First and Best 2021

December 7, 2021 | Patty

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Toronto Public Library is happy to announce our picks for this year's First and Best titles. This annual list features the best Canadian books of 2021 for children from birth to age five that are not only fun to read but are also the best for building reading readiness skills.

Illustration of a parent and child bear reading a book together, with text "First & Best 2021"

TPL's annual First and Best list is part of our Ready for Reading program, developed to help parents and caregivers support the development of early literacy skills in children from birth to age five through fun, everyday activities.

Illustration of a prize-winning ribbon with the number 1

The titles on our First and Best list have been carefully selected by a working group of children's staff. This year's list features a variety of stories that families are sure to enjoy and are available at library branches across the city.  To be eligible, titles must be:

  • a first edition
  • authored, illustrated or translated by a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada
  • published between January 1 and December 31 of the current year
  • written in English, or English and other languages
  • appropriate for children between birth and five years

Parents and caregivers, you are a child's first and best teacher. The first books you share with your child should also be the best, so take some time to read one or more of these wonderful titles with your little one. Our library staff can also help recommend other great books that will keep your child enthusiastic about reading.

Happy reading!

A is For Anemone

A is for Anemone by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd

With crisp, luminous illustrations by celebrated Indigenous artist Roy Henry Vickers, and a simple rhythmic text, this sturdy board book introduces the alphabet using iconic imagery of the West Coast.



Chaiwala! by Priti Birla Maheshwari, illustrated by Ashley Barron

When their train makes a ten-minute stop at the station in Jaipur, a young girl and her mother hurry to get in line for a cup of chai.


Hair Twins

Hair Twins by Raakhee Mirchandani, illustrated by Holly Hatam

A father and daughter become hair twins when he styles her hair in a tight bun on the top of her head, just like the joora he wears every day under his turban.


My City Speaks

My City Speaks by Darren Lebeuf, illustrated by Ashley Barron

A young girl, who is visually impaired, finds much to celebrate as she explores the city she loves.


One  Two  Grandma Loves You

One, Two, Grandma Loves You by Shelly Becker, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino

In this rhyming picture book, a little girl and her grandmother count up to their next visit and then do all of their favourite things together.


Pride Puppy

Pride Puppy! by Robin Stevenson, illustrated by Julie McLaughlin

A rhyming alphabet book featuring a family who have lost their dog at a Pride parade.


The Rock from the Sky

The Rock from the Sky by Jon Klassen

Turtle really likes standing in his favourite spot. He likes it so much that he asks his friend Armadillo to come over and stand in it, too. But now that Armadillo is standing in that spot, he has a bad feeling about it...



Thao by Thao Lam

"Thao" seems like a simple enough name, yet Thao has been called everything from "Tail" to "Theo" to "Towel." Completely fed up, she decides to try an "easy" name like "Jennifer." But trying to be someone else only works for so long.


This Is How I Know-Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh

This Is How I Know/Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh by Brittany Luby, illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley

In this lyrical story-poem, written in Anishinaabemowin and English, a child and grandmother explore their surroundings, taking pleasure in the familiar sights that each new season brings.


Time is a Flower

Time is a Flower by Julie Morstad

An imaginative picture book that combines nature and play to talk about the passage of time.


Visit the Ready for Reading website for previous First and Best winners, recommended titles, literacy tips and more!