Tundra Telegram: Books That Push the Envelope

Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we address the topics that correspond to our readers’ concerns and deliver some appropriate books that have our stamp of approval.

Yesterday, December 7, was National Letter Writing Day, a day to celebrate the art of handwritten correspondence. Whether it’s a thank-you note, a message to update a friend or family member (and find out what’s new with them!), or a missive to the big man in red at the North Pole, yesterday was a great day to sit right down and write someone a letter.

We’ve got a great collection of books for every age all about written correspondence. Pen pal communications, love letters, messages written to people who may never read them: this list has it all when it comes to letter writing. P.S. Not only will we recommend these titles, we’ll try to include who is writing to whom – and why!

PICTURE BOOKS

I Do Not Like Yolanda by Zoey Abbott is an excellent picture book to start our letter journey because Bianca, the book’s main character, loves writing letters – everything about them: the stamps, the addresses, the pictures she can draw on them. She writes multiple letters a week, to everyone from her Uncle Kenta to her Sri Lankan pen pal. The only thing she does not like about writing letters is when she has to go to the post office to mail them and encounters Yolanda, her most dreaded post office employee. But Bianca soon learns first impressions can be as variable as mail delivery times.

A pivotal letter changes everything in The Bug Girl by Sophia Spencer (who is also the title character), Margaret McNamara, and Kerascoët. Seven-year-old Sophia is bullied at school for liking insects. Sophia’s mother writes to an entomological society looking for a bug scientist to be a pen pal for her daughter, and she’s overwhelmed by the response: letters, photos, and videos flood in and scientists tweet hundreds of times using the hashtag #BugsR4Girls to encourage Sophia’s interest in bugs. It’s the power of the written letter in action!

Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers also demonstrate the power of the written message in their modern classic The Day the Crayons Quit. Eager to do some coloring, Duncan opens his crayon box only to find a series of “Dear John” letters. All the crayons have written to say they’ve quit – though all for their own particular reasons – in this ode to drawing, writing letters, and labor action.

Author Troy Cummings has written a fun trilogy of letter-writing picture books. The unusual part is that these letters are paw-written, as they’re penned by Arfy, a dog. In Can I Be Your Dog?, homeless Arfy writes cover letters to a series of people in an effort to find a forever home. In I Found a Kitty!, he seeks the same for a cat he discovers in a sewer pipe (!). And with Is This Your Class Pet?, Arfy writes letters to the teachers and principal of the school in which he’s a reading buddy after he finds a pet turtle gone astray. These books are essential reading for letter and animal fans.

We can believe a dog writing letters, but a dragon? Well, it happens in Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale by Josh Funk and Rodolfo Montalvo. George writes regularly to his pen pal Blaise to talk sports, pets, and school. But George doesn’t realize his friend Blaise is a dragon, and Blaise doesn’t realize George is a human kid. Unintentional catfishing with mythical creatures? Count us in!

The Thank You Letter by Jane Cabrera is about writing letters of gratitude. In particular, it’s about Grace, who – after her birthday – decides to write letters to thank her friends and family for all their kind gifts. Realizing she has so much to be thankful for, she adds a letter to her teacher for helping her learn to write and one for her dog for wagging his tail. Grace soon finds this gratitude is reciprocated by the community, as she receives letters back from so many of her addressees.

What’s better than one thank-you letter? Ten Thank-You Letters, which also happens to be the name of a book by Daniel Kirk. Pig is trying to write a thank-you letter to his grandma when he’s interrupted by his friend Rabbit, who wants to play. Rabbit, inspired by Pig, begins to write a flurry of thank-you letters of his own – to everyone from the crossing guard to the President (shades of Grace!). His tenth thank-you letter is written to Pig for being such a great friend. (Awwww.)

