12 Days of CanLit: Illustrated books for young and old


Have you been avoiding your calendar, in denial about the shrinking number of shopping days before Christmas? The holiday season is upon us, and whether you're looking for gifts to set under a tree or around a menorah or just for some non-denominational seasonal giving (or reading!), we've got 12 days of book recommendations coming your way. With 12 different categories, we've got books for everyone from foodies to fiction addicts to sports buffs missing their beloved hockey this winter. On the fourth day of CanLit we bring you two gorgeous books for kids (that aesthetically minded adults will also enjoy) and one stunning graphic novel for grown-ups.

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

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Last year, Jon Klassen's deadpan children's book I Want My Hat Back was an instant success among children and adults alike. In Klassen's talented hands (he's previously won a Governor General's Award for illustration for the extremely charming Cat's Night Out), the simple premise of a bear looking for his stolen hat becomes transcendently hilarious. This year, he's published a follow-up of sorts. This time, the protagonist is a thieving fish who is trying to get away with wearing a hat that, as you can guess from the title, is not his. Are these books morality tales about hat ownership? Perhaps. Or maybe they're just awesome books about behatted animals.

Klassen recently answered 10 questions from George Stroumboulopoulos.

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

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This year's winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for illustration, Virginia Wolf is a sweet and gentle story about a young girl who does everything she can to cheer up her sister who wakes up in a "wolfish mood." Maclear's story is loosely inspired by the relationship between the depressive author Virginia Woolf and her artist sister Vanessa Bell. Arsenault's bright, elegant illustrations beautifully capture the wide range of emotions the sisters go through, from glumness to gladness.

Kyo Maclear has also written a novel for adults called Stray Love. You can listen to her discuss it here.

The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire

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This one isn't for kids. The Underwater Welder reads like an illustrated, melancholy episode of The Twilight Zone — in a really good way. Author and illustrator Jeff Lemire was a Canada Reads contender in 2011 for his graphic novel Essex County, and The Underwater Welder, his latest book, is a moving portrait of a young man who is haunted by the memory of his alcoholic father — and who is about to become a father himself. Lemire conveys emotion — be it fear, sorrow or hope — with just a few lightly sketched lines. This is an excellent addition to the growing Canadian canon of graphic literature.

Listen to Jeff Lemire talk to Shelagh Rogers about Essex County (the book and the place)


12 Days of CanLit