Most Anticipated: Spring 2020 Books for Young Readers Preview

We're excited to be looking ahead to books for young readers, including picture books and middle grade and YA titles.

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Picture Books

Told half in French and half in English, with simple phrasing and visual cues in the illustrations making the story easy for early readers to decode in both languages, Pierre & Paul: Avalanche! (March), by Caroline Adderson and illustrated by Alice Carter, is an engaging story of friendship and imagination. A girl and her neighbour grow a community from their garden in What Grew in Larry's Garden (April), by Laura Alary, illustrated by Kass Reich. Extraordinary things are happening behind the windows of the city in Marion Arbona's Window (March), an interactive, one-of-a-kind wordless picture book. And Christine Baldacchino follows up the acclaimed Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress with Violet Shrink (March), illustrated by Carmen Mok, about a young girl who navigates social anxiety at family gatherings and works with her father to find a solution.

Pairing creative rhyming similes with cut-paper collage art, Ashley Barron's Love You Head to Toe (March) is an adorable book that compares newborn babies to baby animals on every page. Pirate Queen (March), by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Liz Wong, is the inspiring story of Zheng Yi Sao, the real-life pirate queen who took control of her life—and the South China seas—in the early 19th century. Ideas about bullies (and how we define people) are turned on their heads in What If Bunny's NOT a Bully (March), by Lana Button and Christina Battuz, a playful rhyming story that questions the bully label.

Jodie Callaghan took inspiration for her book The Train (March) from her conversations with survivors of Canada’s residential school system, including a man she interviewed by the train tracks that transported children to residential school in Schubenacadie, Nova Scotia. Revelling in metaphor, The Sun is a Peach (May), by Sara Cassidy and Josée Bisaillon, encourages that magical leap of imagination and asks the reader to look at everyday objects from a different perspective. Andrea Curtis explores the urban forest in A Forest in the City (April), diving into the question of how we can live in harmony with city trees. And award-winning poet Lynn Davies’ first book for children is So Imagine Me (June), featuring poetic nature riddles and colourful hide-and-seek illustrations by Chrissie Park.

The sasquatch—spirit of the great cedar forest—eludes human hunters, falls in love, fathers a lovely daughter and saves his little family from a forest fire in Joseph Dandurand’s The Sasquatch, the Fire and the Cedar Baskets (April), illustrated by Dionne Paul. Golden Threads (April), by Suzanne Del Rizzo and illustrated by Miki Sato, is inspired by the Japanese art form of kintsugi, or golden joinery, where broken pottery is repaired with resin painted gold. William's Getaway (March), by Annika Dunklee, illustrated by Yong Ling Kang, celebrates the bond between brothers, the wonders of an imaginary adventure, and the value of an occasional compromise. And Bird’s Eye View (May), by Ann Eriksson, looks at why wild birds are important, why they need help and what young people all over the world are doing and can do to give wild birds a boost.

Summer Feet (May), by Sheree Fitch and Carolyn Fisher, is a playful rhyming picture book celebrating all things summer. A.C. Fitzpatrick's picture book debut is Margot and the Moon Landing (April), illustrated by Erika Medina, a story about a young girl who has trouble sharing her passion for astronauts, the stars, and especially the moon landing with the people around her. Kallie George's If I Couldn't Be Anne (May), illustrated by Geneviève Godbout, is a book about the power of imagination, inspired by Anne of Green Gables. Godbout's authorial debut is What's Up, Maloo! (January), about a kangaroo who needs to the help of his friends to get his hop back. Usha and the Stolen Sun (March), by Bree Galbraith, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon, is inspired by the idea of civil discourse, this book offers a timely message of communication and compassion. And Bringing Back the Wolves (March), by Jude Isabella and Kim Smith, tells the story of an unintended experiment in Yellowstone National Park, in which an ecosystem is devastated and then remarkably rehabilitated, providing crucial lessons about nature's intricate balancing act.

A child inherits a treasured stopwatch that belonged to a beloved grandparent in A Stopwatch from Grampa (April), by Loretta Garbutt, illustrated by Carmen Mok, a touching story of loss that explores the stages of grief with sensitivity and wisdom. A monster tries to scare a young child, and the child insists the monster is not scary but actually quite huggable in Elise Gravel's latest board book, I am Scary (March). Author and photojournalist Isabelle Groc takes us into the field with Sea Otters (April): watching sea otter rafts off the British Columbia coast from a kayak, exploring what makes their fur coats so special, understanding how their voracious appetites are helping kelp forests thrive and, ultimately, learning how sea otters are leaving their mark (or paws) on every part of the ecosystem.

