Tundra Telegram: Books that Won’t Leave You on Read

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we illuminate the topics that have us all chatting, and recommend some great books to generate further discussion.

Last Friday, nearly half of Canada found itself without telephone or internet service as one of Canada’s few major telecommunications companies, Rogers, experienced a massive network blackout. Millions of people were unable to make a call (even for 911 emergencies), send an email, or – in many cases – make a purchase via debit or credit card. People crowded around outside coffee shops and stores (on networks other than Rogers) for their sweet, sweet WiFi. The Weeknd was forced to cancel a show – ironically at the Rogers Centre – due to the outage’s effect on venue operations and ticketing.

The big telecommunications company has remained vague about the reason for the nationwide outage, and customers are, understandably, still upset. (In fact, as of this writing, there are still many Canadians affected by the outage who still have no service!) So, we thought we’d highlight some books on outages, telephones, and general communication breakdown. If you still have internet service: enjoy!

PICTURE BOOKS

To remind you of what we all lost in the Rogers outage, we recommend Pamela Druckerman and Benjamin Chaud’s Paris by Phone. Little Josephine decides that Paris is where she really belongs, and all it takes is a quick call on her magical phone to whisk her away to the City of Lights. And though she loves her visit, she finds herself missing home. It’s a love letter to Paris (and to home) and a metaphor (at least we think it is?) for the independence a telephone can grant.

Before there was WiFi, there was Grace Banker and switchboard operators like her. Grace Banker and Her Hello Girls Answer the Call by Claudia Friddell and Elizabeth Baddeley is a historical picture book about a telephone switchboard trainer in New York who becomes the Chief Operator of the 1st Unit of World War I telephone operators in the battlefields of France. Thirty-two female telephone operators transferred orders from commanders to battlefields and communicated top-secret messages between American and French headquarters. (And you thought telephones were just for Candy Crush!)

In this instance, it wasn’t a power outage – though if your lights and other home electronics were connected to “the internet of things” – it may have felt that way. Nevertheless, we recommend astronaut Chris Hadfield and The Fan BrothersThe Darkest Dark, to remind you that the dark (whether the dark of infinite space or a downed network) is beautiful and exciting And the newest edition has a special glow-in-the-dark cover, in case you are caught in a real blackout.

And if you do find yourself in a real power blackout – not just a telecommunications one – you should make sure you have a copy of Ray by Marianna Coppo handy. The humorous picture book is about a light bulb who spends most of his time at the end of a hall in darkness until he goes on a magnificent journey. It’s also a book about the power of imagination – something you’ll need to rely on without access to social media or streaming services!

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

To understand the tremendous Rogers outage, you have to start at the beginning. And that’s with Who Was Alexander Graham Bell? by Bonnie Bader and David Groff. Learn all about the man who invented the telephone – a sometime Canadian, no less! – whose technological revolution resulted from his work with teaching deaf students. Fun fact: his namesake telecommunications company (Bell Canada) did not experience a monster outage last week.

Mya’s Strategy to Save the World by Tanya Lloyd Kyi is, ostensibly, about protagonist Mya Parsons and her quest to get her own cell phone. So, she would be understandably upset by the network outage of last week. That said, she also runs her school’s social justice club and is determined to change the world for the better, so she’d probably be against large corporate communications oligopolies (look it up!) anyway.

And a novel that starts with faulty network communications and goes downhill from there is Frances Greenslade’s Red Fox Road. Francie’s family vacation goes awry with the GPS leads them astray. Soon, she becomes stranded alone – no phone, no internet – in the bush, and must rely only on her survival skills to keep her alive in this modern-day Hatchet.

And though it’s not available until the fall, Babble!: And How Punctuation Saved It by Caroline Adderson and Roman Muradow is the perfect book to talk about communication breakdowns. Chaos reigns in the village of Babble! All day, the residents fight, yell and argue, and no one is heard or understood – it’s like a life full of network outages. But then … punctuation arrives to build bridges. This book is both a parable for communication failures and catnip for grammar teachers.

YOUNG ADULT

If you’re talking outages, you’re talking the gripping Rule of Three series by Eric Walters: The Rule of Three, Fight for Power, and Will to Survive. One ordinary afternoon, every single machine in sixteen-year-old Adam’s high school computer lab stops working. Cars won’t start, phones are down, and a blackout is widespread. Follow Adam and his allies in this epic survival adventure about what happens when all the modern technological amenities on Earth suddenly just … stop working. (Some of it is pretty violent!) And check out the standalone book, The Fourth Dimension, which follows fifteen-year-old Emma’s journey in that same all-encompassing power outage.

And if you or the young readers in your life are looking to “unplug” a bit more this summer (voluntarily, of course), Tundra Book Group is involved in a number of excellent summer reading programs we encourage you to check out, like:

Tundra Telegram: Books that are In Tents

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we dig into the subjects on readers’ minds and recommend some recent great books to continue the discussion.

