Reading List about Inclusive Families

Today is Family Day in many provinces across Canada! We love celebrating all types of families and familial relationships, here are some of our favorite books – and if you want more recommendations, check out this list!

Better Together!
By Amy Robach and Andrew Schue
Illustrated by Lenny Wen
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593205693 | Flamingo Books
From Good Morning America anchor Amy Robach and her husband, actor Andrew Shue comes a sweet tale about finding common ground and accepting and appreciating each others’ differences. When a big thunderstorm shakes their woodland home, the Squirrelly family must flee their nest for a hollow in an oak tree. To their surprise, the McMunk family had the exact same idea. This family of squirrels and a family of chipmunks must find ways to live together – which isn’t always easy since they come from different backgrounds. But after some important lessons in compromise, the Squirrellys and the McMunks realize that life is better together as the McSquirrelies.

Fatima’s Great Outdoors
By Ambreen Tariq
Illustrated by Stevie Lewis
40 Pages | Ages 4-8| Hardcover
ISBN 9781984816955 | Kokila
Fatima Khazi is excited for the weekend. Her family is headed to a local state park for their first camping trip! The school week might not have gone as planned, but outdoors, Fatima can achieve anything. She sets up a tent with her father, builds a fire with her mother, and survives an eight-legged mutant spider (a daddy longlegs with an impressive shadow) with her sister. At the end of an adventurous day, the family snuggles inside one big tent, serenaded by the sounds of the forest. The thought of leaving the magic of the outdoors tugs at Fatima’s heart, but her sister reminds her that they can keep the memory alive through stories – and they can always daydream about what their next camping trip will look like. Ambreen Tariq’s picture book debut, with cheerful illustrations by Stevie Lewis, is a rollicking family adventure, a love letter to the outdoors, and a reminder that public land belongs to all of us.

Great Too
By Lauri Holomis and Glen Gretzky
Illustrated by Kevin Sylvester
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265615 | Puffin Canada
This follow-up to the bestselling picture book, Great, focuses on building confidence and learning how to focus on the game, featuring hockey great Wayne Gretzky and his dad, Coach Wally. Taylor and Wayne, The Great One, have been working with Coach Wally on their Perfect Play: Taylor fakes a shot and Wayne gets open – pass; shoot; GOAL! And now that their team is going to the biggest tournament in the country, they’ll have a chance to show it off. But as the tournament goes on, Taylor is distracted by the loud cheering crowd, and his confidence starts to fade. Lucky for him, Coach Wally is in his corner, reminding Taylor that it’s okay to be nervous but the most important thing is to remember that he is part of a team, working together with his teammates. As Coach Wally says, if you have a good time, work hard and do your best, “that is all that matters.”

J.D. and the Family Business
By J. Dillard
Illustrated by Akeem S. Roberts
160 Pages | Ages 6-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593111550 | Kokila
J.D. is a barber battle champion. He’s graduated from home haircuts to having a regular chair at the neighborhood shop, Hart and Son, and he’s making enough money to keep his candy jar stocked and his comic book collection growing. And yet, J.D. knows it’s time for his next challenge. He doesn’t just want to be the best barber in Meridian, Mississippi – he wants to be the best barber in the state . . . and maybe the country! When his older sister, Vanessa, starts to gain a following online for her hair tutorials, the kids decide that to truly level up, they must join forces. How do two siblings with big personalities, big ambitions, and competitive spirits work together (or not) to take over the hair world?

Let Me Fix You a Plate: A Tale of Two Kitchens
By Elizabeth Lilly
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823443253 | Neal Porter Books
First my family drives through the mountains to stop at Mamaw and Papaw’s house in rural West Virginia. We share blueberry jam and toast for breakfast the next morning, then munch cookies and cut bananas to make banana pudding with Mamaw. After the last bite of pudding, we get ready for the next part of the journey, down to Florida to visit Abuela and Abuelo for crispy tostones, fresh squeezed juice, and arepas with queso blanco. This celebration of family and our diverse, delicious traditions is sure to leave readers hungry for more! Elizabeth Lilly’s tale of a joyous road trip, drawn from her own experience, is illustrated with quirky charm that captures all the warmth and love of her family’s two distinct cultures.

