White Ravens 2012

The White Ravens is an annual catalogue featuring 250 new and notable titles of children’s and young adult literature from over 40 countries. The language specialists of the International Youth Library (IYL) in Munich, Germany select the books in the course of the previous year from the incoming donations to acclaim the most noteworthy and remarkable ones. Eleven Canadian-published titles, seven in English and four in French, were honoured this year. In addition, a couple of Canadian authors and illustrators, who published with non-Canadian publishing houses, were also honoured.

English Canada

The Wild SwansThe Wild Swans
Written by Hans Christian Andersen
Illustrated by Thomas Aquinas Maguire
Simply Read Books, 2011
ISBN 978-1-897476-36-9
Swan – Metamorphosis – Redemption – Fairy tale
This emotionally dense graphic-novel version of Andersen’s classic tale of metamorphosis and redemption will lead teenagers to rediscover the timeless appeal of fairy tales. The plot unfolds without words on 102 accordion book pages (there is a separate text booklet), and the characters move through a more than 60 feet long continuous landscape. But »moving through« does not capture Maguire’s powerful art of visual storytelling. The characters merge with the landscape, the hair of the female protagonist, for example, intertwining with the tall grass and the nettles from which she weaves the shirts that will eventually break the evil spell. These graphic fusions and mutations perfectly correspond to the physical and emotional metamorphoses of the characters, driving along the plot from within. (Age: 6+)

My Name is ElizabethMy Name is Elizabeth!
Written by Annika Dunklee
Illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
Kids Can Press, 2011
ISBN 978-1-44340-620-8
Name – Nickname – Identity – Respect
What’s in a name? The delightfully self-confident protagonist of this accomplished picture book sure knows the answer to this: everything. Especially if your name is nine letters long, does neat things in your mouth, and you have a queen named after you. But people do not seem to understand this and instead call her Lizzy, Liz, Beth, or, worst of all, Betsy. Elizabeth finally resolutely but politely claims her name. Forsythe’s retro-style two-tone illustrations give life to this bold and memorable picture book character all children (and many adults) will identify with. A crowned pet duck, not mentioned in the text, serves as Elizabeth’s perfect companion – chamber maid, royalty, and pet dog all in one, offering a whimsical visual commentary and narrative of its own. (Age: 3+)

A Stranger at HomeA Stranger at Home: A True Story
Written by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes
Annick Press, 2011
ISBN 978-155451-361-1
Inuit – Residential school – Family – Alienation – Biography
In this sequel to the moving memoir Fatty Legs (2010), ten-year-old Ouleman returns to her Arctic home after two years of catholic residential school where she was baptised Margaret. Instead of finding a warm welcome, she is met with alienation. »Not my girl!« her mother exclaims, and her beloved sled dogs growl at her. The Inuit girl realises that she has forgotten her people’s language and cannot stomach the food her mother cooks. She has become an »outsider«. The only good thing she has brought back from school is the skill of reading. Margaret not only finds solitary solace in her books, she also reads to her family and secretly teaches her mother to write. Gradually, she emerges from this painful coming of age as a strong young woman. A compelling biography about a clash of cultures. (Age: 9+)

Written by Wendy Phillips
Coteau Books, 2010
ISBN 978-1-55050-411-8
Teenage angst – Coming of age – Bullying – Abuse – Poetry
This award-winning free verse novel demonstrates the power of poetry both in its form and content. Thanks to poetry assignments from English class, four Vancouver high school students give voice to their conflicted inner lives: to their dreams and nightmares, their hopes and disappointments. These short, intense poems address issues of abuse, bullying, racism, violence, fitting in, love, and following your dreams. Far from presenting abstract musings, they use tangible imagery to develop the cruel plot, which seems to unfold from the characters’ inner turmoil. The interspersed e-mails between a concerned guidance counselor and the old-school English teacher as well as comments the teacher makes on her students’ assignments show adults largely out of touch with the tough teenage world. (Age: 14+)

