Books·Books of the Year

The best Canadian picture books of 2019

Here are CBC Books' 18 favourite Canadian picture books of the year.

Here are CBC Books's 18 favourite Canadian picture books of 2019.

Albert's Quiet Quest by Isabelle Arsenault

Albert's Quiet Quest is a picture book by Isabelle Arsenault. (Tundra Books, Cindy Boyce)

In this picture book, an introverted young boy named Albert dreams of finding a quiet sunset beach to read on. Instead, he's surrounded by the loud and raucous kids in his Mile End neighbourhood in Montreal. Albert's Quiet Quest was a finalist for the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustration

Albert's Quiet Quest is for readers aged 4-7.

Isabelle Arsenault is a three time winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustration. Her books include Colette's Lost Pet and Louis Undercoverwhich was written by Fanny Britt.

Ping by Ani Castillo

Ping is a picture book by Ani Castillo. (Hachette Book Group, Jamie Campbell)

Ping by Ani Castillo is a celebration of self-expression in the digital age, when so much communication happens digitally and we are constantly connected.

Ping is for readers aged 4-8.

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Castillo is a Mexican Canadian illustrator. Ping is her first book.

I Promise by Catherine Hernandez, illustrated by Syrus Marcus Ware

I Promise is a picture book by Catherine Hernandez (right) and illustrated by Syrus Marcus Ware. (Arsenal Pulp Press, Dahlia Katz)

I Promise is a portrayal of all the joys and challenges of parenting and a celebration of the many different forms that loving families come in.

I Promise is for readers aged 3-8.

Catherine Hernandez is a playwright, performer and the author of the novel Scarborough.

Syrus Marcus Ware is a visual artist, activist and scholar whose work has appeared in the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Globe and Mail and in Nuit Blanche.

Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett recorded music, hosted radio and television programs, published books and taught folklore. She spent the last 20 years of her life in Canada, where she helped inspire generations of Caribbean-Canadians. Michael’s guest is Nadia L. Hohn (PRON. Hahn) -- a teacher, writer and author of a new children’s book, A Likkle Miss Lou, to mark the 100th anniversary of Miss Lou’s birth.

A Likkle Miss Lou by Nadia L. Hohn, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes

A Likkle Miss Lou is a picture book by Nadia L. Hohn (left) and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes. (Owlkids)

A Likkle Miss Lou is a picture book about Louise "Miss Lou" Bennett Coverley, a Jamaican poet known for bringing international attention to Jamaican patois.

A Likkle Miss Lou is for readers aged 4-8.

Nadia L. Hohn is a children's book author from Toronto. Her other titles include Malaika's Costume and Malaika's Winter Carnival

Eugenie Fernandes is an artist and children's book illustrator based in Ontario. 

In a special treat, Jon Klassen -- one of the most acclaimed new talents in children's literature -- joins guest host and illustrator Kevin Sylvester to discuss storytelling, stealing hats and when it's okay to scare kids.

Circle by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Circle is a picture book by Jon Klassen & Mac Barnett. (Submitted by Penguin Random House)

The final book in American Mac Barnett and Canadian Jon Klassen's shapes trilogy is all about Circle, who must save her friend Triangle when he breaks a rule.

Circle is for readers aged 4-8.

The bestselling pair are also the creators behind Square, TriangleSam & Dave Dig a Hole and The Wolf, The Duck & The Mouse.

American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad made waves for being the first American athlete to compete in a hijab. Shireen Ahmed tells Asha Tomlinson about the realities for athletes competing in hijab, and what the peoples' responses say about diversity.

Birdsong by Julie Flett

Birdsong is a picture book by Julie Flett. (Greystone Books, Canadian Press/Patrick Doyle)

In Birdsong, a lonely girl becomes friends with her new neighbour, an elderly woman. Together, they watch the seasons change, but as they both grow older, the young girl learns to cope with her friend's declining health. Birdsong was a finalist for the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustration.

Birdsong is for readers aged 5-8.

Julie Flett has illustrated several picture books including Little YouMy Heart Fills with Happiness and We Sang You Home. She won the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustration for When We Were Alone, which was written by David A. Robertson.

Author Katherena Vermette brought along her baby girl Ruby when she dropped by our studio in Toronto to take The Next Chapter's Proust questionnaire.

Alis the Aviator by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, illustrated by Kalpna Patel

Alis the Aviator is a picture book Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, illustrated by Kalpna Patel. (Tundra Books, @GhostfaceKnitta/, Maritza Anderson Photography/

Alis the Aviator shares airplanes from the past to present in a cute and clever A to Z format, guided by a plane enthusiast named Alis. Alis the Aviator features original cut-paper art by artist, jeweler and crafter Kalpna Patel.

Alis the Aviator is for readers aged 3-7.

Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail is a Canadian writer who currently lives n Texas. Alis the Aviator is her first book for children, but she is the author of the nonfiction books For the Love of Flying and Polar Winds.

Patel creates window displays for independent bookstores, among her many her creative projects. Alis the Aviator is her first children's book. 

Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison speak with Matt Galloway about their new children's book, inspired by their most famous song, Skinnamarink.

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.

The Proudest Blue is for readers aged 4-10.

S.K. Ali is a  YA author who lives in Ontario. 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.

Scout and the Gumboot Kids encourages children to get outside into nature

Bear for Breakfast by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Jay Odjick

Bear for Breakfast is a picture book by Robert Munsch and Jay Odjick. (Submitted by Scholastic Canada)

Children's author Robert Munsch and illustrator Jay Odjick team up for a second picture book called Bear for BreakfastIn this tale, a boy named Donovan decides to catch a bear to eat for breakfast, just like his grandfather used to eat. When he goes hunting, Donovan discovers the bear might have other plans.

