Tundra Telegram: Books That Strike a Chord

Welcome to the first edition of Tundra Telegram, where we look at the subjects on readers’ minds and recommend some recent great books to continue the discussion.

This past Sunday, some very important recording awards were held, celebrating the best in the past year’s music. (For legal reasons, we are refraining from naming those awards on this site, but we all know what we’re talking about, right?) Jon Batiste and Olivia Rodrigo were among the big winners. If those music-minded awards put you in a musical mood, you may want to check out some of the following titles.

PICTURE BOOKS

Brother, Sister, Family is a children’s book by music legend (and winner of dozens of musical awards) Willie Nelson and his sister and bandmate Bobbie Nelson, and illustrated by Kyung Eun Han. It’s a moving tale about a family with little money but a lot of love – especially for music.

Darryl’s Dream is a picture book about a quiet, nerdy kid who gets the chance to show his creativity at a school talent show. It also happens to be written by Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, a member of pioneering hip-hop group RUN-D.M.C. (who won a lifetime achievement award in 2016).

Why Not You? by performer Ciara and her Super Bowl champion husband Russell Wilson and illustrator Jessica Gibson is an inspiring picture book that encourages young readers to go after their biggest dreams – which may or may not include Song of the Year at an award show.

Paul McCartney, the author of Grandude’s Green Submarine (illustrated by Canadian artist Kathryn Durst) has been nominated for (and won) so many music awards, they probably take up several Wings (get it?) of his home.

And Nina, by Traci N. Todd and Christian Robinson is a lyrical picture book biography about Nina Simone who – improbably – was nominated, but never won an award of the kind they gave out last weekend. Can you believe that?!

MIDDLE GRADE

Jade Armstrong’s brand-new graphic novel Scout Is Not a Band Kid is a very funny story about a hapless girl who joins the school band for the trips (rather than an interest in music) – or one trip in particular (which will bring her closer to her favorite author). Trombone solos and hilarity ensues.

Celia C. Pérez’s The First Rule of Punk is a heartfelt exploration of friendship, being yourself, and rocking out. No one, not even the Posada Middle School’s anti-punk administration, will stop Malú from inciting a little anarchy in the USA.

This may be a bit more country than rock, hip-hop, or pop, but we’re sure Chris Stapleton would approve. In Kate O’Shaughnessy’s The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane, Maybelle is searching for her father. She soon discovers he’s a country radio DJ and will be judging a singing contest in Nashville. And you’d best believe she’s going to hop in an RV to Nashville to enter that contest!

Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer’s Broken Strings belongs more in awards for musical theatre, since it concerns a school production of Fiddler on the Roof that stirs up painful family secrets (as well as a little bit of romance), but given the Sondheim tribute at this year’s awards, we’re going to include it.

YOUNG ADULT

The boy band in Adib Khorram’s gay romance, Kiss & Tell is more 4*Town than BTS, but we’re sure they’d be up for Best Pop Duo / Group Performance.

David Yoon’s Super Fake Love Song follows Sunny Dae, who pretends he’s the front man of a rock band to impress the girl of his dreams – going to all lengths to not reveal the lie. (Fun fact: we’re pretty sure this is also how Imagine Dragons was formed.)

Jose Pimienta’s Suncatcher is a graphic novel about a girl whose grandfather’s soul is trapped in his guitar. All she has to do is play the perfect song and his soul will be freed. (Looks like a job for Swedish one-man hit factory Max Martin, am I right?)

The Montague Twins: The Devil’s Music, the new graphic novel by Nathan Page and Drew Shannon, looks at the dark side of rock music, as the twin teen detectives form a rock band with their friends, and soon encounter rock star Gideon, who may or may not have sinister hypnotic powers.

And fifteen YA authors and one bonafide rock star contribute to the short stories in Battle of the Bands. Edited by Lauren Gibaldi and Eric Smith, the stories by Preeti Chhibber, Ashley Woodfolk, Jeff Zentner, and Motion City Soundtrack‘s Justin Courtney Pierre present a  kaleidoscopic view of one transformative night of music (not unlike the award show itself).

Women’s History Month 2022: Women in Art

March is Women’s History Month and there are so my incredible and inspiring books to read! We’ll be sharing a new themed list every week this month so make sure to keep an eye on our blog!

Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
40 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101918562 | Tundra Books
Here is the life of iconic fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who as a little girl in Rome, was told by her own mamma that she was brutta. Ugly. So she decided to seek out beauty around her, and found it everywhere. What is beauty? Elsa wondered. She looked everywhere for beauty until something inside of Elsa blossomed, and she became an artist with an incredible imagination. Defining beauty on her own creative terms, Schiaparelli worked hard to develop her designs, and eventually bloomed into an extraordinary talent who dreamed up the most wonderful dresses, hats, shoes and jewelry. Why not a shoe for a hat? Why not a dress with drawers? And she invented a color: shocking pink! Her adventurous mind was the key to her happiness and success – and is still seen today in her legacy of wild imagination. Daring and different, Elsa Schiaparelli used art to make fashion, and it was quite marvelous.

