A few months ago it was my cousin’s first birthday. I was at a loss for what to get her — she’s the second girl in her family and has tons of clothes, books, and toys. Every once in a while, my being Canadian pops up into family conversation (OK, maybe more than once in a while), so I figured, why not honor her and my fellow Canadians by bestowing her with some Canadian books I grew up on.
Well, I did. And, it was a success! Not only are these books cherished, but they were also ones she did not already own.
As a Canadian living in the U.S., I’m always shocked about the things that did not cross the border, and that includes a lot of my childhood fiction.
If you want to add some Canadian love to your child’s bookcase, here are some good starters:
This book, which celebrates its 36th birthday this year, is probably my all-time favorite. I remember sitting on the carpet in elementary school, cheering on Elizabeth, the princess, who was trying to save her prince, Ronald, who got captured by a dragon. The ultimate feminist princess, she saves Ronald and then rejects him when he tells her to come back when she looks more like a princess.
Robert Munsch, in my opinion, is one of the best things to come out of Canada, so he gets a second mention. And, I personally think his books should be required reading for all Americans. Mortimer is a young boy who will not go to sleep, and he sings at the top of his lungs when he should be sleeping. I can relate — both as Mortimer, when I was a child, and, now, as the exasperated parent. I loved this book as a child, and it is has now become one of my American family’s favorites.
This story takes place in Quebec, when Maurice “The Rocket” Richard was the Big Papi of Canadian Hockey. The National Film Board of Canada also made a short film of the book. It is a true story from Carrier’s childhood. It tells of a boy whose mother accidentally replaces his old Montreal Canadiens sweater with a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater. Nothing is more embarrassing or demoralizing. This book showcases the importance of hockey and gives a nice nod to the tension between Francophones and Anglophones. It’s a great story!
These books feature a young Jillian who is a spunky girl with tons of energy and a wild imagination. Jillian has all kinds of adventures throughout the series, and her mother is constantly exhausted by her shenanigans. The repeated catchphrase of the books is her mom saying, “Jillian, Jillian, Jillian Jiggs, it’s like your room has been lived in by pigs!” and her answering, “Later I promise, as soon as I’m through. I’ll clean my whole room up, I promise, I do.” Think she does?
When I reached out to my Canadian friends, this title came up quickly. Dennis Lee is also known as the Canadian Father Goose. His children’s poems are fun, catchy, and full of Canadian references. There’s also an “Alligator Pie” board book to get ’em started while they’re young.