Books

18 Canadian books for young people to read for I Read Canadian Day

I Read Canadian Day is a day for encouraging young people to read, and to read more Canadian books.

Feb. 19, 2020 is the first I Read Canadian Day. It's a day for encouraging young people to read, and to read more Canadian books.

Here are 18 Canadian books for the young readers in your life.

Bear for Breakfast by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Jay Odjick

Bear for Breakfast is a picture book by Robert Munsch and Jay Odjick. (Submitted by Scholastic Canada)

Children's author Robert Munsch and illustrator Jay Odjick team up for a second picture book called Bear for BreakfastIn this tale, a boy named Donovan decides to catch a bear to eat for breakfast, just like his grandfather used to eat. When he goes hunting, Donovan discovers the bear might have other plans.

Bear for Breakfast is for readers aged 3-8.

Bear for Breakfast is inspired by a 1990 visit with the Chippewan community in La Loche, Sask., where Munsch met a boy named Donovan who said he loved to eat bear.

Jay Odjick creates images in Robert Munsch's new book. Aritist Kent Monkman paints a cheeky Indigenous narrative into Canada's history. And musician Jade Turner shares a painful past. 40:05

Stand on the Sky by Erin Bow

Stand on the Sky is a YA fantasy novel by Erin Bow. (Studio J, Scholastic)

Stand on the Sky is about a young girl who goes against her communiy's traditions in order to follow her dreams. In Aisulu's nomadic community, only men have traditionally learned to train eagles. But when her parents take her brother to a distant hospital, Aisulu secretly nurtures an orphaned baby eagle. Stand on the Sky won the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature  text.

Stand on the Sky is for readers ages 9 to 12.

Erin Bow is a poet and children's book writer from Kitchener, Ont. Her books for young readers include Plain Kate and The Scorpion Rules.

Kitchener-Waterloo author Erin Bow talks about winning what she describes as THE Canadian book award for her middle grade novel Stand on the Sky. 7:50

Sharon, Lois & Bram's Skinnamarink with Randi Hampsonillustrated by Qin Leng

Qin Leng illustrates the picture book version of the classic children's song Skinnamarink, sung by entertainers Sharon Hampson, Lois Lilienstein & Bram Morrison. (Tundra Books)

Qin Leng illustrates a picture book based on Sharon, Lois & Bram's beloved children's song. Sharon, Lois & Bram are a Canadian children's musical group that have performed together for over 40 years.

Sharon, Lois & Bram's Skinnamarink is for readers aged 3-6.

Leng is a children's book illustrator from Toronto who has also illustrated the books Good Night, Good Night by Dennis Lee and Away by Emil Sher.

Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison speak with Matt Galloway about their new children's book, inspired by their most famous song, Skinnamarink. 7:41

The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette, illustrated by Julie Flett

The Girl and the Wolf is a picture book by Katherena Vermette and Julie Flett. (Theytus Books, KC Adams)

In The Girl and the Wolf, a little girl gets lost in the woods while picking berries. A large grey wolf is able to tell where she is from by smelling her and helps her get home. In the meantime, the girl realizes she had the skills to find her way back all along. 

The Girl and the Wolf is for readers aged 3-5.

Both Katherena Vermette and Julie Flett are Governor General's Literary Award-winning artists — Vermette for the poetry collection North End Love Songs and Flett for the children's book When We Were Alone.

Author Katherena Vermette brought along her baby girl Ruby when she dropped by our studio in Toronto to take The Next Chapter's Proust questionnaire. 4:35

The Dragon Thief by Zetta Elliott

The Dragon Thief is a middle grade book by Zetta Elliott. (Bianca Cordova, Random House Books for Young Readers)

The Dragon Thief is the the second instalment of the middle-grade series Dragons in a Bag. It follows the fantasy adventures of young Jaxon and his life with dragons. When he's put in charge of taking care of baby dragons, he discovers that one is missing. This event sets Jaxon off on an adventure to find his best friend's sister, Kavita, who just might be the dragon thief.

The Dragon Thief is for readers aged 8-12.

Zetta Elliott was born in Ajax, Ont., and has lived in the United States for the past 20 years. She is a poet, teacher and writer for children and young adults. 

Zetta Elliott on what inspired her new kids book. 3:50

I Promise by Catherine Hernandez, illustrated by Syrus Marcus Ware

I Promise is a picture book by Catherine Hernandez (right) and illustrated by Syrus Marcus Ware. (Arsenal Pulp Press, Dahlia Katz)

I Promise is a portrayal of all the joys and challenges of parenting and a celebration of the many different forms that loving families come in.

I Promise is for readers aged 3-8.

Catherine Hernandez is a playwright, performer and the author of the novel Scarborough.

Syrus Marcus Ware is a visual artist, activist and scholar whose work has appeared in the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Globe and Mail and in Nuit Blanche.

It can be a tricky question for any parent to tackle in an age-appropriate way, "where did I come from?" But it poses a unique challenge for queer parents. Scarborough author Catherine Hernandez has written a book with that in mind, celebrating the diverse array of families out there. It's called 'I Promise.' 6:36

Those Who Dwell Below by Aviaq Johnston, illustrated by Toma Feizo Gas

Those Who Dwell Below is a fantasy YA novel by Aviaq Johnston. (Inhabit Media)

Those Who Dwell Below is a sequel to Aviaq Johnston's debut novel, Those Who Run in the Sky After being trapped in a spirit world, a young shaman named Pitu returns to his life in the Arctic. When Pitu gets wind of a nearby community that is starving, he realizes he must travel to the depths of the ocean to meet with the sea goddess Nuliajuk. 

Those Who Dwell Below is for readers aged 12 and up.

Aviaq Johnston is an Inuk author from Igloolik, Nunavut. She is also the author of the charming children's book What's My Superpower? illustrated by Tim Mack. Her YA novel Those Who Run in the Sky. was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.

Aviaq Johnston freely admits the first book she ever wrote as a teen was terrible. But the author from Igloolik, Nunavut has moved on from a "Harry Potter rip-off" to a debut novel shortlisted for a Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature. 7:41

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

Small in the City is a picture book by Sydney Smith. (Groundwood Books, Steve Farmer)

In Small in the City, a young boy is on the hunt for a precious item he has lost on a snowy day in a big city. Along the way, he navigates special shortcuts and and shares secrets about the city he lives in.

Small in the City is for readers aged 3-7.

Sydney Smith is a Halifax-based illustrator. His other books include Town Is by the Seawritten by Joanne Schwartz, and Sidewalk Flowerswritten by JonArno Lawson. Town Is by the Sea won the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award in 2018 and the U.K.'s Kate Greenaway Medal for children's illustration.

Sydney Smith talks about writing and illustrating his latest project, a children's book called Small in the City. 16:31

In My Anaana's Amautik by Nadia Sammurtok, illustrated by Lenny Lishchenko

In My Anaana's Amautik is a picture book by Nadia Sammurtok (left) and illustrated by Lenny Lishchenko (right). (Inhabit Media)

An amautik is a pouch inside a parka where you can carry children. The picture book In My Anaana's Amautik is told from the perspective of a baby safely nestled in their mother's amautik.

In My Anaana's Amautik is for readers aged 0-3.

Nadia Sammurtok is an Inuk writer and educator. Her books include The Caterpillar Woman and The Owl and the Two RabbitsLenny Lishchenko is an illustrator based in Toronto.

Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe

Pokko and the Drum is a picture book by Matthew Forsythe. (Thanh Pham, Simon & Schuster)

How much fun can a frog have with a drum? An energetic frog named Pokko intends to figure out in Pokko and the Drum. This picture book by Montreal writer and illustrator Matthew Forsythe features simple language, quirky illustrations and a sharp sense of humour. 

Pokko and the Drum follows the story of Pokko and the assortment of forest animals who join in the musical fun as the percussionist marches to her own little beat. 

Pokko and the Drum is for readers aged 4-8.

Forsythe is a comic book artist and children's book creator. His other titles include The Brilliant Deep and Pokko and the Soup.

A Likkle Miss Lou by Nadia L. Hohn, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes

A Likkle Miss Lou is a picture book by Nadia L. Hohn (left) and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes. (Owlkids)

A Likkle Miss Lou is a picture book about Louise "Miss Lou" Bennett Coverley, a Jamaican poet known for bringing international attention to Jamaican patois.

A Likkle Miss Lou is for readers aged 4-8.

Nadia L. Hohn is a children's book author from Toronto. Her other titles include Malaika's Costume and Malaika's Winter Carnival

Eugenie Fernandes is an artist and children's book illustrator based in Ontario. 

Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett recorded music, hosted radio and television programs, published books and taught folklore. She spent the last 20 years of her life in Canada, where she helped inspire generations of Caribbean-Canadians. Michael’s guest is Nadia L. Hohn (PRON. Hahn) -- a teacher, writer and author of a new children’s book, A Likkle Miss Lou, to mark the 100th anniversary of Miss Lou’s birth. 26:46

The Ghost Collector by Allison Mills

The Ghost Collector is a middle-grade novel by Allison Mills. (K. Ho, Annick Press)

The Ghost Collector by Allison Mills is about a young girl named Shelly with an important job. She catches ghosts in her hair and helps them transition to the afterlife. But when Shelly's mom dies, she stops helping the ghosts and starts hoarding them, as she waits for her mother's ghost to arrive. The Ghost Collector is inspired by Mills's great-grandmother's life and influenced by her Cree heritage.

The Ghost Collector is for readers aged 10 and up.

Mills is a writer based in Vancouver. The Ghost Collector is her first book.

Circle by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Circle is a picture book by Jon Klassen & Mac Barnett. (Submitted by Penguin Random House)

The final book in American Mac Barnett and Canadian Jon Klassen's shapes trilogy is all about Circle, who must save her friend Triangle when he breaks a rule.

Circle is for readers aged 4-8.

The bestselling pair are also the creators behind Square, TriangleSam & Dave Dig a Hole and The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse.

In a special treat, Jon Klassen -- one of the most acclaimed new talents in children's literature -- joins guest host and illustrator Kevin Sylvester to discuss storytelling, stealing hats and when it's okay to scare kids. 22:06

Birdsong by Julie Flett

Birdsong is a picture book by Julie Flett. (Greystone Books, Canadian Press/Patrick Doyle)

In Birdsong, a lonely girl becomes friends with her new neighbour, an elderly woman. Together, they watch the seasons change, but as they both grow older, the young girl learns to cope with her friend's declining health. Birdsong was a finalist for the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustration.

Birdsong is for readers aged 5-8.

Julie Flett has illustrated several picture books including Little YouMy Heart Fills with Happiness and We Sang You Home. She won the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustration for When We Were Alone, which was written by David A. Robertson.

How do you make pictures for a book about life in residential school, kid-friendly? And how do you bring that lightness to a difficult and dark period of history? That's something Julie Flett had to figure out. 8:05

Boonoonoonous Hair! by Olive Senior, illustrated by Laura James

Boonoonoonous Hair! is a picture book by Olive Senior and Laura James. (Caroline Forbes, Neville Gordon, Tradewind Books)

In Boonoonoonous Hair!a girl learns to embrace her wild, hard-to-manage curly hair. Olive Senior is an award-winning writer. Her books include the short story collection The Pain Tree and the picture book Anna Carries Water, which is also illustrated by New York artist Laura James.

Boonoonoonous Hair! is for readers aged 5-9.

Senior is the author of 18 books, including poetry, fiction, nonfiction and children's literature. Her collection Over the Roofs of the World was shortlisted for the 2005 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry.

Olive Senior was born in Jamaica in 1941, the seventh of 10 children. She went on to become one of Canada’s most acclaimed writers. Hear excerpts from her 2019 Margaret Laurence Lecture, readings from her work and a conversation with IDEAS producer Mary Lynk. *Originally broadcast on October 9, 2019. 53:59

I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe & I'm Finding My Talk by Rebecca Thomas, both illustrated by Pauline Young

Pauline Young with the two books she was asked to illustrate, I Lost My Talk and I'm Finding My Talk. (Gail Harding/CBC)

This children's book shares Rita Joe's iconic poem I Lost My Talk with a new generation. I Lost My Talk is about how Joe, a Mi'kmaw elder and poet, lost her language and culture after she was sent to residential school. 

I'm Finding My Talk is Rebecca Thomas's response to Rita Joe's poem I Lost My Talk. Thomas is a poet and a second-generation residential school survivor. In I'm Finding My Talk, she celebrates reconnecting with her language and culture.

Both books are for readers aged 4-8.

Both books are illustrated by Pauline Young, a Mi'kmaw illustrator who lives in New Brunswick.

A Rita Joe Renaissance. The great Mi'kmaq poet has been celebrated in a myriad of manners over the past few years. The latest tribute comes from the Poet Laureate of Halifax, Rebecca Thomas, who's composed a response poem to Rita Joe's famous "I Lost My Talk", called "I'm Finding My Talk". Nimbus Publishing has released both titles as children's books. 10:41

Operatic by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler

Operatic is a YA novel by Kyo Maclear & Byron Eggenschwiler. (Submitted by Groundwood Books)

Operatic is a graphic novel about the beauty of opera. When her music class learns about opera, Charlie becomes obsessed with the life of Maria Callas. She looks to the ultimate diva for direction on how to cope with her feelings for her classmate Emile and her concerns for Luka, who hasn't showed up to school in weeks. 

Operatic is for readers aged 10 to 14. 

Kyo Maclear is the author of many picture books, including Bloom and Virginia Wolf, as well as nonfiction books like Birds Art Life

Byron Eggenschwiler is an illustrator who has contributed to publications like the New York Times, New Yorker and GQ.

Somewhere in the universe, there is the perfect tune for you. Canadian writer Kyo Maclear believes in this idea so strongly that she's made it the focus of her first graphic novel for young readers, Operatic. 16:25

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