Canadian Writers

 Looking for a book by a Canadian author?

A few of my favourites…

The Hockey Sweater


Acheson, Alison. Mud Girl. (realistic; Vancouver (B.C.); coming-of-age)
Banks, Lynne Reid. Broken Bridge. (realistic; Israel; Palestinians)

Barker, Michelle. My Long List of Impossible Things. Toronto: Annick Press, 2020.
The second world war is ending in Germany, but that does not mean safety for Katja’s family. The Soviets are invading. Katja’s father has already been long gone, killed in the war, so Katya, her older sister Hilde, and their mother are on their own, travelling by foot through forests and along dangerous roads, seeking refuge farther west.
Told from the first person point of view of Katya, a teenager who tends to speak impulsively and frequently unwisely, this extraordinary story provides a glimpse of life after the war. All the complexities, all the dangers, are vividly portrayed by an award-winning Canadian writer. Due to some of the language and some of the scenes, this novel is most suitable for readers 13 years of age and older. Highly recommended for adult readers, as well as teenagers.

Teachers: this is an excellent novel for analyzing character development. It would also be greatly enjoyed as a small group novel as it would be sure to provoke discussion.

The Blue Helmet

Bell, William. The Blue Helmet. (realistic; post-traumatic stress disorder; war)
Brooks, Martha. Bone Dance. (realistic; First Nations)
Brooks, Martha. True Confessions of a Heartless Girl. (realistic)
Butcher, Kristin. Chat Room. (realistic; quick read)
Carter, Anne Laurel. The Shepherd’s Granddaughter. (realistic; Israel; Palestinians)


No Safe Place

Ellis, Deborah. Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees. (nonfiction)
The Heaven Shop. (realistic; AIDS)
Ellis, Deborah. Jackal in the Garden. (historical; artists; Afghanistan)
Ellis, Deborah. Looking for X. (realistic; Toronto (ON); homelessness)
Ellis, Deborah. Lunch with Lenin and Other Stories. (realistic short stories; drugs; teenagers; world issues)
Ellis, Deborah. No Safe Place. (realistic; refugees; Europe)
Ellis, Deborah. We Want You to Know: Kids Talk about Bullying (nonfiction)

Ellis, Deborah. True Blue. Toronto: Pajama Press, c2011.
Seventeen-year-old Jess’s best friend, Casey, has been arrested for the murder of an eight-year-old girl at a summer camp. Everyone is sure she is guilty. Slowly, slowly, readers discover that Jess knows more than is she is telling, even to herself. Written by a talented Canadian author and told from the first person point of view, this unusual novel requires courage to read.  It will appeal to teenagers who have enjoyed Bystander by James Preller, Dovey Coe by Frances O’Roark Dowell, and Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy. [Friendship; Peer pressure; Conduct of life; Faith; Murder]

Janey's Girl

Friesen, Gayle. For Now. (realistic)
Friesen, Gayle. The Isabel Factor. (realistic; summer; camps)
Friesen, Gayle. Janey’s Girl. (realistic; fathers and daughters; B.C.)
Friesen, Gayle. Losing Forever. (realistic)


Heneghan, James. Bank Job (realistic; foster children; Vancouver (B.C.); humour; theft)
Holubitsky, Katherine. Alone at Ninety Foot. (realistic; bullying; Vancouver (B.C.); peer pressure)
Holubitsky, Katherine. Tweaked. (realistic; brothers; drug abuse; Vancouver (B.C.))
Horvath, Polly. The Corps of the Bare-boned Plane. (realistic; B.C.; orphans; cousins)
Hrdlitschka, Shelley. Sister Wife. (realistic; marriage; sex role)
Hughes, Monica. Blaine’s Way. (historical; war)
Hughes, Monica. Devil on My Back. (science fiction)
Hughes, Monica. The Tomorrow City. (science fiction)

Huser, Glen. Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen. (realistic, humorous)

Wanting Mor

Khan, Rukhasana. Wanting Mor. (realistic; orphanages; Afghanistan)


Lawrence, Iain. Deadman’s Castle. New York: Margaret Ferguson Books, Holiday House, 2121.
Ever since his father witnessed a crime seven years ago, Igor and his family have been on the run. They’ve moved all over the U.S.A., constantly hiding from a man who has threatened to harm them. Igor has never been allowed to attend school, own electronic devices, or have any friends. He has changed identities so many times, he can no longer remember where he was born or what he was first named.
On his twelfth birthday, Igor decides he is tired of living in fear. What if what his father has told him isn’t even true? What if no one is hunting them down? What if his father is actually crazy?
This quickly-paced, 243-paged novel is highly recommended for readers 11 to 14 years of age.

Lunn, Janet. Shadow in Hawthorn Bay. (historical; fantasy)
McClintock, Norah. Back. (realistic)
McClintock, Norah. Bang. (realistic; quick read)
McClintock, Norah. Marked. (realistic; quick read)
McClintock, Norah. Watch Me. (realistic; quick read)
MacIntyre, R.P.  Apart. (realistic)
Martel, Suzanne. The King’s Daughter. (historical)

Matas, Carol. Jesper. (historical)
Matas, Carol. Lisa. (historical)
Matas, Carol. Daniel’s Story. (historical)
McKay, Sharon E. Charlie Wilcox. (historical)
Olsen, Sylvia. Yellow Line. (realistic; quick read)

Ravel, Edeet. A Boy Is Not a Bird. Toronto: House of Anansi Press/Groundwood Books, 2019.
Eleven-year-old Natt’s comfortable life comes to an end when Russian soldiers invade his eastern European town during the summer of 1940. Hebrew schools are closed. Markets are shut down. Homes are confiscated. At first, Natt tries to cheerfully adjust to the Soviet occupation. But when food becomes scarce, his father is arrested, and he and his mother are put on a cattle train headed for Siberia, his perspective changes. He recalls his father’s words: During a war, every day you can stay alive, you are a hero. Based on the true story of the author’s fifth grade teacher, this vivid 221-page novel is highly recommended for mature readers 11 years old and up.

