Jewish Heritage Month 2022

May is Jewish Heritage Month! Here are a few books by or about Jewish people, celebrating different holidays or just exploring their heritage.

Meet the Hamantaschen
By Alan Silberberg
36 Pages | Ages 3-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593351574 | Viking BFYR
The Purim play is about to start, but the megillah is missing! Without the scroll that recounts the Purim story, how can the show go on? Never fear: three determined hamantaschen – DETECTIVES! Right. Three determined DETECTIVES are on the case. With the help of a mysterious stranger and a few disguises, the detectives uncover the facts so the true story of Purim can be told. In this companion to Meet the Latkes and Meet the Matzah, holiday mistellings have never been so fun.

More Than Enough: A Passover Story
By April Halprin Wayland
Illustrated by Katie Kath
40 Pages | Ages 3-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593462546 | Dial BFYR
In this story told in spare, lyrical prose, a Jewish family prepares for their Passover seder, visiting the farmer’s market for walnuts, lilacs, and honey (and adopting a kitten along the way!), then chopping apples for the charoset, and getting dressed up before walking to Nana’s house. The refrain throughout is “Dayenu” – a mind-set of thankfulness, a reminder to be aware of the blessings in each moment. At Nana’s, there’s matzo ball soup, chicken, coconut macaroons, and of course, the hidden afikomen. After opening the door for Elijah and singing the verses of “Chad Gadya,”Nana tucks the children in for a special Passover sleepover. This warm, affectionate story embraces Passover in the spirit of dayenu, and offers a comprehensive glossary – it’s a perfect read for the entire family in anticipation and celebration of the holiday.

Tia Fortuna’s New Home: A Jewish Cuban Journey
By Ruth Behar
Illustrated by Devon Holzwarth
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593172414 | Knopf BFYR
When Estrella’s Tía Fortuna has to say goodbye to her longtime Miami apartment building, The Seaway, to move to an assisted living community, Estrella spends the day with her. Tía explains the significance of her most important possessions from both her Cuban and Jewish culture, as they learn to say goodbye together and explore a new beginning for Tía. A lyrical book about tradition, culture, and togetherness, Tía Fortuna’s New Home explores Tía and Estrella’s Sephardic Jewish and Cuban heritage. Through Tía’s journey, Estrella will learn that as long as you have your family, home is truly where the heart is.

Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail
By Leslea Newman
Illustrated by Susan Gal
32 Pages | Ages 5-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781580898829 | Charlesbridge
Inside, a boy and his family sit around the dinner table to embrace the many traditions of their Passover Seder around the dinner table. Outside, a cat wonders, hungry and alone. When it’s time for the symbolic Passover custom of opening the family’s front door for the prophet Elijah, both the boy and the cat are in for a remarkable surprise. . . .

Middle Grade: 

Broken Strings
By Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
288 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735266261 | Puffin Canada
It’s 2002. In the aftermath of the twin towers, Shirli Berman is intent on moving forward. The best singer in her junior high, she auditions for the lead role in Fiddler on the Roof, but is crushed to learn that she’s been given the part of the old Jewish mother in the musical rather than the coveted part of the sister. But there is an upside: her “husband” is none other than Ben Morgan, the cutest and most popular boy in the school. Deciding to throw herself into the role, she rummages in her grandfather’s attic for some props. There, she discovers an old violin in the corner – strange, since her Zayde has never seemed to like music, never even going to any of her recitals. Showing it to her grandfather unleashes an anger in him she has never seen before, and while she is frightened of what it might mean, Shirli keeps trying to connect with her Zayde and discover the awful reason behind his anger. A long-kept family secret spills out, and Shirli learns the true power of music, both terrible and wonderful.

RBG’s Brave & Brilliant Women: 33 Jewish Women to Inspire Everyone
By Nadine Epstein
Illustrated by Bee Johnson
Introduction by Ruth Bader Ginsberg
224 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593377185 | Delacorte Press
The fascinating lives detailed in this collection – more than thirty exemplary female role models – were chosen by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or RBG, as she was lovingly known to her many admirers. Working with her friend, journalist Nadine Epstein, RBG selected these trailblazers, all of whom are women and Jewish, who chose not to settle for the rules and beliefs of their time. They did not accept what the world told them they should be. Like RBG, they dreamed big, worked hard, and forged their own paths to become who they deserved to be. Future generations will benefit from each and every one of the courageous actions and triumphs of the women profiled here. Real Wonder Women, the passion project of Justice Ginsburg in the last year of her life, will inspire readers to think about who they want to become and to make it happen, just like RBG.

