Tundra Telegram: Books that will Flip You Upside Down

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we delve into the topics on the tips of readers’ tongues and recommend some recent great books to continue the discussion.

The Duffer Brothers’ Netflix phenomenon, Stranger Things – a blend of horror, science fiction, and 1980s nostalgia – returned to the streaming service this past weekend with seven episodes featuring your friends Eleven, Mike Wheeler, Hopper, Joyce Byers, and all your faves (like my personal favorite, Mr. Clarke). And by all accounts, it’s an ambitious epic, filled with secret government projects, unfathomable horror, and Kate Bush needle-drops galore.

You’ll have to wait until July to watch the final two episodes of Season 4, but we have lots of like-minded reading suggestions for Stranger Things fans of all ages to tide them over through June!

PICTURE BOOKS

It’s a bit difficult to find picture books that are good pairings with Stranger Things, as so few picture books feature anything close to demigorgons, and very few have ample ’80s references. But one exception are the picture books created by Calgary artist Kim Smith. Her Pop Classics Illustrated Storybooks – like Back to the Future, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird – capture all the classic moments of these pop-culture milestones that are often referenced throughout Stranger Things, and a great introduction for the youngest readers to the genre of science fiction.

MIDDLE GRADE

Probably the closest title in tone and subject matter to Stranger Things is the Last Kids on Earth book series by Max Brallier and Douglas Holgate. Suburban middle schoolers playing video games, eating inhuman amounts of candy, and battling the forces of the supernatural and monstrous (usually zombies)? Check, check, and check! And there’s nine books to enjoy so far. Join Jack Sullivan, his friends Quint, June, and Dirk, and his trusty Louisville Slicer as they battle monstrous hordes in this heavily illustrated book series (which was also adapted into a Netflix series – Finn Wolfhard even voices Jack!).

Another middle-grade title that’s a good match for Stranger Things is Sneaks by Catherine Egan. Three kids (Ben, Charlotte, and Akemi) uncover a secret society in their town to keep interdimensional sprites (called ‘Sneaks’) from slipping into our universe. And while the Sneaks may seem not as dangerous as some of the creatures from the Upside Down, they are planning to pull a much more dangerous creature – along the lines of a Mind Flayer! – into our world!

Most books by Melissa Savage (The Truth about Martians, Nessie Quest) could fit on this list, but we’re going to recommend Karma Moon: Ghost Hunter, in which a girl (Karma), whose father is a TV ghost-hunter, stays in a haunted Colorado hotel to help her dad’s flailing TV series. However, there are a few problems – namely Karma struggles with anxiety, and the Stanley Hotel seems to be home to a real haunted house!

And if you can wait until July – you’ll need to wait until then for the Stranger Things season finale anyway – you might like Strangeville School Is Totally Normal by Darcy Miller and illustrated by Brett Helquist. Harvey Hill is the new kid at Strangeville Middle School, trying to blend in, until he realizes his new school is filled with strange sea creatures, giant rats, and a Bermuda-Triangle-like lunch room. A school that might fit in really well in Hawkins, Indiana.

YOUNG ADULT

For YA reading, you can’t do better than the genuine article – actual licensed Stranger Things books, like Runaway Max by Brenna Yovanoff (which focuses on Sadie Sink’s skateboarding loner, who shows up in Season 2) or Rebel Robin by A. R. Carpetta (which focuses on the inner life of the fan-favorite third-season introduction portrayed by Maya Hawke). And you can pre-order the third book in the series, Lucas on the Line by Suyi Davies, about Lucas Sinclair in his own words, out this July.

Likewise, you may enjoy Matthew J. Gilbert’s How to Survive in a Stranger Things World, a hardcover gift book filled with wisdom and guidance to help you through school, friendships, and your town’s darkest secrets. Plus, it’s jam-packed with photos from the television series.

But if you’re looking for something with a similar feel to the show, rather than an officially licensed book, you might like Wilder Girls by Rory Power, which matches (if not surpasses) the show’s creep factor. A feminist Lord of the Flies with a splash of body horror is how we’d describe this mind-melting debut science fiction novel about three girls locked in quarantine at their island board school as a body-altering illness begins to infect everyone else.

