Most Anticipated: 2019 Books for Young Readers Preview

Our 2019 fall preview concludes with this incredible array of books for young readers (which are really still books for everybody).

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Picture books

Award-winning illustrator Alfonso Ruano’s art depicts the depth of feeling that friends experience in My Friend (October), a story about how difficult it is to come from somewhere else and what a difference friendship can make, by acclaimed author and translator Elisa Amado. Cale Atkinson's Unicorns 101 (September) is everything you ever wanted to know about the science behind unicorns: biology, history, diet, habitat, and more! Pumpkin Orange, Pumpkin Round (September), by Rosanna Battigelli and Tara Anderson, is a rhyming Halloween romp with a family of cozy cats. Readers say goodnight to children all over the world in Andrea Beck's companion to Goodnight, Canada!, this time with Goodnight World (September). Come Back to Earth, Esther! (September) is the authorial debut of Josée Bisaillon, the Marilyn Baillie Award-winning illustrator of The Snow Knows; it follows a young girl with dreams as big as the universe. And A Pocket of Time: The Poetic Childhood of Elizabeth Bishop (November), with words by Elizabeth Bishop and Rita Wilson and art by Emma FitzGerald, is a gentle, poetic ode to Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Elizabeth Bishop and her childhood home.

Award-winning Quebecois author Simon Boulerice's My Bright Friend (September), illustrated by Marilyn Faucher, is an imaginative story about a young boy contending with his parents' separation and having two homes now. The Girl with the Cat (October), illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan, is Beverly Brenna’s inspiring story of one girl’s successful fight to save Saskatoon’s famous Mendel Gallery sculpture, rallying an entire city to her side and proving that one person can really make a difference. Tyler Clark Burke's Where Are You Now? (October) uses examples from nature—seeds, stars, and even the growth of children into adults—to provide a bright and joyful framework for readers to begin to shape difficult conversations around death. And Anne Laurel Carter’s Rocky Waters (September), illustrated by Marianne Dumas, is inspired by the childhood memories of Rocky Gaudet, who grew up wanting to fish the sea like his Acadian ancestors. 

The Moon Is a Silver Pond (September) is a new board book by Sara Cassidy, with illustrations by Josée Bisaillon; it shows children that the way they see the world—by heart, mind, and imagination—is just right. The second Poppy and Sam adventure—a picture book/graphic novel hybrid—is Poppy and Sam and the Mole Mystery (August), by Cathon, translated by Susan Ouriou; it's full of friendly characters, charming details, and a fun and suspenseful storyline. Travel the world with an intrepid explorer who's adventurous, brave, and just a little bit forgetful in My Head in the Clouds (October), by Danielle Chaperon and illustrated by Josée Bisaillon. A boy’s parents sometimes complain their home is too small, but his balcony view of the city and the extended play space of the hallways are a few ways that make his house in a high-rise apartment feel just the right size in Our Little Big Place (September), by James A. Conan and Nicolle Lalonde. And Sid the Kid and the Dryer (October), by Lesley Choyce and by Brenda Jones is a fun re-imagining of hockey star Sidney Crosby’s early days. 

Marianne Dubuc's latest is And Then the Seed Grew (September), with illustrations offering peeks into the animals' fantastical homes, promising something new to discover with every page. A group of curious children discover their village’s most enigmatic figure has an unexpectedly beautiful job to do in Bon Voyage, Mister Rodrigeuz (November), by award-winners Christiane Duchesne and Francoise Thisdale. A platypus who thinks he's an emu finds his way home with the help of his friends in Eee Moo (September), a tender picture book from Annika Dunklee and Brian Won. In Cary Fagan's King Mouse (September), illustrated by Dena Seiferling, the king finds his authority in question when his subjects find crowns of their own. Maureen Fergus's latest is You're In Good Paws (September), illustrated by Kathryn Durst, about a boy who discovers that a trip to the hospital is nothing to be scared of—even if the place is (literally) run by animals. And a thoughtful young artist is challenged to overcome a series of unruly naysayers and rediscover the value of her creative spirit in Finding Lucy (October), by CanLit favourite Eugenie Fernandes. 