Starfish
By Lisa Fipps
256 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984814500 | Nancy Paulsen Books
Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules – like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” And she’s found her safe space – her swimming pool – where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life – by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.

Summer of Stolen Secrets
By Julie Sternberg
288 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593203644 | Viking BFYR
Catarina has never met her strict Jewish grandmother. But now, with an opportunity to spend three weeks in Baton Rouge and away from her best-friends-turned-bullies, Cat packs her bags and leaves New York City to get to know the woman who has always been a mystery. Down South, she begins working at her grandmother’s luxury department store with her rebellious cousin Lexie. Nothing seems to be going right and nobody talks about the past. But just when Cat is starting to think that this whole trip may have been a huge mistake, she stumbles onto a secret from a time her grandmother refuses to speak of. Suddenly Cat’s summer, and everything she thought she knew, has changed.

Turtle Boy
By M. Evan Wolkenstein
400 Pages | Ages 10+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780593121597 | Yearling
Seventh grade is not going well for Will Levine. Kids at school bully him because of his funny-looking chin. And for his bar mitzvah community service project, he’s forced to go to the hospital to visit RJ, an older boy struggling with an incurable disease. At first, the boys don’t get along, but then RJ shares his bucket list with Will. Among the things he wants to do: ride a roller coaster; go to a school dance; swim in the ocean. To Will, happiness is hanging out in his room, alone, preferably with the turtles he collects. But as RJ’s disease worsens, Will realizes he needs to tackle the bucket list on his new friend’s behalf before it’s too late. It seems like an impossible mission, way outside Will’s comfort zone. But as he completes each task with RJ’s guidance, Will learns that life is too short to live in a shell.

Young Adult:

Color Me In
By Natasha Diaz
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780525578253 | Delacorte BFYR
Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time. Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but because she inadvertently passes as white, her cousin thinks she’s too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices African Americans face on a daily basis. In the meantime, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. But rather than take a stand, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent. Only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces does she begin to realize she has her own voice. And choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she decide once for all who and where she is meant to be?

Dancing at the Pity Party
By Tyler Feder
208 Pages | 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525553021 | Dial BFYR
Part poignant cancer memoir and part humorous reflection on a motherless life, this debut graphic novel is extraordinarily comforting and engaging. From before her mother’s first oncology appointment through the stages of her cancer to the funeral, sitting shiva, and afterward, when she must try to make sense of her life as a motherless daughter, Tyler Feder tells her story in this graphic novel that is full of piercing – but also often funny – details. She shares the important post-death firsts, such as celebrating holidays without her mom, the utter despair of cleaning out her mom’s closet, ending old traditions and starting new ones, and the sting of having the “I’ve got to tell Mom about this” instinct and not being able to act on it. This memoir, bracingly candid and sweetly humorous, is for anyone struggling with loss who just wants someone to get it.

It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories
Edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman
Foreword by Mayim Bialik
320 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525646167 | Knopf BFYR
A Jewish boy falls in love with a fellow counselor at summer camp. A group of Jewish friends take the trip of a lifetime. A girl meets her new boyfriend’s family over Shabbat dinner. Two best friends put their friendship to the test over the course of a Friday night. A Jewish girl feels pressure to date the only Jewish boy in her grade. Hilarious pranks and disaster ensue at a crush’s Hanukkah party. From stories of confronting their relationships with Judaism to rom-coms with a side of bagels and lox, It’s a Whole Spiel features one story after another that says yes, we are Jewish, but we are also queer, and disabled, and creative, and political, and adventurous, and anything we want to be. You will fall in love with this insightful, funny, and romantic Jewish anthology from a collection of diverse Jewish authors.

The Ghosts of Rose Hill
By R. M. Romero
384 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781682633380 | Peachtree Teen
Sent to stay with her aunt in Prague and witness the humble life of an artist, Ilana Lopez – a biracial Jewish girl – finds herself torn between her dream of becoming a violinist and her immigrant parents’ desire for her to pursue a more stable career. When she discovers a forgotten Jewish cemetery behind her aunt’s cottage, she meets the ghost of a kindhearted boy named Benjamin, who died over a century ago. As Ilana restores Benjamin’s grave, he introduces her to the enchanted side of Prague, where ghosts walk the streets and their kisses have warmth. But Benjamin isn’t the only one interested in Ilana. Rudolph Wassermann, a man with no shadow, has become fascinated with her and the music she plays. He offers to share his magic, so Ilana can be with Benjamin and pursue her passion for violin. But after Ilana discovers the truth about Wassermann and how Benjamin became bound to the city, she resolves to save the boy she loves, even if it means losing him – forever.

