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

Staff Picks: Favorite Kids Books from 2020

2020 may have been a rough year in a lot of ways but it did give us a lot of great books! We sat down to choose our favourite book of the year from the Tundra and Puffin Canada lists (and it was just as hard as you’d think.)

Vikki, Marketing & Publicity Director

“With authentic dialogue and a ripped from the headlines set-up, this is smart, topical middle grade at it’s finest. A great read for budding social activists.”

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.

Sylvia, Marketing and Publicity Manager

“First, the illustrations are all done in pen ink (look at all those lines she had to draw). And second, this is the cutest fox family interaction that results in a perfect, silly story time!”

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

Evan, Publicity Manager

” I’m a sucker for middle-grade mystery, and Marthe Jocelyn has written an extremely fun (and sneakily dark) series, complete with tons of Agatha Christie Easter eggs. And the gorgeous, Gorey-esque illustrations by Isabelle Follath are the icing on the murder cake.”

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.

Sam, Associate Publicist

“Geneviève Godbout is one of my favourite illustrators and I loved how this sweet, adorable story doubles as a gentle introduction to mental health.”

What’s Up, Maloo?
By Geneviève Godbout
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266643 | Tundra Books
Maloo the kangaroo has lost his hop. Can his friends help him find it again? This sweet picture book explores the idea of sadness and the importance of friendship through ups and downs. No other kangeroo can hop like Maloo! But one day Maloo’s friends find him stepping instead of hopping. What’s wrong, Maloo? His pals look for ways to help Maloo regain the spring in his step. With patience, support and a little “hop” from his friends, Maloo gets his bounce back. Simple text and adorable art convey the power of friendship over a gloomy mood in Geneviève Godbout’s charming debut as both author and illustrator.

Holiday Spotlight: Tundra Books

Here at Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers, we’re lucky to work with so many different lists. This holiday season, we’ll be highlighting each one with a dedicated post to help you find the perfect gift (or your next read). Today’s post is all about Tundra Books.

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. Filled with mystery, adventure, unforgettable characters and several helpings of tea and Christmas pudding, Peril at Owl Park is the second book in a new series for middle-grade readers and Christie and Poirot fans everywhere.

Bobby Orr and the Hand-Me-Down Skates
By Kara Kootstra and Bobby Orr
Illustrated by Jennifer Phelan
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265325 | Tundra Books
Bobby eats, sleeps and breathes hockey. So when his birthday is coming up, he only wants one thing: new skates. He’s seen the exact pair he wants in the shop window: sparkling blades, shiny leather, clean new laces tied in perfect bows. But when Bobby opens his gift, he’s dismayed to find hand-me-down skates: scuffed leather, nicked blades, floppy laces. Once Bobby breaks them in, though, he and the hand-me-down skates become inseparable, and he can’t imagine life without them . . . until the brand-new skates come into his life. How can he leave his hand-me-down skates behind? Log Driver’s Waltz illustrator Jennifer Phelan brings this classic story to life with timeless, gorgeous art, and Kara Kootsra’s words evoke the joy and dedication that Bobby Orr brought to his favorite sport. A perfect gift for readers and fans big and small, this book is destined to be a classic that is reached for time and time again.

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?

If I Couldn't Be AnneIf I Couldn’t Be Anne
By Kallie George
Illustrated by Genevieve Godbout
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
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.

Maud and Grand-MaudMaud and Grand-Maud
By Sara O’Leary
Illustrated by Kenard Pak
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101918692 | Tundra Books
Maud loves the weekends that she stays over at her grandma’s house. There’s always breakfast-for-supper, matching nightgowns, black-and-white movies and best of all – having someone to listen to her dreams for when she grows up. But what makes the visit extra-special is what Grand-Maud has hidden in an old chest under her bed. Sometimes there are paint sets, toys, homemade cookies, hand-knit mittens or sweaters. But Maud finds a wonderful surprise when she finds a belonging from Grand-Maud’s childhood. When she grows up, Maud wants to be just like Grand-Maud. Maud and Grand-Maud is a sweet celebration of the unique bond between grandparents and grandchildren.

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.

Snow FallsSnow Falls
By Kate Gardner
Illustrated by Brandon James Scott
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101919217 | Tundra Books
Snow softens, snow tricks, snow tracks, snow glows and snow snows and snows and snows, transforming a small village into a winter wonderland. A girl and her dog set out and make the most of every snow-filled moment: sledding, building snowmen and snowforts, making snowangels (and snowdogs), and drinking cocoa by a cozy fire as the snow continues to fall. This luminous and lively picture book celebrates the beauty, magic and excitement of snow with simple, easy-to-read text, comprised almost solely of verbs and action words, and gorgeous art that highlights the amazing colors of a snowy day. As inviting as the first snowfall, but so much warmer, Snow Falls encourages little people and big people to go outside and enjoy the snow . . . before it goes!

