Mental Health Awareness Month Reading Recommendations

Mental Health Awareness Month Reading Recommendations

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and staff have compiled a great list of recent reads that highlight ways to check in on your mental health or to read about other people who are also struggling. Above all remember it’s okay to not be okay and there’s no shame in asking for help!

A staff-created list with even more of our favorites can be found on our online catalogue. And for those interested, there is also an excellent curated Family Guide to Mental Health resources that can be accessed also be accessed through our online catalogue.

Book cover image of Everyone But Myself

Memoir: Everyone But Myself by Julie Chavez

Like so many mothers, Julie Chavez ran herself ragged trying to meet the needs of everyone else, until an unexpected panic attack forced her to find a new way. Funny, deeply honest, and inspiring for readers feeling overwhelmed in their own lives, this memoir reads like a best friend sharing how she pulled herself back to solid ground while embracing chaos along the way.

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Book cover image of Your Pocket Therapist

Non-Fiction: Your Pocket Therapist: Break Free from Old Patterns and Transform Your Life by Annie Zimmerman

From psychotherapist and TikTok personality Dr. Annie Zimmerman comes a toolkit to transform yourself and your relationships, with advice on how to heal past trauma, build sustainable connections, and take ownership of your mental health.

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Book cover image of The Anxious Generation

Non-Fiction: The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness by Jonathan Haidt

In this book social psychologist Jonathan Haidt lays out the facts about the epidemic of teen mental illness that hit many countries at the same time in the 2010s. He then investigates the nature of childhood, including why children need play and independent exploration to mature into competent, thriving adults and presents a plan for a freer, healthier childhood.

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Book cover image of At First Spite

Fiction: At First Spite by Olivia Dade

On the surface this is just another enemies to lovers small town romance from best-selling author Olivia Dade but in actuality there is a very relatable and exceptional mental health representation woven into the story. Our main character, Athena gets dumped at the alter and finds herself jobless at the same time, falling into a deep depression that only the man next door notices. With his help, she is able to embrace therapy and medication to manage her depression, finding an unexpected love along the way.

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Book cover image of Where to Start

YA Non-fiction: Where to Start: A Survivial Guide to Anxiety, Depression, and Other Mental Health Challenges compiled by Mental Health America

A resource specifically written for teens struggling emotionally and looking for help, from the nation’s leading community-based non-profit that addresses the needs of those living with mental illness.

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Book cover image of Absolutely Normal

YA Short Stories: Ab(solutely) Normal: Short Stories that Smash Mental Health Stereotypes

This collection of 16 short stories, while fictional, were all carefully chosen based on the contributing authors’ own experiences related to mental health challenges either as a lived experience or similar experience that is noted in the introduction by the editors. The stories cover a range of mental health conditions from OCD and PTSD to anxiety and the rarely discussed premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Each author also wrote a note that appears after their story to share their personal connection – a personal touch that gives each story extra weight and strengthens the collection as a whole.

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Book cover image of Stay with my heart

YA Fiction: Stay With My Heart by Tashie Bhuiyan

A South Asian American teen girl grapples with anxiety and depression following her high school graduation and mother’s recent death. Struggling in the face of her father’s absenteeism and neglect, Liana tries to please him by focusing on her new internship at his Music Recording company only to find herself getting tangled up with an aspiring band and its friendly, yet complex members.

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Book cover image of Buzzing

Middle Grade Graphic Novel: Buzzing by Samuel Sattin; Illustrated by Rye Hickman

An excellent #ownvoices middle grade graphic novel about Isaac, a young neurodivergent boy struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and negative self thoughts. When the strict therapy his mother insists on doesn’t seem to be working, Isaac finds solace in a group of friends who invite him to join their after-school role-playing game Not long after the thoughts in his head start to feel a little less loud and the world feels a little brighter. This is a must-read with multi-dimensional therapy representation and beautiful illustrations.

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Book cover image of Louder Than Hunger

Middle Grade Novel-In-Verse: Louder than Hunger by John Schu

Revered teacher, librarian, and story ambassador, John Schu explores anorexia—and self-expression as an act of survival—in a wrenching and transformative novel-in-verse story. This fictionalized account of the author’s experiences and emotions living in residential treatment facilities as a young teen with an eating disorder, Louder than Hunger is a triumph of raw honesty. With a deeply personal afterword for context, this book is a powerful model for muffling the destructive voices inside, managing and articulating pain, and embracing self-acceptance, support, and love.