Bear for Breakfast is for readers aged 3-8.

Bear for Breakfast is inspired by a 1990 visit with the Chippewan community in La Loche, Sask., where Munsch met a boy named Donovan who said he loved to eat bear.

Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Anoosha Syed

Bilal Cooks Daal is a picture book by Aisha Saeed and illustrated by Anoosha Syed. (Simon & Schuster, Aisha Saeed, submitted by Anoosha Syed)

Featuring colourful illustrations by Canadian artist Anoosha Syed, Bilal Cooks Daal by American writer Aisha Saeed is a charming story about a young child who loves the lentil dish from South Asia and wants to share it with his friends.

Using the themes of patience, sharing and teamwork, this picture book addresses the power of culture and community and also features a recipe for daal at the end.

Bilal Cooks Daal is for readers aged 4-8.

Syed is an artist based in Toronto. She's illustrated more than 10 books for children.

Boonoonoonous Hair! by Olive Senior, illustrated by Laura James

Boonoonoonous Hair! is a picture book by Olive Senior and Laura James. (Caroline Forbes, Neville Gordon, Tradewind Books)

In this charming picture book for young readers, a girl learns to embrace her wild, hard-to-manage curly hair. Olive Senior is an award-winning writer. Her books include the short story collection The Pain Tree and the picture book Anna Carries Water, which is also illustrated by New York artist Laura James.

Boonoonoonous Hair! is for readers aged 5-9.

Senior is the author of 18 books, including poetry, fiction, nonfiction and children's literature. Her collection Over the Roofs of the World was shortlisted for the 2005 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry.

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

Small in the City is a picture book by Sydney Smith. (Groundwood Books, Steve Farmer)

In Small in the City, a young boy is on the hunt for a precious item he has lost on a snowy day in a big city. Along the way, he navigates special shortcuts and and shares secrets about the city he lives in. Small in the City won the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature, illustration.

Small in the City is for readers aged 6-10.

Sydney Smith is a Halifax-based illustrator. His other books include Town is by the Seawritten by Joanne Schwartz, and Sidewalk Flowerswritten by JonArno Lawson. Town is by the Sea won the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award in 2017.

Moon Wishes by Patricia Storms & Guy Storms, illustrated by Milan Pavlovic 

Moon Wishes is a picture book by Guy Storms, Patricia Storms and Milan Pavlovic. (Helen Booker, Jelena Reljic, Groundwood Books)

A bedtime story by Patricia Storms and Guy Storms, Moon Wishes describes how a moon's glow can light a path, glisten on snow and give peace to the weary. Milan Pavlovic creates dreamy watercolour paintings for this picture book. 

Moon Wishes is for readers 4-7.

Patricia Storms is a cartoonist and the creator of many books for children. Guy Storms is her husband.Moon Wishes is the first books they have created together.

Pavlovic is a children's book illustrator and comic artist. He has written and illustrated several picture books.

The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette, illustrated by Julie Flett

The Girl and the Wolf is a picture book by Katherena Vermette and Julie Flett. (Theytus Books, KC Adams)

In this picture book, a little girl gets lost in the woods while picking berries. A large grey wolf is able to tell where she is from by smelling her and helps her get home. In the meantime, the girl realizes she had the skills to find her way back all along. 

The Girl and the Wolf is for readers aged 3-5.

Both Katherena Vermette and Julie Flett are Governor General's Literary Award-winning artists — Vermette for the poetry collection North End Love Songs and Flett for the children's book When We Were Alone.

I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe & I'm Finding My Talk by Rebecca Thomas, both illustrated by Pauline Young

Pauline Young with the two books she was asked to illustrate, I Lost My Talk and I'm Finding My Talk. (Gail Harding/CBC)

This children's book shares Rita Joe's iconic poem I Lost My Talk with a new generation. I Lost My Talk is about how Joe, a Mi'kmaw elder and poet, lost her language and culture after she was sent to residential school. 

I'm Finding My Talk is Rebecca Thomas's response to Rita Joe's poem I Lost My Talk. Thomas is a poet and a second-generation residential school survivor. In I'm Finding My Talk, she celebrates reconnecting with her language and culture.

Both books are for readers aged 4-8.

Both books are illustrated by Pauline Young, a Mi'kmaw illustrator who lives in New Brunswick.

Sharon, Lois & Bram's Skinnamarink with Randi Hampsonillustrated by Qin Leng

Qin Leng illustrates the picture book version of the classic children's song Skinnamarink, sung by entertainers Sharon Hampson, Lois Lilienstein & Bram Morrison. (Tundra Books)

Qin Leng illustrates a picture book based on Sharon, Lois & Bram's beloved children's song. Sharon, Lois & Bram are a Canadian children's musical group that have performed together for over 40 years.

Sharon, Lois & Bram's Skinnamarink is for readers 3-6.

Leng is a children's book illustrator from Toronto who has also illustrated the books Good Night, Good Night by Dennis Lee and Away by Emil Sher.

Scout & the Gumboot Kids series

Mice friends Daisy and Scout are the stars of The Gumboot Kids. (Firefly Books)

The CBC children's show Scout & The Gumboot Kids has been adapted into a series of picture books for readers aged 3 to 7 years old. Mice friends Scout and Daisy embark on a series of nature-related adventures, bringing clues back to the library for investigation.

There are four books so far: The Case of the Vanishing Caterpillar, The Case of the Story Rock, The Case of the Wooden Timekeeper and The Case of the Growing Bird Feeder.

The book series is for readers aged 3-7.

The books are authored by show creators Eric Hogan and Tara Hungerford, a husband-and-wife team from Vancouver.