Books·Books of the Year

The best Canadian young adult and children's books of 2017

Here are the top Canadian children's books that came out this year.

2017 is coming to a close. Here are the best Canadian young adult and children's books that came out this year.

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

S.K. Ali is the author of the YA novel Saints and Misfits. (Andrea Stenson/Simon & Schuster)

Janna Yusuf is a sophomore in high school. She sees herself as a misfit who doesn't fit in at home or at school. She also has a crush on a boy who isn't Muslim, which is creating difficulties with her family. When a member of her Muslim community assaults her, she begins to realize that not everyone is who you believe them to be. Saints and Misfits is a charming, moving and essential YA novel.

Triangle by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are the award-winning author/illustrator team behind Triangle. (Penguin Random House)

In Triangle the sneaky titular character attempts to play a trick on his friend — but things don't go as planned, leading to hilarious results. 

Louis Undercover by Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

The graphic novel from Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault is a touching story about Louis, a young boy coping with the breakup of his parents. Louis moves between his alcoholic dad and his worried mom — and who, with the help of his best friend, tries to summon up the courage to speak to his true love.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Cherie Dimaline is the author of The Marrow Thieves. (Cherie Dimaline/Dancing Cat Books)

In the dystopian world of Cherie Dimaline's award-winning The Marrow Thieves, climate change has ravaged the Earth and a continent-wide hunt and slaughter of Indigenous people is underway. Wanted for their bone marrow, which contains the lost ability to dream, a group of Indigenous people seek refuge in the old lands. The Marrow Thieves won the Governor General's Literary Award for children's text in 2017 and is a captivating, original read. 

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue, illustrated by Caroline Hadilaksono 

Emma Donoghue is the bestselling author of Room. The Lotterys Plus One is her first book for children. (Punch Photographic/HarperCollins)

The Lotterys Plus One follows a large, rambunctious, multicultural family living in a 32-room Victorian mansion. Drama ensues when the family, headed by two same-sex couples, finds their already chaotic life upended upon the arrival of a distant grandfather. The Lotterys Plus One is a colourful middle-grade book with an important message. 

Those Who Run in the Sky by Aviaq Johnston

Aviaq Johnston is an Igloolik, Nunavut-based author. Her books include Those Who Run in the Sky and What's My Superpower? (Inhabit Media)

Those Who Run in the Sky is a coming-of-age story that follows a young shaman named Pitu who, while learning to use his gifts, ends up trapped in the spirit world. Those Who Run in the Sky, an engaging read, was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature.

Coyote Tales by Thomas King

Thomas King puts his quirky humour and engaging storytelling skills to excellent use in this story of two tales (Coyote Sings to the Moon and Coyote's New Suit) set back in an era "when animals and human beings still talked to each other."

The Fog by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Kenard Pak

Kyo Maclear is the author of The Fog. (Diaspora Dialogues)

The Fog is a beautiful fable with an environmental twist that follows Warble, a yellow warbler who is a human-watcher. Warble soon realizes that a mysterious fog is moving onto his island home of Icyland. After trying to warn the other birds — to no avail — he meets a red-hooded little girl and the pair set out to get to the bottom of the mystery. 

Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

Susin Nielsen is the author of Optimists Die First (Tallulah Photography)

Optimists Die First is a YA novel that will break your heart and have you laughing out loud at the same time. Sixteen-year-old Petula de Wilde blames herself for her sister's tragic death. In the time since, she has come to see danger in the most mundane of places. While attending her weekly art therapy classes, she meets a young man with a prosthetic arm named Jacob. They gradually grow close as he helps her let go of her fears. 

Sam & Eva by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is an author and illustrator based in Toronto. Her picture book Sam & Eva is available in October 2017. (Simon & Schuster/Annie T.)

Sam & Eva is an imaginative and funny story about the power of teamwork. Sam isn't too thrilled when Eva tries to add to his drawing of a velociraptor. The two start an art battle that gets increasingly out of hand, until they decide to work together. 

When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett

David Alexander Robertson is the author of several books, including the children's book When We Were Alone. (David A. Robertson/Portage & Main Press)

This Governor General's Literary Award-winning picture book is about a young girl, who after noticing her grandmother's clothes and language are different from hers, asks why. Her grandmother then recounts her history, which is intertwined with Canada's legacy of residential schools. When We Were Alone takes a beautifully gentle approach to a very difficult topic. 

The Assassin's Curse by Kevin Sands

The Assassin's Curse is the third in a series by Kevin Sands, featuring a resourceful, rebellious apothecary's assistant. (

In The Assassin's Curse, the third novel of the award-winning Blackthorn Key series, Christopher Rowe, an apothecary-in-training, breaks an assassin's coded message and is sent to Paris to investigate a curse that's plagued the French throne for centuries.

Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith

Town Is by the Sea, written by Joanne Schwartz (above) and illustrated by Sydney Smith, is about life in a small Cape Breton mining town. (Courtesy of Groundwood Books)

Town is by the Sea is a day in the humble life of a young maritime boy as he visits his grandfather's grave and eats dinner with his family, all the while daydreaming about his absent coal-mining father. Inspired by the real history of maritime mining culture, this book is a visual and literary love letter to an important part of East Coast history. 

Speaking Our Truth by Monique Gray Smith

Monique Gray Smith is the author of Speaking Our Truth. (Centric Photography, Orca Books)

In Speaking Our Truth, Monique Gray Smith educates young readers about Canada's residential school system and its survivors in this important work of nonfiction for middle-grade readers.

Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Danielle Younge-Ullman is the author of the Governor General's ward nominated novel Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined (

Set in two different time periods, Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined juxtaposes the present life of Ingrid, a young woman on a wilderness intervention program for at-risk teens, with her early life of touring with her opera star mother, Margot-Sophia. While trying to survive the summer, she struggles to confront, and come to terms with, her past. Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature.     


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