Putting the YA in FriYAY: Karen McManus on writing and TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET!

Nobody writes YA thrillers like Karen McManus.  One of Us is Lying was a runaway smash hit—think The Breakfast Club with a deadly twist—and her latest novel Two Can Keep a Secret is just as fun, with shocking reveals and twists that will keep you reading late into the night. Find out about Karen’s writing process and which character she relates to the most below!

Describe TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET in 5 words.

Homecoming turns deadly once again.

Which of your characters from your latest novel is most like you?

Ellery’s twin brother, Ezra. He’s the observer of the story, along for the ride as Ellery starts poking around in their mother’s past and the mysteries of Echo Ridge. Ezra’s running commentary is pretty much exactly what I’d say in the same situation. Also, we like the same music 🙂

Recommend a book for Ellery.  

Ellery is a true crime buff, so she’d love something like The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas. The main character in that book was a key witness in the years-old prosecution of a serial killer, but now that she’s older she’s starting to question whether her memories are real.

There are so many twists in this story. How do you keep track of them while writing?

I would love to tell you that I have an extremely clever system, but I use a basic Excel spreadsheet as a chapter guide. I sketch out key beats for plot and characters, and then write in 3-4 chapter bursts. I do a lot of revising of those chapters before I move on, making sure I’m satisfied with how the story is progressing. Then I go back through the larger outline to see if what I’ve written requires any changes to the structure as a whole.

What is the best piece of writing advice you have ever received?

I wish I could remember who said this, because I’d credit them if I did: that characters should be doing something in the last chapter that would have seemed impossible in the first. I love that, because it’s the perfect litmus test as to whether your characters have undertaken enough of a journey to grow and change.

In the Toronto area? Meet Karen McManus at Indigo Yorkdale on Thursday, February 28th at 7pm. Details here!

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Olivia Chin Mueller’s #TundraCats

Minnow01We’ve asked our #TundraCats authors and illustrators to tell us a little bit more about their favorite felines. Today, we’re meeting Olivia Chin Mueller’s puffy cat.

What is your cat’s name?
Her real name is Minoku, but now she just goes by Minnow!

How old is your cat?
Minnow is 6 years old! I got her when she was only 3 days old!

Which #TundraCats book is your cat’s favorite?
Her favorite is of course Princess Puffybottom … and Darryl because her picture is in it! She’s famous!

Minnow03

What is your cats greatest strength?
Minnow is very good at eating bugs, keeping me warm, and covering my clothes with fur!

What is your cats favorite thing to eat?
Minnow likes to eat any treats that are round and can roll around on the floor! This way she can chase them around before she eats them. But she also enjoys eating house centipedes!

What is your cats weakness?
She is not smart at all! But I love her that way, she is perfect!

Minnow02

Be sure to check out Olivia Chin Mueller’s newest book:

princess puffybottom and darrylPrincess Puffybottom . . . and Darryl
By Susin Nielsen
Illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller
ISBN 9781101919255 | Hardcover
Ages 3-7 | Tundra Books
Olivia Chin Mueller is the human best friend of Minnow “The Big Chin” Mueller. They live together in Providence, Rhode Island, where Olivia illustrates children’s books, including A Bedtime Yarn by Nicola Winstanley and the Little Golden Books I am a Kitten and I am a Puppy by Ole Risom. Minnow is the C.O.S.L.W. (Chief Olivia Supervisor and Lap Warmer). She also keeps Olivia from working too hard by asking for brushings and treats every hour. Minnow is doing a great job and is due for a promotion very soon.

OLA Best Bets 2018

The OLA Best Bets committee is comprised of librarians and library technicians who are OLA members, work in public libraries and are committed to children’s and young adult services and eager to evaluate and promote Canadian books. Members discuss and evaluate recent publications by Canadian authors and illustrators. The books evaluated are suitable for children and young adults from birth to nineteen years old. From these discussions, the Committee produces “Best Bets” lists, annual annotated lists of recommended titles.

