2019 Silver Birch Award® Fiction Nominees
The Almost Epic Squad: Mucus Mayhem
Written by Kevin Sylvester
Illustrated by Britt Wilson
Published by Scholastic Canada
Jessica Flem has spent most of her life reacting allergically to everything — even when she’s acing her favourite video game. She’s used to a nose that never stops running, but is not at all prepared for the mysterious power that shows up around her thirteenth birthday — the ability to transform her mucus-filled tissues into slimy magical helpers! And just in time, too. It turns out there are forces both good and evil who have had their eyes on her and three other “special” kids since their exposure at birth to a mysterious element called reidium. Jess must draw on her full video game knowledge to face the evil Boss’s quest for world domination. The stakes mount higher and higher, but with her best friend Cliff at her side and her arsenal of mighty... um, tissues, Jess is determined to make Dimly, a safe place once again.
Written by Linwood Barclay
Published by Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers
Chipper is a very special dog. He's part of a multi-million dollar experiment at a secret organization known only as The Institute. The Institute has been experimenting with dogs, melding them with state-of-the-art computer technology. But there's a problem with Chipper. His natural dog instincts often overrule his computer side. No matter what he's doing, if he sees a squirrel or a mouse, he'll drop everything to chase it. So The Institute has decided it's time to pull the plug on Chipper. Chipper manages a daring escape with a destination in mind, but a team from the Institute, led by the cold-hearted Daggert, is hot on his heels.
Twelve-year-old Jeff Conroy lives with his aunt and helps run her business, a lakeside cabin-rental operation that caters to fishermen. Jeff desperately misses his parents, who were killed in a plane crash a year earlier. But at least he's made one friend: Emily, whose ex-cop father owns a similar business down the lake. And Emily, a computer whiz, has the coolest fort ever: a trackless, abandoned train station in the middle of the forest.
After eluding his would-be captors, Chipper boards a bus and ends up in the country, only to be hit by a truck that Jeff is driving (underage). Jeff takes Chipper to the train station to nurse him back to health, and it's here that he and Emily discover a computer port in Chipper's collar, and once Emily hooks her laptop to it, she and Jeff discovers that Chipper's arrival is not random. He has been looking for Jeff -- and now so is Daggert ...
Ebb and Flow
Written by Heather Smith
Published by Kids Can Press
after a long plane ride
and a rotten bad year
I went to Grandma Jo's.
It was my mother's idea.
Jett, what you need is a change of scenery.
I think she needed a change of scenery, too.
One without me.
Because that rotten bad year?
That was my fault.
Thus begins the poignant story, told in free verse, of eleven-year-old Jett. Last year, Jett and his mother had moved to a new town for a fresh start after his father went to jail. But Jett soon learned that fresh starts aren't all they're cracked up to be. When he befriended a boy with a difficult home life, Jett found himself in a cycle of bad decisions that culminated in the betrayal of a friend - a shameful secret he still hasn't forgiven himself for. Will a summer spent with his unconventional grandmother help Jett find his way to redemption?
Writing in artfully crafted free-verse vignettes, Heather T. Smith uses a deceptively simple style to tell a powerful and emotionally charged story. The engaging narrative and the mystery of Jett's secret keep the pages turning and will appeal to both reluctant and avid readers. This captivating book offers a terrific opportunity for classroom discussions about the many ways to tell a story and how a small number of carefully chosen words can have a huge impact. It also showcases the positive character traits of empathy, resilience, courage, and responsibility.
Written by Eric Walters
Published by Puffin Canada
Samantha (Sam) lives at the elephant sanctuary her dad runs and views the elephants there as much a part of her family as her single dad is. When a beloved elephant dies in childbirth, Sam develops a special connection with the baby, named Woolly because she has an unusual amount of hair. It soon becomes apparent that Woolly is . . . different. Woolly's mother was part of a special breeding project, and Woolly's DNA is not elephant but that of a rare specimen -- a woolly mammoth -- procured by the eccentric billionaire genius who runs the program. He will stop at nothing to protect Woolly, his multimillion-dollar investment, even if it means turning Sam and her dad's world upside-down. An astonishing fact-based look at elephant behaviour and an endearing girl-elephant friendship.
Written by Terry Lynn Johnson
Published by Charlesbridge
Thirteen-year-old Karma is desperate to become a certified falconer. At her dad’s bird education center, she helps give demonstrations to guests and can fly the birds. But when her favourite rescued falcon, Stark, hurts Karma, her parents insist that they return the bird to its previous owner–in Canada. On the way to bring Stark back, a car accident in the middle of nowhere leaves Karma’s dad trapped, and it’s up to Karma to find a way to rescue him and her younger brother. When Karma loses her way trying to get help, she crosses paths with Cooper, a troubled teenaged boy. Lost for three days, the two figure out how to survive, and Karma teaches Stark to hunt like an actual bird of prey. Karma may be closer than she thinks to becoming a real falconer and having a real friend.
