Helen

Ana on the Edge by A. J. Sass

LGBTQ books often have courageous, assured protagonists. To use the wonderful metaphor I first read at diversebooks.org, these protagonists’ stories open a window – or reflect a mirror - into what living their lives is like. They have had an awareness of their selfhood from an early age and the narrative shares a slice of time from their perspective.

Ana On the Edge is the first book I’ve read where the protagonist is unsure of their perspective. The narrative shares a slice of time in Ana-Marie’s life when “she” is becoming uncomfortable with fundamental parts of who she is – like the pronoun “she”. Ana-Marie has been a talented figure skater for many years and a champion for a few. At a time when her skating career should be taking off, certain details are causing her anxiety, distraction and failure. Her new coach wants her to wear a skirt (something she hasn’t done in years), her name feels foreign, and when a new friend – a boy – mistakes Ana-Marie for boy, it feels freeing. Trying on the pronoun “he” feels nice.

Ana-Marie’s story doesn’t wrap up all lose ends, her new selfhood set. Instead, the story is left open ended. Ana-Marie wants to be called Ana, and her courage comes in the form of sharing her anxiety and uncertainty with the people who love her. This is a fantastic book both for those of us who experience it as a window, and for those who will see a mirror.

Middle Grade Fiction pr5716994

Small History of a Disagreement by Claudio Fuentes / Illustrated by Gabriela Lyon 

Our world is becoming more and more divided with seemingly no nuance to issues – climate change activism vs. climate change denial, oil industry vs. green energy, black lives matter and defund police vs. “law and order”, etc. Kids might find it confusing and worrying. Worse, they might feel helpless.

This empowering picture book for 7 to 12 year olds presents a disagreement at a school - should an ancient tree be cut down to accommodate a new school building? - and how the community engaged to deal with it.

While everyday issues are not always as uncomplicated as the one offered, this simple presentation does make clear the mechanics and steps of confronting disagreements democratically. As Canada’s throne speech is presented, as BC goes into an election, as our U.S. neighbours enter the final months of a presidential election, this book might be useful in talking to children and youth – young and old - about democracy.

Bravo, Greystone Kids! Excellent timing!
Click here for the review from Kirkus Reviews.

Picture Book pr5743909

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Our protagonist, Ashley, is a wood lore enthusiast and, in particular, quite knowledgeable about her local area of the Smoky Mountains. We learn this en route to a site deep in the woods where she and her graduating classmates are having an overnight party. She thinks a bunch of teenagers drinking in the wilderness is a bad idea. Extraneous outsiders – including her boyfriend’s ex – make this bad idea worse.  Ashley drinks more than usual and goes to sleep feeling angry. During the night, she wakes, hears a familiar voice, and finds her boyfriend and his ex, together. Her first thought is to get away from him – and she runs – shoeless, into the darkness. She trips and takes a disorienting tumble. She decides to stay put before getting even more lost.

She wakes at noon, and realizes her foot is severely injured and that her friends have left. She imagines it could be two days before anyone notices she is missing. Her injury complicates her situation drastically, and Ashley eventually takes drastic action to survive. I was amazed by how varied and unpredictable her time in the woods was. She has some lapses, but mostly her resolve to survive and get out of the woods is calm and courageous. I think ANY reader will find this story fascinating.

Having read McGinnis’ books, The Female of the Species and Heroine, I started reading Be Not Far From Me with great anticipation. Happily, this is another outstanding, riveting book.

Young Adult Fiction Hardcover pr5181442

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