Teen Top Ten: October 2022

Wanna know what everyone else has been reading and loving lately? Every month we’ll post our list of top ten bestselling YA books that we publish and sell in Canada. Here are the Teen Top Ten titles for the month of October 2022 – how many have you read?

1. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
By Holly Jackson
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781984896391 | Ember
Everyone in Fairview knows the story. Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town. But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer? Now a senior herself, Pip decides to re-examine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.

2. Good Girl, Bad Blood
By Holly Jackson
416 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781984896438 | Ember
Pip is not a detective anymore. With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her. But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared, on the very same night the town hosted a memorial for the sixth-year anniversary of the deaths of Andie Bell and Sal Singh. The police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way . . . and this time everyone is listening. But will she find him before it’s too late?

3. Girl in Pieces
By Kathleen Glasgow
448 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781101934746 | Ember
Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people do in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you. Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge. A deeply moving portrait of a girl in a world that owes her nothing, and has taken so much, and the journey she undergoes to put herself back together. Kathleen Glasgow’s debut is heartbreakingly real and unflinchingly honest. It’s a story you won’t be able to look away from.

4. Walking in Two Worlds
By Wab Kinew
296 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735269026 | Tundra Books
Bugz is caught between two worlds. In the real world, she’s a shy and self-conscious Indigenous teen who faces the stresses of teenage angst and life on the Rez. But in the virtual world, her alter ego is not just confident but dominant in a massively multiplayer video game universe. Feng is a teen boy who has been sent from China to live with his aunt, a doctor on the Rez, after his online activity suggests he may be developing extremist sympathies. Meeting each other in real life, as well as in the virtual world, Bugz and Feng immediately relate to each other as outsiders and as avid gamers. And as their connection is strengthened through their virtual adventures, they find that they have much in common in the real world, too: both must decide what to do in the face of temptations and pitfalls, and both must grapple with the impacts of family challenges and community trauma. But betrayal threatens everything Bugz has built in the virtual world, as well as her relationships in the real world, and it will take all her newfound strength to restore her friendship with Feng and reconcile the parallel aspects of her life: the traditional and the mainstream, the east and the west, the real and the virtual.

5. As Good As Dead
By Holly Jackson
464 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593379851 | Delacorte Press
Pip is about to head to college, but she is still haunted by the way her last investigation ended. She’s used to online death threats in the wake of her viral true-crime podcast, but she can’t help noticing an anonymous person who keeps asking her: Who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears? Soon the threats escalate and Pip realizes that someone is following her in real life. When she starts to find connections between her stalker and a local serial killer caught six years ago, she wonders if maybe the wrong man is behind bars. Police refuse to act, so Pip has only one choice: find the suspect herself – or be the next victim. As the deadly game plays out, Pip discovers that everything in her small town is coming full circle . . . and if she doesn’t find the answers, this time she will be the one who disappears . . . .

6. One of Us Is Lying
By Karen M. McManus
416 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524714680 | Delacorte Press
Pay close attention and you might solve this. On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who is still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

7. We Were Liars
By E. Lockhart
320 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780385741279 | Ember
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends – the Liars – whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

8. Iron Widow
By Xiran Jay Zhao
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269934 | Penguin Teen Canada
The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected – she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​ To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way – and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

9. The Outsiders
By S. E. Hinton
224 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780140385724 | Viking BFYR
The 45th anniversary of a landmark work of teen fiction. Ponyboy can count on his brothers and his friends, but not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids who get away with everything, including beating up greasers like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect – until the night someone takes things too far. Written forty-five years ago, S. E. Hinton’s classic story of a boy who finds himself on the outskirts of regular society remains as powerful today as it was the day it was written.

10. Nothing More to Tell
By Karen M. McManus
368 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593175903 | Delacorte Press
Four years ago, Brynn left Saint Ambrose School following the shocking murder of her favorite teacher – a story that made headlines after the teacher’s body was found by three Saint Ambrose students in the woods behind their school. The case was never solved. Now that Brynn is moving home and starting her dream internship at a true-crime show, she’s determined to find out what really happened. The kids who found Mr. Larkin are her way in, and her ex–best friend, Tripp Talbot, was one of them. Without his account of events, the other two kids might have gone down for Mr. Larkin’s murder – but instead, thanks to Tripp, they’re now at the top of the Saint Ambrose social pyramid. Tripp’s friends have never forgotten what Tripp did for them that day, and neither has he. Just like he hasn’t forgotten that everything he told the police was a lie. Digging into the past is bound to shake up the present, and when Brynn begins to investigate what happened in the woods that day, she uncovers secrets that might change everything – about Saint Ambrose, about Mr. Larkin, and about her ex-best friend, Tripp Talbot. Four years ago someone got away with murder. More terrifying is that they might be closer than anyone thinks.

