Though we’re only few months in to 2021, this year has already proven to be an exceptional one for children’s books. From gorgeous picture books to action-packed young adult novels, there are incredible new stories being shared. If there’s a young reader in your life looking for adventure, the Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA) has a list of newly released books ready to meet the challenge. Whether a toddler or a teen, or anywhere in between, the list below has something for every kid (or kid at heart).
Illustrated Books (Ages 2–8)
I Sang You Down from the Stars by Tasha Spillet-Sumner and illustrated by Michaela Goade (Owlkids, 2021)
Celebrate the special bond between mother and child with this beautifully written and illustrated book. I Sang You Down from the Stars draws from Indigenous creation stories and traditional teachings, following a mother as she prepares for the arrival of her baby. From gathering gifts for a medicine bundle in anticipation of the birth to welcoming family as they meet the little one, the book is a lovely look at motherhood in Cree culture.
Recommended for ages 2–5.
The Doll by Nhung Tran-Davies and illustrated by Ravy Puth (Second Story Press, 2021)
Inspired by the author’s own experience as a refugee, The Doll is a heartwarming story of the lasting impact of kindness. After travelling across the world to find safety in a new country with her family, a young girl is gifted a doll by a stranger. The doll becomes a source of comfort throughout the years, and decades later, the stranger’s kindness is still something she cherishes. When she has the opportunity to greet a group of refugees, she brings along a doll for the youngest child, knowing it will help her feel welcome too.
Recommended for ages 3–7.
Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know by Brittany Luby and illustrated by Joshua Pawis-Steckley (Groundwood Books, 2021)
Written in Anishinaabemowin and English, this bilingual book follows an Anishinaabe child and her grandmother as they explore the world around them. From bumblebees to owls, and sunsets to melting snow, Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know is a beautiful look at the different seasons and the natural rhythm of life within them. The author and illustrator were inspired by their own childhoods exploring the northern reaches of Anishinaabewaking.
Recommended for ages 3–7.
Goldibooks and the Wee Bear by Troy Wilson and illustrated by Edwardian Taylor (Running Press Kids, 2021)
This fun, colourful book is a reimagining of the classic fairytale Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Though in Goldibooks and the Wee Bear, it’s Wee Bear who is on the hunt for a good book. As Goldibooks heads out to the library with her parents, Wee Bear sneaks into their house looking for the perfect book to read. When they return, the house is a mess and Wee Bear is asleep in Goldibooks’ bed. That’s really where the fun starts as they become friends and find out that the best things are the ones that are shared.
Recommended for ages 7–8.
Constellation of the Deep by Benjamin Flouw (Tundra Books, 2021)
Explore the wonders of the sea with the Constellation of the Deep. Following Fox as he hunts for an elusive plant that glows at the bottom of the sea, readers get a beautiful look at the underwater life along the way. With crabs, starfish and corals, the book is so much fun that children won’t even realize how much they are learning about the animals that live there.
Recommended for ages 4–8.
The Ice Chips and the Grizzly Escape by Roy MacGregor and Kerry MacGregor, and illustrated by Kim Smith (HarperCollins Canada, 2021)
For kids who love hockey, there is The Ice Chips and the Grizzly Escape. The fifth book in the bestselling Ice Chips series, it’s full of adventure as the Ice Chips hockey team travel to British Columbia. There, they meet an inspiring young hockey hero and find themselves in a dangerous situation that requires quick thinking and an escape plan.
Recommended for ages 6–8.
Chapter Books (Ages 9 and above)
Elvis, Me, and the Lemonade Stand Summer by Leslie Gentile (DCB, 2021)
In Elvis, Me, and the Lemonade Stand Summer, readers are transported to the summer of 1978. When a man stops by her lemonade stand, Truly Bateman is convinced that he is Elvis Presley, even though most people think he has been dead for a year. Between raising money through the stand and dealing with a difficult home life, Truly is on the hunt to prove that her neighbour on the Indigenous reserve is actually Elvis, but what she finds along the way will be even better.
Recommended for ages 9–12.
The Sun Will Come Out By Joanne Levy (Orca Book Publishers, 2021)
Bea Gelman was looking forward to the best summer ever at Camp Shalom—a sleep-away camp, but when her best friend can’t make it, she is left to navigate the new place by herself. Along with being painfully shy, Bea gets pranked by some girls in her cabin. Bea can’t take it and decides to spend most of her time in the infirmary, where she meets a new friend that changes everything. The Sun Will Come Out is a fun read that shows readers how facing their fears can bring a lot of good things their way.
Recommended for ages 9-12.
Lone Runner By Dirk McLean (Lorimer, 2021)
Set in Scarborough, Lone Runner follows Michaela’s experiences as she goes from a solitary runner to an athlete on a cross-country team. A book about friendship, overcoming rivalries and persistence, this book gives readers an inside look at how Michaela overcomes an incident at her mostly-white summer camp to thriving as a member of her racially diverse school track team. The book will be released in August 2021.
Recommended for ages 10-13.
The Power of Style: How Fashion and Beauty Are Being Used to Reclaim Cultures by Christian Allaire (Annick Press, 2021)
Show your kids the wonderful world of non-fiction books with The Power of Style: How Fashion and Beauty Are Being Used to Reclaim Cultures. From being a fashion-obsessed Ojibwe teen to the Fashion and Style Writer for Vogue, Christian Allaire knows how important style can be. Exploring how clothes provide self-expression, representation and transformation with chapters on Indigenous ribbon shirts, hair, cosplay and hijabs, this book is a great opportunity to celebrate diversity and self-acceptance.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.
Done Chase by Pam Withers (Dundurn Press, 2021)
With drones, bear cubs and poachers, Drone Chase is a thrilling book that will keep kids at the edge of their seats. The story follows Ray, a city kid who just moved to Great Bear Rainforest, as he tries to find a missing orphan bear cub. He isn’t familiar with the area or has any outdoor instincts, but he does have his drone and he’s willing to put his skills to the test. Up against evil poachers with their own drones, it’s going to be a tough battle to make things right.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.
Sisters of the Snake by Sasha Nanua and Sarena Nanua (HarperTeen, 2021)
Invite your teen to step into a world of magic with Sisters of the Snake, a young adult fantasy novel by Canadian twin sisters Sarena Nanua and Sasha Nanua. With their Indian heritage inspiring many elements of the book, this novel will take readers into the lives of a princess and street urchin who are unmistakably identical. After making a plan to switch places, the two must face the danger that lurks and work together to save their home.
Recommend for ages 13 and up.