Holly Farb and the Princess of the Galaxy
Written by Gareth Wronski
Published by Aladdin Books
Holly Farb is not the Princess of the Galaxy. She may be top of the class in every subject, but she can’t even win a school election, never mind rule the Milky Way. The aliens who kidnapped her have gotten it all wrong.
Unfortunately Holly’s alien pirate kidnappers believe that she’s the princess they’ve been looking for, and so she finds herself hurtling through space on an alien pirate ship together with her teacher, Mr. Mendez, and Chester, the most annoying boy in her class. Now all she has to do is escape the pirates, find the missing princess, and get back to Earth in time for her big test on Friday.
But it turns out that space is a pretty big place, and before they can go home, Holly, Chester, and Mr. Mendez must face down space cruise liners, bounty hunters, giant worms, perky holograms, cosmic board games, sinister insectoid librarians, and a robot who is learning how to lie.
Between running from space pirates, defying the President of the Universe, and meeting a host of rather unusual new friends, Holly starts to wonder if there might be more to life than being top of the class after all.
Written by Natalie Hyde
Published by Scholastic Canada
If it weren't for bad luck, Chris Dearing would have no luck at all.
Chris Dearing comes from a long line of losers. Bad luck has plagued the Dearing family for generations. Now his dad's about to lose everything, and Chris's only hope lies in the wild rivers of the Yukon. What is up there other than moose snot and mosquitos the size of bats? Gold! Specifically, a gold claim Chris’s grandfather was swindled out of years ago.
With the help of a tough-talking biker and an ex-con muffin baker, Chris is in a race against time to claim the long-forgotten family fortune. Will he strike out like the rest of his family, or will he strike gold and finally get a chance to rewrite Dearing history?
The stakes are high and the hi-jinx even higher in this laugh-out-loud novel from acclaimed author Natalie Hyde!
Written by Shari Green
Published by Pajama Press
He’s a rescue, a mutt. Maybe there’s a little golden retriever in him, although he’s not exactly pretty. He’s had a run-in with coyotes and he’s missing an eye. But Mike is eleven-year-old Cara Donovan’s dog, and they love each other absolutely. Usually her pet follows Cara everywhere, but on the day the family first smells smoke in the air, Mike becomes anxious. Pine Grove is in the path of a wildfire, and the family is ordered to evacuate. In the ensuing chaos, Mike runs off. And then the unthinkable happens; there is no time to search for Mike. They are forced to leave him behind.
Shocked and devastated, Cara watches helplessly as the family drives through a nightmare, with burning debris falling from the sky and wild animals fleeing for their lives. Once in the city far from the burn zone, the Donovans are housed with a volunteer host family. Jewel, the hosts’ daughter, is nice, but Cara can only think about what she may have lost. What will happen if nothing is left? But as she reflects on what “home” means to her, Cara knows only one thing. She is not going to lose Mike. She will do what it takes to find him, even if it means going back to Pine Grove on her own.
Written by Deborah Ellis
Published by Groundwood Books
The seated child. With a single powerful image, Deborah Ellis draws our attention to nine children and the situations they find themselves in, often through no fault of their own. In each story, a child makes a decision and takes action, be that a tiny gesture or a life-altering choice.
Jafar is a child labourer in a chair factory and longs to go to school. Sue sits on a swing as she and her brother wait to have a supervised visit with their father at the children’s aid society. Gretchen considers the lives of concentration camp victims during a school tour of Auschwitz. Mike survives seventy-two days of solitary as a young offender. Barry squirms on a food court chair as his parents tell him that they are separating. Macie sits on a too-small time-out chair while her mother receives visitors for tea. Noosala crouches in a fetid, crowded apartment in Uzbekistan, waiting for an unscrupulous refugee smuggler to decide her fate.
The Train of Lost Things
Written by Ammi-Joan Paquette
Published by Philomel Books
Marty cherishes the extra-special birthday present his dad gave him — a jean jacket on which he’s afixed numerous buttons — because it’s a tie to his father, who is sick and doesn’t have much time left. So when his jacket goes missing, Marty is devastated. When his dad tells him the story of the Train of Lost Things, a magical train that flies through the air collecting objects lost by kids, Marty is sure that the train must be real, and that if he can just find the train and get his jacket back, he can make his dad better as well.
It turns out that the train is real — and it’s gone out of control! Instead of just collecting things that have been accidentally lost, the train has been stealing things. Along with Dina and Star, the girls he meets aboard the train, Marty needs to figure out what’s going on and help set it right. As he searches for his jacket, and for a way to fix the train, Marty begins to wonder whether he’s looking for the right things after all. And he realizes that sometimes you need to escape reality in order to let it sink in.
In this achingly beautiful adventure, it is the power of memories, and the love between a father and son, that ultimately save the day.