Everything Is OK by Debbie Tung

In this graphic memoir, Debbie outlines her struggle with anxiety and depression. She shares what its like to live with; chewing over all kinds of “what ifs”, feeling hopeless and struggling to keep her head above water. Sometimes it can feel so overwhelming that she finds it difficult to even get out of bed in the morning.

Through the lens of acceptance, Debbie embraces her mental illness and comes to the realization that it doesn’t need to define her. Although positive thinking is difficult for her, she works on it, and day by day she makes those small steps needed to help alleviate her pain.

This very personal story from Debbie is uplifting and encouraging, and I would highly recommend it to anyone struggling with anxiety and/or depression. I loved how the illustrations went from blue-black on her bad days to splashed with colour on her good days.

Debbie Tung is an author, comic artist and illustrator. After receiving her Master’s in Computer Science and getting a job as a programmer, she decided to change paths and pursue her dream of being a full-time artist. Debbie lives with her husband and son in Birmingham, England.

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Tova has endured a couple big losses in her life and finds that engrossing herself in her work is the best way to deal with the hurt. She’s been keeping her local aquarium squeaky clean as a janitor ever since her son mysteriously disappeared over thirty years ago.

Marcellus is a Giant Pacific octopus who has been in solitary confinement in his tank for several years now. Puzzles are second nature to him, so he quickly finds his way out of the tank one evening and runs into Tova. Even though the two can’t verbally communicate, they hit it off and become fast friends.

The aquarium’s latest hire, Cameron, along with Tova and Marcellus, form a team and set out to uncover the truth behind Tova’s son’s curious disappearance and end up forming strong bonds along the way.

As a huge fan of octopi (especially the Giant Pacific variety), I really enjoyed this book. While the novel is labelled a mystery, I feel it went above and beyond that and included themes of dealing with grief, the importance of relationships and venturing forward in life, even when it looks impossible.

Shelby Van Pelt grew up in the Pacific Northwest, but currently lives in Chicago with her husband, two kids and two cats. Remarkably Bright Creatures is her debut novel, and she hopes it encourages folks to change course when times get tough, nurture connections where it is least expected and hang out a little longer at the octopus tank next time you’re at the aquarium.

Ordinary Girls by Blair Thornburgh

Plum and Ginny are a couple of sisters who live in a one-of-a-kind, epic, and slowing dilapidating house. When their parents first bought the place, their father wasted no time in creating custom furniture and built-ins. Since their father passed away, his office has been off limits and the family has been struggling in more ways than just financially.

Plum has always been a bit of an outsider, so she surprises herself when she starts up a close friendship with one of the school’s jocks. Ginny is in her last year of high school and is obsessed with getting into college. Both girls seem to be on their own trajectories, but when tragedy strikes, they come together in ways they never had before.

There is nothing quite like the tale of two sisters. I loved how through all their ebbs and flows; they ultimately knew they could always rely on each other. This book was fantastic – I enjoyed the characters and all the classic book references.

Blair Thornburgh is an author, editor and sewing enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Chicago, where she received a BA in Medieval Studies and later received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University in Minnesota. Blair currently lives with her husband is Pennsylvania.

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

Born under devastating circumstances, Frankie’s life starts as a whirlwind. He is birthed in a burning building, abandoned as an infant and then raised by his music teacher. Luckily, Frankie is endowed with the gift of music, and is a real natural. He ends up becoming a worldwide sensation, with his one-of-a-kind blue stringed guitar at his side. Along the way, he connects with all the greats – Duke Ellington, Tony Bennett, Hank Williams and even Elvis, just to name a few. But troubled by his sordid past, Frankie ends up dropping out of the music scene to come to terms with it.

This book was a real page turner. Each of Frankie’s encounters with musicians and friends along the way were super engaging, so I found I couldn’t get enough. The back story of Frankie’s life was well established, making his life’s decisions easy to understand as the story played out.

Mitch Albom is an author, journalist, playwright and musician. His novels have been extremely successful, selling over forty million copies worldwide. Seven of his books have gone on to become number one New York Times bestsellers. Mitch lives in Detroit, with his wife, Janine.

