The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

astonishing A beautiful exploration of mental illness, family, and culture. The Astonishing Color of After takes place immediately after Leigh’s mother has committed suicide. Leigh, who is already a teenager discovering her place in the world, struggles to come to terms with what happened – and how her mother’s depression has affected both Leigh and her father. Believing that her mother’s spirit is still present, Leigh travels to Taiwan to reconnect with her estranged maternal grandparents.

This is a beautiful, thoughtful look at mental illness and grief, as well as an exploration of Taiwanese culture (the author’s background as well.) It’s also a touching reflection on family. The chapters move back in forth in time – present day Taiwan, and in the past, with flashes of memory surrounding Leigh’s mother and parents.

The subject matter here could easily become either melodramatic or saccharine, but Emily X. R. Pan has managed to write an incredibly thoughtful and balanced book that explores heavy topics with grace and a deft hand. I loved the writing, and I loved spending time with Leigh in Taiwan as she rediscovers her mother’s roots. Quietly powerful and highly recommended. (Submitted by Veronica)

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The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

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You think you are getting a light, ‘fast read’ kind of book when you first pick this one up, especially at the start, but once you get into it, the themes that emerge can be thought provoking. Loss is the main premise and the author gives it to us in many angles, of a child, a parent, a marriage. Even if you think this description sounds depressing, I feel Monica Wood has handled all of this with a gentle hand and humour. This book was recommended to me and I’m definitely going to recommend it to others. (Submitted by Renee)

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Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese

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A beautifully, sparely written novel about a young man and his estranged father, who find themselves on a final walk together. Franklin Starlight, an Ojibway teenager, knows next to nothing about his family, or his past. Along comes (returns) Eldon, his alcoholic absentee father, who takes Franklin on a last “medicine walk” to try and reconnect and finally share Frank’s history.

This was so beautiful. There are no saccharine, overtly emotional scenes. Richard Wagamese writes with careful expertise, and we share so much with these two characters without having too much unneccesary actual dialogue. Nature plays a great and important role, calming and vast, giving the Starlight men a world to disappear into.

This is a story about making mistakes, finding forgiveness, and moving on. There are no pleading excuses from Eldon, no righteous speeches from Frank. The themes of loyalty, family, love, and finding peace within yourself are all here, and explored beautifully. I look forward to reading more of Wagamese’s titles. (Submitted by Veronica)

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Pick A Pine Tree by Patricia Toht

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This delightful new picture book takes a look at Christmas traditions, especially that most important one – picking out and decorating the tree! Full of charming, retro illustrations, a diverse cast of loving family and friends, and lively rhyming text, it’s sure to become a holiday favourite. (Submitted by Gayle)

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