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Founded in Montreal in 1967, Tundra Books is Canada’s oldest English language children’s publisher best known for Canadian classics such as Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater and Mordecai Richler’s beloved Jacob Two-Two series. Over the years Tundra has been dedicated to helping people tell their own stories, to introducing gallery artists to young children, and to keeping in print the books children love, so they can share them years later with their own children.
Loan Stars is the readers’ advisory tool that allows libraries across Canada to indicate popular upcoming titles every month. Loan Stars lists are now produced using On Order numbers from LibraryData. The forthcoming titles with the most orders become Loan Stars top picks!
How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney? By Mac Barnett Illustrated by Jon Klassen 32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover ISBN 9781536223767 | Candlewick When Santa arrives at a child’s house on Christmas Eve, does he go down the chimney feetfirst or headfirst? What if he gets stuck? What if there’s no chimney? Maybe he slides under the door, as thin as a piece of paper? Or is it possible he pours himself through the faucet? What happens once he’s inside? Whether it’s shape-shifting or impromptu laundry use, Mac Barnett’s iconic talent for earnest deadpan humor and Jon Klassen’s irresistibly funny art honor the timeless question with answers both ridiculous and plausible, mounting in hilarity as the night continues. Channeling a child’s fanciful explanations (and begging for further speculation), this latest collaboration by a New York Times best-selling team will find a secure spot among family holiday traditions.
Hello, this is Evan Munday (he/him) from Penguin Random House Canada. (If you regularly get emails from me, you’ll be familiar with that phrase.) I work as the Publicity Manager for Tundra Books.
There are few things I love more than reading comic books (the X-Men are my surrogate family) or competing in (or writing for) trivia contests. You can often find me watching movies of questionable taste – don’t hesitate to email for bad movie recommendations that may change your life. I sometimes write a moderately entertaining book series for young readers called The Dead Kid Detective Agency(ECW Press). I grew up in beautiful New Jersey (so I’m a dual citizen), but have lived in Toronto since 2003.
I’ve worked in publishing for nearly twenty (?) years, having worked at esteemed publishing organizations like Coach House Books and The Word On The Street festival. I’ve been with Tundra since September 2017. As Publicity Manager, I work on a number of our Tundra titles, doing my best to get them reviewed and featured, and the authors interviewed, profiled, or invited to events. The authors and I work together to make sure their books become young readers’ favorites, and my favorite aspect is working on live events, though they fill me with bottomless dread.
I am allergic to various skin adhesives (such as on bandages and in spirit gum).
Though I am a fan of many different musical artists, my undying fandom for Carly Rae Jepsen is best known amongst friends and coworkers.
I am father to one four-year-old, and cat father to two kitties (Remington and Gustav).
There were three incidents in my childhood that necessitated getting stitches in my head: my mother (accidentally) closed the hatchback of our car on my head, I smashed my head against a doorframe, and my friend (?) threw me down his stairs.
Favorite Penguin Random House Titles
Little Witch Hazel By Phoebe Wahl 96 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover ISBN 9780735264892 | Tundra Books Little Witch Hazel is a tiny witch who lives in the forest, helping creatures big and small. She’s a midwife, an intrepid explorer, a hard worker and a kind friend. In this four-season volume, Little Witch Hazel rescues an orphaned egg, goes sailing on a raft, solves the mystery of a haunted stump and makes house calls to fellow forest dwellers. But when Little Witch Hazel needs help herself, will she get it in time? Little Witch Hazel is a beautiful ode to nature, friendship, wild things and the seasons that only Phoebe Wahl could create: an instant classic and a book that readers will pore over time and time again.
