- Orca Book Publishers has tagged Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation as one of its big titles for the season. Written by Monique Gray Smith, the book teaches young readers about the residential school system, and introduces survivors and people who are putting the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commision into practice.
- Simon Fraser University archaeology professor Eldon Yellowhorn and former Tundra Books publisher Kathy Lowinger give a pre-colonial view of Indigenous history going all the way back to the ice age in Turtle Island: The Story of North America’s First People (Annick Press).
- Sisters Angnakuluk Friesen and Ippiksaut Friesen team up to write and illustrate, respectively, the bilingual Inuktitut–English picture book Kisimi Taimaippaktut Angirrarijarani/Only in My Hometown (Groundwood Books), translated by Jean Kusugak. The three women from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, explain the traditions and ways of life growing up in a small Inuit community.
- Also from Groundwood, nipehon/I Wait tells the story of three generations of a family and the love and patience they have for each other. Caitlin Dale Nicholson writes and illustrates, with Leona Morin-Neilson translating the text, which appears in both Cree and English.
- TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award winner Melanie Florence returns with a new picture book, illustrated by Montreal artist Gabrielle Grimard. Stolen Words (Second Story Press) is about the relationship between a young girl and her grandfather, and their efforts to reclaim the Cree language he lost at residential school.
- A reclamation of another sort lies at the heart of #Not Your Princess (Annick), the latest offering from editors Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale, which follows the same style as the duo’s earlier title, Dreaming in Indian.
Don’t mess with her
Tanya Lloyd Kyi’s latest title might be her most fun yet. Illustrated by Oakville, Ontario, artist Celia Krampien, Shadow Warrior (Annick) is based on the true story of a brave ninja in feudal Japan and her troupe of fearless female spies. • Debut author Kristen Ciccarelli introduces readers to The Last Namsara (HarperTeen), the first in a new YA fantasy series about a female dragon hunter. • Maia and the rest of the Effigies deal with the crushing responsibility of keeping humankind safe from the dastardly Phantoms in Siege of Shadows (Simon Pulse), the second instalment in Sarah Raughley’s intelligent and fast-paced Effigies series.
Why can’t we be friends?
Kids Can Press marketing director Naseem Hrab makes her authorial debut this fall with the publication of Ira Crumb Makes a Pretty Good Friend (Owlkids Books), in which the title character moves to a new neighbourhood and is determined to have his social life set before school starts. Josh Holinaty adds visual interest with his bold, bright illustrations. • Me, Me, Me (Kids Can Press) is the latest offering from Annika Dunklee and illustrator Lori Joy Smith depicting the exploits of Annie, Lillemor, and Lilianne. This time, the trio finds their friendship put to the test when they decide to try out for the school talent show. • A blend of humorous text by Karin Adams and comic-style illustrations by Janine Carrington, Mermaid Warrior Squad – about two girls with opposite personalities who bond at summer arts camp – will appear from Lorimer in August. • Sydney’s summer in Europe with her best friend, Leela, is derailed by Leela’s skeevy ex-boyfriend in Sarah Mylnowski’s I See London, I See France (HarperCollins).
Going to the dogs (and other animals)
- This fall, Linwood Barclay turns his attention to a younger audience with Chase (Puffin Canada), about a dog named Chipper that sounds like a canine Jason Bourne.
- Author Helen Mixter and illustrator Margarita Sada introduce readers to an ill young boy and the four-legged companion who helps him get through the toughest of times in The Dog (Greystone Books).
- When 11-year-old Matt is tasked with setting up a business in order to boost his math grade, the Sled Dog School (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is born. Terry Lynn Johnson’s middle-grade novel shows that even the know-it-all human might have to learn some new tricks.
- Vancouver author Kallie George launches a new series with Heartwood Hotel Book 1: A True Home (HarperCollins). With illustrations by Stephanie Graegin, the early reader about a mouse is full of George’s trademark whimsy.
