Tundra Telegram: Books to Break Your Souls

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we listen in on topics that are currently running the (social media) world, and count down some books we think are irreplaceable.

You don’t need to be a member of the BeyHive to know that after nearly a decade of surprise drops and visual albums, Beyoncé’s seventh full-length album, Renaissance, was unveiled this past Friday. The immediate response has been overwhelmingly positive for this massive sixteen-track opus that manages to both honor Black musical artists throughout history and contain enough dance-floor bangers destined to instill a wild rumpus in the club. We thought we’d use it – or rather its title – to create this week’s reading list.

So, take that plastic off the sofa and get cozy. Don’t get heated, because we’re about to get all up in your mind and recommend some books for young readers – both about the European Renaissance (of the 15th and 16th centuries) and the later Harlem Renaissance (of the early 20th century) – that might impel you to move your self to the closest bookstore.

PICTURE BOOKS

Langston Hughes was an author who was also one of the central figures of the Harlem Renaissance. That Is My Dream! is a picture book in which illustrator Daniel Miyares adapts his poem, “Dream Variation,” in which a young Black boy in confronted by the harsh reality of segregation and racism over this day, but he dreams of a different life – one full of freedom, hope, and so many possibilities!

Harlem’s Little Blackbird is a picture book biography by Renee Watson and Christian Robinson about Florence Mills, one of the most popular Black performers of the Jazz Age. The book tells her rise to fame on the stages of 1920s Broadway, and how she dedicated herself to supporting and promoting works by fellow Black performers – not unlike Beyoncé herself!

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford and Eric Velasquez tells the story of an Afro-Puerto Rican law clerk who collected letters, music, and art from Africa and Black American creators. When his collection began to overtake his house, he brought it to the New York Public Library, where he created and curated a collection now known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, one of the greatest primary source repositories of the output of the Harlem Renaissance! The book is also available en español.

Bonnie Christensen lets Galileo Galilei tell his side of the story in I, Galileo. Galileo’s contributions to science and the Renaissance were numerous and his ideas world-changing, but in his own time he was branded a heretic and put under house arrest. This is a great kids’ introduction to possibly the most important scientist of the Renaissance!

Few artists had a bigger impact on the Renaissance than Michelangelo, and Stone Giant: Michelangelo’s David and How He Came to Be by Jane Sutcliffe and John Shelley, describes how the artist turned a neglected hunk of marble into one of the world’s most famous hunk sculptures.

And while Dr. Seuss’s Horse Museum, illustrated by Andrew Joyner, doesn’t focus only on the Renaissance (and, in fact, explores different methods and movements of visual art through depictions of horses), it does include Renaissance artist Raphael’s Saint George Fighting the Dragon, and the accompanying horse.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

To get started in this age range, it’s best to begin with What Was the Harlem Renaissance? by Sherrie L. Smith and Tim Foley to get some background. Young readers learn how the vibrant Black neighborhood in upper Manhattan became home to the leading Black writers, artists, and musicians of the 1920s and 1930s – including profiles of Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, Augusta Savage, and Zora Neale Hurston.

Did someone say “Zora Neale Hurston”? The influential Black author of Their Eyes Were Watching God is the protagonist of the Zora and Me trilogy by Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon, which fictionalize the youth of Zora Neale Hurston, and look at systemic racism and the power of storytelling in a Black community in the American south at the turn of the century. They serve as coming-of-age tales and great introductions to Hurston as an author.

Though the Magic Treehouse siblings never travelled through time to the Harlem Renaissance (hmmm), Jack and Annie did go back to encounter the artist, inventor, and visionary, Leonardo Da Vinci in Magic Treehouse: Monday with a Mad Genius by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca. And, as we know, Bey and Jay are fans of Leo’s work.

Need a little more Da Vinci? The graphic novel The History of Western Art in Comics, Part Two by Marion Augustin and Bruno Heitz begins in the Renaissance, and two kids and their grandpa continue their guided tour of art kicking off with such hits as The Last Supper, The Mona Lisa, and the Sistine Chapel. The book only covers up to Modern Art, so the Lemonade visual album doesn’t make an appearance.

