Whether it’s the extra-long winters or the government subsidies of the arts, Canadian book creators and publishers are responsible for some of the most exciting books I see every year. Since it’s independence-day season here in North America, let’s observe it by spending a little time highlighting some of the best recent books for kids and teens from Canada.

Jo Ellen Bogart teams with Sydney Smith for The White Cat and the Monk, a picture-book retelling of the ninth-century Irish poem “Pangur Bán.” Smith’s gorgeous, flowing ink-and-watercolor panels follow an abbey’s white cat as Bogart’s spare text takes the voice of a monk who studies a book while the cat studies a mouse.

Geneviève Côté offers us Mr. King’s Machine, a playful fable about the feline Mr. King, who “is NOT happy” to find that a caterpillar has chewed one of his flowers—but whose high-tech, tanklike solution is far more damaging. Côté’s light touch makes this lesson go down easy.

Vicky_Maya Mahak Jain and Elly MacKay introduce Maya, a modern Indian girl who desperately misses her deceased papa and finds imaginative, transformative comfort in her mother’s story of a banyan tree. Jain’s sensuous text is beautifully complemented by MacKay’s trademark diaphanous 3-D collages.

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Co-authors Antonia Banyard and Paula Ayer and illustrator Belle Wuthrich team up for standout nonfiction work Water Wow, an exploration that combines jazzy graphics, science, folklore, and conservation principles for a 64-page overview that we called “refreshing and essential—just like its subject.”

Debut author Mark David Smith turns to fiction to tell one chapter in the painter Caravaggio’s eventful life. Via the fictional Beppo, Smith takes middle graders and young teens to Renaissance Italy for a detail-soaked narrative that neatly balances art and adventure.

And in Under Threat, Robin Stevenson delivers a fast-paced thriller about horse-loving Franny, whose heady romance with Leah plays out against the backdrop of increasingly terrifying threats made to her parents, the only abortion providers in their community.