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Book cover image Deep Water

Middle Grade Novel-In-Verse: Deep Water by Jamie Sumner

Previously highlighted in our Middle Grade Fiction recommendation guide, this latest novel-in-verse story from author Jamie Sumner is a great look at a young girl struggling to cope with an absentee parent trying to deal with their own depression.

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Book cover image of Marley's Pride

Picture Book: Marley’s Pride by Joëlle Retener; illustrated by DeAnn Wiley

Marley is a little nonbinary kid with big anxieties. Crowds? Pass. Loud noises? No, thanks. When their Zaza is up for an award at Pride, they want to go to the parade for the first time with their beloved grandparent. But can Marley overcome their fears? Highlighting the joyful experiences of a queer Black family finding community at Pride, this story features back matter about the history of Pride, a glossary of LGBTQ+ terms, and a list of resources. 

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Autism Acceptance Month

Autism Acceptance Month

Check out these great new books about and by Autistic and other neurodivergent authors or characters to help celebrate Autism Acceptance month this April and the many forms of neurodiversity. From Autism to dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, ADHD, OCD, bipolar, hyperlexia, synaesthesia, sensory processing challenges and more, there are a wide range of conditions and experiences and no two individuals are the same.

Acceptance calls for society to meet children and adults with autism where they are and to make room for them. The word “acceptance” asks that we see autism not as a disease, but as a natural difference in neurology.

 A staff-created list with even more of our recent favourites can be found on our online catalogue.

Book cover of Never Been Better

Fiction: Never Been Better by Leanne Toshiko Simpson

A hilariously offbeat and tender comedy about one bipolar woman’s messy search for love at a seaside wedding where no one can stay afloat. Leanne Toshiko Simpson is a mixed-race Yonsei writer who lives with bipolar disorder. Named Scarborough’s Emerging Writer in 2016 and nominated for the Journey Prize in 2019, she co-founded a reflective writing program at Canada’s largest mental health hospital and teaches at the University of Toronto. Never Been Better is her debut novel.

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Book cover of Rules for Second Chances

Fiction: Rules for Second Chances by Maggie North

Set in a fictional Canadian town based on Whistler, BC, Rules for Second Chances is a debut novel that follows socially awkward Liz, who feels out of place in the outgoing resort town she lives in, and in her marriage to extrovert Tobin. Liz finally decides to stop playing a supporting character in her own life and start taking chances, starting with leaving her husband, followed by taking an improv class and receiving a late-in-life Autism diagnosis. Canadian author Maggie North lives in Ottawa and enjoys being autistic a lot more since she received her diagnosis as an adult. 

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Book cover of But Everyone Feels This Way

Memoir: But Everyone Feels this Way: How an Autism Diagnosis Changed my Life by Paige Layle

Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of 15, Canadian Paige Layle is an advocate and influencer for a better understanding of autism on social media. She began making videos in response to a degrading post about autistic people, initially creating a four-part series to address common misconceptions about autism. Now in her 20s, Paige is an autism acceptance activist on YouTube and TikTok.

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Book cover of How to Find a Four-Leaf Clover

Non-fiction: How to Find a Four-Leaf Clover: What Autism can Teach us about Difference, Connection and Belonging by Jodi Rodgers

In How to Find a Four-Leaf Clover, Jodi Rodgers shares inspiring, heartwarming stories from her years of experience as a teacher and counselor supporting autistic people. While acknowledging our differences, these stories invite us to expand our empathy and compassion for the neurodivergent people in our lives.

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Book cover of Rainbow

Graphic Novel: Rainbow Volume 1 by Sunny; illustrated by Gloomy

Teenager Boo Meadows has pink hair and a very vivid imagination – she has trouble separating from the real world. In her daydreams, she dances beautifully at balls or fights monsters as a magical girl. In reality, she has a complicated home life, work stress, school stress, and a wicked crush on the girl of her dreams. Recommended for fans of the Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman. Sunny Funkhouser AKA “Sunny” (they/them), is a neurodivergent, queer creator who has been writing ever since they were a teenager. Sunny is autistic with ADHD and likes to collect dolls, make reborn dolls, crochet, act, and sew.

