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Children's Fiction Self-esteem & Self-reliance


by (author) Philippa Dowding

Cormorant Books
Initial publish date
Feb 2021
Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Homelessness & Poverty, General
Recommended Age
9 to 12
Recommended Grade
4 to 7
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2021
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Feb 2021
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Download Teacher’s Guide

Where to buy it


Winner of the 2021 Governor General’s Literary Award for Young People’s Literature - Text
Winner of the 2022 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Childrens Book Award


Firefly lived in the park across from her mother’s home. It was safer there. But after the bad night happens, and her baseball-bat-wielding mother is taken away, social services sends Firefly to live with her Aunt Gayle. She hardly knows Gayle, but discovers that she owns a costume shop.



Yes, Firefly might be suffering from PTSD, but she can get used to taking baths, sleeping on a bed again, and wearing as many costumes as she can to school.

But where is “home”? What is “family”? Who is Firefly, for that matter … and which costume is the real one?

About the author

Philippa Dowding is a children’s author, poet, musician and copywriter. She has won many industry awards and has had poetry and short fiction published in journals across North America. Her children’s books have been nominated for numerous literary awards in Canada and abroad, including the SYRCA Diamond Willow, OLA Silver Birch, OLA Red Maple, Hackmatack and White Raven awards. In 2017, Myles and the Monster Outside was an OLA Silver Birch Express Honour Book and her 2021 novel, Firefly, won a Governor General’s Literary Award in the Children’s Literature – Text category. Philippa Dowding currently lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Philippa Dowding's profile page


  • Nominated, Rocky Mountain Book Award
  • Nominated, MYRCA Northern Lights Award
  • Winner, Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award
  • Nominated, Forest of Reading - Red Maple Award
  • Short-listed, IODE Violet Downey Book Award
  • Winner, Governor General's Literary Award for Young People's Literature - Text
  • Commended, OLA Best Bets

Editorial Reviews

“I know Philippa Dowding is better known for her speculative fiction like Oculum, The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden and Everton Miles is Stranger than Me but I think her first foray into realistic fiction has demonstrated that she has important messages to share and she doesn't need to dress them up in the fantastical. Reality can be just as powerful and colourful, even if stitched with anguish.”

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Firefly is a great character and one that readers will absolutely root for – and learn about resilience from.”

Larry, Educational Consultant

“In Firefly, Philippa Dowding presents serious topics such as homelessness and mental health in a way that fosters the readers’ compassion for the dramatis personae, thus allowing them to develop sympathy for the characters that are often vilified. The novel would be useful as a natural segue to the mental health literacy component of the curriculum for senior elementary students.”

Canadian Children's Book News

“I believe the author provides readers who have had a hard life some comfort in knowing that others go through troubled times too and gives others a glimpse into harsh realities that some kids endure. The book is enlightening and invokes empathy in the reader.”

North Texas Mensa

“The appeal of Firefly, like so much of Dowding’s work, isn’t limited to young readers. Her nuanced depiction of trauma, the search for identity, and the desire to define what ‘family’ means will resonate with readers of all ages.”

Open Book

“This is a terrific read from an accomplished author.”

Monica Kulling, author of <i>Mary Anning's Curiosity</i>

“In this affecting novel, 13-year-old Firefly is sent to stay with a relative, after her mother gets taken into custody. Life with Aunt Gayle, who owns The Corseted Lady costume shop, offers a beacon of light out of the darkness of the “Bad Night.” Firefly’s compelling story unfolds through her indomitable and spirited first-person narration, and flashbacks revisit her troubled childhood of neglect and parental struggles with addiction. Aunt Gayle’s care and kindness wraps around Firefly like a comforting, hand-knit blanket. Being surrounded by steadfast support, along with seven million costumes in the shop, allows Firefly the opportunity to try on different identities and begin to discover her true self in the process.”

Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library

Firefly was an enjoyable read filled with interesting characters, emotional moments, and mental health awareness and education. A realistic book that youth may easily relate to. Highly Recommended

CM Magazine

“With poetic prose, a memorable character and evocative settings, Philippa Dowding deftly handles challenging subjects in this emotionally honest story. Supported by a unique cast of characters, Firefly will shine for readers and resonate long after they close this quietly powerful book.”

Governor General's Literary Award Peer Assessment Committee: Aviaq Johnston, Karen Rivers, and Ken Setterington

“This award-winning book is a poignant exploration of grief that touches on many heavy topics, but with a light touch that leaves readers feeling hopeful and more conscious of the fact that there is often so much more going on in people’s minds and hearts and lives than what we see on the surface. The characters are deftly-drawn, the setting is unique and Firefly’s story is moving and thought-provoking.”

Canadian Children's Book Centre March 2022 newsletter

“We wish we could meet these characters in real life! We love how the staff at the magical costume shop became a family for Firefly, and how every character evolved and grew — even the cat! Firefly is so relatable, with very human flaws, and we want to see her again in another story.”

Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award Student Jury

“It's a powerful book with engaging characters. It helps one discover who family is. It's a book with a real heart and something that young readers are really going to be taken by.”

Children's Book Panel, The Next Chapter

Firefly is a not to be missed book and I can see why it has received the accolades that it has this year. So many readers will see glimpses of their own lives and their own feelings of otherness and will connect with Firefly in a deep and meaningful way.”

Storytime with Stephanie

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