Tundra Telegram: Books That Push the Envelope

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we address the topics that correspond to our readers’ concerns and deliver some appropriate books that have our stamp of approval.

Yesterday, December 7, was National Letter Writing Day, a day to celebrate the art of handwritten correspondence. Whether it’s a thank-you note, a message to update a friend or family member (and find out what’s new with them!), or a missive to the big man in red at the North Pole, yesterday was a great day to sit right down and write someone a letter.

We’ve got a great collection of books for every age all about written correspondence. Pen pal communications, love letters, messages written to people who may never read them: this list has it all when it comes to letter writing. P.S. Not only will we recommend these titles, we’ll try to include who is writing to whom – and why!

PICTURE BOOKS

I Do Not Like Yolanda by Zoey Abbott is an excellent picture book to start our letter journey because Bianca, the book’s main character, loves writing letters – everything about them: the stamps, the addresses, the pictures she can draw on them. She writes multiple letters a week, to everyone from her Uncle Kenta to her Sri Lankan pen pal. The only thing she does not like about writing letters is when she has to go to the post office to mail them and encounters Yolanda, her most dreaded post office employee. But Bianca soon learns first impressions can be as variable as mail delivery times.

A pivotal letter changes everything in The Bug Girl by Sophia Spencer (who is also the title character), Margaret McNamara, and Kerascoët. Seven-year-old Sophia is bullied at school for liking insects. Sophia’s mother writes to an entomological society looking for a bug scientist to be a pen pal for her daughter, and she’s overwhelmed by the response: letters, photos, and videos flood in and scientists tweet hundreds of times using the hashtag #BugsR4Girls to encourage Sophia’s interest in bugs. It’s the power of the written letter in action!

Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers also demonstrate the power of the written message in their modern classic The Day the Crayons Quit. Eager to do some coloring, Duncan opens his crayon box only to find a series of “Dear John” letters. All the crayons have written to say they’ve quit – though all for their own particular reasons – in this ode to drawing, writing letters, and labor action.

Author Troy Cummings has written a fun trilogy of letter-writing picture books. The unusual part is that these letters are paw-written, as they’re penned by Arfy, a dog. In Can I Be Your Dog?, homeless Arfy writes cover letters to a series of people in an effort to find a forever home. In I Found a Kitty!, he seeks the same for a cat he discovers in a sewer pipe (!). And with Is This Your Class Pet?, Arfy writes letters to the teachers and principal of the school in which he’s a reading buddy after he finds a pet turtle gone astray. These books are essential reading for letter and animal fans.

We can believe a dog writing letters, but a dragon? Well, it happens in Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale by Josh Funk and Rodolfo Montalvo. George writes regularly to his pen pal Blaise to talk sports, pets, and school. But George doesn’t realize his friend Blaise is a dragon, and Blaise doesn’t realize George is a human kid. Unintentional catfishing with mythical creatures? Count us in!

The Thank You Letter by Jane Cabrera is about writing letters of gratitude. In particular, it’s about Grace, who – after her birthday – decides to write letters to thank her friends and family for all their kind gifts. Realizing she has so much to be thankful for, she adds a letter to her teacher for helping her learn to write and one for her dog for wagging his tail. Grace soon finds this gratitude is reciprocated by the community, as she receives letters back from so many of her addressees.

What’s better than one thank-you letter? Ten Thank-You Letters, which also happens to be the name of a book by Daniel Kirk. Pig is trying to write a thank-you letter to his grandma when he’s interrupted by his friend Rabbit, who wants to play. Rabbit, inspired by Pig, begins to write a flurry of thank-you letters of his own – to everyone from the crossing guard to the President (shades of Grace!). His tenth thank-you letter is written to Pig for being such a great friend. (Awwww.)

For a book that’s both about letter-writing and the holidays, check out Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein by Amanda Peet (yes, that Amanda Peet), Andrea Troyer, and Christine Davenier. Rachel Rosenstein is determined to celebrate Christmas. The fact that her family is Jewish is not going to stop her, since she’s writing Santa a letter to explain her situation (on top of dropping in on him at the mall). In the end, though Rachel loves the trappings of Christmas, she also gains a greater understanding of her own family’s traditions.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Technically they are postcards in The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster by Cary Fagan, but they count as written letters! Even better, they’re letters with a mystery attached. Hartley Staples is having some family troubles at home when he starts to notice handmade postcards all over his small town, all signed “G.O.” Soon Hartley becomes obsessed with these cryptic messages and the person responsible for them.

