Looking for a story set in Canada?
Acheson, Alison. Mud Girl. Cotteau Books, 2006.
Sixteen-year-old Abi is lonely. Her mother left a year ago and her father rarely speaks. So when she finds a boyfriend, life seems so much happier. But Jude, in his twenties, already has a young son and he wants his relationship with Abi to go much further than she expected. Recommended for teen readers.
Baker, Deirdre. Becca at Sea. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2007.
“Becca has often gone with her parents to visit Gran at her rustic cabin by the sea. But this year Becca‘s mother is expecting a baby, and Becca is sent to visit her grandmother on her own. The prospect of spending time at Gran’s–with her peculiar plumbing and ridiculous Scrabble rules–is hardly appealing. Then, on her very first night, Becca finds an oyster full of pearls. One pearl for every adventure to come? Becca desperately hopes so, as much as she longs for a friend to share them with.” – WAFMS. Recommended for readers 9 to 12 years old. [Grandparents; Islands; Summer; Vacations]
Balouch, Kristen. One Million Trees: a True Story. New York: Holiday House, 2022.
This is the true story of how the author – when she was ten years old – spent a summer planting trees. She and her parents and her sisters flew from California to B.C. to join a crew planting seedlings between the stumps of trees cut down by loggers. Camping in the wilderness, they worked for forty days until they had planted one million trees. This intriguing picture book – filled with informative details – is highly recommended for readers 7 to 12 years old. Or for anyone curious about the life of a tree planter.
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.
Friesen, Gayle. Janey’s Girl. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 1998.
Fifteen-year-old Claire discovers more than she expected when her mother takes her to visit her maternal grandparents in a small rural town in B.C.’s Fraser Valley. A light read recommended for teens who want a bit of romance. [Fathers and daughters; Grandparents; Mothers and daughters]
Holubitsky, Katherine. Tweaked. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 2008.
“Have you ever felt frustrated? Have you ever felt like you were suffering when you didn’t deserve it? Then you’ll know exactly how the main character feels in the novel Tweaked by Katherine Holubitsky. Gordie Jessup is frustrated. His eighteen-year-old brother, Chase, has been a crystal meth addict for two years and his random disappearances and bipolar attitudes are just getting worse. He also feels that he is unfairly suffering because his spastic and jerky brother is robbing his family of their possessions for drug money and manipulating their trust. Throughout all this terror, what should he do? What will he do after he no longer feels love towards this ghostly mess that people call his brother? Read this enthralling novel to find out.” – Saniya in grade eight
Horvath, Polly. The Corps of the Bare-boned Plane. Toronto: Groundwood Book / House of Anansi, 2007.
“When their parents are killed in a train accident, cousins Meline and Jocelyn, who have little in common, are sent to live with their wealthy, eccentric, and isolated Uncle Marten on his island off the coast of British Columbia, where they are soon joined by other oddly disconnected and troubled people”. – NVPL. Recommended for adventurous readers 12 to 16 years old. [Eccentrics and eccentricities; Cousins; Grief; Islands]
Horvath, Polly. One Year in Coal Harbor. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2012.
“In a small fishing village in British Columbia, twelve-year-old Primrose tries to be a matchmaker for her Uncle Jack, befriends Ked, a new foster child, tries to decide if she is willing to go to jail for her convictions, and together with Ked, publishes a cook book to raise money for the Fisherman’s Aid. Includes recipes” – CIP. Highly recommended for introspective readers 10 – 13 years old. [Eccentrics and eccentricities; Family problems; Foster children; Self-reliance]
Lawrence, Iain. The Skeleton Tree. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2016.
Twelve-year-old Chris and fifteen-year-old Frank, two recently bereaved boys from Vancouver, struggle to survive in the wilderness after their sailboat capsizes off the coast of Alaska. They also struggle to get along with each other. This 278-page novel full of descriptive details – and a bit of the supernatural – will appeal to competent readers 11 to 15 years old who enjoy realistic stories. An afterward provides background information about the author’s experiences in the Pacific Northwest. [Alaska; Fathers and sons; Survival; Ravens; Wilderness areas]
Lekich, John. The Prisoner of Snowflake Falls. Victoria: Orca: 2012.
