Black History Month YA Reading List

February is Black History Month and while we believe you should be reading books by BIPOC creators all year, we’ve made a list of some of our recent favorite titles by Black authors.

Chlorine Sky
By Mahogany L. Browne
192 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593176399 | Crown BFYR
She looks me hard in my eyes
& my knees lock into tree trunks
My eyes don’t dance like my heartbeat racing
They stare straight back hot daggers.
I remember things will never be the same.
I remember things.
With gritty and heartbreaking honesty, Mahogany L. Browne delivers a novel-in-verse about broken promises, fast rumors, and when growing up means growing apart from your best friend.

Concrete Kids
By Amyra León
Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky
96 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780593095195 | Penguin Workshop
Concrete Kids is an exploration of love and loss, melody and bloodshed. Musician, playwright, and educator Amyra León takes us on a poetic journey through her childhood in Harlem, as she navigates the intricacies of foster care, mourning, self-love, and resilience. In her signature free-verse style, she invites us all to dream with abandon – and to recognize the privilege it is to dream at all.

Dear Justyce
By Nic Stone
288 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984829665 | Crown BFYR
In the highly anticipated sequel to her New York Times bestseller, Nic Stone delivers an unflinching look into the flawed practices and silenced voices in the American juvenile justice system. Vernell LaQuan Banks and Justyce McAllister grew up a block apart in the Southwest Atlanta neighborhood of Wynwood Heights. Years later, though, Justyce walks the illustrious halls of Yale University . . . and Quan sits behind bars at the Fulton Regional Youth Detention Center. Through a series of flashbacks, vignettes, and letters to Justyce – the protagonist of Dear Martin – Quan’s story takes form. Troubles at home and misunderstandings at school give rise to police encounters and tough decisions. But then there’s a dead cop and a weapon with Quan’s prints on it. What leads a bright kid down a road to a murder charge? Not even Quan is sure.

Every Body Looking
By Candice Iloh
416 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525556206 | Dutton BFYR
When Ada leaves home for her freshman year at a Historically Black College, it’s the first time she’s ever been so far from her family – and the first time that she’s been able to make her own choices and to seek her place in this new world. As she stumbles deeper into the world of dance and explores her sexuality, she also begins to wrestle with her past – her mother’s struggle with addiction and her Nigerian father’s attempts to make a home for her. Ultimately, Ada discovers she needs to brush off the destiny others have chosen for her and claim full ownership of her body and her future.

Rebel Sisters
By Tochi Onyebuchi
464 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984835062 | Razorbill
It’s been five years since the Biafran War ended. Ify is now nineteen and living where she’s always dreamed – the Space Colonies. She is a respected, high-ranking medical officer and has dedicated her life to helping refugees like herself rebuild in the Colonies. Back in the still devastated Nigeria, Uzo, a young synth, is helping an aid worker, Xifeng, recover images and details of the war held in the technology of destroyed androids. Uzo, Xifeng, and the rest of their team are working to preserve memories of the many lives lost, despite the government’s best efforts to eradicate any signs that the war ever happened. Though they are working toward common goals of helping those who suffered, Ify and Uzo are worlds apart. But when a mysterious virus breaks out among the children in the Space Colonies, their paths collide. Ify makes it her mission to figure out what’s causing the deadly disease. And doing so means going back to the homeland she thought she’d left behind forever.

The Beautiful Struggle
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
176 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984894021 | Delacorte BFYR
As a child, Ta-Nehisi Coates was seen by his father, Paul, as too sensitive and lacking focus. Paul Coates was a Vietnam vet who’d been part of the Black Panthers and was dedicated to reading and publishing the history of African civilization. When it came to his sons, he was committed to raising proud Black men equipped to deal with a racist society, during a turbulent period in the collapsing city of Baltimore where they lived. Coates details with candor the challenges of dealing with his tough-love father, the influence of his mother, and the dynamics of his extended family, including his brother “Big Bill,” who was on a very different path than Ta-Nehisi. Coates also tells of his family struggles at school and with girls, making this a timely story to which many readers will relate.

The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person
By Frederick Joseph
272 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536217018 | Candlewick
For Frederick Joseph, life as a transfer student in a largely white high school was full of wince-worthy moments that he often simply let go. As he grew older, however, he saw these as missed opportunities not only to stand up for himself, but to spread awareness to those white people who didn’t see the negative impact they were having. Speaking directly to the reader, The Black Friend calls up race-related anecdotes from the author’s past, weaving in his thoughts on why they were hurtful and how he might handle things differently now. Touching on everything from cultural appropriation to power dynamics, “reverse racism” to white privilege, microaggressions to the tragic results of overt racism, this book serves as conversation starter, tool kit, and invaluable window into the life of a former “token Black kid” who now presents himself as the friend many readers need. Backmatter includes an encyclopedia of racism, providing details on relevant historical events, terminology, and more.

