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Books for the Polar Vortex
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Books for the Polar Vortex

By 49thShelf
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Books about winter, with winter settings, perfect to hunker down with as we count down to spring.
Polar Vortex

Polar Vortex

also available: eBook Audiobook

Longlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize

Some secrets never die...

Priya and Alexandra have moved from the city to a picturesque countryside town. What Alex doesn't know is that in moving, Priya is running from her past—from a fraught relationship with an old friend, Prakash, who pursued her for many years, both online and off. Time has passed, however, and Priya, confident that her ties to Prakash have been successfully severed, decides it's once more safe to establish an online presence …

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The Very, Very Far North

The Very, Very Far North

by Dan Bar-el
illustrated by Kelly Pousette
also available: eBook Paperback

An inquisitive polar bear named Duane befriends an array of animals as he discovers where he belongs in this charming classic-in-the making that’s reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh.

In the Very, Very Far North, past the Cold, Cold Ocean and just below the hill that looks like a baby whale, you’ll find Duane and his friends.
Duane is a sweet and curious young bear who makes friends with everyone he meets—whether they’re bossy, like Major Puff the puffin, or a bit vain, like Handsome the musk …

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The Bears Sleep at Last

The Bears Sleep at Last

also available: Paperback

Their whole bodies are ready for sleep, but sleep doesn’t come.

The cold has deserted winter, causing the polar bears in the zoo to pace in an endless quest for sleep. Their caretaker, Sasha, will do anything to bring them slumber. But when a boy named Marcus suddenly appears at his window, bringing a different outlook on the meaning of family, Sasha finds himself buried under new responsibilities—such as packing lunches and reading bedtime stories—rather than snow. And so he keeps going ba …

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Sasha’s apartment, a few hours later. Marcus is sleeping. Sasha is working on equations in a notebook. Next to him, a cup of coffee.

Marcus: (awaking abruptly) Sasha! I dreamt I was suffocating, that my tongue went to hide at the back of my throat because the students in my class were asking what my nickname was. I couldn’t answer, I didn’t have one, and my tongue went to hide at the back of my throat forever! Sasha? Sasha?!

Sasha: I’m here, Marcus. Breathe. Please, just breathe.

Marcus: Okay.

Sasha: But do it as well.

Marcus breathes.

Marcus: I can’t go to school, Sasha. Everyone there must already have loads of nicknames.

Sasha: What are you talking about . . . It’s normal for you not to have one. To get a nickname, you must first go to school. People must get to know you first.

Marcus: I would really like for my nickname to be nice.

Sasha: It will be, it will be.

Marcus gets back into bed. Sasha sits close by and goes back to his equations.

Marcus: Aren’t you going to sleep?

Sasha: I am trying to figure out how many more blocks of ice I will need to carry per hour. Three degrees higher, that’s the forecast. I have to maintain a temperature that’s bearable for my bears . . . though it’s barely bearable . . . so to speak . . . 

. . .

Marcus: Sasha . . . the date that’s circled in red on the calendar . . . what is it?

Sasha: Now’s not the time, Marcus.

Marcus: We know each other pretty well, now. Enough to share each other’s secrets, don’t you think? And I’m really curious about it.

Sasha: I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Marcus: Actually, right at this moment, it’s more the red pen you used to circle the date that makes me curious. That part of the story shouldn’t be so long to tell . . .

Sasha smiles.

Sasha: Fair enough, I’ll try and find your pen for you.

Sasha digs around. Marcus is all hope.


Marcus: You found it?

Sasha: Oh.

Marcus: What?

Sasha: I forgot to put the cap back on. I’m sorry, Marcus.

Marcus: (undone) It doesn’t matter.

. . .

Sasha: Marcus, since you’ve been here, I know I haven’t always stepped up. But if you could just wait another ten days . . . if you could just wait until that date that’s circled on the calendar . . .

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Where the Ice Falls

Where the Ice Falls

The Falls Mysteries
also available: Paperback

Lacey McCrae tracks down a killer in the frozen hills of rural Alberta.

When Zoe and her teenage daughter discover an ice-covered corpse at her boss’s mountain chalet, ex-Mountie Lacey McCrae trades her Christmas shopping for Victim Services duty. The dead man is Eric, an intern at the Calgary oil company where Zoe works. Reported missing after a blizzard a month earlier, he was presumed dead by misadventure. But his missing car and other inconsistencies point to a suspicious death.