Sherrard, Valerie. Chasing Shadows. Toronto: Dundurn Group, 2004.
Shelby, just turned sixteen, has a best friend. She has a boyfriend. And she has her first job: kitchen helper in a restaurant. Life should be exciting. Instead, it becomes frightening when a waitress disappears and no one, besides Shelby, is concerned. The plot line of this Canadian novel will appeal to middle school readers. Unfortunately, the quality of the writing is disappointing. Told from the first person point of view, it sounds much like people who go on and on about their lives until you wish they would be quiet and keep their thoughts to themselves.  It sounds much like a plan for a novel, a chapter-by-chapter outline of a novel about a self-congratulatory teenager.  Nevertheless, there will be readers who enjoy this mystery story.  When they are finished, they might like to try one of the better written novels by Norah McClintock or Caroline B. Cooney. [Restaurants; Teenagers; Mystery and detective stories; Marijuana; Kidnapping]

Spafford-Fitz, Karen. Dog Walker. (realistic; quick read)
St. Pierre, Paul. Boss of the Namko Drive. (adventure; historical)

Chanda's Wars

Stratton, Allan. Chanda’s Secrets and . (realistic; Africa; kidnapping; war; orphans)
Tullson, Diane. Riley Park. (realistic; quick read)
Walters, Eric. House Party. (realistic; quick read)
Walters, Eric. Juice. (realistic; quick read)
Walters, Eric. We All Fall Down. (realistic; historical; September 11)
Walters, Eric. Run. (realistic; historical)
Walters, Eric.  Shattered. (realistic; post-traumatic stress disorder; Vancouver (B.C.); Rwanda)
Wynne-Jones. The Maestro. (realistic)

Wynne-Jones. Tim. The Starlight Claim. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2019.

Sixteen-year-old Nate sets out during the March spring break to spend a few days alone at his family’s remote cabin on Ghost Lake. His parents think he’s off to prove his survival skills, but he’s really going to look for his friend Dodge who disappeared the previous November. A surprise awaits: two escaped inmates are hiding out in his family’s cabin and a snowstorm is imminent. Will Nate be able to survive the storm? Will he be hide from the criminals? And why is his estranged grandfather involved? This long-awaited sequel to The Maestro is recommended for readers 13 years old and up. [Canada; Survival; Escaped prisoners]


Austen, Catherine. Walking Backward. (realistic; grief)
Baker, Deidre. Becca at Sea. (realistic)
Burnford, Sheila. The Incredible Journey. (animal)
Cullen, Sean. Hamish X and the Cheese Pirates. (fantasy; adventure)
Cullen, Sean. Hamish X and the Hollow Mountain. (fantasy; adventure)
Cullen, Sean. Hamish X Goes to Providence Rhode Island (fantasy; adventure)
Cumyn, Alan. The Secret Life of Owen Skye. (realistic; humorous)
Cumyn, Alan.  Dear Sylvia. (realistic; humorous)
Cumyn, Alan.  After Sylvia. (realistic; humorous)

Delaney, Rachelle. The Big Sting. Toronto: Tundra, 2023.
Leo and his family are spending a week on a small island off the coast of British Columbia. Leo enjoys virtual adventures on his computer at home in Toronto, but now he is in the middle of a real-life mystery: his recently deceased grandmother’s beehives have been stolen and his grandfather is determined to find them. Meanwhile, his parents have taken themselves off to a luxury resort. How will Leo cope with his grumpy grandfather and impetuous younger sister? The hopefulness of Patricia MacLachlan’s stories and the zany humour of Polly Horvath’s stories combine in this life-affirming novel highly recommended for readers 8 to 11 years old.

I am a Taxi

Ellis, Deborah. The Breadwinner. (realistic; Afghanistan)
Ellis, Deborah. A Company of Fools. (historical)
Ellis, Deborah. Kids of Kabul: living bravely through a never-ending war. (nonfiction)
Ellis, Deborah. Off to War: Voices of Soldiers’ Children. (nonfiction)
Ellis, Deborah. I am a Taxi and Sacred Leaf. (drug traffic; poverty; Bolivia)
Ellis, Sarah. The Baby Project. (realistic)
Ellis, Sarah. The Several Lives of Orphan Jack. (fantasy)
Foggo, Cheryl. One Thing That’s True. (realistic)
Grant, Vicki. Quid Pro Quo. (realistic; humorous)
Guest, Jacqueline. A Goal in Sight. (realistic; sports)
Guest, Jacqueline. Rink Rival. (realistic; sports)

One Year in Coal Harbor

Horvath, Polly. The Canning Season. (realistic)
Horvath, Polly. My One Hundred Adventures. (realistic)
Horvath, Polly. Northward to the Moon. (realistic)
Horvath, Polly. One Year in Coal Harbor. (realistic)
Horvath, Polly. The Vacation. (realistic)

Hrab, Naseem. Otis & Peanut. Toronto: Owlkids Books, 2023.
Otis and Peanut, a guinea pig and a mole rat join the pantheon of fictional best friends in three little stories told in graphic novel format. They go shopping together. They play on the swings together. They remember happy times with their friend Pearl and talk about their sadness now that she’s gone. They encourage each other and learn how to find joy in life again. A wonderful book – with a recipe for baked potatoes at the end – for readers seven to ten years old. 

