News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
April Reading List: Let’s Sing for Spring!
Author Corner: Selina Alko
Illustrator’s Studio: Sophie Casson
News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Download Free Activities for Moira’s Birthday
This year’s TD Grade One Book Giveaway title is Moira’s Birthday by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko. Head to our website for free activities to download and share with young ones!
The Joan Betty Stuchner — Oy Vey! — Funniest Children’s Book Award committee has a very serious announcement to make: the jury has finally stopped laughing long enough to tell us which books they have chosen for our shortlist! Many funny books were entered for consideration, but these are the ones that had our jury the most buckled over with guffaws, incapacitated with giggles, and/or rib-ticklingly, side-splittingly, thigh-slappingly entertained.
“Budge has been a pioneer – paving the way for the vibrant Canadian children’s book industry we have today. Budge helped put Canadian children’s writing on the world stage – contributing 34 titles with 30 foreign editions in 15 languages.” —Carol Macdougal, author and early literacy advocate
In March, we were saddened to learn of the loss of prolific writer Budge Wilson. Learn more about Budge, her life and her books here.
Canadian Children’s Book Week: Readers Take Flight/Tournée Lire à tout vent
Canadian Children’s Book Week is almost here! Download our free posters to decorate your classroom or library with!
Established in 1977, this year’s national tour will take place from May 2-8, 2021. See the list of touring creators here.
The shortlists of the prestigious CILIP Kate Greenaway Medals, one of the UK’s oldest and best-loved book award for children and young people, was announced today for 2021. Small in the City, written and illustrated by Canadian Sydney Smith, was one of the shortlisted titles. Learn more here.
IODE Jean Throop Book Award
At the recent meeting of the IODE Jean Throop Book Award Selection Committee, 5 titles were selected for the short list for the award for 2021 (books published in 2020 by a Canadian author living in Ontario). These books met the criteria for the award.
The winning book will be announced at the IODE Ontario 101st Provincial Annual Meeting to be held via Zoom on 24 April 2021. The publisher, author and illustrator will be notified of the award in advance and will be invited to attend the annual meeting to accept their award. Learn more here.
The Rick Hansen Foundation School Program (RHFSP) is inspired by Rick’s belief in the power of youth and their ability to change the world. RHFSP raises awareness, challenges perceptions, and changes attitudes, through a variety of lessons and activities, empowering youth to take action on important issues.
RHFSP resources are designed for youth from K-12 and include age-appropriate lessons and interactive activities for every grade level. Free, bilingual, and connected to provincial curriculum, our resources are:
- Deliverable online or in the classroom
- Developed by educators, for educators
- Grounded in Universal Design for Learning and incorporate Differentiated Instruction Strategies
Library and Archives Canada Scholar Awards
The Library and Archives Canada Scholar Awards, co-presented by the LAC Foundation and Library and Archives Canada, with the generous support of Founding Sponsor Air Canada, recognize the outstanding contribution of Canadians who have dedicated their lives to the creation and promotion of our country’s cultural, literary and historical heritage.The 2020 recipients are Margaret Atwood, Rich Carrier, Charlotte Gray, Serge Joyal and Terry O’Reilly. Learn more here.
With everyone across the country separated from their friends and families, we are all searching for ways to connect with one another. Support the CCBC and send your loved ones a greeting featuring art from past Canadian Children’s Book Week posters. Perfect for stocking stuffers, these greeting cards feature original art by illustrators Barbara Reid, Julie Flett, Ian Wallace, Wallace Edwards, Bill Slavin, Elly MacKay, Gabrielle Grimard and Eugenie Fernandes. All purchases from these packs of eight cards go towards programs like Canadian Children’s Book Week, the CCBC Book Awards and Bibliovideo
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Links We Love
Articles and videos of interest to educators and parents.
April Reading List: Sing for Spring
This month’s reading list is all about music, featuring Canadian books for young people of all ages. You’ll even find books you can sing along to!
Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin
In this beautifully written picture book, Hana Hashimoto has signed up to play her violin at her school’s talent show. The trouble is, she’s a beginner, and she’s had only three lessons. Her brothers insist she isn’t good enough. But Hana practises every day and once it’s her turn to perform she surprises everyone — even herself!
Hey Little Rockabye: A Lullaby for Pet Adoption
In this picture book, a young girl yearns to adopt a puppy from a shelter. Can she convince her parents? Buffy Sainte-Marie advocates “putting the songs to work” and in this story/song she conveys an important message about finding love and acceptance.
