Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we dig deep into the things that are wobblin’ all your jaws, and recommend some great books to spur further discussion.
Giddy-up, pardners! The Calgary Stampede opens July 8 with a rip-roarin’ Stampede Parade (led by none other than Dances with Wolves and Yellowstone star Kevin Costner), and is followed by over a week of rodeos, powwows, and country-western music. It’s an annual celebration of all things Western, and so we thought we’d put a bee in your bonnet to read up on the subject. We’ve got Westerns, we’ve got books about cowboys, cowgirls, broncs, and colts.
So, don’t be a bad egg or a yellow belly. Take some of our recommendations below of stories that are in apple pie order. Save a horse, read a cowboy!
Even the toughest cowpoke needs their shut-eye. So, grab a bedroll, a lammy, and a copy of Good Night, Cowboys by Adam Gamble, Mark Jasper, and Joe Veno. Take in some horses, steer-roping, lassos, cowboy chow, ghost towns, cattle drives, square dancing, and more as you drift off to sleep.
Before he was known for “Montero” and “Industry Baby,” Lil Nas X was the man behind hit country-western single “Old Town Road.” He is also the writer of C Is for Country, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, an alphabet book that equally celebrates the cowboy lifestyle (“B is for boots”) and being fabulous (“F is for feathers. And fringe. And fake fur.”).
In 2022, for the first time in its 110-year history, the Calgary Stampede will host a competitive powwow, as dancers from across North America will show off their talents – all thanks to one couple! Before you check it out, read Traci Sorell and Madelyn Goodnight’s Powwow Day, as River risks missing her powwow due to illness.
You can’t have the Stampede without horses, and author Kelly Cooper is an author who has a way with child-horse friendships. If a Horse Had Words, illustrated by Lucy Eldridge, is a story about the friendship between a boy and a horse, following their relationship from the day the horse is born, to when she is sent to auction, to the day she and the boy are reunited at a rodeo where she has become a bronc and he a cowboy. And in Midnight and Moon, illustrated by Daniel Miyares, a girl who doesn’t fit in befriends a blind horse who also struggles to find his place.
Cooper’s work is poetic, but The Horse’s Haiku by Michael J. Rose and Stan Fellows is literal poetry: it’s a series of haiku celebrating the beauty of horses whether they’re peacefully grazing or running full-tilt. (Tragically, no haiku devoted to a mustang making a cowboy chew gravel.)
And yes, the Stampede even has the dangerous and sometimes-controversial sport of bull riding. While those bulls may be angry, their rage pales to that seen in Petal the Angry Cow by Maureen Fergus and Olga Demidova. Petal is a thoughtful cow with a VERY big temper, and young readers will learn a few things as she attempts to manage her frustrations in this very funny book (which features absolutely no rodeo clowns).
CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE
Hello, Horse by Vivian French and Catherine Rayner is an introduction to horse-riding – a combination of fiction and facts about horses . A boy is introduced to horses by his friend Catherine, who teaches him how to talk to a horse quietly, how to feed her carrots, how to lead her across a field. But is he really ready to climb up on the horse’s back and take a ride?
And Mean Girls meets Black Beauty in Horse Girl by Carrie Seim, a funny middle-grade novel about the awkward Wills who attempts to enter the stuck-up #HorseGirl world of the prestigious Oakwood Riding Academy.
Concrete Cowboy is maybe best known as the movie in which overly attractive actor Idris Elba plays a cowboy. But first it was the book Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri and illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson, in which a teen named Cole moves in with the dad he never knew and learns about the Cowboy Way and justice from his fellow Black urban riders of Philly. There’s also a sequel, Polo Cowboy, in which Cole starts working as a stable hand for the polo team at the very white George Washington Military Academy, and tries his hand at the sport.
Samantha is a Chinese girl in Missouri, 1849. Annamae has escaped slavery. The two meet at a crime scene they’re implicated in, and flee for the West, along the Oregon Trail in Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky. And not unlike the computer game, the Trail is full of dangers, so the two disguise themselves as boys . . . until Samantha starts to fall in love with a cowboy. Under a Painted Sky is an Old West tale of love and friendship.
