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STAFF PICKS

November 2020

Jo's Picks

Piranesi

by Susanna Clarke
(Bloomsbury)

A puzzle box of existential philosophy, a gorgeously told mystery that takes the reader through a labyrinth of truth and lies to find the metaphysical heart of life. Piranesi, as he is named by the Other, knows his house. It is massive, populated with thousands of statues and subject to ocean tides which sweep into the halls, stairways and rooms. Piranesi knows the tides and he understands and loves his house which cares for and feeds him. He is mostly alone but content. Twice a week the Other comes to visit him and together they try to find a Great and Secret Knowledge, but the Other is not the friend he appears to be and slowly a terrible truth comes to the surface. Surreal and hauntingly beautiful.

 

Things in Jars

by Jess Kidd
(Atria Books)

Female detective extraordinaire Bridie Devine is hired to find a missing child- the secret daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick- who is rumoured to be not entirely human. Set in Victorian England and steeped in Gothic atmosphere, Bridie must follow leads through a web of lies aided in her endeavours by her seven-foot tall housemaid, the smitten ghost of a famed pugilist, and a helpful apothecary. A captivating blend of fantasy and historical fiction.

 

Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: The Body under the Piano

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

This exceedingly clever and amusing middle-grade reimagines Agatha Christie as an ingenious yet socially awkward twelve-year old who resides in a sleepy seaside town at the turn of the 20th Century. She lives with her widowed mother and her shrewd Grannie Jane (modelled on Miss Jane Marple). Her only friend is a twelve-year old Belgian refugee with impeccable manners named Hector Perot. When Aggie discovers a dead body beneath the piano she must use all of her powers of deduction to discover the murderer before her beloved dance teacher is charged with the crime. The first in a new series.

Elatsoe

Written by Darcie Little Badger
Illustrated by Rovina Cai

(Levine Querido)

In this speculative fiction YA, America is much the same in some ways and very different in others. Magical forces and stories both indigenous and not, have shaped the land and the people. After her cousin is found dead, Elatsoe must draw on her own Lipan Apache powers, passed down through generations, of being able to raise the ghosts of dead animals to help her discover the truth. The picture-perfect town of Willowbee does not welcome prying eyes or uncomfortable questions and Elatsoe must step carefully. Haunting and engaging and enriched by Indigenous myth.

 
 

Anne-Marie's Picks

All Because You Matter

Written by Tami Charles
Illustrated by Bryan Collier
(Scholastic)

In simple, poetic and sometimes piercing text, this book is written as a love letter to a Black child about why he matters. “They say that matter is all things that make up the universe: energy, stars, space...If that’s the case, then you, dear child, matter.” Rich, evocative illustrations feature colourful collages of faces of ancestors who dreamed of this child, stitched together through time on blossoming petal shapes. Together, text and art paint a tender picture of the moments in this child’s life that will affirm his place in the universe - from wobbly first steps, to first words and story time - alongside those moments that will make him question it. As he grows he will endure classmates’ cruelty and watch news about racial violence and protests with his Pop Pop and he will wonder if he matters. But the book lovingly, rhythmically, returns to an unwavering message of affirmation, depicting a child encircled by family and community, created by a universe that will make room for him because he matters. In her Author’s Note, Tami Charles writes: “I wrote All Because You Matter to provide parents with a starting point for conversations about the racial climate in [the United States] today. These are issues that should be discussed in all families, of all backgrounds, if we are to raise empathetic future leaders.”

 

Outside In

Written by Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by Cindy Derby
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

“We forget Outside is there. So Outside reminds us.…”  In this beautiful picture book, Outside is a character, beguiling and mysterious, insistent and pervasive, even as we humans dwell inside imagining we are separate from nature. Outside beckons with smells, song, and sunlight. Outside warms us in clothes that were once cotton, holds us in chairs that were once trees, and feeds us bread that was sun and seeds and rain. Despite our best efforts to fortify the inside, Outside still sneaks in with spiders in corners and rivers flowing from our taps. The watercolour illustrations are lush, verdant and fantastical, with a sensory quality inviting the reader to connect: “Outside waits…and we answer.”

Animals Brag About Their Bottoms

Written & illustrated by Maki Saito
(Greystone Books)

The title really says it all in this rib-tickling picture book about, yes, animals’ bottoms. What’s not to like about an artful, exuberant book which urges readers to admire animal posteriors in all their fluffy, stripy, patterned splendour? Sidestepping a descent into bathroom humour, Animals Brag About Their Bottoms muses about the design of animal bottoms and features brag-worthy bottoms rendered as fine art by author/illustrator Maki Saito.

 

Jo's Recommendations

Anne-Marie's Recommendations