Tundra Telegram: Books that Sit High in the Saddle

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!

PICTURE BOOKS

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.)

Little Pinto and the Wild Horses of Mustang Canyon by Jonathan London and Daniel San Souci follows a young horse travelling with his family of rare wild mustangs for the first time. Can Little Pinto keep up with the band of horses?

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.

YOUNG ADULT

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.

CTV Your Morning Kids’ Book Segment on Light Reads

Our Marketing and Publicity Director, Vikki VanSickle, was on CTV’s Your Morning this past Monday to talk about some of her top light reads. Check out our titles from her recommendations below and don’t forget to watch her segment for the full list (skip ahead to 1:54:00)!

AGES 4-8

Crocodile Hungry
By Eija Sumner
Illustrated by John Martz
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267879 | Tundra Books
Crocodile hungry.
What can crocodile eat?
Canned ham? Too hard to open.
Beef jerky? Gets stuck in teeth.
Eggs? Bite shell, get toothache.
Crocodile must find food. But where?
Though Crocodile is surrounded by food, he doesn’t know it. He’s used to food coming in packages and boxes and in handy tins. Will the hungry crocodile figure it out? Readers big and little will laugh out loud at the simple but hysterical text and illustrations by debut author Eija Sumner and cartoonist (and now resident crocodile expert) John Martz.

Petal the Angry Cow
By Maureen Fergus
Illustrated by Olga Demidova
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264687 | Tundra Books
Petal is everything you could want in a cow. She is kind, thoughtful, a great baker and a wonderful artist. She also has a temper. A very big, out-of-control temper. And it doesn’t help that her barnyard pals like to push her buttons . . . On the day the farmer announces a fabulous trip to a water park, the horse steps on Petal’s foot and she has her biggest tantrum yet. The farmer tells Petal if she doesn’t get her temper under control, she won’t be able to go to the water park! What else can she do but stomp away in a huff? Petal meets a swan who shows her a thing or two about behaving. And not in the way you’d expect . . . This laugh-out-loud story will tickle even the surliest reader, and Petal’s outsized tantrums will feel very familiar to parents and kids alike. But like Petal, this story also has a heart of gold and a core of pure warmth.

The Big Bath House
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Gracey Zhang
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593181959 | Random House Studio
In this celebration of Japanese culture and family and naked bodies of all shapes and sizes, join a little girl – along with her aunties and grandmother – at a traditional bath house. Once there, the rituals leading up to the baths begin: hair washing, back scrubbing, and, finally, the wood barrel drumroll. Until, at last, it’s time, and they ease their bodies – their creased bodies, newly sprouting bodies, saggy, jiggly bodies – into the bath. Ahhhhhh! With a lyrical text and gorgeous illustrations, this picture book is based on Kyo Maclear’s loving memories of childhood visits to Japan, and is an ode to the ties that bind generations of women together.

AGES 6-9

The Witch’s Apprentice
By Zetta Elliott
Illustrated by Cherise Harris
272 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593427705 | Random House BFYR
Ever since the baby dragons were returned to the magical realm, things have been off. The New York summer has been unusually cold. A strange sleeping sickness is spreading across the city. And Jaxon’s friends Kenny and Kavita have begun to change, becoming more like the fairy and dragon they once cared for. On top of all that, Jax is hiding a secret – Vik entrusted him with a phoenix egg! Jax wants to help his friends and learn how to hatch the phoenix, but so far his lessons as a witch’s apprentice haven’t seemed very useful. Where can he find the strength – and the magic – he needs?

AGES 9-12

Sneaks
By Catherine Egan
336 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593306406 | Knopf BFYR
When Ben Harp sees his teacher’s watch crawling across the hallway, he thinks he must be dreaming. But no, he’s just seen his first Sneak – an interdimensional mischief-maker that can borrow the form of any ordinary object.  He figured this school year would be bad – his best friend moved away, the class bully is circling, and he’s stuck doing a group project with two similarly friendless girls, Charlotte and Akemi. Still, he wasn’t expecting aliens!  And he certainly wasn’t expecting that the woman he and Charlotte and Akemi are assigned to interview for their “living local history” project would be a Sneak expert. Or that she’d foist an old book on them to keep safe . . . and then disappear. Now Ben, Charlotte, and Akemi are trying to understand a book that seems to contain a coded map while being pursued by violent clothes hangers, fire-spitting squirrels, and more. The Sneaks want that book! And they want something else, too: to pull a vastly more dangerous creature into the world with them. Can three misfit kids decode the book in time to stop an alien takeover? And if they do, will they get extra credit on their group project?

