Tundra Telegram: Books That Reach for Disguise

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we check out the things that are posing particular problems for social media users and recommend some verified great reads.  

One thing that came up often on Twitter this past weekend, with the implementation of the new blue check mark system: impersonation! The new CEO is very concerned with users pretending to be someone they are not – in particular, pretending to be someone who just purchased Twitter for $44 billion. The new management was adamant they would condone no impersonation of famous billionaires, no matter how amusing it might be.

In honor of the good times that were had pretending to be a thin-skinned plutocrat, we’ve assembled the best children’s book featuring impersonation, impostors, and mistaken identities. These aren’t your grandaddy’s Prince and the Pauper!

PICTURE BOOKS

Ooko, the title character of Esmé Shapiro’s Ooko, is a fox who can’t really be said to be impersonating a dog as he really thinks he is one. Or rather, the thinks dogs are foxes, and can’t understand why the other foxes (including the fur-less two-legged foxes) don’t want him around. Ooko tries to make himself look like the other foxes (or dogs), but learns that being yourself is the best policy in this adorable book of inadvertent identity theft.

It’s one thing to impersonate a look, but what about a sound? In the new book Little Echo by Al Rodin, Little Echo lives alone in a cave and mimics the noises all around her, repeating only what she hears. But when a boy named Max enters the cave, she follows him and discovers she might have a voice of her own. Little Echo is a book about mimicry that suggests intense shyness and loneliness is often the cause of that impersonation.

Lookalike cats who live in adjacent apartment buildings wind up with the wrong owners in a comic story of mistaken cat identities Niblet & Ralph by Zachariah OHora. But though the two cats look similar, their tastes are very different. (Ralph loves listening to his tunes. Niblet loves his potato chips.) And they struggle to let their not-very-observant owners know they’re in the wrong household.

This next entry kind of gives the ending of the book away, so skip ahead one title if you don’t like your picture books spoiled. Great Dog by Davide Cali and Miguel Tanco follows a pup and his dog father as they stroll past portraits of great dogs in their family and discuss what the pup might grow up to be: an astronaut? A marathon runner? But the book reveals that all those great dogs were actually not great at all! And even the pup at the center of the story may, in fact, be a cat.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

The titular Yumi Chung allows one of her favorite YouTube stars and the campers at a comedy camp for kids believe she is a girl named “Kay Nakamura” for the majority of Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim. Yumi wants her parents to think she has a future career as a comedian, but they want her to pass a scholarship exam so she can attend an exclusive private school. But when she stumbles into a comedy camp led by her idol Jasmine Jasper and is mistaken for another camper, her quite funny double life begins!

Speaking of funny kids, Jake in Jake the Fake Keeps It Real by Craig Robinson (!) and Adam Mansbach (and illustrated by Keith Knight) is hilarious. But he also fakes his way into a prestigious music and art academy by auditioning with the only song he knows how to play on piano. Feeling like a real impostor and surrounded by young geniuses and artists, Jake will have to fake it until he makes it, or else the last laugh will be on him.

YOUNG ADULT

As the title of Genuine Fraud by E.We Were LiarsLockhart might suggest, this is a book about an impostor. Imogen is an orphaned heiress, and Julie is her closest friend. But months later, Julie is posing as Imogen, living at the fabulous Playa Grande Resort in Cabo San Lucas. What happened to Imogen and why is Julie pretending to be her? (Especially since Julie has not tagged herself as a parody account.)

It seems like it would be easy (and almost expected) for twins to impersonate one another, but thriller The Twin by Natasha Preston takes it to extremely creepy levels. Ivy and Iris are twins who haven’t lived together for years after their parents have a nasty divorce. But when their mom dies in an accident, Iris moves in with Ivy and her dad. Soon after, the Single White Female treatment begins, with Iris quickly taking over her sister’s entire identity.

In an impersonation feat, two girls pose as one in the romance We Are the Perfect Girl by Ariel Kalpan. An outgoing girl with an immense body dysphoria, Aphra, poses as her deeply shy but conventionally beautiful friend Bethany on a dating app. And together, with Cyrano-like precision, they win over Bethany’s hunky crush, Greg D’Agostino. How long can the dating duo keep D’Agostino in the dark – and can the two girls remain friends when their deception is inevitably revealed?

