SMALL PRINT: DEIRDRE BAKER
Sam Sorts (One Hundred Favorite Things)
Written and illustrated by Marthe Jocelyn (Tundra, 32 pages, $22.99, ages 3-7) To her enduring classic Hannah’s Collections, Jocelyn adds this playful, brainy take on a boy tidying up. Sam has a heap of things — all the little objects he’s collected, saved, made or been given are strewn in his room, from Obo, his homemade tiny robot, “to yellow guy,” assorted plastic dinosaurs, fake foods, socks, boxes, badges, shells ... How many ways are there to organize them? In her inimitable way, she’s created (yet another) book that satisfies both simple and sophisticated readings.
When We Were Alone
By David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett (Highwater, 32 pages, $18.95, ages 4-8) As a girl visits with her grandmother, she wonders about her grandmother’s habits. Why does Nókom dress so colourfully? Wear her braid so long? Speak Cree rather than English? Nókom explains the harsh rules of residential school, where she was denied choice, colour, language and family — and then tells of how she and others secretly kept their Cree ways alive, covering uniforms with bright autumn leaves, braiding long grasses into their hair, whispering words in their own language. A beautifully rendered story of resistance and love. Highly recommended.
Optimists Die First
By Susin Nielsen (Tundra, 226 pages, $21.99, ages 12-14)
Youth Art Therapy (YART for short) meets The Breakfast Club — sort of — in Nielsen’s new YA novel, in which Petula’s anxieties about risk cause so much trouble that she’s sentenced to weekly art therapy. Petula’s anxieties stem from her sense that she’s responsible for her baby sister’s death two years earlier, a conviction she can’t shake until she meets, then falls for, YART’s newest conscript, Jacob. Its extensive array of social and psychological traumas is rather neatly resolved, but Nielsen carries it off with compassion and verve.
Trouble Makes a Comeback
By Stephanie Tromly (Kathy Dawson Books, 298 pages, $23.99, ages 12 and up) The sequel to Tromly’s “Trouble is a Friend of Mine.” Just when Zoe’s life has become a bit “normal” — a boyfriend on the football team, a couple of power BFFs — Digby’s back in town, still determined to resolve the mystery of what happened to his little sister, kidnapped almost a decade ago. Screwball, crime caper, rom-com, mystery, attitudinal teen TV drama — there’s plenty of energy in Digby and Zoe’s sleuthing, breakins and high-speed getaways in borrowed cop cars.