For a book that’s both about letter-writing and the holidays, check out Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein by Amanda Peet (yes, that Amanda Peet), Andrea Troyer, and Christine Davenier. Rachel Rosenstein is determined to celebrate Christmas. The fact that her family is Jewish is not going to stop her, since she’s writing Santa a letter to explain her situation (on top of dropping in on him at the mall). In the end, though Rachel loves the trappings of Christmas, she also gains a greater understanding of her own family’s traditions.

CHAPTER BOOKS & MIDDLE GRADE

Technically they are postcards in The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster by Cary Fagan, but they count as written letters! Even better, they’re letters with a mystery attached. Hartley Staples is having some family troubles at home when he starts to notice handmade postcards all over his small town, all signed “G.O.” Soon Hartley becomes obsessed with these cryptic messages and the person responsible for them.

You already know who the letter recipient is in Susin Nielsen’s Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom. The question is: does People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive (1997, 2006) write back? Violet’s parents have recently split up, and she lives with her mom, dragged along on her awkward quest for love as Violet faces her own struggles with anger management. When Violet’s mom starts dating someone named Dudley Wiener (!), Violet and her friend Phoebe embark on a campaign to lure Mr. Clooney.

The entire middle school seems to be writing letters to Autumn in Dear Student by Elly Swartz. See, Autumn has become the anonymous voice of an advice column in her school newspaper, which is fun until she finds herself in the middle of a problem that puts two of her friends on the opposing sides of a conflict. Can she provide fair advice, given her personal connection? Can her identity remain a secret? This is a book that digs into the ethics of letter responses.

YOUNG ADULT

Perhaps we don’t publish Jenny Han’s most famous letter-based YA romances, but we have plenty of quality YA literature featuring messages in envelopes. Even romances! For instance, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s Dash & Lily series are all about romance and the written word. In Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (now a delightful Netflix series) it’s a red notebook full of challenges on a bookstore by which Dash and Lily flirt before they ever meet face-to-face. But by the third book, Mind the Gap, Dash & Lily, our lovestruck odd couple are writing each other from across the Atlantic Ocean, as Dash studies at Oxford University. (Twelve Days of Dash & Lily doesn’t have much letter writing content, to be honest, but it’s part of the series.)

An enthusiastic English teacher’s assignment is to blame for the letters in Sarah Henstra’s We Contain Multitudes. Closeted jock Kurl and nerdy and out Jo are thrown together in English class and forced to write an old-fashioned letter to each other every week. The unlikely pair become friends, sharing their experiences of homophobia, bullying, and familial abuse with one another, then something more in this emotional queer romance.

Again, not so much a series of letters as entries in a journal, Dear Martin by Nic Stone features Justyce McAllister, a Black teen facing challengers from police violence to toxic masculinity who turns to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In his journal, he addresses his questions and concerns to the late Dr. King in an effort to see if King’s philosophies still have relevance in contemporary America, and these letters are interspersed throughout Justyce’s story. And if you like that, check out the follow-up Dear Justyce, in which incarcerated teen and friend from the neighborhood Quan writes letters to Justyce about his experiences in the juvenile justice system.

Write on, young readers!

2021 Oregon Spirit Book Award

The Oregon Spirit Book Award is given yearly to the author of a distinguished contribution to young readers’ literature that engages and encourages readers’ imagination, discovery, and understanding, reflecting the spirit and values held by Oregonians. The award was established in 2005, and the group itself, an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English, was founded in 1913.

We would like to congratulate Zoey Abbott whose I Do Not Like Yolanda has been named an honor book in the picture book category!

I Do Not Like Yolanda
By Zoey Abbott
44  Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266513 | Tundra Books
When Bianca gets stuck in Yolanda’s line at the post office, she expects the worst: scowls, claws, teeth . . . This is what she gets for having a five-letter day. She might not survive . . . Or will Yolanda surprise her? This hilarious story explores fear and kindness, in that order, when Bianca decides to overcome her terror and ask Yolanda very nicely how her weekend was . . . and learns that Yolanda is not scary, she’s a delight! A truly lovely book about questioning your assumptions and reaching out to another person, no matter how scary they might be.

Congrats Zoey!

