Tundra Telegram: Books To Rewrite Erasure

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we talk about the subjects on readers’ minds and recommend some good books for young readers to approach those topics.

This Friday (September 30) is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. This is a federal holiday day meant to honour the Indigenous children who never returned home and survivors of Canada’s residential school system, as well as their families and communities. The holiday is closely connected to Orange Shirt Day, an earlier-established Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day meant to increase public awareness of the individual, family and community intergenerational impacts of residential schools. (The orange shirt is used as a symbol of the erasure of of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations.)

No puns this week, just lots of great picture books, middle-grade novels, and YA from Indigenous authors – some of which deal directly with residential schools, while others do not. And stay tuned for more great titles as Cree author David A. Robertson’s new imprint with Tundra starts acquiring books soon!

PICTURE BOOKS

David A. Robertson and Julie Flett’s Governor General’s Award-winning On the Trapline is a story that looks at residential schools, if obliquely. A boy takes a trip with his Moshom, his grandpa, to visit his trapline, where his family hunted and lived off the land. As they continue on their northern journey, the boy finds himself imagining what life was like two generations ago and asks questions of his Moshom, including what it was like going to school after living on the trapline. The book also contains a number of Cree terms, which were forbidden from residential schools.

Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes, illustrated by Joe Morse, is a picture book that was written by Wab Kinew, who – among many other things (broadcaster, rapper, politician) – served as an Honorary Witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. His picture book, inspired by inspired by former President Barack Obama’s Of Thee I Sing, is a moving and musical tribute to both historic and modern-day Indigenous heroes of Wab’s – everyone from Tecumseh and Sacagawea to NASA astronaut John Herrington and NHL goalie Carey Price.

The events dramatized in Encounter by Brittany Luby and Michaela Goade take place decades before residential schools, but the book is a good reminder of an alternate historic path European explorers could have taken. The book imagines the first encounter between a European sailor and a Stadaconan fisher. As the two navigate their differences (language, dress, food) with curiosity, the natural world around them notes their similarities. The book also features an author’s note to place the encounter within the context of Canadian history, and prompts for further discussion.

Though the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is explicitly about Canadian residential schools, the United States ran similar “Indian boarding schools,” which leads us to recommend We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell and Frane Lessac. We Are Grateful looks at a modern-day Cherokee community throughout the year, who express gratitude for all the elements of daily life. Scenes of celebration for the Great New Moon Ceremony are chronicled, as are difficult memories, like a remembrance of the Trail of Tears. (And it features a chock-full of Cherokee vocabulary, the kind that was outlawed at boarding schools.)

In Navajo families, the first person to make a new baby laugh hosts the child’s First Laugh Ceremony. This forms the story of First Laugh: Welcome Baby! by Roe Ann Tahe, Nancy Bo Flood, and Jonathan Nelson. And so, every relation (from big sister to grandma) try to get Baby to laugh, and readers are introduced (or reintroduced) to details of Navajo culture, and a number of Navajo words – especially those for family members, like nima (mother) and cheii (grandfather).

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Storytelling is central to teaching and remembering the residential school system – and an important component of truth and reconciliation – but for decades most people were largely ignorant of their history. Author David A. Robertson’s work has often been motivated by this, including his fantastical middle-grade adventures, The Misewa Saga. Morgan and Eli are Indigenous children in Winnipeg who discover a portal at their foster home to another world, Askī, where they discover talking animal beings who connect them to traditional ways, as well as help them deal with the challenges in the real world. The Barren Grounds opens the portal, while The Great Bear throws a great time-travel story into the mix, and The Stone Child brings Morgan and her allies to the northern woods, where they encounter new horrors. And in addition to being influenced by Cree sky stories, they examine the foster care system, which many have criticized as being a modern-day version of residential schools.

Rez Dogs (not to be confused with the incredible – and similarly named – TV series) is the latest middle grade novel from one of America’s foremost Indigenous children’s authors, Joseph Bruchac. Set during the Covid-19 pandemic, it follows Wabanaki girl Malian, whose visit to her grandparents’ reservation gets extended by a Covid-19 quarantine. But Malian rises to the challenge, and helps her community mange during the pandemic (be it through distancing or teaching elders to use Zoom) and makes a new friend in a local rez dog.

