CCBC April 2017 Newsletter
News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
TD Canadian Children’s Book Week materials are now available for order! Get posters and bookmarks, featuring Ian Wallace’s stunning illustration, for your classroom or library.
Book Week will take place from Saturday, May 6 to Saturday, May 13, 2017. Since Book Week is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday, the theme we have chosen to celebrate — Read Across Canada / Lire aux quatre coins du Canada — will encourage young readers to learn about Canada by reading books set in different provinces and locations across the country. To honour the 40th anniversary of the very first Book Week tour, the CCBC asked veteran illustrator Ian Wallace to create this year’s Book Week poster image. Ian Wallace was part of the original 12 authors and illustrators that set out on the first Book Week tour in 1977.
Come join them!
Authors for Indies Day is a nationwide event organized by authors to celebrate the important role that independent bookstores play. This special day gets people out to bookstores, showcases local writers and supports Canadian publishers.
Three things you can do:
- Authors: Sign up to participate at authorsforindies.com/sign
- Booklovers: Find a participating independent bookseller at authorsforindies.com
- Not sure yet: To learn more about Canadian Authors for Indies visit authorsforindies.com
Links We Love
April Book List: Earth Day
Taking place on April 22, Earth Day Canada‘s goal is to inspire and support people across Canada to connect with nature and build resilient communities. Celebrate in your classroom or library with one of these great Canadian books.
Frankenstink! Garbage Gone Bad
Imagination | Garbage | Monsters | Composting | Recycling | Environment
A boy who ignores the growing pile of trash under his bed is awakened one night as the garbage transforms and mutates into a greedy, disgusting monster, devouring everything in its path! Is it just a dream? The monster that feeds on “a mountainous salad of plastic and goo” is a hilarious example of what could happen if we don’t compost and recycle!
On the Reef
Coral Reefs | Endangered Species | Turtles | Pollution | Natural World | Environmentalism | Marine Ecology
While snorkelling on a coral reef in the Bahamas, Chloe and Zachary find a Hawksbill turtle entangled in plastic. With the help of their guide, the kids bring the turtle onto the beach to await rescue. This book captures the beauty of the coral reef, an endangered part of the marine ecosystem, while teaching the importance of preserving the fragile balance of life in the oceans.
Skydiver: Saving the Fastest Bird in the World
Peregrine Falcons | Pesticides | Environment | Wildlife Protection
High in the sky, a peregrine falcon joins her mate for some swooping and diving before returning to her nest to guard her eggs. But her eggs are under threat from the pesticide DDT, which makes the eggshells thin and fragile. Skydiver tells the inspiring story of a family of peregrine falcons, and of the efforts by scientists and volunteers who came together to save the fastest bird in the world.
Recycling | Environmentalism | Making a Difference | Littering | Nature
What happens when one small boy picks up one small piece of litter? He doesn’t know it, but his tiny act has big consequences. This book gently explores nature’s connections, from the minuscule to the monumental, and traces the ripple effects of one child’s good deed to show how we can all make a big difference.
Junior & Intermediate Fiction
Justine McKeen, Thermostat Chat
Global Warming | Environmental Stewardship | Climate Change | Sustainability | Teamwork | Conservation
Justine McKeen is on another mission, this time to rid homes and schools of energy vampires. Justine and her friends are working to fight global warming by unplugging electronics that aren’t in use. Too bad they didn’t warn Grandpa Blatzo before they started.
Luz Makes a Splash
Water | Water Conservation | Drought
Luz’s favourite park is suffering in the drought and no one knows what to do to help. The local swimming pond has also been drained by the factory nearby so there’s nowhere to cool down. Luz must rally her community to help save both of her favourite places. This graphic novel includes a guide on how to make a water-wise garden.
The Summer We Saved the Bees
Honeybees | Activism | Blended Families | Environmentalism | Responsibility
Wolf’s mother is obsessed with saving the world’s honeybees. He gets that. But it’s another thing altogether when she announces that she’s taking her Save the Bees show on the road — family style, complete with mortifying bee costumes. Can Wolf and his sisters convince her that dragging the family around in a beat-up panel van may not be the best idea she’s ever had?