Our Corner Store (April), by Robert Heidbreder and illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrne, is a story in verse following the adventures of a brother and sister around their neighborhood. Two young grizzly bears pay a surprise visit to Alert Bay, BC, in The Great Grizzlies Go Home (April), by Judy Hilgemann, based on true events. A little boy spends the weekend at his dad’s new apartment in Weekend Dad (May), by Naseem Hrab and Frank Viva, about how things change when parents separate—and the important things that stay the same. And The Truth About Wind (April), by Hazel Hutchins & Gail Herbert, illustrated by Duan Petricic, is a dynamic story about the courage it takes to face up to a lie.

Eat Your Rocks, Croc! (May), by Jess Keating and Pete Oswald, tells the story of a sugar glider who helps wild animals solve all kinds of problems. Keating also continues her series of picture book biographies with Ocean Speaks (June), illustrated by Katie Hickey, the story of Marie Tharp, the first person to map the Earth's underwater mountain ridge  New from by Elin Kelsey and Soyeon Kim, the award-winning team behind You Are Stardust, Wild Ideas, and You Are Never Alone, A Last Goodbye (April) gently recognizes death as a natural part of life for humans and all animals. In The Dog Patrol: Our Canine Companions and the Kids Who Protect Them (April), celebrated animal activist and biologist Rob Laidlaw details both the joys and responsibilities of dog guardianship.

My Ocean Is Blue (March), by Darren Lebeuf, illustrated by Ashley Barron, is a young girl's poetic exploration of the enchanting ocean she loves. An elevator ride to a birthday party turns into a shared experience bursting with joy in Going Up (April), by Sherry J. Lee, illustrated by Charlene Chua, a multicultural story about community, togetherness and the special feeling of belonging. Meet Onyx and the orcas of J pod, the world’s most famous whales; illustrated with stunning photos, Orcas of the Salish Sea (April), by Mark Leiren-Young, introduces young readers to the orcas humans first fell in love with. 

Book Cover Story Boat

A young bird with a flair for discovery and invention learns self-acceptance one blue-footed step at a time in Sue Macartney's Benjamin's Blue Feet (June). Story Boat (February), by multiple award-winner Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Sendak Fellowship recipient Rashin Kheiriyeh, introduces very young readers—in a gentle, non-frightening and ultimately hopeful way—to the current refugee crisis. Clarence Brazier kept a big secret for nearly 100 years: he didn’t know how to read. Clarence's Big Secret (March), by Roy MacGregor and Christine MacGregor Cation, illustrated by Mathilde Cinq-Mars, tells the true story of his journey to learn—and then love—to read.

In their debut picture book, I Got You a Present (April), Emmy Award-winning children's television writers Mike Erskine-Kellie and Susan McLennan have created a laugh-out-loud story filled with heart, illustrated by Cale Atkinson. Tessa McWatt’s first picture book is Where Are You, Agnes? (May), illustrated by Zuzanna Celej, a biography of the childhood of abstract artist Agnes Martin. And Marylène Monette explores whether a young boy can come out on top and learn how to acknowledge his feelings in Simon Steps Into the Ring (March), translated by Sophie B. Watson, illustrated by Marion Arbona.

Inspired by a true story that went viral on social media, about two boys with different skin colors who got the same haircut thinking it would make them identical, You and Me Both (April), by Mahtab Narsimhan, and illustrated by Lisa Cinar, is a story about friendship, diversity, and how the things we share are more than skin-deep. Our Environment: Everything You Need to Know (March), by Jacques Pasquet, translated by Shelley Tanaka, illustrated by Yves Dumont, takes readers back to the basics, offering an accessible overview of what makes up our environment, how those parts work, and why they matter. And with Tickled Pink (Feburary), award-winning author Andrée Poulin, with illustrator Lucile Danis Drouot, delivers a fun, heartwarming tale about finding the confidence to be yourself.

