Noteworthy Science Fiction and Fantasy Books
* Denotes an award-winning book with a science fiction or fantasy theme.
Fifteen-year-old Sylvain leaves the earth to rejoin his parents who are ecologists on the planet Nou-Québec, a colony where Quebecís traditions are still revered. But problems await him: his parents are in an accident, and Sylvain finds himself all alone. When he tries to denounce the pollution that is contaminating the neo-salmon, he must deal with the schemes of corrupt politicians. With the help of his new friends, Sylvain learns how to handle the situation, and everything is put in order. A cross between a detective novel and science fiction, this book for older readers covers very current themes, and despite its futuristic context, does not stray from Quebec culture, which is sure to please some readers.
Available in English: Angel and the Polar Bear (Toronto: Stoddart, 1993, ©1988).
Little Angèle wakens early to a house overwhelmed by floods and freezing winds to which, surprisingly, her parents seem completely oblivious. Even a gigantic polar bear that escapes from the fridge and becomes her white playmate cannot disturb her parentsí sleep. Both the illustrations and the text surprise and beguile the reader. Itís a pleasure to linger over the two-page watercolours in pastel hues.
Reproduced by permission of Scolastic Canada Ltd.
Available in English: The Balloon Tree (Richmond Hill, Ont.: Scholastic Canada, 1993, ©1984).
In this zany, lively tale the resourceful Princess Héloïse saves the kingdom from her scheming, balloon-popping uncle, the evil Archduke, who threatens to overthrow her father, the King, while he is out of the country. Héloïse plants the only balloon not destroyed by her uncle, chants the magic words suggested by her friend the Wizard, and creates a blossoming balloon tree whose zillions of blossoms (balloons) fill the air, warning her father, in a prearranged signal, of the danger to his kingdom. The spirited storyline is equally matched by the vibrant and energetic illustrations which seem to pull the reader right into the magical kingdom with its turreted castle, hidden passageway, evil villain, and plucky heroine. Phoebe Gilman has created an attractive and entertaining book, rich in detail and ornately designed, which can be enjoyed over and over again.
©1989, Annick Press Ltd. Stéphane Poulin (text), Stéphane Poulin (art).
Available in English: Benjamin & the Pillow Saga (Toronto: Annick Press, 1989).
The pillows made from Mr. Arthurís fabrics are magic. But when Benjamin, the fabric embroiderer, leaves for Italy with his family to make music, the pillows lose their extraordinary powers. What can be done to regain the magic?... A beautiful book in which text and artwork captivate and delight readers of all ages.
Berthold & Lucrèce by Christane Duchesne, coll. Bilbo, Québec/Amérique Jeunesse, 1994.
This novel takes us into the fantasy world of Berthold and Lucrèce -- two children who have plenty of imagination and whose memories are daily embellished with details that are increasingly far-fetched. In the course of a week they lead the reader through a whirl of memories that are often funny and sometimes touching. Although black and white, the illustrations are quite joyful.
Courtesy of Les Éditions de la courte échelle.
Is Mathieu dreaming, or did he really spend the night helping a tow-truck driver on his rounds and snacking on red licorice? The midnight romp, which is the focus of the story, and the parent-child interaction at the beginning and end, provide many humorous moments which child and adult readers will appreciate. The story may also act as a vehicle for discussions with small children about the difference between fantasy and reality. The comic illustrations, so full of colour, vitality, and movement, perfectly reflect the humour in the text.
In the early 1940s in Quebec, Maxime goes to stay with his friend Virgile who lives in an ancestral manor. The manor contains numerous puzzles: first the basement, then the comings and goings of the other occupants. The boys find some old books on archaeology in the library and learn of the existence of the famous Circle of Khaleb which, forged several thousand years ago in Mesopotamia, could be on the very site of the manor! Their curiosity is aroused by the power that the ancient ring confers on its wearer, and even more by the odd movements of the other people at the manor. Maxime and Virgile begin a search that uncovers many things about the present and past life of the manor. Daniel Sernine relates this intriguing story in a lively manner with a rich vocabulary.
Available in English: Counting Sheep (Toronto: Annick Press, 1991).
At his grandmotherís suggestion, little Édouard starts counting sheep to put himself to sleep. Suddenly his bedroom is invaded by sheep who take Édouard outside to play. They play so long and so hard that Édouard finally yawns from exhaustion and falls asleep. This is a good bedtime story, with beautiful, dreamy illustrations.
Illustrations: Christiane Duchesne
Montréal: Éditions La Maison folle, 1979, 30 p.
