Sidewalk Flowers wins Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award

IBBY Canada (International Board on Books for Young People, Canadian section) has announced that Sidewalk Flowers, illustrated by Sydney Smith, is the winner of the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award. The book is published by Groundwood Books and written by JonArno Lawson.

Sydney Smith was born in rural Nova Scotia, and has been drawing since an early age. Since graduating from NSCAD University, he has illustrated many children’s books. He now lives in Toronto and works in a shared studio space in Chinatown and goes to the library or the Art Gallery of Ontario on his breaks.

The jury for the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award was comprised of Theo Heras (Toronto), children’s librarian and author (jury chair); Allison Taylor McBryde (Vancouver), adjunct professor, School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia and retired children’s librarian; and Lyne Rajotte (Montreal), school librarian and board member for the Corporation of Professional Librarians of Quebec. In selecting Sidewalk Flowers, the jurors commented:

A wordless book, Sidewalk Flowers is a little miracle. Sydney Smith deftly uses ink and watercolour to construct a clever and meaningful visual narrative. A little girl and her father walk together in a city. While her father is busy on his cell phone, the girl gathers and then gives away the urban wildflowers that grow along their way. Pages with multiple illustration panels alternate with full-page and double-page spreads. Perspectives shift from overhead views to long-shots to close-ups. The girl’s red jacket is a consistent bright note in colour palettes that range from gray to multi-hued. Sidewalk Flowers is a brilliant and evocative book.

The jury also selected three Honour Books that were considered for the Award:

  • L’arbragan, written and illustrated by Jacques Goldstyn (La Pastèque, 2015). The cartoon-style illustrations are detailed, soft, subtle, expressive, sensitive, and possess humour and dramatic energy.
  • Orca Chief, illustrated by Roy Henry Vickers and co-written with Robert Budd (Harbour Publishing, 2015).  The painterly illustrations combine traditional and modern styles. Look carefully for the holographic images that appear, adding depth and mystery to the storytelling.
  • That Squeak, illustrated by Francois Thisdale and written by Carolyn Beck (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2015). Layered multi-media illustrations are both ethereal and realistic, capturing the beauty of nature, the gritty feel of a small town, emotional turmoil, and ultimately the hope that springs from a new friendship.

IBBY Canada’s Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Picture Book Award, established in 1985, honours one of Canada’s pre-eminent book illustrators. Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver left funds in her will to annually recognize outstanding artistic talent in Canadian picture books; the winner receives $1,000.

IBBY, the International Board on Books for Young People (, founded in 1953, represents an international network of people committed to bringing books and children together. IBBY Canada is one of over 70 national sections worldwide. IBBY Canada (, founded in 1980, is a volunteer organization promoting quality French and English Canadian children’s literature nationally and internationally.

For more information, please contact:

Helena Aalto
Promotion Officer, IBBY Canada