Here in the Great White North of Canada (where the Tundra offices are located), this past weekend was the Victoria Day long weekend. It’s commonly referred to as the “May two-four weekend” and – for many – it marks the unofficial start of “cottage season,” in which folks rent cottages in the woods or go camping to experience the great outdoors (now that the winter is finally over).

So, this week we’re featuring some picture books, chapter books, middle-grade titles, and YA that feature camping and the great outdoors central to their plots. Break out the bug spray, slather on that sunscreen, and keep an eye out for ticks. Like James Corden and Emily Blunt, we’re going into the woods!

PICTURE BOOKS

Few picture books capture the Canadian cottage experience better than the Ezra Jack Keats winner Out into the Big Wide Lake by Paul Harbridge and Josée Bisaillon. A young girl with Down syndrome, Kate, gains confidence and independence through a visit to her grandparents in cottage country, by accompanying them on their boat deliveries of groceries around the lake. It’s a book so immersive, you’ll swear you hear the loons calling.

A trapline is quite different from a cottage (or even camping), but it’s certainly a way to appreciate the wilderness. And the Governor General’s Award-winning picture book On the Trapline by David. A. Robertson and Julie Flett celebrates fathers and grandfathers, and the times they spend together where people hunt and live off the land – in this case, the grandfather’s familial trapline up north.

A father and a son do a little bonding and scale some serious obstacles in Pete Oswald’s vibrantly vertical Hike. It’s a nearly wordless adventure about appreciating the wilderness and the spectacular view.

Young Ernestine has never been camping before, but she’s sure it must be fun. But in The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann, she realizes nobody warned her how hard it is to set up a tent, and sleep on it, or that swimming in a lake means that there will be fish (and all sorts of other things) in the water. Will Ernestine manage to have fun, nevertheless?

The Khazi family, new immigrants to America, are also embarking on their first camping trip in Fatima’s Great Outdoors by Ambreen Tariq and Stevie Lewis. Written by an outdoors activist and founder of @BrownPeopleCamping, this book is a fun family romp, a love letter to the outdoors, and a reminder that public land belongs to all of us.

Ever take a camping trip with someone who is a very different traveler than you? You should be able to relate to Peanut and Moe in Gina Perry’s Now? Not Yet!. When Peanut wants to swim, Moe wants to hike. Can these two friends come together in time to save their camping trip?

Despite being fun, the outdoors are also full of dangers. And no one knows that better than Scaredy Squirrel who worries about the mosquitoes, skunks, or zippers he might encounter in Melanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping. However, circumstances force him to go into the woods – will his adventure end up as a spooky story told around the campfire?

The outdoors can be so unstructured and full of earth-tones, but if you like your nature with a little style, you’ll like Benjamin Flouw’s The Golden Glow. The stylish Fox heads out on quest to find a rare and mysterious plant, and observes wonderful flora and befriends numerous fauna on his hike in this charming book that celebrates the pleasures of experiencing nature.

But if the young people in your life don’t relish a little ramble in the woods, they may like The Not-So Great Outdoors by Madeline Kloepper. The grumpy city kid in this book reluctantly accompanies her family on a summer camping trip, pining for her screen and city sights. But once she starts to experience the forests, lakes, and mountains, and encounter bears, beavers, and caribou, she begins to realize the magic of Mother Nature.

And if there remains any doubt about the power of nature to inspire, The Secret Fawn by Kallie George and Elly MacKay will change that. The little girl in the story always misses out on the fun things her family gets to see and do, just because she is the youngest and smallest. But she realizes the benefits of being the smallest when she heads outside in search of deer and spots a fawn, beautiful, quiet and small . . . just like her.

MIDDLE GRADE

If there’s a topic, you know there’s a Magic Tree House book about it – and that’s certainly true for camping, too! Camp Time in California by Mary Pope Osborne and AG Ford follows siblings Jack and Annie as they go camping in California’s Yosemite National Park, where they must save . . . the wilderness. (That’s right: if Jack and Annie fail, all these other outdoorsy books will be pointless.)

Like a human Scaredy Squirrel, an incredibly anxious kid faces his outdoor fears in Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look and LeUyen Pham. Alvin has a lot of concerns about camping, but luckily, he’s bringing along his night-vision goggles and water purifying tablets and super-duper heavy-duty flashlight . . . and his dad, too.

Red Fox Road by Frances Greenslade can’t be described as a fun camping trip, but there’s no doubt that protagonist Francie gets the full outdoors experience. While her family is on a spring road trip, she gets stranded alone in the middle of nowhere. With no GPS and no transportation, Francie’s story is the definition of “roughing it,” gathering dandelion leaves and fir needles for tea and starting fires from nothing.

