CCBC June 2015 Newsletter: Summer Reading


News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre
June Book List: Summer Reading
Author Corner: Kallie George
Amy’s Travels in YA
Illustrator’s Studio: Lori Joy Smith
Out Now: Spring 2015 of Best Books for Kids & Teens
Back next fall…

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre invites you to attend our Annual General Meeting! This year’s AGM will feature special guest speaker Kathy Kacer, award-winning children’s author of historical fiction and non-fiction stories. Kathy will be speaking about how she began to write stories about the Holocaust and the lessons she’s learned from the survivors she has met over the years.

The AGM will take place on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 6:00pm in Room 200 of the Northern District Library in Toronto, ON. Members and public both welcome. Click here for more information.’s Great Canadian Giving Challenge is here! For every dollar donated to the Canadian Children’s Book Centre during the month of June, we gain the chance to win $10,000. If children’s books and reading are important to you, please consider making a donation today!

Your support helps us:

  • Bring children’s book authors and illustrators into the classroom. Over 25,000 children annually get the chance to meet an author or illustrator through TD Canadian Children’s Book Week, an event organized entirely by the staff and volunteer coordinators of the Book Centre;
  • Put a book in the hands of over 550,000 children in the first grade in Canada through our Grade One Book Giveaway program;
  • Highlight and spread the word about outstanding Canadian books, and support authors and illustrators in their creative endeavours, through our book awards and publications;
  • Develop resources for teachers and librarians, helping them bring more Canadian content into the classroom.

Please make your donation today through our Great Canadian Giving Challenge page.

Save the date! This October, join us for our Get Published! Seminar: An Inside Look at Writing, Illustrating and Publishing Children’s Books. Our panel of experts, including author/illustrators Ruth Ohi and Kevin Sylvester, will discuss how children’s books are written, illustrated, edited and selected for publication in Canada, and answer participants’ questions.

When: October 24, 2015, 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Where: Northern District Library, Room 224, 40 Orchard View Blvd., Toronto, ON
Cost: $100.00. Registration is limited.

Register by phone or email: 416-975-0010 ext. 224 /

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June Book List: Summer Reading

by Emma Sakamoto

When school breaks for the summer, there’s nothing better than spending a warm afternoon curled up with a book. We’ve compiled a selection of fun summer reads with an emphasis on newer titles, including adventure stories, books celebrating the summer season and others to keep you turning the pages, whether you do your reading at the beach, on a dock or in your backyard.

Picture Books

King for a Day
Written by Rukhsana Khan
Illustrated by Christiane Krömer
Lee & Low Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-60060-659-5
IL: Ages 6-10  RL: Grade 3
Basant, the celebration of spring, has arrived. Malik is looking forward to doing battle from his rooftop with his special kite, Falcon. Today is Malik’s chance to be the best kite fighter, the king of Basant. This lively, contemporary story introduces readers to the traditional sport of kite fighting, and to a spirited, determined young boy who masters the sport while finding his own way to face and overcome life’s challenges.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Outstanding in the Rain
Written and illustrated by Frank Viva
Tundra Books, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-101-91768-8
IL: Ages 3-7  RL: Grades 1-2
Step right up! Step right up to the amusing amusement park! It’s a whole story, and the pages have holes! Watch the holes make pictures! Turn an umbrella into a cake and balloons into ice cream! See the holes make words. Whole words! Change an ice man into a nice man! See fork handles turn into four candles! Realize the magic with your real eyes! Frank Viva’s tale of a boy spending his birthday at the amusement park will amaze readers big and small with astounding die-cuts that transform both words and pictures in delightful ways.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Shadow Chasers
Written and illustrated by Elly MacKay
Running Press Kids, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-7624-4720-6
IL: Ages 3-8  RL: Grades 1-2
When evening paints the summer sky, shadows will come out to play. You must move fast, because as quickly as the wind blows, the shadows will be on their way. Chasing after our hopes and dreams, we may try many times before we finally catch them. With luminous paper-cut illustrations and simple lyrical text, this magical nighttime story shows that the journey is just as remarkable as the destination.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
This Is Sadie
Written by Sara O’Leary
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
Tundra Books, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-77049-532-6
IL: Ages 3-7  RL: Grades 2-3
Sadie is a little girl with a big imagination. She has been a girl who lived under the sea and a boy raised by wolves. She has had adventures in wonderland and visited the world of fairytales. She whispers to the dresses in her closet and talks to birds in the treetops. She has wings that take her anywhere she wants to go, but that always bring her home again. She likes to make things — boats out of boxes and castles out of cushions. But more than anything Sadie likes stories, because you can make them from nothing at all.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Junior & Intermediate Fiction

