Days By Moonlight by André Alexis • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood • Immigrant City by David Bezmozgis • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates • Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles • The Innocents by Michael Crummey • Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline • Akin by Emma Donoghue • Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann • The Difference by Marina Endicott • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert • Aria by Nazanine Hozar • Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James • A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay • Shut Up You’re Pretty by Téa Mutonji • Dual Citizens by Alix Ohlin • I Become A Delight to My Enemies by Sara Peters • The Gown by Jennifer Robson • Normal People by Sally Rooney • Guestbook by Leanne Shapton • Chasing Painted Horses by Drew Hayden Taylor • Five Wives by Joan Thomas • Lampedusa by Steven Price • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead • Reproduction by Ian Williams • The Border by Don Winslow
Days by Moonlight
André Alexis (Coach House Books)
A grieving botanist accompanies the friend of his recently deceased parents on a road trip through the underworld in search of a lost Canadian poet. This year’s winner of the Writers’ Trust award is the fifth novel in Alexis’s quincunx literary set – the second, Fifteen Dogs, won the 2015 Giller.
Margaret Atwood (McClelland & Stewart)
In one of the most hotly anticipated books of the year (and co-winner of the Booker), Atwood takes us back to Gilead, first introduced in The Handmaid’s Tale, weaving together three narratives: a daughter raised in the cloistered privilege of a Commander’s household, an independent Canadian girl exposed to Gilead’s creepy missionaries, and the villainous Aunt Lydia.
David Bezmozgis (HarperCollins Canada)
Bezmozgis’s immigrant childhood is reflected in this rich series of short stories – by turns funny and sad – of Eastern Europeans leaving or fleeing their homes for life in North America. The gem of the collection is The Russian Riviera (first published in The New Yorker), set among Russian immigrants in New York.
The Water Dancer
Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World)
In his impressive debut novel, the award-winning non-fiction writer tells the fantastical tale of Hiram Walker, a slave who has the mythical talent to use his memories to transport people to freedom.
Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club
Megan Gail Coles (House of Anansi)
The Newfoundland playwright’s dark debut novel was shortlisted for this year’s Giller prize and takes place over a single Valentine’s Day, but it’s no romance. It focuses on an affair famous chef John is having with employee Iris – though calling it an affair is nicer than John deserves.
Michael Crummey (Doubleday Canada)
After their parents and infant sister die, Evered and Ada Best find themselves orphaned and alone in an isolated cove in northern Newfoundland. In true Crummey fashion, the tale’s rural, bygone setting is so brutal and bewitching that it becomes a complex and unruly character in the novel, which was shortlisted for this year’s Governor-General’s, Writers’ Trust and Giller awards.
Empire of Wild
Cherie Dimaline (Random House Canada)
Dimaline’s brilliant, award-winning YA-crossover debut, The Marrow Thieves, spent more than a year on the Canadian bestseller list and has a TV adaptation in the works. For her follow-up, she takes inspiration from the traditional story of the werewolf-like rougarou, who haunts the roads and woods of small Métis communities. Dimaline’s blunt writing style makes for a tense reading experience, and the Georgian Bay-set novel renders Ontario as much a character as the rougarou itself.
Emma Donoghue (HarperCollins Canada)
Donoghue returns to a familiar theme in her latest novel (her previous books include the Booker-shortlisted Room and magical The Wonder). A child named Michael is tied to his 79-year-old grand-uncle, Noah, due to extenuating circumstances. Noah had never met his young relative but takes him in and then drags him along on a pilgrimage to Nice to discover what happened to his family during the Second World War.
Lucy Ellmann (Biblioasis)
The 1,000 pages of this experimental work are one extremely long, rage-filled internal dialogue, tied to the #MeToo movement and Donald Trump’s election. It was shortlisted for the Booker and won this year’s Goldsmith prize.
Marina Endicott (Knopf Canada)
It’s 1912, and just off the Pacific island of Pulo Anna, a group of men have rowed out to a Nova Scotia merchant ship to trade with the crew. The exchange involves the sale of a young boy by his people to the captain’s wife, Thea – the pivot around which this extraordinary novel turns.
City of Girls
Elizabeth Gilbert (Riverhead)
The Eat, Pray, Love author meant for her latest novel to “go down like a gin fizz,” and it does. The book features a group of women, starting in 1940s New York, who follow their own whims and answer to no one. They’re promiscuous, they don’t always exercise the best judgment and, while it can’t be said they don’t suffer, they’re not ruined by their choices. It all makes for a refreshing –and potent – cocktail.
