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!

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

The Globe 100: Our Favourite Books of 2020

Every year, the reviewers and editors at the Globe and Mail put together their list of notable books called The Globe 100 and we’re so happy to see some of our titles were included! Congratulations to our creators!

All the Days Past, All the Days to Come
By Mildred D. Taylor
496 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780399257308 | Viking BFYR
In her tenth book, Mildred Taylor completes her sweeping saga about the Logan family of Mississippi, which is also the story of the civil rights movement in America of the 20th century. Cassie Logan, first met in Song of the Trees and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, is a young woman now, searching for her place in the world, a journey that takes her from Toledo to California, to law school in Boston, and, ultimately, in the 60s, home to Mississippi to participate in voter registration. She is witness to the now-historic events of the century: the Great Migration north, the rise of the civil rights movement, preceded and precipitated by the racist society of America, and the often violent confrontations that brought about change. Rich, compelling storytelling is Ms. Taylor’s hallmark, and she fulfills expectations as she brings to a close the stirring family story that has absorbed her for over forty years. It is a story she was born to tell.

Barry Squires, Full Tilt
By Heather Smith
232 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267466 | Penguin Teen Canada
It’s 1995. When the Full Tilt Dancers give an inspiring performance at the opening of the new bingo hall, twelve-year-old Finbar (Barry) Squires wants desperately to join the troupe. Led by Father O’Flaherty, the Full Tilt Irish Step Dancers are the most sought-after act in St. John’s, Newfoundland (closely followed by popular bagpiper, Alfie Bragg and his Agony Bag). Having watched Riverdance twice, Barry figures he’ll nail the audition. And good thing too – it’d be nice to be known for something other than the port wine stain on his cheek. With questionable talent and an unpredictable temper, Barry’s journey to stardom is jeopardized by his parents’ refusal to take his dreams seriously. Thankfully, Barry has the support of a lively cast of characters: his ever-present grandmother, Nanny Squires; his adorable baby brother, Gord; an old British rocker named Uneven Steven; a group of geriatrics from the One Step Closer to God Nursing Home; and Saibal, a friend with whom Barry gets up to no good.

I Talk Like a River
By Jordan Scott
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823445592 | Neal Porter Books
When a boy who stutters feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he’d like, it takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice. Compassionate parents everywhere will instantly recognize a father’s ability to reconnect a child with the world around him. Poet Jordan Scott writes movingly in this powerful and ultimately uplifting book, based on his own experience, and masterfully illustrated by Greenaway Medalist Sydney Smith. A book for any child who feels lost, lonely, or unable to fit in.

The List of Things That Will Not Change
By Rebecca Stead
224 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101938096 | Wendy Lamb Books
After her parents’ divorce, Bea’s life became different in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other. When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled. Bea loves Jesse, and when he and Dad get married, she’ll finally (finally!) have what she’s always wanted – a sister. Even though she’s never met Jesse’s daughter, Sonia, Bea is sure that they’ll be “just like sisters anywhere.” As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy, and readers will discover why the New York Times called Rebecca Stead a “writer of great feeling.”

The Magic Fish
By Trung Le Nguyen
256 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593125298 | Random House Graphic
Real life isn’t a fairytale. But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It’s hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn’t even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he’s going through? Is there a way to tell them he’s gay? A beautifully illustrated story by Trung Le Nguyen that follows a young boy as he tries to navigate life through fairytales, an instant classic that shows us how we are all connected.

We Are Not From Here
By Jenny Torres Sanchez
368 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984812261 | Philomel BFYR
Pulga has his dreams. Chico has his grief. Pequeña has her pride. 
And these three teens have one another. But none of them have illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Even with the love of family, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the trio knows they have no choice but to run: from their country, from their families, from their beloved home. Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico, they follow the route of La Bestia, the perilous train system that might deliver them to a better life–if they are lucky enough to survive the journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and desperation drumming through their hearts, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know there is no turning back, despite the unknown that awaits them. And the darkness that seems to follow wherever they go. In this striking portrait of lives torn apart, the plight of migrants at the U.S. southern border is brought to light through poignant, vivid storytelling. An epic journey of danger, resilience, heartache, and hope.

Wildfire
By Carrie Mac
272 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780399556296 | Knopf BFYR
Annie and Pete have been best friends since they were little. They know each other better than anyone, and they’ve been on more adventures than they can count–they even have a notebook filled with all the times they’ve almost died. But they always survive, because together, they’re invincible. And they’ve always been just friends. But lately, Annie has been thinking that maybe friendship is just the beginning, and she’s been mentally replaying all the times they were almost something more. Now they’re heading out on their next great quest: a ten-day backpacking trip through the mountains of Washington State, ending at Fire Camp, where they’ll learn to fight the area’s growing wildfire problem. The woods spark with the promise of adventure, but a freak climbing accident interrupts their progress, and as the wildfires close in and smoke envelops them, Annie and Pete wander farther from the trail. Carrie Mac’s gripping story of the power of unrequited love and the danger of the elements is harrowing, beautiful, and unforgettable.

