Elizabeth Stewart's Blue Gold (Annick 2014) is about as cutting edge as a Young Adult novel can be. It doesn't just have a smart book trailer for internet promotion; Stewart has crafted a timely, geo-political drama that links three seemingly disparate lives on three continents to the global trade in blue gold, an essential component for cell phones and computers.

Laiping has left her village to work in a cell phone factory with deplorable conditions in China; Sylvia is a marooned in a dreadful refugee camp after her father was killed by a rogue militia group fighting to control mining for blue gold in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Fiona's seemingly easy North American life is turned-upside-down when she takes a photo with her cell phone that soon comes to deeply regret.

Stewart has done her research to make these lives believable. Although she does not proselytize in the novel, the story makes every reader want to google the subject matter, particularly the deadly "blue gold rush"; in the eastern Congo, to further grasp how ever-increasing technological efficiency comes at an exceedingly high price, mainly for all those who can't afford it.

Blue gold is the colloquial term for coltan, an ore known industrially as tantalite. Elements of niobium and tantalum are extracted from columbite-tantalite (the scientific name) to make tiny tantalum capacitators. In Africa, where 57% of blue gold is mined, the Democratic Republic of Congo is the chief source. Some Canadian-based mining companies have been complicit in the deadly strife there.

For ages 10-14, Elizabeth Stewart's first YA novel, The Lynching of Louis Sam (Annick 2012), was inspired by the true story of a murder in Washington State, in the late 1800s, after which a young member of the Sto:lo First Nation (or tribe, in the U.S.), named Louis Sam, was pursued into Canada by vigilantes, seized, and hung without a fair trial. The lynching was recently acknowledged as an historical injustice by Washington State. The Lynching of Louie Sam has won multiple awards, including the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction, the John Spray Mystery Award, a 2013 Skipping Stones Honor Award, and was named a 2013 Notable Book for a Global Society.

Born in Hamilton, Elizabeth Stewart worked as a researcher and producer for current affairs at CBC-TV in Toronto prior to moving to Vancouver where she has turned to dramatic screenwriting for TV series that focus on programs for children and youth. She has won Writers Guild of Canada Top Ten Awards for YTV's The Adventures of Shirley Holmes and for Guinevere Jones, a 26-episode action-adventure series for teens that she created, wrote and executive produced. Having switched to feature films, she has screen credits for CTV movies of the week Tagged: The Jonathan Wamback Story, about teen violence, and Luna: Spirit of the Whale, about the stray killer whale in Nootka Sound that ultimately died. First Nations in the area claimed Luna was the spiritual embodiment of their late chief. Both films were nominated for Gemini Awards.


The Lynching of Louis Sam (Annick 2012) $12.95 978-1-55451-356-7

Blue Gold (Annick 2014) Softcover $12.95 9781554516346

[BCBW 2014]