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IF you are looking for an inspiring book that will make a teen reader glad to be born in Canada — and anxious to help those who want or need to come here — look no further than We Are Displaced by Nobel Prize-winning Malala Yousafzai (Little, Brown, 224 pages, $25, hardcover).
The Pakistani-born Yousafzai details her story of fighting discrimination against girls’ education, fleeing her home, being shot by Taliban agents and ending up in the U.K. However, she also tells the stories of 10 other young women from Yemen, Iraq, Columbia, Guatemala, Myanmar, the Congo and Uganda, and also of one American woman who welcomed a large family from Egypt into her family’s way of life.
These young women are all people Yousafzai has met. Their stories, told by the women in the first person, are at times shocking or gruelling, but always courageous and inspirational. They clearly show the trauma associated with being exiled from the home, the country and the culture in which one is raised. Yousafzai also gives concrete suggestions for how to help displaced persons. Excellent for ages 13 and up.
Susin Nielsen of Vancouver is best known for her middle-grade novels focusing on hard-core issues in young people’s lives — homelessness, gender issues, bullying. However, her latest release is a picture book for younger readers that will bring smiles to many faces, especially if they are cat-lovers: Princess Puffbottom and Darryl (Tundra, 32 pages, $22, hardcover).
Princess Puffbottom is a beautiful long-haired cat who is waited on paw and claw, so to speak, until her perfect life is disrupted by the arrival of Darryl, a rambunctious new puppy. Her attempts to sabotage his stay are amusing but unsuccessful, until Princess realizes Darryl’s admiration can be pleasant.
Large and attractive illustrations by Los Angeles artist Olivia Chin Mueller add to this book’s appeal.
In these days when the importance of preserving Indigenous languages is being emphasized, the picture book Awâsis and the World Famous Bannock by Winnipeg author Dallas Hunt, and illustrated by Vancouver artist Amanda Strong (HighWater Press, 28 pages, $20, hardcover), fills a welcome void.
In a story reminiscent of Little Red Riding Hood, Awâsis is asked by her Köhkum (grandmother) to take a basket of bannock to a relative. On the way, the bannock is accidentally lost, and Awâsis desperately needs a new batch. But what is the recipe? Sisip the duck suggests margarine, wâpos the rabbit adds flour, ayîkis the frog offers sugar and ôhô the owl salt. All the ingredients and names are written in Cree, with an explanatory page at the end giving English translation and pronunciation. When maskwa the bear brings milk, Awâsis learns she has all she needs to make her grandmother’s famous bannock. With a recipe included in the book, you can too.
Hunt is a member of the Swan River First Nation and a proponent of language revitalization. Strong, living in Vancouver, is also a Michif filmmaker.
For a fun picture book that praises the virtue of non-digital communication, try Pencil: A Story with a Point by Missouri author Ann Ingalls (Pajama Press, 32 pages, $20, hardcover).
Jackson loves pencil drawing until he gets a tablet, at which point he drops his writing utensil into a junk drawer. But when the tablet gets broken, Pencil enlists the help of all the other items in the drawer — glue, scissors, paper, markers, paperclips — to make a flip-book that lets Jackson start to enjoy doodling again.
With lots of clever puns (“You’re a cut above the rest, said scissors”) and large and colourful artwork by British Columbia artist Dean Griffiths, this book will resonate with 5-8 year olds.
Helen Norrie is a former teacher/librarian who has taught children’s literature at the University of Manitoba.