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Book cover of Daniel, Deconstructed

YA Fiction: Daniel, Deconstructed by James Ramos

A nerdy, Autistic high schooler learns to embrace his main-character energy in this witty and heart-healing ode to movie tropes, meet-cutes, “masking” and LGBTQ+ love. James Ramos (he/they) is a non-binary, unapologetically dorky Minnesota native who now calls Arizona home. Weaned on a steady diet of science-fiction, comic books, and classic literature, James wrote his first story at eight years old and hasn’t stopped writing them since.

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Book cover of Something More

YA Fiction: Something More by Jackie Khalilieh

A contemporary teen romance novel featuring a Palestinian-Canadian girl trying to hide her autism diagnosis while navigating her first year of high school. Recommended for fans of Jenny Han and Samira Ahmed. Jackie Khalilieh is a debut Palestinian-Canadian writer with a love of 90s pop culture, Dad jokes, and warm and fuzzy romance. Like many autistic females, she received her diagnosis as an adult.

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Book cover image of Maya Plays the Part

Middle Grade Fiction: Maya Plays the Part by Calyssa Erb

A fantastic #ownvoices middle grade debut by a Canadian author featuring Maya, a theatre-loving autistic girl who struggles with controlling her emotions and being a good friend. This story revolves around Maya’s time at a summer theatre camp where she makes new friends, experiences disappointments and learns there’s more to theatre than being the star of the show. 

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Book cover image of I am a Masterpiece

Picture Book: I am a Masterpiece by Mia Armstrong with Marissa Moss; illustrated by Alexandra Thompson

Mia offers a glimpse into the life of a child with Down Syndrome. Inspired by the author’s own experiences, this picture book offers much needed representation and fosters empathy for children with Down Syndrome. Mia shows how she likes many of the same things as other people, but also has a unique perspective all her own.

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Book cover image of A Day with No Words

Picture Book: A Day With No Words by Tiffany Hammond; illustrated by Kate Cosgrove

A Day With No Words invites readers into the life of an Autism Family who communicates just as the child does, without spoken language. This colourful and engaging picture book for young readers shares what life can look like for families who use non-verbal communication, utilizing tools to embrace their unique method of “speaking”. The story highlights the bond between mother and child and follows them on a day where they use a tablet to communicate with others.

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Q&A with Author Calyssa Erb

Q&A with Author Calyssa Erb

Ahead of the upcoming Author Talk with Calyssa Erb, Huron County Library branch assistant Shannon O’Connor connects with the author to discuss her book, Maya Plays the Part, the journey to publication, what inspired her to feature an autistic female main character, and more!

What inspired you to write a middle school book featuring an autistic female main character?

I wrote this book for 10-year-old me who loved to dive into stories of characters going for their goals. I read a lot when I was younger, but I never saw an autistic female main character in the books that I read. When I received my own autism diagnosis a few years ago, I decided to revisit my experience at that age with this new understanding and to imagine what might have been different if I had this knowledge then.

Were there any parts of writing Maya’s story you found particularly challenging and if so why?

The most challenging part of writing Maya’s story was my own inner critic and my worries about whether she would be likeable. I wanted her to feel authentic and shed a light on some of the comments I received as a young girl, but I also wanted her to be someone that young readers would want to spend time with as she works towards her own dreams.

 What was your journey to publication like? Did it take a while to find an agent or publisher for your story?

I have wanted to be an author since I was very young, and I wrote my first contest winning short story in the 3rd grade. However, I struggled a lot with finishing projects. It wasn’t until I received my autism diagnosis that I was able to recognize the factors that were impacting my writing like autistic burnout and sensory overwhelm. It was around the time that I started working on Maya’s story that Annick Press set up their mentorship program. I received such valuable feedback from them during this mentorship that it gave me the momentum to keep working on Maya’s story. About a year later, I had revised enough that I felt confident in sending the book out to publishers and agents. I received a lot of rejections! But then, serendipitously, Annick reached out and offered to publish the story.

 Growing up did you have any favourite middle grade books or characters that you connected with? 

As a pretty shy and reserved kid, young girls who were determined and the heroes of their own stories resonated with me. It’s interesting because the way we designate a middle grade book now is different from how children’s books were categorized when I was growing up! These are some of the characters and books that hold a special place in my heart from when I was 10-12 years old: The Dear Canada series, Meggie from the Inkheart series, Mitsuki of the manga Full Moon o Sagashite, Ella of Ella Enchanted and Anne from Anne of Green Gables.

