A Charlotte Novel

96 pages,
ISBN: 0888993749

Looking for X

144 pages,
ISBN: 088899382x

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Children`s Books
by Jeffrey Canton

Life isn't easy for eleven-year-old Khyber. She's the smartest kid in her school and independent to boot. But her younger twin brothers, David and Daniel, are autistic and need a lot of care-a lot more care than her single mom, Tammy, a former stripper, can give. It seems as if Tammy is always juggling to keep the family together. It's tough when you're on social assistance and living in Regent Park.

Khyber is, however, a high-spirited young adventurer who tries hard not to let things get her down. She's decided that she's going to be an explorer when she grows up; she's even renamed herself after the famous Khyber Pass in Afghanistan, her real name being so horrible that she will never speak it, not even under torture. She might not have any school-aged friends, but she is best buddies with Valerie, the meanest waitress in Toronto (who has a soft spot for babies), and with X, a silent and mysterious homeless woman who won't tell Khyber anything about her past and who is in hiding from the secret police. When Khyber's world threatens to unravel and she needs X's help but is unable to find her, she goes looking for X across the city.

Looking for X was a runner-up for Groundwood Books' Twentieth Anniversary First Novel for Children contest. This quiet, moving book explores inner-city life with sensitivity and compassion from the perspective of a street-smart kid who is bursting with energy and imagination. Ellis doesn't shy away from depicting the poverty, but the novel is full of humour. Young readers will love watching Khyber work wedding parties at Allen Gardens, spar with Valerie at the Trojan Horse restaurant, and deal smartly with anyone who insults her beloved younger brothers.

Like Sarah Ellis' Pick-Up Sticks and Kit Pearson's Awake and Dreaming, Looking for X imaginatively opens up the world of the inner city for Canadian kids.

Move over, Ramona! Teddy Jam's spunky and irrepressible Charlotte, heroine of The Charlotte Stories, is back in a delightful, new, easy-to-read novel for younger readers, ttuM.

Ten-year-old Charlotte is heartbroken because her favourite teacher in all the world, Miss Ginn, is leaving the school to get married. Nothing will console Charlotte-not even scoring a home run in the last inning of a baseball game. Nothing, that is, but a small, black mutt that Charlotte is convinced saved her life after the game, a little dog she names ttuM. What kind of a name is ttuM? ttuM is a very unusual dog and only seems to understand things when you say them backwards. Charlotte is crazy to adopt ttuM, especially as she's never had a pet before, and, after much pestering, her parents agree to allow Charlotte to keep ttuM for a while.

Charlotte and her parents go up to the Lake of Bays for a summer holiday, taking ttuM with them. But Charlotte is worried that something very peculiar is going to happen and, sure enough, ttuM disappears without a trace. ttuM's disappearance is somehow connected with a mysterious stranger who canoes on the lake dressed completely in black, and with a ramshackle cottage that has a big, stone chimney, just perfect for a Hansel and Gretel witch. Is ttuM just a runaway dog or is the mysterious stranger responsible for ttuM's vanishing act?

ttuM is an enchanting new Charlotte adventure. It is as lively and playful as The Charlotte Stories, but has a more complex plot line that will engage young readers as they join Charlotte in solving the mystery of ttuM's disappearance. This is more than just a girl and her dog book. Teddy Jam offers us a guided tour of Charlotte's world, letting us see how she interacts with her parents and school friends, giving us a glimpse of her dreams, her hopes, and her fears. Charlotte isn't a perfect child by any means and this will aid children in identifying with her. She's determined, for example, to dislike her new teacher, Miss Downing, and discovers, in the course of the summer, that there's more to Miss Downing than meets the eye. Charlotte is a spirited and independent heroine who is sure to charm her way into the hearts of fans of The Charlotte Stories and new admirers alike. Harvey Chan's sprightly black and white line drawings add to the fun.

Here's hoping that we'll have more Charlotte stories soon! 


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