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Most Anticipated: Our Fall 2021 Books for Young Readers Preview

It's September, and that means BACK TO THE BOOKS! Here are the books for young readers that will be delighting readers of all ages this fall.

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Picture Books

When the world gets too loud and chaotic, a young boy’s grandfather helps him listen with wonder instead in Thunder and the Noise Storms (October), by Jeffrey Ansloos & Shezza Ansloos, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley. Young train enthusiasts will delight in Listen Up! Train Song (August), by Victoria Allenby, exploring sound and language. Chaiwala! (October), by Priti Birla Maheshwari, illustrated by Ashley Barron, is a sensory celebration of family, food, and culture. A boy befriends a baby gargoyle in Anthony and the Gargoyl (October), a graphic-novel style wordless book from award-winning creators Jo Ellen Bogart and Maja Kastelic. Neighbours try to figure out why a child is walking a banana on a leash, while the child tries to make them understand that the banana is really a dog (named Banana!) in A Dog Named Banana (September), by Roxane Brouillard, illustrated by Giulia Sagramola. And the second in the Charlie's Rules series, following Pasture Bedtime, from bestselling author Sigmund Brouwer, Ruff Day (September) is sure to delight young animal lovers.

Glen Brucker’s City Day (September) will make young readers laugh while educating them about the importance of treating animals’ wilderness homes with care and respect. A stuffed up cow, a rogue bedsheet, and a silly refrain make The Cow Said Boo (August), by Lana Button, illustrated by Alice Carter, a perfect pick for reading aloud. Peggy Collins’ Harley the Hero (July) is inspired by a real-life classroom service dog with themes of friendship, neurodivergence, and courage. And alone on his lot, a sturdy little house has stood for as long as anyone can remember, stoically weathering the storms—but one day, the wind brings change, in The House Next Door (August), by Claudine Crangle.

Based on Haida artist Robert Davidson's own experiences with Tsinii (his grandfather), Jigging for Halibut With Tsinii (September), by Sarah Florence Davidson, Robert Davidson, and illustrated by Joyce Gibbons, highlights inter-generational knowledge and authentic learning experiences. The second book in the series is Learning to Carve Argillite (September), all about learning through observation, as well as about the role of Elders in sharing knowledge and mentorship. From Suzanne Del Rizzo, author of New York Times Notable picture book My Beautiful Birds, comes a sequel! Former Syrian refugee Sami finds a sense of home in a new place while caring for a bird with a new friend in Birds on Wishbone Street (November).

Starting with beatboxes and fingersnaps, an exuberant narrator introduces kids in his community to the powerful possibilities of rap, from turning “a simple phrase/into imagery that soars” to proclaiming, “this is a voice that represents me!”  in Welcome to the Cypher (October), by Khodi Dill, illustrated by Awuradwoa Afful. Thanks to her wild head of hair, Malie gets all tangled up with an unexpected cast of characters in My Mad Hair Day (September), a funny, stylish twist of a tall tale by Nathalie Dion. Bear wants to sing his song, but the other animals won't give him a chance to perform his masterwork in Bear Wants to Sing (September), by Cary Fagan and Dena Seiferling, a companion to the critically acclaimed King Mouse. And from Terry Fan and Eric Fan, the creators of the critically acclaimed The Night Gardener and Ocean Meets Sky, comes It Fell From the Sky (September), a whimsical and elegantly illustrated story about community, art, the importance of giving back—and the wonder that fell from the sky.

Joseph misses sharing meals with lots of people like he did back in the refugee camp, so when the neighbours finally come over, it’s a feast in A Feast for Joseph (September), by Terry Farish and OD Bonny, illustrated by Ken Daley, a companion book to Joseph’s Big Ride. Hold That Thought! (August), by Bree Galbraith, illustrated by Lynn Scurfield, is an inspiring look at how ideas form, grow, and connect us all. Kids will look forward to their next nature walk after reading I Hear You, Forest (September), by Kallie George, illustrated by Carmen Mok, a playful yet calming book about wonderful forest sounds. George also releases Merry Christmas, Anne (October), illustrated by Genevieve Godbout, holiday picture book inspired by L.M. Montgomery's beloved classic Anne of Green Gables. And a cozy sibling conspiracy (exciting!) unfolds at midnight in The Midnight Club (October), by Shane Goth, illustrated by Yong Ling Kang.

