Q&Q’s Books for Young People editor selects her favourite children’s books of 2015
We Are All Made of Molecules
Susin Nielsen (Tundra Books)
The Truth Commission
Susan Juby (Razorbill Canada)
Brilliant, and brilliantly funny. That pretty much sums up the work of Susin Nielsen and Susan Juby, two B.C. authors known for writing heartfelt, touching, and laugh-out-loud stories. Their latest books are no exception. Juby’s thought-provoking The Truth Commission takes a good, hard look at the lies we tell, and the consequences of revealing them. Nielsen’s We Are All Made of Molecules is another standout example of her trademark combination of comedy and tragedy, exploring love, loss, and the meaning of family. Both of these ladies earn awards and praise for their work on a regular basis, and there’s a reason for that: they’re good.
Allan Stratton (Scholastic Canada)
Allan Stratton’s psychological thriller does more than just entertain, it enlightens. Along with the intricate and truly creepy horror elements, Stratton creates a nuanced exploration of abuse and its long-lasting repercussions. Vivid, realistic characters and dialogue trumpet the author’s other talent as a playwright, even as he blurs the line between what is real and what is imagined.
The Princess and the Pony
Kate Beaton (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic Canada)
Hark! A Vagrant comic creator Kate Beaton’s first foray into children’s books is a stellar example of what can happen when you take a boring old trope and turn it on its ear with a good dose of subversive wit. Beaton’s Princess Pinecone and her walleyed, flatulent pony prove that dry humour, an atypically un-prissy heroine, and just the right amount of girl power go a long way to producing a story that appeals on many levels.
JonArno Lawson; Sydney Smith, illus. (Groundwood Books)
This is Sadie
Sara O’Leary; Julie Morstad, illus. (Tundra Books)
There is something truly wonderful about picture books that show kids just being kids. The idea of a wordless picture book having both an author and an illustrator seems to make little sense, but poet JonArno Lawson’s wordless story about a young girl observing the world around her as her distracted father hurries her along is brought wonderfully to life by Sydney Smith’s detailed and evocative illustrations. The little heroine of Sidewalk Flowers might get along pretty well with the rambunctious and imaginative star of Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad’s equally lovely This is Sadie. Whether the characters are shown contemplating a dead bird or pretending to sail away on a tall ship, these two books celebrate the discoveries and joys of childhood.
The Adventures of Miss Petitfour
Anne Michaels; Emma Block, illus. (Tundra Books)
Toronto’s new poet laureate is known for her moody adult poetry and fiction, so it came as a surprise when her kidlit debut turned out to be a fun and whimsical confection of sweet stories about a young woman and her 16 cats who take to the sky using a tablecloth as a sort of non-hot air balloon. Full of delightful language that skips and lilts off the page and the tongue, Michaels’s first book for kids might even be better than the stuff she writes for adults.
Sex is a Funny Word
Cory Silverberg; Fiona Smyth, illus. (Seven Stories Press)
Bold, bright, honest, and inclusive, Cory Silverberg’s tell-it-like-it-is introduction to sex and sexuality is a timely and on-point text that acknowledges the embarrassment and taboo of talking about these subjects and allows kids to access quality information from a reliable source, rather than their best friend or – worse – the Internet.
Carolyn Beck; François Thisdale, illus. (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
There are plenty of books that deal with difficult subjects for young readers, but few handle the subject of death with as much grace and delicacy as Carolyn Beck’s story about a boy who loses his best friend. Beck’s narrative addresses the grief, anger, and healing such a tragedy brings, and is awash in hope-filled poetry matched by François Thisdale’s striking, multifaceted images.