Jocelyn, Marthe. Mable Riley. (historical)
Kerz, Anna. The Mealworm Diaries. (realistic)
Korman, Gordon. I Want to Go Home! (humorous)
Korman, Gordon. Schooled. (realistic)
Little, Jean. From Anna. (historical)
Little, Jean. Kate. (realistic)
Little, Jean. Willow and Twig.(realistic)
Lunn, Janet. The Root Cellar. (historical)

Picture 12

Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Green Gables. (historical)
Mowat, Claire. The French Isles. (realistic)
Mowat, Farley. The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be. (animal)
Mowat, Farley. Owls in the Family. (animal)

The Sky is Falling

Pearson, Kit. Awake and Dreaming. (fantasy)
Pearson, Kit. The Daring Game. (realistic)
Pearson, Kit. The Sky is Falling. (historical)
Pearson, Kit. Looking at the Moon. (historical)
Pearson, Kit. The Lights Go on Again. (historical)
Pearson, Kit. Perfect Gentle Knight. (realistic)
Porter, Pamela. The Crazy Man. (realistic)
Smucker, Barbara. Days of Terror. (historical)
Smucker, Barbara.  Underground to Canada. (historical)

Skrypuch, Marsha Forchuk. The War Below. New York : Scholastic Press, [2020].
Luka – having escaped from a  Nazi labour camp and on the run – desperately wants to return to his home in Kyiv, Ukraine. Hiding in a forest, he meets Martina, also on the run from Soviet and Nazi soldiers. Based on actual events, this fast-moving 240-page novel – originally published as Underground Soldier in 2014 – tells the story of how two young people become involved with the Ukrainian Insurgent Army fighting for Ukraine’s independence in 1943. Readers 11-years-old and up who are interested in learning more about Ukraine and its history will be amazed at all the details in this novel by an acclaimed Ukrainian Canadian writer.

Picture 14

Truss, Jan. Jasmin. (realistic)
Tilly, Meg. Porcupine. (realistic)
Uchida, Yoshiko. The Journey Home. (historical)
Wilson, Eric. Murder on the Canadian. (mystery)
Wilson, Eric. Vancouver Nightmare. (mystery)



Andrews, Jan. The Very Last First Time.

Bailey, Linda. Arthur Who Wrote Sherlock. Toronto: Tundra, 2022.
Everyone knows the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. But who is Arthur Conan Doyle? A quiet man who lives alone and stays indoors writing stories? No. Definitely not. Arthur Doyle loves sports – all sports – and is a superb storyteller. When he completes his schooling, he travels the world as a ship’s medical officer before coming back to Scotland to open his own practice. While he waits for patients to arrive, he writes stories, all of which are rejected by publishers. No one wants them. Until he writes about a detective, and Sherlock Holmes is born! (Arthur also marries twice, has five children, does more travelling, and does all he can to make sure people are not mistreated.) This biography – written in present tense – is a delight to read! It flows beautifully: perfect for reading aloud to younger students, excellent for teaching style to older students. And the liveliness of the writing and the humour of the illustrations (by Isabelle Follath) make it fun for any age. Outstanding!

Bailey, Linda. Mary, Who Wrote Frankenstein. New York: Tundra Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers, 2018.

You’ve no doubt heard of Frankenstein, the horrible monster created by a mad scientist. The real story is far more interesting. Fourteen-year-old Mary and her stepmother did not get along together, so her father sent her to live in Scotland. When Mary returned to London, two years later, circumstances had not improved. So Mary and her stepsister and a poet, Percy Shelley, ran away to Switzerland where they lived in a big house on Lake Geneva. One night, eighteen-year-old Mary came up with the idea of a monster brought to life by a Dr. Frankenstein. When her novel was first published in 1818, no one could believe that it had been written by a girl. But it really was her story. And 200 years later, her horror story is still famous! This dramatic picture book, suspensefully illustrated by Julia Sarda, tells Mary’s whole story. Read it the first chance you get! 

Barker, Michelle. A Year of Borrowed Men. Toronto: Pajama Press, 2015.
A brilliantly written story by the award-winning Michelle Barker. Set in World War 2 and based on her mother’s childhood, this picture book tells the story of three French prisoners of war sent to help on a farm in Germany. Despite the danger of spying neighbours and stern policemen, the family treats the prisoners with care and kindness until the end of the war. Told from the point of view of a seven-year-old girl, there are bits of ironic humour that only older readers will notice: the village police officer is known for having become someone to fear; the invading Russians open all the barn doors and set even the animals free, leaving the family without any cows for milk and butter. The flowing language, the font of the text, and the design of the pages combine to create a story ideal for reading aloud. Tenderly illustrated in water colour and coloured pencils by the award-winning artist Renné Benoit and supplemented by an afterword and five black-and-white photographs, this picture book is highly recommended for readers 7 years old and up.

Blades, Ann. Mary of Mile 18.
Bouchard, David. Buddha in the Garden.
Bouchard, David. The Colours of British Columbia.
Bouchard, David. The Dragon New Year.
Bouchard, David. The Elders are Watching.
Bouchard, David. If You’re Not from the Prairie.
Bouchard, David. That’s Hockey.
Bourgois, Paulette. Franklin in the Dark.