 Have you noticed an increase in more #ownvoices autism stories in fiction and do you have any favourites or any authors you admire?

I have noticed there are more #ownvoices stories and stories about autism from a lived experience. There’s still lots of opportunity for more autism stories in fiction because the autistic experience is so varied. My favourites in the middle grade space include A.J. Sass, and Meg Eden Kuyatt. I’m also a huge fan of Elle McNicoll whose A Kind of Spark was adapted into a TV series! It’s really incredible and a must-watch for autistic representation in kids media.

Do you have any plans for more books featuring Maya in the future and if not can you tell us anything about what you’re working on next?

I am interested in returning to Maya in the future! She’s already started whispering that she’s got more stories to share with readers, but right now I’m working on a story about neurodivergence and body image. I’m hoping to create a wonderfully connected universe of characters, so that readers can jump in from any book and feel connected to a larger world.

March Break reading recommendations for middle graders

March Break reading recommendations for middle graders

Looking for something new to read over March Break??? We have you covered with this list of amazing new Middle Grade book releases from 2024. These include a number of diverse characters and abilities and are geared towards readers aged 8-12 years. A staff-created list with even more of our recent favorites can be found on our online catalogue.

Book cover image of Bird Brain

Local Author: Bird Brain by Joanne Levy

A fun, heartwarming and important middle grade book written by an award-winning Huron County author about the importance of standing up to bullies and the power of believing in the unknown. In this story we get to know Arden, a Jewish, science loving girl who dreams of having a pet of her own. Unfortunately for her the pet she gets isn’t the one she was expecting. When her Uncle Eli goes on a six month trip, Arden is tasked with helping care for his African Grey Parrot, Ludwig. Highly recommended for anyone experiencing bullying of their own, struggling with anxiety or anyone who just wants to learn more cool facts about birds!

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Book cover image of Maya Plays the Part

Autism representation: Maya Plays the Part by Calyssa Erb

A fantastic #ownvoices middle grade debut by a Canadian author featuring Maya, a theatre-loving autistic girl who struggles with controlling her emotions and being a good friend. This story revolves around Maya’s time at a summer theatre camp where she makes new friends, experiences disappointments and learns there’s more to theatre than being the star of the show. 

Place a hold online…


Book cover image of Paige Not Found

Autism Representation: Paige Not Found by Jen Wilde

An #ownvoices autism adventure story that examines consent and privacy in a way that books have not had to before this generation where everything is online.

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Book cover image of Dancing in the Storm

Disability/Chronic Illness representation: Dancing in the Storm by Amie Darnell Specht and Shannon Hitchcock

In the tradition of Out of My Mind and Rules, and inspired by the co-author’s own life, this is a heartfelt, candid, and illuminating story of a girl learning to live fully with a rare genetic disorder: Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva. This book has great disability rep and explores so many relatable aspects of coming to terms with living with a condition that affects mobility and can get progressively worse as well as the ways it affects other family members too.

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Book cover image of Gut Reaction

Disability/Chronic Illness representation: Gut Reaction by Kirby Larson and Quinn Wyatt

A heartfelt #ownvoices story that explores what living with a chronic illness (Crohn’s disease) is like. Tess Medina loves to bake but as she prepares to enter the Jubilee Flour Junior Baker West Coast competition, the pain in her stomach gets worse and worse, and, soon, she finds that she’s avoiding so many foods that she’s barely eating. When the physical pain becomes too great, Tess will be forced to confront everything she has been trying so desperately to hide.

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Activism: Free Period by Ali Terese

A fabulous middle grade debut about best friends, Gracie and Helen and their big-hearted yet misguided antics trying to spearhead a period equity campaign at their school only to come up against obstacle after obstacle. Recommended for fans of books like Judy Blume’s Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret.

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Book cover image of Deep Water

Novel in Verse: Deep Water by Jamie Sumner

An impactful, gripping middle grade novel in verse from acclaimed author Jamie Sumner that spans one girl’s marathon swim over 12 miles and six hours, calling her mom back home with every stroke.

