Each month, FOLD Kids highlights one picture book and one middle grade or young adult title by a marginalized Canadian author.
June: Middle Grade
The Fabulous Zed Watson! is part road trip, part mystery but all around a fun middle grade read. What kid doesn’t want the opportunity to go on a cross country adventure that involves a mysterious manuscript by a writer they adore? It’s lovely to read characters whose passion leads them on an epic journey especially one that tests a newfound friendship and helps them grow a long the way.
It’s not often a non-binary character gets a leading role in a story and to have a non-binary author tell it is even rarer. This novel is the Book-of-the-Month pick for June 2021 because it offers readers an opportunity to get to know the non-binary experience but one that is told through a generally exciting story for young people. Hopefully, this book is just the beginning for both Basil and non-binary characters.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Basil Sylvester is a non-binary writer based in Toronto and co-author of The Fabulous Zed Watson! with their father, Kevin Sylvester.
Kevin Sylvester is a Toronto-based award-winning writer, illustrator and broadcaster. He’s written over 30 books that range from murder mysteries and science fiction to books on sports and financial literacy. His most well known titles include The Almost Epic Squad series, Neil Flambé and the bestselling MiNRS. He co-authored The Fabulous Zed Watson! with Basil Sylvester.
June: Picture Book
It’s summertime and Stand Like A Cedar is the perfect pick for June 2021’s Book-of-the-Month. This picture book takes the reader through nature, and shares teachings on sustainability and connection to the land. It asks, “When you go for a walk in nature, who do you see? What do you hear?” Readers will learn the names of animals in the Nłe7kepmxcín or Halq’emeylem languages (a glossary as well as a note on coastal and interior Salish languages can be found at the end) while also being inspired to inquire about their own ancestors’ knowledge whether through blood relation or the greater community.
After over a year of keeping distance from loved ones and being inside, hopefully this book will inspire little ones and those who love them to go out into nature whether it’s in a vast forest or their local park. If Victor’s art doesn’t motivate you to commune in nature in whatever way is possible for you, we’re not sure what will!
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Nicola I. Campbell is the author of Shi-shi-etko, Shin-chi’s Canoe, Grandpa’s Girls, and A Day with Yayah. Nłeʔkepmx, Syilx and Métis from British Columbia, her stories weave cultural and land-based teachings that focus on respect, endurance, healing, and reciprocity.
Carrielynn Victor is fueled by the passion to tell stories through her art. Her ancestors come from around the world, descending from bloodlines in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales that arrived in the Americas in the 1600s, and Coast Salish ancestors that have been sustained by S’olh Temexw (our land) since time immemorial. Carrielynn was born and raised in S’olh Temexw and nurtured by many parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Along with a thriving art practice, Carrielynn maintains a communal role as a plant practitioner. The responsibilities for traditional plant practitioners range from protection and preservation of lands, networking and trade, and harvest and preparation methods.
May: Young Adult
Misfit in Love is a sequel to Ali’s debut novel, Saints and Misfits. In the novel, Janna Yusuf is excited for the weekend: her older brother, Muhammad, is getting married, she’ll be reunited with her mother after a summer apart and Nuah be arriving too. Nuah is sweet, constant and has feelings for Janna but at the time, she wasn’t ready to reciprocate due to a previous trauma she suffered but now she’s ready! However, Nuah is treating her differently and two newcomers might complicate Janna’s heart a bit. Throw in her mom’s possible new love, her dad acting strange and opposing wedding planning choices between her brother and his fiancée, and Janna might be having an unpredictable weekend.
This was the Book-of-the-Month pick for May 2021 because it’s lovely to see a contemporary teen story like this starring a Muslim teen girl. It discusses the scary nature of big life changes, racism, being disappointed by your parents and the shift in relationships. It’s a book that older teens can get a lot out of as they get closer to life after high school but both high school students and adults will get a great read.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
S.K. Ali is the writer of two young adult novels (Saints and Misfits and Love from A to Z), a picture book (The Proudest Blue co-written with Ibtihaj Muhammad) and co-editor of an anthology (Once Upon An Eid). Her latest young adult novel is Misfit in Love.