YOUNG ADULT

Enter (or re-enter) a dystopian world explicitly informed by the residential school system in Cherie Dimaline’s Hunting by Stars. The follow-up to the acclaimed The Marrow Thieves, in which Indigenous people across North America are being hunted for their bone marrow (which is rumored to contain the ability to dream) and housed in reopened residential school systems,  the book follows French heading north with his newfound family as they dodge school Recruiters, a blood cult, and more.

Two Roads, also by Joseph Bruchac, is a Depression-era story that explicitly revolves around the Indian boarding schools in the United States. Cal Black learns from his Pop that he’s a Creek Indian and he’s being sent to a government boarding school in Oklahoma (the Challagi School). Though Cal faces harsh and miserable conditions at the school, the one bright spot is the other Creek boys he befriends and through which he learns about his culture.

Walking in Two Worlds by Wab Kinew tells the story of Bugz, a girl caught between her real-life shyness on the Rez, and her overwhelming dominance in the massive multiplayer video game, The Floraverse. The assimilation metaphors appear throughout the book, as readers follow Bugz and her struggle to reconcile the parallel aspects (and wildly divergent portions) of her life, in a not dissimilar way that survivors of the residential schools have.

Winner of the American Indian Youth Literature Award Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith also looks at a contemporary Indigenous teen trying to navigate the challenges of high school (but without as much gaming). Louise Wolfe’s first boyfriend turns out to be a bigot (one of the dangers of “dating while Native”), so she focuses on her work at the school paper. She and Joey Kairouz, photojournalist, follow a story about the school’s inclusive casting of The Wizard of Oz in their mostly white Kansas town. While uncovering the closemindedness of their town, they may find a little romance, too.

Tundra Telegram: Books You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we talk about the thing haunting readers’ minds and riling up their blood, and stake out some books that have bite.

We hope you made last weekend a vampire one, as the long-awaited television adaptation of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy hit streaming services across North America. It’s been eight years since the unsuccessful movie (at least in terms of ticket sales; I think it resulted in at least one good cover of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” which makes it a success in my books). The YA novels have rebooted into a new television series about St. Vladimir’s Academy on NBC Peacock in the U.S. and W / StackTV here in Canada, which premiered this past week.

If binging the series hasn’t drained you (get it?) of all vampire interest, we’ve listed some fang-tastic vampire books for all age categories below. Read on for some great kids’ books and YA that grab you by the throat!

PICTURE BOOKS

When the gang at St. Vladimir’s finish their exams, you know they look forward to a Vampire Vacation, which happens to be the title of our first recommendation in picture books. The book by Laura Lavoie and Micah Player, is about a young vampire (Fang) who is sick of trips to Transylvania and coffin museums, and longs for the sand and surf of a beach vacation. If you know a little about vampires, you can imagine why Fang’s parents refuse – until he convinces them a beach vacation can even be fun for a family of vampires.

For recreation that’s more in line with the typical vampire’s temperature, there’s Glory on Ice: A Vampire Hockey Story by Maureen Fergus and Mark Fearing (great last name, IMHO). Vlad is a centuries-old vampire who decides to dominate peewee hockey, until he realizes his supernatural powers don’t mean much until he gets the fundamentals down. The perfect book for anyone starting hockey – undead or not.

Vlad the Rad (no relation) by Brigette Barrager, is similar in that its titular radical vampire is not interested in anything spooky – unless you consider a sick kickflip or primo slide spooky. Through this high-energy picture book, Vlad learns to combine his passion for skateboarding with his schoolwork, and young readers will learn a way to combine their studies with the things that they find rad.

Vampires aren’t the only spooky creatures covered in Cale Atkinson’s Monsters 101, but readers learn a lot about them – and not just from Professor Batula McFang, one of the guides (along with Professors Blobblins, Howlsworth, and Tina, the zombie lab assistant) who sets the record straight on the fact and fiction about all things ghoulish. You’ll learn so much, it’s kind of like a vampire academy (in book form).

