Tundra Telegram: Books That Really Slay

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we talk about the subjects hoarding all our attention, and recommend some books that we think are straight fire.

This past weekend, HBO premiered House of the Dragon, the prequel series to their popular Game of Thrones show, based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books. Viewers were keen to return to Westeros and learn about how the House of Targaryen fell – so keen, in fact, that streaming services HBO Max and Crave (in Canada) reportedly crashed for many users.

What better time to recommend some books for children and teens about dragons – books that are too hot, they’d make a dragon want to retire (from appearing in dragon-related books, I assume)? So, let’s not drag on any further (get it?) and jump into this week’s fiery recommendations.

PICTURE BOOKS

What we’re looking for is books with dragons in them, so there’s no better way to start our picture book recommendations than with There’s a Dragon in Your Book by Tom Fletcher and Greg Abbott. But not just any dragon – a cute baby dragon that hatches in your book (as if it were Drogo’s funeral pyre) and young readers must stamp, blow, and flap their arms to save the book from bursting into flame when this baby dragon sneezes!

One thing you don’t see a lot of in Game of Thrones is something you see a lot of in this book: underwear. Attack of the Underwear Dragon, written by Scott Rothman and Pete Oswald, follows Cole, the brave assistant to the great knight Sir Percival, who must face a terrifying Underwear Dragon on his own. The sequel, Return of the Underwear Dragon, reveals Cole and the Dragon’s conflict in the first book resulted from – spoiler alert – the Dragon’s inability to read signs. So this book chronicles young Cole’s attempt to teach his scaly friend to read – even resorting to alphabet-themed undies.

Okay, so the “dragons” in Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor aren’t the kind that fly and breathe fire. But this book by Patricia Valdez and Felicita Scala is about a pioneering female scientist who loved reptiles – especially komodo dragons. Procter became the Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum, designed the Reptile House at the London Zoo, and hosted children’s tea parties with her komodo dragon as a guest of honor (!).

Ellie’s Dragon by Bob Graham is sort of a modern twist on the “Puff the Magic Dragon” song, as it tells of the friendship of small, shy Ellie, and the newborn dragon she finds at the grocery store, Scratch, who may or may not be real.

Though it could have been written by a Targaryen, How to Light Your Dragon is actually written by Fred Benaglia and Didier Levy, and hilariously walks readers through the steps to help a dragon rediscover its fire-breathing abilities. While there are certain handy tricks (surprising your dragon with a cake and unlit birthday candles), readers learn the key is loving your dragon unconditionally.

And though a dragon is just one of the mythical creatures our heroine considers for a pet in Vikki VanSickle and Cale Atkinson’s If I Had a Gryphon – among unicorns, manticores, and, yes, gryphons – it’s among the ones that cause the most property damage, as it comically torches our poor pet lover’s house with a sneeze.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

When you hear “dragon,” you probably think of castles and knights in shining armor. Well, throw that out the window (like it were Bran Stark), because you need to read Canadian Zetta Elliott’s Dragons in a Bag series. The acclaimed middle-grade series takes place in modern-day Brooklyn, where young Jaxon and friends Kenny, Kavita and Vikram help his mother’s Ma deliver some baby dragons to a magical world where they’ll be safe. Book Two, The Dragon Thief, outlines what happens when Kavita steals a dragon’s egg. And The Witch’s Apprentice shows Jax learning a little magic for himself!

The Dragon Storm series, written by Alistair Chisholm and illustrated by Eric Deschamps, is a series of books, each about a youth brought to a secret league of dragonseers, The Guild, where they train to bond with their dragons and summon their power. Whether it’s Tom and Ironskin, Cara and Silverthief, or Ellis and Pathseeker – each kid and their dragon have a rousing adventure story to tell.

A Dragon Used to Live Here, or so the story goes by Annette LeBlanc Cate – or rather, that’s the story that Meg, a cranky scribe in the castle basement, tells to restless noble children Thomas and Emily. Meg tells them fantastical and funny stories of their mother’s (and the castle’s) past that they frankly cannot believe – kidnappings, loyal elves, true love, archery practice gone amiss, and, of course, a ferocious dragon.

