One of the trickiest requests we get at the library is: “my child needs a book.” That might sound like a simple request, but it can be difficult to find the right type of book, especially if that child is a tween. Often at that age they’ve outgrown the simpler book titles but aren’t quite ready for teen novels. That is why the Red Maple Award nominees are such a valuable resource. There are a total of ten books geared towards students in grade seven and eight that encourage critical thinking and discussion.
Here are a few highlights from this year’s nominees:
Tremendous Things by Susin Nielsen
Teenage life hasn’t been kind to Wilbur Nunez-Knopft. Somehow a very personal letter about his private parts was passed around school, and the kids have been calling him “Wank” ever since. If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, he is also terribly awkward around people. If he’s not rambling out his dog’s anal condition, then he’s having panic attacks in the elevator. He once even vomited on a girl’s shoe.
After a beautiful, sophisticated French exchange student comes into Wilbur’s life, he begins to think that a change may be in order. Luckily, he has a great support system. He has two caring mothers and his best friend Sal – an 85-year-old widower, to help him to reinvent the awkward image of himself and become the confident person he was made to be.
This is a book about learning to love oneself, flaws and all, no matter how the outside world sees you.
Surviving the City Vol. 2: From the Roots Up (Graphic Novel) by Tasha Spillet
This is the second installment of the Surviving the City series. Dez’s story continues after the death of her grandmother. She is now living in a group home and discovering her identity as a Two-Spirit person. She meets Riel, a new student who is dealing with his own grief after the murder of his brother.
Riel challenges the elders to let Dez join the drumming circle which is traditionally reserved for men. He brings his aunt, a Two-Spirit person, to speak at the school’s pow-pow. She shares how Indigenous nations have always had people with differing genders and sexualities, however, residential schools and Christian beliefs erased much of this from their culture. As Dez learns more about her identity, the people closest to her begin to expand their own ideas on gender as well.
This story tackles the idea of unlearning behaviours that were traditionally deemed as ‘correct’ and rethinking what it means to be inclusive.
Sisters of the Snake by Sarena Nanua & Sasha Nanua
Two girls have identical faces. Ria has sun-worn skin, marked with scars from life on the street. Abandoned by her parents at birth, she’s spent her early years in an orphanage. Often starving, she learned to steal to survive. Now, she’s honed her skills to become a master thief.
Rani has smooth skin, a reflection of her soft life as a Princess. Raised by her parents to be the next Queen of Abai, she’s had to learn snake magic. She’s mastered communication with snakes but her father still doubts her ability to rule.
Although the girls are identical, neither was aware of the other until a series of events brings them both together. Desperate to find out why they were separated at birth, they decide to temporarily switch places.
This is a fantasy story about twin sisters, written by twin sisters. Authors Sarena Nanua and Sasha Nanua began writing stories together at the age of nine. Many years later, their love of magic and mythology led to the creation of Sisters of the Snake.
For a complete list of the Red Maple Award nominees check out the Forest of Reading program. For fiction books geared towards students in grades five and six, check out last month’s Silver Birch Award nominees post.
Stayed tuned for the Yellow Cedar Award nominees which focus on non-fiction titles.