Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
Thu, 06/02/2011 - 03:31
Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World)

A bright young girl runs through the chaos of demolished streets. Plumes of black smoke rise from the rubbled buildings. No one else is in sight. Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) is a life lesson that everyone should receive: always take responsibility for your actions, particularly when they involve a ginormous hulking robot with the power to crush cars and shoot lasers every which way.
 
Usually when my school science projects went wrong, it was more of a mild disappointment than anything else. My baking-soda-and-vinegar volcano did not erupt. I received a C- instead of an B+. These are minor hiccups when compared to our main character’s situation. Oh No! allows us to think about our own mistakes and say, “Well, it could have been worse…much, much worse.”
Wed, 06/01/2011 - 09:13
Pop, by Gordon Korman

Marcus, the new kid in town, wants to tryout for the undefeated high school football team in Pop, by Gordon Korman. While training by himself at a local park, he meets Charlie, a massive 50-something-year-old man with powerful football skills that he shares with Marcus. Estranged from the teammates who don’t want to accept an outsider, Marcus’s growing friendship with Charlie gives him a sense of belonging. But Marcus also begins to see that something about Charlie isn’t quite right. For an old guy, he’s a charismatic prankster who acts like a big kid, can’t remember Marcus’s name and runs away at the first sign of trouble. Then Marcus discovers that Charlie is actually a former NFL linebacker known as “The King of Pop.”

Tue, 05/31/2011 - 03:30
A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell

Berlin, 1931. A grim police station hallway, lined with photographs of unidentified victims of murder, accidental or unattended deaths. This is the Hall of the Unnamed Dead, and where crime reporter Hannah Vogel is horrified to discover a picture of her brother, Ernst. Delving into his murder, Hannah discovers that her cross-dressing, cabaret singer brother had a complicated and secret life involving high-level Nazis, stolen treasures – and a 5-year-old orphan who insists that Hannah is his mother.

A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell reads like a black and white movie, but explores every shade of gray. Trains and fog and endless cigarettes cast a pall of smoke over everything. It evokes the shifting loyalties, fears and grim weariness of every day Germans trying to keep their heads down as the Nazis rise to power.

As Hannah digs deeper into her brother's death, she is pulled into a web of lies, deceit, and deadly secrets.

Fri, 05/27/2011 - 07:09
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver: "The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them all they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it - from garden seeds to Scripture - is calamitously transformed on African soil. This tale of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction, over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa, is set against history's most dramatic political parables."

If you liked The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, you may also like these selections:

I would recommend that you read all of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels. They all have interesting stories that illuminate relationships within families, relationships between individuals and the very important relationship we all have with our environment.

The antelope wife: a novel by Louise Erdrich
"Family stories repeat themselves in patterns and waves, generation to generation, across blood and time." Erdrich embroiders this theme in a sensuous novel that brings her back to the material she knows best, the emotionally dislocated lives of Native Americans who try to adhere to the tribal ways while yielding to the lure of the general culture. In a beautifully articulated tale of intertwined relationships among succeeding generations, she tells the story of the Roy and the Shawano families and their "colliding histories and destinies." (Publishers Weekly)
 

At Play in the Fields of the Lord by Peter Matthiessen
Set in the South American jungle, this thriller follows the clash between two misplaced gringos--one who has come to convert the Indians to Christianity, and one who has been hired to kill them.

Cry, the beloved country by Alan Paton
Cry, the Beloved Country is a beautifully told and profoundly compassionate story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son Absalom, set in the troubled and changing South Africa of the 1940s. The book is written with such keen empathy and understanding that to read it is to share fully in the gravity of the characters' situations. It both touches your heart deeply and inspires a renewed faith in the dignity of mankind. Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic tale, passionately African, timeless and universal, and beyond all, selfless. (catalog summary)

Thu, 05/26/2011 - 07:30
A Pirate's Guide to First Grade

School is almost out, but pirates are most definitely still in, which is why it is wonderful to come across a picture book like A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade. In it, a young boy gets ready for his first day of school, accompanied by all of his imaginary pirate friends. He awakens to his scurvy dog happily licking his face, but there’s no time to wait! Ye must set sheets to the wind and sail!

The text, all in pirate talk, might be a bit distancing at first, but with a glossary in the back and the clear illustrations, I think most young first mates will be able to figure out what’s going on. A parent could even make up a game with their child, figuring out what “Gangway me hearties!” could possibly mean.

 

Wed, 05/25/2011 - 03:31
The Peach Keeper

I am a hopeless romantic, so of course I fell in love with Sarah Addison Allen’s charming books. She writes adult fairy tales where love is worth the risks. Pack her four novels in your beach bag and enjoy. The books are magical. The Peach Keeper, her latest work, is about what happens when secrets come out in the open. Walls of Water, North Carolina, has strange breezes that sound like whispers of secrets. Regret haunts the main characters and smells like lemons. 

Twins Colin and Paxton Osgood, Willa Jackson, and Sebastian Rogers all went to high school together. They were known as the Princess, the Stick Man, the Joker and the Freak.  Happiness has eluded all of them.  Paxton Osgood is thirty years old, unmarried, and living at home, and president of the Women’s Society Club. Colin has run away from Walls of Water, his rigid ways, and his heritage. Willa has settled for a quiet life running a sporting goods store and doing laundry regularly every Friday night. Sebastian, now a dentist, has come back home but must face his difficult past.

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