Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life

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Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life

By Beverley Brenna
Illustrated by Tara Anderson
Illustrated Junior Novel Ages 8–12
ISBN: 978-1-77278-069-7
List Price: $19.95 CAD / $16.95 USD
Hardcover with dust jacket
Trim Size: 5.5 x 8 inches / 13.97 x 20.32 cm
Pages: 160

Publication Date: February 22, 2019

Distributed in the U.S. by Ingram Publisher Services

A poignant and humorous middle-grade novel for fans of Flora and Ulysses

It’s not every day you encounter a hamster experiencing an existential crisis, but Sapphire has spent her short pet-store life convinced that she’s waiting for…something. At first she thinks it’s to be FREE, but it may be possible that life has a greater purpose in store—a purpose Sapphire will discover thanks to a nine-year-old girl whose family is changing in ways she doesn’t quite understand. Jeannie’s dad has moved out, her mom is always tired and snappish, and her older brother just wants to play video games in his room all day. Jeannie doesn’t understand what’s going on, but she knows one thing: she really, REALLY wants a hamster. Her mom promised she could buy one with her Christmas money, but it’s been WEEKS since the holidays and Jeannie’s beginning to worry she’ll never get her pet. But maybe if she does, her dad will come to visit. Maybe a hamster will make everything better.

Narrated by Jeannie and Sapphire in alternating chapters, Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life is a touching middle-grade novel by award-winning author Beverley Brenna that explores themes of family, friendship, togetherness, and self-identity.Chapter heads are adorned with spot illustrations of the spirited and frisky Sapphire by illustrator Tara Anderson who is known for her lively and humorous animal drawings. With a cast that includes a transgender neighbour, a father coming out as gay, and a realistic protagonist who will appeal to fans of Ramona Quimby, Brenna’s latest offering is an age-appropriate introduction to some difficult subjects that also abounds with humor and poignancy.

Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life was written in consultation with OutSaskatoon, an organization that supports LGBTQ2S+ people of all ages.

Reviews:

“Alternating narrators Jeannie and her pet hamster exude an endearing impetuousness in this novel about family and finding one’s true self….Brenna (The White Bicycle) expands on themes of identity and acceptance by introducing Anna, Jeannie’s mother’s transgender friend, and Robin, the man who is Harvey’s new partner….Fetching portraits of Sapphire by Anderson (Rhino Rumpus) open each chapter.”—Publishers Weekly

Sapphire the Great is full of zest….Throughout the novel, the theme of gender-nonconformity is present without being explicitly broken down or didactic….Brenna’s novel also directly challenges young readers to think beyond cisgender norms. These original stories would be very helpful classroom resources to provide an entry point for anti-bias and inclusive language and to open up important conversations on gender, self-identity, and inclusivity.”—Quill & Quire

“This slice-of-life Canadian import is more than just another ‘I want to get a pet’ tale….Sapphire and Jeannie narrate alternating chapters, and neither is completely aware of all that is going on around them. Sapphire, especially, reports dialogue and action she does not fully understand, adding an additional layer to this tale of understanding difference.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Brenna hit a homerun with [Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life]! It grabs you…and pulls you in on the very first page and doesn’t let go of your heartstrings until the last page.”—HW Book Reviews

“This book exposes children to a variety of family types, and opens the door to discussion in a positive way of these differences. A great addition to any library.”—Canadian Bookworm