Ages 5 to 10
Every day the animals of this enchanted house -- the "mitou", the "poufiaux" and others -- take care of it while waiting for a visitor, a child who would say to them, "Hello, beautiful animals". They often fall asleep while waiting, so some animals, the "garbits", move out to the lawn for the night to keep watch over the house. The enduring hope of the animals sustains them and their enchanted home in this fantasy which closely ressembles the stories that children make up. The illustrations complement the story with a free-spirited and fanciful flair.
Available in English: Loonie Summer (Halifax: Formac, 1994).
This is a collection of anecdotes relating the adventures of the loonies, friends of Christophe who appeared one night under his pillow. Now they live in a box in his room, for they are barely three centimetres tall. They spend their days exploring their new environment and preparing surprises for Christophe. The adventures of these little fantasy people will make many readers laugh. The black-and-white illustrations brighten and enliven the story.
New version: LíArrivée des Inactifs (Montréal: Éditions La Courte Échelle, 1993).
Available in English: Shooting for the Stars (Windsor, Ont.: Black Moss Press, ©1990).
A three-game series is organized pitting the best hockey players of the world against a team of robots programmed to play hockey. The theme of automation pushed to its limits under the direction of a few power-hungry men is clearly developed. The hero of the story, Michel Lenoir, shows he has the courage needed to confront the evildoers and to build a better world for those who are unfairly disadvantaged. The description of the three games between the human and robot hockey players is handled with originality, and will definitely fascinate sports lovers. The plot moves well, and the style is lively.
Courtesy of Les Éditions de la courte échelle.
A sequel to Hockeyeurs cybernétiques, Michel Lenoir, the hero, is a superstar who plays for the Raiders of Lost Ark. David Swindler is still at the head of the world federation for the advancement of hockey and the consortium which makes hockey-playing robots. Michel, who has always fought against social injustices, suddenly asks the "Inactifs" to accept them. This strange turnabout does not sit well with his friend Virginia Lynx, a journalist. Aided by her chief editor, she discovers that a robot has replaced Michel on the ice. (David Swindler hopes eventually to replace the "Inactifs" with robots.) At the end of the novel, Michel has still not been found, although he is thought to be hiding in the old part of the city. This book is a very well written piece of science fiction, full of suspense.
Courtesy of Les Éditions Héritage inc. © 1992.
Available in English: Mademoiselle Moon (Toronto: Stoddart, 1992).
A very beautiful story of friendship for both grownups and kids! Mademoiselle Lune and Monsieur le Soleil are great friends who have known each other since the beginning of time. They donít manage to see each other often, only for a few minutes at daybreak and at nightfall, or on cloudy days. The day comes when Mademoiselle Lune must retire, and a new moon is to take her place. She is quite troubled by it all. Monsieur le Soleil then finds her a new job as the lighthouse keeper! What a great idea! The superb illustrations cover almost two full pages, and they suit the text perfectly. A good story that warms the heart!
Available in English: What Do the Fairies Do with All Those Teeth? (Richmond Hill, Ont.: Scholastic Canada, 1991).
If you want to know what tooth-fairies do with all the teeth they collect under the pillows of children, read this book. It is a comical fantasy for curious young children. The bizarre illustrations, full of movement, match the text perfectly.
Rafaële lives in a quiet suburb with her mother and a cat called Camille. One day in early August, while she is taking shelter on the riverbank, Rafaële meets Mathieu Bernier, an amateur magician gifted with a bizarre talent. This meeting upsets Rafaëleís humdrum daily routine and leads her into a mysterious adventure where she is kidnapped and confined. She gets scratched and scraped making an attempt to escape. All the action in this short novel revolves around Mathieuís unusual talent, a talent which will change Rafaëleís life forever.
Available in English: A Monster in My Cereal (Toronto: Second Story Press, 1990).
For the two days that Méli spends alone with her father she is forced to deal with a monster that comes straight out of her cereal box. The monster causes her all sorts of problems, and itís only by coming to understand her father that she is able to get rid of the monster. Méli, who feels quite alone in dealing with her anger, goes on to discover that her father can understand her as well as her mother can, but in a different way. The mischevious illustrations enliven the story.
Available in English: Robot Alert (Toronto: Kids Can Press, 1985).
Adam Colbert and Eve Kevin receive tame, hardworking silver robots from their astronaut parents who have just returned from the planet Amandara Tetra. The children soon realize that the robots are more than toys. Their doubts are confirmed when they learn from their parents that the robots are really transmitting stations that allow Amandarian space vessels to help ward off the attacks of the extraterrestrial Worlaks and thus save the planet Earth. The survival of the universe depends on the courage and friendship shared by the children and their robots. Using a lively style, Suzanne Martel creates characters her young readers can identify with and transports them into a fantasy world that stretches the imagination.
