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A GOOD READ: Fabulous fiction for middle school-age readers
Canadian literature for children and teens has expanded in the last few years. You may be surprised to see what Canadian publishers have produced this year.
The following are five novels that are great reads to share with (or give) the middle school kid in your life:
Prince Puggly of Spud and the Kingdom of Spiff is the second novel Robert Paul Weston has written entirely in rhyming verse. Puggly has been appointed Prince of Spud in place of the absent king. Over in neighbouring Spiff, the king cannot convince his daughter to get off her tower of pillows and wear something other than pyjamas for their upcoming ball. What will happen when father and daughter are ridiculed by their ultra-fashionable guests? How can the terminally unfashionable Puggly fulfill his duties and attend the Spiffian ball when he has never been to a party in his life. An enjoyable combination of Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl, this is a great novel to read aloud to with your children or class. If you’re interested, Weston’s first novel in rhyming verse is the rollicking adventure Zorgamazoo, complete with plucky heroine, creatures from the underworld, space aliens and lobotomies.
Jack Lime is an amateur detective and high school student who agrees to solve cases for his fellow students in return for future favours. But the life of a detective isn’t easy, especially when you have to navigate the politics of high school, stay on the good side of the principal and fight off the occasional bout of narcolepsy. In The Further Adventures of Jack Lime by James Leck, Lime is at it again. This time, he’s investigating game fixing, art theft and evil corporations. This is excellent middle school crossed with film noir.
Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Brit and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault is a moving graphic novel written for a middle school audience but it speaks to any age. Hélène has become an outcast, shunned and tormented by people who her once her friends. Ostracized, depressed and alone, Hélène feels she cannot turn to her already overworked mother; instead, she finds solace in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. The minimal, poetic text and muted illustrations highlight the bleakness with which Hélène sees her world. This is an emotional book to be read with eyes, and heart, wide open.
Jewish summer camp is not Dahlia Sherman’s idea of a good time. But instead of the boredom and drudgery she expected, Dahlia is greeted by two ghost girls, an old overgrown hedge maze and the mystery of disappearing campers. Soon, Dahlia is lost in the maze and deep into the mystery, using all her math club analytical skills and her magic sleight of hand to escape. Path of Names by Ari Goelman is a unique adventure combining a nerdy heroine, Jewish folklore and a ghost story with the normal anxieties of summer camp, fitting in and sibling rivalry. It is a great book for someone looking for something different, or for that kid who has read everything.
Adam is spending the summer at a seaside campground with his family, which would have made it the best summer ever except that his best friend decided to abandon him and stay home to look after a sick dog. A constantly rotating cast of friends livens up Adam’s summer and provides a distraction from his annoying family but it is Theo’s magical stories about driftwood that make Adam’s summer the most amazing and eye-opening. Driftwood is award-winning author Valerie Sherrard’s latest addition to her list of moving youth literature. Sherrard’s life-like characters draw you into this beautifully written novel, then Theo’s driftwood folktales reach out in profound ways.
These are just a few of the fabulous Canadian books for kids published this year. Visit the library to find these or for more suggestions on other great new titles.
A Good Read is a column by Tri-City librarians that is published every Wednesday. Reta Pyke works at Port Moody Public Library.