The Wall: Growing up behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís

As a child, Peter was forced to collect scrap metal, show off with public signs of loyalty and join the Communist youth movement, the Young Pioneers. Once he enters his teenage years, he starts to question his existence as bits of information from the Western world starts creeping through the Iron Curtain. He starts reading banned books, grows his hair out and joins a rock band. The government begins to catch on to the rebellion of its people and starts to crack down on those not following the rules, but by that point the public can no longer be suppressed.

This autobiographical graphic novel from Peter Sís is prefect if you are looking to start an exploration into the Cold War. Not only that, but there are plenty of cultural references from the time like tie-dying shirts, why people started wearing their hair long and the significance of bands like the The Beach Boys and The Beatles. I loved the use of colour Peter uses to convey certain thoughts and emotions throughout his experiences.

Peter Sís is an author and illustrator. He was born in Czechoslovakia and immigrated to the United States in 1982. He won The New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book seven times, the Society of Illustrators Gold Medal twice and is a two-time Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honoree.

A Phở Love Story by Loan Le

Bao and Linh’s parents have owned competing Phở restaurants across from each other as far back as either of them can remember. Both had been told to stay away from each other from a young age, and they had, until one night when Linh finds herself in an overwhelming situation and Bao steps in to help. After that encounter, they start working on a project for the school newspaper together. With Linh’s gift for creating works of art and Bao’s blossoming skills in writing, they make for a stellar team. Whilst spending time together, they end up cooking up their own special relationship in the process, despite their parents wishes.

I’m not normally a romance novel person, but this book will leave you hungry for more – which is why I’m so excited to hear that Loan Le is currently working on her second novel, Solving for the Unknown, which includes some of the same characters from A Phở Love Story. My only regret while reading this novel is that a didn’t go for Phở 😜

A Phở Love Story is Loan Le’s debut novel. She is also an editor and has a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Fairfield University in Connecticut. In her spare time, she enjoys watching K-Dramas and listening to BTS. 

Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden

As a young boy, Shin grew up in a prison camp and knew nothing of the outside world. He shares a room with his mother where there are no beds, chairs or tables. They sleep side by side on a concrete floor. Running water doesn’t exist so there is no way to bathe or shower. Due to lack of food, Shin views his mother as his competition for survival. He eats her lunches, knowing full well that once she arrives home, he will be beaten with a hoe, shovel, or anything his mother has on hand. Sometimes these beatings are worse than those from the guards, but he views it as worth it for the extra food.

This book was not easy to digest due to the content but is a very important read. It reminded me of accounts from Nazi Germany, or Stalin’s gulags and left me surprised that people could being living this way in the 21st century. As the North Korean prison camps continue to be impenetrable, it is important that at the very least we are informed on the existence of them and the conditions therein.

Blaine Harden is an author and journalist from Washington State. Escape from Camp 14 is the official biography of North Korean defector, Shin Dong-hyuk. Shin is known as the only prisoner to have ever successfully escaped from one of the most secure camps in North Korea. He is now a human rights activist and was awarded the Moral Courage Award by the UN Watch.

If you are interested in either getting involved, learning more or donating to help North Koreans who have escaped, please visit: Liberty in North Korea

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Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

After being abandoned by family in a swamp in Northern Carolina, Kya is left alone at a young age to carve out her own way in life. She ends up raising herself on the little bits and pieces of survival skills her family gave her before they left. Starved for human interaction, she ends up connecting with a boy named Tate, who she’s seen around their small town before. The two end up bonding over their love of nature, for everything from trees to seashells.

Labelled as peculiar by the townsfolk, she gains the nickname “Marsh Girl”. Years later, those same folks pin her as the number one suspect in a murder.

Prior to writing Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia wrote three non-fiction books on her life as a wildlife scientist. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel. Her purpose behind the book was to combine writings on nature with a story of loneliness and isolation, in order to show the reader how much one can learn about ourselves from our surroundings.

Where the Crawdads Sing has got to be one of the best books I’ve read in a while. It was satisfying, memorable and kept me going back for more.

