It won’t surprise anyone that I think that books make the best gifts, not just because of the great stories, information, or art they contain, but because when you give a book as a present you’re also giving the gift of time. Whether it’s time cuddled up with a loved one sharing a story or some personal me time, here are 10 books for the reader in your life!
GREAT TOO (Tundra Books) is a fictional story about what it might be like to play on a team with Wayne Gretzky as a child. It’s also an ode to the late Walter Gretzky, who is lovingly portrayed as Coach Wally, and emphasizes the importance of team work and not being the best, but trying your best. The book includes a forward from The Great One and is a great book for hockey fans.
It’s soup season, and LENTIL SOUP (Orca Books) is an adorable story told entirely as a conversation between two siblings. Over a bowl of lentil soup, a younger brother asks his older brother a series of questions about soup, and the brother offers him four answers and asks him to guess which is correct. This delightful story, translated from French, is a mix between If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and the Socratic Method, featuring both whimsy and fact. A recipe for lentil soup is also included.
VAMPENGUIN (Simon and Schuster) is the most adorable case of mistaken identity I’ve seen in a long time. When a family of vampires takes a visit to the zoo, Baby Vampire and a baby Penguin switch places and go on their own adventures. I love Lucy Ruth Cummins’ stylish, slightly retro vibe and this is one of those books where a lot of the action is in the art, not the text, which invites a lot of discussion while reading.
Books about grumpy animals are always popular CRANKY CHICKEN (Simon and Schuster) is a funny addition to this genre. Books about feelings help kids come to term with their own feelings, and between all the laughs the message here is that friends and other people can help us when we’re feeling down or cranky. I think graphic novels are a perfect format for emerging readers, with most of the text isolated or in speech bubbles and lots of visual cues to help with comprehension.
There is nothing like getting lost in an adventure over the holidays. My first pick is CHILDREN OF THE FOX (Puffin Canada), the first in a new series by bestselling Canadian author Kevin Sands. His first series, The Blackthorn Key, won many kids’ choice awards, and I think readers are going to love this new series, which is a heist featuring a number of kids with different talents set in a magical world
Graphic novels are very popular with this age group, and I loved the supernatural adventure THE WEIRN BOOKS VOL 1: BE WARY OF THE SILENT WOODS (JY). I love how great Svetlana Chmakova is with middle school social dynamics and dialogue, and in this series she combines a contemporary feel with a magical setting.
For teens, here are two smash hit novels. IRON WIDOW (Penguin Teen Canada) by Canadian author Xiran Jay Zhao debuted at #1 on the New York Times YA bestseller list, which is an amazing accomplishment for a debut author. This book reimagines the life of China’s only female emperor in a futuristic sci-fi world where man-powered robots fight aliens lurking behind the Great Wall of China. It’s been described as Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale and is a really exciting new voice in Canadian literature.
HUNTING BY STARS (Penguin Teen Canada) is the much anticipated sequel to THE MARROW THIEVES, which is one of the bestselling Canadian YA novels of all time. This series takes place in a dystopian world in which white people are hunting and killing Indigenous people for the marrow in their bones. Though this is fantasy, there are parallels to the residential school system and it’s impact, and this is a twisty-turny follow-up that I read in a single sitting.
RENEGADES (Penguin US) is a deluxe book that grew out of the podcast Renegades: Born in the USA which featured a series of conversations between President Barack Obama and musician Bruce Springsteen. This is so much more than a typical coffee table book. It includes rare photos, handwritten lyrics and annotated scripts and is beautifully designed, but is also includes transcripts that cover a range of topics, including fatherhood & masculinity, cultural appropriation, the future of America, and more.
HANA KHAN CARRIES ON (HarperCollins Canada) is a contemporary, Canadian take on one of my personal favourite movies, You’ve Got Mail. Hana is trying to balance her own podcast, an internship at a radio station and working at her family’s struggling halal restaurant in the Golden Crescent neighbourhood of Toronto. Things get worse when a new restaurant moves in across the street that claims to do halal right and put her family’s restaurant out of business. The film rights have been optioned by none other than Mindy Kaling, and if you enjoy smart, contemporary retellings of Jane Austen, you will love Toronto writer Uzma Jalaluddin’s novels.
Happy reading, all!