Shelf Life Blog
The Napping House, by Audrey Wood, is full of beautiful illustrations, and there is wonderful repetition in the wording of the book. The sequencing is great for children because it creates a sense of anticipation and allows them to participate in reading the book. The story is about a grandma who has everyone in the house gently pile on top of her while she is asleep.The pile includes her grandson, the dog, the cat, the mouse and the mouse's flea.The book is charming as well as being calming and would be a great bedtime story for a child who needs help settling down.
Life in Schongau, Bavaria in 1659 is pretty bleak. The town is rebuilding in the decade after the Great War - orphans abound, jobs are limited, and the townsfolk are quick to accuse each other of misdeeds. Although the rampant witch trials of the town's past have faded to a dim collective memory, it doesn't take much to start rumors of dark deeds swirling again. When a young orphan is found murdered and branded with a “witch’s mark,” a scapegoat is quickly located in Martha Stechlin, the town’s midwife who dabbles in herbs and encourages the orphans’ company. She is quickly taken into custody and it is up to Jacob Kuisl, the town’s hangman, to torture the truth out of her in The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch, translated by Lee Chadeayne.
Every town at this time has a hangman, who inherits his profession from his father. Although Jacob Kuisl is well-read and financially well-to-do, the townsfolk routinely shun him because hangmen are considered the lowest in the town’s social order. When Martha is jailed, Kuisl suspects that something is not right because he has worked with her for decades and knows her to be an honorable and gentle midwife. He secretly starts researching her case to prove her innocence, while publically fulfilling his job as her torturer.
The Social Animal, by David Brooks, is a non-fictional account of the social lives of human beings. It looks deep into the human psyche in order to discover the motives for human actions. The story follows Erica and Harold, a fictional couple, through their entire lifespans. This includes a full examination of growth and development that starts in utero and expands over their lifetimes. Harold and Erica's relationship shows an array of longitudinal information that follows their relationship and explores such disciplines as psychology, sociology, politics, and history in an engaging approach to the social sciences.
In his book Lawn Boy, Gary Paulsen has done a wonderful job of capturing an everyday job for a tween boy--like mowing the lawn--and expanding it into a hilarious summer experience.
Lawn Boy is a great book for boys, but I think girls will enjoy it, too. Paulsen elaborates on experiences most all teens can relate to--like not having any money and being bored during summer vacation. They’re too young to drive but not that interested in toys, unless you consider video games toys. And if they want to get new video games to play, they have to come up with the funds to buy them.
Alabama Moon, by Watt Key, is a great adventure tale. The story starts with Moon on his own--completely on his own. His dad, who has just died, was a recluse who hid in the woods and had very little contact with the outside world. He raised Moon to be suspicious of people and to trust his own skills for survival. But Moon is only 10 years old when he is left all alone, and he questions what his father has taught him. Can he survive and build a life for himself? Is that the life he wants? Is there anyone he can trust? He ends up getting caught by "Authorities" and is sent to an institution for troubled youth. But, they can't keep him for long. He escapes! And is on the run...
Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen is about a young black woman named JoLayne Lucks who has one of two winning tickets to the Florida lottery--and when she cashes it in she will win $14 million. As a vet assistant, she is very involved with raising the baby turtles that she finds and plans on using her money to buy a section of Florida swampland to create a wildlife refuge. However, two con men named Chubb and Bodean Gazzer--who have formed a white supremacy militia--own the other winning ticket. When they find out that JoLayne is also a winner, they decide that $28 million would be even better to help them finance the White Clarion Aryans.
In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond reviews parts of history in order to theorize how different cultures became civilization's haves and how others became its have-nots. Diamond is a biologist, and here he seeks to explain why Eurasians--rather than Native Americans, Africans, and Native Australians--became successful conquerors. Diamond argues that rather than race and culture, factors such as food production and animal domestication allowed Eurasians to economically dominate the world.
In the dark of night, a monster approaches Conor’s bedroom window. The massive, human-like gnarl of branches with its thunderous voice fails to frighten the boy. You see, Conor has already glimpsed the source of his personal terror. It lives in his nightmares.
A Monster Calls was written after Patrick Ness used outlines and ideas from the British writer Siobhan Dowd, a Carnegie Medal-winning author who died of cancer in 2007. The final product is a taut, suspenseful reflection on losing a loved one, accompanied by the message to be honest with one’s self.
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.
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin: New York City is subsumed in arctic winds, dark nights, and white lights, its life unfolds, for it is an extraordinary hive of the imagination, the greatest house ever built, and nothing exists that can check its vitality. One night in winter, Peter Lake--orphan and master-mechanic, attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks the house is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the love between Peter Lake, a middle-aged Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young girl, who is dying. Peter Lake, a simple, uneducated man, because of a love that, at first he does not fully understand, is driven to stop time and bring back the dead. His great struggle, in a city ever alight with its own energy and beseiged by unprecedented winters, is one of the most beautiful and extraordinary stories of American literature.
If you enjoyed "Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin, you may enjoy these titles for the great writing, the philosophical undertones and a dash of romance:
The Chess Garden by Brooks Hansen
"In the fall of 1900, Dr. Gustav Uyterhoeven left the chess garden that he and his wife, Sonja, had created together in Dayton, Ohio, and journeyed to South Africa to serve as a doctor in the British concentration camps of the Boer War. Over the next ten months he sent twelve chess pieces and twelve letters back to Sonja. She set out her husband's gifts as they arrived and welcomed all the most faithful guests of the garden to come and hear what he had written - letters which told nothing of his experience of the camps but described an imagined land called the Antipodes, where all the game pieces that cluttered the sets and drawers of the garden collection came to life to guide the doctor through his fateful and wondrous last adventure."-catalog summary
Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres
"Extravagant, inventive, emotionally sweeping, 'Corelli's Mandolin' is the story of a timeless place that one day wakes up to find itself in the jaws of history. The place is the Greek island of Cephallonia, where gods once dabbled in the affairs of men and the local saint periodically rises from his sarcophagus to cure the mad. Then the tide of World War II rolls onto the island's shores in the form of the conquering Italian army. Caught in the occupation are Pelagia, a willful, beautiful young woman, and the two suitors vying for her love: Mandras, a gentle fisherman turned ruthless guerilla, and the charming, mandolin-playing Captain Corelli, a reluctant officer of the Italian garrison on the island. Rich with loyalties and betrayals, and set against a landscape where the factual blends seamlessly with the fantastic, 'Corelli's Mandolin' is a passionate novel as rich in ideas as it is genuinely moving."-catalog summary
"Coincidences; mix-ups; harmless mistakes and switches. And so a story is born." Imagine Cinderella with a really, really wicked stepmother and a lonely, yet helpful ghost.
In Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, 11- year-old Liesl is confined to a tiny attic bedroom, locked away and totally isolated by her cruel stepmother while her father falls ill and dies. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice -- until one night two shadows move and speak.