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Noteworthy Science Fiction and Fantasy Books
* Denotes an award-winning book with a science fiction or fantasy theme.
Illustrations: Gilles Tibo
Toronto: Annick Press, 1990, 29 p.
ISBN 1550371010 (bound), 1550371029 (paperback)
Ages 6 to 10
When a little girl falls off a sledge pulled by her father on his snowmobile, he can’t hear her cries for help. She begins to walk home, following the snowmobile tracks. Just as the cold becomes unbearable, she bumps into the Beast -- a combination of polar bear and walrus, with a long trunk-like nose. The Beast carries the girl to the cave he shares with the Old Woman. Warmed by a fire and a meal of freshly caught fish, the girl listens to the Old Woman’s story and how she came to live with the Beast. As the girl is carried home by the Beast, she hears his story of loneliness without the Old Woman and of his visit with three playful female spirits who appeared from the Northern Lights to take the Beast high above the Earth to see all of its beauty. This fantasy story deals with the themes of love and friendship. Because the story takes place during the time known as the long night, the illustrations contain the somber colours of the night sky. The darkness is relieved by warm colours supplied by the fire, stars, moonlight and the Northern Lights. Tibo’s unique style has produced attractive, mottled illustrations in earth tones.
Illustrations: Nancy Ruth Jackson
Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1987, 197 p.
Ages 11 to 16
Growing up in fifteenth-century Britain, the young dragon Nonesuch learns two things which are necessary for his survival: that he must have a treasure to watch over and protect and that he is able to change his size at will. When he sees the exquisitely illuminated Book of Hours in the Oddfields Abbey he knows he has found his treasure. Over the centuries he ventures in and out of the pages of his book, through plague-torn London to an alchemist’s lab and, by the twentieth century, across the Atlantic to a quaint little bookstore whose proprietor loves the manuscript as much as he does. This is a beautifully written, beautifully decorated book about a dragon who manages to capture our hearts while surviving the vicissitudes of time and place to take his proper place in the pages of dragon lore.
Toronto: Kids Can Press, 1992, 170 p.
ISBN 1550741128 (bound), 155074092X (paperback)
Ages 12 to 16
When Paul, resident of upscale Governor’s Hill, ventures into the dirty, decrepit slum known as Watertown to look for his missing brother, he unwittingly becomes involved in a mystery surrounding a deadly experiment with polluted water. He is assisted by Monica, a Watertown resident who is both tough and vulnerable and who has her own reasons for helping him. This finely crafted fantasy not only tells a good story but also examines adolescent ideals and values at the same time as it explores current social and environmental concerns.
Red Deer, Alta.: Red Deer College Press, 1992, 183 p.
Ages 12 to 16
Marwen, an outcast and an orphan, is lovingly cared for by Grondil the Oldwife who ministers to the physical and spiritual well-being of all the villagers of Marmawell. Marwen is considered soulless by the villagers because she does not have a tapestry, the treasured cloth which must be woven at birth and which gives meaning to life. The story chronicles Marwen’s search for her tapestry, her past, and her destiny. There is magic here, and dragons, wizards and princes all play a part in a fantasy that is complex, lyrical and highly entertaining.
©Bungalo Books 1993. Written and illustrated by John Bianchi.
Hang onto your hats as you join the irrepressible Bungalo Boys in their attempt to attain record speeds on their first space flight! Children and parents will chuckle their way through this space-travel spoof. Extensive pre-flight preparations precede the demanding inflight activities on the mission. The cartoon-like illustrations in watercolour, pen and pencil crayon are a perfect match for this fun-loving voyage into space.
Toronto: Reed Books Canada, 1994, ©1981, 140 p.
Ages 11 to 16
The second installment in the Isis trilogy introduces us to Jody, the inquisitive grandson of one of the first settlers on Isis. The brilliant planet has deteriorated, its glorious light dimmed by rituals, taboos, and enslavement to convention. Jody, the questioner, cannot abide by these stringent regulations. His banishment from the settlement leads him on a journey where past and present merge to reveal the truth about the origins of Isis. In a true act of bravery, Jody and the Shining One save the planet from devastation. The novel ends on a note of optimism, a feeling of hope for Isis and the future of its people. Hughes’s insightful social commentary reinforces the significance of this highly entertaining novel.
Richmond Hill, Ont.: Scholastic Canada, 1993, 171 p.