Award-winning author Danny Ramadan's debut book for children is Salma the Syrian Chef (March), illustrated by Anna Bron, about a newcomer to Canada and her friends who put together a heartwarming meal to cheer up her mom. Based on a song by Buffy Saint-Marie, Hey Little Rockabye (May), illustrated by Ben Hodson, conveys an important message about helping all animals find loving homes. The Book of Selkie (May), by Briana Corr Scott, is a lyrical and interactive paper doll book featuring short whimsical poems about the mythological “seal folk.”  And acclaimed writer Rina Singh's latest is Grandmother School (May), illustrated by Ellen Rooney, based on a true story from the village of Phangane, India, about the grandmothers who got to go to school for the first time in their lives.

Book Cover The Bug Girl

In Born (May), illustrated by Cindy Derby, John Sobel brings us his imagined vision of a universal experience, that of being born. Inspired by the writings of revered artist Emily Carr, When Emily Was Small (May), by Lauren Soloy, is at once a celebration of freedom, a playful romp through the garden and a contemplation of the mysteries of nature. Grade 4 student Sophia Spencer shares the true story of her passion for insects and of overcoming bullying in The Bug Girl (February), with Margaret McNamara and illustrated by KERASCOET, an inspiring book about being yourself and following your dreams. Heather Tekavec offers an original approach to investigating animal behaviour with a fun storyline in Wanted! Criminals of the Animal Kingdom (March), built on hardcore facts, and paired with Susan Batori's cheeky illustrations, exploring fascinating animal science. Geraldo Valério explores the nature of true friendship and love in his newest wordless picture book, At the Pond (March). And the teddy bears' picnic gets a modern twist in Teddy Bear of the Year (January), a warm and fuzzy picture book by beloved author Vikki VanSickle, illustrated by Sydney Hanson, about a young teddy bear who learns that small acts of kindness can make a big difference.

Book Cover the Little Red Shed

With illustrations by Indigenous artist Roy Henry Vickers, Raven Squawk, Orca Squeak (April), by Vickers and Robert (Lucky) Budd, introduces iconic sounds of the West Coast and supports the language development of babies and toddlers. Meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe weaves a comprehensive narrative about a powerful weather system that’s so compelling readers won’t even realize they are on their way to becoming budding meteorologists in Little Cloud: The Science of Hurricane (February), illustrated by Julie McLaughlin. Racing against the sun and the heat, Dylan and Grandpa need to work together to figure out how to save an orca calf while his pod circles nearby in Eric Walters' High and Dry (February). And in The Little Red Shed (May), by Adam Young and Jennifer Young, a shed goes on a journey (really!) and comes home to realize just how important it is to cherish what makes us different.

Early Readers and Middle Grade

Mark is a city kid who has come to a small town to live with his grandmother after his mom goes into rehab and, after a serious accident, learns that he has more common with his rural classmates than he thought in The Ride Home (January), by Gail Anderson-Dargatz. The second book in Kelley Armstrong's acclaimed Royal Guide to Monster Slayers' series is The Gryphon's Lair (June). Moving to a new city and a new school is never easy, so Lauren is relieved to be welcomed into a group in Oh Brother (January), by Sonja Spreen Bates, but when she witnesses their reaction to her little brother's wheelchair, she’s afraid they may not want to be friends with her.

The second Camp Average book is Camp Average: Double Foul (April) a fast-paced and funny addition to Craig Battle's all-star series. With an eerie atmosphere perfect for fans of Jonathan Auxier and Jonathan Stroud, The Egyptian Mirror (May) is a deliciously unsettling mystery from Michael Bedard, the author of The Green Man, A Darker Magic, and the Governor General’s Award-winning Redwork. And What If Soldiers Fought with Pillows?: True Stories of Imagination and Courage (March), by Heather Camlot and illustrated by Serge Bloch, introduces readers to people and organizations that are subverting violence, war, and totalitarian power.

Jolene, age eight takes a road trip with her dad and learns to accept big family changes in Genius Jolene (April), by Sara Cassidy. The Hermit (May), by Governor General’s Award finalist Jan L. Coates, is based on the real-life “Hermit of Gully Lake,” with themes of environmentalism and community activism. A boy wishes his dad had a regular job instead of being Happy the Clown in Cary Fagan’s Son of Happy (March), illustrated by Milan Pavlović. And the latest book in the Megabat series is Megabat Is a Fraidybat (April), by Anna Humphrey, illustrated by Kass Reich. 

