December 11, 2022
  • December 11, 2022

StarPhoenix Book Reviews: Arthur Slade and Alice Kuipers

By on May 18, 2019 0


StarPhoenix literary critic Bill Robertson reviews three new books for young adults – two by Arthur Slade and one by Alice Kuipers.

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Governor General’s Award-winning author Arthur Slade is back with one or two more books, depending on how you count his prodigious output. Slade has long harnessed the energies of the Internet, releasing a series of novels in electronic form to his legions of fans online. Now in front of me are two novels, Death by Airship (Orca, $ 9.95), a brand new softcover publication, and Amber Fang: Hunted (Orca, $ 14.95), a print version of a novel that has been in cyberspace since 2016.


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Death by Airhship by Arthur Slade
Death by Airhship by Arthur Slade Photo provided

Death by Airship features a family of airborne pirates who have divided their known world between themselves – mother, father and their large brood – each patrolling part of the sky in their mysterious wooden ships held aloft by airships . Yes, it’s a strange mix of modern and strangely old.

Prince Conn, the youngest of the family, is the ninth contender to the throne, and he has resigned himself to the fact that he will never be the Pirate King. Then right off the bat, her siblings start dying in all kinds of horrific ways – cannonball, volcano, the usual kind. In fact, from the first page, someone is trying to bring him down, and the novel, in action blasts, tries to follow Conn as he tries to solve the mystery of who brings down his brothers and sisters and blame it on him.

This book is part of Orca’s Hi-Lo reading series: short, interesting novels aimed at a lower reading level, but with “age-appropriate plots, characters and storylines.” Slade, a master of gung-ho, young adult novels, mixes a lot of action and intrigue with his beloved sense of humor. On page three, Conn tells us that one of his brothers is not in the running for the throne because he “gave up hacking to become a librarian.” We are all so ashamed of him. The folks at the Saskatoon Public Library, where Slade was writer in residence, will love this one.

Amber Fang: hunted down by Arthur Slade
Amber Fang: hunted down by Arthur Slade Photo provided

And they’ll love Amber Fang’s heroine: Hunted. In fact, Slade dedicates the novel “to the librarians”, because Amber, a true vampire, in the midst of his recruitment by a nebulous organization dedicated to world peace through the assassination of evildoers, some of these assassination attempts and his monthly “feeds,” “really spends time studying to become a librarian. It is important for Amber to hone her research skills, as she is somewhat of a moral vampire. None of that Nosferatu and Dracula stuff for her. She was raised strictly by her mother to feed only on those who deserve to die: that is, killers without remorse.


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Far from the easy Death by Airship joke, Amber Fang is a YA novel for young adults testing the turbulent waters of ethics, morals, geopolitics, history, social media and popular culture. . By creating a vampire protagonist, Slade must find a way for her to get his blood and be moral in doing so. Truly? A vampire becomes judge, juror and executioner at lightning speed, Ninja style? How can Amber, or the “League” that wants to recruit her, decide who is bad and who dies? Countries do it all the time, of course. I think George W. Bush called it the export of democracy.

And there is also a mystery here. Amber spends the novel scouring the globe so as not to attract attention while wondering what happened to his mother. Now that Amber is on the League’s radar for assassin jobs, she has other vampires looking for her as well. Slade mixes high and low cultural credentials with wild action, ethical contemplation, and a keen eye on where the world is heading right now. Young people know what the leaders are doing and take to the streets.

Always smile by Alice Kuipers
Always smile by Alice Kuipers Photo provided

In 2013, a young Toronto woman named Carley Allison was living on top of the world. She was “a competitive figure skater, musician and full-time student at school.” On top of that, she excelled in athletics, had a large circle of friends, and came from a loving, hard-working and well-off family who could provide for her every need and desire. Then she got sick. “My condition was clear cell sarcoma in the trachea. I was the second known case of this in the world – one in 3.5 billion chance. “


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Saskatoon writer Alice Kuipers has collected memories of Carley Allison’s families and friends on Carley’s journey through cancer, family photos and, most importantly, Carley’s own blog posts on how she got through cancer. walked through his everyday life now that everything had changed. The title of this book is Always Smile (KidsCanPress, $ 18.99), Carley’s motto, regardless of the diagnosis or prognosis she had just received.

Readers follow Carley through her initial diagnosis, the ravages of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor enough for surgery, the throat surgery, radiation therapy, and Carley’s slow recovery. Of course, she can’t go to school, so she puts her unusually high energy into her blog, keeping her morale up and those of her followers. Eventually, she recovered enough to resume skating and sing in places as prestigious as the Air Canada Center for an NHL game. There is not a dry eye in the house.

Carley uses the same competitive spirit she brings to skating to beat cancer, and for a while she does, but her triumph is short-lived. Doctors remove cancer from her windpipe, but it travels to her lungs. She fought valiantly but died in March 2015. But Always Smile’s goal isn’t that Carley fought and lost. Her blogs, testimonials from her families, and the skillful arrangement of Kuipers material show the passion, dignity and fierce determination this young woman brought to her battle with cancer. “This is where I can show my best self – the one who is not afraid, the one who can inspire others to live their best lives. I put a smile on my face and start typing.



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