Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/5/2019 (285 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Australian-born (now Toronto-based) author Michelle Kadarusman has lived in Bali and Jakarta in Indonesia, and uses her knowledge of women in that country in her latest book Girl of the Southern Sea (Pajama Press, 224 pages, $20, hardcover).
Nia is a 14-year-old girl living in Jakarta with her widowed father and younger brother. Yearning to finish high school and become a writer, she is instead forced to work selling fried bananas while caring for her brother.
Only when she miraculously survives a horrific bus crash and is labelled "magic" does she earn enough money to pay her school fees. She knows she is not really magic; can she justify asking double for her bananas? And how can she prevent her father marrying her off to a older man?
Kadarusman explores the plight of vulnerable young women in developing countries. Nia is resourceful and determined, a good role model for middle-school readers who can watch as she takes charge of her own future.
Kadarusman’s previous novels Out of It (2010) and The Theory of Hummingbirds (2014) have been praised for their ability to relate to a young person’s world.
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Natasha Deem grew up in Guyana before her family moved to Calgary to escape political unrest. She draws on her experiences fitting into a strange culture in her young-adult novel In the Key of Nira Ghani (Running Press Teens, 304 pages, $25, hardcover).
Nira plays the trumpet and loves music, but her Guyanese parents are determined for her to become a doctor, and object to any time she takes away from her studies. Deem portrays Nira’s frustration and loneliness effectively as she struggles to take control of her own future. Nira loves her parents, but struggles to overcome the differences between their world and her new one.
While the resolution of this problem seems a little too convenient, this will be a novel in which young adults will find plenty with which to identify.
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Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden by Toronto author Andrew Larsen (Kids Can Press, 32 pages, $19, hardcover) will intrigue any child who longs to plant something this spring.
When Vincent has to spend the summer with an aunt in her high-rise apartment, he finds her neighbourhood pretty drab. That’s before he meets Toma and they start throwing mud balls over a fence into an empty lot.
When he returns the next year he finds many of the mud-balls have sprouted flowers, and the empty lot has become a garden.
Larsen’s simple story will appeal to anyone who has felt hemmed in by concrete and longs for green spaces. Readers will feel Vincent’s loneliness and his delight when he gets to know his friend Toma. Montreal artist Anne Villeneuve has added charming watercolor illustrations which reflect the children’s unsophisticated play. For ages 3-7.
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If you’re quiet and love books, can you fit in with your boisterous friends? That’s the question in award-winning writer and artist Isabelle Arsenault’s story Albert’s Quiet Quest (Tundra, 48 pages, $23, hardcover).
Albert has chosen a quiet corner of the alley to read his book and admire a peaceful scene of an empty beach. But soon his friends appear and try to make him join in their games and sports, turning his beach to bedlam. Only when Albert gets seriously upset do they grab books and join him in his reading.
Besides her clear and simple text, Arsenault’s whimsical pen, ink and watercolor artwork helps to make this an attractive picture book for ages 4-8. She lives in Mile End, Montreal, the inspirational location for her Mile End Kids’ stories.
Helen Norrie is a Winnipeg writer and teacher who also enjoys a quiet spot for reading.