Book Two in Michael Hutchinson’s Might Muskrats Mystery series is The Case of the Missing Auntie (March), in which the Muskrats try to trace their Grandpa’s sister who was lost to the ‘60s Scoop. Marthe Jocelyn launches a new series, Aggie Morton: Mystery Queen, with The Body Under the Piano (February), inspired by the imagined life of Agatha Christie as a child and her most popular creation, Hercule Poirot. And the third novel in Kathy Kacer’s acclaimed Heroes Quartet series, Louder Than Words (April), is based on the true story of one woman’s incredible heroism in the most dangerous of circumstances.

From Governor General’s Literary Award finalist Michelle Kadarusman comes Music for Tigers (April), a novel about a young violinist who discovers her mother’s family secretly harbor a sanctuary for extinct Tasmanian tigers in the remote Australian rainforest. The second book in Jess Keating's Elements of Genius series is Nikki Tesla and the Fellowship of the Bling (February), featuring the world's greatest tween geniuses. Ava works hard at maintaining a certain image online and at school in World's Worst Parrot (January), by Alice Kuipers, but when she inherits an obnoxious African gray parrot from her great-uncle Bernie (whom she barely remembers), Ava’s carefully crafted world starts to crumble. 

Lemony Snicket meets Oscar Wilde meets Edgar Allan Poe in The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray (April), by E. Latimer, inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray. A group of students protest again cameras and surveillance in their school with a Banksy-style art campaign in Tanya Lloyd Kyi's Me and Banksy (January). The fourth title in the beloved and bestselling Ice Chips series, by acclaimed authors Roy MacGregor and Kerry MacGregor and illustrator Kim Smith, The Ice Chips and the Stolen Cup (February), in which the team has time travel down a science—almost! And Canadian Women Now and Then: More than 100 Stories of Fearless Trailblazers (April), by Elizabeth MacLeod, illustrated by Maia Faddoul, is a timely and relevant collection of fascinating stories about groundbreaking Canadian women, present and past, offering an inspiring, one-of-a-kind look at Canadian history.

Jennifer Maruno’s Until Niagara Falls (February) is about a friendship’s that’s a bit like a tightrope. Governor General’s Award finalist Gina McMurchy-Barber’s The Jigsaw Puzzle King (January) is the story of a boy who’s weary of flip-flopping between trying to be just like everyone else and being the protective brother of a boy with special needs. In A Beginner’s Guide to Goodbye (May), Melanie Mosher explores grief, fear and unexpected friendship. And Journal of a Travelling Girl (April), by Nadine Neema, illustrated by Archie Beaverho with a foreword by Antoine Mountain, is a fictional coming-of-age story traces a young girl’s journey by canoe through the ancestral lands of the Tłı̨chǫ People.

Myron’s unique perspective from the autism spectrum and his eye for detail make him a top-notch sleuth in Liam O'Donnell's third West Meadows Detectives book, The Case of the Berry Burglers (April), and the other neurodiverse kids in his resource room have unique talents that come in handy too. Bloom (February) is the first book in a new trilogy by Kenneth Oppal, about an invasive plant species and three teens who are immune to its power. And as a lifelong competitive powwow dancer, Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane—in Powwow (April)—is a guide to the protocols, regalia, songs, dances and even food you can find at powwows from coast to coast, as well as the important role they play in Indigenous culture and reconciliation.

In the third book in the Princess Angelica series, Princess Angelica, Junior Reporter (March) by Monique Polak and illustrated by Jane Heinrichs, Angelica, aka Jelly, is confused for a reporter and decides to make the most of her mistaken identity to learn what it’s like to be a real journalist. A Duck in a Sock (April), by Elspeth Rae and Rowena Rae, is the first book in a series designed for shared reading between a child learning to read and an experienced reader, with special features to help a child with dyslexia or another language-based learning difficulty find reading success. And Sesha must race to find a priceless scroll before time runs out in The Lost Scroll of the Physician (January), the first title in Alisha Sevigny’s Secrets of the Sands series.

Based on a true story, My Name is Konisola (March), by radio documentary writer Alisa Siegel, is about a young girl who arrives in Canada from Nigeria whose new life becomes more uncertain when her mother is hospitalized, and she has to rely on the generosity of strangers. A Home Away from Home (April), by Nicholas Read, tells the true stories of animals that live in sanctuaries across North America. And Kira Vermond and cartoonist Clayton Hanmer team up in Trending: How and Why Stuff Gets Popular (March), a fun and accessible nonfiction look at fads.

