Books·Fall Book Preview

30 Canadian YA and middle-grade books to watch for this fall

Check out the Canadian books that are coming out for YA and middle-grade readers this fall.

Check out the Canadian books that are coming out for YA and middle-grade readers this fall.

Containment by Caryn Lix

Containment is a novel by Caryn Lix. (Simon Pulse, Tanya Plonka)

Containment is the second book in Caryn Lix's Sanctuary series. Former prison guard Kenzie and her friends escaped Sanctuary (barely). But now they are on a stolen alien spaceship. When Kenzie intercepts a radio signal, she knows what they have to do next: turn themselves in and destroy the spaceship. The survival of humanity is at stake.

Lix is a YA fantasy writer based in Alberta. Sanctuary was her first book.

Containment is for readers aged 14 and up.

When you can read it: Containment is now available.

Spin by Colleen Nelson

Spin is a YA novel by Colleen Nelson. (Dundurn Press)

Spin is a YA novel about a teenage girl named Delilah who wants to be a DJ. She lives with her brother and father above the vinyl record store they run together. Delilah is learning about DJing from her brother's friend and life is pretty good and pretty normal. But her family has a secret: Delilah's mom is one of the most famous singers on the planet. When this secret gets out, Delilah's world changes forever.

Colleen Nelson is a YA author based in Winnipeg. Her other books include Blood Brothers and Finding Hope.

Spin is for readers aged 12-15.

When you can read it: Spin is now available.

Clear Skies by Jessica Scott Kerrin

Clear Skies is a middle-grade novel by Jessica Scott Kerrin. (Groundwood Books, Snickerdoodle Photography)

It's the summer of 1961 and for young Arno, it's a time of scientific wonder and discovery. The pre-teen has his heart set on becoming an astronomer — only thing is, he's prone to bouts of claustrophobia. Arno intends to enter a local radio contest, with the winner getting a chance to meet renowned astronomer Jean Slayter-Appleton, otherwise known as Arno's idol. But when the new boy in town challenges Arno's love of science, he realizes that sometimes dreams don't always come true.

Jessica Scott Kerrin writes YA and middle-grade novels, including 2017's The Better Tree Fort

Clear Skies is for readers aged 8-11.

When you can read it: Clear Skies is now available.

A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying by Kelley Armstrong

A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying is a middle-grade book by Kelley Armstrong. (Puffin Canada)

A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying is the first middle-grade book from bestselling YA author Kelley Armstrong. Twins Rowan and Rhydd are born into a royal family with their futures set for them: Rowan will be Queen and Rhydd will be the Royal Monster Hunter. Rowan wants nothing more than to switch places with her brother. But suddenly Rowan unexpectedly gets her wish to hunt monsters — and if she fails, her entire kingdom will fall with her. 

Armstrong is best known for her Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising series. She's also the author of the Cainsville and Otherworld series.

A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying is for readers aged 10-14.

When you can read it: A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying is now available.

Kung Fu Master by Marty Chan

Kung Fu Master is a middle-grade novel by Marty Chan. (Orca Books, Ryan Parker)

Marty Chan's middle-grade novel Kung Fu Master is about a teenager named Jon Wong. His friends at school assume that because he's Chinese, he's good at math and science. And when they find out that he likes to pretend to be a martial arts warrior, rumours spread that Jon isn't a nerd — he's a kung fu master. Rather than tell the truth, Jon pretends it's true. But what will happen when he's asked to prove it?

Chan is a children's book author based in Edmonton. His other books include the Ehrich Weisz Chronicles and the Keepers of the Vault series.

Kung Fu Master is for readers aged 9-12.

When you can read it: Aug. 27, 2019

A Song for China by Ange Zhang

A Song for China is a middle-grade book by Ange Zhang. (Groundwood Books)

Ange Zhang shares the story of his father, Guang Weiran, in the picture book A Song for China. Guang Weiran was a writer, activist and military leader who used art to fight for social justice in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. His poem Yellow River Cantata, this year celebrating its 80th anniversary, became the anthem of Chinese national spirit. 

Zhang is an award-winning animator and illustrator of children's books.

A Song for China is for readers aged 10 and up.