You already know who the letter recipient is in Susin Nielsen’s Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom. The question is: does People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive (1997, 2006) write back? Violet’s parents have recently split up, and she lives with her mom, dragged along on her awkward quest for love as Violet faces her own struggles with anger management. When Violet’s mom starts dating someone named Dudley Wiener (!), Violet and her friend Phoebe embark on a campaign to lure Mr. Clooney.

The entire middle school seems to be writing letters to Autumn in Dear Student by Elly Swartz. See, Autumn has become the anonymous voice of an advice column in her school newspaper, which is fun until she finds herself in the middle of a problem that puts two of her friends on the opposing sides of a conflict. Can she provide fair advice, given her personal connection? Can her identity remain a secret? This is a book that digs into the ethics of letter responses.

YOUNG ADULT

Perhaps we don’t publish Jenny Han’s most famous letter-based YA romances, but we have plenty of quality YA literature featuring messages in envelopes. Even romances! For instance, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s Dash & Lily series are all about romance and the written word. In Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (now a delightful Netflix series) it’s a red notebook full of challenges on a bookstore by which Dash and Lily flirt before they ever meet face-to-face. But by the third book, Mind the Gap, Dash & Lily, our lovestruck odd couple are writing each other from across the Atlantic Ocean, as Dash studies at Oxford University. (Twelve Days of Dash & Lily doesn’t have much letter writing content, to be honest, but it’s part of the series.)

An enthusiastic English teacher’s assignment is to blame for the letters in Sarah Henstra’s We Contain Multitudes. Closeted jock Kurl and nerdy and out Jo are thrown together in English class and forced to write an old-fashioned letter to each other every week. The unlikely pair become friends, sharing their experiences of homophobia, bullying, and familial abuse with one another, then something more in this emotional queer romance.

Again, not so much a series of letters as entries in a journal, Dear Martin by Nic Stone features Justyce McAllister, a Black teen facing challengers from police violence to toxic masculinity who turns to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In his journal, he addresses his questions and concerns to the late Dr. King in an effort to see if King’s philosophies still have relevance in contemporary America, and these letters are interspersed throughout Justyce’s story. And if you like that, check out the follow-up Dear Justyce, in which incarcerated teen and friend from the neighborhood Quan writes letters to Justyce about his experiences in the juvenile justice system.

Write on, young readers!

Tundra Telegram: Books that Won’t Be Upstaged

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we delve into the topics at the very top of readers’ minds and recommend some recent great books to continue the razzle-dazzle discussion.

This week, we give our regards to Broadway, as this past weekend saw the 75th celebration of a certain prestigious awards recognizing excellent in Broadway Theatre. Not only were new productions like A Strange Loop and SIX: The Musical showered with wins, but so were returning favorites like Company, not to mention Dame Angela Lansbury, who was given a lifetime achievement award – and not just for the role of Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd!

Let’s put on a show! Get ready to tread the boards and hit the spotlights – these are your recommendations for kids and YA books about . . . The Theatre!

PICTURE BOOKS

First things first: Where Is Broadway? Luckily Douglas Yacka, Francesco Sedita, and illustrator John Hinderliter have written a book all about that. Not only does it have a fold-out map (very helpful), it covers the development of the first theaters and the birth of the American musical, as well as the shows and stars that have become Broadway legends.

And for those youngest readers, there are no better introductions to the world of Broadway than John Robert Allman and Peter Emmerich’s picture books, A Is for Audra: Broadway’s Leading Ladies from A to Z and B Is for Broadway: Onstage and Backstage from A to Z. These musical alphabet books will help you separate your Chita Riveras from your Lizas with a ‘Z,’ and your auditions from your choreographers. Even better, some of the proceeds are donated to the Entertainment Community Fund, and the books come highly recommended by stage legends like Bebe Neuwirth and Kristin Chenoweth!

