SMALL PRINT: DEIRDRE BAKER

The Hamilton Spectator - - BOOKS -

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.

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