The 2023 Forest of Reading® Nominees

The Forest of Reading® is Canada’s largest recreational reading program. This initiative of the Ontario Library Association offers seven reading programs to encourage a love of reading in people of all ages. The Forest helps celebrate Canadian books, publishers, authors, and illustrators. Here at Tundra Book Group and Friends, we’d like to congratulate our nominated authors and illustrators.

2023 Blue Spruce Award™️ Nominee

Rodney Was a Tortoise
By Nan Forler
Illustrated by Yong Ling Kang
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266629 | Tundra Books
Bernadette and Rodney are the best of friends. Rodney’s not so good at playing cards, but he’s great at staring contests. His favorite food is lettuce, though he eats it VERRRRRRY SLOOOOOWLY. And he’s such a joker! When Bernadette goes to sleep at night, Rodney is always there, watching over her from his tank.  As the seasons pass, Rodney moves slower and slower, until one day he stops moving at all. Without Rodney, Bernadette feels all alone. She can’t stop thinking about him, but none of her friends seem to notice. Except for Amar. Rodney Was a Tortoise is a moving story about friendship and loss. It shows the importance of expressing kindness and empathy, especially in life’s most difficult moments.

2023 Blue Spruce Award™️ Nominee

That’s Not My Name!
By Anoosha Syed
40 Pages | Ages 3-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593405178 | Penguin Young Readers Group
Mirha is so excited for her first day of school! She can’t wait to learn, play, and make new friends. But when her classmates mispronounce her name, she goes home wondering if she should find a new one. Maybe then she’d be able to find a monogrammed keychain at the gas station or order a hot chocolate at the cafe more easily. Mama helps Mirha to see how special her name is, and she returns to school the next day determined to help her classmates say it correctly – even if it takes a hundred tries.

2023 Red Maple Award™️ Nominees

The Bear House
By Meaghan McIsaac
272 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823452620 | Holiday House
Moody Aster and her spoiled sister Ursula are the daughters of Jasper Lourdes, Bear Major and high king of the realm. Rivals, both girls dream of becoming the Bear queen someday, although neither really deserve to, having no particular talent in… well, anything. But when their Uncle Bram murders their father in a bid for the crown, the girls are forced onto the run, along with lowly Dev the Bearkeeper and the half-grown grizzly Alcor, symbol of their house. As a bitter struggle for the throne consumes the kingdom in civil war, the sisters must rely on Dev, the bear cub, and each other to survive – and find wells of courage, cunning, and skill they never knew they had.

Children of the Fox: Thieves of Shadow #1
By Kevin Sands
416 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735270435 | Puffin Canada
A magic-infused fantasy that brings together a ragtag group of kids to pull off a crime so difficult, countless adults have already tried and failed. Lured by the promise of more money than they’ve ever dreamed of, five young criminals are hired to steal a heavily guarded treasure from the most powerful sorcerer in the city. There’s Callan the con artist, Meriel the expert at acrobatics (and knives!), Gareth the researcher, Lachlan who can obtain anything, and Foxtail, whose mysterious eyeless mask doesn’t hinder her ability to climb walls like a spider. Though their shadowy backgrounds mean that they’ve never trusted anyone but themselves, the five must learn to rely on each other in order to get the job done. But as Callan has been warned most of his life, it’s best to stay away from magic. It can turn on you at any moment, and make you think you’re the one running the con game, when in reality you’re the one being fooled. Faced with these unsurmountable odds, can the new friends pull off this legendary heist, or has their luck finally run out?

