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Stocking Stuffers and Gift Ideas

by Betsy - 0 Comment(s)

Have you started thinking about gift ideas for friends or family members and come up with a blank? Here are a few thoughts to get you started, whether you are ordering online or looking for a list to take to your favourite store...

For Children:

  • Moose That Says MooMoose That Says MooA Moose That Says Moo! by Jennifer Hamburg, Illustrated by Sue Truesdell. A little girl imagines a zoo in which animals can do whatever she wants: dance, drive, read, have pillow fights... When things get slightly out of hand, what can possibly calm things down in this hilarious romp?
  • The Little Mermaid It's been 24 years since Ariel first ventured onto land to seek her Prince, enchanting audiences young and old to come along with her "unda da sea." This fall Disney has released her from the vault, in a new Diamond Edition Blu-Ray version sure to enchant both children unfamiliar with her, as well as anyone whose copies are too worn out from repeat viewings.
  • Snowflakes Fall by Patricia MacLachlan, Illustrated by Steven Kellogg. This beautiful picture book is the result of a collaboration between a Newbery winning author and the author and illustrator of over 90 books, including some of my personal favorites. It is dedicated to the children of Sandy Hook, and is comprised of a poem celebrating the circle of life and the ephemeral nature of snowflakes, amid doublepage spreads with children playing. It is a book meant to adorn a child's bookshelf and be shared among generations. Keep a kleenex handy when you read it.
  • I am Blop! by Herve Tullet Tullet's last book, Press Here, provided a fun and interactive storytelling experience for children, that resulted in it being chosen in the top 50 of a poll of the top 100 picture books. His new board book, I am Blop!, explores everyday concepts as varied as counting and colours to the animal kingdom and seasons, by introducing them as something as ephemeral as a splotch.

For Teens:

  • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson The prolific and award-winning author of adult science fiction and fantasy writes a book for his teenage self. This YA fantasy finds a teen seeking revenge for the untimely death of his father at the hands of a madman with superpowers named Steelheart who has taken over Chicago, now called Newcago, at a time when random people have been granted amazing powers. These Epics have, unfortunately, all fallen into line behind Steelheart. Can anyone stop them?
  • Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein The follow-up to Wein's Printz honour-award winning Code Name Verity packs just as much of an emotional punch. American ATA pilot Rose Justice is captured by the Nazis en route from England to Paris and sent to Ravensbrück. She recounts her stay in this notorious camp in her diary, in another three-hanky read.
  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth For all the teens who will have seen Catching Fire more than once by the holidays, the final book in Veronica Roth's trilogy will be a must-read this holiday season (finishing up the series behind Divergent and Insurgent.) The trailer for Divergent, which opens in March, 2014, starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, and Kate Winslet, looks pretty fantastic, too.

For Adults:

  • Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson. Praise for this book is wide and unstinting: it was Amazon's August "Best Book of the Month", and called "the best work of military history in years" by the New York Times. A readable narrative nonfiction book traces many issues in today's Middle East back to a figure many people only know from an iconic Hollywood film.
  • The Orenda by Joseph Boyden A book for serious bibliophiles and literary fiction lovers, this newest novel by the Scotiabank Giller prize-winner has already been named a finalist for the Governor General's award. Boyden presents a narrative with the stories of three characters in early 17th Century Canada: a Francophone missionary, a kidnapped Iroquois teen, and a warrior named Bird who is mourning the deaths of members of his family at the hands of the Iroquois.
  • The Circle by Dave Eggers Dave Eggers' new dystopian novel has a young woman named Mae Holland getting a job with, and then pretty much turning her life over to the world's hottest Internet company. No prizes for guessing that it may resemble a company with your favourite search engine, maps, lettered email, etc.
  • The Rosie Project by Graeme C. Simsion There's no arguing that Professor Don Tillman is an expert on genetics. That's a good thing, as he has pretty much no awareness of anything else, which is evident to everyone around him, even the twelve-year-olds to whom he presents a lecture on Asperger's. His decision to find a wife comes as a shock to him, as he's never even managed a second date, but he decides to do it the way he has done everything else, by developing a Project using the scientific method, and a 16-page evaluation. It is hardly surprising then, that a bartending, drinking, smoker would be anathema to him, yet when he meets Rosie, she not only needs his help for her own project, she manages to teach him how to experience life.


Don't forget that many of these are likely available in our catalogue in alternate formats (BookCD, Large Print, etc.), or in Overdrive as an e-book or e-audiobook, if you'd like to add them to your own reading lists. If you've found another ideal gift, please feel free to add it to the comments.

A Good Scare!

by Laura C - 0 Comment(s)

Like Graphic Novels? Try out these manga about things that go "bump in the night" from three masters of the genre — and satisfy your seasonal interest in ghosts, monsters, and the paranormal!

You won't have to sleep with the lights on after reading Cowa!, Akira Toriyama's charming series about the trouble-making half vampire/half were-koala Paifu!

Together with his timid ghost friend José, and his nemesis Arpon, Paifu sets off on an adventure to find the medicine needed to save his village from the deadly monster-flu. And, when they enlist the aid of the hermit (a grumpy human named Maruyama) to help them, they get more than they bargained for

Cowa! (pronounced KOE-WAH, as in 'Koa'la!) was the first major work by Akira Toriyama since his completion of Dragon Ball in 1995.

