Catherine Austen books for young people

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"Her writing cuts straight to the heart."

(The Globe and Mail).

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Funny, Sad, Therapeutic - Walking Backward

Walking Backward cover When Josh's mother dies in a phobia-induced car crash, she leaves two questions for her grieving family: how did a snake get into her car? and how do you mourn with no faith to guide you?

Twelve-year-old Josh is left alone to find the answers. His father is building a time machine. His four-year-old brother is talking to a plastic Power Ranger. His psychiatrist offers nothing more than a blank journal.

Isolated by grief in a home where every day is pajama day, Josh makes death his research project. He tests the mourning practices of religions he doesn't believe in. He reads the Darwin Awards to judge the stupidity of his mother’s accident. He interviews the neighbours in search of a murder suspect. He tries to mend his little brother's shattered heart. He observes, records and waits—for his life to feel normal, for his mother's death to make sense, for his father to come out of the basement.


"[T]his work of children's literature should withstand the test of time....Highly recommended." (CM Magazine)

"An elegantly crafted volume of lasting power." (Kirkus Reviews)

"Austen breaks from the pack with this confident and peculiar debut." (Booklist)

"[An] outstanding debut novel....[Austen] delivers a wise, rich novel, wonderfully compelling for children and adults alike." ( The Globe and Mail)

Read more reviews.

Awards and Honours

  • An Ontario Library Association 2009 Best Bet
  • A finalist for the 2010 Quebec Writers' Federation Prize for Children's and Young Adults' Literature
  • A finalist for the Canadian Library Association's 2010 Book of the Year for Children Award
  • A Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award 2010 nominee
  • A Saskatchewan Diamond Willow Award 2011 nominee
  • A British Columbia 2011/2012 Red Cedar Award nominee
  • A starred selection in the Canadian Children's Book Centre's 2011 Best Books for Kids and Teens

Juvenile Fiction (ages 9+)

  • 167 pages, paperback or e-book editions
  • Themes: grief, phobias, journals, families, brothers
  • published October 2009; ISBN: 978-1-55469-147-0

Buy a Copy

You can purchase a copy of Walking Backward via one of these links: snake picture

Or you can find a copy at your local library. (If your local library doesn't carry a title, ask and they may purchase it for their collection or find you a copy via interlibrary loan.)

If you're really stuck, I can probably lend you my copy.

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