When someon …

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Chapter One

Just before dawn the blizzard let up, leaving the wilderness shrouded in white, the roads snowdrifted, and the oil derricks iced over. Far out on the shoulders of the Rockies, the scattered chalets at Black Rock Bowl were hidden under the blanket of snow. No sign of life disturbed the stillness, save a lone spire of chimney smoke rising up into the lightening sky. As the sun rose, revealing this new white world, it kissed the roof of the shed, slowly melting the snow, the water dripping down to form ever-lengthening icicles.

Six more days of melting and freezing followed before the plow from Waiparous Village reached the deserted resort. It rumbled around the Black Rock Loop from the northern end, its operator keeping an eye out for a red Toyota Camry reported missing on the first day of the storm.

Day by day and week by week, the sun added more icicles to its artwork, until the front of the shed resembled a waterfall frozen mid-tumble. The diamond clarity of the ice reflected the surrounding snow, sky, and forest. November ended. December began. The icefall thickened.

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Crow Winter

Crow Winter

A Novel
also available: eBook Audiobook (CD) Paperback

Nanabush. A name that has a certain weight on the tongue—a taste. Like lit sage in a windowless room or aluminum foil on a metal filling.

Trickster. Storyteller. Shape-shifter. An ancient troublemaker with the power to do great things, only he doesn’t want to put in the work.

Since coming home to Spirit Bear Point First Nation, Hazel Ellis has been dreaming of an old crow. He tells her he’s here to help her, save her. From what, exactly? Sure, her dad’s been dead for almost two years and s …

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The Starlight Claim

The Starlight Claim

also available: Audiobook (CD)

Fast-paced, evocative, and intensely suspenseful, Tim Wynne-Jones’s latest psychological thriller finds a teenager setting his wits against the frigid wilderness and a menacing crew of escapees.

Four months after his best friend, Dodge, disappeared near their families’ camp in a boat accident, Nate is still haunted by nightmares. He’d been planning to make the treacherous trek to the remote campsite with a friend — his first time in winter without his survival-savvy father. But when his f …

