New Books for Young PeopleCreated by 49thShelf on November 17, 2011
A literary adventure story with a classic feel, The Summer of Permanent Wants will delight and engage middle-grade readers.
Emmeline is an 11-year-old who contends with a special problem: after a long sickness she can no longer speak. Her illness left her unable to give words to her thoughts, and she can only use the occasional snatches of sign lang …
No sailor would have called Permanent Wants graceful or sea-kindly, but the crickets liked it well enough. They didn’t seem to notice it was a boat. To them, it was just a floating patch of backyard, free of toads and mantises and other enemies, and moated with stars on a fine night. There were two crickets, Cass and Nova. Emmeline had got the idea of bringing them on board after hearing about the legendary Joshua Slocum, author of Sailing Alone Around the World, who had once brought two crickets and a tree crab on board his boat. Several people had warned Emmeline that the chirping of crickets might get very tiresome after a while, but everybody agreed that crickets were a better idea than crabs. So on the night before the sailing of Permanent Wants, she went out into the long grass behind her house and caught two crickets. Into a jar they went, a very large jar—really a transparent world. It had grass and earth in the bottom, air holes in the lid, and sections of egg carton in the corner. The crickets must have felt right at home, for on the first night aboard, they started up their singing at around nine o’clock. Lafcadio, the shipboard cat, pricked up his ears in disbelief when he heard them. He probably wondered what kind of strange, cross-grained, weather-beaten, gone-to-seed, lumpish misfit of a broken-down hobo boat he was sailing on. It would not be the last time he would wonder that.
This old but ardent vessel belonged to Emmeline’s grandmother, Mrs. Teolani McHovec. Mrs. McHovec (“Gran” to eleven-year-old Emmeline; “Teo” to her friends) was sixty-four years old. She had short silver hair and eyes the colour of seawater fl owing over an iceberg. She loved wind. Had she been born during the Middle Ages, she might have been one of those witches who caught wind, tied it up in knots of rope, and then sold the knotted rope to sailors. But she was born much later, and so she just did a lot of sports that used wind. She had fl own glider planes in her youth, and now she sailed keelboats and flew kites. Her friend Picardy Bob, who loved danger as much as the crickets loved night music, had tried to get her to go hang-gliding once, but she said no. “That is a wild and irresponsible suggestion,” she told him, “even for a former forger.”
I should describe Picardy Bob at once, before he is arrested. He is a small, friendly-fierce man, gifted at adventure and bicycle repair. Though he doesn’t look it, he is actually a few years older than Gran. He wears his long grey hair in a ponytail and once won a prize at a local fair for the magnificence of his moustache. At the time of this story, he was a book scout—that is, somebody who hunts down valuable old books for dealers and private buyers. He was very good at picking out genuine rare volumes from fakes, which wasn’t surprising, given his background. Years before, when he was living in England, he had actually forged a rare book himself. He did it out of curiosity and then decided that the experiment wouldn’t be complete unless he actually tried to sell the book, and . . . well, this is how criminal careers are made. He had served time for his crimes, and afterwards, back in Canada, he had decided to get into the book business. He always had piles of old books in the shed behind his little trailer, where he lived with a parrot named Django and a pug dog named Holden Caulfield.
The adventure of Permanent Wants really began with Picardy Bob, and it happened this way.
One day Bob was in his shed, sorting through boxes of books, when Emmeline and her grandmother visited him with some exciting news: Gran had inherited a boat from a distant cousin! And what a homely old boat it was. Gran had taken one look at it and decided that it should really go into some kind of home. It was broad and battered and peeling, with a low cabin and a rounded bow like a tug’s. The engine was an ancient diesel inboard that hadn’t worked in years. As a joke (apparently), somebody had plunked down a mast right in front of the cabin. “A barge with a sail” was Gran’s description of it. What could you possibly do with a boat like that? She put this question to Picardy Bob while he was sifting through his books, and—perhaps because he wasn’t getting much work done that day—he replied shortly: “I’ll tell you what you can do, Teo dear. Take some of my paperbacks here, put ’em on your big, ugly boat, and take a trip down the Rideau Canal Waterway. You’ll be the first floating bookstore in Cottage Country. They’ll love you.”
