Tundra Telegram: Books for a New Start

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we run through the issues streaming through readers’ minds, and suggest some books that will succeed in keeping you reading.

It’s a brand-new year, and what better way is there to start 2023 than with a new book series! Luckily for you readers, there were many books published in 2022 that have a sequel (or sequels!) coming this year. If you’re keen to hop into a new duology, trilogy, quadrilogy, or ongoing series, we have options for you for every category and genre.

So take a chance on something new and dive into a new saga. New year, new series!

PICTURE BOOKS

A curious cockroach first met readers this past year in Maggie Hutchings and Felicita Sala’s Your Birthday Was the Best!, in which the friendly insect crashes a kid’s party with hilarious (and sometimes stomach-churning results). That cockroach will be back in 2023, joining his hapless human child friend to class in Your School Is the Best! and this time, he’s brought the whole family!

Speaking of school, Our Classroom Rules! by Kallie George and Jay Fleck brings back the good-natured forest creatures from 2022’s Our Playground Rules! to talk about kindness and community in the classroom – and how a few simple empathetic “rules” can make school a cool place for everyone to be.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

The year 2023 will be a big one for graphic novel series for the youngest readers. Maureen Fergus and Alexandra Bye’s rollicking pet comedy series Weenie featuring Frank & Beans will chase 2022’s Mad about Meatloaf with more food fun in The Pancake Problem. Whereas in the first book, dachshund Weenie conscripted his cat and guinea pig friends (Frank and Beans) in his quixotic quest to obtain some meatloaf, this book sees the trio battling a malfunctioning machine that makes flapjacks.

Comic readers and 80’s nostalgia fans were delighted by the return of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield in graphic novel form last year with Sweet Valley Twins: Best Friends by Francine Pascal, Nicole Andelfinger,and Claudia Aguirre. They were a bit younger (now in middle-school), but dealing with those same school and sisterly concerns. In 2023’s Sweet Valley Twins: Teacher’s Pet, Elizabeth and Jessica take a page from Center Stage and find themselves competing for the leading role in their dance class.

Mason Dickerson’s Housecat Trouble was a true joy for cat lovers in 2022, as it featured a house with three cats – Buster, Nova, and Chauncey – some invisible spirits (that explains a lot, if you know cats) and tons of feline hijinks. Housecat Trouble: Lost and Found has our trio of cat friends discover a lost cat who may or may not be … a ghost? Spooky (but still adorable)!

For more of the creepy stuff, readers have Spooky Sleuths, a series begun in 2022 by Natasha Deen and Lissy Marlin in which friends Asim and Rokshar investigate strange phenomena in their town, X-Files-style. Rokshar, ever the skeptic, believes the paranormal activity can be explained by science, but Asim is not so sure, given how closely the events match Guyanese ghost stories. In 2023, readers have two new adventures to look forward to: Spooky Sleuths: Don’t Go Near the Water! and Spooky Sleuths: Fire in the Sky.

In the same creep-tastic vein is Kiersten White’s Sinister Summer series, in which the Sinister-Winterbottom siblings visit increasingly questionable summer vacation spots and end up solving a few mysteries along the way. This year will see the Sinister-Winterbottoms visiting an eerily normal summer camp where nothing is what it seems in Camp Creepy and far more bizarre science camp at the manor of Mr. Frank and Dr. Stein in Menacing Manor.

While the Sinister-Winterbottom siblings often encounter creepy circumstances, Travis NicholsThe Terribles are kids who are literal monsters: a vampire, alien, mummy, kaiju and more. Plus, they all live on an island called Creep’s Cove (which could be the title of a Sinister Summer book). 2022’s The Terribles: Welcome to Stubtoe Elementary introduced readers to the monster gang and included a slew of comics, charts, and fun activities. A Witch’s Last Resort, out later this year, introduces a new witch and chronicles a class election for next school overlord!

For the geeks, 2022 also had much to celebrate, including T.P. Jagger’s new series Hide and Geek, in which the GEEKs (Gina, Edgar, Elena, and Kevin) – four nerdy lifelong friends – solve a cryptic puzzle left by a famous toymaker in an attempt to save their town. Spoiler alert: they succeed, but a blogger begins casting doubt on their puzzle-solving powers. So the GEEKs saddle up again to take on another tremendous treasure hunt in The Treasure Test.

If reading about a group of four kids sounds appealing, but video games are more your thing, Player vs. Player: Ultimate Gaming Showdown by M.K. England and Chris Danger (!) might be your bag. Four kid gamers (“The Weird Ones”) take on 63 other teams in an epic tournament of Affinity, a battle-royale-style game. This year, Player vs. Player: Attack of the Bots brings back the kid games, now gone pro and with their own streaming channel. Only one problem: one-fourth of their crew – Wheatley – has gone missing!