Birdsong (September), by award-winner Julie Flett, is a celebration of intergenerational friendships and shared passions. From E.B. White Read Aloud honour artist Matthew Forsythe comes Pokko and the Drum (October), a picture book about a magical drum, an emerald forest, and the little frog who dares to make her own music. The Bear's Medicine (September), by Clayton Gauthier, translated by Theresa Austin & Danny Alexis, shows the interconnectedness of all things and how each season brings changes and blessings. Heather Gale's Ho'onani: Hula Warrior (October), illustrated by Mika Song, is a celebration of identity, acceptance and Hawaiian culture based on the true story of a young girl in Hawaii who dreams of leading the boys-only hula troupe at her school. And Marie-Louise Gay's latest book is Fern and Horn (September), a story that shows that if children are given the time and space to explore the many paths to creativity, the results are brilliant and inspiring.

James Gladstone celebrates winter in the city in My Winter City (September), illustrated by Gary Clement. My Hair is Beautiful (October), by Shauntay Grant (the Governor General’s Award-shortlisted author of Africville and Up Home), is a joyful baby board book celebrating natural hair. Elise Gravel's A Potato on a Bike (October) brings silly up to a new level. The latest picture book by Theo Heras is The Haircut (August), illustrated by Renne Benoit, a confidence-boosting story about a first haircut. Featuring tenderhearted illustrations by renowned artist Syrus Marcus Ware, I Promise (October), by award-winner Catherine Hernandez, captures with love and honesty the intimate moments of parenting in all their messy glory. The second book in Pamela Hickman's Nature All Around series, illustrated by Carolyn Gavin, is Nature All Around: Bugs (September). And Nadia L. Hohn's A Likkle Miss Lou (August), illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, is the picture-book biography of Jamaican poet and entertainer Louise Bennett Coverley, better known as “Miss Lou”; Miss Lou played an instrumental role in popularizing Jamaican patois internationally.

Book Cover I Lost My Talk

One of Rita Joe’s most influential poems, “I Lost My Talk” tells the revered Mi’kmaw Elder’s childhood story of losing her language while a resident of the residential school in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. A companion book to the simultaneously published I’m Finding My Talk, by Rebecca Thomas, with art by Pauline Young, I Lost My Talk (October) is a necessary reminder of a dark chapter in Canada’s history, a powerful reading experience, and an effective teaching tool for young readers of all cultures and backgrounds. Inspired by a Japanese folktale, When Molly Drew Dogs (September), by Deborah Kerbel and Lis Xu, celebrates the healing powers of art and imagination while touching on important issues of anxiety, mental health, and ways to cope with emotions. 

The latest title in Peggy Kochanoff’s award-nominated Be a Detective series is Be a Weather Detective (October), exploring the wondrousness and mystery of all things weather. Acclaimed author Monica Kulling brings sensitivity to Aunt Pearl, a story about homelessness, family and love, beautifully illustrated in Irene Luxbacher’s rich collage style. And The Playgrounds of Babel (August), by Jon-Arno Lawson and Piet Grobler, is an unusual, thought-provoking story that begins with an old woman telling a tale to a group of children in a playground, one that is inspired by the Tower of Babel story. An Elder’s stories in Blueberry Patch / Meennunyakaa (September), by Jennifer Leason and Norman Chartrand, offer a journey back in time and are complemented by images of fields of plump blueberries, tall green grass, bannock baking over an open fire, and clear freshwater streams. And two people navigate their differences with curiosity and openness in Encounter (October), by Brittany Luby and Michaela Goade, which imagines the first meeting between an Indigenous fisher and a European sailor.

Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad team up again for the inspiring It Began With a Page (September), a picture book biography of children's literature pioneer Gyu Fujikawa. A girl and her dog explore the perils of time travel in Stephen W. Martin's circular tale, The Trouble With Time Travel (October), with illustrations by Cornelia Li. Nutcracker Night (November), by Mireille Messier and Gabrielle Grimard, features the sights, sounds, and magic of a night at the ballet and prepares young readers for their first theatrical experiences. Messier also releases Treasure (September), illustrated by Irene Luxbacher, which exudes a sense of wonder at the natural world and emphasizes the magical qualities of looking through a child’s eye. A geometric meditation on wonder, Small World, by Ishta Mercurio and Jen Corace (July) expresses our big and small place in the vast universe. And Orbie's The Clothesline (October), translated by Karen Li, is a funny story about one boy's perilous adventure and an exploration of consequences.

