The Next Chapter

The Next Chapter children's book panel: 8 great children's books to check out this summer

It's time once more for The Next Chapter's children's book panel!
Ken Setterington & Michelle Landsberg are enthusiasts of children's literature. (CBC)

The Next Chapter's children's book panel, comprised of writers Michelle Landsberg and Ken Setterington, is back!

They chat with Shelagh Rogers about some new and classic books that kids can read this summer during this unique time of Covid.

Don't Stand So Close to Me by Eric Walters

Eric Walters is a Canadian writer of children's books. (Orca Book Publishers, Penguin Random House Canada)

Ken says: "This is probably the first kid's book written about the pandemic. It's a fun book to read. It's a book full of hope. It is looking at students at the end of their school year who are dealing with Covid. So there's all the loneliness, but they're also having fun and being resourceful. 

This is probably the first kid's book written about the whole pandemic.

"Eric Walters moved heaven and earth to get this book finished. I have to applaud him because it really is a book for right now. It's a real page turner." 

Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen by Marthe Jocelyn

Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen is a book by Marthe Jocelyn, with illustrations by Isabelle Follath. (Tundra Books)

Michele says: "It's roughly based on the life that might have been Agatha Christie's as a girl. Aggie Morgan is a bright young 12-year-old in Victorian times, who is chafing under all the restrictions. She solves a mystery along with her friend Hector Perot.

It's roughly based on the life that might have been Agatha Christie's as a girl.

"There's a great deal of humour, adventure, excitement, derring-do and midnight scary things. I loved this book for its liveliness and how thoroughly it evokes that Victorian repressive era."

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis won the Coretta Scott King Award. (nobodybutcurtis.com)
  

Ken says: "Curtis is just an amazing writer. He is letting Canadian and American children know more about history. Elijah of Buxton is about a little boy who is fragile. He makes the point all the time that he is embarrassed because he is afraid of snakes. Life is interesting for him growing up as the first child born free in the town of Buxton during a time of slavery.

He is letting Canadian and American children know more about history.

"The creed in the town is 'one helping one to uplift all.' Buxton is a community that is full of hope but there is still all the challenges of the loved ones that are still in slavery in the U.S. After reading this book years ago, I went to Buxton a couple of times. I found it fascinating. It was something that I didn't know anything about.

"It's an amazing book and it ends up with this young boy going into the United States and finding people that are in chains. The ending is quite amazing. It's a powerful book."

My Best Friend, Sometimes by Naomi Danis, illustrated by Cintra Arribas

Naomi Danis is a writer and editor based in New York. (Joan Roth, POW!)

Michele says: "Children are all missing their friends at this time of COVID-19. This book is for the four to six-year-olds who were just discovering in school the joys and difficulties of friendship. It's a realistic and detailed kind of relationship story: these two little girls meet in kindergarten and become friends.

This book is for the four to six-year-olds who were just discovering in school the joys and difficulties of friendship.

"It's about the ups and downs of friendships, such as the times when the friend doesn't say anything about your shiny new shoes or brings your favourite candy and doesn't share it. Those are balanced by the times when she does share and when they do understand each other so well. 

"It's a lot about negotiating friendship. It's done with a lot of joyful humour."

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

Polly Horvath is an American-Canadian author of novels for children and young adults. (Scholastic, Penguin Random House)

Ken says: "It's a great book where a young girl named Primrose Squarp describes herself as having hair the colour of carrots in an apricot glaze. Every chapter ends with a recipe. 

It's just a fun book and it is full of hope.

"It's the sort of book that gives hope. Primrose's parents have been swept out to sea, but she believes they're still alive. She says, 'Haven't you ever just known something deep in your heart without reason?' 

"It's just a fun book and it is full of hope. I think we all need to have that."

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Natalie Zane Babbitt was an American writer and illustrator of children's books. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Macmillan)

Michele says: "This is a classic children's story in which little Winnie Foster meets a family that turns out to be immortal because they've drunk from a magical spring in the woods owned by her family.

It's a perfect book to read aloud in this time.

"When she discovers their secret and becomes very close to the Tuck family, she's faced with a terrible choice in her own life: will she join them because she is in a budding romance with their teenage son?

"It's beautifully and elegantly written. Winnie faces some of the deepest questions that humans have to face. It's a perfect book to read aloud in this time. We're all dealing with issues of mortality — and so are children."

Tanna's Owl by Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley and Sean Quitsualik-Tinsley, illustrated by Yong Ling Kang 

Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley and Sean Quitsualik-Tinsley are a husband and wife writing team. (Inhabit Media)

Ken says: "It's a book about having a pet. This little girl is given an owl to look after by her father and she doesn't think it's that cute. She doesn't like it all that much. She grows very fond of this owl, but she is sent to school and she has to leave the owl behind.

It's very simple but you get a sense of this owl and the challenges that it presents.

"It's beautifully illustrated. It's very simple, but you get a sense of this owl and the challenges that it presents. Her little owl grows up and when she returns she looks into the skies and she sees a big beautiful owl."

Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

Ann Philippa Pearce was an English author of children's books. (Walker, Harpercollins Children's Books)

Michele says: "This is one of the first great, great novels of the Golden Age of children's literature. When I took down the book recently, I realized it begins with the boy who's in quarantine. His whole summer is ruined because he's sent away from his brother who has measles to stay indoors with an aunt and uncle.

It comes to the most deeply emotional and satisfying conclusion of any children's novel I've ever read.

"This story is so beautifully written. It comes to the most deeply emotional and satisfying conclusion of any children's novel I've ever read. This is such a beauty to read aloud."

The panelists' comments have been edited for length and clarity. 

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