OLA Best Bets 2013

Each year the OLA Best Bets Committee selects the top Canadian picture books, fiction and non-fiction for children, and fiction for teens. Books are selected on the basis of their literary merit as well as their appeal to the intended audience. Illustrations are also considered in the case of graphic novels. The following list, which highlights books published in 2013, was featured at last month’s Ontario Library Association Superconference. The titles are listed below, alphabetically by author.


Boudreau, Hélène. I Dare You Not to Yawn. Illustrated by Serge Block. Candlewick Press.
Since yawns lead to bedtime, this useful book tells of all the things to stay away from, such as sleepytime songs,stuffed animals and yawning baby orangutans!

Camp, Richard Van. Little You. Illustrated by Julie Flett. Orca Book Publishers.
Little You is a board book that celebrates the joy that “little ones” bring to their parents. Tender family moments are captured beautifully with gentle rhyming text and exquisite illustrations.

Gay, Marie-Louise. Read Me a Story Stella. Groundwood Books
Stella and Sam return in a story about the joys of reading and imagination. As Stella and Sam romp through their day, books go right along with them as they read poems to rabbits while they wait for the carrots to grow. At night when Sam can’t sleep, naturally he asks Stella to read him a story!

Grant, Joyce. Gabby. Illustrated by Jan Dolby. Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
Gabby drops a book and all the letters spring out into her playroom! Gabby creates a new friend by spelling c-a-t and then, as she finds other letters and other words come to life, chaos ensues. Lively spelling fun indeed!

Jocelyn, Marthe and Nell Jocelyn. Where Do You Look? Tundra Books.
Using collage illustrations, Marthe and Nell Jocelyn introduce homonyms to early readers. The clever combinations, including, “Where do you look for a tongue? In a shoe? Or in your mouth?”, will have everyone laughing and reading them again. A definite hit!

MacKay, Elly. If You Hold a Seed. Running Press Kids.
A boy makes a wish when he plants a seed & soon magical things begin to happen over the seasons. Extraordinarily beautiful illustrations highlight the wonders of nature in this must read.

Snicket, Lemony. The Dark. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. HarperCollins Publishers.
In this unique picture book, Laszlo shares his home with the dark. He knows all its hiding places, and hopes it won’t visit him at night in his room. But it does – and the simple but effective art reflects the stark, black spread of the night in Laszlo’s bedroom. When the night beckons Laszlo into its bedroom (the basement), the two reach an understanding.

Storms, Patricia. Never Let You Go. Scholastic Canada.
A heart-warming storybook about the enduring and unconditional love that parents have for their children. The bright and cheery illustrations, along with the likeable penguin characters make this storybook especially appealing.

Villeaneuve, Anne Loula is Leaving for Africa. Kids Can Press.
With nods to Madeline and Eloise, this charming story follows an imaginative girl as she runs away (to the park) with the aid of her family’s chauffeur.

Young, Jessica. My Blue is Happy. Illustrated by Catia Chien. Candlewick Press.
When told blue is a sad colour, a girl responds that blue is happy like favourite jeans or the swimming pool. A wonderful debut book that challenges the common interpretations of colours and emotions.

Picture Books – Honourables:
Becker, Helaine. Little Jack Horner Live From the Corner. Illustrated by Mike Boldt. Scholastic.
Boldt, Mike. 123 Versus ABC. HarperCollins.
Larsen, Andrew. In the Tree House. Illustrated by Duŝan Petričić. Kids Can Press
Stinson, Kathy. The Man With the Violin. Illustrated by Duŝan Petričić. Annick Press.
Thornhill, Jan. Is This Panama? A Migration Story. Illustrated by Soyeon Kim. Owlkids Books Inc.


Armstrong, K. L. and M. A. Marr. Loki’s Wolves Illustrated by Vivienne To. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
In this first installment of the Blackwell Pages series, Matt (a descendant of Thor) joins forces with Fen and Laurie (decendants of Loki) to stop Ragnarok (the world’s end). This fast-paced adventure has a great cast of characters who are all descended from Norse gods and will keep readers entertained.

Britt, Fanny. Jane, the Fox & Me. Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. Groundwood Books.
Hélène escapes the torments of “mean girls” bullying by retreating to the fictitious world of her favourite book, Jane Eyre. This stunning graphic novel captures the heartbreak of social rejection, and the jubilation of finally finding a true friend.

Coates, Jan L. The Power of Harmony. Red Deer Press.
When Jennifer makes friends with Melody, a Native girl in her class, she discovers that she has the strength to stand up to the bullies in her school and also overcome her fear of singing in public. A touching & inspiring read.

DeLint, Charles. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. Little Brown Books for Young Readers.
Lillian believes in magic having never seen any. Until, that is, she is turned into a kitten to save her life. A modern tale with the depth of long ago stories.

Lloyd, Jennifer. Murilla Gorilla, Jungle Detective. Illustrated by Jacqui Lee. Simply Read Books.
In this hilarious “who-dunnit”, we are introduced to Murilla Gorilla, a scatterbrained detective who is investigating the disappearance of Ms. Chimpanzee’s muffins. This new easy-read series is a delight!

