Shelf Life Blog

08/24/2012 - 8:56am

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.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay is a historical novel about the roundup and deportation of French Jews in 1942, but it is also a modern tale about families, secrets and loyalties. The story is gripping and moves between modern France and Europe on the verge of the Holocaust.

If you like Sarah's Key, you may like these recommendations. Some are historical, some move back and forth in time and some just have a similar "feel" to the storytelling.

The Blue Bottle Club by Penelope Stokes
In 1929, four friends gathered in a cold, dusty attic on Christmas day to make a solemn pact. "Our dreams for the future," they whispered, placing tiny pieces of paper into a blue bottle...Years later, local news reporter Brendan Delaney stumbles upon the bottle and discovers the most poignant story of her career...and possibly the meaning she's searched for all her life.


The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Bruno (is) a naive nine-year-old raised in a privileged household by strict parents...(Bruno) describes a visit from the Fury and the family's sudden move from Berlin to a place called Out-With in Poland.
(from School Library Journal)


08/23/2012 - 8:21am
Papa and Me

"Crossing the street Papa says 'La mano' and he takes my hand." The love between a father and his son is apparent in Papa and Me by Arthur Dorros. The strong bond between them leaps from the colorfully illustrated pages of this book. As they begin their morning and make breakfast together and head to the bus, they revel in the joy of a simple day.

While making breakfast together, they invent a "special food." "Sabroso" they declare, delicious, as they taste the eggs and pancakes. The book uses both English and Spanish to tell the simple story. The characters are happy and they move between English and Spanish effortlessly. 

08/22/2012 - 3:31am
French Kids Eat Everything

All it takes is one picky toddler to make parents pull their hair out at the dinner table. If there is one topic that worries us the most, it’s our children’s health and what they’re eating (or not!). As a result, there are countless books on the market touting the best way to get your kids to eat more foods. From The Sneaky Chef, which advocates putting veggie purees in brownies, to 201 Healthy Smoothies and Juices for Kids, to What Chefs Feed Their Kids where chefs share their gourmet secrets, there are more than 60 titles to choose from just in our library system. Parents who are at a loss as to how to get their littlest ones (and often, their big ones!) interested in a plate of carrots can easily become overwhelmed with the advice. With the additional goals of trying to feed families with increasingly less time and high grocery bills, it’s enough to make many of us revert to pasta every night of the week.

The newest addition to the collection, however, might just change not only how you feed your kids, but also yourself. French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon is the story of one Canadian mother who moved her young family back to her husband’s native Brittany, on the coast of France. As you can surmise by the title, she discovered why French kids associate chocolate cake with pleasure, not guilt, and why they have astonishing lower rates of childhood obesity (20% in America, just 3% in France (p. 140)). She discovered why nearly half of French children eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day, while barely ten percent of their American counterparts struggle to eat the same amount (p. 117). Even their daycare menus resemble gourmet menus. One day’s lunch at her daughter’s preschool was listed as: beet salad bolognaise, roast turkey with fine flageolet beans, goat cheese buchette, and organic pear compote (p. 36). “By the time they are two years old,” Le Billon discovered, “most French kids have tried (and eaten) more foods than many American adults” (p. 120).

08/21/2012 - 8:47am
White Heat by M. J. McGrath

White Heat, an intriguing and well-researched book about life on an island near the cold, cold, cold Arctic Circle, has been a real treat this summer for this reader who doesn’t like enduring 100-degree temperatures. Thank you, M. J. McGrath! I appreciated the icy coolness and the great story.

The star of this excellently-plotted mystery is Edie Kiglaluk, a divorced, recovering alcoholic who hires out as a hunting guide to those from the “south” who want the experience of roughing it in a tough terrain. Edie is a tenacious young Inuit woman who just can’t seem to be a go-along sort of person in her community. Her closest friend is her stepson, Joe.

