In honour of the first I Read Canadian day, my most recent CTV Your Morning segment features Canadian read-alikes, equivalents to big US or UK classics. Watch the segment here, or read on for my selections.
Recently, the New York Public Library shared their most frequently checked out books and Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day about was top of that list. Malaika’s Winter Carnival by Nadia Hohn and illustrated by Irene Luxbacher features a girl who moves from a balmy Caribbean island to snowy Quebec City, where she experiences her first winter. Both books have stunning art and feature children of colour enjoying the snow, but in addition to a Canadian setting, Malaika’s Winter Carnival also addresses the stress of moving and the challenges of adjusting to a new, blended family.
Dr. Seuss is internationally beloved for his clever rhymes, bigger than life stories, and memorable characters. Here in Canada we have our own Dr Seuss in the form of storyteller, poet and tongue-twister master Sheree Fitch. Sheree’s books, including Mabel Murple, Sleeping Dragons All Around and EveryBody’s Different on EveryBody Street, are warm, funny, and a delight to read. She is an advocate for children’s books and is also the owner of a magical bookshop in River John, NS called Mabel Murple’s Book Shoppe and Dreamery, named after one of her beloved characters. If you get the opportunity to see Sheree read in person, don’t miss out!
Never has cause and effect been more adorable than in Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, which grew into a series featuring more animals accepting desserts and ultimately leading to hilarity. Nicola Winstanley and John Martz’s How To Give Your Cat a Bath has a similar set-up, featuring a child determined to bathe a rather unwilling feline.
Big fact compendiums, like The Guinness Book of World Records or National Geographic’s annual almanacs are big hits for fact-loving kids. If you reader is into non-fiction, try Innovation Nation, which includes a wide range of inventions and innovations that were made in Canada, by Canadians.
Graphic novels are everywhere these days, and with Jerry Craft’s The New Kid taking home the prestigious Newbury Award, it’s getting harder for the nay-sayers to ignore their importance and staying-power. Ben Clanton’s adorable Narwhal and Jelly series owns the younger end of this demographic, and fans of this series will love The Disgusting Critters books by author-illustrator Elise Gravel. This series reads like a series of autobiographies in which the critters try to win the reader over with their most disgusting facts. Gravel has amassed an impressive amount of gross-out facts, and her graphic illustration style is exactly what kids are looking for.
Another hugely successful series of books are the graphic novel memoirs from mega-star Raina Telgemeier. Fans of these books will love Svetlana Chmakova‘s Berrybook Middle School series, featuring 3 books and 1 activity book that follow a group of middle school students through the highs and lows of tween-dom. These books transported me right back to my own middle school days in all their uncertain, cringe-y and ultimately hopeful glory.
Agatha Christie is known as the Queen of Crime and for many older readers (like me), middle school is when you first discover her books. In The Body Under the Piano, the first book in the new Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen series, Canadian author Marthe Jocelyn has imagined the childhood of Agatha as a budding sleuth, accompanied by a character who bears a strong resemblance to Hercule Poirot. Middle grade readers love mystery, and this new series has lots to offer young sleuths.
Glee star Chris Colfer has had an incredible success with his fantasy series The Land of Stories. Readers who enjoy his gentle fantasy will enjoy Lee Edward Fodi‘s The Books of Zoone series, the second of which is due this month. Featuring a world full of doors, each one opening into a new fantasy world, this series is bursting with imagination and humour.
Judy Blume is often cited as the gold standard of realistic tween fiction. Family drama, bodily changes, first crushes, friendship challenges, she manages them all with clear prose and with memorable characters. With her most recent middle grade novels, Tanya Lloyd Kyi has positioned herself as a worthy heir to Judy Blume’s throne. Me and Banksy is the story of a girl who finds inspiration in infamous street artist Banksy, and fights back against an oppressive school administration.
Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet is firmly lodged in the children’s literature canon as a classic survival story. Fans of this novel will adore Iain Lawrence’s The Skeleton Tree, a survival story about two boys stranded on the rugged and at times inhospitable Pacific Northwest coast.
Anyone with a Netflix subscription or access to the internet knows all about the mega-successful adaptation of Jenny Han’s charming teen romance, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. The much anticipated adaptation of the sequel, P.S. I Still Love You, started streaming last week to much delight. S.K. Ali’s Love From A to Z is a love story about Zayneb and Adam who meet on a flight to Qatar. Zayneb is a Muslim girl who is trying to get some perspective on what it means to be Muslim in North America and Adam has recently been diagnosed with MS, a disease that killed his mother.
For more information on I Read Canadian day and how to get involved, please click here.