Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

Heroine is written in first person. Mickey Catalan – an elite catcher whose softball team is positioned to have an historic season – is injured in a car crash. Mickey’s doctors tell her she won’t be able to recover in time for the season. Mickey pushes herself to prove them wrong. She uses her Oxy-Contin pills to push herself harder. Then she uses more than her prescription dictates, to train, to deal with the pressure, to sleep, to get through her first day back at school, and suddenly the pills are gone. Mickey is an outstanding athlete and a role model. She’s a good student, poised to have her choice of scholarships – even though her family doesn’t need them. She doesn’t drink or smoke or lie to her parents or steal... until the pills are gone. She needs more pills to cover her withdrawal symptoms, to get through a game, and then another. She’ll get off the pills, when the season’s over. She just needs the pills to get to that point. Until then, she finds herself doing almost anything to acquire pills.

In the author’s note, McGinnis describes an eye surgery she had. She was given three Oxy-Contin pills to deal with her excruciating pain, as her eyes recovered. The first pill magically took away her pain. It also made her feel amazing. The next day, she looked forward to recapturing how the first pill made her feel. She took the second pill. It took away her pain but she did not feel amazing. Gone was the feeling of lightness and peace from the first pill. The same thing happened the third day with her last pill and so ended her experience with Oxy-Contin. Having read Heroine before the author’s note, I was extremely surprised to learn she’d never had an addiction. Mickey’s perspective is extremely compelling. Mickey is a heroine. If she can become an addict, anyone can.   

Young Adult Fiction Hardcover pr2692302

Love from A to Z by S. K. Ali

Zayneb wears a hijab. As such, she is singled out by one of her teachers. He presents articles, such as Girl Buried Alive in Honor Killing, and characterizes the people in them as “typical Muslims”. (To be clear... they are not. That would be like saying people in the IRA are typical Christians.) Zayneb is an exceptionally articulate, bright student. She’s also brave. Mostly, she counters his arguments with logic. On one occasion, she’s half finished writing a snarky note to a friend in this teacher’s class, and he grabs it. Out of context, it’s grounds for suspension. En route to her spring break – a week early - an adjacent plane passenger dislikes Zayneb on sight, presumably because of her hijab. Also because of her hijab, a cute guy recognizes her as a fellow Muslim and greets her in a traditional manner. This boy, Adam, becomes a recurring ray of sunshine, among negative experiences Zayneb is suffering. Conversely, Zayneb’s strength, honesty, and passion become bright spots as Adam confronts a difficulty. Their relationship grows as pressure for each of them builds. Their romance is subtle, sweet and gradual. Hardships shared are hardships halved. Zayneb and Adam are unlike any characters I’ve met. I encourage you to make their acquaintance and so I'll exclude all spoilers! If you enjoyed Ms. Ali’s Saints and Misfits, you will love this lighter, joyful novel.  

Young Adult Fiction Hardcover pr2750804 

Connect the Scotts: The Dead Kid Detective Agency, Book 4 by Evan Munday

A favourite librarian friend who is very serious about Readers’ Advisory asked me to recommend a children’s book to read – a book outside her comfort zone of serious, literary, grown-up books. I recommended The Dead Kid Detective Agency series - in general - and the most recent book four, in particular. The series is really funny in both slap-stick and witty ways; but, it also has a sneaky literary side...

October Schwartz is a nerdy, goth, high school girl who has five dead kid friends. They are ghosts, only she can see, from different periods of Canadian history. October and her friends are working through solving each of the ghost kids’ murders. In this book 4, they are solving Tabetha Scott’s murder, who escaped slavery with her dad, along the underground railway in the 1860s. Throughout the book, the author presents racism – Canadian racism - in an astute way, squeezing serious literary content into a fast paced plot, including Scooby-doo type chases and running from dogs and evil football players - I love that the popular clique are the bad guys!
I’m looking forward to the next book, and future projects by Evan Munday.

Juvenile Fiction Paperback pr2618956

The Case of Windy Lake: A Mighty Muskrats Mystery by Michael Hutchinson

Libraries across Canada consistently request books for all ages in fiction and non-fiction by indigenous authors and/or about indigenous characters. This book fulfills both criteria. The author of this book is a member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation, north of Winnipeg. His book is the first in a mystery series, set on Windy Lake First Nation.