© 1992 Annick Press Ltd. / Pierre Filion (text), Gilles Tibo (art).
Available in English: Paper Nights (Toronto: Annick Press, 1992).
One evening, in his bedroom, Pikolo is happily cutting out the paper animals he got on the morning of his birthday. His room comes alive like a true jungle, and Pikolo starts off on an adventure to discover the secret of the wardrobes. The illustrations by the renowned Tibo suit the captivating text very well. Children will linger at the four two-page illustrations without words in the middle of the story. Come with Pikolo and discover a land made of paper!
By permission of the publisher - Médiaspaul.
Quatre destins is a collection of four fantasy stories. The stories may be read independently of each other, but the author succeeds nonetheless in linking them together by having the old Agathe, an Amerindian who knows everyone, narrate the stories. The book is very well written and the author sustains the readerís interest to the very end of each story. The endings are sometimes surprising.
Illustrations: Rémy Simard
Montréal: Boréal, 1989, 122 p.
Ages 9 to 12
Philomène dreams of becoming a journalist, and, in order to write her first article, she goes to see the editor of the cityís newspaper. Their meeting propels her headlong into a series of adventures where humans and robots work side by side but donít get along. The likeable heroine encounters several situations requiring her to keep her cool and rely on her resourcefulness. The lively, modern style of this story makes it easy to read.
Le Secret des sylvaneaux is a captivating story from start to finish. The author moves the events inexorably to a surprising conclusion. The disclosure of the secret of life of the sylvaneaux is based on the notion of human subjection, giving the modern reader something to think about. The reader should begin with Le Voyage de la sylvanelle (Montréal: Éditions Paulines, 1993) by the same author to gain a better understanding of the events. The first two novels in this series are: La Requête de Barrad (Montréal: Éditions Paulines, 1991) and La Prisonnière de Barrad (Montreal: Éditions Paulines, 1991).
Available in English: Simon in the Moonlight (Montreal: Tundra Books, 1993).
This picture book for very young children tells the story of Simon who loves the moon and is anxious when it starts to disappear. He watches the moon over the course of the month, searching for pieces of it as it fades, on the mountain top and in the lake. He enlists the aid of his friend Marlène, as well as a witch and Pierrot in his imaginary quest. In the end, the full moon returns and there is a grand celebration. Illustrations in deep night shades of blue, purple, and green contribute greatly to the attractiveness and appeal of this deceptively simple picture book.
Courtesy of Les Éditions Héritage inc. © 1980.
Originally published as: Quatre Montréalais en lían 3000 (Montréal: Éditions du Jour, ).
Available in English: City Under Ground (Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, A Groundwood Book, 1994, ©1983).
Luc, Éric, Bernard and Paul live in Surréal. This underground city was built under Mount Royal by the survivors of a nuclear war. The citizens have been developing a self-sufficient life under the earth for over a thousand years, believing that the outside air is still unbreathable. After an earthquake, Luc chances to find a girl who enables him to breathe above ground. He risks everything despite all the restrictions and discovers another race. Although written in the early 1960s, the story reads well, but the comparison of the real world with a technological one does seem out of date. However, the author capably sustains the readerís interest, making it easy to focus on the adventures of the young children.
Victor by Christiane Duchesne, coll. Gulliver, Québec/Amérique Jeunesse, 1992.
This fantasy story deals with a universal theme and encourages respect and reflection. Victor believes that the earth is flat and ends at the horizon. He decides to put up a fence that will prevent travellers from falling off the earth, but the work is tedious and exhausting. With his dream companions he undertakes an expedition to the end of the horizon. He has no choice but to confide in them and observe the incredible reality that the earth is round.
Illustrations: Pierre Pratt
Montréal: Boréal, 1990, 90 p.
Ages 7 to 9
Available in English: Mr. Zamboniís Dream Machine (Toronto: J. Lorimer, 1992).
A nine-year-old goalie tries to meet his fatherís expectations and loses all desire to play hockey. To sort out his problems as a goalie and his troubles with his father, the young boy enters the belly of a Zamboni with the help of an old friend. This metal lair conceals a dream machine that enables the boy to distinguish between his own dreams and those of his father. The illustrations are from a childís point of view. Pierre Prattís style, in particular the use of broad lines, will be familiar to his fans.