The Canadian Children’s Book Centre celebrates Family Literacy Day with a list of recommended books!

In celebration of Family Literacy Day, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre has compiled a list of Canadian books that share in the joys (and struggles) of families of all sizes and combinations. Canadian children’s authors and illustrators have done an admirable job of exploring Canada’s diversity, and many of their finest books are listed here.

RL = Reading Level | IL = Interest Level

Picture Books

Imaginary Garden
Written by Andrew Larsen
Illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
Kids Can Press, 2009
RL: Grades 1-3 / IL: Ages 4 and up
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.
Thematic Links: Grandfathers – Gardens – Intergenerational Relationships

In the Snow
Written and illustrated by Peggy Collins
Applesauce Press, 2009
RL: Grade 1 / IL: Ages 3-6
A boy bundles up in his warm winter gear and heads out to his snow-covered backyard with his father. The boy is chased by his dad, fills their bird feeder, pursues a rabbit and makes a snowman. When the pair are tired and hungry, they head back inside. The boy, snuggled in his dad’s arms, delights in the warmth of hot chocolate.
Thematic Links: Winter – Snow – Fathers and Sons

The Little Word Catcher
Written by Danielle Simard
Illustrated by Geneviève Côté
Translated by Jill Corner
Second Story Press, 2008
RL: Grade 2 / IL: Ages 5-8
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.
Thematic Links: Alzheimer’s Disease – Grandmothers – Families

Maggie Can’t Wait
Written by Frieda Wishinsky
Illustrated by Dean Griffiths
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2009
RL: Grades 2-3 / IL: 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!
Thematic Links: Cats – Sisters – Adoption – Family

Missuk’s Snow Geese
Written by Anne Renaud
Illustrated by Geneviève Côté
Simply Read Books, 2008
RL: Grades 2-3 / IL: Ages 4-8
In the far North, Missuk dreams of carving snow geese out 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.
Thematic Links: Fathers and Daughters – Carving – Inuit – Canadian North – Geese

My Great Big Mamma
Written by Olivier Ka
Illustrated by Luc Melanson
Translated by Helen Mixter
Groundwood Books, 2009
RL: Grades 1-2 / IL: 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.
Thematic Links: Family – Appearance – Mothers

Niwechihaw = I Help
Written by Caitlin Dale Nicholson with Leona Morin-Neilson
Illustrated by Caitlin Dale Nicholson
Groundwood Books, 2008
RL: Grade 1 / IL: 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.
Thematic Links: Cree First Nations – Grandmothers

Rosie and Buttercup
Written by Chieri Uegaki
Illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
Kids Can Press, 2008
RL: Grade 2 / IL: Ages 5-8
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.
Thematic Links: Sisters – Acceptance – Sibling Rivalry

When Wishes Come True
Written and illustrated by Per Henrik Gürth
Lobster Press, 2009
RL: Grade 1 / IL: Ages 3-6
Little Bear closes his eyes and wishes to become an astronaut, a pirate, a king. But when he opens his eyes, his wishes haven’t come true. Mother Bear helps him see that many of his wishes do come true, such as swimming with belugas. And much to his surprise and delight, he discovers that he was Mother Bear’s wish come true!
Thematic Links: Bears – Love – Hope

Where You Came From
Written by Sara O’Leary
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
Simply Read Books, 2008
RL: Grade 2 / IL: Ages 4-6
In the sequel to the acclaimed picture book When You Were Small, curious little Henry has a new question for his parents — “Where did I come from?” His parents, trying to explain, come up with many hilarious and whimsical answers. Gentle, soft-coloured artwork rounds out the story.
Thematic Links: Families – Questions – Humour


Written by Cecil Castellucci
Candlewick Press, 2007
RL: Grades 7-8 / IL: 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?
Thematic Links: Family – Summer Vacation – Music

Come, Thou Tortoise
Written by Jessica Grant
Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2009
Rl: grade 9 / IL: 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.
Thematic Links: Animals – Mystery – Family

Dancing Through the Snow
Written by Jean Little
Scholastic Canada, 2007
RL: Grade 4 / IL: Ages 8-13
After living with four foster families, Min’s not surprised to be back at Children’s Aid the week before Christmas. She wishes for a miracle and finds an injured dog that needs one, too. Can an abandoned dog help an abandoned girl open her heart and let in a new family?
Thematic Links: Family – Miracles – Dogs – Christmas

If You Live Like Me
Written by Lori Weber
Lobster Press, 2009
RL: Grades 6-7 / IL: Ages 11 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.
Thematic Links: Moving – Family – Newfoundland

Little Black Lies
Written by Tish Cohen
HarperTrophyCanada, 2009
RL: Grades 7-8 / IL: 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.
Thematic Links: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – Lying – School – Fathers

Meeting Miss 405
Written by Lois Peterson
Orca Book Publishers, 2008
RL: Grades 3-4 / IL: Ages 8-10
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.
Thematic Links: Adult Depression – Family – Babysitters

No Contact
(Sports Stories)
Written by Sandra Diersch
James Lorimer, 2008
RL: 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.
Thematic Links: Adoption – Hockey – Coaches – Family – Acceptance – Belonging

Not Suitable for Family Viewing
Written by Vicki Grant
HarperTrophyCanada, 2009
RL: Grades 7-8 / IL: 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.
Thematic Links: Mothers and Daughters – Secrets

Written by Meg Tilly
Tundra Books, 2007
RL: Grade 6 / IL: Ages 10-13
After their father is killed in the war, tomboy Jack Cooper and her younger siblings are sent to live with their greatgrandmother on the Prairies. Jack learns
that families come in different forms and that love, trust and faith can build a home anywhere.
Thematic Links: Death – Family – Prairie

Thousand Shades of Blue
Written by Robin Stevenson
Orca Book Publishers, 2008
RL: Grades 8-9 / IL: Ages 12 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.
Thematic Links: Sailing – Family – Caribbean

Wanting Mor
Written by Rukhsana Khan
Groundwood Books, 2009
RL: Grades 7-8 / IL: 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.
Thematic Links: Afghanistan – Family – Abandonment – Religion – Death

For more information on Family Literacy Day, visit the ABC Life Literacy Canada website.

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 To learn more, visit