Teddy Bear of the Year
By Vikki VanSickle
Illustrated by Sydney Hanson
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263925 | Tundra Books
Ollie is a regular bear with a regular job. He listens to his girl’s stories about her days, he snuggles her to sleep and he is there waiting when she gets home from school. Just your typical teddy bear stuff. So when he is whisked away to the annual teddy bears’ picnic, he feels insignificant compared to the other bears who do daring and daunting things: sleepovers, hospital stays – even a night in the lost and found! Ollie feels even more small and unimportant but he soon learns that it’s not just the big things that matter, it’s the little things too.

The Barnabus ProjectThe Barnabus Project
By The Fan Brothers
72 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263260 | Tundra Books
Deep underground beneath Perfect Pets, where children can buy genetically engineered “perfect” creatures, there is a secret lab. Barnabus and his friends live in this lab, but none of them is perfect. They are all Failed Projects. Barnabus has never been outside his tiny bell jar, yet he dreams of one day seeing the world above ground that his pal Pip the cockroach has told him about: a world with green hills and trees, and buildings that reach all the way to the sky, lit with their own stars. But Barnabus may have to reach the outside world sooner than he thought, because the Green Rubber Suits are about to recycle all Failed Projects . . . and Barnabus doesn’t want to be made into a fluffier pet with bigger eyes. He just wants to be himself. So he decides it’s time for he and the others to escape. With his little trunk and a lot of cooperation and courage, Barnabus sets out to find freedom — and a place where he and his friends can finally be accepted for who they are. This suspenseful, poignant and magical story about following your dreams and finding where you truly belong will draw readers into a surreal, lushly detailed world in which perfection really means being true to yourself and your friends.

The Blue HouseThe Blue House
By Phoebe Wahl
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984893390 | Tundra Books
For as long as he can remember, Leo has lived in the blue house with his dad, but lately the neighborhood is changing. People are leaving, houses are being knocked down and shiny new buildings are going up in their place. When Leo and his dad are forced to leave, they aren’t happy about it. They howl and rage and dance out their feelings. When the time comes, they leave the blue house behind – there was never any choice, not really – but little by little, they find a way to keep its memory alive in their new home.

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.

Surviving Middle Grade

Middle school can be tough, so when the tweens in your life need a break, we have a great collection of entertaining books for them to escape to! From art-based school protests, to murder mysteries, to an Indigenous version of Narnia, we have something for everyone.

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.

Also available as an audiobook – listen to a clip here

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. Filled with mystery, adventure, unforgettable characters and several helpings of tea and Christmas pudding, Peril at Owl Park is the second book in a new series for middle-grade readers and Christie and Poirot fans everywhere.

Also available as an audiobook – listen to a clip here

ClanClan
By Sigmund Brouwer
256 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101918494 | Tundra Books
Part survival story, part animal-human friendship story and part redemption story, Clan follows the journey of Atlatl and the saber tooth cub he rescues from a dire wolf attack. Injured as a child, Atlatl dreams of one day earning his father’s respect as a hunter. But when Atlatl brings the young saber tooth to his Clan, it leads to a devastating moment of torn loyalties between Atlatl and his father – a moment that will change their lives forever. Then an epic disaster strikes, and suddenly Atlatl has to rely on wits, ingenuity and bravery to face his biggest foe yet and try to save what remains of his Clan.

Me and BanksyMe and Banksy
By Tanya Lloyd Kyi
272 Pages | 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.

Also available as an audiobook

Pine Island HomePine Island Home
By Polly Horvath
240 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735268623 | Puffin Canada
From Newbery Honor and National Book Award-winning author Polly Horvath comes a story of four sisters searching for home. Fiona, Marlin, Natasha, and Charlie McCready are left on their own when their missionary parents are washed away in a tsunami. Fortunately, their great aunt Martha volunteers to have them live with her on her farm in British Columbia. But while they are traveling there, Martha dies unexpectedly, forcing Fiona, the eldest, to come up with a scheme to keep social services from separating the girls – a scheme that will only work if no one knows they are living on their own. Fiona approaches their grouchy and indifferent neighbor Al and asks if he will pretend to be their live-in legal guardian should papers need to be signed or if anyone comes snooping around. He reluctantly agrees, under the condition that they bring him dinner every night. As weeks pass, Fiona takes on more and more adult responsibilities, while each of the younger girls finds their own special role in their atypical family. But even if things seem to be falling into place, Fiona can’t help but worry that it is only a matter of time before they are caught. What she needs to do is find them a real guardian.

Also available as an audiobook – listen to a clip here

Red Fox Road
By Frances Greenslade
248 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267817 | Puffin Canada
Francie and her parents are on a spring road trip: driving from British Columbia, Canada, to hike in the Grand Canyon. When a shortcut leads them down an old logging road, disaster strikes. Their truck hits a rock and wipes out the oil pan. They are stuck in the middle of nowhere. Francie can’t help feeling a little excited – she’d often imagined how she’d survive if she got stranded in the bush, and now here they are. But will her survival skills – building fires, gathering dandelion leaves and fir needles for tea – be enough when hours stretch into days?

Also available as an audiobook – listen to a clip here

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.

Also available as an audiobook – listen to a clip here

The 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 duology!

Also available as an audiobook

Make sure to pick up these books from your favourite local bookstore and check out our Book Extras page for discussion guides!