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Books of the Year

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Kids’ Books of the Year: Canada’s book community shares its top 
children’s titles of 2021

Three contributors show their Kids' Books of the Year pics

On the Trapline
David A. Robertson and Julie Flett, ill.
Tundra Books

This lovely intergenerational story focuses on Moshom and his grandson as they fly up north to the trapline. They visit the places where Moshom once hunted, fished, and lived off the land. Julie Flett’s gorgeous, earth-toned illustrations help convey the beauty of the landscape and the connection the people have to the land and to each other.
–Colette Poitras, Indigenous Public Library Outreach, Edmonton

The Bare Naked Book
Kathy Stinson and Melissa Cho, ill.
Annick Press

The Bare Naked Book has been a favourite at Mabel’s Fables since its original publication in 1986, and we are even more in love with this revised edition. Melissa Cho’s colourful illustrations reflect current understandings of gender, diversity, and inclusion. This fun, interactive read-aloud is perfect for helping toddlers learn about the human body and is a great conversation starter.
–Elizabeth Ferguson, Mabel’s Fables, Toronto

Burt the Beetle Doesn’t Bite!
Ashley Spires
Kids Can Press

Ashley Spires specializes in translating her love and respect for animals into fully formed, fully lovable characters, but Burt is a whole new level of irresistible. He’s plucky (as long as something isn’t too scary), chatty, earnest, and worthy of joining Claire Belton’s Pusheen, Ben Clanton’s Narwhal, and Elise Gravel’s Disgusting Critters in the canon of cuteness with genuine appeal for all ages.
–Shannon Ozirny, West Memorial Vancouver Library

Super Detectives!
Cale Atkinson
Tundra Books

A ghost and human duo make the leap from picture book to graphic novel in Super Detectives!, author and illustrator Cale Atkinson’s first instalment in the new Simon and Chester series. Following their original appearance in Atkinson’s 2018 picture book Sir Simon: Super Scarer, readers are reintroduced to Simon, the cheeky ghost, and Chester, his best friend (human though he may be).

It’s a boring day for the pair, who live with Chester’s grandmother; even Simon admits that haunting Grandma has lost its lustre. When Chester proposes starting a detective agency to quell their boredom, luring the skeptical ghost with the promise of Sherlockian outfits, Simon is quickly on board. In a tale that draws on classic whodunit motifs, Simon and Chester are soon introduced to their first case: a pug named Roy appears suddenly in their home without an owner, sending the two friends on a scavenger hunt for clues.

With its witty banter, fully realized characters, and laughs galore, Super Detectives! will have many intrepid sleuths donning their caps and readying their magnifying glasses.
–Nicole Abi-Najem, youth services, Toronto Public Library

Carmen and the House That Gaudí Built
Susan Hughes and Marianne Ferrer, ill.
Owlkids Books

Carmen and the House That Gaudí Built is a wondrous look at Casa Batlló – a residence designed by architect Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona in the early 1900s – through a child’s eyes. Susan Hughes’s words are emotive and Marianne Ferrer’s illustrations are vivid. Children will relate to Carmen’s feelings of reluctance, loss, and awe, while design-savvy adults will enjoy references to the Catalan modernism aesthetic.
–Amanda Lastoria, a reviewer in Vancouver

Peter Lee’s Notes from the Field
Angela Ahn and Julie Kwon, ill.
Tundra Books

Outstanding, deeply poignant, and humorous, Peter Lee’s Notes from the Field is a middle-grade novel told from the perspective of an 11-year-old aspiring paleontologist. With beautifully crafted storylines, the book takes a profound look at sibling relationships, shifting family dynamics, and intergenerational bonds in one utterly memorable novel.
–Michelle Callaghan, youth services and reference librarian, Okanagan Regional Library System, Kelowna

The Power of Style: How Fashion and Beauty Are Being Used to Reclaim Cultures
Christian Allaire
Annick Press

Christian Allaire’s The Power of Style is what beauty and fashion publications should be: a nuanced look into the link between representation and self-esteem that strives to empower its readers. Through his focus on communities that are traditionally marginalized within the fashion industry, Allaire – who is himself Ojibwe – creates a book that embraces diversity and encourages self-acceptance.
–Allison Mills, librarian and archivist in Philadelphia