When you can read it: Sept. 1, 2019

A Boy is Not a Bird by Edeet Ravel 

Edeet Ravel is an Israeli-Canadian novelist born in Israel and raised in Montreal. (Groundwood Books, Yudit Avi-Dor)

A Boy is Not a Bird is a middle-grade novel set during the Second World War. In 1941 Europe, tensions are high. Even though Natt knows that there's a war going on, he's still frustrated that his family treats him like a child. But when the Russians move into his small town of Zastavna and local authorities start to round up deportees bound for Siberia, Natt witnesses and experiences harsh events that force him to grow up faster than he'd like.

Edeet Ravel is an novelist born in Israel and raised in Montreal. She is also the author of the novel A Wall of Light, which was a finalist for the 2005 Giller Prize.

A Boy is Not a Bird is for readers aged 9-12.

When you can read it: Sept. 1, 2019

The Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-el, illustrated by Kelly Pousette

The Very, Very Far North is a middle-grade book by Dan Bar-el and Kelly Pousette. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)

The Very, Very Far North is a middle-grade novel set in the Arctic. Duane is a polar bear who is looking for somewhere to belong. Along with his friends —  like Major Puff the puffin, Handsome the musk ox and Boo the caribou — Duane learns that life is always an adventure. 

Based in Vancouver, Dan Bar-el is a children's author and educator whose books include Audrey (cow) and Not Your Typical Dragon. He worked with B.C.-based illustrator Kelly Pousette to make The Very, Very Far North.

The Very, Very Far North is for readers aged 8-12.

When you can read it: Sept. 3, 2019

The Taste of Rain by Monique Polak

Montreal-based Monique Polak is an author of YA fiction. (Orca Books, John Fredericks)

The Taste of Rain is a YA novel set in China in 1945. Thirteen-year-old Gwen's life has been a difficult one. Gwen was enrolled at a boarding school in Chefoo when the Japanese Imperial Army invaded her country. For nearly two and a half years, Gwen, along with more than 140 other children, has been living in an internment camp in northern China and is forced to do hard labour. But Miss E., one of their teachers from Chefoo, has come up with an unusual scheme that helps Gwen and her friends stay positive and optimistic that a better day will come soon.

Monique Polak has published 12 novels for young adults. Two of her books, What World Is Left and Hate Mail, both won the Quebec Writers' Federation Award for children's and young adult literature.

The Taste of Rain is for readers aged 9-12.

When you can read it: Sept. 3, 2019

We Three by Markus Harwood-Jones

We Three is a YA novel by Markus Harwood-Jones. (James Lorimer & Company Ltd.)

We Three by Markus Harwood-Jones is a YA romance novel about three teenage girls at summer camp. Jasbina "Jassie" Dhillon has feelings for her two best friends, Ams and Sydney. At first, it seems as though Ams and Sydney hate each other, but it turns out the opposite is true. The three of them form an unconventional polyamorous relationship that works at camp — but what will happen once camp ends?

Harwood-Jones is a writer, artist and filmmaker based in Toronto. His other teen romances include Just Julian and Romeo for Real.

We Three is for readers aged 13 and up.

When you can read it: Sept. 3, 2019

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 a middle-grade novel inspired by Mills's great-grandmother's life and influenced by her Cree heritage.

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

The Ghost Collector is for readers aged 10 and up.

When you can read it: Sept. 10, 2019

Broken Strings by Eric Walters & Kathy Kacer

Broken Strings is a middle-grade novel by Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer. (Puffin Canada,, Nicki Kagan)

The power of music is a theme in Broken Strings by Canadian co-authors Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer. It's 2002 — one year after the 9/11 attacks — and Shirli and Zayde are two students auditioning for a role in the school production of Fiddler on the Roof. When one finds an old violin in her Jewish grandfather's attic, a family secret is uncovered and the experience changes the lives of all involved.

Eric Walters is a Canadian author of YA novels and picture books and a recipient of the Order of Canada.

Kathy Kacer is a Toronto-based author whose parents were both survivors of the Holocaust. Her books, including Hiding Edith and Masters of Silence, explore the lives of young Jewish people who lived during the Second World War.

Broken Strings is for readers aged 10-14.

