Shelf Life now in New Catalogue

Stratford Public Library has a new catalogue called BiblioCommons. All future Shelf Life reviews will be incorporated into our new catalogue. Check out the catalogue here.

To search for books that have been reviewed in Shelf Life, select tag from the drop down menu in the search box and then search for shelf life reviewed.

We will not be posting any further Shelf Life Reviews on the blog. Thank you for visiting the blog over the past year.

-Stratford Public Library








by Susan Griffith


"Because gap years are wasted on the young..." so says the new edition of Gap Years for Grown Ups. But a "gap year" is not necessarily a full twelve months, it is whatever length of time one needs to recharge, reinvigorate and follow one's bliss. Think of it as a sabbatical, an unpaid leave or just a break, a gap "year" can allow one to achieve a long-time dream, put spring back into one's step and give a person new focus, no matter if a person is burnt out, seeking simplicity or perhaps disheartened for some reason. Taking a break from a job - or just normal life - can be scary though, and this book outlines the steps needed to decide if the time is right for a gap, and how to determine what kinds of activities are out there to fill up that gap if the right time is right now: maybe a turn as an overseas volunteer, or perhaps a spiritual retreat is what is needed? The author includes advice on how to persuade the boss or family about that break, how to afford a gap year, and lots of practical tips for getting around red tape, where and how to find accommodations, health and safety and general travel. The best part are the many stories of people to took that gap and did extrordinary things, like volunteering on biological reserve in Ecuador, moving to Florence to take Italian immersion and cooking courses, teaching Tanzanian villagers how to knit, or leading tours in a variety of countries and cultures. By no means a solitary venture, "gapping" can involve the entire family, and the author shows how kids - especially young children - can quickly adapt to world travel, even with their schoolwork in tow. Lastly, there is a chapter about readapting to one's "normal" life - which may not feel as normal as after taking an exciting gap year of one's own. Click here to reserve a copy in our new on-line catalogue, Bibliocommons.

We're Moving!

SPL Shelf Life reviews can now be found in BiblioCommons, the new discovery layer of the Stratford Public Library Catalogue. To find reviews, simply do a keyword search for Shelf Life.
To visit BiblioCommons, click here.

By Paul Sutherland

The laws of astrophysics state that the universe is expanding, but in 2006 when the International Astronomical Union “demoted” Pluto from a planet to a dwarf “plutoid”, our neighbourhood in it shrank by about 2,543,166,000 km. It created quite a stir, for a planet that had only been discovered in 1930. Astronomy has come a long way in the past century, with the spaceships Voyager 1 and 2 making their trips to infinity and beyond, sending back data along the way, and the powerful Hubble telescope able to capture images of our planets and deep space that are more incredible than any artists’ imagination. All the “news” from our solar system is contained in this well-organized book. The sun and each planet has a chapter dedicated to it and their moons or satellites, and our moon gets one of its own (because it’s ours), plus there are separate chapters on asteroids, comets, and “extra-solar” planets. Mars gets some extra treatment because of the excitement Rover created in finding bacterial fossils, ice and what appeared to be the ‘face of Mars’. One whole section tells you how to observe these heavenly bodies, with the help of the planisphere (included in the book’s cover) which can be set to show what you can see in the sky on any given date and time – if you can escape all our light pollution. There are loads of pictures, Hubble photographs, artists’ renderings and quaint illustrations of superstitions about our past beliefs, more astrological than astronomical. There are side-bar tidbits in each chapter designed to fuel deeper interest in these cosmological spheres, and the author includes a glossary and index for quick references. On a clear night this summer, throw a little planet-gazing into your star-gazing and learn a little more about our place in the universe. Click here to find Where Did Pluto Go? in our on-line catalogue.

by Daniel Acer

Daniel Acer’s book, aimed a slightly older reading audience than Boredom Busters, offers a number of ways in which kids can amaze and astonish themselves and their friends. How? Taking phony UFO photos, turning themselves into headless zombies (using an amazing illusion), making fake Bigfoot footprints, filming a lake monster video, and various other illusionary and magic tricks are presented with illustrated, step-by-step directions. For each hoax, a list of required materials – if any – is provided.

Sound like fun? The whole family can enjoy and participate in the activities of this book, which is based on the television series Mystery Hunters, produced by YTV and Discovery Networks International.

** Recommended for ages 9 to 12 years.
Find this book in the library catalogue.

Boredom Blasters

by Helaine Becker

The sub-title of this book, Brain Bogglers, Awesome Activities, Cool Comics, Tasty Treats, and More hints at the fun to be found in this gem. Easy-to-follow recipes and instructions for games, crafts and recipes, and plenty of quizzes, jokes and brain bogglers, are provided – plus lots of wacky and astounding facts. Kids can make monster footprints, fortune cookies, bread bag tag racers or gross-out gummy worms. They can play “Fortune Bingo”, decipher secret messages, discover some cool calculator tricks, play “Star Warts”, and even learn some simple magic tricks.

As the author states, this is the book to consult if you are sick of watching the grass grow, if you have lost count of the ceiling tiles in your house, or if your thumbs are tired of twiddling! “Whether you use it on your own or with friends, Boredom Blasters will save the day. It’s a superhero, it’s a book … it’s your new best friend!”