The Log Driver’s Waltz
Based on the perennially popular Canadian folk song and animated short film of the same name, The Log Driver’s Waltz showcases a spunky, independent young woman whose parents are keen for her to marry. The town’s well-to-do doctors, merchants, and lawyers try to impress her, but it’s the humble log driver—with his style, grace, and joie de vivre—who captures her attention. When she and the log driver finally meet on the dance floor, their joy leaps off the page.
Mr. Mergler, Beethoven, and Me
Written by David Gutnick
Illustrated by Mathilde Cinq-Mars
Second Story Press, 2018
IL: Ages 6-9 RL: Grades 2-3Not long after arriving in Canada from China, a young girl and her father meet Mr. Mergler, who has been teaching piano for over 50 years. Mr. Mergler hears music in a special way and, when he hears the girl sing, offers to give her music lessons — a beautiful gift that will tie them together forever.Wholesalers
Oscar Lives Next Door: A Story Inspired by Oscar Peterson’s Childhood
Inspired by the real-life childhood of Oscar Peterson, this is a story of a boy forced to give up the instrument he loves — and who finds his way back to a lifelong passion for music. In this fictional account, Oscar’s friend Millie encourages him to play piano after tuberculosis robs him of his ability to play trumpet. This title is also available in French as Mon voisin Oscar: Une histoire inspirée de l’enfance d’Oscar Peterson.
Sharon, Lois and Bram’s Skinnamarink
Based on the song made famous by a beloved trio of children’s entertainers, this picture book is best sung aloud! What does “skinnamarink” mean? You won’t find its definition in a dictionary, but the meaning is clear to the generations of children who sang along: friendship, happiness, sharing and community. “Skinnamarink” is a timeless anthem of love and inclusion.
Junior & Intermediate Fiction
It’s 2002. Shirli Berman is performing in her school’s production of Fiddler on the Roof. Rummaging in her grandfather’s attic for props, she discovers an old violin — strange, since her Zayde never seemed to like music. Showing it to her grandfather doesn’t end well. When a painful family secret spills out, Shirli learns the true power of music, both terrible and wonderful.
When Nat, Jess and Harper sing together, their harmonies bring down the house. For Nat, the experience sparks a new desire to perform. But when the girls form a trio and enter a contest for a chance to play at the Tall Grass Music Festival, Nat discovers harmony — musical and otherwise — is hard to maintain.
Charlie is trying to find her perfect song for a music class assignment. But she’s having difficulty concentrating — she can’t stop noticing Emile, or wondering about Luka. Then, her music teacher plays a recording of opera diva Maria Callas. Charlie is entranced and learns about Maria’s musical life. Can Charlie follow the opera diva’s example when it comes to her own life?
Rock the Boat
Webb believes that if you want to reach your dreams, you have to live life loud and have no regrets. But when a shady music producer steals one of his songs, Webb learns how hard it is for a kid alone in Nashville to get justice. With the help of an unlikely ally, Webb finds that he has what it takes to succeed: talent, determination and good friends.
Young Adult Fiction
Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined
Once Ingrid travelled the world with her opera-star mother and everything soared with music. But when the curtain fell, Ingrid longed to hear the music soar again. Now she’s on a summer wilderness survival trek for at-risk teens. Ingrid is never going to make it through the summer if she can’t figure out why she’s here… and why the music really stopped.
How Far We Go and How Fast
Coming from a long line of musical low-lifes, 16-year-old Jolene and her big brother, Matt, are true musicians. Writing songs together makes Jo’s life bearable. When Matt disappears one night, Jo loses her only friend and the one person who made her feel cool. As it becomes clear that Matt is never coming back, Jo must use music to navigate her loss.
In the Key of Nira Ghani
Nira Ghani dreams of becoming a musician. Her immigrant Guyanese parents want her to become a scientist or doctor. Only her best friend and grandmother understand her. Nira must navigate changes in her relationships with family and friends and a potential new love. Can Nira find a balance between ‘old world’ expectations and the pursuit of her own dreams?
New Orleans, 1906. Sterling shines shoes, helping support his laundress mother. Sterling also plays the trumpet, and what he really wants is to learn from his idol, Buddy Bolden, who is playing music that’s turning New Orleans upside down. Sterling’s life is hard, but he finds his way in this richly textured story of a culture that thrives against all odds.
Recipe for Hate
In the 1970s, the X Gang was a group of teenaged punk musicians led by the mysterious Christopher X. This book, based on true events, tells the story of the X Gang’s punk lives including the gigs, the antiracist rallies, the fanzines, the poetry and the art. When two of their friends were brutally murdered, X and fellow punk rockers were thrust into conflict with a rising neo-Nazi presence.