When you can read it: Sept. 10, 2019

Summerwood/Winterwood by E.L. Chen

Summerwood/Winterwood is a YA novel by E.L. Chen. (ChiTeen)

Summerwood/Winterwood contains two linked fantasy stories about a young girl named Rosalind Hero Cheung. The first, Summerwood, begins as 12-year-old Rosalind travels to Toronto to spend the summer with her teenage sister Julie and their grandfather, the author of a famous children's fantasy series. Their stay takes a turn when Julie disappears and Rosalind discovers the dark truth behind the mythical land their grandfather wrote about in his books. Rosalind undertakes a dangerous and costly journey into Summerwood in order to save her sister.

Winterwood picks up three years later. Rosalind has not recovered from her trip to Summerwood and is getting into trouble at school. Grounded by her exasperated mother, Rosalind runs away to Toronto and is confronted by an old enemy from Summerwood.

E.L. Chen is an author and illustrator based in Ontario. Her previous novel, The Good Brother, was published in 2015.

Summerwood/Winterwood is for readers aged 14 and up.

When you can read it: Sept. 17, 2019

Nevers by Sara Cassidy

Nevers is a middle-grade novel by Sara Cassidy. (Orca Book Publishers, Amaya Tarasoff)

Sara Cassidy's middle-grade novel Nevers is set in 1799 France. A young teen named Odette and her mother Anneline are on the run after a string of misadventures. They wind up in an otherworldly town called Nevers, which features a range of strange yet interesting characters. Odette finds herself caught up in a mystery about the town, one that might lead her to find riches and a place to belong at last. 

Sara Cassidy is a journalist, editor and author living in Victoria. She has written more than 10 books geared young readers.

Nevers is for readers aged 9-12.

When you can read it: Sept. 17, 2019

Just Lucky by Melanie Florence

Melanie Florence is a Toronto-based author of Cree and Scottish heritage. (Second Story Press)

In Melanie Florence's Just Lucky, Lucky is a teen who has been anything but. Abandoned by her mother at a young age, Lucky lives with her grandparents. But when her absent-minded grandmother accidentally sets the kitchen on fire, Lucky finds herself homeless and is sent into foster care. Just Lucky looks at life inside the foster care system and the children affected by it. 

Florence is the author of the YA novels The Missing, He Who Dreams, Rez Runaway and One Night, the picture books Missing Nimama and Stolen Words and the nonfiction book Righting Canada's Wrongs: Residential Schools.

Just Lucky is for readers aged 13 and up.

When you can read it: Sept. 17, 2019

The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster by Cary Fagan

Cary Fagan is a Toronto-based writer of novels, short stories and children's books. (Tundra Books, Josh Levine)

The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster is a middle-grade novel by prolific author Cary Fagan. When a middle-school student learns his older brother has run away from home, he becomes sad and depressed. But the discovery of a series of mysterious handmade postcards scattered through his town takes his mind off his own troubles as he sets out to find out who the mysterious culprit might be.

Fagan has written YA novels, picture books and fiction for adults. In 2014, he received the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People, which recognizes children's authors for their entire body of work.

The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster is for readers aged 10-14.

When you can read it: Sept. 17, 2019

The Stone Rainbow by Liane Shaw

The Stone Rainbow is a YA novel by Liane Shaw. (, Second Story Press)

The Stone Rainbow by Liane Shaw is about a teenager named Jack Pedersen. After Jack came out as gay to his mother, his life has never been the same. Jack's mom is having difficulty accepting him for who he is — and complicating matters is Jack's newfound feelings for Benjamin, the new student in town. After a fateful incident, Jack must come to terms with who he is and what he stands for.

Shaw's other YA books include Caterpillars Can't Swim, Fostergirls, The Color of Silence and Don't Tell, Don't Tell, Don't Tell

The Stone Rainbow is for readers aged 13 and up.

When you can read it: Sept. 17, 2019

Break in Case of Emergency by Brian Francis

Break in Case of Emergency is a YA novel by Brian Francis. (HarperCollins, Samuel Engelking)

Break in Case of Emergency follows Toby Goodman, a teen whose father left their small town before she was born and whose mother dies by suicide when she's a young girl. When she finds out that her estranged father is coming back to town and wants to meet her, Toby must try to make sense of her life amid surprising revelations about her family history.