Campbell, Nicola I. A Day with Yayah. Vancouver: Tradewind Books, 2017.
Nikki and her loving grandmother set out to spend the day gathering plants out on the land. Jamesie, Lenny, Grand-auntie Susan and Grand-uncle Chester join them as they search for wild rhubarb and potatoes, wild celery and sunflowers, and golden brown lightning mushrooms. Giving thanks to the Creator for the gift of food, they collect their discoveries and settle down for a picnic of salmon sandwiches and hot sweet tea. Set in the Nicola Valley of British Columbia, this heart-warming story illustrated by Julie Flett is made more powerful by the inclusion of words from the Nłeʔkepmxcin language. A glossary at the end provides both definitions and a pronunciation guide, and an afterward provides information about this Interior Salishan group of indigenous people. Most highly recommended for readers of all ages.

Daniel, Danielle. Sometimes I Feel Like a River. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2023.
There are many picture books about emotions but this one is unique. It uses similes to describe feelings and their effects upon behaviour. Feeling like a rainbow makes others smile. Feeling like the rain helps others grow. Twelve different similes encourage readers to connect with the wonders of our natural world. Full-page illustrations by Josée Bisaillon enhance this imaginative story highly recommended as a read-aloud and discussion-starter for kids 5 to 11 years old.

Ellis, Sarah. As Glenn As Can Be. Toronto: Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, 2022.

Glenn knows what he likes: fun, nature, seeing patterns, and playing piano. He also knows what he doesn’t like: bullies, feeling cold, going to school, and being around noisy people. So where is his favourite place to be? An empty concert hall, where he can play a song over and over and over again until it is just right. Brilliantly written by a prolific award-winning author and beautifully designed with additional information at the end, this biography of Canada’s most famous pianist is highly recommended for readers 6 years old and up.

Fan Brothers. Lizzy and the Cloud. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022.
Another wonderfully imaginative picture book by Terry and Eric Fan. Lizzy spends a Saturday at the park, where she purchases a cloud. Not a fancy cloud – not a rabbit or a fish or a parrot – but an ordinary cloud that comes with a list of six instructions, and the first is “Name your cloud.” Lizzy carefully cares for Milo, who grows and grows until it is time to follow the last instruction: “Never confine a cloud to a small space.”
Younger readers will enjoy the whimsical creativity and laugh. Older readers can read this story as a metaphor for life. Highly recommended for all ages! 

Flett, Julie. Birdsong. Vancouver, BC: Greystone Kids/Greystone Books, 2019.
A young Cree girl moves to a new home in the countryside where she makes a new friend, an elderly woman who shares her love of art. Passing through the seasons of the year, this wistful picture book is filled with quiet love. It can take its place along with Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney as a story for readers who appreciate the power of creativity. [Art; Friendship; Moving, Household; Seasons]

Forler, Nan. Rodney was a Tortoise. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2022.
Bernadette loves her friend, Rodney. They have contests, play dress up games, and enjoy treats together. In the evenings, she reads him stories of the outdoors. At night, he sleeps in a tank beside her bed. The two of them are the best of companions. But one day, Rodney stops moving. He has died, and not even a funeral and remembering all the lessons he taught her can ease the grief. At school, everyone goes about their usual life, talking about their usual concerns, while she withdraws further and further into sadness until one day a classmate – Amar – comes to sit beside her out in the playground. And slowly Bernadette comes back to life. The soft watercolour and pencil illustrations by Young Ling Kang help tell this gentle story recommended for anyone who has ever lost a beloved friend.

Questions to talk about…
How do we gladly make accommodations for the weaknesses of our friends?
What have our friends taught us about how to live a good life?
How do we protect ourselves when in pain?
How do we reenter life after deep grief?

Forsythe, Matthew. Mina. Toronto: Simon & Schuster, 2022.
A wonderfully ironic picture book about a little mouse who senses her father’s latest surprise isn’t as wonderful as he claims. A great story to read aloud. Recommended for children four to eight years old.

Gray Smith, Monique. You Hold Me Up. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 2017.
What does it mean to be an encouragement to others? This thoughtful picture book – colourfully illustrated by Danielle Daniel – provides the answer in simple yet profound sentences perfect for listeners and readers four to eight years old. Highly recommended, as well, for parents and grandparents. A story sure to start a conversation about what it means to be part of a family.

Hrab, Naseem. How to Party Like a Snail. Toronto: Owlkids, 2022.
Friends. Fun. Confetti. Cakes. Snail loves parties! If only they weren’t so noisy. So Snail decides to hold his own party. He and his friend Stump play hide-and-seek, tell jokes, listen to lullabies, put on their pyjamas, and fall asleep. A quiet party: perfect for a snail! This delightful picture book – cheerfully illustrated by Kelly Collier – will be enjoyed by readers four to eight years old and by everyone of any age who prefers a life with less noise.

I Want a Dog

Khalsa, Dayal Kaur. I Want a Dog.
Khalsa Dayal Kaur. Tales of a Gambling Grandma.

Kraulis, Julie. An Armadillo in Paris. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2014. 

“Arlo feels it. The twitch in his left claw. The twitch that only stops when adventure begins…”  So starts this story of Arlo’s trip to Paris using the journal left to him by his grandfather Augustin. Arlo whizzes around the Arc de Triomphe, eats croissants in a cafe, visits the Louvre, watches boats pass underneath the bridges along the Seine, visits the Luxembourg Gardens, and gazes in wonder at the Eiffel Tower. The book’s illustrations – in oils and graphite – bring whimsical delight to a picture book recommended for children ready for an adventure of their own even if it is only in their imagination. 

Kraulis, Julie. A Pattern for Pepper. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2017.
Pepper is getting a new dress to wear to her grandmother’s birthday celebration. What pattern should she choose for the fabric? Herringbone? Seersucker, tartan, or houndstooth? Ikat, argyle, pinstripe, or dotted swiss? Toile? Paisley? The history of each textile becomes part of the story in this delightfully elegant picture book for readers 5 years old and up.