Save Me, Kurt Cobain
Nico Cavan has been adrift since her mother vanished when she was four. When she finds a box of her mother’s old CDs, it plants an idea in her brain that won’t let go. What if Kurt Cobain is still alive and really her father? Nico embarks on a journey of discovery — taking chances and making risky decisions in order to learn the truth about her mother… and herself.
Give Me Wings: How a Choir of Former Slaves Took on the World
Written by Kathy Lowinger
Annick Press, 2015
IL: Ages 11-14 RL: Grades 6-7Ella Sheppard was born a slave in 1851, but her family bought their freedom and moved to Ohio where slavery was illegal. When her school ran out of money, Ella turned to music, becoming a founding member of the Jubilee Singers, a travelling choir that followed the route of the Underground Railroad, breaking down barriers between blacks and whites, lifting spirits and helping influence modern American music.Wholesalers
Learn to Speak Music
For something so familiar, music remains mysterious to many of us, to the point where our favorite musicians are more like magicians than everyday people. But the truth is, the world of music-making is closer to all of us than ever before. Sometimes all that separates us from realizing the potential of our own musical creativity is a little extra know-how. Learn to Speak Music helps kids learn the simplicity of this universal language by exposing every nook and cranny of how music is made — whether by the pros or by you! And it’s about more than just picking up an instrument. From songwriting and artwork to shooting a video and setting up a practice space, every aspect of the world of popular music is explored.
Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music That Changed the World
The authors of this book pay tribute to 27 extraordinary artists whose innovations changed music for generations to come. Read about Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Bob Marley, Louis Armstrong, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Patsy Cline, Aretha Franklin and many more. Discover the challenges these artists faced, the musical influences that shaped them and how their music inspired other artists, touched listeners and shone a light on social injustice. Includes two CDs.
Powwow: A Celebration Through Song and Dance
This book is a celebration of Indigenous song and dance. Explore the history of powwow culture, from its origins to the thriving powwow of today. As a lifelong competitive powwow dancer, Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane guides readers through the protocols, regalia, songs and dances at powwows from coast to coast, as well as the important role they play in Indigenous culture and reconciliation.
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Author’s Corner: Selina Alko
It is no wonder that award-winning writer-illustrator Selina Alko now spends her days melding words and mixed-media art to convey stories of hope and inspiration—as well as an alternative viewpoint. Growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia, with a Turkish father who spoke seven languages and taught painting and a mother who worked in the family’s century-old metal recycling business, she was surrounded by the melody of words and stories from different places. Selina’s books include The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage, Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama, and Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell, which was selected a 2020 best book for kids & teens by the Canadian Children’s Book Center. Selina lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her multiracial family. www.selinaalko.com
First, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get your start as an author and illustrator?
Originally I’m from Vancouver, Canada, and art school brought me to NYC many decades ago. Upon graduation, I did a bunch of freelance illustration work, including mural painting and celebrity portraits, before landing my first illustrated book contract, My Subway Ride. I was delighted when the book got into the Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators. Having art from that book featured at the prestigious Museum got the attention of my first agent who, in turn, encouraged me to write and illustrate my own stories.
We love Joni: the Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell! What inspired you to tell this story of this inspiring musician?
Joni Mitchell’s music was formative to my childhood summers spent at a progressive summer camp on an island in British Columbia. A few years ago I read Girls Like Us, about Carole King, Carly Simon, and Joni Mitchell. It brought back those folk music listening years. As it happens, Joni had the most interesting childhood; she overcame polio and left her small town in Canada to pursue art–– Of the three women, I found the most things to relate to in Joni’s life’s journey, so that’s why I chose her story to tell young readers. Joni Mitchell is an inspiring heroine to know about!
When working on Joni, how did her music impact your illustrations?
It was everything! For years – before even beginning the book dummy – I listened to her songs on repeat while keeping a mixed-media sketchbook. The sketchbook was like a journal of sorts–– something just for me, a way to immerse myself in her sounds, her words, and her art. With paint and collage and colored pencils, I intuitively responded to her metaphors… the beauty, pain, and sorrow in her lyrics.
How did your parents and their backgrounds influence your art and your choice to be a creator?
My larger-than-life father was an immigrant from Istanbul, Turkey who taught me to paint and encouraged me to follow my dreams. I had a very colorful childhood and making art was always my outlet. Both my parents were supportive of my decision to leave Canada to go to art school in New York. I think I was following my father’s lead, in a way, making my mark in a brand new country.