David Yoon’s Super Fake Love Song follows roleplaying nerd Sunny Dae, who pretends he’s the front man of a rock band to impress the girl of his dreams – going to all lengths to not reveal the lie. He should have called that band The Pretenders (but it was already taken), so he called his imaginary band The Mortals – don’t even get me started on The Mortal’s instruments. (Rimshot!)

And Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim is an epic fantasy about fashion and tailoring magic dresses. But Maia Tamarin, our heroine and daughter of a renowned tailor, must pretend she is her own brother to enter a cutthroat competition to prepare three magic gowns for the emperor’s bride-to-be – so we’re counting her as an impostor, too!

Tundra Telegram: Books to Geek Out Over

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we draw on topics that we’re all fanboying and fangirling over, and recommend some books to keep the excitement onward and upward.

Unless you have curated a completely geek-free social media feed, you know that last weekend the San Diego Comic-Con took over southern California, wrapping up on July 24, and previewing the biggest and newest things in comic books, science fiction, video games, and much more. Whether you were more thrilled to see the trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever or Sarah Michelle-Gellar making a surprise appearance at the Teen Wolf panel, the return of Comic-Con had a little something for everyone.

To mark the occasion, we’re recommending books that are not comic books themselves, nor do they feature comic characters (like the great DC Icons YA series). Instead, they are books about comic books, RPGs, and fandoms. Get your geek on, and find your next great read below!

PICTURE BOOKS

For some comic book fans, no matter their age, there are few words as thrilling as There’s a Superhero in Your Book, which is the title of a book by Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott. Even better, this picture book is interactive, so young readers can enjoy tapping, stretching, and whizzing this book around as they help the superhero defeat the villain and save the day – while discovering the real superpower of kindness.

If that sounds a bit too stimulating for your young reader, we can recommend Even Superheroes Have to Sleep by Sara Crow and Adam Record. Little kids will enjoy this rhyming story that tricks lulls them into bedtime with the promise that all their heroes are getting tucked into bed, too. (You know Sleepwalker loves his shut-eye!) And there’s a companion book called Even Superheroes Use the Potty where you can (maybe?) learn how Iron Man goes to the washroom in that suit!

If the young readers in your life are wild about superhero movies and games, they may relate to the main character of Max and the Superheroes by Rocio Bonilla and Oriol Malet. Max and his friends love learning about superheroes and their superpowers. Everyone has a favorite, and Max’s is Megapower: she’s brave, tames animals, has x-ray vision, is super smart, can fly – and just happens to be Max’s mom. (So it’s perfect for Mother’s Day, as well.)

And for something a little different, you can learn about the origins of gaming with Blips on a Screen by Kate Hannigan and Zachariah OHora. It’s a picture book biography about Ralph Baer, a Jewish refugee who pioneered home video games and launched a worldwide obsession. Considered the “Father of Video Games,” there’d be no Xbox or Nintendo Switch without him!

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Where would the MCU be without Stan Lee, the writer who co-created many of Marvel’s signature characters? Find out more, true believers, in Who Was Stan Lee? by Geoff Edgers and John Hinderliter, a book that chronicles how a kid from the Bronx created a comic book empire (with more than a little help from Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and a roster of talented artists).

What if you’re at the stage that you want to start – like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby – to make your own comics? You might like Doodleville by Chad Sell. Yes, it is a graphic novel, but it’s also about young artists in the school’s art club and the power of creativity: specifically, how one member’s (Drew’s) artistic creations come to life and wreak havoc on the other kids’ drawings of heroes.

Or maybe they would like Stephen Shaskan’s Pizza and Taco: Super-Awesome Comic, in which the beloved anthropomorphic foodstuffs decide to collaborate on a comic book, but must overcome their deep-seated artistic differences to make a great story.

But if your young readers would like something a little more hands-on, you’ll want Jess Smart Smiley’s Let’s Make Comics: An Activity Book to Create, Write, and Draw Your Own Cartoons. This is this an honest-to-goodness, all-ages activity book that makes use of humorous and informative one-page comics and exercise prompts to guide young readers through easy-to-master lessons on the skills needed to make comics. By the time you’re done, you’ll have a bunch of short comics under your belt – and it even comes recommended by Narwhal and Jelly creator Ben Clanton!

