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.

2021 Outstanding International Books List

Since 2006, the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) has put together an honor list of international books for young people. The list is published each year in February and highlights international books that are deemed to be outstanding in their field. We would like to congratulate Tanaz Bhathena, Kyo Maclear, Rashin Kheiriyeh, and David A. Robertson, whose books were included on this year’s Outstanding International Books list!

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.

Story Boat
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263598 | Tundra Books
When a little girl and her younger brother are forced along with their family to flee the home they’ve always known, they must learn to make a new home for themselves – wherever they are. And sometimes the smallest things – a cup, a blanket, a lamp, a flower, a story – can become a port of hope in a terrible storm. As the refugees travel onward toward an uncertain future, they are buoyed up by their hopes, dreams and the stories they tell – a story that will carry them perpetually forward.

The Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga #1
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.

Thank you to the Outstanding International Books (OIB) committee for all their work!

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

2021 Lone Star Reading List

The Texas Library Association announced their 2021 Lone Star Reading List which encourages students in grades 6-8 to explore a variety of recently published books. We would like to congratulate David A. Robertson whose fantastic middle grade novel, The Barren Grounds, is one of the few Canadian titles on the list.

The Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga #1
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.

Holiday Spotlight: Puffin Canada and Penguin Teen Canada

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 Puffin Canada and Penguin Teen Canada.

Barry Squires, Full Tilt
By Heather 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.

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.

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.

Hunted by the SkyHunted 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.

Me 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.

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.

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?

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.

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?