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Spring preview 2012: books for young people

In the January/February issue, Q&Q looks ahead at the spring season’s new books.


Darkest LightSpring sees the Canadian launch of Penguin Canada’s Razorbill imprint for young readers, and the publishing house is banking on a couple of high-profile releases to set the ball in motion. The follow-up to Hiromi Goto‘s Sunburst Award“winning Half World is Darkest Light ($21 cl., Feb.), in which 16-year-old orphan Gee embarks on a dark journey of discovery. Jillian Tamaki again lends her considerable talent to the illustrations. ¢ Vancouver paramedic turned scribe Carrie Mac explores what happens when the messy life of 15-year-old Junie is further complicated by her mother’s compulsive hoarding in The Opposite of Tidy ($16 pa., April).

How to Survive Absolutely AnythingIn Toronto author Helaine Becker‘s How to Survive Absolutely Anything (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, $9.95 pa., April), Bonnie and her best friend, Jen, start an advice blog for the middle-school set. But can Bonnie’s wise ways prevail when it comes to her troublesome new stepbrother, Carter? ¢ Alice Kuipers‘ debut, Life on the Refrigerator Door, was published in 29 countries. In her third novel, 40 Things I Want to Tell You (HarperCollins Canada, $14.99 pa., Feb.), Amy (a.k.a. Bird) is another advice-doling teen who has trouble practicing what she preaches when a new bad boy shows up at school and threatens her relationship with her long-time steady. ¢ Unraveling IsobelPajama Press has Nova Scotian Sylvia Gunnery‘s new novel, Emily for Real ($14.95 pa., March), which revolves around a 17-year-old girl who, after a bad breakup and the revelation of some scandalous family secrets, finds solace in an unlikely friendship with a troubled classmate. ¢ Eileen Cook has a reputation for writing funny, realistic junior chick-lit with a twist. Her latest, Unraveling Isobel (Simon & Schuster, $18.99 cl., Jan.) follows a similar path, with the titular character facing the challenges of her dippy mother’s hasty marriage to an Internet beau, her relocation to a remote small town, her dreamy stepbrother, and the possibility that she just might be losing her mind.

The TamingTeresa Toten, of the witty Blonde series, has teamed up with the unstoppable Eric Walters for The Taming (Doubleday Canada, $14.95 pa., Jan.), which bills itself as a cross between Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and The Taming of the Shrew. ¢ Debut novelist Leah Bobet creates a safe haven for outsiders and shape-shiftersHome in Time for Dinner under the streets of Toronto in her dystopian romance Above (Scholastic Canada, $19.99 cl., March). ¢ Degrassi Junior High scriptwriter Kathryn Ellis makes her YA debut with Home in Time for Dinner (Red Deer Press, $12.95 pa., May), in which a boy discovers he was the victim of parental abduction when he spots a digitally aged picture of himself on the news.

The CallingThere is no denying the immense popularity of Kelley Armstrong‘s sexy, dark teen fantasy novels. The Calling (Doubleday Canada, $19.99 cl., April) is the second instalment in her Darkness Rising trilogy. In it, Maya’s small Vancouver Island town is threatened by an arsonist’s forest fire. Her affinity with wild animals in the surrounding woods may be her only hope for survival. ¢ From Great Plains Teen Fiction comes Jocelyn Shipley‘s How to Tend a Grave ($14.95 pa., April), a story about a chance meeting in a cemetery between a teenaged boy who has lost his mother and a girl who has lost her baby.

Summer in the CityBest known for her Stella and Sam series of picture books, Marie-Louise Gay once again teams up with husband David Homel for a sequel to their two previous travelogues. This time Charlie and his family explore their own metropolis of Montreal in Summer in the City (Groundwood Books, $15.95 cl., April). ¢ The Baby ExperimentFourteen-year-old Johanna longs to see what life is like outside of the Jewish quarter in Anne Dublin‘s 18th-century historical novel The Baby Experiment (Dundurn Press, $9.99 pa., May). When she discovers that babies in the Hamburg orphanage where she works are being used for experiments, she is forced to grow up quickly. ¢ A Jewish girl and a Christian boy find friendship and hope together in pre-revolutionary Russia in Rachel’s Secret (Second Story Press, $12.95 pa., April) by first-time novelist Shelly Sanders.

Getting some boys to read can be a perennial challenge, so it’s a good thing Redcoats and Renegades (Thistledown Press, $15.95 pa., March) by B.C. journalist Barry McDivitt is aimed squarely at reluctant readers. McDivitt’s tale centres on a young malcontent from New York who gains the dubious distinction of being the first person arrested by the new North-West Mounted Police and is forced to endure the long, difficult trek to Fort Whoop-Up. ¢ Jean Rae Baxter‘s The Way Lies North told the story of Charlotte, a young Loyalist, and her family as they travelled north to Canada during the American Revolution; it was followed by a sequel, Broken Trail. Baxter wraps up the trilogy in Freedom Bound (Ronsdale Press, $11.95 pa., Feb.), in which Charlotte, now 18, ventures to Charleston, South Carolina, to find her new husband, Nick, and help a couple of runaway slaves as they try to survive the waning days of the revolution.

