What I am is what I am
Multiple Lambda Literary Award nominee Vivek Shraya tells the story of a young South Asian boy whose mother nurtures his curiosity and burgeoning self-expression in The Boy and the Bindi (Arsenal Pulp Press). Sri Lankan artist Rajni Perera, who now makes her home in Toronto, provides the stunning visuals. ♦ From Groundwood Books comes A Boy Named Queen by Sara Cassidy, in which 10-year-old Evelyn doesn’t quite know what to make of the new boy at school and his shiny gym shorts, but realizes he’s the most interesting person she’s ever met. ♦ Meanwhile, in Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard (HarperCollins Canada), all Pen wants is to dress and act the way that feels right to her, even if it means disappointing her family and losing her closest friends.
Celebrating our differences
Whether it’s skin colour, hair texture, or how many dads you have, uniqueness is highlighted and celebrated in these inspirational tales.
- Lila and the Crow by Gabrielle Grimard (Annick Press)
- A Family is a Family is a Family by Sara O’Leary; Qin Leng, illus. (Groundwood)
- What Makes Us Unique? Our First Talk About Diversity (Just Enough series) by Dr. Jillian Roberts; Cindy Revell, illus. (Orca Book Publishers)
- French Toast by Kari-Lynn Winters; François Thisdale, illus. (Pajama Press)
- Heart Like a Wing by Dan Paxton Dunaway (Ronsdale Press)
- Boonoonoonous Hair by Olive Senior; Laura James, illus. (Tradewind Books)
- Making Canada Home: How Immigrants Shaped This Country by Susan Hughes (Owlkids Books)
- Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch with Tuan Ho; Brian Deines, illus. (Pajama)
- The Ship to Nowhere: On Board the Exodus by Rona Arato (Second Story Press)
A couple of astronauts-turned-authors have new releases out this fall. Everyone’s favourite spaceman Chris Hadfield casts back to his childhood for his story The Darkest Dark (Tundra), in which young Chris overcomes his fear of the dark after watching the moon landing. The mystifyingly talented Fan Brothers provide illustrations. ♦ Dr. Dave Williams, veteran of two Space Shuttle flights, takes a more scientific approach – with the help of co-author Loredana Cunti – to the final frontier in To Burp or Not to Burp: A Guide to Your Body in Space (Annick). ♦ On the fiction side, Kevin Sylvester’s MiNRS 2 (Simon & Schuster Canada) continues his series about children who find the only way to survive the war on their asteroid is to take refuge underground. ♦ In John Martz’s graphic novel Burt’s Way Home (Koyama Press), the title character is an orphan who believes he’s also an intergalactic space traveller trying to find his place in the, um, galaxy.
From Inuit-focused publisher Inhabit Media comes The Owl and the Lemming, a fun and informative tale featuring text and photography by Inuit filmmaker Roselynn Akulukjuk. • Also from Inhabit in November, Governor General’s History Award winner Aviaq Johnston presents a coming-of-age story about a young shaman in Those Who Run in the Sky. • Another young boy grows up a bit in Yellow Dog (Red Deer Press) by Miriam Körner, in which the 13-year-old protagonist gleans some valuable life lessons while learning to train sled dogs in northern Saskatchewan.
The first instalment of the Rahtrum Chronicles by Alberta author R.K. McLay is The Dream (Fifth House Publishers). Set in a reimagined Yukon, the story of a young caribou is filled with nature and magic. ♦ Told in a tone that recalls favourite fairy tales, John Sobol’s Friend or Foe? (Groundwood) features illustrations by A Year Without Mom author-illustrator Dasha Tolstikova. ♦ Respected comics artist Eric Orchard presents a troll with a conundrum (in the form of a human baby) in Bera the One-Headed Troll, coming from First Second Books (Raincoast) in August.
Veteran non-fiction writer Elizabeth MacLeod and illustrator Sydney Smith join forces for Canada Year by Year (Kids Can), which highlights a single milestone for each year in Canadian history, from 1867 to the present. • From Nimbus Publishing comes the picture book Abigail’s Wish, in which Gloria Ann Wesley tells the story of a Loyalist family in the early days of Birchtown, Nova Scotia. Halifax artist Richard Rudnicki provides illustrations. • Young Belgian Manon Wouters is a spy for the English facing increasing danger during the First World War in John Wilson’s A Dangerous Game (Doubleday Canada YA). • A 14-year-old boy attempts to make redress for his great-grandfather’s actions after learning the older man was part of the Manhattan Project. And Then the Sky Exploded by David A. Poulsen (Dundurn) appears in October. • Two girls, separated by more than 80 years, share a common acquaintance in Toronto author Danielle Webster’s debut, The Summer of Then and Now (Fierce Ink Press).
