August 9 is Book Lovers Day. That’s as good a reason as any other to practice some digital detox and catch up on these books by authors appearing at this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest.
Kim Spencer’s middle-grade novel, Weird Rules to Follow, is set in the atmospheric fishing town of Prince Rupert and revolves around best friends Mia and Lara. Like most tweens, they like to hang out and compare notes on their crushes and dream about their futures. Their friendship is close but their home lives are poles apart. Lara lives with her mom, her dad, and her little brother in a big house, with two cars in the drive and a view of the ocean. Mia lives in the same cul-de-sac, but in a shabby wartime house, with her large Indigenous family. The house is always full of relatives—Mia’s churchgoing grandmother, binge-drinking mother, and a rotating number of aunts, uncles, and cousins. The differences in their background and social status doesn’t bother the friends, but it seems to bother the adults. They treat Mia differently because she’s Indigenous. Teachers, shopkeepers, even Lara’s parents—they all seem to have decided who Mia is without getting to know her first. This is a moving story of friendship and how culture and class impact people’s experiences. Grades 4–7
The title of this book is In the Key of Dale and it is to indicate that the protagonist – sixteen-year-old Dale Cardigan – very much marches to the beat of his own drum. Dale is a loner, invisible to everyone at his all-boys high school. He doesn’t relate to the boys at school, his stepbrother or even his mom, who doesn’t notice Dale’s musical skills. Rusty, his classmate, is the only one Dale befriends by chance and who gets a rare look at Dale’s complex life outside school, like his habit of writing letters to his dead father. In these letters Dale tells his father everything he can’t bring himself to tell his mother and also the unexpected developments that are taking place in his life, such as his growing attraction to Rusty, which seems doomed to remain one-sided. However, when Dale stumbles upon a family secret, it is to Rusty that Dale turns for help. In the Key of Dale is a profoundly moving coming-of-age book about a boy who finds a way out of his grief and loneliness, toward the melodic light of adulthood. Grades 9–12
Celebrated author, festival organizer, and diversity advocate Jael Richardson’s latest book, Because You Are, is a self-affirming picture book about self-esteem, inner beauty, and making a difference. The book is written by Richardson as a letter to her younger self and brims with the kind of confidence, self-love, and joy she wants to instil in little Black girls everywhere. By exploring their inner beauty, Richardson wants to inspire children to recognize and build their self-worth, to dream big, and to make a difference in the world. Her uplifting words are accompanied by illustrations by Nneka Myers that lend warmth and energy to the book. Grades Preschool–2