The Barnabus Project By The Fan Brothers 72 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover ISBN 9780735263260 | Tundra Books Deep underground beneath Perfect Pets, where children can buy genetically engineered “perfect” creatures, there is a secret lab. Barnabus and his friends live in this lab, but none of them is perfect. They are all Failed Projects. Barnabus has never been outside his tiny bell jar, yet he dreams of one day seeing the world above ground that his pal Pip the cockroach has told him about: a world with green hills and trees, and buildings that reach all the way to the sky, lit with their own stars. But Barnabus may have to reach the outside world sooner than he thought, because the Green Rubber Suits are about to recycle all Failed Projects . . . and Barnabus doesn’t want to be made into a fluffier pet with bigger eyes. He just wants to be himself. So he decides it’s time for he and the others to escape. With his little trunk and a lot of cooperation and courage, Barnabus sets out to find freedom – and a place where he and his friends can finally be accepted for who they are. This suspenseful, poignant and magical story about following your dreams and finding where you truly belong will draw readers into a surreal, lushly detailed world in which perfection really means being true to yourself and your friends.
Pluto Rocket: New in Town (Pluto Rocket #1) By Paul Gilligan 88 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover ISBN 9780735271906 | Tundra Books Meet Pluto Rocket, a friendly alien, and Joe Pidge, a wise-cracking pigeon, in the first book of this hilarious new early graphic novel series, for fans of Narwhal and Jelly and Pizza and Taco! Joe Pidge, not just a pigeon but also the stylish king of the neighborhood, is bobbing his way down the street one day when, all of a sudden, Pluto Rocket enters the scene. It turns out, Pluto is from another planet, and is disguising herself for her secret mission – to find out what life in the neighborhood is really like. Lucky for Pluto, Joe Pidge has seen it all before, eaten it all before, and pooped on it all before, so he takes her under his wing and the two become fast friends. But Joe is the one who actually learns a thing or two and whose mind is blown by the out-of-this-world Pluto in this hilarious graphic novel series from Paul Gilligan, creator of the syndicated comic strip Pooch Cafe!
The Montague Twins: The Witch’s Hand By Nathan Page Illustrated by Drew Shannon 352 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover ISBN 9780525646761 | Knopf BFYR Pete and Alastair Montague are just a couple of mystery-solving twins, living an ordinary life. Or so they thought. After a strange storm erupts on a visit to the beach, they discover there is more to their detective skills than they had thought. Their guardian, David Faber, a once prominent professor, has been keeping secrets about their parents and what the boys are truly capable of. At the same time, three girls go missing after casting a mysterious spell, which sets in motion a chain of events that takes their small town down an unexpected path. With the help of David’s daughter, Charlie, they discover there are forces at work that they never could have imagined, which will impact their lives forever. An exciting new graphic novel from innovative creators Nathan Page and Drew Shannon that is at once timely and thrilling.
Scout Is Not a Band Kid By Jade Armstrong 272 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover ISBN 9780593176238 | Random House Graphic When Scout learns that her favorite author is doing an exclusive autograph session at the end of the year, she’s determined to be there! She officially needs a plan . . . and when she finds out that her school’s band is heading to the same location for their annual trip, an idea takes shape. Being a band kid can’t be that hard, right? As it turns out, learning how to play an instrument when you can’t even read music is much, much, MUCH tougher than expected. And it’s even harder for Scout when her friends aren’t on board with her new hobby. Will she be able to master the trombone, make new band friends, and get to her favorite author’s book signing? Tackling everything seems like a challenge for a supergenius superfriend supermusician – and she’s just Scout.
September 15th marked Cloud Appreciation Day, an internationally celebrated day where people are encouraged to spend a few moments with their heads in the clouds, so we’ve collected some books to help get you there.
Cloud Babies By Eoin Colfer Illustrated by Chris Judge 40 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover ISBN 9781536231076 | Candlewick Six-year-old Erin’s favorite game is spotting animals in the clouds with her mom and dad – everything from fluffy foxes and polar bears to little rabbits. Even when Erin falls very ill and has to spend a long time in the hospital, she still manages to find joy in spying “cloud babies” through the window with her new hospital friends. When the doctor tells Erin she can go home, she is so excited! But being back at school is not at all what she expected – so much has changed, and Erin must reconcile the safe realm she’s just left with a world outside that has become unfamiliar. With Mom and Dad’s love and wisdom, however, and with the help of her teacher and friends, Erin comes to see that by sharing her experience she can find happiness again in just being herself. Sensitively told and vibrantly brought to life, Cloud Babies brings recognition and comfort to children facing illness or hardship, as well as guidance to those who wish to offer support but may not know where to start.