What projects are you working on now? Can you tell us about any upcoming books?
I have a book coming out in June called I is for IMMIGRANTS. I am very excited about this alphabetic journey celebrating the things that make up the fabric of our multicultural society–– from bodegas and community centers to guacamole and Turkish delight.
Find out more about Selina on her website, selinaalko.com.
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Sophie Casson is an award-winning illustrator based in Montréal. In 2011, she was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award and has earned numerous distinctions in Canada, England, and the United States. Her illustrations have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Financial Times and The Globe and Mail and exhibits at World Design Capital events in Taipei and Paris, and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
First, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get your start as an illustrator?
In university, where I studied graphic design and specialised in illustration, I was awarded a student prize at the Society of Publication Designers. This gave me a really positive nudge to pursue illustration. I sent out hand made promotional pieces, made cold-calls and showed my portfolio around – yes, that was a long time ago! I started to create editorial illustrations for magazines in North America. My very first gig was with an American fitness magazine for an article about balancing life as a working mom. I started to work within the Quebec children’s book publishing industry a few years later.
What was it like working on Sing Out!? How was your art influenced by Sin and Swoon’s own interpretation of these classic songs?
When I met Roland Stringer, The Secret Mountain’s publisher, he told me he wanted these classic folk songs to have a contemporary twist. The texts are so crazy, it made sense to go in the surreal direction: I had to draw a weasel doing “pop!” or a “knick-nack paddywhack!” So it was great to try to invent all these stories and situations that would make some sort of sense in the narrative, I was free to interpret these songs as I pleased. It was great that The Secret Mountain went along with my vision.
I started the creative process with classic interpretations of the folk songs and only got Sin and Swoons versions later. I was able to verify and adapt the rhythm of the stories to the structure of the songs as they sang them: so if there’s a longer instrumental section, for instance, then there might be a page without words you can look at longer. I hummed these folk songs for months as I was working on the illustrations, and because Sin and Swoon’s renditions were so refreshing and humorous, I didn’t tire of replaying them.
How has your art style and process evolved over time?
In the first half of my career, my drawings were very loose and naive. I was using gouache and pencil. About ten years ago I realized this approach was not optimal for what I was wanting to express. I was so inspired by a silkscreen workshop that I took that I recreated my whole portfolio in the style I still work with now. My art is a mix of hand drawn pictures colored in Photoshop. I sent it out to clients in the editorial world and it worked out really well! I enjoy creating images with strong compositions and evocative concepts. The first book I drew in this style ended up being a Governor General prize finalist. The year The Secret Mountain asked me to illustrate Sing Out! was special: I was working on another book at the same time, so suddenly I was only working on children’s books and realized I didn’t want that to change. I feel youth literature is a space with more time and freedom to create than other illustration industries. Sing Out! has a special place in my collection of books because I am very comfortable working on sensitive subjects like mourning or bullying, which you can see in other books I’ve illustrated. So inventing weasels, monkeys, the ol’ man and girls with pink hair was a great playground. It gave me the opportunity to use a lot of humor, which I enjoy very much as well.
What advice do you have to aspiring creators?
Explore drawing techniques before you go professional, it’s the only way to find a truly authentic voice. I feel this is crucial, because it allows you to grow your craft as it accompanies you every day.
What projects are you working on now? Can you tell us about any upcoming books?
I’m very excited to have begun creating my own stories! I am working on the illustrations and exploring narrative possibilities. Next year, Owlkids Books will be publishing a documentary book I illustrated on children’s life experiences from around the world. It was a wonderful opportunity to explore children’s portraits and real-life situations. It was especially interesting to be working on this project at a time when social injustices are at the forefront of news coverage.
Canada’s independent booksellers share their recommendations for kids and teens. To find a local independent bookstore, visit findabookstore.ca.
Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS:
When Corbin acquires a pet parakeet named Sitta from a classmate it is a definite bright spot in his oftentimes grim life. His mother’s bipolar disorder makes life extremely challenging for both of them, but especially for Corbin who is always holding his breath, waiting for her to lose another job, for them to be evicted yet again, for her next terrifying downward spiral. He has learned to cope by not letting himself get too close to anyone. But in his latest new home and school, along with Sitta, he starts to make several unlikely friends and to discover that just maybe there is room for hope after all. Sherrard has created a highly likeable and believable character in Corbin who is witty and resourceful and heartbreakingly vulnerable. She also handles his mother’s mental illness and the toll it takes on him with tremendous sensitivity and compassion. Corbin’s wide range of emotions are realistic, including his secret fear that maybe he has inherited her sickness. While Sitta doesn’t end up magically fixing Corbin’s life, the author provides a satisfyingly hopeful ending nonetheless and a story that will touch hearts and leave much room for thought.