While the Mapmakers graphic novels by Cameron Chittock and Amanda Castillo might sound like a young reader’s intro to cartography, Mapmakers and the Lost Magic actually introduces fans to a group of magical protectors long thought lost, until Alidade finds a secret door that leads to Blue, a magical creature called a memri who may help her protect the Valley from the merciless Night Coats. 2023’s Mapmakers and the Enchanted Mountain has Alidade and her allies ready to restore magic to the rest of the world outside the Valley – starting with a hidden Mountain village.

YOUNG ADULT

Winnipeg politician and author Wab Kinew’s The Floraverse began in 2022 with Walking in Two Worlds, where readers met Bugz, an Indigenous girl living on the Rez who happens to be a dominant player in a massive multiplayer online game called (what else?) the Floraverse. The Everlasting Road (which hit stores just this week!) follows Bugz’s adventures in the ‘Verse, as she builds a weapon and virtual friend Waawaate, who fills the hole left by the death of her brother – with, as you might expect, problematic results.

The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud introduced YA readers to an unforgettable duo of fugitives – one with the power to read minds, one with a way with weapons – running for their lives in a future England. The follow-up to the slam-bang, action-packed intro, The Notorious Scarlett and Browne, out later this year, brings the pair of renegades back. This time, they have to save their friends, who have been taken hostage, via a mission nothing short of impossible!

And The Night in Question by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson continues the adventures of Castle Cove’s mystery solving odd couple – Alice Ogilvie and Iris Adams – first seen in The Agathas. After cracking the case of Brooke Donovan’s death, the pair dig into a violent assault at their school dance which seems to be connected to the unsolved death at the same site of a film starlet decades prior.

Tundra Telegram: Books That Really Slay

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we talk about the subjects hoarding all our attention, and recommend some books that we think are straight fire.

This past weekend, HBO premiered House of the Dragon, the prequel series to their popular Game of Thrones show, based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books. Viewers were keen to return to Westeros and learn about how the House of Targaryen fell – so keen, in fact, that streaming services HBO Max and Crave (in Canada) reportedly crashed for many users.

What better time to recommend some books for children and teens about dragons – books that are too hot, they’d make a dragon want to retire (from appearing in dragon-related books, I assume)? So, let’s not drag on any further (get it?) and jump into this week’s fiery recommendations.

PICTURE BOOKS

What we’re looking for is books with dragons in them, so there’s no better way to start our picture book recommendations than with There’s a Dragon in Your Book by Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott. But not just any dragon – a cute baby dragon that hatches in your book (as if it were Drogo’s funeral pyre) and young readers must stamp, blow, and flap their arms to save the book from bursting into flame when this baby dragon sneezes!

One thing you don’t see a lot of in Game of Thrones is something you see a lot of in this book: underwear. Attack of the Underwear Dragon, written by Scott Rothman and Pete Oswald, follows Cole, the brave assistant to the great knight Sir Percival, who must face a terrifying Underwear Dragon on his own. The sequel, Return of the Underwear Dragon, reveals Cole and the Dragon’s conflict in the first book resulted from – spoiler alert – the Dragon’s inability to read signs. So this book chronicles young Cole’s attempt to teach his scaly friend to read – even resorting to alphabet-themed undies.

Okay, so the “dragons” in Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor aren’t the kind that fly and breathe fire. But this book by Patricia Valdez and Felicita Scala is about a pioneering female scientist who loved reptiles – especially komodo dragons. Procter became the Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum, designed the Reptile House at the London Zoo, and hosted children’s tea parties with her komodo dragon as a guest of honor (!).

Ellie’s Dragon by Bob Graham is sort of a modern twist on the “Puff the Magic Dragon” song, as it tells of the friendship of small, shy Ellie, and the newborn dragon she finds at the grocery store, Scratch, who may or may not be real.

Though it could have been written by a Targaryen, How to Light Your Dragon is actually written by Fred Benaglia and Didier Levy, and hilariously walks readers through the steps to help a dragon rediscover its fire-breathing abilities. While there are certain handy tricks (surprising your dragon with a cake and unlit birthday candles), readers learn the key is loving your dragon unconditionally.

And though a dragon is just one of the mythical creatures our heroine considers for a pet in Vikki VanSickle and Cale Atkinson’s If I Had a Gryphon – among unicorns, manticores, and, yes, gryphons – it’s among the ones that cause the most property damage, as it comically torches our poor pet lover’s house with a sneeze.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

When you hear “dragon,” you probably think of castles and knights in shining armor. Well, throw that out the window (like it were Bran Stark), because you need to read Canadian Zetta Elliott’s Dragons in a Bag series. The acclaimed middle-grade series takes place in modern-day Brooklyn, where young Jaxon and friends Kenny, Kavita and Vikram help his mother’s Ma deliver some baby dragons to a magical world where they’ll be safe. Book Two, The Dragon Thief, outlines what happens when Kavita steals a dragon’s egg. And The Witch’s Apprentice shows Jax learning a little magic for himself!

