Tundra Telegram: Books That You Should Never Ever Put Down

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we talk about things that are our current mood, and recommend some sick books you might low-key love.

We’re cheating a little this week by talking about yet another Netflix television series, but the entire Tundra team was just too excited for the return of one of the funniest teen comedy-dramas in some time, Never Have I Ever, to avoid it. And as star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan hails from Mississauga, Ontario, our Canadian pride was just too strong to resist. Plus, there are so few children’s books about heads of state taking classified documents.

Resultingly, this week we’re recommending picture books, middle-grade titles and – perhaps most fittingly – YA that connect, in one way or another, to the popular teen comedy series chronicling the victories and embarrassments of Sherman Oaks high school student Devi Vishwakumar. Read on, fellow Coyote Girls and Boys.

PICTURE BOOKS

We’re sure that Devi (and the actor who plays her, Maitreyi) can relate to Mirha, the protagonist of picture book That’s Not My Name!, written and illustrated by Torontonian Anoosha Syed. Mirha’s classmates mispronounce her name, she can’t find a monogrammed keychain at the gas station, and begins to wonder if she should find a new one until Mama helps her see how special her name is.

Whether it’s grief that causes temporary paralysis or a volcanic anger that leads to verbal altercations with her mother and declaring nuclear war at model U.N., one thing Devi has is Big Feelings, which is also the name of a picture book by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman. The book, much like Devi’s therapist Jamie Ryan, helps children’ navigate life when they feel mad, frustrated, or overwhelmed.

This isn’t a spoiler, as Never Have I Ever essentially opens with the death of Devi’s father, Mohan, but a lot of the emotional challenges Devi faces are traced back to the loss of a parent. Many Shapes of Clay: A Story of Healing by Kenesha Sneed uses ceramics to tell the story of a mother and son (Eisha), coping with a lost father. Eisha learns to live with the sense of loss and of the joyful power of making something new out of what is left behind (even if it’s just a single voice mail).

More than a few times Devi’s father’s death has manifested itself in her dreams, which reminds us of another wonderful book about grief for young readers, A Garden of Creatures by Sheila Heti and Esmé Shapiro. After a bunny and cat lose their fellow garden friend, the big bunny, a strange dream prompts the smaller bunny to begin asking questions big questions about death. Along those same lines, Lost in the Clouds by Tom Tinn-Disbury, part of the new series, Difficult Conversations for Children, acts as a guide to talking to young kids about grief, as it follows Billy and his father while they navigate the loss of Billy’s mother

Never Have I Ever also makes us happy as it features a main character who is the romantic interest of several appealing suitors – and she has body hair. It reminds us of Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Anand and Nabi H. Ali, in which young Indian-American girl Laxmi falls in love with the hair on her upper lip, her arms, legs, and between her eyebrows!

The show wouldn’t be the same without the incredible narration from tennis star John McEnroe. Not only do McEnroe and Devi share a reputation for hot tempers, Devi’s story has sentimental connections to the tennis star. For a picture book that combines tennis greatness, temporary debilitating injuries, and social-emotional learning, you have to check out former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu’s Bibi’s Got Game, co-written by Mary Beth Leatherdale and illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrne.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

One element we haven’t dwelled on much yet is how uproariously funny Never Have I Ever is. Need another hit of humor? Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever. has got you covered. Edited by Betsy Bird and featuring hilarious stories by Cece Bell, Libba Bray, Raina Telgemeier, and many more – all featuring funny girl friends (not unlike Devi, Eleanor, and Fabiola).

For a book that more precisely marries comedy with the challenges of being a second-generation teenager in America, try Jessica Kim’s beloved Stand Up, Yumi Chung! Yumi, a shy outsider whose parents run a Korean barbecue restaurant, plots to become a stand-up comedian (under a false identity) while she’s supposed to be studying for a private school scholarship. Like Never Have I Ever, it’s a charming story with bighearted characters.

In The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller, Natalie and her friends’ interest in science may be more of a Fabiola thing than a Devi one . But it’s a funny story about three friends who hope to use science to win an egg-drop contest in order to get Natalie’s mom out of a depression funk. And, like much of the show, it’s all about a kid learning their mother is a real person, too!

And though the protagonist of The Secret Diary of Mona Hasan by Salma Hussain is a first-generation immigrant (from Dubai), and lives about 30 years before Devi’s story, we think there are definitely similarities. It features a headstrong young girl who falls in love and deflects from big problems with humor: “We didn’t even get any days off school!” she notes, when talking about the first Persian Gulf War.

YOUNG ADULT

Debate club? Witty banter? A headstrong brown girl fighting back against some anti-Indian online memes. High school romance? While those sound like the ingredients of an episode of Never Have I Ever, they also describe the new YA novel TJ Powar Has Something to Prove by Canadian Jesmeen Kaur Deo, in which a pretty, popular debater, TJ, sets out to demonstrate she can let her body hair grow naturally and still be beautiful.

Academic high-achieving rivals to lovers – shades of Devi and Ben Gross – Kavya and Ian anchor Beauty and the Besharam by Lillie Vale. Kavya has always been told she’s a little too ambitious, a little too mouthy, and a little too much – or besharam (remind you of any TV characters?). But when she’s cast as Ariel in a job that supplies Disney princesses to children’s birthday parties, and her academic rival Ian is cast as Prince Eric? You know what happens next!

