Tundra Telegram: Books that Spill the Majes(tea)

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we dig into the topics buried in our readers’ psyches and recommend some recent great books to continue the discussion.

The top of everyone’s mind this past weekend: what is a Platinum Jubilee?! Royal watchers don’t need an explainer, but if you’re an anti-monarchist like your humble author, you may have wondered what exactly was all the highborn hubbub. Well, the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II was celebrated from June 3 to 6 in the United Kingdom and the rest of the Commonwealth of Nations (though in some former colonies, markedly less so!) to mark the 70th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne (way back in 1952).

And what a celebration it was, with commemorative coins being minted, Prime Ministers being booed (a substantial amount), Corgi drone lightshows, and – of course – the Queen meeting Paddington Bear. But whether you are as jazzed for the Jubilee as viral cyclist Steve, or as royally ticked off as four-year-old Prince Louis, we’ve got some Platinum-Jubilee-appropriate reading for you.

PICTURE BOOKS

Without a doubt, the most fitting picture book is one that isn’t out until July 12: Queen Elizabeth: A Platinum Jubilee Celebration. This is an official, real-deal Platinum Jubilee souvenir. An illustrated history book for children, you will find everything from the Crown to the Corgis detailed here, as well as a poster, a Royal Family tree, four UK nation timelines and more!

A flap book fit for royalty, Nosy Crow’s Where’s the Queen?, illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius, features illustrated spreads set in England that include a police officer (bobby), a bus (or lorry) driver, and the Queen herself all hiding behind bright felt flap! And when the Jubilee goers were watching a hologram of Elizabeth II this past weekend, they were probably looking under every felt flap for the genuine article!

Less about the British royals and more an insight into their personalities, His Royal Highness, King Baby by Sally Lloyd-Jones and David Roberts tell a story of sibling rivalry, as an older sister (“the most beautifulest, cleverest, ever so kindest Princess”) deals with her family fawning over her burping, crying new brother, whom she has dubbed His Royal Highness, King Baby.

If the Platinum Jubilee is one thing, it’s overwhelmingly white. But your own Platinum Jubilee reading celebrations need not be. Check out Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s The Queen of Kindergarten, in which MJ prepares for her first day of kindergarten, with her hair freshly braided and her mom’s special tiara on her head. She knows she’s going to rock kindergarten, and your young readers will finish the book with that same confidence.

One of our favourite illustrators, Júlia Sardà (Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein) both writes and draws The Queen in the Cave, which is not a Paw Patrol episode featuring Her Majesty, but rather a story in which a young girl dreams about a queen who lives in a dark cave, deep in the forest. She and her younger sisters venture into the forest to see if her dreams are true, and must face dangers and fears along the way. And what they find in the cave is more unexpected than the Queen being projected on Stonehenge.

Though the queen in Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox and Brian Floca may share a name with the British monarch, there is something different about this Liz. She’s an elephant seal who decides to make her home in Christchurch, New Zealand (insert colonialism joke here) and – no matter how far away at sea the locals take her – won’t leave the water bodies of Christchurch.

And though we know she’s no longer performing royal duties, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include the picture book by Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex on this list. The Bench, illustrated by Christian Robinson, is not only a beautiful book about the special relationship between father and son (perfect for Father’s Day), it’s also a great place to sit and watch a Platinum Jubilee parade.

MIDDLE GRADE

Readers who want to know the real story that led up to this year’s Platinum Jubilee should read Who Is Queen Elizabeth II? by Megan Stine and Laurie A. Conley, part of the Who Was? Series. The biography tells how a little girl who loved horses (though I think there’s more involved than that – so many horse girls were passed over the crown) become the longest reigning monarch in England’s history.

And in Megan McDonald‘s Judy Moody and the Right Royal Tea Party illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, Grandma Lou and Judy dig up some proof that some old-timey Moodys lived in merry olde England – and Judy might even be related to the Queen herself! Move over, William and Harry; Judy Moody is taking her place in the peerage!

If that doesn’t sound wacky enough a take on the Queen for you, maybe Royal Family Mad Libs by Stacey Wasserman is up your alley. You’ll just need to write in the missing words on each page to create your own hilariously funny stories all about the royal family – it’s basically what the journalists do at The Daily Mirror!