The movie comes out on July 22nd, 2022 – check out the trailer here:

The Light of Luna Park by Addison Armstrong

The year is 1926 and Althea cannot bare to see another premature baby pass away at the Bellevue Hospital in New York. Especially since she has heard word of the high chances of babies surviving when being treated in incubators. However, these incubators are in Coney Island, which is known for their amusement parks and sideshows. After bringing up this unusual form of treatment and disclosing the location, she is quickly shot down by the doctor in charge, forcing her to make a bold decision.

Twenty-five years later, Stella’s life is coming apart at the seams. She’s struggling with the recent loss of her mother and has decided to quit her job due to the unfair working environment. On top of that, her and her husband are experiencing communication problems and their marriage is on the verge of collapse. One day while going through her mother’s things, she finds a letter that challenges everything she’s ever known to be true about herself.

I absolutely loved this passionate and captivating read. It is based on true history, making it all the more interesting.

Addison Armstrong had wanted to be a writer since she was five. While she was away at school at Vanderbilt University she wrote The Light of Luna Park – her first book. She holds degrees in Elementary Education and Language & Literacy Studies, as well as a Master’s in Reading Education. While continuing to write, she also teaches third grade in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.

From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle

Jesse and his two brothers were abandoned by his parents at a young age. They end up in foster-care, and ultimately wind up living at their grandparents. Their grandpa is a severe and unyielding man, who the boys end up in fights with constantly. Through their stay there, Jesse’s recurrent memories of his drug-addicted father overshadow the feelings he has for all his family members. Battling with all that has happened in his life, Jesse yields to a life of addiction and minor crimes. These actions only lead him further into the downward spiral that is his life, and he ends up spending close to 10 years living on and off the streets. After a series of physically trying incidents, he realizes he isn’t going to survive much longer unless he puts his life back together.

This courageous and raw memoir from Jesse is an extremely powerful read. Parts of the book can be distressing to read, but the beauty revealed in the end is beyond comparison.  

From the Ashes is not only a #1 National Bestseller, but has also won the following awards:

  • Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Non-fiction
  • Indigenous Voices Award
  • High Plains Book Award
  • An Indigo Book of the Year
  • CBC Best Canadian Nonfiction Book of the Year

Jesse Thistle is Métis-Cree and a professor at York University in Toronto. His historical research has been published through several academic journals and featured through CBC Ideas, CBC Campus and Unreserved.  

The Cat I Never Named by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess

Amra is a brilliant student with lots of potential. She is tall, beautiful and has a handful of solid friends. Despite all this, some of her teachers despise her and her best friend has stopped talking to her. She knows the reason too – she’s Muslim.

One day the Serbs in her city decide to turn on their Bosnian neighbours. They start up an army and surrounded them. Amra and her family soon end up dealing with starvation and threats of brutal violence. Through everything, a stray cat, Maci (cat in Bosnian) sticks with the family.

This gripping memoir will stay with you for the rest of your life. As you journey through a family’s struggles in the face of discrimination, and the rebounding love of a cat, you’ll find yourself in tears.

In heartfulness, Amra Sabic-El-Rayess, shares her true story of strength, endurance and survival. Not only did she want to share her tale with the world, but she also wanted to get across how destructive hatred can be. Her hope is that in communicating her story she can drive people to end hate in whatever way they can. Amra is an author and professor at Columbia University. She lives in New York with her husband and two daughters.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

Four-year-old George awakes one morning to his Dad telling him to wake up quickly and get dressed. Soldiers soon arrive at the door, telling the family that under executive orders, they are to leave immediately – Japanese internment has begun.

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered every person of Japanese descent on the west coast of the United States to be rounded up and moved to “relocation centers”. 120,000 Japanese Americans were put in these camps, hundreds or thousands of miles from home and held by armed guards.

George’s personal account of growing up behind barb wire, experiencing legalized discriminated and watching his parents make very difficult decisions makes for a riveting tale of courage. This graphic novel is one of the most important books within the library. Despite modern day access to a plethora of information, Japanese internment camps are still not considered common knowledge.

George Takei is an actor and activist. He is best known for his role as Mr. Sulu on the original Star Trek series. Born to Japanese American immigrants in 1937, George and his family were forced to move to a Japanese internment camp during World War II. He has won several awards and honours for his work as a human rights advocate, including work with the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

Check out this preview from George Takei via IDW Publishing:

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Viewing apartments aren’t normally a do-or-die situation, but it soon becomes one, as a failed attempt to rob a bank goes awry. Eight strangers together with a bank robber gradually end up getting to know each other over an anxious time together. As police surround the building and tensions begin to mount, they start to share their long-concealed secrets.

