Helen

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

The Life and Medieval Times of Kit Sweetly by Jamie Pacton

At a restaurant that mimics medieval times – medieval costumes, food and drinks, knights on horseback, jousting contests, etc. Kit Sweetly – a history geek - works waiting tables but she’s always wanted to be one of the knights. One evening, Kit secretly takes her brother’s place, and her friend films it. At the end – with a flourish - Kit pulls of her helmet. Her friend launches the footage on the internet and her views start climbing. Her friends start a website, sell stickers and other loot. Kit goes on local news and momentum keeps building. The problem is that the restaurant chain has a policy - only cisgender males can be knights. They support this discrimination with the argument that actual knights were men. Kit argues that they are living in the 21st century not – well – not medieval times.

This plotline of fighting discrimination is serious but not emotionally taxing, something readers might appreciate, in this COVID-19 spring season. The characters offer ethnic and gender diversity. It is a really fun, funny read and I was sad to finish the final page. I really miss Kit and her friends which suggests to me that it was skillfully written. 

Young Adult Fiction Hardcover pr5552491

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