Charlotte and the Nutcracker: The True Story of a Girl Who Made Ballet History
By Charlotte Nebres
Illustrated by Alea Marley
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593374900 | Random House BFYR
The only thing Charlotte loves as much as ballet is Christmas. So, when she gets the opportunity to play Marie in the New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker, she leaps at the chance. Dancing takes practice-hours of adjusting her arms and perfecting her jumps. With the help of her Trinidadian and Filipino families, encouragement from her sister, and a view of her mom and dad in the audience, Charlotte finds the strength to never give up. In this spectacular debut full of fluid, dynamic illustrations, Charlotte provides youngsters with a multicultural tale of family, dance, and holiday cheer.

It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
48 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101918593 | Tundra Books
Growing up quiet and lonely at the beginning of the twentieth century, Gyo Fujikawa learned from her relatives the ways in which both women and Japanese people lacked opportunity. Her teachers and family believed in her and sent her to art school and later Japan, where her talent flourished. But while Gyo’s career grew and led her to work for Walt Disney Studios, World War II began, and with it, her family’s internment. But Gyo never stopped fighting – for herself, her vision, her family and her readers – and later wrote and illustrated the first children’s book to feature children of different races interacting together.

Julia, Child
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735264014 | Tundra Books
Julia and Simca are two young friends who agree that you can never use too much butter – and that it is best to be a child forever. Sharing a love of cooking and having no wish to turn into big, busy people who worry too much and dawdle too little, they decide to create a feast for growing and staying young. A playful, scrumptious celebration of the joy of eating, the importance of never completely growing up and mastering the art of having a good time, Julia, Child is a fictional tale loosely inspired by the life and spirit of the very real Julia Child – a story that should be taken with a grain of salt and a generous pat of butter.

Little Frida: A Story of Frida Kahlo
By Anthony Browne
32 Pages | Ages 4-6 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536209334 | Candlewick
Following a bout with polio at the age of six, Frida Kahlo’s life was marked by pain and loneliness. In real life she walked with a limp, but in her dreams she flew. One day her imagination took her on a journey to a girl in white who could dance without pain and hold her secrets, an indelible figure who would find her way into Frida’s art in years to come. Inspired by Frida Kahlo’s diary, Anthony Browne captures the essence of the artist’s early flights of fancy and depicts both Frida and her imaginary friend in vivid illustrations evoking Kahlo’s iconic style. A note at the end offers a brief biography of the artist who has intrigued art lovers the world over.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein
By Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Julia Sarda
56 Pages | Ages 5-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781770495593 | Tundra Books
How does a story begin? Sometimes it begins with a dream, and a dreamer. Mary is one such dreamer, a little girl who learns to read by tracing the letters on the tombstone of her famous feminist mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, and whose only escape from her strict father and overbearing stepmother is through the stories she reads and imagines. Unhappy at home, she seeks independence, and at the age of sixteen runs away with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, another dreamer. Two years later, they travel to Switzerland where they meet a famous poet, Lord Byron. On a stormy summer evening, with five young people gathered around a fire, Byron suggests a contest to see who can create the best ghost story. Mary has a waking dream about a monster come to life. A year and a half later, Mary Shelley’s terrifying tale, Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus, is published — a novel that goes on to become the most enduring monster story ever and one of the most popular legends of all time.

My Little Golden Book about Misty Copeland
By Sherri L. Smith
Illustrated by Tara Nicole Whitaker
24 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593380673 | Golden Books
Help your little one dream big with a Little Golden Book biography all about Misty Copeland, the American Ballet Theatre’s first Black principal dancer! The perfect introduction to nonfiction for preschoolers! This Little Golden Book introduces ballet prodigy Misty Copeland to the youngest readers. The first Black principal dancer in the history of the American Ballet Theatre – who didn’t start dancing until she was almost thirteen – continues to impress the world and pave the way for young Black girls to chase their dreams.

Nina: A Story of Nina Simone
By Traci N. Todd
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
56 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524737283 | Putnam BFYR
Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in small town North Carolina, Nina Simone was a musical child. She sang before she talked and learned to play piano at a very young age. With the support of her family and community, she received music lessons that introduced her to classical composers like Bach who remained with her and influenced her music throughout her life. She loved the way his music began softly and then tumbled to thunder, like her mother’s preaching, and in much the same way as her career. During her first performances under the name of Nina Simone her voice was rich and sweet but as the Civil Rights Movement gained steam, Nina’s voice soon became a thunderous roar as she raised her voice in powerful protest in the fight against racial inequality and discrimination.