Rowan has had to face all sorts of monsters throughout Kelley Armstrong’s Royal Guide to Monster Slaying series: gryphons, colocolos, and dropbears. And in the fourth and final installment, The Final Trial, she, her twin brother Rhydd, friends Dain and Alianor, and an ever-growing group of monstrous companions, must protect the dragon living in their homeland and prove to all the kingdoms that people and monsters can peacefully coexist.

Likewise, The Unicorn Rescue Society, a series of books by Adam Gidwitz and Hatem Aly, has featured rescues of everything from sasquatches to chupacabras by Elliot, Uchenna, and mentor Professor Fauna. But in Book 2: The Basque Dragon (co-authored by Jesse Casey) they must solve the kidnapping of a fire-breathing dragon in the mountains of Europe’s Basque County.

Including The Dragon Turn, the fifth case of The Boy Sherlock Holmes by Canadian author Shane Peacock, in this list is maybe unfair. But the mystery that teen Sherlock and Irene Doyle attempt to solve is connected to illusionist Alistair Hemsworth, who makes a very real and – for his rival magicians – very deadly dragon appear before audiences’ very eyes (just like those talented visual effects people at HBO).

YOUNG ADULT

If you’re talking YA and dragons, then you have to mention Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle. (After all, don’t you have to trust a fantasy writer who has a broadsword?) First written when Paolini was just a teen himself, the books follow poor farm boy Eragon who stumbles upon a dragon egg and – as often happens in these situations – is soon swept into a world of magic, battle, and story. The latest book set in the world of Eragon is The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, three original stories that interlock with Eragon’s epic, featuring a wanderer and a cursed child, spells and magic – and dragons, obvi.

Not to be outdone in the dragon department is Vancouver’s Rachel Hartman, who first introduced readers to the kingdom of Goredd, in which dragons can take human form and coexist in an uneasy peace with humans in the New York Times bestselling novel Seraphina and its sequel, Shadow Scale. She’s since continued her explorations of social justice and feminist in the realm of Goredd with Tess of the Road and its follow-up, In the Serpent’s Wake. Both books feature Tess and her old dragon friend, as they traverse the lands and seas.

If you like your dragons with a dose of post-revolutionary action, you want Fireborne by Rosaria Munda, a book that comes highly recommended by dragon expert Rachel Hartman. In it, Annie and Lee, just children when a brutal revolution changed their world and gave a chance to potentially enter into the governing class of dragonriders. Seven years of training have made them rivals for the top position in the dragonriding fleet (even though Annie’s family was executed by dragonfire years ago!). And if you like those dragonriding politics, you’ll love Flamefall and Furysong, the other books in the Aurelian Cycle.

And lest you get the impression that European fantasy has the copyright on dragon stuff, we recommend Elizabeth Lim’s The Dragon’s Promise, and not just as a reminder of the importance dragons have to Asian legend. The next adventure after Six Crimson Cranes (which also famously features a dragon!) sees the sorceress Princess Shiori trying to make good on a deathbed promise to return the dragon’s pearl to its rightful owner. Unfortunately, that involves journeying to the kingdom of dragons, filled with almost as many dangers as the pearl itself!

Happy reading, friends!

Raptors 905 Summer Reading Challenge 2022

For the past two years, we’ve partnered with our friends at First Book Canada and Raptors 905 to put together the summer reading challenge. Students in grades 4-6 are invited to read 5 books over 5 weeks for a total of 905 minutes of reading. Each week, readers are then invited to join a virtual meeting with the authors of the book club picks.

Here are the titles included in this year’s reading challenge and the dates each author will be joining the virtual meetings.