Sydney & Simon: Go Green!
Environmentalism | Curiosity | Garbage | Recycling | Problem Solving
While visiting an aquarium, mice twins Sydney and Simon learn how much trash ends up in the oceans. The two observe how much trash is made at home and at school and realize that everyone could use a reminder about keeping our planet clean! This title celebrates the STEAM approach (exploration through science, technology, engineering, art and math).
Be the Change for the Environment
Environment | Leadership | Stewardship
Caring for Earth is everyone’s job! Readers will discover ways they can have a positive impact on the environment, including planting trees and eating locally grown food, as well as “pre-cycling” and protecting animal habitats. Children will learn to take personal responsibility for environmental stewardship and discover how to be effective problem solvers when it comes to protecting the planet.
The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk
Great Auk | Extinction | Wildlife Conservation | Natural World | Ecology
For thousands of years, great auks thrived in the icy seas of the North Atlantic. But by 1844, not a single one of these magnificent birds was still alive. The tragic demise of the great auk led to the birth of the conservation movement. Laws were passed to prevent the killing of birds during the nesting season, and similar laws were later extended to other wildlife species.
Trash Talk: Moving Toward a Zero-Waste World
Garbage | Waste | Recycling | Reusing | Environmentalism | Creative Thinking | Global Community
Humans have always generated garbage. Our landfills are overflowing, but with some creative thinking, stuff we once threw away can become a collection of valuable resources. This fascinating text digs deep into the history of garbage, from Minoan trash pits to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and uncovers some of the many innovative ways people all over the world are dealing with waste.
Water Wow! An Infographic Exploration
Science | Environment | Water | Nature | Conservation
Where did water come from before it got to Earth? Is the water you drink the same stuff that was around when dinosaurs were alive? If water can’t be created or destroyed, how can we run out? What are water footprints? Find out the answers to these and many more intriguing questions in this appealing visual exploration of an important topic.
Author’s Corner: Mahtab Narsimhan
Mahtab Narsimhan is the acclaimed author of several middle-grade books, including her latest novel, Mission Mumbai. She will be touring British Columbia for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week this May. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.
First, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get started as an author?
I’ve always been an avid reader but I did not start writing until early 2004. In 2003, my dad was diagnosed with cancer, and within two months he passed away. It was sudden and devastating. As always, I turned to books during this difficult time. I’d always loved fantasy-adventure stories as a means of escape from the harsh realities of life. Around the same time, I started writing down memorable events of my childhood so that I wouldn’t forget the life we all shared as a family before we went our separate ways. These scribblings gave me the idea of writing a book to encompass everything I love; fantasy, adventure, Indian mythology and a really good story. That is how The Third Eye was born.
What is your writing process like?
I wake up every morning (weekends, holidays, even my birthday) at about 5:45 a.m. I’m at my desk by 6 a.m., with a cup of tea, where I write until about 8 a.m. Then I answer emails, walk my dog and get ready for my day job.
In the evenings, I prepare for presentations or conferences I’ve been invited to, do research, critique friends’ manuscripts or catch up on my reading. I do take mornings off, occasionally, when I’ve had to stay up late the night before. Since I have an approximate daily and weekly quota, I try to make up for lost word count on other days of the week. It’s hard, but now that writing every morning has become a habit, I feel extremely guilty if I miss a single day. It keeps me pretty disciplined as a writer.
What were your favourite Canadian children’s books growing up? Or, alternatively, your favourite Canadian children’s books to share with family and friends now?
My parents always believed that a good education was the key to success in life. They sent all of us to private schools and encouraged us to read voraciously. Every summer we were given loads of books to tide us over until we went back to school. My staples growing up used to be authors such as Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, and Astrid Lindgren, among others. I also loved reading comics, such as Tintin, Asterix and the Amar Chitra Katha series on Indian culture, mythology and folklore.
