Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Kid Lit Can, with Susan Hughes: Some Sizzling Summer Reading "Kids' Can Lit" Picks

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Kid Lit Can with Susan Hughes

It's finally June, which means summer is almost here! In anticipation of the warmer weather, perfect for relaxing and reading, I've asked three book lovers — from the West, Phyllis Simon; from the East, Lisa Doucet; from in between, Melissa Montovani — to suggest their top summer picks of Canadian kids' books. Some are new, some aren't so new — all are ideal for cracking open when the hot weather hits.

Check them out and then please leave a comment telling us which kids' books you and the children in your life will be enjoying this summer!

Phyllis Simon, co-owner of Kidsbooks, an independent children's book store in Vancouver, British Columbia:

The Path of Names (Scholastic, 2013) by Ari Goelman 

An interesting middle-grade summer-camp fantasy that incorporates mystery, mazes and magic. For kids who love complicated plots with twists and turns.

The Metro Dogs of Moscow (Puffin, 2013) by Rachelle Delaney

Author Delaney was inspired by the stray dogs of Moscow and has chosen to tell her story through the eyes of a dog living in the Canadian Embassy. Mystery, humour and adventure.

Out on a Limb (VivaLogue, reissue 2013) by Gail Banning

A delightful story about a typical family whose accommodation is truly unique: after their apartment building is slated for demolition, Rosie and her family move into a tree house in the woods that had been willed to them by an eccentric aunt.

Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom (Tundra, 2010) by Susin Nielsen  

Who can resist a book with such a great title!   Violet can’t stand her mother’s boyfriend choices, and if she can’t have her dad back on the scene, then she will settle for George Clooney in the role. Funny, poignant and wise.


Melissa Montovani, founder of the book blog and freelance reviewer for and Canadian Children’s’ Book News:

Getting Over Garrett Delaney (Candlewick Press, 2012) by Abby McDonald

McDonald's Getting Over Garrett Delaney follows Sadie and her summer detox from Garrett, a guy who has been her best friend and secret, unrequited crush for two years. Before you dismiss it as YA romance without any substance, keep in mind that McDonald’s characterization of Sadie is similar to Jane Austen’s rendering of Elizabeth in Pride & Prejudice without being an exact retelling.

(You) Set Me On Fire (Penguin Canada, 2012) by Mariko Tamaki and When We Were Good (Sumach Press, 2013) by Suzanne Sutherland

Speaking of summer reads that have more going on than the typical boy-meets-girl plot, readers will fall in love with (You) Set Me On Fire and the main character Allison Lee, who has fallen in love once and been set on fire (literally) twice before the novel even begins. If you’ve already read Tamaki’s book, Sutherland’s exploration of Y2K Toronto, the indie punk scene and a lesbian coming-of-age story in When We Were Good should be the next book you pick up.

The Way We Fall (Disney, 2012) and The Lives We Lost (Disney, 2013) by Megan Crewe

For those who like their summer reads to be action-packed, these books by Crewe, the first two books in a trilogy about a deadly epidemic in Canada, are well paced with great characters and unexpected twists.

Power Play (Harper Collins, 2013) by Eric Walters

Finally, Walters’ Power Play is a powerful book that explores the complex and disturbing relationship that develops between a hockey star and his coach and will appeal to hockey players, sports fans and those looking for a book with a male POV and serious themes.


Lisa Doucet, co-manager of Woozles, an independent children's book store in Halifax, Nova Scotia:

Summer Days, Starry Nights (Scholastic, 2013) by Vikki VanSickle

This latest offering from Vikki VanSickle is a perfect summer read, capturing all of the magic and warmth and dreaminess of summer as we all long for it to be. Reenie Starr loves the summer resort that her family calls home, and it is her dream that her father will someday see that she is the perfect person to eventually take over the management of it. When Gwendolyn Cates comes to teach classes at Sandy Shores, Reenie finds in her a friend and mentor. But while Reenie devises a plan to surprise Gwendolyn and impress her father, she is completely unaware of the ways in which those around her are also trying to follow their own dreams.

This Dark Endeavour (Harper Collins, 2011) and Such Wicked Intent (Harper Collins, 2013) by Kenneth Oppel

In these deliciously moody and atmospheric novels, Kenneth Oppel vividly reimagines the world of young Viktor Frankenstein. He brilliantly evokes the setting and era, and gives readers an intriguing glimpse of the world of alchemy and how elements of alchemy wove themselves into the scientific beliefs of the day. Most importantly however, he gives us a complex and deeply-conflicted protagonist. As always, his characters are multi-layered and fascinating, and both novels will keep readers spellbound and breathless with anticipation. Thought-provoking, insightful, perfectly-paced and unforgettable, they are perfect reads for the summer or anytime at all!

The Friday Society (Dial, 2012) by Adrienne Kress

This wild romp of a tale is a perfect summer read for anyone interested in equal parts adventure, mystery and just plain fun. Not to mention a stunning display of girl-power! This Edwardian “Charlie’s Angels” tale features three gifted young women who join forces to solve a murder, uncover a plot to destroy the city of London and become fast friends in the process. The steampunk elements add a nice touch to the story as does Adrienne Kress’s clever wit.

Nix Minus One (Pajama Press, 2013) by Jill MacLean and Counting Back From Nine (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2013) by Valerie Sherrard

For teen (and adult) readers who might be looking for more hard-hitting fare, these two exquisite novels in verse are both stunning reads. In Nix Minus One, Nix Humboldt is an introverted teen who is finding his way through the turmoil of adolescence. He is challenged to come into his own by a number of situations in his life: his discovery of a dog who is being mistreated by her owner and his determination to befriend and save her; his burgeoning friendship with Chase and his sister Blue; his need to process and come to terms with an unimaginable tragedy that shakes he and his family to their very core. As Nix struggles to find his voice, MacLean soothes us with the gorgeousness of her writing, the spare but perfect free verse of this unforgettable gem.

Meanwhile, Valerie Sherrard’s Counting Back From Nine features a teen girl who is, as the story begins, dealing with the fall-out of her decision to start secretly dating the recent ex-boyfriend of one of her best friends. The revelation of this secret betrayal has immediate, and predictable, consequences for her. But soon Laren has a much greater disaster to contend with: the death of her father in a car accident, and the subsequent realization that there was another woman in the car. In this book that is searing and thoughtful and heartbreaking and beautiful, Laren slowly begins to pick up the pieces of her shattered vision of the father she loved and to forgive him while also gaining greater clarity into what she herself has done.


Susan Hughes is an award-winning author of children's books — both fiction and non-fiction — including The Island Horse, Off to Class, Case Closed?, No Girls Allowed and Earth to Audrey. She is also an editor, journalist and manuscript evaluator. Susan lives in Toronto. Visit her website,

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