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Summer is the perfect time of year for young readers to explore new stories—when they aren’t busy exploring the outdoors! Here are some titles that the kids in your life will love. Pick them up at your local indie bookstore.

This list features picture books and books for middle-grade readers. For our adult picks, click here. Click here for our YA recommendations.

The Unlovable Alina Butt
By Ambreen Butt-Hussain
Orca Book Publishers (May 2023)

Eleven-year-old Alina Butt has changed schools four times already since her family moved to England from Pakistan. Her hopes of landing the lead role in the school play are dashed when her new friend gets the part instead and her bully is cast as Prince Charming. Alina must rely on her stubborn will and wacky sense of humor to survive the situations she finds herself in and discover her own unique way to shine. 

Ambreen Butt-Hussain was born in Pakistan but lived in England and Scotland before finally settling in Canada. She has a Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto and a Master of Education from Queen’s University.

Otis & Peanut
By Naseem Hrab, illustrated by Kelly Collier
Owlkids Books (April 2023)

A long-haired guinea pig and a naked mole rat may seem like unlikely friends, but Otis and Peanut are a perfect pair! In three stories told in graphic-novel form, they explore themes of loss, fear of change, and cooperation, while demonstrating what it means to be a supportive and caring friend. 

Naseem Hrab is a writer and storyteller, and the author of the Ira Crumb series, How to Party Like a SnailThe Sour Cherry Tree, and Weekend Dad. Her comedy writing has appeared on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and The Rumpus. She loves improv and coffee ice cream.

Kelly Collier was born in Ottawa and grew up in Toronto, where she still lives with her husband and daughter.  As kids, Kelly and her sister drew all the time, mostly in an effort to "outdraw" their brother. Kelly studied illustration in college and is both the author and illustrator of the Steve the Horse series.

The Care and Keeping of Grandmas
By Jennifer Mook-Sang, illustrated by Yong Ling Kang
Penguin Random House Canada (April 2023)

It can be discombobulating for all involved when a grandma moves in permanently. Fortunately, our narrator has gone through it and has LOTS of tips on how to make your grandma feel at home. In a story filled with humor, confusion, and moments of sweetness, Jennifer Mook-Sang introduces us to a delightful family dynamic and a grandma who doesn’t really need the help settling in but appreciates it anyway.

Jennifer Mook-Sang was born in Guyana, South America, and moved to Canada at the age of fourteen, where she eventually got two degrees in psychology. Reading picture books to her two sons inspired her to become a writer. When she isn't writing, Jennifer likes to read recipe books and cook things like biryani, cassava pone and guacamole. 

Yong Ling Kang is a freelance illustrator raised in Singapore and currently living in Toronto. She has worked in animation studios and a publishing company and has illustrated picture books including Rodney Was a Tortoise, Tanna's Owl, and This House Is Home.

Evolution Under Pressure: How We Change Nature and How Nature Changes Us
By Yolanda Ridge, illustrated by Dane Thibeault
Annick Press (May 2023)

Evolution isn’t just a thing of the past. It is happening right now, in every species across the world—and our influence on the future of the plants and animals around us is much bigger than we might think. Making connections across anthropology, biology, and ecology, award-winning author Yolanda Ridge takes an intersectional approach to a challenging topic alongside vibrant illustrations by Dane Thibeault evoke the energy and beauty of the natural world.

Yolanda Ridge is a children’s author with a passion for science who has previously worked as a genetic counselor. She lives in Rossland, BC.

Dane Thibeault is an illustrator and recent graduate of the Visual Communications Design program at Alberta University of the Arts. He lives in Calgary.

By Itah Sadu, illustrated by Marley Berot
Second Story Press (May 2023)

In the middle of the ice, a young Black hockey player finds joy in his talent and confidence in the cheers of his family, his coach, and the other players. Their support gives him the power to face down those who see him as a threat and to focus on the thrill of the game.

Itah Sadu is an award-winning storyteller and children’s author. She is the co-owner of the iconic Toronto bookstore A Different Booklist, specializing in African and Caribbean Canadian literature. Itah is also the Managing Director of the Blackhurst Cultural Centre – The People's Residence.

Marley Berot is an illustrator with over ten years of combined personal and professional experience. Her portfolio includes cover art for Neuron, graphic design work for the Toronto International Film Festival, logo design, and book illustration.

The Ojja-Wojja
By Magdalene Visaggio, illustrated by Jenn St. Onge
HarperCollins Canada (March 2023)

Welcome to Bolingbroke, a small town just like any other… or so eighth graders Val and Lanie think. After working on a project about their hometown’s supernatural history, best friends Val and Lanie accidentally summon the Ojja-Wojja, a demonic presence connected to a slew of mysterious tragedies throughout Bolingbroke’s sordid history. With the whole town acting weird, it’s going to be up to Val, Lanie, and their small group of friends to return things to normal—if “normal” is even something they want to return to.

Magdalene Visaggio is the Eisner and GLAAD Media Award-nominated writer of Eternity Girl, Morning in America, and Kim & Kim, and a pretty solid rhythm guitarist.

Jenn St-Onge is the comic artist/bog witch behind Nancy Drew & the Palace of Wisdom and Jem & the Misfits. She lives in Ottawa with her husband, the dog, and more cats than she wishes to disclose.

When Rubin Plays
By Gracey Zhang
Scholastic Canada (July 2023)

Rubin loves the beautiful sounds that are played by the orchestra. He wants to learn to play the violin and make his own music. But when Rubin plays, it doesn’t sound like he imagines it should. Rubin goes into the forest to practice alone and despite only getting the violin to screech, he finds an unlikely audience that loves his unique style. From Gracey Zhang comes a touching and beautiful story about community, finding your own voice, doing what you love the most, and expressing your passion.

Gracey Zhang is an illustrator and animator with a love of storytelling and verse. She is the author and illustrator of Lala's Words and the illustrator of The Big Bath House, Nigel and the Moon, and The Upside Down Hat. She was born and raised in Vancouver and received her degree in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design


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