CTV Your Morning Kids’ Book Segment on Holiday Gifts

Our Marketing and Publicity Director, Vikki VanSickle, was on CTV’s Your Morning today to talk about her top picks for holiday gifts. Check out our titles from her recommended list below and don’t forget to watch her segment!

AGES 3-7

Princesses Versus Dinosaurs
By Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Joy Ang
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264298 | Tundra Books
This is a princess book! No, it’s a dinosaur book! No, it’s . . . a T. rex book? A dragon book? A rubber ducky book?! From Linda Bailey, award-winning and critically acclaimed author, and Joy Ang, Adventure Time-artist and illustrator of the Mustache Baby series, comes an irresistibly irreverent picture book in which plucky princesses and determined dinosaurs have a battle royale over whose book this is. When they start calling in the big guns – or rather, the big carnivores – and decide to build a wall to resolve their differences, princesses and dinosaurs alike learn a thing or two about open-mindedness and sharing.

Wreck This Picture Book
By Keri Smith
64 Pages | Ages 5-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593111024 | Dial BFYR
What if there were a book that changed every time you read it? Actually, every book does this. We are all part of the books we read, because our individual reactions, ideas, and emotions make the book whole, and these things are changing all the time. Keri Smith has helped millions of people free their creativity and find their own voice with her interactive books, and now she brings that sensibility to children and to the act of reading. This picture book is an invitation to honor your own vision and to welcome imperfection. Kids will discover that reading can engage all five senses, and that what they themselves bring to a book is an important contribution. (And of course they’ll be invited to do a bit of harmless “wrecking”!).

AGES 6-10

Happy NarwhalidaysHappy Narwhalidays!
(A Narwhal and Jelly Book #5)
By Ben Clanton
76 Pages | Ages 6-9  | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735262515 | Tundra Books
Dive into three new stories about Narwhal’s favorite time of the year! It’s the festive season in the world wide waters, and Narwhal is looking forward to cozying up with a good book, singing and partying with his pod pals and enjoying some warm waffle pudding. But most of all he’s excited about the arrival of the Merry Mermicorn! According to Narwhal, she’s part mermaid, part unicorn and completely mer-aculous! Jelly is of course skeptical about the existence of the “Mira-Miny-What-A Corn” . . . even when he receives a mysterious present. It must be from Narwhal. Now Jelly has to get the perfect gift, but finding a present for someone as unique as Narwhal is no easy feat, even when you have six tentacles. How will Jelly ever come up with a whaley great gift for a best pal who spreads cheer all through the year?

The Fabled Stables: Willa and the Wisp
By Jonathan Auxier
Illustrated by Olga Demidova
96 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267725 | Puffin Canada
Auggie Pound is eight years old and has the greatest job of all time: he cares for all the animals in the Fabled Stables. The Fabled Stables house the rarest creatures in existence – all of them one-of-a-kind. Auggie’s job is to care for these creatures, as well as track down and safely capture endangered magical beasts in the wild. Some mornings, he arrives to find an empty stall with the name of a new creature to rescue. One day, the Stables rearrange themselves out of the blue, creating a new stall. The sign over the gate says, “Wisp.” But what is a wisp and where is it? All Auggie can see is a moonlit swamp stretching out before him. Then a hungry HOWLLLLLLL rings out in the darkness. It’s up to Auggie to go into the swamp to find the wisp before it’s too late.

AGES 8-12

Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: Peril at Owl Park
By Marthe Jocelyn
Illustrated by Isabelle Follath
400 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265493 | Tundra Books
Aspiring writer Aggie Morton is looking forward to Christmas. Having just solved a murder and survived her own brush with death in her small town of Torquay on the coast of England, Aggie can’t wait to spend the holidays with her sister Marjorie, the new Lady Greyson of Owl Park, an enormous manor house in the country, Grannie Jane and her fellow sleuth and partner in crime, Hector Perot. Owl Park holds many delights including Aggie’s almost-cousin Lucy, exciting and glamorous visitors from Ceylon, and disguises aplenty in the form of a group of travelling actors. Not to mention a secret passageway AND an enormous, cursed emerald. Not even glowering old Lady Greyson (the Senior) can interfere with Aggie’s festive cheer. But when Aggie and her friends discover a body instead of presents on Christmas morning, things take a deadly serious turn. With the help of a certain nosy reporter, Aggie and Hector will once again have to put their deductive skills and imaginations to work to find the murderer on the loose.