For the visual reader
Bea Wolf by Zach Weinersmith, illustrated by Boulet
Zach Weinersmith offers a brilliant kid-friendly retelling of Beowulf that sets hero Bea Wolf and her courageous band of treehouse defenders against the candy-hating fun-destroying Grindle, who lives next door.
A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat
In this touching memoir, 13-year-old Santat slowly discovers a sense of himself he never previously considered while travelling through France, Germany, Switzerland and England. He shares a series of firsts that eventually transform him: trying Fanta and cheese fondue for the first time, stealing a bike from German punk rockers and even falling in love.
Who Owns the Clouds? by Mario Brassard, illustrated by Gérard DuBois
(Tundra Books, 12+)
The winner of the French-language Governor General’s Award for Best Children’s Book and the Bologna Ragazzi Award, this powerful graphic novel shares the grief, trauma and emotional pain that protagonist Mila suffered as a result of a childhood torn apart by war and conflict.
Global by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano
Colfer and Donkin tell the story of two children whose lives are being changed by impact of the climate crisis. Sami and his grandfather live in a tiny village on the Indian Ocean that’s been devastated by hurricanes and tropical storms; Yuki, in the Canadian Arctic, watches how the melting of the Polar Ice Caps is affecting the lives of the polar bears.
Yellow Butterfly: A Story from Ukraine by Oleksandr Shatokhin
(Red Comet Press, 4-8)
This stunning, wordless picture book is a powerful response to the war in Ukraine that cleverly makes use of the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Readers watch a young girl try to find comfort and hope in the little yellow butterflies she sees in the war-torn skies of her devastated homeland. Notes on how to share a wordless picture book and to talk to children about war will be useful for parents and teachers.
Afikomen by Tziporah Cohen, illustrated by Yaara Eshet
(Groundwood Books, 3-7)
This delightful, wordless time-travel adventure follows three children from their Passover seder to ancient Egypt, where they find themselves helping baby Moses find his way safely to Pharaoh’s daughter. Afterward, they make their way back home and fall asleep at the seder table. But was it all a dream? An author’s note talks about the meaning of Passover and the different traditions associated with the afikomen.
For the fiction lover
Like a Hurricane by Jonathan Bécotte
(Orca Book Publishers, 9-12)
This powerful verse novel is especially timely as we watch LGBTQ rights being threatened in the United States. A young teen is terrified about revealing that he’s gay and his inability to “come out” is tearing him apart. How will his parents react and what about his friends at school? The design of this moving book is as stormy as Bécotte’s insightful poems.
Catch Me If I Fall by Barry Jonsberg
(Groundwood Books, 9-12)
In an Australia devastated by the climate crisis, twins Ashleigh and Aiden lead lives of incredible privilege because of their mother’s work as an AI researcher. But after an accident on a school trip where Ashleigh almost drowns, their lives start to mysteriously unravel. As Ashleigh tries to find out what’s happened, she discovers that the climate crisis has a devastating meaning for her family.
The Enchanted Bridge (Dragons in a Bag Book 4) by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Cherise Harris
(Random House Children’s Books, 8-12)
Each new book in Zetta Elliott’s exciting Dragons in a Bag series propels readers not only into new places in the magical world that protagonist Jaxon and his friends have found themselves part of. Jax and company are trying, in this new instalment, to reconnect the bridge between our world and the magical one – but is this the right thing to do?
For the artist-in-training
A Tulip in Winter: A Story About Folk Artist Maud Lewis by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Lauren Soloy
(Greystone Kids, 5-8)
This poignant picture-book biography is a tribute to Nova Scotia’s most celebrated folk artist Maud Lewis and the vibrant paintings she created, and is also a heartfelt look at how hard she had to work to fulfill her dream of becoming an artist. Soloy’s illustrations are a glorious tribute to Lewis’s art.
Just Jerry: How Drawing Shaped My Life by Jerry Pinkney
(Little Brown, 8-12)
This memoir tells the story of one of the best African-American illustrators of all time and his journey to becoming an artist. Pinkney beautifully captures a sense of both the joys and struggles of his childhood in the 1940s and 50s, struggles with dyslexia as well as racism. Accompanied by sketchbook drawings, Pinkney makes the world of his childhood come to life.
Little Rosetta and the Talking Guitar by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
(Random House Children’s Books, 5-8)
A fabulous picture-book biography of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose amazing career as a musician has gone under-recognized. In the 1930s and 40s, she was the first great recording star of gospel music, and her pioneering use of electric guitar influenced musicians like Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.
The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music by Roberta Flack with Tonya Bolden, illustrated by Hayden Goodman
(Random House Children’s Books, 5-8)
Roberta Flack offers a fascinating account of her lifelong passion for music and the key role that her father played in her journey. This lovely and lyrical picture book recognizes the hard work that Flack put into becoming a musician, including why having a piano of her own was so important to her.
For the picture-book lover
The Sniger and the Floose by Ashley Fayth, illustrated by Katie Brosnan
(Running the Goat, 4-8)
Ashley Fayth has created a delightful nonsense poem where readers meet a range of “wild and wondrous” beasts, including the sniger, the floose, the squiffin and the butterflabbit. Katie Brosnan’s illustrations provide the perfect accompaniment to Fayth’s playful rhymes and rollicking rhythm. It’s a lovely reminder of how important it is to respect and preserve the beauty of the natural world.
