Tundra Telegram: Books that Spill the Majes(tea)

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we dig into the topics buried in our readers’ psyches and recommend some recent great books to continue the discussion.

The top of everyone’s mind this past weekend: what is a Platinum Jubilee?! Royal watchers don’t need an explainer, but if you’re an anti-monarchist like your humble author, you may have wondered what exactly was all the highborn hubbub. Well, the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II was celebrated from June 3 to 6 in the United Kingdom and the rest of the Commonwealth of Nations (though in some former colonies, markedly less so!) to mark the 70th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne (way back in 1952).

And what a celebration it was, with commemorative coins being minted, Prime Ministers being booed (a substantial amount), Corgi drone lightshows, and – of course – the Queen meeting Paddington Bear. But whether you are as jazzed for the Jubilee as viral cyclist Steve, or as royally ticked off as four-year-old Prince Louis, we’ve got some Platinum-Jubilee-appropriate reading for you.

PICTURE BOOKS

Without a doubt, the most fitting picture book is one that isn’t out until July 12: Queen Elizabeth: A Platinum Jubilee Celebration. This is an official, real-deal Platinum Jubilee souvenir. An illustrated history book for children, you will find everything from the Crown to the Corgis detailed here, as well as a poster, a Royal Family tree, four UK nation timelines and more!

A flap book fit for royalty, Nosy Crow’s Where’s the Queen?, illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius, features illustrated spreads set in England that include a police officer (bobby), a bus (or lorry) driver, and the Queen herself all hiding behind bright felt flap! And when the Jubilee goers were watching a hologram of Elizabeth II this past weekend, they were probably looking under every felt flap for the genuine article!

Less about the British royals and more an insight into their personalities, His Royal Highness, King Baby by Sally Lloyd-Jones and David Roberts tell a story of sibling rivalry, as an older sister (“the most beautifulest, cleverest, ever so kindest Princess”) deals with her family fawning over her burping, crying new brother, whom she has dubbed His Royal Highness, King Baby.

If the Platinum Jubilee is one thing, it’s overwhelmingly white. But your own Platinum Jubilee reading celebrations need not be. Check out Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s The Queen of Kindergarten, in which MJ prepares for her first day of kindergarten, with her hair freshly braided and her mom’s special tiara on her head. She knows she’s going to rock kindergarten, and your young readers will finish the book with that same confidence.

One of our favourite illustrators, Júlia Sardà (Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein) both writes and draws The Queen in the Cave, which is not a Paw Patrol episode featuring Her Majesty, but rather a story in which a young girl dreams about a queen who lives in a dark cave, deep in the forest. She and her younger sisters venture into the forest to see if her dreams are true, and must face dangers and fears along the way. And what they find in the cave is more unexpected than the Queen being projected on Stonehenge.

Though the queen in Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox and Brian Floca may share a name with the British monarch, there is something different about this Liz. She’s an elephant seal who decides to make her home in Christchurch, New Zealand (insert colonialism joke here) and – no matter how far away at sea the locals take her – won’t leave the water bodies of Christchurch.

And though we know she’s no longer performing royal duties, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include the picture book by Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex on this list. The Bench, illustrated by Christian Robinson, is not only a beautiful book about the special relationship between father and son (perfect for Father’s Day), it’s also a great place to sit and watch a Platinum Jubilee parade.

MIDDLE GRADE

Readers who want to know the real story that led up to this year’s Platinum Jubilee should read Who Is Queen Elizabeth II? by Megan Stine and Laurie A. Conley, part of the Who Was? Series. The biography tells how a little girl who loved horses (though I think there’s more involved than that – so many horse girls were passed over the crown) become the longest reigning monarch in England’s history.

And in Megan McDonald‘s Judy Moody and the Right Royal Tea Party illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, Grandma Lou and Judy dig up some proof that some old-timey Moodys lived in merry olde England – and Judy might even be related to the Queen herself! Move over, William and Harry; Judy Moody is taking her place in the peerage!

