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.

The Odd Egg

by Emily Gravett

That “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is never more evident than in Emily Gravett’s latest story, the Odd Egg.
All the birds had laid an egg except Duck.
One day, Duck came across an enormous egg with green spots near the river. She thought it was beautiful, but it was so unusual in appearance that the other birds laughed and laughed.
After a few days, all the eggs except Duck’s had hatched. Everyone was intrigued. When would it hatch? Would it hatch at all? As time went on, only Duck, knitting patiently near the egg, believed that something would eventually happen.
Finally, one day, there was a “creak”, a “crack” and a loud “snap!” from the egg… and a baby crocodile appeared! Duck was so happy! Right away, she loved her baby despite its unducklike appearance and habits…. and despite the ridicule of the other birds.
The author has used a minimum of words to convey the theme of unconditional love in this story. In fact, the economy of text is one of the beauties of this tale, a technique which serves to highlight the excellent illustrations in this wise and witty picture book for preschoolers and their parents.
** Recommended for ages 3 to 6 years.

The Cow that Laid an Egg

by Andy Cutbill

Unable to ride a bicycle or perform handstands like the other cows on the farm, Marjorie didn’t feel very special at all. Instead, she felt extraordinarily ordinary. The chickens, noticing that Marjorie was down in the dumps, “hatched” a plot. The next morning, there was an almighty commotion in the barnyard …. “I’VE LAID AN EGG!” bellowed Marjorie the Cow.

The other cows were stunned. None of them had ever laid an egg before! The farmer called the local newspaper; people came from far and wide to see the egg laid by a cow, and Marjorie sat on it to keep it warm.

The other cows were suspicious. Had Marjorie really laid that egg, or were the chickens somehow involved?

Day after day, Marjorie happily sat on her egg until finally, it cracked open and a small feathery bundle appeared. Feathery? Yes, it had feathers and looked just like a chicken. The suspicions of the other cows seemed justified … but only until Marjorie’s baby opened its mouth!

This hilarious story is accompanied by equally hilarious illustrations, plus a CD on which the story is read aloud by Rubert Degas.

** Recommended for ages 4 to 7 years.
Find this item in the library catalogue.

Take a dash of Under the Tuscan Sun, throw in a smidgen of Jane Johnson’s Crossed Bones, add a tiny drop of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, and then just the tiniest hint of The Da Vinci Code, and you get a novel like The Glassblower of Murano. During the Renaissance Corradino Manin became a glass artisan by complete accident. Hiding on the island of Murano after his family was betrayed by one of their own, the young Corradino survived by learning the craft of the Murano glassblowers. So well did he learn the craft that he becomes the best, most renowned, most sought-after maestro of glass in the known world. It is precisely because of his fame that his fate is sealed when he finds he has a daughter, Leonora, the product of an affair with a noblewoman. Forever separated from her by class but hoping to build a life for them together, he commits an act of treason – but before doing so gives her a perfectly shaped glass heart. Now in the present day, Nora leaves behind her life in England to take up residence in Venice, Italy, the home of her ancestors and the father she never knew. All she takes with her is the tiny glass heart that her father passed down to her, a heart forged and shaped by her Renaissance ancestor Corradino Manin. Nora changes her name back to the Italian Leonora, and tries to find peace in the ancient, decaying city, forever known for its beauty and treachery. When she is hired by a glass foundry on the very street named for Corradino, the past and present begins to converge, taking Leonora in directions she never imagined. Two stories forming one, both sad and beautifully hopeful, and both stirring up vibrant images of a city always enchanting and ensnaring – that’s the recipe for a fine novel. Reserve The Glassblower of Murano here in our on-line catalogue.

The Day Leo Said I HATE YOU

by Robie H. Harris

One day, Leo’s mother said “No!” to everything that Leo did. It was “No!” to rolling squishy tomatoes across the floor; “No!” to dropping string beans into the fish bowl, “No!” to dancing on the table, and “No!” to squirting blue toothpaste into the toilet. In a temper, Leo went to his room and drew an ugly picture of his mother on the wall. “No!” yelled his mother when she saw the nearly-finished picture. “No, no, no!” Then it happened. Leo suddenly found himself yelling back at his mother …. “I HATE YOU!”

The words were out. Leo was horrified. Would his mother still love him?

Robie Harris’ newest picture book explores the theme of unconditional parental love, as well as the feelings of frustration and anger sometimes felt by young children as they learn to adjust, cope and communicate in a world where it often seems as if there are far too many rules.

** Recommended for ages 3 to 5 years.
Find this book in the library's catalogue.

Big Words for Little People

by Jamie Lee Curtis

Sometimes it’s very difficult for young children to communicate in a big person’s world. Adult words such as “considerate”, “persevere”, “patience”, “appropriate” and “consequences” can be not only difficult to pronounce but also to understand. Yet an understanding of such words – and their meanings - is essential in our world. As the author notes, “Words – big or little – are the bridges that connect us all.”