My Love for You is Always
By Gillian Sze
Illustrated by Michelle Lee
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593203071 | Philomel Books
What is love? a child wonders. What does it feel like, smell like, taste like? How does it move? How long does it last? And as she prepares a traditional Chinese meal for her family, the child’s mother replies: her love for him is rosy as wolfberries, warm like tea, sweeter than the red dates she puts in his soup. It shines through the water like its own brilliant sun. It goes round and round with no beginning and no end. Because a mother’s love for a child is always there, warm and soft, broad and tender. In this tender story that pairs beautifully poetic words with brilliantly stunning art, a mother’s love comes alive on the page and wraps readers in its warm embrace.

Operation Sisterhood
By Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
320 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593379899 | Crown BFYR
Bo and her mom always had their own rhythm. But ever since they moved to Harlem, Bo’s world has fallen out of sync. She and Mum are now living with Mum’s boyfriend Bill, his daughter Sunday, the twins, Lili and Lee, the twins’ parents . . . along with a dog, two cats, a bearded dragon, a turtle, and chickens. All in one brownstone! With so many people squished together, Bo isn’t so sure there is room for her.  Set against the bursting energy of a New York City summer, award-winning author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich delivers a joyful novel about a new family that hits all the right notes!

Over the Shop
By JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536201475 | Candlewick
A lonely little girl and her grandparent need to fill the run-down apartment in their building. But taking over the quarters above their store will mean major renovations for the new occupants, and none of the potential renters can envision the possibilities of the space – until one special couple shows up. With their ingenuity, the little girl’s big heart, and heaps of hard work, the desperate fixer-upper begins to change in lovely and surprising ways. In this bustling wordless picture book, JonArno Lawson’s touching story and Qin Leng’s gentle illustrations capture all angles of the building’s transformation, as well as the evolving perspectives of the girl and her grandparent. A warm and subtly nuanced tale, Over the Shop throws open the doors to what it means to accept people for who they are and to fill your home with love and joy.

The Big Bath House
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Gracey Zhang
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593181959 | Random House Studio
In this celebration of Japanese culture and family and naked bodies of all shapes and sizes, join a little girl – along with her aunties and grandmother – at a traditional bath house. Once there, the rituals leading up to the baths begin: hair washing, back scrubbing, and, finally, the wood barrel drumroll. Until, at last, it’s time, and they ease their bodies – their creased bodies, newly sprouting bodies, saggy, jiggly bodies – into the bath. Ahhhhhh! With a lyrical text and gorgeous illustrations, this picture book is based on Kyo Maclear’s loving memories of childhood visits to Japan, and is an ode to the ties that bind generations of women together.

The Treasure Box
By Dave Keane
Illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984813183 | Putnam BFYR
Searching for treasures with her grandpa is this young girl’s favorite thing to do. Every week they examine the items in her secret box and go on walks to find more – a broken robin’s egg, rusty spring, even a snakeskin that makes Grandpa squirm and make funny faces. But then Grandpa is too sick to come. She leaves him a few treasures in the hospital, but when he dies, she can’t bring herself to even open the treasure box. When Grammy brings her some treasures Grandpa wanted her to have, they open the box together and continue the tradition, showing that memories of time together are the greatest treasures of all. This poignant, gorgeously-illustrated story celebrates the special bonds kids have with grandparents, even after they are gone.

