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 Teen 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 top two favourite books of the year (and it was just as hard as you’d think.)

Vikki, Marketing & Publicity Director

“The lives of four very different women intertwine in WWII-era Scotland. I loved returning to the world of Code Name Verity, one of my all-time fave YA novels.”

The Enigma Game
By Elizabeth Wein
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735265288 | Penguin Teen
A German soldier risks his life to drop off the sought-after Enigma Machine to British Intelligence, hiding it in a pub in a small town in northeast Scotland, and unwittingly bringing together four very different people who decide to keep it to themselves. Louisa Adair, a young teen girl hired to look after the pub owner’s elderly, German-born aunt, Jane Warner, finds it but doesn’t report it. Flight-Lieutenant Jamie Beaufort-Stuart intercepts a signal but can’t figure it out. Ellen McEwen, volunteer at the local airfield, acts as the go-between and messenger, after Louisa involves Jane in translating. The planes under Jamie’s command seem charmed, as Jamie knows where exactly to go, while other squadrons suffer, and the four are loathe to give up the machine, even after Elisabeth Lind from British Intelligence arrives, even after the Germans start bombing the tiny town.

Watch Over Me is another breathtaking offering from Nina LaCour who manages to beautifully and effortlessly reinvent the ghost story and make me want to live on a flower farm in Northern California.”

Watch Over Me
By Nina LaCour
272 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735267466 | Dutton BFYR
Mila is used to being alone. Maybe that’s why she said yes to the opportunity: living in this remote place, among the flowers and the fog and the crash of waves far below. But she hadn’t known about the ghosts. Newly graduated from high school, Mila has aged out of the foster care system. So, when she’s offered a job and a place to stay at a farm on an isolated part of the California Coast, she immediately accepts. Maybe she will finally find a new home, a real home. The farm is a refuge, but also haunted by the past traumas its young residents have come to escape. And Mila’s own terrible memories are starting to rise to the surface.

Sylvia, Marketing and Publicity Manager

“Fight Like a Girl reminds me of Toronto’s multifaceted neighbourhoods, plus, I love this striking cover!”

Fight Like a Girl
By Sheena Kamal
272 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735265554 | Penguin Teen Canada
Love and violence. In some families they’re bound up together, dysfunctional and poisonous, passed from generation to generation like eye color or a quirk of smile. Trisha’s trying to break the chain, channeling her violent impulses into Muay Thai kickboxing, an unlikely sport for a slightly built girl of Trinidadian descent. Her father comes and goes as he pleases, his presence adding a layer of tension to the Toronto east-end townhouse that Trisha and her mom call home, every punch he lands on her mother carving itself indelibly into Trisha’s mind. Until the night he wanders out drunk in front of the car Trisha is driving, practicing on her learner’s permit, her mother in the passenger seat. Her father is killed, and her mother seems strangely at peace. Lighter, somehow. Trisha doesn’t know exactly what happened that night, but she’s afraid it’s going to happen again. Her mom has a new man in her life and the patterns, they are repeating.

“I love Majesty for the continued look at what it would be like for a Queen and her family to rule America.”

Majesty
By Katharine McGee
384 Pages | 14+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781984830210 | Random House BFYR
Power is intoxicating. Like first love, it can leave you breathless. Princess Beatrice was born with it. Princess Samantha was born with less. Some, like Nina Gonzalez, are pulled into it. And a few will claw their way in. Ahem, we’re looking at you Daphne Deighton. As America adjusts to the idea of a queen on the throne, Beatrice grapples with everything she lost when she gained the ultimate crown. Samantha is busy living up to her “party princess” persona…and maybe adding a party prince by her side. Nina is trying to avoid the palace–and Prince Jefferson–at all costs. And a dangerous secret threatens to undo all of Daphne’s carefully laid “marry Prince Jefferson” plans. A new reign has begun….

Evan, Publicity Manager

“A reviewer referred to this illustrated novel as ‘cozy horror,’ which is the perfect descriptor. Imagine Gilmore Girls taking a trip to Twin Peaks, and throw in some beautiful paintings and fashion.”

Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House
By Janet Hill
240 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781770499249 | Tundra Books
It has been a year since Lucy Crisp graduated from high school and she still hasn’t found her calling. That is, until she discovers an exclusive arts college called Ladywyck Lodge. On a whim, she applies and is thrilled to be accepted into their program. Lucy moves to Esther Wren, the charming little town where it’s based, and stays in the house her father buys as an investment: a magnificent building built by a sea captain in 1876. The house has history and personality — perhaps too much personality. . . Strange things start happening. Lucy hears voices and footsteps in empty rooms. She sees people and things that should not be there. Furniture disappears and elaborate desserts appear. What’s worse is that the strange events are not restricted to her house. Lucy begins to understand that the town and its inhabitants are hiding many secrets, and Ladywyck is at the heart. As the eerie happenings escalate, Lucy fears she is being threatened — but she is determined not to let fairy potions, spells and talk of witchcraft scare her away.

“Beautiful art tells a story encompassing family history, fairy tales, and a loving coming-out story. This is the first graphic novel by Trung Le Nguyen, and he already proves himself a master of storytelling!”

The Magic Fish
By Trung Le Nguyen
256 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593125298 | Random House Graphic
Real life isn’t a fairytale. But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It’s hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn’t even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he’s going through? Is there a way to tell them he’s gay? A beautifully illustrated story by Trung Le Nguyen that follows a young boy as he tries to navigate life through fairytales, an instant classic that shows us how we are all connected.

Sam, Associate Publicist

“I loved the first book and was thrilled to have more Darius in my life. One of the few books that I think handled a love triangle really well.”

Darius the Great Deserves Better
By Adib Khorram
352 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593108239 | Dial BFYR
Darius Kellner is having a bit of a year. Since his trip to Iran, a lot has changed. He’s getting along with his dad, and his best friend Sohrab is only a Skype call away. Between his first boyfriend, Landon, varsity soccer practices, and an internship at his favorite tea shop, things are falling into place. Then, of course, everything changes. Darius’s grandmothers are in town for a long visit, and Darius can’t tell whether they even like him. The internship is not going according to plan, Sohrab isn’t answering Darius’s calls, and Dad is far away on business. And Darius is sure he really likes Landon . . . but he’s also been hanging out with Chip Cusumano, former bully and current soccer teammate–and well, maybe he’s not so sure about anything after all. Darius was just starting to feel okay, like he finally knew what it meant to be Darius Kellner. But maybe okay isn’t good enough. Maybe Darius deserves better.

“I don’t fall in love with a lot of fantasy novels but when I do, it’s lush, descriptive, and has an ownvoices angle – just like this one.”

Hunted by the Sky
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.

Cover Recreation: The Enigma Game

We love The Enigma Game so much, we decided to try our hand at recreating the cover on Instagram and asked some of our bookstagram friends to join us!

We tried our best to match the colour scheme:

Alexis at hooked_to_books struck a pose in front of some beautiful bookshelves:

Caitlin at turningpagebooks found the perfect background: a library!

Rachel at mostly.borrowed gave us some lovely autumn vibes with her outdoorsy shoot:

Thanks to Alexis, Caitlin, and Rachel for joining us! If you haven’t picked up The Enigma Game yet…what are you waiting for??


The Enigma Game
By Elizabeth Wein
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735265288 | Penguin Teen
A German soldier risks his life to drop off the sought-after Enigma Machine to British Intelligence, hiding it in a pub in a small town in northeast Scotland, and unwittingly bringing together four very different people who decide to keep it to themselves. Louisa Adair, a young teen girl hired to look after the pub owner’s elderly, German-born aunt, Jane Warner, finds it but doesn’t report it. Flight-Lieutenant Jamie Beaufort-Stuart intercepts a signal but can’t figure it out. Ellen McEwen, volunteer at the local airfield, acts as the go-between and messenger, after Louisa involves Jane in translating. The planes under Jamie’s command seem charmed, as Jamie knows where exactly to go, while other squadrons suffer, and the four are loathe to give up the machine, even after Elisabeth Lind from British Intelligence arrives, even after the Germans start bombing the tiny town.