May: Picture Book
The Doll is a picture book about a little girl and her family who arrive at an airport in a new country as refugees. They are greeted by strangers and the little girl is gifted a doll. The book follows the girl over the decades and as a woman, she finds herself back at the airport to welcome a new family of refugees and gifts the doll to their little girl as a way to make her feel welcome.
This picture book is the Book-of-the-Month pick for May 2021 because of its focus on the refugee experience and the impact of making folks feel welcomed in their new home. It’s lovely to know that the story is based on Tran-Davies’ own life which gets expanded upon in the author’s note. Puth’s art is beautiful and showcases a great use of colour like the maroon that ties the story together. It’s a book that asks what you’ve done to pass it forward or to make someone feel welcomed in a space. It also hopefully offers refugee kids in Canada a glimpse at a possible future for themselves as creatives thanks to Tran-Davies’ presence.
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Nhung N. Tran-Davies is an Edmonton-based writer, physician and advocate for social justice through education. Her family came to Canada as refugees from Vietnam in 1979 and in 2013 Nhung founded the Children of Vietnam Benevolent Foundation.
Ravy Puth is a Montreal-based illustrator. Born in Canada of Cambodian-Chinese parents, her work focuses on representations and cultural identities, that she explores through narratives of migration and feminism.
April: Middle Grade
Finding Home: The Journey of Immigrants and Refugees is a nonfiction book that tackles the history of human migration, why people leave their homes, the differences between refugees and immigrants, racism and xenophobia, and the challenges and benefits of being an immigrant and refugee. The book also features interviews of people who’ve come to Canada as either immigrants or refugees for a wide range of reasons and what their experiences have been like.
Choosing Finding Home for the Book-of-the-Month pick for April 2021 was the easiest thing in the world to do. Sookfong Lee did a phenomenal job in explaining the complicated and often divisive topic of migration to a middle grade audience but adults could learn quite a lot from this book as well. Terms are defined and different angles are addressed that are often left out of the public conversation when addressing the history of migration such as slavery or the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 (also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act). Shannon’s illustrations are a beautiful companion to the well researched text.
What’s most important, however, is that even though the content pulls from international examples, it is very much rooted in Canada. It’s another must have in the school curriculum and on your children’s bookshelves.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jen Sookfong Lee is a Vancouver-based writer whose books include Finding Home: The Journey of Immigrants and Refugees, Chinese New Year and The Animals of Chinese New Year, Shelter and more. Jen teaches at The Writer’s Studio Online with Simon Fraser University, edits fiction for Wolsak & Wynn and co-hosts the literary podcast Can’t Lit.
ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR
Drew Shannon is a Toronto-based illustrator whose work can be found in Extreme Battlefields: When War Meets the Forces of Nature, Out of the Ice: How Climate Change is Revealing the Past, The Montague Twins: The Witch’s Hand and This Is Your Brain on Stereotypes.
April: Picture Book
We Move Together is a picture book about the different bodies that move and take up space but also how the world isn’t built for all bodies. It’s lovely to see the characters of this book work together and create solutions so that everyone has access to their community. To move doesn’t necessarily just mean physically but also in terms of being motivated, inspired or to be moved emotionally.
It’s the Book-of-the-Month pick for April 2021 because we don’t often get picture books about disability or disabled characters written by someone with a disability. Trejos’ art is so much fun and showcases a wide range of disabilities as well as racialized people, women with a hijab, queer imagery and etc. There’s also a Closer Look section at the end that includes sections like Ableism, Accessibility, Disability Arts and Culture, Disability Community and more that will leave the reader wanting to learn more about this community. It is essential reading for the little ones in your life.
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Kelly Fritsch is a disabled writer, educator, and parent living in Ottawa. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University and co-editor of Keywords for Radicals: The Contested Vocabulary of Late-Capitalism (2015, AK Press).
Anne McGuire is an assistant professor in the Equity Studies program at the University of Toronto where she teaches courses on disability justice and disabled childhoods. She is the author of War on Autism: On the Cultural Logic of Normative Violence (2016, University of Michigan Press).
Eduardo Trejos is a Costa Rican multi-disciplinary artist. A lover of colour, insatiable reader, and parent of two boys, he currently lives in Toronto where he works as a graphic designer.