The Gilded Ones
By Namina Forna
432 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984848697 | Delacorte BFYR
Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs. But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity – and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death. Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki – near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat. Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

This Is My America
By Kim Johnson
416 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593118764 | Random House BFYR
Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time – her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?

When You Were Everything
By Ashley Woodfolk
400 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524715915 | Delacorte BFYR
It’s been twenty-seven days since Cleo and Layla’s friendship imploded. Nearly a month since Cleo realized they’ll never be besties again. Now Cleo wants to erase every memory, good or bad, that tethers her to her ex-best friend. But pretending Layla doesn’t exist isn’t as easy as Cleo hoped, especially after she’s assigned to be Layla’s tutor. Despite budding friendships with other classmates – and a raging crush on a gorgeous boy named Dom – Cleo’s turbulent past with Layla comes back to haunt them both. Alternating between time lines of Then and Now, When You Were Everything blends past and present into an emotional story about the beauty of self-forgiveness, the promise of new beginnings, and the courage it takes to remain open to love.

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra

Tuesdays with Tundra is an ongoing series featuring our new releases. The following books are now available in stores and online!

Anonymouse
By Vikki VanSickle
Illustrated by Anna Pirolli 
40  Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263949 | Tundra Books
Art for the birds.
Art for the ants.
Art for the dogs, cats and raccoons.
Art to make them laugh, make them think, make them feel at home.
But who is creating it?
Only Anonymouse knows for sure . . . 
This clever tale mixes street art, animals and gorgeous illustrations to create a meditation on how art can uplift any creature’s spirit – human or animal – when it speaks directly to them. Every page of Anna Pirolli’s stunning artwork is its own masterpiece with its bold pops of color and sly humor, elevating Vikki VanSickle’s subtle but evocative text.

Super Detectives: Simon and Chester #1
By Cale Atkinson
64 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267428 | Tundra Books
Welcome to the world of Simon and Chester, ghost and boy duo extraordinaire.
They like to kick butt and take names.
They don’t like chores.
They are best friends.
And they are about to solve the mystery of a lifetime.
(Oh, and eat some snacks probably.)
Join Simon and Chester in their first adventure, and fall in love with this hilarious odd couple by fan favorite author and illustrator Cale Atkinson.

New in Paperback:

The Bat
By Elise Gravel
32 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735266421 | Tundra Books
The Bat covers habitat (bats live everywhere except Antarctica!), species (there are over 1,200 kinds of bats), echolocation, hibernation (bats hibernate just like bears!), conservation (don’t disturb a sleeping bat!) and much more. Although silly and off-the-wall, The Bat contains factual information that will both amuse and teach at the same time.

The Cockroach
By Elise Gravel
32 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735266421 | Tundra Books
The Cockroach covers lifestyle (cockroaches prefer the dark and only come out during the day when their colonies get big enough), anatomy (cockroaches have wings but rarely fly), habitat (they prefer heat to cold), life cycle (a female can give birth to up to 350 babies during her lifetime) and much more. Although silly and off-the-wall, The Cockroach contains factual information that will both amuse and teach at the same time.

We can’t wait to see you reading these! If you share these books online, remember to use #ReadTundra in your hashtags so that we can re-post.

Black History Month Reading List

February is Black History Month, and we encourage you to visit your local bookstore or library (to learn more. In the meantime, we have compiled our reading recommendations for you.

Antiracist Baby
By Ibram X. Kendi
Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky
32 Pages | Ages 0-3 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593110508 | Kokila
From the National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist comes a new 9×9 picture book that empowers parents and children to uproot racism in our society and in ourselves, now with added discussion prompts to help readers recognize and reflect on bias in their daily lives. With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism. Providing the language necessary to begin critical conversations at the earliest age, Antiracist Baby is the perfect gift for readers of all ages dedicated to forming a just society.

