CCBC January 2015 Newsletter: Family Literacy Day


News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre
January Book List: Family Literacy Day
Family Literacy Day: Interview with Mack Rogers
TD Canadian Children’s Book Week 2015 & Writing Contest
Amy’s Marathon of Books: Final Update
Interview with Author/Illustrator Ruth Ohi
Coming Soon: Winter 2015 Issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre

Amy’s Marathon of Books ended on December 31, and Amy herself was on Canada AM on her last day of reading! Watch it here. The annual $5,000 Amy Mathers Teen Book Award will be given out for the first time this fall. Congratulations and thank you for all of your hard work, Amy!

• The TD Canadian Children’s Book Week 2015 application deadline has been extended to January 23, 2015. Schools, libraries and community centres can send in their applications to host an author, illustrator or storyteller. Visit for information on who is touring and how to apply.

• The deadline for the Book Week 2015 Writing Contest for Kids & Teens is January 31, 2015. All entries must be postmarked by this date. Click here for more information.

• We will be at the Reading For The Love Of It Conference on February 9 and 10 — if you’re planning on attending, don’t forget to stop by our booth (#614)!

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January Book List: Family Literacy Day

by Emma Sakamoto

Celebrate Family Literacy Day (January 27) all month long with our list of Canadian books that celebrate and encourage reading as a family activity. From read-aloud (or read-together) picture books to compelling family adventures, these are books you’ll want to share with your loved ones.

Picture Books

The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten
Written by Maureen Fergus
Illustrated by Mike Lowery
Kids Can Press, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-55453-698-6
IL: Ages 3-6  RL: Grades 2-3
A little girl invites her mom to spend the day in kindergarten and discovers that Mom doesn’t even know the basics about being at school. She barges into line, forgets to take her outdoor shoes off and talks all through story time. This is a great book for children who are about to start school.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Oy, Feh, So?
Written by Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Gary Clement
Groundwood Books, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-55498-148-9
IL: Ages 4-8  RL: Grades 1-3
Every Sunday Aunt Essy, Aunt Chanah and Uncle Sam visit for the afternoon and no matter what anyone says their response is always the same — “Oy,” “Feh,” “So?” But this time the kids turn their visit on its head and soon they are all laughing so hard they’re practically crying.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Read Me a Story: Canadian Favourites
Written by Werner Zimmermann, Barbara Reid, Hazel Hutchins, Don Gillmor and Gilles Tibo
Illustrated by Werner Zimmermann, Barbara Reid, Kady MacDonald Denton, Michael Martchenko and Bruno St-Aubin
Scholastic Canada, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4431-0249-0
IL: Ages 3-8  RL: Grade 2
Some of Canada’s finest authors and illustrators have contributed to this classic Canadian keepsake. The book includes Henny Penny, The Party, A Second Is a Hiccup, Sophie and the Sea Monster and Too Many Books! Each story is followed by information about the story’s creation from the author and/or illustrator. The larger size makes it a perfect choice for reading aloud.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Really and Truly
Written by Émilie Rivard
Sarah Quinn
Illustrated by Anne-Claire Delisle
Owlkids Books, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-926973-40-1
IL: Ages 5 and up  RL: Grade 3
Charlie’s grandpa used to entertain him with fantastic stories, but lately Grandpa’s just not himself. A disease has stolen his memories, his appetite and even his smile. What can Charlie do to help bring Grandpa’s smile back? With tenderness, sensitivity and humour, this story explores the effect that dementia has on a young boy and his family. This title is also available in French as Vrai de vrai, papi?
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Junior & Intermediate Fiction

Mimi Power and the I-Don’t-Know-What
Written by Victoria Miles
Illustrated by Marc Mongeau
Tradewind Books, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-89658-065-4
IL: Ages 8-11  RL: Grade 3
Artist, animal lover and would-be swimming sensation Mimi Power knows what it’s like to live under the tyranny of a three-year-old sister. Finding creative space in all the chaos is getting harder and harder for Mimi. But with the school art show looming, Mimi comes up with a plan that should be three-year-old foolproof. But to know for sure, Mimi will have to find her own little piece of the sky.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Mr. and Mrs. Bunny — Detectives Extraordinaire!
Written by Polly Horvath
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Groundwood Books, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-55498-180-9
IL: Ages 8-12  RL: Grades 3-5
Madeline’s parents have gone missing, and she thinks they’ve been taken by foxes. Luckily, Madeline meets two bunnies who do detective work and are willing to help her out. Together, Madeline and Mr. and Mrs. Bunny confront evil foxes, The Marmot and the dreaded Bunny Council in their search for Madeline’s missing parents.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
The Night Gardener
Written by Jonathan Auxler
Puffin Canada, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-67-006772-5
IL: Ages 10-14  RL: Grades 5-6
Orphaned Irish siblings Molly and Kip, fleeing the potato famine, arrive at Windsor estate to work as servants at the creepy, crumbling English manor house that is entwined with a massive, sinister tree. Although warned about the evil of the place, Molly and Kip are unprepared for the malevolence they find within. The terrible secrets of the cursed home will change their lives forever.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
Written by Susin Nielsen
Tundra Books, 2014 &copy2012
ISBN: 978-1-77049-654-5
IL: Ages 11 and up  RL: Grades 6-7
Thirteen-year-old Henry’s happy, ordinary life comes to an abrupt halt when his older brother, Jesse, picks up their father’s hunting rifle and leaves the house one morning. What follows shatters Henry’s family, who are forced to resume their lives in a new city where no one knows their past. At school and in his apartment building, Henry eventually befriends a group of oddball characters who help him adapt to his new life.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

