The days are getting shorter and rainier. The leaves are turning, and temperatures are dropping. Tis the season for curling up with a good book while raindrops chase each other down the window.
We’ve partnered again with our friends at Owlkids Books to share their top new children’s book releases for 2021. Take a look at some of this year’s most engaging children’s books for kids aged 4-12, then scroll all the way down to enter to win this same collection of books for your own kiddos!
Click on the titles or cover pictures to see these books on Amazon.
James Gladstone & Yaara Eshet
We now know that Halley’s Comet swings back around the Earth once every 75 years. Throughout the centuries, sightings of the comet have been recorded in ancient art and writings, often seen as a symbol of misfortune. But it wasn’t until 1758 when Edmond Halley successfully predicted its return that people realized these were all the same comet coming back again and again.
Told in the first person from the comet’s perspective, this beautifully illustrated picture book highlights how the science of astronomy has advanced through the ages from ancient peoples looking up at the unknown sky, to the Giatto probe launched into space to inspect the comet close up. What will Earth be like the next time Halley’s Comet arrives in 2061? Additional captions provide more detailed information for curious kiddos. (Ages 4-8)
Stephanie Simpson McLellan & Zoe Si
Timothy Shmoe isn’t a bad kid, but his choices certainly aren’t the best. Will he ever learn? Told in a series of handwritten, #sorrynotsorry letters, readers will follow along a series of self-inflicted disasters culminating in the complete wreck of Timothy’s big sister’s ballet recital. In his final letter, a remorseful little boy wonders if his father wishes Timothy had never been born. Dad writes his own letter in response, and Timothy is reassured that no matter what, he is always loved.
Zoe Si’s fun comic-style illustrations lovingly illustrate the ups and downs of life with an impulsive kiddo and the power of unconditional love. A funny and heartwarming story to read together. (Ages 4-8)
Caroline Adderson & Alice Carter
“Paul and Pierre are great explorers. Ils sont aussi des amis. Friends and explorers.”
Best friends Pierre and Paul are back for a second bilingual adventure! This new story is a wonderful ode to imagination and friendship in both English and French. Today is garbage day, and the friends are on the hunt for hidden treasure. After battling a ferocious garbage bin dragon, finding their way through a stinky garbage swamp, and setting out to sea in an umbrella boat, they end up finding a true treasure, a well-loved copy of Treasure Island.
These two friends speak different languages but still understand one another. Unlike a typical bilingual story where each line is written in both English and French, this story is told in alternating sentences in each language which requires a bit more of a thoughtful reading. Despite this, the story is easily understood using context clues, and the colourful pictures also help the reader decode what’s happening. (Ages 5-8)
In this sequel to last year’s early graphic story, Cracking the Case of the Missing Egg, it’s a beautiful day at the farm when the animals realize that Cow is missing. Raccoon, Pig, Sheep, and Hen turn to Inspector Billiam Van Hoof again, the world’s best (and only) goat detective. Their imaginations seem to get away from them. Does the crop circle mean Cow has been kidnapped by aliens? Does a trailer rental brochure mean she’s been loaded into a trailer and sold off? Cow’s calves seem to know something, but no one is listening.
Each page has lots of fun details and visual gags to spot, and the farm animals take on human dress and characteristics like knitting, guitar-strumming, and yellow-construction-boot-wearing. Inspector Van Hoof is just as silly as before, but the story doesn’t hang together as well as the first volume. There are a lot of extra goats and loose ends that never get wrapped up, though fortunately Cow is safe and sound in the end. There’s a surprise twist at the end that will leave kids giggling. (Ages 6-9)
Kendra Brown & Catarina Oliveira
The lion may be known as the king of the jungle, but even the littlest animals play a critical roles in the health of their eco-systems and the other species around them. This book introduces young readers to 12 small species, from krill that individually weigh less than a paper clip but collectively feed the biggest ocean creatures, to microscopic tardigrades that can survive almost anywhere, even outer space!
One tiny but mighty critter is featured on each spread with a description, fact bubbles, and real-life size comparisons to common objects like pencil erasers and grains of sand to help readers understand their small size. Learn about keystone species and what makes them mighty and important parts of their eco-system, regardless of size. The final page draws a connection to young readers themselves, reminding them that even though they are small, they too can make a difference. (Ages 7-10)
Deborah Kerbel & Angela Poon
In 1921, Dr. Frederick Banting had just completed a surgical residency and was now starting as a part-time instructor at the University of Toronto in Canada. While preparing a lesson on the pancreas, he began to wonder if a newly isolated pancreatic secretion known as isletin might be used to treat juvenile diabetes. At this point in time, children diagnosed with the disease could expect to die within a year.
Dr. Banting and his assistant, Charles Best, worked together in a small lab at the university to test this theory on street dogs whose pancreases had been surgically removed to artificially induce diabetes. Marjorie was one of those dogs, and the final test subject who successfully showed that this substance could indeed be used to treat the formerly incurable disease. Dr. Banting and his team famously sold the patent for their new drug to the University of Toronto for $1.00, saying that no one should profit from a lifesaving medication. We now call this substance insulin, and this life-saving discovery was both a milestone in medical science and a miracle for millions of people.
The story of this world-changing discovery is told in a graphic novel format using a muted palette. Be warned that sensitive children may be distressed to learn that Marjorie was allowed to die in order to save the limited supply of insulin for as many children as possible. Back matter offers a thoughtful discussion around the ethics of using animals for medical research, as well as further information about diabetes. (Ages 8-12)
In this third and final book in the Camp Average series, Mack and Andre are stuck at a rival sports camp while the rest of their friends start a new summer at Camp Avalon, also known affectionately as Camp Average. But when the Camp Average crew challenges obnoxious prankster Garth to a ball hockey game, the stakes rapidly become higher than they could have imagined. Win the game and bring their friends home, or suffer defeat and lose everything including their cabin. With a little luck and a lot of teamwork, the campers work together to eke out a win in the end and make new friends.
While not strictly necessary, reading the earlier books is recommended as the extended cast of characters and relationships can be a little confusing without that background. The main characters are explicitly from diverse backgrounds and include both boys and girls in active roles. This series is sure to get kids excited for summer camp! (Ages 8-12)
Meranda and the Legend of the Lake
Canadian author Meagan Mahoney’s debut novel is a maritime fantasy-mystery for middle-graders. Eleven-year-old Meranda was only three when her family moved from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. But she doesn’t really fit in here in Calgary, and she’s always dreamed about returning to the east coast. When her great-uncle Mark dies under mysterious circumstances, her parents finally make the trip back home.
Meranda is overjoyed to reconnect with her family and her roots, but questions soon begin to arise and it’s apparent that there’s a lot going on she doesn’t know about. Why do the townsfolk keep calling Meranda a “miracle baby”? Why is her mother so afraid of the water? Could the local mermaid legends be real? Meranda and her new friend, Claire, decide to investigate on their own. But when they get caught poking around the town drunk’s boat, the two girls end up overboard in a storm.
Short chapters are interspersed with excerpts from Legends of the Lakes, a fictional book of local folklore that provides historical background to events in the book. Meranda is a relatable and likeable heroine who faces her challenges, both physical and emotional, with grit and resilience. Part Scooby Doo and part Anne of Green Gables, this is a story that will keep tweens turning pages late into the night and imagining what it would be like to swim with the mermaids. (Ages 8-12)
Win All the Books!
Here’s your chance to win the entire collection of books we reviewed here! Enter in the giveaway widget below. This giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the US, 18+. All the winner’s entries will be verified.
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Disclosure: I received sample items to facilitate this post. This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, at no additional cost to you.