Finally, we present a picture book about kids with big stage dreams: Maya’s Big Scene by Isabelle Arsenault. In it, Montreal’s Mile End Kids are putting together a play about a feminist revolution, written by Maya. But the playwright learns her cast and crew have their own opinions on everything from costumes to lines, so Maya begins to demand obedience and loyalty! But, as readers learn, absolute bossiness corrupts absolutely!

MIDDLE GRADE

A middle-school production of Fiddler on the Roof (winner of nine of those stage awards) sets up a chain of events that lead to uncovering a dark family secret in Broken Strings, a collaboration between writers Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer. Heroine Shirli Berman learns from her Zayde the power of music, both terrible and wonderful – something all musical theater lovers know intimately.

For installments of your favourite series for young readers where our heroes put on a show, check out Babymouse: The Musical by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, in which Babymouse dusts off her dancing shoes and tries out for the school musical – but she has some dogged competition from Felicia Furrypaws. And in Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach’s Jake the Fake Keeps It Real, our hero fakes his way into the Music and Art Academy for the gifted and talented. More funnyman than music man, Jake will have to think of something quick before he’s revealed as a bigger fraud than those fellows in The Producers.

And you can’t have a great musical without a few great dance numbers. Luckily, Sofia Acosta Makes a Scene by Emma Otheguy has a few! And like a great musical, it combines stage spectacle and social relevance. Sofia is a Cuban-American girl trying to figure out where she belong in her ballet-loving family and in the U.S. when she would rather be designing costumes. And – when she confides in a friend about some Cuban dancers defecting to the States – she learns her community isn’t as welcoming as she thought it was.

YOUNG ADULT

If you’re talking YA and musicals, then you have to mention John Green and David Levithan’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson in which two boys from very different social circles, both named Will Grayson, meet in Chicago, and their lives become intertwined. And while it’s a great book, it would not be on this list without the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, friend to Will Grayson 1, offensive lineman, and musical theater auteur extraordinaire. Will and Will, alongside some romantic plots, work toward the epic production of Cooper’s biographical musical, Tiny Dancer (the greatest high school musical since Hamlet 2). You’ll also want to check out the companion novel, Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan, a book filled with honesty, humor, and “big, lively, belty” musical numbers from the full script of the fictional musical.

Like a modern-day Fame, You in Five Acts by Una LaMarche follows five friends with dreams of stage stardom after they enroll at a prestigious New York City performing arts school. Joy, Diego, Liv, Ethan, and Dave, have – among them – so much talent, so many romantic passions, and so much ambition, it’s a shock the novel (or Broadway itself) can contain them all!

Take a trip into the Great White Way’s past with Mazie by Melanie Crowder, in which an eighteen-year-old aspiring actress trades in starry Nebraska skies for the bright lights of 1950s Broadway. With money running out, and faced with too many failed auditions to count, Mazie begins to wonder if the dream is worth the cost – a dilemma explored in A Chorus Line, among other stage productions.

Looking for a little romance backstage? Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka is the story of Megan Harper, an aspiring theater director who is unlucky in love. She’s forced to take an acting role as part of a school requirement, gets cast as Juliet, and finds a potential Romeo in aspiring playwright, Owen Okita, though he’s totally unlike any one of her exes.

Justin, in Seth Rudetsky’s The Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek, has always longed to be on Broadway – the shows, the lights, the cute guys! So when he gets an internship with a famous Broadway actor, he jumps at the chance, even if it means straining things with his kind (though maybe a little uptight) boyfriend Spencer. But as Justin’s personal relationships falter and his famous actor boss heads for the C-list, he realizes he’ll need a little more than jazz hands to get him out of his situation. A very funny coming-of-age story for any kid who’s wished to be six feet from stardom.

Finally, Fatal Throne by M.T. Anderson, Candace Fleming, Stephanie Hemphill, Lisa Ann Sandell, Jennifer Donnelly, Linda Sue Park, and Deborah Hopkinson is not so much devoted to musical theatre as it is ideal reading for fans of one of this year’s big winners, SIX: The Musical. Like SIX, Fatal Throne is a reimagining of the story of the many wives of King Henry VIII. Told in seven different voices (including Henry’s) by seven different authors, each wife attempts to survive their unpredictable king as he grows more obsessed with producing a male heir. As the musical advises, “Don’t Lose Ur Head” reading this one!