Nobody likes a bully
Clockwise Press is publishing a picture book inspired by Martin Niemöller’s famous poem, “First They Came.” Illustrated by Mathilde Cinq-Mars with text by Lucy Falcone, I Didn’t Stand Up recounts the narrator’s lack of action as other children are bullied, until the bystander becomes a victim, too.
Halifax author Belle DeMont’s I Love My Purse (Annick) tells of a little guy named Charlie who loves the bright red bag his grandmother gives him, even when the kids at school don’t appreciate his accessorizing. German illustrator Sonja Wimmer provides the visuals.
Toronto performance artist, psychotherapist, and writer Kai Cheng Thom tells of a gender-variant child who can change into whatever shape they want in From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea (Arsenal Pulp Press), featuring illustrations by Kai Yun Ching and Wai-Yant Li.
In The Disappearing Boy (Nimbus Publishing) by Sonia Tilson, 13-year-old Neil is sent to stay with his grandmother and sets out to uncover a family secret. When he discovers his mother is transgender, the truth is too much for him to handle.
Willing and able
Pajama Press and Second Story Press each have titles out this fall focusing on kids who are differently abled. The first two feature characters with Asperger syndrome and autism (respectively), while the second two involve kids overcoming or coming to terms with physical disabilities.
♦ Slug Days by Sara Leach and Rebecca Bender, ill. (Pajama)
♦ On the Spectrum by Jennifer Gold (Second Story)
♦ The Theory of Hummingbirds by Michelle Kadarusman (Pajama)
♦ Caterpillars Can’t Swim by Liane Shaw (Second Story)
Matt James’s gorgeous paintings bring to life Toronto author Paul Harbridge’s story of a group of kids playing hockey by the light of the moon in When the Moon Comes, publishing with Tundra in September.
More hockey-themed books to delight young aficionados of our unofficial national sport:
- Goodnight, Hockey Fans by Andrew Larsen and Jacqui Lee, ill. (Kids Can)
- Guess How Much I Love Hockey by Harry Caminelli and Mark Kummer, ill. (Flowerpot Press)
- 5-Minute Hockey Stories by Meg Braithwaite and Nick Craine, ill. (HarperCollins)
Ghosts and other strangeness
Joel A. Sutherland is quickly becoming Canada’s answer to R.L. Stine. The author has two titles appearing with Scholastic Canada this fall. The House Next Door and Kill Screen are the first instalments in the Haunted series. • The Swallow was an atmospheric ghost story that evoked the mastery of Janet Lunn, so hopes are high that Charis Cotter’s new novel, The Painting (Tundra), will live up to the standards set by its predecessor. • In Spirited Away: Fairy Stories of Old Newfoundland (Running the Goat Books and Broadsides), author Tom Dawe and illustrator Veselina Tomova present some strange (and dark) folk tales from the Rock featuring mischievous fairies, changelings, and things that go bump in the night.
West coast war stories
Polly Horvath brings her trademark blend of heart and humour to her latest book, The Night Garden (Puffin Canada), in which Franny and her grandparents welcome their neighbour’s children into their home on Vancouver Island during the Second World War. • Set in Vancouver’s Japan Town in 1942, The Princess Dolls (Tradewind Books), by Ellen Schwartz and illustrator Mariko Ando, is about two 10-year-old girls – one Jewish, one Japanese-Canadian – and the effect of the war on each of their families. • Amanda Spottiswoode’s Up in Arms (Heritage House) sees a group of British children sent to Canada for safety embarking on a fantastical adventure. Molly March provides illustrations.
Film to page
Firefly Books is partnering with the National Film Board of Canada to bring some classic animation to a new generation in the form of picture books. Based on Winnipeg animator Cordell Barker’s Genie Award–winning 1988 short film, The Cat Came Back tells the story of Old Mr. Johnson and his pesky feline tormentor. In My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts, Academy Award–winning animator Torill Kove’s book (based on the 1999 animated short of the same name) tells of her Norwegian ancestor’s life in Oslo during the Second World War.
- Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s The Wolf, The Duck, and the Mouse (Candlewick Press) feels like an old-fashioned fable updated with the duo’s trademark sly humour, in which the smaller of the animals are eaten by the largest, only to discover their gluttonous host keeps them in pretty good kip.
- Trust delightfully quirky author Kyo Maclear and delightfully quirky illustrator Esmé Shapiro to add a delightfully quirky angle to the proceedings in odd-couple friendship tale Yak and Dove (Tundra).
- The inner lives of stuffed animals are revealed in Leanne Shapton’s Toys Talking (Drawn & Quarterly), in which the artist, author, and publisher employs the same minimalist line-drawing style and spare text she showcased in her 2006 title Was She Pretty? to decidedly different effect.
- Leap! (Kids Can) is JonArno Lawson’s buoyant, rhyming circular story poem about a group of frolicking wildlife, featuring illustrations by Joseé Bisaillon.
More great picture books:
- Picture the Sky by Barbara Reid (North Winds Press)
- Elisapee and Her Baby Seagull by Nancy Mike and Charlene Chua, ill. (Inhabit Media)
- Shelter by Céline Claire and Qin Leng, ill. (Kids Can)
- The Walking Bathroom by Shauntay Grant and Erin Bennett Banks, ill. (Nimbus)
- The Man Who Loved Libraries: The Story of Andrew Carnegie by Andrew Larsen and Katty Maurey, ill. (Owlkids)
When Planet Earth Was New (Owlkids) is a look at our planet’s evolution over the past 4.5 billion years. Author James Gladstone grounds his narrative in scientific fact but tempers the information with a poetic voice. Toronto artist Katherine Diemert’s full-colour spreads show the stages of Earth’s development.
Inhabit adds another title to its Animals Illustrated series with Bowhead Whale, which features text and visuals by Joanasie Karpik, an elder from Pangnirtung, Nunavut.
Erinne Paisley asks Can Your Smartphone Change the World? This first title in Orca’s new PopActivism series looks at how readers can harness the power of social media in aid of social justice.
The Pacific Northwest is on display in all its glory in Explore the Rocky Shore with Sam and Crystal (Heritage House) by Gloria Snively, a professor emeritus of science, environmental, and marine education at the University of Victoria. Karen Gillmore illustrates.
Paging Scully and Mulder
She’s been described as Canada’s Judy Blume, but Vikki VanSickle is embracing her X-Files–loving geek side with her latest novel. The Winnowing (Scholastic Canada) is a sci-fi thriller about a girl with powerful and mysterious abilities who must contend with the death of her best friend and imminent danger to her own life. • Also taking her writing in a new direction is Audacious author Gabrielle Prendergast (here publishing as G.S. Prendergast), whose Zero Repeat Forever (S&S Canada) sees 16-year-old Raven teaming up with an unlikely ally t0 fight for their lives after an alien invasion. • Colonizing a new planet turns out to be more dangerous than Ursa and her crew bargain for in Tangled Plant (Dancing Cat Books) by Kate Blair, whose first novel, Transferral, is being adapted for TV.
Tinkerbell would approve
Illustrator Sydney Smith’s star continues its impressive rise with the September release of Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow (Tundra). Written by American author Michelle Cuevas, it’s the tale of a bored shadow who leaves his unexciting boy behind to seek out adventure.
At 13, Elizabeth has outgrown believing in magic and fairy tales, but her younger sister, Natalie, holds fast, especially after a statue winks at her. The Secret of Bowring Park (Tuckamore Books) is author Christine Gordon Manley and illustrator Laurel Keating’s love letter to the St. John’s park and its Peter Pan statue.
Inspired by real events
- Author and screenwriter Vicki Grant takes inspiration from an almost 20-year-old psychology experiment for her high-concept YA novel 36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You (Running Press Kids), which is told through texts, IMs, sketches, and dialogue between university students Hildy and Paul.
- In 2015, Oskar Groening – a.k.a. the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz” – stood trial in Germany for his role in the deaths of 300,000 Jews. In attendance was 19-year-old Jordana Lebowitz, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. To Look a Nazi in the Eye: A Teen’s Account of a War Criminal Trial (Second Story) is her story of the experience, written with lauded author Kathy Kacer.
