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by Philippa Dowding


JUV039140 JUVENILE FICTION / Social Themes / Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance

JUV039070 JUVENILE FICTION / Social Themes / Homelessness & Poverty

JUV013000 JUVENILE FICTION / Family / General  


Firefly lived in the park across from her mother’s home. It was safer there. But after the bad night happens, and her baseball-bat-wielding mother is taken away, social services sends Firefly to live with her Aunt Gayle. She hardly knows Gayle, but discovers that she owns a costume shop.


Yes, Firefly might be suffering from PTSD, but she can get used to taking baths, sleeping on a bed again, and wearing as many costumes as she can to school.


But where is “home”? What is “family”? Who is Firefly, for that matter … and which costume is the real one?

Price: $13.95

Ages: 9 to 12

Publication Date: February 6, 2021

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ISBN: 9781770865983

Format: Trade Paperback

Size: 5.375" x 8.00"

Winner, 2021 Governor Generals Literary Award for Young People’s Literature - Text

Winner, 2022 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award

Nominated, 2022 Forest of Reading - Red Maple Award

Commended, 2021 OLA Best Bets

Shortlisted, 2022 IODE Violet Downey Book Award

Nominated, 2023 MYRCA Northern Lights Award

Nominated, 2023 Rocky Mountain Book Award


“With poetic prose, a memorable character and evocative settings, Philippa Dowding deftly handles challenging subjects in this emotionally honest story. Supported by a unique cast of characters, Firefly will shine for readers and resonate long after they close this quietly powerful book.”

— Governor General’s Literary Award Peer Assessment Committee: Aviaq Johnston, Karen Rivers, and Ken Setterington

“This is a terrific read from an accomplished author.” 

— Monica Kulling, author of Mary Anning’s Curiosity

“I know Philippa Dowding is better known for her speculative fiction like Oculum, The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden and Everton Miles is Stranger than Me but I think her first foray into realistic fiction has demonstrated that she has important messages to share and she doesn't need to dress them up in the fantastical. Reality can be just as powerful and colourful, even if stitched with anguish.”

— Helen Kubiw, CanLit for LittleCanadians

“We wish we could meet these characters in real life! We love how the staff at the magical costume shop became a family for Firefly, and how every character evolved and grew — even the cat! Firefly is so relatable, with very human flaws, and we want to see her again in another story.”

— Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz, Children’s Book Award Student Jury

“In this affecting novel, 13-year-old Firefly is sent to stay with a relative, after her mother gets taken into custody. Life with Aunt Gayle, who owns The Corseted Lady costume shop, offers a beacon of light out of the darkness of the “Bad Night.” Firefly’s compelling story unfolds through her indomitable and spirited first-person narration, and flashbacks revisit her troubled childhood of neglect and parental struggles with addiction. Aunt Gayle’s care and kindness wraps around Firefly like a comforting, hand-knit blanket. Being surrounded by steadfast support, along with seven million costumes in the shop, allows Firefly the opportunity to try on different identities and begin to discover her true self in the process.”

— Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library, Canadian Children's Book Centre March 2021 Newsletter

“Firefly was an enjoyable read filled with interesting characters, emotional moments, and mental health awareness and education. A realistic book that youth may easily relate to. Highly Recommended

— Stephanie Johnson, CM Magazine

“I believe the author provides readers who have had a hard life some comfort in knowing that others go through troubled times too and gives others a glimpse into harsh realities that some kids endure. The book is enlightening and invokes empathy in the reader.”

— Ashlynne N., Age 13, North Texas Mensa

“In Firefly, Philippa Dowding presents serious topics such as homelessness and mental health in a way that fosters the readers’ compassion for the dramatis personae, thus allowing them to develop sympathy for the characters that are often vilified. The novel would be useful as a natural segue to the mental health literacy component of the curriculum for senior elementary students.”

— Robin Ahamedi, Canadian Children’s Book News

“The appeal of Firefly, like so much of Dowding’s work, isn’t limited to young readers. Her nuanced depiction of trauma, the search for identity, and the desire to define what ‘family’ means will resonate with readers of all ages.”

Open Book

“Firefly is a not to be missed book and I can see why it has received the accolades that it has this year. So many readers will see glimpses of their own lives and their own feelings of otherness and will connect with Firefly in a deep and meaningful way.”

— Stephanie Lamb, Storytime with Stephanie

“It’s a powerful book with engaging characters. It helps one discover who family is. It's a book with a real heart and something that young readers are really going to be taken by.”

— Ken Setterington, Children's Book Panel, CBC’s The Next Chapter

“This award-winning book is a poignant exploration of grief that touches on many heavy topics, but with a light touch that leaves readers feeling hopeful and more conscious of the fact that there is often so much more going on in people’s minds and hearts and lives than what we see on the surface. The characters are deftly-drawn, the setting is unique and Firefly’s story is moving and thought-provoking.”

— Lisa Doucet, co-manager of Woozles Children’s Bookstore, Canadian Children’s Book Centre March 2022 newsletter

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