Books for Pride Month

June is Pride month when the spotlight is on celebrating and honoring all types of love – here are a dozen picture books and middle grade novels that recognize people’s different orientations! For more options, check out last year’s recommendations plus our list of titles for Transgender Awareness Month.

Picture Books:

Little Ellen
By Ellen DeGeneres
Illustrated by Eleanor Michalka
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593378601 | Random House BFYR
Before she was an award-winning actor and talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres was a little girl in New Orleans. Get to know Little Ellen and the wonderful world she sees in this book of friendship and groovy moves, perfect for kids with big imaginations and even bigger hearts! This joyful picture book promotes empathy and social-emotional learning, with an inclusive voice that encourages kids to be themselves.

Over the Shop
By JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536201475 | Candlewick
A lonely little girl and her grandparent need to fill the run-down apartment in their building. But taking over the quarters above their store will mean major renovations for the new occupants, and none of the potential renters can envision the possibilities of the space – until one special couple shows up. With their ingenuity, the little girl’s big heart, and heaps of hard work, the desperate fixer-upper begins to change in lovely and surprising ways. In this bustling wordless picture book, JonArno Lawson’s touching story and Qin Leng’s gentle illustrations capture all angles of the building’s transformation, as well as the evolving perspectives of the girl and her grandparent. A warm and subtly nuanced tale, Over the Shop throws open the doors to what it means to accept people for who they are and to fill your home with love and joy.

Pink, Blue, and You! Questions for Kids about Gender Stereotypes
By Elise Gravel and Mykaell Blais
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593178638 | Ann Schwartz Books
Is it okay for boys to cry? Can girls be strong? Should girls and boys be given different toys to play with and different clothes to wear? Should we all feel free to love whoever we choose to love? In this incredibly kid-friendly and easy-to-grasp picture book, author-illustrator Elise Gravel and transgender collaborator Mykaell Blais raise these questions and others relating to gender roles, acceptance, and stereotyping. With its simple language, colorful illustrations, engaging backmatter that showcases how “appropriate” male and female fashion has changed through history, and even a poster kids can hang on their wall, here is the ideal tool to help in conversations about a multi-layered and important topic.

Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Skinnamarink
By Sharon Hampson, Lois Lilienstein, and Bram Morrison, with Randi Hampson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264496 | Tundra Books
What does “skinnamarink” mean? You may not find its definition in a dictionary, but the meaning is clear to the generations of children who sang along: friendship, happiness, sharing, community and, ultimately, love. This song has been sung in weddings and in classrooms. It can be fun and silly – especially with the accompanying actions! And it has a way of bringing people together. Based on the classic folk song made famous by a beloved trio of children’s entertainers, this picture book is best sung aloud! “Skinnamarink” is a timeless anthem of love and inclusion.

The Rainbow Parade
By Emily Neilson
32 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593326589 | Dial Books
One day in June, Mommy, Mama, and Emily take the train into the city to watch the Rainbow Parade. The three of them love how all the people in the street are so loud, proud, and colorful, but when Mama suggests they join the parade, Emily feels nervous. Standing on the sidewalk is one thing, but walking in the parade? Surely that takes something special. This joyful and affirming picture book about a family’s first Pride parade, reminds all readers that sometimes pride takes practice and there’s no “one way” to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community.

‘Twas the Night Before Pride
By Joanna McClintick
Illustrated by Juana Medina
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536213430 | Candlewick
This joyful picture-book homage to a day of community and inclusion – and to the joys of anticipation – is also a comprehensive history. With bright, buoyant illustrations and lyrical, age-appropriate rhyme modeled on “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” it tackles difficult content such as the Stonewall Riots and the AIDS marches. On the night before Pride, families everywhere are preparing to partake. As one family packs snacks and makes signs, an older sibling shares the importance of the march with the newest member of the family. Reflecting on the day, the siblings agree that the best thing about Pride is getting to be yourself. Debut author Joanna McClintick and Pura Belpré Award–winning author-illustrator Juana Medina create a new classic that pays homage to the beauty of families of all compositions – and of all-inclusive love.

