Shelf Life Blog

An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo

An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo

In the closing months of World War II, the Allies are bombing German cities. As Dresden prepares for the inevitable, Lizzie’s family gains an unlikely extra member. Lizzie’s mother works at the Dresden zoo. When the zoo director orders that in the event of a bombing raid, the animals must be shot to prevent them escaping and causing havoc in the city, Lizzie’s mother convinces him to let her take the young orphaned elephant, Marlene, home. And so Marlene moves into the shed in the garden behind Lizzie’s house.

When the bombing of Dresden finally happens, the destruction is worse than anyone imagined. With the Soviet Army approaching from the East, Lizzie’s family flees to the West through bitter winter weather with Marlene in tow. An Elephant in the Garden is not only a story of the horrors of World War II from the perspective of German civilians, it is a tale of an unlikely group of people drawn together by circumstances and an elephant, struggling to survive war, hunger, and winter hardship and to escape to safety behind Allied lines.

If you like Ghouls Just Want to Have Fun by Victoria Laurie

Ghouls Just Want to Have Fun by Victoria Laurie

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.

Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun by Victoria Laurie: "A demonic guest terrorizes a haunted hotel. When ghost hunter and medium M.J. Holliday appears on a television show called Haunted Possessions, she encounters an evil knife that releases a demon. Now all hell has broken loose in the haunted hotel where M.J. is stayin' and it's up to her to give the uninvited guest an early checkout." (Book summary)

If you like Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun by Victoria Laurie, you may also like these titles:

Chocolat by Joanne Harris
In tiny Lansquenet, where nothing much has changed in a hundred years, beautiful newcomer Vianne Rocher and her exquisite chocolate shop arrive and instantly begin to play havoc with Lenten vows.  (from summary)

 

 

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit....The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers.  (from summary)

 

The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander

The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander

The young king Tamar was awakened in darkness by the sound of elephants in his courtyard. Their jeweled tusks and golden banners proclaimed them the property of a great maharajah. In short order, a dark figure strode into the palace and demanded an immediate audience.

Tamar sighed heavily.
As his tutor reminded him, the principles of Dharma--the code of honor, conscience, and the obligation to do what is royally virtuous, meant that he could not refuse an audience to another king, no matter the lateness of the hour. Indeed, in the long-ago world of ancient India recreated in Lloyd Alexander's The Iron Ring, a king's honor is his most important possession.

The mysterious visitor, King Jaya, ruled the distant land of Mahapura where, he grandly informed his host, all was much better than in Tamar's own kingdom of Sundari. Musicians, dancers, food, all were better in Mahapura, King Jaya purred. The only distraction he sought from Tamar was a simple game of aksha. Pure luck would determine the rolls of the dice.

In all hospitality, Tamar could not refuse, although the stakes Jaya proposed would have fed the court for a month. Die-roll after die-roll, Tamar won. Then the king of Mahapura yawned and made a final wager: "Life against life."
This time the dice seemed to jump from Tamar's fingers of their own accord.
"King of Sundari," Jaya said, "you have lost."

The Ballad of Tom Dooley by Sharyn McCrumb

The Ballad of Tom Dooley by Sharyn McCrumb

This is a work of fiction that is actually closer to the truth than not. Sharyn McCrumb’s careful research has resulted in an exciting and informative book about the well-known story of Tom Dooley. You may remember The Kingston Trio's hit song called Hang  Down Your Head, Tom Dooley.  His actual name was Tom Dula, pronounced Dooley in the local dialect of the North Carolina mountain residents of the 1860s. Many of us know the story--or think we do, but Sharyn McCrumb’s research has revealed a slightly different story, well-backed up by her evidence. This in itself makes The Ballad of Tom Dooley worth a read.

The Fated Sky by Henrietta Branford

The Fated Sky by Henrietta Branford

There was a dragon in the sky the night the stranger came to Smolsund farm. A girl named Ran saw it and feared it. She clutched the tiny silver hammer, a talisman for Thor's protection. Amma, her father's mother, had placed it around her neck. She knew that her grandmother was worried for her, too. The Fated Sky, by Henrietta Branford, tells of how Ran's fears for her destiny came to be realized.

