Shelf Life Blog
Dreamer, Inspired by a True Story, is one of those uplifting horse films that is good for the whole family. It features a stellar cast. Ben Crane (Kurt Russell) is the dad who barely makes a living training other people’s--rich people’s--horses. Kris Kristofferson plays his father, a gruff man who lost almost all the family’s land along with their money and their stock during his hard times as a racehorse owner. Father and son are shy with each other, bitter, and stubborn. The lightness comes from young Cale Crane (Dakota Fanning) who, without being cloyingly sweet, wants to follow in her family’s footsteps, much against her father’s wishes.
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Plant sunflowers on the Moon? What a great idea! Now, how can we get there? Why, a bicycle of course!
Have you ever looked at the Moon and thought it looked sad? It’s all by its lonesome and nothing lives there. For one young boy his sole mission is to cheer up the Moon. How does he plan to cheer up the moon? By planting sunflowers! In the picture book How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers: A Simple but Brilliant Plan in 24 Easy Steps, author Mordicai Gerstein has laid out a plan for anyone to follow to reach the Moon. NASA hasn’t even thought of it! All you will need is a bicycle, a huge slingshot, an extremely long garden hose, and a spacesuit, size extra small, from NASA. Sounds easy, right? Have you gotten permission from your parents? Uh, oh, that could be the most difficult part of this brilliant plan.
Vicky Bliss. The name sounds like a Vegas showgirl, and she has the body to match, but Miss, no, Dr. Bliss, has a lot more going on than the ability to make most every man’s jaw drop when she enters a room. Vicky is brilliant, brave, and extremely self-assured. She’s also a woman on a mission to unravel a centuries-old mystery to find the final resting place of a jewel-adorned sculpture lost during Europe’s religious wars.
Fourteen-year-old Elenor did not wish to be married, particularly not to Lord Thomas. He had been away at the Crusades for years, and what Elenor remembered of him did nothing to endear him to her. What was more, there was so much of the world to see, and marriage would end her chances for adventure, or so she believes at the beginning of Frances Temple's The Ramsay Scallop.
The Tales of Olga da Polga, by Michael Bond—creator of the Paddington Bear books, features a feisty, queenly, and imaginative guinea pig who leaves the dull life of an English pet shop to go live with her own “Sawdust People” in “a house with legs” in their garden. For another guinea pig, it would be just a sensible, comfortable life change, but Olga is not just another guinea pig.
The dying days of summer—hot and bright or fog-drenched and rainy—are a suitable time to escape to another century and into the Old World where vampires lurk in musty tombs and sometimes in the candlelight of high society. Michael Sims' collection, Dracula’s Guest, does include Stoker’s title story, but it is also a gathering of kindred pieces that lay out tales both plain and highly-embroidered of the pernicious beings known as vampires. These old school blood-drinkers do not sparkle handsomely in daylight and are decidedly and viciously carnivorous.
Grace Pizzelli lacks pizzazz—or sparkle or brilliance or whatever you want to call it—unlike her brainy, beautiful, popular sister Emily. Grace was dozing off peacefully one day in trigonometry class when an unexpected summons to the principal’s office interrupted her nap. Mom was there, looking frantic and very un-put-together and, frankly, very unMomlike. Emily is missing. No, not her body. They know right where that is, but her mind is stuck somewhere in a video game. On purpose, no less, which is very unlike the totally perfect college student and computer genius everybody knows. In Deadly Pink, by Vivian Vande Velde, the Rasmussen gaming company has a huge problem. Players can only stay in total immersion games for so long before their bodies can’t take it anymore. If Emily doesn’t come out soon, she’s in big trouble, not to mention Rasmussen having a giant publicity meltdown over their dead programmer. Not dead as in messed-up-in-the-game-start-over dead, but really dead.
Sixth-grade graduation is not just about the punch and cookies in Janet Anderson’s Going Through the Gate. In an incredibly small town with a one-room schoolhouse, only a handful of students graduate every June. They know their lives will change completely—but not for the reasons you’d think. Sure, they’ll be taking the bus to the big city middle school and join a grade with hundreds of kids in it instead of just five. There’s more to it than that though. The graduation itself can be dangerous.