Simcoe, Ont., author Deborah Ellis has set many of her award-winning books in Muslim countries (The Breadwinner, Parvana's Journey). Moon at Nine (Pajama Press, 218 pages, $17, paperback) is based on a true story of two Iranian teenage girls who commit the dangerous sin (in their country) of having a gay relationship.
Farrin is 15, and comes from an upper-middle-class family. She feels isolated at school until she meets Sadira, who is unconventional, intelligent and loyal. As she comes to know Sadira, Farrin keeps her feelings hidden from her parents until the Revolutionary Guard hears of their association. Only then does she realize how innocent love can be a threat to both their lives.
This is a powerful new novel by an author who champions peace and democratic values. It will be welcomed by thoughtful young adult readers.
Pam Withers is a former slalom kayak racer living in Vancouver. She draws on her knowledge of whitewater kayaking in the paperback edition of her 2011 adventure novel, First Descent (Tundra Books, 265 pages, $13).
Rex is a 17-year-old kayaker who wants to make the first descent of a river in Columbia to prove his worth to his grandfather. He enlists the help of Myriam, an indigena, as a guide. Rex is prepared for a dangerous journey, but not for the threatening presence of the guerillas and paramilitaries.
This is a fast-paced, compelling read that will resonate with sports-minded teens or those who appreciate the life-and-death struggle playing out in parts of South America.
Moving away from friends can be a difficult experience for children. Texan author Liz Garton Scanlon imagines a unique way to say goodbye in The Good-Pie Party, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 32 pages, $19, hard cover). When Posy Peyton faces leaving behind her two best friends, she is heartbroken. But together, the friends make the going-away party a happy event by making it a good-pie party with plenty of sweet desserts.
Ex-Brandonite MacDonald Denton adds to the book with her charming watercolours.
Ottawa resident and hockey enthusiast Roy MacGregor has produced yet another hockey offering for first readers in The Highest Number in the World, illustrated by Geneviève Després (Tundra, 32 pages, $20, hardcover).
Gabe (short for Gabriella) is hockey-mad and a devoted fan of Hayley Wickenheiser, captain of the gold-medal-winning Canadian women's hockey team. Like Wickenheiser, she wears No. 22 and is convinced it is her lucky number. She refuses to wear a jersey with the No. 9, until her grandmother points out that the number also has a long and impressive history. When she realizes why that number has been raised to many arena rafters, she accepts the new jersey.
Université de Montréal artist Després's illustrations are large and expressive, making this an attractive book for young sports fans or players.
Non-fiction lovers will enjoy Zoobots: Wild Robots Inspired by Real Animals by Toronto author Helaine Becker (Kids Can Press, 32 pages, $19, hardcover). While most of these robots are still in the prototype stage, Becker explains their basis on real creatures, from the octopus and the starfish to snakes and jellyfish. The octobot, for example, based on the octopus, can be used for microsurgery because it can squeeze into tiny openings.
Becker explains each robot's special skills and applications, as well as telling how it evolved from the real animal. With striking pictures by Australian artist Alex Ries, this is a book to be enjoyed by any youngster interested in science or nature.
Helen Norrie is a children's literature enthusiast. Her column appears on the third Saturday of the month.