YA Fiction

Buried Truths
Written by Alice Walsh
Tuckamore Books, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-77103-009-0
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grade 6
After her mother dies, 14-year-old Zoe is whisked away to Newfoundland to live with a father she has never met. In the tiny village of Port au Choix, she gets caught up in the search for the habitation site of an ancient culture that lived in the area more than four thousand years ago. At the same time, Zoe goes through her mother’s journals, discovering secrets that baffle and confuse her.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood
Written by Abby McDonald
Candlewick Press, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5508-2
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grade 7
Hallie and Grace Weston have never really seen eye to eye. So when their father dies and leaves everything to his new wife, the girls are forced to pack up and leave San Francisco for a relative’s house in Beverly Hills. Naturally, the two sisters take to their changing lot in typically different styles.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
One for Sorrow
(Tales from Cook’s Cove)
Written by Mary Sheppard
Puffin Canada, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-14-305413-9
IL: Ages 13 and up  RL: Grade 7
Saddled with a mean, bedridden mother; an older, increasingly bitter sister; and a lovely but mainly absent father, Issy is desperate to leave her miserable life in Newfoundland and dreams of heading to the mainland. But there’s one thing holding Issy back: she is illiterate.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley
Written by Jan Andrews
Great Plains Teen Fiction, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-926531-687
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grades 8-9
Tired of being shuttled from one foster home to another, Kyle McGinley has stopped talking because no one listens. At the home of Scott and Jill Wardman, however, Kyle thinks that maybe life could be better. With the help of a crow, a swamp and an excess of black paint, Kyle faces the most difficult task of his life—making friends with himself.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


At the Heart of It
(The Land Is Our Storybook)
Written by Raymond Taniton and Mindy Willett
Photos by Tessa Macintosh
Fifth House Publishers, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-89725-269-7
IL: Ages 8-12  RL: Grade 4
Meet Raymond Taniton who is Sahtugot’ine (the people of Great Bear Lake) and lives on the short of the great lake called Sahtú. Raymond introduces us to his family and tells us the history of his community and its strong and gifted leaders. He talks about the Sahtú region, shows us how to make a drum and shares some traditional stories.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Kate & Pippin: An Unlikely Love Story
Written by Martin Springett
Photos by Isobel Springett
Puffin Canada, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-670-06597-4
IL: Ages 5-8  RL: Grades 1-3
When Pippin, a helpless fawn, was abandoned on the property of Isobel Springett, things looked uncertain for her. But Isobel’s Great Dane, Kate, adopted Pippin immediately. From the moment Pippin snuggled into Kate’s side, she didn’t leave it. This is the real-life story of a special friendship.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Emma Sakamoto works in Canadian publishing and has a particular love for children’s books.

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Family Literacy Day: Interview with Mack Rogers

Family Literacy Day is organized by ABC Life Literacy Canada and held annually on January 27 to raise awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family. To learn more about Family Literacy Day, we spoke to Mack Rogers, Program Manager, Community Literacy and Learner Initiatives at ABC Life Literacy Canada.

Can you tell us a little bit about Family Literacy Day and why it was created?

Family Literacy Day was created in 1999 by ABC Life Literacy Canada and has been celebrated every year since on January 27 – right across Canada. Designating one day to family literacy was a way for ABC to raise awareness of the importance of reading. It went beyond reading though, and really worked to spread the word that literacy is so much more; that it includes things like playing games, following instructions for crafts or recipes for baking. ABC wants to make sure that families know that setting aside time every day to do literacy activities together can really make an impact on children’s learning – and that it also helps adults keeping their own skills sharp.

How can teachers and libraries get involved with and encourage Family Literacy Day?

There are lots of ways for teachers and libraries to get involved with Family Literacy Day. Doing any kind of literacy activity qualifies – so it is really easy to participate! Our website has posters, bookmarks and an event planning kit, as well as lots of activities. And for libraries or other literacy centres, there is a button to register your event, so the public can easily find your event near them.

