Tundra Telegram: Books You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we talk about the thing haunting readers’ minds and riling up their blood, and stake out some books that have bite.

We hope you made last weekend a vampire one, as the long-awaited television adaptation of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy hit streaming services across North America. It’s been eight years since the unsuccessful movie (at least in terms of ticket sales; I think it resulted in at least one good cover of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” which makes it a success in my books). The YA novels have rebooted into a new television series about St. Vladimir’s Academy on NBC Peacock in the U.S. and W / StackTV here in Canada, which premiered this past week.

If binging the series hasn’t drained you (get it?) of all vampire interest, we’ve listed some fang-tastic vampire books for all age categories below. Read on for some great kids’ books and YA that grab you by the throat!

PICTURE BOOKS

When the gang at St. Vladimir’s finish their exams, you know they look forward to a Vampire Vacation, which happens to be the title of our first recommendation in picture books. The book by Laura Lavoie and Micah Player, is about a young vampire (Fang) who is sick of trips to Transylvania and coffin museums, and longs for the sand and surf of a beach vacation. If you know a little about vampires, you can imagine why Fang’s parents refuse – until he convinces them a beach vacation can even be fun for a family of vampires.

For recreation that’s more in line with the typical vampire’s temperature, there’s Glory on Ice: A Vampire Hockey Story by Maureen Fergus and Mark Fearing (great last name, IMHO). Vlad is a centuries-old vampire who decides to dominate peewee hockey, until he realizes his supernatural powers don’t mean much until he gets the fundamentals down. The perfect book for anyone starting hockey – undead or not.

Vlad the Rad (no relation) by Brigette Barrager, is similar in that its titular radical vampire is not interested in anything spooky – unless you consider a sick kickflip or primo slide spooky. Through this high-energy picture book, Vlad learns to combine his passion for skateboarding with his schoolwork, and young readers will learn a way to combine their studies with the things that they find rad.

Vampires aren’t the only spooky creatures covered in Cale Atkinson’s Monsters 101, but readers learn a lot about them – and not just from Professor Batula McFang, one of the guides (along with Professors Blobblins, Howlsworth, and Tina, the zombie lab assistant) who sets the record straight on the fact and fiction about all things ghoulish. You’ll learn so much, it’s kind of like a vampire academy (in book form).

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

What if you love vampires, but Charlotte’s Web is also your favorite book of all time? Let me tell you about the graphic novel series Ham Helsing: Vampire Hunter by Rich Moyer. A reference to famous vampire Van Helsing, this series features the young descendant in a family of fearless vampire hunters who has always preferred a pen (for writing poems) to a stake or sword. But when he sets out in the family biz, he discovers he doesn’t need to do it all on his own, and soon assembles a crew of buddies to help “save his bacon.”

If kids and YA books have taught us anything, it’s that vampires love schools. And there may not really be any vampires in Our Teacher Is a Vampire and Other (Not) True Stories by Mary Amato, but Mrs. Penrose’s class all thinks there are – and isn’t that what matters? Alexander H. Gory thinks his teacher is a vampire, and so he passes around his notebook, detailing the proof. Gossip and fear spreads (not unlike in Vampire Academy), but their teacher’s real secret is both more mundane and more earth-shattering!

Not to be confused with Vampire Vacation (see earlier), Kiersten White’s Vampiric Vacation is the second in her gothic and charming Sinister Summer series, which are kind of like Addams Family travelogues. This book follows the Sinister-Winterbottom twins as they travel not to the beach, but the Sanguine Spa in the “little Transylvania Mountains” overseen by the mysterious count. It’s all fun and games (scavenger hunts, mostly) until boy twin Wil begins to show symptoms of vampirism!

Speaking of schools, the series Middle School Bites by Steven Banks and illustrated by Mark Fearing (that guy must love vampires!) is all about the hijinks that ensue when a boy, Tom Marks, is bitten by a vampire (as well as a werewolf . . . and a zombie) and returns to his middle school. As the first Vam-Wolf-Zom, he has to contend with the monsters that made him who he is, as well as deal with music class and the occasional bully in this very funny series from one of the head writers of SpongeBob SquarePants.

YOUNG ADULT

Of course, if you’ve watched the Vampire Academy series and read the books, our first recommendation is visiting Richelle Mead’s associated Bloodlines series. The six-book saga focuses on Sydney Sage, the alchemist in Vampire Academy who aids Rose later in the books (but has not yet appeared on the show). Alchemists are a group of humans who dabble in magic and connect the worlds of humans and vampires. In Bloodlines, Sydney, in hiding, is sent to a human private school in Palm Springs, California, where she must shield a Moroi princess from assassins who want her dead.