Brian Francis is a writer and columnist for The Next Chapter on CBC Radio. His first novel, Fruit, was a finalist for Canada Reads 2009. He is also the author of the novel Natural Order.

Break in Case of Emergency is for readers aged 14 and up.

When you can read it: Sept. 17, 2019

The Grey Sisters by Jo Treggiari

The Grey Sisters is a YA novel by Jo Treggiari. (Penguin Random House Canada Teen, Madeleine Kendall)

In The Grey Sisters by Jo Treggiari, two best friends, D and Spider, deal with the aftermath of a plane crash by heading back to the crash site to find out what really happened. Along the way, the pair seek answers as they cope with grief, danger and an attack that changes their lives forever. 

Treggiari is also the author of Ashes, Ashes, a YA novel which takes place in a post-apocalyptic New York City after numerous natural disasters have left the population decimated. 

The Grey Sisters is for readers aged 12 and up.

When you can read it: Sept. 24, 2019

My Totem Came Calling by Blessing Musariri & Thorsten Nesch

My Totem Came Calling is a YA novel by Blessing Musariri and Thorsten Nesch. (Mawenzi House Publishers)

My Totem Came Calling by Blessing Musariri and Thorsten Nesch follows Chanda, a Zimbabwe teen suffering from black outs and memory lapses, which become even more worrisome when she starts seeing a zebra in the weirdest of places. After a conversation with an old aunt, Chanda embarks on a journey to an ancestral village where she learns more about herself and her African heritage.

Musariri is a poet, screenwriter and children's author based in Zimbabwe. Nesch is a German author who lives in Lethbridge, Alta.

My Totem Came Calling is for readers aged 14 and up.

When you can read it: Sept. 30, 2019

When You Ask Me Where I'm Going by Jasmin Kaur

Jasmin Kaur's debut book is a collection of poetry, illustrations and prose. (HarperCollins, Jasmit Mankoo)

When You Ask Me Where I'm Going by Jasmin Kaur is a mix of poetry, prose and artwork. The book aims to spark debate around themes of mental health, feminism, immigration and personal empowerment. It's a look at what it means to be alive and willing to fight for rights in the world. 

Vancouver-based Kaur is an illustrator, spoken word artist and author. Her approach to writing has drawn comparisons to Canadian poet Rupi Kaur and American writer Elizabeth Acevedo. 

When You Ask Me Where I'm Going is for readers aged 14 and up.

When you can read it: Oct. 1, 2019

The Justice Project by Michael Betcherman

Michael Betcherman is a Canadian screenwriter and author. (Orca Books, Claudette Jaiko)

In The Justice Project by Michael Betcherman, a snowboarding accident leaves high school football champion Matt Barnes permanently disabled. Matt plunges into depression but after landing an internship at the Justice Project, an organization that defends the wrongly convicted, he starts a friendship with social activist Sonya Livingstone. Together, they take on a cold case involving a convicted, yet possibly innocent, man.

Betcherman is a Toronto-based author and screenwriter. His other young adult books include Breakaway and Face-Off.

The Justice Project is for readers aged 12 and up.

When you can read it: Oct. 1, 2019

My Story Starts Here by Deborah Ellis

My Story Starts Here is a YA nonfiction book by Deborah Ellis. (Groundwood Books, Deborah Ellis)

My Story Starts Here tells the stories of real kids who share how they've coped with and overcome trauma. The teens all come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations and ethnicities. Their stories share similar situations — loss of parenting, dislocation, poverty, truancy, addiction, discrimination —  and explores the effects of youth crime, the aftermath and how society treats these individuals. 

Deborah Ellis is a Canadian writer of children's books, including the acclaimed Breadwinner series, now a film and graphic novel. She is a member of the Order of Canada.

My Story Starts Here is for readers aged 12 and up.