With clear, humorous explanations in rhyme and lots of colourful illustrations, Jamie Lee Curtis’ newest picture book explores some of these words and concepts, and provides simple explanations which even preschoolers can understand.
The team of Jamie Lee Curtis (author) and Laura Cornell (illustrator) have created a number of picture books which, with sensitivity and humour, explore the feelings and emotions of young children – for example, “It’s Hard to be Five”, “Today I Feel Silly and Other Moods that Make My Day” and “Tell Me Again about the Night I Was Born”.

** Recommended for ages 3 to 7 years.
Find this book in the library's catalogue.

My Mom is Trying to Ruin my Life

by Kate Feiffer

A little girl is firmly convinced that her mother is actually trying to ruin her life! Why otherwise would her mother always kiss her in front of her friends (embarrassing), come to school with things that her daughter might need during the day (also embarrassing), talk and laugh loudly (especially embarrassing), and worry so much about her safety (meaning that some fun, but dangerous, activities are forbidden)?

Perhaps her father is also trying to ruin her life, in different ways. He reminds her constantly about her homework, and always insists on a prompt bedtime and a clean bedroom.

Life would be so much simpler without parents and their rules ... or would it? Who would cook for her, tuck her into bed, read her a bedtime story, kiss her goodnight and comfort her if she had a bad dream?

After some thought, the little girl realizes that she is actually very lucky to have two such loving, caring parents!

** Recommended for ages 3 to 6 years.
Find this book in the library's catalogue.

The Mother-Daughter Book Club

by Heather Vogel Frederick

Emma, Jess, Cassidy and Megan simply can’t believe their ears! Their mothers have enrolled them in what? A mother-daughter book club? A book club which is to meet once a month, taking turns at members’ homes? What on earth could their mothers have been thinking – or not thinking?

The four middle school girls have many other things on their minds than reading and discussing Little Women. Megan is entirely preoccupied with her own set of fashionable friends; hockey is Cassidy’s life; Jess misses her absent mother too much to care about anything else, and Emma has already read just about every book in print - including Little Women. Besides, although Jess and Emma are good friends, they are despised by Megan, a snob, and Cassidy appears to have no use for anyone not involved with hockey.

However, as this novel skilfully demonstrates, the four unlikely friends have much more in common than they suppose at first. They also have quite a bit in common with the four sisters in Little Women - and with their own mothers. Connections are drawn between the girls and their families and into the past, as on various occasions they begin to ask themselves, “What would Jo March do now?”

Heather Frederick’s novel scores highly in appeal, humour and realistic dialogue, and it’s quite likely that middle school readers will be looking for more of her books. (The Library has two.)

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

Cat Chat

by Meredith Phillips

Why do cats purr? Why are they often more responsive to women’s voices than men’s? How do they almost always manage to land on their feet, and do they really like to drink milk?

Meredith Phillips’ attractive book, one of the Pet’s Point of View books for children, will supply the answers to these questions and provide many more intriguing facts about cats as well. Did you know that cats groom themselves for more than one quarter of the time that they are awake, and that they mark their territory by rubbing their faces on things or people? Did you know that cats have trouble digesting sugar, that a cat can leap about six times the length of its body, and that the record for the largest litter is nineteen kittens?

Cat Chat provides an opportunity for children to learn about their feline friend from its point of view, using fun facts, attractive photos, instructions on basic cat care, a glossary and a timeline of significant events in the history of cats.

** Recommended for ages 5 to 10 years.
Find this item in the library's catalogue.


by Marty Crisp

The Titanic was enormous. With its own post office, swimming pool, gymnasium, squash courts and library, it truly was a ten-storey high “floating city”.

Historians believe that huge ocean liner had a cat, necessary for seagoing vessels at the time to control mice and rat populations. If so, what happened to the cat when the Titanic sank on that fateful April night in 1912?

Titanicat tells the story of a young cabinboy, Jim, who “adopted” the Titanic’s cat and her three kittens when he worked on the ship during the final preparations for its maiden voyage. However, when the much-anticipated day of departure came, Jim noticed that the cat was quickly removing her kittens from the ship. When she had trouble locating the third kitten, Jim found it, took it to her on the dock … and so missed the departure of the ship, the voyage – and the tragic fate of the “unsinkable” Titanic.

Is Titanicat entirely fictional? It could have happened, for it’s often said that animals can sense an impending disaster ….

The remarkable watercolour illustrations which accompany this fascinating and suspenseful story for children are truly memorable and beautiful.