Complete the Quest: The Poisonous Library
Brian McLachlan
Imprint/Raincoast Books

Monsters and magic abound in this whimsical marriage of graphic novel, role-playing game, and Choose Your Own Adventure. At the very start of the book, the reader selects from three of five possible “questers” to play through the book – each with their own attributes. This unique blend both charms and engages, offering great rereadability and replayability. –Hilary Atleo, Iron Dog Books, Vancouver

A store cat and a contributor show their Kids' Books of the Year picks

The Rock from the Sky
Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press

Klassen is one of the rare children’s authors working today who trusts his readers: he doesn’t spoon-feed them morals and conclusions. I love the open-ended weirdness of his latest book – and who can resist his characters’ famous side-eye?
–Emily Donaldson, a reviewer in Toronto

The Street Belongs to Us
Karleen Pendleton Jiménez and Gabriela Godoy, ill.
Arsenal Pulp Press

The characters in The Street Belongs to Us are well drawn and believable, and the whole novel vividly evokes a particular time and place that many young readers today may not have heard of.
–Joanne Findon, a reviewer in Peterborough

The Bug Club
Elise Gravel
Drawn & Quarterly

Elise Gravel pays close attention to the crawly critters we often take for granted and leans into their delightful weirdness. Pithy, attention-grabbing facts coupled with zippy cartoons make this a buzzworthy book. –Linda Ludke, librarian at London Public Library

Some Other Now
Sarah Everett
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

In the busy landscape of contemporary YA, Some Other Now stands out for its exceptional craft and emotional heft. The book opens in the aftermath of a rupture between Jessi and the Cohens, her best friend’s family, who had treated her as one of their own. From here, Everett skilfully shifts between past and present to explore potent themes of found family, guilt, and grief. Readers will need to keep some tissues handy.
–Khary Mathurin, Another Story Bookshop, Toronto

Walking in Two Worlds
Wab Kinew
Penguin Teen

This is a gripping story with a cool juxtaposition of tech and tradition, and twists I did not see coming. It’s also a timely read, and I’m excited to share the book with our customers – if only so I can talk to people about it!
–Erin Dalton, Huckleberry Books, Cranbrook

Dear Black Girls
Shanice Nicole and Kezna Dalz, ill.
Metonymy Press

This book is an anthem for Black girls to grow up loving their skin colours and bodies and to be proud of who they are. It has become one of the emblematic titles in our mission to promote diverse voices in books. –Ilya Razkov, Librairie Saga Bookstore, Montreal

La Guêpe
Marie-Eve Bourassa
Les Éditions de la Bagnole

La Guêpe (The Wasp) is the first volume in a new Black Mirror–like French-language series. It tells the story of Billie, who lives with her dad in a remote town, and of how the kids at her high school are getting caught up in the cryptic online games of the Wasp. This is an intense page-turner that tackles topics such as the risks of social media and lack of privacy, peer pressure, building relationships as a young adult, and being proud of your differences.
–Mathieu Lauzon-Dicsö, Librairie Saga Bookstore, Montreal

Hare B&B
Bill Richardson and Bill Pechet, ill.
Running the Goat Books & Broadsides

Hare B&B is a hilarious tale of trickery, danger, death, and disguise, with an indomitable heroine who just happens to be a hare. After the sudden loss of her parents to a very wily coyote, the enterprising Harriet – also known as Harry, now in charge of her septuplet siblings – rebrands her family as the hosts of a B&B.

Richardson and Pechet keep the laughs coming as they portray the adventures of a family that must learn the value of working together. Pechet’s intricate, witty illustrations of spindly hares vacuuming and playing the harp provide a perfect counterpoint to Richardson’s tongue-in-cheek text and dry humour.

Hare B&B will mesmerize small children and delight the grown-ups who read it to them.
–Charis Cotter, a writer and reviewer in Newfoundland

Thanks a Lot, Universe
Chad Lucas
Amulet Books

Ezra and Brian are compelling and deeply relatable protagonists who are each wrestling with their own issues of family, identity, and friendship. Chad Lucas beautifully captures the various relationships in their story, as well as the insecurities, challenges, and triumphs of contemporary junior high life.
Lisa Doucet, Woozles Children’s Bookstore, Halifax


December 8th, 2021

9:37 am

Category: Books of the Year

Issue Date: December 2021