Canadian Independent Bookstore Day 2022

Canadian Independent Bookstore Day is coming up on Saturday, April 30! Here are some of our fave books featuring bookstores. Show your fave indie some love this month and pick up one of these books from your local store!

Marty
By Rachel Noble
Illustrated by Zoey Abbott
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823446629 | Holiday House
Marty is a tiny green Martian who lives here on Earth. You’ve never noticed him before, because he is undercover . . . Marty wears disguises and studies human behavior in order to fit in. He is always watching, learning, and laughing. And then one day, after much preparation, Marty gets a job! He loves to watch his customers, and he even makes some friends. But Marty knows he can never reveal his secret. Humans are terrified of Martians. When his cover gets blown, Marty needs somewhere safe to go. Who will see beyond his strange, green looks to show him kindness?

Over the Shop
By JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536201475 | Candlewick
A lonely little girl and her grandparent need to fill the run-down apartment in their building. But taking over the quarters above their store will mean major renovations for the new occupants, and none of the potential renters can envision the possibilities of the space – until one special couple shows up. With their ingenuity, the little girl’s big heart, and heaps of hard work, the desperate fixer-upper begins to change in lovely and surprising ways. In this bustling wordless picture book, JonArno Lawson’s touching story and Qin Leng’s gentle illustrations capture all angles of the building’s transformation, as well as the evolving perspectives of the girl and her grandparent. A warm and subtly nuanced tale, Over the Shop throws open the doors to what it means to accept people for who they are and to fill your home with love and joy.

This Book is Not For You!
By Shannon Hale
Illustrated by Tracy Subisak
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984816856 | Dial Books
Stanley’s thrilled for bookmobile day – until the old man at the window refuses to lend him the story he wants, all because it features a girl. “Girl books” are only for girls, the book man insists, just like cat books are only for cats and robot books are only for robots. But when a dinosaur arrives at the bookmobile and successfully demands a book about ponies, Stanley musters the courage to ask for the tale he really wants – about a girl adventurer fighting pirates on the open seas. By speaking up, Stanley inspires the people, cats, robots, and goats around him to read more stories outside their experiences and enjoy the pleasure of a good book of their choosing.

For older readers:

The Bookshop of Dust and Dreams
By Mindy Thompson
336 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593110379  | Viking BFYR
It’s 1944 Sutton, NY, and Poppy’s family owns and runs, Rhyme and Reason, a magical bookshop that caters to people from all different places and time periods. Though her world is ravaged by World War II, customers hail from the past and the future, infusing the shop with a delightful mix of ideas and experiences. Poppy dreams of someday becoming shopkeeper like her father, though her older brother, Al, is technically next in line for the job. She knows all of the rules handed down from one generation of Bookseller to the next, especially their most important one: shopkeepers must never use the magic for themselves. But then Al’s best friend is killed in the war and her brother wants to use the magic of the shop to save him. With her father in the hospital suffering from a mysterious illness, the only one standing between Al and the bookstore is Poppy. Caught between her love for her brother and loyalty to her family, she knows her brother’s actions could have devastating consequences that reach far beyond the bookshop as an insidious, growing Darkness looms. This decision is bigger than Poppy ever dreamed, and the fate of the bookshops hangs in the balance.

We Are Inevitable
By Gayle Forman
288 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780425290804 | Viking BFYR
Aaron Stein used to think books were miracles. But not anymore. Even though he spends his days working in his family’s secondhand bookstore, the only book Aaron can bear to read is one about the demise of the dinosaurs. It’s a predicament he understands all too well, now that his brother and mom are gone and his friends have deserted him, leaving Aaron and his shambolic father alone in a moldering bookstore in a crusty mountain town where no one seems to read anymore. So when Aaron sees the opportunity to sell the store, he jumps at it, thinking this is the only way out. But he doesn’t account for Chad, a “best life” bro with a wheelchair and way too much optimism, or the town’s out-of-work lumberjacks taking on the failing shop as their pet project. And he certainly doesn’t anticipate meeting Hannah, a beautiful, brave musician who might possibly be the kind of inevitable he’s been waiting for. All of them will help Aaron to come to terms with what he’s lost, what he’s found, who he is, and who he wants to be, and show him that destruction doesn’t inevitably lead to extinction; sometimes it leads to the creation of something entirely new.

