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The State Library of Kansas announces the 2015 Kansas Notable Books
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The State Library of Kansas is pleased to announce 15 books featuring quality titles with wide public appeal, either written by Kansans or about a Kansas-related topic. The Kansas Notable Book List is the only honor for Kansas books by Kansans, highlighting our lively contemporary writing community and encouraging readers to enjoy some of the best writing of the authors among us.
A committee of Kansas Center for the Book (KCFB) Affiliates, Fellows, librarians and authors of previous Notable Books identifies these titles from among those published the previous year, and the State Librarian makes the selection for the final List. An awards ceremony will be held at the Kansas Book Festival, September 12, 2015, to recognize the talented Notable Book authors.
Throughout the award year, KCFB promotes all the titles on that year’s List electronically, at literary events, and among librarians and booksellers.
For more information about the Kansas Notable Book project, call 785-296-3296, or email

2015 Kansas Notable Books at Ellinwood School/Community Library
A Carol Dickens Christmas: A Novel, by Thomas Fox Averill, Published by University of New Mexico Press
It’s Christmas and Carol Dickens’s life is in a major transition. Her son Finn, a talented trumpeter player, is about to leave for college. Her ex-husband, a real-estate wheeler-dealer, wants to sell their properties in Kansas and move to Arizona. Her wheelchair-bound friend, Laurence, has fallen in love with her. To top it all off, Scraps, the family dog, is dying. As her world spins out of control, Carol seeks refuge in her research on the use of the semicolon- and in her ritual of cooking the perfect series of Victorian holiday meals inspired by A Christmas Carol.
The Darkest Period: The Kanza Indians and Their Last Homeland, 1846-1873, by Ronald D. Parks, Published by University of Oklahoma Press
Before their relocation to the Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma, the Kanza Indians spent twenty-seven years on a reservation near Council Grove. This is the story of those years of decline in Kanza history following the loss of the tribe’s original homeland in Kansas. The Kanzas’ story is not reduced to one of hapless Indian victims maligned by the American government, but rather demonstrates how the Kanzas persisted in their struggle to exercise political autonomy while maintaining traditional social customs up to the time of removal and beyond.
Girl in Reverse, by Barbara Stuber, Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
With the Korean War raging and the fear of “Commies” everywhere, Lily’s Asian heritage makes her a target at school. She is sick of the racism she faces, a fact her adoptive parents won’t take seriously. Then her brainy little brother, Ralph, finds a box containing clues to her past that lead them to rare Chinese artifacts at the art museum. With help from Ralph, the school janitor, and an artistic genius named Elliot, Lily summons the courage to confront her own remarkable story.
The Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning, by Julene Bair, Published by Viking/Penguin
Julene Bair has inherited part of a large farm and fallen in love with a rancher from Kansas’s beautiful Smoky Valley. A single mother, she means to provide her son with the father he longs for and preserve the Bair farm for the next generation, honoring her own father’s wish and commandment, “Hang on to your land!” But part of her legacy is a share of the ecological harm the Bair Farm has done: each growing season her family—like many other irrigators—pumps over two hundred million gallons out of the Ogallala aquifer. The rapidly disappearing aquifer is the sole source of water on the vast western plains, and her family’s role in its depletion haunts her.
Railroad Empire across the Heartland: Rephotographing Alexander Gardner’s Westward Journey, by James E. Sherow, photographs by John R. Charlton, Published by University of New Mexico Press
Photographer Alexander Gardner documented the construction of the Union Pacific Railway across Kansas in 1867. This book presents 90 pairs of recent photographs by John R. Charlton paired with scenes Gardner recorded, duplicating the exact location and time of day of the originals. James E. Sherow uses the paired images to show how Indian and Anglo-American land-use practices affected the landscape. Charlton’s rephotography captures the transformation of the grasslands, harnessed by the powerful forces of the railroad.
Soldiers in the Army of Freedom: The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War’s First African American Combat Unit, by Ian Michael Spurgeon, Published by University of Oklahoma Press
Composed primarily of former slaves, the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry saw major combat in the trans-Mississippi theater of the Civil War. The author draws upon sources such as pension applications to chart military service, and to reveal the regiment’s role in countering white prejudices by defying stereotypes. Despite naysayers’ bigoted predictions, these black soldiers proved themselves as capable as their white counterparts, and so helped shape the evolving attitudes of leading politicians. This long-overdue reconstruction of the regiment brings to life the men of the 1st Kansas Colored as they battled both the Confederate forces and skepticism within Union ranks.

Sheri Holmes
Director of Library/Media Services
Ellinwood School/Community Libraries
“Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.” ~ Walt Disney