Anne Renaud tells the true story of Frank William Epperson in The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle (October), illustrated by Milan Pavlovic. The love between a mother and her daughter is celebrated in Promise Basket (August), a lyrical story from Bill Richardson, featuring colourful illustrations by Slavka Kolesar. Owen at the Park (August), by Scot Ritchie, is a sweet story illuminating the small pleasures in everyday life and the excitement of a child taking on new responsibilities. Award-winning fiction writer Eliza Robertson’s first book for children is Spur: A Wolf’s Story (September), illustrated with Nora Aoyogi; it inspires children to build compassion for an iconic yet vulnerable animal. The House at the End of the Road (September), by Kari Rust, incorporates graphic novel elements to tell a layered and moving story about an intergenerational friendship. Candace Savage’s Hello Crow (September), illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrne, encourages young readers to embark on their own outdoor adventures. And from the original imagination of Esme Shapiro, the author-illustrator of Ooko, comes Alma and the Beast (September), a story about celebrating differences and making new friends. 

Does the world really need a picture book version of Sharon, Lois and Bram's most iconic song? A read (and a sing!) through the delightful Skinnamarink (September), with illustrations by Qin Leng, will convince you the answer is decidedly YES. Award-winner Heather Smith's The Phone Booth in Mr. Hiroto's Garden (September), illustrated by Rachel Wada, is inspired by the true story of the wind phone in Otsuchi, Japan, created by artist Itaru Sasaki. Illustrator Kim Smith makes her authorial debut with Boxitects (August), about the brilliance of building with boxes. The first book written by award-winning illustrator Sydney Smith is Small in the City (September), evoking the sometimes overwhelming cacophony of urban sights and sounds, as well as the quiet moments that make all of us feel less small in the city. Kerry Lynn Sparrow's The Couch Potato, illustrated by Yinfan Huang, is the story of a family rebellion and discussion about family's sharing household chores. And Ashley Spires' Fairy Science (September) is about a fairy who doesn't believe that magic causes mist and rainbows, but believes in the scientific method instead. 

In Ghost's Journey (September), by Robin Stevenson, when Indonesia becomes an unsafe place for the LGBTQ+ community, it is no longer safe for Ghost (the cat) and her two dads to live there; the story is told through the eyes of Ghost and follows the family's escape as they become refugees and find freedom in Canada. With some perseverance and a lot of creativity, Tallulah hatches a plan that she hopes will turn her musical dream into reality in Tallulah Plays the Tuba (October), by Tiffany Stone and Sandy Nichols. Cats take centre stage in What Cats Think (September), a whimsical celebration of feline personalities written by John Spray and featuring the illustrations of Mies van Hout. Nicole Testa and Annie Boulanger celebrate individuality and self-expression in Lili Macaroni (July), the Governor General’s Award-nominated story available in English for the first time. 

Bestselling and critically acclaimed author Muon Thi Van offers an innovative and thought-provoking look at the question, How many is enough? in One is a Lot (Except When It's Not) (October), illustrated by Pierre Pratt. Sleep Tight, Little Knight (September), by Gilles Tibo and Geneviève Després, is a trial-and-error bedtime story about a Little Knight who does everything he can to get a good knight's sleep. Award-winning author Richard Van Camp expresses his gratitude for all that surrounds him and his family, the strength of their connections, the nature that provides for them, and the love that is endless in May We Have Enough to Share (October), his latest board book. And Hawks Kettle, Puffins Wheel: And Other Poems of Birds in Flight (September), by Susan Vande Griek, illustrated by Mark Hoffmann, is a lyrical celebration of birds.

What keeps the stars from falling from the sky? Why do metal boats float? And more importantly, why don’t cars run on apple juice?! All these questions and more are found in the pages Why Don’t Cars Run on Apple Juice (September), by Kira Vermond, with questions from the most inquisitive of science centre visitors—kids! Nancy Vo follows up The Outlaw with The Ranger (August), which explores themes of friendship and how meaningful bonds form when we can give and receive openly. Even unicorns have bad days in Jessica Von Innerebner's It's Not All Rainbows (October). Co-written by Eric Walters and Godfrey Nkongolo, Light a Candle (October) weaves nonfiction with fiction to tell the story of a boy coming of age in the shadows of Kilimanjaro and his father, the chief of their tribe. In Mel and Mo’s Marvelous Balancing Act (October), by Nicola Winstanley and Marianne Ferrer, a set of twins learns about the spirit of compromise and complementary differences. And Frieda Wishinsky celebrates the value of harmless mischief, the joys of getting dirty, and the bond between a boy and his dog in Alfie, No! (September), illustrated by Emma Pedersen. 

