June 25, 2014

Gender identity

by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Brendan Chase is a popular athlete, a beloved brother, and boyfriend to a beautiful girl. Vanessa Girard has everything that Brendan is looking for - long hair, soft skin, gentle curves. Except that Brendan doesn't just like girls, he'd like to be a girl, at least sometimes. Understandably, he's really freaked out.

Angel Hansted is transexual. She's gone through some really tough times but she's now in a happier place. She works part-time at Willows Teen LGBTQ Center. When she meets Brendan, she tries to help him even though he's not yet ready to reveal his secret.

Told in free verse from the perspectives of Brendan, Vanessa, and Angel, this is a compassionate, insightful novel that explores themes of identity, acceptance, and belonging. Readers will empathize deeply with Brendan as he spirals into anger and depression, sympathize with Vanessa as she struggles to understand, and admire Angel's resiliency and newfound confidence.

A realistic, thought-provoking story.

June 18, 2014

Dog detective

The Metro Dogs of Moscow
by Rachelle Delaney

JR is a Jack Russell terrier. His human, George, works in embassies around the world. Currently George is based at the Canadian Embassy in Moscow. While George loves the globetrotting life, he's not into excitement. He never lets JR off the leash. Inspired by seeing a stray dog steal a ring of sausages, JR sneaks out of his apartment to do a little exploring on his own. He soon meets up with the wily stray and some of his friends. Thus he's introduced to a new kind of freedom: amazing smells, tasty stuffed potatoes, and rides on the Moscow subway. But then JR's new friends mysteriously start to disappear. When an embassy dog goes missing as well, JR must use all his wits to solve the mystery of the missing dogs.

Delaney does a good job in capturing all the action from a dog's point-of-view. The exotic setting is well-described too. Although JR doesn't actually solve any clues -- he mainly roams the streets asking other stray dogs for help, and the solution comes about through a happy accident -- the big rescue, which occurs during a bizarre fashion show, is full of pulse-pounding excitement. 

Very entertaining.

June 11, 2014

Troll hunting

by Karen Krossing

After his father is turned to stone by troll hunters, a cave troll named Bog sets out to destroy all humans. Along the way, he's joined by a huge forest troll named Small and Hannie, a human girl. Bog's knowledge of the human world is scanty, so he relies on Small and Hannie to help him out. They also learn about the Nose Stone - a rock rumoured to bring stone trolls back to life. Stalked by the Troll Hunter, Bog's journey soon turns into a perilous one, affecting human and troll alike.

An unusual story which moves along quite nicely. The characters are interesting and the forest setting is effectively described. The surprising revelation (mentioned in the second chapter) that Bog is half-human lends an interesting twist. But it also leads to a too-pat ending. There's a problem with the Troll Hunter's motivation as well. The Hunter's hatred of trolls seems too extreme once the real reason comes out. Still, the story is unique enough to catch kids' attention, and the inviting cover will draw them in as well.

June 4, 2014

Canadian pirates

Flight of the Griffons
by Kate Inglis (Nimbus)

Missy Bullseye is a pirate. She belongs to the Dread Crew of Nova Scotia. They travel on land, looking for scrap junk to salvage. Missy's on probationary work terms, hoping to achieve union-certified junking status. She gets a stint working with the Crummies in Quebec. But she still needs one more work term to complete her probation. All the other pirate crews are full up. So she accepts a secret mission: to find and infiltrate the Griffons, a blacklisted crew that disappeared many years ago. Once she gets to know them and why they're on the run, she forced to choose sides; a difficult choice when villains are not always evil and criminal activity is sometimes justified.

The story begins a little slowly, but it soon gets more and more intriguing. The Griffons are an airborne crew, which makes their adventures a little more perilous than most. It all gets very exciting. Plus it has a spunky heroine, distinctive characters, engaging dialogue - the French and Swedish lingo add a nice touch - and a realistic Canadian setting.

Kate Inglis has also written a previous novel, Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods, which was nominated for the Hackmatack and Red Cedar awards (both children's choice awards).