Our Stars of 2021

At Tundra Book Group (Tundra Books, Puffin Canada, and Penguin Teen Canada), we think all our books are brilliant, and it’s nice when others think so too! Congratulations to our authors and illustrators; these are our starred books of 2021!

FIVE STARS:

Instructions for Dancing
By Nicola Yoon
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271234 | Penguin Teen Canada
“An endearing, affecting exploration of the journey of love. Everything Yoon touches turns to gold and this cinematic supernatural romance will be no exception.” – Starred Review, Booklist
“A remarkable, irresistible love story that will linger long after readers turn the final page.” – Starred Review, Kirkus
“Yoon delivers a story of love’s unpredictability and the importance of perspective that unfolds with ease and heart.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
“A sweet, genuine love story sure to pull on the heartstrings.” – Starred Review, School Library Journal
“Yoon delivers this captivating story of first love with beautiful prose, clever dialogue that swings between laugh-out-loud funny and wildly insightful, clear respect for the complexity and nuance of her teen characters’ perspectives and emotions – and just enough magic to make it all truly unforgettable.” – Starred Review, BookPage

FOUR STARS:

In the Wild Light
By Jeff Zentner
384 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263055 | Penguin Teen Canada
“A brilliant treasure of a book that holds up a mirror to the best parts of our humanity.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“Evocative and moving, highlighting Zentner’s impressive skill with both poetry and prose.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
“A wise, gorgeous exploration of loss and survival that will make readers cry…Lyrical and heartbreaking.” – Starred Review, School Library Journal
“Heartfelt and deeply moving . . . a book that readers will unhesitatingly take to their hearts.” – Starred Review, Booklist

THREE STARS:

Little Witch Hazel
By Phoebe Wahl
96 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264892 | Tundra Books
“The writing is lush and lyrical, and the textured, earth-toned illustrations expertly capture Hazel’s world, both cozy and gloriously wild . . . More Mosswood, please.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“A thread of loving and nurturing emerges through this treasury of quiet adventures . . . and readers will find satisfaction in seeing the way [Little Witch Hazel’s] sturdy care succors her community and results in gentle reciprocation.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
“The quiet but insistent rejection of conventional norms is both cheer worthy and effortlessly integrated, and the result is a story that can sit happily next to any classic fairy story as well as contemporary picture books directly addressing physical differences.” – Starred Review, Booklist

On the Trapline
By David A. Robertson
Illustrated by Julie Flett
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266681  | Tundra Books
“An outstanding contribution to the literature about family, intergenerational friendship, remembrance, community, Indigenous experience, and more.” – Starred Review, The Horn Book
“Robertson’s text is as spare as Flett’s artwork, leaving plenty of space for readers to feel the emotions evoked by both.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“A deeply affecting journey of memory and history.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

Time Is a Flower
By Julie Morstad
56 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267541 | Tundra Books
“Thoughtful metaphors and diverse characters take viewers through the manifold dimensions of time. . . . This exuberant vehicle will expand the thinking of those just beginning to comprehend clocks and calendars.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“A conceptual meditation, winsome and enigmatic.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
“A fascinating way to think about the passage of time.” – Starred Review, Booklist

TWO STARS:

Bear Wants to Sing
By Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Dena Seiferling
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735268036 | Tundra Books
“Sparkling whimsy . . . a delicate story full of humor and friendship.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“This tender tale of creativity, manners, and nurturing friendship by the creators of King Mouse has all the makings of a contemporary classic.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