YOUNG ADULT

Along the lines of Red Fox Road, the girls in Jo Treggiari’s The Grey Sisters aren’t necessarily having a good time in the great outdoors. Because when friends D and Spider head back to the mountains with their friend Min to uncover the truth about siblings they lost in a tragic air disaster, they encounter an isolated, survivalist community that may or may not be a cult – not the way most people want to spend a long weekend!

And if you like extreme survival, you’ll also want to read Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman. People always say to pursue your dreams, but at what cost? Ingrid strikes an arrangement with her mother: if she survives an extreme wilderness experience over the summer, she can have her chance to pursue life as a performer. (You can see why we didn’t include it on Mother’s Day recommendations.)

A summer camp rom-com? That sounds a little less harrowing! In The Matchbreaker Summer by Annie Rains, Paisley and Hayden have nothing in common, save Camp Starling. But when they reluctantly join forces to break up Paisley’s camp-manager mom and her new boyfriend, will they start a romance of their own?

But if you prefer your great outdoors with a little horror, you’ll love the taste of Eat Your Heart Out by Kelly DeVos. Weight-loss camp Camp Featherlite is overrun with zombies (!), so it’s up to unwilling camper Vivian to lead her fellow campers to survival in this campy (get it?) mix of horror and humor and bloody body positivity.

And the camp horror continues in Jessica Goodman’s The Counselors, set at a summer camp for the teen children of the elite, where three best friends find a dead teen in the lake late one night, and begin to uncover more and more dark secrets.

Getting back to cottages, there’s horror at the lake house in Kara Thomas’s That Weekend. When three best friends plan a prom weekend outdoor getaway, things go bad quickly. Claire wakes up alone and bloodied on a hiking trail with no memory of the past forty-eight hours. And her best friends Kat and Jesse? Well . . . they’ve gone missing.

And in Carrie Mac’s dangerous romance Wildfire, two best friends (who are maybe slowly becoming something more?) embark on a ten-day backpacking trip through the mountains of Washington State to Fire Camp, where they’ll learn to fight the area’s growing wildfire problem. But (spoiler alert!) the wildfires might become a problem before they ever get there!

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!

How to High Tea with a Hyena (And Not Get Eaten)
By Rachel Poliquin
Illustrated by Kathryn Durst
84 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266605 | Tundra Books
Celeste is a cockroach, and everyone knows that cockroaches are survivors, so who better to give advice on surviving an encounter with a polite predator? High teas are dainty meals with pretty teacups: you nibble tiny cakes, sip milky tea and chit-chat about not-so important things like why doughnuts have holes and if fish have eyebrows. But Ruby the hyena is loud, ferocious and tends to slobber. High-speed gobbling makes good sense in the wild, but it is a definite no-no in the tearoom! And Ruby just happens to be Queen of a very large clan of hungry hyenas. Will high tea be ruined by uninvited guests? Is Ruby peckish for something other than Celeste’s famous cream buns? Using her vast knowledge of hyenas, Celeste comes up with lots of strategies to get through high tea in one piece. Many of her suggestions are dangerous, most are absurd, but all are based on true hyena biology and hunting behavior.

New in Paperback:

Barry Squires, Full Tilt
By Heather T. Smith
232 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267480 | Penguin Teen Canada
It’s 1995. When the Full Tilt Dancers give an inspiring performance at the opening of the new bingo hall, twelve-year-old Finbar (Barry) Squires wants desperately to join the troupe. Led by Father O’Flaherty, the Full Tilt Irish Step Dancers are the most sought-after act in St. John’s, Newfoundland (closely followed by popular bagpiper, Alfie Bragg and his Agony Bag). Having watched Riverdance twice, Barry figures he’ll nail the audition. And good thing too – it’d be nice to be known for something other than the port wine stain on his cheek. With questionable talent and an unpredictable temper, Barry’s journey to stardom is jeopardized by his parents’ refusal to take his dreams seriously. Thankfully, Barry has the support of a lively cast of characters: his ever-present grandmother, Nanny Squires; his adorable baby brother, Gord; an old British rocker named Uneven Steven; a group of geriatrics from the One Step Closer to God Nursing Home; and Saibal, a friend with whom Barry gets up to no good.

Great Job, Dad!
By Holman Wang
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781774880371 | Tundra Books
This unique picture book for very young readers celebrates the many jobs being a parent encompasses: A receptionist scheduling important meetings (for playdates), an architect designing buildings (or pillow forts), an inspector (of diapers!) . . . When Dad gets home from his day job at the office, he never knows which job will be waiting for him, but he knows it’ll be fun! Each rhyming spread features intimate, familiar, comforting and humorous depictions of family life through a wholly original – and amazing! – needle-felted lens.