Henry Holloway lives in a tree house. Every since his mother has died and his uncle has been sent to prison, he has been hiding out in the backyard of an elderly woman. When he is caught breaking into homes for food and money, the judge sends him away from Vancouver to a small town on northern Vancouver Island to live with an eccentric family. This is an entirely wacky novel, a story that should irritate but instead is purely funny. All the characters are endearing, the writing has great rhythm, and the plot line moves along quickly enough that readers won’t want to put the book down until the end. An entertaining novel for competent readers 12-years-old up. [Foster children; Juvenile delinquents; Theft; Family life; Eccentrics and eccentricities; British Columbia; Humorous stories]
Olsen, Sylvia. The Yellow Line. Victoria, B.C.: Orca Book Publishers, 2005.
In Vince’s small town, the First Nations people and the white people don’t mix. Not until Vince starts dating a girl from the reserve. And everyone seems determined to separate them. A short but powerful ‘Orca Soundings’ novel for readers in grades 8 through 12. [Bullying; Racism; Prejudice; Courage; First Nations; Love; Canada; Peer pressure; Young adult fiction]
Pearson, Kit. Awake and Dreaming. Penguin, 1996.
Nine-year-old Theo lives in poverty with her mother while dreaming of a better life. Set in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. [Ghosts; Loneliness; Mothers and daughters; Poverty; Vancouver (B.C.); Victoria (B.C.)]
Pearson, Kit. The Whole Truth. Toronto : HarperCollins, 2011.
Nine-year-old Polly and her older sister Maud travel from Winnipeg to a small island off the coast of British Columbia to live with their grandmother. Their mother has died, but will they ever see their father again? Set in 1932, this story will be enjoyed by girls nine to thirteen years old. (Historical fiction; Moving, Household; Sisters; Boarding schools; Grandmothers; Secrets; Poverty; Family life; Islands; Mystery and detective stories)
Pearson, Kit. And Nothing But the Truth. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2012.
Thirteen-year-old Polly hates boarding school in Victoria. She misses her sister who is attending university in Vancouver and her father who has moved to Kelowna. She wants her life to go back to the way it was when she lived with her grandmother in the Gulf Islands. But then she discovers a secret which changes everyone’s future. Set in the 1930s, this beautifully written sequel to The Whole Truth will appeal to middle school students. [Artists; Boarding schools; Victoria (B.C.); Fathers and daughters; Grandmothers; Historical fiction; Sisters; Secrets]
Robinson, Eden. Monkey Beach. Toronto : Vintage Canada, 2001, c2000.
“Infused by turns with darkness and humour, this is a spellbinding voyage into the long, cool shadows of BC’s Coast Mountains, blending teen culture, Haisla lore, nature springs and human tenderness into a multilayered story of loss and redemption.” – CIP. Highly recommended novel for mature readers 14-years-old and up due to the subject matter. [Brothers; Family life; First Nations; Kitimat Region (B.C.); Missing persons]
Horvath, Polly. Pine Island Home. Toronto: Puffin Canada, 2020.
Feeling fatigued by the constraints imposed by this pandemic? Feeling irritable about life in general? Read a novel by Polly Horvath. She has an extraordinary ability to use life’s craziness to make us laugh. This latest novel is no exception. Four sisters are orphaned in Borneo when their missionary parents are washed away by a tsunami. Unfortunately, their great-aunt – who had volunteered to take them in – dies before they arrive. Now what will they do? Where will they go? The four girls decide to settle into their aunt’s rural home on an island off the coast of British Columbia and pretend that a grumpy neighbour is their legal guardian. Will their scheme work? Well, all ends happily but not before all sorts of crazy complications surprise everyone. This very highly recommended novel will be enjoyed by readers 10 to 13 years old.
Spathelfer, Teoni. White Raven. Victoria: Heritage, 2021.
