Ask Pippa

2006: What's New in Fiction?

The Strictest School in the WorldThe Strictest School in the World: Being the Tale of a Clever Girl, a Rubber Boy and a Collection of Flying Machines, Mostly Broken, by Howard Whitehouse ($18.95, Kids Can Press). Illustrations by Bill Slavin.

This very cool book is about Emmaline, a girl who considers herself an inventor of great and exciting things. More than anything, she wants to design a flying machine and has strange ideas on how it should be done – until a young neighbour, who is good at building things, helps her. But drat! Emmaline is whisked off to a nasty boarding school. How nasty? The school has a coat of arms consisting of a black tower and a large padlock. This is a fun read and would appeal to kids who like Lemony Snicket books (there is a similar flavour). Rumour has it there will be more books about Emmaline. For kids 10 and up

The author: Howard Whitehouse is a mysterious author.

The illustrator: Bill Slavin has added colour and life to numerous children's books, including Morgen's Birthday (and other Morgan books by Ted Staunton), The Bear on the Bed, Truly Scary Stories for Fearless Kids, and more

The JudgmentThe Judgment, by Clem Martini ($16.95, Kids Can Press).

This book is the latest offering in The Crow Chronicles series. The pace and excitement is just as good as in the previous books. Here, Kyp and the remains of his flock (called a murder of crows, actually), try to find their way home. It’s a very long way off, and the crows are tired and depressed. Plus, it doesn't help that the mean Borg-like Collection, which consists of many thousands of crows, is trying to overtake them. For readers 10 and up.

The author: Clem Martini is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and book author. He teaches drama at the University of Calgary.

Gideon the Cutpurse Gideon The Cutpurse , by Linda Buckley-Archer ($19.95, Simon and Shuster).

This is the first novel in the new action-packed Gideon Trilogy. This science fiction tale is about two modern-day kids, Peter and Kate, who get caught in a device that hurls them back to the year 1763. They end up meeting, and getting into adventures with, a man named Gideon who is a cutpurse or thief. They also have to run from Tar Man, a really nasty bad guy.

While the story itself is cool and exciting, there are a lot of spots where the book needs editing, making it an uneven read. Better editing and this could be a much better book.

The cover of the hardback edition has a hole cut out of it which is pretty cool. For readers aged 14 and up

The author: Linda Buckley-Archer is a scriptwriter and journalist based in London, England.

Chelsea's Ride Chelsea's Ride , by Patricia Penny ($10.95, Lobster Press).

This is part of the Not Just Proms and Parties series. This is a short novel about a teenager, Chelsea, who has had her driving privileges taken away by her parents. She does just about anything to get rides to her part-time job, including pretending to be nice to a guy she thinks is a goof. And she just can’t stop thinking about the cute guy who works down the street from the shop she works in. You really feel like you're inside the head of a boy-obsessed teenage girl. The book is a light, quick read for readers 12 and up, and will appeal to young teens who don’t usually have much patience to get through a whole book.

The author: Patricia Penny is a Canadian author.


Out of Focus Out of Focus, by Margaret Buffie ($18.95, Kids Can Press).

This is a novel about family conflict. Lots of it, and with grumpy attitude. Here, 16-year old Bernie must deal with a seriously alcoholic mother and must do most of the work raising her younger siblings. Life is miserable, then Bernie finds out bizarre secret – her Mom has inherited a small lodge on a lake up north, but hasn't told anyone. Mom thinks of the place as a mosquito infested place of misery, Bernie thinks it might be a place for a new start. How can Bernie get her mom to move there to start life afresh? While there are lots of dysfunctional family novels out there, this is one of the best because of its details and depth. For readers 13 and up

The author: Margaret Buffie is a multiple award-winning young adult novelist based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Some of her other titles include The Seeker (The Watcher's Quest series), Angels Turn their Backs, and The Dark Garden.