Here are the Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers titles on the list:

Clara VoyantClara Voyant
By Rachelle Delaney
Hardcover | 224 Pages | Puffin Canada
ISBN 9780143198536
A wannabe journalist and reluctant astrologer turns out to be clairvoyant in this charming middle-grade coming-of-age novel; for fans of Rebecca Stead’s novels.

Go Show the WorldGo Show the World
By Wab Kinew
Illustrated by Joe Morse
Hardcover | 40 Pages | Tundra Books
ISBN 9780735262928
“We are a people who matter.” Inspired by President Barack Obama’s Of Thee I Sing, Go Show the World is a tribute to historic and modern-day Indigenous heroes, featuring important figures such as Tecumseh, Sacagawea and former NASA astronaut John Herrington.

No Fixed AddressNo Fixed Address
By Susin Nielsen
Hardcover | 288 Pages | Tundra Books
ISBN 9780735262751
From beloved Governor General Literary Award-winning author Susin Nielsen comes a touching and funny middle-grade story about family, friendship and growing up when you’re one step away from homelessness.

owls are good at keeping secretsOwls Are Good at Keeping Secrets
By Sara O’Leary
Illustrated by Jacob Grant
Hardcover | 40 Pages | Tundra Books
ISBN 9781101919118
From the author of the beloved This Is Sadie comes a delightful book of curious, little-known stories about animals – one for each letter of the alphabet!

SweepSweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
By Jonathan Auxier
Hardcover | 368 Pages | Puffin Canada
ISBN 9780735264359
A brand-new novel by one of today’s most powerful storytellers, Sweep is a heart-rending adventure about the everlasting gifts of friendship and hope.

The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony GrayThe Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray
By E. Latimer
Hardcover | 336 Pages | Tundra Books
ISBN 9781101919286
Lemony Snicket meets Oscar Wilde meets Edgar Allan Poe in this exciting and scary middle-grade novel inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray – a family curse is unleashed!

The OLA also included some Honourable Mentions:

Blood Will OutBlood Will Out
By Jo Treggiari
Hardcover | 288 Pages | Penguin Teen
ISBN 9780735262959
Silence of the Lambs for young adults — Blood Will Out is a gripping YA thriller readers won’t be able to put down.

the game of hopeThe Game of Hope
By Sandra Gulland
Hardcover | 384 Pages | Penguin Teen
ISBN 9780670067022
Inspired by Hortense’s real-life autobiography with charming glimpses of teen life long ago, this is the story of a girl chosen by fate to play a role she didn’t choose.

Congratulations to our authors and illustrators for recognized titles! And thank you to the OLA Best Bets committee for their hard work.

Susin Nielsen’s #TundraCats

susin nielsen_cats

We’ve asked our #TundraCats authors and illustrators to tell us a little bit more about their favorite felines. Today, we’re meeting Susin Nielsen’s two mischievous cats.

What are your cats’ names?
I have two cats: Erwin Schrodinger and Emily Brontë. One of my protagonists in We Are All Made of Molecules had a cat named Schrodinger; and Emily Brontë was absolutely the inspiration for my new fictional cat, Princess Puffybottom, because she is a total princess (and yes, she has a puffy bottom).

How old are your cats?
They are brother and sister, rescues from the Vancouver Orphaned Kitten Rescue Association, or VOKRA. They are turning 7 in 2019.

erwin schrodinger (1)

Which #TundraCats book are your cats’ favorite?
Miss Mink by Janet Hill. I adore this book. I’m not big on self-help books, but this one is like my own little self-help book, wrapped in the prettiest, warmest of packages. So many words to live by!

Can you describe your cats using only three words?
Purring Furballs of Love. (Technically that is four words.)

emily bronte (1)

Have your cats destroyed any books before?
Yes. Emily is a terrible scratcher, and she destroyed an entire shelf of my own books (ie, author copies of ones I’d written), by scratching the spines to shreds.

What do you consider to be your cat’s weaknesses?
No offence to Erwin, but I believe his brain is about the size of half a Tic Tac.

erwin schrodinger (2)

Complete this sentence: If my cats are staring out the window, it’s because . . .
They are longing for me to come home. (Hey. A girl can dream.)