Lappano, Jon-Erik. Martin and the River. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2022.
Lying in the tall grass, watching herons and ospreys. Building forts in the fields by the river. Country life is the only life for Martin. Until his mother gets a new job in the city. How will he survive among so many people? While there are many enjoyable activities – riding on the subway, watching street performers, visiting museums – the city doesn’t feel like home. At least, not until his parents take him to a park and show him a stream where frogs jump and dragonflies hover. Maybe, Martin’s heart will feel at home after all? A wonderful picture book – delicately illustrated by Josée Bisaillon – recommended for anyone who loves nature and longs for a rural life.

Lightburn, Sandra. Driftwood Cove.

Little, Jean. Harry’s Hiccups. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 2018.

Harry has the hiccups. What can he do to get rid them? Swallow sugar? Breathe into a paper bag? Hold his breath? The quietly amusing picture book – illustrated by Joe Weissmann – will appeal to readers 5 to 8 years of age. 

(Note: The writing doesn’t flow flawlessly – there are too many details that would have been better told by the illustrations and too many slightly awkward sentences. Nevertheless, readers who fondly remember reading  ‘From Anna’ and other novels by Jean Little will appreciate the gentle tone of this story. And parents looking for a book about hiccups will enjoy sharing this picture book with their children.)

MacKay, Elly. In the Clouds. Toronto: Tundra, 2022.
Have you ever been told that your head is in the clouds? In this dreamily illustrated picture book, a little girl flies through the sky on the back of a yellow bird and asks questions: “How high can birds fly?” “Why does something so huge feel like nothing at all?”  “And if you get lost in a cloud, how do you know where to go?” At the end, there are answers to some of the questions, a chart that shows different types of clouds, and links to related websites.
This delightful picture book – by an award-winning writer and a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society – is recommended for curious readers 6 to 10 years old.

McFarlane, Sheryl. Jessie’s Island.
McFarlane, Sheryl. A Pod of Orcas: A Seaside Counting Book.
McFarlane, Sheryl. Waiting for the Whales.

Munsch, Robert. Just One Goal!
Munsch, Robert. A Promise is a Promise.
Munsch, Robert. We Share Everything.

O’Leary, Sara. Maud and Grand-Maud. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2020.
Every once in a while, Maud stays overnight with her grandmother. The two of them change into matching plaid nightgowns and settle down to eat a cozy supper before investigating a surprise Grand-Maud has hidden in an old wooden chest: Some cookies. A new sweater. A photograph from long ago. A book of fairy tales from Grand-Maud’s childhood. They talk about what life will be like for Maud when she grows up and then fall asleep in adjoining beds. This endearing picture book – gently illustrated by Kenard Pak – is highly recommended for readers 5 to 8 years old.

P.S. Teachers of creative writing might like to use this story with older readers to inspire them to write stories about their own grandparents.

Patterson, Heather. I Am Canada: A Celebration.Toronto: North Winds Press, 2017.
What does it mean to be a Canadian? This book joyously answers the question in simple language suitable for young children. The illustrations take the book to a whole new level: Marie-Louise Gay, Jon Klassen, Barbara Reid and other Canadian artists depict Canada, each in their own unique style. A wonderful book for art students and a great book as a read-aloud for children up to 8 years of age.

Reid, Barbara. The Party.

Rogers, Stan (as seen by Matt James). Northwest Passage.  Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2013.

Roberts, Gregory G. S is for Spirit Bear.

Sammurtok, Nadia. To My Panik: To My Daughter. Iqaluit, Nunavut: Inhabit Media, 2022.
A mother lovingly tells her daughter how much she loves her. Her eyes that look like warm flames in a stone lamp. Her ears that listen like a mother bear caring for her cubs. Her lips, her voice, her personality, and her sense of humour. All are described with comparisons to features in their Arctic environment. This inspiring picture book – illustrated by Turkish artist Pelin Turgut – is most highly recommended for children three to seven years old and for parents of all ages. 

Schwartz, Joanne. Town is by the Sea. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2017.
A young boy wakes in the morning to hear seagulls calling, a dog barking, and a car going along the road. Meanwhile, his father is working far underground. He plays outside in the sunshine with a friend and looks out at the sparkling sea. Meanwhile, his father is working far underground in the dark. He goes to the grocery store for his mother and to the graveyard to visit his grandfather. Meanwhile, his father… The sensory details in the rhythmic text and the silent information added by the Sydney Smith’s illustrations combine to tell a story of life for a young boy in a coal mining town. Both the author and illustrator grew up in Nova Scotia. Together, they have created an incredible picture book for readers of any age. If you admire excellence in children’s books, don’t just borrow this book from a library. Buy it!

Scott, Jordan. I Talk Like a River. New York: Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, 2020.

A little boy wakes up every morning with the sounds of words stuck in his throat. He can’t make them come out properly and so goes through his days without saying a word. Afraid. Sad. But then his father takes him down to the river – to walk along the bank and watch the water bubbling and churning, whirling and crashing – and explains that he is like that river. He stutters. Beyond the rapids, however, there is smooth water. He feels less lonely. Based on the author’s own experiences growing up, this beautiful picture book – illustrated by the award-winning Sydney Smith – is highly recommended for readers of all ages.

Scott, Jordan. My Baba’s  Garden. New York: Neal Porter Books/Holiday House, 2023.
How does the love of nature begin? For the little boy in this story, it begins with seeing his grandmother’s house filled with food from her garden: carrots, apples, garlic, beets, jars of pickles. It begins with walking to school with his grandmother and watching her rescue worms on rainy days. It begins with planting tiny tomato seeds in a small pot on a window sill. It begins with paying attention. A wonderfully evocative picture book based on the author’s childhood in Port Moody, British Columbia and illustrated by Sydney Smith. Highly recommended for children 5 to 10 years old. Highly recommended for readers learning how illustrations and words work together to tell a story. Highly recommended for readers of any age who want to learn how to include descriptive details in their writing.