Great Job, Mom!
By Holman Wang
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781774880364 | Tundra Books
Being a mom is eleven jobs in one! This unique picture book for very young readers celebrates the many jobs being a parent encompasses: A general who rallies the troops (or unruly kids), a curator of modern art (or finger paintings), an archeologist looking for buried treasures (or socks) . . . when Mom gets home from her day job as a carpenter, she never knows which job will be waiting for her, but she knows it’ll be fun!

How to Promenade with a Python (and Not Get Eaten)
By Rachel Poliquin
Illustrated by Kathryn Durst
84 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271746 | Tundra Books
Celeste is a cockroach, and everyone knows that cockroaches are survivors, so who better to give advice on surviving an encounter with a polite predator? Everyone also knows that taking a moonlit promenade with a deadly reticulated python (named Frank) is a very bad idea. But Celeste loves very bad ideas, and she is willing to put your life on the line to prove herself right! Need to stop a python from swallowing you head-first? Wear a lamp shade as a hat! Want to speed up a three-hundred-pound snake? Try roller skates! What’s the perfect light snack for a python? A chicken! Using her superior pythonine knowledge, Celeste comes up with various strategies and solutions – many dangerous, most absurd, but all based on the biology of pythons. Meanwhile, Frank is hatching his own plans.

Red Fox Road
By Frances Greenslade
248 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735267831 | Puffin Canada
Francie and her parents are on a spring road trip: driving from British Columbia, Canada, to hike in the Grand Canyon. When a shortcut leads them down an old logging road, disaster strikes. Their truck hits a rock and wipes out the oil pan. They are stuck in the middle of nowhere. Francie can’t help feeling a little excited – she’d often imagined how she’d survive if she got stranded in the bush, and now here they are. But will her survival skills – building fires, gathering dandelion leaves and fir needles for tea – be enough when hours stretch into days?

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.

Cover Reveal: Green Mountain Academy

Tundra is very excited to be publishing Green Mountain Academy on September 27, 2022! Written by Frances Greenslade, this is a companion novel to Red Fox Road. Following her disastrous family trip in the Oregon forest, Francie is back home in British Columbia and heading to a new boarding school. But when a small plane goes missing during a snowstorm, Francie heads out to help.

Cover Art: Jon McNaught
Cover Design: John Martz

Green Mountain Academy
By Frances Greenslade
240 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267848 | Tundra Book Group
Release Date: September 27, 2022
A daring rescue in the middle of a snowstorm in this compelling Red Fox Road companion survival story for ages 10 to 14, for fans of Hatchet and The Skeleton Tree.

After a family trip turned disastrous when their truck broke down in the middle of an old logging road in Oregon, Francie is now back in British Columbia. People try to make things as “normal” as possible for her, but they don’t understand that trying to be normal in your old life that’s exploded is the worst feeling in the world.

Luckily for Francie, the wilderness is still soothing, and an opportunity to attend the Green Mountain Academy, a tiny boarding school perched on the side of a mountain, seems perfect. It’s a new start, with new friends and a chance at a new family. But when a winter storm hits, knocking out all the power, news that a small plane has gone missing unsettles Francie. Knowing that the chance of survival in the middle of a wild nighttime snowstorm diminishes over time, Francie is compelled to leave the cozy school and set out into the icy cold, swirling snowstorm.

Also by Frances Greenslade:

Red Fox Road
By Frances Greenslade
248 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267817 | Puffin Canada
Francie and her parents are on a spring road trip: driving from British Columbia, Canada, to hike in the Grand Canyon. When a shortcut leads them down an old logging road, disaster strikes. Their truck hits a rock and wipes out the oil pan. They are stuck in the middle of nowhere. Francie can’t help feeling a little excited – she’d often imagined how she’d survive if she got stranded in the bush, and now here they are. But will her survival skills – building fires, gathering dandelion leaves and fir needles for tea – be enough when hours stretch into days?

Frances Greenslade: website | instagram

2021 Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing

Since 1984, the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing (formerly the Arthur Ellis Awards) recognizes the best in mystery, crime, and suspense fiction by Canadian authors. We would like to congratulate Frances Greenslade whose novel, Red Fox Road, won the Best Juvenile/YA Crime Book award.

Red Fox Road
By Frances Greenslade
248 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267817 | Puffin Canada
Francie and her parents are on a spring road trip: driving from British Columbia, Canada, to hike in the Grand Canyon. When a shortcut leads them down an old logging road, disaster strikes. Their truck hits a rock and wipes out the oil pan. They are stuck in the middle of nowhere. Francie can’t help feeling a little excited — she’d often imagined how she’d survive if she got stranded in the bush, and now here they are. But will her survival skills — building fires, gathering dandelion leaves and fir needles for tea — be enough when hours stretch into days?