Little Wolf moves with her husband and three daughters to a peaceful island home where they enjoy living by the seashore and exploring in the forest. When Little Wolf’s mother, White Raven, comes to visit, the girls learn about their grandmother’s childhood in a residential school. Based on the author’s own mother’s early experiences at a residential school in Alert Bay, B.C., this picture book is one of the most detailed in its depiction of life for indigenous children. It focuses on facts: children had their heads shaved and covered with DDT; the food given to them was often mouldy and bug-ridden; sausages were served raw; toilet paper was sometimes eaten to appease the constant hunger; nights were filled with the sounds of children crying; if they spoke their own language, their mouths were washed out with soap; they were always called by number. However, the story also mentions the kindness of one of the teachers, Mrs. Oak, who cared for White Raven when she was ill and sewed her a new dress.
The format of this book – brightly coloured illustrations and a relatively large font with widely spaced lines of print – makes it ideal for reading aloud. The sentence structure is straight-forward and well-suited for readers eight to ten years old. The factual details make it excellent as a research resource for students nine to twelve years old. Therefore, while discretion should be used in presenting this picture book to very young readers, it is highly recommended for both elementary and middle school libraries.
Huser, Glen. Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2006.
A teenaged foster girl, who aspires to be a model, and a 90-year-old woman in a care home, who wants to attend one more opera in her life, go on a road trip. This humorous novel of two lonely people on the lam will appeal to readers 12 to 16 years old. [Alberta; B.C.; Automobile travel; Foster children; Runaways; Seattle (WA); Teachers]
Porter, Pamela. The Crazy Man. Berkeley, CA : Distributed in the USA by Publishers Group West, c2005.
“…a novel written in free verse about twelve-year-old southern Saskatchewan farmgirl Emaline Bitterman’s physical and emotional healing after an accident leaves her disabled and her father’s guilt drives him away.” – CIP. Recommended for readers 11 to 14 years old. [Accidents; Father-daughter relationships; Physically handicapped]
Brooks, Martha. Bone Dance. Orchard Books, 1997.
“After her father dies and she inherits a cabin in rural Manitoba, Alexandra meets a young man who shares her First Nations heritage and her ability to see into another world.” – CIP. Highly recommended for mature readers 13-years-old and up. [Dreams; Parent-child relationship; Supernatural]
Brooks, Martha. Mistik Lake. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2007.
“After Odella’s mother runs off to Iceland with another man, Odella finally learns some of the many secrets that have haunted the family for two generations.” Another recommended novel for mature readers 13-years-old and up. [Mothers and daughters; Sisters; Traffic accidents]
Ellis, Deborah. Looking for X. Berkeley, CA : Groundwood Books, , c1999.
After her autistic twin brothers are placed in a group home outside of the city, eleven-year-old Khyber befriends a homeless woman in Toronto. Recommended for readers 11 to 14 years old. [Autism; Family life; Friendship; Homelessness; Toronto (Ont.)]
Kent, Trilby. Once in a Town Called Moth. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2016.
Why did Anneli’s mother abandon her and her father? Why has her father – 10 years later – brought her to Canada? Fifteen-year-old Anneli struggles to fit in at her new high school after growing up in a remote Mennonite colony in Bolivia. But with the help of a few friends, she learns more about herself and finds her mother. While the plot is a bit too predictable and the Mennonite setting a bit too stereotypical, the novel is nevertheless a smoothly written mystery. It is recommended for readers – 13 years old and up – who enjoy quiet stories about outsiders. [Bolivia; High schools; Mennonites; Missing persons; Moving, Household; Secrets; Toronto (Ont.)]
Walters, Eric. Power Play. Toronto: HarperCollins Canada, 2013.
Cody, determined to get away from his alcoholic father and into the NHL, finds himself trapped in a sexual relationship with a hockey coach. Includes an afterword by Sheldon Kennedy. Recommended for mature readers in grade eight and up. [Alcoholism, Fathers and sons; Hockey; Ontario; Secrets; Sexual abuse]
Gay, Marie-Louise and David Homel. Summer in the City. Berkeley, CA: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2012.
