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Kid Sterling: Books on Jazz and Justice

Christine Welldon introduces her debut novel, Kid Sterling, and she marks its release with a list of inspiring books that addresses the problems of racism and the trials of gifted African Americans and Canadians who dared to pursue their dreams in an unjust world.

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Kid Sterling is a Young Adult novel about Sterling Crawford, a young African American kid living in New Orleans in 1906, who works on the streets to help his family. He plays trumpet, and what he’d really like is to learn from his idol, the legendary Buddy Bolden, who is playing a new kind of music that’s turning New Orleans upside down.

Through the pages of this vivid novel, you will discover others whose genius created modern music. The beat and the strains of jazz surged into life even while African-Americans struggled against deep racial divisions of the time: curfews designed to keep black people out of the streets, a loaded justice system, and racial barriers that divided a nation.

For Sterling, life is not easy, but in the end he finds his way in a new and challenging musical world in this richly textured story of a culture that thrives against all odds.

The list below includes African Canadians and African American musicians and others who fought against racism and inspired succeeding genera …

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Launchpad: One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet, by Anuradha Rao

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet, which Elizabeth May calls "a book to be celebrated and shared!”

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

One Earth is a nonfiction book with colour photos that tells the stories of 20 Black, Indigenous and people of colour who are environmental defenders.

Describe your ideal reader.

Loves nature and/or is looking for diverse role models. Perhaps doesn’t tend to see themselves reflected enough in popular media, and …

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Most Anticipated: Spring 2020 Books for Young Readers Preview

We're excited to be looking ahead to books for young readers, including picture books and middle grade and YA titles.

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Picture Books

Told half in French and half in English, with simple phrasing and visual cues in the illustrations making the story easy for early readers to decode in both languages, Pierre & Paul: Avalanche! (March), by Caroline Adderson and illustrated by Alice Carter, is an engaging story of friendship and imagination. A girl and her neighbour grow a community from their garden in What Grew in Larry's Garden (April), by Laura Alary, illustrated by Kass Reich. Extraordinary things are happening behind the windows of the city in Marion Arbona's Window (March), an interactive, one-of-a-kind wordless picture book. And Christine Baldacchino follows up the acclaimed Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress with Violet Shrink (March), illustrated by Carmen Mok, about a young girl who navigates social anxiety at family gatherings and works with her father to find a solution.

Pairing creative rhyming similes with cut-paper collage art, …

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The Chat with Brian Francis

Francis_Brian high res colour Credit Samuel Engelking

Today, we’re in conversation with Brian Francis, author of the acclaimed YA novel—and Governor General’s Award-nominated—Break in Case of Emergency.

Centred around the story of a girl named Toby, the novel has been praised for opening up important conversations about teen mental health. According to the Globe and Mail, “Francis beautifully explores issues around mental health and suicide in a story that packs a powerful punch and stays with you long after you close the book."

Brian Francis is the author of two previous novels. His most recent, Natural Order, was selected by the Toronto Star, Kobo, and The Georgia Straight as a Best Book of the Year. His first novel, Fruit, was a CBC Canada Reads finalist and was selected as one of Amazon.ca and 49th Shelf’s “100 Canadian Books to Read in a Lifetime.” He lives in Toronto.

 
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Trevor Corkum: Break in Case of Emergency takes us back to 1992, and tells the story of Toby, a teenaged girl who has just learned that the father she has never met is coming to visit. Not only that, but her father …

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Quick Hits: 6 Books for Teens this Fall

These new books span everything from disability and difference to grief and homelessness—for starters. They're important books, and gripping reads.