There was a silence. Even Django was silent. Emmeline gave her grandmother a long, eager blue-water look.
“Don’t be a romantic fool, Bob,” said Gran. “There’s no space on a boat for books.”
Picardy Bob plucked impatiently at his moustache. “I used to know a bookseller in London who hauled around his stock on a bicycle. He had a little trailer full of paperbacks and miniature books, and he did a brisk business at lunch hour. Sure, you could make a boat into a secondhand bookstore. And you’re the one to do it, Teo. Who here is always talking about the Strange Untried, the Unshored?”
“That would be you, Bob.”
This was true. Picardy Bob often spoke about the Strange Untried, the Unshored, whenever he wanted Gran to go hang-gliding or something like that. (The phrase came from one of his favourite books, Moby Dick.) But deep down, Gran understood his love of adventure. Her late husband, Silas, had believed that everyone should have a half-decent adventure every two years—more often if you lived in Ottawa. And she herself was long overdue. Her last adventure was twelve years before, when she and Silas had sailed halfway around the world in their sloop, the Cygnus.
That winter, without telling anyone, she began work on the boat. She scraped and painted the hull. She polished the metal fixtures, taking special care with the quaint stern lamp. She found a mechanic to fix up the engine. (As a lover of wind, she disliked engines, but she knew she couldn’t do without one.) And gradually she discovered the attractions of this strange, ugly fl at-bottomed vessel. Its ancestors were clearly the old canal boats and sailing barges of England and Holland. It had no keel, but rather two leeboards—large, broad wooden paddles attached to the sides of the boat. They looked something like the blunt, powerful flippers of a right whale. The leeboards could be lowered into the water to keep the vessel steady while under sail. Gran also discovered that the mast itself could be raised and lowered using an anchor winch. This meant that you could easily get the boat under a low bridge if you had to. All these features, along with its fl at bottom, made it the perfect waterway boat.
When Gran found herself thumbing through the IKEA catalogue, looking for stackable bookshelves, she realized that the project had captured her completely. She wondered what kind of permit she would need to moor at public docks and sell books. But her last task was the most difficult—to convince her daughter, Emmeline’s mother, to let the girl go along.
Emmeline’s mother had serious doubts about the voyage. She thought that Permanent Wants was far too big a boat to be handled by a grandmother and an eleven-year-old girl. “And this idea of selling books,” she said one evening, when Emmeline was upstairs practising her violin. “That means a till on board, which means cash, which means an open invitation to every lowlife from here to Joyceville.”
“Dear, you are forgetting that I sailed the South China Sea,” said Gran. “The pirates there were thicker than flying fish.”
“But Dad was with you!” objected her daughter.
“Well, this time Lafcadio the cat is with me.”
Her daughter said something like puh and frowned. She had no time for the Strange Untried.
“Anyway,” added Gran pacifically, “we can always pack a slingshot.”
Emmeline’s father now entered the discussion.
“If the goal of this voyage,” he said, “is to bring culture to the heathen cottagers and civilization to the land of the satellite dish, then I think a slingshot would be incompatible with your intentions. I suggest bear spray.”
“Don’t talk as if this were a good idea,” said his wife. “It is not a good idea. It is a crazy idea.”
“It may be crazy,” declared Gran, “but I can’t do it by myself.”
She was about to add that life on a boat was life intensified, and that a water voyage had the power to transform and heal—something her beloved Silas had always believed. But all she said was, “I think it would be good for Emmeline.”
Upstairs in her room, Emmeline gave an excited smile. It wouldn’t be good for her; it would be fantastic for her. She wanted more than anything to go on this trip, just Gran and her—and Lafcadio and the crickets, of course. And maybe Picardy Bob once in a while. And all right, her parents sometimes, since they would miss her. But mainly just Gran and her. She heard silence below, so she took a step into her room and, putting her violin to her shoulder, played a quick phrase. She didn’t want them to know she was listening.
