Canadian Children’s Book Week starts this Sunday, May 1 and goes on till Saturday, May 7, 2022. In honour of this major literary event, we recommend some delightful and important Canadian books.
The Great Bear is the second book in David A. Robertson’s series The Misewa Saga. In the first, The Barren Grounds, we met two Indigenous children, Morgan and Eli, living in a foster home, who find a portal in an attic bedroom that takes them to another reality and a place called Misewa. There Morgan and Eli meet a hunter named Ochek and a squirrel named Arik and together they try to save Misewa from an endless winter. In The Great Bear, Morgan and Eli are back at their foster home and struggling to cope with life. Eli is being bullied at school while Morgan has to make an important decision about her birth mother. Once again, the two children go back to Misewa for help. This time they travel back in time and meet a young fisher that might just be their lost friend. Misewa is once again in danger and needs their help. Morgan and Eli must find the courage within themselves to help their friends and hope that this courage helps them face the challenges in their lives back home. Grades 3-7
We don’t often get to see neurodivergent children in picture books. It’s Me, Henry! is a wonderful and much needed exception. This is a gentle, gorgeously illustrated picture book about a boy on the autism spectrum. Henry stands out from his other classmates because he doesn’t raise his hand in class like other children and he calls plants by their proper Latin names, much to the frustration of his classmates. On the days that Henry notices how different he is from the other kids in his grade, he seeks refuge under the shade of the Salix babylonica (willow tree) or in the school counselor’s office or at his very favourite place in the world: the local botanical gardens. When his class goes on a field trip to these gardens, Henry’s knowledge of the flora and fauna show the other kids that his unique interests are really something special. It’s Me, Henry! serves as an important tool to talk to children about neurodiversity and the need to be open to and mindful of people with special abilities and needs. Grades Preschool-K
The Queen of Junk Island is a coming-of-age novel about bi identity and body image with an eerie, ghostly backdrop. The novel centres around sixteen-year-old Dell, who is still recovering from a recent trauma. Dell and her mom leave the city to stay at their family cabin, a prospect that at first seems inviting, but soon becomes complicated. First there’s Ivy, the daughter of Dell’s mom’s boyfriend, who is confident and irreverent and presses all of Dell’s buttons–somehow making Dell’s shame and self-consciousness feel even more acute. Then there’s all the junk at the cabin left over from a previous tenant and the troubling dreams and strange apparitions that Dell starts seeing that hint to dark family secrets. Over the course of one summer in the mid-2000s, Dell has a transformative experience. She uncovers secrets in her family’s past and is drawn to Ivy, who leads her toward thrilling, if confusing, revelations about her sexuality and identity. Grades 10-12