The Boundless
Written by Kenneth Oppel
HarperCollins Publishers, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-44341-026-7
IL: Ages 10-14  RL: Grades 5-6
The Boundless, the most magnificent train ever built, is on its maiden voyage across Canada, and Will Everett is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime! There’s a murder, and Will, now protecting the key that unlocks the train’s treasures, becomes the target of sinister figures from his past. With villains chasing him and sasquatches and bog hags lurking outside, Will and Maren, a young tightrope walker, must save the Boundless before someone else winds up dead.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Seven Wild Sisters: A Modern Fairy Tale
Written by Charles de Lint
Illustrated by Charles Vess
Little, Brown and Company, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-316-05356-3
IL: Ages 8-12  RL: Grades 4-6
Sarah Jane has always wanted to meet a fairy, but she has no idea that the tiny wounded man she discovers in the Tanglewood Forest is about to ensnare her in a war between magical clans. When her six sisters are kidnapped, she’ll need the help of several friends to bring them home. They must untangle themselves from the feud or be trapped in the fairy world forever. This is a companion novel to The Cats of Tanglewood Forest.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Shack Island Summer
Written by Penny Chamberlain
Sono Nis Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-55039-175-6
IL: Ages 11-14  RL: Grades 4-5
The summer of 1969 is the summer of flower children and moon landings. In this evocative coming-of-age novel, 12-year-old Pepper and her oddball brother are spending this summer on Shack Island with Grandma. As the summer days and starlit nights work their magic, Pepper explores ESP, dreams and infatuation and decides to look for her birth family.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Summer Days, Starry Nights
Written by Vikki VanSickle
Scholastic Canada, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4431-1991-7
IL: Ages 10-14  RL: Grades 4-5
Reenie Starr loves summers at her family’s resort, but as a teenager she feels like she’s living in a country where people speak a different language. When Gwendolyn Cates arrives to teach dance at the resort, Reenie comes to realize that there is more to life than fishing, campfires and climbing trees. She also discovers that there’s more to being a teenager than just wearing cool clothes and knowing the right songs.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Young Adult Fiction

The Dogs
Written by Allan Stratton
Scholastic Canada, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4431-2830-8
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 7-8
Thirteen-year-old Cameron and his mother are on the run from his disturbed father. They take refuge in an old farmhouse where Cameron believes he’s communicating with the ghost of a boy who died many years ago. It’s a first-person thriller in which psychological realism and the possibility of the paranormal co-exist.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
On the Edge
Written by Allison van Diepen
HarperCollins Publishers, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-06-230344-8
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grades 9-10
Maddy Diaz witnesses two gang members attacking a homeless man and now, as the only witness able to identify the men, she is in real danger. Her safety depends on Lobo, the mysterious leader of a rival gang who promises to protect her. As sparks fly between them, Maddy is drawn into the dangerous Miami underworld of gangs and sex trafficking.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Shadow Scale
Written by Rachel Hartman
Doubleday Canada, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-385-66860-6
IL: Ages 13 and up  RL: Grades 7-8
A dragon war comes to Goredd in the much-anticipated sequel to the award-winning Seraphina. As Seraphina Dombegh travels the Southlands in search of the other half-dragons to help in the war effort, the dragon general Comonot and his Loyalists fight against the upstart Old Guard with the fate of Goredd and the other human countries hanging in the balance.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
The Truth Commission
Written by Susan Juby
Razorbill Canada, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-670-06759-6
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 7-8
Open secrets are the heart of gossip — the things that no one is brave or clueless enough to ask. That is, except for Normandy Pale and her friends Dusk and Neil. They are juniors at Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design, and they have no fear. They are the Truth Commission. But Normandy’s passion for uncovering the truth is not entirely heartfelt. The truth can be dangerous, especially when it involves her sister, Keira, her brilliant older sister, the creator of a best-selling graphic novel series, who has left college and come home under mysterious circumstances, and in complete silence. Even for a Truth Commissioner, there are some lines that cannot be crossed.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Haunted Canada 4: More True Tales of Terror
(Haunted Canada)
Written by Joel A. Sutherland
Illustrated by Norman Lanting
Scholastic Canada, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4431-2893-3
IL: Ages 9-12  RL: Grades 4-6
This ghoulishly good fourth book in the Haunted Canada series is full of terrifying true tales from across Canada that will have you sleeping with the lights on! Settle in for an evening of hair-raising thrills and chills in this brand-new volume of eerie encounters and unexplained incidents. Prepare yourself to be haunted!
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
How to Save a Species
Written by Marilyn Baillie, Jonathan Baillie and
Ellen Butcher
Owlkids Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-77147-063-6
IL: Ages 8-13  RL: Grades 3-5
With a logbook-style layout and full-colour photographs, this book introduces readers to 17 of the world’s 100 most endangered species, from the greater bamboo lemur to the reclusive saola. Highlighting the efforts of scientists, communities and campaign groups, it includes astonishing success stories of species that have been saved from the brink of extinction, as well as urgent cases needing immediate action.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
I Can Make That!
Fantastic Crafts for Kids