- Falcons in the City: The Story of a Peregrine Family by Chris Earley; Luke Massey, photo (Firefly)
- Gastro Blast: Make Tasty Treats and Learn Great Science by Moira Sanders (Formac Publishing)
Lessons in disguise
Kyo Maclear is known for her quirky and insightful books for kids. Her latest, The Liszts, about a family of list makers (described by publisher Tundra Books as a cross between The Addams Family and The Royal Tenenbaums), sounds like she’s staying true to form. The striking illustrations are courtesy of Barcelona-based artist Júlia Sardà. ♦ A young boy gets some help from his big sister in A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Mike Lowery (Kids Can), while another little guy’s family learns to take it easy in Jennifer Lanthier’s Hurry Up, Henry (Puffin Canada), with illustrations by Montreal artist Isabelle Malenfant. ♦ From Montreal-based publisher The Secret Mountain comes Blue and Red Make Purple, a musical CD by Grammy Award winner Jennifer Galoi and accompanying book with illustrations by Steve Adams.
Fans of Jeremy Tankard’s Grumpy Bird and Boo Hoo Bird will be thrilled to see the return this fall of the blue bird with attitude in Hungry Bird (Scholastic Canada). • Having established herself as a serious kidlit contender with The Princess and the Pony, Kate Beaton returns in September with another picture book from Scholastic. King Baby is a hilarious look at life with a tiny dictator in the house. • We Sang You Home (Orca) by author Richard Van Camp and illustrator Julie Flett is a kinder, gentler story about welcoming a newborn. • Sara O’Leary logically follows last year’s You Are One with this fall’s You Are Two (Owlkids), once again featuring illustrations by Karen Klassen.
Realistic stories for teens that address serious subjects continue to show a strong presence this fall. Dundurn Press’s lead YA title, Christina Kilbourne’s Detached, tells of a young woman battling depression after her grandparents are killed in an accident. ♦ In My Demon’s Name is Ed (Second Story), 18-year-old author Danah Khalil reveals the debilitating facts of living with an eating disorder, using her own diaries and experience as inspiration. Also from Second Story is the latest work from Saskatoon author Beth Goobie, no stranger to dark stories. The Pain Eater is about Maddy, a 15-year-old girl who slowly builds up the courage to confront the boys who raped her. ♦ Lighter in tone, Orca’s Seven Prequels are linked standalone novels by the authors of the original Seven series, and feature younger versions of that series’ characters, including the grandfather.
Real world problems
Books that open kids’ eyes to timely issues.
→ Fight to Learn: The Struggle to Go to School by Laura Scandiffio (Annick)
→ Enough Water? by the editors at Firefly Books (Firefly)
→ Riot School (Sidestreets Series) by Robert Rayner (Lorimer)
→ Pocket Change: Pitching In for a Better World by Michelle Mulder (Orca)
→ When the Rain Comes by Alma Fullerton; Kim La Fave, illus. (Pajama)
The truth will out
The residential school system is portrayed in two new boks for young readers this fall. Gillian Newland’s striking illustrations accompany Kathy Kacer’s text in I Am Not a Number (Second Story), based on the life of co-author Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis’s grandmother. • The latest instalment in Scholastic Canada’s successful Dear Canada series is These Are My Words by Ruby Slipperjack, who attended residential school in northern Ontario, and tells of a young girl who uses her diary to keep herself from forgetting her language and customs.
Mysterious, very mysterious
A few familiar faces make an appearance in sequels this season. The Blackthorn Key author Kevin Sands adds a second instalment to his series with Mark of the Plague (Simon & Schuster Canada). ♦ Gwendolyn Golden discovers she’s not the only night-flyer in Philippa Dowding’s Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me (Dundurn). ♦ Linda DeMeulemeester’s Grim Hill series expands to five titles with the addition of Forest of Secrets, due from Heritage House’s Wandering Fox imprint in October. ♦ Becky Citra’s latest, The Gryphon of Darkwood (Coteau Books), tells of 12-year-old Will Poppy, who finds himself living in a cursed castle.