What resources do you have available for parents and educators?

ABC has lots of free literacy activities on our website, just visit to download. This year’s theme, 15 Minutes of Fun, reminds everyone that all it takes is 15 minutes a day to make a difference in your literacy levels. Activities are easily adaptable for teachers, parents and librarians.


Do you have any tips for parents of teenagers?

Don’t forget that literacy encompasses a great range of skills – even reading gaming instructions or surfing the web for information. Family games, karaoke, or cooking together are a great way to get older kids involved in family literacy. There is also great value in older siblings engaging in reading with younger ones and it sets them up to be positive role models.

How are people celebrating Family Literacy Day across the country? Do you have any suggestions for anyone who wants to plan an event?

There are lots of events, small or large, planned already. For instance the Connections Early Years Family Centre in Windsor, ON is holding a P.J. story time where kids arrive in pajamas with their favourite stuffy and listen to stories. Toronto’s Lillian H. Smith library branch is hosting a Read and Build Story Time where after hearing a story, children recreate their favourite scene using Lego. In Vancouver, Decoda Literacy Solutions is partnering with Science World to hold Family Literacy Weekend with lots of activities over two days. And in Edmonton, AB the Centre for Family Literacy is hosting a Family Literacy Carnival.

For anyone that wants to plan an event, just go for it – it can be as large or small as you have the capacity to undertake. All you need is a love for literacy, some fun ideas, families in your community and a little planning. But if you do want help – just download our Event Planning Kit on the Downloads page of the Family Literacy Day website. And don’t forget to register your activity at!

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TD Canadian Children’s Book Week 2015

Apply today!

We are currently accepting applications for TD Book Week 2015! The next TD Canadian Children’s Book Week touring program will run from Saturday, May 2 to Saturday, May 9, 2015. Schools, libraries, bookstores and community centres can apply to host an author, illustrator or storyteller. The deadline for applications has been extended to January 23, 2015. Visit for more information.

Do you love to write? Are you in Grade 4 to 12? If so, enter the Book Week 2015 Writing Contest!

Young writers from across Canada, in grades 4 to 12, are invited to submit their stories and/or poems (fiction or non-fiction) to the Book Week 2015 Writing Contest for Kids & Teens. Judging is done by noted writers from across Canada and one winner from each grade will receive a $250 gift certificate for the bookstore of his or her choice. Two honourable mentions from each grade category will also receive $50 gift certificates. The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2015. Click here for contest details!

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Amy’s Marathon of Books: Final Update

by Amy Mathers

Hello Canadian Teen Book Lovers!

2014 is over and I have completed my 365 book journey across Canada! My last story was Lost Cause by John Wilson, which was also my last Seven the Series book. I didn’t want to put it down.

In total I read 84,622 pages! Using 10 pages for every kilometre, I have travelled 8,462.2 kilometres across Canada through my reading. Since Canada is roughly 8,000 kilometres from the east coast to the west coast, I have more than covered the distance. I read for 1,118 hours and 47 minutes during 2014, or 46.5 whole 24-hour days.

So far just over $19,500 has been raised to fund the new Amy Mathers Teen Book Award! This is almost enough for three years of the award, and means we can still use your donations to keep it going. As the Canada Helps campaign has now ended, donations can be mailed directly to the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

I’ve been asked what I am doing next, and I haven’t quite figured it out yet. But in the meantime I have just written an opinion piece about Canadian teen fiction for Canadian Children’s Book News. Look for it in the Winter 2015 issue to read about some of what I’ve learned about Canada over the past year.

My last book recommendation list comes from my British Columbia reading, and contains some thought-provoking titles that stuck in my head. I hope you will read my reviews for them and check them out yourself.

Finding Cassidy
by Laura Langston
(Amy’s review)
Big Guy
by Robin Stevenson
(Amy’s review)
The Girl With a Baby
by Sylvia Olsen
(Amy’s review)


Amy Mathers read and reviewed one Canadian YA book a day for a year to raise money for a new teen book award. Visit her website at

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Illustrator’s Studio: Ruth Ohi

by Stephanie Dror

As the author and illustrator of many beloved picture books, we thought that Ruth Ohi would be an excellent interviewee for the start of a new year, to open us up to Canadian author/illustrators. A graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design, Ohi remains in Toronto, Ontario working on her own and manuscripts by the likes of Hazel Hutchins and Joy Kogawa. Ohi’s illustration style, unique and playful, relies mainly on her watercolour and ink skills, though she has more recently incorporated some digital elements into her works. Here is what Ruth had to say about her experiences:

Tell us a little about yourself and how you became a children’s book author/illustrator.