** Recommended for ages 6 to 10 years.
Find this item in our catalogue.

Patterns in the Sand

For those who love a cozy mystery – no gore, no bad language, no violence – it doesn’t get much better than Sally Goldenbaum’s Seaside Knitters series. In the follow-up to her debut, Death by Cashmere, the Seaside Knitters Club members, Nell, Izzy, Cass, Birdie, and others are startled to find a body in the window of the snug Knitting Studio – a sleeping one. The stranger in town (the aptly named Willow) is known for her fibre art, and she fits well into the Sea Harbor community of like-minded artisans, but she seems reluctant to fully join the knot of friendly knitters. The women embrace her anyway, knowing that in time her reserve will thaw and she will start to feel at home. What they don’t count on is that this young woman is somehow tied to one of their friends, a friend who is poisoned during the renowned Art at Night Festival in nearby Canary Cove, and they must help the young woman prove her innocence before another tragedy occurs. With her evocative descriptions of New England ocean-views, salty-air breezes and the laid-back, hospitable folks of Sea Harbor, this series by Sally Goldenbaum may be the most tranquil set of murder mysteries you will ever read, and they are a perfect accompaniment for languid summer evenings – especially if you can’t get to a bit of seaside of your very own. Find a copy of Patterns in the Sand here in our on-line catalogue.

By Wayne Caldwell et al, University of Guelph

For those wanting to buy and eat locally, The Urbanite’s Guide to the Countryside gives an overview of the vast variety of crops and products available in southern Ontario. Beginning with a history of agriculture in Ontario and touching on some of the issues farms face today, the authors also include sections on typical sights encountered in rural southern Ontario – the traditional and modern farm-scapes, Old Order Mennonites, the rural towns and its often lush forests and wetlands (with cautions for the Urbanite driver about our gravel roads). Following this comes each mini-chapter, arranged alphabetically by resource type, from apples to wind farms. Each entry contains statistics on the listed industry, sidebars of trivia, and little eye-catching photographs. This slim volume does have some shortcomings that will hopefully be corrected in the next edition – there is no index, photos are often not identified (including one of Wellington St. here in Stratford), and there are no addresses or websites provided for the various types of farms, something that could have been added in an appendix or two (a silly oversight from the publisher – the University of Guelph!). Still, it will be useful for children doing projects and adults looking for local produce - even things like ginseng, fish-farms and alpaca wool, besides the traditional maple syrup, dairy and pig farms, and a quick call to the reference desk at the Library will tell you exactly where to look for those llamas. Click here to find The Urbanite's Guide to the Countryside in our on-line catalogue.

One Hen by Katie Smith Milway

Sometimes the biggest changes in our world begin in the smallest ways. Katie Smith Milway’s story relates how the purchase of one small hen changed an African community.

In a small village in Ghana, young Kojo and his widowed mother were just able to survive by gathering and selling firewood. One day, given a small loan, Kojo bought a hen to provide them with eggs. He sold the extra eggs at the market, repaid his loan, and eventually saved enough to buy another hen, then another, and another, and so on. After a while, Kojo earned enough money to pay his school fees as well. He attended school and obtained a bank loan, using it to establish a poultry farm near his village. As the farm grew, it employed others, enabling them – like Kojo and his mother – to leave poverty behind. With the taxes paid by Kojo and his employees, the whole community benefited. As the author states, “Change can happen, one person at a time.”

Was there a real Kojo? Yes: some years ago, Kwabena Darko, a boy living in the Ashanti region of Ghana, helped his mother to support his family. Winning a scholarship to attend an agricultural college in Israel, he studied poultry science, returned to Ghana and with some difficulty, obtained a loan to start a poultry farm. The farm eventually employed many others, and flourished, as did his community. Kwabena then established the Sinapi Aba Trust to provide microloans to others. The Trust grew. In a single year, 2006, it provided loans to 50,000 Ghanaians to establish small businesses such as raising small livestock, sewing, selling firewood, etc. The lives of thousands of people from many communities were transformed. Today, Sinapi Aba is part of the global nonprofit microfinance organization, Opportunity International.

The author of One Hen, Katie Smith Milway, was formerly a co-ordinator of community development programs in Africa and Latin America for the global organization, Food for the Hungry International.
One Hen was illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, of Ontario, one of Canada ’s foremost children’s picture book author-illustrators.

Note: The copy of One Hen reviewed above was given to Stratford Public Library CEO Sam Coghlan as a registrant at Stratford’s Canada 3.0 Forum, June 8 and 9.

** Recommended for ages 5 to 10 years.
Find this book in the library catalogue.

FBCD FIC Class (book on CD)

DownloadLibrary (downloadable audiobook)