Friday, July 15, 2022: Zetta Elliot

The Witch’s Apprentice
By Zetta Elliott
Illustrated by Cherise Harris
272 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593427705 | Random House BFYR
Ever since the baby dragons were returned to the magical realm, things have been off. The New York summer has been unusually cold. A strange sleeping sickness is spreading across the city. And Jaxon’s friends Kenny and Kavita have begun to change, becoming more like the fairy and dragon they once cared for. On top of all that, Jax is hiding a secret – Vik entrusted him with a phoenix egg! Jax wants to help his friends and learn how to hatch the phoenix, but so far his lessons as a witch’s apprentice haven’t seemed very useful. Where can he find the strength – and the magic – he needs?

Friday, July 22, 2022: Zanib Mian

Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Maker
By Zanib Mian
Illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik
224 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593109212 | Putnam BFYR
Welcome to the imaginative brain of Omar! Omar and his family have just moved, and he is NOT excited about starting at a new school. What if the work is too hard or the kids are mean or the teacher is a zombie alien?! But when Omar makes a new best friend, things start looking up. That is, until a Big Mean Bully named Daniel makes every day a nightmare! Daniel even tells Omar that all Muslims are going to be kicked out of the country. . . . Could that possibly be true? Luckily, Omar’s enormous imagination and goofy family help him get through life’s ups and downs. Omar’s funny, relatable narrative is the perfect answer to the call for both mirrors and windows to fill bookshelves with diverse stories.

Friday, July 29, 2022: Torrey Maldonado

What Lane?
By Torrey Maldonado
144 Pages | Ages 10+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780525518457 | Nancy Paulsen Books
Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn’t think it’s his lane, but he goes. Here’s the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he’s not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he’s living in two worlds with different rules – and he’s been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends . . . so what’ll he do? Hold on tight as Stephen swerves in and out of lanes to find out which are his – and who should be with him. Torrey Maldonado, author of the highly acclaimed Tight, does a masterful job showing a young boy coming of age in a racially split world, trying to blaze a way to be his best self.

Friday, August 5, 2022: Salma Hussain

The Secret Diary of Mona Hasan
By Salma Hussain
296 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271494 | Tundra Books
Mona Hasan is a young Muslim girl growing up in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, when the first Gulf War breaks out in 1991. The war isn’t what she expects – “We didn’t even get any days off school! Just my luck!” – especially when the ground offensive is over so quickly and her family peels the masking tape off their windows. Her parents, however, fear there is no peace in the region, and it sparks a major change in their lives. Over the course of one year, Mona falls in love, speaks up to protect her younger sister, loses her best friend to the new girl at school, has summer adventures with her cousins in Pakistan, immigrates to Canada, and pursues her ambition to be a feminist and a poet.

Friday, August 12, 2022: Christina Soontornvat

A Wish in the Dark
By Christina Soontornvat
384 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9781536222975 | Candlewick
All light in Chattana is created by one man – the Governor, who appeared after the Great Fire to bring peace and order to the city. For Pong, who was born in Namwon Prison, the magical lights represent freedom, and he dreams of the day he will be able to walk among them. But when Pong escapes from prison, he realizes that the world outside is no fairer than the one behind bars. The wealthy dine and dance under bright orb light, while the poor toil away in darkness. Worst of all, Pong’s prison tattoo marks him as a fugitive who can never be truly free. Nok, the prison warden’s perfect daughter, is bent on tracking Pong down and restoring her family’s good name. But as Nok hunts Pong through the alleys and canals of Chattana, she uncovers secrets that make her question the truths she has always held dear. Set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world, Christina Soontornvat’s twist on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is a dazzling, fast-paced adventure that explores the difference between law and justice – and asks whether one child can shine a light in the dark.

CTV Your Morning Kids’ Book Segment on Light Reads

Our Marketing and Publicity Director, Vikki VanSickle, was on CTV’s Your Morning this past Monday to talk about some of her top light reads. Check out our titles from her recommendations below and don’t forget to watch her segment for the full list (skip ahead to 1:54:00)!