March: Middle Grade
In Treaty Words: For As Long As the Rivers Flow, Mishomis teaches his granddaughter to listen to the nature around them while also telling her about treaties: the first ones between the earth and the sky, the ones between the Indigenous peoples and the British, and what treaties are meant to be.
It’s a fantastic Book-of-the-Month pick for March 2021 because of the ongoing conversations around treaties in what we know as Canada (but also Turtle Island more broadly) and what Canadian settlers owe the Indigenous peoples of these lands in the truest understanding of treaties and reconciliation. Craft does a great job at making this accessible to not just middle grade readers but also teens and adults who would benefit from understanding the land they currently live on. Swinson’s art is beautiful and flows in its simplicity and great use of colour. It’s perfect for a story that encourages taking our time with nature.
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Aimée Craft (Writer) is an Anishinaabe/Métis lawyer from Treaty 1 territory in Manitoba. She is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Common Law, University of Ottawa and a leading researcher on Indigenous laws, treaties, and water.
Luke Swinson is an Anishinaabe illustrator who is a member of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation. He lives in Kitchener, ON.
March: Picture Book
After the success of Ping, Castillo returns with Spark, a picture book that’s all about the magic of being alive and how we all have that spark inside of us.
It’s the Book-of-the-Month pick for March 2021 because of its whimsical artwork that compliments the book’s goal of depicting the wonder of being alive, not ignoring the dark elements but choosing to highlight the awe-inspiring aspect of existence. It also features very cute character designs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
February: Young Adult
Like Home is a young adult novel about a teen named Chinelo (or Nelo) who lives in the neighbourhood of Ginger East. She loves the community, her best friend, Kate, and the memories of growing here. She’s not a fan of the growing gentrification that’s slowly raising the rent in the area or the changes that her body is experiencing. Then Kate’s family corner store gets vandalized which invites the police and media with their own ideas of what happened and painting Ginger East in a poor light. Chinelo is shaken by it and Kate pulling away isn’t helping but she’s determine to fix things or lose it all.
This book is the Book-of-the-Month pick for February 2021 because it offers a relatable character to young people growing up in low-income neighbourhoods. These areas often have their stories told for them usually in a negative light but Onomé balances the very real difficulties wrought by lack of resources with human beings who experience everyday joy and community. It’s a story that younger teens can enjoy easily while engaging with topics such as gentrification, media literary, activism and how to deal with the changes in your life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
February: Picture Books
Dear Black Girls is a love letter to black girls. Nicole uses poetry to show Black little girls how awesome they are and how much she loves being one. Dalz’s art accompanies it with its vibrancy as well as the range of Black girls depicted in the book. This is the Book-of-the-Month pick for February 2021 because of its care towards Black girls, a demographic often mistreated in society. We promise you that your heart will be full after reading this.
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Shanice Nicole is a Black feminist educator, facilitator, writer, and (out)spoken word artist. She believes that everyone has the power to make change and dreams of a freer world for us all.
Kezna Dalz is a Montreal-based multidisciplinary Black artist. She cares about representation, and portrays the beauty of womanhood, teen adult angst, and the worst of pop culture using vibrant colours.
JANUARY: Young Adult
Charming as a Verb is a novel set in New York City and follows teen charmer Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger. Halti is liked by all he meets thanks to the smiling mask he puts on. He’s the perfect image of a first-generation American child of Haitian immigrants: he attends the prestigious FATE Academy, is a star debater and works part-time as a dog walker for wealthy New Yorkers. However, his easy demeanour hides his ambition to attend his dream college: Columbia University. Then Corinne Troy, the only person immune to his charms, blackmails him after finding out the whole dog walking side gig isn’t 100% legit. What does she want? Lessons on improving her social image at school.
The humour found in Philippe’s debut can be also found in this book but there’s also a deeper dive into the experience of being a Black immigrant child of working class parents. It’s easy to reduce the story to a discussion about class and the feeling of trying to keep up with those who’ve financially have a head start especially within the context of education. However, there’s an intersection of class and race within the book that displays how difficult it is to separate the two experiences as well as how class doesn’t suddenly remove the structural barriers created by racism. It does all this while also being filled with family, friends and teen romance. This is why it was chosen as the Book-of-the-Month for January 2021.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ben Philippe is a New York–based writer and screenwriter, born in Haiti and raised in Montreal, Canada. He is the author of the William C. Morris Award–winning novel The Field Guide to the North American Teenager.
