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2021 Best of Fall guide: Kids’ books

Tales of love, resilience, and friendship

New Year
Mei Zihan and Yan Yan, trans.; Qin Leng, ill.
Greystone Kids, November

Set during the celebratory Lunar New Year, a father misses his daughter who resides in another country in this story about home, independence, and love. It’s brought to life with stunning watercolour illustrations by Governor General’s Literary Award nominee Qin Leng.

Lost Things
Carey Sookocheff
Kids Can Press, September

From the critically acclaimed author of the Buddy and Earl series comes this charming story of things lost and found, which reminds readers that while you can’t control what happens, you can control how you respond. Within a cool blue and green palette, the colour orange represents each lost item.

A Sky-Blue Bench

A Sky-Blue Bench
Bahram Rahman and Peggy Collins, ill.
Pajama Press, November

Aria, an Afghani girl, is eager to return to school, but her new prosthetic “helper leg” makes sitting on the classroom floor far too uncomfortable. So Aria decides to build a bench for herself. Ontario-based Peggy Collins illustrates this heartwarming story about a resilient young girl who faces a barrier to her education.

It Fell from the Sky
Terry Fan and Eric Fan
Simon & Schuster, Sept.

Two of the Governor General’s Literary Award–winning brothers behind The Barnabus Project return with their next picture book collaboration, which follows Spider as he takes ownership of, and profits from, a mysterious object that falls from the sky. Themes of friendship and ethics are exquisitely captured in the predominantly grey illustrations.

One Summer in Whitney Pier
Mayann Francis and Letitia Fraser, ill.
Nimbus Publishing, September

Mayann Francis, the 31st lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, joins emerging artist Letitia Fraser for this story about 11-year-old Francis’s summer break filled with traditional Caribbean foods and a stitching project that brings a diverse Cape Breton community together.

Great Too
Lauri Holomis and Glen Gretzky; Kevin Sylvester, ill.
Puffin Canada/PRHC, October

Friends Taylor and Wayne are working on their perfect play in this follow-up to the bestselling picture book Great. Sylvester, author of the Neil Flambé series, illustrates this confidence-building story about the game we all love.

More picture books

Everybody!, Elise Gravel (North Winds Press/Scholastic Canada, Oct.)
Friends Are Friends, Forever, Dane Liu and Lynn Scurfield, ill. (Henry Holt and Co./Raincoast Books, Dec.)
The Loudest Bark, Gail Schwartz and Lucie Gagnon; Amélie Ayotte, ill. (Rebel Mountain Press, Oct.)
The Toys’ Christmas, Genevieve Godbout and Claire Clément, ill. (Francis Lincoln Children’s Books/Canadian Manda Group, Oct.)
The Atheneum, Trevor Newland (Simply Read Books, Sept.)
For Laika: The Dog Who Learned the Names of the Stars, Kai Cheng Thom and Kai Yun Ching, ill.
(Arsenal Pulp Press, Oct.)

Stories of hope, identity, and magic

A Struggle for Hope
Carol Matas
Scholastic Canada, October

In the latest novel from Carol Matas – author of Lisa’s War – Ruth has survived the Holocaust and the journey to Palestine but finds herself in yet another war zone. As she is reminded of past trauma, Ruth comes to realize she must find a way to move forward without losing hope.

Pax, Journey Home
Sara Pennypacker and Jon Klassen, ill.
Balzer + Bray/HCC, September

Sara Pennypacker and illustrator Jon Klassen reunite for the long-awaited sequel to Pax, which finds Peter and his pet fox, Pax, living separate lives. But when one of Pax’s kits falls ill, he sets off on a perilous journey to find the only human he trusts.

A Sure Cure for Witchcraft
Laura Best
Nimbus Publishing, September

Best mixes magic with friendship in a novel set in both 18th-century Germany and present-day Nova Scotia. When Lilli’s father informs the family they’ll be moving to the New World, Lilli and Alisz, the wise woman she’s been learning from, pledge to be “soul friends,” inseparable by space and time.

Meranda and the Legend of the Lake
Meagan Mahoney
Owlkids Books, September

In this debut novel by Calgary pediatric doctor Meagan Mahoney, magic meets mystery as our heroine Meranda, an 11-year-old who uses a crutch, pieces together her family history. Ability, identity, and loss are explored as Meranda visits her parents’ Cape Breton hometown.

Sorry for Your Loss
Joanne Levy
Orca Book Publishers, October

Evie Walman loves dusting caskets and polishing pews at the Jewish funeral home her parents run. She doesn’t usually interact much with grieving families, but that all changes when her parents ask her to help Oren, a boy who was in a car accident that killed his mom and dad.

The Great Bear: The Misewa Saga, Book Two
David A. Robertson
Puffin Canada/PRHC, September
The Governor General’s Literary Award winner for When We Were Alone returns with the second instalment in The Misewa Saga. Eli and Morgan travel back in time to visit their friends only to discover the village is in grave danger and the two must find the strength to protect those they hold dear.

