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July 2021

Jo's Picks

The Dry

By Jane Harper
(Flatiron Books)

During one of the worst droughts in Australian memory, Police Investigator Aaron Falk, reluctantly returns after twenty years to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend Luke Hadler. Falk finds himself drawn into the breaking case when it's revealed that Luke killed his wife and six-year old son before turning the gun on himself. Falk's own troubled past with an attendant mystery is dragged out into the open and he is forced to question whether what happened then is linked to what has happened now. Deeply atmospheric, compelling, and peopled with conflicted characters, this is a slow-burn of a thriller and features one of the best opening chapters in a mystery novel I have ever read.


Dial A for Aunties

By Jesse Q. Sutanto

A chaotic and ridiculously fun farce of a novel. 26-year old Indonesian and Chinese-American Meddy is trapped in the role of good girl. Not only does she still live with her mother but she works as a photographer for her family's wedding planner company, which is run by her three Aunts who are riotously funny. After her mother sets her up on a blind date, Meddy accidentally kills him but fortunately her aunties are fixers. It is best to suspend your disbelief as the action escalates and the poor dead guy starts popping up at the worst times. Filled with banter and bickering, many laugh-out-loud moments and a dash of romance this is a perfect romp of a beach read.


Tremendous Things

By Susin Nielsen
(Penguin Teen)

Another charming and hilarious YA offering from Nielsen, Tremendous Things follows 14-year old Wilbur, a lovable, angsty, awkward kid as he navigates public school after an excruciatingly embarrassing event that casts him as a social pariah. His closest friends, other than his two moms - the Mumps, are childhood buddy Alex, his dog Templeton and his next door neighbour, a lively octogenarian called Sal. Things start looking up when he meets Charlie, a glamorous Parisian foreign exchange student but she seems more interested in school bully Tyler. His friends stage an intervention before the class travels to Paris, a Queer Eye for the Straight Guy scenario, and Wilbur gains some much needed confidence. Stuffed with hilarity and a few penis jokes, this is warm, witty and hilarious.


Anne-Marie's Picks

On the Trapline

Written by David A. Robertson
Illustrated by Julie Flett

(Tundra Books)

This is one of those picture books that offers the gift of an immersive experience. It is long enough to feel like a journey, and expertly crafted with evocative text and atmospheric illustrations to transport the reader alongside its characters. A Swampy Cree grandfather, Moshom, flies with his grandson to the northern wilderness to visit the trapline he hasn’t seen since he was a kid. “Traplines,” Moshom explains, “are where people hunt animals and live off the land.” He shows his grandson the community and lakeside house where he lived after they left the trapline, the site behind the old English school where he hid with friends to speak Cree, and then Moshom's old friend takes them to find the trapline. They travel by motorboat across a wide river, past beaver dams and paintings on rocks, to a boulder by some trees. Moshom’s eyes light up: “That’s my trapline.” Throughout the book, Swampy Cree words are shared not only as translations, but as poetic reflections. Here the author writes: Kīwēw means “he goes home.” Moshom’s reminiscences about his family’s life on the trapline are many and detailed, and the illustrations, rendered in earth tones, effortlessly flip between past and present day. Moshom and his grandson find the site of his family’s big tent, see where muskrat traps were set, and sample berries Moshom ate as a child. As the pair stand by the lake’s edge about to leave, Moshom holds his grandson’s hand tightly: Kiskisiw means “he remembers.” Now his grandson does too.


Out Into the Big Wide Lake

Written by Paul Harbridge
Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon

(Tundra Books)

On one level, this picture book operates as a simple adventure story - set on and around an island-spotted lake in the Muskoka region, there’s a whiff of Swallows and Amazons about it. The fact its protagonist Kate has Down syndrome is only made explicit in the author’s dedication to his sister, who inspired the character, however the reader quickly perceives that Kate’s loving but protective mother treats her as a much younger child. When her grandmother asks Kate to stay with her at the lake for the summer, Kate is shocked. “Me?” she asks. “Why not?” answers Grandma in what will become the summer’s mantra. Although Kate’s mother worries she has never done anything like this before, she lets Kate go. At first Kate misses home, but soon she befriends the family dog, starts helping Grandpa deliver groceries from their lakeside general store by boat, and learns to steer the boat all by herself. With each new challenge, her grandparents respond to Kate’s self-doubt with a jaunty, “Why not?” and instruct her patiently and lovingly, until one day, when there is a family emergency, Kate learns to answer “Why not?” herself. This is an entertaining and empowering book about daring to try - about growing up and challenging limitations set by yourself and by others.



Jo's Recommendations

Anne-Marie's Recommendations