Blankie
By Ben Clanton
22 Pages | Ages 0-3 | Board Book
ISBN 9780735266780 | Tundra Books
“A delightful celebration of friendship and fancy.” –  Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“From Clanton’s early graphic novel series, hilarious best-friend duo Narwhal and Jelly happily talk about their favorite things and dart about in their simple, signature colors across the pages.” – Starred Review, School Library Journal

Both Sides Now
By Peyton Thomas
300 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269750 | Penguin Teen Canada
“Emotionally charged and politically relevant, this is a must-read.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“Thomas’ debut is achingly vulnerable . . . There’s no debate: Both Sides Now is a compelling, heartfelt must-read.” – Starred Review, Booklist

Ten Little Dumplings
By Larissa Fan
Illustrated by Cindy Wume
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266193 | Tundra Books
“Stepping out of the shadows: a gentle, persuasive #ownvoices take on a hitherto-untold perspective.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“A sincere and beautiful story for all ages, and one that can gently introduce a serious discussion topic of rank and gender for older readers.” – Starred Review, School Library Journal

The Great Godden
By Meg Rosoff
256 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735268319 | Penguin Teen Canada
“One wants to read the book several times to tease out how Rosoff achieves her effects. The effort is a joy, just like this unforgettable novel, the first of a planned, summer-themed trio.” – Starred Review, Booklist
“There’s enough tension here that readers may hope for a ramp-up into full thriller, but the story moves toward a different kind of satisfying conclusion, with victory lying in an unpredictable tennis match and the ability to preserve the possibilities of future summers.” – Starred Review, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

What Does Little Crocodile Say?
By Eva Montanari
40 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735268135 | Tundra Books
“This endearing take on a common preschool scenario will make an appealing read-aloud at home or school.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“Montanari’s economic, softly textured pencil crayon drawings and intimate, inventive vignette framings provide plenty to linger over, and deliver the gentle persuasion that reluctant, or sensorially sensitive, preschoolers need.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

ONE STAR:

Anonymouse
By Vikki VanSickle
Illustrated by Anna Pirolli
40  Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263949 | Tundra Books
“Slyly subversive, Anonymouse offers a shrewd commentary on the challenges and hazards facing nature in the city.” – Starred Review, Quill & Quire

Bubbles
By Ben Clanton
22 Pages | Ages 0-3 | Board Book
ISBN 9780735266766 | Tundra Books
“From Clanton’s early graphic novel series, hilarious best-friend duo Narwhal and Jelly happily talk about their favorite things and dart about in their simple, signature colors across the pages.” – Starred Review, School Library Journal

Butterflies Are Pretty . . . Gross!
By Rosemary Mosco
Illustrated by Jacob Souva
36 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265929 | Tundra Books
“A proboscis-in-cheek introduction to butterflies that will appeal to reluctant readers and bug enthusiasts alike.” –  Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

Children of the Fox: Thieves of Shadow #1
By Kevin Sands
416 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270411 | Puffin Canada
“The protagonists’ natural chemistry as they learn to collaborate and trust one another helps to ground the epic story, especially once it leans more heavily into fantasy elements, while Callan’s narrative voice adds just the right amount of self-aware humor.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

Etty Darwin and the Four Pebble Problem
By Lauren Soloy
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266087 | Tundra Books
“An excellent introduction to the natural sciences, Darwin, fairies, and inquiry, sure to inspire and fascinate young readers and listeners.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

I Do Not Like Yolanda
By Zoey Abbott
44  Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266513 | Tundra Books
“[F]ull of little wonders that hold the reader’s attention from page to page.A book that will inspire readers to find their own pen pals, a good book, and a new friend.” – Starred Review, School Library Journal

Out Into the Big Wide Lake
By Paul Harbridge
Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265592 | Tundra Books
“A heartening Canadian picture book with an emotionally resonant ending.” –  Starred Review, Booklist

Peter Lee’s Notes From the Field
By Angela Ahn
Illustrated by Julie Kwon
312 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735268241 | Tundra Books
“[A] winsome . . . and fetching middle-grade novel. Peter Lee’s Notes from the Field is a winner.” – Starred Review, Shelf Awareness