“How did so much fun get into one book?” is what children and parents will wonder after perusing this publication!

** Recommended for ages 7 to 11 years.
Find this book in the library catalogue.


by Edward "Teddy" Payne

Hot off the local presses is this slim little volume, the newest by Teddy Payne, that is dedicated to some of Stratford's finest eating establishments. Each restaurant was chosen by Teddy, reviewed by Teddy, and each is accompanied by one of Teddy's original whimsical watercolours of the restaurants themselves. Arranged in alphabetical order from Bentley's to York Street Kitchen, each of the fourteen eateries contributed at least one of their chief recipes, which appear at the end of the book. Thus readers can find out the secret ingredient of Bijou's tasty onion soup, the perfect spice-mix for Raja's chicken korma, how to assemble Down The Street's panko crusted sablefish dish, and what makes the The Parlour's fire-roasted tomato and wild mushroom soup an award-winner. Teddy also added a favourite recipe of his own, contributed the introduction in his warm, anecdotal style, and thoughtfully provides the contact information for all fourteen reviewed restaurants, plus that for other 'honourable mention' restaurants and cafe's (in case you can't get a reservation at those he reviewed). What makes this little book extra special is that Teddy is donating a large portion of the proceeds of the sale of his book to the Stratford Symphony Orchestra in honour of their upcoming fifth season, and it is for sale all over town, as well as on the Symphony's website. It makes a nice souvenir of our fair city, but it is of course available to be borrowed at the Library as well. Bon appetite! Find it here in our on-line catalogue.

The Castle on Deadman’s Island: A Mystery

by Curtis Parkinson

A old castle with a deep basement, a secret tunnel, a child’s skeleton, a woman’s mysterious disappearance, a ghost, an eccentric millionaire, a bizarre will and a curse born in local lore, are only some of the ingredients in a suspense-filled mystery novel featuring the same three friends (Neil, Graham and Crescent) who appeared in Curtis Parkinson’s previous children’s novel, Death in Kingsport.

Soon after the owner of the castle on Deadman’s Island in the St. Lawrence River dies, Graham’s aunt abruptly disappears. Graham is convinced that she hasn’t simply left on a sudden trip, as some think. His conviction grows as various clues begin to turn up, such as an abandoned pair of sensible walking shoes, similar to those that his Aunt Etta would often wear. The revelation that Graham’s aunt has been bequeathed a one-third ownership of the castle complicates the situation. Then Graham is attacked, tied up and gagged by two intruders. What is going on … and can he and his friends discover the truth before it’s too late?

This is another adventure / mystery story with plenty of suspense and action, almost certain to intrigue readers looking for some great fiction to read over the summer.

** Recommended for ages 10 to 14 years.
Find this book in the library catalogue.

Footprints in Time

by Petru Popescu

Thirteen-year-old Jack Conran can’t believe his fantastic luck when he’s included on a research trip to the “Witch’s Pot” – an unexplored crater in the isolated savanna area of Tanzania, East Africa. However, his great luck quickly changes to horrible when the small plane crashes, the other occupants are tragically killed, and Jack, wounded, is left on his own in a desperate struggle for his very survival. With hungry lions roaming everywhere in the crater area, far from civilization, Jack knows that his struggle won’t be easy, but what he doesn’t expect is to meet a mysterious creature who saves his life.

Who, or what, is this creature, and why is it helping him? Could the creature possibly be the mysterious link from the past for which Jack’s father had been searching? Can Jack and the creature come to understand each other and even become friends?

Readers who like adventure stories with plenty of action, danger and suspense won’t be able to put down this exciting, fast-paced tale until the very last page.

** Recommended for ages 9 to 13 years.
Find this book in the library catalogue.



In an English manor's attic, behind an old brick wall, an ancient sea-chest is found. Inside, carefully preserved, is a literary treasure - the memoirs of one of the most successful and enigmatic writers in English history, Jane Austen. Have you ever wondered how a woman who never married and by all accounts was never in love was able to create some of the most romantic relationships in literature? What if she did have a secret affair with a man of wealth and distinction, far above her own station? Author Syrie James takes much of what is really known about Jane Austen and weaves these facts into a "what might have been" life of Jane Austen, one where she meets Sir Walter Scott, visits the Derbyshire that became an important setting for Pride and Prejudice, and falls deeply in love with a man who may have been the inspiration for all her male heroes, one Frederick Ashford. James brings to life Austen's entire family - her hypochondriac mother, affectionate father, all her brothers and of course her sister Cassandra to whom she was devoted - as well as a host of other more-or-less imaginary characters that readers of Jane Austen will find vaguely familiar. She also includes a variety of things that make this fictionalized autobiography seem convincingly real - a map of Jane's England, a copy of the Austen family tree, and introduction by "Dr. Mary I. Jesse, president of the Jane Austen Literary Foundation", who is actually one of those imaginary characters. This edition comes complete with a reading guide for book clubs, an insightful author interview and a chronology of events in Jane Austen's real life, and is an excellent substitute for anyone who wishes Ms. Austen had given us more of her own life's story or written more novels before her untimely death. Reserve your copy here in our on-line catalogue.

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