The New Queer Conscience
By Adam Eli
Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky
64 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780593093689 | Penguin Workshop
Voices4 Founder and LGBTQIA+ activist Adam Eli offers a candid and compassionate introduction to queer responsibility. Eli calls on his Jewish faith to underline how kindness and support within the queer community can lead to a stronger global consciousness. More importantly, he reassures us that we’re not alone. In fact, we never were. Because if you mess with one queer, you mess with us all.

The Way Back
By Gavriel Savit
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781984894656 | Ember
For the Jews of Eastern Europe, demons are everywhere: dancing on the rooftops in the darkness of midnight, congregating in the trees, harrowing the dead, even reaching out to try and steal away the living. But the demons have a land of their own: a Far Country peopled with the souls of the transient dead, governed by demonic dukes, barons, and earls. When the Angel of Death comes strolling through the little shtetl of Tupik one night, two young people will be sent spinning off on a journey through the Far Country. There they will make pacts with ancient demons, declare war on Death himself, and maybe – just maybe – find a way to make it back alive.

This Rebel Heart
By Katherine Locke
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593381243 | Knopf BFYR
In the middle of Budapest, there is a river. Csilla knows the river is magic. During WWII, the river kept her family safe when they needed it most – safe from the Holocaust. But that was before the Communists seized power. Before her parents were murdered by the Soviet police. Before Csilla knew things about her father’s legacy that she wishes she could forget. Now Csilla keeps her head down, planning her escape from this country that has never loved her the way she loves it. But her carefully laid plans fall to pieces when her parents are unexpectedly, publicly exonerated. As the protests in other countries spur talk of a larger revolution in Hungary, Csilla must decide if she believes in the promise and magic of her deeply flawed country enough to risk her life to help save it, or if she should let it burn to the ground. With queer representation, fabulist elements, and a pivotal but little-known historical moment, This Rebel Heart is Katherine Locke’s tour de force.

Canadian Children’s Book Week 2022

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre Book Week 2022 will take place virtually May 1-7, 2022. Established in 1977, Book Week gives Canadian authors, illustrators, and storytellers the chance to share their love of reading with young people in schools, libraries, and home all across the country.

This year’s theme is Sail into Stories and we’re thrilled that so many of our authors are participating, we know kids will love to see them!

Charis Cotter

The Dollhouse: A Ghost Story
By Charis Cotter
360 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269064 | Tundra Books
Alice’s world is falling apart. Her parents are getting a divorce, and they’ve cancelled their yearly cottage trip – the one thing that gets Alice through the school year. Instead, Alice and her mom are heading to some small town where Alice’s mom will be a live-in nurse to a rich elderly lady. The house is huge, imposing, and spooky, and everything inside is meticulously kept and perfect – not a fun place to spend the summer. Things start to get weird when Alice finds a dollhouse in the attic that’s an exact replica of the house she’s living in. Then she wakes up to find a girl asleep next to her in her bed – a girl who looks a lot like one of the dolls from the dollhouse. . . . When the dollhouse starts to change when Alice isn’t looking, she knows she has to solve the mystery. Who are the girls in the dollhouse? What happened to them? And what is their connection to the mean and mysterious woman who owns the house?

Eric Walters

Broken Strings
By Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
288 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735266261 | Puffin Canada
It’s 2002. In the aftermath of the twin towers, Shirli Berman is intent on moving forward. The best singer in her junior high, she auditions for the lead role in Fiddler on the Roof, but is crushed to learn that she’s been given the part of the old Jewish mother in the musical rather than the coveted part of the sister. But there is an upside: her “husband” is none other than Ben Morgan, the cutest and most popular boy in the school. Deciding to throw herself into the role, she rummages in her grandfather’s attic for some props. There, she discovers an old violin in the corner – strange, since her Zayde has never seemed to like music, never even going to any of her recitals. Showing it to her grandfather unleashes an anger in him she has never seen before, and while she is frightened of what it might mean, Shirli keeps trying to connect with her Zayde and discover the awful reason behind his anger. A long-kept family secret spills out, and Shirli learns the true power of music, both terrible and wonderful.

