Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Time to Say "Goodbye"

The Stratford Public Library will no longer be using a blog to communicate with the community. We have many other digital ways to stay in touch so please find and follow us at any or all of these locations:

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Shelf Life [adult]

This Changes Everything
This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
@SPL: 363.73874 Kle

If you’re the sort of person who cares about the environment but feels too overwhelmed to know where to start, This Changes Everything is the perfect book for you. However, initially? It won’t seem like it. Stick with it. It’s worth it.

Klein being Klein, her overarching argument is economic (or anti-economic, depending on where your sensibilities fall). Her core thesis? Our entire economy, made global by a series of trade agreements since the late 1980s, is founded on a principle of endless growth that can’t help but kill the planet. It’s a pretty bleak diagnosis, but Klein sees hope.

Klein’s signature plain, impassioned writing style makes her arguments more accessible than anyone else writing about society today. She ruthlessly, methodically kills any hope that free market solutions like carbon sequestering will do any good. Similarly, large-scale state initiatives like carbon taxes are a fool’s errand - easily exploited, and logically flawed.

Klein instead sees hope in burgeoning localized, small-scale economies, sustainable power initiatives likes wind and solar, and the resistance to big oil being led around the world by the localized (often indigenous) populations most affected.

It could be argued that Klein hasn’t considered all the angles in the local resistance case studies she showcases. In Pungesti, Romania, for example, it is strongly suspected that local resistance against Chevron’s fracking attempts was fueled by Russian oil interests as much as by worried local farmers. Still, whether or not Russian oil triggered the fight, the people of Pungesti are the ones who won it.

So, such flaws do not take down Klein’s larger argument. This Changes Everything remains a strong, hopeful work that belongs in a class with Carson’s Silent Spring and and Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. It’s highly recommended to anyone with an interest in economics, sociology, ecology… or, um, just breathing clean air.

This review appears in the Stratford Gazette. Written by Shauna Costache, Librarian.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Shelf Life [kids]

LuckyLucky by David Mackintosh, 32 pages.
@SPL:  JP Macki

We’re having a surprise at dinner tonight. Mom says so.

“What is it?” my brother Leo asks.

“Just wait and see,” says Mom.

When a boy and his younger brother are told by their mom that there will be a surprise at suppertime, an animated guessing game begins.

Could the surprise be curly fries for dinner? Tickets to the Amazing Yo-Yo Super Show at the town hall? Separate bedrooms for the two brothers? A new bike?  A new family car, or even a swimming pool in the backyard?  The guesses escalate as the boys’ imaginations soar.

They make one last guess on their way to school: a family trip to Hawaii.

Having now convinced themselves that their parents MUST have somehow won an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii (sure to be an awesome place filled with erupting volcanoes and rivers of boiling lava!), the siblings tell a friend the exciting news. Of course, it spreads and in no time, everyone in the school has heard.

However, at dinnertime the brothers discover that a very different surprise is waiting for them.

The older brother is disappointed and mortified. What will everyone at school think? 

However, with the help of his ever-enthusiastic younger brother and his supportive parents, he quickly cheers up.

After all, even if he won’t soon be exploring volcanoes in Hawaii, he really is a very lucky boy.

An entertaining tale about the true meaning of “lucky” and the power of imagination, Lucky is sure to provoke some thoughtful discussion. The zany guesses of the two boys are well matched by quirky, detailed illustrations. David Mackintosh is both the author and illustrator of this not-to-be-missed picture book.

** Recommended for ages 4 to 8 years.

This review appears in the Stratford Gazette. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Shelf Life [adult]

As Chimney Sweepers Come to DustAs Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley
@SPL: FIC Bradl

 Flavia de Luce… is in Toronto.

Shipped off from her family and from her ancestral home, Buckshaw, in England, Flavia has been sent to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy to further her education. It is the same school which her late and much loved mother attended, and while the official story is that Flavia will fulfil her academic potential there, Flavia’s Aunt Felicity, the leader of a secret organization called the Nide, has a different purpose in mind for her. Because, as Flavia soon learns, Miss Bodycote’s is far from your regular sort of Boarding School.

For instance, the chemistry teacher was acquitted of her husband’s murder. Several students have disappeared in recent years. The headmistress is both fiery and icy toward Flavia.  And on the first night of Flavia’s arrival (or imprisonment, as she comes to view it), the mummified remains of… someone… falls from the chimney in her room. Since Flavia likes nothing more than solving a grisly murder this barely phases her, but making friends and enemies among the students is a much harder task for her to navigate.

As with all previous novels in the series, the author puts us in the shoes of a young girl who is a fish-out-of-water whether she is in England or Canada. The only fault one may have is that Flavia’s actions don’t always match those of an eleven-year-old, though the thought processes certainly do – jumping from one highly dramatic conclusion to another before finally seeing the light provides as much amusement as red herrings, which keeps Flavia’s fans chomping at the bit for the next installment.

This review appears in the Stratford Gazette. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Outreach and Collections Librarian.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Shelf Life [kids]

Emma and the Blue GenieEmma and the Blue Genie by Cornelia Funke, 90 pages.
@SPL:  J FIC Funke

Everyone knows that a genie should be able to grant three wishes.

However, the blue genie that emerges from the mysterious glass bottle that eight-year-old Emma finds on a beach can’t grant even one wish. Karim’s magic nose ring has been stolen, leaving him smaller, powerless and trapped in the green bottle – until now.

Emma and her dog Tristan join Karim in a journey via a magic carpet to a desert land to find the powerful caliph of Barakash, Karim’s master. Once there, they face deadly spiders, scorpions and other dangers in a quest to regain Karim’s magic powers – and to free the land from the clutches of the evil caliph.