Nazanine Hozar (Knopf Canada)
The Iranian-Canadian author began writing her debut novel as an MFA student at the University of British Columbia. While it is a historical novel set around the Islamic Revolution, it’s also very much about personal relationships – their power to destroy and their potential to be destroyed by political events.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf
Marlon James (Bond Street Books)
Tracker, a multigendered outcast with a preternatural sense of smell and a protective enchantment against weapons, is hired to find a boy. He teams up with his lover, Leopard, who can transform into his namesake at will. What follows is a quest in the vein of The Lord of the Rings but one that pays homage to Caribbean and African folklore and its vengeful spirits, blood curses and shape-shifting fiends.
A Brightness Long Ago
Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada)
Kay’s writing is often described as beautiful, thanks to his authentic dialogue and ability to wring emotion from sparse description. But there’s also beauty in the theme of hope that connects his novels. Here, he returns to Batiara, the land of Children of Earth and Sky, decades before that sprawling tale, with a story told from a much tighter perspective.
Shut Up You’re Pretty
Téa Mutonji (Arsenal Pulp Press)
This debut short story collection from the new Arsenal Pulp imprint, VS. Books, grapples with notions of identity, both cultural and sexual, that have been imposed by society. It is a collection of stories that follows the lives of three women and a teenage girl.
Alix Ohlin (House of Anansi)
Ohlin’s latest novel, nominated for the Writers’ Trust and Giller prizes, focuses on the attractive and repulsive force of motherhood. It follows the lives of sisters Lark and Robin from childhood to adulthood as their bond – forged in response to their absentee mother– is changed and challenged.
I Become A Delight to My Enemies
Sara Peters (Strange Light)
A mixture of poetry and prose, this is a book of disembodied voices, all of its characters from a nameless town where they experienced sexual abuse and terror. Contributing to the sense of secrecy and shame, some of the text appears as marginalia and often in fragments, as if the speakers aren’t sure how much they should say.
Jennifer Robson (HarperCollins)
This spectacular novel by the Oxford-trained historian uses the wedding dress Princess Elizabeth wore when she married Philip Mountbatten to tell the story of postwar London. The tale focuses on the ordinary and extraordinary lives of three women: an embroider, Ann; her friend, Miriam; and Ann’s Canadian granddaughter, Heather.
Sally Rooney (Knopf Canada)
This love story follows Marianne and Connell from teenage hookup through four years of breakups and reunions while they study at Trinity College in Dublin. A conventional heterosexual romance on one level, this Booker-long-listed novel is also a meditation on submission, desire, gender and self-hatred.
Leanne Shapton (Riverhead Books)
This mesmerizing book by the artist/author has 30-plus entries that mix photography, moody watercolours and bits of text to explore the idea of the uncanny (the subtitle of the book is Ghost Stories). But these are not your typical spooky tales; instead, there are shades of W.G. Sebald and Edward Gorey in its randomness and sly humour.
Chasing Painted Horses
Drew Hayden Taylor (Cormorant Books)
A graffiti horse in a downtown alleyway jolts a Toronto cop’s memories of one childhood winter on the Otter Lake Reserve and the horse’s artist, now missing. It’s a haunting novel, with flashes of wry humour.
Joan Thomas (Harper Avenue)
The winner of this year’s Governor-General’s award for fiction is based on real events: the notoriously ill-advised mission to Ecuador by a group of U.S. Christian evangelists in 1956 to convert an uncontacted tribe called the Waorani. Five of the missionaries were killed and the novel is narrated by the missionaries’ wives who were left behind after the disaster.
Steven Price (McClelland & Stewart)
This biographical novel, shortlisted for the Giller, chronicles the final days of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa as he sets about writing his masterpiece, The Leopard. Lampedusa died before the novel was published and never knew its success. Laden with evocative description, Lampedusa is an old-fashioned novel tinged with hope and lingering regret in each of its 300 pages.
The Nickel Boys
Colson Whitehead (Bond Street Books)
In 2014, Whitehead stumbled across clippings about the discovery of remains of students from the Dozier School for Boys in Florida. Those stories led to this searing novel, set in the 1960s, that follows Elwood Curtis, a bright young man, who is sentenced to the Nickel Academy, a reform school for boys that subjects its black students to horrific violence.
Ian Williams (Random House Canada)
This year’s Giller winner – the debut novel by Griffin-nominated poet Williams – traces three generations of the same family, beginning in the 1970s. The story, which is told in four distinct parts, is driven as much by its relationships as its characters.
