Books·Forest of Reading

Here are the 2021 Blue Spruce Award finalists: 10 great Canadian books for readers in kindergarten to Grade 2

Ten Canadian books are finalists for the 2021 Blue Spruce Award, which celebrates picture books for readers in kindergarten to Grade 2.

Ten Canadian books are finalists for the 2021 Blue Spruce Award, which celebrates picture books for readers in kindergarten to Grade 2.

The Blue Spruce Award is part of the Forest of Reading program, in which students from kindergarten to high school are encouraged to read from a selection of shortlisted books and vote for their favourites over several months.

The Forest of Reading program is organized by the Ontario Library Association.

The winners will be revealed in spring 2021.

Bad Dog by Mike Boldt

Bad Dog is a children's book by Mike Boldt. (Doubleday Books for Young Readers)

This picture book is a fun-filled tale about a little girl who wants a dog — but gets a cat named Rocky for her birthday instead. Rocky doesn't listen or obey like all the other dogs. But the little girl insists that Rocky is a dog regardless. 

Mike Boldt is an author and illustrator from Alberta. His other books include Find Fergus, Thunder Trucks and I Don't Want to Go to Sleep.

Be You! by Peter H. Reynolds

Peter H. Reynolds is a Ontario-born writer and illustrator. (Orchard Books/Scholastic Canada)

Be You! is a celebration of the things that make each child unique and special in their own way. This picture book is similar in tone to the classic book Oh, the Places You'll Go! and reminds children that being who they are is where it's at. 

Peter H. Reynolds is children's book writer and illustrator originally from Ontario and now lives in the United States. His other books include The DotI Am HumanHappy DreamerThe Word Collector and Say Something!

Boxitects by Kim Smith

Kim Smith is an author and illustrator. (Clarion Books,

Boxitects is the story of a creative and smart girl named Meg, who loves to create amazing things out of everyday cardboard boxes. Meg is a boxitect and attends Maker School, where she wows her class with the things she creates. But when a new kid named Simone shows up, Meg realizes that there is someone who is just as creative as she is. Meg and Simone initially don't get along, but soon learn that working together gets things done better than you can ever imagine.

Kim Smith is an author and illustrator from Alberta. Her other books include the Builder Brothers picture book series and the Ice Chips chapter book series.

Fast Friends by Heather M. O'Connor, illustrated by Claudia Dávila

A picture book by Heather M. O'Connor, illustrated by Claudia Dávila. (Scholastic Canada, Patricio Davila, Jonathan van Bilsen)

Fast Friends is the story of Tyson and Suze, two children with different challenges and strengths but who find common ground. Tyson does everything fast, too fast sometimes. Suze is nonverbal with special needs. The two form a friendship that teaches the power of listening and understanding each other.

Heather M. O'Connor is a writer, editor and author from Ontario. She is also the author of the middle-grade novel Betting Game.

Claudia Dávila is an illustrator from Toronto. She has illustrated the nonfiction books Child Soldier by Michel Chikwanine, Jessica Dee Humphreys, and Change It!, Move It! and Touch It!, all written by Adrienne Mason. She also wrote and illustrated the picture book Super Red Riding Hood.

Going Up! by Sherry Lee, illustrated by Charlene Chua

Going Up! is a children's picture book written by Sherry Lee and illustrated by Charlene Chua. (Kids Can Press)

Going Up! is a story about community and a sense of belonging, showcased through a young girl's ride up an elevator to her friend's birthday party. The picture book, illustrated by Charlene Chua, portrays characters from many cultural backgrounds and showcases the everyday diversity that many urban children experience.

Sherry J. Lee is a writer from Toronto. Going Up! is Lee's first picture book.

Charlene Chua is a Singapore-born Canadian author and illustrator. She has illustrated several picture books, including The Pencil by Susan Avingaq and Maren Vsetula, Shubh Diwali! by Chitra Soundar and Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang. She is the author and illustrator of Hug? 

Grandmother School by Rina Singh, illustrated by Ellen Rooney

A picture book by Rina Singh and Ellen Rooney. (, Orca Book Publishers)

Learning never stops is the lesson learned in picture book Grandmother SchoolIt's the story of a little girl, her grandmother and the school the grandmother attends to learn to read and write. Grandmother School is a celebration of family, women and the power of education at any age. 