In Conservation Canines: How Dogs Work for the Environment (September), author Isabelle Groc shares stories of dog encounters in the field and examples of canines working to conserve wildlife. Sarah N. Harvey’s What Do You See? (September), illustrated by Jane Heinrichs, celebrates the point of view of children who are too small to tell you what they see but not too small to experience the joy of small things. Buffalo Wild! (September), by Deirdre Havrelock, illustrated by Azby Whitecalf, is an exuberant celebration of the Buffalo’s return to the wild. Judith Hamilton's Dee and Apostrofee (October), illustrated by Ohara Hale, promises to be the funniest book about punctuation that you'll ever read. And A Tree is a Home (September), by Pamela Hickman and illustrated by Zafouko Yamamoto, is an exploration of the seasons as an oak tree and its animal inhabitants change and grow over the course of a year—just like their human neighbours!

 Great Too (October), by Lauri Holomis & Glen Gretzky, illustrated by Kevin Sylvester, is a follow-up to the bestselling picture book, Great, focuses on building confidence and learning how to focus on the game, featuring hockey great Wayne Gretzky and his dad, Coach Wally.  The Sour Cherry Tree (October), by Naseem Hrab, illustrated by Nahid Kazemi, is a heartwarming look at love, loss, and memorable objects through the eyes of a child. A young girl and her cat watch a firefly glow, make shadows in the sun and learn all about how light works in this accessible, kid-friendly introduction to the science of light in Lights Day and Night (September), by Susan Hughes, illustration by Ellen Rooney. A Very Silly Alphabet (October) is a collection of twenty-six delightful read-aloud poems by Jeannie Hillman, illustrated by Sarah Shortcliffe. And Windy Days (October), by Deborah Kerbel, illustrated by Miki Sato, is a tough padded hardcover with collage art and whimsical arm, just perfect for the upcoming season!

Heavy emotions meet a deep well of understanding in Sour Cakes (October), by Karen Krossing, illustrated by Anna Kwan, an uplifting sibling story. Expressive text and art tell the story of the life cycle of trees as never  told before—in reverse!—in Before We Stood Tall (September), by Jessica Kulekjian, illustrated by Madeline Kloepper. Kerri Kokias seamlessly blends silly humour with an upbeat message of self-acceptance in the  interactive You Might Be Special (October). Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary each tell their story, culminating in their thrilling ascent of Mount Everest in Two at the Top (October), by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Christopher Corr. And Andrew Larsen evokes the eternal hope and joy of all true baseball fans—along with their love of facts—in The Thing Lenny Loves Most About Baseball (October), illustrated by Milan Pavlovic, a heartwarming story about a baseball-loving boy who doesn't give up.

A debut picture book from award-winning radio host and journalist Grant Lawrence, illustrated by Noémie Gionet Landry, Bailey the Bat and the Tangled Moose (September) is a suspenseful story and the perfect adventure for children moving towards early chapter books. Can a long-forgotten song bring the snow back to Freya’s town? Song for the Snow (September) is a lyrical fable from award-winning creators Jon-Erik Lappano and Byron Eggenschwiler. A young girl, who is visually impaired, finds much to celebrate as she explores the city she loves in My City Speaks (September), by Darren Lebeuf, illustrated by Ashley Barron. And Time is a Flower (September) is a playful and poignant exploration of the nature of time through the eyes of a child from acclaimed author/illustrator Julie Morstad.

In A Kid is a Kid is a Kid (August), a companion to the popular A Family Is a Family Is a Family, by Sara O'Leary, illustrated by Qin Leng, a group of kids share the silly questions they always hear, as well as the questions they would rather be asked about the people they are. O'Leary also releases Gemma and the Giant Girl (October), illustrated by Marie LaFrance, about a little doll whose worldview is about to get a whole lot bigger. And Rachel Poliquin's nonfiction The Strangest Thing in the Sea (October), illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler, is an intriguing look at some very strange creatures—but which one is the strangest?

My Words Flew Away Like Birds (October), by Deborah Pearson and Shrija Jain, is a poetically told immigration story that fosters understanding and articulates how the desire to belong and the need for human connection are universal. Burying the Moon (October), by Andrée Poulin, illustrated by Sonali Zohra, by shines a light on how a lack of access to sanitation facilities affects girls and women in many parts of the world. A young Afghani amputee matter-of-factly removes her own barrier to education, building a bench from discarded wood so she and her “helper-leg” can sit through school in comfort in A Sky-Blue Bench (November), by Bahram Rahman, illustrated by Peggy Collins. And Orca Rescue! (October) is a captivating account of the only successful orca rescue and reunion in history told in first person by Donna Sandstrom, a citizen participant of the rescue, with illustrations by Sarah Burwash.