And while historians disagree on if we should categorize ol’ William Shakespeare in the Renaissance, we’re going to include him here. Tales from Shakespeare is an excellent introduction for young readers to Shakespeare’s greatest plays, as siblings Charles and Mary Lamb vividly bring to life Hamlet, Othello, As You Like It, Pericles, and more, but modified and retold in a manner sensitive to the needs of young children, without resorting to any actual censoring. Makes sense, as many have argued Beyoncé is our Shakespeare.

YOUNG ADULT

Inspired by their class unit on the Harlem Renaissance, Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes (who was born in Harlem herself) follows the eighteen students of a Mr. Ward’s eleventh grade English class who begin having weekly poetry sharing sessions, revealing their most intimate thoughts about themselves and each another.

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough takes readers to Rome in 1610 and introduces them to seventeen-year-old nun Artemisia Gentileschi, the real-life painter who also participated in one of the world’s first high-profile trials of sexual assault. The book looks both at the highs of creative inspiration and the devastating lows of a system rigged against women. (Technically, she was a Baroque painter, not a Renaissance painter, but are you here for book recommendations or art history lessons?)

The European Renaissance is usually associated with cities in what is now known as Italy, but several historical websites claim the reign of Henry VIII marked the real beginning of the Renaissance in England. So, we can also recommend Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All, a collaborative work by seven authors (M.T. Anderson, Candace Fleming, Stephanie Hemphill, Lisa Ann Sandell, Jennifer Donnelly, Linda Sue Park, and Deborah Hopkinson), each telling the story of one of the king’s six wives – and Henry himself, who liked it, and put a ring on it a full six times.

Now let’s get back to business.

Tundra Telegram: Books that Sit High in the Saddle

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we dig deep into the things that are wobblin’ all your jaws, and recommend some great books to spur further discussion.

Giddy-up, pardners! The Calgary Stampede opens July 8 with a rip-roarin’ Stampede Parade (led by none other than Dances with Wolves and Yellowstone star Kevin Costner), and is followed by over a week of rodeos, powwows, and country-western music. It’s an annual celebration of all things Western, and so we thought we’d put a bee in your bonnet to read up on the subject. We’ve got Westerns, we’ve got books about cowboys, cowgirls, broncs, and colts.

So, don’t be a bad egg or a yellow belly. Take some of our recommendations below of stories that are in apple pie order. Save a horse, read a cowboy!

PICTURE BOOKS

Even the toughest cowpoke needs their shut-eye. So, grab a bedroll, a lammy, and a copy of Good Night, Cowboys by Adam Gamble, Mark Jasper, and Joe Veno. Take in some horses, steer-roping, lassos, cowboy chow, ghost towns, cattle drives, square dancing, and more as you drift off to sleep.

Before he was known for “Montero” and “Industry Baby,” Lil Nas X was the man behind hit country-western single “Old Town Road.” He is also the writer of C Is for Country, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, an alphabet book that equally celebrates the cowboy lifestyle (“B is for boots”) and being fabulous (“F is for feathers. And fringe. And fake fur.”).

In 2022, for the first time in its 110-year history, the Calgary Stampede will host a competitive powwow, as dancers from across North America will show off their talents – all thanks to one couple! Before you check it out, read Traci Sorell and Madelyn Goodnight’s Powwow Day, as River risks missing her powwow due to illness.

You can’t have the Stampede without horses, and author Kelly Cooper is an author who has a way with child-horse friendships. If a Horse Had Words, illustrated by Lucy Eldridge, is a story about the friendship between a boy and a horse, following their relationship from the day the horse is born, to when she is sent to auction, to the day she and the boy are reunited at a rodeo where she has become a bronc and he a cowboy. And in Midnight and Moon, illustrated by Daniel Miyares, a girl who doesn’t fit in befriends a blind horse who also struggles to find his place.

Cooper’s work is poetic, but The Horse’s Haiku by Michael J. Rose and Stan Fellows is literal poetry: it’s a series of haiku celebrating the beauty of horses whether they’re peacefully grazing or running full-tilt. (Tragically, no haiku devoted to a mustang making a cowboy chew gravel.)

Little Pinto and the Wild Horses of Mustang Canyon by Jonathan London and Daniel San Souci follows a young horse travelling with his family of rare wild mustangs for the first time. Can Little Pinto keep up with the band of horses?