Gillian Sze

My Love for You is Always
By Gillian Sze
Illustrated by Michelle Lee
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593203071 | Philomel Books
What is love? a child wonders. What does it feel like, smell like, taste like? How does it move? How long does it last? And as she prepares a traditional Chinese meal for her family, the child’s mother replies: her love for him is rosy as wolfberries, warm like tea, sweeter than the red dates she puts in his soup. It shines through the water like its own brilliant sun. It goes round and round with no beginning and no end. Because a mother’s love for a child is always there, warm and soft, broad and tender. In this tender story that pairs beautifully poetic words with brilliantly stunning art, a mother’s love comes alive on the page and wraps readers in its warm embrace.

John Martz

A Cat Named Tim and Other Stories
By John Martz
60 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270985 | Tundra Books
In Tim’s world, cats can paint on the ceiling and a cheerful porcine couple can wait months for the bus. A duck and a mouse can fly . . . a plane, of course. In “Doug & Mouse,” the first of four stories, a plucky duck and mouse pair embark on a globe-spanning journey by plane, jungle vine, horse, skis, skates, paraglider, boat, and submarine, but they’re sure to make it home in time for pizza and tunes. In “Tim,” the titular cat lives his nine lives to the fullest – he’s a basketball star (sort of), a scientist (but not a very good one), a painter (very lifelike), and an all-terrain golfer. In “Connie,” a plucky rabbit follows her line of inquiry wherever it leads. And in the final story, “Mr. and Mrs. Hamhock,” an amiable pig couple wait months and months for the bus, only to realize that they’ve forgotten something important behind at home.

Burt’s Way Home
By John Martz
60 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271029 | Tundra Books
Burt is an alien from a distant galaxy with advanced technology, but an accident has made his parents disappear and trapped him on Earth. And no matter what he does, he can’t seem to get lowly Earth technology to work well enough to get him home. That’s his story, anyway. From the perspective of his foster mother, Lydia, Burt is a confused and lonely little boy who’s difficult to understand and lives in his own world. But she’s less focused on understanding him than she is on taking care of and supporting him. Burt struggles to adjust to his new home, and Lydia tries her best. But when Burt embarks on a plan to teleport home once and for all and ventures into the cold all alone, Lydia will have to find a way to bridge the gulf between them.

Crocodile Hungry
By Eija Sumner
Illustrated by John Martz
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267879 | Tundra Books
Crocodile hungry.
What can crocodile eat?
Canned ham? Too hard to open.
Beef jerky? Gets stuck in teeth.
Eggs? Bite shell, get toothache.
Crocodile must find food. But where?
Though Crocodile is surrounded by food, he doesn’t know it. He’s used to food coming in packages and boxes and in handy tins. Will the hungry crocodile figure it out? Readers big and little will laugh out loud at the simple but hysterical text and illustrations by debut author Eija Sumner and cartoonist (and now resident crocodile expert) John Martz.

Evie and the Truth About Witches
By John Martz
64 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271005 | Tundra Books
Evie wants to be scared, and the usual scary stories just aren’t doing it for her anymore. When she stumbles across a different sort of book, The Truth about Witches, she hopes she’s found something thrilling . . . but she’s forbidden by a kindly shopkeeper from reading the last page out loud! Naturally, her curiosity gets the better of her, and upon reading the last page out loud – a real summoning spell – Evie is spirited off to a strange land of magic, weird creatures, feasts, and actual witches! They’re not as scary as they seem, until Evie asks to join their ranks . . . and only once she does is her quest for true scariness satisfied . . .

Kallie George

Anne’s Tragical Tea Party
By Kallie George
Illustrated by Abigail Halpin
72 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267220 | Tundra Books
Anne loves having pretend tea parties by herself. She even decorates her room with branches and colorful leaves for the occasion. Marilla Cuthbert, who adopted Anne in the last year, wishes Anne would act a little more sensibly. One day, Marilla comes up with a plan to keep Anne out of mischief – Anne can host her very own tea party and invite her kindred spirit, Diana Barry! Anne is thrilled, and sets out to host the most lovely and grown-uppish tea party she can muster. But when she makes Diana sick by accidentally giving her the wrong drink, Diana’s mother is furious. Can Anne be forgiven? Will she ever be allowed to play with Diana again?

Crimson Twill: Witch in the City
By Kallie George
Illustrated by Brigitta Sif
64 Pages | Ages 7-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536214635 | Candlewick
Crimson Twill is a little witch, but you might not know it. She lives in the country and loves polka dots and puppies instead of pointy shoes and black dresses. She even wears a big bow on her hat – which is crimson, just like her name. Tonight, for the very first time, Crimson is riding on her mother’s broom all the way to New Wart City to go shopping at Broomingdale’s! The huge department store has everything a witch could itch for. For Crimson, each floor (hats! cats! brooms!) is a new adventure. But is Broomingdale’s ready for a witch as unique as Crimson? A rich and playful new world comes to life in the first book of this charming series.