The Green ManGovernor General’s Literary Award winner Michael Bedard showcases his love of poetry in his latest novel for young readers, The Green Man (Tundra Books, $21.99 cl., April). The tragically monikered Ophelia (known only by her first initial) agrees to spend the summer helping her Aunt Emily recover from a heart attack, managing both the elder woman’s home and her chaotic antiquarian bookshop. But O gets more than she bargained for when she unearths a long-buried mystery. ¢ The Fathomless FireAfter an auspicious start to his career writing adult fiction, Alberta’s Thomas Wharton has found success in the YA market as well. The Fathomless Fire (Doubleday Canada, $19.95 cl., Jan.), the second instalment of his Perilous Realm trilogy, continues the story of young Will, who returns to the land of Fable and learns that his beloved Rowen is missing. ¢ Red Deer Press is set to publish a debut novel by Alberta’s Amy Bright. Before We Go ($12.95 pa., May) describes a New Year’s Eve like no other when teens Emily and Alex meet at the hospital where Emily is visiting her dying grandmother.

Dark Days at Saddle CreekActor, stable owner, and wife of former Ontario Premier David Peterson, Shelley Peterson showcases her love of horses in the Saddle Creek series for young readers. The sixth novel, Dark Days at Saddle Creek (Dancing Cat Books, $12.95 pa., March) once again features Bird, a girl who is able to communicate with animals. ¢ Vancouver journalist John Lekich is set to publish his third YA novel, The Prisoner of Snowflake Falls (Orca Book Publishers, $12.95 pa., March), in which a 15-year-old burglar is sent to live with a strange family in a small town. When his uncle is sprung from the big house and comes up with a scheme to rob the town’s residents, he must choose between family loyalty and doing the right thing.

Lorimer has tapped sports fanatic Lorna Schultz Nicholson for its new six-book Podium Sports Academy series, the first of which, Rookie ($9.95 pa., March), tells the story of newbie hockey player Aaron Wong, whose team captain seems to have it in for him. ¢ Métis writer Jacqueline Guest is known for her sports-themed and historical YA novels featuring native Canadian protagonists. Her latest, Outcasts of River Falls (Coteau Books, $8.95 pa., April), is a sequel to 2004’s Belle of Batoche. Belle is all grown up, and this time it’s her niece, a young Victorian lady named Kathryn from Toronto, who is in for a bit of culture shock when she arrives in Buffalo Hills, Alberta, and has to come to terms with a heritage she didn’t know about.

JinchaloApparently, Q&Q is a fan of Montreal illustrator and graphic novelist Matthew Forsythe. He illustrated My Name Is Elizabeth by Annika Dunklee, which was a 2011 Book of the Year. His debut graphic novel, Ojingogo, was a pick in 2008. The sequel, Jinchalo (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 pa., Feb.), follows the pint-sized heroine of Ojingogo on another adventure through Forsythe’s Miyazaki-esque world.


It's My Room!Laurel and Hardy, Holmes and Watson, peanut butter and jam “ some things just go better together. Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko figured that out a number of years ago, and have been teaming up to produce silly, insanely popular books ever since. Their latest effort is It’s My Room! (Scholastic Canada, $7.99 pa., $19.99 cl., Feb.), in which Matthew has to battle his relatives and friends for space in the family trailer. ¢ Vicky Metcalf Award winner Sheree Fitchs latest picture book, Night Sky Wheel Ride (Tradewind Books, $16.95 cl., May) follows the same path as her previous works, with tongue-twisting lines and nonsense words describing a brother and sister as they explore a nighttime fair and embark on a Ferris wheel adventure. Boldly hued illustrations by Quebec artist and author Yayo accompany Fitch’s text.

Following her adorable and clever picture-book debut, Giraffe and Bird, author, illustrator, and designer Rebecca Bender returns with Don’t Laugh at Giraffe (Pajama, $19.95 cl., May), in which Giraffe’s awkward attempt at graceful Piggy Bunnyrehydration is met with laughter from other animals on the savannah. ¢ Canadian Jeremy Tankard (of Boo Hoo Bird and Grumpy Bird fame) illustrates New Yorker Rachel Vail‘s story about Liam the pig, who just wants to rock a bunny suit and learn how to hop in Piggy Bunny (Feiwel & Friends/Raincoast Books, $16.99 cl., Feb.). ¢ Nominated in its original French for a 2011 Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse, Martin on the MoonMartine Audet‘s Martin on the Moon ($16.95 cl., April), translated by Sarah Quinn, is set to be published in English by Owlkids. Luc Melanson illustrates the story, about a boy whose imagination first gets him into trouble, then endears him to his classmates.

Simply Read Books is offering Wild Berries ($18.95 cl., April) by Métis and Cree multimedia artist and illustrator Julie Flett. The book, in which a young boy learns to pick wild blueberries with his grandmother on a sunny summer day, includes some words in Cree. ¢ Find Scruncheon and Touton 2: All Around Newfoundland (Creative Book Publishing, $10.95 pa., May) is the sequel to the Where’s Waldo-esque 2011 effort about two dogs on the loose by mother-daughter illustrators Nancy and Laurel Keating.

