Books·Forest of Reading

Here are the 2021 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.

Ten Canadian books are finalists for the 2021 Red Maple Award, which celebrates fiction for readers in Grades 7-8.

The Red Maple 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.

Bloom by Kenneth Oppel

Bloom is the first novel in a new adventure trilogy by award-winning writer Kenneth Oppel. (HarperCollins, Mark Raynes Roberts)

Bloom is the first book in a series by Kenneth Oppel about three teenagers, Anaya, Petra and Seth, who live on Salt Spring Island. After a rainfall, black plants spring up and take over the island, spouting toxic pollen that only Anaya, Petra and Seth are immune to. The trio must work together to figure out how to stop the invasion from taking over the planet.

Oppel is a bestselling author whose books include the Silverwing trilogy, which has sold over a million copies worldwide, and Airbornwhich won the Governor General's Literary Award for children's literature — text. His most recent books include InklingEvery Hidden Thing and The Nest.

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.

Walters is a Canadian author of  nearly 100 books for young readers, including We All Fall Down and Run.

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.

Dragon Assassin by Arthur Slade

Dragon Assassin is a book by Arthur Slade. (Scholastic Canada,

Dragon Assassin is a fantasy novel about a student named Carmen, who attends the Red Assassin School. She's an expert assassin and in order to graduate, she must successfully hunt a giant black swan. But instead, she's come across a dragon. And not just any dragon — one that murders every person who gets near him. As Carmen prepares to graduate, a war is declared on assassins, and the emperor is murdered. Can Carmen conquer the dragon and save her fellow assassins before it's too late?

Arthur Slade is a children's book writer from Saskatchewan. He has written more than 25 books, including The Hunchback Assignments, which won the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award and Dust, which won the Governor General's Literary Award for children's literature — text.

If I Go Missing by Brianna Jonnie with Nahanni Shingoose, art by Nshannacappo

If I Go Missing is a graphic novel inspired by a letter Brianna Jonnie wrote to the Winnipeg chief of police. (CBC, Lorimer Children & Teens)

When Brianna Jonnie was 14 years old, she wrote a letter to the Winnipeg chief of police, asking him what he would do if she, a young Ojibwe woman, went missing. Would she get the same treatment as a young white boy who went missing? Or would her disappearance be ignored? The letter went viral online and sparked an important conversation about missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

If I Go Missing is a graphic novel adaptation of Jonnie's letter, featuring artwork by Nshannacappo, a poet and artist from Ditibineya-ziibiing (Rolling River First Nation).

The Other Side by Heather Camlot

The Other Side is a book by Heather Camlot. (Red Deer Press,

The Other Side is about a 12-year-old boy named Liam. One day, at his grandfather's cottage, Liam finds a body of a young girl who died. The death is ruled an accident. While Liam deals with this tragedy, he must also face that his grandfather is dying — and wants to tell Liam about what it was like fighting as a German soldier in the Second World War. As Liam tries to make sense of both of these events, he gets caught up in trying to prove the girl's death was not an accident.

Heather Camlot is a journalist, writer and translator who grew up in Montreal and now lives in Toronto. She is also the author of the YA novel Clutch and the picture book What If Soldiers Fought with Pillows?

The Rise and Fall of Derek Cowell by Valerie Sherrard

The Rise and Fall of Derek Cowell is a book by Valerie Sherrard. (DCB Young Readers)

The Rise and Fall of Derek Cowell is about a kid named Derek who accidentally becomes popular after a photo of him goes viral online. Derek doesn't like his new-found fame, but he quickly learns that what goes up, must come down. Will he be able to handle his fall from grace as well as he handled his rise to the top?

Valerie Sherrard is a children's book author from New Brunswick. She has written more than a dozen books for young people, including the Shelby Belgarden mystery series, The Glory Wind, Kate and Speechless.

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. 14-year-old Harbour lives in a tent in a Toronto ravine with her dog and a dwindling food supply. She has a mysterious past that 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.

Christina Kilbourne is an author from Bracebridge, Ont. Her other books include the novels Detached and Dear Jo

Sara and the Search for Normal by Wesley King

Sara and the Search for Normal by Wesley King. Illustrated book cover of the outline of half a face in neon pink and purple with stars above. Headshot of the author.
Sara and the Search for Normal is a book by Wesley King. (Simon & Schuster)

In Sara and the Search for Normala young girl named Sara joins a therapy group. She hopes she can learn to quiet her mind and figure out how to be normal. Instead, she learns that there are other kids out there just like her. And that it's more important to be yourself than it is to be what is considered "normal."

Wesley King is a children's nook author from Nova Scotia. His previous books include OCDaniel and A World Below. He also co-wrote the The Wizenard Series series with Kobe Bryant.

A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth

A Treason of Thorns is a book by Laura E. Weymouth. (HarperTeen)

A Treason of Thorns is about a girl named Violet who has spent seven years in exile, wishing she was home in her magical house in the English countryside. But her father committed treason, and Violet must return home — and home is nothing like she remembers. The magic that was once so joyous is now harming everything, and it's up to Violet to fix it before it's too late.

Laura E. Weymouth is a fantasy YA writer from Ontario who currently lives in New York. Her first book was The Light Between Worlds. A Treason of Thorns is her second novel. Her third, A Rush of Wings, will be published in fall 2021.

Yara's Spring by Jamal Saeed & Sharon E. McKay

Yara's Spring is a book by Jamal Saeed & Sharon E. McKay. (Annick Press)

Yara's Spring is inspired by activist Jamal Saeed's own childhood in Syria. It tells the story of Yara, a young girl whose childhood was overshadowed by the prospect of civil war. When war finally arrives, it's worse than everyone imagined it would be. Yara's family's home is destroyed, and she loses her parents and her grandmother. Her brother survives, but he can no longer speak. Now Yara is the one in charge, and she must get herself and her brother to safety.

Jamal Saeed is a writer, artist and activist. He spent 12 years in prison in Syria before coming to Canada in 2016. He now lives in Kingston, Ont., and works to bring awareness to the civil war in Syria.

Sharon E. McKay is a children's book writer and artist from P.E.I. Her other books include War Brothers: The Graphic Novel and Thunder Over Kandahar.

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