Sometimes I Feel Like a River by Danielle Daniel, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
(Groundwood Books, 3-8)
Danielle Daniel offers 12 lyrical poems, in each of which a child finds a moving connection to the natural world. Bisaillon’s illustrations add a depth to each poem and help create the right setting for us to be more aware of the world we inhabit. Daniel also provides tips for a mindfulness walk that suggests ways young readers can become more attuned to what they see, hear and experience.
Egyptian Lullaby by Zeena M. Pliska, illustrated by Hatem Aly
(Roaring Brook, 4-8)
While visiting from her home in Cairo, each night, Auntie Fatma sings her niece a lullaby that beautifully evokes the great city. The song gives readers a glimpse of Auntie’s home in Egypt and and makes a beautiful connection between aunt and niece that is sweetly made visible in Aly’s equally lyrical illustrations.
The Last Two Crayons by Leah Freeman-Haskin, illustrated by Shantala Robinson
(Groundwood Books, 4-8)
Sienna is so excited to start work on her picture for the school’s spring art show, but when she ends up with the last two crayons and both of them are brown, she’s demoralized. But with help of her teachers and classmates she begins to reconsider how many things she loves that are brown – from chocolate ice cream and grizzly bears to Sienna and her family. Brown has never looked more beautiful!
Waking Ben Doldrums by Heather Smith, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler
(Orca Book Publishers, 6-8)
Frieda Bellows lives in a big old house where, every morning everyone in the house helps to wake up one of their neighbours – but one morning, Ben Doldrums doesn’t play his part. Frieda wants to help, but she knows that she can’t fix Ben Doldrums – or can she? Eggenschwiler’s gently playful illustrations are a perfect complement to Smith’s story.
Homeland: My Father Dreams of Palestine by Hannah Moushabeck, illustrated by Reem Madooh
Each night, Father tells his daughters stories of the homeland he left behind, sharing memories of Palestine and the Old City of Jerusalem, fostering a love for a place they’ve never seen and can no longer even visit. A powerful autobiographical picture book that recognizes the pain of leaving your homeland, not because you want to, but because you have to.
Dounia and the Magic Seeds by Marya Zarif
Animator Zarif has created a powerful and evocative story about the Syrian refugee crisis through this moving adaptation of her films about little Dounia. When war comes, Dounia and her grandparents have to flee Aleppo, and all she can bring with her are a bird her grandfather carved out of soap and four baraké seeds. Somehow, each of the seeds helps the family on their journey to a new home.
For young readers interested in Indigenous culture
Dig Deep: Connecting Archaeology, Oceans and Us by Nicole F. Smith
(Orca Books, 9-12)
Archeology and traditional Indigenous knowledge are linked together in this clever exploration of how marine environments have changed over time.
The Song That Called Them Home by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Maya McKibbin
(Tundra Books, 4-8)
Robertson turns to Indigenous folktales and stories of the Memekwesewak – the little people – and the havoc they create when they have a chance. When Lauren and James go fishing while their grandfather has a nap, they find themselves in trouble when the Memekwesewak create a summer storm and snatch James away. It’s up to Lauren to rescue him – but the Memekwesewak’s song is very powerful, and she isn’t sure she has the power to resist its call.
Biindigen! Amik Says Welcome by Nancy Cooper, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley
Amik the beaver and her little sister, Nishiime, are very excited because all their cousins are coming to visit them, but Nishiime is very shy and no sooner have the cousins arrived than Nishiime disappears. The cousins help Amik, and Cooper offers insights into to how beavers help other forest creatures. (And what about Nishiime? Keen eyes might discover where she is in Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley’s playful illustrations.)
Remember by Joy Harjo, illustrated by Michaela Goade
(Random House Children’s Books, 4-8)
U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s iconic poem Remember is beautifully illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Michaela Goade in this stunning picture book that invites young readers to reflect on the wonders of the world they live in and remember how important their place in it is. This book is an exciting collaboration between Harjo, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and Goade, who draws from her Tlingit culture to create breathtaking illustrations.
For the non-fiction fan
Stars of the Night: The Courageous Children of the Czech Kindertransport by Caren Stelson, illustrated by Selina Alko
(CarolRhoda Books, 7-11)
Stelson movingly tells the story of the Czech Kindertransport through the collective memory of the 669 children rescued from Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War and the man behind this rescue mission, Nicholas Winton.
Sisters in Science: Marie Curie, Bronia Dluska, and the Atomic Power of Sisterhood by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Anna and Elena Balbusso
(Random House Children’s Books, 4-8)
Marshall’s picture book biography relates the story of Madame Curie, one of the most famous women scientists of all time, and her older sister Bronia. The two worked together and made a legendary impact on chemistry and health care, because of a pact Bronia and Marie made when they were young women. A powerful story of science and sisterhood.
What Does Hate Look Like by Sameea Jimenez and Corrine Promislow with Larry Swartz
(Second Story Press, 9-12)
Jimenez, Promislow and Swartz share their own stories of how hatred affects us in society and in schools as well as the stories of kids in schools who have been both the victims and the perpetrators of hate-related incidents. They help us see how bias, prejudice, violence, discrimination and exclusion affect us all.
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