Our Outreach Coordinator Leena Desai shares must-read books from new and upcoming releases.

Beatrice and Croc Harry by Lawrence Hill

Award-winning author and 2021 Vancouver Writers Fest Guest Curator, Lawrence Hill, is the author of such acclaimed books as The Book of Negroes and The Illegal. In Beatrice and Croc Harry, Hill tries his hand at a children’s book for the first time. This middle-grade chapter book follows Beatrice, a young Black girl who wakes up all alone in a tree house in the forest and has to figure out how she got there and how she can get back to her family outside the forest. As with Hill’s previous books, this book also deals with themes of identity and belonging, but because it comes in the form of an enchanting, adventure-filled children’s book—and particularly deals with Beatrice’s unusual camaraderie with a temperamental crocodile—its message is something that even young middle-graders can wrap their heads around and appreciate. Grades 3-7       

The Junction by Norm Konyu

Fans of sci-fi, detective mysteries, and of course, graphic novels, will sink their teeth into animator and illustrator Norm Konyu’s debut The Junction. The book follows the case of Lucas Jones, an 11 year-old boy who disappears from his hometown only to return 12 years later on his uncle’s doorstep, not a day older. All Lucas has on his person are four Polaroids and a personal journal which speaks of his time in a place called ‘The Junction’. Thus begins the quest of Detective Sergeant David King and child psychologist Jean Symonds to attempt to find some answers about what happened to Lucas. This is an edge-of-your-seat page-turner that immerses readers in its haunting story and Coraline-esque artwork and makes you root for the well-being of its protagonist till the very last page. Grades 9-12

Abuelita and Me by Leonarda Carranza, illustrated by Rafael Mayani

Not many children’s books can claim to address a subject as difficult as racism in as disarming and moving way as Abuelita and Me does. In this book a little girl and her abuelita are the best of friends. They spend their time at home making pancakes, jumping puddles, and painting their nails. When they step out of the house, though, they’re confronted with a hostile world; one in which they’re treated with suspicion and even yelled at. This affects the little girl a lot and she decides not to leave home again, but one day she realizes the strength she and her abuelita share and from that day on, she makes up her mind to face the world boldly, along with her beloved abuelita. Leonarda Carranza’s heartwarming story and Rafael Mayani’s warm, autumnal illustrations serve as the perfect conduit for teachers and parents to talk to their children about racism, because while this book deals with this subject, it also shows us how the little girl overcomes the treatment she receives with self-love, belief, pride, and empowerment; very important lessons for all kids to learn. Grades Preschool-2