Fantastic (and fantastical) beasts
• YA author, Penguin Random House publicity manager, and all around great gal Vikki VanSickle will release her first picture book, If I Had a Gryphon, with Tundra Books in February. Illustrated by up-and-comer Cale Atkinson, the whimsical, rhyming story of a girl’s desire for the perfect pet is a fun and fabulous examination of being careful what you wish for and happy with what you have.
• Suzanne Del Rizzo uses Plasticine to create the images for Sky Pig (Pajama Press), Jan Coates’s latest picture book, which tells of a porcine wonder determined to fly, and the boy determined to help him.
• In The Animals’ Ark (Kids Can Press), Governor General’s Literary Award winner Marianne Dubuc puts her signature illustrative spin on the tale of animals marching two-by-two.
Author Susan Vande Griek and illustrator Pascal Milelli team up to present Go Home Bay (Groundwood Books), about the summer Tom Thomson taught his hosts’ 10-year-old daughter to paint. • Vincent van Gogh is the object of bullying in Shane Peacock’s The Artist and Me (Owlkids Books), which features illustrations by Montreal’s Sophie Casson.
This spring, Orca launches Origins, a non-fiction series focusing on how different cultures and religions celebrate their traditions in a modern world. Monique Polak explores her Jewish roots in the first instalment, Passover: Festival of Freedom. • Also from Orca, Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community by Robin Stevenson, looks at what Pride events mean to people identifying as LGBTQ, and to society. • The latest from Kids Can’s Citizen Kid series, That’s Not Fair! Getting to Know Your Rights and Freedoms by Danielle S. McLauglin, illustrated by Dharmali Patel, teaches kids about democracy. • Being Me (Second Story Press), the second Rosie book from PLAN Canada CEO Rosemary McCarney and illustrator Yvonne Cathcart, shows that being young doesn’t mean being powerless.
There are few things in high school more dangerous than being different. Being pegged as one of the “freaks” is a surefire recipe for disaster. It’s a pretty standard YA trope, but when the outsider is created by Mariko Tamaki, chances are good she’s going to be anything but cliché.
The title character of Saving Montgomery Sole (Razorbill) is a 16-year-old misfit who dresses in garage-sale finds (or the cast-offs from the wardrobe of one of her moms), is best friends with Thomas (the only openly gay guy at her school), and spends her free time looking up mysterious phenomena on the Internet. When an evangelical preacher – whose shtick involves “saving the American family” from same-sex marriage and homosexuality – moves to Monty’s California town, and his son ends up as her classmate, Monty’s life goes from barely tolerable to terrible in short order. Between Monty’s preconceived notions about the preacher’s son, the bigoted attitude of her schoolmates, and posters all over town saying people like her moms are destined for hell, it’s all a bit much. Throw in some mystical mojo and you’ve got a whirlwind of a story with a surprising twist and an endearingly messed-up heroine.
Softer, less mature, and more unsure than the main character in Tamaki’s last non-graphic novel, (You) Set Me on Fire, Monty isn’t always likeable, but her narrative voice is one that will captivate both outsiders and cool kids.
Fans of Jonathan Auxier’s Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes will be happy to see the author returning to familiar characters in Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard (Puffin Canada), in which Sophie is a 12-year-old bookmender enlisted to help Peter and Sir Tode with a mysterious volume. • Panama Pursuit (Heritage House), the fourth and final book in the Shenanigans series by Andreas Oertel, takes friends Cody, Eric, and Rachel into the jungle. • Screenwriter Esta Spalding introduces a “loosely related” family of siblings living in a car in Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts (Tundra), a middle-grade novel illustrated by Sydney Smith. • Mahtab Narsimhan takes readers to India for Mission Mumbai (Scholastic Canada), about two boys who must overcome their differences to maintain their safety and their friendship.
To the sea
In Convictions (Coteau Books), Judith Silverthorne takes readers back to 1842 and an all-female convict ship bound for Australia. Protagonist Jennie quickly discovers that her fellow “criminals” were driven to extremes by similar desperation, and the women band together to survive the terrible journey. • Two kids escape their African village, which has been attacked by rebels, and find work on a smuggler’s ship bound for the U.K. in Last Chance Island (Ronsdale Press) by Norma Charles. • Happier shores await Patrick and his dad in author Rebecca North and illustrator Nancy Keating’s A Picnic at the Lighthouse, appearing with Tuckamore Books in April. • In Going for a Sea Bath (Pajama) by Andrée Poulin (with illustrations by Anne-Claire Delisle), a little girl’s dad goes too far in making bath time less boring by enlisting an increasing number of aquatic wildlife.
Ashley Spires has two hilarious and charming books coming out this spring: Over-Scheduled Andrew (Tundra), and Fluffy Strikes Back: A P.U.R.S.T. Adventure (Kids Can).
→ Fierce Ink Press will release No Matter How Improbable, the third instalment of Angela Misri’s Portia Adams series, in March.