AGES 14+

Echoes & Empires
By Morgan Rhodes
400 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593351659 | Razorbill
Josslyn Drake knows only three things about magic: it’s rare, illegal, and always deadly. So when she’s caught up in a robbery gone wrong at the Queen’s Gala and infected by a dangerous piece of magic – one that allows her to step into the memories of an infamously evil warlock – she finds herself living her worst nightmare. Joss needs the magic removed before it corrupts her soul and kills her. But in Ironport, the cost of doing magic is death, and seeking help might mean scheduling her own execution. There’s nobody she can trust. Nobody, that is, except wanted criminal Jericho Nox, who offers her a deal: his help extracting the magic in exchange for the magic itself. And though she’s not thrilled to be working with a thief, especially one as infuriating (and infuriatingly handsome) as Jericho, Joss is desperate enough to accept. But Jericho is nothing like Joss expects. The closer she grows to Jericho and the more she sees of the world outside her pampered life in the city, the more Joss begins to question the beliefs she’s always taken for granted – beliefs about right and wrong, about power and magic, and even about herself. In an empire built on lies, the truth may be her greatest weapon.

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra is an ongoing series featuring our new releases. The following titles are now available in stores and online!

Petal the Angry Cow
By Maureen Fergus
Illustrated by Olga Demidova
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264687 | Tundra Books
Petal is everything you could want in a cow. She is kind, thoughtful, a great baker and a wonderful artist. She also has a temper. A very big, out-of-control temper. And it doesn’t help that her barnyard pals like to push her buttons . . . On the day the farmer announces a fabulous trip to a water park, the horse steps on Petal’s foot and she has her biggest tantrum yet. The farmer tells Petal if she doesn’t get her temper under control, she won’t be able to go to the water park! What else can she do but stomp away in a huff? Petal meets a swan who shows her a thing or two about behaving. And not in the way you’d expect . . . This laugh-out-loud story will tickle even the surliest reader, and Petal’s outsized tantrums will feel very familiar to parents and kids alike. But like Petal, this story also has a heart of gold and a core of pure warmth.

New in Paperback:

Fight Like a Girl
By Sheena Kamal
272 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735265578 | Penguin Teen Canada
Love and violence. In some families they’re bound up together, dysfunctional and poisonous, passed from generation to generation like eye color or a quirk of smile. Trisha’s trying to break the chain, channeling her violent impulses into Muay Thai kickboxing, an unlikely sport for a slightly built girl of Trinidadian descent. Her father comes and goes as he pleases, his presence adding a layer of tension to the Toronto east-end townhouse that Trisha and her mom call home, every punch he lands on her mother carving itself indelibly into Trisha’s mind. Until the night he wanders out drunk in front of the car Trisha is driving, practicing on her learner’s permit, her mother in the passenger seat. Her father is killed, and her mother seems strangely at peace. Lighter, somehow. Trisha doesn’t know exactly what happened that night, but she’s afraid it’s going to happen again. Her mom has a new man in her life and the patterns, they are repeating.

New in Audio:

Alice Fleck’s Recipes for Disaster
By Rachelle Delaney
Read by Katie Ryerson
Ages 10-14 | Audiobook
ISBN 9781774881224 | Puffin Canada
Alice Fleck’s father is a culinary historian, and for as long as she can remember, she’s been helping him recreate meals from the past – a hobby she prefers to keep secret from kids her age. But when her father’s new girlfriend enters them into a cooking competition at a Victorian festival, Alice finds herself and her hobby thrust into the spotlight. And that’s just the first of many surprises awaiting her. On arriving at the festival, Alice learns that she and her father are actually contestants on Culinary Combat, a new reality TV show hosted by Tom Truffleman, the most famous and fierce judge on TV! And to make matters worse, she begins to suspect that someone is at work behind the scenes, sabotaging the competition. It’s up to Alice, with the help of a few new friends, to find the saboteur before the entire competition is ruined, all the while tackling some of the hardest cooking challenges of her life . . . for the whole world to see.

Peter Lee’s Notes From the Field
By Angela Ahn
Illustrated by Julie Kwon
Read by Tony Kim
Ages 9-12 | Audiobook
ISBN 9781774881200 | Tundra Books
Eleven year-old Peter Lee has one goal in life: to become a paleontologist. Okay, maybe two: to get his genius kid-sister, L.B., to leave him alone. But his summer falls apart when his real-life dinosaur expedition turns out to be a bust, and he watches his dreams go up in a cloud of asthma-inducing dust. Even worse, his grandmother, Hammy, is sick, and no one will talk to Peter or L.B. about it. Perhaps his days as a scientist aren’t quite behind him yet. Armed with notebooks and pens, Peter puts his observation and experimental skills to the test to see what he can do for Hammy. If only he can get his sister to be quiet for once – he needs time to sketch out a plan.

We can’t wait to see you reading these titles! If you share these books online, remember to use #ReadTundra in your hashtags so that we can re-post.