When you can read it: Oct. 1, 2019

Rising Star by Sylv Chiang, with art by Connie Choi

Rising Star is a middle-grade novel by Sylv Chiang with art by Connie Choi. (Annick Press)

Rising Star is the third book in the middle-grade video game series Cross Ups by Sylv Chiang, with art by Connie Choi. Jaden has been invited to New York City to test out a new version of the game Cross Ups. But when he struggles with his gaming skills, instead of being excited for the trip, Jaden starts to worry. Can he become the gamer he once was without sacrificing who he is now?

Chiang is a teacher and author of middle-grade books. Her Cross Ups series was inspired by her video game-loving students.

Choi is an illustrator based in Toronto.

Rising Star is for readers aged 9 and up.

When you can read it: Oct. 8, 2019

Peggy by Slavia Miki & Roy Miki, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch

Roy Miki is a poet and author. (Tradewind Books, Slavia Miki)

Slavia Miki and Roy Miki's Peggy is a fun story about one charming guinea pig. Told in the animal's voice, and featuring colour illustrations by Stéphane Jorisch, it's a book about the remarkable adventures of a remarkable creature.

Manitoba-born Roy Miki is a poet, scholar, editor and Order of Canada recipient. He won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry in 2002 for Surrender. His partner, Slavia Miki, is an author and life coach. 

Peggy is for readers aged 8-12.

When you can read it: Oct. 15, 2019

The Dragon Thief by Zetta Elliott

Zetta Elliott is a writer of middle-grade novels. (Random House Children's Books, CBC)

The second instalment of the Dragons in a Bag book series for middle-grade readers 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.

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. 

The Dragon Thief is for readers aged 8-12.

When you can read it: Oct. 22, 2019

Demon by Shane Peacock

Demon is a middle-grade book by Shane Peacock. (Penguin Random House Canada Teen, Kevin Kelly)

Demon is the third book in Shane Peacock's The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim series. Edgar Brim has returned to London and is back at work at the London Hospital. Edgar's experiencing night terrors, and when he decides to do something about them, he realizes they might not all be just in his head.

Peacock is the author of several children's books, including the popular Boy Sherlock Holmes series and the Dylan Maple adventure series.

Demon is for readers aged 12 and up.

When you can read it: Oct. 22, 2019

What the Eagle Sees by Eldon Yellowhorn & Kathy Lowinger

Eldon Yellowhorn is the co-author of What the Eagle Sees. (Annick Press)

What the Eagle Sees is a follow-up to 2017's Turtle Island. It looks at historical events to reflect an underrepresented Indigenous perspective of our collective past and how to move on in the present and future. Academic Eldon Yellowhorn again works with author Kathy Lowinger to continue an examination of the lasting impact of settler culture on the Indigenous community.

Yellowhorn is an academic and author from the Peigan Indian Reserve (Piikani Nation). Yellowhorn explores the mythology and folklore of his Indigenous ancestors and in how the past informs the present in his books.

What the Eagle Sees is for readers aged 11 and up.

When you can read it: Nov. 12, 2019

Safe Harbour by Christina Kilbourne

Safe Harbour is a YA novel by Christina Kilbourne. (Dundurn Press,

Safe Harbour is a YA novel that looks at homelessness through the eyes of a teenager. Fourteen-year-old Harbour lives in a tent in a Toronto ravine with her dog and a dwindling food supply. She has a mysterious that past involves an absent father and a 36-foot sailboat. After meeting a fellow homeless girl named Lisa, Harbour is forced to survive on her own.

Based in Bracebridge, Ont., Christina Kilbourne is the author of novels Detached and Dear Jo

Safe Harbour is for readers aged 12-15.

When you can read it: Nov. 16, 2019

Feral by Nicole Luiken

Feral is a YA novel by Nicole Luiken. (Great Plains Publications, Nicole Luiken)

Feral by Nicole Luiken is about a teenager named Chloe, who has one big worry: that she won't live up to her lupine legacy — a child with werewolf heritage — to become a werewolf herself. Her life changes after meeting Marcus, a young feral who is trapped in his wolf form. Together, they discover family secrets and lies as they race against time to realize their true destiny.

Luiken is an Edmonton-based science fiction and speculative fiction writer. She is the author of several YA novels, including Violet Eyes and Silver Eyes

Feral is for readers aged 13 and up.

When you can read it: Nov. 30, 2019


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