Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we dip into the subjects on readers’ minds, and recommend some lush literature for young readers to dive into.
This coming weekend, it’s time for Hollywood rom-com fans to rejoice. That’s because two of the titans of the genre, Julia Roberts and George Clooney, are returning for the major motion picture Ticket to Paradise, directed by the man who brought us Pierce Brosnan dancing in the Greek islands in Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again. The actors star as a divorced couple who decide to team up to sabotage the impending wedding of their daughter in Bali (so sweet!). Will they fall back in love?!
In anticipation of what we hope will be a return to form, we’re recommending some books that bring the characters to a tropical paradise for their adventures. It seemed like a pleasant thing to do, with many cities in North America having already experienced their first snowfalls. Bon voyage!
A summer in Japan may not technically qualify as “tropical,” but there are plenty of hot sandy beaches and summer festivals featured in Natsumi’s Song of Summer by Robert Paul Weston and Misa Saburi. Two young cousins who are separated by language, continent, and culture – Jill and Natsumi – meet for the first time when Jill’s family travels from America to Japan to stay with Natsumi’s family during the summer holidays. Is it a ticket to paradise? Only if your idea of paradise includes reunions with faraway family and friends . . . and cicadas!
Most people consider Hapuna Beach in Hawaii a paradise on earth, but for Claire, the protagonist of Snow Angel, Sand Angel by Lois-Ann Yamanaka and Ashley Lukashevsky, it’s a little lacking because she has never seen snow! So, her father drives her and her family to the top of Mauna Kea to see snow in person, but it’s not the holiday wintertime she’s seen in books and movies. Claire decides to celebrate winter on the Big Island the tropical way in this book that celebrates the environment and culture of Hawaii.
Islandborn by Junot Diaz and Leo Espinosa is all about a tropical island that young Lola can’t remember, even though she was born on it. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories – some joyous and fantastical, some heartbreaking and frightening – Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island, and she learns that just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.
On This Airplane by Lourdes Heuer and Sara Palacios takes place entirely in an airport and airplane – not most people’s idea of paradise. But it’s clear all the passengers are headed somewhere special, and there are few faster ways to get to your ideal vacation spot than by air travel (despite the carbon footprint). And this book reveals a temporary community inside the cabin with passengers who are filled with optimism and bonhomie. If you ever find yourself on a similar flight, you’d have to admit it’s the closest thing to heaven on earth.
CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE
The “paradise” featured in Turtle in Paradise: The Graphic Novel by Jennifer L. Holm and Savanna Ganucheau happens to be Key West, circa 1935. Turtle is a tough eleven-year-old who is sent to live with relatives in The Sunshine State when her mom gets a housekeeping job that doesn’t allow for children. In the humid Florida environment, surrounded by rambunctious boy cousins, Turtle finds her world opening up in ways she couldn’t expect.
The paradise of a California beach is where Kaia and her family live in Any Day with You by Mae Respicio – all the more idyllic because it’s near the center of the filmmaking industry she longs to be a part of. Kaia and her friends spend a summer working on a short movie inspired by Filipino folktales, and conscript her beloved Tatang (great-grandfather) in the process, as he told her those tales. But there’s trouble in paradise: Tatang wants to return to his homeland in his own personal paradise: The Philippines.
Inspired by the author’s childhood, Kereen Getten’s When Life Gives You Mangos is a celebration of island life, set in a small village on a Jamaican island. Some people think of it as an exotic paradise, but Jamaica isn’t exotic to Clara. The only thing strange and different for Clara is that something happened to her memory that made her forget everything that happened last summer after a hurricane hit. This is paradise with a shocking twist ending!
The Fitzgerald-Trouts by Esta Spalding and illustrated by Sydney Smith and Lee Gatlin (depending on the book) is a book series about a band of four loosely related children living together on a lush tropical island. They take care of themselves. They sleep in their car, bathe in the ocean, eat fish they catch and fruit they pick, and can drive (that very same car) anywhere they need to go. It might sound like paradise to any kid, but real contentment would come if they found a permanent home.
When is a paradise not a paradise? When you’re in Bermuda, but can’t enjoy the weather and foliage because you’re being chased by Nazi agents. That’s the situation George finds himself in Camp X: Trouble in Paradise the tropical installment of history-based spy series by Eric Walters. George and his entire family are now working for Little Bill and his team of spies on the island, but brothers George and Jack aren’t on vacation: they continue their secret missions, foiling Nazi conspiracies that would put the lives of thousands of people in jeopardy.
The setting is just a typical summer camp in Kasie West’s Sunkissed, but it is in California, so that’s warm enough for us. This is a swoony romance title set at a family resort. That resort quickly becomes paradise when Avery – having a rough few months and dreading summer with her family – meets the mysterious, charming resort staff member Brooks.
Maybe the English seaside is far from tropical, but the hazy, dreamy summer during which The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff takes place could certainly be considered a wonderland – and a steamy one at that. A family on holiday is visited by the mysterious Godden brothers from Los Angeles, and many romantic entanglements follow in this coming-of-age tale about serpents released into paradise.
Jesse Q. Sutanto’s Well, That Was Unexpected is the most relevant title on this list as it partially takes place in Bali, the location of Ticket to Paradise. And, like the movie, it’s a comedic rom-com featuring George Clooney (!). Sharlot Citra, is whisked away from her native LA to her mother’s country, Indonesia, after a scandalous embarrassment. In Indonesia, she finds herself roped into dating George Clooney . . . Tanuwijaya, that is, the wealthy son of a celebrity-obsessed father, who is obviously a fan of the silver fox.
Happy reading, friends!