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!

CTV Your Morning Kids’ Book Segment on Fresh Spring Reads

Our Marketing and Publicity Director, Vikki VanSickle, was on CTV’s Your Morning today to talk about some of her spring reads for kids. Check out our titles from her recommendations below and don’t forget to watch her segment for the full list.

AGES 3-7

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.

AGES 6-9

How to High Tea with a Hyena (And Not Get Eaten)
By Rachel Poliquin
Illustrated by Kathryn Durst
84 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266605 | Tundra Books
Celeste is a cockroach, and everyone knows that cockroaches are survivors, so who better to give advice on surviving an encounter with a polite predator? High teas are dainty meals with pretty teacups: you nibble tiny cakes, sip milky tea and chit-chat about not-so important things like why doughnuts have holes and if fish have eyebrows. But Ruby the hyena is loud, ferocious and tends to slobber. High-speed gobbling makes good sense in the wild, but it is a definite no-no in the tearoom! And Ruby just happens to be Queen of a very large clan of hungry hyenas. Will high tea be ruined by uninvited guests? Is Ruby peckish for something other than Celeste’s famous cream buns? Using her vast knowledge of hyenas, Celeste comes up with lots of strategies to get through high tea in one piece. Many of her suggestions are dangerous, most are absurd, but all are based on true hyena biology and hunting behavior.

AGES 9-12

Water, Water
By Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Jon McNaught
160 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270039 | Tundra Books
One morning Rafe wakes up to discover his bedroom is floating in a vast sea of water. Alone with only his dog for company, Rafe adapts to this strange new world by fishing cans of food out of the water and keeping watch. Boxes float by, as does a woman, playing her cello. Then, one day, Rafe fishes out a young girl, who joins him in his room – they don’t speak the same language, but together they will face this uncertain future together.

PAWS: Gabby Gets It Together
By Nathan Fairbairn
Illustrated by Michele Assarasakorn
176 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780593351864 | Razorbill
Meet best friends Gabby Jordan, Priya Gupta, and Mindy Kim. They’re different in just about every way – personalities, hobbies, family, and more – but they have a few important things in common: they’re all in the same class, they absolutely love animals, and for reasons that are as varied as the trio themselves none of them can actually have any pets. Unable to resist the adorable temptation any longer, the girls decide to come up with a way to finally get their hands on some furry friends. And, as luck would have it, it seems like their neighborhood is in need of some afterschool dog-walkers. So, just like that, PAWS is born! But it turns out that running a business is harder than it looks, especially with three co-owners who are such different people. The girls soon argue about everything, from how to prioritize their commitments to the best way to keep their doggy clients happy. And when their fighting ultimately leads to a doggo crisis, will it tear their business and friendship apart or will they be able to get it together to save the day?

Scout Is Not a Band Kid
By Jade Armstrong
272 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780593176221 | 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.

AGES 14+

Wrong Side of the Court
By H. N. Khan
312 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270879 | Penguin Teen Canada
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.

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra is an ongoing series featuring our new releases. The following titles are now available in stores and online!

Me Three
By Susan Juby
224 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735268722 | Puffin Canada 
Eleven-year-old Rodney is starting sixth grade in a new school, in a new home in a new state. The new school is really old and smells like someone ate a couple of pounds of glue and then barfed it back up, and he’s in a class with a bunch of kids who seem to sort of hate him. Even his best friend won’t write him back. It’s strange, because just a couple of months ago, Rodney was one of the most popular guys in his fifth-grade class. He lived in Las Vegas, with his mom, older sister and his dad, who was a successful professional poker player. Now his old life is over – his mom even says they shouldn’t tell anyone their real last name. Because of something his dad did. Or something people said that he did. His dad says it’s all a big misunderstanding, but he’s now staying in a center “for people who are having problems, like being addicted to drugs or gambling, or because other people don’t understand that you are just funny and friendly and sometimes you give people hugs or put your arm around them and they accuse you of taking liberties and ruin everything.” Rodney is confident that it won’t be long until the misunderstanding is all cleared up and they can all go back to their old life. But he can only keep the truth at bay for so long . . . .

Water, Water
By Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Jon McNaught
160 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270039 | Tundra Books
One morning Rafe wakes up to discover his bedroom is floating in a vast sea of water. Alone with only his dog for company, Rafe adapts to this strange new world by fishing cans of food out of the water and keeping watch. Boxes float by, as does a woman, playing her cello. Then, one day, Rafe fishes out a young girl, who joins him in his room – they don’t speak the same language, but together they will face this uncertain future together.