If that doesn’t sound wacky enough a take on the Queen for you, maybe Royal Family Mad Libs by Stacey Wasserman is up your alley. You’ll just need to write in the missing words on each page to create your own hilariously funny stories all about the royal family – it’s basically what the journalists do at The Daily Mirror!

Technically this book is probably better for fans of Jeopardy! Champion Mattea Roach than Queen Elizabeth II, but Her Majesty is often the subject of trivia questions herself (like, who are the six people mentioned in Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” who are still alive?). Donna Gephart’s Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen follows Olivia as she tries to become a contestant during the game show’s kids’ week – not only to prove her trivia knowledge, but to see her day, who left two years ago and lives nearby in California with his new family.

The delightful graphic novel Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis is not about the Queen of England, but the exiled Queen of Albion (which is kind of the same thing) and her friendship with orphan girl Margaret, who both find themselves on a tiny island of nuns, with a secret purpose that will (honestly) blow your mind.

And for a very different kind of queen, pick up Middle School’s a Drag, You Better Werk! by Greg Howard. Twelve-year-old Mikey Pruitt, budding entrepreneur, starts a junior talent agency and hires a thirteen-year-old aspiring drag queen, Coco Caliente, as his first client. HRH could never!

YOUNG ADULT

If you found yourself reading about the Diamond Jubilee and wondered what it would be like if America had a royal family, you need to check out Katharine McGee’s YA novel American Royals, in which George Washington was crowned king after the Revolutionary War, and readers follow Princesses Beatrice and Samantha as they both vie for the crown, plus handsome Prince Jefferson as he is pursued by various female suitors. To continue the story, check out Majesty and Rivals, and the prequel novella, Inheritance.

In the same vein, you’ll love the “Royals” duology of Prince Charming and Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins. Daisy Winters is a sixteen-year-old Floridian with a part time job at a bootleg Walmart, and a perfect older sister who’s nearly engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. Relentless tabloid attention forces her join her sister at the Prince’s secluded castle where a young man named Miles has been assigned to My Fair Lady her, while the Prince’s younger brother tries to start a scandal with her. Regally romantic sparks fly!

And in a YA novel ripped from historic royal headlines comes My Name Is Victoria by Lucy Worsley. The protagonist is Miss V. Conroy, who is sent to Kensington Palace to become the companion to (then) Princess Victoria. If you’ve ever wondered what the (before Elizabeth II) longest reigning Queen of England was like as a teenager, crack this one open!

In Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin, one girl must make a name for herself in this royal fantasy where an unknown peasant becomes the ultimate ruler (over the king’s own daughter)! You’d never catch that happening in the United Kingdom! But how long can she keep the crown if everyone wants her dead?

Speaking of regicide, you’ve got options if that’s your thing (we’ll keep this conversation between us). Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte is a twisty murder mystery fantasy about the four queens of Quadara being murdered – and the talented pickpocket, Keralie, who discovers a video of the murder. And Pretty Dead Queens by Alexa Donne follows Cecelia Ellis as she tries to solve the copycat murders, decades apart, of the homecoming queens at Seaview High.

No doubt there have been a few times when Elizabeth II has wished she had her own hit squad, so she’d probably enjoy The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa De La Cruz. In it, Caledon Holt, the kingdom’s deadliest weapon must join forces with Shadow of the Honey Glade, who is expected to serve as a lady of the court, but is training to be an assassin like Cal. Chase that one with the follow-up, The Queen’s Secret (I guess the assassin isn’t the secret).

Finally, Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn may not feature any royalty by blood, but Amandla, who is a Black South African, digs into the history of her mysterious mother, who is white (and has prophetic visions), taking along her friends. And what they uncover involves more complex investigations of race, family, friendship, belonging, poverty, and love than four seasons of The Crown!

Summer Thrillers

Putting the YA in FriYAY

Summer is the perfect time to lose yourself in a good thriller – here’s a list of current (and upcoming) titles for you to pick up!

A Lesson in Vengeance
By Victoria Lee
384 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593305829 | Delacorte Press
Felicity Morrow is back at the Dalloway School to finish her senior year after the tragic death of her girlfriend. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students – girls some say were witches. Felicity was once drawn to the dark legacy of witchcraft. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; but it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget it. It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway – and in herself.

