Combining time travel with swash-buckling adventure, Alberta author Karen Bass has written a sure-to-be favourite with middle readers, Two Times a Traitor (Pajama Press, 240 pages, $13, paperback).
Laz Berenger quarrels with his father while visiting the Citadel in Halifax, and leaves to explore an old tunnel. After becoming disoriented and losing consciousness, he wakes up to find he has been transported back to 1745 — a time of intense rivalry between English colonists and Acadians in the Maritimes. He faces incessant danger: a hostile seaman trying to kill him, a near-escape from drowning, a mortar attack while he is acting as a spy in Louisbourg, N.S. This novel has enough action to suit the most demanding reader.
Laz also identifies with two strong male characters, who give him insight into relations with his own father. Highly recommended for ages 9-12.
● ● ●
In her latest middle-grade novel, A Month of Mondays (Second Story Press, 344 pages, $12, paperback), B.C. author Joëlle Anthony introduces a memorable character, 12-year-old Suze Tamaki.
Suze does only the minimum amount of work in her Grade 7 classes until a perceptive teacher binds her in a project with Amanda that requires innovation and effort. At home, her uneventful life with her father and older sister, Tracie, is shattered when the mother who left their family 10 years ago suddenly resurfaces.
Suze is believable, funny and appealing. Early teen readers (9-12) will identity with the misdemeanours that keep her a frequent visitor to the principal’s office and with her efforts to understand a mother she hasn’t seen since she was two.
Anthony has also published books under the pen name J.M. Kelly.
● ● ●
Saying Goodbye to London by Vancouver author Julie Burtinshaw (Second Story Press, 272 pages, $13, paperback) tackles a difficult subject: teen pregnancy.
When inexperienced 15-year-old Francis meets a beautiful 16-year-old girl, Sawyer, at a dance, he’s completely blown away. But when things get hot he never imagines that he might be facing a life-changing result.
It’s significant when Sawyer learns she is pregnant that Burtinshaw explores not only the consequences for her but also for Francis. With realistic prose and dialogue possible outcomes are discussed, both for them and for the baby. For ages 14 and up.
● ● ●
Besides having a first-class title, Please Please the Bees by Colorado artist and author Gerald Kelley (Albert Whitman, 32 pages, $17, hardcover) will entertain young readers as they watch Benedict the Bear negotiate with bees to continue to get his morning ration of honey.
Benedict realizes he’s been selfish: the bees are on strike because he hasn’t planted any flowers or maintained the hives. With amusing honey-coloured illustrations in this excellent read-aloud picture book (for ages 3-7), Benedict solves the problem of how to maintain his honey supply.
This is the first children’s book authored by this well-known illustrator. It’s an auspicious debut that one hopes will be followed by several more.
● ● ●
William Joyce is a talented artist and author of children’s books from Shreveport, La., who demonstrates both aptitudes in his picture book Bentley and Egg (Atheneum Books, 32 pages, $24, hardcover).
When Bentley is left to babysit his neighbour duck’s egg while she visits her sister, he decides to give it a paint job, only to have it stolen by a boy on an Easter egg hunt. After several hilarious adventures, he finally ends up with the egg on a muddy river bank, only to have the egg begin to hatch. Early readers will enjoy Bentley’s discomfiture.
Helen Norrie is a Winnipeg author and lover of children’s books.