The next book

Lost Shadow: A Song Dog Adventure, Claire Gilchrist (Dundurn Press, Sept.)
Egg Marks the Spot: Skunk and Badger 2, Amy Timberlake and Jon Klassen, ill. (HarperCollins, Sept.)
Ara the Dream Innovator, Komal Singh and Ipek Konak, ill. (Page Two Books, Sept.)
The Case of the Shrinking Friend: A Gumboot Kids Nature Mystery, Eric Hogan and Tara Hungerford, ill. (Firefly Books, Oct.)

Memorable page-turners and new titles from bestselling authors

Tahira in Bloom
Farah Heron
Skyscape/Amazon Publishing, November

After her fashion internship fizzles, 17-year-old Tahira, the protagonist of Heron’s new romantic comedy, reluctantly agrees to work at her aunt’s flower boutique in the small town of Bakewell, Ontario, for the summer. To her surprise, Tahira gains an appreciation for floral design and for Rowan Johnston, a cute garden nerd.

Hunting by Stars
Cherie Dimaline
Penguin Teen, October

This fall, the highly anticipated sequel to The Marrow Thieves finds 17-year-old French locked in a pitch-black room with only one way out. When he crosses paths with his found family, French is forced to decide just what he’ll do to survive.

Sarah Raughley (Melanie Gillis)

The Bones of Ruin
Sarah Raughley
Margaret K. McElderry Books/S&S, September

In this historical fantasy set in Victorian London from Q&Q contributor Sarah Raughley, Iris, an African tightrope walker who has no memories of her past, harbours a haunting secret: she cannot die. On a mission to learn who she is, Iris meets Adam Temple, who knows more about her than he lets on, and gets embroiled in a grisly tournament held by the mysterious Enlightenment Committee.

The Story of My Life Ongoing, by C.S. Cobb
Candas Jane Dorsey
Inanna Publications, October

In the upcoming novel from prolific Edmonton author Dorsey, Corey Cobb, who was born intersex, must live with their disapproving mother after Corey’s father dies suddenly. Instead of quality time with mom, Corey’s admitted to a psychiatric ward after refusing to choose a gender. There, Corey meets Kim and the two uncover truths about one another’s past.

Nina Laurin (Maude Michaud)

The Last Beautiful Girl
Nina Laurin
Sourcebooks/Raincoast Books, September

Isabella moves into an old mansion – the former home of an artist’s now-dead muse – in the bestselling author’s new suspense novel. When Isabella starts an Instagram account modelling the gowns and jewels she finds, it goes viral and fame quickly follows. All is well until girls start dying and it becomes clear there’s more to the mansion than meets the eye.

Walking in Two Worlds
Wab Kinew
Penguin Teen, September

In Kinew’s fantasy debut, Bugz, an Indigenous teen girl, and Feng, a teen boy sent from China to live with his aunt on the Rez, become fast friends in the real world and in a multiplayer video-game universe. When everything Bugz has built in both worlds comes under threat, she must reconcile the polar opposites that define her life.


The accomplishments of Canadian paralympic athletes are heralded in Amazing Athletes: An All-Star Look at Canada’s Paralympians (Owlkids Books, Aug.) by Marie-Claude Ouellet. Profiles include volleyball player Jamoi Anderson and basketball player Puisand Lai. ● Naturalist Peggy Kochanoff explores animals’ most common disguises and reveals nature’s greatest mysteries in her illustrated guide Be a Camouflage Detective: Looking for Critters That Are Hidden, Concealed, or Covered (Nimbus Publishing, Oct.). ● B.C. illustrator Roz MacLean brings to life 10-year-old Benjamin
Giroux’s poem I Am Odd, I Am New (Schiffer Kids/Thomas Allen & Son, Sept.) about what it’s like to live with autism. ● Helen Wolfe joins illustrator Karen Patkau for Unstoppable: Women with Disabilities (Second Story Press, Sept.), which profiles 10 women with various mental health and physical challenges whose determination has led them to success in their respective fields from architecture to neurosurgery to sport.


Besties: Work It Out
Kayla Miller and Jeffrey Canino; Kristina Luu, ill.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Raincoast Books, October

This graphic novel spin-off of Kayla Miller’s New York Times–bestselling Click books features aspiring entrepreneurs Beth and Chanda. When the girls start a dog-sitting venture, they’re convinced fame and fortune are sure to follow. But that dream is shattered when a mishap threatens not only their business but also their friendship. Vancouver-based comic artist Kristina Luu provides the whimsical illustrations.

Thomas King and Natasha Donovan, ill.
HarperCollins Canada, September

King and Donovan join forces for the graphic novel adaptation of King’s celebrated 1993 short story “Borders.” On a trip from Alberta to visit his older sister in Salt Lake City, a boy and his mother are stopped at the American border when they declare their citizenship as Blackfoot. Themes of belonging, identity, and justice are enhanced by Donovan’s poignant artwork.

Muddle School
Dave Whamond
Kids Can Press, September

Expect big laughs from this irreverent graphic novel by writer, illustrator, and cartoonist Dave Whamond. Based on his own experiences in middle school, Whamond’s latest about a boy whose first day at a new school goes from bad to worse features childhood drawings and a lovable character who embraces his weirdness.

By: Inderjit Deogun

August 11th, 2021

11:47 am

Category: Industry News, Preview

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