Family Literacy Day (January 27, 2012)

In celebration of Family Literacy Day, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre has compiled a list of 50 Canadian books (25 picture books and 25 works of fiction) that share in the joys (and struggles) of families of all sizes and combinations. Why not celebrate this year’s Family Literacy Day with one of these fine books. Reading levels are listed by grade; interest levels are listed by age.


Bella's TreeBella’s Tree
Written by Janet Russell
Illustrated by Jirina Marton
Groundwood Books, 2009
ISBN 978-0888998705
Grades 2-3 / Ages 4-8
Bella and her dog, Bruno, set off to find the perfect Christmas tree for her grandmother who is “crooked” and too old to take on the task. The spunky girl and her pooch are condifent they can find a tree and ease the old woman’s misery. Evocative oil-pastel illustrations accompany the Newfoundland-infused prose, which is rife with homour.

Book Of Big BrothersBook of Big Brothers
Written by Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Luc Melanson
Groundwood Books, 2010
ISBN 978-0888999771
Grades 2-3 / Ages 4-8
Brothers protect each other, entertain each other, tease each other and sometimes brothers want to ride their banana bikes to the Rocky Mountains. In this fun-filled tale of brotherhood, author Cary Fagan reveals to us the ups and downs of being the youngest of three brothers. Luc Melanson’s retro-style illustrations complement this witty and humorous tale.

Can Anybody Hear Me?Can Anybody Hear Me?
Written and illustrated by Jessica Meserve
Andersen Press Ltd., 2008
ISBN 978-1842706343
Grades 2-3 / Ages 4-8
Jack is quiet, but his busy, rambunctious family is noisy. It seems like no one in Jack’s family hears him — or is it that they’re just not listening properly? With help from an imaginary friend and encounters with a wolf cub and grizzly bear, Jack gains confidence and finds his own voice.

Catching TimeCatching Time
Written by Rachna Gilmore
Illustrated by Kirsti Anne Wakelin
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2010
ISBN 978-1554551620
                                 Grades 2-3 / Ages 4-8
Sara desperately wants to go to the park to play with her friends, but her mom and dad are just too busy to find the time. Sara decides to capture time with her butterfly net and store it in a preserve jar — a task that is much harder than she anticipates. Time is sneaky and it keeps slipping and sliding away. This tale is a gentle reminder to all parents to make time for fun!

(World Vision Early Readers)
Written by Marla Stewart Konrad
Photos provided by World Vision Canada
Tundra Books, 2010
ISBN 978-0887769979
                            Grades 1-2 / Ages 3-6
This is a loving visual essay about the bond between grandparents and grandchildren, no matter where they live or what the circumstances. Written with simple text, this book talks about the many ways one generation can interact with another.

Grandpa's GirlsGrandpa’s Girls
Written by Nicola I. Campbell
Illustrated by Kim LaFave
Groundwood Books, 2011
ISBN 978-1554980840
Grades 2-3 / Ages 4-8
A young girl delights in a visit to her grandpa’s farm and the opportunity to ask Grandpa what her grandmother was like and explore an old wooden box of ribbons, medals and photos of Grandpa in uniform.

The Imaginary GardenThe Imaginary Garden
Written by Andrew Larsen
Illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
Kids Can Press, 2009
ISBN 978-1554532797
                                 Grades 1-3 / Ages 4-8
Theodora loved her Poppa’s old garden. His new apartment’s balcony is too blustery and tiny for a garden. What first appears to be a drawback soon leads to a shared spurt of creativity as Theodora and Poppa opt to paint a garden. As they work together, a masterpiece takes shape that transforms the balcony into an abundant garden.

The Little Word CatcherThe Little Word Catcher
Written by Danielle Simard
Illustrated by Geneviève Côté
Translated by Jill Corner
Second Story Press, 2008
ISBN 978-1897187449
                                 Grades 2-3 / Ages 4-8
Elsie’s grandmother used to know many marvellous words, but now she seems to be losing them all the time. This story offers a gentle explanation of the effects of Alzheimer’s on relationships in a family. It was first published in French as the award-winning La petite rapporteuse de mots.