AGES 4-8

Crocodile Hungry
By Eija Sumner
Illustrated by John Martz
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267879 | Tundra Books
Crocodile hungry.
What can crocodile eat?
Canned ham? Too hard to open.
Beef jerky? Gets stuck in teeth.
Eggs? Bite shell, get toothache.
Crocodile must find food. But where?
Though Crocodile is surrounded by food, he doesn’t know it. He’s used to food coming in packages and boxes and in handy tins. Will the hungry crocodile figure it out? Readers big and little will laugh out loud at the simple but hysterical text and illustrations by debut author Eija Sumner and cartoonist (and now resident crocodile expert) John Martz.

Petal the Angry Cow
By Maureen Fergus
Illustrated by Olga Demidova
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264687 | Tundra Books
Petal is everything you could want in a cow. She is kind, thoughtful, a great baker and a wonderful artist. She also has a temper. A very big, out-of-control temper. And it doesn’t help that her barnyard pals like to push her buttons . . . On the day the farmer announces a fabulous trip to a water park, the horse steps on Petal’s foot and she has her biggest tantrum yet. The farmer tells Petal if she doesn’t get her temper under control, she won’t be able to go to the water park! What else can she do but stomp away in a huff? Petal meets a swan who shows her a thing or two about behaving. And not in the way you’d expect . . . This laugh-out-loud story will tickle even the surliest reader, and Petal’s outsized tantrums will feel very familiar to parents and kids alike. But like Petal, this story also has a heart of gold and a core of pure warmth.

The Big Bath House
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Gracey Zhang
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593181959 | Random House Studio
In this celebration of Japanese culture and family and naked bodies of all shapes and sizes, join a little girl – along with her aunties and grandmother – at a traditional bath house. Once there, the rituals leading up to the baths begin: hair washing, back scrubbing, and, finally, the wood barrel drumroll. Until, at last, it’s time, and they ease their bodies – their creased bodies, newly sprouting bodies, saggy, jiggly bodies – into the bath. Ahhhhhh! With a lyrical text and gorgeous illustrations, this picture book is based on Kyo Maclear’s loving memories of childhood visits to Japan, and is an ode to the ties that bind generations of women together.

AGES 6-9

The Witch’s Apprentice
By Zetta Elliott
Illustrated by Cherise Harris
272 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593427705 | Random House BFYR
Ever since the baby dragons were returned to the magical realm, things have been off. The New York summer has been unusually cold. A strange sleeping sickness is spreading across the city. And Jaxon’s friends Kenny and Kavita have begun to change, becoming more like the fairy and dragon they once cared for. On top of all that, Jax is hiding a secret – Vik entrusted him with a phoenix egg! Jax wants to help his friends and learn how to hatch the phoenix, but so far his lessons as a witch’s apprentice haven’t seemed very useful. Where can he find the strength – and the magic – he needs?

AGES 9-12

Sneaks
By Catherine Egan
336 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593306406 | Knopf BFYR
When Ben Harp sees his teacher’s watch crawling across the hallway, he thinks he must be dreaming. But no, he’s just seen his first Sneak – an interdimensional mischief-maker that can borrow the form of any ordinary object.  He figured this school year would be bad – his best friend moved away, the class bully is circling, and he’s stuck doing a group project with two similarly friendless girls, Charlotte and Akemi. Still, he wasn’t expecting aliens!  And he certainly wasn’t expecting that the woman he and Charlotte and Akemi are assigned to interview for their “living local history” project would be a Sneak expert. Or that she’d foist an old book on them to keep safe . . . and then disappear. Now Ben, Charlotte, and Akemi are trying to understand a book that seems to contain a coded map while being pursued by violent clothes hangers, fire-spitting squirrels, and more. The Sneaks want that book! And they want something else, too: to pull a vastly more dangerous creature into the world with them. Can three misfit kids decode the book in time to stop an alien takeover? And if they do, will they get extra credit on their group project?