The Worm Family Has Its Picture Taken
By Jennifer Frank
Illustrated by David Ezra Stein
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593124789 | Anne Schwartz Books
Emma is excited for her worm family to have their portrait taken. But when she sees her other friends’ portraits, she gets discouraged. “We had the most beautiful smiles,” Ellie the Chipmunk squeals. Abigail the Cat meows, “I looked gorgeous with my big poufy hair.” The worm family doesn’t have teeth . . . how will they show their beautiful smiles? They don’t have hair either . . . how can it look big and poufy?! So Emma gathers wigs, giant fake teeth, and colorful clothing for her parents and sisters. But it’s only after taking off their costumes that the worm family is able to wriggle and squiggle and squeeze into a delightful pose that only a worm family can make. And Emma? She thinks it’s perfectly perfect.

We  Adopted a Baby Lamb
By Lori Joy Smith
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266537 | Tundra Books
Ila is excited about her family’s move to the country – mostly because it means she can have more pets! But no one expected their next addition to be a lamb. When Albert first comes home, he sleeps a lot, he eats a lot . . . and he pees on the floor a lot. Ila and her sister and parents quickly learn how to care for a baby sheep – they must feed him and protect him. It’s not easy because Albert gets into everything! He eats the tulips from the flower bed, chews on car bumpers, chases the dog (and hides from the cats). Ila and her family does everything to make Albert happy and healthy, but she can’t help feeling like her little lamb might be missing something from his life. Maybe he needs a friend? But Ila soon realizes that she doesn’t need to look for a friend for Albert – he already has his flock.

Holiday Spotlight: Holiday House 2021

Here at Penguin Random House Canada, we’re lucky to work with so many different publisher 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 Holiday House.

Amira’s Picture Day
By Reem Faruqi
Illustrated by Fahmida Azim
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823440191 | Holiday House
Just the thought of Eid makes Amira warm and tingly inside. From wearing new clothes to handing out goody bags at the mosque, Amira can’t wait for the festivities to begin. But when a flier on the fridge catches her eye, Amira’s stomach goes cold. Not only is it Eid, it’s also school picture day. If she’s not in her class picture, how will her classmates remember her? Won’t her teacher wonder where she is? Though the day’s celebrations at the mosque are everything Amira was dreaming of, her absence at picture day weighs on her. A last-minute idea on the car ride home might just provide the solution to everything in this delightful story from acclaimed author Reem Faruqi, illustrated with vibrant color by Fahmida Azim.

Bear Outside
By Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Jen Corace
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823446131 | Neal Porter Books
In this imaginative picture book by Jane Yolen, acclaimed author of many distinguished children’s books including Owl Moon and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, a girl explores the many ways she expresses herself by imagining that she wears a bear as her personal protective shell. They go everywhere and do everything together. The Bear is like a suit of armor and a partner all in one, protecting her from bullies and giving her strength to be bold when she needs it. In turn, she listens to and takes care of the Bear.

Bright Star
By Yuyi Morales
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823443284 | Neal Porter Books
Told with a combination of powerful, spare language and sumptuous and complex imagery that is typical of Yuyi Morales’s work, this is the story of a fawn making her way through a border landscape teaming with flora and fauna native to the region. A gentle but empowering voice encourages her to face her fears when she comes across an obstacle in the form of an insurmountable barrier. Yuyi Morales’ first book since her New York Times bestseller  Dreamers is a book for very young children looking for their place in a world full of uncertainty. It is a book with resonance for all children, especially those whose safety is threatened due to the immigration crisis in the US.

Cardboardia 1: The Other Side of the Box
By Lucy Campagnolo
Illustrated by Richard Fairgray
112 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Paperback
ISBN 9781645950998 | Pixel+Ink
When Mac, Masie, and Bird find mysterious tokens in their cereal boxes, they’re transported to Cardboardia, a magical land made of paper and cardboard. In this parallel universe to ours, creativity thrives: Every time a box of anything is created in our world, a replica appears there, bringing residents art supplies, food, books, and more. But an evil presence is slowly moving in, threatening to wipe all art and beauty from this paper paradise. It’s no mistake that the three friends have been transported through their cardboard portals. Each has a special talent they never knew existed. And only when they figure out to harness them together will they be able to stop the destruction.