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

What if you love vampires, but Charlotte’s Web is also your favorite book of all time? Let me tell you about the graphic novel series Ham Helsing: Vampire Hunter by Rich Moyer. A reference to famous vampire Van Helsing, this series features the young descendant in a family of fearless vampire hunters who has always preferred a pen (for writing poems) to a stake or sword. But when he sets out in the family biz, he discovers he doesn’t need to do it all on his own, and soon assembles a crew of buddies to help “save his bacon.”

If kids and YA books have taught us anything, it’s that vampires love schools. And there may not really be any vampires in Our Teacher Is a Vampire and Other (Not) True Stories by Mary Amato, but Mrs. Penrose’s class all thinks there are – and isn’t that what matters? Alexander H. Gory thinks his teacher is a vampire, and so he passes around his notebook, detailing the proof. Gossip and fear spreads (not unlike in Vampire Academy), but their teacher’s real secret is both more mundane and more earth-shattering!

Not to be confused with Vampire Vacation (see earlier), Kiersten White’s Vampiric Vacation is the second in her gothic and charming Sinister Summer series, which are kind of like Addams Family travelogues. This book follows the Sinister-Winterbottom twins as they travel not to the beach, but the Sanguine Spa in the “little Transylvania Mountains” overseen by the mysterious count. It’s all fun and games (scavenger hunts, mostly) until boy twin Wil begins to show symptoms of vampirism!

Speaking of schools, the series Middle School Bites by Steven Banks and illustrated by Mark Fearing (that guy must love vampires!) is all about the hijinks that ensue when a boy, Tom Marks, is bitten by a vampire (as well as a werewolf . . . and a zombie) and returns to his middle school. As the first Vam-Wolf-Zom, he has to contend with the monsters that made him who he is, as well as deal with music class and the occasional bully in this very funny series from one of the head writers of SpongeBob SquarePants.

YOUNG ADULT

Of course, if you’ve watched the Vampire Academy series and read the books, our first recommendation is visiting Richelle Mead’s associated Bloodlines series. The six-book saga focuses on Sydney Sage, the alchemist in Vampire Academy who aids Rose later in the books (but has not yet appeared on the show). Alchemists are a group of humans who dabble in magic and connect the worlds of humans and vampires. In Bloodlines, Sydney, in hiding, is sent to a human private school in Palm Springs, California, where she must shield a Moroi princess from assassins who want her dead.

And if vampire romance is your thing, you’ll also want to read Renée Ahdieh’s The Beautiful Quartet. The four-part series takes a page from the book of Anne Rice, set in a sultry and sexy 19th Century New Orleans, chock-full of vampires, and is electrified by the romantic tension between Sebastien Saint Germain, central figure in the city’s macabre nightlife, and dressmaker Celine Rousseau, who has been taken in by a convent.

The Coldest Touch by Isabel Sterling puts a playful queer twist on vampire romance, as a teenage psychic who can foresee the death of every person she touches falls in love with a vampire (who is already dead – but you knew that). Claire, the vampire, is tasked with teaching Elise, the precognitive, how to master her death prediction powers, and the two soon find themselves trying to solve the future murder of one of Elise’s teacher . . . and solve the mystery of why they’re so dang attracted to each other.

The brand-new Go Hunt Me by Kelly Devos has connections to both the vampires at the academy and the fans (and makers!) of the show. Seven teen amateur teen horror filmmakers go on a trip to shoot a Dracula short on location at a remote Romanian castle. But the setting proves to be scarier than they thought, as the crew goes missing one-by-one in the foreboding building that may have inspired a horror classic.

And we have to mention two forthcoming vampire titles to keep on your radar in 2023:

In Nightfall by Suzanne Young chronicles the story of siblings Theo and Marco as they move to live with their grandmother in the beachside town of Nightfall, Oregon. A town, not unlike the one in classic 80s vampire movie Lost Boys, where a gang of teen girls who may or may not be “nightwalkers” rule the streets at night.

And Deke Moulton’s forthcoming spooky and funny middle-grade novel Don’t Want To Be Your Monster is about two vampire brothers with very different feelings on the ethics of drinking people’s blood who set aside their differences in their Pacific Northwest town.

So long, and fangs for reading!

Tundra Telegram: Books That Liege You Wanting More

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we talk about the subjects people are feuding about online, and recommend some majestic books that are without peer(age).

