Tundra Telegram: Books For Your Moment of Zen

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we talk about the subjects on readers’ minds daily, the hot news topics, and recommend some good books for young readers to continue their investigative reporting and uncover the actual facts.

Last week, on September 29, Trevor Noah announced that after seven years as the host of The Daily Show, he would step down to focus on his stand-up career. Since 2015, Noah has interviewed everyone from astronauts who were currently in space and American Vice President Kamala Harris to climate activist Greta Thunberg and noted crystal flute player Lizzo.

This week, we feature some excellent picture books, middle-grade novels, and YA from (and about) some of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah’s best guests and interviews – and, of course, we include the young readers’ edition of Noah’s memoir, Born a Crime.

PICTURE BOOKS

Noah spoke with Chelsea Clinton and her notable mother Hillary, on Halloween 2019. Among other things, you may know Clinton for her She Persisted book series, like She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, which features the stories of history-making women like Marie Curie, Viola Desmond, and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.

Misty Copeland, the first Black principal dance of the American Ballet Theatre, was on The Daily Show (on September 29, 2020) to speak with Noah about her picture book Bunheads. The picture book, illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey and partially based on Misty’s own life, tells the story of a young girl who discovers dance through the ballet Coppélia, and is inspired by its heroine Swanilda to overcome her nerve and audition though she’s never danced ballet before.

Representing the ballet of fists that takes place in the squared circle is wrestler-turned-actor John Cena, who appeared on The Daily Show back on October 1, 2020 to talk about his picture book, Elbow Grease (illustrated by Howard McWilliam). Elbow Grease is a little monster truck who is smaller than his monster truck brothers, but – through hard work and moxie – proves he has the grit it takes to crush cars and stuff.

Shortly after wowing the United States at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, poet Amanda Gorman appeared on The Daily Show (on January 27, 2021) to speak about her poem “The Hill We Climb.” Later that year, Gorman published the picture book Change Sings, illustrated by Loren Long, a poetic picture book that depicts a young girl leading a diverse group of people on a musical journey – a journey during which they make big and small changes to their world, their communities, and their selves.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has appeared on The Daily Show a few times – most recently September 16, 2019 – and has also written a few children’s books! Our favorite is Just Ask!, illustrated by Rafael López, which encourages kids to embrace their individuality by asking each other questions about those differences. Much like different kinds of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and healthy, different kinds of people make the world more wonderful.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor also adapted her memoir into a book for young readers: The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor. Within, she chronicles the difficult challenges of her childhood, growing up in the rough housing projects of the South Bronx with parents who fought and had difficulties with money, and her inspiring rise through the legal system with help along the way from mentors and the love of her extended Puerto Rican family.

Comedian Kevin Hart was literally Trevor Noah’s first guest on The Daily Show (back on September 28, 2015). Hart is known for films like Central Intelligence and Jumanji, but young readers know him best as the author of Marcus Makes a Movie, the very funny book about a boy who is determined to make a blockbuster superhero film with some help from his friends, his teachers . . . and even his enemies.

The late Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis sat down with Trevor Noah on August 8, 2016, to speak about his graphic novel series, March, illustrated by Nate Powell and co-written with Andrew Aydin. The graphic novels are a powerful memoir of Lewis’s involvement in the American civil rights struggle, moving from his youth in rural Alabama and his student activism to his work with the Freedom Riders campaign and culminating with the march from Selma to Montgomery.

Ruby Bridges was a guest on The Daily Show on November 9, 2020 some sixty years after making history as the first Black child to desegregate her all-white elementary school in Louisiana. Bridges also wrote This Is Your Time, a heavily illustrated book written to inspire readers to effect change and continue the struggle for liberty and justice.

And on January 7, 2019, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai spoke to Trevor Noah about the challenges of refugee girls. The Extraordinary Life of Malala Yousafzai by Hiba Noor Khan introduces young readers to Yousafzai, her story and her campaign for girls’ education in the Taliban-controlled area of Pakistan, as well as her more recent activism.

YOUNG ADULT

Indigenous climate activist and youth director of Earth Guardians Xiuhtezcatl Martinez appeared on The Daily Show on September 5, 2017, before writing a book that was part of the Pocket Change Collective series, Imaginary Borders, but his passion and advocacy for environmental activism was as evident in the interview as it is in this inspiring personal essay about how art and activism are forever connected in a push for change.

Though author Akwaeke Emezi was on The Daily Show back on June 1, 2022, to talk about their book You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty, you’d be the fool if you didn’t check out their YA novels – especially Pet. Named a best book of the year by multiple media outlets, it’s a genre-bending story about Jam, who discovers the monsters she was told had all disappeared are real, and one of them – Pet – has emerged from her mother’s painting. Soon Jam begins to question who the monsters are and why no one will admit they exist.