A child still in some ways, Ran shared her name with a sea goddess, and she also loved the sea. Her father was away now across the ocean with her brothers, and they might bring back riches when they returned, for that was the way of the Vikings. Ran dreamed of the day her father would return. She was so much like him: his dark hair and his proud features. Ran prayed for his safe homecoming. She prayed he did not feast with that other Ran at the bottom of the ocean.

When the storm blew in at dawn, Ran climbed the slope to the house. She saw her mother, still a beautiful woman, kissing a handsome man who was not her father!

Unsaid by Neil Abramson

Unsaid by Neil Abramson

Writing a blog posting for a book that you love is as hard as describing a person whom you love. Sometimes everything that you write about a wonderful book doesn’t sound good enough. Writing about Unsaid by Neil Abramson has been one of the hardest blog postings I have ever written. That is how much I loved this book.

Neil Abramson’s debut novel is about love's power to heal grief. Dr. Helena Colden, a 37-year-old country veterinarian, dies of cancer and leaves her husband David with a menagerie of rescued animals. She can see him struggling from the other side. Helena is helplessly watching him trying to cope with his grief, as well as take care of the emotionally and physically damaged animals that he cannot relate to. David is a lawyer in New York City, so his commute and his work day are exhausting. However, he still has to deal with the demands of the dogs, cats, horses, and pig that need his care, too. These animals are also missing Helena's gentle love, and now they are left with David who doesn't understand them.

If you like Kiss the Girls by James Patterson

Kiss the Girls by James Patterson

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.

Kiss the Girls by James Patterson: In Los Angeles, a reporter investigating a series of murders is killed. In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a beautiful medical intern suddenly disappears. In Washington D.C. Alex Cross is back to solve the most baffling and terrifying murder case ever. Two clever pattern killers are collaborating, cooperating, competing--and they are working coast to coast.
 
If you enjoyed the mystery plot and horror elements of this novel, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
 
The Black Echo by Michael Connelly
LAPD homicide detective Hieronymus Bosch attempts to solve the murder of Billy Meadows, a soldier he knew while serving in Vietnam. (worldcat.org)
 
 
 
 
 
Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter
A small Georgia town erupts in panic when a young college professor is found brutally mutilated in the local diner. But it's only when town pediatrician and coroner Sara Linton does the autopsy that the full extent of the killer's twisted work becomes clear. (worldcat.org)
 


 

Scholastic 2013 Almanac for Kids

Scholastic 2013 Almanac for Kids

Did you know that dogs are the top pet owned by U.S. households (46.3 million dogs, to be exact), and that beetles have the most species identified of all insects? How about the fact that extreme weather in January 2012 broke U.S. records for cold, snow, and heat? All of these facts, along with colorful pictures, are contained in the 2013 Almanac for Kids from Scholastic. Kids ages 8 and up will love to tote around this compendium of trivia, which puts more than 300 pages of statistics, charts, tables, maps, and more at their fingertips.

The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History by Jason Vuic

The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History by Jason Vuic

The Yugo was a small car made in the former nation of Yugoslavia that survives in the American consciousness as the ultimate automotive failure.  Poorly engineered, ugly, and cheap, it survived much longer as a punch line for comedians than it did as a vehicle on the roads.  The story of how this particular car became the most hated vehicle in the U.S. is a comedy of errors detailed in Jason Vuic’s book, The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History.  A bewildering array of capitalist hucksters and impoverished communists desperate for revenue collaborated to create the Yugo, and what could have been a great international relations victory of the Cold War was ruined the moment consumers and auto critics actually got to drive it. Vuic examines the many failures of the Yugo venture and the people involved with a keen journalistic eye and a razor-sharp wit, making this a great read for anyone interested in automotive history or 1980s nostalgia.

True Blue by Deborah Ellis

True Blue by Deborah Ellis

You know how the female praying mantis bites the head off of the male? That was one of Casey's favorite things. As a future entomologist, she adored insects. She even copied the head chomp with a little hand signal. The signal meant that someone was really getting on your nerves, and you'd really love to just stop them in their tracks. That was before the murder trial.

True Blue, by Deborah Ellis, follows the arrest of high school senior Casey White from the point of view of her best friend Jess. The two girls have been inseparable for most of their lives, and Casey was planning on spending the next year studying insects in Australia.