—Lisa Doucet, Co-manager
Woozles Children’s Bookstore: 1533 Birmingham St., Halifax, NS B3J 2J1 www.woozles.com
The Secret Fawn, written by Kallie George and illustrated by Elly MacKay (Tundra Books, 2021) Ages 3-7
Kallie George’s newest picture book invites you to discover the wonder and beauty of nature through the eyes of one little girl, looking for the deer her family saw, but finding instead her own very special friend!
Being little can be hard: you don’t get to see shooting stars because you go to bed early and you can’t pick the first apple because you’re too short. And now Mama, Dad and Sara just saw a deer (!) and this little girl is determined to see it too. Out she goes, with a sugar cube in her pocket and the whish!, splash! and crick-crack! of nature’s creatures leading her on to new discoveries.
Elly MacKay’s vibrant and luminous illustrations at first echo the frustration of the little girl, who feels she’s missing out on so much because she’s so little, but soon softly enhance the golden and quiet beauty of the outdoors where the little girl listens intently to the many sounds popping up around her. It’s no secret: this heartwarming story is bound to become a family favorite!
— Marie-Josée Sauvageau, Manager
La Maison Anglaise bookstore : 164-2600 boul. Laurier, Québec, QC, G1V4T3 www.lamaisonanglaise.com
If your independent bookstore would like to participate in this feature, please contact us.
Canadian librarians share their recommendations for kids and teens.
In this exquisite picture book, the youngest child in a family delights in a special sight that is for her eyes only. Being too young to stay up late to experience the beauty of the shooting stars, and too short to reach apples hanging high in the trees, the little girl is used to feeling left out. When she misses a happenchance backyard visit by a deer, she slips a sugar cube in her pocket and goes outside on a quest. Elly MacKay’s sun-dappled, diaphanous diorama scenes invite close inspection. The girl, who is “Quiet as a whisper”, is afforded a personal connection with a baby deer who is nestled in the bushes. The gentle, warm text effortlessly conveys relatable emotions. The Secret Fawn is full of lovely moments to appreciate.
—Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library
If you are a librarian that would like to participate in this feature, please contact us.
Staff of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre recommend their favourite books for kids and teens.
Regina Bibeau doesn’t know why her brother Riley won’t stop crying. Riley is four and all day and night he cries and even he doesn’t know what’s wrong. With help from Regina, they discover the reason: Riley isn’t happy being Riley. With their dad, the little family goes on a quest together to make Riley happy again by shopping for new clothes, trading toys, getting hair cuts and painting their bedrooms. With these little ways to take care of their hearts, both Regina and Riley celebrate being themselves and soon Riley is no longer crying all of the time.
I love this story about self-love, authenticity and family. This poignant and compassionate story is told from the perspective of young Regina, and her honest voice is perfectly matched with the vivid illustrations that beautifully render a child’s imagination. A celebration of finding ways to love yourself and live authentically, I love the story’s overall message and how it takes its young readers seriously. Originally published in French as Anatole qui ne séchait jamais, in 2019 Anatole won the Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse.
— Emma Hunter, CCBC Marketing & Communications Coordinator
When Dennis Scherer’s grandson was diagnosed with leukemia, Scherer decided to take the stories that he would make up for his grandchildren and turn them into a series of books that could raise money to fight childhood cancer and support kids who are sick. For Cancer Awareness Month, I’d like to highlight this advanced picture book whose proceeds go entirely to the fundraiser Yellow Moon Mouse Children’s Campaign.
This is the tale of two brothers who want to explore the abandoned house at the end of their street when they hear rumours of its shadowy ghost and a candle that floats around on its own. Instead of discouraging their curiosity, their mother becomes a part of the adventure as they set out together to find out what lies within the abandoned house. Kids can easily relate to both being frightened of the unknown and excited to discover the truth.
My four and six year old were thoroughly engaged in this story. It was just spooky enough for them to pull their blankets up tight but it also included humourous moments that made them laugh aloud. Illustrations are by Robin Baird Lewis of Red is Best fame and subsequent reads allow for more observant readers to find hints that Lewis has created within the illustrations as to the outcome of the story. The length of the text could have easily lent itself to a beginner chapter book; however, the large text and images also make this a great story for older reluctant readers. Order details are available on the Yellow Moon Mouse Children’s Campaign Facebook page and through many independent booksellers.
— Amanda Halfpenny, CCBC Events & Program Coordinator