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The Agony of Bun O'Keefe
by Heather Smith
Bun O'Keefe is 14. Her mother is a hoarder. One day her mom screams at her to get out so Bun goes (because she is a literal child) and finds herself on the streets of St. John's where she meets a cast of memorable characters- kids a little older than her who have banded together for safety and support. It's all in the voice here. Bun is absolutely the most unique protagonist I have ever read. Somehow, through straightforward, unadorned but shining prose, Smith is able to plumb the depths of human emotion and experience. Each of the characters- Busker Boy, Big Eyes, Chef, and Cher - sings. There is so much heart in this book - sadness, joy, moments of beauty intermingled with some darker issues- but it is never sentimental. It's also laugh-out-loud funny! I am in awe of Smith's prodigious gifts and highly recommend this book.
by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and Ben Greenman
(Grand Central Publishing)
Questlove (or ?uestlove) is the drummer, DJ, arranger, producer, SCHOLAR of The Roots- an award-winning, album-making, performing hip hop group but probably most known these days as Jimmy Fallon's house band. This meditative book on music, art, and culture can be enjoyed for a variety of reasons. 1) that it chronicles the 90's east coast hip hop scene - the days of the Native Tongues (De La Soul, Queen Latifah, Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, etc...) as well as sprinkling various stories of other notorious musicians and artists into the mix including a few really funny ones about Prince. 2) that it is the memoir of an artist and gives tremendous insight into the creative process. 3) that Questlove is a man of great introspection, intelligence and humour and this is a immersive and entertaining read. And 4) that it is an unabashed celebration of nerddom and fandom. Encyclopedic knowledge plus abiding passion? Check. Recommended for anyone who is curious about the music universe and gets that music is a testament and record of our best-lived lives.
Queen Solomon is a brilliant new novel by Canadian author Tamara Faith Berger, one of my favourite writers. Her work is always deeply thoughtful, imaginative, disturbing, erotic, and affecting. Her latest novel is from the point of view of an unnamed male narrator describing the relationship he has had with Barbra - an Ethiopian Jew that his father has brought to their home in Canada from Israel. A bizarre relationship develops between the two main characters, and Berger dives deep into identity, sexuality, race, politics, and violence, with her signature direct style and sly humour. There is no-one else that I can think of who so easily carries on the legacy of the excellent late writer Kathy Acker.
What an extraordinary book this is. For a debut book of poetry, Layli Long Soldier's Whereas is remarkably self-assured, experimental, and fully embodied. The entire book is wonderful in terms of content and form, but especially the latter half of the book which contains the eponymous poem Whereas. Using as a source and leaping point the Congressional Resolution of Apology to Native Americans (2009) Long Soldier applies erasure and exposition to describe what this idea means on a micro and macro level to her as an Oglala Lakota poet. This is a very powerful work. Please read her words.
Written by Davide Cali, illustrated by Anna Pirolli
It is rare to find a children’s picture book which combines cat poo humour with scenes of rococo furniture and two-tone brogues, but this is one. I Hate My Cats (A Love Story) is a pretty irresistible portrayal of a man and his maddening feline companions. Ginger and Fred are typical cats who infuriate and ingratiate in equal measure. They sleep on white towels, crumple newspapers and have terrible aim when it comes to their litter boxes. Their affectionate head-butts topple vases and they can't resist a quick claw at the heel of their human as he dutifully cleans up after them. Italian author Davide Cali’s quirky humour is perfectly complemented by illustrator Anna Pirolli’s marvellous illustrations which feature deadpan cats and their environs rendered in a precise magic realist style. In the book’s final scenes, a feline ambush of the man’s art table results in gnawed paper edges and spilled coffee and paint and one wonders whether this illustrator has worked under similarly deplorable conditions. Feline lovers and haters alike will delight in this hilarious depiction of sharing one’s living quarters with a cat (or two).
Written by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Kerry Hyndman
This picture book by well-known British children’s author Michael Morpurgo (War Horse) traces a robin’s epic migration home for Christmas. Notes at the front of the book explain that in England, the small Scandinavian robin is associated with this time of year because it is when they leave harsher northern climes to find food and a mate. With rhythmic, poetic language, Morpurgo dramatically animates the robin’s travels across snowy landscapes, in and out of battering storms, and barely beyond the clutches of predators. The repetitive text evokes the bird’s beating wings and tenacity of his homing instinct. Illustrator Kerry Hyndman treats us to a bird’s eye view of what this migration looks like, with expansive valleys, mountain ranges and angry seas rendered in a palette of blues, greys and whites, save for the robin's red breast. Finally it is the patchwork of fields and homesteads that rolls out beneath him and he has made it home. “What kept you?” his mate asks. “Oh, this and that,” he answers. And they tuck into some Christmas bird cake.