Tundra Telegram: Books That Killed the Radio Star

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!  

PICTURE BOOKS

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 Raes 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.

YOUNG ADULT

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!

Back-to-School Readiness

Little ones can feel a mix of excitement and apprehension before school starts especially now that most of them are returning to full-time, in-person classes. Here are some great books to help prepare them for school and a return to some sense of normalcy.

Alis the AviatorAlis the Aviator
By Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail
Illustrated by Kalpna Patel
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101919057 | Tundra Books
Come along on an aviation journey with Alis! This spunky female guide will take you through an ABC of planes featuring gorgeous cut-paper art. An A to Z of planes past and present, this book has stunning cut-paper art and a cute-as-a-button guide named Alis. Named for Dr. Alis Kennedy, likely one of the first Indigenous women to obtain a commercial pilot licence in Canada, Alis will take you on an aviation tour from the Avro Arrow to the Zeppelin and everything in between. Meticulously researched and uniquely crafted, this is a one-of-a-kind book that will delight aviation fans big and little.

Check out the Alis the Aviator activity kit!

Anne’s School Days
By Kallie George
Illustrated by Abigail Halpin
72 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267343 | Tundra Books
Anne loves autumn in Avonlea, and she’s been enjoying her first three weeks of school. It helps that she walks to school with and sits next to her kindred spirit, Diana Barry. However, one day, Gilbert Blythe joins the class. According to Diana, he’s very handsome, and smart too. However, Gilbert immediately gets on Anne’s nerves. When he pulls on Anne’s braid and calls her “Carrots” because of her red hair, enough is enough. How can Anne enjoy school when Gilbert is ruining everything? Anne vows never to talk to Gilbert again, and even stops going to school for a time when her teacher forces Anne to sit next to her rival. But later, when Anne has an accident on the pond and her wooden plank sinks, who should come to her rescue but her nemesis, Gilbert Blythe?

Check out the Anne’s School Days activity kit!

Babble! And How Punctuation Saved It
By Caroline Adderson
Illustrated by Roman Muradov
72 Pages | Ages 7+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265837 | Tundra Books
Chaos reigns in the village of Babble! All day, the residents fight, yell and argue, and no one is heard or understood . . . until a mysterious little girl arrives and gives the locals something very strange: a period. But what is this thing that looks like a freckle or a spot? The villagers don’t even know how to ask. However, as the girl begins to share more gifts – a question mark, quotation marks – the residents slowly learn how to communicate. But when more fights arise and disaster strikes, can punctuation truly save the day?

Count on MeCount on Me
By Miguel Tanco
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265752 | Tundra Books
Everyone has a passion. For some, it’s music. For others, it’s art. For our heroine, it’s math. When she looks around the world, she sees math in all the beautiful things: the concentric circles a stone makes in a lake, the curve of a slide, the geometric shapes in the playground. Others don’t understand her passion, but she doesn’t mind. There are infinite ways to see the world. And through math is one of them. This book is a gorgeous ode to something vital but rarely celebrated. In the eyes of this little girl, math takes its place alongside painting, drawing and song as a way to ponder the beauty of the world.

Check out the Count on Me activity kit!

Narwhal’s School of Awesomeness
By Ben Clanton
88 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735262546 | Tundra Books
Dive into four new stories about Narwhal and Jelly becoming substitute teachers! The two best friends come across an enthusiastic school of fish one morning. Unfortunately, Mr. Blowfish, their teacher, has come down with a cold, and class will have to be cancelled . . . until Professor Knowell (Narwhal) and Super Teacher (Jelly) volunteer to help out! The first subject is Wafflematics, in which Narwhal and Jelly calculate the number of waffles needed to feed the class. That’s what we’re chalking about! Next up is a super-fun science scavenger hunt, followed by a game of “Tag! You’re Awesome!” at recess. Narwhal’s teaching methods may be unconventional, but with Jelly’s help, the two teach (and learn) with their trademark positivity and humor. Before they know it, the day is over . . . but what grade will Narwhal receive from Jelly?

Check out the Narwhal’s School of Awesomeness activity kit!

Professor Goose Debunks Goldilocks and the Three Bears
By Paulette Bourgeois
Illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267305 | Tundra Books
Mother Goose’s fairy tales are NOT based in science, and her great niece Professor Goose thinks it’s time to share the truth. Join Professor Goose as she – literally – travels through the pages of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, fact-checking, exposing the flaws and explaining the science. Bears don’t live in cottages – they prefer dens! The smallest bowl of porridge wouldn’t be “just right” – it would have been the coldest! Professor Goose is delighted to see Baby Bear use the scientific method and Goldilocks’s fight or flight response. And maybe Goldilocks should have used a GPS so she wouldn’t have gotten lost in the first place? Jammed with jokes and wonderfully silly illustrations, this book entertains while it introduces basic scientific laws and rules to young readers. At the back of the book, readers will find Professor Goose’s  instructions on how to engineer their own chair for a (teddy) bear!

Too Many Pigs and One Big Bad Wolf: A Counting Story
By Davide Cali
Illustrated by Marianna Balducci
36 Pages | Ages 3-6 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269910 | Tundra Books
In this clever counting book, the big bad wolf doesn’t want to tell a long story. He wants to get to the eating part. But the reader has other ideas. From a pig soccer team to a pig for every letter of the alphabet to 101 pigs in an animated movie, the stories get more and more fantastical . . . but they’re always too short and they ALL end the same way. Using an abacus as the basis for her illustrations, Marianna creates beguiling little pigs and a menacing but slightly bored wolf that perfectly complement the inventive story by Davide Cali. Come for the counting, stay for the storytelling! This book has it all.

