Reading List

8 books to give the young readers in your life

The Next Chapter's children's book panel, Michele Landsberg and Ken Setterington, share the books that you should be giving to young readers this holiday season.
Children's books recommended by columnists Michele Landsberg and Ken Setterington. (Annick Press/Kids Can Press/Fitzhenry and Whiteside/Tundra/Graphix/Knopf/Pajama Press/Groundwood)
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The Next Chapter's children's book panel, Michele Landsberg and Ken Setterington, share the books that you should be giving to young readers this holiday season.

Two Times a Traitor by Karen Bass

YA author Karen Bass follows the life of a child who accidentally stumbles into a portal taking him 250 years into the past. (Karen Bass/Pajama Press)

Ken says: "A kid from Boston on a family vacation to Halifax would rather be at an adventure camp learning parkour. Instead, he ends up falling into a tunnel in Halifax that transports him to 1745. It's exciting stuff and people are going to understand a little bit more about Canadian history."

#NotYourPrincess edited by Lisa Charleyboy and‎ Mary Beth Leatherdale 

#NotYourPrincess is an anthology of art, essays, interviews and poetry edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale. (lisacharleyboy.com/Annick Press/marybethleatherdale.com)

Ken says: "A stunning, large format paperback book covering everything from Indigenous Olympic athletes to a 13-year-old girl who opposed the pipeline and got 500,000 people to sign her petition. These are all short snippets, but each one packs a wallop."

Sit by Deborah Ellis

Sit creates vignettes about children who find themselves seated during or due to pivotal moments in their lives. (Deborah Ellis/House of Anansi Press)

Michele says: "These are linked short stories about kids sitting in different chairs and benches. The gist of each story, different as they are around the world, is a child finds their own inner resources to cope with whatever the challenge is."

When The Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illustrated by Matt James

Paul Harbridge and illustrator Matt James team up to deliver a picture book about the promise a frozen lake holds for children eager to play hockey. (Paul Harbridge/Penguin Random House/Tundra Books)

Michele says: "It's about kids in a rural schoolhouse who are waiting for the full moon and deep frost to freeze the beaver pond in order to play hockey. It's a magical book. Illustrator Matt James deserves a gold medal for this one — it's gorgeous!"

Swing It, Sunny by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Matthew Holm 

A younger sister tries to understand the brother everyone else has labelled a 'deliquent' in the YA novel Swing It, Sunny. (Todd Rafalovich/Scholastic Canada/Studio St. James)

Michele says: "It's a graphic novel about a girl called Sunny who is struggling with her adored teenage brother who has been sent away to military school because he is dabbling in drugs. She keeps trying to reach him between many other more pleasant adventures. A colourful graphic novel that's very easy to read and has lots of emotional truth."

The Little Boy Who Lived Down the Drain by Carolyn Huizinga Mills, illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan

A child mishears a nursery rhyme and finds herself talking to a boy only she believes lives in her home in The Little Boy who Lived Down the Drain. (Carolyn Huizinga Mills/Fitzhenry & Whiteside Publishing/Brooke Kerrigan)

Ken says: "Sally listens to her mother recite a nursery rhyme and suddenly a little kid appears down the drain. The boy doesn't talk back much, but she has someone she can talk to."

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman 

The creator of The Golden Compass returns to tell a story of its heroine, Lyra, and the events leading up to the His Dark Materials trilogy. (Michael Leckie/Penguin Random House)

Michele says: "It's the great Philip Pullman writing, neither a prequel nor a sequel, but what he calls 'an equal' to his Golden Compass series. We meet Lyra as a baby, before she becomes that wild, impulsive heroine that we love. My heart was actually racing at certain points — it's been years since that's happened with a novel!" 

Mr. Crum's Potato Predicament by Anne Renaud, illustrated by Felicita Sala

The origin of the potato chip receives a picture book treatment in Mr. Crum's Potato Predicament. (Kids Can Press/Felicita Sala)

Ken says: "A chef in Upper New York State has a very annoying customer who only wants potatoes, but sends back orders because the potatoes are 'too fat'. So the chef ends up slicing them as thinly as he can, frying them and dowsing them with salt and sends the potatoes out to the table where they are declared a delicious treat — and the potato chip is born. It's a great, fun book!"

Michele Landsberg and Ken Setterington's comments have been edited and condensed.