OLA Best Bets 2020

The OLA Best Bets committee is comprised of librarians and library technicians who are OLA members, work in public libraries, and are committed to children’s and young adult services and eager to evaluate and promote Canadian books. Members discuss and evaluate recent publications by Canadian authors and illustrators. The books evaluated are suitable for children and young adults from birth to nineteen years old. From these discussions, the Committee produces “Best Bets” lists, annual annotated lists of recommended titles. We’re thrilled to have so many books on the list and we congratulate our authors and illustrators.

Junior Fiction:

Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer
By Gillian Goerz
224 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525552857 | Dial BFYR
Jamila Waheed is staring down a lonely summer in a new neighborhood – until she meets Shirley Bones. Sure, Shirley’s a little strange, but both girls need a new plan for the summer, and they might as well become friends.  Then this kid Oliver shows up begging for Shirley’s help. His pet gecko has disappeared, and he’s sure it was stolen! That’s when Jamila discovers Shirley’s secret: She’s the neighborhood’s best kid detective, and she’s on the case. When Jamila discovers she’s got some detective skills of her own, a crime-solving partnership is born. The mystery of the missing gecko turns Shirley and Jamila’s summer upside down. And when their partnership hits a rough patch, they have to work together to solve the greatest mystery of all: What it means to be a friend.

The Barren GroundsThe Barren Grounds
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.

The Fabled Stables: Willa and the Wisp
By Jonathan Auxier
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.

Junior Non-Fiction:

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.

Ocean SpeaksOcean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean’s Biggest Secret
By Jess Keating
Illustrated by Katie Hickey
34 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265080 | Tundra Books
From a young age, Marie Tharp loved watching the world. She loved solving problems. And she loved pushing the limits of what girls and women were expected to do and be. In the mid-twentieth century, women were not welcome in the sciences, but Marie was tenacious. She got a job at a laboratory in New York. But then she faced another barrier: women were not allowed on the research ships (they were considered bad luck on boats). So instead, Marie stayed back and dove deep into the data her colleagues recorded. She mapped point after point and slowly revealed a deep rift valley in the ocean floor. At first the scientific community refused to believe her, but her evidence was irrefutable. She proved to the world that her research was correct. The mid-ocean ridge that Marie discovered is the single largest geographic feature on the planet, and she mapped it all from her small, cramped office.

Terry Fox and MeTerry Fox and Me
By Mary Beth Leatherdale
Illustrated by Milan Pavlovic
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267688 | Tundra Books
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope, this picture book biography tells the story of a friendship defined by strength and love. Before Terry Fox become a national hero and icon, he was just a regular kid. But even then, his characteristic strength, determination and loyalty were apparent and were the foundation for his friendship with Doug. The two first met at basketball tryouts in grammar school. Terry was the smallest – and worst – basketball player on the court. But that didn’t stop him. With Doug’s help, Terry practiced and practiced until he earned a spot on the team. As they grew up, the best friends supported each other, challenged each other, helped each other become better athletes and better people. Doug was by Terry’s side every step of the way: when Terry received a diagnosis of cancer in his leg, when he was learning to walk – then run – with a prosthetic leg and while he was training for the race of his life, his Marathon of Hope. Written from Doug’s perspective, this story shows that Terry Fox’s legacy goes beyond the physical and individual accomplishments of a disabled athlete and honors the true value of friendship.

Young Adult Fiction:

Barry Squires, Full Tilt
By Heather T. 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.

Camp Spirit
By Axelle Lenoir
208 Pages | Ages 13-17 | Paperback
ISBN 9781603094658 | Top Shelf Productions
Summer 1994: with just two months left before college, Elodie is forced by her mother to take a job as a camp counselor. She doesn’t know the first thing about nature, or sports, of kids for that matter, and isn’t especially interested in learning . . . but now she’s responsible for a foul-mouthed horde of red-headed girls who just might win her over, whether she likes it or not. Just as Elodie starts getting used to her new environment, though – and close to one of the other counselors – a dark mystery lurking around the camp begins to haunt her dreams.

He Must Like You
By Danielle Younge-Ullman
336 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265691 | Penguin Teen Canada
Libby’s having a rough senior year. Her older brother absconded with his college money and is bartending on a Greek island. Her dad just told her she’s got to pay for college herself, and he’s evicting her when she graduates so he can AirBnB her room. A drunken hook-up with her coworker Kyle has left her upset and confused. So when Perry Ackerman, serial harasser and the most handsy customer at The Goat where she waitresses, pushes her over the edge, she can hardly be blamed for dumping a pitcher of sangria on his head. Unfortunately, Perry is a local industry hero, the restaurant’s most important customer and Libby’s mom’s boss. Now Libby has to navigate the fallout of her outburst, find an apartment and deal with her increasing rage at the guys who’ve screwed up her life – and her increasing crush on the one guy who truly gets her. As timely as it is timeless, He Must Like You is a story about consent, rage, and revenge, and the potential we all have to be better people.

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.

Honorable Mentions:

Aggie Morton Mystery Queen The Body Under the PianoAggie Morton, Mystery Queen: The Body Under the Piano
By Marthe Jocelyn
Illustrated by Isabelle Follath
336 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265462 | Tundra Books
Aggie Morton lives in a small town on the coast of England in 1902. Adventurous and imaginative, but deeply shy, Aggie hasn’t got much to do since the death of her beloved father . . . until the fateful day when she crosses paths with twelve-year-old Belgian immigrant Hector Perot and discovers a dead body on the floor of the Mermaid Dance Room! As the number of suspects grows and the murder threatens to tear the town apart, Aggie and her new friend will need every tool at their disposal – including their insatiable curiosity, deductive skills and not a little help from their friends – to solve the case before Aggie’s beloved dance instructor is charged with a crime Aggie is sure she didn’t commit. Filled with mystery, adventure, an unforgettable heroine and several helpings of tea and sweets, The Body Under the Piano is the clever debut of a new series for middle-grade readers and Christie and Poirot fans everywhere, from a Governor General’s Award-nominated author of historical fiction for children.

