Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden

Bestselling author Andrew Larsen brings a light touch and gentle humor to this picture book story about several kinds of growth — of the boys and their friendship, the flowers in the newly thriving lot, and the community that comes together around it. Award-winning artist Anne Villeneuve’s illustrations add a visual layer to the storytelling as they show the transformation from mostly gray to vibrant color, both literally, in the blossoming garden, and figuratively, in the now engaged neighborhood. This book highlights the value of connecting to nature, even in urban areas, and the sense of community that comes from civic engagement. It’s an excellent choice for character education lessons on kindness, generosity and citizenship.

The True Tale of a Giantess: The Story of Anna Swan

In this thoroughly researched picture book biography, Anne Renaud uses playful and rhythmic language and first-person storytelling to perfectly capture the essence of this unique woman’s uplifting life. The detailed, folk art-inspired illustrations beautifully convey the story’s time and place and sensitively portray Anna’s growth. A great lead-in for classroom discussions about differences and inclusion, this book also offers an excellent character education lesson on perseverance. An author’s note with photographs and more information about Anna’s life make this a terrific choice for lessons on personal development or for social studies lessons on this period in history.

The Origin of Day and Night

In this Inuit tale, the actions of a hare and a fox change the Arctic forever by creating day and night. In very early times, there was no night or day and words spoken by chance could become real. When a hare and a fox meet and express their longing for light and darkness, their words are too powerful to be denied. Passed orally from storyteller to storyteller for hundreds of years, this beautifully illustrated story weaves together elements of an origin story and a traditional animal tale, giving young readers a window into Inuit mythology.

Up The Mountain Path

Mrs. Badger, an avid collector and naturalist, takes a weekly journey up to Sugarloaf Peak, greeting her friends on the way and sharing her discoveries with them. One day she meets Lulu, a very small cat, who wants to go with her to the top of the mountain. On the way, Lulu learns to take care of the natural world, help those in need, and listen to her intuition.

Mary, Who Wrote Frankenstein

How does a story begin? Sometimes it begins with a dream, and a dreamer. Mary is one such dreamer, a little girl who learns to read by tracing the letters on the tombstone of her famous feminist mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, and whose only escape from her strict father and overbearing stepmother is through the stories she reads and imagines. Unhappy at home, she seeks independence, and at the age of sixteen runs away with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, another dreamer. Two years later, they travel to Switzerland where they meet a famous poet, Lord Byron. On a stormy summer evening, with five young people gathered around a fire, Byron suggests a contest to see who can create the best ghost story. Mary has a waking dream about a monster come to life. A year and a half later, Mary Shelley’s terrifying tale, Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus, is published — a novel that goes on to become the most enduring monster story ever and one of the most popular legends of all time.

Dodger Boy

In 1970 Vancouver, thirteen-year-old Charlotte and her best friend, Dawn, are keen to avoid the pitfalls of adolescence. Couldn’t they just skip teenhood altogether, along with its annoying behaviors – showing off just because you have a boyfriend, obsessing about marriage and a ring and matching dining-room furniture? Couldn’t one just learn about life from Jane Austen and spend the days eating breakfast at noon, watching “People in Conflict,” and thrift-store shopping for cool castoffs to tie-dye for the upcoming outdoor hippie music festival? But life becomes more complicated when the girls meet a Texan draft dodger who comes to live with Charlotte’s Quaker family. Tom Ed expands Charlotte’s horizons as they discuss everything from war to civil disobedience to women’s liberation. Grappling with exhilarating and disturbing new ideas, faced with a censorship challenge to her beloved English teacher and trying to decode the charismatic draft dodger himself, Charlotte finds it harder and harder to stick to her unteen philosophy, and to see eye to eye with Dawn.

Skating Over Thin Ice

Imogen St Pierre is a musical prodigy, a classical pianist touring the international concert halls in a trio with her father and grandfather. Though clearly accomplished, she is also painfully awkward socially, getting lost in the music even after it’s over. Imogen’s in the final year in a private boarding school where she meets a boy of the same age, Nathan McCormick, who turns out to be the “Next Great Hockey Player.” Nathan, however, has recently been penalized for a vicious fight in an international tournament. Imogen and Nathan don’t exactly become an item, but there’s an elusive special quality to their connection. Jean Mills has given us a thoughtful, moving, powerful story about what it’s like to be gifted and exceptional — and still young.

Go Show The World

Celebrating the stories of Indigenous people throughout time, Wab Kinew has created a powerful rap song, the lyrics of which are the basis for the text in this beautiful picture book, illustrated by the acclaimed Joe Morse. Including figures such as Crazy Horse, Net-no-kwa, former NASA astronaut John Herrington and Canadian NHL goalie Carey Price, Go Show the World showcases a diverse group of Indigenous people in the US and Canada, both the more well known and the not- so-widely recognized. Individually, their stories, though briefly touched on, are inspiring; collectively, they empower the reader with this message: “We are people who matter, yes, it’s true; now let’s show the world what people who matter can do.