Four inseparable cousins – nicknamed the Mighty Muskrats – overhear their uncle from the Windy Lake Police Service talking about a visiting archeologist. His boat was found but he is missing. The Muskrats decide to investigate. Their relationships with a wide range of people in Windy Lake helps them to piece together where the archeologist might have been, but it’s their own knowledge of Windy Lake and its wildlife that solves the case.

Concurrent with their investigation, the four cousins are obedient, respectful kids, doing chores and running errands for their grandfather and uncle. Also during their investigation a fifth, older cousin is involved in a protest. She engages in civil disobedience regarding a company she feels is endangering Windy Lake’s water. During her protest she gains a better understanding of the company’s perspective, or at least, the perspective of its workers. I think that’s an interesting decision by the author. This book shares what life for these kids is like. Depending on the reader, it’s a window or mirror they will welcome. For me, I learned a few things, and look forward to reading more in this series.  

Juvenile Fiction Paperback pr2666304 

 Stomp by Ian Aurora, Illustrated by Natalie Moore

This author was signing at OLA Super Conference and a colleague picked up a copy for me. The book takes a minute and fifteen seconds to read, but will take about twice as long if you do all the different kinds of stomping! Many librarians have asked for exactly this kind of book, which is why we selected it for our Winter Bestseller List (It’s shipping in early March). I imagine this book would work really well to get fidgety kids under “control” in the sense that they would at least be stomping when they’re supposed to be. It might become a favourite to start or end EVERY story time. The author’s 2016 book – Clap - is still available, as well.

ARP libraries, please let me know if you’d like a copy or copies.

Picture Book Hardcover pr2722342

 The Lady from Kent by Mackenzi Lee

The protagonist of this picture book meets a lady (from Kent) while waiting in line for a concert. The lady starts telling stories which grow more and more far-fetched, one of which is that she has a stunning singing voice. Just as our protagonist grows skeptical, the doors open, the crowd surges inside, and our protagonist loses track of the lady. Waiting for the music to begin, our protagonist decides all of the lady’s crazy stories must have been fabrications. Then the concert begins, and the Lady from Kent emerges, and sings like an angel. If that story was true, then maybe the rest were...

This is a really fun and clever picture book. Though the rhyming narrative works read from cover to cover, each two page spread has a title and is a stand-alone poem and one of the lady’s stories. One could read the first spread, a sampling of a few stories, and the last spread, and it would make sense. Each reading could be different. Or one could read just one of the stories, and carry on the next night, or story time. The CBC’s Eleanor Wachtel and author Linda Spalding both endorse this interesting and precisely crafted gem. The age range given is 5 to 95, and I agree!  

Picture Book Hardcover pr2625131 

 A Story About Cancer (with a Happy Ending) by India Desjardins, Illustrated by Marianne Ferrer

Our protagonist, who is never named, opens the story walking with her parents to an oncologist appointment. As she waits, she remembers different parts of the five years since her leukemia diagnosis. The illustrations and colours succinctly augment the text with emotional energy. For example, the smell of hospitals and drab colours on the walls are offset when the protagonist escapes home. She loves the smell of lavender. At home, beyond the scent of the lavender spray in her room the protagonist’s mother uses lavender products everywhere, bath water, sheets, etc. Our still gray protagonist is cozy in these scenes surrounded by vibrant colour and images of plants and leaves and even the protagonist’s mother is more colourful. It’s a pretty beautiful metaphor of her mother’s love. Lavender is dear to my heart, particularly as an essential oil. It’s especially pleasing to me that the protagonist is comforted by this scent. 

This 96 page illustrated novel deals with the feelings as well as the logistics of diagnosis, the death of a friend, being a patient with a possibly terminal illness, relationships, etc. Our protagonist even falls in love. It might be challenging to place this book in your library, but I urge you to welcome it. The publisher pegs the age of this book at 10-14. We feel it fits best in the young adult section of our LBI KIDS Bestseller list, even though normally we would place that age range in juvenile fiction. We did this for reasons already given, as well as the fact that the protagonist is 15 years-old for most of the narrative. I’m interested to know where you would put this book in your library.   

It’s scary to be diagnosed with cancer. I think this book could be a short, comforting, empowering read for a teenager facing this dragon. It could work for adults, as well.  

Young Adult Hardcover pr2765801 

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