More tales of mystery and the unexplained:
→ The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes by Wade Albert White (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/HBG Canada)
→ Sheldon Unger vs. the Dentures of Doom by Jeff Szpirglas (Star Crossed Press)
The wait is over, Jon Klassen fans. In October, the beloved Canadian author-illustrator will release his third (and likely last) hat book, a companion to the (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Award honor book I Want My Hat Back and the Caldecott Medal–winning This is Not My Hat. In We Found a Hat (Candlewick/PRH Canada), two turtles … find a hat. • Keep an eye on Cale Atkinson, whose 2015 debut as author-illustrator, To the Sea, was much admired. The animator-turned-illustrator will release the adorable Maxwell the Monkey Barber, a rhyming tale about a talented animal hairstylist, with Owlkids Books in August.
Jillian Tamaki contributes cover art and illustrations to American author Kate Beasely’s debut novel, Gertie’s Leap to Greatness (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Raincoast), which is already generating lots of buzz in advance of its October publication. ♦ Another girl with gumption stars in Clara Humble and the Not-so-Super Powers (Owlkids) by Anna Humphrey. The middle-grade novel, illustrated by Lisa Cinar, tells of a fourth grader who is almost sure she has special abilities. ♦ It’s a common fallacy that all little girls love ballet. In Elise Gravel’s picture book The Cranky Ballerina (HarperCollins), Ada can’t stand pliés and arabesques, but discovers there might be something to this whole dance experience. ♦ Marianne Dubuc is known for her fabulous animal tales, but in Lucy and Company (Kids Can), a human character takes centre stage. ♦ Once Upon a Time actor Keegan Connor Tracy will release her debut picture book in July. Mommy’s 26 Careers (Whitecap Books) uses the alphabet – and illustrations by Vancouver artist Roz MacLean – to explore all of the things a girl can be when she grows up
- The Road to Ever After (Doubleday Canada YA) is the latest from Moira Young, author of the popular Dust Lands series. The book tells of 13-year-old orphan Davy David, a boy who spends his days drawing elaborate angels in the dirt before the rest of the townsfolk awake, and stumbles into a friendship with an old woman everyone thinks is a witch.
- Kenneth Oppel has been consistent in his output of stellar children’s books for more than 20 years, and if the accolades his most recent titles have racked up are any indication, the author is only getting better with age. So expectations are running high for Every Hidden Thing (HarperCollins Canada). Set in the late 19th century, the story follows a pair of young star-crossed lovers whose fathers are in a race to find the bones of a massive dinosaur – and claim the infamy that will go with the discovery.
- The only thing more exciting than a new work of historical fiction from Ken Oppel is a sci-fi sequel from Erin Bow. Greta Gustafson Stuart, formerly Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy, returns in The Swan Riders (S&S Canada). Greta’s story continues as she embraces the artificial intelligence that gives her power, but is also rapidly destroying her human body. With AI leader Talis as her guide, Greta sets out across the almost deserted expanses of Saskatchewan on her way to ruling the world. If she can survive, that is.
Musician Hawksley Workman’s Almost a Full Moon (Tundra) is based on his 2001 holiday album of the same name. Featuring illustrations by Brooklyn artist Jensine Eckwall, the book draws on themes of family, togetherness, acceptance, and home. • Kids will happily sing along with Helaine Becker’s latest reimagining of a Christmas classic, Deck the Halls: A Canadian Christmas Carol (Scholastic Canada), the third zany holiday adventure by Becker and illustrator Werner Zimmerman.
More winter wondertales:
- The Branch by Mireille Messier; Pierre Pratt, illus. (Kids Can)
- The Snow Knows by Jennifer McGrath; Josée Bisaillon, illus. (Nimbus)
- The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold by Maureen Fergus; Cale Atkinson, illus. (Tundra)
- The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear; Chris Turnham, illus. (Chronicle Books/Raincoast)
- On My Skis by Kari-Lynn Winter; Christina Leist, illus. (Tradewind)
Glen Gretzky, brother of Wayne, draws inspiration from his sibling and dad, Walter, for Great (Puffin Canada), an inspiring tale of co-operation and self-esteem co-written with Lauri Holomis and illustrated by Kevin Sylvester. ♦ Another larger-than-life character inspired Elise Gravel to write The Great Antonio (Toon Books/PGC), based on legendary Montreal strongman Antonio Barichievich. ♦ It doesn’t get much more unique than Stompin’ Tom Connors. Gary Clement illustrates the former balladeer’s famous The Hockey Song, coming from Greystone Books in October.
