2021 Outstanding International Books List

Since 2006, the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) has put together an honor list of international books for young people. The list is published each year in February and highlights international books that are deemed to be outstanding in their field. We would like to congratulate Tanaz Bhathena, Kyo Maclear, Rashin Kheiriyeh, and David A. Robertson, whose books were included on this year’s Outstanding International Books list!

By Tanaz Bhathena
384 Pages | Ages 12+| Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267022 | Penguin Teen Canada
Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul’s mark is what caused her parents’ murder at the hand of King Lohar’s ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge. Cavas lives in the tenements, and he’s just about ready to sign his life over to the king’s army. His father is terminally ill, and Cavas will do anything to save him. But sparks fly when he meets a mysterious girl – Gul – in the capital’s bazaar, and as the chemistry between them undeniably grows, he becomes entangled in a mission of vengeance – and discovers a magic he never expected to find. Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king’s domain in Ambar Fort . . . a world with secrets deadlier than their own. Exploring identity, class struggles, and high-stakes romance, Hunted by the Sky is a gripping adventure set in a world inspired by medieval India.

Story Boat
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263598 | Tundra Books
When a little girl and her younger brother are forced along with their family to flee the home they’ve always known, they must learn to make a new home for themselves – wherever they are. And sometimes the smallest things – a cup, a blanket, a lamp, a flower, a story – can become a port of hope in a terrible storm. As the refugees travel onward toward an uncertain future, they are buoyed up by their hopes, dreams and the stories they tell – a story that will carry them perpetually forward.

The Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga #1
By David A. Robertson
256 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266100 | Puffin Canada
Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home – until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Askí, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, they embark on a dangerous mission. Accompanied by Arik, a sassy Squirrel they catch stealing from the trapline, they try to save Misewa before the icy grip of winter freezes everything – including them.

Thank you to the Outstanding International Books (OIB) committee for all their work!

2021 Geisel Award Honor Book

The Geisel Award is an annual award given to the most distinguished book for beginning readers published in English. We would like to congratulate Anne Hunter whose adorable Where’s Baby? was named an honor book in this year’s 2021 ALA Youth Media Awards! This irresistible picture book is a perfect read aloud and we’re thrilled to see it get such a wonderful accolade.

Where’s Baby?
By Anne Hunter
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264984 | Tundra Books
Papa Fox is looking for Baby Fox, who is just out of his sight . . . but not ours! In this clever introduction to prepositions, a near-sighted Papa is looking for his baby. Is Baby up in the tree? Is Baby under the log? Is Baby around the corner? Where could Baby be? Readers will delight in spotting the little fox on every page as Papa wanders the forest, encountering other animals all along the way, but never quite able to spot his own baby. Anne Hunter’s delicate and lovely illustrations with their limited palette highlight the humor of this adorable hide-and-seek tale.

Congratulations once more to Anne Hunter, and to her editor Samantha Swenson. Thank you to the 2021 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Honor Book Committee for all their hard work. For more information about the Geisel Award and this year’s honorees, please click here.

Valentine’s Day Reading

This Valentine’s Day, spend some quality time with your littlest reader and a good book – here are some suggestions!

Bunny Roo and Duckling Too
By Melissa Marr
Illustrated by Teagan White
32 Pages | Ages 1-3 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525516040 | Nancy Paulsen Books
A loving mama has fun sharing the various animals her growing child resembles, in this delightful companion to Bunny Roo, I Love You. It’s hard to keep up with an energetic toddler, and as an adoring mom tries to, she describes all the frisky young animals her little one reminds her of – from a hopping frog and a squirming snake, to her adorable cuddly bunny.

Crocodiles Need Kisses Too
By Rebecca Colby
Illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan
40 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780451480071 | Viking BFYR
Fun-to-read-aloud, rhyming text describes prickly porcupines, roaring tigers, and slithery snakes – not the most cuddly creatures, but still worthy of hugs and snuggles from their mamas! With a luscious and colorful palette, Crocodiles Need Kisses Too shows that animals (and children) don’t have to be warm and fuzzy to be totally lovable.

Elmo Loves You
By Sarah Albee
Illustrated by Maggie Swanson
26 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Board
ISBN 9780399552182 | Golden Books
In this Sesame Street Little Golden Book, Elmo tells in a rollicking, rap-like rhyme how everybody has something special to care about. And Elmo reminds his readers that, yes, “Elmo loves you!” Though this humor-laced poem is a natural for Valentine’s Day, toddlers will love it year-round.