“Charlie is doubtful of his parents’ plan not to travel and have a summer “staycation,” but soon realizes his hometown of Montreal, Canada, is very exciting” – WAFMS. Another entertaining story in a heart-warming easy-to-read series for readers 7 to 11 years old. [Adventure stories; City and town life; Family life; Humorous stories; Summer; Vacations]
Noël, Michel. Good for Nothing. Berkeley, CA: Groundwood Books, 2004.
“Expelled from a residential school in 1959 Quebec, a fifteen-year-old Métis boy searches for happiness in the midst of hopelessness on his reservation and then in a new school in a strange city, living with a white family, and sets out to learn the truth behind the early death of his father, a native activist.” – WAFMS. Translated from French. Highly recommended for competent mature readers 13-years-old and older. [Algonquin; Métis; Residential schools]
Roch, Carrier The Hockey Sweater. Montreal: Tundra Books, 1984.
“With every boy in a small Quebec town wearing the sweater of the Montreal Canadiens to play hockey, one child is horrified when, because of a mail order mix-up, he is forced to wear a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater.” – WAFMS. A short story translated from French and illustrated by Sheldon Cohen. A picture book for all ages! [Hockey; Humorous stories]
McIntyre, R.P. Apart. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2007.
Sixteen-year-old Jessica, desperate to find her father who has unexpectedly disappeared, puts an advertisement in the Globe and Mail newspaper. Seventeen-year-old Sween writes back and a friendship develops. Instead of finding her father, has she found someone else who will love her? [Mothers and daughters; Letters; Family life; Friendship; Young adult fiction]
Prince Edward Island
Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Green Gables. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2008.
“Anne, an eleven-year-old orphan, is sent by mistake to live with a lonely, middle-aged brother and sister on a Prince Edward Island farm and proceeds to make an indelible impression on everyone around her.” A classic for readers 8 to 14 years old. [Country life; Family life; Friendship; Orphans]
Bogart, Jo Ellen. Capturing Joy: The Story of Maud Lewis. Toronto: Tundra Books ; Plattsburgh, N.Y.: Tundra Books of Northern New York, 2002.
Scenes of everyday life by a self-trained artist: horses pulling sleighs, cows grazing in fields, children walking to school, fishing boats on the sea. Maud Lewis – one of Canada’s greatest folk artists – didn’t follow all the rules regarding proportion and perspective. She didn’t include shadows in her scenes of summer. She sometimes painted impossible things, such as flowers on evergreen trees or snowy valleys surrounded by green hills. But all the time, her paintings were full of joy, even though her own life was full of hardship. This biography – illustrated by Mark Lang – isn’t the most well-designed picture book: the font is too small and serious; and the layout doesn’t reflect the happiness of the full-page colourful paintings. But the text is full of information and so the book would be useful as a read-aloud for children eight years old and up. It would be especially valuable as an introduction to a lesson on folk art or a unit on facing adversity with courage.
Carter, Anne Laurel. Out of the Deeps. Victoria, B.C.: Orca Book Publishers, 2008.
Young Savino’s school life is over. It is time for him to join his father down in the mines. On his first day, as he helps load the coal box pulled by Nelson and walks alone with the pit pony through the tunnels, his lantern goes out and he is left in pitch darkness. But Nelson knows the way and leads them safely to the surface. This suspenseful story, dramatically illustrated by Nicolas Debon, is based on the life of Savino Calibrese who was sent down into the Cape Breton mines when he was 12 years old. An afterward explains how the pit ponies spent their lives underground until machinery was introduced in the 1950s. This emotionally powerful and informative picture book is recommended for readers – and listeners – 8 years old and up. [Cape Breton Island (N.S.); Coal mines and mining; Fathers and sons; Historical fiction; Horses; Nova Scotia – History]
Wallace, Ian. Boy of the Deeps. Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, [19–]; Groundwood Books reprint edition, 2005.