Don Winslow (William Morrow)
In this final instalment in a meticulously researched trilogy about Mexican drug cartels, corrupt authorities, sex traffickers and low-level drug slingers, Winslow doesn’t just widen your eyes – he clamps them open, Clockwork Orange-style, as countless horrors jump off the page. Its strong, often overpowering stink of verisimilitude will linger for weeks.
Bush Runner by Mark Bourrie • Empty Planet by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson • Coventry by Rachel Cusk • The Missing Millionaire by Katie Daubs • Had it Coming by Robyn Doolittle • A Mind Spread Out on The Ground by Alicia Elliott • Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow • Spies of No Country by Matti Friedman • Before the Lights Go Out by Sean Fitz-Gerald • The Vagina Bible by Jen Gunter • We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib • Chop Suey Nation by Ann Hui • Peace and Good Order by Harold Johnson • She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey • Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe • Claws of the Panda by Jonathan Manthorpe • Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me by Anna Mehler Paperny • Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl • From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle • Girls Need Not Apply by Kelly S. Thompson • Three Women by Lisa Taddeo • Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino • The Wake by Linden McIntyre • The North-West Is Our Mother by Jean Teillet • Older Sister, Not Necessarily Related by Jenny Heijun Wills • Scotty by Ken Dryden • Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell • Solitary by Albert Woodfox
Mark Bourrie (Biblioasis)
This vivid narrative of explorer Pierre-Esprit Radisson is chock-a-block with little-known facts. The book is compelling, authoritative, a bit disturbing and a significant contribution to the history of 17th-century North America.
Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson (Signal)
John Ibbitson (a Globe and Mail political columnist) and Darrell Bricker (a pollster and public-affairs commentator) have written an enlightening guide to the contemporary world of fertility as small family sizes and plunging rates of child-bearing go global. It’s a bracing overview of demographic history, which then focuses on particular countries and issues.
Rachel Cusk (HarperCollins)
This new collection of previously published non-fiction writing looks at many of the same themes – feminism, motherhood, the life of an artist – that the Canadian-born though unapologetically British Cusk has examined in her novels.
The Missing Millionaire
Katie Daubs (McClelland & Stewart)
This book is less a lament for the unsolved mystery of a petty, philandering, Machiavellian middleman (53-year-old Toronto theatre magnate and impresario Ambrose Small in 1919) than it is a vivid social and physical portrait of the rapidly evolving city, Toronto, in which he lived.
Had it Coming
Robyn Doolittle (Allen Lane Canada)
A decisive snapshot of the #MeToo movement and this moment in history that considers where we were, and sets the stage for where we might go, and will no doubt be used to describe this moment long after we’ve moved on to a new normal.
A Mind Spread Out on The Ground
Alicia Elliott (Doubleday Canada)
In her debut collection Tuscarora writer Alicia Elliott takes her place among essayists such as Roxane Gay and Samantha Irby, infusing intimate details of her own life with sociopolitical analysis and biting wit.
Catch and Kill
Ronan Farrow (Little, Brown and Co.)
After winning a Pulitzer Prize for public service for his New Yorker work on Harvey Weinstein, Farrow does a behind-the-scenes dive into what happens when noxious Hollywood power collides with big-media indifference.
Spies of No Country
Matti Friedman (Signal)
Toronto-born, Jerusalem-based journalist Matti Friedman examines the improvised origins of Israel’s Mossad. Friedman focuses on four men who belonged to the fabled Arab section – many of the events that currently consume the modern Middle East were shaped by them.
Before the Lights Go Out
Sean Fitz-Gerald (McClelland & Stewart)
A life-long hockey fan who is a senior writer for The Athletic, Fitz-Gerald embedded himself in the hockey heartland of Peterborough, Ont., using the local OHL team, the Petes, as a looking-glass into the game and how it’s strayed and faltered on its way into the 21st century – and where the way forward might lie.
The Vagina Bible
Jen Gunter (Random House Canada)
The Winnipeg-born obstetrician-gynecologist’s clear-eyed encyclopedia touches on just about every matter serious (vulvar pain, menopause, STIs and toxic-shock syndrome), intimate (kegels, orgasms and lube) and banal (ingrown hairs, douching and the pH balance of soap) that women experience with their health.
We Have Always Been Here
Samra Habib (Viking Canada)
Samra Habib’s emotionally wide-ranging but tightly structured book challenges so many received wisdoms on gender, faith and sexuality that its very existence in the world is cause for celebration.
