evergreen™


Ontario Library Association
Evergreen Reading Award™ Program

NOMINEES FOR 2011


 

 

Amphibian
Written by Carla Gunn

Phineas William Walsh has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the natural world. He knows that if you wet a dog's food with your saliva and he refuses to eat it, then he's top dog, and he knows that dolphins can sleep half a brain at a time. Far from being just idle information, though, Phin draws parallels between the humans in his life and other animals and uses his vast knowledge to try to adjust to and make sense of the confusion in his world – like his parents’ divorce and being bullied at school. But when an event unfolds in his fourth grade classroom that offends both his logic and sensibilities, Phin has had enough and he and his best friend, Bird, are spurred to action.
In a voice that has been compared to Salinger's Holden Caulfield, Phin reflects on the complex and troubled relationship between humans, animals and the environment all the while struggling to maintain his innocence. Is there really any evidence that the human animal is more good than bad, more compassionate than cruel? Is there any reason to hope for a kinder world?
Amphibian, was named a top book of 2009 by The Globe and Mail and The National Post, while Quill and Quire called the narrator, Phineas, one of the year’s most original voices. In 2010 Amphibian was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for best first book (Canada and the Caribbean). It is forthcoming in German translation (btb verlag) with the title Der Froschflüsterer translated as The Frog Whisperer.

 

 

 

Annabel
Written by Kathleen Winter

How do you decide on the gender of your newborn baby who shows both male and female genitals; and what are the long term consequences of such a decision?
In her first novel, Winter explores the struggles of Wayne,born in the late sixties in a cold remote rural community in Labrador with genitals belonging to both sexes. Only three people are privy to this secret - the parents Jacintha and Treadway and a close friend and midwife, Thomasina. How does one decide how to raise a hermaphrodite baby?
The father decides to name him Wayne and Wayne's errant future is set in motion. Through the next four hundred pages, Winter reveals the travails of the small family as it tries to confront and deal with the emotional and social turmoil that this misfortune has thrust upon them. Jacintha wonders if they have made the right decision. Treadway, a hunter, and awkward around his family, pushes hard to make Wayne a man. Thomasina nurtures the gentler spirit in him.
All the while Wayne strives, through childhood, youth and early adulthood, to reconcile his female identity simmering under the surface with his outward medically enhanced male self.
This emotionally complex, lyrical book examines the importance of identity to anchor one's life and the theme of isolation, both physical and emotional.
In spite of a host of characters who support him, Wayne struggles to find his place in society. The bleak landscape and the description of life in this harsh and uncompromising community enhance the sense of helplessness. Silence and secrecy reverberate through the cold bleak land. At the end Wayne's future is uncertain but Winter leaves us with a glimmer of hope.

 

 

Dahanu Road
Written by Anosh Irani

AS ZAIROS RODE TOWARDS the Anna Purna chai stall, he welcomed the sun. He hoped its heat would burn away the memories of the morning. He went past the abandoned train bogies, the bales of straw waiting to be transported to Bombay, the liquor booth where tribals numbed their brains for a few rupees, the collector’s office, the furniture shop that sold only mustard benches, the lumber mills with the creepy echo of sparrows, until he hit the main road, which was a dusty, rocky mess. It had been dug up, and bullock carts, trucks, vans, cars, and cycles wove through it, spraying rock debris from under their tires.
After Zairos passed Alan’s petrol pump with its wilted array of coconut trees, he turned left and almost ran over Pinky, a six-year-old orphan with an eternally runny nose, who had perched herself close to Anna Purna’s to secure her daily dose of Tiger biscuits. Anna, the owner of the chai stall, was an Indian Clark Gable: thin moustache, clean skin, hair always set in the most well-behaved manner. No one knew his real name so he was called Anna, or Elder Brother, the title given to any South Indian man who wore a lungi and ran a chai stall. Anna had an old Hollywood charm, but his wife was quite the opposite—dusky, and full enough to be on the cover of Debonair.
To the Iranis, Anna’s chai stall was one of Dahanu’s most prized possessions. It was a beloved meeting place—its hard wooden benches had seated many an overweight Irani over the years—a dingy hole beautifully suited to the hirsute features of the men that frequented the joint. At Anna’s, they were like beasts in a cave where they could fart, joke, smoke, abuse, and pontificate. Of course, they did this anywhere, but Anna’s was the home ground. Each morning, after making a round of their chickoo farms, the Iranis would gather here and drink tea, coffee, or Pepsi. Cigarette smoke gave the place a sinister haze, like fog in a cemetery. Yet the place was alive, full of joy and horniness, and credit had to be given to Anna’s steaming chai and his steamy wife.
At its peak, Anna’s chai stall offered a heady cocktail of languages. Anna spoke softly in Tulu to his wife and loudly in Hindi to the balloon-factory owners; some of the Iranis conversed in Dari just to remind the ones who didn’t that they were inferior and had been polluted by India, and the inferior Iranis, who spoke Gujarati, spoke it in a crass manner to make the actual Gujaratis, the Indian ones, feel infuriated that their language was being bastardized in the cheapest way. But in the end, if one kept some distance, one could see the beauty of Anna’s, that brothel of languages.