Technically this book is probably better for fans of Jeopardy! Champion Mattea Roach than Queen Elizabeth II, but Her Majesty is often the subject of trivia questions herself (like, who are the six people mentioned in Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” who are still alive?). Donna Gephart’s Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen follows Olivia as she tries to become a contestant during the game show’s kids’ week – not only to prove her trivia knowledge, but to see her day, who left two years ago and lives nearby in California with his new family.

The delightful graphic novel Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis is not about the Queen of England, but the exiled Queen of Albion (which is kind of the same thing) and her friendship with orphan girl Margaret, who both find themselves on a tiny island of nuns, with a secret purpose that will (honestly) blow your mind.

And for a very different kind of queen, pick up Middle School’s a Drag, You Better Werk! by Greg Howard. Twelve-year-old Mikey Pruitt, budding entrepreneur, starts a junior talent agency and hires a thirteen-year-old aspiring drag queen, Coco Caliente, as his first client. HRH could never!

YOUNG ADULT

If you found yourself reading about the Diamond Jubilee and wondered what it would be like if America had a royal family, you need to check out Katharine McGee’s YA novel American Royals, in which George Washington was crowned king after the Revolutionary War, and readers follow Princesses Beatrice and Samantha as they both vie for the crown, plus handsome Prince Jefferson as he is pursued by various female suitors. To continue the story, check out Majesty and Rivals, and the prequel novella, Inheritance.

In the same vein, you’ll love the “Royals” duology of Prince Charming and Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins. Daisy Winters is a sixteen-year-old Floridian with a part time job at a bootleg Walmart, and a perfect older sister who’s nearly engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. Relentless tabloid attention forces her join her sister at the Prince’s secluded castle where a young man named Miles has been assigned to My Fair Lady her, while the Prince’s younger brother tries to start a scandal with her. Regally romantic sparks fly!

And in a YA novel ripped from historic royal headlines comes My Name Is Victoria by Lucy Worsley. The protagonist is Miss V. Conroy, who is sent to Kensington Palace to become the companion to (then) Princess Victoria. If you’ve ever wondered what the (before Elizabeth II) longest reigning Queen of England was like as a teenager, crack this one open!

In Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin, one girl must make a name for herself in this royal fantasy where an unknown peasant becomes the ultimate ruler (over the king’s own daughter)! You’d never catch that happening in the United Kingdom! But how long can she keep the crown if everyone wants her dead?

Speaking of regicide, you’ve got options if that’s your thing (we’ll keep this conversation between us). Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte is a twisty murder mystery fantasy about the four queens of Quadara being murdered – and the talented pickpocket, Keralie, who discovers a video of the murder. And Pretty Dead Queens by Alexa Donne follows Cecelia Ellis as she tries to solve the copycat murders, decades apart, of the homecoming queens at Seaview High.

No doubt there have been a few times when Elizabeth II has wished she had her own hit squad, so she’d probably enjoy The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa De La Cruz. In it, Caledon Holt, the kingdom’s deadliest weapon must join forces with Shadow of the Honey Glade, who is expected to serve as a lady of the court, but is training to be an assassin like Cal. Chase that one with the follow-up, The Queen’s Secret (I guess the assassin isn’t the secret).

Finally, Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn may not feature any royalty by blood, but Amandla, who is a Black South African, digs into the history of her mysterious mother, who is white (and has prophetic visions), taking along her friends. And what they uncover involves more complex investigations of race, family, friendship, belonging, poverty, and love than four seasons of The Crown!

Books Featuring Witches

Now that spooky season is almost upon is, it’s time to magic up a list of our fave witchy books. But be warned: they’ll put a spell on you!

Aster and the Accidental Magic
By Thom Pico
Illustrated by Karensac
224 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780593118849 | Random House Graphic
Quiet . . . birds . . . nature. . . . That’s what Aster expects when her parents move their whole family to the middle of nowhere. It’s just her (status: super-bored), her mom and dad (status: busy with science), her brother (status: has other plans), and . . . magic? In her new home, Aster meets a mysterious old woman with a herd of dogs who gives her a canine companion of her own. But when she and her dog Buzz are adventuring in the forest, they run into a trickster spirit who gives Aster three wishes. After wishing for the ability to understand and talk to her dog, she becomes only able to talk in dog language . . . and the trouble she gets into is just starting. Maybe the middle of nowhere will be more interesting than Aster thought.

