The Big Bad Fox, by Benjamin Renner (2015, 2017)

Animal Fiction
3-11
The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin RennerInitially thinking this was a picture book and attracted by the cover, I obtained a digital galley from the publisher. Much to my delight, it turned out to be a graphic novel, numbering about 200 pages. Our protagonist is a hapless fox who is seen as no threat at all by either hens or a lazy guard dog. Frustrated and hungry the fox joins forces with a wolf, agreeing to steal eggs and raise the chicks to a tasty size. But the chicks imprint on the fox and he becomes quite attached while they in turn come to believe they are foxes. Given how evil those hens are, this isn’t a bad thing. The plot is enjoyable as the fox struggles to resolve the situation, and schemes his way to a solution. Read more of this post

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Transphobia: Deal With It, by j. wallace skelton (2017)

Nonfiction
9-15
Transphobia: Deal With It, by J. Wallace SkeltonThis is a new release from James Lorimer Books, the latest in the “Deal With It” series which tackles discrimination issues in colourful, illustrated books aimed primarily at middle school readers. In just 32 pages, readers learn what transphobia is and how they can be “gender transcenders.” The book opens with Transphobia 101, including a quiz to help readers identify situations of transphobia, just plain sexism, or simply lack of understanding. Using age-appropriate and accessible language and cartoon-like drawings, skelton and illustrator Nick Johnson collaborate to help readers learn how to respond to various scenarios in order to create a safe and supportive space for all genders. Read more of this post

Speed of Life, by Carol Weston (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
11-15
Speed of Life, by Carol WestonHave a tween/early teen daughter? Run out and get her this book now. omg I loved it! Sofia is deeply mourning her mother’s sudden death less than a year ago. She misses her mother so much, and her presence is everywhere, from the school Sofia attends where her mother was a teacher to the New York City apartment where Sofia lives with her gynecologist Dad. They’ll have to move out soon, though, as the apartment is for faculty members only, and well, she’s gone. At 14, Sofia has a lot of questions about life, love, sex, friends, clothes and more. Even though Dad is a gynecologist, Sofia can’t talk to him about such things. When Fifteen magazine’s advice columnist Dear Kate comes to Sofia’s school, she feels a connection and begins to email her about everything from first kisses to a pimple she finds “down there.” Read more of this post

Two Strikes, by Johnny Boateng (2017)

Contemporary
11-15
Two Strikes by Johnny BoatengThis realistic contemporary story tackles the related themes of racism, sexism and bullying as KalLeah (Kal), a Grade 8 girl of mixed race, struggles to fit in when her RCMP father is transferred from multicultural Halifax to the small town of Trail in British Columbia’s gorgeous Kootenays. Writer Boateng draws on his own experience in this high interest, low reading level (hi-lo) sports novel. Kal is a top-notch ballplayer and scorns the girls’ softball team in favour of the all-boys – at least for now – Trail All-Stars baseball team. Her attempts to prove herself result only in alienating the popular Valley Girls on the girls’ team, leading to cruel insults and cyberbullying. Read more of this post

Project Apollo: The Early Years, 1961-1967, by Eugen Reichl (2016)

Nonfiction
13 to Adult
Project Apollo: The Early Years 1961-1967, by Eugen ReichlHow sadly appropriate that I’m writing this on the day American astronaut and space pioneer John Glenn passed away, Dec. 8. You don’t have to be too much of a space geek to enjoy this introduction to the unmanned Apollo missions that preceded Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s steps on the moon. This is the third book in the America in Space series (after Project Mercury and Project Gemini), all authored by Reichl, an aerospace expert who works for the European Aeronautic Defence and Space company (EADS). The book was originally written and published in German, which surprised me given the topic. Reichl writes in clear, accessible language. He touches on technical topics in enough detail to appeal to enthusiasts but doesn’t lose readers in the process. Read more of this post

The Northwest Coastal Explorer, by Robert Steelquist

Nonfiction
Adult
The Northwest Coastal ExplorerFrom British Columbia to Oregon, our region offers a plethora of natural wonders that delight the eyes and years, caress (and sometimes assault) the nose, and invite wandering and exploration. It’s only natural that we have questions about these beautiful spots and the creatures that live here. Naturalist/photographer Robert Steelquist offers a handy guide for those who want to know more about our beautiful coast. Steelquist begins by providing a lesson on the northwest coast ecology and the powers that have shaped what we see today. He covers plate tectonics, ocean processes such as currents, upwelling, and tides, and the climate that gives us lush forests and moderate temperatures. Read more of this post

Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh (1964, 1992)

Contemporary Fiction (in its day, folks!)
Ages 9-13
Harriet the Spy, by Louise FitzhughHere’s a children’s novel that completely got past me both when I was a child and when I worked as a children’s librarian. (It happens.) I have been meaning to read it for years, and finally picked it up. Awesome book that is older than I am, and clearly a game-changer in the world of children’s literature. Harriet M. Welsch is 11 years old, sassy, opinionated and determined to become a writer. To be a writer, her governess Ole Golly tells her, you have to write. So Harriet writes in her notebook, obsessively noting what she observes about her family, her friends, and the Manhattan neighbourhood she calls home. “Sometimes you have to lie. But to yourself you must always tell the truth,” Ole Golly advises her. Read more of this post

Thing Explainer, by Randall Munroe (2015)

