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Canadian Books of the Year: Chosen by Educators and Librarians

This year, we asked teacher librarians, educators, and librarians to share their favourite Canadian books of 2020. Their choices varied from picture book to middle grade to YA novel, from heartwarming family story to epic historical fantasy. We’re so pleased to close out 2020 with these recommendations, and wish all our readers a warm and safe holiday season.

Peel DSB teacher librarian Jonelle St. Aubyn chose Fight Like a Girl by Sheena Kamal (Young Adult Fiction):

What I really like about the book is that this is one of the few YA novels that I have read that describes the Caribbean/West Indian experience and culture as a main part of the story. Although the main character is of Trinidadian descent, this is a story that everyone from the Caribbean, or whose family is from the Caribbean can relate to. The food, music and celebrations that are a part of my life were a part of this story and I found myself connected to it on a personal level. Having grown up just outside of Toronto myself, I loved that the story is set in Toronto.

The author did a wonderful job showing the physical, mental and emotional strength of women/girls. The story also highlighted that the relationships between a mother and her daughter can be complex and complicated but still be loving.

This is not a long novel and is a fast and easy read, making it very accessible to many readers.

Educator Sarah Campbell chose Our Little Kitchen

by Jillian Tamaki (Ages 4–8):

This beautiful picture book celebrates everything we love and can't wait to be able to do again: making and sharing food with our families and friends!

London Public Library librarian Linda Ludke chose I Found Hope in a Cherry Tree

by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Nathalie Dion (Ages 3–7):

This luminous picture book offers a fable-like depth of insight and lights up dark and uncertain days with its dreamy illustrations and calm, poetic text.

York Region DSB teacher librarian

Geoffrey Ruggero chose The King of Jam Sandwiches

by Eric Walters (Ages 8–12):

A personal story which took courage to write that will no doubt inspire young readers for many years.

Geoff also chose

The Stone of Sorrow

by Brooke Carter (Young Adult Fiction):

A spell-binding, female-centric Viking fantasy that will appeal to the modern teen on many levels.

York Region DSB teacher librarian Erika MacNeil chose Sara and the Search for Normal by Wesley King (Ages 8–12):

Wesley King is not afraid to tackle awkward, layered issues when it comes to storytelling. OCDaniel was the Red Maple award winner a couple years‘ back, and this year’s finalist, Sara and the Search for Normal, continues King’s exploration of dealing with anxiety. He describes the inner turmoil that many people suffer through in silence, invisible to the outside.

The narrative builds compassion for those who experience the world a bit differently, without stigmatizing or marginalizing their realities.

Erika also chose How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa (Adult Fiction for Senior Grades):

The author infuses her personal immigration experience into each of the short stories included in the anthology, but what I loved the most about her story was how she became a writer. It is her perseverance in getting her work seen and heard that is most impressive: sharing her writing at open mics, binding her books by hand, distributing them on foot, and delivering them in person to independent bookstores.

It is a remarkable accomplishment which has culminated in a triumphant literary offering, with insight into what it means to be on the outside, looking in.

York Region DSB teacher librarian Jennifer Byrne chose The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson (Ages 10–14):

The marrying of fantasy with traditional Indigenous teachings and stories while acknowledging the harsh reality of Indigenous children in care is so brilliantly done, it will appeal to all readers, even ones (like me!) who don’t gravitate toward this genre. I loved it!


December 18, 2020
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