Guess How Much I Love You: Blush Sweetheart Edition
By Sam McBratney
Illustrated by Anita Jeram
32 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536216806 | Candlewick
It’s a sentiment shared across the world – and a classic book treasured from one generation to the next. Now the droll tale of a big and little hare vying to love each other as high as they can hop, as far as they can reach, up to the sky and beyond, receives a captivating new treatment. With shiny rose-gold lettering, a pearlescent pale-pink cover frames Little Nutbrown Hare inside a cut-out heart – an endearing design sure to charm anyone who adores somebody more than they can measure.

Huggy Kissy
By Leslie Patricelli
26 Pages | Ages 0-3 | Board
ISBN 9781536211351 | Candlewick
When you’re an adorable bald baby, your family finds lots of ways to show you how much they love you: Mommy lifts you uppy, Daddy kisses you on the tummy, and everyone wants to snuggle. What’s not to love? With comedy and warmth, Leslie Patricelli offers a universal tribute to love and affection in a board book full of instant appeal for little valentines everywhere.

I Love You to the Moon and Back
By Amelia Hepworth
Illustrated by Tim Warnes
28 Pages | Ages 2-5 | Board
ISBN 9781589255517 | Tiger Tales
The sun rises, and a bear and cub begin their day together. They splash in the water, climb mountains, watch the colorful lights in the shimmering sky, and play with friends. They show their love for each other by touching noses, chasing each other, and, of course, hugging and snuggling before bed. A sweet, gentle rhyme, perfect for sharing with a special little one that also includes a “To” and “From” personalization page in the front of the book, making this heartwarming book an ideal gift.

I Love You With All My Heart
By Jane Chapman
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781680101898 | Tiger Tales
With a wonderfully strong message of unconditional love, this book is perfect for little ones who need reassurance from time to time. Little Bear has broken Mommy’s favorite sunflower plant. What if her mom won’t love her anymore? Luckily, Mommy knows just what to do. . . . “Put your paw on your heart,” she smiles, “and you’ll feel my love going on and on forever!”

Love
By Matt de la Peña
Illustrated by Loren Long
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524740917 | Putnam BFYR
In this heartfelt celebration of love, Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.

Love from the Crayons
By Drew Daywalt
Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
32 Pages | Ages 5-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524792688 | Penguin Workshop
Ring in Valentine’s Day – and love – with the New York Times Best-Selling Crayons! This charming new title featuring everyone’s favorite coloring crew is the perfect gift for that special someone on Valentine’s Day – or any day of the year. This special gift book, featuring all the The Crayons from The Day the Crayons Quit, explores the bright colors and subtle shades of love. This is a must-have for fans of The Crayons, and the perfect gift for that special someone.

Love from the Very Hungry Caterpillar
By Eric Carle
32 Pages | Ages 3-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780448489322 | World of Eric Carle
“You are the cherry on my cake; you make the sun shine brighter; you make my heart flutter.” Using a range of images from the World of Eric Carle, and featuring the Very Hungry Caterpillar, this special gift book gives all the reasons why someone special makes the world a better and brighter place. Perfect for that someone special any day of the year!

My Love Is All Around
By Danielle McLean
Illustrated by Sebastien Braun
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781680101942 | Tiger Tales
Mommy Bear shows Baby Bear how love is all around them no matter where they go and what they do! Join Mommy Bear and Baby Bear as they discover that love is all around them.

Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Skinnamarink
By Sharon Hampson, Lois Lilienstein, and Bram Morrison, with Randi Hampson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264069 | Tundra Books
What does “skinnamarink” mean? You may not find its definition in a dictionary, but the meaning is clear to the generations of children who sang along: friendship, happiness, sharing, community and, ultimately, love. This song has been sung in weddings and in classrooms. It can be fun and silly – especially with the accompanying actions! And it has a way of bringing people together. Through Qin Leng’s wonderfully imaginative illustrations, this delightful picture book tells the story of a community coming together. Young and old, from little mice to a big elephant, people and animals gather into a spontaneous parade as they follow the sound of music.

The Boy Who Loved Everyone
By Jane Porter
Illustrated by Maisie Paradise Shearring
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536211238 | Candlewick
Dimitri may be small, but his heart is as big and as open as a cloudless blue sky. “I love you,” Dimitri tells his new classmates at preschool. “I love you,” Dimitri tells the class guinea pig and the ants on the ground. “I love you,” Dimitri tells the paintbrushes and the tree with heart-shaped leaves. So why doesn’t anyone say “I love you” back? Could love also be expressed in unspoken ways? In a familiar story of navigating the social cues of new friendship, author Jane Porter and illustrator Maisie Paradise Shearring offer a thoughtful tribute to the tender ones – those who spread kindness simply by being, and who love without bounds.

Vintage Valentines
By Golden Books
12 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Paperback
ISBN 9780375875144 | Golden Books
This nostalgic Little Golden Book will conjure up memories of dollies, glitter, and shoeboxes full of homemade valentines! A very special collection of vintage-style press-out cards and envelopes with red flocking on the cover that will make consumers long for the simpler times when these cards were originally created.

