CLA Announces the Winner and Honour Books for the CLA Book Awards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Ottawa (April 8, 2009) — The Canadian Library Association / Association Canadienne des Bibliothèques is pleased to announce the 2009 winner and honour books for the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award, CLA Book of the Year for Children Award and the CLA Young Adult Book Award. The awards will be presented at this year’s Book Awards reception, on May 30, 2009, in Montréal, Québec, during the CLA/ACB 2009 National Conference & Trade Show.

Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award
Sponsored by Library Services Centre

The winner is Mattland (Annick Press) illustrated by Dušan Petričić and written by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert. Honour books include Thing Thing (Tundra Books) illustrated by Nicolas Debon and written by Cary Fagan, and Jenneli’s Dance (Theytus Books) illustrated by Chris Auchter and written by Elizabeth Denny.

Mattland beautifully captures the transformative power of collaborative play. Protagonist Matt has moved to an ugly, muddy neighbourhood, littered with cast-off building materials and with no other children in sight. He begins to create a fictional place called “Mattland,” with items that he finds around him, and soon a shy but smiling girl comes to join him. When bad weather threatens Mattland, help arrives in the form of many other children, and Matt’s acceptance in the neighbourhood is assured.

An honourable mention goes to Thing Thing, a story about an unusual stuffed toy thrown out a sixth floor window of the posh Excelsior Hotel by spoiled birthday boy Archibald Crimp. Thing Thing sees much on his dizzying journey to the ground – each floor he passes presents its own wonderfully illustrated story, filled with charming details – before he meets a happy ending in the arms of an affectionate baby in a stroller.

An honourable mention also goes to Jenneli’s Dance, illustrated by Chris Auchter and written by Elizabeth Denny. Auchter, a Haida illustrator and animator, has created appealingly humorous caricatures of young Metis dancer Jenneli and her beloved Grandma Lucee, who encourages Jenneli to enter a jigging contest at the Lakeside Fair. Despite her misgivings, Jenneli wins the contest and discovers for the first time that she is good at something.

The Amelia Francis Howard-Gibbon Award is presented by the Canadian Association of Children’s Librarians, a section of the Canadian Association of Public Libraries (CAPL). This award was established in 1971 and is presented annually to the illustrator of an outstanding children’s book published during the previous calendar year. To merit consideration the book must be suitable for children up to age 12 and have been published in Canada.

CLA Book of the Year for Children Award
Sponsored by Library Services Centre

This winner is The Shepherd’s Granddaughter by Anne Laurel Carter, published by Groundwood Books.

The Shepherd’s Granddaughter is the story of Amani, a young Muslim girl, eagerly learning shepherding from her grandfather, Seedo. He teaches her how to protect her flock while recognizing the threat of the wolf and the need to “respect his dignity.” But, with the escalating encroachment of Israeli settlement, Amani’s life is now peppered with soldiers with guns, checkpoints, bulldozers and new laws that make even delivering her family’s harvest of olives or grapes difficult, if not impossible.

Anne Laurel Carter, a Toronto teacher-librarian and author of The Shepherd’s Granddaughter, experienced life on kibbutzim in Israel and the lives of Palestinian families living under occupation (while teaching creative writing in Ramallah) as prompts for this moving story. Carter presents “an authentic, compassionate, but devastating real, depiction of the complexities of this troubled region”, praised Helen Kubiw, Chair of the Book of the Year for Children Award Committee.

The CLA’s Book of the Year for Children Award also selected two honour titles this year: Libertad by author Alma Fullerton (published by Fitzhenry Whiteside) and Starclimber by Toronto author Kenneth Oppel (published by HarperCollins Publishers).

Alma Fullerton’s Libertad, written in free verse, tells the story of Libertad and his younger brother Julio, as they resolve to journey from their home in a Guatemalan City garbage dump through Mexico to the United States to search of their father.

Starclimber, the third book in Kenneth Oppel’s Airborn series, features recurring characters Matt Cruse and Kate de Vries joining a unique crew of scientists and astralnauts to travel aboard the Starclimber, an innovative ship for space travel.

The CLA Children’s Book of the Year Award has been presented annually since its inception in 1947 to recognize excellence in children’s books written and published in Canada during the preceding year.

CLA Young Adult Book Award
Sponsored by

The winner is Chanda’s Wars by Allan Stratton, published by HarperCollins Canada. The Honour Books are Would You by Marthe Jocelyn, published by Tundra Books, and The Apprentice’s Masterpiece by Melanie Little, published by Annick Press.

In Chanda’s Wars, Chanda struggles to raise younger siblings in the shadow of her mother’s death from AIDS. Looking to heal old wounds, Chanda reaches out to her estranged relatives, only to find their willingness to reconcile comes at a high cost. Set against the backdrop of this unfolding drama, a civil war is threatening to tear her family apart in ways Chanda could never have imagined. Allan Stratton has created an epic sequel to Chanda’s Secrets (2004).

In Marthe Jocelyn’s Would You, Natalie and her older sister Claire have one last summer together before Claire heads off to college. But one night changes everything, and Natalie is left with the realization that things will never be the same. Would You, is a moving portrait of coping with grief.

Melanie Little’s The Apprentice’s Masterpiece takes place in Medieval Spain during the Spanish Inquisition. Ramon is a converted Jew, and Amir, a Muslim slave to Ramon’s family. Both can feel the forces of oppression closing in and must take action. Written in verse, The Apprentice’s Masterpiece is a fascinating story of survival.

The Young Adult Book Award was established by the Young Adult Caucus of the Saskatchewan Library Association in 1980 and was subsequently transferred to the Young Adult Services Interest Group (YASIG) of the CLA/ACB. The award recognizes an author of an outstanding Canadian English-language work of fiction (novel or collection of short stories) that appeals to young adults between the ages of 13 and 18.

The Canadian Library Association/Association canadienne des bibliothèques is Canada’s largest national and broad-based library association, representing the interests of public, academic, school and special libraries, professional librarians and library workers, and all those concerned about enhancing the quality of life of Canadians through information and literacy.

A complete list of finalists and information on all of the awards, please visit the CLA website at