Chop Suey Nation
Ann Hui (Douglas & McIntyre)
The Globe and Mail reporter presents a fascinating blend of history, cultural commentary, road trip, personal narrative and mouth-watering food depictions in her journey across Canada in a toy-sized rental Fiat. Hui weaves the real-life sacrifices of many Chinese immigrants into a deeply felt and resonating anthropological tapestry.
Peace and Good Order
Harold R. Johnson (McClelland & Stewart)
The former prosecutor and author of Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing My People (And Yours), which was a finalist for the Governor-General’s literary award for non-fiction, writes a deeply moving condemnation of the Canadian state’s failure to deliver peace and good order to Indigenous people.
Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey (Penguin Press)
In this well-researched book, the two New York Times reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story for the paper and ended up winning a Pultizer Prize for their reporting look at the structures that allowed him to flourish.
Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday)
Keefe, who is a staff writer for The New Yorker, tells the story of the disappearance of Jean McConville, a 38-year-old mother who was kidnapped at gunpoint in front of her children in Belfast at the height of the Troubles.
Claws of the Panda
Jonathan Manthorpe (Cormorant Books)
The veteran journalist looks at how China has spent decades in Canada to acquire influence over economic and political decision-making and how it succeeded in conveying an image of China as a trustworthy partner rather than a demanding superpower.
Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me
Anna Mehler Paperny (Random House Canada)
A raw, frank and dark-humoured memoir that was nominated for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Non-Fiction. It’s a must-read for those who want to understand what goes on in the heads of those who take their lives and the many more who, like the author, come perilously close.
Save Me the Plums
Ruth Reichl (Appetite by Random House)
A chronicle of the author’s time at as editor-in-chief of Gourmet, North America’s oldest epicurean magazine, gives readers a rare peek into the over-the-top glamour of Condé Nast’s magazine world.
From the Ashes
Jesse Thistle (Simon & Schuster)
A moving memoir from the Métis-Cree writer about being abandoned as a child and then being put into the foster-care system. This heartbreaking and honest debut looks at the decades spent on the street as an addict and how he was able to finally break out of that.
Girls Need Not Apply
Kelly S. Thompson (McClelland & Stewart)
A former captain in the Canadian Armed Forces who came from a military family gives an insider’s look at masculine culture that faces female recruits.
Lisa Taddeo (Simon & Schuster)
This debut book was prompted by Taddeo reading Gay Talese’s 1981 survey of American swingerdom, Thy Neighbor’s Wife, which left her wanting to know more about the women in the book and their desires. The result: a groundbreaking documentary about sexual desire that follows three women over eight years in Indiana, North Dakota and the Northeast.
Jia Tolentino (Random House)
The Canadian-born author and staff writer at The New Yorker tackles some of the biggest, most complex, distressing issues of our time in her debut collection of essays – and she does it with flare and humour.
Linden McIntyre (HarperCollins Canada)
The award-winning novelist draws on exhaustive research to produce vivid, sometimes unpleasant detail, about a tsunami that hit Newfoundland on Nov. 18, 1929. The disaster led to a series of events that would create economic hardship and eventual destitution and death for the miners and community on the Burin Peninsula.
The North-West Is Our Mother
Jean Teillet (HarperCollins Canada)
The great-grand-niece of Louis Riel tells the story of the Métis people from the last decade of the 18th century when they battled for recognition and nationhood to present day where they are now recognized as a distinct Indigenous nation.
Older Sister, Not Necessarily Related
Jenny Heijun Wills (McClelland & Stewart)
Wills, who was adopted from Korea by a Canadian family, won the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction for this book, a candid memoir about her search for her birth family and the difficult, essential questions that need to be asked about adoption across cultures.
Ken Dryden (McClelland & Stewart)
Hockey’s two greats – Scotty Bowman (coach) and Ken Dryden (goalie) – come up with a list of the teams they considered to be the greatest in NHL history, including the 1951-52 Detroit Red Wings and the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers along with a lineup they’d both been a part of: their own 1976-77 Canadiens. Then they pit those against one another in a playoff series and tell us who would win and why.
Talking to Strangers
Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown)
The author and podcaster’s newest book examines why we believe strangers and why we might think they are lying. In true Gladwellian fashion the writing and stories he unearths are entertaining and dramatic.
Albert Woodfox (Grove Press)
The memoir of the former Black Panther who spent 40 years in solitary confinement is an extraordinary account of mental resilience in the face of relentless state cruelty. “They did not break me,” he writes. “I bear the scars of beatings, loneliness, isolation, and persecution. I am also marked by every kindness.”