Ages 11 to 14
So much time has elapsed since the nuclear holocaust which destroyed civilization, that Gen and others in the subterranean community of Senedu cannot remember any other way of life. Gen, who is poised to replace his father as Guardian of the people, chafes at the closed, restrictive and ordered society. Once, while exploring the forbidden air shafts, he and three friends discover an ancient and defective missile which they must reprogram in order to save Senedu. Their actions are misunderstood and they are banished from the community. In spite of its somber theme, the novel is a celebration of the human spirit and ends on a positive note as Gen and the other outcasts make their way to a new life on the surface of the Earth.
John C. Walker
Illustrations: Connie Steiner
Toronto: Annick Press, 1993, 32 p.
ISBN 1550373099 (bound), 1550373102 (paperback)
Ages 7 to 10
Although Johhny cannot walk or talk, he still enjoys life on the farm. There is so much to see, hear and feel -- squirrels scampering about, the sound of crickets at night and soft breezes. School is difficult for Johnny, everything takes him more time than it does for the other students. Most of all, he longs to be able to tell others all the things he wants to say. He develops a special friendship with a new girl when Johnny discovers that they can communicate through their thoughts. One night Debbie visits the farm, and as they sit in their wheelchairs on the front porch looking out at the night sky, they watch as a spaceship lands and the "visitors" float over to them. The visitors understand their thoughts and with the aid of glittering necklaces, show the two children how to float through the air. After returning them to their chairs the visitors ask if they would like to come with them on their travels throughout the universe. It is tempting not to need their wheelchairs and have others to talk with, but the children decide that they want to stay, knowing that they always have a special place they can go whenever they wish. The other-worldly illustrations, in pastel hues, are executed in watercolour and pencil crayon and have an ethereal quality well suited to the story.
It is a bleak world that the graduates of the Government School face in 2154 -- no jobs, no travel, designated living areas, thought police. Lisse’s future, and that of her friends, stretches interminably in front of them until they begin to play "The Game": a wonderful, exciting, inexplicable experience which teaches them teamwork, cohesiveness, coping skills and much more. The realization that the last play of the game has transported them to a new life on another planet changes their focus and results in denial, anger, self-pity, and, finally, acceptance of, and commitment to the opportunities and responsibilities ahead of them. The novel’s strong message about the problems of overcrowding, unemployment, and government influence is effectively counterbalanced by a cast of characters with whom the reader can identify and empathize.
Toronto: Reed Books Canada, 1994, ©1982, 121 p.
Ages 11 to 16
Under the guise of the Guardian’s emissary, Michael Joseph Flynn, a galactic wanderer, infiltrates the planet Isis. With his Irish charm and magic tricks, the pedlar dupes the innocent people with promises of Ambrosia and a Forever Machine. It is only his daughter, Moira, who recognizes his unscrupulous nature. Along with David, nephew of Jody N’Kumo, she must prevent her father from carrying out his wicked plans. It is through Moira’s eyes, a newcomer to the planet, that the beauty of Isis once again unfolds. In this final volume of the trilogy the descriptions of Isis are magnificent, while the plight of its people is sympathetically rendered. Hughes expertly unveils the destructive outcome of greed and an all-consuming quest for power, while once again commanding our attention with a captivating story.
Illustrations: Fritz Wegner
Markham, Ont.: Puffin Books, 1990, ©1975, 83 p.
Ages 9 to 13
Available in French: Jacob Deux-Deux et le vampire masqué ( Montréal: P. Tisseyre, ©1977).
Jacob Two-Two who has two older brothers, two older sisters and two busy parents, must say everything two times because nobody ever hears him the first time. In this fantastical adventure, which may prove scary for very young children, Jacob Two-Two is charged with impudence, taken to court, and sentenced to two years, two months, two weeks, two days, two hours, and two minutes in the children’s prison. How he manages to outwit the prison warden, the Hooded Fang, and return to his warm and loving family, provides a few tense moments and some light-hearted chuckles. The black-and-white line drawings complement the text and add to the humour and tension in the story.
Jeremy is a basic, ordinary, average kid (his words) who is amazed to hear the three life-sized dolls, which he and his mother made from cotton batting, old pantyhose, bits of fabric, and second-hand clothes, talk to him. He is upset when they will not speak to his best friend who thinks he has lost his marbles and who will have nothing to do with him until he is back to his usual self. He is terrified when he discovers tintypes of his three "aunties" in an old photo album -- these dolls are ghosts! A loving and somewhat uneasy relationship develops between Jeremy and the aunties over the course of the summer as they share many hair-raising adventures and many quiet moments in this funny and heart-warming fantasy. Five full-page, black-and-white illustrations accompany the text.
