Shelf Life Blog
Josephine Baker was an African-American singer, dancer, actor, and political activist who rose to prominence in the 1920s. In the book Josephine, written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson, her astonishing life is recounted with powerful text as well as enthralling images. Her story is one of struggle, perseverance, and resilience. Her strength of character and fortitude helped her navigate the precarious pathways of life more than once.
Jennifer Clement’s Prayers for the Stolen is a fractured fairy tale. The narrator is a fierce, funny, and clever girl named Ladydi Garcia Martinez who faces many tragedies in a coming-of-age story set in Mexico. Her mother named her not for Princess Diana’s beauty and fame but for her shame. “My mother said that Lady Diana lived the true Cinderella story: closets full of broken glass slippers, betrayal and death.”
Did you know that you can eat milkweed? This is one of the interesting facts I learned from Ruth Reichl’s debut novel, Delicious!
At the age of 10, Billie Breslin discovered she had a gift. She is able to recreate the recipe for a cake based on her memory of the flavors she tasted in that cake. Eleven years later, Billie finds herself in New York, far from her family in California, applying for a job, not as a chef but as an administrative assistant for a food magazine, Delicious.
While at the magazine, Billie uncovers a series of letters written during World War II between a young girl, Lulu, and Mr. Beard, a former employee of the magazine and a chef. Billie becomes fascinated with them and wants to learn more about Lulu. As Billie attempts to solve the mystery of Lulu’s letters, she works on issues in her own life.
Gemma Doyle is furious with her mother. They may have the same untamed red hair and deep green eyes, but in Libba Bray’s historical novel A Great and Terrible Beauty they are completely at odds with each other. It’s Gemma’s 16th birthday, and try as she may, she is making no headway whatsoever with getting what she really wants for a present—a ticket back to Merrie Olde England where she can make her debut in society and meet some nice, eligible young men. But her mother won’t budge. Gemma’s to stay with her parents in India. And then something terrible happens. She gets her wish… at a horrifying cost.
Anybody interested in DIY projects or maker culture or just getting back to basics should take a gander at the Foxfire series of books. Beginning in the late 60s and continuing on through today, a class at a rural Georgia high school decided to take a different tack at English class and create a magazine.
They had no money so the venture needed to pay for itself. As there was little market for poetry or short stories found in ordinary high school magazines, they decided to print folklore and folk ways gathered from people in their own community. It was the beginning of something amazing.
Set in the Gilded Age of the 1890s through the beginning of the 20th century, Clara and Mr. Tiffany, by Susan Vreeland, paints a not always pretty picture of New Yorkers’ lives during one of the city’s most bustling periods. These were the days when the Statue of Liberty was new, thousands of hopeful European immigrants crowded into slums, and, for a few talented and lucky young women, there was a chance to be independent and earn good wages at Mr. Tiffany’s stained glass studio.
Molly’s father was determined to get rid of her. Her mother, believed mad and kept locked away, had no say in the matter. After all, Diane Stanley’s The Silver Bowl is set in medieval times, and if a father wanted to drag his street urchin of a child to the castle and hire her off as a scullery maid, there was no one to say him nay. Never mind that she’s seven years old.
Prudence Wants a Pet explores the troubles of a pet-yearning girl with dry humor and simple, fun imagery. We already know what Prudence desires, but her parents are in no mood to sacrifice money or peace and quiet in exchange for a kitty or a puppy. So Prudence decides to take matters into her own hands.
Charles Maddox’s client turned out his daughter years ago for having “fallen,” in the way that Victorian women were said to do. She disappeared into one of London’s many workhouses and by the time her father wanted her back, there was no trace of either her or the child she bore for an unknown father. Lynn Shepherd’s The Solitary House leads readers on a tour of the sights, sounds, and smells of old London’s worst and best neighborhoods—places that often lay cheek by jowl to one another, as Charles struggles to find the missing girl.