Mack, W.C. Athlete vs. Mathlete. Scholastic Canada.
Owen and Russell are NOT identical twins, especially when it comes to sports. But when “brainy” Russell is recruited to the basketball team because of his height, the twins find their worlds flipped upside down. A funny novel that keeps the reader guessing, will it be a full-blown sibling rivalry, or will “brotherly love” prevail?

MacLean, Jill. The Hidden Agenda of Sigrid Sugden. Fitzhenry & Whiteside
In this series entry, the focus is on Sigrid, a tough-girl bully who has decided to change her ways. When Sigrid betrays the mean girls, and tries to make new friends, she realizes how much damage she has done and sets about a plan to repair it. As Sigrid begins to right wrongs, she is tested time and again.

Stevenson, Robin. Record Breaker. Orca Book Publishers.
12 year-old Jack thinks breaking a world record will make his parents happy. Instead, it’s the advice of a kind friend that helps Jack and his parents reconnect after a tragic loss. A well written story for children about the complexities of bereavement, and the role of friendship during times of grief.

Vansickle, Vikki. Summer Days, Starry Nights. Scholastic Canada.
In the summer of 1962, Reenie Starr has a plan to solve everyone’s problems and also save the family resort from ruin. Along the way secrets are revealed and Reenie discovers much about herself and her family. Readers will fall in love with the irrepressible Reenie Starr!

Junior Fiction – Honourables:
Leck, James. The Further Adventures of Jack Lime. Kids Can Press
Marentette, Meghan. The Stowaways. Pajama Press.


Birmingham, Maria. Weirdzone: Sports. Illustrated by Jamie Bennett. Owlkids Books Inc.
Readers will be amazed when they read about the weird and wacky world of strange sports, from swamp soccer and cheese racing, to human tower building. Love a challenge? Weirdzone: Sports will keep you riveted and asking for more.

Editors of Chirp Magazine. Joking Around With Chirp: More Than 130 Feather-Ruffling Jokes, Riddles, and Tongue Twisters! Illustrated by Bob Kain. Owlkids Books Inc.
What’s a frog’s favourite food? French-flies! This collection of jokes, riddles and tongue twisters is sure to tickle the funny bones of kids and adults alike. A fun way to introduce the joy of reading to beginning readers!

Glassbourg, Michael. Learn to Speak Film: a Guide to Creating, Promoting & Screening Your Movies. Designed and Illustrated by Jeff Kulak. Owlkids Books Inc.
Every aspect of filmmaking is featured in this colourful, detailed book. From lighting to scripts to storyboards to working with actors – this book has everything a budding filmmaker needs to know.

Jocelyn, Marthe. Sneaky Art: Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight. Candlewick Press.
Not your typical craft book for children, Sneaky Art is a kid’s how-to guide for creating and sharing art projects in unexpected places. This collection of clever and “crafty” ideas will inspire budding artists to add a little art to everyday life.

McLachlan, Brian. Draw Out the Story: Ten Secrets to Creating Your Own Comics. Owlkids Books Inc.
Using lots of pictures (of course!) and easy to understand ideas, cartoonist McLachlan makes the work of creating a comic look easy. Many of these ideas can be applied to any creative writing.

Mulder, Michelle. Pedal It! How Bicycles are Changing the World. Orca Book Publishers.
Did you know about all the amazing uses of bicycles around the world? From ambulances to powering computers, this book celebrates everything about bicycles, their history and their impact on the world.

Suneby, Elizabeth. Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education. Illustrated by Suana Verelst. Kids Can Press.
Razia longs to attend the new girls’ school in her Afghani village, but her family does not approve. Support comes from some unexpected places, but it is only after she solves a family crisis using her reading skills that her dream comes true. A remarkable story filled with hope.

Sylvester, Kevin. Showtime: Meet the People Behind the Scenes. Annick Press.
Behind every great performance, there are talented people working behind the scenes. Readers are granted a “backstage pass” to meet the people, from choreographer to promoter, who make a show a success.

Walker, Niki. Why Do We Fight?: Conflict, War, and Peace. Owlkids Books Inc.
This is a well-balanced book that inspires its readers to really think about how conflict occurs, both in the real world and in their own lives. Using bold graphics, flowcharts, maps and sidebar definition of words, this book is an excellence resource for discussions on world affairs.

Winters, Kari-Lyn. Buzz About Bees. Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
“BEE-lieve it or not, bees are something to buzz about!” Discover why bees, admired in cave paintings and hieroglyphs, fascinate us and remain so important today. Learn about the different types of bees, their unique habitats and social structure and many other amazing facts.

