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May 2021

Jo's Picks

Detransition, Baby

By Torrey Peters
(One World)

This is a polarizing book but one that deserves a wide readership outside the LGBTQIA community. At its heart the novel explores motherhood, fatherhood, queerness, divorce, relationships, love and sex. Provocative and very funny at times, the story is driven by the in-depth, compassionate portrayal of the two main characters; Reese, a trans woman, navigating a series of unhealthy relationships while craving love and motherhood, and Amy/Ames, her ex-lover who has detransitioned and is now in a relationship with a woman who is pregnant with his child. Delving so deeply into these relationships is an intense experience, demanding much from the reader and bringing up many ideas and feelings regarding womanhood. It is a powerfully queer book, a moving portrait of two flawed and complex characters, written with a lot of wit and heart.


Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

By Merlin Sheldrake
(Random House)

A fascinating look at the world beneath our feet, this is a glorious tangle - much like the miraculous web of connections made by the mycelial network - combining biology, philosophy, art, human history and our future. Employing clear and exhilarating language, biologist Sheldrake adopts a fungi-eye view and explores the myriad ways in which this kingdom of organisms impacts the earth and all who live upon it. Exuberantly hopeful and engaging, this is transportative non-fiction, entertaining and informative, and an important addition to our understanding of the wood wide web.


We Begin at the End

By Chris Whitaker
(Henry Holt and Co.)

An intricately-plotted, character-driven small town mystery and family drama that explores crimes both past and present. 13-year old Dutchess Radley is a self-proclaimed outlaw and spends her days looking after her 6-year old brother Robin and worrying about her drug and alcohol dependent mother, who has been permanently scarred by the murder of her sister when they were both children thirty years ago. Watching over them is Sheriff Walk, whose best childhood friend, Vincent, was accused of and imprisoned for the murder. Now Vincent is getting out. What unfolds is a gripping, emotional story of chosen families, loyalty and deep-buried secrets. Gorgeously written and peopled with truly memorable characters.


Anne-Marie's Picks

Puppy in My Head: A Book About Mindfulness

Written & Illustrated by Elise Gravel

In this picture book, author/illustrator Elise Gravel tackles mindfulness for children with her signature playful humour and comics-inspired illustration style. Instead of complicating things with abstract definitions of mindfulness, she uses the device of a spirited puppy bouncing around a child’s brain to help kids appreciate the power of knowing what is happening in their heads at a given moment (thoughts, feelings, emotions) without getting carried away by it. The protagonist’s puppy is named Ollie, and although mostly he is quiet and curious, sometimes he gets over-excited, anxious or scared and then he can’t listen to her. His feelings control him and the girl must take out her “magical leash” to calm him. The leash is her breath: long, slow and gentle. Her breath calms Ollie, and he comes closer and settles in for a cuddle. Other strategies also help Ollie, like taking him for a run or listening and talking about his concerns with a parent. Gravel concludes that everybody has a puppy in their head, even grown-ups, and offers up two pages of possible puppies who just might be inhabiting your brain.


If You Go Down to the Woods Today

Written by Rachel Piercey
Illustrated by Freya Hartas

(Magic Cat)

This British import invites readers into a lively, magical woodland where foxes are foraging for mushrooms, deer are gardening (instead of poaching from others for a change), and bunnies are competing with frogs at the high jump. With rhyming text, the book follows the arc of the seasons, punctuated by events such as Bunny’s birthday, a forest art class and Bear’s winter feast. The illustrations are crowded with exuberant detail, where anthropomorphized animals live in multi-story tree trunk homes and are busy with an endless array of activities which kids are asked to spot. There is enough here to keep even those with the sharpest eyes busy for a good long time, after which they are urged to take their observational skills outside on a guided scavenger hunt in a real (but still magical) woodland. 


Curated by Katie Scott and Ester Gaya
(Big Picture Press)

Fungarium is the latest in the captivating “Welcome to the Museum” series of natural history books. Sporting a golden admission ticket on each of their covers, these books evoke the vintage aesthetic of early scientific guides to plantsanimals, and, in this case, fungi. They are densely packed with information, curated by the likes of the director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and a professor of biodiversity at the University of Oxford, and are organized into galleries brimming with exquisite renderings of specimens. For readers aged 8-98, these oversized, beautiful volumes offer immersive and robust educations in their respective fields.  


Jo's Recommendations

Anne-Marie's Recommendations