The follow-up to Willie Sellars' award-winning Dipnetting with Dad is Hockey with Dad (September), illustrated by Kevin Easthope, Sellars continuing the adventures of Little Brother as he grows and learns about the importance of hockey to his Secwépemc community. From Alain Serres and Aurélia Fronty, the duo who created the award-winning I Have the Right to Be a Child and I Have the Right to Save My Planet, translated by Shelley Tanaka, comes the third book in the series, I Have the Right to Culture (October) exploring a child’s right to be curious and to experience all of humanity’s shared knowledge, including music, art, dance and more. From Heather Smith, the award-winning author of The Agony of Bun O'Keefe, illustrated by Genevieve Simms, Slowpoke the Bell Island Mine Horse (November) is a heartwarming tale of friendship and family, and offers the gritty story of the mining life—for both humans and horses-in nineteenth-century Newfoundland and Labrador. And a tenacious kid digs deep and makes important discoveries in The Deepest Dig (August), by Mark David Smith, illustrated by Lily Snowden-Fine.

Though for most young children—and their grownups!—losing something is a cause for stress, Carey Sookocheff's Lost Things (September), presents the experience in a calm, matter-of-fact tone and invites readers to consider things from a different perspective. Based on author Teoni Spathelfer’s own life and her mother’s residential school experience, the central message of White Raven (August), the sequel to Little Wolf, illustrated by Natassia Davies, is one of healing and family unity. Based on a true story, Little Narwhal, Not Alone (October), by Tiffany Stone, illustrated by Ashlyn Anstree, introduces kids to the marine world and the surprising friendships under the sea. From Kai Cheng Thom and Kai Yun Ching, co-creators of the acclaimed children's book From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea, comes For Laika (October), the heart-rending story of Laika, the brave canine space traveller. 

In My Art, My World (October), Rita Winkler, a young woman living with Down syndrome, shows us the world as she sees it through her art: a place full of joy and color. Kari-Lynn Winters’ On the Line (October), illustrated by Scot Ritchie, is a perfect read-aloud inviting conversations about team stewardship and growth mindset, all about a boy overshadowed by his family of skilled hockey players who has to find is own way to shine. Wai Mei Wong’s debut is Hello, Dark (October), illustrated by Tamara Campeau, offering a mindful depiction of the dark for bedtime and helping even the most restless sleepers find their own comfort once the lights go out. And New Year (November), by Mei Zihan, illustrated by Qin Leng, is a moving picture book to read when we’re missing family far away, set during Lunar New Year.

Early Reader and Middle Grade

When the “grownup virus” hits, kids who live in the same apartment building must cope with strange new rules and extended time at home with parents and siblings in Caroline Adderson's Sunny Days Inside (August). When Malcolm meets some teens living and working in secret, he learns that underneath their heroic facade, his prominant family is hiding some very dark secrets in Guardians of Porthaven (September), by Shane Arbuthnott. A Sure Cure for Witchcraft (September), by Laura Best, a a multi-century story of healing, friendship, and the bravery required to be a woman who follows her own heart. And while the lion may be king of the jungle, there are plenty of fascinating tiny critters critical to the survival of our planet, as Kendra Brown shows in Small but Mighty (September), illustrated by Catarina Oliveira. 

Marty Chan reveals tricks of magic and friendship in Kylie the Magnificent (August). A creepy, mysterious dollhouse takes centre stage in The Dollhouse (August), by Charis Cotter, an atmospheric mystery. Meet Weenie, a meatloaf-obsessed wiener dog, and his best friends Frank and Beans in Mad About Meatloaf (October), by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Alexandra Bye, an early graphic novel for fans of Narwhal and Jelly and The Bad Guys. Heartbreakingly honest and quietly funny, Living With Viola (October), Rosena Fung's debut, is a refreshingly real exploration of mental health, cultural differences, and the trials of middle school. And It Takes Guts (September) is an illustrated book about the digestive system and microbiome for young readers, from famous (and funny) scientist Dr. Jennifer Gardy, illustrated by Belle Wuthrich.

In Amazing Atlantic Canadian Women (October), with profiles of over 70 amazing women past and present, Stephanie Domet and Penelope Jackson share incredible stories of women who have overcome adversity, excelled in STEM fields, established successful creative careers, and bravely led change. In Lost Shadow (September), Claire Gilchrist’s sequel to Street Shadows, city coyote Pica is carried far away, into the land of wolves. Will she survive and make it back to Scruff? Jennifer Gold’s Names in a Jar (September), about a 12 year old girl and her sister imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto, is a story filled with hope, courage and reconciliation. What does it take to govern like a girl? Kate Graham’s Govern Like a Girl (August) is a fascinating look at the trailblazing women who rose to the top as first ministers in Canada. And Chasing Bats and Tracking Rats (November), by Cylita Guy, illustrated by Cornelia Li, offers gripping narrative nonfiction with STEM and social justice themes to prove cities can be surprisingly wild places—and show why understanding urban nature matters.