It features the same bold art-style, and likeable characters that made his long-running series Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball so popular -- and such a joy to read. I highly recommend it!

Find it in the Juvenile Graphix collection!

Shigeru Mizuki's Kitaro is one of the most famous and influential series in Japanese manga history. Why is it so important? Because, through works like Kitaro, Shigeru Mizuki is responsible for popularizing Japanese folklore, and to some extent, creating it as well.

Kitaro is a compilation of short episodic stories written between 1967 and 1969. It features the hero Kitaro, who along with his father (an anthropomorphized eyeball) is the last member of the ghost tribe. He challenges legendary monsters (or yokai) and does good deeds to fight for peace between monsters and humans.

As fun as the stories are (and they are really fun!), the most interesting bit of this manga to me is the visual "monster" glossary at the end of the book which explains all of the mysterious and bizarre Japanese monsters Mizuki draws. Fascinating!

Find it in the YA Graphix collection!

Junji Ito's Uzumaki is a beautifully drawn manga featuring a twisted and disturbing story. Ito, a master of classic Japanese horror is someone you definitely don't want to miss!

Uzumaki is a story of a town spiralling out of control. The haunting and hypnotic shape of the uzumaki (spiral) swirls madness in everything from staircases to snail shells in the cursed coast town of Kurozu-cho.

Uzumaki begins episodically with seemingly disconnected stories but by the end it pulls these stories together into a mystifying ending. I'm definitely a fan of this work, and so excited about the release of the omnibus edition later this month.

Uzumaki is currently on order for the Adult Graphix collection -- place your hold to read it first!

In Search of Short Stories

by Dieu - 2 Comment(s)

I admit that despite being an avid reader, I never liked reading short stories. The short story genre always seemed to me like it was the finger-food of fiction instead of the full meal of a novel. From my conversations with friends and from reading blogs, online articles and forums on the subject, it became clear that I was in the majority of readers who never read short fiction. It wasn’t until I read The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman that I realized how good short stories can be.

Book cover of the Imperfectionists

The Imperfectionists is a perfect introduction to the short story form for readers who are hesitant to enter that unfamiliar territory. Bridging the two worlds of novel and short stories, The Imperfectionists chronicles the trials and tribulations of a fictional struggling newspaper based in Rome.

Although technically a novel, each chapter reads as its own distinct story following a different character as they each navigate their way through relationships, ambitions, failures and disillusionment in the post-digital age of journalism. While distinct enough to stand on their own, the stories cross over into each other, revealing a web of connections between the players as the reader progresses through the book.

As I was reading each chapter, I found myself becoming engrossed in the personal lives of the sympathetic, neurotic and complicated reporters, journalists, and editors. Insightful, witty and offering an inside look at the world of journalism (the author himself is a journalist), The Imperfectionists will leave readers wanting more from this first-time author.


If you’re looking for classic short fiction, I highly recommend anything by Anton Chekhov. Universally regarded as one of the greatest of all short story writers, Chekhov’s writing has a way of drawing you in and lingering with you long after the story has ended. I find that when I read Chekhov, I not only care for his characters, but I also find myself immersed in a particular time and place of Russian history, geography and customs.

If you are to read anything by Chekhov, his short story trilogy comprised of, A Man in a Shell, Gooseberries, and About Love are not to be missed. About Love has to be one of my favourite pieces of fiction for its poignant look at the regret and yearning of lost love. A moving passage from the story:

"I understood that when you love, and when you think about this love, you must proceed from something higher, of more importance than happiness or unhappiness, sin or virtue in the commonplace sense; or you mustn't think about it at all."

An excellent compact illustrated edition of the trilogy called, About Love: 3 Short Stories by Chekhov is available at the Calgary Public Library.

Book cover of About Love: 3 Stories by Chekhov

book cover of Too Much Happiness

Lastly, the most recent work of short fiction I've read comes from our very own soil. Alice Munro, who has been cited as Canada’s own Chekhov, writes what I would call psychological fiction. Like Chekhov, her stories focus on the inner lives of the characters, where moments of revelation, emotion and changes of perspective make up the core of her fiction. As well, what I love most about Munro’s stories are the complex female characters she writes about.

In her book, Too Much Happiness, a story called "Dimensions" had me conflicted about the main character, Doree, a teenage mother who is grappling with a personal tragedy inflicted on her by her abusive husband. I found the character infuriating for the choices she made, but always empathetic. A multitude of writers have gushed over Alice Munro's effortless writing, a quality that I too admire in her work.

Short stories can be deceptively simple because of their short length, but from my experience, even the shortest work can be the most satisfying. Another plus is they can be easily finished in a short period, such as during a coffee break, and their format makes them perfect to be read on an E-reader or tablet.

What's more, most short stories fall into the category of literary fiction, which may be why some people see them as too high-brow to enjoy, but reading short fiction by authors such as Chekhov and Munro do offer their benefits. A recent article in the New York Times talks about how reading literary fiction can help with social skills and emotional intelligence.

The Calgary Public Library can help you explore the world of short fiction with the Poetry & Short Story Reference Center, a new resource available in the E-Library.