ALINA IN A PINCH by Shenaaz Nanji 

Alina has moved to a new school and is teased because of the lunches she brings.  When Alina’s parents are forced to travel to Africa, her grandmother comes to take care of her and the two enjoy cooking Afro-Indian meals together. From her Nani, Alina learns that ‘we are all the same, yet different: ‘different colored balloons flying under one sky… Each of us has hopes, fears., and dreams. We all want to be love and to be accepted.” Alina is determined to find the cruel bully culprit who makes fun of her. She is also determined to audition for the Junior Chef competition by creating a healthy treat. This chapter book will guide readers into diversity and equity and acceptance… and not just because of the food we eat. 


Publisher’s synopsis: Narnia meets traditional Indigenous stories of the sky and constellations in an epic middle-grade fantasy series from award-winning author David Robertson.

Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home — until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Askí, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, they embark on a dangerous mission. Accompanied by Arik, a sassy Squirrel they catch stealing from the trapline, they try to save Misewa before the icy grip of winter freezes everything — including them. Book 2: The Great Bear; Book 3: The Stone Child. 


Award-winning author, Lawrence Hill, (The Book of Negroes) has written a book for middle-age readers that is sure to appeal to those who join in the adventures of a fictional character. We first meet Beatrice in a forest-tree house and as it turns out she is the only human in the forest.  How did she get there? Who can she talk to? Will she be staying in the magical forest or Argilia and coexist with other animals who seem able to communicate with others. A wise lemur, a loyal tarantula, a feisty rabbit and especially  King Crocodile (Croc Harry) become Beatrice’s allies as she is on a quest to learn about her past and a  discover the truth about her family Lawrence Hill is a great storyteller and Beatrice and Croc Harry is filled with magical and dangerous adventures (maybe too many events). Beatrice and Croc Harry is a book about friendship, loyalty, courage and vocabulary. Moreover, Beatrice and Croc Harry turns out to be a story about the quest of a Black girl discovering the truth about her family as well as racial violence.  A wonder of a book!

BORDERS by Thomas King; illus. Natasha Donovan 

This book presents Thomas King’s short story “Borders” (1993) as a graphic novel. When his older sister moves from Alberta to Salt Lake City, a boy and his mother decide to visit her. The border guards asks a simple question: Are you Canadian or American and the mother answers “Blackfoot”. After being detained in both border patrols, the mother refuses to change her answer. This is a story powerfully extols the truth of identity and belonging from an Indigenous perspective.

BURYING THE MOON by Andree Poulin; illus. Sonali Zohra

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” ~ Buddha

Narrative? Nonfiction? Poetry? This wonderful free-verse novel is a beautiful – and powerful – work of art both verbally and visually. The story is set in Rural India and events are seen through the eyes of pre-puberty Latika who wants to bury the light of the moon that shines brightly on the field of Shame where women have to ‘do their business’. With no toilets in the village, many girls are taken out of school once they reach puberty. When a government representative visits her village, she bravely meets up with him, hoping to arouse compassion and change for girls. Poulin, through a series of titled poems, shines a light on the lack of access sanitation facilities that affects over 4 billion people worldwide (one in five schools in the world don’t have toilets). I certainly wasn’t aware that World Toilet Day Takes place every year on November 19th to raise awareness of this significant public health issue.  Thank you Ms Poulin for this important , heartfelt story. Thank you Sonali Zohra for your lively spot-art and full-page illustrations that convey a sense of place, people and events in one small Indian community. This is certain to be at the top of list of favourite children’s literature reads for 2021.


This is the third book in the Mighty Muskrats Mystery Series by Cree author, Michael Hutchinson. A bundle ceremony is an Indigenous ritual in which the oral histories and philosophy of a nation are passed down through generations. “It is the experience that is the message”. In this novel, the author once again creates the fictional Windy Lake First Nation. The National Assembly of Cree Peoples has gathered together for a four-day-long ceremony and when the treaty bundle is stolen, the Might Muskrats, cousins Chickadee, Atim, Otter, and Sam set out to find the culprit(s). Hutchinson not only gives readers with an intriguing whodunnit, but provides rich detail and information of the Cree nation. B00k Four: The Case of the Rigged Race

COINKEEPER: THE AVERY CHRONICLES (4 books) Teresa Schapansky

Teresa Schapansky has met her goal of writing books that will appeal to readers, particularly reluctant readers, who are keen to read not-to-long books with fine story power. Avery has a strong bond with his grandpa and grandpa has great stories to tell about travelling into the past and taken part or being witness to legendary tales.. Cleverly, the author presents the Coinkeeper narrative in short paragraphs with generous white space dividing each paragraph. Clever too, is the presentation of each story in four books, each no more than 32 pages. (Each book provides Extra Reading information connected to story components.) . This short length should motivate middle years readers. Moreover, the stories that Grandpa tells have great folklore appeal (the Ogopogo Monster, The Selkies, Billy the Kid, the legendary camel knows as the Red Ghost). Highly recommended.

FIREFLY by Philippa Dowding 

When Firefly’s drug-loving, baseball-bat-wielding mother has been taking to rehab, the young teenager is sent to her Aunt Gayle’s house which is certainly a better home than the park she’s been forced to live in. Aunt Gayle’s shop with seven million costumes adds a variety and colour to Firefly’s life as she strives to cope with a new school, a new home, and some new friends.   Firefly is a great character and one that readers will absolutely root for – and learn about resilience from. Winner of the 2021 Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature.

THE FLOODED EARTH by Mardi McConnochie

Twins Annalie and Will cross the ocean to find their missing father. Within this adventure story that includes a sailboat, pirates, secret storms, cannibals and a technologically enhanced parrot, the author explores current world issues that includes climate change and the refugee crisis. Winner of the Green Earth Book Award. Also in the “Flooded Earth Trilogy: The Castle in the Sea; The Skeleton Coast.


Nine-year0old Konisola and her mother have moved to Canada since live in Nigeria is no longer safe for them. In Canada, Konisola’s mother falls ill and mother and daughter are separated. A refugee in a strange country with no family or friends,  Konisola is forced to fend for herself until she meets a kind Canadian nurse who takes care of her. 

NO VACANCY by Tziporah Cohen

Miriam, an eleven-year-old Jewish  has moved with her mother and father and little brother Sammy to the Town of Greenvale, population 510. Life will be very different for Miriam from what she is used to in New York, especially with the challenge of making a worthwhile living with the Jewel Motel which her father just purchased. It is summertime and Miriam makes friends with the maid, with Kate and with the owners of the diner next to the hotel. It is the summer of helping out her family, of taking care of overcoming a fear of swimming, of making grape pies.  Miriam and Kate devise a plot to bring people to the community and when they create a vision of the Virgin Mary in the abandoned community drive-in, motel business does indeed boom. Problems arise, however, when the motel is vandalized with a hate message against the Jewish family. Eventually comes to learn that religion can bring out the good in all of us and as the rabbi in the story says “It’s not what happens to us, it’s what we do with what happens to us.” Winner of the CCBC Jean LIttle First Novel Award, 2021.

STEP by Deborah Ellis

This short story collection features characters from around the world who on the occasion of turning 11 years old who are each connected to family, friends or community and consider how their 11th birthday marks the first day of the rest of their lives as they STEP forward into a life of independence and change. A boy walks a dog, a girl takes a camping trip on her own, a boy volunteers in a soup kitchen, a boy learns that his father is a Neo Nazi, a girl is hopeful of survival while sailing on a rubber raft with other refugees. Remarkable stories, each with a one word title (e.g., Smash, Alone, Rock, Rubber, Shoes) guaranteed to inspire compassion and connection, reflection and hope for middle years readers.

All royalties from the sale of STEP will be donated to the United Nations High Commissioner or Refugees (UNHCR) which works to aid and protect people forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict and persecution.

RED WOLF by Jennifer Dance 

At a very young age, Red Wolf is forced to attend a residential school far from the life he knows.  The author paints a stark and unsettling/ brutal portrait of life for Indigenous children taken away from their families under the Indian Act of 1876. The fear alienation and powerlessness of thousands of First Nation children. The story is balanced by the narrative of Crooked Ear, a wolf being forced from the land who throughout the story helps Red Wolf to survive. The author has a passion for equality and justice and as a non-native has dedicated her writing and research to presents a vivid and informative portrait of Anishnaabe, language, beliefs and culture. Other titles in the ‘White Feather’ Collection:  Paint; Hawk.


Kathy Kacer is a very special author who brings Holocaust history to today’s middle-age+ readers. She does her research. She is an expert storyteller. Kathy Kacer is a model author of historical fiction.  The setting of this book is Dusseldorf, Germany 1938. The story is centred on Paul who is under pressure to join the Hitler Youth which challenges his ethical beliefs and leads to some decisions that has an impact on those who are important to him including school friends, parents and Jews. Kacer presents the true story of the rebel group known as the Edelweiss Pirates  who were set out to undermine Nazi t power. Kacer has written over 20 books that focus on stories of the Holocaust ( The Secret of Gabi’s Dresser, The Brave Princess and Me, The Brushmaker’s Daughter, Broken Strings (with Eric Walters). I’m so fond of this new book, not only because it emotionally took me into the history and cruelty of Nazi threats but it was a story of taking the courage to stand up and fight for what you believe in, a theme that resonates for today’s and tomorrow’s generation.  “I am a passionate advocate for stories about the Holocaust. I think the lesson we can learn – lessons about hatred and power, but also lessons about compassion, strength, and selflessness – are lessons for the ages?” (from Teaching Tough Topics, 2020, page 69). 



SIT by Deborah Ellis

STEP by Deborah Ellis

SUNNY DAYS INSIDE: and other stories by Caroline Anderson

WAR AT THE SNOW WHITE HOTEL and Other Stories by Tim Wynne-Jones