The best Canadian YA and middle-grade books of 2019
Here are CBC Books's 15 favourite books for YA and middle-grade readers from this year!
Love from A to Z is about two teenagers who meet in unexpected circumtances and end up changing each other's lives even though they couldn't be more different. When Zayneb gets suspended for standing up to a xenophobic teacher, she's sent to her aunt's house in Doha, Qatar for an early spring break. She ends up meeting Adam, a teenager trying to hide his multiple sclerosis diagnosis from his grieving father.
Love from A to Z is for readers aged 14 and up.
Stand on the Sky is about a young girl who goes against her communiy's traditions in order to follow her dreams. In Aisulu's nomadic community, only men have traditionally learned to train eagles. But when her parents take her brother to a distant hospital, Aisulu secretly nurtures an orphaned baby eagle. Stand on the Sky won the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.
Stand on the Sky is for readers ages 9 to 12.
The Dragon Thief is the the second instalment of the middle-grade series Dragons in a Bag. It 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.
The Dragon Thief is for readers aged 8-12.
Zetta 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.
Break in Case of Emergency follows Toby Goodman, a teen whose father left their small town before she was born and whose mother died 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. Break in Case of Emergency was a finalist the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.
Break in Case of Emergency is for readers aged 14 and up.
In the YA novel We Contain Multitudes, a letter-writing assignment brings together high schoolers Kurl — an ex-football player known for fighting and for being held back a year — and Jo — a gay, nerdy teenager who loves poetry. As their fledgling, unexpected friendship grows, Jo and Kurl face homophobia and bullying from their peers and families.
We Contain Multitudes is for readers aged 14 and up.
In the YA novel Comics Will Break Your Heart, Miriam's grandfather co-created the iconic superhero series TomorrowMen, but doesn't get a dime for his work because he sold the rights for a pittance to his co-creator. Now the family's struggling to stay afloat and the future looks grim for Miriam. Things get complicated when heir to the TomorrowMen fortune moves to town — and, worse, he happens to be pretty cute.
Comics Will Break Your Heart is for readers aged 12 and up.
Comics Will Break Your Heart is Faith Erin Hicks' first novel. She is also the author of the popular Nameless City graphic novel series.
Those Who Dwell Below is a sequel to Aviaq Johnston's debut novel, Those Who Run in the Sky. After being trapped in a spirit world, a young shaman named Pitu returns to his life in the Arctic. When Pitu gets wind of a nearby community that is starving, he realizes he must travel to the depths of the ocean to meet with the sea goddess Nuliajuk.
Those Who Dwell Below is for readers aged 12 and up.
Aviaq Johnston is an Inuk author from Igloolik, Nunavut. She is also the author of the charming children's book What's My Superpower? illustrated by Tim Mack. Her YA novel Those Who Run in the Sky. was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.
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.
When You Ask Me Where I'm Going is for readers aged 14 and up.
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.
Operatic is a graphic novel about the beauty of opera. 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 showed up to school in weeks.
Operatic is for readers aged 10 to 14.
Byron Eggenschwiler is an illustrator who has contributed to publications like the New York Times, New Yorker and GQ.
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 inspired by Mills's great-grandmother's life and influenced by her Cree heritage.
The Ghost Collector is for readers aged 10 and up.
Mills is a writer based in Vancouver. The Ghost Collector is her first book.
In the YA novel The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, Norris Kaplan is a wisecracking black French Canadian teenager who knows he's in for a major culture shock when his family moves to Texas. He keeps track of his fellow high schoolers by placing them in categories: Cheerleaders, Jocks, Loners and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. When people from the categories try and befriend him, Norris learns a lesson about his snarky attitude.
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager is for readers aged 13 and up.
Ben Philippe, who now lives in New York, has contributed to publications like Vanity Fair and the Guardian. The Field Guide to the North American Teenager is his first book.
Ghosts is the third book in David A. Robertson's Reckoner series following an Indigenous teen named Cole Harper, who returns home after many years away. In Ghosts, Cole is dead and time is running out for Wounded Sky First Nation as Mihko Laboratories, which manufactured an illness that once afflicted the community, has reopened its research facilities.
Ghosts is for readers 13 and up.
Robertson is an author and graphic novelist based in Winnipeg. He has published more than 20 books across a variety of genres, including the graphic novels Will I See? and Sugar Falls and the picture book When We Were Alone.
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.
Broken Strings is for readers aged 10-14.
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.
The Starlight Claim is a thriller geared for YA readers. The story follows a boy named Nate who is suffering from bad dreams after his best friend goes missing. Nate decides to embark on a treacherous solo journey to find out what happened that fateful day. Nate is forced to rely on his wits in a wilderness full of strangers, secrets and a blustery winter storm.
The Starlight Claim is for readers aged 14 and up.
Wynne-Jones has written several books, including the picture book Zoom at Sea, the middle-grade books The Boy in the Burning House and Blink and Caution and the adult novels Odd's End.
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.
What the Eagle Sees is for readers aged 11 and up.
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.