Emmeline was the sort of person who could almost disappear in a crowd. Her face was narrow and quiet and undramatic. Her hair—a thin, fl at brown—lay thinly and flatly on her head. She had no elvish ears or Cleopatra nose. The only thing striking about her was her eyes, which were as clear as winter twilight in an alpine valley. They were restless, curious eyes: they dreamed a lot, observed people and stars, and studied old houses for signs of being haunted. Once, under the influence of a book called How to Be a Detective, she had cut eyeholes in The Globe and Mail newspaper and sat at a local bus stop, pretending to read while secretly watching passers-by. She was discovered when a woman noticed a pair of intense blue eyes watching her from the middle of an article entitled “Important People Who Have Gone Blond.” But apart from this (her eyes, I mean), she was no different from the thousands of other eleven-year-olds who are good at undercover work—except that if you had looked closely at her left wrist, you would have noticed a medical ID bracelet. Downstairs, Picardy Bob was speaking.
“And it just so happens that I myself aim to take a few trips along the Rideau this summer, for the auctions. I’d be happy to look in on the two sailors and serve as deckhand from time to time. I can’t say I’m much of an old salt, but I did once take an extensive correspondence course in celestial navigation.”
Bob didn’t add that he had done this course while in jail. He didn’t need to. Emmeline’s mother and father knew him quite well. “I appreciate the offer, Bob,” said Emmeline’s mother, who never gave in easily. “But with that big old boat, I think we need something more in the way of qualifications.”
“Well, he’s read Moby Dick,” said Gran. “The unabridged version, I would guess, just from listening to him.”
“Also Swallows and Amazons,” put in Picardy Bob.
“That seems . . . satisfactory,” said Emmeline’s father, with a glance at his wife.
Which brings me to the books they had on board.
Twelve-year-old Tabitha is less than thrilled when her parents send her on a hiking trip with her cousins, Ashley and Cedar, and her Aunt Tess. For one thing, she's not much of a hiker. And she's pretty sure her cousins hate her. But even Ashley can't blame Tabitha for everything that goes wrong: the weather turns ugly, a bear comes into the cabin, …
Ashley pushed her on the next large rock and almost knocked her over. As her cousin leaped from rock to rock, Tabitha tried to follow but wasn't as sure of herself, especially on the slippery surfaces of the boulders.
"It's not a race," she said.
Ashley spun around on one foot and said in a sing-song voice, "Is the wittle baby getting tired?"
Before Tabitha could respond, Ashley spun back and jumped for the next rock. As she did, her back foot slipped out from under her. Her body landed flat across two rocks, and her cheek whacked the stone.
Ashley lay still.
Where love and friendship are concerned, if you don't move forward, you'll get left behind.
Love: little word, big consequences. Clarissa has never given much thought to the word herself; she has other things to worry about. Her mother is still recovering from breast cancer, and until Clarissa hears that magical word "remission," shedoesn't think sh …
No one asks if you want to be born, and no one tells you when you die either. Ashlyn Baptiste is falling. One moment she was nothing--no memories, no self--and then suddenly, she's plummeting through a sea of stars. Is she in a coma? She doesn't remember dying, and she has no memories of the life she left behind. All she knows is that she's trapped …
The first moment is utter darkness. The absence of thought, the absence of everything. An absence that stretches infi nitely backwards and threatens to smother your sanity—if there was a you, that is. But there’s not. I am nothing and no one. I never was. I must not have been because otherwise, wouldn’t I remember?
Don’t look back. Don’t let the darkness inside you.
If I’m talking to myself, there must be a me. That in itself is a revelation. I exist. The second before was starkly empty and now I’m swimming with celestial stars. They’re as silent as stones but they shimmer, glimmer and shine. I think . . . I think I can hear them after all but not in a way I’ve heard anything before.
The sound isn’t music and it’s not whispers. I don’t have words to describe it. If teardrops, blinding sunshine and limitless knowledge combined to make a noise, it would be the one the stars hum while I fl oat amongst them. I don’t know much, but this is something I’m certain I’m learning for the fi rst time: the stars know things that we don’t and they always have.
And then, just as my mind begins to expand with questions
—who am I?
—where is this?
—how am I . . .