Before the Ever After
By Jacqueline Woodson
176 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780399545436 | Nancy Paulsen Books
For as long as ZJ can remember, his dad has been everyone’s hero. As a charming, talented pro football star, he’s as beloved to the neighborhood kids he plays with as he is to his millions of adoring sports fans. But lately life at ZJ’s house is anything but charming. His dad is having trouble remembering things and seems to be angry all the time. ZJ’s mom explains it’s because of all the head injuries his dad sustained during his career. ZJ can understand that – but it doesn’t make the sting any less real when his own father forgets his name. As ZJ contemplates his new reality, he has to figure out how to hold on tight to family traditions and recollections of the glory days, all the while wondering what their past amounts to if his father can’t remember it. And most importantly, can those happy feelings ever be reclaimed when they are all so busy aching for the past?

Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming
By Jacqueline Woodson
368 Pages | Ages 10+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780147515827 | Puffin Books
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

C is for Country
By Lil Nas X
Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593300787 | Random House BFYR
Join superstar Lil Nas X—who boasts the longest-running #1 song in history—and Panini the pony on a joyous journey through the alphabet from sunup to sundown. Experience wide-open pastures, farm animals, guitar music, cowboy hats, and all things country in this debut picture book that’s perfect for music lovers learning their ABCs and for anyone who loves Nas’s signature genre-blending style. Featuring bold, bright art from Theodore Taylor III, with plenty of hidden surprises for Nas’s biggest fans, C Is for Country is a celebration of song and the power inside us all.

I Am Every Good Thing
By Derrick Barnes
Illustrated by Gordon C. James
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525518778 | Nancy Paulsen Books
The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and no doubt he’ll see them through – as he’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid, because he’s so often misunderstood and called what he is not. So slow down and really look and listen, when somebody tells you – and shows you – who they are. There are superheroes in our midst!

I Am Smart, I Am Blessed, I Can Do Anything!
By Alissa Holder and Zulekha Holder-Young
Illustrated by Nneka Myers
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593206607 | Flamingo Books
Based on a viral video comes the story of one boy’s positive energy and how a sunny outlook can turn everything around. It’s a new day and Ayaan has woken up on the wrong side of the bed, where nothing feels quite right. What if he doesn’t know the answer at school? What if he messes up? But as he sets out that morning, all it takes is a few reminders from his mom and some friends in the neighborhood to remind him that a new day is a good day because . . . HE IS SMART, HE IS BLESSED, AND HE CAN DO ANYTHING!

Jabari Jumps
By Gaia Cornwall
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536202908 | Candlewick
Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving board. He’s finished his swimming lessons and passed his swim test, and he’s a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all. “Looks easy,” says Jabari, watching the other kids take their turns. But when his dad squeezes his hand, Jabari squeezes back. He needs to figure out what kind of special jump to do anyway, and he should probably do some stretches before climbing up onto the diving board. In a sweetly appealing tale of overcoming your fears, Gaia Cornwall captures a moment between a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy you can’t help but root for.

Lubaya’s Quiet Roar
By Marilyn Nelson
Illustrated by Philemona Williamson
32 Pages | Ages 5-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525555551 | Dial BFYR
Newbery Honor winner Marilyn Nelson and fine artist Philemona Williamson have come together to create this lyrical, impactful story of how every child, even the quietest, can make a difference in their community and world. Young Lubaya is happiest when she’s drawing, often behind the sofa while her family watches TV. There, she creates pictures on the backs of her parents’ old protest posters. But when upsetting news shouts into their living room, her parents need the posters again. The next day her family takes part in a march, and there, on one side of the posters being held high, are Lubaya’s drawings of kids holding hands and of the sun shining over the globe – rousing visual statements of how the world could be. “Lubaya’s roar may not be loud, but a quiet roar can make history.”

Milo Imagines the World
By Matt De La Peña
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780399549083 | Putnam BFYR
Milo is on a long subway ride with his older sister. To pass the time, he studies the faces around him and makes pictures of their lives. There’s the whiskered man with the crossword puzzle; Milo imagines him playing solitaire in a cluttered apartment full of pets. There’s the wedding-dressed woman with a little dog peeking out of her handbag; Milo imagines her in a grand cathedral ceremony. And then there’s the boy in the suit with the bright white sneakers; Milo imagines him arriving home to a castle with a drawbridge and a butler. But when the boy in the suit gets off on the same stop as Milo – walking the same path, going to the exact same place – Milo realizes that you can’t really know anyone just by looking at them.

My Rainbow
By DeShanna Neal and Trinity Neal
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984814609 | Kokila
Warm morning sunlight and love fill the Neal home. And on one quiet day, playtime leads to an important realization: Trinity wants long hair like her dolls. She needs it to express who she truly is. So her family decides to take a trip to the beauty supply store, but none of the wigs is the perfect fit. Determined, Mom leaves with bundles of hair in hand, ready to craft a wig as colorful and vibrant as her daughter is. With powerful text by Trinity and DeShanna Neal and radiant art by Art Twink, My Rainbow is a celebration of showing up as our full selves with the people who have seen us fully all along.