I write and illustrate from the heart. I grew up loving books. I always enjoyed drawing, writing and putting the two together. My passion for drawing led me to study at the Ontario College of Art & Design. Summer jobs and freelancing from OCAD’s Job Board paid for college. Before graduating, I submitted a portfolio to Annick Press and was over the moon when they gave me my first commission. That ‘over the moon’ feeling still happens each and every time a book project is accepted. I’m very grateful for the opportunities that publishers have offered to me. One of my first author/illustrated picture books was Me & My Sister (Annick Press). It was written while raising two little ones. The illustrations on the copyright page were done by my daughters.

What comes first, the images or the words?

The words come first. I want a strong story to illustrate.

What is your inspiration?

Kenta and the Big Wave (Annick Press) was inspired by a news article about a soccer ball that drifted from Japan to Alaska following the March 2011 tsunami. Hope, empathy for others and how a small act of kindness can make a huge difference was the inspiration.

Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend (Scholastic Canada) started from the scribbled line, “Squirrel loved the tops of trees” which I wrote while watching squirrels hang out with birds in the highest of places. I wondered how Fox would feel about Squirrel finding a new friend where he could not go.

Shh! My Brother’s Napping (Scholastic Canada) was inspired by my kids and how much they enjoyed the other’s company. It’s hard waiting for your favourite playmate to wake up so that the fun can begin. “Shh! My Brother’s napping. He really needs his sleep. He was grumbly as a grouch and now lies in a heap.”


Your Fox and Squirrel books are published in English, French and Korean and have been lauded as brilliant ways to introduce multiculturalism to children — could you speak to your work in this regard?

I’ve been so happy with the response to the Fox and Squirrel books. Just in one culture or even one classroom there exists many different points of views and approaches to doing things. Fox and Squirrel (Scholastic Canada) explores appreciating these differences while celebrating the similarities — with respect being the bottom line. At the end of Fox and Squirrel it was very important for me that the two friends invite skeptical Rat to join them.

 1200 72 FS2 cover ruff2 w cpyright P30

What do find particularly challenging when you are illustrating, or writing, a new book and how do you overcome the obstacle?

I like working on a pile of different potential ideas at once. That way if an idea runs into a wall or gets rejected, I can turn my attention to another while the problem story rests (or retires). Also, within the Kidlit community exists an incredible support network. We all do the same thing. Run into the same problems. There is great empathy. Friends, family — I couldn’t be doing what I do without them.

If interested in children’s book publishing, I would highly recommend looking up organizations such as CANSCAIP, The Canadian Children’s Book Centre and The Writers’ Union.

How do you imagine that your illustrations, apart from or with their texts, might be used in the classroom? Do you have any fun suggestions for children, parents or teachers?

I am excited and honoured that my books have been used to open conversations with kids. Each of my most recent books has an Activities Page where you can download pdf printables such as activity sheets, puzzles, crafts and games.

I love snailmail. If a class writes me after reading my books, I will write back. My website has a contact page for those interested in making a classroom connection. A self-addressed stamped envelope is always very much appreciated!

Your illustration style is very playful, full of colour and adorable animals! Can you talk about your way of illustrating stories and how it came about? Would you mind sharing some images of your work and your workspace?

Thank you for your kind words about my art. My illustrations typically evolve from scribbly doodling and lots of personal experimenting just for fun. Watercolour, pencil crayon and ink are what I use most in my finished illustrations. Recently I’ve also played with Photoshop. The style depends on the project. Some personal projects can be found on my Portfolio: Jots & Scribs page. My website’s Roughing It page shows a few early sketches for published pieces.

1200 Drummer sketch for cover idea 1200 ate and slept in gym deskdetail1200


Images courtesy of Ruth Ohi.

Stephanie Dror has a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature. She is the Membership Secretary for IBBY Canada, a founder and blogger at The Book Wars and a book reviewer for CM: Canadian Review of Materials and The Ottawa Review of Books.

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Coming Soon: Winter 2015 Canadian Children’s Book News

Let Books Be Books, Tanya Lloyd Kyi, Julie Flett, a special quiz and much more in the Winter 2015 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

“Let Books Be Books” is the international conversation on gender stereotyping in books and in marketing books. In the upcoming issue of Canadian Children’s Book News, our roundtable discussion takes a Canadian look at the topic. Plus:

  • A profile of Tanya Lloyd Kyi, noted non-fiction and fiction author
  • A chat with Cree-Métis author and illustrator Julie Flett, creator of Wild Berries, the 2014 First Nation Communities READ selection
  • A challenging quiz on French Québecois children’s literature
  • Reviews of over 30 new books

The Winter 2015 edition of Canadian Children’s Book News will be out in February.

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