Illustrations: Michael Martchenko
Toronto: Stoddart, 1994, 28 p.
ISBN 0773728406 (bound), 0773757015 (paperback)
Ages 5 to 10
Jessica has been given a very special gift -- a locket passed down from her grandmother. In order to help her parents with their financial troubles, Jessica and her grandfather search the house for a valuable old stamp without success until its whereabouts are revealed to Jessica by her grandmother in a dream. The attractive illustrations in soft watercolours have a misty quality that echoes the theme of going back in time and evokes the nostalgic atmosphere of the 1940s.
Toronto: Reed Books Canada, 1994, ©1980, 136 p.
Ages 11 to 16
Sixteen-year-old Olwen is the keeper of the Isis light. Along with her guardian, she is the only resident of Isis, a golden planet that is as beautiful as it is dangerous. It is only Olwen’s genetic alterations that enable her to withstand the planet’s harmful rays. When voyagers from Earth colonize Isis, Olwen’s association with Mark, a human boy, propels her on a voyage of self-discovery. Their friendship teaches her responsibility and self-acceptance while Mark must struggle with his complicated feelings for Olwen, and ultimately recognize the beauty beyond her reptilian surface. Hughes’s sensitive story adeptly fuses the uncharted and volatile emotional territory of adolescence with the exciting backdrop of space adventure.
Illustrations: Nicola Morgan
Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1993, 32 p.
Ages 2 to 7
Unable to fall asleep, Louis gazes at the night sky and makes a wish -- a wish that propels him through the solar system on a search for the perfect planet, only to find that "there’s no place like home". A wonderful bedtime story. The bright soft-edged watercolour and ink illustrations complement the text. The star theme is featured throughout the book, showing up not only on Louis’s pyjamas, but on those of his parents’ and on the night light as well. Louis’s emotions are mimicked by the changing expressions on the face of the stuffed monkey he carries with him.
Toronto: Lester Publishing, 1994, 226 p.
ISBN 1895555485 (bound), 1895555507 (paperback)
Ages 12 and up
Emily Endicott, the protagonist in Bedard’s earlier novel, A Darker Magic (Scarborough, Ont.: Prentice Hall Canada, 1993, ©1987), returns to Caledon after an absence of 28 years to confront the menacing forces of evil which were foretold so many years before. This time, much of the action is seen through the eyes of Emily’s 14-year-old niece, Alice. Alice and Aunt Emily form an uneasy partnership as they struggle with their personal demons and the horrific darker magic which threatens to engulf them both. The denouement, which occurs in the bowels of the municipal library in the middle of the night, is riveting and fast-paced. Tautly written throughout, this is a novel which is hard to put down.
©1988, Annick Press Ltd. Robert Munsch (text), Michael Kusugak (art).
Available in Inuktitut.
Allashua has been warned not to fish on the sea ice because the Qallupilluit, imaginary Inuit creatures, will grab children who wander there without their parents and pull them under the ice. Not only does Allashua go to the sea ice but she taunts the Qallupilluits with name calling. She gets dragged down under the sea ice and is released only when she promises to bring her brothers and sisters. Her mother comes up with an idea that will allow the family to keep the promise without losing the children. The watercolour and ink illustrations, in predominantly cool tones, portray a present-day Inuit family.
Odette and Bruce Johnson
Illustrations: Odette and Bruce Johnson
Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1993, 32 p.
Ages 2 to 6
Experience a vibrant line-up of sea creatures who engage in human activities: "pink sneezing snails", "olive tangoing turtles", "mauve operatic octopuses", "brown snorkeling seahorses"... The reader is treated to alliteration, colours and concepts such as up, down, over, under, beside, through, past, behind, and in front as Miriam the mermaid searches for the treasure at the end of this underwater rainbow. The bright plasticine illustrations are crammed with details that will lead to new discoveries with each reading.
Illustrations: Marie-Louise Gay
Toronto: Stoddart, 1992, ©1987, 32 p.
Ages 2 to 5
Available in French: Magie d’un jour de pluie (Saint-Lambert, Québec: Héritage, 1986).
