Shelf Life Blog
Sometimes you check out a book that starts a new family hobby. The book Paletas started a wonderful new hobby for our family. The day before my son found this book he was watching a Food network show on Paletas, the delicious Latin-American treats that we call popsicles. The next day my son found this book at the library: Paletas : Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice, and Aguas Frescas by Fany Gerson. It was summertime and we made the key lime popsicles rolled in pie crust crumbs and each popsicle tasted just like a piece of key lime pie. We also made the avocado paletas and even though they sounded dreadful, they were really delicious! Of course we also made the more traditional lemon-lime popsicles.
Although most people are aware that the fictional character of Count Dracula was based on a real person, very few people in the U.S. know the details of his life and how he was viewed by the Romanian people today. The political career, battles, and world that the historical Prince Dracula lived in remain a source of enigmatic fascination for the vast majority of people who associate the name with the classic film starring Bela Lugosi. Radu Florsecu’s biography of the historical Dracula, Dracula: Prince of Many Faces, illuminates the true events of Dracula’s life and compares and contrasts them to Bram Stoker’s classic novel.
There's that familiar anecdote: a child gets a nice, big, expensive toy for his birthday. The parents have spent hours putting it together,. For all of their sweat, pain, and suffering they find that the child is most fascinated with the big cardboard box the toy came in.
Cardboard, by Doug TenNapel, is a clever variation on that premise. Mike, an out-of-work carpenter, has nothing for his son Cam's birthday. A strange old man approaches him with an offer. For just a handful of change, Mike can get his son an amazing gift. It may seem like an ordinary cardboard box, but whatever Cam makes out of the corrugated paper pulp comes to life.
There was a town, and there was a girl, and there was a theft. I was living in the town, and I was hired to investigate the theft, and I thought the girl had nothing to do with it. I was almost thirteen and I was wrong.
Lemony Snicket is back in action. "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" is the first volume of a new four-book series known as All the Wrong Questions.
Seventeen-year-old Alex has had a rough time lately in Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick. First her parents tragically pass away in a helicopter accident, and then she is diagnosed with a brain tumor, which she dubs “the monster.” Fed up with managing the monster and all of its side effects like losing her sense of smell, she escapes to a campsite for a few days to think about her options. And then the whole world is turned upside down by an electromagnetic pulse that leaves much of the population dead or changed into flesh-eating zombies.
The Founding Foodies, by Dave DeWitt, is an easy-going chat on matters historic and gastronomic in the Old Dominion and beyond. DeWitt dismisses some food writers’ contentions that colonial food was poor stuff. Having attended Mr. Jefferson’s university and being thus familiar with the third president’s many accomplishments, he knew that this common opinion was surely an overgeneralization. Jefferson, as well as Washington and Franklin, were trend-setters—learned men who easily absorbed and promulgated cultured styles of fashion, philosophy, architecture, and, yes, food, derived European trends, especially their French allies.
Besides these Founding Fathers’ culinary preferences, DeWitt also looks at curious historical periods of Virginia history where food, or lack of same, played a noteworthy role. At Jamestown, the horrors of spoiled ships’ rations and the colonists’ inexperience with hunting and fishing made them very dependent on the native tribes’ shared knowledge. They did learn to hunt and fish which was well since the supply ship was delayed, nearly resulting in John Smith being hanged. Desperate to turn a profit in the days before tobacco, the settlers took up fishing on a grand scale—thousands of pounds of salted cod to England and dried fish to Spain.
A relative of one of my customers called me from Hawaii to tell me that I had to read this book. I can always tell it is he when I pick up the phone and hear, "Aloha!!!" He didn't want to tell me too much about Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist, because he didn't want to spoil anything for me. However, he did want me to call him to discuss the book as soon as I finished it.
After reading it, I have to say that if you like Stephen King, you would enjoy Little Star, which focuses on two girls—one of whom is a sociopath and another who idolizes and wants to be just like her.
The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman gives readers a look at America’s past while at the same time encouraging them to take a hard look at its present. The novel centers around a 13-year-old girl named Sophie who lives with her recently divorced mother in New Orleans, Louisiana. The story opens with Sophie being taken to a rural part of Louisiana to spend the summer with her maiden aunt and ailing grandmother at the family’s crumbling plantation house while her mother stays in the city and studies to become an accountant.
In Goldilocks and The Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems, Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur and another unnamed Dinosaur visiting from Norway just happened to make three big bowls of delicious chocolate pudding and leave them out in the open while they went “someplace else.” Of course these dinosaurs did not know that Goldilocks would be coming around soon, and they certainly weren’t terribly hungry...