As the executive director of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC), I know the power of a good story! Formed in 1976, the CCBC is a not-for-profit that works to encourage, promote and support the reading, writing, illustrating, and publishing of Canadian books for young readers. To advance this mission, the CCBC delivers a variety of fun and innovative programs!
As someone whose privilege it is to read great YA and Children’s books like it’s her job (because it is!), I know a bit about the best books to give kids this Holiday Season. That’s why I was thrilled to assemble this list for Daddy’s Digest, a publication that understands one of the best ways to leave a legacy as parents is to read to our children.
After all, reading to and with our kids promotes early literacy, the cornerstone of academic success.
When you gift a little one with books for their library, you aren’t just giving the present of an awesome story, you’re also giving them the building blocks for a bright future!
The picture books and novels on this list are memorable, often groundbreaking, and so much fun to enjoy! Plus, when you read with your kid, you get the added gift of spending quality time together. What could be better than that?
Author: Kulinder Kaur Brar
Illustrator: Samrath Kaur
Interest Age: 4 – 7
Written by a teacher from Abbotsford, British Columbia, My Name Is Saajin Singh is a beautiful story about learning to speak up for oneself. In this picture book, the titular Saajin Singh loves his name. However, when he arrives at the first day of school, his teacher mispronouncs it, referring to him as “Say-jin.” After trying to live with this misunderstanding, Saajin eventually realizes the importance of reclaiming a name that means so much to him. Ultimately, this is a heartwarming story about identify and self-advocacy. Saajin Singh’s journey will inspire the elementary student in your life to use their voice!
Author: David A. Robertson
Illustrator: Julie Flett
Publisher: Tundra Books
Interest Age: 4 – 8
Winner of this year’s TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award (a prize given out at the CCBC’s annual Book Awards) On the Trapline is an unforgettable story. In this picture book, a young boy from the city travels with his Moshom, his grandpa, to visit their family’s ancestral trapline. For those who are not familiar with the term, a trapline is a place where people hunt and live of the land, and it is the place where Moshom grew up. Cree Author David A Robertson and illustrator Cree-Metis illustrator Julie Flett have imbued this immersive story with warmth and wonder. Gorgeously illustrated, touching, and laugh-out-loud funny, On The Trapline is written in English and Swampy Cree
Author: Sigal Samuel
Illustrator: Vali Mintzi
Publisher: Levine Querido
Interest Age: 9 -12.
This empowering piece of nonfiction is the type of book that motivates kids to break the mould and be their authentic selves. When Osnat grew up five hundred years ago, few girls even knew how to read; however, Osnat had an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Surrounded by her scholar father’s extensive library, she grew up to become a renowned intellectual and the world’s first female rabbi. By some accounts, Osnat even performed life-saving miracles! Her empowering story is a must-read for the budding feminists in your life!
Author: Christine Baldachino
Illustrator: Isabel Malenfant
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Interest Age: 4 – 7
Morris Micklewhite is a little kid with a big imagination. He loves painting, dreaming up big adventures, and most of all, he loves to wear the tangerine dress in his classroom’s dressup centre. Sadly, not everyone in his life thinks Morris should be wearing the dress he adores. Ultimately, this is a heartfelt, uplifting tale about resisting gender stereotypes and binaries. It’s a book that encourages little readers to do what makes them truly happy!
Publisher: 400 coups
Interest Age: 6 – 8
Daddy’s Digest is an English-language publication, but I couldn’t resist including La fin des poux?, winner of the Prix TD 2022 de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse. With outstanding illustrations and a clever plot, it tells the story of what happens to a family of lice during a summer when children must stay at home rather than play together. Wildly entertaining, this tale is also a valuable tool for discussing social distancing with children in the era of COVID-19. If you have a child in your life who speaks French or is learning the language, La fin des poux? is a delight!
Author: Nadia L. Hohn
Illustrated by: Irene Luxbacher
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Interest Age: 3 – 7
Starring Malaika, a feisty little girl with a big, beautiful personality and a love for carnival, Malaika’s Surprise is the third book in an acclaimed series; however, this stunning picture book stands on its own. With vibrant illustrations, Malaika’s Surprise follows its protagonist as she prepares to become a big sister. While at first Malaika worries her mother will forget about her when the new baby arrives, Nadia L. Hohn’s poignant story is ultimately a testament to the beauty of family. If you want to be an extra cool grownup, consider purchasing the other books in the Malaika series, as well!!
If you liked these recommendations, the CCBC has so many more fantastic books to recommend! Please check out the CCBC’s two magazines, Best Books for Kids and Teens and Canadian Children’s Book News. Both publications help readers, educators and parents stay up-to-date with the most outstanding Canadian children’s books available today. And if you are in the market for making donations (however small), please consider contributing to the CCBC. Your donations help us foster a love of reading in Canada’s children and teens.