Deadman’s Castle
By Iain Lawrence
256 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823446551 | Margaret Ferguson Books
When Igor was five, his father witnessed a terrible crime – and ever since, his whole family has been hunted by a foreboding figure bent on revenge, known only as the Lizard Man. They’ve lived in so many places, with so many identities, that Igor can’t even remember his real name. But now he’s twelve years old, and he longs for a normal life. He wants to go to school. Make friends. Stop worrying about how long it will be before his father hears someone prowling around their new house and uproots everything yet again. He’s even starting to wonder – what if the Lizard Man only exists in his father’s frightened mind? Slowly, Igor starts bending the rules he’s lived by all his life – making friends for the first time, testing the boundaries of where he’s allowed to go in town. But soon, he begins noticing strange things around them – is it in his imagination? Or could the Lizard Man be real after all?

Dear Beast
By Dori Hillestad Butler
Illustrated by Kevan Atteberry
96 Pages | Ages 6-9 | Paperback
ISBN 9780823448432 | Holiday House
Simon has taken care of his owner, Andy, for many years. He’s a good cat. Clean, responsible, and loyal. What more could a boy want? Even when Andy’s dad moves out, Simon is certain that Andy doesn’t need another pet. So why would Andy’s dad adopt a DOG?! To make matters worse, the animal is a rude, rowdy troublemaker. Simon’s job is clear: the beast has got to go. He decides to write him a letter. Strongly worded, of course. But when the dog’s response sets off an unexpected correspondence, Simon realizes the beast may be here to stay. Can he make room for another pet in Andy’s life?

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega
By Crystal Maldonado
352 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823447176 | Holiday House
Release Date: February 2, 2021
Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat. People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter. But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing – he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? Because it’s time people did.

Let Me Fix You a Plate: A Tale of Two Kitchens
By Elizabeth Lilly
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823443253 | Neal Porter Books
First my family drives through the mountains to stop at Mamaw and Papaw’s house in rural West Virginia. We share blueberry jam and toast for breakfast the next morning, then munch cookies and cut bananas to make banana pudding with Mamaw. After the last bite of pudding, we get ready for the next part of the journey, down to Florida to visit Abuela and Abuelo for crispy tostones, fresh squeezed juice, and arepas with queso blanco. This celebration of family and our diverse, delicious traditions is sure to leave readers hungry for more! Elizabeth Lilly’s tale of a joyous road trip, drawn from her own experience, is illustrated with quirky charm that captures all the warmth and love of her family’s two distinct cultures.

Salt Magic
By Hope Larson
Illustrated by Rebecca Mock
240 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Paperback
ISBN 9780823450503 | Margaret Ferguson Books
When Vonceil’s older brother, Elber, comes home to their family’s Oklahoma farm after serving on the front lines of World War I, things aren’t what she expects. His experiences have changed him into a serious and responsible man who doesn’t have time for Vonceil anymore. He even marries the girl he had left behind. Then a mysterious and captivating woman shows up at the farm and confronts Elber for leaving her in France. When he refuses to leave his wife, she puts a curse on the family well, turning the entire town’s water supply into saltwater. Who is this lady dressed all in white, what has she done to the farm, and what does Vonceil’s old uncle Dell know about her? To find out, Vonceil will have to strike out on her own and delve deep into the world of witchcraft, confronting dangerous relatives, shapeshifting animals, a capricious Sugar Witch, and the Lady in White herself – the foreboding Salt Witch. The journey will change Vonceil, but along the way she’ll learn a lot about love and what it means to grow up.

Song for Jimi: The Story of Guitar Legend Jimi Hendrix
By Charles R. Smith Jr.
Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez
56 Pages | Ages 7+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823443338 | Neal Porter Books
From his turbulent childhood through his epical appearance at the Monterey and Woodstock festivals, Charles R. Smith Jr. covers it all in this rich and rhythmic account of a singular life, accompanied by the psychedelic splendor of Edel Rodriguez’s acid-tinged artwork. Written as a series of verses beginning with intro and ending with outro, this unique mix of rhythm and rhyme captures the essence of rock icon Jimi Hendrix and his struggle to live life on his own terms.