Maggie Can't WaitMaggie Can’t Wait
Written by Frieda Wishinsky
Illustrated by Dean Griffiths
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2009
ISBN 978-1554551033
Grades 2-3 / Ages 4-8
All babies are cute, right? Well… Maggie can’t wait to show her pals the photograph of her gorgeous, terrific, soon-to-be-adopted baby sister. But mean Kimberly says the baby is unattractive. Even Maggie’s best friend, Sam, can’t think of anything kind to say. Now Maggie would rather clean up after elephants than bring that baby home!

Missuk's Snow GeeseMissuk’s Snow Geese
Written by Anne Renaud
Illustrated by Geneviève Côté
Simply Read Books, 2008
ISBN 978-1894965828
Grades 2-3 / Ages 4-8
In the far North, Missuk dreams of carving snow geese our of soapstone. Her father promises to teach her when he returns from hunting, but a fierce storm strikes. Fortunately, Missuk’s special snow geese guide him home.

Mom and MeMom and Me
(World Vision Early Readers)
Written by Marla Stewart Konrad
Photos provided by World Vision Canada
Tundra Books, 2009
ISBN 978-0887768668
                           Grades 1-2 / Ages 3-6
“It’s a mother and child reunion…” This is an affectionate look at how moms and kids relate to and rely on each other. When nourishment, assistance, instruction, comfort and special hugs are needed, mothers can offer them in special ways that only their children will ever know. The deep bond they share is captured in appealing photos.

Motherbrige of LoveMotherbridge of Love
Text provided by Mother Bridge of Love
Illustrated by Josée Masse
Barefoot Books, 2007
ISBN 978-1846860478
Grades 1-3 / Ages 7-9
A Chinese girl learns how the different kinds of love from her birth and adoptive mother made her who she is. Evocative and subtle acrylic artwork accompanies this powerful poem. Its title stems from Mother Bridge of Love, a charity which links internationally adopted Chinese children to their heritage.

My Great Big MammaMy Great Big Mamma
Written by Olivier Ka
Illustrated by Luc Melanson
Translated by Helen Mixter
Groundwood Books, 2009
ISBN 978-0888999429
                              Grades 1-2 / Ages 4-7
This is the story of a little boy with a large mother. He has always adored her fullness and strength, but other people call her “fat.” He senses her stress and shares that he always wants to “fall asleep in her soft arms,” that he loves her just the way she is. This loving tribute to full-figured moms features warm and expressive illustrations.

My New ShirtMy New Shirt
Written by Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Dušan Petričić
Tundra Books, 2007
ISBN 978-0887767159
                                 Grades 4-5 / Ages 6-10
For David, another birthday means another white shirt from his bubbie. With eyes closed, he envisions a long line of white shirts, When he opens his eyes, he discovers he’s flung the gift outside. David’s dog grabs it and a family chase ensues. Watercolour illustrations accompany this warm and funny tale. This title was shortlisted for the 2008 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award.

Nana's Getting MarriedNana’s Getting Married
Written by Hearther Hartt-Sussman
Illustrated by Georgia Graham
Tundra Books, 2010
ISBN 978-0887769115
Grades 3-5 / Ages 4-6
Nana was the best grandma in the world — she baked chewy chocolate chip cookies, knit mittens and socks and told the best stories at bedtime. Then Nana met Bob, and her grandson did not approve! This delightful story will resonate with anyone who has ever had to share the attentions of their favourite person with someone new. The playful chalk-pastel art of Georgia Graham will produce many giggles.

Written and illustrated by François Thisdale
Tundra Books, 2011
ISBN 978-1770492707
Grades 2-3 / Ages 3-6
This exceptional book about adoption is a comforting story for children and families who have experienced it first-hand. It is a tribute to the author’s own adoption and is a very heartfelt thank-you for the gift of family. This title is also available in French under the same name.

Niwechihaw = I HelpNiwechihaw = I Help
Written by Caitlin Dale Nicholson with Leona Morin-Nelson
Illustrated by Caitlin Dale Nicholson
Groundwood Books, 2008
ISBN 978-0888998125
Grade 1 / Ages 4-6
This simple Cree-English tale explores a young child’s relationship with his grandmother, or kôkhom, as they walk in the bush to pick rosehips. In doing so, he absorbs the rich cultural traditions and values of his Cree heritage. Includes instructions on how to prepare rosehip tea.

