April 2023

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
Accessibility Column
Author’s Corner: Ausma Zehanat Khan
April Reading List: Interfaith Children’s Books
Experts’ Picks

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends

Canadian Children’s Book Week is Starting This Month!

Canadian Children’s Book Week is the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children’s books and the importance of reading—and it’s starting this month! It will take place as a hybrid event from April 30 to May 6. This year’s theme is “Read Together, Grow Together.” Of our 32 Book Week tour participants, 10 will be touring exclusively in person in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, and the Northwest Territories. Through talks and workshops, authors, illustrators, and storytellers will visit with youth in schools and libraries to share and inspire a love of reading and stories. See the complete list of everyone touring here.

Learn more about Canadian Children’s Book Week at bookweek.ca.

This year’s poster features artwork by Jeni Chen and can be downloaded for free! 

Check Out the CCBC’s Silent Auction From April 20–27!

From April 20 to April 27, the CCBC will be hosting a virtual silent auction! Prizes will include author visits, tickets to performing arts events, Canadian books for young people (of course!), art, and much more. Take a chance and win some fantastic items, while supporting the CCBC at the same time. Treat yourself to something nice, you deserve it!

Learn more.

Purchase One-Of-A-Kind Art to Support the CCBC!
From A Sky-Blue Bench. Illustration © Peggy Collins

If you haven’t discovered the talent on display in our Picture Book Gallery, now is the perfect time! It features Canadian illustrators (many award-winning) who sell prints and original art to support the CCBC’s annual Canadian Children’s Book Week program. Illustrators donate 60 percent of the value of their art sold in support of the CCBC. All funds raised contribute to connecting authors, illustrators, and storytellers with young audiences across Canada.

Visit the gallery here!

Become of Member of Our Board of Directors

To all members: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Annual General Meeting is taking place on Thursday, June 8, 2023 this year and it will be virtual. In accordance with Section 3.04(b) of our bylaws please accept this notice as a formal call for the nomination of directors. The members will elect new director(s) to the board to fill three vacancies at the Annual General Meeting. We welcome nominations from the general membership.

Learn more.

Order the Winter Issue of Book News!

The Winter 2022/2023 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News looks at “tough topics.” Author Lana Button shares highlights of her writing career and how her work as an early childhood educator lead her to write books for children that deal with difficult subjects. Book expert and secondary school teacher Spencer Miller has written an enlightening article on using books to teach empathy to young readers. Krista Jorgensen speaks with Dr. Jillian Roberts, child psychologist and children’s author, about using books as therapy and how she tackles tough topics and transforms them into age-appropriate books for young readers to help them process their feelings. Our Bookmark! column offers excellent book recommendations for children and teen readers that address difficult subjects in age-appropriate ways. As always, we have reviews of over 40 new Canadian books for you to enjoy!

Buy the issue here!

Alcuin Society Book Design Award Winners Announced

On Saturday, March 18, 2023, the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada were announced. This year’s judges, Crispin Elsted, Natalie Olsen, and Jessica Sullivan, selected 35 winning titles from 187 submissions, from 8 provinces, 1 territory and 74 publishers. This year’s book design winners in the children’s category are:

First prize (tie): JOHN MARTZ, designer of Thingamabob by Marianna Coppo; illustrated by Marianna Coppo (Tundra Books);

First prize (tie): BEE WAELAND, designer of Three Bears and Goldilocks by Bee Waeland; illustrated by Bee Waeland (Orca Book Publishers);

Second Prize (tie): JOHN MARTZ, designer of Babble! And How Punctuation Saved It by Caroline Adderson; illustrated by Roman Muradov (Tundra Books);

Second Prize (tie): ALISA BALDWIN, designer of One Tiny Bubble by Karen Krossing; illustrated by Dawn Lo (Owlkids Books);

Third Prize (tie): JOHN MARTZ, designer of Crocodile Hungry by Eija Sumner; illustrated by John Martz (Tundra Books);

Third Prize (tie): JOHN MARTZ, designer of Water, Water by Cary Fagan; illustrated by Jon McNaught (Tundra Books);

Honourable Mention: BERGER STUDIO, designers of Il était une fois un mot by Nicolas Lauzon & Marito Denis; illustrated by Berger Studio (Les éditions du passage);

Honourable Mention: SOPHIE PAAS-LANG, designer of Star: The Bird Who Inspired Mozart by Mireille Messier; illustrated by Matte Stephens (Tundra Books).

Learn more.