Our Playground Rules!
By Kallie George
Illustrated by Jay Fleck
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593378748 | Rodale Kids
This young picture book plays with the double meaning of “rules” to explore how following a few simple rules of kindness can make playtime more fun for everyone! Featuring simple text and engaging illustrations that embrace the varying needs and capabilities of the adorable cast of animal characters, Our Playground Rules! is the perfect tool to help small children feel seen and better empathize with others.

Raziel Reid

Followers
By Raziel Reid
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263802 | Penguin Teen Canada
After a disastrous date results in her arrest, sixteen-year-old Lily Rhode is horrified to discover her mugshot is leaked on a gossip website. Lily is the niece of Whitney Paley, a Hollywood housewife and star of reality show Platinum Triangle, a soap-opera-style docu-series in the vein of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and The Hills, revolving around several glamorous families living in the Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Holmby Hills neighborhoods of Los Angeles. When Lily’s mom kicks her out of their trailer home in the Valley, Whitney (Lily’s mom’s estranged sister) invites her to live with her, her movie-star husband, Patrick, and their daughter, Hailey. Lily is set up in the pool house and thrust into the company of reality-star offspring – kids who are born with silver spoon emojis on their feed. Lily’s cousin Hailey and the other teens have lived their entire lives on camera and are masters of deception, with Hailey leading the pack. As Lily learns from the Paleys how to navigate her newfound fame, she finds herself ensnared in the unfolding storylines. What Lily doesn’t know is that she’s just a pawn being used on the show to make the Paleys look sympathetic to viewers while distracting from on-set sexual misconduct rumors surrounding super hero dad Patrick Paley . . . Is Lily safe under Patrick’s roof? Or will Lily be Patrick’s downfall? If she isn’t destroyed by Hailey first. When Lily catches the eye of Hailey’s designated leading man Joel Strom – it’s war!

Kens
By Raziel Reid
256 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735263796 | Penguin Teen Canada
Every high school has the archetypical Queen B and her minions. In Kens, the high school hierarchy has been reimagined. Willows High is led by Ken Hilton, and he makes Regina George from Mean Girls look like a saint. Ken Hilton rules Willows High with his carbon-copies, Ken Roberts and Ken Carson, standing next to his throne. It can be hard to tell the Kens apart. There are minor differences in each edition, but all Kens are created from the same mold, straight out of Satan’s doll factory. Soul sold separately. Tommy Rawlins can’t help but compare himself to these shimmering images of perfection that glide through the halls. He’s desperate to fit in, but in a school where the Kens are queens who are treated like Queens, Tommy is the uncool gay kid. A once-in-a-lifetime chance at becoming a Ken changes everything for Tommy, just as his eye is caught by the tall, dark, handsome new boy, Blaine. Has Blaine arrived in time to save him from the Kens? Tommy has high hopes for their future together, but when their shared desire to overthrow Ken Hilton takes a shocking turn, Tommy must decide how willing he is to reinvent himself – inside and out. Is this new version of Tommy everything he’s always wanted to be, or has he become an unknowing and submissive puppet in a sadistic plan?

Tundra Telegram: Books To Carry You Home

Welcome to another exciting edition of Tundra Telegram, a column in which we look at the subjects on readers’ minds and recommend some recent great books to continue the discussion.

We’ve had fun talking popular music and baseball these past two weeks, but one issue that has been top of mind for so many readers is the terrible conflict that has raged for nearly two months in Ukraine. And – central to that – the millions of Ukrainian refugees who have fled their country for other temporary homes around the world. Just this past week, some of the first Ukrainian refugees began to arrive in Canada. Fleeing countries for reasons of political violence, war, or persecution is not always an easy subject matter to approach in children’s books or even YA, but we’ve got a few recommendations if you’d like to read stories that look at refugees’ perspectives.

PICTURE BOOKS

The two children in Kyo Maclear and Rashin Kheiriyeh’s Story Boat are fleeing a non-specific crisis in a non-specific land, but their story of leaving behind nearly everything for an uncertain future will ring true for many refugees – as will how the tiniest things (a cup, a lamp, a flower) can become beacons of hope. (And it was even given a shout-out from the UN Refugee Agency!)

Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egnéus is likewise subtle in its depiction of the refugee life. Lubna is a girl who live in the World of Tents, and her best friend is a pebble, who makes her feel better when she’s scared. But when a lost little boy arrives, Lubna realizes that he needs Pebble even more than she does.

Quebec’s own Elise Gravel gives kids the straight talk with her What Is a Refugee?, an accessible nonfiction picture book that introduces the term “refugee” to picture book readers: Who are refugees? Why are they called that word? Why do they need to leave their country? Answers to these questions and more are illustrated within.

Francesca Sanna’s The Journey is a picture book about many journeys (not just one). Sanna interviewed refugees from dozens of different countries who now found themselves in an Italian refugee center about their personal journeys. The resulting picture book is a collage of those personal stories and looks at the incredibly difficult decisions families make to leave their homes.

And in the Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley picture book, Teacup, a boy is forced to leave his home to find another. He brings with him only a teacup (what else?) full of earth from the place where he grew up, and sets off on a dangerous sea journey

MIDDLE GRADE

New York Times bestselling author/artist Victoria Jamieson teamed with former Somali refugee Omar Mohamed to tell When Stars Are Scattered, a National Book Award nominated comic-book memoir of Mohamed’s childhood, chronicling the day-to-day highs and lows of growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya with his younger brother Hassan.

Newbery honor book The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani takes readers back to India’s partition in 1947, and a half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old named Nisha, whose family decides they can no longer stay in the newly formed Pakistan. She and her family become refugees, travelling by train and foot toward what they hope will be a brighter future.

And Canadian author Eric Walters tells the story of Muchoki and his younger sister, Jata in Walking Home, who flee the political violence that kills their father, and soon find themselves in an overcrowded Kenyan refugee camp. Soon they set off on a treacherous journey in hopes of reaching their grandparents, hundreds of kilometers away.

YOUNG ADULT

Rachel DeWoskin’s Someday We Will Fly explores the journey of a fifteen-year-old Jewish refugee from Poland during World War II. Lillia, her sister, and father flee to Shanghai, one of the only places that would welcome Jewish refugees at that time.

Walk Toward the Rising Sun is the moving autobiography of Ger Duany, a young Sudanese boy who became a child soldier, then a refugee – one of the 20,000 “Lost boys of Sudan.” He eventually was resettled to the U.S. from the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, reunited with his family with some help form the UNHCR, and later became a peace activist and Hollywood actor (check him in I Heart Huckabees!)

If you like your refugee narratives with a dash of sports drama, you’ll score with Warren St. John’s Outcasts United, the story of the Fugees – a real-life youth soccer team made up of refugees from around the world (now living in Georgia) and coached by a young Jordanian-American woman.

And Susan Kuklin’s We Are Here to Stay is an anthology of the real stories of nine undocumented young adults living in the U.S. They come from Colombia, Korea, Ghana, and more – many escaping poverty and fleeing violence. Real stories from real teenaged refugees living in America.

Tundra Telegram: Books That Strike a Chord

Welcome to the first edition of Tundra Telegram, where we look at the subjects on readers’ minds and recommend some recent great books to continue the discussion.

This past Sunday, some very important recording awards were held, celebrating the best in the past year’s music. (For legal reasons, we are refraining from naming those awards on this site, but we all know what we’re talking about, right?) Jon Batiste and Olivia Rodrigo were among the big winners. If those music-minded awards put you in a musical mood, you may want to check out some of the following titles.

PICTURE BOOKS

Brother, Sister, Family is a children’s book by music legend (and winner of dozens of musical awards) Willie Nelson and his sister and bandmate Bobbie Nelson, and illustrated by Kyung Eun Han. It’s a moving tale about a family with little money but a lot of love – especially for music.

Darryl’s Dream is a picture book about a quiet, nerdy kid who gets the chance to show his creativity at a school talent show. It also happens to be written by Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, a member of pioneering hip-hop group RUN-D.M.C. (who won a lifetime achievement award in 2016).

Why Not You? by performer Ciara and her Super Bowl champion husband Russell Wilson and illustrator Jessica Gibson is an inspiring picture book that encourages young readers to go after their biggest dreams – which may or may not include Song of the Year at an award show.

Paul McCartney, the author of Grandude’s Green Submarine (illustrated by Canadian artist Kathryn Durst) has been nominated for (and won) so many music awards, they probably take up several Wings (get it?) of his home.

And Nina, by Traci N. Todd and Christian Robinson is a lyrical picture book biography about Nina Simone who – improbably – was nominated, but never won an award of the kind they gave out last weekend. Can you believe that?!