Unless you’ve been living under a rock – and no shade if you have (though living under a rock probably involves lots of shade, TBH) – you know that England has a new king. By extension, the Commonwealth country that the gang at Tundra Books lives in, Canada, also has a new king. (Same guy, even!)

And no matter what your personal feelings or politics are on monarchies, or this particular monarchy, or the best way for a person to clear a desk for signing important documents, you have to admit – everyone was talking about kings this week. Accordingly, we’re recommending some great picture books, chapter books, middle-grade novels, and YA titles about some of our favorite kings. And, spoiler: none of them are about Charles III.

PICTURE BOOKS

You can’t claim England and the British Commonwealth are small by any stretch, so the new king may have little in common with Bil Lepp and David T. Wenzel’s The King of Little Things. This book stars a king who is very happy to rule over an incredibly tiny kingdom, but he runs into conflict with King Normous, who wants to be Ruler of All the World. (Remind you of anyone?) This imaginative picture book is not so much a study of royalty as a tribute to the power and importance of the small things in life.

Not to be confused with the protagonist of the previous book, King Jasper is The King of Too Many Things, a picture book by Laurel Snyder and Aurore Damant. But the message of this book is similar. King Jasper can (and does) order his wizard to conjure up all sorts of cool things: dragons, robots, superheroes. But the king soon learns that wanting more can lead to less happiness. (Heavy is the head that wears the crown, they say.)

King Mouse by Cary Fagan and Dena Seiferling, among other things, is a story about finding your own royalty and when to abdicate it. In it, a little mouse finds a tiny crown in the grass and lets the other animals assume he’s king. But soon, the others find crowns that fit them and more and more of them claim to be kings and queens. But when the bear can’t find a crown big enough for his head, King Mouse decides friendship is more important than the monarchy.

A book that has special relevance in the early fall is Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s The King of Kindergarten, a book that will give kids starting kindergarten a big confidence boost as they start in a joyful new kingdom of learning and friends. But we’re sure the book has lessons for any starting royal.

Speaking of royal lessons, The Barefoot King: A Story about Feeling Frustrated by Andrew Jordan Nance and Olivia Holden, is a parable told in rhyming couplets about the unintended consequences of rash decisions and the importance of acceptance and responsibility. King Creet, who rules where everyone walks barefoot, stubs his toe on a rock, which causes a lot of pain. He orders the entire kingdom covered in leather – what could go wrong?

And for a totally different kind of kingdom – the icky kind – try Slime King by Catherine Daly and Maine Diaz. Not about Charles III (I kid, I kid – no Tower of London for me, please), the book not only tells you about Leo and his slime-making business, but also show you how to make slime and crown yourself slime royalty, to boot!

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

His domain may only be as expansive as a skating rink, but Miles Lewis: King of the Ice by Kelly Starling Lyons and Wayne Spencer is no less regal than any other king. And our titular hero holds a special place in Canadian hearts, as he must learn to ice skate in order to win a bet when his teacher leads them to an ice rink to learn about physics.

The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt (which has since been turned into a Netflix series) is a medieval fantasy that centres on an important task that sixteen-year-old Tiuri (a hopeful teenage squire) must accomplish for the king. All he has to do is deliver a secret letter across the Great Mountains. And while it may seem like something postal carriers do daily, they never have to deal with menacing forests, sinister castles, and deadly enemies who want to take that letter from him.

Though The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett is set during World War II in England, the king referenced is not George VI. Rather, the book follows two privileged children, Cecily and Jem, who are evacuated from London during the blitz to the country estate of their Uncle Peregrine. At Cecily’s request, they bring along a poor and seemingly orphaned girl named May with them. Uncle P tells them the estate lies on the ruins of Snow Castle, and regales them with a tale of royalty and betrayal that has resonance for their – and the world’s – current situation.

YOUNG ADULT

We’ve mentioned this YA series before, but anything royal is a great excuse to mention Katharine McGee’s American Royals, an alternate present in which in which George Washington was crowned king after the Revolutionary War, and readers follow Princesses Beatrice and Samantha as they court romances and vie for the crown – a crown that is currently held by a . . . you guessed it . . . king: King George IV (no relation).