Old Mother BearOld Mother Bear
Written by Victoria Miles
Illustrated by Molly Bang
Chronicle Books, 2007
ISBN 978-0811850339
Grades 3-5 / Ages 5-11
A mother grizzly digs a winter den, hunts and raises and defends her cubs against another bear. Witness the cubs growth, the mother’s aging and her life’s imprint on the land. Lush textured oil and chalk drawings accompany this story.

Please, LouisePlease, Louise!
Written by Frieda Wishinsky
Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
Groundwood Books, 2007
ISBN 978-0888997968
Grades 2-3 / Ages 4-8
Louise won’t quit pestering her big brother, Jake. Out of desperation, he wishes she were a dog. Louise disappears and a little dog seems to have taken her place. This funny, wise and tender tale is paired with beautiful watercolour, collage and pencil artwork. Winner of the 2008 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award.

Written by Judy Ann Sadler
Illustrated by Susan Mitchell
Kids Can Press, 2011
ISBN 978-1554534562
Grade 1 / Ages 1-3
This picture book centres on a large, adoring family who has a new baby to love. Each scene, described in rhyming couplets, is built around the human gesture of “reaching.” The family members “reach” to play and cuddle with the growing child. And before you know it, the baby himself is “reaching,” exploring the wonderful world that surrounds him.

Rosie and ButtercupRosie and Buttercup
Written by Chieri Uegaki
Illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
Kids Can Press, 2008
ISBN 978-1553379973
                                 Grades 2-3 / Ages 4-8
When Rosie can no longer tolerate her little sister, Buttercup, she gives her away to the neighbours. But as she says goodbye to Buttercup forever, Rosie can’t ignore the squeezy feeling in her chest. She soon discovers that life without Buttercup isn’t at all what she expected.

Shin-chi's CanoeShin-chi’s Canoe
Written by Nicola I. Campbell
Illustrated by Kim LaFave
Groundwood Books, 2009
ISBN 978-0888998576
Grades 2-4 / Ages 6-10
Shin-chi sets off for his first year at residential school. His sister, Shi-shi-etko, joins him for her second year there. En route to their destination, she tells him of the things from home he must remember while away and gives him a tiny toy cedar canoe, a gift from their father, which she instructs him to keep hidden. The days are long and lonely at residential school, but then summer arrives, the salmon swim upriver, and the children return home. This titles was shortlisted for the 2009 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award and was the winner of the 2009 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award.

Silas’ Seven GrandparentsSilas’ Seven Grandparents
Written by Anita Horrocks
Illustrated by Helen Flook
Orca Book Publishers, 2010
ISBN 978-1551435619
Grades 2-3 / Ages 4-8
Usually Silas loves having seven grandparents dote on him, but sometimes it’s all a bit too much. When Silas’s parents go away on a business trip, all of his grandparents want him to stay with them, but that’s just not possible. How will Silas resolve this problem without hurting the feelings of any of his grandparents?

Sweetest One of AllThe Sweetest One of All
Written by Jean Little
Illustrated by Marisol Sarrazin
Scholastic Canada, 2008
ISBN 978-0439937757
Grade 1 / Ages 1-4
Barnyard babies — lambs, foals, goslings, piglets — frisk through fields of green. Each time a baby is born, another animal yearns for her very own… What kind of baby will she have? This gentle story features soft, endearing chalk pastel illustrations.

Topsy Turvy TownTopsy-Turvy Town
Written and illustrated by Luc Melanson
Tundra Books, 2010
ISBN 978-0887769207
Grades 2-3 / Ages 2-6
Join one special boy on a journey through Topsy-Turvy Town where it rains broccoli and you can go fishing in your living room or share a bath with a robot. Even though Topsy-Turvy Town lives in his head, and most of his family don’t believe it’s there, he can still share his imaginative world with one special person — his mom! This book was first published in French as Ma drôle de ville.


