12 beautifully illustrated Canadian picture books for young readers

If your family are fans of stunning illustrations and picture books here are 13 great reads to check out.

The finalists for the 2018 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award have been announced. The $50,000 prize is the richest in Canadian children's literature — awarded annually to the creators of one book for readers up to the age of 12.

Inspired by the diversity of the finalists for this award, CBC Books is putting together reading lists for the whole family. Two of the 2018 finalists are Barbara Reid'sPicture the Sky and Joanne Schwartz's and Sydney Smith's Town Is by the Sea, both stunningly illustrated in unique and distinct art styles.

If you're a young reader or the parent of one, here are 12 beautifully illustrated Canadian books to check out. 

Ocean Meets Sky by Eric Fan & Terry Fan 

Eric Fan (left) and Terry Fan are award-winning illustrators based in Toronto. (

In Ocean Meets Sky — the follow-up to The Night Gardener — Terry Fan and Eric Fan tell the story of a young boy named Finn who sets out on an adventure to find the mythical place where the ocean meets the sky. Ocean Meets Sky is on the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award shortlist for young people's literature — illustrated books.

Africville by Shauntay Grant, illustrated by Eva Campbell 

Africville is a picture book written by Shauntay Grant (top) and illustrated by Eva Campbell. (Groundwood,, Brian Geary)

Africville was home to a vibrant Black community in Halifax, N.S., for more than 150 years, but it never received basic city services and was demolished in the 1960s. Shauntay Grant and Eva Campbell tell the story of Africville through the eyes of a young girl visiting for the annual Africville Reunion/Festival. She brings her family's stories to life by imagining brightly painted houses on the hillside and visiting the sundial in the park where her great-grandmother's name is carved. Africville is on the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award shortlist for young people's literature — illustrated books.

Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk, illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis 

Sweetest Kulu is a picture book by Celine Kalluk and illustrated by Alexandra Neonakis. (John Hasyn Photography/

Written by Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk, Sweetest Kulu is a beautiful bedtime poem where a mother speaks to her Kulu — an Inuktitut​ word for babies and young children — about of the gifts bestowed upon a newborn by all of the animals of the Arctic. 

Go Show the World by Wab Kinew, illustrated by Joe Morse 

Go Show the World is a children's book written by Wab Kinew and illustrated by Joe Morse. (Courtesy of Penguin Random House)

This rap-song-turned-picture-book by politician Wab Kinew and Joe Morse celebrates Indigenous leaders in the U.S. and Canada. Some of the figures mentioned include Crazy Horse, Net-no-kwa, former NASA astronaut John Herrington and Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price. Go Show the World has been nominated for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustrated books

Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden, illustrated by Renata Liwska 

Once Upon a Memory is a picture book by Nina Laden and illustrated by Renata Liwska. (Little Brown/ninaladen.comn)

Nina Laden's picture book Once Upon a Memory is told through the eyes of a curious little boy who wonders about the origins of everyday things. She asks questions like, "Does a feather remember it once was a bird?" and, "Does a book remember it once was a word?"

Wallpaper by Thao Lam 

Thao Lam wrote and illustrated Wallpaper. (Owlkids/

In this wordless picture book, a shy young girl and her family move into a new house in a new neighbourhood. She wants to go outside and make friends, but she is too shy. Instead, she picks at the old wallpaper in her new house, which reveals a magical imaginary world for her to explore. 

The Fog by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Kenard Pak 

The Fog is a children's book by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Kenard Pak. (Diaspora Dialogues/J.C. Hsyu)

The Fog is a beautiful fable with an environmental twist. Warble, a yellow warbler who is a human-watcher, realizes that a mysterious fog is moving onto his island home of Icyland. After trying to warn the other birds — to no avail — he meets a red-hooded little girl, and the pair set out to get to the bottom of the mystery. 

Picture the Sky by Barbara Reid 

Barbara Reid is an award-winning author and illustrator of children's books. (Ian Chrysler)

In this follow up to her award-winning book Picture a Tree, celebrated plasticine artist Barbara Reid imagines the sky above us in all its varied beauty. From sunrise to sunset, to the theatrics of northern lights and brewing storms, Picture the Sky will inspire young readers to think differently about the sky above them — a sight they share with other kids all over the globe. 

Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith 

Town Is by the Sea is a picture book written by Joanne Schwartz and illustrated by Sydney Smith. (Groundwood Books/Steve Farmer)

Town Is by the Sea is a day in the humble life of a young maritime boy as he visits his grandfather's grave and eats dinner with his family, all the while daydreaming about his absent coal-mining father. Inspired by the real history of maritime mining culture, this book is a visual and literary love letter to an important part of East Coast history.

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki 

They Say Blue is Jillian Tamaki's first picture book. (Groundwood, Reynard Li)

They Say Blue is a vibrant exploration of colour told from the perspective of a curious and inquisitive little girl. The beautiful book explores questions like, how can water be blue and black and clear at the same time? They Say Blue is on the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award shortlist for young people's literature — illustrated books.

At the Pond by Werner Zimmermann 

At the Pond is a picture book by Werner Zimmermann. ( Canada)

Werner Zimmermann explores the natural wonders of a pond in this picture book. Gold fish swim, water lilies blossom, a heron flies and frogs and water striders make their way across the water in Zimmermann's stunningly painted illustrations. At the Pond is a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustrated books.

I'm Glad That You're Happy by Nahid Kazemi​

Nahid Kazemi is an artist, illustrator, graphic designer and author of I'm Glad That You're Happy. (Yasaman Ameri/House of Anansi Press)

A florist puts two plants in a pot together and asks the larger one to take care of the smaller one. An artist takes the two plants home and they become part of the family. When the plants grow too big to be in the same pot, the larger plant is sad to be separated but happy to see the small one grow and flourish on its own.