as line manager at downtown Lawrence’s popular Limestone Pizza. “I’m just glad I could make them all happy.”

Zach Frieling, line manager at Limestone Pizza, prepares pizzas at the 814 Massachusetts St. eatery. Frieling won first place in the culinary arts competition last month at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Ky.

Zach Frieling, line manager at Limestone Pizza, prepares pizzas at the 814 Massachusetts St. eatery. Frieling won first place in the culinary arts competition last month at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Ky. by Richard Gwin

Frieling, 21, represented the state of Kansas and took home the gold medal at the competition, which pitted young chefs from across the nation against each other in a “Chopped”-esque contest designed to test organization, knife skills, cooking techniques, creative presentation, food safety, quality and flavor.

A spring 2016 graduate of Flint Hills Technical College, Frieling was asked by his alma mater to participate in the preliminary state competition held in Kansas City earlier this year while still a student. At the national cook-off in Louisville, he competed with college students for the top prize, which gave each aspiring chef a mystery basket with which to craft a four-course menu the night before the competition.

Frieling’s chopped romaine salad with apple slaw and bacon-almond brittle, pureed green lentil soup, mushroom-stuffed chicken ballotine and braised foreshank ultimately earned him the top prize.

He thinks the soup probably helped push him over the top — “I was the only one that did a pureed soup,” Frieling says. “We couldn’t use electronic equipment at all, so I had to puree it the old-fashioned way of putting it through a strainer and mashing it through.”

Aside from the shiny gold medal, Frieling’s prize package also includes a full-tuition scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. His mother, “crying again,” discovered a folder from the prestigious culinary school tucked away in a swag bag after returning to their Louisville hotel. Frieling had won seventh place in the national SkillsUSA competition last year, but never “anything like this before,” he now recalls of the moment.

“That,” he says, “is what I’m going to do next.”

For now, the young chef is trying to stay humble. Most in his position would set their sights on opening a restaurant, Frieling included, but he knows himself well enough to realize it’ll be a while before he’s “at that point.”

Frieling, who is quick to point out that he’s still “only 21,” credits longtime supporters like Limestone co-owner and executive chef Rick Martin for his success. Frieling’s enjoyed learning from industry professionals and hopes to continue.

“I’ve had a lot of great mentors, especially Chef Rick,” he says. “I’ve known him for almost six years now, and that guy has given me so much. I’m so happy to show him that it wasn’t for nothing.”