Books·Forest of Reading

Here are the 2020 Red Maple Award finalists: 10 great Canadian books for readers in Grades 7-8

Ten Canadian books are finalists for the 2020 Red Maple Award, which celebrates fiction for readers in Grades 7-8.
The Red Maple Award celebrates fiction for readers in Grades 7-8. (Ontario Library Association)

Ten Canadian books are finalists for the 2020 Red Maple Award, which celebrates fiction for readers in Grades 7-8.

The Red Maple Award will be broadcast at 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday, June 16 on, CBC's educational service.

Crush by Svetlana Chmakova

Crush is a graphic novel by Svetlana Chmakova. (Yen Press)

In CrushJorge is a big guy with a sweet personality and lots of friends. Yet, he always seems to lose his cool around a certain girl at school.

Svetlana Chmakova is a comic creator whose work has been published in over 13 languages. 

In the Key of Nira Ghani by Natasha Deen

In the Key of Nira Ghani is a YA novel by Natasha Deen. (Running Press/Hachette Books)

Nira dreams of becoming a professional musician, but her parents are pushing her to follow a more secure career path. Striving to prove herself on the trumpet, Nira also faces rough friendship waters with her crush Noah, mean-girl McKenzie, new friend Emily and cousin Farah.

Natasha Deen has written 20 books, including the Lark & Connor Ba middle-grade books.

The Unteachables by Gordon Korman

Gordon Korman is a Canadian author of children's books. (

Class SCS-8 at Greenwich Middle School are known as the "unteachables" — an idiosyncratic crew of personalities that range from high strung to sleepy and lost in thought. Led by a checked out teacher, the students each take turns telling their stories and figuring out whether they really are unteachable.

Gordon Korman is a bestselling writer of humorous novels for middle grade readers, whose books include Ungifted and Supergifted.

Operatic by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler

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

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 shown up to school in weeks. 

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.

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen

Susin Nielsen is the author of the middle-grade novel No Fixed Address. (Courtesy of Penguin Random House)

When 12-year-old Felix Knuttson's loving (but unreliable) mother loses yet another job, the two are forced to live in a camper van. While Astrid looks for work, Felix enrolls at school with a fake address and learns about a national quiz show. He becomes determined to win the cash prize so he and his mother can afford a home. 

B.C. writer Susin Nielsen has been publishing YA and middle grade novels since 2008. Her books include We Are All Made of Molecules, which was longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, and Optimists Die First.

Call of the Wraith by Kevin Sands

Kevin Sands is author of the middle-grade novel Call of the Wraith. (Thomas Zitnansky/Simon and Schuster)

Christopher Rowe has survived a shipwreck in Devonshire, but wakes up without any memories of who he is or where he's from. When Christopher's friends track him down, they remind him that he's an expert in the apothecary sciences and missing children need his help.

Call of the Wraith is the fourth book in Kevin Sands's bestselling and award-winning Blackthorn Key mystery series for middle-grade readers.

Surviving the City by Tasha Spillett, illustrated by Natasha Donovan

Surviving the City is Tasha Spillett's debut graphic novel. It's illustrated by Natasha Donovan. (Portage & Main Press)

High school students Miikwan, who is of Anishinaabe descent, and Dez, who is of Inninew descent, are best friends in Winnipeg. Both have experienced loss, as women in their lives have gone missing or been murdered. In Surviving the City, Miikwan and Dez lean on each other and their communities for support and strive to change the devastating trend of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Tasha Spillett is an educator and scholar. Surviving the City is her first book.

Natasha Donovan is an illustrator based in Vancouver. Her work also includes the picture book The Sockeye Mother.

A Grain of Rice by Nhung N. Tran-Davies

Nhung Tran-Davies is the author of A Grain of Rice. (

 A Grain of Rice is a semi-autobiographical novel about a 13-year-old girl's escape from war-torn Vietnam. The protagonist finds hope and courage as she struggles through oppression and poverty.

Nhung N. Tran-Davies is a children's writer and physician based in Alberta.

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

The Light Between Worlds is a YA novel by Laura E. Weymouth. (HarperTeen)

Sisters Ev and Philippa have been transported back to England, post-WWII, after spending years in an enchanted kingdom. One wants to return to the Woodlands, while the other strives to move on from their old life.

Laura E. Weymouth is a Canadian YA writer based in the U.S. The Light Between Worlds is her first book.

Stowaway by Pam Withers

Stowaway is a YA novel by Pam Withers. (Dundurn Press)

Sixteen-year-old Owen sneaks onto a yacht while his parents are away and accidentally discovers a human trafficking operation. He and the first mate, Arturo, work together to take over the boat and free everyone on-board.

This is Pam Withers's third time as a Red Maple Award nominee. She was previously a finalist for Tracker's Canyon and First Descent.

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