Summer is here! (Technically.) This means vacations are being planned, gardening needs to be done, and long work-weeks need to be wound down for hard-won weekends on the balcony or deck. It’s hard to read while gardening or in the glare of sunny balconies (I’ve noticed), and I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to read while driving to the cottage or weekend soccer matches. But that doesn’t mean one must neglect favourite books – simply listen to them on your car’s CD player, a laptop, or even your MP3 player or ipod. For instance, this excellent collection of short stories from the crème de la crème of crime-writers is available as a book-on-CD, or from our DownloadLibrary audio collection. Classic Crime Short Stories contains ten tales of the criminal element from authors like Margery Allingham (she of the Albert Campion series), G.K. Chesterton (Father Brown’s author) and Ruth Rendell (Inspector Wexford’s creator). They are read by veteran British actors Patrick Malahide (Law & Order UK, Poirot), and Jack Shepherd (Silent Witness, Charlotte Gray), and average about 30 minutes for each story (the longest is 46, while the shortest is a mere 8 minutes – don’t fall asleep or you’ll miss it!). The CD set contains 4 CDs, each with 2-3 stories; the DownloadLibrary edition can be saved to either an MP3, ipod, PC or Mac computer, and can be burned to your own discs should you wish to keep a copy. Ranging from the mysteriously creepy to amusingly adventurous (I have a soft spot for the two gentlemen thieves, AJ Raffles and Arsene Lupin), the Classic Crime Short Stories audio-book is an easy way to multitask this summer, whether you’re hitting the highway in the SUV or just hitting a nice bottle of white wine on the deck. Enjoy!

Nose Down, Eyes Up

By Merrill Markoe

Gil is a laid-back guy. A handy-man with a perpetual live-in job at a ritzy Malibu summer house for a richer-than-anyone-needs-to be retired couple, Gil happily works on their unending reno projects with his pack of four adoptee dogs at his side. Sure, he isn’t rich and has commitment-phobia (his ex-wife took care of that), but with the owners always away, Gil and the dogs have a pretty easy life, where they answer to no one and where it is always “beer-thirty”. Until the owners announce their imminent return. So Gil and the dogs have to move into his flaky girlfriend’s tiny home with her dogs. Sara is a “dog communicator”, but according to Jimmy, she always gets it wrong, and Jimmy should know – he’s Gil’s dog. That’s right, along with all the other upheaval, Gil suddenly finds he can hear and talk to his dogs – any dogs – like they were human, except they never think or say what we think they’re thinking or saying, and that’s when it gets a bit chaotic for poor Gil. For instance, Jimmy’s sage advice to the other dogs is “nose down, eyes up” will get a dog anything he wants. Plus, after years of being told he’s a “good boy”, Jimmy has come to believe that he is a higher, hybrid creature, half-canine, half-human, and is devastated when he learns that he is all dog. He insists on meeting his birth-mom – who happens to live with the ex-wife – and then refuses to leave his new pack. Soon Gil is trapped with his overly-friendly ex-wife, her jealous new husband and the detective he hired to spy on her. Gil heads for the hills to escape the coming catastrophe, gets into more trouble (with women), and gladly heads back to get Jimmy after his ex-wife’s marriage implodes. Only once he arrives in Malibu, he is met with raging wildfires that are engulfing most of the coast – and the guesthouse where Jimmy was left. Full of canine-human insights, foul language and screwed-up relationships, Nose Down, Eyes Up is nevertheless a very funny and heart-warming book, sure to have any dog-owner looking at their companions in a whole new light. Click here to find Nose Down, Eyes Up in the SPL on-line catalogue.

Anyone who thinks that Ontario hasn’t experienced its share of disasters may be convinced otherwise after reading Rene Biberstein’s Disasters of Ontario!
Quite a number of devastating events have actually occurred in our fair province.

Tornados? Consider the Windsor Tornado of June 1946, which claimed 14 victims and injured 155, or the Barrie Tornado of 1985.

Shipwrecks? Read about the Edmund Fitzgerald, the biggest freighter on the Great Lakes until 1972. It sank on November 10, 1975, in a Lake Superior squall; all 29 crew members perished.

Evacuations? You may remember the 1979 derailment of a train carrying deadly chemicals through Mississauga, which caused the second-largest evacuation ever to take place in North America - after Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana.

Fires? The Cochrane District Fire in the summer of 1916 destroyed not only the town of Cochrane, but Iroquois Falls , Kelso, Matheson, Porquis Junction, Nushka and other communities as well. Tragically, a number of people suffocated when they took shelter in enclosed wells and root cellars.

The list continues: in all, 75 disasters – including mine collapses, floods, bridge collapses, deadly epidemics and many more marine disasters on the Great Lakes - are described in fascinating detail in this book.

** Recommended for ages 9 years and up.
Find this book in the library catalogue.

Tsunami! By Kimiko Kajikawa

When wise old Ojiisan, alone on the steep mountain, saw the enormous wave flowing away from the land during the rice festival, only he recognized what it signified. “Tsunami – the monster wave!” he whispered to himself in horror. None of the other villagers had any idea of the impending danger, and everyone except Ojiisan, young and old, watched the sea excitedly from the beach.

What was Ojiisan to do? How could he quickly convey to the villagers the terrible threat posed by the monster wave, which would roar back any minute as a tsunami? How could he describe its overwhelming power, and persuade the entire community to leave the festivities and climb the steep mountain, safe from the sea? How would the villagers even hear his feeble voice from atop the mountain? Yet he had to do something, or four hundred people would be swallowed by the angry sea.

