Is there anything more exciting and comforting for a child than to open up a book and read about another kid just like them? There’s a story for every child out there, no matter what their life is like. From tales about lighthearted family relationships to much heavier topics like death, disabilities, and feeling alone, the following pick of diverse children’s books is sure to ring true to any child’s heart, and will become a valuable learning tool for any parent.
The Paper Bag Princess, Robert Munsch
The tale of rambunctious tomboy Princess Elizabeth is a story that champions unconventional little girls everywhere. The Paper Bag Princess flips the typical trope of the damsel in distress story in favour of a girl who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty to save her prince from a frightening dragon. To add to the girl power factor, Elizabeth isn’t afraid to walk away from her not-so-noble prince who turns out to be more Hans than Kristoff (Frozen reference, anyone?). This book is sure to resonate with any child who would sooner jump to action herself than be saved by a fairytale prince.
Something from Nothing, Phoebe Gilman
Quick, think back to your childhood — what was one item that you cherished the most? A stuffed animal? A toy car? Maybe an old security blanket that kept the monsters out of your room? Joseph’s grandfather makes him a baby blanket to mark the day of his birth. The boy becomes more adventurous and wild as he grows older, and as his blanket becomes tattered and frayed, his grandfather uses parts of it to create something new — a tie, a handkerchief, and a special button — so that Joseph can always have a part of his childhood. Something from Nothing is a gem of a story that teaches simplicity and making do with what is available.
Tales of a Gambling Grandma, Dayal Kaur Khalsa
How quick do we forget that the elderly folk of today were once young people with just as much energy and hopes? Tales of a Gambling Grandma shows the relationship of a little girl and her grandmother as they spend time together, with the grandmother regaling her granddaughter with stories about when she was a little girl running from political unrest in East Europe and eventually starting a new life in America. When the grandmother eventually passes away from old age, the little girl finds that her grandmother continues to live on through the stories she left behind. This piece is a heartwarming story that can help start discussions about death and how to honour late family members.
The Hockey Sweater, Roch Carrier
On its surface, the classic tale of The Hockey Sweater shows a community’s burning enthusiasm and passion for a single sport and, in the case of the little boys who adulate the then-Montreal Canadiens star player Maurice Richard, what it’s like to look up to childhood sports heroes. With that said, the deeper underlying message of Anglophone-Francophone tensions at the time makes this piece of nostalgia a historically riveting piece that your child can always revisit as an adult to appreciate the political statement it made during a culturally turbulent time in Canadian history.
Happy Birthday, Jason, Jean Cutbill
Intended for children with learning disabilities, Happy Birthday, Jason follows the day in the life of Jason on his birthday. Initially struggling with emotions of feeling alone due to his learning disability, Jason comes to see that he is not alone in his struggles and comes to accept himself. The book itself is written in simple, concise language, yet the feelings of confusion and frustration in Jason’s character is apparent. This book can serve as a great segue to talk to your child with learning disabilities and help them understand that, just like Jason, everyone has their own struggles (and their own ways of getting through them).
Not my Girl, Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Based off the historical events of Canada’s first nations residential school system, this book is based off the true story of author Margaret Pokiak-Fenton. It tells the story of a girl who was taken from her family to the residential schools. She can’t wait to see her family again, but the reunion proves more disappointing and sad than welcoming. She has forgotten her native tongue and can’t remember any skills or culture that was ingrained in her as a child, prompting her mother to declare that she is "Not my Girl." This book is not only a great lesson to teach a dark chapter in Canadian history, but also addresses feeling out of place in one’s own home. An ideal read for children who may feel out of touch with the culture of their parents and families.