July 1 is, as everyone knows, Independence Day—in Canada. And as has become my custom, I’d like to honor the occasion with a brief survey of some of the great recent books that have come our way from north of the border, where government subsidies have fostered a robust industry.
From Annick Press, whose nonfiction frequently takes a playful turn, comes What a Waste!, by Claire Eamer and illustrated by Bambi Edlund, a gleefully stomach-turning history of garbage that’s also an earnest exhortation to take care of it intelligently.
A small island off New Brunswick’s coast forms the evocative setting of The Darkhouse, by debut novelist Barbara Radecki and published by Dancing Cat Books. There, past and present, truth and lies collide in what we called “a creepy, satisfying page-turner.”
Author Joanne Schwartz and illustrator Sydney Smith explore the coal-mining past of Nova Scotia in Town Is by the Sea, published by Groundwood Books. Homely neighborhood scenes alternate with visions of the shimmering sea and the deep black of the mines dug deep under that city.
Inuit custom adoption, in which the adopted child maintains a relationship with the birth family, is presented in the affirming story of How Nivi Got Her Names, by Laura Deal and illustrated by Charlene Chua, published by Inhabit Media.
Akiko Miyakoshi’s The Way Home in the Night, narrated by an anthropomorphic rabbit child, depicts the quietest of city streets, the soft blacks and grays of the night lit by pale yellow as the child imagines activities in the apartments above. This Japanese import comes from Kids Can.
Melanie Florence, a writer of Cree and Scottish descent, explores the experiences of redheaded John McCaffrey, who looks more like his Irish father than his Cree mother, and how he expresses his First Nations heritage through dance in He Who Dreams, from Orca.
Owlkids Books offers us Moto and Me, in which wildlife writer and photographer Suzi Eszterhas documents her experience fostering a wild serval kitten and the process of reintroducing him to the wild.
Originally published in French and translated for Pajama Press by Erin Woods, Under the Umbrella, by Catherine Buquet and illustrated by Marion Arbona, depicts a transformative moment in front of a warmly lit patisserie window on a gloomy, rainy day.
The novel in verse Closing Down Heaven, by Lesley Choyce, postulates an ecumenical afterlife that white, 16-year-old Hunter must navigate (with the help of mentor Archie) after a severe mountain-biking accident; this comes from Red Deer Press.
Beth Goobie’s The Pain Eater, published by Second Story Press, depicts the aftermath of the rape of 14-year-old white Maddy and how a class writing assignment forces her—and her attackers—to confront what’s happened.
The wartime experiences of one 11-year-old German Jewish girl rescued in the Kindertransport unfold in Seeking Refuge, an autobiographical graphic novel based on author Irene N. Watts’ own childhood; it’s illustrated by Kathryn E. Shoemaker and published by Tradewind Books.
And finally, Kyo Maclear and Kenard Pak offer The Fog, published by Tundra Books. This playful picture book describes the experiences of avid avian human-watcher Warble and his relationship with a young Asian girl he identifies as a juvenile red-hooded spectacled female (juvenile).
It’s an energetically eclectic mix that’s emblematic of Canadian children’s-book publishing’s output. If you can’t get to Canada in person this summer, enjoy it vicariously through its books.
Vicky Smith is the children’s & teen editor.