Shelf Life Blog
“Ye Toads and Vipers!”
Meggy Swann has reason to be angry. Her mother had finally succeeded in getting rid of her, having her dumped miles and miles from home at her father’s tiny house in London. She’s never met him before, and he clearly doesn’t want her. It’s not like she can run away somewhere else though. An accident at birth has left her legs crooked, and she is in constant pain.
Only able to walk with the help of two sticks, the world of 1573 can be an especially cruel place for such a one, but she has angrily adapted. Alchemy and Meggy Swann, by Karen Cushman, tells her story from the time she is dumped like a sack on her father’s narrow doorstep, frightened and seemingly helpless, to the brave things she must do to protect herself and others she has come to love.
The Blessing Cup, by Patricia Polacco, is a wonderful story for anytime, but especially during the holidays when family gathers close for this is a family story. Patricia Polacco’s great-grandmother Anna and her family came to America from Russia after the Czar ordered all the Jews to leave the country. Just like that, they had to leave behind everything they couldn’t carry. Momma and Papa packed the sewing machine, their menorah, the shofar, his tallis, and holy books. But also precious to them was the tea set they were given when they were married.
For me, the sign of a good craft designer is a distinctive style. Norwegian designer Tone Finnanger started her company, Tilda, in 1999 at the age of 25. With her background in graphic design, her books are full of projects for both the fabric and paper crafter. Lovely, soft colors and whimsical dolls and animals populate her books. Check out her Sew Pretty series and Tilda’s Fairy Tale Wonderland to fall in love with Tilda’s fanciful style.
Tessa Harris’ The Anatomist’s Apprentice plunges the reader into the viscera of 18th-century English culture and crime.
Adventure Time is a comic book adaptation of the popular Cartoon Network series. In the past four years, the show has found a sizable and devoted audience. The brainchild of Pendleton Ward, the cartoon appeals to both children and adults through goofy humor, surreal visuals, and rather sophisticated storylines involving its main characters Jake the Dog and Finn the Human.
I could not resist the cover shot of the sleepy baby wearing the hat with shamrocks hanging on each side. It is just too cute. Photographer Tara Renaud complements the projects of Sandy Powers’ Baby Crochet with utterly adorable photos. This book has 20 crochet patterns for newborn babies up to 24 months. The patterns range from hats, bunting, booties, sweaters, diaper covers, and afghans to adorable “cocoons.” The book has creative designs for both boys and girls.
The Age of Pirates has been so thoroughly romanticized in the popular imagination that many people do not know about the real lives of pirates. Films ranging from Captain Blood to the Pirates of the Caribbean series create the idea of piracy as freedom from the boring drudgery and stress of life on land. But how much did pirates’ real lives resemble those of the fantastic swashbucklers of the silver screen? Terrance Zepke’s book, Pirates of the Carolinas, is a series of short biographies of some of the best-known pirates who operated out of North Carolina. Although not as in-depth as some other accounts, such as Daniel Defoe’s A General History of the Pirates, the book provides concise, factually accurate information on some of the most notorious figures in American history.
Boxers & Saints are a masterful pair of graphic novels that offer perspective on both sides of China's Boxer Rebellion, a decade long struggle that I am ashamed to say I knew nothing about. The struggle hinged upon the arrival of Europeans who brought Christianity to the Chinese along with an unfortunate dose of subjugation.
Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu, starts on a magical, snowy day. There’s still school though so Hazel and her best friend Jack make plans to meet up and go sledding afterward. Since her Dad left her and her mom, things have really changed for Hazel in a bad way. She had to stop going to the fun school where the teachers were happy she had such vivid imagination and creativity. Now Hazel goes to classes where the desks are perfectly lined up all the time, and there is to be no fidgeting. Hazel fidgets anyway.