Escape to Witch City
By E. Latimer
312 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101919316 | Tundra Books
Emmaline Black has a secret. She can hear the rhythm of heartbeats. Not just her own, but others’ too. It’s a rhythm she’s learned to control, and that can only mean one thing . . . Emma’s a witch. In a world where a sentence of witchcraft comes with dire consequences and all children who have reached the age of thirteen are tested to ensure they have no witch blood, Emma must attempt to stamp out her power before her own test comes. But the more she researches, the more she begins to suspect that her radically anti-witch aunt and mother are hiding something – the truth about their sister, her Aunt Lenore, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances years ago. The day of the test comes, and Emma’s results not only pair her up with strange new friends, but set her on a course to challenge everything she’s ever been taught about magic, and reveal long-buried family secrets. It seems witches may not have been so easy to banish after all. Secret cities, untapped powers, missing family members – Emma is about to discover a whole new world.

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 . . .

Little Witch Hazel
By Phoebe Wahl
96 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264892 | Tundra Books
Little Witch Hazel is a tiny witch who lives in the forest, helping creatures big and small. She’s a midwife, an intrepid explorer, a hard worker and a kind friend. In this four-season volume, Little Witch Hazel rescues an orphaned egg, goes sailing on a raft, solves the mystery of a haunted stump and makes house calls to fellow forest dwellers. But when Little Witch Hazel needs help herself, will she get it in time? Little Witch Hazel is a beautiful ode to nature, friendship, wild things and the seasons that only Phoebe Wahl could create: an instant classic and a book that readers will pore over time and time again.

Merry Witchmas
By Petrell Ozbay and Tess LaBella
Illustrated by Sonya Abby
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781635923186 | Boyds Mills Press
Ginger spends a lot of her time creating spells, and flying through the night on her broom. But she is different from the other witches – because she also ADORES Christmas! Even with Ginger’s good deeds and endless Christmas cheer, she’s never received a single visit from Santa. What’s a Christmas-loving Halloween witch supposed to do? In this twist on the Christmas holiday’s traditional “believe” concept, Ginger’s wish of a Merry Witchmas comes true thanks to some holiday magic and good cheer.

River Magic
By Ellen Booraem
256 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525428046 | Dial Books
Donna’s always liked her life by the river – that is, until her beloved aunt Annabelle died in a tragic kayaking accident. Now money’s tight, her mom works all the time, and her best friend, Rachel, would rather hang out with her basketball teammates than with Donna. When a strange old woman moves in next door and hires Donna to clean part-time, she figures this is the perfect chance to get over her friendship troubles and help her family out – especially since the woman pays in gold. Turns out, Donna’s new neighbor is an ancient, ornery thunder mage, and it doesn’t take much to make her angry. Before Donna knows it, Rachel is in danger and Donna’s family is about to lose their home. To save the day, Donna will need the help of a quirky new friend and the basketball team . . . plus the mysterious, powerful creature lurking in the river.

The Hungry Ghosts
By Miguel Flores
336 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780451479785 | Viking BFYR
Witches have been banned from Arrett for years. Which is why Milly has tried to ignore the tingling light that appears in her palm anytime she conjures up a wish. She has too many responsibilities as the oldest girl at St. George’s Orphanage to get caught up in magicks. Sweet, quirky Cilla, though, has always longed for that power, even if it could be dangerous for her. Milly has always kept an eye out for her, but then, in a case of mistaken identity, Cilla is kidnapped by an angry, exiled witch who believes she’s the one with magicks – not Milly. Desperate to bring Cilla back to St. George’s, Milly sets out to find her with a sarcastic young Wind stuck in the form of a cat as her companion. Along the way, they meet an independent young broomstick and gentle giant – and a whole world Milly has never seen before. As she searches high and low for Cilla, one thing becomes clear: she’ll have to face the stirrings of forbidden magicks inside herself in order to rescue a friend who has become more like a sister.

The Legend of the Christmas Witch
By Dan Murphy and Aubrey Plaza
Illustrated by Julia Iredale
56 Pages | Ages 5-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593350805 | Viking BFYR
Gather ‘round the fire to hear a Christmas legend that has never been told before . . . until now. Each year a mysterious figure sweeps into town, leaving behind strange gifts in the night. No, not Santa Claus, but his sister . . . The Christmas Witch. Her story begins many, many years ago when her brother was torn away from her as a child. Raised alone by a witch of the woods, Kristtōrn’s powers of magic grew, as did her temper. Determined to find her long lost twin, she set out on a perilous journey across oceans to find him. But what she found instead was a deep-seated fear of her powers and a confrontation that would leave the fate of Christmas hanging in the balance.