In the Clouds By Elly MacKay 44 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover ISBN 9780735266964 | Tundra Books A bored and curious little girl wishes for a bit of sunshine on a cloudy day. But a friendly bird soon whisks her off for an adventure in the sky, where she can contemplate questions both scientific and philosophical in nature: how do clouds float? Or carry the rain? Where do they go when they disappear? Are there clouds on other planets? Do they have memories? Have they ever seen a girl like her? This dreamy picture book from the inimitable Elly MacKay features her trademark stunning, light-infused spreads that beautifully capture the wondrousness of clouds and the power of nature to inspire and stimulate imaginations.
Kumo: The Bashful Cloud By Kyo Maclear Illustrated by Nathalie Dion 64 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover ISBN 9780735267282 | Tundra Books Kumo is a cloud whose only wish is to float unseen. When she’s assigned cloud duty for the day, she feels overwhelmed by self-doubt and her fear of being noticed. But after learning that closing your eyes isn’t a good solution to your troubles, Kumo pulls her fluff together and does her duties – drifting, releasing rain and providing shelter – meeting some new friends along the way and inspiring the imagination (and capturing the heart) of a small daydreamer like her. Kyo Maclear’s sweetly humorous and lyrical parable about shyness, vividly brought to life by Nathalie Dion’s ethereal illustrations, is an affirmation of the pleasures of community and the confidence that can arise from friendship and visibility.
Little Cloud By Eric Carle 32 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Paperback ISBN 9780698118300 | World Of Eric Carle The clouds drift across the bright blue sky – all except one. Little Cloud trails behind. He is busy changing shapes to become a fluffy sheep, a zooming airplane, and even a clown with a funny hat. Eric Carle’s trademark collages will make every reader want to run outside and discover their very own little cloud.
Marshmallow Clouds: Two Poets at Play among Figures of Speech By Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek Illustrated by Richard Jones 72 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover ISBN 9781536203035 | Candlewick A freewheeling romp through the world of imagery and metaphor, this quietly startling collection of thirty poems, framed by the four elements, is about art and reality, fact and fancy. Look around: what do you see? A clown balancing a pie in a tree, or an empty nest perched on a leafless branch? As poet Connie Wanek alludes to in her afterword – a lively dialogue with former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser – sometimes the simplest sights and sounds “summon our imaginations” and cry out to be clothed in the alchemical language of poetry. This compendium of the fleeting and unexpected turns the everyday – turtles, trees, and tadpoles; cow pies, lazy afternoons, and pillowy white marshmallows – into poetic gold. A brilliant and timeless collaboration that evokes both the mystery and grandeur of the natural world and the cozy, mundane moments of daily life, this exquisitely illustrated collection is the go-to gift book of the season for poetry fans of all ages.
Misty the Cloud: A Very Stormy Day By Dylan Dreyer Illustrated by Rosie Butcher 40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Paperback ISBN 9780593180419 | Dragonfly Books When Misty the Cloud wakes up feeling stormy, nothing seems to make her day better! But with help from friends and family, Misty accepts that sometimes she’s just going to be a little stormy – and it will always pass. A perfect story for young children learning to understand their emotions. From award-winning meteorologist Dylan Dreyer, Misty the Cloud: A Very Stormy Day is the first book in a sky-high series about how to deal with good days, bad days, and everything in between. With extra content featuring science experiments for kids to do at home!