AGES 14+

Echoes & Empires
By Morgan Rhodes
400 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593351659 | Razorbill
Josslyn Drake knows only three things about magic: it’s rare, illegal, and always deadly. So when she’s caught up in a robbery gone wrong at the Queen’s Gala and infected by a dangerous piece of magic – one that allows her to step into the memories of an infamously evil warlock – she finds herself living her worst nightmare. Joss needs the magic removed before it corrupts her soul and kills her. But in Ironport, the cost of doing magic is death, and seeking help might mean scheduling her own execution. There’s nobody she can trust. Nobody, that is, except wanted criminal Jericho Nox, who offers her a deal: his help extracting the magic in exchange for the magic itself. And though she’s not thrilled to be working with a thief, especially one as infuriating (and infuriatingly handsome) as Jericho, Joss is desperate enough to accept. But Jericho is nothing like Joss expects. The closer she grows to Jericho and the more she sees of the world outside her pampered life in the city, the more Joss begins to question the beliefs she’s always taken for granted – beliefs about right and wrong, about power and magic, and even about herself. In an empire built on lies, the truth may be her greatest weapon.

Join Us at Camp Penguin 2020!

Camp Penguin 2020 bannerWe’re back with an all-new summer reading list and activity program for kids ages 6-9 and 9-12. This year we’re thrilled to offer a week of author presentations held on Zoom at 2:00 pm ET/11:00 am PST. Attendance is free, but everyone must register through Eventbrite:

Monday, July 13, 2020: Magical Objects & Mythical Beasts with Zetta Elliott (Dragons in a Bag)
Magic happens everywhere, and everyone has a story to tell. Learn how to develop an inclusive magical story that takes place right in your own community! Bring a favourite object, toy, or stuffie to write about!
Register here: https://camp-penguin-zetta-elliott.eventbrite.ca

Tuesday, July 14, 2020: Problems at the Pickle Factory with Tanya Lloyd Kyi (Mya’s Strategy to Save the World)
In Mya’s Strategy to Save the World, Mya’s always writing letters. In this slightly silly writing workshop, we’ll work together on our own protest letter about the problems at Mr. Pickwick’s Pickle Factory. Bring a paper and pen, a sense of humour, and a steady supply of imagination.
Register here: https://camp-penguin-tanya-lloyd-kyi.eventbrite.ca

Wednesday, July 15, 2020: The Science of Monsters & Magic with Kelley Armstrong (A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying)
Kelley Armstrong will explore the link between magic and science and give a brief history of the unexplained, and then a deeper dive into the “magic” of science-based monsters. Plus we’ll create our own science-based monsters!
Register here: https://camp-penguin-kelley-armstrong.eventbrite.ca

Thursday, July 16, 2020: Story Ninjas Rule with Sigmund Brouwer (Innocent Heroes)
Sigmund Brouwer talks about how to use the power of story to have fun messing with all the people in your lives. Make sure you have a four-digit secret password ready and get ready to create an amazingly fun story!
Register here: https://camp-penguin-sigmund-brouwer.eventbrite.ca

Friday, July 17, 2020: Drawing Creatures with Hatem Aly (The Unicorn Rescue Society: The Creature of the Pines)
The Unicorn Rescue Society series introduces us to creatures from mythology. Join illustrator Hatem Aly for a drawing demonstration and make your own mythological creatures together!
Register here: https://camp-penguin-hatem-aly.eventbrite.ca

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the books on our Camp Penguin list!

Camp Penguin 2020 Titles

Camp Penguin 2020 Titles 9-12

Downloadables:

For a list of participating bookstores in Canada and for more information, please visit our official Camp Penguin page.

Camp Penguin: Magical Objects & Mythical Beasts with Zetta Elliott

Please register here: https://camp-penguin-zetta-elliott.eventbrite.ca

Magic happens everywhere, and everyone has a story to tell. Learn how to develop an inclusive magical story that takes place right in your own community! Bring a favourite object, toy, or stuffie to write about!

Zetta Elliott, author of the MYRCA and Silver Birch Express-nominated Dragons in a Bag, will guide young readers through a workshop to make a magical story.

Intended for kids aged 6-12.

This is one of five virtual Camp Penguin events held July 13-17. To find out more about Camp Penguin and other Camp Penguin activities, visit Tundra Books.