There’s a Witch in Your Book
By Tom Fletcher
Illustrated by Greg Abbott
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593125151 | Random House BFYR
A grumpy little witch has thrown a magic spell at you! If you can capture it, you can use your finger wand to make magic yourself in this interactive book. But, be careful! Your bewitched finger wand might be more powerful than you think! Look for Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott’s companion books for more read-aloud fun: There’s a Dragon in Your BookThere’s an Elf in Your BookThere’s an Alien in Your Book, and There’s a Superhero in Your Book!

Twitchy Witchy Itch
By Priscilla Tey
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780763689810 | Candlewick
Itch the witch is having company over for tea. As the clock counts down to tea o’clock, Itch’s mind is in a tizzy: is her house too twitchy? Is her home too itchy? Zipping and zooming, dusting and brooming, Itch sweeps and bewitches the mess away (just in the nick of time). But as soon as her two guests walk in, Itch’s housekeeping comes unraveled. How will Itch tame such an itchy, glitchy, fidgety mess? Rising star Priscilla Tey uses computer-aided design (and evokes familiar computer glitches) to present a delightfully meta, intricately illustrated story that dazzles as it amuses.

Where’s the Witch?
Illustrated by Ingela P Arrhenius
10 Pages | Ages 0-2 | Board Book
ISBN 9781536207538 | Nosy Crow
Gently spooky creatures hide behind bright felt flaps in this Halloween offering. A perfect book to share with very little ones. Five stylishly illustrated spreads show a series of gently spooky creatures hiding behind bright felt flaps in this Halloween offering. A mirror on the final spread makes for a satisfying ending to the book’s search-and-find inquiries. A perfect book to share with very little ones.

Witches of Brooklyn
By Sophie Escabasse
240 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780593119273 | Random House Graphic
Could there really be witches in Brooklyn?! Effie’s aunts are weird. Like, really WEIRD. Really, really, really WEIRD! The secretly-magic kind of weird and that makes Effie wonder . . . does this mean she can do magic, too? Life in Brooklyn takes a strange twist for Effie as she learns more about her family and herself. With new friends who will do whatever they can to be there for her, a cursed pop-star, and her magically-inclined aunts – Effie’s life is about to get interesting.

Books Featuring Chickens

September is National Chicken Month – here are some egg-cellent books to celebrate!

Arithmechicks Take Away
By Ann Marie Stephens
Illustrated by Jia Liu
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781629798080 | Boyd Mills Press
The Arithmechicks have invited their new friend Mouse for a sleepover. When Mama says it’s time for bed, the clever chicks decide it’s time to prolong the fun instead! During the story, readers are invited to count and take away during everyone’s favorite game of hide-and-seek – and to find Mouse, who hides in a different place in each illustration – until all settle down for bed in the warm, cozy conclusion. The book is the perfect introduction to essential math for young children and their caregivers. It includes a helpful glossary that defines the eight arithmetic strategies the chicks use throughout the story.

Count Your Chickens
By Jo Ellen Bogart
Illustrated by Lori Joy Smith
24 Pages | Ages 0-3 | Board Book
ISBN 9780735267138 | Tundra Books
Follow a family of chickens as they prepare for their big outing. You’ll see chickens wondering what to wear, baking pies, painting their toes and knitting socks. A stroll through town reveals that everyone else is excited for the festivities too. There are so many sights to see! Over there we see racers sprinting to the finish line. Over here, farmers showing off their best crops. Clowns, entertainers and musicians take the stage. And don’t forget the rides: the Ferris wheel, super slide and merry-go-round. Grab some cotton candy and popcorn, because this very silly book will entertain and challenge young readers with searching and counting elements.

Ergo
By Alexis Deacon
Illustrated by Viviane Schwarz
40 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536217803 | Candlewick
Ergo wakes up and sets off to explore the world. The first things she discovers are her toes. Wiggle, wiggle. Then she finds her wings. Flap, flap. Then her beak. And her legs. She has discovered everything! I am the world and the world is me, she thinks. Until she considers the wall around her. Is that part of her, too? And is that noise from beyond the wall . . . something else? At once humorous and inspirational, this lighthearted foray by Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz is for dreamers and philosophers, the foolish and the enlightened – a picture book experience told with simplicity and style.