Ploof By Ben Clanton and Andy Chou Musser 56 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Hardcover ISBN 9781774881927 | Tundra Books Ploof is a puffy cloud who’s a little lonely – but now you’re here, and the fun can begin! Can you help Ploof overcome their shyness? Play pretend? Make Ploof laugh with your funny faces, find their hiding spot, give them a high five! Full of imaginative and interactive fun, each page of this perfect book for preschoolers offers a chance to play. By following cues to say hello, clap, blow, shake, wave or make a funny face, young readers will be delighted to see the effects of their actions on Ploof. They’ll learn social-emotional skills like empathy, encouragement and kindness through Ploof’s emotional journey – and, along the way, they’ll learn how to be a fantastic friend!
Tomie dePaola’s The Cloud Book By Tomie dePaola 32 Pages | Ages 5-8 | Hardcover ISBN 9780823445486 | Holiday House Tomie dePaola knows a lot about clouds. He also knows a lot about what people think of them. Some people see animals and pictures in clouds. The ancient Greeks believed that Hermes, the messenger of the gods, once stole the sun’s cattle, which were clouds. In this unique picture book, Tomie introduces some of the most common types of clouds, as well as the myths and legends inspired by their shapes. Simple, whimsical illustrations show the variations in shape and color that herald changes in the weather. This book will tell you many things about clouds we bet you didn’t know. Filled with his signature humor and gentle illustrations, Tomie dePaola’s approach to nonfiction is like no other.
When Cloud Became a Cloud By Rob Hodgson 64 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Hardcover ISBN 9780593224915 | Rise x Penguin Workshop The lifecycle of our protagonist, Cloud, is delightfully and sparsely narrated in nine short chapters that follow the stages of the water cycle. Young readers will immediately fall for this wide-eyed puff, and welcome facts along with humor and personality as they bask in the accomplishment of breezing through each chapter.
Who Owns the Clouds? By Mario Brassard Illustrated by Gérard DuBois 100 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover ISBN 9781774880210 | Tundra Books Even though Mila is no longer a child, she is overcome by memories – memories of a childhood halfway between reality and dreaming, and not knowing which is which. In her dreams, Mila and her family leave their bombed village to stand in line for weeks on end, suitcases in hand, hoping to move on to better lives. But the memories of her uncle’s disappearance, and the approach of looming clouds, keep blurring the lines between past and present, real and unreal. How can Mila move forward? Perhaps if the clouds can remind her of where she’s from, they can also show her where to go . . . Winner of a Governor General’s Award, Canada’s most prestigious literary prize, and the Bologna Ragazzi Award, this stunningly evocative book about experience, trauma and healing will stay with readers from beginning to end.
Shortlisted for the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction
Pink, Blue, and You!: Questions for Kids about Gender Stereotypes By Elise Gravel and Mykaell Blais 40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover ISBN 9780593178638 | Ann Schwartz Books Is it okay for boys to cry? Can girls be strong? Should girls and boys be given different toys to play with and different clothes to wear? Should we all feel free to love whoever we choose to love? In this incredibly kid-friendly and easy-to-grasp picture book, author-illustrator Elise Gravel and transgender collaborator Mykaell Blais raise these questions and others relating to gender roles, acceptance, and stereotyping. With its simple language, colorful illustrations, engaging backmatter that showcases how “appropriate” male and female fashion has changed through history, and even a poster kids can hang on their wall, here is the ideal tool to help in conversations about a multi-layered and important topic.
Shortlisted for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People
The Secret Diary of Mona Hasan By Salma Hussain 296 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Paperback ISBN 9780735271517 | Tundra Books Mona Hasan is a young Muslim girl growing up in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, when the first Gulf War breaks out in 1991. The war isn’t what she expects – “We didn’t even get any days off school! Just my luck!” – especially when the ground offensive is over so quickly and her family peels the masking tape off their windows. Her parents, however, fear there is no peace in the region, and it sparks a major change in their lives. Over the course of one year, Mona falls in love, speaks up to protect her younger sister, loses her best friend to the new girl at school, has summer adventures with her cousins in Pakistan, immigrates to Canada, and pursues her ambition to be a feminist and a poet.