08/20/2012 - 3:30am
Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies

In 1972, Richard Adams’ classic fantasy novel Watership Down was first published. This exciting adventure follows the travels of a group of rabbits seeking a new home after the destruction of their warren.  Evocatively written and imaginatively plotted, this novel excelled in portraying the world we humans perceive as mundane as a place filled with danger and mystery, and also excelled in its depiction of the primitive religion and folklore the rabbits created to explain the natural environment.  After I finished reading Watership Down a couple of months ago, I searched for a similar fantasy told from the perspective of animals, but finding a novel of its caliber proved difficult.  Many of the other animal-centered fantasy stories I found were either too deliberately whimsical or too childish to live up to Adams’ novel. Eventually I found David Clement-Davies’ Fire Bringer and decided to give it a try based on the recommendation by Adams on the back cover.  Filled with adventure, suspense, and gripping depictions of the natural world, this novel lived up to my lofty expectations.

08/16/2012 - 3:31am
Thistle and Thyme: Tales and Legends from Scotland by Sorche Nic Leodhas

In the far-off days when the Picts and the Scots were dividing the ancient land of Scotland and fighting amongst themselves to decide who could get hold of the most of it, there came good men from over the seas to settle the land.

--“The Drowned Bells of the Abbey”

Firelight and drumbeat were the original backdrop for these tales, true and added to and some imagined altogether, that are retold in Sorche Nic Leodhas’ award-winning book, Thistle and Thyme.

08/15/2012 - 3:31am
Happy Stitch by Jodie Rackley

Local Fredericksburg author and crafter Jodie Rackley helps you stitch up a smile with her book,  Happy Stitch. She stitches her fun designs in her home studio in Fredericksburg, which she shares with her pets, Captain Nibbles and Sleepy Kitty.  The 30 charming and colorful felt and fabric projects in her book are uber cute.

Take some time this summer and stitch up a Monster Face Computer Cover or doodle on a denim skirt.  If your older children are complaining of boredom, try one of the projects with them; for example, the Anytime Ornaments have simple cutting and stitching instructions that an older child can follow with a little guidance. Her instructions are clear, and she uses simple techniques. 

08/14/2012 - 3:31am
Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

She never knew her father the farmer.  But in Paul Fleischman’s Seedfolks, Kim is determined to do something to connect with him, though he died before she was born in far-off Vietnam.  Her mother and sisters remember him with incense and candles on the anniversary of his death.  However, that’s not enough for Kim. She has something else in mind even though the prospect of carrying it through is unnerving.  The Cleveland neighborhood her family can afford to live in is scary. But outside the apartment building is vacant lot. Well, it’s not exactly vacant. It’s filled with junk—an old couch, tires, all kinds of trash—a real haven for rats. But it’s ground that’s not spoken for. And Kim has a plan.

08/17/2012 - 4:50pm
I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag cover

I picked up I Never Promised you a Goodie Bag, by Jennifer Gilbert, thinking that it would be full of hilarious mishaps that occurred at weddings and events that the Save the Date’s CEO had experienced. However, I soon found that it was something more. It is the memoir of a young woman who started out life being fiercely independent, the daughter of wealthy parents who had an import business and were frequently overseas. Jennifer traveled all over without a care in the world until at 22 years old she was attacked in the hallway of her best friends’ apartment. Her friends were too frightened or too selfish to come out, even though Jennifer was screaming for help. The girls in the apartment did call some boyfriends and they came over with baseball bats and drove the attacker away.  

08/09/2012 - 8:14am
The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon

When my son was in kindergarten, he was diagnosed with a "lazy eye."  I do not know if that is still the appropriate term to use, but the result was that he had to wear a patch over one eye (the stronger one) to force the other eye to work harder and to strengthen.  In the book The Pirate of Kindergarten, by George Ella Lyon, the main character, Ginny, receives a similar diagnosis when she does not pass a routine vision screening at school.  Ginny has difficulty seeing.  She runs into things in the classroom, and some of her classmates laugh at her.  Ginny loves reading but when she reads she has trouble seeing the letters, and she has to get very close to the page.  The imagery of the letters hopping "around like popcorn" and the number 2 looking more like a swan help bring the reader into Ginny's world.


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