I’m falling, plummeting through the glittering darkness at a speed that would normally make your stomach drop. Instinct kicks in and makes me throw out my hands to break my fall. Only, I don’t have any—no hands and no stomach either. The fear of falling exists in my consciousness and nowhere else. There’s nothing I can do to stop my descent. Beneath me continents of light beam their brightness as I speed towards them.
Catch me, stars. Help me.
But they’re not stars, as it turns out. They’re the lights you see from a jumbo jet when you’re coming in for a night landing. They make civilization appear minuscule and for some reason that makes me want to sob but I can’t do that either. No hands, no stomach, no tears.
What happens when I hit bottom?
I’m so close now that I can spy individual cars, streetlamps, house lights left on.
Is someone, someplace, waiting for me, leaving the light on?
Where am I supposed to be?
A pointed suburban roof reaches up to meet me, and if I have no body, surely there are no bones to shatter, no damage to fear, but my consciousness fl inches anyway. It quakes and tries to yank whoever or whatever I am away from the solid mass shooting up underneath me.
In the split second it takes to realize I’ve failed, I’m already through the ceiling. Inside, falling still. Falling . . . and then not.
I don’t crash. I don’t even touch down. All I can do is stare into the pair of blinking eyes below me. They’re not even a foot away. They’re the distance you hold yourself from someone when you’re on your way to a kiss. I don’t remember my own kisses but I remember the concept the same way I remember what a roof or a jumbo jet is. I remember romance, yearning, love and hate in a way that has nothing to do with me. Maybe I’ve never been in love—or maybe it’s happened a hundred times but so very long ago that I’ve forgotten each of them. I can’t decide which idea is sadder.
The eyes open and close as I stare at them. His eyes. The white boy’s. They’re not staring back at me, but looking clean through. If I had a body I’d estimate it was hovering just above his, toe to toe and head to head with him.
It’s night and we’re cloaked in darkness, the two of us.
But he’s the only one who’s truly here. Here. Wherever that is. I’d move if I could, give him the space he doesn’t realize he’s lacking. I feel awkward, embarrassed about all I can see from here—his pores, his nose hairs, a cracking bottom lip that could use lip balm—even though he doesn’t appear to have a clue he’s being spied upon. But there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m like a camera, picking up images but not in control of angles or focal length.
So I watch the boy’s eyelashes flutter and listen to him breathe. What his lungs expel sounds like a steak knife slashing into meat. Not like an asthmatic but like someone so steeped in despair it’s a wonder he hasn’t drowned in it. How long can someone live like this? It hurts to hear. My nonexistent hands clamp themselves over my nonexistent ears.
Outwardly, my focus barely shifts. I’m still fl oating over him, listening to breaths of bottomless anguish. Wait . . . I must be asleep. My fall from the stars and the hurt I hear in this boy’s breathing, they can’t be real. This vision I’m watching is nothing but a wildly vivid dream. When I wake up tomorrow, with my stomach, my hands and all my memories intact, I’ll shake my head at my panic. Then I’ll grab a pen and jot the details down before they fade to nothing. I imagine how crazy every bit of this will seem when I read it back in the morning. Stars that make a noise of wisdom. The power to read emotions through someone’s breath.
Insane. Even for a dream. Why not dream of something my eyes would want to linger on—the rapturous merging of two bodies or a purple sky hanging over a majestic blue- green waterfall? Why dream of this sad boy?
I examine him, attempt to cement the details in my mind so I can record them when I wake up, and as I’m watching I realize I can shift the camera here and there after all—not much, but a little. Yes, I can stare at him from the end of the bed if I prefer, or from a blue acoustic guitar leaning against the wall near his window. Maybe I can even . . . No, I can’t escape the room, can’t leave him behind. That’s beyond my power. He’s meant to be the star of this dream for reasons my unconscious isn’t ready to share with me. I notice that when I turn away from him to study the room, my gaze jumps inadvertently back to him before long.
And when it does this is what I see: a white boy of about sixteen or seventeen, curly brown hair framing his face. His eyes are light but in the dark I can’t determine whether they’re green, blue or even hazel. The boy’s lying in bed in a gray T-shirt, his bare arms stretched over the covers. He’s motionless. Stiller than still except for the blinking. The horrible breathing has stopped, or so it seems. When I listen more intently I realize I can still hear it if I choose. There are some things I can control within this dream, evidently, and this strange audio ability is one of them.