JANUARY: Picture Book
Ten Little Dumplings is about a special family in the city of Tainan who have ten sons where one son is seen as lucky. They are called the ten little dumplings because dumplings are auspicious but there is someone listening, studying and learning right alongside them…their sister. She grows up in the shadow of her brothers but finds her own path which she shares with her daughter, her own little dumpling.
This book was chosen as the Book-of-the-Month for January 2021 because it’s a story about a girl finding herself in a world that privileges boys. It’s great to see the story’s perspective shift halfway to centre the sister but also encouraging readers to go back and find her in the illustrations. Wume’s art is warm, energetic and is the perfect vehicle for the narrative reveal.
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Larissa Fan is a Toronto-based experimental filmmaker and artist whose cinematic work has been screened at national and international festivals and venues, including the Anthology Film Archives, Images Festival, and Kassel Documentary Film & Video Festival. She currently works in social media marketing at the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre.
Cindy Wume is a Taipei-based illustrator and picture book maker now based in Taipei. Her debut picture book, The Best Sound in the World, was published in 2018, and her work has been exhibited at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the Taoyuan Illustration Exhibition and the London Transport Museum’s Sound of City art exhibition.
DECEMBER: Middle Grade
Music for Tigers is a middle grade novel about a girl named Lousia who is sent to the Tasmanian rainforest for the summer to spend time with her Uncle Ruff. She’s not happy about being in the remote camp and wants to practice her violin for an upcoming audition with the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra. However, what she’ll come to realize is the connection her great-grandmother has to the supposedly extinct Tasmanian tigers and how how her music could be the key to connecting with the remaining one.
It was described by Ardo Omer, our Kids Coordinator, as “a gentle read and does a fantastic job weaving family history with Australia’s killing of the Tasmanian tiger into extinction,” in Quill and Quire’s “2020 Books of the Year: Books for Young People”. Kadarusman’s marriage of music with nature both in terms of plot and prose is why it was chosen as the Book-of-the-Month for December 2020.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michelle Kadarusman is a Toronto-based writer. Her 2019 middle grade novel, Girl of the Southern Sea, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award and a Junior Library Guild selection. Her previous novel, The Theory of Hummingbirds, was a finalist for the Forest of Reading Silver Birch Award, the MYRCA Sundogs Award, and the SYRCA Diamond Willow Award.
DECEMBER: Picture Book
Two Drops of Brown in a Cloud of White is a book about a little girl and her mother walking home from school during a snowy day. The mother is having dfficulties adjusting to her cold new home and misses the warm faraway place she left behind. However, her daughter offers a different perspective on their home like when her mother sees a maple leaf as dry brown leaves while her daughter associates the brown with maple syrup. Campbell’s art adds texture to the whiteness of snow both in terms of the blues and greys but also with the type of paper she paints on.
This story was chosen as the Book-of-the-Month for December 2020 because it’s the perfect winter read to curl up with and a great reminder of how everyday things can hold little wonders if we look at them from a different point-of-view.
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Saumiya Balasubramaniam is a Toronto-based writer. Her debut picture book, When I Found Grandma, illustrated by Qin Leng, was featured in the Globe and Mail’s “Seven books to help kids make sense of the world” and by the CBC’s “Kids books to look for in 2019”. It was described by Publishers Weekly as a “subtle, heartfelt story.”
Eva Campbell (Canadian) is a Victoria, BC-based artist and illustrator who teaches visual art. She has exhibited her work in Canada, the US, the UK, Barbados and Ghana, and won the Children’s Africana Book Award for her illustrations in The Matatu by Eric Walters. She also illustrated Africville by Shauntay Grant, winner of the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award and the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration, and a Governor General’s Literary Award finalist.
NOVEMBER: Young Adult
Facing the Sun is a young adult (YA) novel that takes place in the Bahamas and follows four teens girls — Eve, Faith, Keekee and Nia — who witness big changes to their home, Pinder Street, and those changes happen alongside their own coming-of-age story.
