Nominated for the Governor General’s award for young people’s literature, this book from Edmonton’s Alison Hughes features a deeper character study than you might expect from something aimed at a teen audience.
The book traces the journey of Dee, a barely-old-enough-to-have-a-learner’s-permit teen and her younger brother Eddie, who loves reptiles, outlandish stories and, well, doesn’t have any friends. They’re living in a small Arizona town, waiting for their dad to come home from an antiquing trip. Except that he doesn’t.
Desperate, and with children’s services closing in, the kids decide to embark on a risky trip north to Canada, where they have relatives.
What the reader gets is the story of a girl who is asked to grow up too fast, a boy without direction and how they bond through a bizarre trip north. This is more about character than plot; by the end, you’ll feel like Eddie and Dee are part of your family. Dee rises to the challenge of guardianship, while Eddie comes to grips with the fact that maybe dad won’t be around anymore. It’s a road trip story, but not like one you’ve ever read before. -Steven Sandor
Mark Templeton and Ryan Diduck, Graphical. 106 pages.
Create your own virtual road trip without getting in a car with this photobook from local artist Mark Templeton. Templeton’s photography and Diduck’s journal-like words create what Templeton calls “the roadmap to an eerie expedition that is at once unreal and urgent.” Indeed, this isn’t reminiscent of your typical sunshine-y and carefree road trip, but rather a look at the forgotten and weathered details of sidelined destinations. Templeton even provides the soundtrack: Five flexi records with music he composed are included with the book (which itself resembles a record sleeve) and are to be played while you read. Just add snacks. –Breanna Mroczek
Let’s Go Exploring: Calvin and Hobbes
Michael Hingston, ECW Press. 131 pages.
ECW’s Pop Classics series includes relatively concise books that look at moments in pop culture. In this case, Edmonton writer Michael Hingston (of the Short Story Advent Calendar) takes on the beloved comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes. If you’ve ever read the stories about a boy and his tiger, you’ll want to read Hingston’s fascinating insights and findings. Creator Bill Watterson rarely does interviews – save for one for a book that accompanied an exhibition of his work in 2015 – and hasn’t licensed the characters. So, for fans wanting a little more beyond the retired comic strip, this is a treat. Let’s Go Exploring covers everything from the comic’s early beginnings to how those pick-up truck decals came to be. -Breanna Mroczek
That Light Feeling Under Your Fee
Kayla Geitzler, NeWest Press. 128 pages
The thought of going on a cruise makes me uncomfortable, and fittingly this collection of poetry – inspired by Geitzler’s time working on cruise ships – makes me uncomfortable, too. At times it’ll have you dreaming of an ocean-bound vacation, but the themes dive deeper (pun intended) and touch on the pacing of time when you’re working 96-hour weeks, cruise-ship (lack of) etiquette, infuriating guests, class divides, translation errors, sexual harassment and onboard party culture. It’s an effective (and affective) look at the unglamorous behind-the-scenes of a (temporary) life at sea. And, Tori Amos gave the poem “Food & Beverage Manager” her blessing by approving the use of her lyrics, so what other motivation for reading this do you need? -Breanna Mroczek
100 Things Oilers Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die
Joanne Ireland, Triumph Books. 242 pages
Joanne Ireland spent 15 years on the Oilers beat for the Edmonton Journal. This book, part of a series of “100 Things” collections on various sports teams that Triumph Books is publishing, is a great thing to pick up and browse during breaks in the action. The 100 items, from Stanley Cup wins to trivia to Connor McDavid minutiae, are broken up into very short, three-minute-read chapters; this is a book meant to be picked up and put down as needed. Each chapter feels like a breezy newspaper article – and that’s the point. But, be warned: with the way things went with the Oilers this year, when you read these reminders of the team’s glorious past, the present is just going to seem a little more bleak. -Steven Sandor.
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This article appears in the June 2018 issue of Avenue Edmonton.