Along a Long RoadAlong a Long Road
Written and illustrated by Frank Viva
HarperCollins Canada, 2011
ISBN 978-1-44340-620-8
In his much acclaimed picture book debut, Frank Viva, graphic designer and cover artist for The New Yorker magazine, takes readers on a delightful bicycle ride along a shiny yellow road, which winds its way through a striking 35-foot-long landscape. Viva has a feel for perfect pacing: Racing downhill or slowly trudging up a steep slope, suddenly disappearing into the blackness of a tunnel and re-emerging from it with a well-timed page turn. All of these laps of the journey turn into engaging events through brief text in careful typographic design, skilful layout of the double spreads, and a clever overall book design. Children can dive back into the fun by tracing the bright bike path back along the endpapers, over the back and front covers to start back at the beginning. (Age: 4+)

The Secret KeepersThe Secret Keepers
Written by Paul Yee
Tradewind Books, 2011
ISBN 978-1-896580-968
Ghost – San Francisco/1906 – Earthquake – Immigration – North-American Chinese – Chinatown
In a compelling mix of historical fiction, mystery, ghost-story, and coming-of-age novel, Governor-General’s-award-winning author Paul Yee brings to life San Francisco Chinatown at the beginning of the twentieth century. The devastating earthquake of 1906 robs the Leong family of their pillars of emotional and financial well-being: The eldest son and provider, Lincoln, dies, and their movie theatre, a nickelodeon, collapses. It is now up to Jackson, who is haunted by the ghost of his brother and that of an unknown young woman, to rebuild the life of his family and to find his own place in a shattered world. Rich with Chinese folklore and historical detail, this masterful novel transports readers to a fascinating world still in touch with the supernatural. (Age: 13+)

A Few BlocksA Few Blocks
Written and illustrated by Cybèle Young
Groundwood Books, 2011
ISBN 978-0-88899-995-5
Imagination – Siblings – School
In recent years, paper designers have come to the forefront of picture book art, literally exploring new expressive dimensions of the craft of storytelling. For this enchanting picture book, Governor-General’s-award-winning artist Cybèle Young created intricate 3-D paper sculptures made from Japanese paper printed with etched copperplates to bridge the gap between the ordinary streetscape of Ferdie’s and Viola’s way to school and the fantastic worlds they imagine. When Ferdie, deeply immersed in play, refuses to go to school, his big sister Viola calls on the power of imagination to draw her little brother along from one imaginary adventure to the next: Super-hero rescue, naval treasure hunt and knightly exploits keep Ferdie on track until it is his turn to give wings to his sister’s imagination. (Age: 4+)

French Canada

Papa est partiPapa est parti
Written by Isha Bottin
Illustrated by Pierre Brassard
Éd. de la Courte échelle, 2010
ISBN 978-2-89651-277-5
Father – Daughter – Death – Mourning
How does a four-year-old cope with the loss of her father and life thrown into turmoil? She only slowly grasps what (final) separation means. Aside from coming to terms with her own bewildering feelings, she must deal with her mother’s grief, who is expecting a second child. So many changes at once: her little sister is born, they move to another country, and in the end a new man enters the family. Gradually, life goes on. The touching autobiographical text from Isha Bottin, enhanced by the illustrations of well-known French-Canadian humourist Pierre Brassard, successfully broaches the topic of death and is therefore well suited for a very young audience. (Age: 4+)

Contes populaires du Canada françaisContes populaires du Canada français
Retold and edited by Jani Pascal
Éd. Planète rebelle, 2011
ISBN 978-2-923735-26-9
Folk tale – Fairy tale
Jani Pascal has been well known across Canada for decades as an actress, storyteller and folktale specialist. In recent years she has become especially interested in the legend and folktale tradition of francophone Canada. After careful research in old anthologies and various research locations, she now presents this beautiful volume of seventeen French-Canadian folk tales, nine of which are being published for the first time. The attractively designed book is accompanied by a CD. Jani Pascal brings to the book not only her long experience as an actress and storyteller, but also her talent for comedy, poetry, and pointed dialogue. As a result, these texts are filled with zest for life and vitality. A wonderful discovery! (Age: 8+)