You might also be intrigued by What We Harvest, the debut novel from Ann Fraistat that hinges on dark horror in a small town. Hollow’s End is a town that provides food for much of America with its miracle crops, but that bounty comes – as Wren and her family discover – with a deadly price! A blight called ‘Quicksilver’ poisons the land and turns the livestock into staggering, infected zombies. Can Wren and her ex Derek save Hollow’s End?

And Pete and Alistair Montague may be a bit older than the Party in Stranger Things, but they – along with friends like Charlie, Rachel, and Rowan – investigate mysterious goings on in their town of Port Howl in Nathan Page and Drew Shannon’s The Montague Twins graphic novels. The books in the series have definite ST vibes, but are set about twenty years earlier, so there are more Donovan musical cues than Echo and the Bunnymen. And, like Eleven, the Montagues have a few tricks up their sleeves – including some witchy powers.

Women’s History Month 2022: Women in Sports

March is Women’s History Month and there are so my incredible and inspiring books to read! We’ll be sharing a new themed list every week this month so make sure to keep an eye on our blog!

Bibi’s Got Game: A Story About Tennis, Meditation, and a Dog Named Coco
By Bianca Andreescu with Mary Beth Leatherdale
Illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrne
56 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270558 | Tundra Books
From the moment she wakes up, Bibi is very busy. Even before school begins, there are cartwheels to do, world records to break (38 minutes balancing a spoon on your nose), and her dog, Coco, to snuggle. Bibi’s mother suggests she try a sport, but nothing feels right. Until she tries tennis. On the court, she feels strong and powerful. Her serve is like lightning, her backhand booms like thunder and her forehand is as fierce as a hurricane. But one day, everything changes when she is injured on the playground. Bibi is heartbroken, sad, frustrated and angry – she decides to quit tennis! But her mother, with a little help from Coco, shows her how to meditate and dispel the self-doubt and negativity. Bibi learns to focus on all the things that make her grateful and happy. And when her body is ready to go back to tennis, so is her mind. “Now every morning, I picture myself strong and powerful on the court. Just me and the fuzzy ball.”

I am Billie Jean King
By Brad Meltzer
Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
40 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735228740 | Dial Books
This friendly, fun biography series focuses on the traits that made our heroes great – the traits that kids can aspire to in order to live heroically themselves. Each book tells the story of one of America’s icons in a lively, conversational way that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers and that always includes the hero’s childhood influences. At the back are an excellent timeline and photos. This volume features Billie Jean King, the world champion tennis player who fought successfully for women’s rights. From a young age, Billie Jean King loved sports – especially tennis! But as she got older, she realized that plenty of people, even respected male athletes, didn’t take women athletes seriously. She set to prove them wrong and show girls everywhere that sports are for everyone, regardless of gender.

Martina & Chrissie: The Greatest Rivalry in the History of Sports
By Phil Bildner
Illustrated by Brett Helquist
40 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Paperback
ISBN 9781536205640 | Candlewick
Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert come from completely different places and play tennis in completely different ways. Chrissie is the all-American girl: practiced, poised, with perfect technique. Martina hails from Czechoslovakia, a Communist country, and her game is ruled by emotion. Everything about them is different, except one thing: they both want to be the best. But as their intense rivalry grows, something else begins to swing into place, and a friendship forms that will outlast all their tennis victories. Phil Bildner and Brett Helquist tell the engaging true story of these two masters of the court as they win title after title – and, most importantly, the hearts of the fans.

She Persisted in Sports: American Olympians Who Changed the Game
By Chelsea Clinton
Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593114544 | Philomel BFYR
She Persisted in Sports is a book for everyone who has ever aimed for a goal and been told it wasn’t theirs to hit, for everyone who has ever raced for a finish line that seemed all too far away, and for everyone who has ever felt small or unimportant while out on the field. Alexandra Boiger’s vibrant artwork accompanies this inspiring text that shows readers of all ages that, no matter what obstacles come their way, they have the power to persist and succeed. This book features: Margaret Ives Abbott, Gertrude Ederle, Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias, Wilma Rudolph, Jean Driscoll, Mia Hamm (and the 1996 Olympic soccer team), Kristi Yamaguchi, Venus and Serena Williams, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, Diana Taurasi, Simone Biles, Ibtihaj Muhammad and Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux.