The hostages include a young couple about to have their first child and can’t seem to reach an agreement on anything; a wealthy banker who has been too busy making loads of money to care about anything else; a retired couple who persistently buys and sells fixer-uppers; a mystery man who has locked himself in the one and only bathroom; an 87 who isn’t scared of having a gun waved in her face; and of course, the real estate agent.

This compassionate and humorous novel is a delight to read. The Centennial Library has 3 copies of the book, so feel free to start up a mini book club to read it with friends! My sister, Mom and I totally read it over this past summer and thoroughly enjoyed it 😀

Fredrik Backman is an author, blogger and columnist. He is best known for his #1 New York Times bestseller, A Man Called Ove (which is to be adapted to film in 2022). Fredrik was born and currently lives in Sweden.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Sixteen-year-old Aza has problems controlling her thoughts. As far back as she can remember, she has been obsessed with the thought of bacteria overrunning her body. To combat her obsession, she has maintained an open wound on her finger, which she is constantly pouring sanitizer into. This ritual takes away her anxiety temporarily, but it is something she feels she needs to repeat many times a day.

One day at school, it is announced that one of her past friend’s Dad (who also happens to be a billionaire) is missing and there is a $100,000 reward for any information about the disappearance. Aza, along with her best friend Daisy, decide to start an investigation.

Turtles All the Way Down has been named a best book of the year by:

  • The New York Times
  • National Public Radio
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • Entertainment Weekly

John Green is a wildly popular YA author who is most famous for his books Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars. Along with his brother, Hank, John is also a YouTube content creator on the channel: vlogbrothers.

Check out John Green’s video on his struggles with OCD:

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

There are 96 things Genesis dislikes about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a detailed list. Things on the list include her family always being evicted, her Dad’s gambling problem, her being too black and figuring all this is her fault. Genesis is committed to fixing her and her family’s problems and is willing to try anything. However, when she starts to discover things she likes about herself, she finds that adjusting her negative attitude is the first step in making a real change.

This powerful and uplifting story is an absolute page turner. Many big topics such as colourism, racism, alcoholism and self-deprivation are discussed.

Genesis Begins Again has won multiple awards including:

  • Newberry Honor Book
  • Winner of the Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe for New Talent Author Award
  • A Morris Award Finalist
  • An NPR Favorite Book of 2019
  • Kirkus Prize for Young Readers Literature

Alicia D. Williams was born in Detroit Michigan. She is a fabulous teacher who truly cares for her students and encourages dancing, singing and unleashing of personalities in her classroom. Genesis Begins Again is her debut novel.  Alicia now lives in Charlotte North Carolina with her daughter, Nay.

OCDaniel by Wesley King

Daniel is the backup kicker for his school’s football team, which means he doesn’t play that often. While the rest of his team is busy practicing, he will perfectly arrange water cups, and hope no one notices. Daniel figures he has a lot of strange habits – like flipping light switches on and off and repeating actions until he reaches a number that contain a 1 or a 2, but never a 4. He figures he must be crazy but is hoping his best friend Max doesn’t find out, or his crush, Raya.

One day Daniel finds a note in his backpack that reads “I need your help” and is signed by Fellow Star Child. This mystery takes him on a path that changes his life forever.

OCDaniel has won multiple awards including:

  • Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Mystery
  • Bank Street Best for Book of the Year
  • Silver Birch Award Winner
  • A Toronto Public Library First & Best
  • Maine Student Book Award Reading List

Wesley King was born and grew up in Ontario. He graduated with a degree in Journalism from Carleton University. At first, he wanted to be a Jedi when he grew up, which he found to be unrealistic, so he opted to become an author instead. OCDaniel can be viewed as slightly autobiographical in that Wesley grew up with OCD so severe, he would sometimes spend up to 5 hours just trying to go to sleep. His hope is that anyone struggling with mental illness reading this realizes that they are not alone.