New in Board Book:

The Button Book
By Sally Nicholls
Illustrated by Bethan Woollvin
24 Pages | Ages 0-3 | Board Book
ISBN 9780735271722 | Tundra Books
Follow a group of animal friends as they discover a collection of mysterious buttons, all of which do different things! From a blue singing button to a purple tickle button, from a rude sound button to a mysterious white button, there’s only one way to find out what they do: press them all! And thankfully, there’s even a sleeping button to lull the animals to sleep after a busy day. A lively introduction to colors and shapes, The Button Book is the perfect interactive book for story time (and bedtime!).

We can’t wait to see you reading these titles! If you share these books online, remember to use #ReadTundra in your hashtags so that we can re-post.

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra is an ongoing series featuring our new releases. The following titles are now available in stores and online!

Midnight and Moon
By Kelly Cooper
Illustrated by Daniel Miyares
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266308 | Tundra Books
Moon cannot see but he hears sounds that other horses ignore: the eggshell crack of a meadow lark hatching. The glide of a salamander into the pond. Clara does not speak but she hears sounds that other children ignore: the hum of the oven when her mother bakes muffins. The sound of the cat’s paws on the kitchen floor. Both the foal and the little girl live with challenges. Both also have special qualities, which are recognized by friends who are open to seeing them. Midnight and Moon is about the rare and wonderful friendship that can form between opposites, a friendship that enriches both. This story shows us that our differences are positives, that the world needs both Claras and Jacks, Midnights and Moons.

New in Paperback:

How to Change Everything
The Young Human’s Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other
By Naomi Klein and Rebecca Stefoff
336 Pages | Ages 10+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735270084 | Puffin Canada
Temperatures are rising all over the world, leading to wildfires, droughts, animal extinctions, and ferocious storms – climate change is real. But how did we get to this state, and what can we do next? What if we could work to protect the planet, while also taking action to make life fairer and more equal for the people who live on it? We can – if we’re willing to change everything. In her first book written for young readers, internationally acclaimed, bestselling author and social activist Naomi Klein, with Rebecca Steffof, lays out the facts and challenges of climate change and the movement for climate justice. Using examples of change and protest from around the world, including profiles of young activists from a wide range of backgrounds, Klein shows that young people are not just part of the climate change movement, they are leading the way. How to Change Everything will provide readers with clear information about how our planet is changing, but also, more importantly, with inspiration, ideas, and tools for action. Because young people can help build a better future. Young people can help decide what happens next. Young people can help change everything.

Megabat and the Not-Happy Birthday
By Anna Humphrey
Illustrated by Kass Reich
176 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735271753 | Tundra Books
Daniel isn’t in the birthday party mood. He hates his new glasses – they’re dorky, and he feels silly in them. Megabat LOVES Daniel’s new face windows! They make him dizzy and his tummy feel funny. And he loves parties even more! Daniel starts planning his party, and things are looking up – all of his friends are excited, and he has some fun games planned. Plus: presents! Megabat’s party excitement is losing steam. He has to hide the whole time. He can’t eat any of the delicious buttermelon. And he can’t participate in any games, even though it’s the thing he wants most in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD. When Megabat loses his temper and breaks Daniel’s best birthday gift, he realizes he’s been a bad friend and gives Daniel what he thinks is the best possible gift: he runs away. But being alone in the big, wide, world is harder than he thought.

Super Detectives: Simon and Chester #1
By Cale Atkinson
64 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267640 | Tundra Books
Welcome to the world of Simon and Chester, ghost and boy duo extraordinaire.
They like to kick butt and take names.
They don’t like chores.
They are best friends.
And they are about to solve the mystery of a lifetime.
(Oh, and eat some snacks probably.)
Join Simon and Chester in their first adventure, and fall in love with this hilarious odd couple by fan favorite author and illustrator Cale Atkinson.

The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster
By Cary Fagan
184 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735266049 | Tundra Books
Hartley Staples, near-graduate of middle school, is grappling with the fact that his older brother has run away from home, when he finds a handmade postcard that fascinates him. And soon he spots another. Despite his losing interest in pretty much everything since Jackson ran away, Hartley finds himself searching for cards in his small town at every opportunity, ignoring other responsibilities, namely choosing a topic for his final project. Who is G.O. and why are they scattering cards about the town?

We can’t wait to see you reading these titles! If you share these books online, remember to use #ReadTundra in your hashtags so that we can re-post.