And yes, the Stampede even has the dangerous and sometimes-controversial sport of bull riding. While those bulls may be angry, their rage pales to that seen in Petal the Angry Cow by Maureen Fergus and Olga Demidova. Petal is a thoughtful cow with a VERY big temper, and young readers will learn a few things as she attempts to manage her frustrations in this very funny book (which features absolutely no rodeo clowns).

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Hello, Horse by Vivian French and Catherine Rayner is an introduction to horse-riding – a combination of fiction and facts about horses . A boy is introduced to horses by his friend Catherine, who teaches him how to talk to a horse quietly, how to feed her carrots, how to lead her across a field. But is he really ready to climb up on the horse’s back and take a ride?

And Mean Girls meets Black Beauty in Horse Girl by Carrie Seim, a funny middle-grade novel about the awkward Wills who attempts to enter the stuck-up #HorseGirl world of the prestigious Oakwood Riding Academy.

Concrete Cowboy is maybe best known as the movie in which overly attractive actor Idris Elba plays a cowboy. But first it was the book Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri and illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson, in which a teen named Cole moves in with the dad he never knew and learns about the Cowboy Way and justice from his fellow Black urban riders of Philly. There’s also a sequel, Polo Cowboy, in which Cole starts working as a stable hand for the polo team at the very white George Washington Military Academy, and tries his hand at the sport.

YOUNG ADULT

Samantha is a Chinese girl in Missouri, 1849. Annamae has escaped slavery. The two meet at a crime scene they’re implicated in, and flee for the West, along the Oregon Trail in Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky. And not unlike the computer game, the Trail is full of dangers, so the two disguise themselves as boys . . . until Samantha starts to fall in love with a cowboy. Under a Painted Sky is an Old West tale of love and friendship.

The setting isn’t the Old West in The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud – it’s a future England. But the book has bank robberies, shoot-outs, and renegades on the run, so we’re calling it a Future British take on the Western. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a rollicking series opener with varmints readers root for.

And The Perfect Horse by Elizabeth Letts is a true story about the lengths any cowboy would go to save a horse – but it takes place in World War II. A small American troop crosses enemy lines to save some of the world’s most treasured horses, kidnapped by Hitler and hidden in a secret Czechoslovakian breeding farm. It’s like The Horse Whisperer meets Saving Private Ryan.

Tundra Telegram: Books That Will Send You into Orbit

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we dig into the subjects on readers’ minds and recommend some great recent books to continue chatting.

You don’t have to be a dedicated astronomer to have heard about this past weekend’s Super Flower Blood Moon, but it was certainly a recent highlight for watchers of the night sky. On Sunday night (May 15), those with a clear view could witness a lunar eclipse – but not just any lunar eclipse! It was a Flower Moon, i.e. May’s full moon, named after the flowers that blossom around this time in the Northern Hemisphere. And the eclipse made the moon turn temporarily red, for a Flower Blood Moon.

Eclipse scientists listed the May full moon as a so-called “supermoon,” meaning the full moon was at its perigee (the closest approach to Earth of the month in its orbit), so this Flower Blood Moon was much larger than usual – a Super Flower Blood Moon! With all this waxing poetic about our largest satellite, we figured we’d highlight some of our celestial books about the moon. It’s a theme that’s anything but a phase!

PICTURE BOOKS

For a picture book that best mirrors the experience of the Super Flower Blood Moon, you’ll need to pick up The Darkest Dark by astronaut Chris Hadfield and the Fan Brothers – and make sure you get the Glow-in-the-Dark Cover Edition. No better book to read for a moon celebration than one written by a celebrated Canadian astronaut about his fear of the dark and how the moon landing changed how he felt. And the glow-in-the-dark cover is like looking at a Super Flower Blood Moon on paper!

To see how parents and children are connected to each other and to those heavenly bodies, read Rachel Montez Minor and Annie Won’s picture book The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars. If you felt connected to the universe while gazing up at that massive moon, this book will reinforce your feeling that we are all one, living together on our planet, connected under the sun, the moon, and the stars.

The full moon doesn’t just connect us; it can also provide the perfect lighting for a late-night game of hockey on a frozen pond! Don’t believe us? Read the finalist for multiple picture book awards, When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge and Matt James, in which kids wait for the perfect moon to hike into the woods and play hockey by its atmospheric light.