And if vampire romance is your thing, you’ll also want to read Renée Ahdieh’s The Beautiful Quartet. The four-part series takes a page from the book of Anne Rice, set in a sultry and sexy 19th Century New Orleans, chock-full of vampires, and is electrified by the romantic tension between Sebastien Saint Germain, central figure in the city’s macabre nightlife, and dressmaker Celine Rousseau, who has been taken in by a convent.

The Coldest Touch by Isabel Sterling puts a playful queer twist on vampire romance, as a teenage psychic who can foresee the death of every person she touches falls in love with a vampire (who is already dead – but you knew that). Claire, the vampire, is tasked with teaching Elise, the precognitive, how to master her death prediction powers, and the two soon find themselves trying to solve the future murder of one of Elise’s teacher . . . and solve the mystery of why they’re so dang attracted to each other.

The brand-new Go Hunt Me by Kelly Devos has connections to both the vampires at the academy and the fans (and makers!) of the show. Seven teen amateur teen horror filmmakers go on a trip to shoot a Dracula short on location at a remote Romanian castle. But the setting proves to be scarier than they thought, as the crew goes missing one-by-one in the foreboding building that may have inspired a horror classic.

And we have to mention two forthcoming vampire titles to keep on your radar in 2023:

In Nightfall by Suzanne Young chronicles the story of siblings Theo and Marco as they move to live with their grandmother in the beachside town of Nightfall, Oregon. A town, not unlike the one in classic 80s vampire movie Lost Boys, where a gang of teen girls who may or may not be “nightwalkers” rule the streets at night.

And Deke Moulton’s forthcoming spooky and funny middle-grade novel Don’t Want To Be Your Monster is about two vampire brothers with very different feelings on the ethics of drinking people’s blood who set aside their differences in their Pacific Northwest town.

So long, and fangs for reading!

Holiday Spotlight: Holiday House

Here at Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers, we’re lucky to work with so many different lists. This holiday season, we’ll be highlighting each one with a dedicated post to help you find the perfect gift (or your next read). Today’s post is all about Holiday House.

Bear Goes Sugaring
By Maxwell Eaton, III
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823444489 | Neal Porter Books
Did you know that it takes forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup? “How many pancakes can I eat with that gallon?” wonders Dog. Every step of the process of making maple syrup is covered in this sweet (but never saccharine) informational picture book by Maxwell Eaton III, the creator of the popular Truth About series. It begins with Bear assembling the tools she’ll need for the project, continues with a discussion of the types of maples found in the area and why sugar maples are best for tapping, then on to drilling, tapping, evaporation and at the end of the process, real maple syrup and best of all, PANCAKES! Along the way there are hilarious asides from increasingly ravenous Dog and Squirrel, making this a book as funny as it is informative.

Hello Neighbor! The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers
By Matthew Cordell
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823446186 | Neal Porter Books
Kindness, caring, and reliance on our neighbors are more important now than ever before. We all need more Mister Rogers in our lives. Lively, colorful illustrations explore Fred Rogers’ early life and the events that led him to create his enduring show. Exclusively published archival photographs, provided by Fred Rogers Productions, offer a behind-the-scenes look at this historic show and the people whose hard work made it possible. A brief biography of Mister Rogers and a history of the show is included, as well as a note from author-illustrator Matt Cordell about his inspiration and longtime admiration for Fred Rogers and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

I Talk Like a River
By Jordan Scott
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823445592 | Neal Porter Books
When a boy who stutters feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he’d like, it takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice. Compassionate parents everywhere will instantly recognize a father’s ability to reconnect a child with the world around him. Poet Jordan Scott writes movingly in this powerful and ultimately uplifting book, based on his own experience, and masterfully illustrated by Greenaway Medalist Sydney Smith. A book for any child who feels lost, lonely, or unable to fit in.

Middle School Bites
By Steven Banks
Illustrated by Mark Fearing
304 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823445431 | Holiday House
Thanks to a series of unfortunate bites, eleven-year-old Tom is a triple threat: he’s a Vam-Wolf-Zom. And just in time for the first day of middle school. So much for his Invisible Tom Plan. He never thought to make a What If I Turn Into A Vampire Werewolf Zombie Plan. Maybe it’s time for a Run Away and Live Somewhere Else Plan? With the help of his irrepressible best friend, Zeke, Tom tries to accept his future. Zeke thinks being a Vam-Wolf-Zom sounds EXCELLENT! (Zeke thinks everything sounds EXCELLENT!) At least he’ll be able to stand up to the sixth-grade bully. The question is will the rest of Hamilton Middle School accept the Vam-Wolf-Zom, too? Tom’s toothsome saga is illustrated with clever, cartoon-style art on every spread.

