Shelf Life Blog

Mysterious Traveler by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, illustrated by P.J. Lynch

Mysterious Traveler by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, illustrated by P.J. Lynch

No one knows the Sahara Desert like Issa. He is a famous guide along the dangerous paths the gold and salt caravans take to their far destinations. Everyone knows to ask for his help. But one day five riders with six camels come bounding through the village with a desert storm quick on their heels. They do not stop to ask for Izza's help. They gallop on, with the sixth camel carrying a basket with its tiny burden. In Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham’s The Mysterious Traveler, Issa watches them ride out of sight not knowing that the scrap of ribbon they leave behind will change his future.

The Girl Who Married an Eagle by Tamar Myers

The Girl Who Married an Eagle by Tamar Myers

“We laugh and we cry.”

In Tamar Myers’ The Girl Who Married an Eagle, there is a lot of both.

Julia Elaine Newton has come all the way from Ohio to the Belgian Congo to save souls and teach English to young girls who are runaway child brides. She’s really quite pleased with herself and thinks she knows what she’s doing. It’s 1959, and her spotless cotton circle skirt is just the thing to wear in Africa, comfortable and fresh, or it is until it becomes blood-soaked while she tends a future student who has been attacked by hyenas. Exquisite, brilliant, ten-year-old Buakane has run away on her marriage night from Chief Eagle, a man nearly four times her age. She is his 23rd wife.

Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson

Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson

In 1760s Boston, there is trouble brewing, and it’s not just the upcoming tea party. A young and beautiful girl from a wealthy family has been murdered mysteriously. It isn’t only a mystery as to who killed her and why—the bigger mystery is how. There’s not a mark on her body. It seems as though it was done by magic, and, in D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker world, magic is a definite possibility.

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon doesn't have the slick visuals or bright colors that you would normally imagine a member of the Avengers getting. Nor does it offer a conventional superhero storyline. Clint Barton, a master archer, was created by Stan Lee in 1964. Writer Matt Fraction is breathing life into him by contrasting him with all of those other super-powered heroes.

In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

It’s bedtime, but Alice is bouncing and wide-awake. “Time for bed,” Mama says, “and I’ve brought flowers for your room.”

“I can only sleep in a blue room,” says Alice.

“Blue is my favorite.

and those—

aren’t—

blue.”

“Ah … but smell,” Mama says.

Mama brings many special things to help her little girl sleep: a silken quilt; a cup of tea; bells on strings—though, as her daughter sleepily protests, none of them are blue. But at last, the light goes off, the moon shines in, and Alice gets her wish.

The English Girl by Daniel Silva

The English Girl by Daniel Silva

Madeline Hart vanishes without a trace while on a Corsican vacation in Daniel Silva’s new page-turner, The English Girl. As a rising star in British politics, Madeline’s disappearance is certainly troubling. But the fact that she was having a clandestine affair with Prime Minister Jonathan Lancaster—who is both married and up for reelection—adds obvious complications to the situation.

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini, begins rather simply with a father telling a fairy tale. It’s 1952. Saboor and his two children, sturdy Adbullah and his tiny sister Pari, are walking for days, with only a small wagon and a little food, to the great city of Kabul. Saboor tells them he is looking for work, and they believe him—why should they not? His hands are broken and calloused, his back stooped with constant labor. He is a caring father, and he is a wonderful storyteller. Around the fire that night, they realize that Saboor has never told them this particular story, one full of grief and love—the last story he will ever tell them.

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

If I Ever Get Out of Here centers around Lewis Blake, a Native American teenager in a gifted junior high program. Lewis might be academically successful, but he has no friends. All his white classmates don't have much to say to Lewis, and all of the kids from the reservation are just in the regular classes.

It is 1976, and living outside of Buffalo, New York, Lewis wonders if the area's teachers are going to be surprised when they find that the Native American kids are not that excited about the country's Bicentennial celebration. His family has called this land "home" for much longer than a mere two hundred years.

A Necklace of Raindrops and Other Stories by Joan Aiken

Cover to A Necklace of Raindrops

A birthday gift from the North Wind. A pie so feathery-light it carries people away. A cat on a mat that grants wishes to a poor girl and her grandmother. Elves in the shelves, mermaids in the bathtub and a tiger that’s faster than the wind. Joan Aiken’s A Necklace of Raindrops and Other Stories is a magical book that is probably one of the best read-alouds out there for kindergarten and early elementary grades.

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

In Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden, Hallie Brady arrives in the wilderness near Hightop Mountain in 1750. Nobody white had settled this part of Massachusetts before, and the native people who camped nearby vowed that no man would find happiness west of the mountain. Teenaged, English-born Hallie comes with her not-good-for-much husband and a couple of other families he has duped into following him in circles for days before winding up in the shadow of the mountain just as the November snows are settling in.