A perfect book for a May full moon, Moon Camp by Barry Gott, asks the important question: what if your summer camp was on the moon? Turns out it’s pretty fun (though I imagine not without its dangers!) and full of out-of-this-world humor.

Maybe you live in the city and the light pollution made for a less-than-satisfying glimpse of the Super Flower Blood Moon. Then City Moon by Rachael Cole and Bianca Gómez is for you. This is a nighttime story that follows a little boy and his mama as they walk around their neighborhood looking for the elusive moon, often hiding behind buildings and clouds – city stargazers know the struggle is real!

And maybe the Moon in Midnight and Moon by Kelly Cooper and Daniel Miyares is a horse (rather than a spherical chunk of rock), but he’s a blind horse struggling to find his place who befriends a girl with similar struggles to find her place. And Booklist felt, “the story’s gentle drama and quiet heroics of two characters with disabilities makes this a wonderful read that also affirms being introverted, nonverbal, or shy,” so it’s certainly worth a read.

But if your young readers want the real scoop on the moon, they might want to wait for The Book of the Moon by Dr. Sanyln Buxner (out this November!). It’s a perfect introduction for the youngest readers to the mysteries of the moon, and packed-to-the-craters with eye-popping photographs, illustrations, and diagrams.

MIDDLE GRADE

If you’re thinking about the moon, you may be asking yourself the question that’s the title of our next book. Who Was the First Man on the Moon?: Neil Armstrong is a graphic novel by Montague Twins duo Nathan Page and Drew Shannon that chronicles the pioneering astronaut’s childhood and the fateful Apollo 11 mission that first brought human beings to the moon’s surface.

For a more encyclopedic guide to moon exploration, you can’t do better than the highly acclaimed and prize-winning John Rocco’s How We Got to the Moon. This is a beautifully illustrated, oversized guide to the people and technology of the moon landing, telling the step-by-step process and stories of the engineers, mathematicians, seamstresses, welders, and factory workers – as well as the astronauts – who made it all possible.

We also have no shortage of puzzles and mysteries set on the moon. For instance, Puzzlooies! Marooned on the Moon by Russell Ginns, Jonathan Maier and Andy Norman, lets readers help junior space cadet Cam, with only a pencil and a pile of puzzles, return to Earth from where he’s stranded on the lunar surface.

Allegedly, there are no lifeforms on the moon, but that won’t prevent us from recommending Newbery Medal-winning Tae Keller’s new book Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone. A book equally about friendship as it is the secrets of the universe (and the aliens that may live within), the book follows Mallory Moss and her strange relationship with new neighbour Jennifer Chan, an outcast at middle school who believes in aliens. When Jennifer goes missing, Mallory searches for answers and realizes the truth may be more inside herself than “out there.”

YOUNG ADULT

So, the moon in Mahogany L. Browne’s novel Vinyl Moon may be vinyl rather than Super Flower Blood variety (and it may be something of a metaphor), but any chance we get to recommend this story of moving past a history of domestic violence through the love of language (particularly of Black writers like James Baldwin and Zora Neale Hurston), music and community, we’ll take!

The moon and menstruation go hand-in-hand like the sun and skin cancer, which is where the provocative Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew comes in. Frankie, a lover of physics and astronomy, gets her period during her first sexual experience with a quiet heartthrob. But when the incident becomes a gruesome online meme, Frankie has to fight to reclaim her reputation from the online shame and stand up against a culture that says periods are dirty.

In Mermaid Moon by Susann Cokal, a teen mermaid, cursed to forget her past, apprentices to a witch and casts some magic to leave the sea in search of her “landish” mother. But what she finds on the Thirty-Seven Dark Islands is conflict, a people hungry for a miracle, and an obsessive Baroness.

And in a book that directly references the Flower Moon, the Young Readers’ Edition of Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann is an engrossing historical true crime narrative that looks at the mysterious murders of oil-rich members of the Osage Nation in 1920 Oklahoma by a newly formed FBI, and uncovers a conspiracy with reverberations throughout American history. (Bonus: it’s soon to be a major motion picture directed by Martin Scorsese!)

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.