Helpful links from Wesley King:

The International OCD Foundation: information on OCD and support groups in your area

Canadian Mental Health Association: National charity that helps to maintain and improve mental health for Canadians

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, adapted by Tim Hamilton

Montag is your average fireman, who burns books for a living. As far as he knows, this is what firemen have always done. He has never questioned his job of destroying the most illegal of items, books. This all changes though, the day he meets a lively young woman named Clarisse. She likes to question the way things are and has strong views, unlike the rest of society who spends their days watching their four walls of television that they call “family”. Clarisse’s curious mind and passion for life leads Montag to start to question everything he knows and his life tailspins out of control.

This classic American dystopian by Ray Bradbury has been adapted into graphic novel format through the artwork of Tim Hamilton. Described as a “love letter to books” by Neil Gaiman, Fahrenheit 451 serves as a cautionary tale. In a world where people are glued to their televisions, and critical thinking is outlawed, it reminds us that censorship can lead to the destruction of the human mind.

Ray Bradbury was an American author and screenwriter. Known for his science and fantasy fiction, Fahrenheit 451 was his most celebrated novel. Ray passed away in 2012.

Tim Hamilton is an American cartoonist, writer and illustrator. His work has been published by The New York Times, DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Nickelodeon Magazine, MAD Magazine and many more.

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

Grace grew up as an only child in an adopted home. She never imagined herself having siblings, but that changes after she puts her own daughter up for adoption. This prompts her to search out her biological siblings and to have them help her find their Mom.

Younger sister, Maya, grew up in a wealthy home full of upbeat redheads. Despite her differences, her and the family have always been close and cared deeply for one another. Once family issues start to bubble to the surface though and things start to fall apart, Maya starts to wonder where she fits in.

Older brother, Joaquin, is nearly eighteen and has never been adopted. He is struggling with feels of insecurity and abandonment, which bleed into the rest of his life. His then foster parents offer to adopt him, but he denies the request over feelings of worthlessness and fear of the unknown.

This deeply moving read explores what it means to be a family. Through emotions of hopelessness, rejection and uncertainty, these three siblings come together to find themselves.

Far from the Tree was named the best book of the year by:

  • The Boston Globe
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • The Los Angeles Times
  • National Public Radio (NPR)
  • The New York Times
  • Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)

Robin Benway is a New York Times best-selling author for young adults. She grew up in Orange Country, California, attended NYU and graduated from UCLA. Robin currently lives with her dog, Hudson, in Los Angeles, where she enjoys making coffee and procrastinating over writing.

Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook

The year is 1983 and South Korea is under The Fifth Republic, a military regime that used its power to censor, torture and murder protestors. Hyun Sook has just started college. She had always found refuge in books and decides to join an underground banned book club, along with the editor of the school newspaper. Hyun soon finds that the joys of discovering great works of illegal literature is quickly eclipsed by the worry and repercussions of getting caught.

Banned Book Club is an inspiring true story about a group of college students who endure hardships, arrests and torture in order to win the fight against censorship. It is highly recommended for those with a passion for activism or politics.

Kim Hyun Sook was born in Changwon, South Korea. In the 1980s, she became a member of a banned book club while studying English Language and Literature in college. Although she has co-written a couple of web comics, this is her first book. Kim runs a new banned book club in Busan, Korea, where she lives with her husband, Ryan and their cat, Dog Baby.

Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson

Sixteen-year-old Jared has just moved to the rez with his Mom and her latest boyfriend. He is a compassionate guy, struggling with life’s many ups and downs. His goal is to keep his family afloat, but soon finds his only source of love and support was his dog, Baby, who recently passed away.

Jared has always lived by his Mom’s motto of “The world is hard. You have to be harder.” Once the supernatural world starts to reveal itself, looking to seek revenge on him, this motto takes on even more meaning.

The blend of real-life mixed with the fantastical makes for a truly striking and original story. It has been so well received that CBC came out with the show “Trickster” based on the book.

Eden Robinson is an award-winning First Nations author from Kitamaat, BC. She is a member of the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations. Eden graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of Victoria and a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.

Check out the CBC show trailer here:

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix

This true story is centered around the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor distressed by the complacency of the German church towards the suffering of Jews under the Nazi Regime. Once church becomes outlawed, he becomes a fugitive, struggling between faith and plans to stop Hitler’s agenda. Characters along the way reveal to Dietrich the importance of protecting others, no matter their difference in beliefs or ethnicity. Dietrich ends up making sacrifice after sacrifice to free people from under Nazi power during World War II.