→ Part of Feiwel and Friends’ Swoon Reads series, Cindy Anstey’s Love, Lies and Spies (Raincoast) features a non-conformist 19th-century young woman whose only interest is publishing her research on insects. Until, that is, she falls under suspicion of being a spy.
→ The title character in Catherine Egan’s Julia Vanishes (Doubleday YA) is a spy (and thief), who has the unusual ability to make herself – not invisible, but “unseen” by others.
→ Coming from Great Plains Teen Fiction in May, Natasha Deen’s Gatekeeper sees Maggie and her ghostly buddy Serge trying to discover who threw a seemingly perfect kid off a cliff.
→ Shane Peacock introduces a new hero in The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim, an adventure-filled tale of fear arriving from Tundra in May.
→ Closer to home – and events of recent history – is Melanie Florence’s The Missing (Lorimer), which tackles the subject of missing and murdered indigenous women. In it, Feather attempts to clear her brother’s name after a friend disappears, only to end up in a serial killer’s crosshairs herself.
These books aim to take an inclusive, sensitive look at some tough issues that many kids deal with every day.
Lorna Schultz Nicholson’s Born With: Erika and Gianni is the second instalment in diversity-focused publisher Clockwise Press’s One-to-One series. Erika has Down syndrome, but her schoolmate Gianni may be having the more difficult time dealing with his growing attraction to other boys. • Eating disorders take centre stage in Small Displays of Chaos (Coteau), a novel by anorexia and bulimia survivor Breanna Fischer, based on her own experience. • No stranger to difficult subjects, author Liane Shaw looks at what happens when a kid with Asperger’s syndrome must decide whether to share what he knows after his only friend goes missing. Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, is coming from Second Story Press in April. • Wesley King takes a lighter-hearted approach in OCDaniel (S&S Canada), in which a boy with obsessive-compulsive disorder is pulled into a mystery by the only kid in school deemed weirder than he is.
Non-fiction books examining the good and bad sides of athletics:
• Champion for Health: How Clara Hughes Fought Depression to Win Olympic Gold by Richard Brignall (Lorimer)
• Faster, Higher, Smarter: Bright Ideas that Transformed Sports by Simon Shapiro (Annick)
• The Stone Thrower by Jael Ealey Richardson; Matt James, illus. (Groundwood)
Extreme Battlefields: When War Meets Forces of Nature by Tanya Lloyd Kyi; Drew Shannon, illus. (Annick) • Prisoner of Warren by Andreas Oertel (Nimbus) • Threshold by Amanda West Lewis (Red Deer) • Taking a Chance on Love by Mary Razzell (Ronsdale) • Pax by Sara Pennypacker; Jon Klassen, illus. (HarperCollins) • Dragons vs. Drones by Wesley King (Razorbill)
Strange and stranger
Richard Scrimger’s Lucky Me (HarperCollins) centres on a boy confused about his sexuality who comes into possession of a disposable camera that allows him to slip into someone else’s body. • Alan Cumyn’s Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend (S&S), Pyke, throws Sheila’s perfectly controlled life into a tailspin when he becomes her school’s first interspecies transfer student.
→ The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks (First Second Books)
→ Seeking Refuge by Irene N. Watts; Kathryn E. Shoemaker, illus (Tradewind Books)
→ Susanna Moodie: Roughing It in the Bush by Carol Shields and Patrick Crowe; Selena Goulding, illus.; adapted by Willow Dawson (Second Story)
Aye, Mother Earth
Two picture books and a YA novel celebrate nature and the environment, and inspire readers to do the same.
→ Peace Dancer by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd (Harbour Publishing)
→ When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano; Julie Morstad, illus. (Chronicle)
→ Hawk by Jennifer Dance (Dundurn Press)
High school sucks
E.K. Johnston has combined dragons and Canadian energy politics (in The Story of Owen and its sequel, Prairie Fire), and reimagined the legend of Scheherazade (A Thousand Nights). The author takes a decidedly realistic turn in her latest YA novel, Exit, Pursued by a Bear (Dutton Young Readers), the story of a cheerleader who is drugged and raped at a party, only to discover that she’s pregnant.
Intrigue abounds in Teresa Toten’s Beware That Girl (Doubleday YA), which tells of Kate, whose success at hiding her troubled past is endangered when her best friend becomes involved with an older man in the administration of their elite New York City school.
Another highfalutin’ school serves as the setting for Finding Hope (Dundurn) by Colleen Nelson, in which the title character is only too happy to leave her small town and drug-addicted brother behind to attend the prestigious Ravenhurst Academy. But not even the highest gates can’t keep out her past.
Best friends make the worst enemies, as Catherine Lo illustrates in her debut novel, How It Ends (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Told from the alternating points of view of former besties Annie and Jessie, the book is an honest portrayal of a friendship gone awry.
