Mélanie Watt, the creator of Scaredy Squirrel, is back with a new kind of distressed creature in Bug in a Vacuum (Tundra), a 96-page picture book about a bug that is suddenly sucked into a vacuum cleaner and goes through the five stages of grief. The book features a combination of watercolors, acrylic, and Photoshop, and includes minimal text, as the bug tries to come to terms with his new dark and dusty situation. “I think everyone is going to go through some event that they didn’t count on, that they didn’t want to happen,” Watt says. “It’s about dealing with a situation where we feel out of control.” Ages 5–9.
Everyone’s favorite bald toddler learns to stand up for himself in Caillou and the Big Bully (Chouette), written by Christine L’Heureux, illustrated by Pierre Brignaud, and created in consultation with an early childhood specialist. “It’s a subject that’s been touching a lot of kids and parents,” says Chouette’s Simon Payette. “By addressing it as early as possible, we hope it will prevent things from getting worse.” Ages 2–4.
Bestselling author and professional positive thinker Neil Pasricha, who brought us The Book of Awesome, has written his first picture book, Awesome Is Everywhere (Puffin Canada). Using only their fingers and their imagination, kids are invited to zoom out to see the Earth’s big picture, and zoom right in on the minuscule details of the grains of sand at the beach. Ages 4–6.
Groundwood Books has a new picture book series from writer Maureen Fergus and illustrator Carey Sookocheff called Buddy and Earl, which marketing manager Fred Horler describes as “funny, sweet, and simple.” Buddy the dog is intrigued when his owner brings a box carrying a small, prickly creature into the house. Buddy is told not to touch the box, but what is he to do when the creature, Earl the hedgehog, invites him on an imaginative pirate adventure? Slated for 2016 in this series are Buddy and Earl Go Exploring and Buddy and Earl and the Great Big Baby. Ages 4–7.
In comic book artist Willow Dawson’s first picture book, The Wolf-Birds (Owlkids), two hungry ravens in the woods team up with a pack of wolves to find food—a real-life symbiotic relationship that many aboriginal hunters have observed and reported. “It’s simple, it’s lyrical, it’s beautiful, and it doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of animals hunting and killing each other,” says Owlkids Books publisher Karen Boersma. Ages 5–8.
Rebecca Hainnu and Qin Leng’s picture book A Walk on the Shoreline (Inhabit Media) tells the story of a boy named Nukappia visiting his family’s campsite on the shoreline. As he walks along with his uncle, he learns that the shoreline is actually an elaborate ecosystem that’s home to clams, char, and shore grasses. According to Inhabit Media publisher Neil Christopher, this is one of the ways the authors are weaving traditional Inuit knowledge into children’s stories. Ages 5–7.
Evan Munday’s third entry into his Dead Kid Detective Agency series, Loyalist to a Fault (ECW), sees goth girl October Schwartz gather up her dead friends to investigate the 1783 death of Cyril Cooper, around the time of Canada’s earliest British settlers, the United Empire Loyalists. However, a ghost pirate throws a wrench in their plans when he steals evidence. Ages 9–12.
From ChiTeen, the YA imprint of Toronto-based genre publisher ChiZine, comes Mags Storey’s paranormal love story Dead Girls Don’t. When students keep turning up dead at Rosewood Academy, Liv tries to figure out who’s behind it—and as it turns out, being able to talk to the dead isn’t as useful as you’d think. “It’s really charming and funny, with supernatural elements and a touch of romance, and it’s really fast paced—with lots of murders,” says ChiZine’s copublisher Sandra Kasturi. Ages 13–18.
Three years ago, Vancouver’s Orca Book Publishers simultaneously published seven adventure books for boys, featuring popular YA authors from Eric Walters to Shane Peacock and Norah McClintock. This September, the publisher’s Secrets series features seven brand-new books, by authors such as Kelley Armstrong and Kathy Kacer, about seven orphan girls who must find their own way after their orphanage burns down. The books, set in 1964, are linked but can be read in any order. Ages 12–16.
In Kim Firmston’s YA novel Creep Con (James Lorimer), Mariam decides to dress up as her favorite manga character at a fan convention, but when a boy dressed as her character’s love interest tries to physically force himself on her, she has to find a way to escape his attention. “These are the kinds of experiences that are difficult to talk about with kids but that are happening every day,” says Lorimer promotions manager Emma Renda. Ages 13–up.
The Iron Road was a movie and TV miniseries about the Chinese workers who migrated to Canada in the 1880s to build the transcontinental railway, and a teenage girl named Li Jun (Little Tiger) who disguised herself as a boy to get work and find her long-lost father. Dundurn Press is publishing a novelization of the adventure tale—written by Anne Tait, the film’s producer, and Franklin the Turtle creator Paulette Bourgeois—called Li Jun and the Iron Road. “It’s a tragic story, that there were that many deaths to build a railroad,” says Tait. “But there also is, I think, unexpected humor.” Ages 12–15.
The real-life origins of that tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff are revealed in Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear (HarperCollins Canada), written by Lindsay Mattick, the great-granddaughter of the veterinarian who named the original bear more than 100 years ago (after the city of Winnipeg). The book, with illustrations by Sophie Blackall, is “a very exciting project for us,” says HarperCollins Canada’s Iris Tupholme. Ages 4–7.
When is the right time to have those difficult conversations with your children? Orca Book Publishers is helping to get things started with a new series called Just Enough: Difficult Topics Made Easy, by child psychologist Jillian Roberts. The first in the series, illustrated by Cindy Revell, is called Our First Talk About Birth and uses a Q&A format to gently introduce facts. Orca publisher Andrew Wooldridge, who has a five-year-old son himself, says future books in the series will focus on topics such as death, cultural diversity, and separation and divorce. Ages 3–6.
If your kids find it difficult to catch the bus to school every morning, just show them The Way to School by Rosemary McCarney, head of aid agency Plan Canada and Canada’s ambassador to the U.N. Using minimal text and real photographs of children across the world, the book shows how some kids have to travel by boat, across mountains, and even through disaster zones just to get to school and get an education. Ages 6–9.
Toronto Star politics columnist and author Edward Keenan gets into the children’s publishing game with The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics (Owlkids), including illustrations by Julie McLaughlin. “The book takes the view that everyone, even kids, is a politician in some way, shape, or form—they’re affected by politics and able to play a part in them,” says Owlkids publisher Karen Boersma. The book—timed perfectly for upcoming elections both in Canada and the U.S.—takes a complex topic and makes it kid friendly without oversimplification. Ages 10–14.
When Michel Chikwanine was five, he was kidnapped from his school in the Congo, forced to become a soldier, and made to shoot his best friend. He eventually escaped, but the experience stayed with him long after he moved to Canada. Chikwanine collaborated on his graphic novel memoir, Child Soldier (Kids Can), with writer Jessica Dee Humphreys, and moving illustrations were provided by Claudia Dávila. “It’s about understanding the perspective of a child going through this terrible experience, which many children are unfortunately forced to go through all across the world,” Chikwanine says. The book is part of the publisher’s CitizenKid series, focusing on complex global issues. Ages 10–14.
Kathy Lowinger, former Tundra Books publisher, has written a narrative nonfiction book about Ella Sheppard, a black girl who joined a group of fellow former slaves in the U.S. in the 19th century. They started a traveling choir to raise funds for the Fisk Free Colored School, which they founded to help educate other black children. Give Me Wings: How a Choir of Former Slaves Took on the World (Annick) touches on the American Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Underground Railroad. Ages 11–up.