I watch the teenage boy close his eyes. A cell phone rings on the bedside table next to him. My eyes follow his as they dart to the phone and I wonder if the call is important in the scheme of this dream fi ction. Perhaps the real action is fi nally getting started.
Who wants to stand by and be a helpless witness to the grip of misery? I hope, since I’m being forced to take in this vision, that the dream’s preparing to morph into something more entertaining—maybe something more closely resembling an action movie or thriller. Do I like chase scenes and gunfi re in movies? Shouldn’t I be able to remember that, even in my sleep?
Once the phone falls silent, the boy reaches for it, looks to check who called and begins to set it down again. It erupts in his hand and I could swear this time it’s louder, almost like a siren. If I have to guess I’d say I’m hearing the phone the same way he is—with added urgency. This time he switches his phone off before returning it to its space on the bedside table. The boy’s gaze fl ashes away from his cell and towards the alarm clock next to it: 12:23. He lies back in bed, his eyes glued to the ceiling where I both am, and am not. Long moments pass like this. 12:24. 12:25. 12:26. I begin to feel like I’m waiting for a change of scene that will never occur. At last a light tap at the door breaks the spell.
The boy’s eyes snap shut as if on cue.
“Breckon?” a middle- aged man with a receding hairline whispers as he pops his head around the now- open door. The man’s tie is askew and he smooths it down with one hand and then eases the door open wider, waiting for the boy— Breckon—to stir.
Breckon does no such thing, although I know he’s awake. The man pads towards him, sighs silently and sits on the side of his bed. He does this carefully, so as not to awaken the boy I now know to be Breckon. I wonder if the man is his father and if he wishes Breckon would open his eyes and speak to him or whether he prefers this false silence.
The sound of Breckon’s breath still hurts if I let it, but I don’t. I use the special volume control that allows me to swing down the audio on that alone. His father, or whoever the man is, doesn’t seem to hear anything unusual. At fi rst he surveys the moonlit walls—a key- chain collection hanging from four curtain rods mounted one beneath the other on the far wall, a surreal Dalí print tacked up close to the door and nearer the bed posters of Pink Floyd’s The Wall and a photographic image of a soccer ball sailing through a blue sky.
Dalí. I remember Salvador Dalí. Jumbo jets, kisses, Salvador Dalí and Pink Floyd too. How I wish, how I wish you were here. I hear the lyrics play inside my head and the memory of them makes some currently unknowable part of me ache.
Curious little Henry from the award-winning books When You Were Small and Where You Came From has a new question for his mother in this charming new picture book. "What was it like when you were small?" he asks. His mother proceeds to describe her adventures to him, all about when she was little, very little!
Finn loves to swim with the seals in a secret cove. He arrives at the cove one day and rescues a young seal tangled in netting. Finn wishes the seal could live on land. That night the seals sing. ""No good comes from seal songs,"" says Finn's father. When Sheila, a mysterious girl no one has ever seen before, appears on the cannery docks, the fishe …
The storm threw down a curtain of rain.
"FINN!" screamed Sheila as she lost sight of him.
In heaving swells, Finn's boat floundered. The wind howled, freezing his hands. The rain became blinding sleet. "Which way?" he cried.
On the beach, Sheila sang, "Eeeeiiiiii, eeeeiiiiii." A magic song. A seal song.
The piercing notes reached Finn. He rowed toward her voice, but the wind shifted.
Roll With It follows the progression of Neddy as she starts to make her own decisions instead of living a life that’s been planned for her. She rejects the sacrifices necessary to succeed as a figure skaterâ”early mornings, a diet of apples and celery, and the pressure to performâ”in favour of the rough and tumble adventures and fiesty …
One day, Ella May finds a stone that has a line going all-all-all the way around it. Surely a stone this special must grant wishes, she decides. Soon she is busy making wishes and bragging about them. When her friends want to share the fun, Ella May objects. But she soon learns that keeping the stone for herself is a sure way to lose friends. By us …