After the FireAfter the Fire
Written by Becky Citra
Orca Book Publishers, 2010
ISBN 978-1554692460
Grades 5-7 / Ages 9-12
Melissa’s family have been the victims of a fire and live on little money. When her mom announces they’re spending a month at a remote lakeside cabin, Melissa is less than pleased. As Melissa gets to know Alice, a mysterious girl with a strange fantasy life, she spends more time with her mom and brother and begins to realize the value of family.

The Ballad of Knuckles McGrawThe Ballad of Knuckles McGraw
(Orca Young Readers)
Written by Lois Peterson
Orca Book Publishers, 2010
ISBN 978-1554692033
Grades 3-4 / Ages 8-11
Kevin Mason arrives at school one day with a note that reads “Please look after my son I can’t take care of him anymore.” After being taken in by an odd foster family, he is faced with the decision either to stay with them, where his mom will know where to find him, or move to Edmonton with his grandparents.

Written by Cecil Castellucci
Candlewick Press, 2007
ISBN 978-0763642327
Grades 7-8 / Ages 12 and up
Katy has been exiled from Canada to sunny Los Angeles. She plans to stick her nose in a book and ignore the fact she’s spending two weeks with her dad who is known as the Rat. She won’t raise a stink even though she has plenty of reason to do so. Besides, Katy’s a nice, quiet, polite girl who smiles and is, well, beige. Or is she?

Beyond BlondeBeyond Blonde
Written by Teresa Toten
Puffin Canada, 2011
ISBN 978-0143173588
Grades 7-9 / Ages 12 and up
Sophie’s world has exploded. Papa has left to get sober, and her first love, Luke, is gone. Even Sophie’s refuge in basketball is threatened. But Sophie’s brilliant Blondes and the ever-audacious Aunties help her battle back with heart and humour. This is Toten’s third and final book in the series which includes Me and the Blondes and Better than Blonde.

Bitter, SweetBitter, Sweet
Written by Laura Best
Nimbus Publishing, 2009
ISBN 978-1551097367
Grades 5-6 / Ages 10-14
Dalhousie Road is in a secluded part of rural Nova Scotia where people keep to themselves and where Pru Burbridge and her family decide to settle. When Pru’s father takes off and her mother dies, she and her older brother, Jesse, must care for their younger siblings so they are not taken away. Sometimes that means taking drastic measures! This title was shortlisted for the 2010 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People.

Written by Alma Fullerton
Dancing Cat Books, 2010
ISBN 978-1897151952
Grades 6-7 / Ages 12 and up
This powerful free-verse novel explores Casey’s desperate attempt to take care of her autistic sister and keep her family together after her mother leaves. To find comfort, Casey becomes obsessed with building fires to send smoke signals to her mother, hoping she’ll see them and come back. When the everyday pressures get to be too much for Casey, her obsession with fire escalates into a very dangerous situation. This title was shortlisted for the 2011 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award.

(Orca Soundings)
Written by Vicki Grant
Orca Book Publishers, 2010
ISBN 978-1554693108
Grades 3-4 / Ages 12 and up
Most people think Ria lives a charmed life, but that’s far from the truth. Her parents’ marriage has broken up and her father has disappeared in a plane crash. When rumours start to surface that her father may not be the man they all thought he was, Ria resolves to take action and protect her family.

Come, Thou TortoiseCome, Thou Tortoise
Written by Jessica Grant
Alfred K. Knopf Canada, 2009
ISBN 978-0307397546
Grade 9 / Ages 14 and up
Audrey lives a quiet life with her pet tortoise, Winnifred. Despite her fear of flying, she takes the plane to visit her comatose dad. Before she leaves on her trip, she reluctantly leaves Winnifred with some untrustworthy pals. Audrey’s quest to discover who her father really was and reunite with her pet turns out to be quite the adventure.

Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My MomDear George Clooney, Please Marry by Mom
Written by Susin Nielsen
Tundra Books, 2010
ISBN 978-0887769771
Grades 5-6 / Ages 11-14
Violet’s TV-director dad has traded a job in Vancouver for one in Los Angeles, their run down house for a sleek ranch-style home and worst of all, Violet’s mom for a new wife. When her mother takes up with Dudley Wiener, Violet and her friend decide that they need to take control. They plan to help her snag George Clooney!

