El­lis’s new YA novel fol­lows pair in Iran

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - By He­len Nor­rie

SIM­COE, Ont., au­thor Deb­o­rah El­lis has set many of her award-win­ning books in Mus­lim coun­tries ( The Bread­win­ner, Par­vana’s Jour­ney). Moon at Nine (Pa­jama Press, 218 pages, $17, pa­per­back) is based on a true story of two Ira­nian teenage girls who com­mit the dan­ger­ous sin (in their coun­try) of hav­ing a gay re­la­tion­ship. Far­rin is 15, and comes from an up­per­mid­dle-class fam­ily. She feels iso­lated at school un­til she meets Sadira, who is un­con­ven­tional, in­tel­li­gent and loyal. As she comes to know Sadira, Far­rin keeps her feel­ings hid­den from her par­ents un­til the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard hears of their as­so­ci­a­tion. Only then does she re­al­ize how in­no­cent love can be a threat to both their lives. This is a pow­er­ful new novel by an au­thor who cham­pi­ons peace and demo­cratic val­ues. It will be wel­comed by thought­ful young adult read­ers. Pam Withers is a for­mer slalom kayak racer liv­ing in Van­cou­ver. She draws on her knowl­edge of white­wa­ter kayak­ing in the pa­per­back edi­tion of her 2011 ad­ven­ture novel, First De­scent (Tun­dra Books, 265 pages, $13). Rex is a 17-year-old kayaker who wants to make the first de­scent of a river in Columbia to prove his worth to his grand­fa­ther. He en­lists the help of Myr­iam, an indi­gena, as a guide. Rex is pre­pared for a dan­ger­ous jour­ney, but not for the threat­en­ing pres­ence of the gueril­las and paramil­i­taries. This is a fast-paced, com­pelling read that will res­onate with sports-minded teens or those who ap­pre­ci­ate the life-and-death strug­gle play­ing out in parts of South Amer­ica. Mov­ing away from friends can be a dif­fi­cult ex­pe­ri­ence for chil­dren. Texan au­thor Liz Gar­ton Scan­lon imag­ines a unique way to say good­bye in The Good-Pie Party, il­lus­trated by Kady MacDon­ald Den­ton (Arthur A. Levine/Scholas­tic, 32 pages, $19, hard cover). When Posy Pey­ton faces leav­ing be­hind her two best friends, she is heart­bro­ken. But to­gether, the friends make the go­ing-away party a happy event by mak­ing it a good-pie party with plenty of sweet desserts. Ex-Bran­donite MacDon­ald Den­ton adds to the book with her charm­ing wa­ter­colours. Ot­tawa res­i­dent and hockey en­thu­si­ast Roy MacGre­gor has pro­duced yet an­other hockey of­fer­ing for first read­ers in The High­est Num­ber in the World, il­lus­trated by Geneviève De­sprés (Tun­dra, 32 pages, $20, hard­cover). Gabe (short for Gabriella) is hockey-mad and a de­voted fan of Hay­ley Wick­en­heiser, cap­tain of the gold-medal-win­ning Cana­dian women’s hockey team. Like Wick­en­heiser, she wears No. 22 and is con­vinced it is her lucky num­ber. She re­fuses to wear a jersey with the No. 9, un­til her grand­mother points out that the num­ber also has a long and im­pres­sive his­tory. When she re­al­izes why that num­ber has been raised to many arena rafters, she ac­cepts the new jersey. Univer­sité de Mon­tréal artist De­sprés’s il­lus­tra­tions are large and ex­pres­sive, mak­ing this an at­trac­tive book for young sports fans or play­ers. Non-fic­tion lovers will en­joy Zoobots: Wild Ro­bots In­spired by Real An­i­mals by Toronto au­thor Helaine Becker (Kids Can Press, 32 pages, $19, hard­cover). While most of these ro­bots are still in the pro­to­type stage, Becker ex­plains their ba­sis on real crea­tures, from the oc­to­pus and the starfish to snakes and jel­ly­fish. The oc­to­bot, for ex­am­ple, based on the oc­to­pus, can be used for mi­cro­surgery be­cause it can squeeze into tiny open­ings. Becker ex­plains each ro­bot’s spe­cial skills and ap­pli­ca­tions, as well as telling how it evolved from the real an­i­mal. With strik­ing pic­tures by Aus­tralian artist Alex Ries, this is a book to be en­joyed by any young­ster in­ter­ested in sci­ence or na­ture. He­len Nor­rie is a chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture en­thu­si­ast. Her col­umn ap­pears on the third Satur­day

of the month.

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