James is declared old enough to start working with his father. Down, down, a thousand feet down in a steel cage, they go to join the men in the dangerous depths of the Cape Breton mines. And there James experiences – for the first time – the risks faced by men who work under the ground. An emotionally moving picture book for readers 8 years old and up. [Cape Breton Island (N.S.); Coal mines and mining; Fathers and sons; HIstorical fiction; Nova Scotia – History]
Newfoundland and Labrador
Morgan, Bernice. Seasons Before the War. Tors Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador: Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides Inc., 2018.
A wonderful memoir – partly fictionalized – about life in Newfoundland when it was still an independent country. Set in St. John’s just before the outbreak of World War II, the author recalls a childhood filled with everyday adventures. Accompanied by full-page illustrations that wonderfully match the nostalgic style of the story, this picture book is most highly recommended for both children and adults.
Sheppard, Mary C. One For Sorrow. Toronto: Puffin Canada, 2008.
Issy is determined to leave her unhappy life in a small Newfoundland outport as soon as she is sixteen years old. Her mother and older sister are unkind, her father is hardly ever home and she has no friends. But how will she succeed in escaping her lonely existence if she can’t even read?
Sheppard, Mary C. Three for a Wedding. Toronto: Puffin Canada, 2009.
“There’s something mysterious about Grace-Mae’s arrival in Cook’s Cove but Violet, her cousin, doesn’t have time to unravel it as she has final exams, her sisters wedding, a garden party, and her first boyfriend to think about.” – WAFMS. Part of a trilogy highly recommended for competent readers 12-years-old and up. [Cousins; Family life; Summer]
Tilly, Meg. Porcupine. Plattsburgh, N.Y.: Tundra Books of Northern New York, 2007.
“After her father is killed in Afghanistan, twelve-year-old tomboy Jack Cooper and her siblings find themselves moving across the country to live on their great-grandmother’s run-down farm, where Jack puts on a brave face to help her brother and sister adjust to their new lives.” – WAFMS. Recommended for readers 10 to 13 years old. [Afghanistan; Courage; Death; Family life; Fathers; Grandmothers; Newfoundland and Labrador]
Winters, Nellie. Reflections from Them Days: A Residential School Memoir from Nunatsiavut. Iqaluit, Nunavut : Qinuisaarniq, an imprint of Inhabit Education Books Inc., 2020.
In 1949, when Nellie was eleven years old, she was sent to boarding school in Nain, Labrador on the east coast of Canada. In this 51-page autobiography, transcribed and edited by Erica Oberndorfer, she matter-of-factly shares her memories – both sad and happy, heart-breaking and humorous – in a voice truly her own. In the forward, she explains that we are all on earth to help each other and make our world “more wonderful.” This true story – illustrated by the author – will help readers see another life, another perspective, from a time not so long ago in Canada’s history. Highly recommended for readers 10 years old and up.
Brouwer, Sigmund. Devil’s Pass. Victoria: Orca, 2012.
Seventeen-year-old Webb’s grandfather has sent him on a quest for the truth. But on his hike through the wilderness of the Northwest Territories, he faces more danger than anyone could have expected. Will he survive? Will he discover the truth of what really happened after his grandfather returned from World War 2? And will he ever be able to reveal the truth about his physically abusive stepfather? A well-plotted novel for students in grade seven and up. Part of an action-packed series for eleven-years-old and up.[Northwest Territories; Child abuse; Grandfathers; Mystery and detective stories; Musicians; Murder; Stepfathers]
Hobbs, Will. Far North. New York : Avon, , c1996.
“After the destruction of their floatplane, sixteen-year-old Gabe and his Dene friend, Raymond, struggle to survive a winter in the wilderness of the Northwest Territories of Canada.” – WAFMS. Recommended for readers 11 to 15 years old who enjoy adventure stories. [Adventure stories; Survival]
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.
Hill, Kirkpatrick. Toughboy and Sister. Aladdin Paperbacks, 2000, c1990.
Ten-year-old Toughboy and his younger sister are stranded at a remote fishing cabin in the Yukon after their father dies. Highly recommended for readers nine years old and up.[Brothers and sisters; Orphans; Wilderness survival]