Walking in Two Worlds
By Wab Kinew
296 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269002 | Penguin Teen Canada
Bugz is caught between two worlds. In the real world, she’s a shy and self-conscious Indigenous teen who faces the stresses of teenage angst and life on the Rez. But in the virtual world, her alter ego is not just confident but dominant in a massively multiplayer video game universe. Feng is a teen boy who has been sent from China to live with his aunt, a doctor on the Rez, after his online activity suggests he may be developing extremist sympathies. Meeting each other in real life, as well as in the virtual world, Bugz and Feng immediately relate to each other as outsiders and as avid gamers. And as their connection is strengthened through their virtual adventures, they find that they have much in common in the real world, too: both must decide what to do in the face of temptations and pitfalls, and both must grapple with the impacts of family challenges and community trauma. But betrayal threatens everything Bugz has built in the virtual world, as well as her relationships in the real world, and it will take all her newfound strength to restore her friendship with Feng and reconcile the parallel aspects of her life: the traditional and the mainstream, the east and the west, the real and the virtual.

2023 Silver Birch Express Fiction Award®️ Nominee

Crimson Twill: Witch in the City
By Kallie George
Illustrated by Brigitta Sif
64 Pages | Ages 7-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536214635 | Candlewick
Crimson Twill is a little witch, but you might not know it. She lives in the country and loves polka dots and puppies instead of pointy shoes and black dresses. She even wears a big bow on her hat – which is crimson, just like her name. Tonight, for the very first time, Crimson is riding on her mother’s broom all the way to New Wart City to go shopping at Broomingdale’s! The huge department store has everything a witch could itch for. For Crimson, each floor (hats! cats! brooms!) is a new adventure. But is Broomingdale’s ready for a witch as unique as Crimson? A rich and playful new world comes to life in the first book of this charming series.

Flipping Forward Twisting Backward
By Alma Fullerton
Illustrated by Sarah Mensinga
144 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781682633663 | Peachtree
The gym is where Claire shines and she’s on her way to qualifying for the state championships. But at school, she’s known as a troublemaker – which is fine with her since it helps her hide her reading problem. Claire has never been able to make sense of the wobbling jumble of letters on a page. When a sympathetic principal wonders if she’s acting out because she may have dyslexia, she’s stunned. Claire has always assumed she’s dumb, so she’s eager to get evaluated. But her mother balks. Afraid Claire will be labeled “stupid,” she refuses testing. Can Claire take on both her reading challenges and her mother’s denial? Is it worth jeopardizing her dream of the state championships? Told in clear and poignant verse and featuring black and white illustrations, Claire’s struggle with something that seems to come easily to everyone else will resonate with readers and have them cheering her on.

2023 Silver Birch Express Non-Fiction Award®️ Nominee

Pink, Blue, and You! Questions for Kids about Gender Stereotypes
By Elise Gravel and Mykaell Blais
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593178638 | Ann Schwartz Books
Is it okay for boys to cry? Can girls be strong? Should girls and boys be given different toys to play with and different clothes to wear? Should we all feel free to love whoever we choose to love? In this incredibly kid-friendly and easy-to-grasp picture book, author-illustrator Elise Gravel and transgender collaborator Mykaell Blais raise these questions and others relating to gender roles, acceptance, and stereotyping. With its simple language, colorful illustrations, engaging backmatter that showcases how “appropriate” male and female fashion has changed through history, and even a poster kids can hang on their wall, here is the ideal tool to help in conversations about a multi-layered and important topic.

2023 Yellow Cedar Award Nominees

The Hanmoji Handbook
By Jason Li, An Xiao Mina, and Jennifer 8. Lee
Illustrated by Jason Li
160 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536219135 | MITeen Press
Even though their dates of origin are millennia apart, the languages of Chinese and emoji share similarities that the average smartphone user might find surprising. These “hanmoji” parallels offer an exciting new way to learn Chinese – and a fascinating window into the evolution of Chinese Han characters. Packed with fun illustrations and engaging descriptions, The Hanmoji Handbook brings to life the ongoing dialogue between the visual elements of Chinese characters and the language of emoji. At once entertaining and educational, this unique volume holds sure appeal for readers who use emojis, anyone interested in learning Chinese, and those who love quirky, visual gift books.

