Summer is the perfect time to lose yourself in a good book and if you need a little help choosing what to read next, here are some fabulous picks for young readers.
Don’t Let Go!, written and illustrated by Elisabeth Edues-Pascal (Owlkids Books, 3-7), shows that nothing beats enjoying a refreshing swim, although the Polar Bear family prefers icebergs to a sandy beachfront. Mum and dad and their cubs have all the swimming paraphernalia you might need – noodles, flutter-boards, donuts and beach balls. But the littlest cub isn’t quite ready to swim on his own. Edues-Pascal’s delightful illustrations are filled with fun in this charming graphic novel for younger readers.
Summer Feet by Sheree Fitch, illustrated by Carolyn Fisher (Nimbus Publishing, 3-8) will have you wiggling your naked feet to the delightful tongue-twisting lip-slippery rhymes of one of Canada’s favourite writers. You’ll want to sink your feet into wet-wormy squeal-squirmy dark cocoa earth, march through the middle of mudlicious puddles or splash-dash into the water with your flutter-kicking, dog-paddling, splash-you-back summer feet. Fisher’s illustrations are just as lively as Fitch’s text and you’ll want to read this magical book over and over again.
Footsteps in Bay de Verde by Charis Cotter and illustrated by Jenny Dwyer (Running the Goat, 9-12) Based on a story that Newfoundland storyteller Brian Walsh told Cotter about something that happened to his own mother in the 1920s, this is a wonderfully spine-tingling book. Dwyer’s illustrations create just the right atmosphere for this haunting tale of the supernatural.
Barefoot Helen and the Giants, Andy Jones, illustrated by Katie Brosnan (Running the Goat, 9-12) The perfect book if you love stories about clever girls who think on their feet, nasty greedy giants, and kings and princesses. Raised by bears, found by a lonely couple who always wished for a child and smart as a whip, Helen might only have nine toes (that’s a story in itself as you’ll find out!) but she’s brave, smart and not willing to let giants get the better of her. Find out what happens when she strikes out on her own in this hilarious story, based on classic folktales but with some wonderful twists. Brosnan’s illustrations are every bit as much fun as the outrageous story that Jones spins.
Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer, written and illustrated by Gillian Goerz (Dial Books, 8-12) Shirley’s mother wants to send her to dance camp and Jamila is supposed to go to science camp, but that’s not at all how the girls want to spend their summer. Jamila wants to spend her days shooting hoops on the neighbourhood basketball court and Shirley? She’s a detective who other children come to when something goes wrong. In the first book in a series of graphic novels, Shirley is asked to find Vee and Oliver’s gecko, which has mysteriously disappeared. Will she be able to solve the case, with a little help from Jamila?
Be Amazing: A History of Pride, Desmond Napoles and illustrated by Dylan Glynn (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 6-10) If you’re looking for something in the non-fiction line, try this introduction to Pride by the 13-year-old drag performer, model and LGBTQ activist. Among the people who Napoles celebrates are activists Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, who were part of Stonewall in 1969, and drag artist RuPaul, who inspired Desmond when he was just two. Toronto illustrator Dylan Glynn’s illustrations help make this book as big, vibrant and colourful as Napoles’s drag persona, “Desmond is Amazing.”
Pride: The Celebration and the Struggle, Robin Stevenson (Orca Book Publishers, 9-12) This revised and expanded edition is another great way to explore the origins of Pride, how it’s celebrated around the world and some of the challenges that LGBTQ people face and how young activists are changing the world. Stevenson doesn’t just look at history and politics but explores the diversity of the LGBTQ community. There are fantastic photographs, a helpful glossary and lots of references for further reading.
Nibi is Water, written and illustrated, Joanne Robertson (Second Story Press, 3 and under) This is a wonderful place to introduce young readers to Indigenous culture. Robertson is best known for her picture book biography of Ojibwe grandmother Josephine-ba Mandamin, The Water Walker, but this simple board book playfully explores, in English and Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe), just how important water is in Indigenous cultures and the need to love, respect and protect it.
Siha Tooskin Knows The Gifts of His People, Charlene and Wilson Bearhead, illustrated by Chloe Bluebird Mustooch (Highwater Press, 7-9). The eight-book Siha Tooskin Knows series explores Indigenous culture through the eyes of 11-year-old Paul Wahasaypa, who is curious about his elders, in particular, his grandparents. In the first book, Paul discovers some of the ways that Indigenous peoples had an impact on agriculture, medicine, transportation and housing. In other books in the series, Charlene and Wilson Bearhead look at the importance of tobacco, why young men and women in some Indigenous cultures have long hair and Indigenous ways of healing.
A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart, Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Noa Denmon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 4-9) An exquisite poem that beautifully captures the pain, anger, fear and hurt that is a part of the experience of many Black lives. Denmon’s powerful illustrations add to the intimacy that Elliott has created in her stirring text. This is a must-have book and is an excellent way to start conversations about why the Black Lives Matter movement is so important and how young people can be part of the way forward.
When Emily was Small, written and illustrated by Lauren Soloy (Tundra Books, 4-8) This is an excellent introduction to Group of Seven painter Emily Carr. In the book, even though Emily is made to feel small and insignificant at home, she imaginatively connects to the grandeur of the forests of British Columbia that surround her and feels the very first stirrings of her need to somehow express that connection. Soloy’s illustrations use the rich greens and blues and a sense of the brushstrokes of Carr’s own work to further make that connection.
Where Are You, Agnes?, by Tessa McWatt, illustrated by Zuzanna Celej (Groundwood Books, 4-8) The Prairie landscape that abstract expressionist artist Agnes Martin grew up in inspired much of her work. In this whimsical picture book, McWatt has Martin’s mother ask “Where are you, Agnes?” to explain Agnes’s view of the world, which she often gets lost in. There’s a wonderful interaction between McWatt’s text and Celej’s illustrations but this needs a reader willing to carefully take the time to really look and see the world as McWatt’s imagines Martin herself did.
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