In school, we read the works of talented Indian authors, such as Munshi Premchand and R.K. Narayan. I am so very thankful to my mother for instilling a love of reading in me at an early age, and encouraging it in every way possible.
I have so many favourite Canadian children’s books — written by dear friends — that it would be impossible to name just a few. Suffice it to say that Canada has a treasure trove of writers/literary gems in every genre. I am honoured, and lucky, to be a part of this talented community.
You’re touring British Columbia for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week this May. What do you have planned for the schools you are visiting? What are you looking forward to the most?
I tailor my presentations to the age of my audience and make them fun and interactive. My talk is peppered with personal anecdotes about the challenges I face when I write, as well as tips and tricks I use to meet my daily goal of 1500‒2000 words. Each middle-grade presentation is fifty minutes in duration with ten minutes for Q&A.
I also have a shorter, thirty-minute presentation for Grades 1-3 where I share my picture book, Looking for Lord Ganesh.
I talk about the catalyst that took me from a high-powered corporate executive to becoming a writer.
My books include a strong element of my Indian roots and I encourage discussions and questions on world cultures, and especially diversity. I immigrated to Canada in 1997 and am happy to share the struggles I faced while trying to fit in to Canada.
I describe the research and planning that goes into writing, as well as the fresh challenges each book presents.
I look forward to meeting the teacher and student communities in Vancouver, having the opportunity to introduce them to my repertoire, and to get inspired by them.
Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how to incorporate your books into the curriculum? Do you have any activity suggestions or tips?
Since all my books are based in India, they would be a great addition to the curriculum as part of World Studies. Teacher Activity Guides/Discussion Questions for all my books can be found here.
The Tara Trilogy (of which The Third Eye won the Silver Birch Fiction Award in 2009) is a great read-aloud during class. On one level, it’s a fantasy adventure but on the other, it is about the courage of the human spirit and believing in oneself when no one else believes in you.
The Tiffin is an excellent glimpse into the harsh life of an orphan on the streets of Bombay. This story introduces readers to the legendary dabbawallas and their near-perfect accuracy in delivering tiffins. While none of my stories have a they-lived-happily-ever-after ending, they always end on a hopeful note, with the character, and perhaps the reader, having grown in some way.
Mission Mumbai is my latest offering which takes the usual scenario — an immigrant trying to fit into North American culture — and turns it on its head. In this story, I have a North American boy trying to fit into an unfamiliar culture and the ensuing hilarity due to misunderstandings. Told from the point of view of Dylan, this story is rife with humour and heart as the friendship of both boys is strained to the limit. At the end, I hope the readers will understand that walking in another’s shoes is the best way to experience what a person is going through. And, often, the grass is not greener on the other side. I hope that providing a glimpse of this truth through the character-lens of Dylan, I can help kids recognize the shallowness of social media, and appreciate what they have in life.
Activities for Mission Mumbai can be found here.
Looking for Lord Ganesh is a picture book on Indian Mythology with a contemporary twist. The Elephant God is also known as the Remover-of-Obstacles and the Solver-of-Problems. Millions in India worship him. Young Anika, a recent immigrant, prays to him to solve her problems of fitting in to her new school and making friends. When he takes too long to answer her prayers, she turns to the Internet to contact him. While she does get the answers she seeks, it is up to the reader to decide if it is Lord Ganesh or her own subconscious that is providing the solutions.
What projects are you working on now? Can you tell us about any upcoming books?
There are a couple of picture books I’m working on that focus on diversity and inclusivity. Contrary to what most people (non-writers!) believe, picture books are really hard to write. But there is a sense of satisfaction in distilling your narrative — with a beginning, middle, and end — into a 500-word picture book, while telling a simple story that kids understand, yet hinting at a universal truth that even adults can appreciate. Easy, right?
I’m in the early stages of researching a historical novel and that’s all I can say at the moment.