2023 White Pine Award™️ Nominees

Iron Widow
By Xiran Jay Zhao
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269934 | Penguin Teen Canada
The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected – she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​ To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way – and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Wrong Side of the Court
By H. N. Khan
312 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270879 | Penguin Teen Canada
Fifteen-year-old Fawad Chaudhry loves two things: basketball and his mother’s potato and ground-beef stuffed parathas. Both are round and both help him forget about things like his father, who died two years ago, his mother’s desire to arrange a marriage to his first cousin, Nusrat, back home in Pakistan, and the tiny apartment in Regent Park he shares with his mom and sister. Not to mention his estranged best friend Yousuf, who’s coping with the shooting death of his older brother. But Fawad has plans: like, asking out Ashley, even though she lives on the other, wealthier side of the tracks, and saving his friend Arif from being beaten into a pulp for being the school flirt, and making the school basketball team and dreaming of being the world’s first Pakistani to be drafted into the NBA. All he has to do now is convince his mother to let him try out for the basketball team. And let him date girls from his school. Not to mention somehow get Omar, the neighborhood bully, to leave him alone.

I Am Not Starfire
By Mariko Tamaki
Illustrated by Yoshi Yoshitani
184 Pages | Ages 13+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781779501264 | DC Comics
Seventeen-year-old Mandy, daughter of Starfire, is NOT like her mother. Starfire is gorgeous, tall, sparkly, and a hero. Mandy is NOT a sparkly superhero. Mandy has no powers, is a kid who dyes her hair black and hates everyone but her best friend Lincoln. To Starfire, who is from another planet, Mandy seems like an alien, like some distant angry light years away moon. And it’s possible Mandy is even more distant lately, ever since she walked out on her S.A.T.s. Which, yeah, her mom doesn’t know. Everyone thinks Mandy needs to go to college and become whoever you become at college, but Mandy has other plans. Mandy’s big plan is that she’s going to move to France and…do whatever people do in France. But then everything changes when she gets partnered with Claire for a school project. Mandy likes Claire (even if she denies it, heartily and intensely). A lot. How do you become the person you’re supposed to be when you don’t know what that is? How do you become the person you’re supposed to be when the only thing you’re sure of is what you’re not? When someone from Starfire’s past arrives, Mandy must make a choice: give up before the battle has even begun, or step into the unknown and risk everything to save her mom. I am Not Starfire is a story about teenagers and/as aliens; about knowing where you come from and where you are going; and about mothers.

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!

A Different Kind of Normal: My Real-Life COMPLETELY True Story About Being Unique
By Abigail Balfe
240 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781774881637 | Tundra Books
“Hi! My name is Abigail, and I’m autistic. But I didn’t know I was autistic until I was a (kind of) adult. This is my true story of growing up in the confusing ‘normal’ world, all the while missing some Very Important Information about myself. There’ll be scary moments involving toilets and crowded trains, heart-warming tales of cats and pianos, and funny memories including my dad and a mysterious tub of ice cream. Along the way you’ll also find some Very Crucial Information about autism.” Important, funny, and completely unique, this book is for anyone who has ever felt different.

Narwhalicorn and Jelly: A Narwhal and Jelly Book #7
By Ben Clanton
80 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266728 | Tundra Books
When Jelly wonders what a unicorn is, Narwhal explains that they’re pretty much narwhals of the land (!) – and then gets carried away with a grand plan to see one. With the help of Star, Narwhal’s wish comes true in the wildest, weirdest way: Narwhal gets some land legs and takes their first step ashore. After some wibble-wobbling and a bit of practice, Narwhal is soon galloping along in search of unicorns, though Jelly is a little land sick. Before they know it, Star has the duo blasting off to a magical planet where everyone is a unicorn! But Jelly’s out-of-this-world adventure makes him feel out of his comfort zone, and he wishes he were at home . . . can Narwhal cheer Jelly up and also party down with their new unicorn pals?

On This Airplane
By Lourdes Heuer
Illustrated by Sara Palacios
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735268609 | Tundra Books
Someone travels solo, two travel as one,
three return, and four set out. In this simple and moving book, a young family takes a plane to their new home. While onboard, they encounter all the people you meet on a plane: a bookworm, a businessperson, tourists, crying babies and daydreamers . . . all with their own stories and all heading somewhere special.

Strum & Drum: A Merry Little Quest
By Jashar Awan
56 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735272392 | Tundra Books
All is quiet in the forest as the Great Star rises in the distance, and two little musicians, Strum and Drum, wake up from a deep slumber and set out to make the most joyous music they can! But as Strum strums his guitar and Drum drums her drum on their way to the North, some mysterious obstacles fill their paths . . . flickering lanterns, bubbles of glass, a silver waterfall, a tiny house, dangerous animals . . . and a wooden man with a toothy grin warns them of a beast with green eyes lying in wait. For this is no ordinary forest – it’s a Christmas tree, on Christmas Eve, and Strum, Drum and all their new friends are ornaments! But when the green-eyed beast strikes and sends them tumbling out of the “forest,” Strum and Drum’s quest to reach the Great Star seems doomed . . . until a little boy setting out milk and cookies for Santa spots them. 

