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Every year in February there’s Pink Shirt Day – a day focused on raising awareness about bullying in the workplace, at school, online and even at home. It also serves as a reminder to be kind to one another, and ourselves, by celebrating our differences! To mark the day, we’ve put together a list of reading recommendations, for YA and Adults that touch on issues of bullying and empowerment, all available on All Lit Up.
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Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (Canada and Caribbean region)
A Globe and Mail Top Five First Fiction Title of 2009
Nine-year-old Phineas William Walsh has an encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world. He knows that if you wet a dog’s food with your saliva and he refuses to eat it then he’s top dog, and he knows that dolphins can sleep half a brain at a time. What he doesn’t know, though, is why his grandfather died, or why waste-of-flesh Lyle always picks on him. Or why his parents can’t live together – after all, when other mate-for-life animals have a fight, it’s not like one of them just packshis bags and leaves the country.
To make it to-infinity worse, he’s worried sick about what humans are doing to the planet, and his mother is worried sick about him. But shouldn’t everyone be losing sleep over the fact that a quarter of all Earth’s mammals are on the Red List of Threatened Species? So, when a White’s tree frog ends up in an aquarium in his fourth-grade classroom, it’s the last straw, and he and his best friend, Bird, are spurred to action.
“Carla Gunn’s prose crackleswith energy in this illuminating, heart-gripping novel. A hilarious, brilliant, loveable, exasperating child, Phin and his mesmerizing voice need listening to. The powerful, authentic narrator brings to mind The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but Gunn’s an original, and draws us deeply into Phin’s many and varied worlds. A compassionate tale balancing light and dark, this is a must-read book.’ —Sheree Fitch, author of Kiss the Joy As It Flies
“I’m thrilled to promote Amphibian as our number one summer reading suggestion to customers of all ages, many of whom have returned to say how much they enjoyed it. It really has all the elements of a classic in the making. In nine-year-old Phineas Walsh, Carla Gunn has created a narrator that is perceptive, hilarious and frustrating, as he grapples with humanity’s seeming indifference to the rapid destruction of our animals and our planet. The issues are urgent, yet the author maintains a light tone throughout that isbreathtakingly delightful, heartfelt and ultimately hopeful. It’s fresh, timely and very hard to find fault with. I was thrilledto read it and shed light on this gem of a book that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle. It’s what independent bookselling is all about.” —Andrew Peck, Singing Pebble Books, Ottawa
Life constantly seems to be wavering between really good and really bad for Owen, a lonely sixteen-year-old still reeling from the unexpected death of his mother and a fresh move to Toronto. After ducking into an old bookstore to escape high school bullies, Owen discovers that he can travel to a parallel, twisted version of the city using a magical tablet called a Battledoor. He encounters new allies, bizarre creatures, and the ultimate antagonist who will stop at nothing to procure the magical Golden Slate for himself.
Forced to work closely with friends and enemies in order to return home, Owen is faced with a series of choices that will prompt him to discover courage he never knew he had, explore the possibility of romance, and try to find a way to let go of his painful past and move on. But is Owen ready to finally take control and become the protagonist of his own story?
One year after the suicide of their teenage son Joel, Debora and Michael Shaun-Hastings sit down to dinner with their son’s bully and his parents. Closure is on the menu, but accusations are the main course as everyone takes a turn in the hot seat for their real or imagined part in the tragedy. Blame shifts over the course of the evening from one person to the next, raising questions no one is prepared to answer.
Winner of the W.O. Mitchell Book Prize
Winner of the 2012 Relit Award for Best Novel
Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize
Shortlisted for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction
Shortlisted for the Alberta Literary Award for Best Fiction
A Globe and Mail Best Novel of 2011
A seventeen-year-old boy, bullied and heartbroken, hangs himself. And although he felt terribly alone, his suicide changes everyone around him.
His parents are devastated. His secret boyfriend’s girlfriend is relieved. His unicorn- and virginity-obsessed classmate, Faraday, is shattered; she wishes she had made friends with him that time she sold him an Iced Cappuccino at Tim Hortons. His English teacher, mid-divorce and mid-menopause, wishes she could remember the dead student’s name, that she could care more about her students than her ex’s new girlfriend. Who happens to be her cousin. The school guidance counsellor, Walter, feels guilty – maybe he should have made an effort when the kid asked for help. Max, the principal, is worried about how it will reflect on the very Catholic school. And Walter, who’s been secretly in a relationship with Max for years, thinks that’s a little callous. He’s also tired of Max’s obsession with some sci-fi show on TV. And Max wishes Walter would lose some weight and remember to use a coaster.
And then Max meets a drag queen named Crepe Suzette. And everything changes.
Monoceros is a masterpiece of the tragicomic; by exploring the effects of a suicide on characters outside the immediate circle, Mayr offers a dazzlingly original look at the ripple effects – both poignant and funny – of a tragedy. A tender, bold work.
Dad has moved out and Mom has checked out, leaving the door wide open for the beautiful, erratic Rachel to torment her “loser, loner” younger sister, Nadine. With her family in full meltdown mode, Nadine is alone, trying to cope with Rachel’s increasingly unpredictable moods. Friendless, but determined to turn her life around, Nadine meets Anne, who introduces her to field hockey and to her hot twin brothers, Matt and Cameron. As Nadine’s star begins to rise, however, Rachel plots to bring her back down, and the tension ratchets up when Rachel starts dating Matt just as Nadine is getting to know Cameron better. When Matt’s interest starts to fade, Rachel goes into overdrive. Is Nadine ready to risk it all in a final showdown with her sister?/
Over Our Heads is a novel that weaves together the histories of two very different half-sisters who return home to deal with the aftermath that occurs when the grandmother who raised them dies. Emma, a punk band singer and poet turned pet psychic, and Rachel, an actuary with an interest in astronomy, both carry the remnants of childhoods overshadowed by issues of bullying, abandonment, alienation and fear. In the raw terrain of profound loss, the two sisters struggle through the stages of grief – each in their own way. The past merges with the present, as through the process of emptying the family home, each woman is taken back to their childhoods in 1970s Toronto and Vancouver, where they navigated a social climate rife with racism, homophobia and marginalization of the mentally ill and cognitively disabled. Over Our Heads is a story about kindness, compassion – and the lack of it, on both a societal and individual level. It’s about growing up wounded, and the generational legacy of suffering such wounds can create. It unearths the painful family dynamics that can arise from our perception of memory, and how these dynamics colour both who we are, and who we believe others to be. It’s a story of acceptance, forgiveness, redemption, and the beauty that can be found in the imperfection inherent in being human.
Marty Chan is back with a sequel to his award-winning juvenile romp The Mystery Of the Frozen Brains.
Nine-year-old Marty and his francophone buddy, Remi Boudreau, stumble upon graffiti on the school’s equipment shack and begin the adventure of tracking down the culprit. Marty spies on his classmates, wears his mom’s dress to go undercover, and risks losing his best friend as the mystery of the graffiti ghoul leads him to the graveyard. With continued insight into a Chinese boy’s life in a Francophone town in Alberta, Chan’s humour balances the serious themes of bullying and racism that are revealed in the attitudes and actions of elementary school kids.
Recognized as contemporary versions of the Hardy Boys detective novels, the books in Chan’s Mystery Series are first-rate entertainment and highly recommended for kids.