In the end, Ojiisan’s generous sacrifice – setting his precious rice fields on fire, knowing that every villager would rush up the mountain to fight the fire - is successful, and every life is saved.
Kimiko Kajikawa’s touching story has been adapted from Lafcadio Hearn’s earlier story, A Living God, and Ed Young’s brilliant cut-paper collage art strongly conveys the dramatic and terrifying power of a tsunami.

** Recommended for ages 4 to 7 years.
Find this book in the library catalogue.

An On-line Database from Rosen Publishing

SPL has subscribed to a database just for teens, one that can’t be found by Googling. Although its title, “Health and Wellness” would let you think it’s only about nutrition and fitness and hygiene (*yawn*), it actually goes much further than that. Its homepage alone has links for in-depth, honest looks at an A-Z list of teen issues including Friendship and Dating, Skills for School, Work and Life (i.e. managing money), Body Basics, Grief and Loss, Diversity (how to fit in if you’re from another country) and a whole host of others. Each topic is connected to a list of articles that contain links to related subjects, or sub-topics, and it is just as easy to find an article by hitting the quick search bar at the top of each page. There is an alphabetical and a subject list as well, in case you can’t spell “dyscalculia” or just want to browse all the thousands of things teens are going through. At the top of each page is a link to teen hotlines, and a glossary to look up things like “dyscalculia”. Each article can be printed or e-mailed (for more private reading), and comes with complete citation information for project bibliographies (helpful in avoiding accusations of plagiarism). The homepage contains a new poll each week, teen-wellness trivia with accompanying articles, a “personal story” archive about teens and how they have dealt with some pretty horrible things, and even the chance to consult a real-life doctor on-line – confidentiality ensured. Accessible at the library or in the privacy of your own home, Teen Health and Wellness database contains candid, reliable information for just about any teen issue you can think of, and some that you wouldn’t want to. Highly recommended for all teens. Click here to access the Teen Health and Wellness: Real Life, Real Answers database.

Interview the Best

with Alan Ladd
@SPL: DVD 650.14 Int

There are a lot of people looking for work right now, so the job market is more competitive than it was even a year ago. In order to help put your best foot forward, it helps to know the better practices behind job searching. In Interview The Best, consultant Alan Ladd, a job coach with more than 20 years experience, explains the job search process from start to finish, as he goes around a table of job-seekers. Some of them have college degrees, some have graduated from university, and some have little formal education but years of experience in a particular field. The philosophy that Ladd believes is that it does not matter how qualified you are, the person that interviews the best will always land the job. The DVD is sectioned into “chapters” on your resume, searching for a job, identifying your strengths, the interview, questions and answers, “the close” and the follow-up. There is also a chapter review where each section’s highlights are listed for quick reference (hit the “pause” button frequently to take notes). These highlights are often small thing that often seem unimportant but could be the difference between getting an interview and the job or not. For instance, your resume may impress an employer and she decides to call you to set up an interview. Except that she gets your answering machine, and the message says, “Yo, I ain’t here – leave your info!” She probably won’t, and she won’t call back, so it is important when looking for work to look and sound professional – even in your voice mail. Another example Ladd highlights is doing homework on the organization or companies to which you are applying. Test their products, check out their website and annual reports, visit the site or take a tour of the facility – all this before an interview is good preparation. Not only does it give you extra armor for the interview, you will also know where their offices are located and be able to arrive for an interview relaxed and on time. There are many more true-to-life examples on this DVD, it is a useful tool for anyone at any level of education or experience trying to land a new job; I highly recommend it. Click
here to find Interview the Best in our on-line catalogue.

Best-selling children’s author Cornelia Funke’s collection of three original stories also features a princess who makes some unusual choices. In the first story, Princess Violetta wishes not to be a queen, but a brave knight.

This notion, of course, meets with disapproval from the king and queen and scorn from her three older brothers. It’s up to the princess to prove that not only can she become a skillful knight, but that she can make an excellent choice of husband as well.

In the second story, Molly, a pirate girl, is kidnapped by a crew of pirates, led by Captain Firebeard. Molly is able to turn the tables on the kidnappers by secretly summoning her mother, Barbarous Bertha, who rescues her daughter and sets Firebeard’s terrified crew to cleaning, scrubbing and cooking for her own pirate ship.

The third story describes the sibling relationship between an older sister and a preschool-aged little brother who pretends to be a brave “explorer” during the day … but who still wants to snuggle up beside his sister every night - in order to keep the monsters away!

These amusing, inspiring stories, featuring some unusual heroines and heroes, are free of the stereotyping that sometimes occurs in children’s stories.

** Recommended for ages 4 to 7 years.
Find this book in the library catalogue.

Such a Prince, by Dan Bar-el

When Princess Vera is diagnosed with love sickness, her fairy godmother recommends that she eat three perfect peaches … and be married within a week!

Of course, in the opinion of the king and queen, not anyone will do for the position of new son-in-law. He must be “such a prince” - rich, dashing, strong and handsome. In other words, he must be entirely “wonderful and irresistible”!