Written by Mary Wallace
Owlkids Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-926973-97-5
IL: Ages 4-11  RL: Grades 2-4
This terrific craft book has been updated and reissued for a new generation of children. Kids as young as four can take common household supplies and natural materials to make costumes, puppets, toys, games and more. Simple, easy-to-understand instructions and bright photographs make it the perfect book for home, school, library, camp or daycare.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Life or Death: Surviving the Impossible
Written by Larry Verstraete
Scholastic Canada, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4431-1951-1
IL: Ages 9-12  RL: Grades 4-5
A doctor saves Jewish prisoners with a typhus reagent injection, sending them to quarantine instead of death camps. A mountaineer amputates his own arm after being trapped by a boulder, and gets to safety. When the stakes are high, a single action can make the difference between life and death! Over 30 dramatic stories recount desperate moments when people find creative ways to overcome impossible challenges and life-or-death situations.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

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Author Corner: Kallie George

Kallie George is an author, editor, and speaker living in Vancouver, BC. She has a Masters of Children’s Literature from the University of British Columbia. She’s written several picture books including The Melancholic Mermaid (Simply Read Books, 2010) and Spark (Simply Read Books, 2013). Clover’s Luck (HarperCollins Canada, 2015), the first book in her new middle-grade series, The Magical Animal Adoption Agency, is available in stores now.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started as a writer?

I honestly can’t pinpoint a moment when I got started as a writer. I just always was telling and writing stories.

When I was really little, my parents transcribed my stories for me, and, once I could write them down myself, they helped me print copies to give to all of my relatives at Christmas. In high school, I was really lucky to have a teacher who arranged for me to write a novel as an elected course. And, in university, I took many classes in the creative writing department, where I was guided by talented teachers and met my best friends as well. Basically, I just was SO blessed to have so many friends and family members and teachers in my life who supported and encouraged and taught me along the way — and continue to be mentors for me.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

I am an “ideas girl.” That’s what my friends like to call me. I always have a lot of ideas on the go — some of them are good and some of them not-so-good. Once I decide to develop an idea, I begin to plot. I love plotting! I like the structure that a plot outline gives — a sense of security that the story is strong. Of course, this can be a false sense of security because all too often the plot completely changes when I actually start writing. I usually write everything by hand first, even chapter books. I find that I can get into the flow of a story better that way. Plus, typing up what I’ve hand-written starts the editing process.

I edit a lot! Much of writing for me is editing, and I wonder if this is partially because I am an editor, too. My first drafts are usually very rough and need a lot of polishing, and I am really grateful to have wonderful friends who are also writers look over my work, as well as my editors at the publishing houses.

I find it really fascinating reading and hearing about other writers’ processes and how they are so different. Some writers love to plot (like me); others don’t. I think it’s about finding what works for you — and also what works for your particular project. I write picture books, early readers and chapter books, and I am finding that each project requires me to take a slightly different approach. For example, the last book I wrote was mostly on the computer first, despite my love of writing by hand. As scary as that can be sometimes (I love consistency), it is also exciting and important to follow what works best for a particular project.