Sing with Me: The Story of Selena Quintanilla
By Diana López
Illustrated by Teresa Martínez
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593110959 | Dial BFYR
An exuberant picture book celebrating the life and legacy of Selena Quintanilla, beloved Queen of Tejano music. From a very early age, young Selena knew how to connect with people and bring them together with music. Sing with Me follows Selena’s rise to stardom, from front-lining her family’s band at rodeos and quinceañeras to performing in front of tens of thousands at the Houston Astrodome. Young readers will be empowered by Selena’s dedication – learning Spanish as a teenager, designing her own clothes, and traveling around the country with her family – sharing her pride in her Mexican-American roots and her love of music and fashion with the world.

Ten Little Dumplings
By Larissa Fan
Illustrated by Cindy Wume
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266193 | Puffin Canada
In the city of Tainan, there lives a very special family – special because they have ten sons who do everything together. Their parents call them their ten little dumplings, as both sons and dumplings are auspicious. But if you look closely, you’ll see that someone else is there, listening, studying, learning and discovering her own talent – a sister. As this little girl grows up in the shadow of her brothers, her determination and persistence help her to create her own path in the world . . . and becomes the wisdom she passes on to her own daughter, her own little dumpling. Based on a short film made by the author, inspired by her father’s family in Taiwan, Ten Little Dumplings looks at some unhappy truths about the place of girls in our world in an accessible, inspiring and hopeful way.

Unbound: The Life and Art of Judith Scott
By Joyce Scott, Brie Spangler, and Melissa Sweet
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525648116 | Knopf BFYR
Judith Scott was born with Down syndrome. She was deaf, and never learned to speak. She was also a talented artist. Judith was institutionalized until her sister Joyce reunited with her and enrolled her in an art class. Judith went on to become an artist of renown with her work displayed in museums and galleries around the world. Poignantly told by Joyce Scott in collaboration with Brie Spangler and Melissa Sweet and beautifully illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist, Melissa Sweet, Unbound is inspiring and warm, showing us that we can soar beyond our perceived limitations and accomplish something extraordinary.

When Emily Was Small
By Lauren Soloy
44 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266063 | Tundra Books
A joyful frolic through the garden helps a little girl feel powerful in this beautiful picture book that celebrates nature, inspired by the writings of revered artist Emily Carr. Emily feels small. Small when her mother tells her not to get her dress dirty, small when she’s told to sit up straight, small when she has to sit still in school. But when she’s in the garden, she becomes Small: a wild, fearless, curious and passionate soul, communing with nature and feeling one with herself. She knows there are secrets to be unlocked in nature, and she yearns to discover the mysteries before she has to go back to being small . . . for now.

For older kids:

Helen Oxenbury: A Life in Illustration
By Leonard S. Marcus and Helen Oxenbury
256 Pages | All Ages | Hardcover
ISBN 9780763692582 | Candlewick
Filled with insights that span Helen Oxenbury’s life – from her early childhood through a career in children’s books that started in the 1960s and is still going strong today – here is an exquisitely designed and thoroughly entertaining celebration of one of the finest illustrators of our time. Written by acclaimed author Leonard S. Marcus, Helen Oxenbury: A Life in Illustration is a keepsake that is sure to engage and delight everyone from scholars to art aficionados, as well as the many fans who have grown up with Helen Oxenbury’s enchanting books.

House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery
By Liz Rosenberg
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
352 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Paperback
ISBN 9781536213140 | Candlewick
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Maud who adored stories. When she was fourteen years old, Maud wrote in her journal, “I love books. I hope when I grow up to be able to have lots of them.” Not only did Maud grow up to own lots of books, she wrote twenty-four of them herself as L. M. Montgomery, the world-renowned author of Anne of Green Gables. For many years, not a great deal was known about Maud’s personal life. Her childhood was spent with strict, undemonstrative grandparents, and her reflections on writing, her lifelong struggles with anxiety and depression, her “year of mad passion,” and her difficult married life remained locked away, buried deep within her unpublished personal journals. Through this revealing and deeply moving biography, kindred spirits of all ages who, like Maud, never gave up “the substance of things hoped for” will be captivated anew by the words of this remarkable woman.

Scribbles, Sorrows, and Russet Leather Boots: The Life of Louisa May Alcott
By Liz Rosenberg
Illustrated by Diana Sudyka
432 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780763694357 | Candlewick
Moody and restless, teenage Louisa longed for freedom. Faced with the expectations of her loving but hapless family, the Alcotts, and of nineteenth-century New England society, Louisa struggled to find her place. On long meandering runs through the woods behind Orchard House, she thought about a future where she could write and think and dream. Undaunted by periods of abject poverty and enriched by friendships with some of the greatest minds of her time and place, she was determined to have this future, no matter the cost. Drawing on the surviving journals and letters of Louisa and her family and friends, author and poet Liz Rosenberg reunites Louisa May Alcott with her most ardent readers. In this warm and sometimes heartbreaking biography, Rosenberg delves deep into the oftentimes secretive life of a woman who was ahead of her time, imbued with social conscience, and always moving toward her future with a determination that would bring her fame, tragedy, and the realization of her biggest dreams.