Youth Book Corner: Hot Summer Reads

On Wednesday we unveiled the Reading List for the 2021 Festival, which included information about participating authors and their books. In the spirit of discovering exciting new books to read, this week’s Youth Book Corner is a list of 10 books curated by Outreach Coordinator, Leena Desai, that students can read over their summer break.

The Collectors
Written by Alice Feagan

Winslow and Rosie are best friends who have been building an impressive collection of natural wonders, which includes a gemstone, dinosaur fossils, a rare woodpecker’s feather, and much more. Now, they want to add just one more artefact to their collection for it to be complete so the two gear up and head into the forest. They go along the creek, across the valley, through the spruce grove, and up the mountain, and it is only when they stumble upon a deep, dark cave that they sense they might be close to finding something extraordinary. The Collectors includes distinct cut-paper collage artwork by author Alice Feagan and immerses readers in a fun quest story about two inquisitive, fearless, and adventurous girls. Besides the STEM curriculum applications in the story, the book also includes teachable lessons about the value of perseverance, resilience and teamwork. Grades P-2

We Dream Medicine Dreams
Written by Lisa Boivin

Dene author and illustrator Lisa Boivin’s stunning picture book We Dream Medicine Dreams is filled with technicolour, vibrant montages of dreamscapes. The book is about the relationship between a granddaughter and her grandfather and how the lessons he imparted have prepared her to face the challenges of life. The grandfather is now old and ill and the girl must lean on his teachings as she learns to say goodbye to him. The “medicine dreams” of the title refers to dreams that teach and heal. So, when the girl dreams of Bear, Hawk, Caribou, and Wolf, each animal symbolizes something that can help the girl lead a better life. As much as the book is about the death of a loved one, it is also about life and the spirit of our ancestors that lives on. Grades K-3

Travels in Cuba
Written by Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay

The protagonist of Travels in Cuba, Charlie, is just a little kid, but he is already an experienced traveller. But in spite of that, Cuba confounds him. It’s a land of contradictions, where fancy establishments stand next to crumbling buildings and streets with empty storefronts and packs of wild dogs lie adjacent to flowers and sherbet-coloured houses. When Charlie and his family visit Viñales, he makes a new friend in Lázaro. The boys ride a horse bareback, find a secret cache of rifles, and go swimming with small albino fish in an underground cave. Travels in Cuba is an excellent chapter book that celebrates how joyous and illuminating travelling can be. Without explicitly doing so, the book seems to posit that if only kids looked up from their devices, they’ll find adventure around every corner, no matter which part of the world they’re in. Grades 2-5

Pax, Journey Home
Written by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen

In 2016, when Pax was published, it became an instant classic. The moving story of a boy and his best friend, a fox named Pax, who’re torn apart because of the war, moved people’s hearts and imaginations. Pax, Journey Home continues Peter and Pax’s story. The war is over but Peter and Pax are not together. Pax and his mate Bristle are taking care of their new litter, while Peter is newly orphaned, lonely, and sad. But when Pax needs Peter’s help, the boy must make his way back to the only home and friend he has ever loved. Jon Klassen once again lends his gorgeous autumnal illustrations to this timeless story of friendship, sacrifice and love. Grades 3-7

The Street Belongs to Us
Written by Karleen Pendleton Jimenez, illustrated by Gabriela Godoy

What avenues for fun and adventure can a dug-up street offer? Plenty, as it turns out! It’s pre-internet and pre-social media 1984 and two kids in Los Angeles—tomboyish Alex and her neighbour Wolf—turn the street they live on into a battlefield and a playground. They spend the hot summer days in the muddy wonderland and launch a gleeful street war against the rival neighbourhood kids. When they make their headquarters inside a deep trench, they unearth more than they bargained for. Karleen Pendleton Jimenez and Gabriela Godoy perfectly capture the madness, high energy, and carefree spirit of youth, and craft a moving story about family and friendship that is steeped in Mexican-American identity, experience, and history. Grades 3-7

The Case of the Burgled Bundle
Written by Michael Hutchinson

The Mighty Muskrats, the famous four we have come to know and love, are back and in the middle of anther mystery. Chickadee, Atim, Otter, and Sam are four cousins from the Windy Lake First Nation. This time, instead of pursuing a mystery, one falls right into their lap. The National Assembly of Cree Peoples has gathered in their community for a four-day long ceremony. But the memory bundle—an important artefact that contains the history and knowledge passed down to each generation and which forms the centre of the ceremony—is missing. The Muskrats suspect local bully Pearl and her brother Eddie, but both have up and left for the city. Time is against them as the Muskrats chase down every clue and tip. Like the first two books, the third book in the Mighty Muskrats Mystery Series, mixes adventure with teachable insights into Indigenous life and culture. Grades 4-7

Written by Megan E. Freeman

The title of this book encapsulates the predicament of its heroine, a twelve-year-old girl named Maddie, who is left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned. All Maddie has is a Rottweiler named George and a stack of books. But to survive natural disasters, looters, and wild animals, Maddie needs more than just the dog and a few doorstoppers. What she needs and what she ends up using is her ingenuity, her imagination, and her will to survive. In Maddie, author Megan E. Freeman has created a heroine that all young girls can get inspired by. Maddie is an ordinary girl who learns that she is capable of doing extraordinary things when she trusts herself. Grades 5-8

Walking in Two Worlds
Written by Wab Kinew

Wab Kinew’s new novel deals with how a young Indigenous teen reconciles with her dual lives: the one she lives in real life and the one she lives online. Bugz is a shy and self-conscious Indigenous teen, a total contrast to her dominating alter ego in a massively multiplayer video game universe. When she meets Feng, a teen from China, who has just moved close to her place and who’s also into gaming, Bugz sees this as an opportunity to not only make a virtual friend, but a real one as well. This is a coming-of-age story of a young girl who tries very hard to navigate the dualities of her life: the traditional and the mainstream, the east and the west, the real and the virtual. Grades 8-12

Hurricane Summer
Written by Asha Bromfield

Spending the summer in the Caribbean sounds like a dream vacation, but not so for Tilla. She has been sent by her mother to spend the summer in Jamaica, but it’s a place that holds many mysteries and secrets for her family. For as long as she can remember, her father has left her and her mother for six months every year to return to Jamaica. Now, Tilla is here at the same time as her father and there is news of a powerful hurricane making its way to the island. Events in her personal life and her family life collude to form a perfect storm that seems to mirror the one that is actually impending. Hurricane Summer is a powerful story that deals with colourism, classism, young love, and having the courage of your own convictions in the middle of events that are destructive at various levels. Grades 9-12

Hana Khan Carries On
Written by Uzma Jalaluddin

Hana Khan Carries On is as much a portrait of a young Muslim girl as it is of a tight-knit ethnic enclave of a big city. Hana waitresses part-time at Three Sisters Biryani Poutine, the only halal restaurant in Golden Crescent neighbourhood. A storyteller at heart, Hana has her own podcast, but what she really wants is a job at the radio station where she is an intern. But her dreams for the future are interrupted by a series of events: an upscale halal joint opens to challenge Three Sisters’ monopoly in Golden Crescent; the neighbourhood reels after a hate-motivated attack; she learns about a long-buried family secret; and to make matters worse, Hana realizes she might just be nursing a crush on the rival restaurateur. In Hana Khan, author Uzma Jalaluddin has created an enterprising and ambitious heroine who is likeable and relatable, making this book a delightful, fun, and entertaining read. Grades 10-12


Leena Desai