 

 

Death Spiral
Written by James W. Nichol

This complex, multi-layered thriller opens with a glorious hero’s welcome for Wilf McLauchlin, a celebrated Canadian Spitfire fighter pilot who scored 12 “kills” during WWII and miraculously survived his own serious injuries. Wilf seems to be a magnet for dark and violent crimes that begin seeping from the small town in the war’s aftermath.
Is Wilf the common motivating element in all these crimes, as he begins to fear? And what happened to him in Europe during the War? Wilf was shot down in Germany, near Buchenwald, and lost his sight for three months. There are several missing days, from the time of his crash to the time he was found by American soldiers. What happened in those intervening days? Do the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials that are absorbing his father offer insight? Death Spiral is an engrossing thriller, a literary tour-de-force, and a meditation on the deforming nature of war for aggressors, heroes, and by-standers alike.

 

 

Far to Go
Written by Alison Pick

This Holocaust tale is set in Czechoslovakia and is based on true events from the lives of Pick’s grandparents. Like many of their successful and comfortable contemporaries, the Bauer family cannot believe that the anti-Jewish tide sweeping Germany will reach them until Hitler marches across the Sudetenland and the Nazis invade their little corner of the world. As they struggle unsuccessfully to find a way out of the country themselves, they maintain a slim hope of getting their young son onto a Kindertransport. Movingly told from the perspective of both the war era and the present, and in the voices of the Bauer’s nanny and various relatives who did not survive, this novel recounts well known events from a fresh and deeply affecting perspective.

 

 

A Man in Uniform
Written by Kate Taylor

At the height of the Belle Époque, François Dubon lives a well-ordered life in the bourgeois quarters of Paris’ eighth arrondissement. When not busy with his prosperous legal practice, he enjoys both a contented marriage to his aristocratic wife, Geneviève, and satisfying afternoon encounters with his mistress, Madeleine.
But when a mysterious widow arrives at his office, his complacent existence turns to harrowing adventure. The alluring lady insists that only Dubon can rescue her innocent friend, an army captain by the name of Dreyfus who has been wrongfully convicted of espionage and exiled to Devil’s Island. Against his better judgment, Dubon finds himself drawn into a dangerous case that shatters his life — and triggers political upheaval throughout France.

 

 

Night Shift
Written by Brian Goldman

In The Night Shift (September 18, 2010), Goldman shares his experiences of working through the witching hours at Mount Sinai, as well as at the other hospitals where he has spent his long career. We meet the kinds of patients who walk into an E.R. after midnight: late-night revelers injured on their way home after last calls; teens assaulted in the streets by other teens; and one woman who was punched by another out of jealousy over a man. But Goldman also reveals the emotional, heart-breaking side of routine E. R. visits: victims of sexual assault; adult children forced to make life-and-death decisions about critically ill parents; police officers searching out injured suspects; and mentally ill and homeless patients looking for understanding and a quick fix in the twenty-four-hour waiting room. While the rest of the world sleeps, nurses, doctors, and other health-care practitioners administer to the city’s sick and unfortunate, fuelled by coffee and the collective desire to help those often unable to help themselves as they await diagnosis in the charged confines of the hospital’s E.R.