Super Detectives: Simon and Chester #1
By Cale Atkinson
64 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267428 | Tundra Books
“This story is a winner for new readers and aspiring gumshoes alike. Readers will look forward to seeing more of this entertaining detective duo in the future. It’s no mystery – all clues point to fun!” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

The Great Bear: The Misewa Saga #2
By David A. Robertson
288 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266131 | Puffin Canada
“Robertson’s nods at the complexity of time-travel plots serve as wry metafictive commentary and also tie into his consideration of profound existential questions.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

The Secret Fawn
By Kallie George
Illustrated by Elly MacKay
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265165 | Tundra Books
“Sweet and pretty for bedtime or naptime – and validating to little ones all the time.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

Tiny Reindeer
By Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735271180 | Tundra Books
“Tiny Reindeer is a wonderful addition to the Christmas picture book canon that reminds us of the special gifts we all have to offer, no matter how tiny we might be.” – Starred Review, BookPage

Walking in Two Worlds
By Wab Kinew
296 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269002 | Penguin Teen Canada
“Kinew’s first novel for teens stands out in the field of speculative fiction with its respectful, celebratory, and nuanced exploration of cultures and communities all too often at risk of erasure (particularly Indigenous communities).” – Starred Review, Booklist

Small Business Saturday

The Saturday after Black Friday is usually called Small Business Saturday to encourage and remind us to shop and support local businesses. Here are some books about celebrating local shops and books where kids take matters into their own hands and start their own businesses.

J.D. and the Great Barber Battle
By J. Dillard
Illustrated by Akeem S. Roberts
128 Pages | Ages 6-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593111529 | Kokila
J.D. has a big problem – it’s the night before the start of third grade and his mom has just given him his first and worst home haircut. When the steady stream of insults from the entire student body of Douglass Elementary becomes too much for J.D., he takes matters into his own hands and discovers that, unlike his mom, he’s a genius with the clippers. His work makes him the talk of the town and brings him enough hair business to open a barbershop from his bedroom. But when Henry Jr., the owner of the only official local barbershop, realizes he’s losing clients to J.D., he tries to shut him down for good. How do you find out who’s the best barber in all of Meridian, Mississippi? With a GREAT BARBER BATTLE!

Katie the Catsitter
By Colleen AF Venable
Illustrated by Stephanie Yue
224 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9781984895639 | Random House BFYR
Katie is dreading the boring summer ahead while her best friends are all away at camp – something that’s way out of Katie and her mom’s budget, UNLESS Katie can figure out a way to earn the money for camp herself. But when Katie gets a job catsitting for her mysterious upstairs neighbor, life get interesting. First, Madeline has 217 cats (!) and they’re not exactly . . . normal cats. Also, why is Madeline always out EXACTLY when the city’s most notorious villain commits crimes?! Is it possible that Katie’s upstairs neighbor is really a super villain? Can Katie wrangle a whole lot of wayward cats, save a best friendship (why is Beth barely writing back? And who’s this boy she keeps talking about?!), AND crack the biggest story in the city’s history? Some heroes have capes . . . Katie has cats!

Marcus Makes a Movie
By Kevin Hart and Geoff Rodkey
Illustrated by David Cooper
208 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593179147 | Crown BFYR
Marcus is NOT happy to be stuck in after-school film class . . . until he realizes he can turn the story of the cartoon superhero he’s been drawing for years into an actual MOVIE! There’s just one problem: he has no idea what he’s doing. So he’ll need help, from his friends, his teachers, Sierra, the strong-willed classmate with creative dreams of her own, even Tyrell, the local bully who’d be a perfect movie villain if he weren’t too terrifying to talk to. Making this movie won’t be easy. But as Marcus discovers, nothing great ever is – and if you want your dream to come true, you’ve got to put in the hustle to make it happen. Comedy superstar Kevin Hart teams up with award-winning author Geoff Rodkey and lauded illustrator David Cooper for a hilarious, illustrated, and inspiring story about bringing your creative goals to life and never giving up, even when nothing’s going your way.

