Free Press Book Club Summer Reading Challenge for Kids is back in session!
With the help of our partners at McNally Robinson Booksellers, we’ve once again chosen four different books for each of three age groups (7 to 9, 10 to 12 and 13 to 15), the details of which you’ll see as you scroll further down this page. There is a wide range of genres, themes and perspectives for kids to explore from a ton of local authors.
All of these books are available at McNally Robinson, and most can also be found at the Winnipeg Public Library.
Kids can read books from whatever age category they want, in whatever order they want, as slowly or as quickly as they want and will also have the opportunity to submit reviews of the books they’ve read. The Free Press will run a selection of those reviews in print in our Saturday books section twice throughout the summer. More details on that to come, but you can take a look at our review-writing guidelines right here.
For the next few weeks, we’ll be sending important emails and reading resources to those who register below, as well as directions that will explain how to submit reviews.
If you registered your email address with us last summer, you’re already on the list so you don’t need to register again.
Keep scrolling to learn more about the books on our 2022 reading lists, and to enter our massive book giveaway!
Click on each book cover to learn more about it
Ages 7 to 9
Poppy and Sam and the Leaf Thief
It’s a beautiful day in the garden when Poppy and her panda friend, Sam, hear a commotion. Their friend Basil—who has always been known for his elegance—is in tears, because somebody nibbled his leaves last night!
Poppy puts her detective skills to work, with help from Sam, and together they set out to find the culprit. They start by interviewing the insects, but Ms. Honeybee, Madame Ladybug, and Mr. Bumblebee all have contradictory suspicions of their own. So Poppy and Sam test some creative methods to catch the vandal red-handed. After a few misadventures, they find the remorseful nibbler—and Basil helps him understand that everything tastes better when it is freely offered.
Illustrated with charming details and lots of kid appeal, this is an easy-to-read graphic novel with friendly characters and a suspenseful story line.
Mad About Meatloaf
By: Maureen Fergus
Meet Weenie, a food-obsessed wiener dog, and his best friends Frank and Beans in this hilarious early graphic novel for fans of Narwhal and Jelly and The Bad Guys.
Weenie loves his human, Bob. He loves his guinea pig friend, Beans, and his cat friend, Frank. He loves naps, adventures and sharing. In fact, Weenie loves pretty much everything (except the mail carrier).
But the thing Weenie loves and desires more than anything else in the world is meatloaf. And he’ll do anything to get it.
Join Weenie, Frank and Beans on a laugh-out-loud meatloaf adventure, complete with a trench coat disguise, a wild meatloaf trap and even a hungry wolf.
Bear in the Family
By: Eric Walters
On returning to their home after a massive wildfire, nine-year-old Jasmin and her seven-year-old brother, Hunter, thought the biggest surprise would be whether their fire-resistant house had survived.
Jasmin and Hunter did not expect to find an orphaned bear cub stuck in the neighbors’ well. Rescuing the tiny cub from the well was the easy part; now they need to care for it until the people from the bear-rescue sanctuary can make it safely through the fires to pick it up. The cub turns out to be exactly what one would expect of a wild animal—a huge handful!
The latest Orca Echoes early chapter book from award-winning author Eric Walters was inspired by Eric’s visit to a wildlife sanctuary in Northern British Columbia. Bear in the Family tells the fictionalized story of a bear cub found by a family after the forest surrounding their home was destroyed by a wildfire.
By: Danielle Daniel
Adventurous, trail-blazing Wolf lives in a northern mining town and spends her days exploring the mountains and wilderness with her three best friends Penny, Ann and Brandi. The girls’ secret refuge is their tree-house hideaway, Birchwood, Wolf’s favourite place on earth. When her beloved grandmother tells her that she is the great-granddaughter of a tree talker, Wolf knows that she is destined to protect the birch trees and wildlife that surround her.
But Wolf’s mother doesn’t understand this connection at all. Not only is she reluctant to engage with their family’s Indigenous roots, she seems suspiciously on the wrong side of the environmental protection efforts in their hometown. To make matters worse, she’s just started dating an annoying new boyfriend named Roger, whose motives—and construction company—seem equally suspect.