- Ride or Die, Wanda Lauren Taylor’s harrowing novel about a 15-year-old girl in small-town Nova Scotia who is sold into the sex trade, is the latest instalment in Lorimer’s edgy SideStreets series.
- Debut author MacKenzie Common draws on her experience growing up in North Bay, Ontario, and the tragedy of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women to inform her novel, The Lives of Desperate Girls (Penguin Teen Canada).
- Warren Kinsella gives kids a glimpse into the heyday of punk with Recipe for Hate (Dundurn), which details how a group of punks took down a gang of neo-Nazis after the murder of two of their friends.
- A much lighter tale, Inky’s Great Escape: The Incredible and True Story of an Octopus Escape (Sterling Children’s Books) is based on the eponymous cephalopod’s infamous getaway through a drain at the National Aquarium of New Zealand. Author Casey Lyall’s text is accompanied by Spanish illustrator Sebastià Serra’s vibrant art.
The game’s afoot
The third instalment in Kevin Sands’s popular Blackthorn Key series is The Assassin’s Curse (Aladdin), in which the theoretical-physicist turned author blends science, adventure, and mystery to craft a gripping narrative about code-breaker Christopher and his friends Tom and Sally. • Natasha Deen’s Game’s End (Great Plains Teen Fiction) is the final book in her winning series about Maggie Johnson, a girl who helps the dead transition to the afterlife. • Sylvia McNicoll adds a second instalment to her Great Mistake Mystery series with The Artsy Mistake Mystery (Dundurn). In the middle-grade novel, outdoor art has gone missing around Stephen and Renée’s neighbourhood, and suspicion for the thefts falls on Renée’s younger brother, Attila. • Shadow of a Pug (Sterling Children’s) is Casey Lyall’s second book in the Howard Wallace, P.I., series. This time Howard and Ivy are on the case when the school’s canine mascot is dog-napped. • What do you do when fate hands you a quest to kill a dragon queen and you don’t want to do it? That’s the question posed in The Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (And Why They Keep Biting Me) (Little, Brown BFYR), Nova Scotia–born Wade Albert White’s sequel to The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes. • The Hanging Girl (HMH), Eileen Cook’s latest teen thriller, sees tarot-reading fake psychic Skye Thorn learning the hard way that a little harmless kidnapping can have some serious repercussions for all involved.
- It looks like fall will be a strong season for graphica, with a bevy of titles that should hold wide appeal. Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power! (Amulet Books) is Mariko Tamaki’s highly anticipated first instalment in a new middle-grade series based on the popular comic. The Caldecott and Printz Honor winner is joined in her endeavour by original Lumberjanes co-creator Brooke Allen, who maintains her role as illustrator.
- From HighWater Press comes A Girl Called Echo: The Pemmican Wars by Governor General’s Literary Award–winning poet Katherena Vermette, whose novel, The Break, was a finalist for the 2017 edition of CBC Reads. Scott B. Henderson provides the visuals for the new book, in which 13-year-old Métis girl Echo finds herself slipping backward and forward through time to experience the titular 19th-century conflict first hand.
- With illustrations by Toronto’s Dmitry Bondarenko, archival photos and documents, and text by documentary filmmaker Ryan Barnett, The Raftsmen (Firefly) brings the story of the first crew to cross the Atlantic by raft to light for the first time in 60 years.
- David Homel translates Julie Maroh’s follow up to her lauded graphic novel Blue is the Warmest Colour. The Montreal-set Body Music (Arsenal Pulp), explores love and desire between people of various backgrounds and inclinations in 20 intimate vignettes.
- Inhabit Media co-founder Louise Flaherty draws on her Inuit heritage and the stories of her childhood for The Gnawer of Rocks, illustrated by Chicago freelance artist Jim Nelson, which tells of two girls who wander away from their camp and find themselves trapped in a cave with the titular monster.