Ottawa author Caroline Pignat takes teen tragedy to the next level when a lockdown drill turns out to be the real deal in Shooter, coming from Razorbill Canada in May.
Baby on board
Julie Flett’s illustrations lend a sophisticated air to Monique Gray Smith’s My Heart Fills with Happiness (Orca). • Sara O’Leary celebrates the first year of life in You Are One, illustrated by Calgary artist Karen Klassen (Owlkids). • Veteran illustrator Dušan Petricic gets in on Dennis Lee’s silly action with a standalone of Lee’s poem Zoomberry (HarperCollins).
1. Inspired by his own childhood, designer and picture-book author Frank Viva takes his first run at writing for middle-graders with his debut novel, Sea Change (Tundra). The coming-of-age story, about a boy who spends his summers in a small port town with his grandparents, centres on themes of bullying, diversity, and self-identity.
2. The indefatigable Gordon Korman is back with his latest book, Slacker (Scholastic Canada), about a guy who cruises through school until he comes up against a Tracy Flick type, who sparks his competitive nature.
3. The perky heroine of Melody Fitzpatrick’s last novel makes her return in Hannah Smart: On a Slippery Slope (Dundurn).
In March, Groundwood Books will release author Jo Ellen Bogart and illustrator Sydney Smith’s The White Cat and the Monk, a retelling of the ancient Irish poem “Pangur Bán.” • A little girl’s mother distracts her from her fear of the dark by telling her the legend of the banyan tree in Maya, written by Mahak Jain and brought to visual life by Elly MacKay’s cut-paper illustrations (Owlkids). • Inuit writer Nadia Sammurtok presents her version of a traditional tale that teaches readers about kindness and inner beauty in The Caterpillar Woman (Inhabit), illustrated by Australian designer Carolyn Gan. • Karen Bass puts a modern spin on a Cree Wihtiko legend in The Hill (Pajama), in which a boy learns he should have heeded his grandma’s warnings.
From Inhabit Media, the Animals Illustrated series will feature Arctic wildlife. The first two instalments are Polar Bear, by Iqaluit resident and conservation officer William Flaherty and illustrator Danny Christopher, and Narwhal by Solomon Awa, a teacher at Nunavut Arctic College, with illustrations provided by Malaysian artist Hwei Lim.
Zoocheck founder Rob Laidlaw and animal-rights activist Anne Innis Dagg team up to introduce readers to 5 Giraffes (Fitzhenry & Whiteside).
In her latest book, featuring illustrations by Deryk Ouseley, former Owl magazine editor Keltie Thomas poses the perennial question, Do Fish Fart? (Firefly Books).
Toronto artist Thao Lam will release Skunk on a String (Owlkids), a wordless adventure boasting paper-collage illustrations infused with pattern, texture, and colour.
More glorious picture books:
→ Scribble by Ruth Ohi (Scholastic Canada)
→ The Night Gardener by Terry Fan and Eric Fan (S&S Canada)
→ Harry and Walter by Kathy Stinson; Qin Leng, illus. (Annick)
Edward Hemingway (grandson of Ernest) carries on the family’s literary tradition with his picture book Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus (Clarion Books).
A young boy longs for a different moniker in Thunder Boy Jr. (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), by acclaimed Native American author and filmmaker Sherman Alexie. Caldecott winner Yuyi Morales illustrates.
In Helga Bansch’s Rosie the Raven (Annick), a tiny girl who hatches alongside her avian siblings learns to accept her differences, despite her lack of feathers.
Akiko Miyakoshi follows up her 2015 hit, The Tea Party in the Woods, with The Storm, coming from Kids Can in March.
Middle grade and YA
• Look for a big-time marketing blitz from HarperCollins when Glass Sword, the sequel to Victoria Aveyard’s hugely popular 2015 release, Red Queen, lands in Feburary.
• Another title already creating buzz is Anna and the Swallow Man (Random House Children’s Books), the debut novel by actor and singer Gavriel Savit that blends historical fiction and magical realism.
• Dork Diaries author Rachel Renée Russell introduces a new series about a middle-grader who switches schools and ends up being bullied in The Misadventures of Max Crumbly (S&S).
Wildlife photographer Suzi Esterhas’s book, Orangutan Orphanage (Owlkids), takes readers inside the Orangutan Care Centre and Quarantine in Borneo. • Zoologist and geologist Camilla de la Bédoyère teaches kids about insects in Bugs in the Backyard (Firefly Books).
Drawn & Quarterly will release a new “kid-friendly” English translation (by Zack Davisson) of The Birth of Kitaro, a collection of early stories by Japanese horror-comics master Shigeru Mizuki. • Ben Sears will publish Night Air with Koyama Press in May, the first in a planned series starring an anti-hero named Plus Man and his robot companion.
Q&Q’s spring preview covers books published between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2016. All information (titles, publication dates) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at press time. Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.