Smith, Sydney. Do You Remember? Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2023.
How do we hold on to the ones we love once they are gone? By remembering them. By sharing our memories with the people who are still with us. By recalling events that once seemed insignificant but now have become precious. This deeply touching picture book by an award-winning author and illustrator tells the story of a young boy remembering his father. Snuggled up together with his mother in a new apartment, the two of them quietly recall a picnic, a birthday, a move to a new city. Softly coloured illustrations – sometimes with no words – help to tell a story of loss and resilience for readers five years old and up. Most highly recommended.

Smith, Sydney. Small in the City. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2019.
The best picture books have illustrations that are an integral part of the story. The best stories let you feel what it is like to be in someone else’s situation. Small in the City starts with four pages of pictures showing a bundled-up little boy on a bus before the first sentence appears – “I know what it is like…” – and continues as he walks along cold snowy streets, looking everywhere – in alleyways, in fenced yards with angry dogs, under bushes and up in bare-limbed trees, past a fishmonger’s and an empty lot, by a red brick church and a bench in a park – as the snow gets thicker and thicker. Finally, in a sign he’s posted on a light standard, we discover to whom he is talking: his cat, who is lost. The words in the story become fewer again and the illustrations become snowier until the hopeful words, “But I know you. You will be all right.”
The design of this book is brilliant. The style of the illustrations, the size and style of the font, the placement of the sentences on the pages are all perfect. The concept of this book is powerful: a main character imagining life from the point of view of someone else whom he loves. Readers will feel the desperate worry mixed with hope that everyone who has ever had a pet can all too vividly imagine. Most highly recommended for anyone who loves picture books (or cats).

Skrypuch, Marsha Forchuk with Tuan Ho. Adrift At Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival. Toronto: Pajama Press, 2016.
In 1981, six-year-old Tuan escaped with his mother and two of his sisters. In the middle of the night, they got on a boat which took them far out to sea where they were rescued by sailors on an American aircraft carrier. Illustrated by award-winning Brian Deines, this powerful picture book tells the true story of one child’s journey as a refugee from Vietnam to Canada. Accompanied by historical and biographical information, as well as numerous photographs, this informative and inspiring story is recommended for readers 8 years old and up.

Soloy, Lauren. Etty Darwin and the Four Pebble Problem. Toronto: Tundra, 2021.
Where do you like to go when you want to think about big questions? Do you have a favourite place where your imagination can fly and your mind can ponder? Etty and her father, Charles Darwin, like to take a daily walk in their garden. They observe plants and animals and talk about big questions. Like this one: Do fairies exist? Etty’s father prefers proof before believing something is real, but Etty reminds him that he can’t disprove the existence of fairies. The two of them decide to keep an open mind.
This imaginative picture book – with an afterward explaining a bit about the real life of Charles Darwin – is highly recommended for readers 6 to 11 years old who have their own curious questions about life. 

Spalding, Andrea. Solomon’s Tree.

Stinson, Kathy. The Man with the Violin. Toronto: Annick Press, 2013.
What if you could listen to one of the best violinists in the world perform? What if you didn’t have to go anywhere to hear him play? What if he came to you and played for you for free? Would you listen? Most people wouldn’t. They’d walk right on by. This picture book – illustrated by Dušan Petričić – is based on a real event. In 2007, Joshua Bell played at a plaza in Washington, D.C. as part of an experiment to see how people would respond. He played for over forty minutes while more than 1,000 people walked by, oblivious to the amazing concert taking place in front of them. All the children tried to stop. Tried to listen to the music but were pulled away. Only seven people stopped for more than a brief minute. Kathy Stinson – author of more than 25 books – tells this story from the perspective of one of the young children who wanted to listen. Highly recommended for ages 7 to 11 years old.

Stinson, Kathy. Red is Best.

Stinson, Kathy. A Tulip in Winter: A Story About Folk Artist Maud Lewis. Vancouver: Greystone Kids/Greystone Books, 2023.
Sunshine in darkness. Joy in the midst of hardship. The story of this Canadian artist from Nova Scotia has been told many times but never more lyrically than in this engaging picture book. Maud Lewis, born in 1903, developed debilitating rheumatoid arthritis as a child. Despite pain and poverty, she spent her life painting cheerful pictures on furniture, walls, windows, scraps of wood and cardboard, and everything else around her. She died in 1970, having never sold any of her work for more than ten dollars. Today, her paintings sell for tens of thousands of dollars. This beautifully designed picture book – with a cheerful font and full-page illustrations by Lauren Soloy – is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys biographies and appreciates excellent writing.

Thornhill, Jan. The Triumphant Tale of the House Sparrow. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2018.
For over 100 years, little brown house sparrows have been at home here in British Columbia. They enjoy living near people, near a steady supply of food. So it is not surprising that over 10,000 years ago, when people started settling down and growing grain in the Middle East, sparrows started settling down, too, making their homes inside human dwellings. As human settlements spread, the house sparrow travelled along until now it can be found almost all around the world.
Jan Thornhill, acclaimed Canadian author and illustrator, tells the story of this lowly bird in a fascinating and exquisite picture book accompanied by a world map, a life cycle chart, a glossary, a list of wild animals that live near people, and a list of related websites. Too detailed to be a read-aloud but highly recommended for curious readers – 11 years old and up – as a book to not only borrow but buy!

