2021 Blue Spruce Award™ Nominees

ages 4-7, JK–Grade 2  |  English, picture books

Bad Dog

Written and Illustrated by Mike Boldt
Published by Doubleday Books For Young Readers

“Look what I got for my birthday! A pet dog!” says a little girl holding a… cat? Rocky doesn’t listen or obey like all the other dogs. (Because Rocky is a cat.) And Rocky hates her leash and doesn’t seem to like other dogs. (Probably because Rocky is a cat.) And rather than play fetch, Rocky prefers to… lick between her toes? Ew. Rocky is a bad “dog”! BUT Rocky doesn’t bark and is so cute when she sleeps in sunny spots. Maybe Rocky IS a good dog? (Or, you know, maybe Rocky is a cat.) Cat lovers and dog lovers alike will howl with laughter at this little girl’s willful insistence that her cat is a dog. The hilarious ways in which cats and dogs are different are brilliantly illuminated with each turn of the page and will leave young readers and their grown-ups giggling.

Be You!

Written and Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Published by Scholastic Inc.

Be curious…
Be adventurous…
Be brave…
BE YOU!

Discover a joyful reminder of the ways that every child is unique and special, from the beloved creator of The Dot, Happy Dreamer, and New York Times bestseller, The Word Collector. Here, Reynolds reminds readers to “be your own work of art.” To be patient, persistent, and true. Because there is one, and only one, YOU.

In the tradition of books like Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and I Wish You More comes a wholly original, inspirational celebration of individuality as only Peter H. Reynolds can create!

Boxitects

Written and Illustrated by Kim Smith
Published by HarperCollins Canada

Meg is a brilliant and creative boxitect. She loves building extraordinary things out of ordinary cardboard boxes and impressing her classmates with what she creates. But then a new kid comes to Maker School: Simone. Simone is good at everything. Worst of all, she’s a boxitect too! Will Meg and Simone find a way to push past their rivalry and join creative forces?

Fast Friends

Written by Heather M. O’Connor, Illustrated by Claudia Dávila
Published by Scholastic Canada Ltd.

Every child has a voice ― if we take the time to listen. In this appealing, energetic picture book, two kids with different challenges and strengths find they are just what the other needs to navigate classroom life. Tyson does everything fast ― so fast he often disrupts the class. His teacher is always saying, “Too fast, Tyson!” And often he ends up playing all alone. Suze, the new girl, is nonverbal with special needs. Sometimes her classmates don’t know what those needs are. But Tyson understands. Taking the time to interpret her cues, Tyson forms a special friendship with Suze, and teaches his classmates what it means to listen and understand others. Claudia Dávila’s bright, energetic art captures the joy of moving at your own speed and connecting with a friend who can ride alongside.

Going Up!

Written by Sherry J. Lee, Illustrated by Charlene Chua
Published by Kids Can Press

Today is Olive’s birthday party, and Sophie and her dad have baked cookies. Sophie’s dad holds the platter so Sophie can push the elevator button for the tenth floor. But on the way up, the elevator stops to let the Santucci brothers get on. Then on the next floor, Vicky, Babs and their dog, Norman, get in. And as the elevator ascends, it keeps stopping, and more neighbors squeeze into the crowded space: the Habibs, the Flores family, Mr. Kwan, Vi Tweedle with her Chihuahua, Minx. Everyone is going to the party! Playfully combining the excitement and anticipation of a party with children’s universal love of riding in elevators, Sherry J. Lee’s picture book story is ultimately about community and a sense of belonging. With characters from many cultural backgrounds, it showcases the everyday diversity that many urban children experience. Charlene Chua’s illustrations provide loads of funny details and visual narratives that aren’t in the text, making for a multilayered reading experience. The book’s tall, narrow trim size adds to the effect of the rising elevator.

Grandmother School

Written by Rina Singh, Illustrated by Ellen Rooney
Published by Orca Book Publishers

Every morning, a young girl walks her grandmother to the Aajibaichi Shala, the school that was built for the grandmothers in her village to have a place to learn to read and write. The narrator beams with pride as she drops her grandmother off with the other aajis to practice the alphabet and learn simple arithmetic. A moving story about family, women and the power of education—when Aaji learns to spell her name you’ll want to dance along with her. Women in countless countries continue to endure the limitations of illiteracy. Unjust laws have suppressed the rights of girls and women and kept many from getting an education and equal standing in society. Based on a true story from the village of Phangane, India, this brilliantly illustrated book tells the story of the grandmothers who got to go to school for the first time in their lives.

My Day with Gong Gong

Written by Sennah Yee, Illustrated by Elaine Chen
Published by Annick Press

A day in Chinatown takes an unexpected turn when a bored little girl makes a connection with her grandpa. May isn’t having fun on her trip through Chinatown with her grandfather. Gong Gong doesn’t speak much English, and May can’t understand Chinese. She’s hungry and bored with Gong Gong’s errands. Plus, it seems like Gong Gong’s friends are making fun of her! But just when May can’t take any more, Gong Gong surprises her with a gift that reveals he’s been paying more attention than she thought. With lighthearted, expressive illustrations by Elaine Chen, this charming debut expertly captures life in the city and shows how small, shared moments of patience and care—and a dumpling or two—can help a child and grandparent bridge the generational and cultural gaps between them. A glossary at the end of the book features translations of the Chinese words from the story into Chinese characters and English.

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family

Written by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali, Illustrated by Hatem Aly
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

A powerful, vibrantly illustrated story about the first day of school—and two sisters on one’s first day of hijab—by Olympic medalist and social justice activist Ibtihaj Muhammad. With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It’s the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab—a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong. Paired with Hatem Aly’s beautiful, whimsical art, Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad and Morris Award finalist S.K. Ali bring readers an uplifting, universal story of new experiences, the unbreakable bond between siblings, and of being proud of who you are.

Salma the Syrian Chef

Written by Danny Ramadan, Illustrated by Anna Bron
Published by Annick Press

All Salma wants is to make her mama smile again. Between English classes, job interviews, and missing Papa back in Syria, Mama always seems busy or sad. A homemade Syrian meal might cheer her up, but Salma doesn’t know the recipe, or what to call the vegetables in English, or where to find the right spices! Luckily, the staff and other newcomers at the Welcome Center are happy to lend a hand—and a sprinkle of sumac. With creativity, determination, and charm, Salma brings her new friends together to show Mama that even though things aren’t perfect, there is cause for hope and celebration. Syrian culture is beautifully represented through the meal Salma prepares and Anna Bron’s vibrant illustrations, while the diverse cast of characters speaks to the power of cultivating community in challenging circumstances.

The Truth About Wind

Written by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert, Illustrated by Dušan Petričić
Published by Annick Press

When Jesse finds a toy horse and makes it his very own, his imagination runs wild. This horse is the fastest horse in the whole world, so Jesse names him Wind. He can’t wait to race him across the prairie (the kitchen table) and over deep canyons (the bathtub). There’s just one problem: Wind doesn’t actually belong to Jesse. He was left behind accidentally by his real owners. And though at first Jesse is full of joy as he plays with Wind, soon he starts to feel uneasy—Jesse knows Wind’s real owners must miss him. But how can Jesse explain to his mother exactly where Wind came from? And is there a way to make everything okay again? The Truth About Wind is a dynamic story about the courage it takes to face up to a lie, brought to life by a trio of celebrated creators.