The Bear House
By Meaghan McIsaac
368 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823446605 | Holiday House
Moody Aster and her spoiled sister Ursula are the daughters of Jasper Lourdes, Major of Bears and lord of all the realm. Rivals, both girls dream of becoming the Bear queen someday, although neither really deserve to, having no particular talent in . . . well, anything. But when their Uncle Bram murders their father in a bid for the crown, the girls are forced onto the run, along with lowly Dev the Bearkeeper and the Lourdes’s half-grown grizzly Alcor, symbol of their house. As a bitter struggle for the throne consumes the kingdom in civil war, the sisters must rely on Dev, the bear cub, and each other to survive – and find wells of courage, cunning, and skill they never knew they had.

The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess
By Tom Gauld
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823446988 | Neal Porter Books
For years, the king and queen tried desperately to have a baby. Their wish was twice granted when an engineer and a witch gave them a little wooden robot and an enchanted log princess. There’s just one catch, every night when the log princess sleeps, she transforms back into an ordinary log. She can only be woken with the magic words “Awake, little log, awake.” The two are inseparable until one day when the sleeping log princess is accidentally carted off to parts unknown. Now it’s up to her devoted brother to find her and return her safely to the kingdom. They need to take turns to get each other home, and on the way, they face a host of adventures involving the Queen of Mushrooms, a magic pudding, a baby in a rosebush, and an old lady in a bottle.

Toasty
By Sarah Hwang
32 Pages | Ages 4-6 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823447077 | Margaret Ferguson Books
Toasty loves dogs – so much so that he’d like to be one. He knows there are some differences – most dogs have four legs, but Toasty has two arms and two legs. Some dogs sleep in dog houses, but Toasty sleeps in a toaster. All dogs have hair and fur, but Toasty has neither because he’s made of bread. In spite of these differences, he decides to go to the park to play with the dogs but runs into trouble when they want to eat him. Lucky for Toasty, he is rescued by a little girl who has always wanted a dog but can’t have one because she is allergic. Toasty is the perfect dog for her.

Watercress
By Andrea Wang
Illustrated by Jason Chin
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823446247 | Neal Porter Books
Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl’s parents stop suddenly when they spot watercress growing wild in a ditch by the side of the road. Grabbing an old paper bag and some rusty scissors, the whole family wades into the muck to collect as much of the muddy, snail covered watercress as they can. At first, she’s embarrassed. Why can’t her family get food from the grocery store? But when her mother shares a story of her family’s time in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged. Together, they make a new memory of watercress. Andrea Wang tells a moving autobiographical story of a child of immigrants discovering and connecting with her heritage, illustrated by award winning author and artist Jason Chin, working in an entirely new style, inspired by Chinese painting techniques. An author’s note in the back shares Andrea’s childhood experience with her parents.

The Great Peach Experiment 1: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie
By Erin Soderberg Downing
256 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781645950349 | Pixel+Ink
After a tough year, Lucy, Freddy, and Herb Peach are ready for vacation. Lucy wants to read all of the books on the summer reading list. Freddy wants to work on his art projects (when he isn’t stuck in summer school). Herb wants to swim every day. Then their dad makes a big announcement: one of the inventions their mom came up with before she passed away has sold, and now they’re millionaires! But Dad has bigger plans than blowing the cash on fun stuff or investing it. He’s bought a used food truck. The Peaches are going to spend the summer traveling the country selling pies. It will be the Great Peach Experiment – a summer of bonding while living out one of Mom’s dreams. Summer plans, sunk. And there’s one more issue Dad’s neglected: none of them knows how to bake . . . . A perfect blend of humor, heart, and family antics, When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie is a delectable treat to be gobbled down or savored slowly. (Slice of pie on the side, optional, but highly recommended.)