This story is told is graphic novel format and is absolutely packed with historical information. Between the images and blocks of text, it makes for a passionate and heartbreaking tale.

John Hendrix is a New York Times best-selling author and illustrator as well as a Professor of Art at the Sam Fox School of Art and Design. He lives in St. Louis with his wife, two kids, a dog named Pepper and two cats, Kit-Kat and Luna.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Fifteen-year-old Will is on his way to avenge his brother’s death according to the rules his family and friends grew up by: No crying. No snitching. Revenge. He gets on an elevator on the 8th floor with a clear plan in mind, but as he heads down, ghosts who were the victims of gun violence join him on every level and soon his plan starts to change.

Long Way Down is written in free-verse format, making it a powerful read about how grief can cause reckless behaviour.

Long Way Down has won several awards, including:

  • A Printz Honor Book
  • A Newbery Honor Book
  • A Coretta Scott King Honor Book
  • Walter Dean Myers Award
  • A Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Jason Reynolds is a New York Times best-selling author of novels and poetry for young adults. His passion for writing began when he was 9 years old when he started listening to rap music and writing poems. By the time he was 17 years old, he was publishing his own poetry collections.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road. Bad luck seems to follow them around, and one day it comes to fruition when they receive news that Alice’s grandmother has passed away and they are now responsible for the Hazel Wood estate in Hinterland.

Alice’s mother is then kidnapped and all she has to go off of is a left behind message that warns to stay away from Hazel Wood. To save her mother, Alice ventures into the woods where her grandmother’s story began and where her story begins.

The Hazel Wood has won several awards, including:

  • New York Times Bestseller
  • Publishers Weekly Flying Start
  • Indigo Best Book of the Year
  • ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults

Melissa Albert is the founding editor of Barnes & Noble’s Teen Blog as well as a managing editor for BN.com. The Hazel Wood is her first novel. She loves to read books, worries about dogs in hot cars and hates it when people block escalators.

Rebound by Kwame Alexander

Charlie is looking forward to a summer of reading comic books and skating with his best friends, Skinny and CJ. This changes though when he lands himself in trouble and is sent to his grandparents to live. From there, he starts to learn about his family’s past and their love for jazz music. He makes friends with his basketball playing cousin, Roxie and Charlie’s life ends up doing a 180 the day he hits the court.

Rebound is the prequel to the award-winning series, Crossover. It explores such themes as sorrow, love and the power of family. This book (along with the rest in the series) is written in poem format and includes graphic novel sections, making it a powerful and hard-hitting read.

Kwame Alexander is a New York Times bestselling author of over 35 titles and is a regular contributor to the Nation Public Radio’s (NPR) Morning Edition. He loves receiving letters from fans and can sometimes get up to 100 in a week! Kwame is a firm believer that poetry can change the world.

Whirligig by Paul Fleischman

Brent is hung up on trying to fit in and meet other’s expectations of him. But one night, all that changes as he is set on a life altering cross-country journey of penance.

Whirligig is the cathartic story of actions having consequences. It embraces the idea that as people we are all interconnected, having unimaginable effects on one another.

Paul Fleischman has been recognized as one of the most distinguished contributors to American literature for children by the American Library Association (ALA). Before becoming a full-time author, Paul worked as a library shelver, bookstore clerk, proof-reader and bagel baker.

Paul has won several awards for his writing, including:

  • ALA Best Books for Young Adults
  • NY Times Notable Book of the Year
  • SLJ Best Book of the Year
  • Booklist Editors’ Choice

Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane

Fourteen-year-old, Lucy Maud Montgomery (known as Maud to her friends) lives in Prince Edward Island with her grandparents. She has dreams and aspirations of becoming a famous writer, just like her hero, Louisa May Alcott. Her grandfather has strong views on a woman’s place in the world and believes Maud’s “scribblings” are intolerable. Fortunately, she has a teacher who encourages and believes in her, along with good friends for support.