The Dragon Storm series, written by Alistair Chisholm and illustrated by Eric Deschamps, is a series of books, each about a youth brought to a secret league of dragonseers, The Guild, where they train to bond with their dragons and summon their power. Whether it’s Tom and Ironskin, Cara and Silverthief, or Ellis and Pathseeker – each kid and their dragon have a rousing adventure story to tell.

A Dragon Used to Live Here, or so the story goes by Annette LeBlanc Cate – or rather, that’s the story that Meg, a cranky scribe in the castle basement, tells to restless noble children Thomas and Emily. Meg tells them fantastical and funny stories of their mother’s (and the castle’s) past that they frankly cannot believe – kidnappings, loyal elves, true love, archery practice gone amiss, and, of course, a ferocious dragon.

Rowan has had to face all sorts of monsters throughout Kelley Armstrong’s Royal Guide to Monster Slaying series: gryphons, colocolos, and dropbears. And in the fourth and final installment, The Final Trial, she, her twin brother Rhydd, friends Dain and Alianor, and an ever-growing group of monstrous companions, must protect the dragon living in their homeland and prove to all the kingdoms that people and monsters can peacefully coexist.

Likewise, The Unicorn Rescue Society, a series of books by Adam Gidwitz and Hatem Aly, has featured rescues of everything from sasquatches to chupacabras by Elliot, Uchenna, and mentor Professor Fauna. But in Book 2: The Basque Dragon (co-authored by Jesse Casey) they must solve the kidnapping of a fire-breathing dragon in the mountains of Europe’s Basque County.

Including The Dragon Turn, the fifth case of The Boy Sherlock Holmes by Canadian author Shane Peacock, in this list is maybe unfair. But the mystery that teen Sherlock and Irene Doyle attempt to solve is connected to illusionist Alistair Hemsworth, who makes a very real and – for his rival magicians – very deadly dragon appear before audiences’ very eyes (just like those talented visual effects people at HBO).

YOUNG ADULT

If you’re talking YA and dragons, then you have to mention Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle. (After all, don’t you have to trust a fantasy writer who has a broadsword?) First written when Paolini was just a teen himself, the books follow poor farm boy Eragon who stumbles upon a dragon egg and – as often happens in these situations – is soon swept into a world of magic, battle, and story. The latest book set in the world of Eragon is The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, three original stories that interlock with Eragon’s epic, featuring a wanderer and a cursed child, spells and magic – and dragons, obvi.

Not to be outdone in the dragon department is Vancouver’s Rachel Hartman, who first introduced readers to the kingdom of Goredd, in which dragons can take human form and coexist in an uneasy peace with humans in the New York Times bestselling novel Seraphina and its sequel, Shadow Scale. She’s since continued her explorations of social justice and feminist in the realm of Goredd with Tess of the Road and its follow-up, In the Serpent’s Wake. Both books feature Tess and her old dragon friend, as they traverse the lands and seas.

If you like your dragons with a dose of post-revolutionary action, you want Fireborne by Rosaria Munda, a book that comes highly recommended by dragon expert Rachel Hartman. In it, Annie and Lee, just children when a brutal revolution changed their world and gave a chance to potentially enter into the governing class of dragonriders. Seven years of training have made them rivals for the top position in the dragonriding fleet (even though Annie’s family was executed by dragonfire years ago!). And if you like those dragonriding politics, you’ll love Flamefall and Furysong, the other books in the Aurelian Cycle.

And lest you get the impression that European fantasy has the copyright on dragon stuff, we recommend Elizabeth Lim’s The Dragon’s Promise, and not just as a reminder of the importance dragons have to Asian legend. The next adventure after Six Crimson Cranes (which also famously features a dragon!) sees the sorceress Princess Shiori trying to make good on a deathbed promise to return the dragon’s pearl to its rightful owner. Unfortunately, that involves journeying to the kingdom of dragons, filled with almost as many dangers as the pearl itself!

Happy reading, friends!

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra

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

Your Birthday Was the Best!
By Maggie Hutchings
Illustrated by Felicita Sala
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271623 | Tundra Books
It’s your birthday, and little do you know that an unwelcome guest has joined in on the festivities. A friendly cockroach has snuck undetected into the house, and has proceeded to join in on all of your fun party games. You were so excited to finally spot him napping on top of your birthday cake, having eaten his fill, that you couldn’t help but scream! You think he’s gone when your dad sucks him up in the vacuum cleaner . . . but with a birthday party this good, he’s going to be nearly impossible to keep away! This laugh-out-loud picture book from bestselling author Maggie Hutchings and acclaimed illustrator Felicita Sala is the perfect birthday gift for young readers.

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