As summer arrives, so do bigger problems. Wolf and her friends discover orange plastic bands wrapped around the trees near their cherished hangout spot, and their once stable friendship seems on the verge of unravelling. Birchwood has given them so much—can they even stay together long enough to save this special place?
With gorgeous yet understated language, Danielle Daniel beautifully captures an urgent and aching time in a young person’s life. To read this astonishing middle-grade debut is to have your heart broken and then tenderly mended.
Ages 10 to 12
The Undercover Book List
By: Colleen Nelson
Between her father’s posting overseas and her best friend Sienna’s move to the other side of the country, seventh grade is looking lonely for Jane MacDonald. But Sienna has left her with one last trick: a hidden message in a library book—the perfect plot to start a secret club and find Jane a new book-loving friend.
Tyson Flamand has problems of his own. Since the fourth grade he’s had a reputation as a bad kid, and there’s no point fighting it when teachers always think the worst. So when he finds an anonymous note in the library looking for a nerdy new friend, he knows he’s the last person in the world it could be meant for. But something makes him answer it anyway, and Tyson finds himself pulled into a secret book club where being hidden may be the first step to being truly seen.
With the insight of a veteran middle-school teacher, Colleen Nelson, author of the award-winning Harvey Comes Home and Sadia, weaves together two stories of identity, expectation, and the courage to challenge both. As their paths move ever closer, Jane and Tyson both discover their own self-reliance and their ability to overcome obstacles that seemed insurmountable.
The Great Bear
By: David A. Robertson
In this second book in the Narnia-inspired Indigenous middle-grade fantasy series, Eli and Morgan journey once more to Misewa, travelling back in time.
Back at home after their first adventure in the Barren Grounds, Eli and Morgan each struggle with personal issues: Eli is being bullied at school, and tries to hide it from Morgan, while Morgan has to make an important decision about her birth mother. They turn to the place where they know they can learn the most, and make the journey to Misewa to visit their animal friends. This time they travel back in time and meet a young fisher that might just be their lost friend. But they discover that the village is once again in peril, and they must dig deep within themselves to find the strength to protect their beloved friends. Can they carry this strength back home to face their own challenges?
Peanut Butter and Chaos
By: Anita Daher
When twelve-year-old Sam is struck by a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky, he suddenly sees everything in pixels. His life is further upended by Flum, a non-binary being from a parallel world, a missing neighbour, and astonishing powers that may not last long. Science and magic collide as Sam races to solve a mystery and help Flum return home. But what happens when solving one mystery sparks another? Peanut Butter and Chaos is a middle grade fantasy grounded in science.
The Fabulous Zed Watson
By: Basil Sylvester and Kevin Sylvester
Zed Watson loves a few things: their name (which they chose themself!), their big rambunctious family, and—oh yeah—monsters. When Zed discovered the mystery surrounding an unpublished novel called The Monster’s Castle, they were completely hooked. Now Zed is a member of a small but dedicated legion devoted to finding the long-buried text.
When a breakthrough discovery leads Zed to the route that they are sure will take them to the treasure, they know it’s time for a road trip. And with the help of their shy, flora-loving neighbour, Gabe, and his sister, Sam, a geologist who is driving back to college in Arizona, Zed and company are soon off on a wild adventure following cryptic clues.
But it’s not all fun and games. Gabe doesn’t like Zed’s snacks, Sam is a bossy driver with total command of the ancient Impreza’s stereo, and Zed is often misgendered. It’s a good thing they also encounter kind strangers, potato-themed dance-offs and lots and lots of ice cream along the way. If Zed and Gabe can combine their strengths, survive Sam’s wrath and best the greedy historian who’s also hot on the book’s trail, they just might find the greatest treasure of all.
