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

In celebration of Family Literacy Day, the Canadian Children’s Book Center has compiled a list of 20 well-loved 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.

Picture Books

Amber Waiting
Written by Nan Gregory
Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
Red Deer Press, 2002
Preschool to Grade 2 / Ages 3-7
A kindergarten student whose dad is always late picking her up explains how it feels to be left behind.

A Fiddle for Angus
Written by Budge Wilson
Illustrated by Susan Tooke
Tundra Books, 2001
Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9
Angus comes from a musical family and longs to play the fiddle. With his family’s support, lessons, and lots of practice, Angus achieves his goal of playing with the family orchestra.

Ghost Train
Written by Paul Yee
Illustrated by Harvey Chan
Groundwood Books, 1996
Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12
Left behind in China by her father, Choon-yi makes her living selling her paintings in the market. After her father writes to ask her to join him in the new world, she discovers that he has since been killed building the railway.

Jillian Jiggs
Written and illustrated by Phoebe Gilman
Scholastic Canada, 2004 (c1985)
Preschool to Grade 2 / Ages 3-7
Jillian, Jillian, Jillian Jiggs’s room is messy. Really messy. So messy that her mother thinks it looks like pigs have lived in it. Every time Jillian’s mother asks her to clean her room, Jillian promises that she’ll do it—but never does!

The Kid Line
Written by Teddy Jam
Illustrated by Ange Zhang
Groundwood Books, 2001
Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9
A father takes his son to a Maple Leafs game for a night to remember. Years later the son, now an adult, replays the special memory by taking his elderly father to another game.

Lily and the Paperman
Written by Rebecca Upjohn
Illustrated by Renné Benoit
Second Story Press, 2007
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9
A young girl encounters a homeless man living near her home. After overcoming her initial fear, she feels compassion and helps him by giving him warm clothes.

My Dad Takes Care of Me
Written by Patricia Quinlan
Illustrated by Vlasta Van Kampen
Annick Press, 1987
Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9
A boy has to adjust to the fact that his unemployed father’s new “job” is taking care of him.

The Orphan Boy
Written by Tololwa Mollel
Illustrated by Paul Morin
Oxford University Press, 1990
Kindergarten-Grade 4 / Ages 5-9
An old man is delighted when Kileken, an orphan boy, enters his life. The mysterious boy, with his miraculous deeds, amazes the man.

Please, Louise!
Written by Frieda Wishinsky
Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
Groundwood Books, 2007
Kindergarten-Grade 3 / Ages 5-8
Louise won’t quite 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

Tales of a Gambling Grandma
Written and illustrated by Dayal Kaur Khalsa
Tundra Books, 2002 (c1986)
Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11
Here, Dayal Kaur Khalsa pays tribute to her maternal grandmother. In this quirky and bittersweet tale, a little girl tells of her unique relationship with her grandmother who’s her best friend.


Alice, I Think
Written by Susan Juby
Harper Collins Canada, 2004
Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12
In this funny coming-of-age story, Alice is the contemporary equivalent of her famous namesake. Caustic realism blends with keen insight into the daily obstacles facing teens.

Becca at Sea
Written by Deirdre Baker
Groundwood Books, 2007
Grade 5-7 / Ages 10-12
As her parents prepare for the arrival of a new baby back home, Becca goes to Gran’s cottage and finds herself unexpectedly changed by adventures large and small.

For Now
Written by Gayle Friesen
Kids Can Press, 2007
Grade 5-7 / Ages 10-12
Jes desperately needs something solid to hold onto in her life. If anything’s for sure, it’s that love is never predictable; it’s always confusing and may hurt sometimes. But, as Jes begins to see, no one ever gives up on it.

Written by Deborah Ellis
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2007
Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10
The bus to Wickham Prison carries Jake, his sister and an assortment of nervous and unhappy kids, all anxious to see their moms. This time the bus has a new passenger, Jakeman, who isn’t afraid of a few rules.

Mama’s Going to Buy You a Mockingbird
Written by Jean Little
Puffin Canada, 2005 (c1984)
Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12
Eleven-year-old Jeremy Talbot’s whole world changes when he finds out that his father has cancer. No one’s answering Jeremy’s questions about how sick his father is—not his father, his mother nor his Aunt Margery. When Jeremy finds a friend in a girl named Tess Medford who knows exactly what it’s like to lose someone you love, his situation changes for the better.

Me and the Blondes
Written by Teresa Toten
Puffin Canada/Penguin, 2007
Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14
Sophie has spent years keeping her crazy family life secret. Determined to fit in at her new school, she devises a plan for making friends – and this time, no one will find out the truth.

The Sandwich
By Ian Wallace and Angela Wood
Kids Can Press, 1998 (c1975)
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9
Vincenzo has a huge problem. He wants to be just like his friends, but he is also quite proud of his Italian heritage. When Vincenzo brings his “stinky meat sandwich” to school, his friends make fun of him. He ignores their dare to taste a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and eats half is own—sharing the rest with his friends.

Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen
Written by Glen Huser
Groundwood Books, 2006
Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14
Two unlikely candidates – a foster child and a cranky old schoolteacher – strike a deal and embark on the road trip of a lifetime, in a plan that involves danger, lies and lots of luck.

That Scatterbrain Booky
Written by Bernice Thurman Hunter
Scholastic-TAB Publications, 1981
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12
Life isn’t easy for Booky, an affable girl growing up in Depression-era Toronto. She deals with constant hunger, quarrelling parents and the threat of the bailiff evicting her family from their home. In light of these difficulties, Booky maintains a sense of humour and an upbeat disposition that not even the Depression can crush.

The Thrilling Life of Pauline de Lammermoor
Written by Edeet Ravel
Raincoast Books, 2007
Grades 4-5 / Ages 9-10
Pauline has decided to write about her life and she’s got lots of things to say – stuff about her friends, school, and even her crazy, insane, bit-of-a-screw-loose family.

For more information on Family Literacy Day, email

ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation is Canada’s private-sector voice championing adult literacy. The national charity envisions a Canada where individuals, regardless of their circumstances, are provided the opportunities to increase the skills that prepare people for realizing their full potential at work, at home and in the community. Family Literacy Day, held annually on January 27, was developed by ABC CANADA and Honda Canada in 1999 to encourage families to read and learn together on a daily basis. To learn more, visit