It’s fairly safe to assume that any book from Canadian kidlit icon Kit Pearson is going to be good. Her latest middle-grade novel, A Day of Signs and Wonders (HarperCollins Canada), is inspired by the childhood of Emily Carr, and tells of a single day on the beach in 1881 Victoria. → Great Plains Publications’ literary imprint Enfield & Wizenty will release Art Lessons by Katherine Koller, in which Cassie ages from seven to 17, discovering the transformative power of visual art along the way. → Hollywood-born multidisciplinary artist Ohara Hale, who now resides in Montreal, explores the relationship between stillness and movement in terms young readers will understand in Be Still, Life (Enchanted Lion/PGC). → Vancouver journalist Jennifer Croll takes an anthropological view of how the clothes make the woman in Bad Girls of Fashion: Style Rebels from Cleopatra to Lady Gaga (Annick), which features visuals by Polish illustrator Ada Buchholc.
A pair of jacks
- Jack and the Magnificent Ugly Stick by Joshua Goudie, Craig Goudie, illus. (Tuckamore Books/Creative Publishing)
- Jack and the Green Man by Andy Jones, Darka Erdelji, illus. (Running the Goat Books and Broadsides)
Unlikely friendships are often the best, as proven by Edinburgh native Morag Hood in Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea (PanMacmillan/PGC). The two couldn’t be more different, but still get along famously. • Inspired by the life of Flannery O’Connor, The King of the Birds (Groundwood), written by Acree Graham Macam and illustrated by Natalie Nelson, tells of a young girl and her peacock, which refuses to show his flashy tail feathers. • Another off-beat animal is the focus of The Fox Who Ate Books (Annick). The story, by renowned German author-illustrator Franziska Biermann, is about a fox who loves his books so much he literally devours them. • Belgians Jean-Paul Mulders and illustrators Jacques Maes and Lise Braekers present The Pruwahaha Monster (Kids Can), about a little boy who encounters a less-than-terrifying monster while playing with his dad. • A girl learns to overcome her negative self-perception after she is bullied during swimming class in Abigail the Whale (Owlkids), written by Davide Cali and illustrated by Sonja Bougaeva. • American author Brendan Wenzel challenges readers to broaden their imagination, observation, and curiosity with They All Saw a Cat (Chronicle Books/Raincoast). • Actress Jamie Lee Curtis adds another title to her growing list of books for kids with This is Me: A Story of Who We Are and Where We Came From (Workman Publishing/Thomas Allen & Son). The picture book, illustrated by Laura Cornell, explores themes of identity and immigration. • Girls Can Do Anything: From Sports to Innovation, Art to Politics, Meet Over 200 Women Who Got There First (Firefly) is a chronological look at pioneering women by Caitlin Doyle with illustrations by Chuck Gonzales.
Middle-grade and YA
In July, Scholastic will publish the highly anticipated next instalment in the Harry Potter series. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts I & II, is the script book for the play of the same name, written by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany. It tells the story of an adult Harry and his son, Albus, who is reluctant to accept his magical destiny. ♦ Grace Lin’s When the Sea Turned to Silver (Little, Brown/HBG Canada) is an illustrated middle-grade novel based on Chinese folklore that tells of a girl determined to save her grandmother from the greedy Emperor. ♦ On the graphica front, Drawn & Quarterly will release the second instalment in Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro series, Kitaro Meets Nurarihyon, in October. ♦ Author Tilar J. Mazzeo, who splits her time between New York City, coastal Maine, and Saanichton, B.C., and children’s author Mary Cronk Farrell join forces to tell the story of the “female Oscar Schindler” in Irena’s Children (Simon & Schuster Young Readers).♦ One Half from the East (HarperCollins) is the YA debut from Nadia Hashimi. The author – who is also a practicing pediatrician – tells the story of bacha posh, preteen girls who dress as boys in Afghanistan. ♦ How sexual assault is handled by colleges and universities is at the heart of Wrecked (Algonquin Young Readers/Thomas Allen). The book, by Maria Padian, is the story of a girl who is raped at a wild party, and explores the event from the perspective of victim and perpetrator, and their friends. ♦ What happens when a girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen” meets up with a guy who is unable to recognize faces? That’s what New York Times bestselling-author Jennifer Niven explores in her novel, Holding Up the Universe (RH Children’s Publishing), which arrives in October.