CTV Your Morning Kids’ Book Segment on Wellness and Mental Health

Our Marketing and Publicity Director, Vikki VanSickle, was on CTV’s Your Morning today to talk about kids books that promote wellness and mental health. Check out our titles from her recommendations below and don’t forget to watch her segment for the full list!

AGES 3-7

The Pink Umbrella
By Amélie Callot
Illustrated by Geneviève Godbout
80 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101919231 | Tundra Books
When it’s bright outside, Adele is the heart of her community, greeting everyone who comes into her café with arms wide open. But when it rains, she can’t help but stay at home inside, under the covers. Because Adele takes such good care of her friends and customers, one of them decides to take care of her too, and piece by piece leaves her little gifts that help her find the joy in a gray, rainy day. Along with cute-as-a-button illustrations, The Pink Umbrella celebrates thoughtful acts of friendship.

AGES 6-10

Megabat Is a Fraidybat
By Anna Humphrey
Illustrated by Kass Reich
192 Pages | Ages 7-10  | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266025 | Tundra Books
Daniel is not so sure about going to camp. There will be bugs. And uncomfortable beds. And leeches! Megabat can’t wait to go to camp! There will be so much smooshfruit, and he loves a good sing-along. Soon Daniel starts to think camp isn’t so bad. He’s made friends, and his bed isn’t that uncomfortable. Megabat has made a new friend too. But his new friend wants him to go flying to spooky caves. And her mom is very toothy. As Daniel is getting into the swing of things and starting to enjoy camp, Megabat is getting himself into one tangle after another to avoid going into the scary woods. But can Megabat overcome his fears to help save his new friend? Kass Reich’s adorable illustrations paired with Anna Humphrey’s hilarious text make for another unforgettable Megabat adventure, one that will appeal to Megabat fans and newcomers!

AGES 14+

Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined
By Danielle Younge-Ullman
368 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780143198215 | Penguin Teen Canada
When she was a little girl, Ingrid’s entire world was her mother: Margot-Sophia, the brilliant and sophisticated opera star. So when Margot-Sophia loses her singing voice, Ingrid loses everything. The two of them move to a small, normal house in a normal town, where Ingrid tries to convince her mother that there must still be something worth living for. It’s in this small, normal life that Ingrid discovers her own passion for the theater arts. But Margot-Sophia refuses to support her daughter’s dreams. They strike a deal: if Ingrid makes it through a summer of an extreme wilderness experience, then she can have her chance to pursue life as a performer. Over the course of this summer, Ingrid is stripped of every dignity and freedom. But she also comes to terms with her inner demons – and finally confronts the secret tragedy that defines her.

The Nine Types of Magic: A Guest Post from Dana Swift

We have such a treat for all of you today! Dana Swift has very kindly given us a full breakdown of the magic system in her debut, Cast in Firelight, and we are fascinated. Read on for a look at how she came up with each color’s meaning as well as some fun facts!

The Nine Types of Magic:

Red The ability to create and manipulate fire
From the beginning I always knew I wanted my main female character to be a witch with fire magic. I think there is something inspiring about a witch who can control fire, a substance used in the past to kill women who were accused of witchcraft. Thus, I’ve always been drawn to that power for a witch character.

Orange The ability to enhance your senses and the body’s physical capabilities
I came up with orange magic because it felt so essential to the plot and makes it more plausible for my characters to be crime fighters. I also wanted it to be believable for Adraa, my female heroine, to be just a strong and fast as any male because she’s a powerful in magic.

Yellow The ability to create and manipulate air, especially for flying
I created yellow magic for the ability of flying and travel. In creating a world, one of the big aspects is how do people get from one place to another and how does that affect the cultures of each place. Having the nations of Wickery be able to fly meant they were more interconnected. Though, having their main communication be through letters meant they weren’t as connected as our modern world with the Internet.

Green The ability to manipulate wood and plant life
I grappled with deciding if green should involve the earth more than vegetation, but I thought it would be more unique and important for a society to control the growth of their food over controlling rocks. Also, that way I could have stone buildings in this world that no one would possibly be able to destroy or use against the protagonists, which eliminated some plot holes.

Blue The ability to create and manipulate water
I always wanted the main country of Belwar to be by the coast, so I thought a lot about how people fish and function near the ocean. Thus, I knew I wanted blue magic to be water based.

Purple – The ability to manifest weapons, shields, and boundaries
I created this type of magi purely for fight scenes so that even the weapons they used were made of magic and not just steel.

