As we approach Canada’s sesquicentennial, I find myself thinking about some of my favourite children’s and young adult books by Canadian writers. Here are five books to read as you celebrate Canada’s 150th. Some will be familiar, but I hope not all. I’ll even give you a reason why I love the books. And remember, each of these authors has many more books to explore, which will keep you going all summer long.
1. Anne of Green Gables (1908), L. M. Montgomery
I tutor Athabasca University’s ENGL 305, Classics of Children’s Literature, and Anne is on the course. I’ve read Anne at least a dozen times. Each time I do, I’m sure I’ve read it for the last time. Then, something calls me back, and I read it again. And don’t forget the rest of the Anne books, Anne’s House of Dreams being another of my favourites.
2. A Walk Out of the World (1969), Ruth Nichols
I first read this book at age thirteen. Nichols wrote the book when she was eighteen, and knowing this made me determined to become a writer. I had already read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, so I was a good enough reader to recognize Tolkien’s influence on Nichols’ book. At the time, I didn’t care; I just wished I could write something similar. Tobit and Judith are brother and sister—presumably living somewhere in Vancouver—who find themselves in another world after walking through a wood. Dwarves, kobolds, and a quest to save the world from the usurper move the plot forward, while Tobit and Judith have to understand their connection to this strange place. You might have to hunt for this book, but it’s worth the look.
3. Mud Puddle (1996), Robert Munsch
Mud Puddle is one of my favourite books by Munsch. It’s less over the top than many of his others, and it has the ring of a folktale. Jule Ann is on a quest to defeat the mud puddle lurking in her backyard. My daughter loved this book when she was two, which is enough to give me a sentimental attachment to the book.
4. The Keeper of the Isis Light (1980), Monica Hughes
This book is the first in Hughes’ Isis series. Sixteen-year-old Olwen lives alone on the planet Isis with Guardian—her, well, guardian. A colony ship arrives from Earth, and things go sideways pretty fast. Hughes body of works represents a significant contribution to Canadian children’s literature. I met Hughes a couple of times, once, years ago, while she worked as the writer in residence at the Stanley Milner Library. I was terrified, but I brought her something to read. She was kind, encouraging, thoughtful, and gave me some practical suggestions for my writing.
5. The Shadow of Malabron (2008), Thomas Wharton
This is the first book in Wharton’s Perilous Realm series. After the death of his mother, Will Lightfoot is travelling west across the country with his sister and dad. An angry Will takes off on his father’s vintage motorcycle, only to crash it in the woods off the highway. There, Will finds himself in another world—the Perilous Realm, the land of Story. Wharton’s series has Tolkienesque influences as well, but this is the land where stories begin and end. Wharton is one of those writers who writes for both adults and children. His latest book for kids is a picture book about Edmonton’s history, Rutherford the Time Travelling Moose, beautifully illustrated by Amanda Schutz.
William Thompson is totally blind, and he tutors ENGL 305 for Athabasca University. His stories have appeared in Hippocampus Magazine, The Danforth Review, and Literary Orphans. He has two collections of stories—The Paper Man and Other Stories, and Fractured and Other Fairy Tales—both available on Amazon, and he maintains a website and blog at www.OfOtherWorlds.ca. Currently, he is working on a young adult novel set in a post-pandemic future.