Toye, William. How Summer Came to Canada.
Ulmer, Mike. The Gift of the Inuksuk.Raven Brings the Light Vickers, Roy Henry. Raven Brings the Light.
Ward, David. The Hockey Tree.
Waterton, Betty. A Salmon for Simon.

Wilson, Troy. Hat Cat. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2022.
A little cat is adopted by a lonely old man who feeds her, protects her, and cares for her dearly. Until one day he disappears. What will happen now? This charming story about friendship and trust – illustrated by Eve Coy – is recommended for readers 5 to 9 years old. 

Wong, Jack. When You Can Swim. New York: Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., 2023.
When you can swim, a whole new world opens up. Treetops drift overhead as you float on your back. Fields of reeds appear as you dive down under the water. Fish feast on insects as you tread water in the twilight. Amazing wonders, exciting adventures, all await you once you can swim. Evocative full-page illustrations help to tell this story written as poetry. Told from the second person point of view and accompanied by an afterword explaining how the author learned to overcome his fear of swimming when he came to Canada as an immigrant child, this beautiful picture book is highly recommended for readers of all ages. (P.S. Teachers will find it invaluable for showing students how to write powerfully without using the rules of punctuation.)

Zeman, Ludmila. The First Red Maple Leaf.

Student Reviews!

Death Benefits by Sarah N. Harvey (Orca Book Publishers, 2010) tells a story that shows the true meaning of family. Set in Victoria, B.C., the novel describes the experiences of a young teenager named Royce who can’t “find himself.”
This story had me up all night. It entertained me with its suspense and blew me away. It informed me about how hard a kid’s life can be if he doesn’t really have any family except for his mom. The story also affected my emotions; I felt really happy for Royce as I read the part where his Mom told him that he had a grandpa. Most importantly, this story changed how I see the world: Royce’s grandpa was always cranky and rude but inside that cranky old man was a story that no one knew. When Royce found out about his family’s past, he was stunned.
If you like books with suspense, then you are definitely going to enjoy this book. (Simran in grade eight)

I am a Taxi, by Deborah Ellis (Toronto- Groundwood Books, 2006), is a story about a young twelve-year-old boy, named Diego, who goes through a difficult and hard journey. He lives in a small jail cell with his mom and his little sister, Corina. He earns money for his family by being the taxi. In another words, he runs errands in the town for the prisoners. However, the errands don’t provide the family with enough money. Just when Diego is having a hard time, his friend, Mando, talks him into going to Bolivia to earn money by selling drugs. So, they go to Bolivia with three other boys, all glue sniffers. Their jobs in Bolivia are to stamp on the coca to make it into cocaine. The boys are drugged so that they will not get exhausted so easily. Two weeks passed, and there are no signs of payments, Mando is in danger. Diego has to escape! If you want to know what happens next and what other journeys he goes through, read the whole series by this great Canadian author!
This story made me see life differently. It taught me so much about how people will do anything to become wealthy and how you can’t always get what you want. I also learned that there are people out there who go through hard times.  (Da Eun in grade eight)

I recently read a great book called Dear Canada: If I Die Before I Wake, The Flu Epidemic Diary of Fiona Macgregor by Jean Little. The main character, Fiona, lives in the time of World War I and faces a dilemma: Move in with her Grandparents or live in her home where she is at risk of catching the Spanish Flu. There are all sorts of complications. Her twin sister and her have never been apart before, her sister catches the Spanish Flu, her mother is dead. At the end, Fiona moves in with her Grandparents and looks after her sister. I can tell you that this novel was one of the most saddening and motivating novels I have read in a long time. Looking for a heart-wrenching book? Then this is definitely the right book for you! (Melissa in grade eight)

Strawberry Moon by Becky Citra (Orca, 2005) portrays many challenges that affect the main character. Ellie lives on a farm with her father and her brother Max. Everything is going fine, they are happy, until one day when Ellie’s grueling grandmother arrives from England and everything becomes a lot harder.  Grandmother is so picky. It is very difficult to please her. It is hard to even be around her. Another challenge, especially difficult for Ellie, is that her grandmother wants to take her back to England and train her to become a poised and proper women. Ellie feels horrid and extremely nervous. Poor Ellie! She soon faces another challenge when she must hide a baby fox from her papa or he’ll drown it. Everything is going smoothly until her grandmother finds out she is hiding the fox.  And then the most tough and terrible challenge for the whole family strikes: Ellie’s grandmother has a stroke right before she is supposed to be going home. Will she be going home? Will Ellie be going home with her? What will happen to the baby fox? So many questions . . . You’ll have to read the book to find the answers. (Andriana in grade eight)

Janey’s Girl, by Gayle Friesen (Kids can Press Ltd. 1998), is a book about a young teenager named Clarissa, preferably Claire, who has been raised by her single mom, Jane, with no information about her father. And she hasn’t been interested in finding out about him until she and her mom go up to the place where her mother was raised, Smallwood, for a nice summer vacation with Jane’s mother, Claire’s grandmother. Claire soon realizes that everyone in town knows more about her life then she does. They know about her father, about the entire other half of her life story, something that she doesn’t know anything about. While writing a postcard to her friend one day, Claire runs into a little boy. Little does she know that the father of this boy is also her father and that she might be just the one who is able to save his life. During her stay in Smallwood, Claire also discovers that her mother was not always so uptight and stubborn and that there is more to her mom’s story than she had been told.
This book is full of romance, mystery and integrity. Claire never stops doing what she believes in, and though she makes many mistakes in the process, she gets it right in the end. The author really catches your attention and doesn’t let go all the way to the last page, and then you wish the story hadn’t ended. I love this book and believe that many after me will enjoy it too. (Katrina in grade eight)