Middle Grade:

Answers in the Pages
By David Levithan
176 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593484685 | Knopf BFYR
When Donovan left his copy of The Adventurers on the kitchen counter, he didn’t think his mom would read it – much less have a problem with it. It’s just an adventure novel about two characters trying to stop an evil genius . . . right? But soon the entire town is freaking out about whether the book’s main characters are gay, Donovan’s mom is trying to get the book removed from the school curriculum, and Donovan is caught in the middle. Donovan doesn’t really know if the two boys fall in love at the end or not – but he does know this: even if they do, it shouldn’t matter: The book should not be banned from school.

Obie is Man Enough
By Schuyler Bailar
352 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593379462 | Crown BFYR
Obie knew his transition would have ripple effects. He has to leave his swim coach, his pool, and his best friends. But it’s time for Obie to find where he truly belongs. As Obie dives into a new team, though, things are strange. Obie always felt at home in the water, but now he can’t get his old coach out of his head. Even worse are the bullies that wait in the locker room and on the pool deck. Luckily, Obie has family behind him. And maybe some new friends too, including Charlie, his first crush. Obie is ready to prove he can be one of the fastest boys in the water – to his coach, his critics, and his biggest competition: himself.

Pride: An Inspirational History of the LGBTQ+ Movement
By Stella Caldwell
Foreword by Layton Williams
128 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593382943 | Penguin Workshop
The LGBTQ+ community is so much more than rainbow flags and the month of June. In this beautifully designed dynamic book, young readers will learn about groundbreaking events, including historic pushes for equality and the legalization of same-sex marriages across the world. They will dive into the phenomenal history of queer icons from ancient times to the present and read about Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Audre Lorde, and more. Including several personal current essays from inspiring young, LGBTQ+ people, this book encourages readers to take pride in their identity and the identities of those around them. Don’t just learn about LGBTQ+ history – take pride in it!

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.

The Lock-Eater
By Zack Loran Clark
368 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984816887 | Dial Books
Melanie Gate is a foundling with a peculiar talent for opening the unopenable – any lock releases at the touch of her hand. One night, her orphanage is visited by Traveler, a gearling automaton there on behalf of his magical mistress, who needs an apprentice pronto. When Melanie is selected because of her gift, her life changes in a flash, and in more ways than she knows – because Traveler is not at all what he seems. But then, neither is Melanie Gate. So begins an epic adventure sparkling with magic, wit, secret identities, stinky cats, fierce orphan girls, impostor boys, and a foundling and gearling hotly pursued by the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the land.

This is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us
Edited by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby
336 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593303948 | Knopf BFYR
A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true – but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out. From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories.

Holiday Spotlight: Random House Children’s Books 2021

Here at Penguin Random House Canada, we’re lucky to work with so many different publisher lists. This holiday season, we’ll be highlighting each one with a dedicated post to help you find the perfect gift (or your next read). Today’s post is all about Random House Children’s Books.

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.

As Good As Dead
By Holly Jackson
464 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593379851 | Delacorte Press
Pip is about to head to college, but she is still haunted by the way her last investigation ended. She’s used to online death threats in the wake of her viral true-crime podcast, but she can’t help noticing an anonymous person who keeps asking her: Who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears? Soon the threats escalate and Pip realizes that someone is following her in real life. When she starts to find connections between her stalker and a local serial killer caught six years ago, she wonders if maybe the wrong man is behind bars. Police refuse to act, so Pip has only one choice: find the suspect herself – or be the next victim. As the deadly game plays out, Pip discovers that everything in her small town is coming full circle . . . and if she doesn’t find the answers, this time she will be the one who disappears . . . .

Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers
By Michelle Obama
432 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593303740 | Delacorte BFYR
Michelle Robinson was born on the South Side of Chicago. From her modest beginnings, she would become Michelle Obama, the inspiring and powerful First Lady of the United States, when her husband, Barack Obama, was elected the forty-fourth president. They would be the first Black First Family in the White House and serve the country for two terms. This volume for young people is an honest and fascinating account of Michelle Obama’s life led by example. She shares her views on how all young people can help themselves as well as help others, no matter their status in life. She asks readers to realize that no one is perfect, and that the process of becoming is what matters, as finding yourself is ever evolving. In telling her story with boldness, she asks young readers: Who are you, and what do you want to become?

Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood
Edited by Kwame Mbalia
320 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593379936 | Delacorte BFYR
Black boy joy is . . .
Picking out a fresh first-day-of-school outfit.
Saving the universe in an epic intergalactic race.
Finding your voice – and your rhymes – during tough times.
Flying on your skateboard like nobody’s watching.
And more! From seventeen acclaimed Black male and non-binary authors comes a vibrant collection of stories, comics, and poems about the power of joy and the wonders of Black boyhood.

Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance
By Barack Obama
320 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780385738729 | Delacorte BFYR
A revealing portrait of a young Black man asking questions about self-discovery and belonging – long before he became one of the most important voices in America. This unique edition includes a new introduction from the author, full-color photo insert, and family tree. On his journey to adulthood from a humble background, he forges his own path through trial and error while staying connected to his roots. Barack Obama is determined to lead a life of purpose, service, and authenticity. This powerful memoir will inspire readers to examine both where they come from and where they are capable of going.

Grandude’s Green Submarine
By Paul McCartney
Illustrated by Kathryn Durst
32 Pages | Ages 4-6 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593372432 | Random House BFYR
Grandude’s inventions are the stuff of legend, and his new green submarine doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it flies as well as submerges! Grandude whisks the grandkids off on another adventure, but he and the Chillers soon find themselves in a pickle. Suddenly, it’s Nandude to the rescue! Nandude is an explorer as courageous as Grandude, with an amazing accordion-ship to boot! Between Grandude’s magic compass and Nandude’s magical music, everyone arrives home safely. But not before enjoying a parade, dancing rainforest animals, and a narrow escape from a grabby octopus. This tale is perfect for little explorers and Paul McCartney fans alike! Artist Kathryn Durst returns with glorious, humor-filled illustrations that are as beautiful as ever.

Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark
By Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrated by Kelly Matthews and Nichole Matthews
Adapted by Jenny Laird
176 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Paperback
ISBN 9780593174715 | Random House BFYR
Where did the tree house come from? Before Jack and Annie can find out, the mysterious tree house whisks them to the prehistoric past. Now they have to figure out how to get home. Can they do it before dark . . . or will they become a dinosaur’s dinner? For the first time in graphic novel – live the adventure again in the very first Magic Tree House book, with new art from comic artists Kelly and Nichole Matthews!

Pony
By R. J. Palacio
304 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780553508116 | Knopf BFYR
Twelve-year-old Silas is awoken in the dead of night by three menacing horsemen who take his father away. Silas is left shaken, scared, and alone, except for the presence of his companion, Mittenwool . . . who happens to be a ghost. When a pony shows up at his door, Silas makes the courageous decision to leave his home and embark on a perilous journey to find his father. Along the way, he will face his fears to unlock the secrets of his past and explore the unfathomable mysteries of the world around him.

Six Crimson Cranes
By Elizabeth Lim
464 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593300916 | Knopf BFYR
Shiori’anma, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted. But it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother. A sorceress in her own right, Raikama banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes. She warns Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die. Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and uncovers a dark conspiracy to seize the throne. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in a paper bird, a mercurial dragon, and the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to forswear – no matter what the cost.

Skin of the Sea
By Natasha Bowen
320 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593120941 | Random House BFYR
Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata – a mermaid – collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home. But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi does the unthinkable – she saves his life, going against an ancient decree. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy it. To protect the other Mami Wata, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But all is not as it seems. There’s the boy she rescued, who knows more than he should. And something is shadowing Simi, something that would rather see her fail. . . . Danger lurks at every turn, and as Simi draws closer, she must brave vengeful gods, treacherous lands, and legendary creatures. Because if she doesn’t, then she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.

Take Me With You When You Go
By David Levithan and Jennifer Niven
336 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525580997 | Knopf BFYR
Ezra Ahern wakes up one day to find his older sister, Bea, gone. No note, no sign, nothing but an email address hidden somewhere only he would find it. Ezra never expected to be left behind with their abusive stepfather and their neglectful mother – how is he supposed to navigate life without Bea? Bea Ahern already knew she needed to get as far away from home as possible But a message in her inbox changes everything, and she finds herself alone in a new city – without Ez, without a real plan – chasing someone who might not even want to be found. As things unravel at home for Ezra, Bea will confront secrets about their past that will forever change the way they think about their family. Together and apart, broken by abuse but connected by love, this brother and sister must learn to trust themselves before they can find a way back to each other.