Marty
By Rachel Noble
Illustrated by Zoey Abbott
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823446629 | Holiday House
Marty is a tiny green Martian who lives here on Earth. You’ve never noticed him before, because he is undercover . . . Marty wears disguises and studies human behavior in order to fit in. He is always watching, learning, and laughing. And then one day, after much preparation, Marty gets a job! He loves to watch his customers, and he even makes some friends. But Marty knows he can never reveal his secret. Humans are terrified of Martians. When his cover gets blown, Marty needs somewhere safe to go. Who will see beyond his strange, green looks to show him kindness?

Middle School’s a Drag, You Better Werk!
By Greg Howard
336 Pages | Ages 10+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780525517542 | Putnam BFYR
Twelve-year-old Mikey Pruitt is a budding entrepreneur. Inspired by his grandfather Pap Pruitt, who successfully ran all sorts of businesses, Mikey is still looking for his million-dollar idea. Unfortunately, most of his ideas – from a roadside general store to croquet lessons – haven’t taken off. It isn’t until kid drag queen Coco Caliente, Mistress of Madness and Mayhem (aka eighth grader Julian Vasquez) walks into his office (aka his family’s storage/laundry room) looking for a talent agent that Mikey thinks he’s finally found a business that will put him on the map, and the Anything Talent and Pizzazz Agency is born! Soon, Mikey has a whole roster of kid clients looking to hit it big or at least win the middle school talent show’s hundred-dollar prize. As newly out Mikey prepares Julian for the gig of a lifetime, he realizes there’s no rulebook for being gay – and if Julian can be openly gay at school, maybe Mikey can, too, and tell his crush, the dreamy Colton Sanford, how he feels. Full of laughs, sass, and hijinks, this hilarious, heartfelt story shows that with a little effort and a lot of love, anything is possible.

Our Corner Grocery Store
By Joanne Schwartz
Illustrated by Laura Beingessner
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781770491267 | Tundra Books
Anna Maria takes great pleasure and pride in her grandparents’ corner grocery store. Every Saturday she spends the day helping to arrange fruits and vegetables, greet the customers, and keep things neat and tidy. Through her day we meet the neighbors and learn what an important part the corner grocery store plays in the community. Nonno Domenico, Nonna Rosa, and Anna Maria supply more than goods as the steady stream of customers arrives. Lunches are made, news is shared, bargains are purchased, recipes are traded, and cheerful ciaos are called. By the end of a long day, Anna Maria has a true sense of just how wonderful the sights and smells within the store are and how much they mean to everyone.

Over the Shop
By JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536201475 | Candlewick
A lonely little girl and her grandparent need to fill the run-down apartment in their building. But taking over the quarters above their store will mean major renovations for the new occupants, and none of the potential renters can envision the possibilities of the space – until one special couple shows up. With their ingenuity, the little girl’s big heart, and heaps of hard work, the desperate fixer-upper begins to change in lovely and surprising ways. In this bustling wordless picture book, JonArno Lawson’s touching story and Qin Leng’s gentle illustrations capture all angles of the building’s transformation, as well as the evolving perspectives of the girl and her grandparent. A warm and subtly nuanced tale, Over the Shop throws open the doors to what it means to accept people for who they are and to fill your home with love and joy.

The Pink Umbrella
By Amélie Callot
Illustrated by Geneviève Godbout
80 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101919231 | Tundra Books
When it’s bright outside, Adele is the heart of her community, greeting everyone who comes into her café with arms wide open. But when it rains, she can’t help but stay at home inside, under the covers. Because Adele takes such good care of her friends and customers, one of them decides to take care of her too, and piece by piece leaves her little gifts that help her find the joy in a gray, rainy day. Along with cute-as-a-button illustrations, The Pink Umbrella celebrates thoughtful acts of friendship.