MIDDLE GRADE

Jade Armstrong’s brand-new graphic novel Scout Is Not a Band Kid is a very funny story about a hapless girl who joins the school band for the trips (rather than an interest in music) – or one trip in particular (which will bring her closer to her favorite author). Trombone solos and hilarity ensues.

Celia C. Pérez’s The First Rule of Punk is a heartfelt exploration of friendship, being yourself, and rocking out. No one, not even the Posada Middle School’s anti-punk administration, will stop Malú from inciting a little anarchy in the USA.

This may be a bit more country than rock, hip-hop, or pop, but we’re sure Chris Stapleton would approve. In Kate O’Shaughnessy’s The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane, Maybelle is searching for her father. She soon discovers he’s a country radio DJ and will be judging a singing contest in Nashville. And you’d best believe she’s going to hop in an RV to Nashville to enter that contest!

Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer’s Broken Strings belongs more in awards for musical theatre, since it concerns a school production of Fiddler on the Roof that stirs up painful family secrets (as well as a little bit of romance), but given the Sondheim tribute at this year’s awards, we’re going to include it.

YOUNG ADULT

The boy band in Adib Khorram’s gay romance, Kiss & Tell is more 4*Town than BTS, but we’re sure they’d be up for Best Pop Duo / Group Performance.

David Yoon’s Super Fake Love Song follows Sunny Dae, who pretends he’s the front man of a rock band to impress the girl of his dreams – going to all lengths to not reveal the lie. (Fun fact: we’re pretty sure this is also how Imagine Dragons was formed.)

Jose Pimienta’s Suncatcher is a graphic novel about a girl whose grandfather’s soul is trapped in his guitar. All she has to do is play the perfect song and his soul will be freed. (Looks like a job for Swedish one-man hit factory Max Martin, am I right?)

The Montague Twins: The Devil’s Music, the new graphic novel by Nathan Page and Drew Shannon, looks at the dark side of rock music, as the twin teen detectives form a rock band with their friends, and soon encounter rock star Gideon, who may or may not have sinister hypnotic powers.

And fifteen YA authors and one bonafide rock star contribute to the short stories in Battle of the Bands. Edited by Lauren Gibaldi and Eric Smith, the stories by Preeti Chhibber, Ashley Woodfolk, Jeff Zentner, and Motion City Soundtrack‘s Justin Courtney Pierre present a  kaleidoscopic view of one transformative night of music (not unlike the award show itself).

Bringing Stories to Life with Storytime Trail

OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation (OWSH), a literacy and reading charity, is including On the Trapline as one of two Indigenous picture books featured in their “Good With Words” campaign, engaging Canadian youth in reconciliation. For the first 100 orders of On the Trapline book walk signs, a donation of $250 will be made by the Schad Foundation in the name of participating schools to the Land Needs Guardians program, up to a maximum donation of $25,000.

Participating schools will also be invited to an On the Trapline virtual event with David A. Robertson to commemorate National Indigenous Peoples’ Month this June. For more details on the event and to register, sign up here.

This initiative is part of the  Storytime Trails program, in which select Canadian books are printed as a series of signs and posted in participating school yards, encouraging classes to take “book walks” and for schools to incorporate Canadian books in their curriculum. OWSH has created custom lesson plans and, in some cases, author video content, for each featured title.

On the Trapline
By David A. Robertson
Illustrated by Julie Flett
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266681  | Tundra Books
A boy and Moshom, his grandpa, take a trip together to visit a place of great meaning to Moshom. A trapline is where people hunt and live off the land, and it was where Moshom grew up. As they embark on their northern journey, the child repeatedly asks his grandfather, “Is this your trapline?” Along the way, the boy finds himself imagining what life was like two generations ago – a life that appears to be both different from and similar to his life now. This is a heartfelt story about memory, imagination, and intergenerational connection that perfectly captures the experience of a young child’s wonder as he is introduced to places and stories that hold meaning for his family.

Other Tundra titles included in the general Storytime Trails program:

Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes
By Wab Kinew
Illustrated by Joe Morse
40 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735262928 | Tundra Books
Celebrating the stories of Indigenous people throughout time, Wab Kinew has created a powerful rap song, the lyrics of which are the basis for the text in this beautiful picture book, illustrated by the acclaimed Joe Morse. Including figures such as Crazy Horse, Net-no-kwa, former NASA astronaut John Herrington and Canadian NHL goalie Carey Price, Go Show the World showcases a diverse group of Indigenous people in the US and Canada, both the more well known and the not- so-widely recognized. Individually, their stories, though briefly touched on, are inspiring; collectively, they empower the reader with this message: “We are people who matter, yes, it’s true; now let’s show the world what people who matter can do.”