Maud’s life is turned upside down when she is moved out West to Saskatchewan to live with her father and his new wife. While her new hometown offers several new opportunities, frictions between her stepmother start to jeopardize Maud’s future.

Although the story is not a biography – the plot, characters, and places are based on many primary and secondary sources of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s life. For anyone that enjoyed Anne of Green Gables growing up, Maud is a must read as Anne was loosely based on the experiences Mrs. Montgomery herself had while growing up.

Melanie Fishbane holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and a MA in History from Concordia University. She has been obsessed with Anne of Green Gables since she was in Grade 6 and lives in Toronto with her partner and their furbabies: Merlin Cat and Angel Dog.

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is a risk taker, who is the kind of girl parents warn their kids to stay away from “a girl like that”. She is a troublemaker, whose multiple romances has made her the talk of her high school.

One night she is found dead in a car crash, along with her latest love interest. When police arrive and start their investigation, everything everyone through they knew about Zarin is in question. As her story comes together through multiple people, it becomes clear that she is far from “a girl like that”.

Named “Best Book of 2018” by:

  • The Globe and Mail
  • CBC Books
  • Seventeen
  • Quill & Quire
  • Vogue India
  • The Times of India

Tanaz Bhanthena has been an award-winning short story author for nearly a decade now, but A Girl Like That is her debut young adult novel. It goes into issues surrounding gender equality, mental health, abuse, bullying and religion.

A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld

A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge shares the true stories of six New Orleans residents and their experiences with Hurricane Katrina. Each is faced with the same heart wrenching decision – whether to stay or flee.

Initially, the novel came out in pieces as part of a webcomic – but with wild popularity, it was published and is now a staple in most libraries. This book shines as an uncanny light on the devastating truths and human triumphs after the flood.

Josh Neufeld is a writer and artist from Brooklyn, New York. He enjoys writing non-fiction comics based on his own international travels and experiences. In October 2005, he volunteered with the American Red Cross where he worked as a disaster response worker for three weeks in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

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Give Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth Sˑha-weñ na-saeˀ

Carson is going into his last year of high school and is desperate to make his mark on and off the reservation. He figures his best shot is joining a rock band and winning the Battle of the Bands. Unfortunately, life hits a snag when he has trouble finding bandmates to join him and his brother is shot.

Maggie has just moved back to the reservation, along with her family – and is desperate to make a change. She is a budding artist, eager to stop making the same traditional artwork her family sells to tourists and finally create something all her own.

Together, Carson and Maggie traverse their way through rowdy protests and loud concerts to reveal a story about dealing with racism, bullying and the complications of understanding what love and friendship truly is.

Named “Best Book of the Year” by:

  • The Boston Globe
  • School Library Journal
  • National Public Radio (NPR)
  • Chicago Public Library

Eric Gansworth is a professor of English and a Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. He is an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation and was born and raised on the Tuscarora Reservation in Niagara County.

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Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

According to critic reviews, it is even better than the first book – with richer characters, more excitement and shocking twists. Two Can Keep a Secret is considered to be a must read for those that enjoy YA thrillers or murder mysteries.

High school student, Ellery, has just moved to Echo Ridge with a grandma she hardly knows. The town is picture perfect but holds an unpleasant history.

Ellery is a crime buff and knows all about the town’s history – like how her aunt disappeared without a trace at the age of 17 and 5 years ago, the high school’s homecoming queen was murdered. Disturbing acts of vandalism start happening, which could be the precursor to another murder. Not long after getting settled in, Ellery is elected homecoming queen, and someone threatens to make homecoming as dangerous as it was 5 years ago.

The longer Ellery is in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone is hiding a secret – the only thing is that secrets are dangerous and most people in the town are no good at keeping them.

Karen MacManus is the New York Times bestselling author of One of Us is Lying, which has been so popular that it was translated into 37 languages and is now sold worldwide. The sequel, Two Can Keep a Secret, was released in high anticipation.

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A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

It has been almost a year since the event that changed Annabelle’s life, yet the guilt and shame still haunt her. One night in a fast food parking lot, she snaps and just starts running away from it all – the city, her memories, and her regrets. Her grandfather joins her on this journey, along with her brother and two friends (who end up being her publicity team) as they embark on a months-long trek from Seattle to Washington, D.C. As support of her cause gains the attention of the media, people start showing up to cheer her on at state lines and even throw her a block party. While Annabelle appreciates the support, she still struggles to escape her past.