The Big Bath House
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Gracey Zhang
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593181959 | Random House Studio
In this celebration of Japanese culture and family and naked bodies of all shapes and sizes, join a little girl – along with her aunties and grandmother – at a traditional bath house. Once there, the rituals leading up to the baths begin: hair washing, back scrubbing, and, finally, the wood barrel drumroll. Until, at last, it’s time, and they ease their bodies – their creased bodies, newly sprouting bodies, saggy, jiggly bodies – into the bath. Ahhhhhh! With a lyrical text and gorgeous illustrations, this picture book is based on Kyo Maclear’s loving memories of childhood visits to Japan, and is an ode to the ties that bind generations of women together.

The Gilded Ones
By Namina Forna
432 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984848697 | Delacorte BFYR
Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs. But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity – and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death. Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki – near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat. Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be – not even Deka herself.

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel: The Lost Stories Collection
By Michael Scott
512 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593376904 | Delacorte BFYR
The legendary alchemyst Nicholas Flamel and his wife, the sorceress Perenelle, traveled the globe for centuries before they discovered the Twins of Legend, Josh and Sophie Newman. Secrets abound – and now you can discover even more of the Flamels’ story in this volume of eight stories set in the world of the internationally bestselling series. Stand with the Flamels when they find the Codex, the book that holds the secret to their immortality. Follow Machiavelli under the perilous streets of Paris. Join Scatty and her twin, Aoife, as they journey through mysterious Shadowrealms. Within these pages you will meet enemies old and new and forge alliances with characters from history, myth, and legend, all as you uncover new mysteries and discover answers to questions remaining in the original series.

You’ll Be the Death of Me
By Karen M. McManus
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593175866 | Delacorte BFYR
Ivy, Mateo, and Cal used to be close. Now all they have in common is Carlton High and the beginning of a very bad day. Type A Ivy lost a student council election to the class clown, and now she has to face the school, humiliated. Heartthrob Mateo is burned out from working two jobs since his family’s business failed. And outsider Cal just got stood up . . . again. So when the three unexpectedly run into each other, they decide to avoid their problems by ditching. Just the three of them, like old times. Except they’ve barely left the parking lot before they run out of things to say. . . until they spot another Carlton High student skipping school – and follow him to the scene of his own murder. In one chance move, their day turns from dull to deadly. And it’s about to get worse. It turns out Ivy, Mateo, and Cal still have some things in common . . . like a connection to the dead kid. And they’re all hiding something. Could it be that their chance reconnection wasn’t by chance after all?

Holiday Spotlight: Random House Children’s Books

Here at Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers, we’re lucky to work with so many different lists. This holiday season, we’ll be highlighting each one with a dedicated post to help you find the perfect gift (or your next read). Today’s post is all about Random House Children’s Books.

Burn Our Bodies Down
By Rory Power
352 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525645627 | Delacorte BFYR
Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relatives to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along. But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for. Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there? The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape.

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares
By Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
288 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780593309605 | Knopf BFYR
16-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on her favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. Dash, in a bad mood during the holidays, happens to be the first guy to pick up the notebook and rise to its challenges. What follows is a whirlwind romance as Dash and Lily trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations all across New York City. But can their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions, or will their scavenger hunt end in a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Dear Justyce
By Nic Stone
288 Pages | 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984829665 | Crown BFYR
Release date: September 29, 2020
In the highly anticipated sequel to her New York Times bestseller, Nic Stone delivers an unflinching look into the flawed practices and silenced voices in the American juvenile justice system. Vernell LaQuan Banks and Justyce McAllister grew up a block apart in the Southwest Atlanta neighborhood of Wynwood Heights. Years later, though, Justyce walks the illustrious halls of Yale University . . . and Quan sits behind bars at the Fulton Regional Youth Detention Center. Through a series of flashbacks, vignettes, and letters to Justyce – the protagonist of Dear Martin – Quan’s story takes form. Troubles at home and misunderstandings at school give rise to police encounters and tough decisions. But then there’s a dead cop and a weapon with Quan’s prints on it. What leads a bright kid down a road to a murder charge? Not even Quan is sure.

