Tundra Telegram: Books For Your Moment of Zen

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we talk about the subjects on readers’ minds daily, the hot news topics, and recommend some good books for young readers to continue their investigative reporting and uncover the actual facts.

Last week, on September 29, Trevor Noah announced that after seven years as the host of The Daily Show, he would step down to focus on his stand-up career. Since 2015, Noah has interviewed everyone from astronauts who were currently in space and American Vice President Kamala Harris to climate activist Greta Thunberg and noted crystal flute player Lizzo.

This week, we feature some excellent picture books, middle-grade novels, and YA from (and about) some of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah’s best guests and interviews – and, of course, we include the young readers’ edition of Noah’s memoir, Born a Crime.

PICTURE BOOKS

Noah spoke with Chelsea Clinton and her notable mother Hillary, on Halloween 2019. Among other things, you may know Clinton for her She Persisted book series, like She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, which features the stories of history-making women like Marie Curie, Viola Desmond, and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.

Misty Copeland, the first Black principal dance of the American Ballet Theatre, was on The Daily Show (on September 29, 2020) to speak with Noah about her picture book Bunheads. The picture book, illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey and partially based on Misty’s own life, tells the story of a young girl who discovers dance through the ballet Coppélia, and is inspired by its heroine Swanilda to overcome her nerve and audition though she’s never danced ballet before.

Representing the ballet of fists that takes place in the squared circle is wrestler-turned-actor John Cena, who appeared on The Daily Show back on October 1, 2020 to talk about his picture book, Elbow Grease (illustrated by Howard McWilliam). Elbow Grease is a little monster truck who is smaller than his monster truck brothers, but – through hard work and moxie – proves he has the grit it takes to crush cars and stuff.

Shortly after wowing the United States at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, poet Amanda Gorman appeared on The Daily Show (on January 27, 2021) to speak about her poem “The Hill We Climb.” Later that year, Gorman published the picture book Change Sings, illustrated by Loren Long, a poetic picture book that depicts a young girl leading a diverse group of people on a musical journey – a journey during which they make big and small changes to their world, their communities, and their selves.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has appeared on The Daily Show a few times – most recently September 16, 2019 – and has also written a few children’s books! Our favorite is Just Ask!, illustrated by Rafael López, which encourages kids to embrace their individuality by asking each other questions about those differences. Much like different kinds of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and healthy, different kinds of people make the world more wonderful.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor also adapted her memoir into a book for young readers: The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor. Within, she chronicles the difficult challenges of her childhood, growing up in the rough housing projects of the South Bronx with parents who fought and had difficulties with money, and her inspiring rise through the legal system with help along the way from mentors and the love of her extended Puerto Rican family.

Comedian Kevin Hart was literally Trevor Noah’s first guest on The Daily Show (back on September 28, 2015). Hart is known for films like Central Intelligence and Jumanji, but young readers know him best as the author of Marcus Makes a Movie, the very funny book about a boy who is determined to make a blockbuster superhero film with some help from his friends, his teachers . . . and even his enemies.

The late Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis sat down with Trevor Noah on August 8, 2016, to speak about his graphic novel series, March, illustrated by Nate Powell and co-written with Andrew Aydin. The graphic novels are a powerful memoir of Lewis’s involvement in the American civil rights struggle, moving from his youth in rural Alabama and his student activism to his work with the Freedom Riders campaign and culminating with the march from Selma to Montgomery.

Ruby Bridges was a guest on The Daily Show on November 9, 2020 some sixty years after making history as the first Black child to desegregate her all-white elementary school in Louisiana. Bridges also wrote This Is Your Time, a heavily illustrated book written to inspire readers to effect change and continue the struggle for liberty and justice.

And on January 7, 2019, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai spoke to Trevor Noah about the challenges of refugee girls. The Extraordinary Life of Malala Yousafzai by Hiba Noor Khan introduces young readers to Yousafzai, her story and her campaign for girls’ education in the Taliban-controlled area of Pakistan, as well as her more recent activism.

YOUNG ADULT

Indigenous climate activist and youth director of Earth Guardians Xiuhtezcatl Martinez appeared on The Daily Show on September 5, 2017, before writing a book that was part of the Pocket Change Collective series, Imaginary Borders, but his passion and advocacy for environmental activism was as evident in the interview as it is in this inspiring personal essay about how art and activism are forever connected in a push for change.