Middle Grade

Iggy’s World (August), by Gail Anderson-Dargatz, is an exploration of the age-old problem artists face: when we find inspiration from our real lives, what will our friends and family think? The Wereduck Code (September) is the quirky (and quacky!) final book in Dave Atkinson’s Hackmatack-nominated Wereduck series. Sara Cassidy's wordless graphic novel Helen's Birds (September), illustrated by Sophie Casson, shows a young girl's journey through close friendship, then hollowing loss and change, until she finally finds hope. Cassidy also publishes Nevers (September), which begins with resourceful 14-year-old Odette on the move again, travelling as a stowaway on a cheese cart with her hapless mother in 1799 Burgundy, France. And inspired by real-life activism, Just a Kid (September), by Rie Charles, is a timely novel for young readers to learn about the possibilities of influencing the adult world, even when it seems no one wants to listen.

With its sharp dialogue and relatable characters, Rising Star (October), the third book in Sylv Chiang and Connie Choi’s Cross Ups series, chronicles the ups and downs of middle school with a relevant, contemporary twist. The Blue Road (October)—the first graphic novel by acclaimed poet and prose writer Wayde Compton and illustrator April de la Noche Milne—explores the world from a migrant's perspective with dreamlike wonder. Horses and wilderness survival come together in Sari Cooper’s middle grade debut The Horse of the River (September). Charis Cotter's latest spooky story is The Ghost Road (September), with ghosts, a family curse, buried secrets—and two girls who have to figure it all out. Four unlikely friends come together in a mystery involving supernatural creatures, a ticking clock and one angry gym teacher in Shadow Island (October), by Mike Deas and Nancy Deas. And award-winner Philippa Dowding’s new book is Quinn and the Quiet, Quiet (September), a collection of "weird stories gone wrong." 

A four-legged terror is a lot of work in Ruckus (September), by Laurie Elmquist, illustrated by David Parkins. The discovery of a series of mysterious handmade postcards distracts Hartley from trouble at home in Cary Fagan's The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster (September). Gareth Gaudin launches a new series with The Monster Sisters and the Mystery of the Unlocked Cave (September), about two young sleuths doing superheroic deeds while learning about colonialism on Indigenous land. A violin and a middle-school musical unleash a dark family secret in Broken Strings (September), by award-winning duo Kathy Kacer and Eric Walters. Kathy Kacer’s The Brave Princess and Me (September), illustrated by Juliana Kolesova, is the story of a real-life hero—the great-grandmother of Princes William and Harry—who risked her life to defy the Nazis during WW2 in Greece. And acclaimed author Jessica Scott Kerrin's new book is Clear Skies (August), about a young boy with claustrophobia who dreams of exploring the galaxies with powerful telescopes on Earth.

Clementine Liu is back for more fashion, dating, and drama in Isabelle Laflèche's Bonjour Shanghai (November). Finding Cooper (September), by Stacey Matson, is a a fast-paced book with an intriguing mystery at its core, and also a witty and touching story about family. The fourth book on Pamela McDowell's series about Cricket and her friends ("Accessible, entertaining, and empowering for young naturalists") is Cougar Frenzy (October). Rooted in a Cree worldview and inspired by the author’s great-grandmother’s stories, The Ghost Collector (September), by Allison Mills, delves into questions of grief, loss, and the many ways people can linger after death. An adventurous terrier follows his nose too far from home and needs a helping hand in Harvey Comes Home (September), by award-winner Colleen Nelson, illustrated by Tara Anderson. Two sisters try to find a perfect match for their widowed father in Just Three (August), by Lorna Schultz Nicholson. And the latest title in Liam O'Donnell's West Meadows Detective series is The Case of Maker Mischief (August), in which the partners track down a missing robot. 

A young girl in an internment camp in China in 1945 learns there is more to getting though hard times than simply staying positive on Monique Polak's latest, The Taste of Rain (September). Edeet Ravel's new book is A Boy is Not a Bird (September), about life in Russia in 1941 and a boy whose father is sent to a prison camp. Can a revolution effect real change? Or will speaking up lead to complete disaster? Who is Tanksy? (August), by Bev Katz Rosenbaum, sets out to answer these questions with a story of a middle-school graffiti artist. The Ghost of Mill House (September), by Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Claudia Dávila, follows Bus to the Badlands, where we first met Josh and his classmates; now Josh has to help his cousins find a way to keep an old mill running even with a resident ghost. No Girls Allowed: Inspired by the True Story of a Girl Who Fought for Her Right to Play (October) is an action-packed novel by Natalie Corbett Sampson, inspired by 1977 story of a girl who fought the Human Rights Commission for the right to play hockey on an all-boys team. And the latest title in the popular Almost Epic Squad series is Irresistible (October), by Richard Scrimger.