Emma proves to be a courageous, spirited (but believable) heroine in this engaging fantasy tale of friendship and adventure, which would be a great pick for younger readers who are new to reading chapter books. Featuring short chapters, this new fairy tale has plenty of illustrations, and concludes with an unexpected twist. 

Cornelia Funke is also the author of such popular children’s titles as The Thief Lord and Inkheart.

** Recommended for ages 7 to 10 years.

The Princess CurseThe Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell, 327 pages.
@SPL:  J FIC Haske

In this retelling of The Thirteen Dancing Princesses (complete with a dash of Beauty and the Beast), set in the Middle Ages, thirteen-year-old Reveka is an herbalist’s apprentice in the palace of Sylvania. 

The unfortunate princesses of Sylvania are under the spell of a mysterious curse which causes them to dance each night until they are exhausted. The prince offers a large reward to anyone who can break the curse.

Wishing to purchase a position as a master herbalist, sharp-witted Reveka tries her luck at winning the reward.  Instead, she discovers a door to the Underworld. There she discovers a world of magic, danger and intrigue – and a second terrible curse. Soon Reveka is faced with the formidable choice of turning back or risking everything to break the curses.

Combining adventure, suspense, magic, myth and humour, this thoughtful and enjoyable fairy tale features another smart, courageous heroine.

** Recommended for ages 9 to 12 years.
These reviews appear in the Stratford Gazette, written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Shelf Life [kids]

Sky RaidersSky Raiders by Brandon Mull, 421 pages.
@SPL: J FIC Mull

At a party held in the haunted house on Wilson Street, sixth-grader Cole Randolph’s friends are suddenly whisked away through a mysterious passage leading down from the basement. Cole follows and finds himself in an entirely different dimension, known as the “Outskirts”.

Composed of five kingdoms, The Outskirts is an amazing but perilous world. Led by the tyrannical, power-hungry High Shaper, slave traders are kidnapping kids from earth and taking them to The Outskirts to be sold into slavery. Cole discovers that this is what has happened to his friends.

Then Cole is captured. Sold to the Sky Raiders, who live on the edge of the world and plunder cloud castles in the Outskirts for treasure, he is marked to be their scout - an extremely dangerous job. When he meets Mira, a slave girl with a mysterious past, they make plans to rescue his friends, knowing that it will be a daunting task.

At the conclusion of Sky Raiders, readers will definitely want to continue with the second book in the Five Kingdoms series to see what happens to Cole and his friends. (Please see the next review.)

** Recommended for ages 9 to 13 years.

Rogue KnightRogue Knight by Brandon Mull, 480 pages.
@SPL:  J FIC Mull

What Cole Randolph really wants to do is to return to earth, but in the second Five Kingdoms story, he is still in the alternate world of The Outskirts (to which he travelled through a portal in Sky Raiders).  He isn’t alone – his friends Joe, Twitch, Jace and Mira are there too.

They must first rescue Mira’s sister, who is trapped in the kingdom of Elloweer.  En route, they are stopped by two mysterious riders with whom they must fight a fierce battle to save themselves. After that, the friends face danger at every turn – but none as treacherous as that posed by the mysterious Rogue Knight. What is the Knight’s true identity?  Who created him … and what does he really want? Again, Cole and his friends must fight for their lives – as well as the safety of the kingdoms. 

Incorporating various elements of Brandon Mull’s popular Fablehaven series and his Beyonders trilogy, the Five Kingdoms fantasy adventures are thoroughly suspenseful and imaginative, and they are sure to solidify the author’s following among his fans. Just as Cole and his friends were pulled into the portal to the Outskirts, readers will be pulled into the action and fantasy of the Five Kingdoms world and its wondrous creatures. Mull, who has been described as “a wizard with words”, plans to write a total of six books in this series. 

** Recommended for ages 9 to 13 years.
These reviews appear in the Stratford Gazette. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Shelf Life [adult]

Phoebe's WayPhoebe's Way by Pamela Ditchoff
@SPL FIC Ditch
At the start of a New Year, we often turn our attention to passing time. In Phoebe’s Way, author Pamela Ditchoff tackles the passage of time in two ways. The story follows the structure of the year, beginning with January and travelling through to the following June. Each brief chapter, set in a particular month, explores Phoebe’s work in a nursing home; Phoebe is a St. Johns Ambulance therapy dog. The residents of the nursing home have another sense of time altogether, as their memories mesh with their present existence.
Set in Halifax, the story evokes the long lifetimes of teachers, fishermen, store owners, priests, and more. Phoebe has the uncanny gift of understanding (and relating to the reader) the memories that are arising in each person as they visit with her owner, whom she calls Myother. Some of these residents’ daily actions seem incomprehensible to others, but as the reader, getting a glimpse of the emotions and relationships of the past makes each character into a person to be cherished.
At 87 pages, with short, simple chapters, this is the kind of book that you could skim through very quickly. But you’ll want to slow down and savour each visit Phoebe makes, to read carefully between the lines, especially the opening lines of each chapter. Each begins with the same paragraph, like a poem that sets up Phoebe’s eager visit. But as the book progresses, small changes occur. Phoebe is the narrator, so we are reading from the dog’s point of view, noticing things that only this admittedly very sophisticated dog is sensing. She sees motives and longings that humans in the room miss. If you can adjust to the narrative voice and suspend your disbelief for the journey, you will appreciate what Ditchoff is trying to do with this story.
It’s a bittersweet, small novel that will appeal to dog lovers, but also to those who appreciate a vision of life as a whole, of our memories as an inescapable part of our self. It would be a wonderful book to share with those who haven’t yet had a lot of experience with our elders; it illuminates the long history which has brought each person to their current state. It’s a book which encourages caring and connection, in their many and varying forms.
This review is published in the Stratford Gazette. Written by Melanie Kindrachuk, Librarian.