Class divisions get teens talking
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For an exciting, controversial book teen readers will enjoy, try Barry Jonsberg’s Catch Me if I Fall (Groundwood, 280 pages, $18, paperback).
Ashleigh (Ash) and Aiden are identical twins. They live in a protected area of a city in a future time when the population is split dramatically between the haves and have-nots. Normally these classes never meet, but one day Aiden climbs a fence and Ash follows, into a way of life they never knew existed. When Aiden meets Xena, an inhabitant of the underprivileged lower classes, he realizes how selfish their lives have been.
With a shocking revelation mid-text that turns the whole story upside down, this is a page-turner of a book that should cause both discussion and enjoyment. First published in Australia, the author is a former high school teacher in Darwin. His first novel, My Life as an Alphabet, was adapted into a film, and Catch Me if I Fall is on its way to a similar outcome. Ages 11 and up.
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We Are Lions! by Swedish author Jens Mattsson (Groundwood, 40 pages, $20, hardcover) explores the joys of sibling play and the heartache when sickness strikes.
Two young brothers love playing lions. They roar, they pounce, they growl. But when his older brother is diagnosed with cancer and has to undergo treatments, the younger boy is at first devastated. Then he devises a way they can still play lions in hospital. Unwary patients watch out!
Jenny Lucander, whose animated watercolours add a touch of the savannah to the pages of this picture book, is an award-winning artist from Finland. This book has been translated from the Swedish by U.K. writer B.J. Woodstein. It’s a sensitive treatment of childhood illness as well as a celebration of the joys of a child’s imagination for children ages 3-6.
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In Every Life, by California artist and author Marla Frazee (Beach Lane Books, 32 pages, $24, hardcover), is one of the most beautiful books to be found on any shelf. But is it more suitable for adults than children?
Based on the text of a Jewish baby-naming ceremony, In Every Life explores both the joys and sorrows of a life, from birth to old age. There are pages on the light, the wonder, the comfort, the mystery and the tears that make up a life, all illustrated in a series of meticulously painted miniatures of individuals and couples facing different events.
Frazee’s illustrations are full of emotion and beautifully rendered in pencil and gouache. Her artwork has earned her the Caldecott award twice. Her books, A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever and The Boss Baby, which inspired the animated film, have received acclaim. It’s to be hoped that many adults will help little book lovers see the beauty and the possibility in these sensitive pages. Ages 6 and up.
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If you’re looking for a book for teenagers that drips with romance, adventure and the magic of fairy tales consider Mysteries of Thorn Manor by Ohio author Margaret Rogerson (Margaret K. McElderry, 192 pages, $18, hardcover).
A sequel to Sorcery of Thorns, this novel features librarian Elizabeth Scrivener, who lives with sorcerer Nathanial Thorn in enchanted Thorn Manor. With grimoires (books of spells) that come alive, magic that causes violent storms and a mansion full of hidden rooms, this is the stuff of Victorian fantasy. Its humorous style and contemporary dialogue, however, make it attractive to today’s readers. They will swoon over Nick’s handsome visage, sigh as Elizabeth waltzes in the hidden ballroom and shiver as she finds secret grimoires in the library. Ages 13 and up.
Helen Norrie is a retired teacher/librarian whose books may not come alive but give her great satisfaction.
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