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Book cover image of Just Shy of Ordinary

LGBTQ2S+: Just Shy of Ordinary by A.J. Sass

In this heartfelt novel about family, friendship, and identity perfect for fans of The List of Things That Will Not Change and Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, a 13-year-old non-binary kid discovers that life doesn’t always go according to plan—especially when they start public school for the first time.

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Book cover image of Winnie Nash is Not Your Sunshine

LGBTQ2S+: Winnie Nash is Not Your Sunshine by Nicole Melleby

In this powerful new novel by award-winning author Nicole Melleby, gay 12-year-old Winnie Nash is forced to live with her grandma for the summer and finds herself torn between hiding her sexuality and the joy of celebrating Pride.

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BIPOC Books: Drawing Deena by Hena Khan

From the award-winning author of Amina’s Voice and Amina’s Song comes a tender-hearted middle grade novel about a young Pakistani American artist determined to manage her anxiety and forge her own creative path.

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Book cover image of Finally Heard

BIPOC books: Finally Heard by Kelly Yang

From the bestselling author of Front Desk comes the sequel to Finally Seen in which Lina struggles to separate fact from fiction on social media. As Lina descends deeper and deeper into social media, it will take all her strength to break free from the likes and find the courage to be her authentic self in this fast-paced world.

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Book cover image of Salma Joins the Team

BIPOC books: Salma Joins the Team by Danny Ramadan

Salma dreams of becoming a champion swimmer like her hero, Olympian Yusra Mardini. So when she signs up for her school’s swim club, it feels like her dreams could come true . . . until mean comments from older girls at the pool and women at her mosque spark body image and self-esteem issues. Salma receives criticism from her community over her wearing a traditional swimsuit that reveals her body (something against her cultural norm). But with the help of her close friends and family―the team that always has her back―Salma is ready to claim her place in the pool will still staying true to her Syrian culture and identity and Muslim religious traditions.

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Canada Reads 2024

Canada Reads 2024

Get ready for the Canada Reads 2024 debate with this years’ theme being: ‘one book to carry us forward.’ “When we are at a crossroads, when uncertainty is upon us, when we have faced challenges and are ready for the future, how do we know where to go next? This collection of books is about finding the resilience and the hope needed to carry on and keep moving forward.”

A list of the five finalist titles and the longlist titles can be found on our online catalogue.

The debates take place March 4-7 on CBC TV, CBC Radio and CBC Books 2024 and the contenders are:

Book cover image of Shut Up You're Pretty

Shut Up You’re Pretty by Téa Mutonji; defended by actor Kudakwashe Rutendo

These punchy, sharply observed stories blur the lines between longing and choosing, exploring the narrator’s experience as an involuntary one. Tinged with pathos and humour, they interrogate the moments in which femininity, womanness, and identity are not only questioned but also imposed.

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Book cover image of Meet Me at the Lake

Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune; defended by fashion influencer Mirian Njoh

One day. One promise. Two lives forever changed. Random connection sends two strangers on a daylong adventure where they make a promise one keeps and the other breaks, with life-changing effects, in this breathtaking new novel from author of the New York Times bestselling and TikTok hit, Every Summer After. More than just a summer beach read romance though, this book also tackles important mental health topics and has a surprising amount of depth, with a personal connection and note by the author included at the end.

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Book cover image of The Future of Catherine Leroux

The Future by Catherine Leroux; translated by Susan Ouriou; defended by author and former Canada Reads winner Heather O’Neill

Set in an alternate history in which the French never surrendered the city of Detroit, where children rule over their own kingdom in the trees and burned houses regenerate themselves, where rivers poison and heal and young and old alike protect with their lives the people and places they love, Catherine Leroux’s The Future is a richly imagined story of community and a plea for persistence in the face of our uncertain future.

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Book cover image of Denison Avenue<br />

Denison Avenue by Christina Wong; Illustrated by Daniel Innes; defended by former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi

A poignant meditation on loss, aging, gentrification, and the barriers that Chinese Canadian seniors experience in big cities, Denison Avenue beautifully combines visual art, fiction, and the endangered Toisan dialect to create a book that is truly unforgettable.

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Book cover image of Bad Cree

Bad Cree by Jessica Johns; defended by athlete and CBC Sports contributor Dallas Soonias

In this gripping debut tinged with supernatural horror, a young Cree woman’s dreams lead her on a perilous journey of self-discovery that ultimately forces her to confront the toll of a legacy of violence on her family, her community and the land they call home.

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