Tuesday, February 26, 2013

When I went to the library

Believe it or not, this is the 200th OFF THE SHELF reading suggestion I’ve given you since I started keeping track.  (There were actually more).  So I thought today’s book has to be something very special.  Today, I am highlighting When I went to the Library: writers celebrate books and reading.  These stories were specially commissioned for this collection.    

 I especially enjoyed Dear Mr. Winston by Ken Roberts about a young girl who brings a snake into the library in order to identify it - after all, how are you going to identify a snake unless you bring it to the library in a box and compare it with the snakes in the big green book.  It is not your fault if the librarian, who’s deathly afraid of snakes, insists on looking in the box.  But if your dad is going to read this apology letter, it has to be good.

In her introduction Michele Landsberg points out, “this book is about a fantastic place just a few blocks away from you...whose doors swing open freely to welcome you in.  The library is like nothing else in our lives.  It is free, it is voluntary—no one can make you go there—and all its treasures and pleasures are there to inform, entertain, delight, or transport you, as you please.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Caught in the Blizzard by Paul Kropp

February is I Love to Read Month.  On the SCRLreads blog, one of the staff has posted a very timely book considering the weather we endured over the long weekend.
A blizzard is something we all endure every so often.  Now imagine being lost in a blizzard in the far north without having any shelter or way to contact anyone to let them know you are missing.  Caught in the Blizzard, by Paul Kropp, tells of a Inuk teenager named Sam who is learning to live and hunt like his elders.  He has respect for the land and hatred for the spoiled white boy, Connor, who thoughtlessly kills caribou and leaves their bodies to waste on the frozen land.  Even though Sam wants nothing to do with Connor, they both get caught in a blizzard and must depend on each other to survive.  

This is one of many similar stories, written by Paul Kropp, that deal with difficult decisions and situations young people face.  Caught in the Blizzard keeps you curled up in you cozy chair to the end.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Dry grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew

February is I Love to read month, so we’re again having a look at what staff have enjoyed.  One suggestions is The dry grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew. 

"In August of 1954, we took our first trip without Daddy and Stell got to use her driver's license". Thus begins this narrative of a pivotal month in the life of 13 year old  "Jubie" Watts. In that first paragraph we also get a sense of what is to come in the words, "But her having the license made that trip different from any others, because if she hadn't had it, Mary would still be with us."  Jubie's life is forever changed by the experiences of that August; some magical and others deeply traumatic.  In a personal, powerful debut, Mayhew explores the explosive tensions of the South in the mid-1950s through the prism of a young girl's friendship with her black maid and the currents of violence, infidelity, and corruption that run beneath the polite surface of her family's life.

Fans of The Secret Life of Bees, The Help, or Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood may enjoy this book.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers

This past week, Helen Howe, an old friend of the library passed away at the age of 100 years.  Many of us remember her as the driving force behind the volunteer library that began in the basement of the police station, and eventually moved into the Altona Mall.  She and a group of dedicated volunteers ran the library until it joined the South Central Regional in 1988.  I wanted this week’s OFF THE SHELF to honour Helen.

I chose the book, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  The text is the well known poem by Robert Frost, and this book is illustrated by Susan Jeffers.  The poem begins,

Whose woods these are I think I know. 
His house is in the village, though; 
He will not see me stopping here to watch his woods fill up with snow. 

The poem is a reminder of a simpler time and a slower pace. I especially enjoy the final lines,

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep,
and miles to go before I sleep

The copy currently in the library has beautiful colour illustrations.  I remember an older version of this book by the same artist in which the same illustrations were black and white.  It was my favourite book in that old volunteer library, and I’m sure one that Helen enjoyed as well.