What does it mean to be young and transgender today? Growing Up Trans (August), edited by Lindsay Herriot and Kate Fry, shares stories, essays, art and poetry created by trans youth aged 11 to 18. Explore the life cycle of a grey wolf in The Wolf Mother (September), by Hetxw’ms Gyetxw, also known as Brett D. Huson, illustrated by Natasha Donovan, an engaging look at how an ecosystem’s animals, people, and seasons are intertwined. The latest in Marthe Jocelyn's Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen series, inspired by the life of Agatha Christie as a child and her most popular creation, Hercule Poirot, is The Dead Man in the Garden (September). And the graphic novel Fred & Marjorie: A Doctor, a Dog, and the Discovery of Insulin (August), by Deborah Kerbel, illustrated by Angela Poon, tells the true story of the life-saving discovery of insulin.

From award-winning author Tanya Lloyd Kyi, Snoozefest (September), illustrated by Valéry Goulet, is an eye-opening look at the science of sleep covering everything adolescents could possibly want to know about a subject that's suddenly keeping them up at night! Book nerd Krish hates the outdoors, and camping, but when he and his father, Kabir, take a camping trip to Ladakh, he convinces himself that they will bond, despite their differences—the reality proves much more complicated in Valley of the Rats (September), by Mahtab Narsimhan. Inspired by the true story of the Edelweiss Pirates, a group that declared “Eternal War on the Hitler Youth,” Under the Iron Bridge (October), by Kathy Kacer, is a tale of courage in the face of cruelty.

Is it asking too much to live a typical twelfth grade existence? Kelsey Kendler just wants to earn some money for university, hang out with friends, maybe even snag a boyfriend. Her part-time ice cream shop job’s a slog, but at least there, she can escape her parents’ constant fighting … until the COVID-19 pandemic forces a lockdown and she’s stuck at home with them 24/7 in I’m Good and Other Lies (September), by Bev Katz Rosenbaum. A powerful graphic-novel adaptation of one of Thomas King’s most celebrated short stories, Borders (September) explores themes of identity and belonging, and is a poignant depiction of the significance of a nation’s physical borders from an Indigenous perspective, brought to life by the vision of artist Natasha Donovan. And in a world ruled by fear of witches, some secrets are deadly—Escape to Witch City (August), by E. Latimer, is a thrilling new fantasy adventure set in historical London.

Anne of Green Gables meets Song for a Whale with a touch of Nancy Drew in Meranda and the Legend of the Lake (October), by Meagan Mahoney. Imaginative, self-confident, extraordinary Mimi steps into the spotlight in the charming Harvey and the Extraordinary (November), by Eliza Martin, with illustrations by Anna Bron. Take a cruise to the Bermuda Triangle in M.J. McIsaac’s Alien Road (August). The Undercover Book List (September), by Colleen Nelson, is a middle school story about a girl in need of a friend, a boy in need of a chance, and the secret book club that brings them together. Dear Peter, Dear Ulla (September), by Barbara Nickel, is an imaginative historical middle-grade novel about two cousins who are fast friends—even though they have never met.

From bestselling and award-winning author Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen, comes the long-awaited sequel to Pax, Pax: Journey Home (September), a gorgeously crafted, utterly compelling novel about chosen families and the healing power of love. Between an important science project for school and their ever more popular YouTube channel, Ciel and their friends find themselves involved in a campaign to represent the LGBT Alliance in Ciel in All Directions (September), by Sophie Labelle, translated by Andrea Zanin.

Evie already knows she’s going to be a funeral director when she grows up. So what if the kids at school call her “corpse girl” and say she smells like death? They’re just mean and don’t get how important it is to have someone take care of things when your world is falling apart, which Joanne Levy shows in Sorry For Your Loss (October). Based on the true story of an earthquake that shook Newfoundland's Burin Peninsula, A Terrible Tide (September), by Suzanne Meade, tells the tale of this forgotten disaster from the point of view of a young girl whose life is turned upside down. Dear Peter, Dear Ulla (September), by award-winner Barbara Nickel, is an imaginative and beautifully crafted historical middle-grade novel about two cousins who are fast friends even though they have never met.