No Ordinary Thing
By G. Z. Schmidt
240 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823444229 | Holiday House
It’s 1999 and Adam doesn’t mind living at his uncle’s bakery, the Biscuit Basket, on the Lower East Side in New York City. The warm, delicious smells of freshly baked breads and chocolate croissants make every day feel cozy, even if Adam doesn’t have many friends and he misses his long dead parents very much. When a mysterious but cheerful customer shows Adam a snow globe and says that adventures await him, it’s too strange to be true. But days later, an unbelievable, incredible thing happens. Adam finds a similar looking snow globe and immediately travels back in time, first to Times Square in 1935, then a candle factory fire in 1967. But how are these moments related? What do they have to do with his parents’ death? And why is a tall man with long eyebrows and a thin mustache following Adam’s every move?

The Bitterwine Oath
By Hannah West
320 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823445479 | Holiday House
San Solano, Texas, is a quaint town known for its charm, hospitality, and history of murder. Twice now, twelve men have been brutally killed, and no one knows who did it. A shadowy witch? A copycat killer? Or a man-hating murderess? Eighteen-year-old Natalie Colter is sure that the rumors about her great-great-grandmother’s cult of wronged women are just gossip, but that doesn’t stop the true-crime writers and dark tourism bloggers from capitalizing on the town’s reputation. It’s an urban legend that’s hard to ignore, and it gets harder when Nat learns that the sisterhood is real. And magical. And they want her to join. But everything becomes more urgent when people start getting “marked” as new victims–including Levi Langford, the boy whose kiss haunted Nat for a year. With Levi in danger, doing nothing would be harder than fighting back. Nat knows that no one is safe. Can she and the sisterhood stop the true evil from claiming their town?

The Eight Knights of Hanukkah
By Leslie Kimmelman
Illustrated by Galia Bernstein
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823439584 | Holiday House
It’s the last night of Hanukkah and everyone is doing their part for the big celebration, but a dragon called Dreadful has other ideas. He roams the countryside, interrupting the party preparations. Lady Sadie must call upon the Eight Knights of Hanukkah to perform deeds of awesome kindness and stupendous bravery and put an end to the dragon’s shenanigans. When Dreadful eats all the special donuts the baker made, Sir Lily helps the baker make more sufganiyot. Sir Alex makes a young lad a new dreidel after Dreadful scorched his original one. And on the Knights go – but when they finally catch up to Dreadful, a funny surprise awaits them!

The Littlest Voyageur
By Margi Preus
Illustrated by Cheryl Pilgrim
176 Pages | Ages 7-10 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823442478 | Margaret Ferguson Books
It is 1792 and unbeknownst to a group of voyageurs traveling from Montreal to Grand Portage, an intrepid squirrel, Jean Pierre Petit Le Rouge, sneaks onto their canoe. Le Rouge is soon discovered because he can’t contain his excitement–mon dieu he is so enthusiastic. The smells! The vistas! The comradery! The voyageurs are not particularly happy to have him, especially because Le Rouge rides, but he does not paddle. He eats, but he does not cook. He doesn’t even carry anything on portages–sometimes it is he who has to be carried. He also has a terrible singing voice. What kind of voyageur is that? When they finally arrive at the trading post Le Rouge is in for a terrible shock–the voyageurs have traveled all those miles to collect beaver pelts. With the help of Monique, a smart and sweet flying squirrel, Le Rouge organizes his fur-bearing friends of the forest to ambush the men and try and convince them to quit being voyageurs.

The Postman from Space
By Guillaume Perreault
144 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823445196 | Holiday House
Bob is a dedicated and deadpan mail carrier who remains unfazed when assigned a new postal route that takes his space ship to surprising planets. One is shaped like a bone and full of cosmic dogs who can’t wait to get a tasty bite out of a postman. The colorful art features extraterrestrials, from a giant blue farmer to a small cactus-like creature, and cinematic views of awe-inspiring alien landscapes. Bob’s adventures to make his five deliveries are as harrowing as they are hilarious in this award-winning graphic novel, perfect for fans of Jeff Smith’s Bone comics.

Your Place in the Universe
By Jason Chin
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823446230 | Neal Porter Books
Most eight-year-olds are about five times as tall as this book . . . but only half as tall as an ostrich, which is half as tall as a giraffe . . . twenty times smaller than a California Redwood! How do they compare to the tallest buildings? To Mt. Everest? To stars, galaxy clusters, and . . . the universe? Jason Chin, the award-winning author and illustrator of Grand Canyon has once again found a way to make a complex subject–size, scale and almost unimaginable distance–accessible and understandable to readers of all ages. Meticulously researched and featuring the highly detailed artwork for which he is renowned, this is How Much ia Million for the new millenium, sure to be an immediate hit with kids looking for an engaging way to delve into perspective, astronomy, and astrophysics. Curious readers will love the extensive supplementary material included in the back of the back of the book.