Planet Picture Book


The modern architectural splendour of Calgary Library, Canada.

It was high time this picture book journey headed back to North America! So here we are, in Canada, a country where there is no shortage of picture books and where the list of talented authors and illustrators could run for pages. After so many incidences of ‘Where are all the books?’ here, my main concern was how to whittle down my selection to three titles.

The decision-making process became a little easier when I discovered that the United Nations had declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019). Coincidentally, I had been following daily posts on Twitter by IBBY Canada showcasing titles from their Indigenous Picture Book Collection ‘From Sea to Sea to Sea’. This wonderful online catalogue comprises 100 titles by First Nations, Métis and Inuit authors (with many illustrated by Indigenous artists, too), and there is a real focus on promoting Indigenous languages in the collection. After poring over each entry, I chose to order Wild Berries, a gorgeous picture book by Julie Flett, an award-winning Cree-Metis author, illustrator and artist.

Given my love of the French language, I had always planned to shine a spotlight on some of the beautiful books in translation by Quebecois authors and illustrators. So, I am hugely grateful to indie publisher Book Island for sending me a review copy of Up The Mountain, the latest picture book by internationally acclaimed author/illustrator Marianne Dubuc. My children and I love reading this gentle tale together and I can’t wait to write about it!

My final selection is The Mushroom Fan Club – also from Quebec! This deliciously quirky and entertaining title by Elise Gravel has appeared on various best-of lists in the last year, including Elizabeth Bird’s ‘Oddest Children’s Books of 2018’. Now there’s an accolade and a half!

So, you are probably thinking, but what about all the other amazing Canadian picture book creators . . . Jon Klassen, Joanne Schwartz, Sydney Smith (Are you really not going to include Town is by the Sea?), Isabelle Arsenault, Jillian Tamaki. These are just some of the names I had on my list. I’m sure you have your favourites too. And if you don’t, or if you want to explore a little more, Quill and Quire and The Canadian Children’s Book Centre are two great places for staying up-to-date with happenings on the Canadian book and publishing scene. And you could also check out this fabulous selection of 50 must-read children’s and YA books from Canada by Kathleen Keenan, a writer and children’s editor from Toronto.

OK, here’s my selection from Canada minus the waffle:

Wild Berries by Julie Flett (Simply Read Books, 2013)

Up the Mountain by Marianne Dubuc, translated from the French by Sarah Ardizzone (Book Island, 2018; original title Le chemin de la montagne)

The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel (Drawn & Quarterly, 2018)

And while you’re here, do check out my snapshot review of King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan, an author of Pakistani heritage who grew up in Canada and now lives in Toronto with her husband and family. And my review of Je suis fou de Vava by Haitian-Canadian author Dany Laferrière, illustrated by Frédéric Normandin.

[Image: High Dynamic-New Library [Calgary library] by eileenmak. Made available under a creative commons licence. Source:]

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