Leslie Vedder’s The Bone Spindle may not feature a king, but Briar Rose is a prince (close) under a sleeping curse, waiting for a kiss to wake him in this rollicking fantasy adventure that doubles as a gender-swapped Sleeping Beauty. Unluckily for bookish treasure hunter Fi, she pricks her finger on a bone spindle (title alert), which connects her with the spirit of the cursed Briar Rose. She and her BFF Shane, a tough northern warrior who loves girls and busting skulls, soon find themselves on an adventure to break the prince’s sleeping curse.

The YA novel Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi asks an interesting ethical question for any hereditary ruler: what is someone could literally eat your sin? Taj is one such sin-eater (or aki), who slay the sin-beasts that mages will create from the corrupt elite. But when he’s called upon to live in the palace eat the sins of the royal family, Taj finds himself in the midst of a dark political conspiracy. Your favorite show The Crown could never.

And Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King, being set in rural Tennessee, has a distinct lack of actual kings or crown jewels. But what it does have is three hardscrabble friends at the end of high school, eager to leave their town behind them – especially the guy who’s the son of a Pentecostal minister who has to handle poisonous snakes on the regular. (We could say more, but it would just spoil it. Suffice to say, Dill’s life is no Buckingham Palace.)

Cheerio, friends, and happy reading!

Tundra Telegram: Books That Deserve a Red Carpet

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we pull focus on a few subjects that have everyone reeling, and recommend some books worthy of two thumbs up (or ‘fresh’ certification, depending on your internet age).

Not only did this past weekend see more movie drama at the Venice Film Festival than the Billy Wilder classic Sunset Boulevard, today marks the start of the closer-to-home Toronto International Film Festival, which returns in a big way this year, with massive gala events and screenings across the city’s downtown.

So we’re shining the spotlight on ten films that will screen at the 2022 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival and recommending books you or your young reader might enjoy if you don’t happen to snag tickets at the box-office. Lights . . . camera . . . action!

PICTURE BOOKS

One of the most anticipated world premieres at TIFF is Devotion, a war film about the American Navy’s first Black aviator and his friendship with his white wingman that stars Jonathan Majors (who we all loved in Lovecraft Country, even though it scared us). But if you can’t make it to the movie, you can read Sprouting Wings by Louisa Jaggar, Shari Becker, and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. The book tells the story of another Black aviation pioneer, James Herman Banning, the first African American to fly across the country in 1932, over 20 years before the events of the film.

The festival’s closing night film is Dalíland, a biopic about the surrealist Spanish painter Salvador Dalí (played by Ben Kingsley) and his wife Gala, directed by Mary Harron (American Psycho). If you can’t be at the gala, you can always check out Just Being Dalí by Amy Guglielmo and Brett Helquist, a picture book that celebrates the artist’s individuality, from his melting clocks, his lobster phone, and his pet ocelot Babou. (No word yet on who plays Babou in the film!)

Music fans are losing it over TIFF’s opening night film for the Midnight Madness program, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. This embellished account of the rise of everyone’s favorite parody songwriter promises to be a good time. And while no one has written a picture book about Al yet, Rosemary Mosco and Jacob Souva created Flowers Are Pretty … Weird!, which not only shares a similar title, but also shares a love of the strange, the funny, and the floral (be it real plants or Hawaiian shirts).

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Though it’s not premiering at TIFF, Martin McDonagh’s new film The Banshees of Inisherin, starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, has been generating a lot of buzz on the festival circuit. Set on a remote Irish island, it illustrates what happens when one friend decides to abruptly end a longtime relationship. It’s not a perfect pairing, but the story reminds us a bit of the depiction of friendship in Wolfie and Fly by Cary Fagan and Zoe Si. Renata Wolfman (‘Wolfie’) doesn’t see much point to friends. But friendship finds her in the form of Livingston Flott (‘Fly’), a weird and loquacious boy Wolfie doesn’t like much at first, but then finds it hard to live without.

Another world premiere at TIFF is The Menu, a satire about high-end cuisine from one of the creators of Succession and starring Anya Taylor-Joy. While it’s not quite a satire, Alice Fleck’s Recipes for Disaster by Rachelle Delaney, is a comical book set in the world of food, as Alice must work with her culinary historian father to compete in a cooking reality show – while simultaneously solving a delicious behind-the-scenes mystery!