What Does Little Crocodile Say?
By Eva Montanari
40 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735268135 | Tundra Books
What sounds does the Little Crocodile hear on the first day of preschool?
The alarm clock goes ring, ring
The car goes vroom, vroom
The elephant says peekaboo
The drum goes rat-a-tat
The food goes nom nom nom
And the crocodile says . . . WAHHHH!
In this charming book of sounds, a little crocodile experiences the highs and lows of preschool, ultimately enjoying their day . . . after a small meltdown, of course! Little ones will delight in the adorable illustrations and fun read-aloud, and parents will delight in the sly humor and familiar emotional rollercoaster of a toddler’s day.

Check out the  What Does Little Crocodile Say? activity kit!

Your First Day of Circus School
By Tara Lazar
Illustrated by Melissa Crowton
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Paperback
ISBN 9781774880388 | Tundra Books
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages! It’s the most amazing day on earth: the first day of school! It can be a daunting prospect, but don’t worry – your big brother can show you the ropes. Join a nervous boy and his enthusiastic older brother as they navigate the highs and lows of a first day at school . . . except this school is a big top, and the teacher is named Miss Stupendous, and the cafeteria can be a zoo, literally! It turns out, school isn’t so scary when you can let off steam during recess (on a steam train) and walk on stilts to all of your classes. With a bit of help from family and some new friends, you’ll make it to the top of the class in no time! This charming take on school readiness will delight new school-goers and take a bit of the fear out of those first-day jitters.

Back-to-School Readiness

Get your littles ready for back-to-school with these titles!

Anne’s School Days
By Kallie George
Illustrated by Abigail Halpin
72 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267206 | Tundra Books
Anne loves autumn in Avonlea, and she’s been enjoying her first three weeks of school. It helps that she walks to school with and sits next to her kindred spirit, Diana Barry. However, one day, Gilbert Blythe joins the class. According to Diana, he’s very handsome, and smart too. However, Gilbert immediately gets on Anne’s nerves. When he pulls on Anne’s braid and calls her “Carrots” because of her red hair, enough is enough. How can Anne enjoy school when Gilbert is ruining everything? Anne vows never to talk to Gilbert again, and even stops going to school for a time when her teacher forces Anne to sit next to her rival. But later, when Anne has an accident on the pond and her wooden plank sinks, who should come to her rescue but her nemesis, Gilbert Blythe?

Count on MeCount on Me
By Miguel Tanco
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265752 | Tundra Books
Everyone has a passion. For some, it’s music. For others, it’s art. For our heroine, it’s math. When she looks around the world, she sees math in all the beautiful things: the concentric circles a stone makes in a lake, the curve of a slide, the geometric shapes in the playground. Others don’t understand her passion, but she doesn’t mind. There are infinite ways to see the world. And through math is one of them. This book is a gorgeous ode to something vital but rarely celebrated. In the eyes of this little girl, math takes its place alongside painting, drawing and song as a way to ponder the beauty of the world.

Check out the Count on Me activity kit!

Narwhal’s School of Awesomeness
By Ben Clanton
88 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735262546 | Tundra Books
Dive into four new stories about Narwhal and Jelly becoming substitute teachers! The two best friends come across an enthusiastic school of fish one morning. Unfortunately, Mr. Blowfish, their teacher, has come down with a cold, and class will have to be cancelled . . . until Professor Knowell (Narwhal) and Super Teacher (Jelly) volunteer to help out! The first subject is Wafflematics, in which Narwhal and Jelly calculate the number of waffles needed to feed the class. That’s what we’re chalking about! Next up is a super-fun science scavenger hunt, followed by a game of “Tag! You’re Awesome!” at recess. Narwhal’s teaching methods may be unconventional, but with Jelly’s help, the two teach (and learn) with their trademark positivity and humor. Before they know it, the day is over . . . but what grade will Narwhal receive from Jelly?

What Does Little Crocodile Say?
By Eva Montanari
40 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735268135 | Tundra Books
What sounds does the Little Crocodile hear on the first day of preschool?
The alarm clock goes ring, ring
The car goes vroom, vroom
The elephant says peekaboo
The drum goes rat-a-tat
The food goes nom nom nom
And the crocodile says . . . WAHHHH!
In this charming book of sounds, a little crocodile experiences the highs and lows of preschool, ultimately enjoying their day . . . after a small meltdown, of course! Little ones will delight in the adorable illustrations and fun read-aloud, and parents will delight in the sly humor and familiar emotional rollercoaster of a toddler’s day.

Check out the  What Does Little Crocodile Say? activity kit!

Your First Day of Circus SchoolYour First Day of Circus School
By Tara Lazar
Illustrated by Melissa Crowton
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263710 | Tundra Books
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages! It’s the most amazing day on earth: the first day of school! It can be a daunting prospect, but don’t worry – your big brother can show you the ropes. Join a nervous boy and his enthusiastic older brother as they navigate the highs and lows of a first day at school . . . except this school is a big top, and the teacher is named Miss Stupendous, and the cafeteria can be a zoo, literally! It turns out, school isn’t so scary when you can let off steam during recess (on a steam train) and walk on stilts to all of your classes. With a bit of help from family and some new friends, you’ll make it to the top of the class in no time! This charming take on school readiness will delight new school-goers and take a bit of the fear out of those first-day jitters.