Award-winning chef Kwame Onwuachi was on The Daily Show on June 11, 2019, to promote his memoir, Notes from a Young Black Chef. The book, later adapted for young readers, follows Onwuachi from his troubled youth, for which he’s sent by his parents to his father’s home in Nigeria, then later to cook with his mom in Louisiana. He soon becomes a well-known young chef, attaining fame by the age of 27, but nevertheless is forced to grapple with just how unwelcoming the haute cuisine world can be for people of colour.

The February 10, 2020 episode of The Daily Show had Trevor Noah trading sci-fi and fantasy talk with author Tochi Onyebuchi. And if you liked his chat about dystopias, you’ll love War Girls, his YA novel about two sisters in the futuristic, war-torn Nigeria of 2172 (where people fight in flying mech suits – take note, Iron Widow lovers) who are willing to fight their way to a better future.

Finally, we have to mention the young readers adaptation of Trevor Noah’s own memoir, It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime, about growing up in Apartheid South Africa with a Black mother and white father – where it was literally against the law for a child of mixed race like him to exist.

Happy reading, news-lovers!

Christmas Reading List 2021

Christmas is coming! Get into the festive spirit with some of our new holiday faves!

20 Big Trucks in the Middle of Christmas
By Mark Lee
Illustrated by Kurt Cyrus
32 Pages | Ages 3-7  | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536212532 | Candlewick
The snowy town is filling up with a procession of trucks of all shapes and sizes, including a snowplow, a crane, a digger, a semitrailer transporting the town’s majestic Christmas tree, and even a flatbed carrying Santa’s sleigh. All in all, twenty trucks roll in full of sparkle and anticipation, ready to set up the holiday festivities. But when the star being hoisted to the top of the Christmas tree wobbles and crashes to the ground, what could possibly be used to replace it? Thankfully, a pair of siblings scan the scene and come up with the perfect solution. Author Mark Lee and illustrator Kurt Cyrus team up again for a buoyant story delivering satisfying rhymes, holiday spirit, and most importantly, twenty trucks for counting.

Christmas, Here I Come!
By D.J. Steinberg
Illustrated by Laurie Stansfield
32 Pages | Ages 4-6  | Paperback
ISBN 9780593094242 | Grosset & Dunlap
Celebrate Christmas with a collection of funny and festive poems from the author of the hugely popular Kindergarten, Here I Come! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and everyone is getting into the Christmas spirit! From writing letters to Santa to picking the perfect tree, these heartwarming poems – plus a page of stickers! – from author D. J. Steinberg are sure to delight even the most sullen Scrooge.

Dr. Seuss’s The Sounds of Grinchmas
By Dr. Seuss
14 Pages | Ages 0-3  | Board Book
ISBN 9780593433935 | Random House BFYR
Introduce little ones to one of Dr. Seuss’s most beloved characters – the Grinch! – with this adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! that’s perfect for babies and toddlers. Children will love to spot the icons, press the buttons, and listen to sounds that bring this classic Christmas story to life. Hear the Grinch’s laugh, Max’s bark, the Whos singing, and much more! With simple, rhyming text and full-color illustrations, this interactive board book is the perfect Christmas gift for a new generation of Dr. Seuss fans.

Elbow Grease Saves Christmas
By John Cena
Illustrated by Dave Aikins
16 Pages | Ages 0-3 | Board Book
ISBN 9780525646037 | Random House BFYR
‘Tis the season for holiday fun at the junkyard with Elbow Grease and his monster truck family! But when a blizzard blows in on Christmas Eve, how will Santa find them? Elbow Grease must figure out a way to make this Christmas the brightest one yet. Elbow Grease Saves Christmas is the latest addition to the #1 New York Times bestselling series from John Cena.

Grumpy Monkey Oh No! Christmas
By Suzanne Lang
Illustrated by Max Lang
32 Pages | Ages 3-7  | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593306093 | Random House Studio
It’s Christmas time in the jungle, and Jim just can’t get into the holiday spirit. Then Jim eats a “festive” green banana that makes him feel sick. Now everything seems worse. While all the other animals in the jungle are ready and eagerly awaiting Christmas, Jim can’t stop feeling that this time of year stinks. But with his good friend Norman’s help, Jim discovers that focusing on the good things around him instead of his own problems, is a reason to celebrate.

Happy NarwhalidaysHappy Narwhalidays!
(A Narwhal and Jelly Book #5)
By Ben Clanton
76 Pages | Ages 6-9  | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735262515 | Tundra Books
Dive into three new stories about Narwhal’s favorite time of the year! It’s the festive season in the world wide waters, and Narwhal is looking forward to cozying up with a good book, singing and partying with his pod pals and enjoying some warm waffle pudding. But most of all he’s excited about the arrival of the Merry Mermicorn! According to Narwhal, she’s part mermaid, part unicorn and completely mer-aculous! Jelly is of course skeptical about the existence of the “Mira-Miny-What-A Corn” . . . even when he receives a mysterious present. It must be from Narwhal. Now Jelly has to get the perfect gift, but finding a present for someone as unique as Narwhal is no easy feat, even when you have six tentacles. How will Jelly ever come up with a whaley great gift for a best pal who spreads cheer all through the year?