Rina Singh is an India-born Canadian author from Toronto. She has written more than a dozen books for children, including 111 TreesDiwali Lights, A Forest of Stories and Moon Tales.

Ellen Rooney is a designer, artist and children's book illustrator from B.C. She also illustrated the picture books Her Fearless Run by Kim Chaffee and Dusk Explorers by Lindsay Leslie.

My Day with Gong Gong by Sennah Yee, illustrated by Elaine Chen

My Day with Gong Gong is a picture book by Sennah Yee, illustrated by Elaine Chen. (Annick Press, Christine Ting Wei Wang, Angela Pan)

My Day with Gong Gong is a story about a little girl, her grandfather and a fateful day in Chinatown. Little May doesn't seem to connect with her grandpa Gong Gong, who only speaks a little English. They are out on a day trip and she isn't having much fun. But May realizes that Gong Gong knows much more than he is letting on and the two end up having a wonderful day together. 

My Day with Gong Gong is for ages 4-7.

Sennah Yee is a poet and writer from Toronto. She released her debut collection of poetry, How Do I Look? in 2017.

Elaine Chen is an illustrator and art director from Vancouver.

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly

The Proudest Blue is a picture book by Ibtihaj Muhammad (top) with S.K. Ali (bottom left) and illustrated by Hatem Aly. (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Heidi Gutman-Guillaume, Andrea Stenson)

Ibtihaj Muhammad was the first Muslim American woman to compete for the United States in the Olympics while wearing a hijab. In The Proudest Blue, her first book, two sisters are facing their own firsts: it's Faizah's first day of school and Asiya's first day wearing a hijab.

S.K. Ali is a YA author from Brampton, Ont. Her books include Saints and Misfits and Love from A to Z.

Hatem Aly is a children's book illustrator who lives in New Brunswick. He also illustrated the Unicorn Rescue Society series by Adam Gidwitz and the Yasmin series by Saadia Faruqi.

Salma the Syrian Chef by Danny Ramadan, illustrated by Anna Bron

Salma the Syrian Chef is a picture book written by Danny Ramadan and illustrated by Anna Bron. (Annick Press)

In Salma the Syrian ChefSalma wants to cook a heartwarming dish to cheer up her mama, who between English classes, job interviews and missing her husband back in Syria, always seems busy or sad. Syrian culture is depicted through the meal Salma prepares and Anna Bron's vibrant illustrations, while the diverse cast of characters speaks to the power of cultivating community in challenging circumstances. 

Ahmad Danny Ramadan is a Syrian-Canadian author, award-winning activist and public speaker. His first book was the novel The Clothesline Swing, which was longlisted for Canada Reads 2018. Salma the Syrian Chef is his first book for children.

Anna Bron is a Vancouver-based freelance illustrator and animation director.

The Truth About Wind by Hazel Hutchins & Gail Herbert, illustrated by Dušan Petričić

Hazel Hutchins (top right) and Gail Herbert are the authors of The Truth About Wind, illustrated by Dusan Petricic. (Annick Press)

Telling the truth and why it matters is the focus of the picture book The Truth About WindIt's the story of Jesse and the toy horse that he loves. The horse is the fastest in the whole world and is named Wind. Only thing is, Wind doesn't exactly belong to Jesse — it was accidentally left behind and the real owner is out there somewhere. Jesse must make a decision to tell his mother the truth about the horse, even though it's his favourite new toy. 

Hazel Hutchins is an author from Alberta who has written over 50 books for children and young adults. Gail Herbert is an Ontario-based writer and author. The Truth About Wind is the third book by Hutchins and Hebert. They also co-wrote Anna at the Art Museum and Mattland.

Dušan Petričić is a Serbian artist and illustrator. He lived in Toronto for more than a decade, and has illustrated several Canadian children's books, including In the Tree House by Andrew Larsen, Mr. Zinger's Hat by Cary Fagan, the Jacob Two-Two series by Mordecai Richler and several picture books by Margaret Atwood.

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