Sisters & Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams
By Howard Bryant
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780399169069 | Philomel BFYR
Everyone knows the names Venus & Serena Williams. They’ve become synonymous with championships, hard work, and with shaking up the tennis world. This inspirational true story, written by award-winning sports journalist, Howard Bryant, and brought to beautiful life by Coretta Scott Kind Award and Honor winner, Floyd Cooper, details the sisters’ journey from a barely-there tennis court in Compton, CA, to Olympic gold medals and becoming the #1 ranked women in the sport of tennis. Here is a worthy ode to Venus and Serena Williams, the incredible sister duo who will go down in history as two of the greatest athletes of all time.

Women in Sports: Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win
By Rachel Ignotofsky
30 Pages | Ages 0-3 | Board Book
ISBN 9780593377659 | Crown BFYR
Highlighting the pioneering efforts of women athletes, this board book edition of the original bestseller features simpler text and Rachel Ignotofsky’s signature beautiful illustrations reimagined for younger readers to introduce the perfect role models for inspiring a love of sports. The collection includes diverse women across various sports, time periods, and geographic location. The perfect gift for every future athlete!

For older kids:

Fast Pitch
By Nic Stone
192 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984893017 | Crown BFYR
Shenice Lockwood, captain of the Fulton Firebirds, is hyper-focused when she steps up to the plate. Nothing can stop her from leading her team to the U12 fast-pitch softball regional championship. But life has thrown some curveballs her way.
Strike one: As the sole team of all-brown faces, Shenice and the Firebirds have to work twice as hard to prove that Black girls belong at bat.
Strike two: Shenice’s focus gets shaken when her great-uncle Jack reveals that a career-ending – and family-name-ruining – crime may have been a setup.
Strike three: Broken focus means mistakes on the field. Shenice’s teammates are beginning to wonder if she’s captain-qualified.
It’s up to Shenice to discover the truth about her family’s past – and fast – before secrets take the Firebirds out of the game forever.

On Top of Glass: My Stories as a Queer Girl in Figure Skating
By Karina Manta
336 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593308462 | Knopf BFYR
Karina Manta has had a busy few years: Not only did she capture the hearts of many with her fan-favorite performance at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, she also became the first female figure skater on Team USA to come out as queer. Her Modern Love essay “I Can’t Hate My Body if I Love Hers” was published in the New York Times, and then she joined the circus – Cirque du Soleil’s on-ice show, AXEL. Karina’s memoir covers these experiences and much more. Attending a high school with 4,000 students, you’d expect to know more than two openly gay students, but Karina didn’t meet an out-lesbian until she was nearly seventeen – let alone any other kind of queer woman. But this isn’t just a story about her queerness. It’s also a story about her struggle with body image in a sport that prizes delicate femininity. It’s a story about panic attacks, and first crushes, and all the crushes that followed, and it’s a story about growing up, feeling different than everybody around her and then realizing that everyone else felt different too.

One Life: Young Readers Edition
By Megan Rapinoe
272 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593203415 | Razorbill
You know Megan Rapinoe as an international soccer superstar! She’s also a fierce activist, boldly speaking out about issues of equality and justice – from LGBTQ rights to the equal pay movement to Black Lives Matter. In this adaptation for middle school readers of her memoir One Life, get to know Megan: from her childhood in a small California town where she learned to play soccer and how to fight for social justice; through high school, college and beyond; to 2016 when she became the first high-profile white athlete to take a knee in support of Colin Kaepernick, and also suing the United States Soccer Federation along with her teammates over gender discrimination. Using stories from her own life and career, Rapinoe discusses the responsibility we have to speak up. In this edition specifically for young readers, she reveals the impact everyone, even kids, can have on their communities and how kids can get involved in making the world a better place.

Wild Girl: How to Have Incredible Outdoor Adventures
By Helen Skelton
Illustrated by Liz Kay
144 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536212860 | Candlewick
From kayaking the length of the Amazon to biking to the South Pole and running an ultramarathon across the Namib desert, Helen Skelton shares the stories of her most daring feats of endurance and grit in some of the world’s most extreme wildernesses – overcoming challenges, embracing her fears, and finding the positives in the toughest situations. Alongside each exciting account are ideas for outdoor adventures readers can have closer to home, as well as gear lists, information about Helen’s support teams, statistics, tips for physical and mental preparation, and a Wild Girl Wall of Fame featuring the diverse women who inspired Helen with their own achievements. A likable, no-nonsense tone paired with a combination of photographs and fun art will inspire young people to get outside and dream big.