In the book Dancing Through The Snow by Jean Little (Scholastic 2008), a little girl named Min has been posted from one foster parent to another. One day, Enid Bangs returns poor little Min to the adoption center. Luckily for Min, a doctor adopts her and treats her very well. Christmas is coming , and Min has never really had a Christmas before, but the doctor showers her with presents and Min has the very best Christmas ever! (Paisley in grade 6)

Awake and Dreaming by Kit Pearson (Penguin, 1996) is an imaginative story about a young girl named Theo who has an extremely hard life. She and her drug-addicted, abusive mother, Rae, are living in poverty in Vancouver when Theo’s rough life is suddenly interrupted by Rae’s boyfriend, who asks her to move in with him. There’s only one slight problem. He doesn’t want Theo. The poor girl has to move to Victoria to live with her aunt, someone she has not visited for years. During the ferry journey, something odd happens when Rae steps outside to smoke a cigarette: Theo dreams of being in the middle of a perfect family. When she awakens, she meets her dream family! They are called the Kaldors and they adopt her! She spends a few wondrous months in their home in Victoria until something odd happens again. She slowly fades away until she wakes up back on the ferry with Rae. The two arrive in Victoria, and Theo has to move in with her overprotective aunt. After a while, Theo goes on a daring quest to find the Kaldor’s house. She is ecstatic when the youngest family member opens the door, but she is stunned to discover that no one in the family recognizes her. Not only that, but they’re not perfect anymore. Will Theo ever have a normal life with her dream family? Read this marvelous book to find out!

I really enjoyed this novel. I could feel Theo’s joy and her sadness. I could also feel what it must be like to be poor. Before reading Awake and Dreaming, I thought poverty was only in places like Africa or Afghanistan. Now I know that in my own community there are children, just like me, going to bed hungry every night. Kit Pearson has written many books. I recommend The Daring Game, A Handful of Time, and A Perfect Gentle Knight. All of these stories contain important messages which I hope every reader will appreciate. (grade 7)

Awake and Dreaming by Kit Pearson (Penguin, 1996) is an imaginative story about a young girl named Theo who has an extremely hard life. She and her drug-addicted, abusive mother, Rae, are living in poverty in Vancouver when Theo’s rough life is suddenly interrupted by Rae’s boyfriend, who asks her to move in with him. There’s only one slight problem. He doesn’t want Theo. The poor girl has to move to Victoria to live with her aunt, someone she has not visited for years. During the ferry journey, something odd happens when Rae steps outside to smoke a cigarette: Theo dreams of being in the middle of a perfect family. When she awakens, she meets her dream family! They are called the Kaldors and they adopt her! She spends a few wondrous months in their home in Victoria until something odd happens again. She slowly fades away until she wakes up back on the ferry with Rae. The two arrive in Victoria, and Theo has to move in with her overprotective aunt. After a while, Theo goes on a daring quest to find the Kaldor’s house. She is ecstatic when the youngest family member opens the door, but she is stunned to discover that no one in the family recognizes her. Not only that, but they’re not perfect anymore. Will Theo ever have a normal life with her dream family? Read this marvelous book to find out!  I really enjoyed this novel. I could feel Theo’s joy and her sadness. I could also feel what it must be like to be poor. Before reading Awake and Dreaming, I thought poverty was only in places like Africa or Afghanistan. Now I know that in my own community there are children, just like me, going to bed hungry every night. Kit Pearson has written many books. I recommend The Daring Game, A Handful of Time, and A Perfect Gentle Knight. All of these stories contain important messages which I hope every reader will appreciate. (Nada in grade 7)

Caged Eagles by Eric Walters, you might think is about birds and I couldn’t blame you, but it’s actually about the way Japanese people were treated during World War II, specifically in British Columbia. It all begins in just outside of Prince Rupert in a Japanese fishing community where one day everyone has to pack their belongings and head out via their boats. They are towed by Navy Vessels to Vancouver where they end up staying at Hastings Park.
Caged Eagles was a very in-depth novel: you felt as though you were the main character and had all his thoughts and dilemmas. I learned a lot of things that I didn’t know about the hardships of the Japanese, how they were thought to be spies simply because of their racial background.
Caged Eagles is a good book with adventure, history, action and bluntly told facts. I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about World War II history or the effects of prejudice. (Brenden in grade 7)

I absolutely agree with Jean Little who wrote the poem called Clothes. She said that old clothes are like old friends, because they make you feel relaxed and really comfortable.’’ Old clothes go where I go, doing whatever I feel like doing. Jean also said that new clothes are brighter, smoother and shinier, and so they make you feel more self-conscious and careful about what you do. For instance, she says,” I don’t climb over barbed-wire fences.”
I also agree with Little’s idea about old friends, because I feel like I have known my old friends for a long time, and they feel as if they’re my sisters. With new friends, I feel shy, and I am more careful of what I do and say. Jean Little and I really have something in common: the sentiment in the clothes poem! (Kristine in gr. 7)

My favourite book is Parvana’s Journey by Deborah Ellis (Groundwood, 2002). It is about surviving in Afghanistan’s desert and despite the gloom, it is a heart-warming book with exciting twists. (Halle in gr. 7)

What if your family, house, and life were blown away in a powerful explosion? This is the problem faced by Charlotte Blackburn in No Safe Harbour by Julie Lawson. I recommend this book for anyone from grades four to eight. I’ve read it over, and over, and over again. (Susie in gr. 6)

I just read Alone at Ninety Foot by Katherine Holubitsky. It is amazingly written. It has a good story to it. And the description in it is really detailed. (Erin)


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