What inspired you to write your new series, The Magical Animal Adoption Agency?

It was sort of — well, magical — how this idea came together. I LOVE animals, but am, like my main character, rather unlucky with pets. I’m allergic to cats and live in too small of an apartment for the dog I’d like. But I love writing about animals, especially magical ones. One summer, I was teaching writing at a day camp for kids, having students create magical animal adoption ads and write stories based on these. One night, one of the other authors teaching at this camp, a friend of mine, described how he worked at a Humane Society and shared stories of his experiences there. On the drive home, I came up with the Magical Animal Adoption Agency. Why couldn’t I write a novel based on the same idea I was having my students write about — and use stories from Humane Societies as inspiration, too? And I did! So, as you can see, there was a lot of serendipity involved. (And actually, Serendipity is the name of one of the animals in the book!)

How do you imagine that your books might be used in the classroom? Do you have any suggestions for teachers or parents?

Definitely! I have a website for the book with activities, a quiz and a teachers’/parents’ guide: On this site, kids can create ‘lost’ posters for a magical animal or an adoption ad and write stories based on those. They can fill out a Wish Book entry for a new animal. They can make a magical animal care kit. If they draw a picture of their favourite magical animal and submit it to the website, I have a gallery there of students’ drawings.

When presenting or reading to children, what do you find is the best way of keeping them engaged?

I love to talk about the stories I made when I was their age and show them examples. I have lots of embarrassing stories to tell them, which they love. For example, I was terrible at spelling. And I’m still not the best at it. I always make sure to point this out to students when I do school visits, to show them that even if you struggle with spelling or grammar, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a writer. Also, as I mentioned, I (mostly) write all my stories by hand, and my writing is REALLY messy. I always bring up a few students to try to decipher what I’ve written. They find this hilarious. I think they like to see that I’m not so different from them — I make mistakes, I’m messy, but I have a lot of fun writing, and that’s what counts.

What projects are you working on now?

I’m actually done writing all the books in the Magical Animal Adoption Agency series, but there’s a new chapter book series that HarperCollins in Canada and Disney-Hyperion in the US are publishing, called Heartwood Hotel. It’s about a hotel for small animals, deep in the woods. I’m working on the second book in that series!

For more information about Kallie and her books, visit

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Amy’s Travels in YA

by Amy Mathers

Summer is a time for both growth and relaxation as children and teens are released from the structured school environment into the wilds of vacation. The best part of summer reading is the freedom accompanying it. Summertime is the perfect opportunity to read for fun, to try authors and books you never dreamed you might like, and to read like a maniac. You can judge books by their covers (there have been some pretty amazing ones lately) or pick books about certain subjects or just choose books based how large they are (my personal favourite — the bigger the better).

My book recommendations for this splendiferous season of the year come from what I consider the hallmarks of a fantastic summer: travel, adventure and relaxation.

First up, Seven the Series (Orca Book Publishers, 2012). With a premise of seven tasks engineered by one imaginative grandfather for his seven grandsons upon his death, these books take readers around the world on superb, page-turning journeys. Because the books are written by seven different authors, readers get a chance to expand their reading horizons and compare various writing styles for similar stories, hopefully picking up some new favourite authors along the way.

The Greener Grass series (Red Deer Press, 2008-2011) by Caroline Pignat is also stellar. Following the saga of Kit Byrne and her family as they flee from Ireland and build new lives in North America in the 1800s, this adventurous series has historical perspective as well. Caroline Pignat is a peer of Kenneth Oppel when it comes to writing epic stories, and I love her juxtaposition of action and character growth accompanied by flawless writing.

I like a little drama and romance in my YA when I am looking for a relaxing read. For that I go to C.K. Kelly Martin‘s I Know It’s Over (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2008) and Eileen Cook’s The Almost Truth (Simon Pulse, 2012). Martin captures the intensity of young love and its hardships while Cook keeps her reader hooked with twists and turns. They’re both writers with the ability to keep me reading, enthralled by stories they weave, without feeling overwhelmed by the emotion of what is happening. In other words, my definition of a good beach read.