Murdered Midas by Charlotte Gray • Someone We Know by Shari Lapena • A Matter of Malice by Thomas King • Joe Country by Mick Herron • The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware • The Farm by Joanne Ramos • Wherever She Goes by K.L. Armstrong • Flowers Over the Inferno by Ilaria Tuti • Conviction by Denise Mina • The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
Charlotte Gray (HarperCollins Canada)
The 1943 killing of Sir Harry Oakes, the richest man in the empire, has it all including a suspect list that could have been created by Agatha Christie. Charlotte Gray resurrects Oakes before his death, giving us a grand picture of the Ontario gold mining rush in all its shabby glory. She also attempts, fairly successfully, to solve the mystery of who killed Oakes.
Someone We Know
Shari Lapena (Penguin Random House)
This undemanding-but-absorbing domestic noir tackles the age-old question of how well you know your neighbours in a compelling new way. The intrigue begins with a break-and-enter and then quickly complicates itself with the discovery of a body.
A Matter of Malice
Thomas King (HarperCollins Canada)
The newest instalment in the Thumps DreadfulWater series, which began in 2002, has the detective back in Chinook where he’s contacted by a television crew for a reality show about investigating the mysterious death of Trudy Samuels, the daughter in a wealthy family in town.
Mick Herron (Soho)
Snarky, cynical and endlessly clever, this is the sixth in the Slough House series. Herron blends character, place and espionage into a riveting melange that is reminiscent of the best of John le Carré or Len Deighton.
The Turn of the Key
Ruth Ware (Simon & Schuster)
A superb book that references the nanny of Henry James’s famed novel who has a secret but who is also faced with evil. Rowan Caine has a reason to head to the country and when a live-in nanny job appears, with a huge salary to boot, she’s ready to pack for the highlands of Scotland. There, she finds Heatherbrae House, a “smart home” with all the electronic bells and whistles and what appears to be the perfect family.
Joanne Ramos (Doubleday Canada)
This debut by the Filipino-American novelist and staff writer at The Economist, is as good as most first novels get. There are gripping characters and a compelling storyline that mixes together racism, classism and crime at a ritzy spa for surrogates who carry the babies of the rich and famous.
Wherever She Goes
K.L. Armstrong (Doubleday Canada)
A woman witnesses a young boy’s kidnapping, but nobody else has reported it. She knows what she saw, but nobody will believe her. Our unreliable narrator knows she must do something, but how far is she willing to go?
Flowers Over the Inferno
Ilaria Tuti (Soho)
Introducing a new Italian series with a marvellous central character, Superintendent Teresa Battaglia (who is older, out of shape and diabetic) and a complex rich plot.
Denise Mina (Little, Brown)
This spectacular stand-alone begins with coffee and a true-crime podcast and turns into a devastating tale of crime, fear, revenge and betrayal. Conviction is a mystery novel about the power of storytelling and it tells more than one story in more than one style.
The Confessions of Frannie Langton
Sara Collins (HarperCollins)
While this debut novel by the British writer does bear a passing resemblance to Alias Grace, this is a book that owes far more to the literature of its early-19th century setting. It is a beautifully crafted piece of historical fiction, one that fulfills all the best promise of that genre, in that it renders the past so vividly that it feels as urgent as the present.
This Woman’s Work
Julie Delporte, translated by Aleshia Jensen and Helge Dascher (Drawn & Quarterly)
In this globe-trotting, impressionistic personal essay, the Montreal cartoonist examines her own received knowledge about how a woman should be, while finding feminist inspiration in the labour of female artists – especially Tove Jansson, the queer creator of the Moomin characters.
The Poe Clan Vol. 1
Moto Hagio, translated by Rachel Thorn (Fantagraphics)
Teenage vampires and gothic romance abound here, but Twilight this ain’t. A signature work by the groundbreaking Japanese cartoonist, this 1970s series follows aristocratic Edgar and his ageless kin from Georgian England to Cold War West Germany. Impossibly, swooningly beautiful.
The River at Night
Kevin Huizenga (Drawn & Quarterly)
Joyce’s Finnegans Wake features comic strip icons Mutt and Jeff; Huizenga returns the favour, lugging high-brow stream of consciousness into low-brow funnybooks. As Midwestern everyman Glenn Ganges fights insomnia, his addled brain contemplates everything from video games to geologic time.