- Groundwood is betting Louis Undercover, the second collaboration from Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault, will be just as successful as the duo’s lauded Jane, the Fox and Me, which won the Governor General’s Literary Award for illustration for its original French edition and two Joe Shuster Awards for the English version. Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou once again handle translation.
Wordless picture books are officially a trend. Publishing with Running Press Kids in September, Waltz of the Snowflakes by Elly MacKay features the artist’s always-stunning cut-paper illustrations, which depict the story of a girl reluctant to attend her first ballet performance, only to be entranced by the beauty of The Nutrcracker.
The multi-talented Marthe Jocelyn uses collage art and just One Piece of String (Orca) to illustrate a board book full of imagination.
Taking things in a more serious direction, Quebec artist and political cartoonist Jacques Goldstyn’s Letters to a Prisoner (Owlkids) is a wordless story (translated by Karen Li) inspired by Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign, in which a wrongly imprisoned man finds freedom on wings made of letters from supportive strangers around the world.
The Bronze Age Minoan society on the island of Crete is the setting for Wendy Orr’s Dragonfly Song (Pajama). The Nim’s Island author was inspired by frescoes on the Greek island in forming her mythology-laced story about a mute girl named Aissa. • In S.M. Beiko’s Scion of the Fox (ECW Press), the first book in the Realms of Ancient fantasy series, Roan Harken – saved from death by a fox spirit and possessed of ancient mystical power – must battle a snake monster and its insatiable thirst for spirit blood.
- Runny Babbit Returns (HarperCollins) is a collection of 41 previously unpublished poems by beloved author-illustrator Shel Silverstein.
- Flat Rabbit creator Bárdur Oskarsson asks Where Are You, Wilbert? (Owlkids) in his latest picture book, translated by Marita Thomsen, in which a small grey rat has trouble finding her friend while playing hide-and-seek.
- Dave Eggers tackles Americana as only Dave Eggers can in Her Right Foot (Chronicle Books). The non-fiction title, which explores the foundation of the U.S. through the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty’s appendage, is illustrated by Shawn Harris.
- Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t letting Chelsea have all the kidlit glory. The picture-book version of It Takes a Village (Paula Wiseman Books) features illustrations by Caldecott Honor Award winner Marla Frazee.
- Scottish author Morag Hood’s I Am Bat (Pan Macmillan) features saturated colour illustrations and a fanged, winged protagonist with attitude.
- Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai’s first picture book is out with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in October. Malala’s Magic Pencil brings the honorary Canadian’s life story to a younger readership.
- Kate DiCamillo returns with a picture book about a lonely child in search of recognition in La La La (Candlewick), which features illustrations by Jaime (Jimyung) Kim.
- Drawn & Quarterly will release Anna & Froga: Completely Bubu by Anouk Ricard, an omnibus paperback featuring all five volumes of the quirky comics series.
- Fans of Philip Pullman will rejoice at the release of The Book of Dust (Volume 1) the first in a new series featuring the character of Lyra, who will be familiar to readers of Pullman’s Dark Materials series. Set 10 years prior to The Golden Compass, Pullman describes the book as a companion, rather than a prequel. Look for it to make a big splash when publisher Alfred A. Knopf releases it in October.
- Scholastic has a couple of big titles out this fall. Maggie Stiefvater returns with All the Crooked Saints, a standalone novel that blends magical realism and a 1960s setting. Meanwhile, the graphic novel adaptations of the Babysitters Club series get a new illustrator for the fifth instalment. Gale Galligan takes over from Raina Telgemeier on Dawn and the Impossible Three, publishing under the Graphix imprint in September.
- All the Wind in the World (Algonquin Young Readers) by Samantha Mabry tells of a pair of young maguey harvesters who fall in love but find their bond tested by circumstances beyond their control.
- Sonia Patel’s second novel is Jaya and Rasa Fall in Love (Cinto Puntos Press), in which a well-off transgender outsider falls for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks.
- Erstwhile Canadian Carson Ellis illustrates The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid (Balzer & Bray), a story of a roving band of child pickpockets by Ellis’s husband, Colin Meloy.