When a rainy day forces Victor and Joey to the basement, it isn’t long before they find themselves in a series of adventures -- on a tiger’s back, under the sea, and swallowed by a whale. The text has a pleasing rythmn and rhyming scheme. The splendid watercolour illustrations are Marie-Louise Gay at her best. Images repeat themselves -- the plants in the living room become banana trees, the motif on a broken dish and a child’s picture taped to the wall resemble the tiger who appears later, the fish wallpaper border and fish bowl is a suggestion of the underwater adventure to come. Look closely and you will see the giraffe, snake, pail, boat, train and countless other objects repeat themselves again and again in the illustrations.
Illustrations: John Richmond
Toronto: Annick Press, 1983, 63 p.
ISBN 092023660X (bound), 0920236618 (paperback)
Ages 9 to 12
When 11-year-old Jason Arthur Reid is offered three wishes no one could be more surprised than he to find the first two come true. He doesn’t want his third wish to be a greedy little self-centered wish, but he is sorely tempted with thoughts of ten-speed bikes, homework machines, magical baseball bats and a year’s supply of tickets to the movies. How he finds a wish which will benefit others, as well as himself, without putting undue strain on the wish granter, an 18-inch Elster of the Third Order, is the theme of this delightful little fantasy. This exciting, fast-paced story for young readers is complemented by simple black-and-white line drawings.
Welwyn Wilton Katz
Toronto: A Groundwood Book, Douglas & McIntyre, 1994, 171 p.
Ages 11 to 14
It is the twenty-first century and a reluctant Sara must go to the North Pole with her grandmother, an environmental activist. Sara doesn’t like the wide-open spaces of the north country and is unhappy to be celebrating her 12th birthday so far from home. Thank goodness she has persuaded grandmother that Dani, her best friend, can come with her. While at the North Pole, the place where all time zones converge, an incident with her grandmother’s treasured crystal pendant propels Sara, Dani, and one of the oil drillers back 50 years to the time and place where her grandmother grew up. This experience gives Sara an understanding of her grandmother’s environmental concerns and an insight into Sara’s relationships with family and friends.
Illustrations: Pierre Pratt
Translation: David Homel
Toronto: Annick Press, 1990, 32 p.
ISBN 155037141X (bound), 1550371401 (paperback)
Ages 4 to 8
Available in French: Les Fantaisies de l’oncle Henri (Toronto: Annick, 1990).
When Uncle Henry comes to dinner wearing a shirt with chickens printed all over it, the children are in for quite an evening. During dessert, the chickens jump from the shirt and wreak havoc, much to the delight of the children, if not the parents. Pierre Pratt’s quirky illustrations, in acrylics and pastel crayons, suit the story perfectly.
Compiler: Janet Lunn
Toronto: Lester Publishing, 1994, 171 p.
Ages 8 to 14
This book is full of stories and poems about ghosts in Canada. Selected by Janet Lunn, some of the stories such as L.M. Montogomery’s "The Return of Hester" and Tim Wynne-Jones’s "The Clearing" have been published previously. Others such as Jean Little’s "Without Beth" and Monica Hughes’s"The Haunting of the Orion Queen" are published here for the first time. The collection offers a tantalizing array of ghosts and hauntings, shadows, coffins, and skeletons to delight and disturb many a reader time and time again.
©1994, Annick Press Ltd. Brenda Silsbe (text), Alice Priestley (art).
A dreamy story of a girl who washes up on a beach without any idea of who she is or where she came from. A couple walking along the beach offer her a home with them and their three children -- children who also turned up mysteriously. Not yet ready to accept their offer, the girl falls asleep and dreams that she’s swimming at the bottom of the sea and flying through the air with newly sprouted wings. Her seagull wings turn into penguin wings as she slides down a waterslide that takes her around the world. When she awakens, the girl agrees to go and live with the friendly couple on the condition that she may build a boat and sail away every other day. The delicately rendered drawings in pastel-coloured pencil crayon evoke a dream-like quality and are well suited to the sandy beach and sea setting.
Illustrations: Eric Beddows
Toronto: Toronto: A Groundwood Book, Douglas & McIntyre, 1993, ©1992, 34 p.
Ages 5 to 8
When his friend Maria is mysteriously called away from her gardening, Zoom the cat is led by Maria’s muddy footprints on yet another adventure. Climbing behind the books in the bookcase, Zoom is cast into an Egyptian world where decorative cats abound -- cats pictured on walls and ceilings, cat sculptures and cat mummies. After rescuing Maria with the use of his garden shears, the two follow a trail of silver buttons to Uncle Roy where they board his Catship and set off to search for the source of the Nile. Eric Beddows’s delightful black-and-white drawings are a superb enhancement to the text and Egyptian theme.