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STAFF PICKS

January 2021

Jo's Picks

The Black Friend

By Frederick Joseph
(Candlewick)

Directed towards teenagers, this candid memoir drawing from Joseph's own experiences of racism growing up, how he dealt with it then (or did not), and how he now sees those events as missed opportunities to teach and inform, is an essential read for adults too. Clear and concise, each chapter includes pieces by one or more artists, authors and activists including Angie Thomas, April Reign, and Jemele Thomas. The book serves as a conversation starter, a tool kit for combatting systemic racism, and includes an encyclopedia/glossary of racism and suggested reading/viewing materials. #ownvoices

 

Dirt

By Bill Buford
(Appetite by Random House)

This is a delightful, riotous, laugh-out-loud funny exploration of French food, its origins and preparation. Buford is so good at self-deprecating humour and intense, immersive and relentless journalism as he relocates along with his wife and 3-year old twins to Lyons to figure out the art of French cooking, the essence of it from the ground up, apprenticing himself to various demanding chefs and kitchens. It is worth noting that he does this without being able to speak French at first. His curiosity is infectious as we follow his five-year journey to understand both the simplicity and complexity of flavour. There’s a lot of heart in his writing which incorporates a medley of history, travel memoir, and portraits of the great French chefs of the southern region.

 

Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: Peril at Owl Park

Written by Marthe Jocelyn
Illustrated by Isabelle Follath
(Tundra Books)

Book Two featuring adventurous would-be writer, Aggie Morton (based on Agatha Christie) and her Belgian friend Hector Perot (Hercule Poirot) is every bit as engaging as the first. Aggie and Hector along with Grannie Jane are visiting Aggie's recently married sister at her new home in Owl Park. In attendance for the Christmas festivities are a troupe of actors, old and new friends, and a cursed emerald. The jewel disappears, an actor is stabbed in the back, and Aggie is on the case as the mystery unfolds over the course of a blizzard. Cozy mystery lovers will enjoy the Easter Eggs scattered throughout the pages- nods to Wilkie Collins and Sherlock Holmes and of course, Christie herself.

Raybearer

Written by Jordan Ifueko
(Harry N. Abrams)

Tarisai has been raised and trained by her distant and emotionally unavailable mother, The Lady, to compete for one of eleven positions as council member- a Ray- to the Crown Prince. If she succeeds, she will be joined to the council with a bond closer than blood. Something that Tarisai dreams of. But she has another mission as well. To kill the prince after winning his trust. This is epic, dazzling fantasy with impeccable world-building drawing from West-African myth and addressing themes of loyalty, betrayal, destiny and love against an exciting backdrop of warring powers. #ownvoices

 
 

Anne-Marie's Picks

My Winter City

Written by James Gladstone 
Illustrated by Gary Clement
(Groundwood Books)

This captivating picture book is outsized, enlarged to make room for sweeping double-page spreads you feel you can tumble - nay, toboggan - into. It relates a young boy’s account of a wintry romp through a city with his dad. Sharp eyes will spy the boy and his dog in the opening illustration, peering out of an apartment window at early morning snowy streets virtually untouched by boots or ploughs. Subsequent pages depict the boy and his dad toting a toboggan through wonderful wintry cityscapes stippled by snow. Snowflakes dance across the pages, mesmerizing like snow on night drives, but if you peer through the storm you will be rewarded with delicious details in Clement’s whimsical pen and watercolour illustrations of quirky crowds and storefronts. For the boy, there is magic afoot as the city’s edges are softened and its possibilities expanded by snowfall. Hills are now toboggan runs, city parks are pillow-soft places to lie and people’s journeys are now revealed in “a wilderness of footprints.” It is a child’s winter city.

 

Cozy

Written & Illustrated by Jan Brett
(G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)

With its inviting title and lichen-adorned endpapers, readers who love the natural world will find it difficult to resist diving into this newest title from beloved children’s author/illustrator Jan Brett. Cozy is a huge musk ox who has been separated from his herd. As he leans into an arctic storm alone, the swirling snow and blasting wind does little to engender a feeling of coziness. But some lemmings spot this mountain of fur and find warmth by Cozy’s left hoof. Soon all manner of tundra animals find winter shelter in Cozy’s thick coat - a hare, an owl, a fox, a wolverine and even some huskies. Unsurprisingly, this diverse menagerie requires some strict house rules such as “claws to yourself” and “no biting”. As is often the case in Jan Brett books, observant readers will notice events are foretold and embellished in the elaborately illustrated borders that frame each picture. While the story is fanciful - reminiscent of Brett’s popular book The Mitten - her beautiful watercolour illustrations of wildlife and habitat are rendered with detailed accuracy.



 

Jo's Recommendations

Anne-Marie's Recommendations