Junior Non Fiction – Honourables:
Bergeron, Alain, Quinton, Michel, Sampar. Do You Know Chameleons? – Fitzhenry & Whiteside plus other titles in series
Isabella, Jude. Chitchat: Celebrating the World’s Languages. Illustrated by Kathy Boake. Kids Can Press.
Shapiro, Sheryl and Shapiro, Simon. Ladybugs Have Lots of Spots. Annick.
Vermond, Kira. Growing Up, Inside and Out. Owlkids Books Inc.
Vickers, Roy Henry and Budd, Robert. Raven Brings the Light. Illustrated by Roy Henry Vickers. Harbour Publishing.

Young Adult Fiction

Andrews, Jan. The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley. Great Plains Teen Fiction.
Tossed from one foster home to another, Kyle decides to stop talking, sure no one will notice. But when he is welcomed by a couple who accept him & give him the freedom to make his own choices, he discovers hope.

Bass, Karen. Grafitti Knight. Pajama Press.
Set in aftermath of the second World War the novel opens with a group of German teens playing a spy game that quickly becomes too real as they witness the police beating a man. It is in this harsh setting Wilm and his friends turn to subversive acts to express their feelings about the conditions under which they live. The diverse set of characters in the novel are represent a spectrum of individuals coping with hardship, foreign occupation, and injustice in their own ways. Throughout the story the reader is confronted by destruction and the question of how to begin to rebuild.

Bow, Erin. Sorrow’s Knot. Scholastic Press
What lurks in the shadows and how to put it to rest? The Binder knots her cords, casting spells to hold the dead. The free women of the forest weave ropes in loose tree platforms to canopy the dead. The ward is surrounded by a safety net of charms. Otter seeks her destiny on her quest to the origins of the cursed white hand before more of her womenfolk and friends die.

Johnston, Julie. Little Red Lies. Tundra Books
When Jamie returns home from the battlefront, Rachel expects everything will return to normal for their family. As Rachel struggles to reconcile her brother’s trauma and her mother’s pregnancy, she focuses on dramatic theatre as an escape. Her lipstick, “Little Red Lies” cannot shield her from the hard truths she must face to move on.

Little, Ashley. The New Normal. Orca Book Publishers.
Tamar is losing her hair, her twin sisters died in a car crash, her mother is becoming a yoga fanatic, and her father is increasingly distant. Despite these seemingly extraordinary circumstances Tamar is a likeable character who will resonate with readers. School drama, finding a job, a robbery, negotiating with a drug dealer, and a new relationship are all part of Tamar’s story as she and her family begin to navigate their way out of grief.

MacLean, Jill. Nix Minus One. Pajama Press.
Told in free verse, this is about the growth of an insecure, practically non-verbal, teen when he has to fight to protect those he loves. It is a somber but powerful read with flashes of humour and hope.

Mulder, Michelle. Not A Chance. Orca Book Publishers.
Dian accompanies her physician parents who do clinic work in Dominican Republic, each summer. Her girlhood friend is planning to marry at 15, denying herself an opportunity for a future in Canada. Engage in this culture clash; explore the value of home. Can Dian define her role as a community helper without alienating the people she has come to befriend?

Sherrard, Valerie. Counting Back From Nine. Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
Laren is dropped by her high-school clique when it’s revealed that she is dating her BFF’s “ex”. Amidst the misery of being “unfriended”, Laren’s perspective on life and love is changed forever when her father dies suddenly, and a shocking family secret is exposed. A powerful and thought provoking YA novel, written in free verse.

Silver, Eve. Rush (The Game: Book 1). HarperCollins.
Although Rush begins after a normal day of school for the teen characters, readers are quickly pulled into an alternate reality game where teens must kill aliens to survive. Miki Jones, the main character, soon discovers that actions within the game have consequences in the real world and much more than she could have imagined is depending on the outcome of the game. Fast paced, filled with action, and character development, there are many facets to enjoy in this book. This first book in a series will leave readers eager for the next installment.

Toten, Teresa. The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B. Doubleday Canada
A modern-day boy meets girl tale – except Adam and Robyn meet in a support group for teens with obsessive-compulsive disorders. As Adam and Robyn fall head over heels for each other, their individual struggles continue to challenge their friendships in the group and their own relationship. How can Adam be Robyn’s “Batman” if he can’t race to her rescue without first completing his ritual of clearing the door? A compassionate love story that allows us insight into lives less understood.

Young Adult Fiction – Honourables
Chapman, Elsie. Dualed. Random House.
Laidlaw, S.J., An Infidel in Paradise. Tundra Books.
McNicholl, Sylvia. Dying to Go Viral. Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
Ryan, Tom. Tag Along. Orca Book Publishers.

OLA’s Canadian Materials Committee Members:
Carrie Dawber, Richmond Hill Public Library
Sarah Hart, Chatham-Kent Public Library
Sandy Laird, Mississauga Library System
Laura Luopa, Caledon Public Library
Terry Milligan, Retired Libraria
Sheilah O’Connor, Toronto Public Library
Cecily Reid, Retired Librarian
Jane Salmon, Barrie Public Library

For further information, please contact:
Jane Salmon | Barrie Public Library | jsalmon@barrie.ca