In the countryside, a poor young man, Marvin, is not rich or handsome, dashing or strong. (In the very candid opinion of Libby Gabborchik, Vera’s fairy godmother, he’s definitely not a “hunk”!) However, he is kind, compassionate, generous and intelligent. Could such as he become a prince? Princess Vera, who notices and appreciates Marvin’s kindness and intelligence, certainly thinks so. In fact, the princess finds him entirely “wonderful and irresistible”!

With Libby’s help, Marvin is able to overcome the many objections of the King and Queen and marry his princess - but not before the king is tricked into kissing his own donkey!

Does this unusual fairy tale end “happily even after” for Marvin and Princess Vera? Well ….very likely, as fairy tales usually do!

Canadian author and storyteller Dan Bar-el’s hilarious tale, told from an unusual fairy godmother’s point of view, is wonderfully paired with John Manders’ colourful, goofy illustrations.

** Recommended for ages 4 to 8 years.
Find this book in the library catalogue.

By E. W. Hornung

Back when Sherlock Holmes was testing cigar ash and sampling liquid cocaine, he had a counter-part in the literary crime world, one A.J. Raffles. It would be Raffles’ cigarette ash that Holmes would be testing – Raffles is a burglar. Not a particularly smooth burglar – his schemes do not always go quite according to plan – but he is fairly successful none-the-less, making away with Australian gold bullion in one escapade, and in the next, brazenly out-burglaring some well-known thieves for a Dowager-Marchioness’s sapphires. With his own version of Dr. Watson at his side (the peculiarly nick-named Bunny who also narrates these tales), the pair insinuate themselves into high society by playing cricket with aplomb, hob-knobbing with lords and ladies, and often doing so right under the unsuspecting nose of Inspector MacKenzie of Scotland Yard. As much a master of disguise as Holmes, Raffles chooses their targets not only for financial gain (they tend to spend their ill-gotten gains rather quickly), but also for the challenge of the theft. Thus, they tangle with the brutish Rosenthall, an illicit diamond buyer, and undertake to re-steal a stolen and priceless work of art for the handsome sum of £4000 - and risk getting nothing if they fail. Written in 1899, in late Victorian style by the brother-in-law of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, reading Raffles is very much like stepping back through time to visit a much beloved but forgotten gem of a character, one who creates the types of crimes Holmes would solve. While the late 1890’s slang may be as mysterious as the liberal use of cricket lingo (some words used have completely different uses today!), these short, early adventure stories of the gentleman thief have great flair, and are first-rate reading for true mystery fans. Any association with the stylish Raffles Hotel in Singapore – also built in the 1890’s – I am sure is just a happy coincidence. Click here to reserve a copy of Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman in our on-line catalogue.

By Delthia Ricks, MA, MS

With all the media frenzy regarding the N1H1 influenza virus, AKA the “swine ‘flu”, it is about time we had an objective look at influenza strains and how they affect our daily lives. Author Delthia Ricks, a medical writer for Newsday, has compiled 100 frequently-asked questions about the flu, neatly organized into nine sections on the basics, flu shots, medications, concerns for children and seniors, epidemic and pandemic planning, historical contexts and of course, how to prevent the spread of flu viruses. Each section has a number of corresponding questions, with informational sidebars (for definitions that can also be found in the handy glossary), and each question is answered with straightforward, clear information. An appendix at the back has a list of authoritative organizations and sources that can provide further information, like Flu Watch, which is coordinated through Canada’s own Centre for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control, or the Families Fighting Flu organization, an American group formed by families whose children did not survive flu, or were made dangerously ill by it. There is information about every strain of flu or virus that we have lately heard about in the news – Norwalk, H1N1, Avian, SARS – as well as many others. This book will not only help arm yourself from influenza, it will help arm you against misinformation about it too. Click here to find it in our on-line catalogue.

The Stratford Public Library has just subscribed to another new database, available exclusively to library card holders (free to all residents of Stratford, West Perth, Perth East and South Perth). It’s The Ancestry Library Edition, the subscription part of the website, and it provides a more in-depth means of getting at genealogical records and family histories. It contains census and military records, passenger lists, even land and probate records from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and a smattering of other European nations. Searchable fields include one for records, one for photos and maps, and another tab for newspaper stories and similar publications. It is also browsable by location, with clickable maps linked to census records and other data for specific regions, and the database contains the downloadable form to start creating your own family tree. The scanned search results can be viewed with a zoom, downloaded, saved, or e-mailed (in case your family tree is a cross-country family project, say). Search results can also lead to message boards (otherwise hidden and hard to find) for communication with other people looking for the same information – maybe distant cousins! Although it can only be used from within the library (licensing issues - sorry!), it is an ideal, free tool for anyone involved in geneological study, or for anyone wanting to know a bit more about their family history than can be gleaned from the original website.