This moving and powerful read highlight that trauma does not need to be dealt with alone as well as the importance of emotional well-being.

Deb Caletti is an award-winning author of young adult and adult fiction. All her books have been set in the Pacific Northwest – where she has spent her whole life. She was born in California and currently lives with her family in Seattle, Washington.

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On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Bri is a sixteen-year-old who wants to follow in her late fathers’ footsteps and become one of the great rappers of all time. She soon finds things difficult when she is labelled a hoodlum at school and her mother loses her job and is unable to put food on the table.

Her anger and frustration are then poured into her first song, which ends up going viral for all the wrong reasons. She soon finds herself at the center of a controversy and is framed as a menace by the media. However, with her family facing eviction, Bri has no choice but to follow her dream to become a superstar.

This is a great story about following your dreams, even when the odds are stacked up against you.

Angie Thomas was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. She is a young adult novelist, whose first novel – The Hate U Give, not only hit #1 on the New York Times bestsellers list, but was also adapted into a film through 20th Century Fox Studios.

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Pemmican Wars: A Girl Called Echo by Katherena Vermette

Echo Desjardins is a Métis freshman, who is having trouble adjusting to a new home. On top of that, she has been struggling with loneliness, ever since she was separated from her mother.

While daydreaming on her first day of high school, she finds herself time travelling back to 1814. All of a sudden, she is watching a bison hunt on the Saskatchewan prairies. Everyone is dressed in 19th century garb, while she is still in a hoodie and baggy jeans.

The back and forth between the past and present continues throughout the whole story. She ends up visiting a Métis camp, old fur-trade routes, and fully experiences the Pemmican Wars, which includes her family history.

Katherena Vermette is a strong First Nations voice whose poetry, books and films examine the inequality and the effects of historical prejudice.

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After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay

Bunny and Nasir have been friends forever, but when Bunny accepts an athletic scholarship across town, Nasir feels left behind. As Bunny tries to fit into his new school, Nasir starts hanging out with his evicted cousin, Wallace. Wallace ends up making a bet against Bunny, and Nasir is then faced with an impossible decision.

After the Shot Drops is a fast-paced story about the responsibilities of having great talent and the importance of sympathy. It is an excellent reflection of relationships between young boys and the value of friendships.

Randy Ribay is a high school English teacher who writes young adult fiction. He was born in the Philippines and grew up in Colorado. After graduating from the University of Colorado, he moved to San Francisco where he now enjoys spending time with his wife and two dogs.

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Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali

Zayneb has just been suspended for standing up for her faith against her teacher’s wishes. When he finds out about her activist friends, they all end up in trouble and Zayneb is suspended. From there she travels to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar where she resolves to try out a nicer version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Adam has recently lost his Mom and has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He has stopped going to classes and plans on perfecting the art of creating new things from home. Through his newfound love for art and with the help of his sister, he is determined to keep his Mom’s memory alive.

This book tells the story of two Muslim teens who end up falling in love despite their many hardships. It is a beautiful account of the redeeming power of love. Important issues such as Islamophobia, social justice and chronic illnesses are looked at in depth.

S.K. Ali was born in South India and immigrated with her family to Canada as a young child. She is a writer, artist and schoolteacher in Toronto, Ontario. Her debut novel, Saints and Misfits, is an Entertainment Weekly Best Book of 2017 and a Kirkus Top 10 Contemporary Teen Novel of 2017.

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With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Emoni Santiago is a high school senior who is responsible for caring for her daughter and grandmother. Ever since she was a freshman, she’s had to make some tough decisions. The only place she feels she can truly let loose is in the kitchen. Unfortunately, she does not have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, and definitely does not have enough money to accompany the class on a trip to Spain.

Although Emoni still dreams of becoming a chef, she is all too aware of her limitations. However, once she starts to cook, she realizes her talent is her chance to break free.

Elizabeth Acevedo is the New York Times bestselling author of her debut novel, Poet X. She was born to Dominican immigrants and raised in New York. She holds a BA in Performing Arts and an MFA in Creative Writing.