Dark and Shallow Lies
By Ginny Myers Sain
432 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593403969 | Razorbill
La Cachette, Louisiana, is the worst place to be if you have something to hide. This tiny town, where seventeen-year-old Grey spends her summers, is the self-proclaimed Psychic Capital of the World – and the place where Elora Pellerin, Grey’s best friend, disappeared six months earlier. Grey can’t believe that Elora vanished into thin air any more than she can believe that nobody in a town full of psychics knows what happened. But as she digs into the night that Elora went missing, she begins to realize that everybody in town is hiding something – her grandmother Honey; her childhood crush Hart; and even her late mother, whose secrets continue to call to Grey from beyond the grave. When a mysterious stranger emerges from the bayou – a stormy-eyed boy with links to Elora and the town’s bloody history – Grey realizes that La Cachette’s past is far more present and dangerous than she’d ever understood. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who she can trust. In a town where secrets lurk just below the surface, and where a murderer is on the loose, nobody can be presumed innocent – and La Cachette’s dark and shallow lies may just rip the town apart.

Eat Your Heart Out
By Kelly DeVos
352 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593204825 | Razorbill
Vivian Ellenshaw is fat, but she knows she doesn’t need to lose weight, so she’s none too happy to find herself forced into a weight-loss camp’s van with her ex-best friend, Allie, a meathead jock who can barely drive, and the camp owner’s snobby son. And when they arrive at Camp Featherlite at the start of the worst blizzard in the history of Flagstaff, Arizona, it’s clear that something isn’t right. Vee barely has a chance to meet the other members of her pod, all who seem as unhappy to be at Featherlite as she does, when a camper goes missing down by the lake. Then she spots something horrifying outside in the snow. Something . . . that isn’t human. Plus, the camp’s supposed “miracle cure” for obesity just seems fishy, and Vee and her fellow campers know they don’t need to be cured. Of anything. Even worse, it’s not long before Camp Featherlite’s luxurious bungalows are totally overrun with zombies. What starts out as a mission to unravel the camp’s secrets turns into a desperate fight for survival – and not all of the Featherlite campers will make it out alive. A satirical blend of horror, body positivity, and humor, Kelly deVos’s witty, biting novel proves that everyone deserves to feel validated, and taking down the evil enterprise determined to dehumanize you is a good place to start.

Tell Me When You Feel Something
By Vicki Grant
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270091 | Penguin Teen Canada
It seemed like a cool part-time program – being a “simulated” patient for med school students to practice on. But now vivacious, charismatic Viv lies in a very real coma. Cellphone footage just leads to more questions. What really happened? Other kids suspect it was not an intentional overdose – but each has a reason why they can’t tell the truth. Through intertwining and conflicting narratives, a twisted story unfolds of trust betrayed as we sift through the seemingly innocent events leading up to the tragic night. Perhaps simulated patients aren’t the only people pretending to be something they’re not. . . . The perfect after-school job turns deadly in this contemporary YA thriller that exposes the dark reality of #MeToo in the world of medicine, for fans of Karen McManus and Holly Jackson.

That Weekend
By Kara Thomas
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524718367 | Delacorte Press
It was supposed to be the perfect prom weekend getaway. But it’s clear something terrible happened when Claire wakes up alone and bloodied on a hiking trail with no memory of the past forty-eight hours. Now everyone wants answers – most of all, Claire. She remembers Friday night, but after that . . . nothing. And now Kat and Jesse – her best friends – are missing. What happened on the mountain? And where are Kat and Jesse? Claire knows the answers are buried somewhere in her memory. But as she’s learning, everyone has secrets – even her best friends. And she’s pretty sure she’s not going to like what she remembers.

The Ivies
By Alexa Donne
320 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593303702 | Crown BFYR
Everyone knows the Ivies: the most coveted universities in the United States. Far more important are the Ivies. The Ivies at Claflin Academy, that is. Five girls with the same mission: to get into the Ivy League by any means necessary. I would know. I’m one of them. We disrupt class ranks, club leaderships, and academic competitions . . . among other things. We improve our own odds by decreasing the fortunes of others. Because hyper-elite competitive college admissions is serious business. And in some cases, it’s deadly. Alexa Donne delivers a nail-biting and timely thriller about teens who will stop at nothing to get into the college of their dreams. Too bad no one told them murder isn’t an extracurricular.