Cross Katie KrossKnown for her adult fiction, Donna Morrissey makes her kidlit debut with Cross Katie Kross (Puffin Canada, $18 cl., Feb.), about a persnickety old woman who goes in search of a personal nirvana free of chores, animals, and bothersome people. Artist Bridgette Morrissey helps out her mom with illustrations. ¢ It’s not all ogres and underwater monsters in the Arctic; there are dwarves too! CBC Radio personality Alan Neal and author Neil Christopher team up to tell the story of Ava and the Little Folk (Inhabit Media, $13.95 cl., March), in which an orphan left on her own by village elders stumbles upon a group of magical munchkins. Iqaluit resident Jonathan Wright‘s illustrations offer instant visual appeal.


Kids of KabulDeborah Ellis continues to do what she does best, chronicling the lives of children in war-torn and Third World countries in stories that resonate with First World readers. In Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Neverending War (Groundwood, $15.95 cl., April), she revisits the kids who inspired the Breadwinner trilogy 11 years ago to find out what their lives are like now. ¢ Former Chickadee magazine editor Catherine Ripley teams up with illustrator Scot Ritchie on another fact book in the same format as their classic Why? series. How? The Most Awesome Question and Answer Book about Nature, Animals, People, Places “ and You! (Owlkids, $19.95 cl.) appears in May. ¢ Hey Canada!Combining narrative, photos, comics, maps, and even fake tweets, Hey Canada! (Tundra Books, $21.99 cl., May) by former Vancouver educator Vivien Bowers (with illustrations by Milan Pavlovic) uses a fictional grandma and two grandkids to explore the country from coast to coast, relaying tidbits of history and geography along the way.

The Big Green Book of the Big Blue SeaA science book with an environmental bent, The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea (Kids Can Press, $10.95 pa., $16.95 cl., April) by Helaine Becker, with illustrations by Willow Dawson, uses experiments with everyday objects to teach kids about oceanic ecosystems and the effects of pollution. ¢ Junior CSI fans might enjoy Seeing Red: The True Story of Blood (Annick Press, $14.95 pa., $22.95 cl., Feb.) by Vancouver author Tanya Lloyd Kyi, who informs readers about all things sanguineous, from sacrifices to forensics. One hopes accompanying illustrations by graphic novelist Steve Rolston only required a bit of sweat and tears.

It’s a favourite kindergarten class project,How to Raise Monarch Butterflies and now there’s a handy guide from Carol Pasternak. How to Raise Monarch Butterflies: A Step-by-Step Guide for Kids (Firefly Books, $8.95 pa., $19.95 cl.) appears in April. ¢ Literature for LGBT teens can be hard to come by, so Ivan E. Coyote‘s collection of stories about her own experiences growing up queer, and of others who have inspired her, One in Every Crowd (Arsenal Pulp Press, $17.95 pa., March), is a welcome arrival.


In The Rumour (Tundra, $19.99 cl., May), Indian nonsense poetMoomin Anushka Ravishankar crafts a story about the village of Baddpaddpur, where telling tales is an art form. Kanyika Kini provides vivid illustrations. ¢ It’s been 65 years since the Moomins first appeared in a Finnish-Swedish newspaper, but people just can’t get enough of those hippo-esque creatures. Drawn & Quarterly releases Moomin Book 7: The Complete Lars Jansson Comic Strip ($19.95 cl.) in March.

Was Precious precocious? Alexander McCall Smith answers that question when he takes readers back to his beloved character’s childhood in The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Case (Anchor Canada, $7.99 pa., April), a YA addition to his Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. ¢ Summer on the MoonIn Adrian Fogelin‘s Summer on the Moon (Peachtree/Fitz & Whits, $15.95 cl., April), Socko’s mom just wants to get him out of their crummy neighbourhood and away from the threat of the local gang. When they move to a new community, he realizes he isn’t the only one with problems.

William Joyce may win the prize for lengthiest title for his E. Aster Bunnymund and the Battle of the Warrior Eggs at the Earth’s Core! (S&S, $16.99 cl., Feb.), a picture book in which the Easter bunny is much more than just a fuzzy, cotton-tailed source of chocolate eggs. ¢ Katherine Applegate gives us Ivan the gorilla, who thinks he has it pretty good living in a glass cage Cinderat the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. At least until Ruby the baby elephant arrives and enlightens him. The One and Only Ivan (HarperCollins, $10.99 pa.) appears in January. ¢ A deadly plague, alien invaders, androids, and even a prince feature in Marissa Meyer‘s debut sci-fi novel, Cinder (Feiwel & Friends/Raincoast, $19.99 cl., Jan.), in which the titular character is a girl on a mission to save the world. (Did we mention she’s a cyborg?)

The fine print: Q&Q‘s spring preview covers books published between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2012. All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q‘s press time. ¢ Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.