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Books of the Year

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Books of the Year 2018: Kidlit aficionados pick their top titles

Picture books

They Say Blue
Jillian Tamaki
Groundwood Books

From the frameable book cover to colour-coded end pages, They Say Blue stands out. Caldecott Honor winner Jillian Tamaki explores a child’s view of the world through poetic text and bold swaths of colour. As the little girl wonders about whales, crows, and growing trees, the art washes over the reader. Colour portrays emotion, while the pacing jumps around like a child’s mind. It is truly a work of art. –Angela J. Reynolds, community engagement coordinator at Annapolis Valley Regional Library, Berwick, Nova Scotia


Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society
Canadian Geographic/Kids Can Press

Unlike any Canadian atlas ever created, this exceptional, four-volume set provides information on Indigenous territories, language groups, and treaties. It also honours First Nations, Métis, and Inuit history, stories, and art. Education is a crucial part of the reconciliation process and the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada is an essential resource that is beautiful and authentic. –Linda Ludke, librarian at London Public Library, London, Ontario


Courtney Summers
Wednesday Books/Raincoast Books

Sadie is the story of a murdered girl and her vengeful sister, told through a heart-shredding narrative structure (part first-person, part true-crime podcast transcript) that forces readers to make explicit connections to the horrors real girls experience. This is an unforgettable thriller, so moving that labelling it fic-tion feels like a betrayal of the characters’ deep pain and insurmountable grief. –Shannon Ozirny, head of youth services at West Vancouver Memorial Library, Vancouver


A Girl Like That
Tanaz Bhathena
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Author Tanaz Bhathena tells the commanding and tragic story of an Indian-born Parsi teen whose young life has been rife with abuse. When she moves to Saudi Arabia, clever Zarin remains rebellious, confrontational, and even hopeful in that restrictive society. It took Bhathena five years to find this arresting YA novel a home (publishers didn’t know how to position it). But with a new book due in February, she’s making up for lost time. – Helen Kubiw, CanLit for Little Canadians blog, Eden Mills, Ontario

Graphic novel

Ian Boothby and Nina Matsumoto, ill.

Fast-paced and terrifically vibrant, Sparks! is a children’s graphic novel standout in art and storytelling from Ian Boothby and illustrator Nina Matsumoto (Eisner Award winners for their work on the Simpsons Comics series). In this inventive, oddball, and highly entertaining story, two cats disguise themselves under a dog costume – equipped with incredible cat-created technology – and battle a diabolical onesie-wearing alien villain named Princess. –Michelle Callaghan, Fab Book Reviews blog, Vancouver

I’d like to thank my illustrator…

Halifax author Shauntay Grant recalls her reaction to seeing Eva Campbell’s illustrations for their picture-book collaboration: “Africville [Groundwood Books] developed from a poem I wrote at the site of the razed Black community. I was compelled to write about a past I hadn’t lived but wanted to know. In this illustration, with all its light and colour, I felt Eva captured beautifully what I was reaching for that day – the Africville I could feel but not quite see. The winding road, the painted houses, the makeshift clothesline and bright fabric blowing in the breeze. Somehow it just felt right. It felt like home.”

Booksellers pick their local faves 

  • We love Kallie George’s Anne of Green Gablesinspired books, Anne Arrives (with illustrator Abigail Halpin) and Goodnight, Anne (with illustrator Geneviève Godbout). George’s works (both published by Tundra Books) capture the inimitable “Anne” spirit and will bring a whole new audience to L.M. Montgomery’s novels. –Kidsbooks, Vancouver
  • Grandmother’s Visit (Groundwood Books), by Toronto author Betty Quan and illustrator Carmen Mok, of St. Catharines, Ontario, is a beautiful book that will prove helpful to all kids, especially those dealing with grief. When Grace’s grandmother dies, her family follows the Chinese tradition of turning on the outside lights at night so that the spirit can return and say one final goodbye. The outcome is haunting and hopeful. –A Different Booklist, Toronto
  • Wendy McLeod MacKnight hails from New Brunswick and was a former deputy minister of education. Her second novel, The Frame-Up (HarperCollins), features an intriguingly imagined alternate world within the paintings in Fredericton’s Beaverbrook Art Gallery. –Woozles, Halifax
  • Quebec cartoonist, illustrator, and musician Geneviève Castrée died of cancer in 2016. Her last work, A Bubble / Une bulle (Drawn & Quarterly), was published simultaneously in French and English. This board book – exploring the poignant relationship between a dying mother and her toddler-aged child – has to be one of the most heartbreaking works we have ever read. –La Petite Librairie Drawn and Quarterly, Montreal


December 3rd, 2018

3:36 pm

Category: Books of the Year, Children's publishing

Issue Date: December 2018

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