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thejusticeproject

The Justice Project, by Michael Betcherman

Publisher: Orca Books

Recommended ages: 12 and up

About the Book

High-school football star Matt Barnes was on the top of the world until a freak snowboarding accident ending his promising sports career and left him with a permanent limp. As he struggles to accept his changed body, Matt becomes depressed and isolated. Instead of college football camp, he faces a summer job at the local golf club. Then by chance Matt lands an internship at the Justice Project, an organization that defends the wrongly convicted. The other intern is his high-school nemesis, Sonya Livingstone, a quick-witted social activist with little time for jock culture. The two slowly develop a friendship as they investigate the case of Ray Richardson, who was convicted of murdering his parents twenty-one years ago. Matt and Sonya are soon convinced that Ray is innocent—but how will they prove it? Unravelling the cold case takes them on a journey filled with twists, turns, deception and danger. It will take dedication, perseverance and courage to unmask the real murderer. Can those same qualities help Matt m …

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Misfits, Marvelous Worlds and Magical Creatures in YA Fantasy

The Changeling of Fenlen Forest is the debut novel by Katherine Magyarody, the story of a girl who tracks her lost unicorn fawn into a strange land where people thing she is a changeling who too closely resembles a missing girl. Can Elizabeth find her fawn and solve the mystery of her doppelgänger? 

In this list, Magyarody shares other titles in which misfits find adventure. 

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Adventures don’t just happen to princesses and Chosen Ones…they also happen to lone wanderers and misfits at the edges of villages. These books take readers into gripping, taut stories where the heroes navigate strange worlds and tight-knit communities, often discovering strange animals along the way (and not just the human kind).   

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Book Cover The Dollmage

The Dollmage, by Martine Leavitt

The old Dollmage ("wise woman") of Seekvalley needs an heir. To protect her village, she watches over a set of dolls who must be carved and cared for and interpreted…but her power is weakening. Although she predicts the day her heir is born, she does not know if the destined child is Annakey or Renoa. The Do …

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How an Email to an Astrophysicist Changed My (Book’s) Life

Literary worlds collided when YA novelist Ria Voros, whose latest is The Centre of the Universe, connected with astrophysicist Dr. Elizabeth Tasker. 

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She writes about exoplanet research. I write about adolescent humans. This month, astrophysicist Dr. Elizabeth Tasker and I are embarking on a multi-city book tour in Canada in support of both our books. Hers, The Planet Factory, is nonfiction, and mine is a young adult novel called The Centre of the Universe. It turns out our areas of interest have some overlap, and maybe not in the ways you’d imagine.

Our connection goes back to January 2018, when I was working on the final draft of my novel. I’d written a male astrophysicist character for my astronomy-obsessed protagonist to look up to, but he didn’t feel quite right. I decided the astrophysicist needed to be a woman. And then I decided—because, why not?—that this character should be real. The known universe has a reasonable number of space scientists these days, and surely one of them would agree to be written into my story?

Book Cover the Planet Factory

At my local …

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Most Anticipated: Our 2019 Books for Young Readers Spring Preview

Last but certainly not least in our 2019 Spring Preview is our Books for Young Readers list, featuring books that are sure to delight readers of all ages. 

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Picture Books

A little girl growing up on the prairies stands at the window and waves to the train engineer going by in A Little House in a Big Place, by Alison Acheson, illustrated by Valériane LeBlond, a book that explores the magic of a connection made between strangers while also pondering the idea of growing up. Albert just wants to read his book in peace—why won't his friends give him some quiet? Isabelle Arsenault's latest is Albert's Quiet Quest (May), and it  explores the importance of finding alone time. Cale Atkinson's Where Oliver Fits (April) looks at the highs and lows of learning to be yourself and shows that fitting in isn't always the best fit. Based on author Susan Avingaq’s childhood memories of growing up in an iglu,The Pencil introduces young readers to the idea of using things wisely. Saumiya Balasubramaniam’s When I Found Grandma (March), illustrated by Qin Leng, is an insightful and endearing portrayal of a cross-cultural grandparent-grandchild relationship that is evolving and deeply loving. Summer North Coming-Winter North Coming (March), by Doris Bentley and Jessica Bromley …

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Colleen Nelson on Unlikely Friendships in YA

Just in time for back-to-school and a whole host of brand new faces in the halls, we bring you this list by award-winning YA novelist Colleen Nelson—inspired by her latest novel, 250 Hours—about the amazing possibilities of unlikely friendships. 