Me and BanksyMe and Banksy
By Tanya Lloyd Kyi
272 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266919 | Puffin Canada
Dominica’s private school is covered in cameras, and someone is hacking into them and posting embarrassing moments for the whole school to see. Like Ana picking her nose. When Dominica quickly changes her shirt from inside out in what she thinks is the privacy of a quiet corner in the library, she’s shocked – and embarrassed – to discover a video has captured this and is currently circulating amongst her schoolmates. So mortifying, especially since over the past three years, they’ve had a half-dozen school talks about social media safety. Who has access to the school security cameras and why are they doing this? Dominica and her best friends, Holden and Saanvi, are determined to find out, and in the process start an art-based student campaign against cameras in the classroom.

The Gryphons LairThe Gryphon’s Lair
By Kelley Armstrong
352 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265387 | Puffin Canada
Rowan is now the Royal Monster Hunter, and her twin brother, Rhydd, is destined to be king. But her mother’s cousin Heward is still determined that his children be the ones to inherit the titles, and will stop at nothing to show that Rowan and Rhydd are too immature to properly lead. After the gryphon that Rowan captured in Book One gives birth but then dies, Rowan is left with a baby gryphon she knows she cannot keep. And it grows faster than anyone can imagine. . . . In order to save face after an accident involving the troublesome gryphon, Rowan, with the help of her friends Dain and Alianor, along with an entourage of monstrous companions, must make a journey to the mountains to release the gryphon back into the wild. What starts off as a simple enough task soon becomes a dangerous quest, as the group encounters numerous rare and deadly monsters along the way, including wyverns and ceffyl-dwrs. Nothing is easy when you’re a “monster magnet” like Rowan. Can she prove herself worthy of the title of Royal Monster Hunter? Find out in this exciting second book in the Royal Guide to Monster Slaying series!

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.

Virtual Tour: If I Couldn’t Be Anne

You are cordially invited to attend the virtual book tour for If I Couldn’t Be Anne! This new picture book from Kallie George and Genevieve Godbout features Anne Shirley – the beloved heroine of L. M . Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables – as she imagines all the different things she could be if she wasn’t a girl. Kallie George will be virtually visiting a series of bookstores via Instagram Live this week to do story times and talks about her Anne-inspired books, please join us if you can!

If I Couldn’t Be Anne
By Kallie George
Illustrated by Genevieve Godbout
40 Pages | Ages 3-7
ISBN 9781770499287 | Tundra Books

In this whimsical and magical picture book, Anne’s boundless imagination takes flight! She imagines being all the things she loves so dearly. If I Couldn’t Be Anne, Anne with an e, what would I be . . . Anne wonders what it would be like to be the wind dancing round the treetops. A tightrope walker, breathless and brave. A princess in a palace made of apple blossoms. A magical frost fairy or a plain little wood elf. . . . But even as Anne’s imagination soars far and wide, she comes back down to earth, recognizing that some things – like friendship! – are even better than the imagination.

2019 Ruth & Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Books Awards

The Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Awards were established in 1976 – each year, two awards are presented to recognize artistic excellence in writing and illustration in English-language Canadian children’s literature. The winners are selected by juries at dedicated schools. Tundra Books would like to congratulate Wab Kinew and Joe Morse! Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes was awarded this year’s Children’s Picture Book award.

This year’s school, Scarborough’s Eastview Public School, has a large Indigenous community, offering Ojibwa language instruction and other Indigenous programming.

Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes
By Wab Kinew
Illustrated by Joe Morse
40 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Tundra Books
ISBN 9780735262928

What the students said:
“This was my favourite book because it showed how to be positive and how to be a hero.”
“I loved the message of the book.”
“I liked that the first part of the book is a poem, and that the second part has information about the heroes’ lives.”
“The illustrations are beautiful. The artist made all the people in the story look like heroes!”

Joe Morse with the jurors of the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award picture book category.

Putting the YA in FRIYAY: Penguin Teen Social 2019 Recap

Yesterday we hosted our second #PenguinTeenSocial event – we invited bloggers and booksellers to our office for a fun night of trivia, pizza, and author signings. Check out some of our highlights below!

Welcome to Penguin Teen Social 2019!
Our author guests were: Tanaz Bhathena, Jeff Zentner, Heather Smith, Lesley Livingston, Lizzy Mason (who unfortunately couldn’t make it), and Laura Sebastian.
We used the Penguin Shop Cart as an author signing booth!
Swag bags including some Penguin Teen Canada sunglasses
Free ARCs!
#Penguin10 – the 10 books you NEED to read this fall!
Pizza generously donated by Panago Pizza. #RandomActsOfPizza
Marketing & Publicity Associate Director Vikki VanSickle introducing the evening’s schedule.
Our authors Jeff Zentner, Lesley Livingston, Heather Smith, Tanaz Bhathena,and Laura Sebastian playing a trivia game with our host/publicity manager, Evan Munday.
Signing line for Lesley Livingston.
Heather Smith and Tanaz Bhathena!
Signing line for Jeff Zentner.
So many book lovers in one room!
Your Penguin Teen Canada team: Sylvia Chan, Sam Devotta, Vikki VanSickle, and Evan Munday.

Thanks to everyone for a great night – hope to see you again next year!