Our Stars of 2020

At Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers, we think all our books are brilliant, and it’s nice when others think so too! Congratulations to our authors and illustrators; these are our starred books of 2020!

FIVE STARS:

The Barnabus Project
By Terry Fan, Eric Fan, and Devin Fan
72 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263260 | Tundra Books
“More subtly incorporated is the idea that there’s nothing wrong with imperfection, nor does it mitigate one’s value or ability to succeed.” – Starred Review, Booklist
“A heartfelt, timely allegory celebrating diversity, bravery, and solidarity.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“A cinematic climax caps this romp as Terry and Eric Fan, collaborating with their brother Devin, step out from earlier, atmospheric works to produce an ambitious drama of rebellion, escape, and inclusivity rewarded.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
“In the Fan brothers’ hands, the result feels like a happy amalgam of Jules Verne, Maurice Sendak, the Moomins, and Monsters, Inc.” – Starred Review, Quill & Quire
“The three Fan brothers have created new characters who overcome seemingly impossible odds by being resilient, using teamwork, and not leaving anyone behind.” – Starred Review, School Library Journal

The Blue House
By Phoebe Wahl
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984893390 | Tundra Books
“Refreshingly candid in portraying the intense feelings that sometimes accompany the experience of moving, the text shows how candor, camaraderie, and artistic expression can be helpful in coping with them.” – Starred Review, Booklist
“An absolute treasure for anyone who has ever moved.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“Wahl makes both characters distinctive and sympathetic, and devotes loving attention to every spread.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
“With loving details that radiate off the page, exquisite pacing, and a child’s perspective on the bad thing that is happening, this is recommended to share widely, and with anyone who has ever had to move.” – Starred Review, School Library Journal
“Wahl’s picture book tells an affecting story about loss and starting over.” – Starred Review, The Horn Book

THREE STARS:

Story Boat
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263598 | Tundra Books
“Luminous and thought-provoking, Story Boat contains deep layers of meaning that are sure to spark conversations from young readers.” – Starred Review, BookPage
“A timely and uplifting book about and for refugees.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“Elegantly composed and beautifully depicted, Story Boat is the perfect vehicle to spark sensitive discussions and foster compassion for newcomers.” – Starred Review, Quill & Quire

The Enigma Game
By Elizabeth Wein
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735265288 | Penguin Teen Canada
“In many ways a small story about big things – fitting in a novel thematically focused on the ways individuals matter – this is historical fiction at its finest . . . Another soaring success.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“In sum, it is a rich work of historical fiction, wearing its period accuracy lightly . . . and offering an unusual perspective on the war.” – Starred Review, The Horn Book
“Wein’s story of unexpected friendship and empowerment during wartime is intelligent, compassionate and thrilling.” – Starred Review, Shelf Awareness

TWO STARS:

Hunted by the Sky
By Tanaz Bhathena
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267022 | Penguin Teen Canada
“Bhathena takes her time unfolding the story . . . The result is an intoxicating novel that is at once leisurely and keenly enthralling.” – Starred Review, Quill & Quire
“A breath of fresh air in the fantasy adventure genre . . . Readers will be mesmerized by Bhathena’s vivid storytelling and the deeply felt connection between the two main characters.” – Starred Review, School Library Journal

Maud and Grand-Maud
By Sara O’Leary
Illustrated by Kenard Pak
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101918692 | Tundra Books
“A quiet, understated gem among intergenerational picture books.” – Starred Review, Booklist
“O’Leary’s measured narration reflects a relationship and a rapport that is not only unconditionally loving, but also beautifully, profoundly respectful on both sides.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

Ocean 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
“Despite the short word count, this book is packed with information and effectively conveys the gravity and impact of Tharp’s work and the obstacles she faced.” – Starred Review, School Library Journal
Ocean Speaks celebrates determination and ingenuity; it celebrates dreams and accomplishments; and most of all it celebrates a curious little girl who became a talented, resourceful woman, leaving a permanent impression on the scientific world.” – Starred Review, Shelf Awareness

Ray
By Marianna Coppo
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265776 | Tundra Books
“Children will easily identify with Ray’s feelings of timidity when faced with a large, unfamiliar world, but they will also light up as he finds a way to connect with his new surroundings.” – Starred Review, Booklist
“Coppo has returned with another lovable new character in Ray, who reminds readers that all it takes is a little change in perspective to open up a whole new world.” – Starred Review, School Library Journal

The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp
By Jonathan Auxier
Illustrated by Olga Demidova
96 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267725 | Puffin Canada
“Whimsical fantasy with the right amount of speed and cleverness for the audience.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
“Words and pictures partner to create a captivating, promising series starter that boasts quirky secondary characters and a sympathetic hero.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

ONE STAR:

Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: The Body Under the Piano
By Marthe Jocelyn
Illustrated by Isabelle Follath
336 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265462 | Tundra Books
“Heartfelt, funny and suspenseful, The Body Under the Piano is an excellent beginning to what is sure to be a pleasantly gruesome series.” – Starred Review, Shelf Awareness

Me and Banksy
By Tanya Lloyd Kyi
272 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266919 | Puffin Canada
“As incisive as it is funny, Me and Banksy offers strongly drawn characters and sharp insights about protest, victimization, and the precarious nature of surveillance.” – Starred Review, Quill & Quire

Natsumi’s Song of Summer
By Robert Paul Weston
Illustrated by Misa Saburi
44 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265417 | Tundra Books
“Immersive illustrations and rich poetry urge young readers to slow down and appreciate nature.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

Pine Island Home
By Polly Horvath
240 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735268623 | Puffin Canada
“Horvath, ever respectful of the inner lives of children, has a way of incorporating moments of sweet hilarity into an account that makes the girls’ situation seem plausible . . . Delightful.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

Red Fox Road
By Frances Greenslade
248 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267817 | Puffin Canada
“Resourceful, doggedly careful, courageous Francie brightens this often somber tale . . . Rendered with exquisite sensory detail, this hero’s journey is a resonant read for unsettling times.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

The Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga #1
By David A. Robertson
256 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266100 | Puffin Canada
“The shift into a contemporary Indigenous fantasy is seamless . . . This middle-grade fantasy deftly and compellingly centers Indigenous culture.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

The Bug Girl: A True Story
By Sophia Spencer and Margaret McNamara
Illustrated by Kerascoët
44 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267527 | Tundra Books
“McNamara’s skillful text centers Spencer’s voice, while Kerascoët’s loose ink, colored pencil, and watercolor illustrations render winning details with emotional sensitivity.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

The Gryphon’s Lair: Royal Guide to Monster Slaying #2
By Kelley Armstrong
352 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265387 | Puffin Canada
“Remarkably well-crafted . . . a memorable thrill filled with tough choices, hard-fought battles and unforgettable lessons.” – Starred Review, Shelf Awareness

The Invisible Bear
By Cécile Metzger
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266872 | Tundra Books
“Gentle illustrations in soft hues effectively illustrate this subtle tale of depression, loss, and the healing power of affection . . . A beautiful yet subtle depiction of the restorative power of companionship.” – Starred Review, School Library Journal

When Emily Was Small
By Lauren Soloy
44 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266063 | Tundra Books
“An altogether mystical yet accessibly grounded story . . . an [ . . . ] accomplished presentation.” – Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

Where’s Baby?
By Anne Hunter
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264984 | Tundra Books
“Hunter’s simple but lively pen and colored pencil drawings allow the deadpan humor to ring out . . . a winner for interactive reading.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

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