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Wondering how to help the little ones in your life ride out the third wave? Here are 10 books bound to not only stoke their imaginations, but also help them cope with this scary new pandemic world, filled with great unknown and big emotions.


10. Maya’s Big Scene

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In the latest instalment of writer and illustrator Isabelle Arsenault’s Mile End Kids picture book series, Maya’s Big Scene, (Tundra Books, 4-8), Maya is set to direct and star in a play she’s written for the gang. They’ve spent lots of time rehearsing but then Maya begins to act as if she actually is a queen, which leads to a lot of frustration. Arsenault’s playful pencil, watercolour and ink illustrations are a great match for the graphic novel style she uses to tell her stories. Find out just how fine an actor Maya really is in this imaginative backyard adventure.

9. Toucania

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Looking for a spectacular adventure? Join intrepid explorer Dr. Amelia Alfonso as she takes young readers to the mysterious island of Toucania (Orca Books, 4-8), with the help of author Marianne Ferrer and illustrator Valérie Picard. Toucania appears out of the fog only once every 50 years for just one day and has the most unusual flora and fauna. Using her famous grandfather’s journal, Amelia takes us on a tour of the island where we see pods of spotted biphins, fevers of glowing lumirays and frisky merbears and the valley where her grandfather found the magical Toucanians.

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8. 48 Grasshopper Estates

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Sicily Bridges has a wonderful imagination and can make almost anything out of the recycled bits and pieces she finds around the apartment complex where she lives. Sara de Waal takes us into Sicily’s world at 48 Grasshopper Estates, illustrated by Erika Medina (Annick Press, 4-7), where she might try fashioning a lake submarine, an aqua and pink unicorn castle or a supersonic sandwich maker. But what Sicily really wants is a friend and making one of those isn’t as easy.

7. The Doll

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Both The Doll by Nhung N. Tran-Davies, illustrated by Ravy Puth (Second Story Press, 5-9), and Thao, written and illustrated by Thao Lam (OwlKids, 4-8), are told from the perspective of Vietnamese refugees whose families made their way to Canada. But they approach their experiences in different ways.

Nhung N. Tran-Davies tells her story in a gentle poetic text, using experiences as a child and matching them with the contemporary experiences of Syrian refugees. The Doll is both the gift she received at the airport when she first arrived in Canada, welcoming her to this new home, as well as the doll she gave to a little girl arriving 40 years later.

6. Thao

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Thao Lam began exploring her experiences as a refugee in her exquisite book, The Paper Boat. In Thao, she focuses on what being an outsider was like for a little girl whose name seemed a challenge for her peers and adults. She’s not Towel or Toe or Thaw! She’s not China Girl or Tao the Cow or Yellow! Thao decides she’s going to be Jennifer. And being Jennifer does seems easier at first until she opens up her lunch and discovers that, in fact, being different is important to her. Using childhood photos and cut-paper collage, Lam shares a story that will resonate with children who find fitting in a challenge.

5. Tough Like Mum

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Life isn’t always easy for Kim because sometimes her mum just can’t get out of bed because she’s so sad and Kim has to make her own lunch or mum won’t sign the permission form so Kim can go see a play with her class because mum doesn’t have the money. But mum’s tough – everyone says so – and Kim want to be Tough Like Mum (Tundra Books, 3-7). Lana Button gently explores the pressures that kids feel when they have to take on the roles that the adults in their lives can’t.

4. I Am A Peaceful Goldfish

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I Am A Peaceful Goldfish by Shoshana Chaim, illustrated by Lori Joy Smith (Greystone Kids, 2-6) is a playful way to introduce meditation to young readers who find themselves in stressful situations. When a little boy and his younger sister can’t seem to calm down, the older brother suggests that they take a slow big breath in and imagine themselves as peaceful goldfish blowing bubbles in their bowl, pinwheels gently spinning in a soft breeze, swinging wind chimes making beautiful music or gentle dragons making fire dance in the air.

3. Beep-Beep Bubbie

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Kate’s a bit taken aback when Bubbie arrives to pick her up for the day and discovers Bubbie’s got a scooter now to help her get around. But Beep-Beep Bubbie by award-winning documentary filmmaker and writer Bonnie Sherr Klein, illustrated by Elisabeth Eudes-Pascal (Tradewind Books, 3-8), shows how different doesn’t have to be bad. Bubbie might not be able to walk but she’s a whizz on her scooter as Kate’s younger brother finds to his delight even if Kate’s not sure. Will going to the library be as much fun or going to the Granville Island market? You’ll have to read Klein’s lively scooter-ific story, beautifully enhanced by Eudes-Pascal’s rambunctious illustrations, to find out.

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2. The Dog’s Gardener

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The Dog’s Gardener by Patricia Storms, illustrated by Nathalie Dion (Groundwood Books, 3-7), takes us into a wonderful world as each day Dutch follows his gardener into the doggy paradise he imagines that she’s created just for him. It’s a world where his gardener makes holes in the ground to plant new things for him to smell and look at, where Dutch can roll around in the dewy grass while she works, where he can quietly contemplate the world while she naps against an old stump and, best of all, where she waters the grass just so that Dutch can dance under the spray of the hose. Storms’ deliciously sweet and subtle text is beautifully matched by Dion’s sumptuous gouache illustrations.

1. The Street Belongs to Us

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The Street Belongs to Us by Karleen Pendleton-Jimenez, illustrated by Gabriella Godoy (Arsenal Pulp Press, 8-12), takes readers back to the summer of 1984 where life on Muscatel Avenue in Los Angeles begins to change in ways that tomboy Alex can’t control. She wonders if her world is coming apart at the seams. Her street’s being torn up to build new sidewalks, her body’s betraying her as she hits puberty, her friendship with Wolf, her best friend is changing in ways she doesn’t understand and not even a lively street war against rival neighbourhood kids is able to really cheer her up. Pendleton-Jimenez offers readers a powerful middle-grade novel that not only explores Mexican-American identity but movingly explores the complications of family relationships, friendships and gender identity.

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