Moz en cinq tempsMoz en cinq temps
Written and illustrated by Sylvain Rivard
Éd. Cornac, 2011
ISBN 978-2-89529-174-9
Moose – Mythology – First Nations – Abenaki Indians
The five legends in this Abenaki anthology transport the reader all the way to mythical times when moose were still giants endowed with the gift of speech and back again to the only seemingly less mysterious present. The boundaries between gods, animals, and humans – even between animate and inanimate nature – had not yet been clearly defined in those early days, and it is these boundaries that the first four myths negotiate in enticing ways. The legends still breathe with the teller’s breath, testifying to the liveliness of Abenaki oral storytelling tradition. Multi-disciplinary artist Sylvain Rivard creates awe-inspiring and intriguing collages using different materials, including cut paper, bark, fur, feathers, and grass, which infuse still more life into these timeless tales. (Age: 8+)

Haïti, mon paysHaïti, mon pays: Poèmes d’écoliers haïtiens
Written by various authors
Illustrated by Rogé
Éd. de la Bagnole, 2010
ISBN 978-2-923342-50-4
Haiti – Poetry
These powerful, evocative poems about Haiti, written by young people from the Southwest of that country, were written in 2008/2009 – before the severe earthquake of January 2010. They celebrate the beauty of the country, its (immaterial) riches and magic, yet also deal with poverty and the uprooted population. The striking large-format portraits of Haitian children and adolescents by Franco-Canadian illustrator Rogé accompany these hopeful texts. Dany Laferrière, the well-known Haitian author, justly writes in his introduction that »in Haiti, poets grow faster than trees from the earth«, and it is this youth that embodies the future of the sorely stricken country. (Age: 8+)

Great Britain

Blood Red RoadBlood Red Road
(Dustlands Trilogy, Book One)
Written by Moira Young (Canadian)
Marion Lloyd Books, 2011
(published in Canada by Doubleday Books)
ISBN 978-1-407124-25-4
Dystopian Society – Twins – Abduction – Quest – Survival – Freedom – Love
Saba and her family have scraped a meager existence at isolated Silverlake for years. When a vicious dust storm carries a group of strange hooded riders who kidnap her twin brother Lugh and kill her father, the devastated eighteen-year-old girl sets off across a dangerous desert and through treacherous mountains to rescue him. On her epic quest she encounters (with her stubborn little sister tagging along) cruel villains, fierce beasts, a band of amazon-like girl warriors, and a mysterious adventurer. This fast-paced dystopian novel is brimming with action scenes and is told in a raw poetic voice. Canadian-born debut author Moira Young keeps her readers on the edge of their seats as her heroine fights for survival and gradually learns to negotiate her own fierce temper and to trust in new friends. (Age: 12+)

United States

BookSpeak!BookSpeak! Poems About Books
Written by Laura Purdie Salas
Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon (Canadian)
Clarion Books / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
ISBN 978-0-547-22300-1
Book – Poetry
Books are usually there to be read. They affect their readers through their stories – but never speak out loud. In this colourful collection of poems, however, books and everything book-related finally get their say: The Index stresses its singular importance; the Book Plate poses a kind of riddle; the Cliffhanger demands »… Please, author, write / a sequel fast!«; and the book’s Middle complains about its current state trying to persuade either The Beginning or The End to trade places with it just this once – all in vain. Accompanied by Québécoise illustrator Josée Bisaillon’s versatile mixed-media illustrations created from collages, drawings, and digital montage, the quirky poems will fascinate and amuse young book aficionados and inspire them to compose their own bibliophile odes and ballads. (Age: 6+)

For a complete list of all White Raven 2012 winners, go to www.ijb.de/files/whiteravens/wr12/Einleitung12.htm.