Canadian YA Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up

I recently discovered Mouse-traps and the Moon, a blog maintained by Sue Fisher, curator of the Eileen Wallace Children’s Literature Collection at the University of New Brunswick.

Yesterday, Sue shared her thoughts on a new resource called 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up.  Naturally, she is concerned with the presence of Canadian material, noting that “there are some fine Canadian authors included in the list” such as L.M. Montgomery, Tim Wynne Jones, and Deborah Ellis.

This prompts her to consider what works by Canadian authors didn’t make it into 1001 Books. “In the interest of expanding discussion” she provides her own annotated list of Additional Canadian Books That You Should Read Before You Grow Up. Sue’s list is a great resource for anyone beginning to study the canon of Canadian children’s and young adult literature. Notable young adult mentions include:

#20. Gordon Korman: This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall, 1978
Sue writes: “This novel was written when Korman was in the seventh grade and was published when he was 14 years old. 60+ novels later, Canada’s wunderkind is all grown up and still publishing fun, funny, and sometimes dark novels for children and young adults.”

#21. Brian Doyle: Angel Square, 1984
Sue writes: “An honour book for the Children’s Literature Association’s Phoenix Award in 2004, Doyle’s Angel Square does indeed have staying power. Religion, class and the long shadow of World War II are all mixed up in Angel Square, the neighbourhood where Tommy first enters the world of really knowing.”

#24. Polly Horvath: Everything on a Waffle, 2001
Sue writes: “Whacky, dark and filled with memorable characters who have even more memorable names—that’s what Horvath’s novels are. I particularly liked this one and The Canning Season, 2003, wherein a character actually manages to decapitate herself. Despite the dark overtones to Horvath’s writing, the novels are filled with love and deep, meaningful human connection.”

#25. Arthur Slade: Dust, 2001
Sue writes: “A positively creepy tale set in enchanted-reality version of depression-era Saskachewan. The first chapter had me hyperventilating in fear, and I simply could not exhale or put the book down until I was done. Winner of the Governor-General’s Literary Award.”

#26. Budge Wilson: Fractures, 2002
Sue writes:  “Thanks to Alice Munroe, Canada is known as a literary powerhouse in the short story genre. For the young adult set, I like this collection of dysfuntional domestic tales by Nova Scotia’s Budge Wilson.”

#27. Beth Goobie: Before Wings, 2000
Sue writes: “I think Beth Goobie is one of the best, most literary writers for young adults alive. In Before Wings, 15-year-old Adrien learns to live in the face of death (she’s suffered one brain aneurysm and fears she may suffer another). She does this by spending the summer at her aunt Erin’s camp, where she slips between past and present, uncovering a mystery that has haunted both the camp and her brittle aunt.”

#29. Kenneth Oppel: Airborn, 2004
Sue writes:  “Canada’s other wunderkind, Kenneth Oppel, was discovered by Roald Dahl when he was fourteen years old. He has numerous great books for children of all ages but is most famous for his Silverwing series and his Airborn series…I loved the Airborn series with its hot air balloons and fantastically distorted version of the world we live in. Steam punk has recently become all the rage in YA. The market and my tastes may be reaching surfeit point, but Airborn somehow remains fresh six years later.”

#30. W. O. Mitchell: Who Has Seen the Wind, 1947
Sue writes:  “Reading this novel about growing up on the prairies, about learning of God, love, nature and death, is a mandatory rite of passage isn’t it? Isn’t it?”

#31. Martha Brooks: True Confessions of a Heartless Girl, 2002
Sue writes: “A young woman whose need is great is taken in by a caring community. This novel is the all-grown-up version of Pippin the Christmas Pig, for it reveals how we transform ourselves when we have the courage to accept and nurture others without fear.”

#32. Joy Kogawa: Obasan, 1981
Sue writes: “Naomi, a teacher in her mid-thirties, visits her aging aunt in order to care for her. During her visit she relives her childhood experiences during and following WWII when her family was forcibly moved from BC to Alberta to work on a sugar beet farm as interned Japanese Canadians.”

Sue invites others to add to her list in the comments section of her blog (but keep in mind, her list doesn’t include titles that are included in 1001 Books). Personally, I’d like to see Alice, I Think by Susan Juby and Adam and Eve and Pinch-Me by Julie Johnston on the list.

What about you?


Posted on January 14, 2010, in by Erin and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I’m working my way through the 1001 list,, so far it seems skewed towards British books, but it’s a British publication so that’s natural. I’m still in the 5+s though. I’m shocked Gordon Korman didn’t make it! And I didn’t realize he was Canadian….

  2. I would like to see anything by Martine Leavitt on that list. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the link. To answer your question, 1001 Books doesn’t have Julie Johnston or Susan Juby listed. I’m glad you’ve mentioned them here and also pleased to see a reference to Martine Leavitt in your comments. The trouble with lists is that you have to stop adding at some point, so it’s fabulous when others take up the discussion and broaden the conversation.

  4. Oops. That was me commenting under a now defunct id. Sorry for the confusion.

  5. How about That Scatterbrain Booky? That and The Root Cellar by Janet Lunn were two of my total favourites!

  6. GK strikes again! 🙂 But seriously … A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag is THE Gordon Korman book to read.

  7. How could Who Has Seen the Wind NOT be on their list? What the heck?

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