The setting isn’t the Old West in The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud – it’s a future England. But the book has bank robberies, shoot-outs, and renegades on the run, so we’re calling it a Future British take on the Western. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a rollicking series opener with varmints readers root for.
And The Perfect Horse by Elizabeth Letts is a true story about the lengths any cowboy would go to save a horse – but it takes place in World War II. A small American troop crosses enemy lines to save some of the world’s most treasured horses, kidnapped by Hitler and hidden in a secret Czechoslovakian breeding farm. It’s like The Horse Whisperer meets Saving Private Ryan.
The Fiddlehead: Atlantic Canada’s International Journal and the Writers’ Federation of New Brunsiwck presented the winners of the 2018 New Brunswick Book Awards. Tundra Books would like to congratulate Kelly Cooper! If a Horse Had Words was named the winner of the Alice Kitts Memorial Award for Excellence in Children’s Writing.
If a Horse Had Words
By Kelly Cooper
Illustrated by Lucy Eldridge
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Tundra Books
Red Badger is a newborn foal learning to stand when she slips and gets stuck in a muddy badger hole. It is a young boy who frees her, and his kindness and gentleness mark the beginning of their friendship — though she will always be wary of the ground that briefly trapped her. As the seasons pass on the ranch, Red Badger learns more about her world: Fall is leaf rustle and fence posts. Winter is white hills and long nights. The boy is hay, a gentle touch, playing in the snow and the sweet smell of peppermints. If a horse had words, the word would be . . . friend. This is a beautifully written and heartwarming story told from the horse’s point of view that follows her relationship with a boy from the day she is born, to when she is sent to auction, to the day she and the boy are reunited at a rodeo where she has become a bronc and he a cowboy.
The Tundra Illustrator Gift Guide is back! Last year, we were inspired by Travis Jonker’s The Ultimate Children’s Literature Illustrator Gift Guide 2017 so we decided to make an updated version featuring Tundra’s illustrators from 2018! Once again, we have something for everyone from some of the best children’s book illustrators in the world – treat your family and friends (or yourself!) to a beautiful piece of art this holiday season.
Abigail Halpin is an illustrator living in southern Maine, a few miles from the sea. Her illustrations are a blend of traditional and digital media, mixing watercolor, ink, pencil and more. She has created illustrations and lettering for a range of clients including Galison/Mudpuppy, Simon & Schuster, Disney Publishing, Random House, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Penguin Books. Inspired by vintage textiles, all things Slavic, mystery novels, the ocean and long-forgotten ephemera, Halpin also creates mixed media artwork that blends drawing and embroidery, portraiture and needlework.
Ashlyn Anstee grew up in a rainy city in Canada and then settled in a sunny city in the United States. She works as a story artist at JibJab/StoryBots, and in her spare time, makes tiny things out of paper. She writes, draws, illustrates, animates and is the creator of the books No, No, Gnome! and Are We There, Yeti? Ashlyn has never hogged a hedge, but she does live by herself in Los Angeles, California.
Ben Clanton is an author and illustrator whose picture books include Mo’s Mustache; Rot, the Cutest in the World!; Boo Who?; It Came in the Mail; Something Extraordinary; Rex Wrecks It! and Vote for Me! He lives with his family in Tacoma, Washington.
Benjamin Flouw graduated from a CG animation school in France and moved to London to create backgrounds for Cartoon Network’s show The Amazing World of Gumball. He is now based in Paris where he works as a freelance designer and illustrator for films and advertisements, with clients such as Variety, Martha Stewart Living and American Express. His influences run from mid-century illustrators like Miroslav Sasek and Mary Blair to 90’s low-poly video games. The Golden Glow is the first picture book he has both written and illustrated.