We’ll never say ‘no’ to a new Nicolas Cage film. And Butcher’s Crossing, a Western in which he plays a buffalo hunter in the 1870s who convinces an Ivy league grad to join him in a dangerous expedition, is on our “must-see list.” But if we can’t get a ticket, we’ll read R. J. Palacio’s similarly ambitious middle-grade Western, Pony. Though twelve-year-old Silas is no Ivy league student, he is drawn out on a dangerous journey – to find his kidnapped father, rather than hunt bison.

TIFF will also host the world premiere of Wendell & Wild, an animated collaboration between Jordan Peele (Get Out) and Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), in which demon brothers team with a goth teen to defeat their demonic dad. All these Satanic high school hijinks make us think of The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel by Ryan North and Derek Charm. The book is a middle-grade take on the comic book occult detective, in which Salem tweens John and Anna (with some help from a friendly demon Etrigan) use their occult powers to uncover if his homeroom teacher is really a witch. And, like the film, destined to be a goth teen cultural touchstone.

YOUNG ADULT

Another premiere at TIFF is Bros, written by and starring Billy Eichner, one of the first big-budget queer Hollywood rom-coms. Bobby is a cynical podcaster who writes off boring (but good-looking) Aaron, until they find something special blossoms in this movie that plays with the tropes of rom-coms. If the idea of unexpected romance and play with rom-com conventions through a queer lens is your thing, you’ll want to read Kevin Van Whye’s Nate Plus One, a friends-to-lovers story that takes place in the lead-up to a Johannesburg wedding.

Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is back in Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, which has its premiere at TIFF. The Southern detective has a new case and a new cast of suspects, all hiding their own mysteries, but this time they’re on a remote Greek island. Want a twisty mystery that’s also the second in a series AND set on an island? How about Family of Liars by E. Lockhart, in which readers return to the Sinclair family’s private island (made so popular in We Were Liars) and uncover the secrets of a previous generation. (If only there had been teen Benoit Blanc on hand to sort things out!)

Finally, we can’t believe we’ve waited this long to gush about The Woman King, the new film by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball) and starring Viola Davis. Davis stars as Nansica in this true story of the Agojie, an all-female military regiment charged with protecting the African Kingdom of Dahomey (in what is now known as Benin). The warrior women in Namina Forna’s The Gilded Ones may be fictional (and have certain magical powers), but the alaki in this fantasy novel share a few commonalities with the subject of this highly anticipated film, and were based somewhat on the stories Forna learned growing up in nearby Sierra Leone.

See you at the movies – AND the bookstore!

Tundra Telegram: Books That Killed the Radio Star

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we plug into the subjects we like all too well, and recommend some truly g-l-a-m-o-r-o-u-s books.

This past Sunday, social media platforms lit up like starships in reaction to the highs and lows of the 2022 edition of a video music award ceremony. Though the namesake of the awards no longer plays music videos – we note, curmudgeonly – all that Sunday night and the following Monday morning, everyone online was talking about new music, be it BLACKPINK, Lizzo, or the surprise Taylor Swift album announcement.

In honour of this celebration of music, we’re doing something a little different this week: we’ve recommended books – three in each of our usual categories – connected to the winners, performers, and moments from this past Weeknd’s music video awards. So read on, because the music revolution will be televised!  

PICTURE BOOKS

Taylor Swift broke a record for most video of the year wins with her 2022 win for her epic “All Too Well: The Short Film.” And as we all remember, the song chronicles the rise and breakup of a romance, in which the imagery of a scarf (which may or may not be in the possession of Jake Gyllenhaal, and which The Verge has described as “the green dock light of our time”) takes centre stage. We can’t help but be reminded of the new seasonal classic Mistletoe by Tad Hills, in which winter-weather-loving mouse tries in vain to connect to her elephant friend who only wants to stay inside where it’s warm and cozy. Of course, the titular mouse knits a perfect holiday gift for her elephant friend. And you know that elephant would never forget it at his sister’s house.