Nana Akua Goes to School
By Tricia Elam Walker
Illustrated by April Harrison
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525581130 | Schwartz & Wade
It is Grandparents Day at Zura’s elementary school, and the students are excited to introduce their grandparents and share what makes them special. Aleja’s grandfather is a fisherman. Bisou’s grandmother is a dentist. But Zura’s Nana, who is her favorite person in the world, looks a little different from other grandmas. Nana Akua was raised in Ghana, and, following an old West African tradition, has tribal markings on her face. Worried that her classmates will be scared of Nana – or worse, make fun of her – Zura is hesitant to bring her to school. Nana Akua knows what to do, though. With a quilt of traditional African symbols and a bit of face paint, Nana Akua is able to explain what makes her special, and to make all of Zura’s classmates feel special, too.

She Persisted: Harriet Tubman
By Andrea Davis Pinkney and Chelsea Clinton
Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint
80 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593115657 | Philomel BFYR
Born enslaved, Harriet Tubman rose up to become one of the most successful, determined and well-known conductors of the Underground Railroad. With her family’s love planted firmly in her heart, Harriet looked to the North Star for guidance – and its light helped guide her way out of slavery. Her courage made it possible for her to help others reach freedom too. In this chapter book biography by bestselling and award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney, readers learn about the amazing life of Harriet Tubman – and how she persisted. Complete with an introduction from Chelsea Clinton!

Take Back the Block
By Chrystal D. Giles
240 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593175170 | Random House BFYR
Wes Henderson has the best style in sixth grade. That – and hanging out with his crew (his best friends since little-kid days) and playing video games – is what he wants to be thinking about at the start of the school year, not the protests his parents are always dragging him to. But when a real estate developer makes an offer to buy Kensington Oaks, the neighborhood Wes has lived his whole life, everything changes. The grownups are supposed to have all the answers, but all they’re doing is arguing. Even Wes’s best friends are fighting. And some of them may be moving. Wes isn’t about to give up the only home he’s ever known. Wes has always been good at puzzles, and he knows there has to be a missing piece that will solve this puzzle and save the Oaks. But can he find it . . . before it’s too late? Exploring community, gentrification, justice, and friendship, Take Back the Block introduces an irresistible 6th grader and asks what it means to belong – to a place and a movement – and to fight for what you believe in.

The Day You BeginThe Day You Begin
By Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by Rafael López
32 Pages | Ages 5-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780399246531 | Nancy Paulsen Books
There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it. Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963
By Christopher Paul Curtis
256 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9780593306499 | Yearling
When the Watson family – ten-year-old Kenny, Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, and brother Byron – sets out on a trip south to visit Grandma in Birmingham, Alabama, they don’t realize that they’re heading toward one of the darkest moments in America’s history. The Watsons’ journey reminds us that even in the hardest times, laughter and family can help us get through anything. Celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Newbery and Coretta Scott King Honoree about an unforgettable family on a road-trip during one of the most important times in the civil rights movement. This special edition makes a perfect gift and includes bonus content.

This Is Your Time
By Ruby Bridges
64 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593378526 | Delacorte BFYR
Written as a letter from civil rights activist and icon Ruby Bridges to the reader, This Is Your Time is both a recounting of Ruby’s experience as a child who had to be escorted to class by federal marshals when she was chosen to be one of the first black students to integrate into New Orleans’ all-white public school system and an appeal to generations to come to effect change. This beautifully designed volume features photographs from the 1960s and from today, as well as stunning jacket art from The Problem We All Live With, the 1964 painting by Norman Rockwell depicting Ruby’s walk to school. Ruby’s honest and impassioned words, imbued with love and grace, serve as a moving reminder that “what can inspire tomorrow often lies in our past.” This Is Your Time will electrify people of all ages as the struggle for liberty and justice for all continues and the powerful legacy of Ruby Bridges endures.

What Lane?
By Torrey Maldonado
144 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525518433 | Nancy Paulsen Books
Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn’t think it’s his lane, but he goes. Here’s the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he’s not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he’s living in two worlds with different rules – and he’s been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends . . . so what’ll he do? Hold on tight as Stephen swerves in and out of lanes to find out which are his – and who should be with him. Torrey Maldonado, author of the highly acclaimed Tight, does a masterful job showing a young boy coming of age in a racially split world, trying to blaze a way to be his best self.

