Shelf Life Blog
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.
Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! Even the title of Devo's debut album shows that this band has a lot of strangeness to unpack. A New Wave quintet from Akron, Ohio, Devo dresses in industrial jumpsuits with goggles and plastic flowerpot helmets on their heads. Stay with me.
The band's main argument and name is based on the idea that human civilization has reached its peak and is actually devolving. I'll let you be the judge of that claim, but I still highly encourage you to check out this incredibly rocking, highly danceable album.
Ants are among the most numerous animals on the Earth, but few people pay little attention to them other than to step on them when they become an inconvenience. Have you ever wondered how ants are always able to summon swarms of allies seemingly from nowhere? Or, how ants can plan massively-coordinated attacks and design gigantic nests? Mark W. Moffett wondered and wrote a book, Adventures Among Ants, detailing the discoveries he made after years of research.
Zombie Baseball Beatdown appears to have been written exclusively to combine the undead with baseball bats—in the most splattery combination possible. This does not make Paolo Bacigalupi's first book for middle grade readers bad. In fact, he manages to inject some pretty great commentary into this wild zombie romp.
How far would you go to make sure you had milk in your refrigerator? Might you outsmart a spaceship full of aliens looking to remodel your planet? Would you dare face off against bloodthirsty pirates? How about climbing into a time-traveling hot air balloon invented by a genius stegosaurus? Fortunately, the Milk, by Neil Gaiman has these things and so much more.
Rock music provocateur Lou Reed passed away this week at age 71. Best known for his work with the proto-punk band The Velvet Underground, Reed supplied tough, gritty lyrics while John Cale offered up a dissonant musical journey unlike any heard at the time. Reed and Cale went on to make some transcendent solo albums as well, but my favorite collaboration of theirs will always be Songs For Drella.
Many people enjoy reading DC Comics’ classic Batman and Superman books, but often forgotten are the other series that were produced during the 1950s and 1960s, the “Silver Age” of comic books. One such series is Challengers of the Unknown, and it is sad that it has been mostly forgotten because it contains many exciting adventures with striking artwork and a panoply of bizarre monsters for the heroes to confront. For readers willing to put up with some of the more dated aspects of its storytelling, Challengers of the Unknown is an enjoyable trip back in time to DC’s Silver Age.
Back in the time of horse-drawn carriages and gas-lit streets, tiny Sophie was found floating in a cello case next to a sinking ship nigh unto London.
I love a book with an inventive narrative structure and, like Scheherazade, Kate Atkinson has 1,001 plots in her novel, Life after Life. Ursula Todd, born on a snowy night in 1910 to banker Hugh Todd and his aristocratic wife Sylvie dies and lives--over and over again. But this is a novel not just about reincarnation but also about how a writer writes and makes choices. The chapters reveal the choices a writer--or a human being--makes and how it changes the path a life takes.
Our society is chaotic, violent, and often disturbing to grow up in. Wouldn’t it be much better to grow up in a safer, more secure place? How much of the unease and disorder of modern society would you sacrifice to create a more peaceful and harmonious civilization? The Giver, by Lois Lowry, asks this difficult question, and creates a dystopia both serene and haunting for its lack of emotions and empathy for its citizens.