Bad Bunny, the Puerto Rican trap and reggaeton artist and sometime wrestler (!), also made history becoming the first non-English-language act to win artist of the year. Whether it’s his international smash hits or unwavering support for the Latin LGBTQ community, there’s not much bad about Bad Bunny. But the same cannot be said for Richard Scarry’s Naughty Bunny, who scares his mother by blaring the TV too loudly, scribbles all over the walls, and kicks up a fuss when he should be napping. (Actually, he doesn’t sound that bad either.) But though he’s a naughty rabbit, he still manages to be loveable, like Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio – as both male and female backup dancers can attest!

Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow took home a few awards for their blockbuster video of “Industry Baby,” which sees the two rappers breaking out of a very special prison. The perfect picture book pairing would be Milo Imagines the World by Matt De La Peña and Christian Robinson, which follows Milo and his older sister on a long subway ride, during which Milo imagines and draws pictures of the lives of the other riders. Not only does it match the video’s creativity, but the subway ride Milo and his sister make is a weekend journey to visit their incarcerated mother.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Jack Harlow also took home the trophy for “song of the summer,” and had one of the biggest performances of the night with his song “First Class.” And while the video may more be about a moneyed lifestyle than anything academic, there’s no first class more appealing than that in Narwhal’s School of Awesomeness by Ben Clanton. The graphic novel sees beloved sea buds Narwhal and Jelly becoming substitute teachers for the first time for a school of fish. Their education methods are unconventional, but full of fun and positivity. Jack Harlow may have his first class up in the sky, but does he have wafflematics class under the sea?

One of the most notable couples on the red carpet this past weekend was goofy rapper Yung Gravy and TikTok star Addison Raes mother (Sheri Nicole Easterling). We know one person who likes Gravy more than any Tiktokkers’ mothers, and that’s food-obsessed dachshund Weenie in Mad About Meatloaf, the first book in the Weenie featuring Frank and Beans graphic novels by Maureen Fergus and Alexandra Bye. After all, what is a gravy, but meatloaf sauce? And no one loves meatloaf more than Weenie, who hilariously conscripts his fellow pets Frank (a cat) and Beans (a hamster) on a convoluted quest to get some.

Singer and flautist Lizzo gave one of the night’s standout performances and won the award for “video for good” for her new hit “About Damn Time,” an uplifting jam that celebrates survival through hardships. A book that is also about time is Jen Calonita’s The Retake, a time-travelling middle-grade novel about a girl, Zoe, who downloads a magical app on her phone that allows her to travel back in time to moments where she and her best friend Laura started to drift apart. Not only that, it looks at themes of social media pressures and bullying, something Lizzo knows a thing or two about, as well.

YOUNG ADULT

Few musical moments have made this writer feel older than the performance of Eminem and Snoop Dogg of their “From the D 2 to the LBC.” The two hip-hop artists performed as their Bored Ape avatars in the metaverse in a dystopian confluence of advertising for NFTs and Facebook products before they took the stage for real. If you like virtual worlds and avatars but are looking for a little more adventure and social commentary, you should check out Wab Kinew’s Walking in Two Worlds. In it, a shy Indigenous teen on the Rez, Bugz, dominates in a multiplayer video game world called the Floraverse, but finds herself caught between her two realities.

A less bizarre but no less memorable stage performance came from K-Pop group BLACKPINK of their song, “Pink Venom.” And to match the sweet-but-deadly vibe of the song (and the group), we’re going with Danielle Vega’s The Merciless. A group of popular girls with perfect hair perform brutal exorcisms on their classmates. Queen bees meet torture scenes – and with a pink cover, to boot! “Straight to ya’ dome” will have a completely different (and gruesome) meaning after reading.

Finally, Thai K-Pop rapper Lisa (one-fourth of BLACKPINK) won in the “Best K-Pop” category for “Lalisa.” Lisa’s youth, training with YG Entertainment, is not unlike that depicted in the YA novel Idol Gossip by Alexandra Leigh Young. In the book, Alice Choy is discovered by the fictional Top10 Entertainment and struggles to stay true to herself and overcome the haters in this insiders’ look at a K-Pop Academy, the kind at which Lisa herself became the first non-ethnically Korean trainee.

Happy reading, friends!