A Year on a Pirate Ship, by Elizabeth Havercroft, 24 pages.
@ SPL: J 793.73 Hav

What do pirates do throughout the twelve months of the year besides chasing and attacking other ships? How do they overpower the crews of other vessels, and do pirate ships always carry the Jolly Roger flag? Where do pirates bury their treasure, and do they like to build sandcastles on the beach after burying their treasure? Most importantly, how often do they take baths, change their socks and brush their teeth – if ever?

As this book proves, the life of a pirate is a busy one - from surviving dangerous storms at sea to attacking other ships - and it certainly isn’t dull or easy!

Young children who are interested in pirates will be intrigued by this book which is full of action-packed illustrations with many things to notice and find. It’s just one of the Time Goes By series for children; other titles include A Year in a Castle, A Year in the World of Dinosaurs and A Year at a Construction Site. Each book in the series offers suggestions for activities and further reading relating to the book’s theme, plus a short glossary.

** Recommended for ages 4 to 8 years.
Find this book in the library catalogue.

The No-Good Do-Good Pirates, by Jim Kraft

The No-Good Do-Good Pirates, by Jim Kraft, 32 pages.
@ SPL: JP Kraft

Oh, those pirates! “Good” is definitely an unknown concept for them as they spend their days doing all sorts of evil deeds, which include plundering children’s birthday parties, stealing toys ….and even making teddy bears walk the plank of their ship, the Flying Pig! Can anyone deter these awful rogues - the scurvy Captain Squint, Ed the Fierce, One-Tooth Willy and Smelly Bob - from their reign of terror and nastiness?

When the no-good pirates are finally caught by the law, they are found guilty of robbing, looting and keeping a parrot without a license. However, they aren’t sent to prison (it’s closed for spring cleaning); instead, they are ordered to do one good deed before sundown.

Now the pirates are in real trouble! How can they accomplish this with no idea of what a “good deed” is?

Lacking a dictionary (and a public library), the pirates proceed to make some wildly unsuccessful guesses of what would constitute a good deed in the eyes of the townspeople. Finally, just before sundown, tired and discouraged, the four pirates happen by the harbour, just in time to see the notorious pirate ship, the Sea Monkey, arrive to plunder the town. Is this the pirates’ opportunity to do a good deed? Well …. maybe …. but in a very unexpected way!

Children will enjoy joining these hapless pirates in a thoroughly hilarious and swashbuckling adventure!

** Recommended for ages 3 to 7 years.
Find this book in the library catalogue.

Rosie and the Nightmares, by Philip Waechter, 24 pages.
@ SPL: JP Waech

Poor Rosie the Rabbit! Every night, she would experience another scary “monster nightmare”. It had been like that for weeks, with each night bringing another horrible dream – and Rosie was tired of it. So one day, she went to visit a dream specialist.

“Hmmmm”, said the specialist, and wrote her a prescription for a wonderful book that gave all sorts of helpful advice about dealing with monsters. Rosie was intrigued. She read the book all day, and when she was finished, she began to use her newfound knowledge to develop a plan of action – a plan which would tame those terrifying night monsters for good!

The next day, she put her plan into action. It worked beautifully. Never again would Rosie the Rabbit be terrified by ghastly dreams about monsters.

Philip Waechter’s picture book exemplifies the value of confronting one’s fears, no matter how huge and frightening they might seem at first. Rose is a feisty heroine who proves that courage is not the absence of fear… instead, courage is acknowledging and overcoming one’s fears.

This book will likely interest the many young children who have a nighttime fear of the dark when the lights are turned out at bedtime.

** Recommended for ages 4 to 7 years.
Find this book in the library catalogue.

Princess Peepers, by Pam Calvert

Princess Peepers, by Pam Calvert, 30 pages.
@ SPL: JP Calve

Princess Peepers loved wearing all of her many pairs of glasses. These included her sparkly glasses (to match her sparkly outfits), her bug glasses (to wear when bug-catching), and her very favourite rose-coloured glasses (to wear most of the time). In short, Princess Peepers was never without a pair of glasses perched on her nose, and she was perfectly happy and at ease wearing them.

Everything changed, however, when Princess Peepers started attending the Royal Academy for Perfect Princesses. Teased beyond endurance by the other princesses about her “extra set of eyeballs”, the Princess decided not to wear glasses anymore – not even her beloved sparkly glasses. From that point on, she walked, ran and fell into trouble everywhere she went - for Princess Peepers truly did need glasses!

One evening, the Princess fell into a different type of “trouble” – the arms of a handsome prince - who also needed glasses! Suddenly Princess Peepers gained a brand-new perspective on the value of clear sight.

Readers can guess the happy ending to this appealing, well-written story, which carries a gentle message about being one’s self.

** Recommended for ages 4 to 7 years.
Find this book in the library catalogue.

Spell Hunter

Spell Hunter, by R.J. Anderson, 329 pages.
@ SPL: YA FIC Ander

Faery Rebels, a new fantasy series for young adults by local author Rebecca Anderson, is certain to quickly gain a devoted following in Canada.(The first title, Spell Hunter, has already become a children’s bestseller in Britain where it was published under the title Knife.)

