Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we plug into the subjects we like all too well, and recommend some truly g-l-a-m-o-r-o-u-s books.
This past Sunday, social media platforms lit up like starships in reaction to the highs and lows of the 2022 edition of a video music award ceremony. Though the namesake of the awards no longer plays music videos – we note, curmudgeonly – all that Sunday night and the following Monday morning, everyone online was talking about new music, be it BLACKPINK, Lizzo, or the surprise Taylor Swift album announcement.
In honour of this celebration of music, we’re doing something a little different this week: we’ve recommended books – three in each of our usual categories – connected to the winners, performers, and moments from this past Weeknd’s music video awards. So read on, because the music revolution will be televised!
Taylor Swift broke a record for most video of the year wins with her 2022 win for her epic “All Too Well: The Short Film.” And as we all remember, the song chronicles the rise and breakup of a romance, in which the imagery of a scarf (which may or may not be in the possession of Jake Gyllenhaal, and which The Verge has described as “the green dock light of our time”) takes centre stage. We can’t help but be reminded of the new seasonal classic Mistletoe by Tad Hills, in which winter-weather-loving mouse tries in vain to connect to her elephant friend who only wants to stay inside where it’s warm and cozy. Of course, the titular mouse knits a perfect holiday gift for her elephant friend. And you know that elephant would never forget it at his sister’s house.
Bad Bunny, the Puerto Rican trap and reggaeton artist and sometime wrestler (!), also made history becoming the first non-English-language act to win artist of the year. Whether it’s his international smash hits or unwavering support for the Latin LGBTQ community, there’s not much bad about Bad Bunny. But the same cannot be said for Richard Scarry’s Naughty Bunny, who scares his mother by blaring the TV too loudly, scribbles all over the walls, and kicks up a fuss when he should be napping. (Actually, he doesn’t sound that bad either.) But though he’s a naughty rabbit, he still manages to be loveable, like Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio – as both male and female backup dancers can attest!
Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow took home a few awards for their blockbuster video of “Industry Baby,” which sees the two rappers breaking out of a very special prison. The perfect picture book pairing would be Milo Imagines the World by Matt De La Peña and Christian Robinson, which follows Milo and his older sister on a long subway ride, during which Milo imagines and draws pictures of the lives of the other riders. Not only does it match the video’s creativity, but the subway ride Milo and his sister make is a weekend journey to visit their incarcerated mother.
CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE
Jack Harlow also took home the trophy for “song of the summer,” and had one of the biggest performances of the night with his song “First Class.” And while the video may more be about a moneyed lifestyle than anything academic, there’s no first class more appealing than that in Narwhal’s School of Awesomeness by Ben Clanton. The graphic novel sees beloved sea buds Narwhal and Jelly becoming substitute teachers for the first time for a school of fish. Their education methods are unconventional, but full of fun and positivity. Jack Harlow may have his first class up in the sky, but does he have wafflematics class under the sea?
One of the most notable couples on the red carpet this past weekend was goofy rapper Yung Gravy and TikTok star Addison Rae’s mother (Sheri Nicole Easterling). We know one person who likes Gravy more than any Tiktokkers’ mothers, and that’s food-obsessed dachshund Weenie in Mad About Meatloaf, the first book in the Weenie featuring Frank and Beans graphic novels by Maureen Fergus and Alexandra Bye. After all, what is a gravy, but meatloaf sauce? And no one loves meatloaf more than Weenie, who hilariously conscripts his fellow pets Frank (a cat) and Beans (a hamster) on a convoluted quest to get some.
Singer and flautist Lizzo gave one of the night’s standout performances and won the award for “video for good” for her new hit “About Damn Time,” an uplifting jam that celebrates survival through hardships. A book that is also about time is Jen Calonita’s The Retake, a time-travelling middle-grade novel about a girl, Zoe, who downloads a magical app on her phone that allows her to travel back in time to moments where she and her best friend Laura started to drift apart. Not only that, it looks at themes of social media pressures and bullying, something Lizzo knows a thing or two about, as well.
Few musical moments have made this writer feel older than the performance of Eminem and Snoop Dogg of their “From the D 2 to the LBC.” The two hip-hop artists performed as their Bored Ape avatars in the metaverse in a dystopian confluence of advertising for NFTs and Facebook products before they took the stage for real. If you like virtual worlds and avatars but are looking for a little more adventure and social commentary, you should check out Wab Kinew’s Walking in Two Worlds. In it, a shy Indigenous teen on the Rez, Bugz, dominates in a multiplayer video game world called the Floraverse, but finds herself caught between her two realities.
A less bizarre but no less memorable stage performance came from K-Pop group BLACKPINK of their song, “Pink Venom.” And to match the sweet-but-deadly vibe of the song (and the group), we’re going with Danielle Vega’s The Merciless. A group of popular girls with perfect hair perform brutal exorcisms on their classmates. Queen bees meet torture scenes – and with a pink cover, to boot! “Straight to ya’ dome” will have a completely different (and gruesome) meaning after reading.
Finally, Thai K-Pop rapper Lisa (one-fourth of BLACKPINK) won in the “Best K-Pop” category for “Lalisa.” Lisa’s youth, training with YG Entertainment, is not unlike that depicted in the YA novel Idol Gossip by Alexandra Leigh Young. In the book, Alice Choy is discovered by the fictional Top10 Entertainment and struggles to stay true to herself and overcome the haters in this insiders’ look at a K-Pop Academy, the kind at which Lisa herself became the first non-ethnically Korean trainee.
Happy reading, friends!