Creatures sprint, slither, and soar in Running Wild (April), by Galadriel Watson and illustrated by Samantha Dixon, a STEM-driven dive into the extraordinary, everyday ways animals move. The fun is out of this world in Alien Nate (April), by Dave Whamond, a laugh-out-loud graphic novel about an alien, government agents and the unexpected power of pizza. The Mermaid Handbook (June), by Taylor Widrig, is a compendium of all things mermaid, including healthy sea vegetable recipes, mermaid folklore, and more, with original illustrations. And War at the Snow White Motel and Other Stories (May) is an insightful and funny new collection of short stories from award-winning author Tim Wynne-Jones.

Young Adult

Acclaimed writer Michelle Barker’s new novel, My List of Impossible Things (March), explores the chaos and destruction of the Second World War from a perspective rarely examined in YA fiction, showing the implications of the Soviet occupation on a German population grappling with the horrors of Nazism and its aftermath. In Stella Rising (January), by Nancy Belgue, Stella has always vowed she will never become a pathetic groupie like her mother, Viv, but then her best friend uploads a video of Stella singing a cover of her favorite band’s biggest hit, it goes viral, and suddenly Stella’s ideas about who she is and what she wants take a real hit. Tanaz Bhathena launches a new series with Hunted by the Sky (June), a riveting story of discovery, forbidden romance and idealism against all odds, set in a fantasy world inspired in part by Indian history and myth. And when a rival clan led by an evil witch raids the village and kidnaps her sister, Runa is forced to act in The Stone of Sorrow (April), by Brooke Carter.

Set in a mid-century computerized utopia of automats, self-driving cars, food pills and happy robo-servants, robot search teams find and remove the troublesome people that clutter it in GMB Chomichuk’s The Automatic Age (May). A tough girl begins to make connections, explore difficult truths, and might even turn things around in her life in Anita Daher’s novel You Don’t Have to Die in the End (April)—until a series of events pull her into a dark spiral she may not have the strength to resist. And rising star author and spoken word artist Andre Fenton’s Annaka (June) features a young biracial girl uncovering the secrets of her past.

Part mystery, part supernatural thriller and all fun, Janet Hill's Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House (April), is about a young woman who moves to a new town and faces a new reality in which fairies exist, weather can be bottled and witches hold grudges. For readers of Nevernight and The Hazel Wood, enter a wicked cool fantasy world of witches and their assassins, where a group of renegades battle to capture the heart of the coven in The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass (May), by Adan Jerreat-Poole. And award-winning thriller writer Sheena Kamal delivers Fight Like a Girl (March), about a girl who's trying to trying to break the chain of dysfunction in her family, channeling her violent impulses into Muay Thai kickboxing, an unlikely sport for a slightly built girl of Trinidadian descent.

Written for young women interested in running for office, In Good Hands (April), by Stephanie McKendrick, is a book is unlike any other, with inspiring stories of 18 women role models along with the all the tools and resources needed to get a campaign off the ground. As a transgender kid, Jason’s been fighting for as long as he can remember, and those skills are going to come in handy as he investigates his sister's murder in Blood Sport (January), by Tash McAdam. One Earth (April), by Anuradha Rao, profiles Black, Indigenous and People of Colour who live and work as environmental defenders. A naïve teenager is thrown into the high-stakes, back-stabbing world of reality television in Raziel Reid's Followers (June), a gossipy, satirical romp, perfect for fans of reality TV. And featuring real-life stories of people who have found hope and meaning in the midst of life’s struggles, Heads Up: Changing Minds on Mental Health (April), by Melanie Siebert and illustrated by Belle Wuthrich, is the go-to guide for teenagers who want to know about mental health, mental illness, trauma and recovery.

Under Amelia’s Wing (April), by Heather Stemp, following on the Red Cedar-nominated Amelia and Me, finds aspiring pilot Ginny Ross studying mechanical engineering in pre-WW2 Indiana. The new edition of Robin Stevenson's Pride (March) has been updated and expanded to include many new Proud Moments and Queer Facts as well as a profile of LGBTQ+ refugees from Indonesia, a story about a Pride celebration in a refugee camp in Kenya and profiles of young activists, including teens from a Gender and Sexuality Alliance organizing Pride in Inuvik and a trans girl from Vancouver fighting for inclusion and support in schools. And Eric Walters spins off his bestselling Rule of Three series with Fourth Dimension (January), a powerful look at the disintegration of society in the wake of a massive and mysterious outage that has knocked out all modern amenities.

February 20, 2020
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