Find Fergus
By Mike Boldt
36 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984849021 | Doubleday BFYR
The hilarious illustrator of I Don’t Want to Be a Frog brings picture book fans a super-silly, interactive story that will have children giggling from start to finish. Follow huge, loveable Fergus and see all the many ways in which he is TERRIBLE at playing hide-and-seek, such as standing behind a VERY tiny tree (“Found you, Fergus! That was too easy!”) or trying to camouflage in a giant crowd of bunnies and squirrels (“Try bears, Fergus. Bears!”). But wait! The game isn’t over yet! The last two pages fold out into a giant panoramic look-and-find scene, where Fergus is well and truly hidden, and young readers can have fun looking for him and lots of other details in the the crowd. There are hours and hours of play value in this adorable book. Children will want to come back to it again and again.

Glory on Ice: A Vampire Hockey Story
By Maureen Fergus
Illustrated by Mark Fearing
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524714512 | Knopf BFYR
After centuries alone in his old castle, Vlad is ready to try something new. When he hears the local hockey team gushing about how they’ll crush and destroy their opponents in the next game, he knows he’s found the activity for him! Vlad immediately gives the game his all, but he soon realizes that super-human powers don’t mean much in hockey without a mastery of the basics. After weeks of practice, he’s finally ready for the big game . . . but can a hundreds-of-years-old vampire really learn new tricks? This hilarious, energetic picture book encourages teamwork, perseverance, and a love of hockey that will last a lifetime, even for an immortal being.

Max and the Midknights: Battle of the Bodkins
By Lincoln Peirce
272 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593125908 | Crown BFYR
Max didn’t expect knight school to be so tough. Luckily, she has her best friends – the Midknights – at her side. But when Byjovia is under attack, the Midknights will have to face beastly creatures, powerful spells, and their greatest foe yet–themselves? Lincoln Peirce, author of the New York Times bestselling Max & the Midknights, brings more laughs, more adventures, and more silliness to Battle of the Bodkins, book two in the Max & the Midknights series.

Serpentine
By Philip Pullman
Illustrated by Tom Duxbury
80 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593377680 | Knopf BFYR
This companion to the His Dark Materials series and The Book of Dust offers a tantalizing new glimpse of Lyra and her dæmon, Pantalaimon. The world-changing events of The Amber Spyglass are behind them, and Lyra and Pan find themselves utterly changed as well. In Serpentine, they journey to the far North once more, hoping to ask the Consul of Witches a most urgent question. This brand-new story, a beguiling must-read for Pullman fans old and new, is a perfect companion to His Dark Materials and a fascinating bridge to The Book of Dust.

The Cousins
By Karen M. McManus
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525708001 | Delacorte BFYR
Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised . . . and curious. Their parents are all clear on one point – not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious – and dark – their family’s past is. The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over – and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.

The World Needs More Purple People
By Kristen Bell and Benjamin Hart
Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593121962 | Random House BFYR
What is a purple person? Great question. I mean, really great! Because purple people always ask really great questions. They bring their family, friends, and communities together, and they speak up for what’s right. They are kind and hardworking, and they love to laugh (especially at Grandpa’s funny noises)! A purple person is an everyday superhero! How do you become one? That’s the fun part! Penny Purple will lead you through the steps. Get ready to be silly, exercise your curiosity, use your voice, and be inspired. Looking to reach beyond the political divide of red and blue, Kristen Bell and Benjamin Hart have created a hilarious and joyous read-aloud that offers a wonderful message about embracing the things that bring us together as humans. This book will inspire a whole generation to paint the world purple!

Wild Symphony
By Dan Brown
Illustrated by Susan Batori
44 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593123843 | Rodale Kids
Travel through the trees and across the seas with Maestro Mouse and his musical friends! Young readers will meet a big blue whale and speedy cheetahs, tiny beetles and graceful swans. Each has a special secret to share. Along the way, you might spot the surprises Maestro Mouse has left for you – a hiding buzzy bee, jumbled letters that spell out clues, and even a coded message to solve! Children and adults can enjoy this timeless picture book as a traditional read-along, or can choose to listen to original musical compositions as they read — one for each animal — with a free interactive smartphone app, which uses augmented reality to play the appropriate song for each page when a phone’s camera is held over it.