When Stars Are Scattered
By Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
Illustrated by Victoria Jamieson and Iman Geddy
264  Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525553915 | Dial BFYR
Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future . . . but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day. Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this graphic novel about a childhood spent waiting, and a young man who is able to create a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings. It’s an intimate, important, unforgettable look at the day-to-day life of a refugee, as told to New York Times bestselling author/artist Victoria Jamieson by Omar Mohamed, the Somali man who lived the story.

Need more ideas? Check out our list from last year or our Raising Conscious Kids listicle, and look out for a teen reading list this Friday!

5 YA Romances We Love

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, so if you’re looking for a cute read, we have some suggestions (obviously)! We have so many favourites but we made ourselves pick five to start with – what else would you add to this list?

For fans of The Great British Bake Off and other baking shows:

A Taste for Love
By Jennifer Yen
336 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593117521 | Razorbill
To her friends, high school senior Liza Yang is nearly perfect. Smart, kind, and pretty, she dreams big and never shies away from a challenge. But to her mom, Liza is anything but. Compared to her older sister Jeannie, Liza is stubborn, rebellious, and worst of all, determined to push back against all of Mrs. Yang’s traditional values, especially when it comes to dating. The one thing mother and daughter do agree on is their love of baking. Mrs. Yang is the owner of Houston’s popular Yin & Yang Bakery. With college just around the corner, Liza agrees to help out at the bakery’s annual junior competition to prove to her mom that she’s more than her rebellious tendencies once and for all. But when Liza arrives on the first day of the bake-off, she realizes there’s a catch: all of the contestants are young Asian American men her mother has handpicked for Liza to date. The bachelorette situation Liza has found herself in is made even worse when she happens to be grudgingly attracted to one of the contestants; the stoic, impenetrable, annoyingly hot James Wong. As she battles against her feelings for James, and for her mother’s approval, Liza begins to realize there’s no tried and true recipe for love.

We love #OwnVoices:

The Sun Is Also a Star
By Nicola Yoon
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735267008 | Penguin Teen Canada
This book is inspired by Big History (to learn about one thing, you have to learn about everything). In The Sun Is Also a Star, to understand the characters and their love story, we must know everything around them and everything that came before them that has affected who they are and what they experience. Two teens – Daniel, the son of Korean shopkeepers, and Natasha, whose family is here illegally from Jamaica – cross paths in New York City on an eventful day in their lives – Daniel is on his way to an interview with a Yale alum, Natasha is meeting with a lawyer to try and prevent her family’s deportation to Jamaica – and fall in love.

The classic tearjerker:

The Fault in Our Stars
By John Green
352 Pages | Ages 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780142424179 | Dutton BFYR
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. From John Green, the #1 bestselling author of Turtles All the Way Down, The Fault in Our Stars is insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw. It brilliantly explores the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Read the book, watch the movie!

The Prom
By Saundra Mitchell, Bob Martin, Chad Beguelin, and Matthew Sklar
240 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781984837547 | Viking BFYR
Emma Nolan and Alyssa Greene share the same goal: debut as a couple at their senior prom. Only a few things stand in their way – okay, maybe more than a few. For one, Alyssa hasn’t come out yet. It’s not that she doesn’t want to, but with a mother on the PTA who will stop at nothing to prevent same-sex couples from attending prom, it’s not a conversation she’s eager to have – with good reason. Before long, Mrs. Greene has the entire town backing her up, and it’s starting to look as though Emma and Alyssa won’t get their happily-ever-after. Then, out of the blue, two Broadway stars arrive on the scene to fight on the girls’ behalf (and get a little publicity along the way). But when their good intentions fall flat, it’s up to Emma and Alyssa to take matters into their own hands and show their small Indiana town – and the world – that love is love is love.

Nerds, this one’s for you:

Super Fake Love Song
By David Yoon
368 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984812230 | Putnam BFYR
When Sunny Dae – self-proclaimed total nerd – meets Cirrus Soh, he can’t believe how cool and confident she is. So when Cirrus mistakes Sunny’s older brother Gray’s bedroom – with its electric guitars and rock posters – for Sunny’s own, he sort of, kind of, accidentally winds up telling her he’s the front man of a rock band. Before he knows it, Sunny is knee-deep in the lie: He ropes his best friends into his scheme, begging them to form a fake band with him, and starts wearing Gray’s rock-and-roll castoffs. But no way can he trick this amazing girl into thinking he’s cool, right? Just when Sunny is about to come clean, Cirrus asks to see them play sometime. Gulp. Now there’s only one thing to do: Fake it till you make it.

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.