The Next Chapter

8 great book recommendations for young readers

The Next Chapter's children's book panel, Michele Landsberg and Ken Setterington, recommend this summer's best kidlit.
Michele Landsberg and Ken Setterington on this summer's best kidlit.

The children's book panel with Michele Landsberg and Ken Setterington is a long-standing tradition at The Next Chapter. In the summer edition of this semi-annual feature, our trusty panellists recommend eight books to suit the tastes of every young reader.

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk  
Lauren Wolk is the author of the Newbery Honor–winning Wolf Hollow. ( Young Readers)

Michele Landsberg says: "It's a seaside story set on a tiny island off Cape Cod. A tiny newborn infant floats up on this minute island, with only one inhabitant, in a skiff alone. This baby girl is rescued by a man who has journeyed there from a far and dangerous place. It becomes a very exciting story with pirates, robbers and hidden treasure. It's a seriously beautiful novel as she learns who is her real family."

Carson Crosses Canada by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Kass Reich 
Award-winning author Linda Bailey has written more than thirty children's books. (Lia Grainger/Tundra)

Ken Setterington says: "You can see right on the cover that it's about an old woman and her dog going across the country. The two of them go on an adventure and in the endpapers, you see the map of Canada and the path they take. It's a fun book that celebrates the idea of getting in a car and driving somewhere."

Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith 
Joanne Schwartz has been a children’s librarian for more than twenty-five years. Her first picture book, Our Corner Grocery Store, was nominated for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. (Groundwood Books)

Michele Landsberg says: "It's about a little boy living in a Cape Breton coal mining village.  It's a lyrical, alternating vision of the light and the peaceful quiet routine of the days and this dark and rather frightening underground scene. There's this sense of the predictability of life in a small town in another era that you get beautifully."

The Way Back Home by Allan Stratton 
Allan Stratton is the author of several YA novels, including The Way Back Home. ( Canada)

Ken Setterington says: "This is the story of a young girl, Zoe Bird. She has a rough life. She has a grandmother who has Alzheimer's, who is her best friend. But her parents want to put her grandmother in a home. There's lot of family drama about granny going into the home. This girl doesn't want her there. This is a powerful book. I had tears streaming down my face by the end of it."

Walk With Me by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng, translated by Elisa Amado ​
Walk with Me was selected by the International Board on Books for Young People as an outstanding book of children's literature. (Carina Pérez García/Groundwood Books)

Michele Landsberg says: "It's a beautiful picture book, fitting for our time with so many populations displaced and so many people going through hardship. You see a little girl who is helping her mother who works in a factory. She imagines a lion who will walk with her and protect her through the bad neighbourhoods while she goes and picks up her baby brother from childcare."

The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby ​
Susan Juby was nominated for the 2001 First Novel Award for her YA novel Alice, I Think. (Delgado Photography/PRH Canada Young Readers)

Ken Setterington says: "This is a book about fashion. It's written from a male and female point of view, about trying to get into school for design. One [perspective] is a boy who doesn't care about fashion at all. And the other is a fashion-obsessed young girl. It's a laugh-out-loud book!"

The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue, illustrated by Caroline Hadilaksono ​
Emma Donoghue is the author of Room, which was a finalist for the 2010 Man Booker Prize. The film adaptation earned her an Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay. (Punch Photographic/HarperCollins)

Michele Landsberg says: "It's about a boisterous and diverse family: a gay couple, a lesbian couple and seven kids. It's filled with language play and it's heartwarming too."

Greetings, Leroy by Itah Sadu, illustrated by Alix Delinois ​
Award-winning author and storyteller Itah Sadu is the owner of the independent Toronto bookstore A Different Booklist. (Groundwood Books)

Ken Setterington says: "It's about a young boy coming to Canada. He is writing home, trying to get information about what's going on with all his friends in Jamaica. He has a Bob Marley button that his neighbour gives him, but he loses it. It shows the importance of family, friends and Bob Marley for somebody moving to Canada."

Michele Landsberg's and Ken Setterington's comments have been edited and condensed.