Co-authored by child-parent duo Basil Sylvester and Kevin Sylvester, this is a vibrant and enormous-hearted story about friendship, identity and belonging. It features illustrations by celebrated author and illustrator Kevin Sylvester, and an Own Voices perspective based on Basil’s experience.
Ages 13 to 15
Beatrice and Croc Harry
By: Lawrence Hill
Beatrice, a young girl of uncertain age, wakes up all alone in a tree house in the forest. How did she arrive in this cozy dwelling, stocked carefully with bookshelves and oatmeal accoutrements? And who has been leaving a trail of clues, composed in delicate purple handwriting?
So begins the adventure of a brave and resilient Black girl’s search for identity and healing in bestselling author Lawrence Hill’s middle-grade debut. Though Beatrice cannot recall how or why she arrived in the magical forest of Argilia—where every conceivable fish, bird, mammal and reptile coexist, and any creature with a beating heart can communicate with any other—something within tells her that beyond this forest is a family that is waiting anxiously for her return.
Just outside her tree-house door lives Beatrice’s most unlikely ally, the enormous and mercurial King Crocodile Croc Harry, who just may have a secret of his own. As they form an unusual truce and work toward their common goal, Beatrice and Croc Harry will learn more about their forest home than they ever could have imagined. And what they learn about themselves may destroy Beatrice’s chances of returning home forever.
By: Thomas King and Natasha Donovan
A stunning graphic-novel adaptation based on the work of one of Canada’s most revered and bestselling authors.
On a trip to visit his older sister, who has moved away from the family home on the reserve to Salt Lake City, a young boy and his mother are posed a simple question with a not-so-simple answer. Are you Canadian, the border guards ask, or American?
And when border guards will not accept their citizenship, mother and son wind up trapped in an all-too-real limbo between nations that do not recognize who they are.
A powerful graphic-novel adaptation of one of Thomas King’s most celebrated short stories, Borders explores themes of identity and belonging, and is a poignant depiction of the significance of a nation’s physical borders from an Indigenous perspective. This timeless story is brought to vibrant, piercing life by the singular vision of artist Natasha Donovan.
Walking in Two Worlds
By: Wab Kinew
An Indigenous teen girl is caught between two worlds, both real and virtual, in the YA fantasy debut from bestselling Indigenous author Wab Kinew. Perfect for fans of Ready Player One and the Otherworld series.
In the real world, Bugz is a shy and self-conscious Indigenous teen who faces the stresses of teenage angst and life on the Rez. But in the virtual world, her alter ego is not just confident but dominant in a massively multiplayer video game universe.
Feng is a teen boy who has been sent from China to live with his aunt, a doctor on the Rez, after his online activity suggests he may be developing extremist sympathies. Meeting each other in real life, as well as in the virtual world, Bugz and Feng immediately relate to each other as outsiders and as avid gamers. And as their connection is strengthened through their virtual adventures, they find that they have much in common in the real world, too: both must decide what to do in the face of temptations and pitfalls, and both must grapple with the impacts of family challenges and community trauma.
But betrayal threatens everything Bugz has built in the virtual world, as well as her relationships in the real world, and it will take all her newfound strength to restore her friendship with Feng and reconcile the parallel aspects of her life: the traditional and the mainstream, the east and the west, the real and the virtual.
A Magic Steeped in Poison
By: Judy I. Lin
I used to look at my hands with pride. Now all I can think is, “These are the hands that buried my mother.”
For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu.
When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shennong-shi—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life.
But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger.
We really want to know your true thoughts about the books you’ve read, so pick one of the books you’ve completed from the Summer Reading Challenge list and tell us what you liked, what you didn’t like, and why you feel that way!
Summer Reading Challenge 2022 launch
Giveaway winners contacted
First round of review submissions due
First set of reviews published in print/online
Final round of review submissions due
Final set of reviews published in print and online
If you have any questions, please email us at email@example.com
Thanks to the following publishers for providing books for this giveaway:
- Penguin Random House
- Great Plains Publications
- Pajama Press
- Raincoast Books
- Tundra Books
- Orca Book Publishers