Elly MacKay is a paper artist and a children’s book author and illustrator. She wrote and illustrated the picture books If You Hold a Seed, Shadow Chasers and Butterfly Park, among others. She studied illustration and printmaking at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her distinctive pieces are made using paper and ink, and then are set into a miniature theatre and photographed, giving them their unique three-dimensional quality. Elly lives in Owen Sound, Ontario, with her husband and two children.
Emma Block is the author and illustrator of Tea and Cake and has illustrated several books for children. She has worked for clients including Blue Apple, Harper Collins, Orla Kiely, UNIQULO, Anthropologie, Time Out and Hallmark. She likes charity shops, tea and very sharp pencils. Her art is inspired by the people she meets in her everyday life, old photos, vintage clothes, travel, 1950s illustration and 1930s jazz.
Born and raised in Quebec, Geneviève Godbout studied traditional animation in Montreal and at the prestigious Gobelins school in Paris. She is the illustrator of a number of books for children, including The Pink Umbrella, When Santa Was a Baby, Kindergarten Luck(Chronicle) and Joseph Fipps (Enchanted Lion). Some of her clients include The Walt Disney Company, Chronicle, HMH, Flammarion, Bayard, Les éditions Milan and La Pastèque. She also works for clothing designers like Nadinoo and Mrs. Pomeranz, creating illustrations and prints for their collections.
Once upon a time, Gina Perry picked wild blueberries, floated on lakes in her inner tube and was always on the lookout for a real moose in the woods. Now she writes and illustrates books for young readers from her New Hampshire home, where she lives with THREE monsters: her husband and two kids. She is still on the lookout for moose.
Janet Hill’s work is both elegant and whimsical, often with an underlying narrative that instantly captures the imagination. Her painting style evokes a sense of nostalgia, mystery, humor and comfort. Her work is displayed in private collections throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Some of Janet’s corporate clients include Tiffany & Co., Hallmark UK and Harper Collins. Her work has also been featured in Uppercase Magazine, Matchbook Magazine, Design Sponge, This Is Glamorous, The Neo-Traditionalist and Oh Joy! Her first picture book was Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess, and she illustrated the cover of the middle-grade novel, The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray. Janet lives in Stratford, Ontario, where she paints in a small in-house studio and lives with her husband, John, an independent bookseller, and their cat and dog.
Jay Fleck is a designer and illustrator based in Shorewood, IL. He is the illustrator of the picture books Double Take!, Black Belt Bunnyand Everything You. His artwork has been featured on products at the GAP, on Threadless and on the front page of Society6.com, as well as a number of other brick-and-mortar and internet stores. Tilly and Tank is the first picture book he has both written and illustrated.
Joe Morse is an artist living in Toronto, Ontario. Known for his portraits of celebrities and sports stars, his work has been commissioned by Universal Pictures, Nike, Major League Baseball, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times and The Guardian, and has won over 200 international awards. The picture books he has illustrated include Casey at the Bat, which was nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Illustration; Play Ball Jackie! and Hoop Genius. He is the Coordinator of the Bachelor of Illustration program at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario.
Júlia Sardà is an artist who has illustrated many books for children, including The Liszts by Kyo Maclear, and number of classics such as Alice in Wonderland, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Her work has been published around the world in many languages. She lives in Barcelona, Spain.
Julianna Swaney is an illustrator, designer, and fine artist whose work is inspired by themes of imagination, whimsy, and melancholy. Her books include Mermaid School, I Will Always Be Your Bunny, and Dr. Jo. Julianna studied printmaking at Maine College of Art and currently lives in Portland, Oregon.
Julie Morstad is an author, illustrator, and artist living in Vancouver. Her books have all received great acclaim; most recently, How To was a 2013 Governor General’s Award finalist and received starred reviews in Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal.
Kass Reich works as an artist and educator and has spent the majority of the last decade travelling around the world. She earned a degree in Art Education from Concordia University and was an early childhood educator in Beijing, which inspired her to start making picture books for very young readers. She now lives and works in Toronto, Ontario.
