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STAFF PICKS

April 2018


Jo's Picks

Sing, Unburied, Sing

by Jesmyn Ward
(Scribner)

Lyrical, finely wrought, profound and heartbreaking, National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward is at the height of her considerable talents here. Part road trip book, part coming of age, part ghost story, the novel examines the blurred lines between the living and the dead, the shadows of slavery, and the legacy of Jim Crow. Shimmering with power and urgency, this is a devastating exploration of violence, love and family in the rural Mississippi of the past and the present.

 

The Belles

by Dhonielle Clayton
(Freeform)

Wow, this was such a terrifically immersive book. Clayton's writing is vivid, lush and atmospheric. Set in the glittering mythical city of Orleans where beauty is coveted above all else, and the Belles are revered for their powers of transformation, Camellia (a Belle) discovers the rottenness at the heart of decadent palace life. Beneath the epic gorgeousness of the jewel-like language lies a poignant and sharp examination of beauty mores, class division and politics. The opulent luxury of the prose style effectively mirrors the plot.  This is a magnificent bonbon of a book- enticing and mouth-watering and utterly addictive, until the worm nestled in the middle of the rich chocolate is revealed.


Alice's Picks

Himself

by Jess Kidd
(Washington Square Press)

I so enjoyed Himself by Jess Kidd. Kidd's debut novel is a whodunit that weaves together supernatural and mythological elements with mystery and intrigue, infused with constant good humour. Set in mid-1970s small-town Ireland, a young man, Mahony, comes home to find out what happened to his missing mother, the reason he was an orphan. This is often a very funny book, as well as being sharply critical of social mores and the church, and ghosts walk amongst the living in a matter-of-fact way. There are a host of wonderfully memorable characters and situations. Highly recommended!

 

Bestiary

by Donika Kelly
(Graywolf Press)

Bestiary is a very beautiful book. Using animals and mythological monsters as titles and metaphors, Donika Kelly writes clear and strong poems about emotions and physical and philosophical states. The bestiary, a form that originated in the ancient world, and was made popular in the Middle Ages, was a compendium of animal classifications, with moral descriptions attached. This form works well with observations about family and relationships - a system of classification that is open to various interpretive ideas and definitions. There are many absolutely breathtaking poems in this collection. I can't wait to see what else Kelly writes.


Anne-Marie's Picks

Colette's Lost Pet

by Isabelle Arsenault
(Tundra Books)

Colette is new to Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood. She ventures out into a backyard strewn with moving boxes, downcast at her parent’s refusal to get her a pet. In a fit of pique she kicks a box over the neighbour’s fence. When Colette sneaks through a gate to retrieve it, she meets two young boys who wonder what she’s up to. “I lost my pet,” she blurts out. And so begins a beguiling story of a little lie which snowballs as a spontaneous search party attracts more and more neighbourhood kids. While they roam through the maze of back alleys and yards they wonder what the pet is (a parakeet), what its name is (Marie-Antoinette, like the queen), what it looks like (blue with yellow on its neck). Emboldened by the attention, Colette’s fibs become more confident and colourful. As time and searchers march on, there is no going back for Colette, and readers worry it will all end very badly. But the magic of this book is that it is child-centred, dwelling in that space where reality and make-believe blur. The adult world and its admonishments build tension for young readers (what will Colette’s new friends think when they discover she’s lying?), but in the end they are overwhelmed by the delightful scope of this whale of a tale. When Colette’s stories strain credulity to the breaking point (the parakeet is as big as a house and has flown her around the world to the desert and jungle), the children don’t react with judgment. Instead, eyes wide, they want to hear more, and wonder if Colette will explore the jungle with them tomorrow. Acclaimed illustrator Isabelle Arsenault pairs spare and humorous text with whimsical drawings in pencil, ink and watercolour, creating a beautiful and entertaining picture book which celebrates imagination, acceptance, friendship and plain old-fashioned fun.

 

Picture the Sky

by Barbara Reid
(North Winds Press)

"The sky can be an eyeful." Barbara Reid’s latest book urges us to take another look, a fresh look, at something we often take for granted. Her clay illustrations are at once playful and artful, with plenty of detail and unique perspectives to lead us to ponder and linger a while over her invitation to picture the sky. This is a lovely, meditative picture book to share with a young reader in your life.



Alice's Recommendations

Anne-Marie's Recommendations

Jo's Recommendations