Though author Akwaeke Emezi was on The Daily Show back on June 1, 2022, to talk about their book You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty, you’d be the fool if you didn’t check out their YA novels – especially Pet. Named a best book of the year by multiple media outlets, it’s a genre-bending story about Jam, who discovers the monsters she was told had all disappeared are real, and one of them – Pet – has emerged from her mother’s painting. Soon Jam begins to question who the monsters are and why no one will admit they exist.

Award-winning chef Kwame Onwuachi was on The Daily Show on June 11, 2019, to promote his memoir, Notes from a Young Black Chef. The book, later adapted for young readers, follows Onwuachi from his troubled youth, for which he’s sent by his parents to his father’s home in Nigeria, then later to cook with his mom in Louisiana. He soon becomes a well-known young chef, attaining fame by the age of 27, but nevertheless is forced to grapple with just how unwelcoming the haute cuisine world can be for people of colour.

The February 10, 2020 episode of The Daily Show had Trevor Noah trading sci-fi and fantasy talk with author Tochi Onyebuchi. And if you liked his chat about dystopias, you’ll love War Girls, his YA novel about two sisters in the futuristic, war-torn Nigeria of 2172 (where people fight in flying mech suits – take note, Iron Widow lovers) who are willing to fight their way to a better future.

Finally, we have to mention the young readers adaptation of Trevor Noah’s own memoir, It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime, about growing up in Apartheid South Africa with a Black mother and white father – where it was literally against the law for a child of mixed race like him to exist.

Happy reading, news-lovers!

Gift Books for Graduation

People all over the world are celebrating their graduations this summer so here’s a list of inspiring picture books that make great gifts for new graduates regardless of age.

Great Dog
By Davide Cali
Illustrated by Miguel Tanco
46 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101919170 | Tundra Books
A pup and his father contemplate his grand future while looking at other Great Dogs in their family. Will he be a marathon runner like Uncle Tibor, the fastest dog in the family? Will he be an astronaut like Aunt Yuki, who reached for the stars? Or maybe a teacher like Uncle Scooter, respected by all? No matter what, says his father, he will be a GREAT dog!

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
By Dr. Seuss
56 Pages | All Ages | Hardcover
ISBN 9780679805274 | Random House BFYR
From soaring to high heights and seeing great sights to being left in a Lurch on a prickle-ly perch, Dr. Seuss addresses life’s ups and downs with his trademark humorous verse and illustrations, while encouraging readers to find the success that lies within. In a starred review, Booklist notes, “Seuss’s message is simple but never sappy: life may be a ‘Great Balancing Act,’ but through it all ‘There’s fun to be done.’” A perennial favorite and a perfect gift for anyone starting a new phase in their life!

She Persisted: Around the World
By Chelsea Clinton
Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525516996 | Philomel BFYR
In this companion book to She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World, Chelsea Clinton introduces readers to a group of thirteen incredible women who have shaped history all across the globe. She Persisted: Around the World is a book for everyone who has ever aimed high and been told to step down, for everyone who has ever raised their voice and been told to quiet down, and for everyone who has ever felt small, unimportant or unworthy.

The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country
By Amanda Gorman
Foreword by Oprah Winfrey
32 Pages | All Ages | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593465271 | Viking Books
On January 20, 2021, Amanda Gorman became the sixth and youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential inauguration. Taking the stage after the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden, Gorman captivated the nation and brought hope to viewers around the globe with her call for unity and healing. Her poem “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country” can now be cherished in this special gift edition, perfect for any reader looking for some inspiration. Including an enduring foreword by Oprah Winfrey, this remarkable keepsake celebrates the promise of America and affirms the power of poetry.

This Is Ruby
By Sara O’Leary
Illustrated by Alea Marley
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263611 | Tundra Books
Ruby is a little girl with a sense of curiosity and enthusiasm that’s too big to contain! Ruby is always busy – she loves to make things, watch things grow and figure out how things work, with her dog Teddy by her side. And Ruby has lots of ideas about what she wants to be: maybe an animal conservationist? Or an archaeologist? She’s great at excavating (i.e. digging holes). Or maybe an inventor? She’s already invented a book with smells instead of words (so dogs can read it) and a time machine (the dinosaurs did have feathers after all, and the future is looking wild). This is Ruby, and this is her world.