This list presents ten recent novel reads before years end. Several titles (*) will likely appear on my end of the year list of favourites.
* SWEEP: The story of a girl and her monster by Jonathan Auxier
Nan Sparrow, an orphaned girl living in London at the end of the 19th Century, spends her days sweeping chimneys. She and her group of ragmuffin friends struggle to survive the threats of abusive child labour. Nan befriends a mysterious creature known as a golem who grew from soot and ash. Together, the girl and her monster struggle to survive the hardships of chimneys and poverty and work hard to overcome turmoil and care for each other. Auxier, author of The Night Gardner has been called a master storyteller. Auxier’s talent for conveying a particular time and place in his novels while telling tales of magical and disturbing adventures has earned him deserved praise. Sweep is the winner of the Governor General’s award for children’s fiction 2018. A terrific read.
* THE TRUTH AS TOLD BY MASON BUTTLE by Leslie Connor
I really like this author (Waiting for Normal, All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook) and once again she has given us a compelling narrative. I quickly got to know and admire Mason Buttle, a special needs learner who can barely read and write. He sweats a lot. He is dealing with the loss of a best friend. He is growing a strong friendship with Calvin Chumsky and together the two boys combat bullies in the neighbourhood. This novel about self-reliance and hope will certainly be at the top of the list of Larry’s favourites this year.*
*LOUISIANA’S WAY HOME by Kate DiCamillo
Terrific, award-winning author Kate DiCamllo has plucked her feisty character Louisiana Elefante from her recent novel Raymie Nightingale and tells her story about travelling (unwillingly) to Georgia with her Granny, Separated from her friends, the trip will be worthwhile for Louisiana if she can find out the truth about her parents, trapeze artists, believed to be killed in an accident. A crow named Clarence, a toothless grandmother in pain, a mean old hotel clerk, rascally friend who can easily steal things from a vending machine, a funeral, a bake sale, a devistating letter and discovered truths about Louisana’s past make will engage readers as they root for Louisiana finding her way to a place called home.
MY FATHER’S WORDS by Patricia MacLachlan
I have been a MacLachlan fan since reading her Sarah, Plain and Tall Series. Once again, the author touches the arts and deals with young children who must learn to cope with troubled circumstances. In this short novel, Fiona and Finn O’Brien must deal with the sudden loss of their father. They lean on each other for support, and by helping dogs in rescue shelter, find healing, comfort and connections that move them forward.
*NO FIXED ADDRESS by Susin Nielson
A funny, heartfelt story about a boy and his mother, struggling to cope with life as they take up residence in a van. Felix, hopes to enter a television contest where he can put his trivia knowledge to good use. He develops a strong friendship with two supportive friends, yet keeps his secret of ‘hidden homelessness’ from all those he meets. What an endearing character. Felix Knutsson is certainly one of the mos favourite fictional characters I encountered this year. Five stars for Felix. Five stars for Susin Nielsen.
* INKLING by Kenneth Oppel
What an intriguing, original character, Canadian author has given us with this engaging novel. Inkling is indeed a blob of ink rising from the pages of a sketchbook. He comes to life to teach Ethan how to try and to help Ethan’s dad, a graphic designer to get out of his funk and get back to his work. Inventive, imaginative and yes, believable.
SOUP by Robert Newton Peck
One of the first books I enjoyed in my youth was Homer Price by Robert McCloskey. I found them to be funny and adventurous, and the short story format appealed to me. When I began teaching I was introduced to Soup by Robert Newton Peck and I loved it (as I did Homer Price) for their humour, mischief and clever writing. In the first book (1974), told as short stories, Peck and his pal Luther Wesley Vinson (Soup) get into trouble (smoking corn and acorns, tying up Aunt Carrie on a tree, and rolling downhill in a barrel). There is a whole series of Soup books and I was glad to re-visit this first title and smile and remember reading to my students long ago.
LU by Jason Reynolds
Was looking forward to reading the final book in the Track series and was not disappointed. Like the other characters in Reynolds books (Ghost, Patina, Sunny), the main character, Lu, born albino, must learn to overcome literal, and not-so-literal, hurdles to become a victorious track star and once again the author has given readers insights into tenacity and resilience.
PROPERTY OF THE REBEL LIBRARIAN by Allison Varnes
June Harper’s parents declare the books she is reading as being inappropriate which leads to a huge book ban at the middle school. Distraught, June and her like-minded classmates organize a freedom to read movement. Unfortunately, Alan Gratz has written a similiarly-themed book in Ban This Book and it seemed that too many incidents (e,g., a library in a locker) in Allison Varnes novel paralled one’s that I previously read about in Gratz’s book. Not that there can’t be more than one book on a similar topic, but I was upset with the parents in the book, the school administration dismissal of the librarian and the harsh (unlikely?) decision to get rid of books that adult thought kids shouldn’t read. I stopped on page 142 when I learned that pages in such books such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Monster and Anne of Green Gable were defaced because of their content.
THE ICE MONSTER by David Walliams
For the past few Decembers I’ve been visiting London England and first on my agenda is a trip to Waterston’s book store. And each year, a new Walliams novel is published. Hooray! This story is set in Victorian London. Elsie, an orphan rescues a wooly mammoth that has been found on the North Pole and along with her companions is determined to return the Ice Monster safely home. Hilarious (of course) and very informative too! Mr. Walliams you are terrific and I look forward to next December’s purchases.
The Canadian Children’s Book Centre and TD bank Winners
The 2018 Canadian Children’s Literature Awards were announced at a celebration on October 29, 2018
AMY MATHERS TEEN BOOK AWARD: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
JOHN SPRAY MYSTERY AWARD: The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook
GEOFFREY BILSON AWARD FOR HISTORICAL FICTION: The Assassin’s Curse (The Blackthorn Key, Book 3) by Kevin Sands
NORMA FLECK FOR CANADIAN CHILDREN’S NON-FICTION: #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women by Lisa Charleyboy (ed.) and Mary Beth Leatherdale
MARILYN BAILLIE PICTURE BOOK AWARD: When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James
TD CANADIAN CHILDREN’S LITERATURE AWARD: Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith