Books

21 middle-grade and YA books to read in spring 2020

Check out the middle-grade and YA books we can't wait to read this year.

Here are the Canadian middle-grade and YA books we can't wait to read this spring.

Fight Like a Girl by Sheena Kamal

Fight Like a Girl is a YA novel by Sheena Kamal. (Malcolm Tweedy, Penguin Teen)

In thriller writer Sheena Kamal's debut YA novel Fight Like a Girl, Trisha grew up with an abusive father who would come and go as he pleased. In an effort to break the chain of violence in her family, Trisha chooses to channel her violent impulses into Muay Thai kickboxing.

Fight Like a Girl is for ages 14 and up.

When you can read it: Fight Like a Girl is available now.

Sheena Kamal is a Vancouver-based writer of crime novels including The Lost Ones which won the 2018 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, and It All Falls DownShe Fights Like a Girl is her debut YA novel.

Me and Banksy by Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Me and Banksy is a children's book by Tanya Lloyd Kyi. (tanyalloydkyi.com, Puffin Canada)

In the middle grade novel, Me and Banksy, Dominica's private school has security cameras everywhere. When someone starts hacking into them and posting embarrassing moments for the entire school to see, Dominica and her best friends, Holden and Saanvi, set out to find who has access to the cameras, and in the process, launch a Banksy-style student protest campaign against cameras in the classroom.

Me and Banksy is for ages 10 and up.

When you can read it: Me and Banksy is available now.

Tanya Lloyd Kyi is the Vancouver author of the YA novels Anywhere but Here and The Prince of Pot and the nonfiction titles Shadow Warrior and Eyes and Spies.

The Stone of Sorrow by Brooke Carter

The Stone of Sorrow is a book by Brooke Carter. (Orca Books)

The Stone of Sorrow is a YA fantasy novel about a teen named Runa Unnursdóttir who struggles to live up to her destiny as a runecaster for her clan. Runa just can't seem to measure up to Sýr, keeper of the sacred moonstone for the village and Runa's sibling. 

When an evil witch descends on the community and kidnaps Sýr, Runa must assemble a team and embark on a journey to face her fears and be the person she was always destined to be.

When you can read it: The Stone of Sorrow is available now.

The Stone of Sorrow is for ages 12 and up.

Brooke Carter is the author of several books for teens, including Another Miserable Love Song, Learning Seventeen and The Unbroken Hearts Club. 

Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen by Marthe Jocelyn, illustrated by Isabelle Follath

Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen is a book by Marthe Jocelyn, with illustrations by Isabelle Follath. (Tundra Books)

Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen is a new middle-grade mystery series set in a small town on the coast of England in 1902. It follows a young detective named Aggie Morton. The story is inspired by the imagined childhood of Agatha Christie and her most popular creation, the character of Hercule Poirot. When Aggie discovers a dead body on the floor of the Mermaid Dance Room, the murder threatens to tear the town apart. Aggie uses curiosity, deductive skills and some help from her friends to solve the case before an innocent person is charged with a crime Aggie is confident they didn't commit.

Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen is for ages 10 and up.

When you can read it: Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen is available now.

Marthe Jocelyn is the author of over 20 books, including The Invisible Enemy and Mayfly.

Isabelle Follath is an illustrator from Switzerland.

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

Cracked Up to Be is a YA novel by Courtney Summers. (Wednesday Books, Megan Gunter)

This reissue of New York Times bestselling author Courtney Summers's award-winning debut Cracked Up to Be features a new foreword by the author. Parker Fadley is the perfect daughter, student, friend and girlfriend. She has always been willing to pay the high price of perfection, until devastating events at a party during her junior year shatter the lives of her family and friends. Only Parker knows it's her fault. She is determined to keep her secret from surfacing, but that is threatened when a curious new student arrives and an old enemy returns.

Cracked Up to Be is for ages 13 and up.

When you can read it: Cracked Up to Be is available now.

Courtney Summers is a YA novelist. She made her debut in 2008 with Cracked Up to Be. Some of her other books include Fall for Anything, Some Girls Are and Sadie, which won the John Spray Mystery Award.

I Will See You Again by Lisa Boivin

I Will See You Again is a book by Lisa Boivin. (HighWater Press, Portage & Main Press)

I Will See You Again is an illustrated memoir that chronicles Lisa Boivin's journey through her grieving process following her brother's death. When Boivin learns of his passing overseas, she sets out to bring him home. She finds comfort and strength through memories and dreams of all the moments she and her brother shared together and through her Dene traditions. The lyrical art and story offers a universal message of hope and love.

I Will See You Again is for ages 12 and up.

When you can read it: I Will See You Again is available now.

Lisa Boivin is an interdisciplinary artist, a PhD student at the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine and a member of the Deninu Kue First Nation. I Will See You Again is her first book.

The Case of the Missing Auntie by Michael Hutchinson

The Case of the Missing Auntie is a middle-grade book by Michael Hutchinson. (Second Story Press, @Mike_Hutchins0n/Twitter.com)

In The Case of the Missing Auntie, the latest instalment of The Mighty Muskrats Mystery series, the four cousins from the Windy Lake First Nation head to the city to visit the Exhibition Fair. There, they learn about their grandfather's little sister, who was scooped up by the government and adopted out to strangers without her parents' permission many years ago. They launch a search for their auntie and, along the way, they learn about the treatment of First Nations people in Canada.

The Case of the Missing Auntie is for ages 9 to 12.

When you can read it: The Case of the Missing Auntie is available now.

Michael Hutchinson is a novelist and member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation. He currently lives in Ottawa and works at the Assembly of First Nations. He is the author of The Case of Windy Lake.

My Name is Konisola by Alisa Siegel

Alisa Siegel is the author of My Name is Konisola. (Second Story Press)

Nine-year-old Konisola and her mother leave their home in Nigeria when it is no longer safe for them. But soon after they land in North America, Konisola's mother becomes sick and they are separated. The young girl is left to fend for herself in her new country. She soon meets a nurse who helps change her life for the better.

My Name is Konisola is for ages 9 to 12.

When you can read it: My Name is Konisola is available now.

Alisa Siegel is a Toronto-based author and radio documentarian for the CBC. 

Sky of Bombs, Sky of Stars by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Sky of Bombs, Sky of Stars is a book by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. (Pajama Press)

Sky of Bombs, Sky of Stars is an omnibus edition of the award-winning biographies Last Airlift and One Step at a Time. Retold by children's author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, Tuyet's dramatic true story is based on personal interviews and enhanced with archival photos.

When you can read it: April 7, 2020

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is the Brantford, Ont.-based author of over a dozen books for young readers. Her books include the co-authored book with Van Ho, Too Young to Escapeand Don't Tell the Enemy.

Louder Than Words by Kathy Kacer

Kathy Kacer is a Toronto-based author of fiction and nonfiction for children. (Annick Press)

Louder Than Words is the third novel in Kathy Kacer's Heroes Quartet series highlighting unsung heroes of the Second World War. This instalment is based on the true story of one woman's heroism. Set in a small Ukrainian town, the story follows a Jewish family, 12-year-old Dina, her sisters and mother as they watch the war envelop their lives, a terrifying reality amplified by their father's death. When their mother must return to work, a new housekeeper, Nina, who is not Jewish moves in. Her role changes dramatically when the Nazis invade their town and she sacrifices her own safety to protect the children.

When you can read it: April 14, 2020

Louder Than Words is for ages 9 to 12.

Kathy Kacer is a Toronto-based author of fiction and nonfiction for children about the Holocaust. Kacer is the author of over 20 books and has won the Silver Birch, Red Maple and Jewish Book Awards in Canada and the U.S.

Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House by Janet Hill

Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House is a children's book by Janet Hill. (Tundra Books)

Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House is part mystery, part supernatural thriller. Main character Lucy Crisp faces a new reality when she moves to a seemingly quaint new town called Esther Wren to attend an exclusive arts college called Ladywyck Lodge. Strange things begin to happen: voices and footsteps in empty rooms, furniture disappears and elaborate desserts appear. Soon she realizes that the town and its residents are hiding many secrets, and her college is at the heart.

Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House is for ages 12 and up.

When you can read it: April 14, 2020

Janet Hill is a painter and author and illustrator of children's books. Her books include Miss Moon and Miss Mink.

Crossing the Farak River by Michelle Aung Thin

Crossing the Farak River by is a book Michelle Aung Thin. (Annick Press, Julian Shnider)

In Crossing the Farak River, Michelle Aung Thin tackles a pressing topic frequently in the news, but often underreported in fiction. Fourteen-year-old Rohingya Hasina is forced to flee everything she's ever known in this account of the crisis in Myanmar. The young characters are in the middle of a conflict that threatens her world and her identity. When Sit Tat soldiers invade their village one night, Hasina knows that they must leave. This novel introduces young readers to the military crackdown and ongoing persecution of Rohingya people, from the perspective of a courageous young protagonist. 

Crossing the Farak River by Michelle Aung Thin is for ages 11 and up.

When you can read it: April 14, 2020

Born in Burma, now Myanmar, Michelle Aung Thin is an Ottawa-raised novelist, essayist and academic. She made her authorial debut with The Monsoon Bride in 2011. Crossing the Farak River is her second book. She currently teaches writing at RMIT University in Melbourne.

Messenger 93 by Barbara Radecki

Messenger 93 is a book by Barbara Radecki. (DCB, barbararadecki.com)

In Messenger 93, an ominous message from a crow stating, "She will fall in seven days. As she falls, so do we all." launches the protagonist named M on a quest that could save more than one life. Through the journey, M meets up with Gray, a Cree boy on his own quest to save a runaway Indigenous girl. As they embark on a wild adventure through the city and into the bleak northern woods, M looks for the true meaning of the crow's messages as she dives deeper and deeper into unfamiliar worlds.

Messenger 93 by Barbara Radecki is for ages 14 and up.

When you can read it: April 19, 2020

Barbara Radecki is a Toronto-based actor and writer. She is also the author of The Darkhouse. 

The Silence of Bones by June Hur

The Silence of Bones is a book by June Hur. (Julie Anna Tang, Feiwel & Friends)

The Silence of Bones is a young adult historical mystery set in 1800 during the Joseon dynasty in Korea. Seol, a homesick and orphaned 16-year-old, is living out the ancient curse: "May you live in interesting times." Indentured to the police bureau, she is tasked with helping a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman. In the process, the two forge an unlikely friendship — a bond that is tested when the inspector becomes the prime suspect. There is no room for curiosity in a land where silence and obedience are most valued.

The Silence of Bones is for ages 13 and up.

When you can read it: April 21, 2020

June Hur is a South Korea-born writer based in Toronto. She has a degree in history and literature from the University of Toronto. Her work is inspired by her personal journey. The Silence of Bones is her debut novel.

Tales from the Fringes of Fear by Jeff Szpirglas, illustrated by Steven P. Hughes

Tales from the Fringes of Fear is a middle-grade book by Jeff Szpirglas, illustrated by Steven P. Hughes. (Orca Books)

Tales from the Fringes of Fear is about a haunted school — and students are on the constant lookout for wacky stuff! This middle-grade book by Jeff Szpirglas features spooky horror, dark comedy and sci-fi stories illustrated by Steven P. Hughes.

With a storytelling style in the vein of Tales from the Crypt and The Twilight Zone, the tales within Tales from the Fringes of Fear are designed to provide middle-grade children with some fearsomely funny reading.

Tales from the Fringes of Fear is for ages 9 to 12.

When you can read it: April 21, 2020

Kitchener, Ont.-based writer, editor and educator Jeff Szpirglas is the author of several works of fiction and nonfiction, including Wild Cards, Tales from Beyond the Brain and You Just Can't Help It! 

Steven P. Hughes is an Ontario-based illustrator with art that has been featured in the Globe and Mail, Reader's Digest and Scientific American.

Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman

Music For Tigers is a middle-grade book by Michelle Kadarusman. (Micah Ricardo Riedl, Pajama Press)

Music for Tigers, is a middle-grade novel and coming-of-age story about a young violinist who finds out that her mother's family secretly has a sanctuary for extinct Tasmanian tigers — the island's most beloved and lost, creature — in the remote Australian rainforest.

Music for Tigers is for ages 10 and up.

When you can read it: April 28, 2020

Michelle Kadarusman is a Canadian-Australian-Indonesian author of novels for children and teens. She is the author of The Theory of Hummingbirds and Girl of the Southern Sea, which was a finalist for the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.

Prairie Fire by E.K. Johnston

Prairie Fire is a YA novel by E.K. Johnston. (Submitted by E.K. Johnston, Holiday House)

In Prairie Fire, the follow-up to the critically acclaimed Story of Owen, dragons terrorize modern day North America. Owen, a 17-year-old dragon slayer and his bard, Siobhan, are set to join the Oil Watch, the international organization heading the protection of the world from the vicious, carbon emission-eating creatures. Owen is destined by birth to carry forward his family's heroic legacy and his two best friends enlist with him.

Prairie Fire by E.K. Johnston is for ages 12 and up.

When you can read it: April 28, 2020

E.K. Johnston is a Stratford-Ont-based YA novelist and forensic archeologist. She is the bestselling author of Story of OwenA Thousand Nights and Exit, Pursued by a Bear which won the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award in 2017.

War at the Snow White Motel and Other Stories by Tim Wynne-Jones

Tim Wynne-Jones is an British–Canadian author of children's literature. (timwynne-jones.com, Groundwood Books)

War at the Snow White Motel and Other Stories is a collection by Tim Wynne-Jones featuring six new and three previously published stories. In the titular tale, War at the Snow White Motel, Rex is on vacation with his family in Vermont when a careless act pulls him into war with an older teenager at their motel. The story unfurls as a much bigger, more costly conflict — the Vietnam War — looms.

War at the Snow White Motel and Other Stories is for ages 9 to 12.

When you can read it: May 1, 2020

Tim Wynne-Jones has written over 35 books — including The Starlight Claim, The Ruinous Sweep and The Maestro —and is a two-time winner of the Governor General's Literary Award. He has also received the Edgar Award, the Vicky Metcalf Award and was made an Officer to the Order of Canada in 2012.

How I Survived by Serapio Ittusardjuat, illustrated by Matthew K. Hoddy

How I Survived: Four Nights on the Ice is a graphic novel by Serapio Ittusardjuat and illustrated by Matthew K. Hoddy. (Inhabit Media)

In How I Survived, Serapio Ittusardjuat shares the traditional skills he depended on to survive when his snowmobile broke down halfway across the sea ice on a trip home from a fishing camp. The illustrated story is a first-person account of four nights spent on open sea ice in the harsh Arctic climate, with few supplies and no water.

How I Survived is for ages 12 and up.

When you can read it: May 5, 2020

Serapio Ittusardjuat is a residential school survivor, a certified journeyman mechanic and comes from a long line of walrus hunters. 

Matthew K. Hoddy is a Toronto-based illustrator and comic book author from Australia.

The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass by Adan Jerreat-Poole

Adan Jerreat-Poole is an author from Kingston, Ont. (Dundurn Press)

The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass depicts a fantasy world of witches and the assassins they created to hunt down ghosts in the human world. A group of renegades are in an ongoing battle to capture the Heart of the Coven. Eli is a teenage girl and trained assassin taught to kill with her seven living blades. Eli starts to question all she was taught about her world and the human world, when an assignment goes awry. 

The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass is for ages 15 and up.

When you can read it: May 16, 2020

Adan Jerreat-Poole is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer and a PhD candidate in English and cultural studies at McMaster University.

From the Roots Up by Tasha Spillett-Sumner, illustrated by Natasha Donovan

From the Roots Up is a graphic novel by Tasha Spillett-Sumner, illustrated by Natasha Donovan. (HighWater Press, Portage and Main)

From the Roots Up is the sequel to Surviving the City, which sees the stories of characters Dez and Miikwan continue. Dez is grieving the death of his grandmother and with nowhere else to go, she stays in a group home. All while also navigating a new relationship and learning to embrace her Two-Spirit identity. Meanwhile, Miikwan has a crush on the school's new kid Riel, but doesn't understand what Dez is going through. Elder Linda is doing her best to be supportive, but finds it challenging when the gendered protocols she grew up with are put into question.

From the Roots Up is for ages 12 and up.

When you can read it: Oct. 27, 2020

Tasha Spillett-Sumner is an educator, poet and scholar of Nehiyaw and Trinidadian descent. She is also the author of graphic novel Surviving the City.

Natasha Donovan is a Vancouver-based illustrator whose work has appeared in The Other Side and This Place: 150 Years Retold.

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