With Alison Steinfield, Robin Stevenson’s Kid Activists (September) is the moving, funny, and totally true childhood biographies of Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, Helen Keller, Malala Yousafzai, and 12 other inspiring activists. MiNRS 3 is the action-packed conclusion to Kevin Sylvester's MiNRS space adventure series, which School Library Journal praised for keeping readers “on the edge of their seats.” Janet Wilson profiles young people across the globe who are raising awareness about issues the issues that matter to them most in Our Future: How Kids Are Taking Action (September). In What the Eagle Sees (September), a follow up to Turtle Island, esteemed academic Eldon Yellowhorn and award-winning author Kathy Lowinger team up again, this time to tell the stories of what Indigenous people did when invaders arrived on their homelands. Ange Zhang's A Song for China (September) is the fascinating story of how a young Chinese author, Guang Weiran, a passionate militant from the age of twelve, fought, using art, theatre, poetry and song, especially the famous Yellow River Cantata—the anthem of Chinese national spirit—to create a socially just China. And Zhang also publishes Red Land, Yellow River (September), a dramatic autobiographical story of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. 

Young Adult

Bestseller Kelley Armstrong delivers spine-chilling thrills as a small town deals with the fallout of a school shooting in Aftermath (September). In Leanne Baugh’s Last Words (October), a young woman’s life is changed when she’s witness to a suicide. The Brilliant Dark (October) is the highly anticipated final installment in S.M. Beiko’s thrilling YA fantasy trilogy. A high-school football champion becomes disabled after a snowboarding accident but then finds his life on a new track when he lands an internship at an organization that defends the wrongly convicted in The Justice Project (October), by Michael Betcherman. No one believes 16-year-old Emma's side of the story when she is raped by a classmate in Girls Like Me (August), by Kristen Butcher, and when that same classmate starts showing interest in her best friend, Emma must find  a way to convince her friend that she's in danger. And Elsie Chapman's Caster is an action-packed fantasy about a secret, underground magic fighting tournament.

Deborah Ellis's latest non-fiction book is My Story Starts Here (October), true stories of young offenders that challenge readers' notions about young people and the justice system. Brian Francis makes his YA debut with Break in Case of Emergency (September), about a girl who must finally put together the many different (and difficult) pieces that make up her past, her present, and her future. Award-winner Melanie Florence’s Just Lucky(September) tells the story of 15-year-old Lucky who is sent into foster care once her grandmother is no longer able to care for her. For Napoleon’s stepdaughter, nothing is simple—especially love—in Sandra Gulland's The Game of Hope (September). Safe Harbour (November), by Christina Kilbourne, is the story of a 14-year-old girl surviving on the streets of Toronto. 

Teen werewolf Chloe navigates the complications of small-town pack life in Feral (November), by Nicole Luiken. Jean Mills’ Larkin on the Shore (October) is about a messed-up young girl who is trying to get her life back on track. The third and final book in Shane Peacock's gripping Gothic trilogy, featuring monsters from classic literary tales, secret societies and the fight between good and evil, is The Dark Mission of Edgar Brim: Demon (September). And in Laurie Petrou's Love, Heather (October), the line between villain and vigilante begins to blur as two high-school students attempt to put bullies in their place. 

The Stone Rainbow (September), by Liane Shaw, is a book about coming out, falling in love, and self-acceptance. "Family can suck—but Amber will make them pay;" two new books in Arthur Slade's Amber Fang series are Amber Fang: Betrayal (September) and Amber Fang: Revenge (September). Sixteen-year-old Valentine attempts to move on after tragedy with a jungle trek with her mother to Thailand in The World on Either Side (September), by Diane Terrana. Jo Treggiari's latest is The Grey Sisters (September), a psychological thriller about best friends who, two years after a deadly plane crash, head into the mountains to face their grief. And Jae Waller returns to her riveting alternate world of brooding forests in a colonial time and to her feisty, troubled heroine in Veil (October), the compelling second volume of the Call of the Rift quintet.

August 21, 2019
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