Shelf Life Blog

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman, is a touching blend of family drama and otherworldliness. He wrote it for his wife, who does not care so much for extreme fantasy, and so he decided to include many realistic details from his own childhood. But he enriched that beginning with dark and horrific drama, as well as beauty and wisdom, and ultimately gave it an elemental, magical grounding.

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

In Long Lankin, by Lindsey Barraclough, it’s 1958, and Cora and her small sister Mimi have been taken from their London home and dumped in the middle of the English marshes where something is waiting for them.

Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka

Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka

Michael K. already has a few strikes against him. He's a new kid at a new school in a new town, but did he really have to get stuck sitting next to the two weirdest kids in the classroom? The girl, Jennifer, is halfway through eating her pencil when the boy, Bob, tells Michael that the two of them aren't human. They are Spaceheadz.

Bob, Jennifer, and the hamster, Major Fluffy, are on an intergalatic mission to save Earth. They must do this by recruiting 3.14 million Earthlings as Spaceheadz, and they think Michael K. is the person to help them get the job done.

Mayhem, Murder, and Minnesota: The Films of the Coen Brothers

Mayhem, Murder, and Minnesota: The Films of the Coen Brothers

Joel and Ethan Coen might be the two finest filmmakers working in America today. There are few directors who have captured more entertaining, accurate, or varied instances of the American experience.

Nearly all of their films center around some sort of crime or illicit behavior. Sometimes the protagonist is the perpetrator. Other times he is a victim or an unwitting bystander sucked into the chaos. Almost always though, the protagonist is a fool.

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

Jon Ronson sees insanity all around him. Partially that is because as a journalist he is drawn to write stories in which people engage in erratic behavior. It is also because he has learned The Psychopath Test, and he cannot stop administering the 20-point checklist to everyone around him.

Item 1: Glibness/superficial charm

Item 2: Grandiose sense of self-worth

Item 3: Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom

Item 4: Pathological lying

And, so on. From a rude concierge at a hotel to the CEO of a giant corporation, no matter where Ronson looks, everything's coming up psycho.

Daisy Kutter: The Last Train by Kazu Kibuishi

Daisy Kutter: The Last Train by Kazu Kibuishi

Daisy Kutter: The Last Train follows a feisty female trying to be on her best behavior. Ms. Kutter runs the town general store, but she was always most at her element when committing train robberies and other such deeds.

She may be trying to be a good girl at the beginning of the story, but we all know that old habits die hard. When she's asked to come out of retirement to rob one last locomotive, the offer sounds too good to be true.

That is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems

That is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems

In That is Not a Good Idea! Mo Willems takes the art of silent films and applies it to picture books. A dapper fox has spied a beautiful goose walking the city streets. Each image is devoid of text, we only see what they are saying on black pages in between the action.

"Excuse me. Would you care to go for a stroll?" inquires the fox as he tips his hat. Suddenly, the film is interrupted. "That is NOT a good idea!" exclaims a baby goose.

Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow

Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow

Ragtime, by E. L. Doctorow, swirls through 1906 America with a breakneck stream-of-consciousness pace more frenetic than most historical fiction. A densely-constructed ensemble piece that alternates between fictional and real life figures of the age, the thoroughly modern novel amazed critics and readers alike upon its publication in 1975.

Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner

Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner

Never has a feline been as terrifying as Mr. Wuffles. In truth, he really is just a curious housecat with a ton of playthings. The one toy that he is most interested in was not bought at the pet store. That is because it is not a toy at all.

David Wiesner is the master of wordless picture books. His photo-realistic artwork combines with clear-cut tales of adventure and whimsy, and his latest title once again proves his mastery of the art of picture books.