Youth Book Corner: Awards Review

Our Outreach Coordinator, Leena Desai, reflects on some of the biggest youth titles of 2019, sharing a few of this year’s most prestigious award-winners.

Stand on the Sky by Erin Bow
This Governor General’s Literary Award-winning novel revolves around a young Kazakh girl named Aisulu, who learns how to fly eagles. Though the annual eagle competition is a traditional sport dominated by men, Aisulu overcomes cultural expectations in hopes of winning the coveted prize money, which will help cure her brother’s illness and secure her family’s nomadic lifestyle.


Small in the City by Sydney Smith
This beautifully illustrated watercolour picture book, and Governor General’s Literary Award-winner, follows a little boy who hops off a streetcar in the middle of downtown in the middle of winter – and embarks on an unexpected adventure. Smith’s illustrations imbue the boy’s journey past office buildings, through parks and down busy streets with magic and wonder. Small in the City is a heartfelt book about both the joys of and the lessons that come from getting lost – and how we find our way home.


Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
The 2019 Newbery Medal winner, Merci Suárez Changes Gears is a middle-grade novel follows eponymous heroine Merci as she navigates life in a Florida private school. As a scholarship student from a humble background, Merci struggles to connect with her peers. When Merci’s attempts to find out what ails her beloved grandfather are constantly thwarted, she’s left feeling utterly alone, both at school and at home. This wise and humorous coming-of-age tale is a heartfelt exploration of the constant change that defines growing up and the steadfast connections that hold a family together.


Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall
One of the most beautiful picture books published this year, 2019 Caldecott Medal winner Hello Lighthouse is a stunning meditation on hope, change and the passing of time. As the seasons pass, the lighthouse remains constant, sending its light out to sea, guiding the ships on their way. Outside, the wind blows and the waves crash; inside, the lighthouse keeper begins to share his story, and the rhythms of his life unfold.  


Ebb & Flow by Heather Smith
Winner of the 2019 Canadian Children’s Book Centre ‘TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award,’ Heather Smith’s Ebb & Flow is a free-verse novel that tells the story of eleven-year-old Jett, whose mother sends him to live with his unconventional grandmother following a “rotten bad year”. Last year, Jett and his mother moved together following his father’s imprisonment, but that fresh start was filled with challenges, secrets and mistakes for which Jett still blames himself. Will this change of scenery help Jett move forward at last? Powerful and emotionally charged, Ebb & Flow effectively uses free verse to keep readers captivated until the final page.


Leena Desai