For more information about Mahtab’s work, visit www.mahtabnarsimhan.com.
Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction
As Canada’s sesquicentennial birthday looms and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s 40th Book Week is coming up next month, an email from Shannon Howe-Barnes got me thinking about which books tell the story of our nation.
There are the stories of explorers and conquerors — Vikings landing in what is now Newfoundland and Labrador, John Cabot’s discovery of what is believed to have been Cape Breton Island, and Jacques Cartier’s charting of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I haven’t encountered any teen books about Cabot and Cartier, but Skraelings by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley and The Dream Carvers by Joan Clark are enlightening early teen reads about encounters between the Vikings and Indigenous people.
I’ve always been drawn to the stories about pioneers and settlers — people coming to build a country from the ground up — facing the challenges of the wilderness and the loneliness of the vast landscape. This land we live on has the ability to crush us, but also to heal us, and themes of the challenges of the land itself keep running through Canadian literature, even in our modern world and dystopias. A couple of examples include Cut Off by Jamie Bastedo and Nowhere Wild by Joe Beerlink.
Then there are the stories about the immigrants and refugees of our country — people forced to come here by their countries of origin, others who dreamt of a better life. Some have found life in their own country untenable and had to leave to save themselves. While they are tales of hardship, they also read as adventure stories, highlighting the bravery of those who made the journey to start over, reluctantly or willingly. Torn Away by James Heneghan, A Bushel of Light by Troon Harrison, and When the War is Over by Martha Attema are from different time periods, but all feature different aspects of this journey.
Alternatively, there are also books about people emigrating from Canada back to their country of origin. Sometimes Canada has failed them, and sometimes their dreams and hopes for their own country outweigh their safety concerns. In either case, as seen in The Knife Sharpener’s Bell by Rhea Tregebov and Karma by Cathy Ostlere, Canada leaves an indelible mark on their characters.
Lately, though, my favourite books are the ones set before colonization, because they remind me that Canada’s story doesn’t actually begin with the Vikings or Cabot or Cartier, but with Indigenous peoples. In fact, despite what I previously believed, based on Shadow in Hawthorn Bay by Janet Lunn, Canada had not been a spiritless country until the pioneers and settlers came at all. Instead, those who did settle here were unaware of the stories that already inhabited the land. Morven and the Horse Clan by Luanne Armstrong and Daughter of Strangers by Marjory Gordon are good examples of this, as is The Country of Wolves by Neil Christopher and Ramon Perez.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list about Canadian books, and really only focuses on the different reasons why people are in Canada in the first place, what I love about our books is how they can be sorted in various ways. I am looking forward to seeing the book list for the CCBC’s Book Week, but I also know that I could make another list containing books that explore Canada’s triumphs and downfalls, or books about Canadians in other countries.
However you decide to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, I hope you will read a book that helps you understand our country’s origins as well.
Amy Mathers read and reviewed 365 YA books to raise money for the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award in 2014. Read about her journey at www.amysmarathonofbooks.ca.
Illustrator’s Studio: Kathryn Shoemaker
Kathryn E. Shoemaker is the illustrator of forty-one books for children, among them, No Pets Allowed and Clayman: The Golem of Prague, both written by Irene N. Watts. Her most recent book is the graphic novel, Seeking Refuge. She will tour Quebec for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week this May. She lives in Vancouver, BC.
How did you get started as an illustrator?
I grew up writing and drawing stories. This is in good measure thanks to my parents who filled my early life with stories, books, art, music and lots of paper and materials for making art, particularly lots of supplies for drawing which I have always loved to do. Also, they sent me to progressive preschools, kindergarten and special museum art classes that promoted and inspired my artistic development and love of learning.
When I finished university, I took a job in a very large school district designing learning materials, creating and running arts and language arts workshops for teachers, and working closely with the librarians in the district to create exciting library environments. In my work with language arts teachers, I was invited to help them develop a student author project. My task was to figure out illustration techniques that the students could use that would reproduce, in what would now seem primitive, the mimeograph and ditto machines. Our project was very successful. Students in our schools wrote and illustrated their own books. One of the teachers, Virginia Gaston, and I were approached to create a book on our project. That book, Listen to the Children, was my first published work of illustration.