Half BrotherHalf Brother
Written by Kenneth Oppel
HarperCollins Canada, 2010
ISBN 978-1554688128
Grades 5-6 / Ages 10-14
As Ben’s family and a team of behavioural scientists attempt to teach Zan, the baby chimp, how to communicate using American Sign Language, they discover the complexities of humanizing a wild animal. Ben must risk everything he knows and everyone he loves in order to save his new “baby brother” and keep him in the family.This thought-provoking novel forces us to look at both sides of the science-versus-animal-rights issue.

If You Live Like MeIf You Live Like Me
Written by Lori Weber
Lobster Press, 2009
ISBN 978-1897550120
Grades 6-7 / Ages 12 and up
Cheryl plots her escape from Newfoundland before her plane even lands. She knows life there won’t be any better than in the other places where she’s been forced to live. Her father’s need to study the defunct fishing industry in St. John’s leads to her breaking point. Cheryl is more determined than ever to get back to the bright lights and big city of Montreal.

Illegally BlondeIllegally Blonde
Written by Nelsa Roberto
Great Plains Publications, 2010
ISBN 978-1894283977
Grade 9 / Ages 14 and up
When 17-year-old Lucy comes home with bleached blonde hair, she expects to be grounded — not hear that her family are illegal aliens who are being deported back to Portugal in less than a week. But as Lucy learns that intentions and realities can be worlds apart, she realizes you can’t run from your roots.

Little Black LiesLittle Black Lies
Written by Tish Cohen
HarperCollins Canada, 2009
ISBN 978-1554684618
Grades 7-8 / Ages 13 and up
Since no one knows Sara at her prestigious new high school, she figures there’s no harm in playing with the truth about her family and its checkered past. But then one of the school’s popular girls starts delving into Sara’s past, and her dad’s obsessive-compulsive disorder takes a bad turn. Her whole cover might soon be blown.

Lucy UnstrungLucy Unstrung
Written by Carole Lazar
Tundra Books, 2010
ISBN 978-0887769634
Grades 4-6 / Ages 10-12
Lucy is a sensible 13-year-old who is convinced that Grandma, God and the Catholic Church are on her side. But as her parent’s marriage falls apart, money gets tight and her best friend suggests the worst, she begins to question her faith. As she copes Lucy finds that while Grandma, God and her church are still there for her, there are some problems she has to solve for herself.

Meeting Miss 405Meeting Miss 405
(Orca Young Readers)
Written by Lois Peterson
Orca Book Publishers, 2008
ISBN 978-1554690152
Grades 3-4 / Ages 8-11
Life is hard for Tansy — her depressed mom goes away, and her dad is making a mess of things at home. The new babysitter, Miss Stella, has a unique perspective on life, and Tansy eventually warms to the changes she’s experiencing.

My Mother is a French Fry and Further Proof of My Fuzzed-Up LifeMy Mother is a French Fry and Further Proof of My Fuzzed-Up Life
Written by Colleen Sydor
Kids Can Press, 2008
ISBN 978-1554531844
Grades 7-8 / Ages 14 and up
Eli cringes when her mom accepts a job that requires her to wear a five-foot foam rubber French Fry costume. But Eli’s life gets more fuzzed-up when she falls for a boy who has his own dysfunctional family to contend with just as her mother announces that she is having a baby.

No ContactNo Contact
(Sports Stories)
Written by Sandra Diersch
James Lorimer, 2008
ISBN 978-1552770245
Grades 5-7 / Ages 9-12
If only Debbie’s adoptive mom, Angie, could be more like Debbie’s hockey coach. Coach Steph loves hockey, while Debbie’s mother plays the piano and does yoga — two things that Debbie definitely doesn’t get. In trying to fit into her new life, Debbie learns the importance of accepting people as they are and what it means to be part of a family.

Not Suitable For Family ViewingNot Suitable for Family Viewing
Written by Vicki Grant
HarperCollins Canada, 2009
ISBN 978-1554681808
Grades 7-8 / Ages 13 and up
Robin has all a girl could want: the cash, means and connections to make her dreams come true. Thanks to her mom, Mimi Schwartz, who is a globally adored talk show host. When she finds an old ring, she stumbles upon love, the truth of her own background and the shocking secret that helped make her mother a celebrity.