 

 

Room
Written by Emma Donoghue

Seven years ago, Jack's mother was kidnapped and held captive in a man's soundproof garden shed. Equipped with little more than an analog television, the room, measuring eleven feet square, is her prison - but to Jack, her son (now five years old), Room is the whole world.
Told from the perspective of precocious Jack, Emma Donoghue's Room tells the story of him and his mother as they try to cope and grow in a room that seems to shrink further as they continue to age. More saccharine than it is Sartre, Room aims for the heartstrings and plucks them all. It's a dreadful story, but imbued with such tenderness and hope that any sort of reader will surely empathize with Room's inhabitants.
The trouble with Room is that it is fueled by dialogue that's structured entirely around clarification. Jack, being only five, has trouble with idioms and expressions and questions nearly everything his mother says to him. Here, they discuss "Old Nick", their captor:
"He looks human, but there's nothing inside."
I'm confused. "Like a robot?"
"Worse."
"One time there was this robot on Bob the Builder - "
Ma butts in. "You know your heart, Jack?"
"Bam bam." I show her on my chest.
"No, but your feeling bit, where you're sad or scared or laughing or stuff?"
That's lower down, I think it's in my tummy.
"Well, he hasn't got one."
"A tummy?"

 

 

Still Missing
Written by Chevy Stevens

On the day she was abducted, Annie O’Sullivan, a thirty-two year old Realtor, had three goals—sell a house, forget about a recent argument with her mother, and be on time for dinner with her ever- patient boyfriend. The open house is slow, but when her last visitor of the day pulls up in a van as she's about to leave, Annie thinks it just might be her lucky day after all.
Interwoven with the story of the year Annie spent captive of a sadistic psychopath in a remote mountain cabin, which unfolds through sessions with her psychiatrist, is a second narrative recounting events following her escape—her struggle to piece her shattered spirit back together and the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor.
The truth doesn’t always set you free.

 

 

The Tiger
Written by John Vaillant

It’s December 1997, and a man-eating tiger is on the prowl outside a remote village in Russia’s Far East. The tiger isn’t just killing people, it’s annihilating them, and a team of men and their dogs must hunt it on foot through the forest in the brutal cold. As the trackers sift through the gruesome remains of the victims, they discover that these attacks aren’t random: the tiger is apparently engaged in a vendetta. Injured, starving, and extremely dangerous, the tiger must be found before it strikes again.
As he re-creates these extraordinary events, John Vaillant gives us an unforgettable portrait of this spectacularly beautiful and mysterious region. We meet the native tribes who for centuries have worshipped and lived alongside tigers, even sharing their kills with them. We witness the arrival of Russian settlers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, soldiers and hunters who greatly diminished the tiger populations. And we come to know their descendants, who, crushed by poverty, have turned to poaching and further upset the natural balance of the region.
This ancient, tenuous relationship between man and predator is at the very heart of this remarkable book. Throughout we encounter surprising theories of how humans and tigers may have evolved to coexist, how we may have developed as scavengers rather than hunters, and how early Homo sapiens may have fit seamlessly into the tiger’s ecosystem. Above all, we come to understand the endangered Siberian tiger, a highly intelligent super-predator that can grow to ten feet long, weigh more than six hundred pounds, and range daily over vast territories of forest and mountain.
Beautifully written and deeply informative, The Tiger circles around three main characters: Vladimir Markov, a poacher killed by the tiger; Yuri Trush, the lead tracker; and the tiger himself. It is an absolutely gripping tale of man and nature that leads inexorably to a final showdown in a clearing deep in the taiga.