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1. The Dream
The dream was waiting for him. Dodge Hoebeek under a thick sheet of crystal-?clear ice, his eyes wide open, his fingers scraping at the glassy ceiling above him, his mouth screaming, bubbles pouring out, and his long blond hair trailing behind him in the black water.
Then somehow the streaming bubbles formed themselves into words. “You gotta come, man! You owe me!” And Nate, kneeling on the ice above his friend, his bare hands flat on the surface?—?frozen to the surface?—???tried to speak but couldn’t, as though he were the one who was drowning.
“You owe me, Nate! It’s your fault!”
“I’m sorry!” Nate shouted. “I’m so sorry!”
It was like he was looking into a warped carnival mirror, unable to say anything, unable to do anything except throw his head back and howl.
He woke up, his heart beating like a two-?stroke engine. Had he really howled? He listened to the ticking stillness. No one was coming, so maybe not. Last fall he’d howled, good and loud. He’d woken, time and time again, with his head pressed to his mother’s chest, her arms around him, his father standing just behind her, his hand on her shoulder, strong and calm.
“I’ve got to find him,” Nate would say. And his mother would shush him. And he’d yell at her. “No! You don’t understand. He needs me. He’s waiting for me up there!” Eventually he would wear himself out. “It’s all my fault,” he’d say. “It’s all my fault.” His voice would grow hoarse and the tears would come and finally he’d lay his head back down on his pillow. His mother would fuss with the covers as if he were a five­year?­old, touch her fingers to her lips and place them on his forehead, a benediction. Then she’d leave the room. But his father would stand there in the dark. Stand guard until he fell asleep. Stand there as long as it took.
2. Escape
It was a daring escape. “Brazen escape,” the TV anchorman called it. Nate watched as two jailbirds attempted to climb a knotted rope hanging from a helicopter.
“Is this for real?” said Nate. His father nodded, his eyes glued to the television. “So how come if they’re filming it, nobody’s trying to stop them?”
“CCTV,” said his father.
Nate leaned against the doorjamb at the entrance to the den. It was late. He was in his pajama bottoms and a ratty Lockerby Vikings T-?shirt. The men weren’t getting very far on their climb toward the chopper. They were about as athletic as a ­couple of filing cabinets.
“Not exactly James Bond,” said Nate.
His father chuckled.
The helicopter began to rise with the two guys hanging on for dear life. Up, up they rose toward the roofline of the jail that surrounded the yard on all four sides. The closed-?circuit camera was in a fixed position, and soon enough the dangling criminals were whisked out of view. And then there was a new camera in play, the TV station camera, presumably, outside the jail. But there were no criminals or helicopter in sight, obviously. This was later. The camera was following the path the helicopter might have taken across a city covered in snow.
“Whoa!” said Nate as the scenery beyond the enclosed compound came into view. “Is that here?”
His father nodded. “The Sudbury Jail.”
There were other shots of police roadblocks on various highways out of town, and then the news returned to the talking head with the frozen image of the escape on a screen behind him. Nate’s dad pushed the mute button.
“I don’t blame them one bit,” he said.
“The convicts?”
“Uh­huh. That place is disgusting. Overcrowded, understaffed. And the mice? The place is completely infested.”
Nate stared at his father. “Dad, is there something you want to tell me?”
His father held up his hands. “Busted,” he said. “Yeah, I spent some time in the stony lonesome.”
The grin gave him away. “Only as a visitor.”
“Oh,” said Nate, relieved but sort of disappointed. Burl Crow was the most decent, upstanding guy imaginable. It would be kind of cool if he had a shady past. Then again, maybe he did. “Visiting who?”
His father shook his head slowly, back and forth. He was looking toward the television but he had one of those thousand-?yard stares on his face, the kind of blank, unfocused gaze of someone looking into the past. Then he snapped out of it.
“What are you doing up?” he said.
“Uh?­uh,” said Nate. “You’re not getting off the hook that easy.”
His father raised his eyebrows, trying to look parentally threatening but missing by a mile. Then he patted the couch next to him. Nate slouched into the room and sat down.
“My dad,” said Burl. “Your grandfather.”
“Oh, right.” Nate had never met his grandfather, but he knew a bit about him. The burn on his father’s right arm: that was thanks to Calvin Crow.
“What was he in for?”
His father laughed. “You name it. Arson for one thing, drunk and disorderly, aggravated assault, petty larceny?—not?­so-?petty larceny.”
“What’s larceny?”
“Taking what isn’t yours. That’s my old man to a T.” He put his hands together thoughtfully. “He was a thug, ­Nathaniel. Bad news.”
“Did he die?”
“Haven’t heard.”
Nate frowned. “When was the last time you saw him?”
His father shrugged. “Five or six years ago, I guess. He was in for carjacking that time. He wanted me to bail him out and I had to draw the line. Not anymore. We’re done.”
He turned to Nate and tapped him on the knee. “What’s up, son? I thought you went to bed an hour ago.”
Nate let his head flop back onto the top of the couch. Closed his eyes.

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My Winter City

My Winter City

by James Gladstone
illustrated by Gary Clement
also available: Hardcover

A boy, his father and their dog have a perfect day in a snowy city, illustrated by Governor General’s Literary Award winner Gary Clement.

A young boy wakes up in the early light of a winter morning, pulls on his boots and mittens, and steps out into the snowy city with his dad. They trudge through the snow, their dog bounding along beside them, then a slushy, steamy bus ride takes them to the tobogganing hill for some winter fun. The boy describes all the sights and sounds of the day, from the …

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Wild Heavens

Wild Heavens


It all starts with an impossibly large set of tracks, footprints for a creature that could not possibly exist. The words sasquatch, bigfoot and yeti never occur in this novel, but that is what most people would call the hairy, nine-foot creature that would become a lifelong obsession for Aidan Fitzpatrick, and in turn, his granddaughter Sandy Langley.

The novel spans the course of single winter day, interspersed with memories from Sandy’s life—childhood days spent with her distracted, scholar …

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“Aiden crested a ridge and froze in place, heart pounding. It was right there in its own tracks, not twenty yards away. It was covered in grizzled brown fur and it stood upright, broad-shouldered and a good nine feet tall. It turned to face him, its features were both simian and human and it regarded him with a calm, perceptive curiosity. He could only stare mutely, his fear held loosely—ready to grasp but at arm’s length—because his primary impression was not that the creature was frightening, but that it was magnificent, miraculous. It was impossible, and yet there it stood.”

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