One of the first books that mirror the present pandemic era from a young person’s point of view, Vancouver author Caroline Adderson’s Sunny Days Inside and Other Stories (Groundwood, 176 pages, $17, hardcover) does a great job of capturing the tremendous upheaval in childrens’ lives and the resiliency with which they have met the challenges. This series of eight related stories will not only affect but inspire you.
All the characters in these stories live in one apartment block across from a major city hospital. A young boy solves his family’s money problems by renting out his dog to neighbours who want to go outside. A girl learns American Sign Language (ASL) so she can talk to a new tenant her own age.
But the stories don’t minimize problems. A dad becomes seriously depressed and a mom needs treatments for cancer. The young people deal with these tragedies as they work together.
Highly recommended for readers 8-12.
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For lovers of fantasy, Orillia author Sarah Raughley’s The Bones of Ruin (McElderry Books, 496 pages, $24, hardcover) fits all the criteria: it’s set in an alternate 19th century, its characters possess miraculous abilities and the events verge on the incredible.
Raughley has said she writes about "freakish little girls with powers because she secretly wanted to be one." This book follows her desires as, among their abilities, her characters cannot die, can bend time, can break into flames and can disappear.
Iris, an African tightrope walker in Coolie’s Circus, deserts the circus with her partner, Jinn, only to join a murderous society of Individuals who seek to stage a Tournament of Freaks. Haunted by dreams of a former life, Iris seeks answers to her past and her parentage.
The Bones of Ruin is the first book of a new trilogy from Raughley; it follows an earlier trilogy, The Effigies Series, and several other books of fantasy. Raughley is an advocate for Black writers and has written an open letter to publishers complaining books with Black characters are too often written by white authors. Aimed at ages 8-12.
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For those who enjoyed A Boy is Not a Bird, Montreal writer Edeet Ravel has written a sequel, A Boy is Not a Ghost (Groundwood, 248 pages, $17, hardcover).
Based on a true story of a boy who was exiled to Siberia with his mother during the Second World War, the book tells how Natt survives the trip to Novosibirsk on a smelly, crowded cattle car only to face greater challenges when his mother is arrested for stealing potatoes and sent to prison.
Nat discovers the best way to survive is to disappear. If you change your name, change your home, change your appearance, perhaps the authorities will think you’re a ghost. Ravel is best known for her young adult novel Held. Ages nine and up.
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Children often complain "If only I could be like..." Veteran author-illustrator Mies van Hout explores this longing in her picture book If Only... (Pajama Press, 32 pages, $23, hardcover).
Van Hout introduces us to a series of brilliantly painted insects, each of whom wants the qualities of the next one. The spider wishes he were a ladybug, "Then everyone would think I’m adorable," yet the ladybug wants to be an ant, "Then I’d be strong and tough." When the last insect, a dragonfly, wishes he were a child, the young reader realizes he has many more abilities than most of the insects mentioned.
A talented artist as well as author, Van Hout not only uses collage to make her pictures but gives instructions here on how to construct such attractive offerings. For early book-lovers.
Helen Norrie is a Winnipeg writer who enjoys reading children’s books.