What’s more appropriate than a novel that takes place at a comic convention? Marthe Jocelyn, Richard Scrimger, and Claudia Davila’s book Viminy Crowe’s Comic Book opens at the Toronto comic-con, where two very different kids – geek Wylder Wallace and aloof Addy Crowe – find themselves drawn (literally) into the fantastic world of a hit comic book.

Vera Vance: Comics Star by Claudia Mills and Grace Zong, spotlights a third-grader who signs up for a comics camp after-school program, much to the chagrin of her mother. But Vera loves everything comics and starts making her own with the encouragement of friends and the teachers of her camp. And in an inversion of Viminy Crowe, it all leads up to a local comic convention, in which Vera hopes to enter an original comics contest – if only her mother will let her go!

In Stink: Superhero Superfan by Megan McDonald and Peter H. Reynolds, the popular character discovers a box of old comics about a superhero he’s never heard of: Super Gecko! Before long, Stink becomes Super Gecko’s biggest fan. Then he starts receiving mysterious notes signed by Super Gecko himself. Can Stink do some detective work worthy of S.G. and find out who is sending the letters before the Gecko gets a dark and gritty reboot?

A contemporary graphic novel that combines OCD with AD&D, Just Roll with It by Veronica Agarwal and Lee Durfey-Lavoie follows Maggie, who is shy, doesn’t know anyone at her school, and deals with anxiety and OCD. She also loves Dungeons and Dragons (and other role-playing games), so her twenty-sided die (D20, for those in the know) helps her make decisions – just like Two-Face and his lucky quarter in the Batman comics!

And for the young nonfiction comic fan, check out Comics Confidential by Leonard S. Marcus, an anthology of interviews and original comics by today’s foremost graphic novelists (Kazu Kibuishi, Gene Luen Yang, Hope Larson), who talk all about the highs and lows of making comics! It has lots of great advice for young comic writers and illustrators!

YOUNG ADULT

Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner is like a comic-con Twelfth Night (or She’s the Man, if you prefer). Cameron is a cosplay wizard and aspiring fashion designer. When her costumes win a competition, male fans troll her, accusing her of not being a “real” fan. After a move, she discovers the local comic shop, managed by the exact kind of male gatekeeper who forced her to flee the online world. So she borrows her twin brother’s clothes, poses as a boy, and easily enters the local nerd inner sanctum (and their ongoing D&D game). And things get even more complicated when she develops a crush on one of those D&D adventurers!

If comic-con-adjacent romances are your thing, you need to read Geekerella by Ashley Poston, a fan-fic twist on the Cinderella story about geek girl Ellie Wittimer, the worlds’ biggest fan of sci-fi TV series Starfield who wins a trip to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and gets to meet a teen actor from the new film reboot, Darien Freeman. Will Ellie hit it off with her Federation Prince? Or will her stepsisters ruin things for her again?

And if you enjoy Geekerella, you might like the follow-up, The Princess and the Fangirl, a geeky take on The Prince and the Pauper! Imogen Lovelace is a fangirl who doesn’t want her favourite Starfield character, Princess Amara, to get killed off. Jessica Stone is the teen actress who plays Amara and wants out of the franchise. And – coincidentally – they look a lot like each other. Parent Trap-style, a deal is struck, but will fans catch on to their scheme?

For more geek love, you need Melissa Keil’s Life in Outer Space, in which self-described, seventeen-year-old Sam Kinnison (no relation) loves horror movies and World of Warcraft and his loser friends. Then a cool girl named Camilla Carter enters his life – she also loves W.O.W., and wants to be Sam’s friend, which throws his life upside-down is this funny love-letter to geeks.

If you want to read some nonfiction from a famous geek girl, then you want The Fangirl’s Guide to the Universe by Sam Maggs, author of numerous comics and video games (and former on-air host for Nerdist). This handbook is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes for girls into geeks stuff, including how to make nerdy friends, how to rock cosplay, to defeat internet trolls (very important), and how to attend your first con. It includes advice from Sam as well as other fangirl faves like Danielle Paige, Rainbow Rowell, and Preeti Chibber!

See you all in the funny pages!