BlackThe ability to camouflage and cast illusion spells
I added camouflaging and illusions to the world of Wickery so that Adraa hiding her identity with a mask made more sense. Once created, I loved inserting details into the world of how people combat and have certain laws again camouflage magic. For example, they use curtains and bells over doorways so people can hear and see the shift in fabric if someone was entering unannounced. It’s these details that I think brought the world a little more to life.

White The ability to create and manipulate ice, snow, and other winter precipitation
From the beginning I wanted Adraa and Jatin’s main powers to be as opposite as possible. And what’s more opposite than fire and ice?

Pink The ability to heal and enchant potions to fight illness
I really love potions and healing elixirs in fantasy worlds, and I wanted my own version of it. But instead of a magical plant or simple cure-all for any illness much of pink magic is brewing herbs and medicines and then adding magic to it.

Here’s a few more insights into the magic system:

  1. Much of the magic system was created with my desire for a very visual magic, especially for fights. I didn’t want spells to be cast and thrown like bullets. I wanted elements being used in creative ways, shields of plated color conjured through spells and glowing smoke rising off their arms. I also wanted a pantheon of Gods. So, in combining those two things the beginning of Cast in Firelight‘s magic system was born.
  2. The logistics of the system: At the age of nine it is determined if one will be a witch or wizard by whether they have marks on your wrists (another very visual marker for the world and for readers). At around sixteen one’s forte is determined, which means all spells are filtered through that one color, another marker for people of this world to see where a witch or wizard’s biggest magical strengths lie.
  3. In Cast in Firelight the magic system in many ways works like school with magic being a combination of talent and passion. I find with a lot of fantasy centered on magical powers one is born into or obtains one certain power. But I wanted a more academic studious magic that relied not just on genetics and raw talent, but the dedication and ability to choose your own passion, just like in real life. Not all scientists and mathematicians were gifted in that field at the start. Just like not all writers are gifted wordsmiths when they first starting out (I know I wasn’t). Like many professions it’s through study and developing one’s craft that one gets better. So instead of every person having only one ability, in this world with enough talent and perseverance you can be multitalented, and in many ways pick your own forte color.
  4. There are some stereotypes that come with each magic forte, but because fortes are determined through dedication, talent, passion, and will, many people break the mold and it isn’t based on personality like in other stories. The Gods on the other hand? Now, that’s a different story.

Fun Facts about Fencing

Directly related to the magic system is using the magic for fight scenes. But some of the other fighting techniques comes from my experience fencing in college.

  • I went to the University of Texas at Austin, where I majored in both English and Advertising, met my husband, and learned how to fence.
  • I fenced saber, a weapon noted for its speed and ability to slash as well as stab to gain points. One of the big reasons I chose it was because at the time the team needed more women saber fencers. (The three different fencing weapons are epee, foil, and saber.) And I’ve always picked activities I thought more unique and undervalued. For instance, out of all the band and orchestra instruments I selected the viola in grade school and kept playing all the way to senior year. In my high school they needed more girls to join Colorguard, a sport that spins flags, rifles, and sabers to bring visual interpretation to marching band music. Something in me likes the challenge and likes to support things others seem to not be drawn to.
  • My husband and I fenced together, both saberist. There were many times I had to fight him before and after we started dating, but our first day back at practice after our first date we were in a bout. He won and I remember shaking his hand at the end and pulling him close and saying, “That was our first fight.”
  • We actually first started dating right after a huge club tournament. And much of how we got to know each other was talking, jesting, and having fun at fencing practice. Much of the banter in Cast in Firelight comes from my husband and I’s relationship and dynamic. We like to playfully tease one another and it seems to have seeped into my writing.
  • There’s a moment in Cast in Firelight where the two characters spar and though they use magic, much of the emotional drive to win in the scene came from fencing. Also, in that scene there is a moment were swords are locked together and there’s been a time or two where my saber guard has locked with an opponent and it felt like a scene out of a book.
  • In most of the tournaments, I was fighting men more than women due to the fact that in Texas and at the time more men gravitate towards saber. Many seemed to underestimate me or hit too hard to prove a point. Some of those matches are mirrored in fight scenes through Adraa’s point of view where she notes how being a woman in a fight changes the dynamics and at times showcases sexism.
  • Overall, while I can’t say the fighting in my debut is a direct correlation to fencing techniques by any means, the emotion and frustration of a fight came from me tapping back into a time where I trained in this sport and fell in love with my own sparing partner.

Cast in Firelight
By Dana Swift
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593124215 | Delacorte BFYR
Adraa is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people. Jatin is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who’s mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child. Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery’s most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet. Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross . . . and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead. Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery’s fate is in the hands of rivals . . ? Fiancées . . ? Partners . . ? Whatever they are, it’s complicated and bound for greatness or destruction.

Dana Swift: twitter | instagram