If I Had a Gryphon
By Vikki VanSickle
Illustrated by Cale Atkinson
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781770498099 | Tundra Books
Sam just got a hamster for a pet. But the hamster is kind of boring . . . he just eats and sleeps and gets his shavings wet. Inspired by her book of mythological creatures, Sam longs for a more exciting pet. But she soon realizes that taking care of these magical beasts might not be as wonderful as she thought. Sasquatches are messy, unicorns are shy, hippogriffs scare the dogs at the dogpark, and having a fire extinguisher handy at all times makes dragons seem like an awful lot of work. In the end, Sam realizes that her hamster is a pretty sweet and safe pet . . . or is he? If I Had a Gryphon is a raucous rhyming read-aloud about fantastical beasts in everyday situations – and the increasingly beleaguered heroine who has to deal with them.

9781770493018-450My Name Is Blessing
By Eric Walters
Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
32 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781770493018 | Tundra Books
Based on the life of a real boy, this warm-hearted, beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Baraka, a young Kenyan boy with a physical disability. Baraka and eight cousins live with their grandmother. She gives them boundless love, but there is never enough money or food, and life is hard – love doesn’t feed hungry stomachs or clothe growing bodies, or school keen minds. Baraka is too young, and, with his disability, needs too much, and she is too old. A difficult choice must be made, and grandmother and grandchild set off on a journey to see if there is a place at the orphanage for Baraka. The story begins by looking at Baraka’s physical disability as a misfortune, but ends by looking beyond the disability, to his great heart and spirit, and the blessings he brings.

Out into the Big Wide Lake
By Paul Harbridge
Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265592 | Tundra Books
It’s Kate’s first time visiting her grandparents on her own at their lakeside home. She’s nervous but excited at the adventure ahead. She helps her grandfather with his grocery deliveries by boat, where she meets all the neighbors, including a very grumpy old man named Walter. And she makes best friends with her grandparents’ dog, Parbuckle. Her grandmother even teaches her to pilot the boat all by herself! When her grandfather takes ill suddenly, it’s up to Kate – but can she really make all those deliveries, even to grumpy old Walter? She has to try! Based on the author’s sister, Kate is a lovable, brave, smart and feisty character who will capture your heart in this gorgeous and moving story about facing fears and gaining independence.

Ten Little Dumplings
By Larissa Fan
Illustrated by Cindy Wume
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266193 | Puffin Canada
In the city of Tainan, there lives a very special family – special because they have ten sons who do everything together. Their parents call them their ten little dumplings, as both sons and dumplings are auspicious. But if you look closely, you’ll see that someone else is there, listening, studying, learning and discovering her own talent – a sister. As this little girl grows up in the shadow of her brothers, her determination and persistence help her to create her own path in the world . . . and becomes the wisdom she passes on to her own daughter, her own little dumpling. Based on a short film made by the author, inspired by her father’s family in Taiwan, Ten Little Dumplings looks at some unhappy truths about the place of girls in our world in an accessible, inspiring and hopeful way.

The FogThe Fog
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Kenard Pak
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781770494923 | Tundra Books
Warble is a small yellow warbler who lives on the beautiful island of Icyland, where he pursues his hobby of human watching. But on a warm day, a deep fog rolls in and obscures his view. The rest of the birds don’t seem to notice the fog or the other changes Warble observes on the island. The more the fog is ignored, the more it spreads. When a Red-hooded Spectacled Female (Juvenile) appears, Warble discovers that he’s not the only one who notices the fog. Will they be able to find others who can see it too? And is the fog here to stay? Kyo Maclear’s witty story, brought to life with the delicate, misty artwork of Kenard Pak, is a poignant yet humorous reminder of the importance of environmental awareness.

Where Oliver FitsWhere Oliver Fits
By Cale Atkinson
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101919071 | Tundra Books
Oliver has always dreamed about where he will fit. Will he be in the mane of a unicorn? The tentacle of a pirate squid? The helmet of an astronaut? When he finally goes in search of his perfect place, he finds that trying to fit in is a lot harder than he thought. But like any puzzle, a little trial and error leads to a solution, and Oliver figures out exactly where he belongs. Where Oliver Fits is a sweet and funny story that explores all the highs and lows of learning to be yourself and shows that fitting in isn’t always the best fit . . . .