BONUS: Until September 2, you can enter to win your own copy of the book! Go here to find out how. 

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My young adult novel, 250 Hours, is about an unlikely friendship between Sara Jean and Jess. Sara Jean, a “townie,” is the caregiver for her grandmother and trapped with a future she thinks she doesn’t want. Jess, on the other hand, lives with his mom in a trailer and he's obsessed with lighting fires. He is also desperate to head west, and will, as soon as he completes his community service hours. And then when Jess is ordered to clean out Sara Jean’s garage as part of his punishment, they discover secrets about the town’s history that draw them together.  

The unlikely friendship that develops between Jess and Sara Jean bridges a gap that has split their community for generations. Through their relationship, Jess and Sara Jean begin the slow process of healing.

Below are my favourite Canadian young adult novels that also feature unlikely friendships. 

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Most Anticipated: Our Fall 2018 Books for Young Readers Preview

And Books for Young Readers is the final instalment of our Fall Preview. Whew! It's all shaping up to be an amazing literary season. Happy reading, everybody. 

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Picture Books 

The Imperfect Garden (September), by Melissa Assay and April dela Noche Milne, celebrates naturally grown food in all its imperfection. Cale Atkinson’s Sir Simon: Super Scarer (September) is a haunted house story with a twist—perfect for Halloween. Timed for the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein’s publication, Linda Bailey tells the story of its author in Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein (August), illustrated by Julia Sarda. Sloth at the Zoom (August), by Helaine Becker and Orbie, is the story of a sloth trying to make friends in a fast-paced world. Award-winning author-illustrator Rebecca Bender pushes Giraffe and Bird to new heights of courage, ingenuity, and humour in Giraffe and Bird Together Again (November). And Florence and Leon (September), by Simon Boulerice and Delphie Cote-Lacroix, nominated for the 2016 Governor General's Award for Children's Illustration (French), now appears in English translation by Sophie B. Watson.  

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Best Dystopian YA

Award-winner Colleen Nelson's latest is the YA novel Pulse Point, written with Nancy Chappell-Pollack. In her list, Nelson shares other Canadian dystopian titles that inspired her. 

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Pulse Point is my first attempt at any genre other than realistic fiction. Writing about an alternate world proved to be more difficult in some ways than writing about the one we actually live in, but it also stretched my creativity and posed a lot of questions about the way we do things and why.

Pulse Point takes a "cli-sci" approach to dystopia. In the book, climate change has made our world uninhabitable so people deemed genetically desirable are allowed to live in Cities, self-sustaining domed structures. My favourite part of reading dystopian books is learning the many versions of our world that authors create. 

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Blood Red Road, by Moira Young

Narrated by an illiterate main character as she sets out to reunite her family, this book had me hooked after the first page. The dystopian world in Blood Red Road is brutal and harsh, but the tenderness between the characters …

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Tanaz Bhathena: YA Girls Behaving Badly

Tanaz Bhathena's debut novel is A Girl Like That, "a timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved." We adore her recommended reading lists of YA girls behaving badly, girls who will no doubt inspire readers to persist in being themselves. 

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As a teen I was, by most accounts, a “good girl.” The girl who obeyed her parents without question. One who followed all the rules. In literature, however, I always gravitated to girls unlike myself—the so-called “bad girls.” The troublemakers, the misfits, the rebels. These are girls whose actions seem to infuriate everyone around them even when they’re being themselves or, perhaps, especially when they’re being themselves.

Where real life often failed, literature allowed me to see each of these girls in a different light and understand them better. As I grew older, they challenged me to push my own boundaries and act on impulses I might have suppressed as a teen. More importantly, they encouraged me to accept my imperfections and embrace the parts of myself I didn’t fully love.

These recent Canadian young adult novels stood out to me in the same spirit—books whose so-called badly behaved female protagonists had me rooting for them all the way to th …

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