New in Paperback:

Walking in Two Worlds
By Wab Kinew
296 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735269026 | Penguin Teen Canada
Bugz is caught between two worlds. In the real world, she’s a shy and self-conscious Indigenous teen who faces the stresses of teenage angst and life on the Rez. But in the virtual world, her alter ego is not just confident but dominant in a massively multiplayer video game universe. Feng is a teen boy who has been sent from China to live with his aunt, a doctor on the Rez, after his online activity suggests he may be developing extremist sympathies. Meeting each other in real life, as well as in the virtual world, Bugz and Feng immediately relate to each other as outsiders and as avid gamers. And as their connection is strengthened through their virtual adventures, they find that they have much in common in the real world, too: both must decide what to do in the face of temptations and pitfalls, and both must grapple with the impacts of family challenges and community trauma. But betrayal threatens everything Bugz has built in the virtual world, as well as her relationships in the real world, and it will take all her newfound strength to restore her friendship with Feng and reconcile the parallel aspects of her life: the traditional and the mainstream, the east and the west, the real and the virtual.

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.

Tundra Telegram: Books To Rewrite Erasure

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we talk about the subjects on readers’ minds and recommend some good books for young readers to approach those topics.

This Friday (September 30) is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. This is a federal holiday day meant to honour the Indigenous children who never returned home and survivors of Canada’s residential school system, as well as their families and communities. The holiday is closely connected to Orange Shirt Day, an earlier-established Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day meant to increase public awareness of the individual, family and community intergenerational impacts of residential schools. (The orange shirt is used as a symbol of the erasure of of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations.)

No puns this week, just lots of great picture books, middle-grade novels, and YA from Indigenous authors – some of which deal directly with residential schools, while others do not. And stay tuned for more great titles as Cree author David A. Robertson’s new imprint with Tundra starts acquiring books soon!

PICTURE BOOKS

David A. Robertson and Julie Flett’s Governor General’s Award-winning On the Trapline is a story that looks at residential schools, if obliquely. A boy takes a trip with his Moshom, his grandpa, to visit his trapline, where his family hunted and lived off the land. As they continue on their northern journey, the boy finds himself imagining what life was like two generations ago and asks questions of his Moshom, including what it was like going to school after living on the trapline. The book also contains a number of Cree terms, which were forbidden from residential schools.

Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes, illustrated by Joe Morse, is a picture book that was written by Wab Kinew, who – among many other things (broadcaster, rapper, politician) – served as an Honorary Witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. His picture book, inspired by inspired by former President Barack Obama’s Of Thee I Sing, is a moving and musical tribute to both historic and modern-day Indigenous heroes of Wab’s – everyone from Tecumseh and Sacagawea to NASA astronaut John Herrington and NHL goalie Carey Price.

The events dramatized in Encounter by Brittany Luby and Michaela Goade take place decades before residential schools, but the book is a good reminder of an alternate historic path European explorers could have taken. The book imagines the first encounter between a European sailor and a Stadaconan fisher. As the two navigate their differences (language, dress, food) with curiosity, the natural world around them notes their similarities. The book also features an author’s note to place the encounter within the context of Canadian history, and prompts for further discussion.

Though the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is explicitly about Canadian residential schools, the United States ran similar “Indian boarding schools,” which leads us to recommend We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell and Frane Lessac. We Are Grateful looks at a modern-day Cherokee community throughout the year, who express gratitude for all the elements of daily life. Scenes of celebration for the Great New Moon Ceremony are chronicled, as are difficult memories, like a remembrance of the Trail of Tears. (And it features a chock-full of Cherokee vocabulary, the kind that was outlawed at boarding schools.)

In Navajo families, the first person to make a new baby laugh hosts the child’s First Laugh Ceremony. This forms the story of First Laugh: Welcome Baby! by Roe Ann Tahe, Nancy Bo Flood, and Jonathan Nelson. And so, every relation (from big sister to grandma) try to get Baby to laugh, and readers are introduced (or reintroduced) to details of Navajo culture, and a number of Navajo words – especially those for family members, like nima (mother) and cheii (grandfather).