Gladys the Magic Chicken
By Adam Rubin
Illustrated by Adam Rex
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593325605 | Putnam BFYR
Gladys the chicken must be magic. After all, for everyone who encounters her, a wish is granted. The Shepherd Boy wishes to be beautiful, the Brave Swordsman wishes to join the Royal Guard, the Purple Pooh-bah wishes for his only daughter to be happy, and the Learned Princess wishes to escape the palace. And one by one, each of these wishes comes true. But . . . is Gladys really magic? Or is everyone making their own fortune? Either way, it adds up to one heck of an adventure for a chicken named Gladys. Blending a classic storybook feel with a thoroughly modern sense of humor, this side-splitting read aloud is perfect for anyone who wishes to see magic in the world – even if they are only looking at a chicken.

Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast
By David Ezra Stein
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536207781 | Candlewick
It’s bright and early on a Saturday morning, and the little red chicken wants cookies for breakfast. What better way to persuade Papa than by jarring him awake and gleefully interjecting cookies – and herself! – into every nursery rhyme they read together? Though the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe heartily endorses the little red chicken’s plan, Papa has his own idea for a sweet breakfast for his determined daughter. Featuring the same riotous charm and bright, bold art as Interrupting Chicken and Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise, David Ezra Stein’s third installment will have any fan with a sweet tooth and a love of meta rhyme clamoring to find out: will the early bird get the cookie?

More Than Fluff
By Madeline Valentine
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593179055 | Knopf BFYR
Daisy happens to be fluffy – she’s a young chick after all. Her friends can’t help but want to pet her, squeeze her, and tell her how cute she is. But Daisy doesn’t want to be hugged or kissed. She’s not just fluff; Daisy has substance! But how can she tell everyone to give her some space without hurting their feelings? A timely and funny book that encourages kids to establish and respect boundaries – perfect for reading aloud and shared story time!

On the Farm
By David Elliott
Illustrated by Holly Meade
34 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Board Book
ISBN 9781536218152 | Candlewick
From the bull to the barn cat to the wild bunny, the farmyard bustles with life. The rooster crows, the rams clash, the bees buzz, and over there in the garden, a snake – silent and alone – winds and watches. David Elliott’s graceful, simple verse and Holly Meade’s exquisite woodcut and watercolor illustrations capture a world that is at once timeless yet disappearing from view – the world of the family farm.

Poultrygeist
By Eric Geron
Illustrated by Pete Oswald
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536210507 | Candlewick
It’s punny. It’s spooky. It’s a meta picture book that puts a fresh spin on an old joke and elevates chicken comedy to ghastly new levels. A little spring chicken crosses the road but quickly gets flattened under a semitruck. The barnyard beasts who’ve gone before break the news: now that Chicken’s fried – dispatched to the Other Side – Chicken has a job, an unwanted job, as a noisy troublemaking ghost. This fowl may be weak in the beak, but Chicken knows that scaring people isn’t nice. There is such a thing as a friendly ghost, after all – isn’t there? Loaded with laughs and shivers, this Halloween-ready treat features ghoulishly funny art by the illustrator of the #1 New York Times best-selling Bad Seed series. Let the haunting begin! No chickens were harmed in the making of this book.

Sonya’s Chickens
By Phoebe Wahl
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Paperback
ISBN 9781770497900 | Tundra Books
Sonya raises her three chickens from the time they are tiny chicks. She feeds them, shelters them and loves them. Everywhere Sonya goes, her chicks are peeping at her heels. Under her care, the chicks grow into hens and even give Sonya a wonderful gift: an egg! One night, Sonya hears noises coming from the chicken coop and discovers that one of her hens has disappeared. Where did the hen go? What happened to her? When Sonya discovers the answers, she learns some important truths about the interconnectedness of nature and the true joys and sorrows of caring for another creature.

Where’s the Chick?
Illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius
10 Pages | Ages 0-2 | Board Book
ISBN 9781536207514 | Nosy Crow
Five beautifully illustrated spreads show a series of baby animals hiding behind bright felt flaps. With a mirror on the final page, this is a perfect book to share with very little ones.