Lucy Eldridge is a traditional artist who works primarily in watercolor and gouache to create beautiful, whimsical illustrations. She finds inspiration for her work from a variety of things, including pebbles found on the beach, biscuits, origami paper, dictionaries, maps, Chinese brush painting, clouds, trees, trinkets and cats. Lucy illustrated the middle-grade novel Welcome to Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird. This is her first picture book. She is based in Brighton, UK.
After obtaining a diploma in animation film at Les Arts Décoratifs de Paris, Marion Arbona started working as an illustrator for children’s books. In addition to drawing, she is particularly interested in deep sea fishes, cats (even though she is allergic) and weird plants. She also likes reading and watching movies. Her favorite gouache color is light cadmium red. Marion has been awarded numerous illustration prizes in the USA and Canada, where she lived for 10 years. She has illustrated over thirty books for children. Her previous picture book, The Good Little Book, garnered wide critical acclaim and was selected as a finalist for the Governor General’s award in 2015. She lives in Paris, France.
Phoebe Wahl’s work focuses on themes of comfort, nostalgia and intimacy with nature. She grew up unschooled in Washington State, and credits her free spirited childhood in the Northwest for much of her inspiration and work ethic. She works in a variety of mediums, from watercolor and collage to fabric sculpture. Phoebe graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Illustration, and her first book, Sonya’s Chickens, won her the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award. Phoebe lives in Bellingham, Washington.
Shaun Tan has been illustrating young adult fiction and picture books for more than ten years. His brilliant wordless book, The Arrival, won The CBCA Picture Book of the Year, The NSW Premier’s Book of the Year, and the Community Relations Commission Award, and received a Special Mention at the 2007 Bologna Ragazzi Awards. He lives in Australia.
Teagan White is a freelance designer and illustrator from Chicago, now living and working in Minnesota, where she earned her BFA in Illustration from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. Her work encompasses intricate drawings of flora and fauna, playful watercolors of anthropomorphic critters, illustrated typography, and everything in between. Teagan lives in the woods across the street from train tracks and a fox den, and spends her free time scolding neighborhood squirrels, exploring forests, rivers, lakes, and swamps, picking wildflowers, and collecting animal bones.
Zoe Si is a cartoonist, freelance illustrator and lawyer. She believes in the power of words, but also that wherever words fail, a mildly disparaging cartoon can usually succeed. Wolfie and Fly is Zoe’s first book for kids. She lives and works in beautiful British Columbia.
Since 1967, on or around April 2, Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday, people around the world celebrate International Children’s Book Day to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children’s books.
We thought we’d spotlight our incredibly talented international authors and illustrators today. Here are 10 books that you should look out for:
Can You Find My Robot’s Arm?
By Chihiro Takeuchi
Hardcover | Ages 2-5
Chihiro Takeuchi is a renowned paper cut artist living in Osaka, Japan. In 2015 and 2016, Chihiro was part of a select group of artists to exhibit at the prestigious Bologna Book Fair. She has created several books in Japanese. Can You Find My Robot’s Arm? is her first children’s picture book in English.
From the Heart of Africa
Collected by Eric Walters
Hardcover | Ages 6-9
Illustrators in this book include Joe Morse, Canada; Maaike Beker, South Africa; Eugenie Fernandes, Canada; Sindiso Nyoni, Zimbabwe; Toby Newsome, South Africa; Eva Campbell, Canada; Thomas Gonzalez, USA; Roge, Canada; Xanale Puren, South Africa; Loveis Wise, USA; Iain McIntosh, UK; Melinda Josie, Canada; Jeannie Phan, Canada; Setor Fiadzigbey, Ghana; and Eliscer Elliott, Canada.
By Marianna Coppo
Hardcover | Ages 3-7
Marianna Coppo is an author/illustrator from Italy. She studied editorial illustration at MiMaster in Milan, and now focuses on freelance illustration in Rome. She is one of the curators of Tentacoli, an independent label which specializes in fanzines and handmade products. Petra is her first picture book.
Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms
By Robert Paul Weston
Illustrated by Misa Saburi
Hardcover | Ages 3-7
Robert Paul Weston was born in Dover, England, but did most of his growing up in the small town of Georgetown, Ontario. Since then, he’s also spent time living in the US, Japan, Switzerland, and the UK. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and has been nominated for the Journey Prize and the Fountain Award for Speculative Fiction. He has written several novels for young readers, including Zorgamazoo, Dust City, and Blues for Zoey. Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms is his first picture book. He currently lives in London, England.
The Adventures of Miss Petitfour
By Anne Michaels
Illustrated by Emma Block
Trade Paperback | Ages 6-9
Emma Block is the author and illustrator of Tea and Cake and has illustrated several books for children. She has worked for clients including Orla Kiely, UNIQLO, Anthropologie, Time Out, and Hallmark. She likes charity shops, tea and very sharp pencils. Her art is inspired by the people she meets in her everyday life, old photos, vintage clothes, travel, 1950s illustration, and 1930s jazz.
The Golden Glow
By Benjamin Flouw
Hardcover | Ages 4-8
Benjamin Flouw graduated from a CG animation school in France and moved to London to create backgrounds for Cartoon Network’s show The Amazing World of Gumball. He is now based in Paris where he works as a freelance designer and illustrator for films and advertisements, with clients such as Variety, Martha Stewart Living, and American Express. His influences run from mid-century illustrators like Miroslav Sasek and Mary Blair to 90’s low-poly video games. The Golden Glow is the first picture book he has both written and illustrated.
By Davide Cali
Illustrated by Miguel Tanco
Hardcover | Ages 3-7
Davide Cali began his career in 1994 as a cartoon writer for the Italian magazine Linus. He began writing children’s books in 2000, and since then he has published over one hundred books for children, including Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs and Cinderella and the Furry Slippers. Cali has won a Bologna Ragazzi Special Award, the Switzerland Enfantaisies Prize, the Baobob Prize, the Belgium Libbylit Award, and France’s SNCF award. His books have been published in France, Italy, Austria, the United States and Canada, and translations of his books have been published in eighteen countries. Davide lives in Genoa, Italy.
Award-winning artist Miguel Tanco is a children’s book author and illustrator. He teaches illustration and organizes creative workshops for kids in Spain, where he was born and raised, and in Italy. He has published over forty children’s books including You and Me, Me and You; Les Farfelus; and The Story of Cyrano de Bergerac. He lives in Milan with his wife Federica and their two great sons, Pablo and Javier.
If a Horse Had Words
By Kelly Cooper
Illustrated by Lucy Eldridge
Hardcover | Ages 4-8
Lucy Eldridge is a traditional artist who works primarily in watercolor and gouache to create beautiful, whimsical illustrations. She finds inspiration for her work from a variety of things, including pebbles found on the beach, biscuits, origami paper, dictionaries, maps, Chinese brush painting, clouds, trees, trinkets, and cats. Lucy illustrated the middle-grade novel Welcome to Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird. This is her first picture book. She is based in Brighton, UK.
Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein
By Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Júlia Sardà
Hardcover | Ages 5-8
Júlia Sardà is an artist who has illustrated many books for children, including The Liszts by Kyo Maclear, and number of classics such as Alice in Wonderland, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Her work has been published around the world in many languages. She lives in Barcelona, Spain.
Tales from the Inner City
By Shaun Tan
Hardcover | Ages 12+
Shaun Tan is an artist and author living in Melbourne, Australia. He has written and illustrated numerous acclaimed books that have enjoyed tremendous crossover appeal, including The Arrival, The Red Tree, and The Singing Bones, as well as picture books for children including The Rules of Summer. Shaun has worked as a theatre designer, a concept artist for Pixar, and has directed a short film, The Lost Thing, which won an Academy Award. He has won many awards for both individual works and his body of work, including a World Fantasy Award for Best Artist in 2001, a Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist, and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, both in 2011.