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Storytelling is central to teaching and remembering the residential school system – and an important component of truth and reconciliation – but for decades most people were largely ignorant of their history. Author David A. Robertson’s work has often been motivated by this, including his fantastical middle-grade adventures, The Misewa Saga. Morgan and Eli are Indigenous children in Winnipeg who discover a portal at their foster home to another world, Askī, where they discover talking animal beings who connect them to traditional ways, as well as help them deal with the challenges in the real world. The Barren Grounds opens the portal, while The Great Bear throws a great time-travel story into the mix, and The Stone Child brings Morgan and her allies to the northern woods, where they encounter new horrors. And in addition to being influenced by Cree sky stories, they examine the foster care system, which many have criticized as being a modern-day version of residential schools.

Rez Dogs (not to be confused with the incredible – and similarly named – TV series) is the latest middle grade novel from one of America’s foremost Indigenous children’s authors, Joseph Bruchac. Set during the Covid-19 pandemic, it follows Wabanaki girl Malian, whose visit to her grandparents’ reservation gets extended by a Covid-19 quarantine. But Malian rises to the challenge, and helps her community mange during the pandemic (be it through distancing or teaching elders to use Zoom) and makes a new friend in a local rez dog.

YOUNG ADULT

Enter (or re-enter) a dystopian world explicitly informed by the residential school system in Cherie Dimaline’s Hunting by Stars. The follow-up to the acclaimed The Marrow Thieves, in which Indigenous people across North America are being hunted for their bone marrow (which is rumored to contain the ability to dream) and housed in reopened residential school systems,  the book follows French heading north with his newfound family as they dodge school Recruiters, a blood cult, and more.

Two Roads, also by Joseph Bruchac, is a Depression-era story that explicitly revolves around the Indian boarding schools in the United States. Cal Black learns from his Pop that he’s a Creek Indian and he’s being sent to a government boarding school in Oklahoma (the Challagi School). Though Cal faces harsh and miserable conditions at the school, the one bright spot is the other Creek boys he befriends and through which he learns about his culture.

Walking in Two Worlds by Wab Kinew tells the story of Bugz, a girl caught between her real-life shyness on the Rez, and her overwhelming dominance in the massive multiplayer video game, The Floraverse. The assimilation metaphors appear throughout the book, as readers follow Bugz and her struggle to reconcile the parallel aspects (and wildly divergent portions) of her life, in a not dissimilar way that survivors of the residential schools have.

Winner of the American Indian Youth Literature Award Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith also looks at a contemporary Indigenous teen trying to navigate the challenges of high school (but without as much gaming). Louise Wolfe’s first boyfriend turns out to be a bigot (one of the dangers of “dating while Native”), so she focuses on her work at the school paper. She and Joey Kairouz, photojournalist, follow a story about the school’s inclusive casting of The Wizard of Oz in their mostly white Kansas town. While uncovering the closemindedness of their town, they may find a little romance, too.

Tundra Telegram: Books That Killed the Radio Star

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we plug into the subjects we like all too well, and recommend some truly g-l-a-m-o-r-o-u-s books.

This past Sunday, social media platforms lit up like starships in reaction to the highs and lows of the 2022 edition of a video music award ceremony. Though the namesake of the awards no longer plays music videos – we note, curmudgeonly – all that Sunday night and the following Monday morning, everyone online was talking about new music, be it BLACKPINK, Lizzo, or the surprise Taylor Swift album announcement.

In honour of this celebration of music, we’re doing something a little different this week: we’ve recommended books – three in each of our usual categories – connected to the winners, performers, and moments from this past Weeknd’s music video awards. So read on, because the music revolution will be televised!  

PICTURE BOOKS

Taylor Swift broke a record for most video of the year wins with her 2022 win for her epic “All Too Well: The Short Film.” And as we all remember, the song chronicles the rise and breakup of a romance, in which the imagery of a scarf (which may or may not be in the possession of Jake Gyllenhaal, and which The Verge has described as “the green dock light of our time”) takes centre stage. We can’t help but be reminded of the new seasonal classic Mistletoe by Tad Hills, in which winter-weather-loving mouse tries in vain to connect to her elephant friend who only wants to stay inside where it’s warm and cozy. Of course, the titular mouse knits a perfect holiday gift for her elephant friend. And you know that elephant would never forget it at his sister’s house.