What’s the most expensive thing your cats have broken?
A beautiful art deco lamp that my mom gave my husband and I on our wedding day, almost thirty years ago. It was very heavy-weight, but they were chasing each other, and brought it down. We also had to get rid of a lovely Persian rug because one or both of them decided it was the perfect litter box. (I scooped a lot of poop off that rug.)

emily bronte (2)

If yours cat could suddenly talk, what would their first sentence be?
“I love you, Susin, you are the best human in the world.” (Again – a girl can dream.)

Be sure to check out Susin Nielsen’s newest book:

princess puffybottom and darrylPrincess Puffybottom . . . and Darryl
By Susin Nielsen
Illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller
ISBN 9781101919255 | Hardcover
Ages 3-7 | Tundra Books
“This is the first day I’ve written in a diary. The reason I am, is ’cos I love writing stories, and if I do grow up to be a famous writer, and later die, and they want to get a story of my life, I guess I should keep a diary.” Susin Nielsen wrote this poorly constructed sentence when she was eleven. And while she isn’t exactly famous, she did predict her future occupation. She got her start writing for the hit TV series Degrassi Junior High and went on to write for more than twenty Canadian shows. Nielsen is the author of five critically acclaimed and award-winning novels, including Optimists Die First, We Are All Made of Molecules, and The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen. Nielsen has been called the John Green of Canada. She once had a dream that John Green had been called the Susin Nielsen of the United States. She lives in Vancouver with her family and two naughty cats.

The 2019 Outstanding International Books List

Beginning in 2006, USBBY has selected an honor list of international books for young people. The Outstanding International Books (OIB) committee is charged with selecting international books that are deemed most outstanding of those published during the calendar year. For the purposes of this honor list, the term “international book” is used to describe a book published or distributed in the United States that originated or was first published in a country other than the U.S.

Congratulations to our authors and illustrators!

From the Heart of AfricaFrom the Heart of Africa: A book of Wisdom
Collected by Eric Walters
Hardcover | 40 Pages | Ages 6-9
ISBN 9781101918746 | Tundra Books
A collection of African wisdom gorgeously illustrated by artists from Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Canada, the United States and more. Aphorisms are universal. They give guidance, context and instruction for life’s issues, and they help us understand each other and the world around us. We use them every day, yet never think about where they came from or why they exist. In this beautifully illustrated collection, Eric Walters brings us classic sayings from the places where this shared wisdom began. Ashanti, Sukuma, Akan and Kikuyu: all of these cultures use the portable and easily shared knowledge contained in aphorisms, and from these cultures and more this communal knowledge spread. This book is a celebration of art, of community and of our common history.

Go Show the WorldGo Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes
By Wab Kinew
Illustrated by Joe Morse
Hardcover | 40 Pages | Ages 5-9
ISBN 9780735262928 | Tundra Books
“We are a people who matter.” Inspired by President Barack Obama’s Of Thee I Sing, Go Show the World is a tribute to historic and modern-day Indigenous heroes, featuring important figures such as Tecumseh, Sacagawea and former NASA astronaut John Herrington. Celebrating the stories of Indigenous people throughout time, Wab Kinew has created a powerful rap song, the lyrics of which are the basis for the text in this beautiful picture book, illustrated by the acclaimed Joe Morse. Including figures such as Crazy Horse, Net-no-kwa, former NASA astronaut John Herrington and Canadian NHL goalie Carey Price, Go Show the World showcases a diverse group of Indigenous people in the US and Canada, both the more well known and the not- so-widely recognized. Individually, their stories, though briefly touched on, are inspiring; collectively, they empower the reader with this message: “We are people who matter, yes, it’s true; now let’s show the world what people who matter can do.”