Nonfiction
8-13
Thing ExplainerStumped by jargon? Have you ever wished someone would just explain a complex idea using just a few common words? Roboticist turned cartoonist and author Randall Munroe does exactly that in this book of big ideas aimed at kids. He uses a blueprint style to explain “Complicated Stuff in Simple Words,” according to the subtitle. A thousand words, in fact, or as he puts it, ten hundred words. A helicopter is a “Sky boat with turning wings,” and “Tall roads” are bridges. Each idea is explained with simple line drawings, identifying tags with explanations that are often humourous as well as informative. Read more of this post

The Lie Tree, by Frances Hardinge (2014, 2016)

Mystery
12-16
The Lie Tree, by Frances HardingeAs embarrassing as it is to admit, I often find myself at odds with the selections for literary awards. I read them because a) everyone asks me if I’ve read it and b) expert readers have judged this a top contribution. But at least half the time, I’m left scratching my head, mystified as to why this book made the list. It’s happened again. Fourteen-year-old Faith is quietly seething under the Victorian constraints imposed by everyone from strangers to her adored father, the Rev. Erasmus Sunderly, who is also a natural scientist. Faith is a brilliant young scholar whose ambitions appear impossible to fulfill. Girls don’t know anything about the moon, her little brother informs her with sober sincerity. Read more of this post

Animals: A Visual Encyclopedia, by Animal Planet (2015)

Nonfiction
7-13
Animals: A Visual EncyclopediaThe editors from Discovery’s Animal Planet have given us a beautifully illustrated visual encyclopedia that will provide hours of enjoyment for young readers. More useful for browsing than for actual research, it will meet basic homework needs for elementary school assignments. The book is loosely organized by taxonomic classification – it opens with an explanation of the phylla through the Tree of Animal Life – mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, arthropods (which includes arachnids as insects), and other invertebrates, covering the entire spectrum of animalia from whales to ticks (pp. 8-9). Readers also learn the key physiological features of each phyllum Read more of this post

Took: A Ghost Story, by Mary Downing Hahn (2015)

Mystery
Ages 10-14
Took: A Ghost StoryThis latest offering from master storyteller Mary Downing Hahn delivers all the chills and shivers young fans of creepy horror stories are looking for. This isn’t for everyone – it may induce nightmares, so if your youngster likes the idea of scary stories better than the reality, read it yourself first. Daniel and his sister Erica are uprooted from their comfortable Connecticut existence when their parents buy a home in West Virgina. It’s a dilapidated fixer-upper, made irresistible to the adults by Old Auntie who is watching the scene unfold. She is a 200-year-old conjure woman who “lives” in the woods and is seeking a new Girl to do her chores, as she does every 50 years. Erica is seven, and just perfect for Old Auntie’s needs. Read more of this post

Trouble Is a Friend of Mine, by Stephanie Tromly (2015)

Contemporary
13-17
Trouble Is a Friend of MineHere is the perfect choice for Nancy Drew fans ready to advance to YA literature without giving up their heroine’s adventures. First-time author Tromly draws heavily on the teen detective’s traditions, creating a fast-paced mystery with smart-mouthed teen characters who outwit the bad guys with little adult help, but with a large helping of humour – primarily sarcasm. Narrator Zoe is 16 years old, and new to town with only her mother after her parents’ divorce. She soon meets Digby, quite possibly the most resourceful and irritating classmate on earth, but with an irresistible charm that leads her straight into the first of many escapades. Read more of this post

Alive (The Generations Trilogy #1), by Scott Sigler (2015)

Science Fiction
Ages 14-18
AliveA teen girl is awakened by a stabbing pain in her shoulder. It’s too dark to see anything, but she quickly realizes her hands and legs are restrained, and she’s in a small box. A rectangular one. Like a coffin. With great effort she breaks free of the weakened bands and forces her way out, only to discover there are several more coffins in the dusty room. Each has a nameplate – hers says M. Savage. Within minutes five others are standing beside her. They soon discover they’ve a great deal in common – they can’t remember their names or who put them in the coffins. They are all dressed in private school gear, but it’s too small – they are now fully formed adults though each is convinced today is his or her 12th birthday. Read more of this post

Eyes Wide Open, by Paul Fleischman (2014)

Nonfiction
Ages 13-16
Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines Newbery-winning novelist Paul Fleischman turns his attention to the environment, creating an attractive, accessible and straightforward handbook aimed at young teens. He provides not a trite list of easy changes teens can make to “save the earth” but instead issues to readers a call to notice what is happening before our eyes, inform ourselves, and take action, both personally and collectively. Fleischman takes a narrative approach that helps readers build their understanding of the issues, and learn how to assess both sides of the story in a search for the truth. He uses history to set the context, and draws on current events, politics, economics and science to help readers learn the facts and how to evaluate the headlines Read more of this post

Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World, by Rachel Swaby (2014)

Biography
Age 13 to Adult
Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science - and the WorldSure, we`ve all heard of Marie Curie, but in truth she is only one of dozens of women who have made Nobel-worthy contributions to science over the past three and a half centuries. Some of them earned a Nobel nod; but many others have been snubbed the honour. Rachel Swaby seeks to change all that, bringing their stories to the fore in this collection of 52 brief biographies (an average of 5 pages each). And they are inspiring stories indeed. She details the nasty post-mortem treatment of geneticist Rosalind Franklin by Nobel winner James Watson (half of DNA’s Watson & Crick), and she also examines the evidence of intellectual theft of Franklin’s work that led the two men to their discovery (p. 113). Read more of this post