Shortlisted for the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award
TJ Powar Has Something to Prove By Jesmeen Kaur Deo 368 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover ISBN 9780593403396 | Viking BFYR When TJ Powar – a pretty, popular debater – and her cousin Simran become the subject of a meme: with TJ being the “expectation” of dating an Indian girl and her Sikh cousin who does not remove her body hair being the “reality” – TJ decides to take a stand. She ditches her razors, cancels her waxing appointments, and sets a debate resolution for herself: “This House Believes That TJ Powar can be her hairy self, and still be beautiful.” Only, as she sets about proving her point, she starts to seriously doubt anyone could care about her just the way she is – even when the infuriating boy from a rival debate team seems determined to prove otherwise. As her carefully crafted sense of self begins to crumble, TJ realizes that winning this debate may cost her far more than the space between her eyebrows. And that the hardest judge to convince of her arguments might just be herself.
Wrong Side of the Court By H. N. Khan 312 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback ISBN 9780735270893 | Tundra Books Fifteen-year-old Fawad Chaudhry loves two things: basketball and his mother’s potato and ground-beef stuffed parathas. Both are round and both help him forget about things like his father, who died two years ago, his mother’s desire to arrange a marriage to his first cousin, Nusrat, back home in Pakistan, and the tiny apartment in Regent Park he shares with his mom and sister. Not to mention his estranged best friend Yousuf, who’s coping with the shooting death of his older brother. But Fawad has plans: like, asking out Ashley, even though she lives on the other, wealthier side of the tracks, and saving his friend Arif from being beaten into a pulp for being the school flirt, and making the school basketball team and dreaming of being the world’s first Pakistani to be drafted into the NBA. All he has to do now is convince his mother to let him try out for the basketball team. And let him date girls from his school. Not to mention somehow get Omar, the neighborhood bully, to leave him alone.
Shortlisted for the Jean Little First-Novel Award
The Grave Thief By Dee Hahn 344 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover ISBN 9780735269439 | Puffin Canada Twelve-year-old Spade is a grave thief. With his father and brother, he digs up the recently deceased to steal jewels, the main form of trade in Wyndhail. Digging graves works for Spade – alone in the graveyard at night, no one notices his limp or calls him names. He’s headed for a lifetime of theft when his father comes up with the audacious plan to rob a grave in the Wyndhail castle cemetery. Spade and his brother get caught in a royal trap, and Spade must find the master of the Woegon: a deadly creature that is stalking the castle by night. Along the way, he meets Ember, the queen’s niece, and together they race to solve the mystery of the legendary Deepstones and their connection to the Woegon, the queen, a missing king and the mysterious pebble Spade finds in the Wyndhail cemetery. This is a fantastic story of friendship, bravery, grief and acceptance.
Scout Is Not a Band Kid By Jade Armstrong 272 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover ISBN 9780593176238 | Random House Graphic When Scout learns that her favorite author is doing an exclusive autograph session at the end of the year, she’s determined to be there! She officially needs a plan… and when she finds out that her school’s band is heading to the same location for their annual trip, an idea takes shape. Being a band kid can’t be that hard, right? As it turns out, learning how to play an instrument when you can’t even read music is much, much, MUCH tougher than expected. And it’s even harder for Scout when her friends aren’t on board with her new hobby. Will she be able to master the trombone, make new band friends, and get to her favorite author’s book signing? Tackling everything seems like a challenge for a supergenius superfriend supermusician – and she’s just Scout.