As for the book’s style, I used one inspired by the children’s work, so it isn’t my style, but one based on the work of young authors and illustrators. The publisher was new to publishing so they let me do all kinds of things that most established firms would not. Happily, for me, I learned important things about how to illustrate. Today, you can simply google how to illustrate a book to find thousands of excellent resources. That was not the case when I did my first book. I had to teach myself.
In retrospect, one of the funniest things I did was to make a dummy of the book based on one Maurice Sendak shows in a film on his work. In it, he displays the tiny, long skinny dummy he made for his first version of Where the Wild Things Are. His dummy was for a picture book but I was creating one for a 110-page book for teachers on how children can write and illustrate their own books. So, I made a 110-page dummy and used it to create the flow of page designs and colour across all those pages, even though it wasn’t a picture book. Now what I find funny about the whole experience is that at the time I did not appreciate the difference between a 32-page narrative picture book and a 110-page information book. In the end that was fine, because I created a colourful book that evokes the styles and spirits of young authors and illustrators, and I made a rather highly refined 110-page dummy that has served me well over the years.
Through my university work, a few people saw my illustrations and offered me freelance work. Some of that work led to further illustration work. That was very fortunate.
So, there was some luck involved in my early illustration career, but there was also lots of hard work, personal initiative and the ambition to create beautiful books.
By the time I finished university I had likely drawn for well over ten thousand hours.
There is an often-cited statement that to become excellent at something it takes over ten thousand hours of work. If you spend that much time doing something, you are going to learn a good deal about the process, the materials, the tools, whatever the task involves.
Of course, to spend that much time doing something it helps to love doing the work. To this day, I still love drawing. People have asked me how I could do all the drawings in the graphic novel, Seeking Refuge, that I just did with Irene Watts. My answer is that I love to draw, so I was happy to be drawing all the time.
Can you tell us about your illustration style and how it came about? What is your illustration process like?
The question of style, that is where and how it is complicated. It develops over time and as the result of several kinds of activities. In my life, my early reading experiences shaped my ideas about what makes a beautiful image, painting, picture and illustration. I loved the illustrations in Beatrix Potter books, the work of Arthur Rackham in Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, the illustrations of Ruth Gannett in Miss Hickory, Garth Williams, Maurice Sendak, Nancy Ekholm Burkert, and Sara Midda. There are many other illustrators who inspire me. There is also a group of painters, principally Paul Klee and Ben Shahn. As well, writers and film makers have always influenced my illustration. That is because illustration is visual storytelling, so ultimately all kinds of storytelling influence me.
Those are the influences, but style comes from the chemistry of the influences and the chemistry of the materials and media one engages with. Throughout my life, I have loved working in pencil. My most recent illustration work in Seeking Refuge is rendered in pencil. The way the lead, different kinds of leads, mark on the paper shapes my pencil drawing style. Whereas working with a dip pen and black ink evokes an entirely different style, usually a lively whimsical style. I suspect the whimsy may come from the nature of this ink drawing method, which entails frequent accidents and blobs of ink that need to be handled quickly, actions that tend to bring a quirky humorous streak in me. I also love working with cut paper, cutting paper, making paper collages, making things out of old books and generally fooling around with paper. All those playful activities lead to new ways of working with materials, and those new ways involve changes in my style.
You’re touring Quebec for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week this May. What do you have planned for the schools you are visiting? What are you looking forward to the most?
From everything I’ve heard I’m going to a beautiful area. With spring hopefully bringing fresh new leaves and flowers it should be glorious. Most of my talks will be with students from K‒6 and some public talks for people of all ages. Everyone usually wants to learn how books are created, so I will use large drawing pads so that I can draw my talk and then give away the drawings. Also, I’ll talk a little bit about how I became an illustrator. For that portion of the talk I’ll show some drawings I did as a child, teen, art student and adult.