Olivia Jaimes (Andrews McMeel)
Among daily newspaper comics, this brand-new spin on a century-old strip is peerless and innovative. Jaimes updates original cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller’s absurdist gags for the age of social media, turning Nancy, the spiky-haired hellion, into the queen of memes.
Seth (Drawn & Quarterly)
Time hangs heavy over the Guelph cartoonist’s meticulous magnum opus, begun in 1997. It chronicles the decades-long downfall of a family business, and of the salesman brothers who own it, one an extroverted cuss and the other a shrinking violet.
Chris Ware (Pantheon)
Ware’s latest triumph burrows deeply into a snowbound Omaha school, casting forward and backward in time until it finds heart-rending empathy not only for the cringingly nerdy kid and downtrodden teacher, but for the selfish dad and contemptible bully, too.
Small in the City by Sydney Smith • My Winter City by James Gladstone and Gary Clement • Helen’s Birds by Sarah Cassidy and Sophie Casson • Sharon, Lois and Bram’s Skinnamarink by Sharon, Lois and Bram with Randi Hampson and Qin Leng • It Began With a Page by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad • Albert’s Quiet Quest by Isabelle Arsenault • Birdsong by Julie Flett • Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden by Andrew Larson and Anne Villeneuve • I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe and Pauline Young • You Are Never Alone by Elin Kelsey and Soyeon Kim
Small in the City
Sydney Smith (Groundwood, 4-7)
Winner of the 2019 Governor-General’s award for children’s book illustrations, this is a spectacular debut for Smith as author and illustrator. A small boy tries to reassure his missing cat that even though the city looks big, there are always ways to find your way back home. Smith’s warm and gentle text is exquisitely enhanced by his deceptive illustrations.
My Winter City
James Gladstone, illustrated by Gary Clement (Groundwood, 4-7)
Winter changes everything as young readers discover in this wonderfully chilly picture book. Gladstone’s sprightly poetic text comes to life with Gary Clement’s deliciously wintery watercolour pictures.
Sarah Cassidy, illustrated by Sophie Casson (Groundwood, 4-7)
Helen’s birds have always been part of Saanvi’s life but when the elderly Helen dies suddenly, who’s going to take care of the birds now? This wordless picture book will touch young readers as Saanvi discovers just how to keep Helen’s memory alive.
Sharon, Lois and Bram’s Skinnamarink
Sharon, Lois and Bram with Randi Hampson, illustrated by Qin Leng (Tundra, 3-7)
The classic Canadian song, loved since Sharon, Lois and Bram introduced it to listeners in 1978, is given new life in this rambunctiously rollicking picture book with joyous pictures by Qin Leng.
It Began With a Page
Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad (Tundra, 4-8)
From the time she was a little girl, Gyo Fujikawa wanted to draw. When she created her first book, Babies, in 1963, she wanted it to be filled with pictures that represented children of all colours from around the world. Maclear and Morstad stunningly tell the story of this groundbreaking classic and the artist who changed the face of picture books.
Albert’s Quiet Quest
Isabelle Arsenault (Tundra, 3-7)
All Albert wants is to find a quiet place to read but his friends all want him to come and play. Will he ever find peace and quiet? Young readers will be as surprised as Albert is by the success of his quest in this delightful picture book.
Julie Flett (Greystone Kids, 3-8)
Moving isn’t easy but you might be surprised by what your new home has to offer. For a young girl, her friendship with her older neighbour helps her to discover the richness of the changing seasons and how art can change how she sees her world. Flett’s illustrations add a wonderful layer to this perfect picture book.
Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden
Andrew Larson, illustrated by Anne Villeneuve (Kids Can Press, 3-7)
Staying in city for the summer doesn’t seem like much fun to Toma until he meets Vincent. Together the boys discover that there are sometimes unexpected ways to make your neighbourhood come alive in this picture book that celebrates green spaces in the city.
I Lost My Talk
Rita Joe, illustrated by Pauline Young (Nimbus, 4-9)
Mi’kmaw poet Joe’s poignant and profound poem, based on her own experiences as a student at Shubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia, is given new life in this powerful picture book with stunning illustrations by Mi’kmaw artist Young.
You Are Never Alone
Elin Kelsey, illustrated by Soyeon Kim (Owlkids, 4-12)
Kelsey beautifully explores the biodiversity of the world we live in and the interconnections we have to nature in a movingly lyrical text that is wonderfully complemented by Kim’s evocative collage illustrations.
Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo • Pet by Akwaeke Emezi • The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster by Cary Fagan • Break in Case of Emergency by Brian Francis • Allies by Alan Gratz • The Grace Year by Kim Liggett • The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman • Keep This to Yourself by Tom Ryan • Broken Strings by Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer • Frankly in Love by David Yoon
Beverly, Right Here
Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick Press)
In her strong, latest book, DiCamillo moves toward more adult subject matter than what was in her two Newbery award-winners, sending the girl of the title out into non-touristy Florida’s diners, trailer parks and bingo halls.
Akwaeke Emezi (Make Me a World)
In the utopian future conjured up here, the monsters of the past have all been slain. Or have they? A curious (and deftly drawn) youngster, a trans kid named Jam, conjures up a beastly creature, the pet of the title, who sniffs out something sour in all the sweetness.
The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster
Cary Fagan (Tundra)
What made the teenaged son of the seemingly ordinary, happy Staples family leave home? The Toronto author has found the ideal person to tell this story, the runaway’s sympathetic, funny younger brother – Hartley is both funny ha-ha and funny odd and engages the reader at once in his own and his family’s predicament.
Break in Case of Emergency
Brian Francis (HarperCollins Canada)
The emergencies facing the teen girl in the Toronto writer’s Governor-General’s award-nominated latest include the suicide of her mother and the return of her absentee father, a narcissistic, talented drag performer. There are cringe-inducing moments, as well as saddening and heartening ones, all of it married, by the end, into a humane whole.
Alan Gratz (Scholastic)
In this military history expert’s gripping new book, you are there with two American boys, each bearing their secrets, their hopes and fears, into the invasion of Normandy on D-Day.
The Grace Year
Kim Liggett (Wednesday)
This feminist, dystopian novel follows along the path travelled by William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games and, especially, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but is led in original directions by a vivid heroine, passionate, often wrong-headed Tierney. She fights to obtain some freedom in a world determined to regulate utterly the lives of girls and women.
The Secret Commonwealth
Philip Pullman (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)
This second book in the so-far extraordinary Book of Dust series focuses on a young woman alienated from aspects of herself, represented by her daemon, a sort of spirit animal. (Readers of Pullman’s earlier Dark Materials trilogy will already know about daemons and the rules of this fantastical world, at once our world and not, but a read-through of the earlier series is not necessary before diving into this one. That said, this new series should be read in order, starting with the first volume, 2017′s La Belle Sauvage.)
Keep This to Yourself
Tom Ryan (AW Teen)
The feel of this mystery is latter-day Hardy Boys, only the teen sleuth, one Mac Bell, is gay and the crime isn’t small-time, but a string of murders that has terrorized a seaside town, culminating in the death of the boy’s best friend. While tossing the usual slew of false and real clues at the reader, the Ottawa author also ably conveys the stages of Mac’s grief, his growing affection for another boy and the town’s characters and culture.
Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer (Puffin Canada)
From two prolific and award-winning authors, Guelph’s Walters and Toronto’s Kacer, comes a story set in motion by a girl’s discovery of a violin in an attic, where her Holocaust survivor grandfather long ago banished it. The instrument’s reappearance outs old memories her Zayde tried – but could not – put behind him.
Frankly in Love
David Yoon (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)
The son of a Los Angeles liquor-store owner, geeky Frank Li, throws coins into a fountain at a Southern California mall, wishing for a girlfriend. He gets that and more, in this witty, moving debut by a professional illustrator, who here uses his words to paint an affectionate, critical portrait of the boy’s Korean-American milieu.
Zaitoun by Yasmin Khan • Indian-ish by Priya Krishna • Wildness by Jeremy Charles • Kosher Style by Amy Rosen • Living High Off the Hog by Michael Olson • The Munchy Munchy Cookbook for Kids by Pierre A. Lamielle • From the Oven to the Table by Diana Henry • Cedar and Salt by Emily Lycopolus and DL Acken • Duchess at Home by Giselle Courteau • Nothing Fancy by Alison Roman
Yasmin Khan (W.W. Norton)
Writer and human rights campaigner Khan’s Zaitoun (Arabic for “olive tree”) captures the stories and flavours of modern Palestine, sharing a stunningly personal perspective we don’t often see in the news. As much travelogue as recipe resource, Khan explores the food stalls, sweet shops, home kitchens and dinner tables of a region that’s often misunderstood.