Bad Bunny, the Puerto Rican trap and reggaeton artist and sometime wrestler (!), also made history becoming the first non-English-language act to win artist of the year. Whether it’s his international smash hits or unwavering support for the Latin LGBTQ community, there’s not much bad about Bad Bunny. But the same cannot be said for Richard Scarry’s Naughty Bunny, who scares his mother by blaring the TV too loudly, scribbles all over the walls, and kicks up a fuss when he should be napping. (Actually, he doesn’t sound that bad either.) But though he’s a naughty rabbit, he still manages to be loveable, like Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio – as both male and female backup dancers can attest!

Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow took home a few awards for their blockbuster video of “Industry Baby,” which sees the two rappers breaking out of a very special prison. The perfect picture book pairing would be Milo Imagines the World by Matt De La Peña and Christian Robinson, which follows Milo and his older sister on a long subway ride, during which Milo imagines and draws pictures of the lives of the other riders. Not only does it match the video’s creativity, but the subway ride Milo and his sister make is a weekend journey to visit their incarcerated mother.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Jack Harlow also took home the trophy for “song of the summer,” and had one of the biggest performances of the night with his song “First Class.” And while the video may more be about a moneyed lifestyle than anything academic, there’s no first class more appealing than that in Narwhal’s School of Awesomeness by Ben Clanton. The graphic novel sees beloved sea buds Narwhal and Jelly becoming substitute teachers for the first time for a school of fish. Their education methods are unconventional, but full of fun and positivity. Jack Harlow may have his first class up in the sky, but does he have wafflematics class under the sea?

One of the most notable couples on the red carpet this past weekend was goofy rapper Yung Gravy and TikTok star Addison Raes mother (Sheri Nicole Easterling). We know one person who likes Gravy more than any Tiktokkers’ mothers, and that’s food-obsessed dachshund Weenie in Mad About Meatloaf, the first book in the Weenie featuring Frank and Beans graphic novels by Maureen Fergus and Alexandra Bye. After all, what is a gravy, but meatloaf sauce? And no one loves meatloaf more than Weenie, who hilariously conscripts his fellow pets Frank (a cat) and Beans (a hamster) on a convoluted quest to get some.

Singer and flautist Lizzo gave one of the night’s standout performances and won the award for “video for good” for her new hit “About Damn Time,” an uplifting jam that celebrates survival through hardships. A book that is also about time is Jen Calonita’s The Retake, a time-travelling middle-grade novel about a girl, Zoe, who downloads a magical app on her phone that allows her to travel back in time to moments where she and her best friend Laura started to drift apart. Not only that, it looks at themes of social media pressures and bullying, something Lizzo knows a thing or two about, as well.

YOUNG ADULT

Few musical moments have made this writer feel older than the performance of Eminem and Snoop Dogg of their “From the D 2 to the LBC.” The two hip-hop artists performed as their Bored Ape avatars in the metaverse in a dystopian confluence of advertising for NFTs and Facebook products before they took the stage for real. If you like virtual worlds and avatars but are looking for a little more adventure and social commentary, you should check out Wab Kinew’s Walking in Two Worlds. In it, a shy Indigenous teen on the Rez, Bugz, dominates in a multiplayer video game world called the Floraverse, but finds herself caught between her two realities.

A less bizarre but no less memorable stage performance came from K-Pop group BLACKPINK of their song, “Pink Venom.” And to match the sweet-but-deadly vibe of the song (and the group), we’re going with Danielle Vega’s The Merciless. A group of popular girls with perfect hair perform brutal exorcisms on their classmates. Queen bees meet torture scenes – and with a pink cover, to boot! “Straight to ya’ dome” will have a completely different (and gruesome) meaning after reading.

Finally, Thai K-Pop rapper Lisa (one-fourth of BLACKPINK) won in the “Best K-Pop” category for “Lalisa.” Lisa’s youth, training with YG Entertainment, is not unlike that depicted in the YA novel Idol Gossip by Alexandra Leigh Young. In the book, Alice Choy is discovered by the fictional Top10 Entertainment and struggles to stay true to herself and overcome the haters in this insiders’ look at a K-Pop Academy, the kind at which Lisa herself became the first non-ethnically Korean trainee.

Happy reading, friends!