Mary Who Wrote FrankensteinMary Who Wrote Frankenstein
By Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Júlia Sardà
Hardcover | 56 Pages | Ages 5-8
ISBN 9781770495593 | Tundra Books
How does a story begin? Sometimes it begins with a dream, and a dreamer. Mary is one such dreamer, a little girl who learns to read by tracing the letters on the tombstone of her famous feminist mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, and whose only escape from her strict father and overbearing stepmother is through the stories she reads and imagines. Unhappy at home, she seeks independence, and at the age of sixteen runs away with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, another dreamer. Two years later, they travel to Switzerland where they meet a famous poet, Lord Byron. On a stormy summer evening, with five young people gathered around a fire, Byron suggests a contest to see who can create the best ghost story. Mary has a waking dream about a monster come to life. A year and a half later, Mary Shelley’s terrifying tale, Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus, is published — a novel that goes on to become the most enduring monster story ever and one of the most popular legends of all time.

No Fixed AddressNo Fixed Address
By Susin Nielsen
Hardcover | 288 Pages | Ages 10+
ISBN 9780735262751 | Tundra Books
From beloved Governor General Literary Award–winning author Susin Nielsen comes a touching and funny middle-grade story about family, friendship and growing up when you’re one step away from homelessness. Felix Knuttson, twelve, is an endearing kid with an incredible brain for trivia. His mom Astrid is loving but unreliable; she can’t hold onto a job, or a home. When they lose their apartment in Vancouver, they move into a camper van, just for August, till Astrid finds a job. September comes, they’re still in the van; Felix must keep “home” a secret and give a fake address in order to enroll in school. Luckily, he finds true friends. As the weeks pass and life becomes grim, he struggles not to let anyone know how precarious his situation is. When he gets to compete on a national quiz show, Felix is determined to win — the cash prize will bring them a home. Their luck is about to change! But what happens is not at all what Felix expected.

Nicola Winstanley’s #TundraCats

stanley and luluWe’ve asked our #TundraCats authors and illustrators to tell us a little bit more about their favorite felines. Today, we’re meeting Nicola Winstanley’s adorable cat.

What is your cat’s name?
Stanley Winstanley.

How old is your cat?
Eight.

Which #TundraCats book is your cat’s favorite?
Am I allowed to choose my own? If not, Princess Puffybottom … and Darryl.

What is your cat’s greatest strengths?
Poking me in the face with his paw to get more pats. Tricking us into feeding him dinner three times in a row. Being fat.

What does friendship mean to your cat?
Letting the small thing lick his ears. (The small thing is our dog, Lulu.)

Complete this sentence: If my cat is staring out the window, it’s because . . .
He’s mad because it’s raining.

Be sure to check out Nicola Winstanley’s newest book:

how to give your cat a bathHow to Give Your Cat a Bath
in Five Easy Steps

By Nicola Winstanley
Illustrated by John Martz
ISBN 9780735263543 | Hardcover
Ages 3-7 | Tundra Books
Nicola Winstanley has always believed in the power of stories to bring comfort. She is the author of The Pirate’s Bed, A Bedtime Yarn and Cinnamon Baby, which won an honor prize for the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award and was shortlisted for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. Nicola lives in Hamilton, Ontario, with her family, one dog and one cat.

Putting the YA in FRIYAY: 5 Reasons to Read The Downstairs Girl

For National Hat Day on January 15th, we put the spotlight on Stacey Lee’s upcoming The Downstairs Girl and if you’re not already convinced you should read it based on the gorgeous cover, here are five more reasons to pick it up in August.

1. Features a Chinese-American girl in 1860s America

Protagonist Jo Kwan is independent and determined. Despite spending most of her time in the shadows, she slowly finds her way into the light.

2. Jo Kwan leads a double life

Jo spends her days working as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of Atlanta’s wealthiest men. But at night, she writes a newspaper advice column as “Dear Miss Sweetie”.

3. Swoony romance

Jo finds herself falling for her publisher’s handsome son, but she has to hide her true identity from him. Do we need to say more?

4. Stacey Lee is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books

In addition to being a critically acclaimed author, Stacey Lee works with WNDB to promote diverse literature to a young audience.

5. A fascinating insight into suffragists and the New South

There are very few YA novels that cover this particular time period, and Stacey has done extensive research to make sure her New South setting is as realistic as possible.

The Downstairs Girl comes out August 13th, 2019. Add it on Goodreads here.