With a teen romance in the robotics club, My Mechanical Romance by Alexene Farol Follmuth falls more into the Fabiola territory. But like Devi, protagonist Bel has no interest in robotics or engineering (even if she’s good at it), until handsome Mateo Luna (the book’s Paxton Hall-Yoshida), captain of the robotics club, insists they need her talent.

While there’s a conspicuous lack of Bollywood content on Never Have I Ever, we still feel Nisha Sharma’s very funny romance My So-Called Bollywood Life should be included with our recommendations. Sure, Winnie Mehta is obsessed with Bollywood films and Devi shows no interest in them, but they both experience romantic disaster with comic results and are feisty, second-generation heroines readers will root for.

Frankly in Love by David Yoon is the story of Frank Li, who – like Devi – is a teenager living in Southern California and is torn between the more traditional expectations of his family (who sacrificed a lot to raise him in the U.S.A.) and his strong desire to live the life of a “regular American teen” – and that includes dating a white girl. Plus, like Devi’s cousin Kamala, he winds up in a fake relationship within his culture that turns out to be something more.

And Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi, follows Parvin Mohammadi, a bassoon-playing, frizzy-haired, Cheeto-eating Iranian-American who’s just been very publicly dumped. But she’s got a scheme to solve all her problems with dating the hottest boy in school, Matty Fumero. She just has to study rom-coms and be the perfect dream girl. But over the course of the book she learns, as Devi so often does, that to get the boy, you just have to be yourself.

Happy reading, friends!

YA Mondays: Frankly in Love Contest

Welcome to December! We want to make sure your holiday season is off to a great start so we’re giving you a chance to win a finished copy of Frankly in Love signed by David Yoon himself! All you have to do is follow @PenguinTeenCa, like the contest photo, and comment with an account you’re frankly in love with! Bonus entry: share the contest in your stories and tag us!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between December 2, 2019 and December 7, 2019. Open to residents of Canada (excluding Quebec) who have reached the age of majority in their province or territory of residence at time of entry. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. See Official Rules here for full details.

Putting the YA in FRIYAY: Indigo’s Best Books for Teens

A while back, Indigo released their 2019 Best Books for Teens list, and we’re stoked to see so many of our faves made the cut! There are books that were on our #Penguin10 list, as well as a few that were included in our #FantasyFriday and #SciFiSaturday campaigns (and even one that was part of #IRLWednesday!), not to mention some we just love in general! How many have you read?

Frankly in Love
By David Yoon
ISBN 9781984812209
14+ | Putnam BFYR

Two friends. One fake dating scheme. What could possibly go wrong? In this moving debut novel, David Yoon takes on the question of who am I? with a result that is humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately unforgettable.

Two Can Keep a Secret
By Karen M. McManus
ISBN 9781524714727
14+ | Delacorte Press

Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there – and suddenly another girl goes missing.

Wilder Girls
By Rory Power
ISBN 9780525645580
14+ | Delacorte Press

A feminist Lord of the Flies about three best friends living in quarantine at their island boarding school, and the lengths they go to uncover the truth of their confinement when one disappears.

Spin the Dawn
By Elizabeth Lim
ISBN 9780525646990
12+ | Knopf BFYR

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Aurora Rising
By Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
ISBN 9781524720964
12+ | Knopf BFYR

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but he’s stuck with the dregs nobody else in the academy would touch…not to mention Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space.

The Beautiful
By Renée Ahdieh
ISBN 9781524738174
12+ | Putnam BFYR

New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with a sumptuous, sultry and romantic new series set in 19th century New Orleans where vampires hide in plain sight.

The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust, Volume 2)
By Philip Pullman
ISBN 9780553510669
14+ | Knopf BFYR

The windows between the many worlds have been sealed and the momentous adventures of Lyra Silvertongue’s youth are long behind her—or so she thought.

Four Dead Queens
By Astrid Scholte
ISBN 9780525513926
12+ | Putnam BFYR

Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she’s, in fact, one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar who soon finds herself entangled in a conspiracy that leaves the four queens of Quadara dead.

The Things She’s Seen
By Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina
ISBN 9781984848789
12+ | Knopf BFYR

Nothing’s been the same for Beth Teller since the day she died. Her dad is the only one who can see her and she needs his help to solve a mystery and get him out of his grief.

Blood Heir
By Amélie Wen Zhao
ISBN 9780525707790
12+ | Delacorte Press

This hot debut, perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone and An Ember in the Ashes, is the first book in an epic new series about a princess hiding a dark secret and the con man she must trust to clear her name for her father’s murder.

How to Make Friends with the Dark
By Kathleen Glasgow
ISBN 9781101934753
14+ | Delacorte Press

That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.

American Royals
By Katharine McGee
ISBN 9781984830173
14+ | Random House BFYR

Two princesses vying for the ultimate crown. Two girls vying for the prince’s heart. This is the story of the American royals.

Gravemaidens
By Kelly Coon
ISBN 9780525647829
14+ | Delacorte Press

The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave.

 

Putting the YA in FRIYAY: Introducing the Penguin 10

Calling all YA readers! We’re excited to introduce you to the only books you need to read this fall – the PENGUIN 10! From contemporary to fantasy, thriller to historical, we have something for everyone and we can’t wait to share these fantastic reads with you starting in September.

Follow along on social media using #Penguin10 to see what other people think!

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