Tuesdays with Tundra

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

The Enigma Game
By Elizabeth Wein
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735265288 | Penguin Teen
A German soldier risks his life to drop off the sought-after Enigma Machine to British Intelligence, hiding it in a pub in a small town in northeast Scotland, and unwittingly bringing together four very different people who decide to keep it to themselves. Louisa Adair, a young teen girl hired to look after the pub owner’s elderly, German-born aunt, Jane Warner, finds it but doesn’t report it. Flight-Lieutenant Jamie Beaufort-Stuart intercepts a signal but can’t figure it out. Ellen McEwen, volunteer at the local airfield, acts as the go-between and messenger, after Louisa involves Jane in translating. The planes under Jamie’s command seem charmed, as Jamie knows where exactly to go, while other squadrons suffer, and the four are loathe to give up the machine, even after Elisabeth Lind from British Intelligence arrives, even after the Germans start bombing the tiny town.

We can’t wait to see you reading this! If you share this book online, remember to tag @PenguinTeenCa so that we can re-post.

Join Us for a HerStory Tea Time

Need some plans this long weekend? Join us for our first ever HerStory Tea Time on Monday, October 12 at 12pm PST/3pm EST! We’ll be chatting all things historical fiction with some incredible YA authors including Elizabeth Wein (The Enigma Game), Sherri L. Smith (The Blossom and the Firefly), Virginia Frances Schwartz (Among the Fallen), and Stacey Lee (The Downstairs Girl). Make sure to RSVP here to get the link!

The Enigma Game
By Elizabeth Wein
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780735265288 | Penguin Teen Canada
A German soldier risks his life to drop off the sought-after Enigma Machine to British Intelligence, hiding it in a pub in a small town in northeast Scotland, and unwittingly bringing together four very different people who decide to keep it to themselves. Louisa Adair, a young teen girl hired to look after the pub owner’s elderly, German-born aunt, Jane Warner, finds it but doesn’t report it. Flight-Lieutenant Jamie Beaufort-Stuart intercepts a signal but can’t figure it out. Ellen McEwen, volunteer at the local airfield, acts as the go-between and messenger, after Louisa involves Jane in translating. The planes under Jamie’s command seem charmed, as Jamie knows where exactly to go, while other squadrons suffer, and the four are loathe to give up the machine, even after Elisabeth Lind from British Intelligence arrives, even after the Germans start bombing the tiny town.

The Blossom and the Firefly
By Sherri L. Smith
320 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524737900 | Putnam BFYR
Japan 1945. Taro is a talented violinist and a kamikaze pilot in the days before his first and only mission. He believes he is ready to die for his country . . . until he meets Hana. Hana hasn’t been the same since the day she was buried alive in a collapsed trench during a bomb raid. She wonders if it would have been better to have died that day . . . until she meets Taro. Here, with achingly beautiful prose, Smith weaves a tale of love in the face of death, of hope in the face of tragedy, set against a backdrop of the waning days of the Pacific War.

Among the Fallen
By Virginia Frances Schwartz
304 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823441020 | Holiday House
Though haunted by nightmarish flashbacks and withering in the miserable conditions of Tothill prison, an infamous Victorian workhouse, Orpha perseveres, doing what she can to befriend and protect the other girls imprisoned alongside her. She doesn’t speak about what happened – no one would listen. No one would believe her. But then a mysterious letter arrives, offering her a place at Urania cottage. This experimental home aims to rehabilitate so-called fallen women – many of them victims of sexual abuse, suffering not only the trauma of their experiences, but the blame and loss of reputation and livelihood. It sounds too good to be true – but with nowhere else to go, Orpha decides to take her chance. Soon she discovers her unknown savior is none other than Charles Dickens, whose writing deals extensively with the plight of the lower class, and whose friendship and guidance offers Orpha a new way to express herself. With the support of the other women of Urania and the promise of a real future, Orpha will have to confront the darkest parts of her past – and let go of her secrets.

The Downstairs Girl
By Stacey Lee
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781524740955 | Putnam BFYR
By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light. With prose that is witty, insightful, and at times heartbreaking, Stacey Lee masterfully crafts an extraordinary social drama set in the New South.