Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
Tue, 05/01/2012 - 3:31am
Dog Man

Someone once said, “When you finish a book that you love, it is like saying good-bye to a friend.”  I felt sad when I finished Dog Man and for a few seconds thought about turning to the front of the book and starting it all over again.

Martha Sherrill has such a beautiful writing style that it was a joy to read from beginning to end. Morie Sawataishi developed a deep admiration for the rugged mountain hunting dogs of Japan. Before World War II, Japan revered the Akita, partly due to the true story of Hachiko.  He was the loyal Akita who waited every day for his owner to get off of the train.  His owner was a professor who died suddenly at work.  Hachiko continued to wait for him every day for years hoping that he would come back.  Hachiko symbolized the Japanese sense of discipline and loyalty. However, during World War II, people ate the dogs and used their pelts to line uniforms until they were almost extinct.

Mon, 04/30/2012 - 3:30am
Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri

Cole's on the wrong track. He's been skipping school and hanging out with the wrong crowd. Mom has had it with him. So she packs his things in the car and takes him from Detroit to Philadelphia where his dad lives.

Ghetto Cowboy, by G. Neri, is based on a true story of horse raising that does actually occur in North Philadelphia. Cole has never met his dad and his mom isn't thrilled with bringing him back into their lives, but it's her last option.

"He's different is all, but maybe different is what you need."

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 2:20pm
Seeing Cinderella by Jenny Lundquist

What would you do if you discovered that you could read other people’s thoughts?

It’s not bad enough that Callie Anderson has to get glasses just before the start of middle school, but they are the ugliest glasses she has ever seen. Yet those huge, geeky lenses and fat black frames hide a secret. These glasses show Callie what other people are thinking. Maybe they will actually help her. And she can use all of the help she can get. She’s lost in math and Spanish classes. Her best friend seems to be drifting away. And her parents’ marriage is falling apart. But can Callie follow the eye doctor’s instructions and learn to use the glasses wisely?

Wed, 04/25/2012 - 3:31am
Around My French Table: More than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours by Dorie Gre

Upon first glancing at Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, I very nearly put it aside to be reshelved. It was too beautiful. Huge and heavy--laden with photographs--and featuring a cover shot of something that looked as though it took a heck of a lot of time, money and energy to pull off, it didn’t seem like something that would work for me.

But first glances can be deceiving. Almost every recipe involves relatively normal if delicious ingredients. The techniques used are not difficult at all for someone who knows her way around a basic kitchen. These are the sort of recipes which will be made again and again--and be shared with demanding friends. Each is introduced very charmingly, in a way that conveys much about the author’s French experiences.

Tue, 04/24/2012 - 3:31am
Cinderella Ate My Daughter

Peggy Orenstein has established an entire career around her ability to describe and analyze the ways young women learn, socialize, and advance into adulthood. She even wrote a highly influential book exposing how gender dynamics operate within the American education system (Schoolgirls). When her own daughter became ensnared in “girlie-girl” culture, however, Orenstein was forced to admit that her extensive academic knowledge did not prepare her to negotiate the paradoxes of growing up female in the 21st century. Cinderella Ate My Daughter chronicles Orenstein’s parenting crisis and her subsequent investigation into how femininity is being scripted by marketing, princess mania, and popular culture.

Mon, 04/23/2012 - 3:30am
The Seventeenth Child by Dorothy Marie Rice & Lucille Mabel Walthall Payne

The Seventeenth Child, by Dorothy Marie Rice & Lucille Mabel Walthall Payne, sets down the memories of a childhood lived in the countryside of 1930s Virginia by a black woman who grew up before the Civil Rights Movement made so many gains.  These remembrances are plain, soft-spoken and ring true to an age that was certainly different from the one we know.  In some ways, it was a harder time as in her earliest years even basic food was very hard to come by and the sharecropping system made it difficult for all farmers, black and white, to get ahead or even stay afloat during the bad harvest years.

But it was the warmth of family, faith, shared hardship and simple joys that made those days good as well as difficult. The children worked, not only because their help was needed but because it was understood that working was a good thing in and of itself. They helped pull and tend tobacco, can vegetables, sew quilts, raise chickens, and shell corn.  Lucille Payne tells of how hard it was to earn money. How sometimes her mother might not be paid much more than fifty cents for a hard day’s washing of filthy clothes in a dark and cold shed. Well, fifty cents and a hambone that might not be fit to eat without it being scrubbed, too, and sometimes not even then. But her mother said, “Well, you accept what they give you; next time it might be better.”

It wasn’t all about acceptance. Sometimes Lucille would see her mother spit in the water while she washed and she would ask her why she did that. “That helps to get them clean.”  But I know she was just so angry because she had to survive.  When you have so many children you have to survive the best way you can.  Likewise, when white children rode the bus to their segregated school, leaving the black children to walk and even calling them names, the black children got a bit of revenge…and a chance to be better than their so-called betters with an act of charity.

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