Cue “O Canada” and the raising of the Maple Leaf (or l’Unifolié, in Québec and Nouvelle Brunswick)—it’s Canada Day 2018 and time for my annual celebration of some of the best recent books from Canadian presses. It’s no secret that I admire the work of our neighbors to the north. Indeed, three of the six finalists for the 2017 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature were from Canadian publishers:Walk with Me, written by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng, and translated by Elisa Amado, published by Groundwood; Me Tall, You Small, written and illustrated by Lili L’Arronge and translated by Madeleine Stratford, published by Owlkids;and the winner,The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline, published by DCB.
The first half of 2018 is likewise studded with fresh, original literature from Canada—here is just a sample.
Annick Books: How Big Is an Elephant?, written and illustrated by Rossana Bossù, a beautiful and playful introduction to relative size for very young readers, who will learn, among other things, an elephant is as big as seven polar bears.
Fifth House:Spirit Trackers, written by Jan Bourdeau Waboose and illustrated by François Thisdale, sends two modern young Anishinaabe boys out into the snow to track the Windigo, supported by their snowshoes and their uncle’s wisdom.
Fitzhenry & Whiteside:Charles, written by Stephen Hume and illustrated by Jessica Bartram, tells the story of a young child who rescues a baby crow; tender, understated text and beautiful, accurate illustrations carry readers through this quiet tale.
Groundwood:The Funeral, written and illustrated by Matt James, is the emotionally honest story of a little girl who attends a great-uncle’s funeral; James’ expressive, tactile paintings capture her conflicting feelings.
Kids Can: Nothing Happens in This Book, by Judy Ann Sadler and illustrated by Vigg, will have readers giggling, as the title couldn’t be further from the truth; far from nothing, there’s a whole circus inside!
Orca: Holi Colors, by Rina Singh, is another festival in a book, only this time it’s Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, and it’s used both to introduce the cultural practice and as a color-concept board book for the very youngest readers.
Owlkids: Grains of Sand, written and illustrated by Sibylle Delacroix, fancifully captures the end of a seaside vacation, when the young protagonist finds that she’s brought a little of the beach home with her in her shoe—the titular sand will keep it going a little while longer.
Red Deer: Eat This!, written by Andrea Curtis and illustrated by Peggy Collins, is a smart, savvy exposé of fast-food marketing and how kids can see through it and fight back.
Second Story: The Promise, written by Pnina Bat Zvi and Margie Wolfe and illustrated by Isabelle Cardinal, tells the moving story of the authors’ mothers, Jewish sisters who promised their father they would stay together throughout the Holocaust and, against the odds, did.
Tundra:Tilly and Tank, written and illustrated by Jay Fleck, offers readers the allegory of an unlikely friendship between Tilly, an elephant, and Tank, a tank, whose warlike nature yields to the innocent, persistent overtures of the pachyderm.
And guess what? Canadian publishers’ fall 2018 lists look just as good.
Vicky Smith is the children’s editor.