Shortlisted for the Arlene Barlin Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy
Ghostlight By Kenneth Oppel 400 Pages | Ages 10+ | Paperback ISBN 9780735272354 | Puffin Canada The story of the tragic death of sixteen-year-old Rebecca Strand and her lighthouse keeper father is just an elaborate tale Gabe tells tourists for his summer job on the Toronto Island. Or so he thought. When his ghost tours awaken Rebecca’s spirit, Gabe is drawn into a world far darker than any ghost story he’s ever heard. Rebecca reveals that she and her father were connected to The Order, a secret society devoted to protecting the world from “the wakeful and wicked dead” – malevolent spirits like Viker, the ghost responsible for their deaths. But now the Order has disappeared and Viker is growing even stronger, and he’ll stop at nothing to wreak chaos and destruction on the living. Gabe and his friends – both living and dead – must find a way to stop Viker before they all become lost souls.
Sneaks By Catherine Egan 336 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover ISBN 9780593306406 | Knopf BFYR When Ben Harp sees his teacher’s watch crawling across the hallway, he thinks he must be dreaming. But no, he’s just seen his first Sneak – an interdimensional mischief-maker that can borrow the form of any ordinary object. He figured this school year would be bad – his best friend moved away, the class bully is circling, and he’s stuck doing a group project with two similarly friendless girls, Charlotte and Akemi. Still, he wasn’t expecting aliens! And he certainly wasn’t expecting that the woman he and Charlotte and Akemi are assigned to interview for their “living local history” project would be a Sneak expert. Or that she’d foist an old book on them to keep safe . . . and then disappear. Now Ben, Charlotte, and Akemi are trying to understand a book that seems to contain a coded map while being pursued by violent clothes hangers, fire-spitting squirrels, and more. The Sneaks want that book! And they want something else, too: to pull a vastly more dangerous creature into the world with them. Can three misfit kids decode the book in time to stop an alien takeover? And if they do, will they get extra credit on their group project?
Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we step forward into a few subjects that are always talked about, and filter out some great books that are really good 4 u.
This past Friday, young singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo released her highly anticipated second album, GUTS, a couple months after the release of lead single “Vampire” and just one month after the release of “Bad Idea Right?” (A song title which the editors within us feel really should have a comma.) The album is a new collection of pop-punk anthems and over-the-top ballads about some of her (and our) favorite things: awful boys, awkwardness, self-loathing, and parties you want to leave.
We’ve listened (and re-listened) to GUTS to figure out what books for young readers are the most logical fit for the twelve (non-hidden) tracks of the album. Without further ado, we present book accompaniments to Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS, from picture books to YA – something we think is a good idea. Right?
“Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl”: A song all about social anxiety, awkwardness, and the fear that everything you do is inherently embarrassing? That reminds us of Are You Mad At Me?by Tyler Feder and Cody Feder, a picture book about an extremely nervous ostrich who constantly worries she’s doing the wrong thing and that someone is mad at her. This results in a neck movement that Opal the ostrich calls “The Noodles.” (Note to Olivia Rodrigo: “Noodle Ballad” also has a nice ring to it.)
“The Grudge”: While the song is mostly about a friendship of sorts marked by betrayal and manipulation, we’d like to focus on the difficulty the narrator has in forgiving and forgetting the damage done. Hence, we recommend Petal the Angry Cow by Maureen Fergus and Olga Demidova, a book about a cow who flies into a rage no matter the grievance, whether the horse steps on her foot or the dog steals her favorite chapeau. Petal seeks advice on how to let go of grudges, and it turns out the farm’s goose is not the best animal to turn to. (Though if online detectives are to be believed regarding the song’s inspiration, we could also recommend Taylor Swift: A Little Golden Book Biography by Wendy Loggia and Elisa Chavarri, but we try not to buy into internet rumors.)
“Logical”: Rodrigo’s ballad about self-delusion (and now you got me thinkin’ /two plus two equals five) and a manipulative boyfriend may seem a far cry from Minh Lê and Raissa Figuero’s picture book about an imaginary friend, Real To Me, but the parallels are there! (Others tried to tell me that she wasn’t real, that she was just imaginary.) Both are portraits of the lies we tell ourselves (even if, as in the case of the book, they are happy ones) and how to move past them.