Jingle Bells: A Musical Instrument Song Book
By James Lord Pierpont
Illustrated by Nicola Slater
10 Pages | Ages 0-2  | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536222036 | Nosy Crow
Listen and sing along as the merry band of musicians go on a sleigh ride, playing their instruments along the way. Then join in as they all play together in the festive finale! Nicola Slater’s charming illustrations combined with real instrumental music make this sound-button board book an irresistible Christmas gift.

Merry Christmas, Anne
By Kallie George
Illustrated by Geneviève Godbout
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267183 | Tundra Books
It’s Christmas in Avonlea, and Anne is thankful for so many things: feathery frosts and silvery seas, and wreaths as round as the moon. But most of all, she’s thankful for her kindred spirits, including Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, who adopted her, and her bosom friend Diana. But Anne is distracted this holiday by having to recite at the upcoming Christmas concert. And she feels bad that her kindred spirits give her so much during the year when she has very little to give in return. Can Anne overcome her jitters and make her kindred spirits proud – and also think of a way to show her appreciation for the people she loves? With magical illustrations and a heartfelt message, this festive picture book is the perfect holiday read for Anne fans old and new and a joyous way to celebrate the season.

Mr. Boddington’s Studio: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
By Clement C. Moore
Illustrated by Mr. Boddington’s Studio
32 Pages | Ages 3-5  | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593384077 | Penguin Workshop
A perennial bestseller and timeless gift in the holiday season, multiple adaptations exist of this classic holiday tale, almost exclusively illustrated in bold classic colors. Mr. Boddington’s Studio provides a fresh take by using the same poem and updating the style with a sophisticated and modern color palette. Children and parents alike will delight in revisiting this classic holiday tale with the iconic and fresh Mr. Boddington’s style.

Santa in the City
By Tiffany D. Jackson
Illustrated by Reggie Brown
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593110256 | Dial Books
It’s two weeks before Christmas, and Deja is worried that Santa might not be able to visit her – after all, as a city kid, she doesn’t have a chimney for him to come down and none of the parking spots on her block could fit a sleigh, let alone eight reindeer! But with a little help from her family, community, and Santa himself, Deja discovers that the Christmas spirit is alive and well in her city. With bold, colorful illustrations that capture the joy of the holidays, this picture book from award-winning author Tiffany D. Jackson and illustrator Reggie Brown is not to be missed.

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.

The Real Santa
By Nancy Redd
Illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
32 Pages | Ages 4-8  | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593178140 | Random House BFYR
Join one Black family on their journey to discover what the real Santa looks like in this joyous tale celebrating identity, family and holiday cheer, from the New York Times bestselling author of Bedtime Bonnet. It’s not Christmas without Santa! But what does Santa truly look like? Does he match the figurines on the mantel, or the faces on our favorite holiday sweaters? Does he look like you or like me? Find out in this joyous and cozy celebration of family, representation, and holiday spirit! Destined to be a new classic, and perfect for any child looking to see some of themself in Santa Claus.

Tiny Reindeer
By Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271180 | Tundra Books
Santa and his reindeer are getting ready for Christmas, but Tiny Reindeer is too small to join in! Santa knows that a nudge in the right direction could change Tiny’s life forever. When Tiny discovers a letter from a bereft little girl who is wishing for a tiny reindeer to match her grandfather’s final gift, a hand-carved tiny sleigh, Tiny realizes that this might be his big chance. But will he have the courage to take a (literal) leap into the unknown? And what can Santa do to help? This picture book is a sweet, funny and heartfelt look at being different and feeling too small to matter, and reassures readers that even the smallest gift – whether it’s a tiny reindeer or a seemingly small opportunity to help – can bring lots of joy.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
By Clement C. Moore
Illustrated by P.J. Lynch
32 Pages | Ages 3-7  | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536222852 | Candlewick
P.J. Lynch brings his rich and atmospheric art to the well-loved holiday poem. Children will pore over every cozy detail in these warm, sweeping watercolor illustrations – from snug mice to stockings hung by the chimney with care to toys in the bundle flung over merry St. Nicholas’s back. A glowing interpretation of a favorite read-aloud, this is a keepsake volume to cherish and return to year after year.

Where’s Waldo? Santa Spotlight Search
By Martin Handford
16 Pages | Ages 5-9  | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536220131 | Candlewick
Shake your sleigh bells, pull on your holiday sweater, and join in the festive madness! These night-time scenes are bustling with Santas getting ready for Christmas Eve. With the help of a magic slider to light up one spot at a time, can you find some very specific Santas – like the one whose stocking is threadbare? Or the ones who are slimmer than most? And by the way, where are Waldo and all his friends – Wenda, Odlaw, Wizard Whitebeard, and Woof? Featuring super-challenging searches as well as puzzles and games, Santa’s Spotlight Search promises many hours of merriment for seasoned Waldo fans and new followers alike.