Forest of Reading – Festival of Trees 2019

by Kirsti Granholm

TORONTO – The Festival of Trees has become an annual highlight for Toronto students, teachers and those who work in children’s books. For the individuals who haven’t heard of the Forest of Reading or the Festival of Trees, let me introduce you. The Forest of Reading is one of Canadas’ most recognized reading programs for young readers, hosted by the Ontario Library Association. The Festival of Tree’s is one of their largest events: it’s a literary festival hosted throughout the country with a large event taking place in Toronto. Students are required to read a variety of Canadian children’s books throughout the year and then vote on their favourite book. Following the voting period, the festival takes place to present the awards to the winners—bringing the students’ favourite authors in for them to meet!

Nominees for the Silver Birch Non-Fiction Award

This year’s festival did not disappoint; it was a huge success for the organizations and authors involved. The three-day event took place from May 14-16, at the Harbourfront Centre in downtown Toronto, which happens to be the perfect space to host over 12,000 eager children. The first two days feature the English awards and the third day is dedicated to the French book awards.

Personally, it was my first time attending the Festival of Tree’s, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to go! It is truly amazing to see all the work put into hosting this festival by the Ontario Library Association, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto International Festival of Authors, the vendors, performers, authors, illustrators and everyone involved.

Indigenous Drum Circle
Amazing hula hooping!

A round stage was set in the middle of the venue—hosting everything from a drag queen story time show to an Indigenous drum circle ceremony. Along with these performances, vendors from all across the region ventured to attend the festival. There were delicious treats to try, fun crafts to make, workshops to enjoy, paddle-boats to ride, and of course, books to read!

Atmos Fierce reading Where Oliver Fits!
Mike Ford singing songs all about reading!

At the south-side of the venue, the main stage held the presentations for the awards ceremonies. I was lucky enough to catch the awards on day two, and I’d have to say, it really is a “rock concert for reading”. The energy within the venue was incredible; these kids are truly passionate about their books! And for the authors, I can imagine the festival is very rewarding; seeing all the children chant, cheer and throw their books into the air like a graduation cap upon announcing the winners. I can confirm that the love for reading is still very much alive, and thriving.

Speaking of the awards ceremony, here are the 2019 winners:

Day 1 – March 14, 2019

  • White Pine Award™ Winner: The Agony of Bun O’Keefeby Heather Smith (Penguin Teen Canada)
  • Red Maple Fiction Award™ Winner: A World Below by Wesley King (Paula Wiseman Books)
  • Red Maple Non-Fiction Award™ Winner: Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Koreaby Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland (Abrams Amulet)
  • Blue Spruce Award™ Winner: Barnaby Never Forgetsby Pierre Collet-Derby (Candlewick Press)

Day 2 – March 15, 2019

  • Silver Birch Non-Fiction Award® Winner: Carey Price: How a First Nations Kid Became a Superstar Goaltenderby Catherine Rondina (James Lorimer & Company Ltd.)
  • Silver Birch Fiction Award® Winner: Chaseby Linwood Barclay (Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers)
  • Silver Birch Express Award® Winner: Meet Viola Desmondby Elizabeth MacLeod, illustrated by Mike Deas (Scholastic Canada Ltd.)

Day 3 – March 16, 2019

  • Cérémonie de Remise des Prix Tamarac: Gladiateurs virtuels par Paul Roux (Bayard Canada)
  • Cérémonie de Remise des Prix Tamarac Express: Mammouth rock par Eveline Payette, illustré par Guillaume Perreault (Courte Echelle)
  • Cérémonie de Remise des Prix Peuplier: LA DOUDOU QUI AIMAIT TROP LE CHOCOLAT par Claudia Larochelle, illustré par Maira Chiodi (Bagnole)

A big congratulation goes to all the nominees and winners of this year’s Festival of Tree’s awards! Thank you for inspiring the next generation of writers, illustrators, readers and creators. Reading is a wonder that ever child should have access to. Thank you to the Ontario Library Association and all of the other literary organizations who contributed to the festival and brought joy to these children.

Promoting and reading Canadian books is important to the CCBC and many of the other organizations at the Festival of Trees. Next time you’re shopping for books, keep in mind how reading Canadian gives back to the community.