This book was chosen as the Book-of-the-Month for November 2020 because its author, Janice Lynn Mather, expertly weaves four perspectives that offer readers a look into the lives of Black girls, their dreams, their struggles and the love they have for their community. The story looks at macro issues of access to essential services such as reproductive health as well as balancing a community’s right to decent paying jobs with the privatization of public spaces. Racialized teens, especially young women, will recognize themselves in these characters and will shed a light on the ways in which Black girls are often expected to bear the weight of responsibility in their homes. It offers a broader look at Blackness by being set outside of Canada and it’s ultimately a story about four friends.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Janice Lynn Mather is a Bahamian author based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her first book, Learning to Breathe (YA), was a Governor General’s Literary Award finalist, a BC Book Prize finalist, shortlisted for the 2019 CCBC Amy Mathers Teen Book Award, a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults selection, an Amelia Bloomer’s Top Ten Recommended Feminist Books for Young Readers pick, and a Junior Library Guild selection.
NOVEMBER: Picture Book
Violet Shrink is a picture book about a little girl named Violet who struggles with anxiety. The book offers readers a way to discuss their anxious feelings with the adults in their lives while also reassuring them that their feelings are valid. It’s a necessary read for adults that acts as a reminder: children have agency with regards to their boundaries and should be afforded consideration of their feelings. Mok’s illustrations are delightful and adds a sense of play that makes this a perfect vehicle for the topic. Anxiety isn’t just an adult issue and seeing it in literature for small humans is why it was chosen as the Book-of-the-Month for November 2020.
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Christine Baldacchino is a Toronto-based graphic artist and web designer with a background in early childhood education. Her picture book Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress was a Stonewall Honor recipient and the winner of the CBC Bookie Award for Best Picture Book.
Carmen Mok is a St. Catharines-based illustrator. She’s illustrated books such as Cone Cat (written by Sarah Howden), A Stopwatch From Grandpa (written by Loretta Garbutt) and the upcoming Tough Like Mum (written by Lana Button).
OCTOBER: Middle Grade
The Barren Grounds is about Morgan and Eli — two Indigenous kids living in a foster home in Winnipeg — who find a portal in their attic that leads them to an alternate reality called Askí. However, this world is going through the White Time where it’s cold and covered in snow. They meet Ochek, a Fisher, who is the lone hunter in his community of Misewa and Arik, described as “a sassy Squirrel”, and the four of them go on a journey to stop this forever winter from freezing them all.
The decision to make The Barren Grounds the Book-of-the-Month for October 2020 was an easy one. As the start of an epic middle grade fantasy, Robertson centres characters who don’t often get the chance to be the heroes. Readers will learn about how the foster care system affects Indigenous children and the impact of climate change as a result of human beings taking from the land without honouring it. It gives its kid characters room to be angry and sad but also compassionate and full of awe. It is about the devastating loss of culture but also finding the path back to it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David A. Robertson is a Winnipeg-based writer and member of the Norway House Cree Nation. He is the author of numerous books for young readers including When We Were Alone, which won the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award and was nominated for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. Strangers, the first book in his Reckoner trilogy, a young adult supernatural mystery, won the 2018 Michael Van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction (Manitoba Book Awards).
OCTOBER: Picture Book
In Once Upon an Hour, a little girl named Yu-Rhee wants to learn how to tell time. Her mother does so by telling her a story that she grew up hearing: a little girl climbs up a mountain in search of a plant to heal her sick mother but is met with obstacles. The story is told from the perspective of the mountain who pleads for help from the animals of the zodiac who live nearby. Readers will learn about the traditional Korean practice of telling time and how stories can be used as a teaching tool.
It’s the Book-of-the-Month for October 2020 because it’s a lovely tale of determination but also one of offering aid to someone in need. Little ones will be in awe of Kim’s diorama art that adds depth and a feeling of whimsy.
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Ann Yu-Kyung Choi is a Toronto-based writer and an educator with the York Region District School Board in Ontario. Her debut novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, was a 2016 Toronto Book Awards finalist and one of CBC Books’ 12 Best Canadian Debut Novels of 2016.
Soyeon Kim is a Toronto-based, Korean-born artist who specializes in fine sketching and painting techniques to create three-dimensional dioramas. She’s illustrated a number of beautiful picture books including Sukaq and the Raven and You Are Never Alone. Soyeon won the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s award in 2013.