Lois Peterson dispels some of the myths about homelessness and makes the case for why everyone deserves a safe, permanent place to call home in nonfiction title Shelter (October). The Wherewood (August), by Gabrielle Prendergast, is the second book in the Faerie Woods series, following The Crosswood. And based on the true story of the author’s biological mother and aunt, Wendy Proverbs’ middle-grade novel Aggie and Mudgy (September) traces the long and frightening journey of two Kaska Dena sisters as they are taken from their home to attend residential school.

Upstream, Downstream (September), by Rowena Rae, explores the consequences of the pressures people place on watersheds and highlights some of the heroes making a difference for watersheds around world. In Edeet Ravel's A Boy is Not A Ghost (September), based on a true story and the sequel to the award-winning A Boy Is Not a Bird, a boy is exiled to Siberia during World War II. Caring for Critters (September), by Nicholas Read, is a colourful, engaging, and educational profile of a well-established wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre, highlighting the heartwarming stories of animals and the people who care for them. And The Great Bear (September) is the second book in David A. Robertson's Narnia-inspired Indigenous middle-grade fantasy series, with Eli and Morgan journeying once more to Misewa, travelling back in time.

Five kids with unusual talents are brought together to commit an impossible crime in Children of the Fox (September), the first book in a thrilling new heist series from Kevin Sands, bestselling author of The Blackthorn Key. Early chapter book Jordan and Max: Showtime (September), by Suzanne Sutherland, is a gentle exploration of friendship, gender performance and identity. When a boy struggles after being forced to move to a Japanese internment camp during WWII, baseball shows him another way to approach life in Stealing Home (October), by J. Torres and illustrated by David Namisato.

Eric Walters’ latest is Houston, Is There a Problem? (September), the story of a kid who earns a scholarship to attend a prestigious NASA space camp. Dave Whamond's Muddle School (September) is a hilarious graphic novel about a new kid awkwardly trying to navigate the social pressures of making friends, dealing with crushes, avoiding bullies—a.k.a. middle school! And the ten women in Unstoppable (September), by Helen Wolfe, with illustrations by Karen Patkau, face physical and mental health challenges, some from birth and some who became disabled later in life, but they all share the determination to make the world a better place, not just for themselves but for those who will come after them.

Young Adult

Karen Bass’s Blood Donor (August) is the story of a girl who walks into a kidnap trap and is held prisoner, with others, all of them having their blood taken—but why? Corey Cobb is an intersex kid under a lot of pressure to choose and follow a gender path, but Corey prefers to remain non-binary, but in 2007, that’s a hard choice, as Candas Dorsey shows in The Story of My Life Onging by CS Cobb (October). Hunting By Stars (October) expands on the world of Cherie Dimaline’s award-winning The Marrow Thieves, and it will haunt readers long after they’ve turned the final page.

Everyone has something to hide and no one is safe in Tell Me When You Feel Something (June), by Vicki Grant, a contemporary YA thriller that exposes the dark reality of #MeToo in the world of medicine. Graphic novel Genghis Con (November), by Oliver Ho, Daniel Reynolds, and illustrated by Chris Peterson, is the story of guilt-ridden grifter, Alexis, who seeks redemption for herself and justice for her sister, Abigail, by taking part in a win or die rally race from England into the mountains of Mongolia. And an Indigenous teen girl is caught between two worlds, both real and virtual, in Walking In Two Worlds (September), the YA fantasy debut from bestselling Indigenous author Wab Kinew, perfect for fans of Ready Player One and the Otherworld series.

In Primrose Madayag Knazan’s Lessons in Fusion (October), Sarah is invited to compete in a virtual cooking show, pushed to present dishes that represent her Filipinx culture, but these flavours are foreign to her since her parents raised her emphatically Jewish, and so to survive Cyber Chef and find her cultural identity, she has to learn the true meaning of fusion. Tash McAdam’s Sink or Swim is a survival story of a socially awkward trans teen who has to find the courage and strength to find his way back to civilization. And can Shinoni and Keena, two Ice Age teens separated from their tribes, overcome their differences to outwit their pursuer and survive the unforgiving wilds in Patricia Miller-Schroeder’s Sisters of the Wolf (August)?

Will a guilty conscience force Rainey to admit to his part in a bad accident or will he keep quiet in I Dare You (August), by Jeff Ross. Four Faces of the Moon (September), by Amanda Strong, adapted from her acclaimed stop-motion animated film of the same name, brings the history of the Michif, Cree, Nakoda, and Anishinaabe Peoples alive on the page. Both Sides Now (August), by Peyton Thomas, is a witty and warmhearted novel about a trans teen finding his place in the world perfect for fans of Red, White and Royal Blue. Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid's Tale in Iron Widow (September), by Xiran Jay Zhao, a blend of Chinese history and mecha science fiction for YA readers.

September 1, 2021
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