It’s the second annual I Read Canadian Day, when children across the country are asked to spend 15 minutes reading from a Canadian book. We have so many great books to offer, but here are ten recent titles that reflect the diverse population, landscape- not to mention the breadth of kidlit talent- in Canada. Watch the segment here, or read on to see the list!
Picture Books, Ages 3-7
Canada has one of the most diverse populations in the world, and Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon acknowledges and celebrates this. Amy’s class is asked to create dragons, but Amy’s dragon looks nothing like the dragons of her classmates. Amy’s dragon resembles the dragons from Eastern mythology, and with some encouragement from her Grandmother and her friends, Amy creates her own dragon costume and brings it to class for show and tell. Dragons, which are present in many culture’s mythologies, are a great medium to discuss similarities and differences between cultures.
Maya’s Big Scene is the third book in Isabelle Arsenault’s loose series about a group of kids living in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood. Arsenault is one of Canada’s greatest picture book exports and her work is internationally acclaimed. The Mile End picture books resemble graphic novels, with speech bubbles and panels. In this story, Maya is the writer, director, and producer of a neighbourhood play. But she learns that in order for the show to go on, she has to work with her cast and crew, learning to compromise and be a good leader.
Over the Shop is a wordless picture book that celebrates community. A little girl and her grandfather need to rent the shabby apartment above their general store in order to make ends meet. Many potential tenants turn it down, until a young couple finally moves in. Not only do they fix up the apartment, but they help out around the store, and the foursome become a found family. Subtle hints to the couple’s queer identities also makes this a wonderful story about inclusion and celebrating diversity.
Hockey has long been considered the ultimate Canadian past-time. In Winnipeg-based author Maureen Fergus’s picture book Glory on Ice, we are introduced to Vlad, a bored vampire who decides to take up hockey. A silly and fun twist on the hockey story that emphasizes teamwork and fun rather than winning.
Graphic novels are a fantastic way to hook kids on reading, and Simon & Chester: Super Detectives is a destined to become a go-to series for ages 6-10. Kelowna based author-illustrator Cale Atkinson has created a lovable buddy comedy about a boy and a ghost who team up to solve mysteries.
Amazing Black Atlantic Canadians: Inspiring Stories of Courage and Achievement features the stories of over 50 Black people from the East coast, including historical figures like civil rights activist Viola Desmond and contemporary figures like poet and author George Elliott Clarke. The book is fully illustrated with beautiful portraits and also includes a timeline of important dates in Canadian Black history.
Turtle Island: The Story of North America’s First People is a beautifully designed nonfiction book that presents a glimpse into what life might have been like for Indigenous people before the Europeans arrived. Drawing on Indigenous storytelling, myth, art, and archeology, this is an engaging and necessary introduction to a part of Canadian history that until recently has often been erased or overlooked.
The Fabulous Zed Watson, written by parent-child duo Kevin and Basil Sylvester, is a warm, big-hearted road trip story featuring a non-binary main character, Zed. Zed and their new friend Gabe are obsessed with a mystery surrounding a lost manuscript and head off on a road trip to solve it, lead only by the clues they can decipher in an old poem. Full of monsters, riddles, and lovable characters, reading this book felt like a big warm hug!
Up the Creek is a love letter to Dawson City and the Yukon, told from the perspective of recent transplant Chris, who is hoping to find gold and strike it rich on his grandfather’s land. The Northern setting and lifestyle is vividly described in this funny and heartwarming story about what makes a home and a family. A great choice for Gordon Korman fans.
Waiting Under Water is set on the other side of the country, in New Brunswick. Hope does not want to leave her cozy seaside town where she loves to spend time making sea glass, so when a national morning show launches a contest looking for “Canada’s Tiniest Treasures,” she relishes the opportunity to celebrate everything she loves about her East coast home.
I hope you enjoy these great Canadian books, and let’s keep supporting Canadian literature, today and everyday!