One thing that most people are surprised to learn about is the depth of research that illustrators must do to prepare for work. That is another portion of my talk for older members of the audience. My favourite topic is picture books and graphic novels, so I look forward to talking about them with the people I meet. I also love encouraging aspiring writers and illustrators.
Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how to incorporate your books into the curriculum? Do you have any activity suggestions or tips?
My most recent book, Seeking Refuge, belongs in studies of WWII but it is timely in terms of the world-wide crisis with refugees. The issue of refugees must be handled with extreme care, particularly if a class includes a refugee. In that case, a teacher needs to know the student’s story to make sure that discussions about fleeing one’s country won’t be too difficult or trigger terrifying memories. If there are no refugees, then Seeking Refuge offers opportunities to help students understand what it must be like to leave everything behind, such as language, culture, family, home, school and customs to come to an entirely new place with a new language, culture, home, school and customs. This book offers themes to discuss, such as what is it like to be considered an outsider, vermin? What is it like to have to learn everything again?
Another book I illustrated, Tiffany Stone’s Floyd and his Flock of Friends, will be fun for classrooms to read out loud and may inspire poetry writing and poetry drawing. I will talk about this book and how I created the illustrations using scratchboard. And I’ll describe the research for drawing all the animals in the book.
Do you have any advice for aspiring children’s book illustrators?
Draw, read, write and do all three of those things all the time. Read lots and lots of children’s books.
What projects are you working on now? Anything you are particularly excited about?
Finally, I will begin drawings for a graphic novel I wrote for my Master’s degree. It’s been waiting a long time. Some of it will be done as a traditional graphic novel but there will be sections that will be more like a picture book. It will be very different in style and content from Goodbye Marianne and Seeking Refuge. At the same time, I am working on sets of drawings and sets of papercuts and paper collages.
Visit Kathryn’s Book Week profile for more information about her work.
Canada’s independent booksellers share their recommendations for kids and teens. To find a local independent bookstore, visit findabookstore.ca.
• Type Books in Toronto, ON: A Horse Named Steve by Kelly Collier (Kids Can Press, 2017), Ages 4-8
“Steve is a fine horse,” begins Kelly Collier’s clever picture book. “But he thinks he could be finer. He wants to be EXCEPTIONAL.” When Steve finds a beautiful gold horn lying on the ground in the forest, he realizes he has found his path to the exceptional! He immediately ties the horn to the top of his head and prances off to show his friends. Not everyone is impressed, but most of his friends agree — Steve and his horn are indeed exceptional. In fact, many of his friends are so inspired, they decide to tie items to the tops of their heads as well. So when Steve discovers his horn has suddenly gone missing, he’s devastated and frantically searches everywhere to find it. He won’t be exceptional without his horn! Or will he?
Recommended by Serah-Marie McMahon, Children’s Buyer for Type Books
Type Books: 427 Spadina Rd. & 883 Queen St. W., Toronto, ON www.typebooks.ca
• Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS: Under the Umbrella written by Catherine Buquet, illustrated by Marion Arbona (Pajama Press, 2017), Ages 4-8
In lilting, buoyant rhyming couplets, this beautiful collaboration tells the story of an angry, impatient man who strides through the storm-soaked city streets clutching his umbrella while a little boy peers rapturously into a bakery window, entranced by the sumptuous treats therein and oblivious to the wind and rain and cloudy skies. When the umbrella flies from the man’s hands and brings him face to face with the boy, readers will witness the heartwarming transformation that ensues; how a gray and dismal day becomes transformed by a chance encounter and a new friendship. A joy to read aloud and featuring exquisite, delightfully stylized illustrations that perfectly complement the text, this is a heartfelt book with a timeless message.
—Lisa Doucet, Co-manager
Woozles Children’s Bookstore: 1533 Birmingham St., Halifax, NS B3J 2J1 www.woozles.com