The Prince of Neither Here Nor ThereThe Prince of Neither Here Nor There
(Chronicles of the Misplaced Prince)
Written by Seán Cullen
Puffin Canada, 2009
ISBN 978-0143171201
Grades 6-7 / Ages 12 and up
Brendan learns he is a Faerie who was lost in the human world. The human family he grew up in isn’t his real one. Will he be forced to turn his back on his human parents and embrace his Faerie roots? How can he survive in the face of powers determined to destroy him before he can grasp the scope of his newfound birthright?

Shine, Coconut MoonShine, Coconut Moon
Written by Neesha Meminger
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2009
ISBN 978-1442403055
Graeds 9-10 / Ages 14 and up
Seventeen-year-old Samar, Sam for short, has never known much about her Sikh heritage. When Sam’s uncle shows up and wants to reunite the family, Sam isn’t sure what to do until a girl at school calls Sam a coconut. Sam discovers that ignorance can be dangerous. She needs to find a way to bridge her two worlds and make them both her own.

Skin DeepSkin Deep
Written by Sandra Diersch and Gerri London
James Lorimer, 2010
ISBN 978-1552774748
Grades 3-5 / Ages 12 and up
When Corinne’s mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, things that once seemed important to her — like her hair and makeup — no longer matter. But things happen for a reason, and out of all the sadness has come a new friendship, a new closeness to her mother and a realization of the importance of family.

A Thousand Shades of BlueA Thousand Shades of Blue
Written by Robin Stevenson
Orca Book Publishers, 2008
ISBN 978-1551439211
Grades 8-9 / Ages 13 and up
On the surface, Rachel’s sailing trip in the Bahamas seems like a dream come true. The reality, though, is altogether different. While trapped on a sailboat with her quarreling parents and nerdy brother, she makes a discovery that turns her world upside down and threatens to destroy the fragile threads that bind her family together.

Wanting MorWanting Mor
Written by Rukhsana Khan
Groundwood Books, 2009
ISBN 978-0888998620
Grades 7-8 / Ages 12 and up
Jameela is trying to learn to read. When her stepmom finds out, she urges her father to abandon her. Jameela ends up in an orphanage, where she gets an education and is given an operation to fix her cleft lip, courtesy of the same army that is responsible for the deaths of many of her family members. This book is based on a true story.

Written by Eric Walters
Doubleday Canada, 2009
ISBN 978-0385664431
Grades 5-6 / Ages 10 and up
Based on a true event, this is the story of Sam and his parents on holiday at a resort in Thailand when the tsunami strikes. His sister Beth stayed at home to attend a swim meet. Told in the alternating voices of Sam and Beth, we learn how Sam copes with a crisis that tests his survival instincts and leaves Beth wondering if she will ever see her family again.

(Orca Young Readers)
Written by Becky Citra
Orca Book Publishers, 2009
ISBN 978-1554690831
Grades 3-4 / Ages 8-11
Robin can hardly wait for her cousin April and Auntie Liz to come to the ranch for Christmas. When a devastating accident sends Aunt Liz to the hospital, it’s decided that April will go live with Robin and her family. The test of friendship occurs when little sister Molly is lost.

About Family Literacy Day
Family Literacy Day is a national awareness initiative created by ABC Life Literacy Canada in 1999 and held annually on January 27 to raise awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family. More than 1.5 million Canadians have already participated in the initiative since its debut. Taking time every day to read or do a learning activity with children is crucial to a child’s development. Even just 15 minutes a day can improve a child’s literacy skills dramatically, and can help a parent improve their skills as well. For more information, please email

ABC Life Literacy Canada is a non-profit organization that inspires Canadians to increase their literacy skills. They connect and mobilize business, unions, government, communities and individuals to support lifelong learning and achieve their goals through leadership in programs, communications and partnerships. ABC Life Literacy Canada envisions a Canada where everyone has the skills they need to live a fully engaged life.