Priya Krishna (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
A tribute to author Krishna’s mom, Ritu, Indian-ish is a colourful, stylish guidebook for home cooks who aren’t overly fussed about rules and perceived authenticity. Basics are covered with a guide to typical Indian staples and a flavour/spice diagram originally sketched out by Ritu for her daughter. The recipes themselves are varied, modern and skew toward snacky; American-inspired Indian hybrid dishes for every day.
Jeremy Charles with Adam Leith Gollner and John Cullen (Phaidon)
In Wildness, celebrated chef Charles guides readers through the stunning landscape of Newfoundland and Labrador (the only place in North America where wild game can be offered on restaurant menus), sharing stories of the people behind the ingredients, and his dishes at Raymonds restaurant in St. John’s. With stunning photography by Cullen, the large-format, hardcover book is perhaps more well-suited to the coffee table than the kitchen counter, and while you may not have access to the cod, game, seafood, moose, alder, juniper and partridgeberries called for in its 160 recipes, Wildness is a fascinating introduction to the East Coast of Canada from the perspective of the dinner table – few cookbooks instill such a strong sense of place.
Amy Rosen (Appetite by Random House)
Jewish families are known for putting on some pretty elaborate feasts. If you’re not lucky enough to be a part of one, there’s a DIY cookbook for that: Kosher Style channels the matriarchs of Jewish kitchens to bring knishes, brisket, latkes and yes, even homemade bagels and cream cheese to every table. With straightforward recipes and beautiful photos, award-winning food writer Rosen makes you feel like yes, you can totally do this.
Living High Off the Hog
Michael Olson (Appetite by Random House)
This cookbook is a wealth of wit, useful advice and great inspiration for pork in its many forms – fresh or cured, smoked or sautéed, chops or links. Whether you want to go whole hog or are after the crispy bits, Olson delivers more variety and information than you realized you needed. With so many options for every cut, you may wonder why chicken gets all the attention, anyway.
The Munchy Munchy Cookbook for Kids
Pierre A. Lamielle (Familius)
Chef, illustrator and educator Lamielle utilized his unique skill set to create a cookbook for kids, with a cast of culinary characters (the munchy munchy bunch) walking the cook step by step through each dish. With a colourful combination of photos and illustrations, the hand-written recipes are interspersed with bite-sized bits of information about ingredients and techniques that are useful for cooks of all ages.
From the Oven to the Table
Diana Henry (Octopus Books)
Even those of us who love to cook could use some mid-week meal inspiration, and flipping through this latest from Henry makes it feel as if it’s entirely possible to extricate oneself from a stagnant rotation of recipes. There are simple suppers (sausages, chops, fish fillets and the like), an entire chapter on her favourite ingredient (chicken thighs) and bigger-deal roasts and birds for special occasions, with plenty of veggies in between. She walks the cook through each process using just the right number of words, reminding us that even when it’s a more fancy-sounding feast, the oven does most of the work.
Cedar and Salt
Emily Lycopolus and DL Acken (Touchwood)
It’s easy to be inspired by the terroir on and around Vancouver Island, but Acken and Lycopolus divide (into forest, field, farm and sea) and conquer with a stunningly beautiful yet very usable cookbook. With a farm-to-kitchen-table flavour, there are jams, simple cakes and pot pies, watercolour illustrations of the island’s edible mushrooms for those who like to forage, and even simple instructions on how to make your own salt out of seawater (all you need is a pot).
Duchess at Home
Giselle Courteau (Appetite by Random House)
This cookbook is a reminder that French cuisine is as much about feeding your family as it is about elaborate galettes and croquembouche. Inspired by her French-Canadian heritage, the collection of thoroughly tested recipes includes her signature step-by-step photos that instill confidence without being too clinical. And though there are formulas for mervielleux (meringues encased in cream), kugelhopf and gougères, there are also bundt cakes and muffins – really, really great ones – and plenty of frozen puff pastry to streamline things but still make you feel like an at-home pastry chef.
Alison Roman (Clarkson Potter)
New York Times food writer Roman eases the apprehension of those intimidated by the idea of hosting at home, relieving us of the Martha-era “entertaining” label: “It’s not entertaining. It’s having people over.” Like her first book, Dining In, Nothing Fancy is full of easy-ish yet aspirational dishes, with familiar ingredients dressed up in ways we may not have otherwise thought of: Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Maple and Sour Cream, frizzled Spicy Caramelized Leeks with Lemon, Butcher’s Steak with Chilies and Salted Peanuts. With dazzling photography and come-hither titles, she even breathes new life into a baked potato bar, inspiring all of us to have people over more often.