Tomes for fanciful babes and troubled teens

With B.C. Book and Magazine Week upon us, a half-dozen local lovelies to read to the kids at Ovaltine time.

The Queen's Feet (By Sarah Ellis, with illustrations by Duan Petrii) Queen Daisy has a problem. Her feet won't behave. "They could cut up, act out, and carry on. They could raise a ruckus and kick up a fuss." This wouldn't do; it could lead to inappropriate dancing or worse-kicking! Sarah Ellis, an accomplished Vancouver writer and North Vancouver kids' librarian, gives grrrl power a boot in the royal bustle with her latest, the wild The Queen's Feet. The high-energy illustrations by Duan Petrii (On Tumbledown Hill, Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes) are the stars of the pages here (so many toes!), but the text bears endless rereadings, as parents will increasingly appreciate once kids get the jones for this rollicking story of something afoot in Daisy's queendom. (Red Deer Press, $19.95)

When You Were Small (By Sara O'Leary, with illustrations by Julie Morstad) Sara O'Leary, a books columnist for the Vancouver Sun, has crafted a delightful ode to the imagination with When You Were Small. A father reminisces about his son's early childhood, and if his son doesn't remember that "When you were small we used to give you baths in the teapot, and when you were done we could just tip it over and pour you out", well, what can you expect from kids, anyway? Julie Morstad's delicate, muted illustrations perfectly complement O'Leary's whimsy. This handsome title showcases Vancouver's Simply Read Books doing what it does best: simple story, lush pictures, perfect package. ($19.95)

Roundup at the Palace (By Kathleen Cook Waldron, with illustrations by Alan and Lea Daniel) What could be more satisfying than a grown bull rampaging through the lobby of a fancy hotel? Well, if you're a child with a good imagination, you'd be hoping all the grownups-guests, police, concierge-can't recapture the beast on their own. What they need is a half-pint expert, which is just what happens in Roundup at the Palace (referring to Denver's Brown Palace Hotel). Zack's father keeps the adults at bay with "Don't move! Don't alarm him! The boy knows what to do." And it's a good thing he does or there might be more than broken furniture to worry about: young Alice is trapped in the bull's glare and about to get her wish for a pet come true and then some. As a meet-cute, Roundup is perhaps excessive, but the gouache illustrations of the bull make the beast seem like a mischievous moptop, and the story, by 100 Mile House's Kathleen Cook Waldron, is a pleasure from beginning to end. (Red Deer Press, $19.95)

Magnifico (By Victoria Miles) Mariangela is 11 in 1939, with an 11-year-old's typical problems, plus a few special ones: her parents are so Italian her mother can't speak English (but Union Street is very multicultural), the bully down the block has a slingshot, and her grandmother has given her the family accordion-no more hopes for a real piano. North Vancouver science writer Victoria Miles's first novel certainly lives up to its name, four magnificent months in the life of a vibrant, real 11-year-old from a time before tweens had been invented, when bad behaviour was confined to swearing in the cowshed. Mariangela learns more than the fingering to "On Top of Old Smokey" during the course of her accordion lessons; she discovers pride in her heritage, her abilities, and her courage. All in time to play for the king and queen! This is an accomplished debut that deserves the widest readership. Brava! (Fitz?henry & Whiteside, $19.95)

Crush (By Carrie Mac) Vancouver's Carrie Mac has devised the perfect Orca Soundings novel, and whether that's by design or accident, it's also absolutely charming. Orca Soundings are issue-driven fiction for reluctant teen readers. Translation: big problems, little words. But with Crush, Mac infuses so much passion and heart into the story of a girl who's maybe crushing on another girl that it doesn't feel calculated in the least. Hope is the daughter of hippies, a little wild, maybe (there was that married guy in the hayloft, with the condom and the pot), but her priorities are all right. When she says goodbye for the summer to her parents-they're off to Thailand to build a volunteer school; she's parked in New York with her troubled older sister-she weeps. "No sane teenager should be sad to get rid of her parents for a couple of months, but I am. Suddenly, this is the saddest event in modern times." Hope isn't sure why the sudden lust for the boyish mechanic chick, but she's smart enough to ask herself some probing questions: "Just to say I'd kissed a girl? Is it because I'm staying with lesbians?.…It could also just be me doing what I often do, which is doing something for the sake of experience." Find some answers in this witty, entertaining glimpse into one kid's summer of discovering that "life is really hard if you're a person who's alive." (Orca Book Publishers, $9.95)

Exit Point (By Laura Langston) Less attractive, but weirdly compelling, is Laura Langston's Exit Point, another message novel with dynamic storytelling. This feels like an incomplete draft, awkward exposition filling in some hazy plot points. Like, why did Logan Freemont "choose" to die in a car crash at 16 rather than reaching "exit point five", a more natural death by choking on a grape at age 77? It turns out there are no accidents, which is a great ad for personal responsibility, except then, in what way is Logan's nine-year-old sister personally responsible for the sexual abuse she's enduring? As Logan makes like the Ghost of Christmas Past, he learns the butterfly-effect repercussions of the positive and negative actions he took during his life. Will all this add up to salvation for little Amy? Should it? Victoria's Langston raises important questions; let's hope other kids and adults will be there to help readers answer them-the novel doesn't on its own. (Orca Book Publishers, $16.95)

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