“Making the Bed”: You might think it’s difficult to find a picture book that matches the emotions of ennui and dissatisfaction with fame heard in “Making the Bed,” but that’s where you’re wrong. Arthur Who Wrote Sherlock by Linda Bailey and Isabelle Follath is not just a biography of Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the world’s greatest detective, but an account of the author’s struggles with the success of Sherlock and how he felt trapped by his own creation’s popularity.
CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE
“Vampire”: So, the song isn’t about a literal vampire (though the subject apparently only comes out at night), but we couldn’t waste an opportunity to mention a wonderful middle-grade book about the real thing: Don’t Want To Be Your Monster by Deke Moulton. Neither of the vampire brothers in the humorous horror-mystery are as sociopathic as the guy in “Vampire,” but they do remain bloodsuckers.
“Pretty Isn’t Pretty”: This is a song about impossible beauty standards for women and girls, and the devastating self-image problems that usually result. Unfortunately, there are a lot of stories with those elements, but Barely Floatingby Lilliam Rivera is perhaps the most uplifting. Natalia De La Cruz Rivera y Santiago is part of a synchronized swimming team, the LA Mermaids, but is often underestimated in a sport where girls are expected to be thin and white. Barely Floating explores what it means to be at home in your own skin (even when you’re underwater).
“Get Him Back!”: Who doesn’t love a song with an exclamation mark?(!) And this pop-punk track about trying to win a boy back who’s probably bad for you certainly deserves the punctuation. While the titular Penny in Penny Draws a Best Friend by Sara Shepard isn’t trying to win back a boy, she is trying to figure out why her former best friend Violet is avoiding her and hanging out with all the meanest girls in school. It’s a book about letting go of friends who aren’t right for you and making room for others who are.
“Teenage Dream”: Not to be confused with the Katy Perry hit, this song was written by an actual teenager. The subject is birthdays and the conflicting emotions of feeling simultaneously too young and too old. Those are resolutely not the conflicting emotions at play in Megabat and the Not-Happy Birthday by Anna Humphrey and Kass Reich, but the book is all about mixed birthday emotions. In the book, those feelings are about hating your new glasses and getting into a big fight with your mostly-verbal bat friend (two specific feelings the singer-songwriter doesn’t touch on).
“All-American B—h”: Finally, we enter the world of YA, a perfect age category for the oeuvre of Olivia Rodrigo. The opening song, which speaks to the unachievable double standards facing women and girls, has a title inspired by the writing of Joan Didion. Tragically, Didion never wrote children’s books or YA, but we think a good pairing for this track is On the Subject of Unmentionable Thingsby Julia Walton, in which rule-following goody-two-shoes Phoebe Townsend lives a secret life as a sex education blogger who raises the ire of a local mayoral candidate who is all-too-keen to enforce some double standards.
“Bad Idea Right?”: This banger is all about the time-honored tradition of reuniting with ex against your better judgment. That immediately made us think of Amanda Woody’s novel They Hate Each Other, in which Jonah and Dylan, who dislike each other immensely but everyone thinks should be together, hook up one wild homecoming night. Mutually horrified, they decide to fake-date, so they can end their relationship with a big, staged fight to prove their incompatibility to everyone else. One can only imagine what kind of idea that is.
“Love is Embarrassing”: A song that explores the mortifying experiences of young love and how that affects your feelings of self-worth and mental state can find few better matches than Something Moreby Jackie Khalilieh. Diagnosed as autistic before the school year begins, fifteen-year-old Palestinian Canadian Jessie finds herself romantically entangled with two very different boys that – especially given her difficulties with certain social cues – often leaves her reeling and confused.
“Lacy”: “Lacy” is a lyrically intriguing song that looks at a relationship between two female friends that blurs the line between love and hate, envy and total worship. In many ways the song reminds us of the fraught friendship between Beth and the beautiful, magnetic, but perhaps untrustworthy Edie in the 1983 New York coming-of-age tale Friends Like Theseby Meg Rosoff.