And, because it’s me, I will end my summer book list with three book suggestions combining summer adventures with disability and illness issues. Absolutely Invincible by William Bell (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1993), The Gem Lakes by Rob Keough (Great Plains Teen Fiction, 2005) and last but not least, Are You Seeing Me? by new Canadian author Darren Groth (Orca Book Publishers, August 2015). All contain journeys (two within Canada and one cross-continental) of a physical and personal nature, grappling with finding one’s way under less than optimal circumstances. These three books also contain strong messages about the importance of family and friendship when it comes to facing the unimaginable.

Have a great summer, and if you come across any Canadian YA books you’d think I’d like, let me know!


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Illustrator’s Studio: Lori Joy Smith

Lori Joy Smith is an illustrator who lives in Charlottetown, PEI. She’s illustrated charming books from other authors including Robert Heidbreder, as well as her own. Her latest book, Me, Too!, written by Annika Dunklee (Kids Can Press, 2015), is out now.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started as a children’s book illustrator?

I have always been in love with children’s books. Some of my happiest childhood memories involve books: the weekly trip to the library, losing myself completely in a book, being read to be my parents.

When I was a teenager I spent two years in Italy, and this really sparked my love of art. I started painting and never stopped!

Illustrating children’s books brings these two great loves together for me.

You have a very distinctive illustration style — so bright and fun! — how did you come to develop it?

I’ve always been drawn to a simple style… but with lots of little details. I remember as a kid my favourite thing was just staring at a drawing and getting completely lost in it. I still do this; my kids are constantly nudging me when I’m reading to them!

Tell us about your illustration process.

The first part of the process is research. This can include looking up things on the Internet to going through old favourite children’s books for inspiration and ideas. I have a book about chickens coming up and I went out and visited a chicken farm for research. Chickens can be very inspiring!

Process-wise, for Noisy Poems for a Busy Day (Kids Can Press, 2012) and Me, Too!, the drawings were done in pencil and then coloured digitally. This involves an insane amount of drawing… I tend to do pages over and over until I get it just right.

The Goodnight Book (Simply Read Books, 2014) is made up of paintings. I sometimes end up doing paintings over and over again too until they are right. I think I have about five versions of the “Tookaboo” page!

The artwork for Run Salmon Run (BC Salmon Board, 2014) is 100% digital. I use a Wacom tablet to draw and both Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to get the look I want.

I have a studio space that is about a five minute bike ride from home. This space is so important to me. It’s quiet and it can be as messy as I want. Magical things happen when you have a space to just sit and be creative. I’m so thankful to have it.

How do you see your books being used in the classroom? Do you have any fun suggestions for teachers or parents?

Noisy Poems for a Busy Day is such a fun book — a great introduction to poetry for young kids. It would also be great to get kids up and moving.

Me, Too! is a wonderful and funny story about being kind and assuming the best in your friends.

Run Salmon Run is about the life cycle of salmon, which is so interesting!

The Goodnight Book is a cozy and sweet book. Good for little ones just learning to read. It’s my own kids’ favourite of my books. It has a special place in my heart. I love the idea of every child in the world being put to bed full of love and feeling safe and happy.

What projects are you working on now? Anything you are particularly excited about?

One project that I am super excited about is called The Love Book. The illustrations are going to be done in fabric and I wrote it, too! I’ve been doing fabric art pieces for over 10 years. When my daughter Sosi was born I couldn’t bear to part with her baby clothes. So I started cutting them up, adding embroidery and making them into art. I’ve done a lot of custom portraits for people and their children. I’m really excited to work on a whole book. It will be published in 2017 by Owlkids Books!

Below are images Lori shared with us of her studio. Click on each image to enlarge.

For more information about Lori, visit

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Out Now! Spring 2015 edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens

245 new books for preschool, elementary and high school, in the latest edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens!

The Spring 2015 edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens, the CCBC’s semi-annual selection guide, is now available. All of the titles in Best Books for Kids & Teens have been handpicked by expert committees of educators, booksellers and school and public librarians from across Canada. The reviewed materials include picture books, junior/intermediate fiction, graphic novels, and powerful teen fiction, in addition to a wide array of non-fiction, magazines and audio/video resources.

Click here to purchase a copy!

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Back next fall…

We will be taking a break over the summer, but will be back with more in September. Have a wonderful summer!