The Woods Are Always WatchingThe Woods Are Always Watching
By Stephanie Perkins
240 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525426028 | Dutton BFYR
Best friends Neena and Josie spent high school as outsiders, but at least they had each other. Now, with college and a two-thousand-mile separation looming on the horizon, they have one last chance to be together – a three-day hike deep into the woods of the Pisgah National Forest. Simmering tensions lead to a detour off the trail and straight into a waking nightmare. . .and then into something far worse. Something that will test them in horrifying ways. Stephanie Perkins, the bestselling author of There’s Someone Inside Your House, returns with a heart-stopping, gut-wrenching novel about friendship, survival, and navigating unmarked paths even as evil watches from the shadows.

They’ll Never Catch Us
By Jessica Goodman
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593114322 | Razorbill
Stella and Ellie Steckler are only a year apart, but their different personalities make their relationship complicated. Stella is single-minded, driven, and she keeps to herself. Cross-country running is her life and she won’t let anything get in the way of being the best. Her sister Ellie is a talented runner too, but she also lets herself have fun. She has friends. She goes to parties. She has a life off the course. The sisters do have one thing in common, though: the new girl, Mila Keene. Both Stecklers’ lives are upended when Mila comes to town. At first, Ellie and Stella view the new star athlete as a threat. But soon Ellie can’t help but be drawn to her warm, charming personality. After her best friend moved away and her first boyfriend betrayed her, Ellie’s been looking for a friend to share her secrets. Stella finds herself noticing the ways she and Mila are similar. Mila is smart and strong – she’s someone Stella can finally connect with. As the two get closer, Stella becomes something she vowed she’d never be: distracted. With regionals approaching and college scouts taking notice, the pressure is on. Each girl has their future on the line and they won’t let friendships get in their way. But then, suddenly, Mila goes out on a training run and never returns. No one knows what happened, but all eyes are on the Steckler sisters.

When All the Girls Are Sleeping
By Emily Arsenault
448 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593180792 | Delacorte Press
Windham-Farnswood Academy is beautiful, prestigious, historic – the perfect place for girls to prep for college. But every student knows all is not as it seems. Each January, the Winter Girl comes knocking. She’s the spirit who haunts the old senior dorm, and this year is no exception. For Haley, the timing couldn’t be worse. This month marks the one-year anniversary of the death of her ex-best friend, Taylor. When a disturbing video of Taylor surfaces, new questions about her death emerge. And it actually looks like Taylor was murdered. Now, as Haley digs into what really happened last year, her search keeps bringing her back to the Winter Girl. Haley wants to believe ghosts aren’t real, but the clues – and the dark school history she begins to undercover – say otherwise. Now it’s up to her to solve the mystery before history has a chance to repeat itself and another life is taken.

You’re So Dead
By Ash Parsons
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593205129 | Philomel Books
Plum Winter has always come in second to her sister, the unbelievably cool, famous influencer Peach Winter. And when Peach is invited to an all-expenses-paid trip to a luxurious art-and-music festival for influencers on a private island in the Caribbean, Plum decides it’s finally her time to shine. So she intercepts the invite – and asks her two best friends, Sofia and Marlowe, to come along to the fest with her. It’ll be a spring break they’ll never forget. But when Plum and her friends get to the island, it’s not anything like it seemed in the invite. The island is run-down, creepy, and there doesn’t even seem to be a festival – it’s just seven other quasi-celebrities and influencers, and none of the glitz and glamour she expected. Then people start to die . . . Plum and her friends soon realize that someone has lured each of them to the “festival” to kill them. Someone has a vendetta against every person on the island – and no one is supposed to leave alive. So, together, Plum, Sofia, and Marlowe will do whatever it takes to unravel the mystery of the killer, and fight to save themselves and as many influencers as they can, before it’s too late.