In the faery world of Oakenwyld, Knife, the main character, is a young rebellious faery who is determined to find the answers to her questions, follow her own instincts and do what she wishes – despite the Faery Queen’s strict rules. A few years later, Knife has become the Queen’s hunter due to her courage and fighting skills. As such, she is able to protect the faeries from their many predators … but she cannot shield them from a new mysterious, deadly disease. Could the humans living nearby have some answers or clues that would help? Knife feels that she must find out, once again defying the orders of the Faery Queen.

Knife’s quest to find the answers which the faeries of Oakenwyld so desperately need place her and Paul, her human friend, in immense danger. Knife’s courage and resolve are tested and strained to the limit in this suspenseful masterpiece, which so successfully juxtaposes magic and adventure, good and evil, and the faery and human worlds.

Young adult and middle-grade readers will be enchanted!
** Recommended for ages 10 to 14 years.

Find this book in the library catalogue.

Would You, by Marthe Jocelyn

Would You, by Marthe Jocelyn, 165 pages.
@ SPL: YA FIC Jocel

One of the best recently-published Canadian books for teens is Marthe Jocelyn’s Would You, which has been included on the shortlist for the prestigious Canadian Library Association’s 2009 Young Adult Book Award.
Would You is an exceptionally realistic account of a tragic event that strikes an ordinary family on a late summer weekend, and the impacts of the tragedy on each member of the Johnson family are examined. Just before starting college, older sister Claire is struck by a car and very seriously injured. Soon her parents and younger sister, Natalie, must make a heart-wrenching decision. Should life-support assistance be removed from Claire and her organs used to help someone else? Should they follow the specialist’s recommendation to do so? What would another family do in such a situation, in which life has changed so horribly in only a few seconds? What would you do?

It’s almost impossible to find any fault at all with this brilliant novel – it’s simply that good! One of its best features is the convincing teen dialogue occurring throughout the book. (Author Marthe Jocelyn once mentioned that she modeled her dialogue on conversations which she overheard between her own daughters.)

Marthe Jocelyn, a local author/illustrator, has written a number of children’s novels and picture books; Would You is her first novel for teens.

** Recommended for ages 12 to 16 years.

from EBSCO Database Publishing

The Stratford Public Library has just subscribed to a new database, available free of charge, exclusively to library card holders – and since library cards are free to all residents of Stratford, West Perth, Perth East and South Perth, just about anyone can access it. It’s the Small Engine Repair Reference Centre. Got a lawn-mower that won’t start on a Sunday morning but lost the service manual? Get the entire troubleshooting guide before your neighbours finish their morning coffee. How about a Ford tractor that won’t pull? There are service documents for over 70 models, free to download or print. In fact, in each category of small engine – from “generators” and “motorcycles” to “boat motors” and “snow mobiles” – there are subcategories for each brand, and each brand is broken down further by specific model. The model might have a single service document (like the 1992 Kawasaki KLF300 4x4 ATV), or an entire index of part instructions (like the John Deere Model 70 diesel tractor). Users will need the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader loaded onto their computers to read and print the manuals (free to download at, but navigation of the website is straightforward, even though it lacks a search bar (check under “Outdoor Power Equipment” for snow-throwers, and not under “Snow Machines”). Manuals for machines newer than 3 or 4 years old may not yet be available, but for anyone with an older tractor, motorcycle or outboard motor, this database will make you very happy campers, and might save some repair bills at the same time. Access the Small Engine Repair Reference Centre only on-line with your library card at

Each novel in the Maisie Dobbs series focuses on a small aspect of the after-effects of war, and as the title hints, the fifth deals with mental illness. Among the Mad has the heroine using her peculiar investigating style and talents to help the brass at Scotland Yard to track down an anonymous terrorist who has threatened to kill citizens of London. When his demands are not met – pensions for certain WWI survivors – he chooses his first victims, and his method is alarmingly close to a gruesome way thousands of men died in the Great War: poisonous gas. During the course of her inquiries, Maisie comes to realize that of the thousands of shell-shocked men who returned from the war, many were not given the help that they so urgently needed and indeed, earned in service to their country, and it is one of their number who knows far too much about chemical weapons. As she gets closer to the killer, she also begins to glimpse some governmental machinations employed during the war, the consequences of which might be at the root of the killer’s mad threats. In her calm, methodical way, Maisie also helps her trusted assistant Billy Beale cope with his wife’s slide into deep depression, and her gets her friend Priscilla to face her unhappy memories of the city instead of drowning them in gin. At the same time, Maisie’s somewhat cold exterior begins to melt – just a bit - as she finally lets go of some demons in her own war-time experience. Among the Mad is a highly empathetic look at mental illness, and is overall a well-written, atmospheric novel of the inter-war years in London. Find it here in our on-line catalogue in print or as an audio book-on-CD.

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