Right to Read: Accessible Books for Everyone

Living My Best Reading Life

By Kel Banks, Accessible Document Quality Assessor for the Government of Alberta’s Public Library Services Branch.

Excerpted from the video: Webinar: Accessible Books in the Classroom & Library available on Bibliovideo.

I was born blind, and for as long as I can remember, I have had an insatiable love of literature. When I was a child, my access to books was severely limited. Libraries were not accessible to me, nor were they welcoming spaces. My parents would buy me a few books a year. Braille and audiobooks were very expensive. The CNIB library would send me an accessible book that they had selected once a month. I could not develop my own taste in books because I could only read whatever books others had selected for me.

In my teens, a whole new world opened up for me. I got my first computer with assistive technology. I was able to access the CNIB library’s online catalogue. I could independently browse through the collection. I was able to explore new genres and develop my taste in books. Now with CELA, NNELS, Libby and Bookshare, and the boom in commercial audiobook production, I am overwhelmed with my mountain of books to read and I am absolutely living my best reading life.

Children with print disabilities should feel welcome in libraries. They should be able to choose their own books to read. They should be able to read the same books as their peers. I applaud libraries for working hard towards becoming much more welcoming and accessible spaces for children with print disabilities so that they can all grow up to be insatiable readers, too.

Watch Kel share more of their story and their recent audiobook review.

Links We Love

Articles of interest to educators and parents

Dena Seiferling wins 2022 Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award for Night Lunch

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield launches national collection of kids’ pandemic-time stories in Scarborough (Toronto.com)

La courte échelle wins 2023 Bologna Prize (Quill & Quire)

Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation launches Lost & Found: Pandemic Stories of Discovery by Kids in Canada, an online public gallery (Edmonton Journal)

Bologna Children’s Book Fair Winners for Italian Excellence, Illustrations for Italo Calvino (BCBF)

Local author Lieberman to launch sixth young adult novel (Kingstonist)

Books for kids: 27 titles for every type of young reader (The Globe and Mail)

Okotoks artist illustrates Indigenous children’s books (Okotos Today)

Smile So Big (Book Review, Quill & Quire)

Author’s Corner

Ausma Zehanat Khan holds a Ph.D. in international human rights law with a specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. Blackwater Falls, her new crime novel on racial justice and policing, was published in November 2022 to rave reviews from the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Times Literary Supplement, the Christian Science Monitor, and many others. Blackwater Falls is also an Apple Books, CBC, Globe and Mail, CrimeReads and Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2022 pick. A British-born Canadian and former adjunct law professor, Khan now lives in Colorado with her husband. 

For more information about Ausma and her work, visit ausmazehanatkhan.com.

Where did you draw inspiration from for your middle-grade book, Ramadan: The Holy Month of Fasting?

From my own life experience. My first attempt at observing the holy month of Ramadan was when I was a nine-year-old growing up in Saskatchewan. The summers were long and hot and dry, and fasting was a real challenge.

As I grew older, I was able to participate fully, but each attempt where I didn’t quite succeed was a joyful learning experience.

For me, Ramadan means family and community, so many of my happiest memories are tied up in Ramadan.

As a Muslim woman creator, do you feel there is more representation and inclusion of voices like yours now compared to when you first started out?

Yes, there definitely is. When I was growing up, there were no books for Muslim children like me. Even when I published my first book in 2015, there were only a handful of self-published authors telling stories about Ramadan.

Now there are so many wonderful titles to choose from just on the subject of the holy month. And for the first time ever, there’s also a beautiful anthology called Once Upon an Eid, that celebrates the festival at the end of Ramadan. It’s a wonderful collection of stories by Muslim authors.

How can children’s publishing do better when it comes to diversity?

I think there has been a lot of forward momentum in publishing, and that’s wonderful to see. On the writing side, we’re blessed with a huge pool of talented writers, but it would be so helpful to have more Muslim agents and editors who can recognize excellence in representation and push harder for those books to be published and marketed well. The other aspect we need to pay attention to is recognizing and uplifting more Black and Indigenous Muslim writers, as not all Muslim writers come from Arab or South Asian communities. And because a lot of children’s books use stock photos, we also need to build a database of photographs that reflect the incredible ethnic, racial and religious diversity of Muslim communities.

April Reading List: Interfaith Children’s Books

Our April newsletter features an interfaith booklist that highlights the different religious holidays and festivals happening in our communities this season. As a multicultural country, Canada is home to many faiths and cultures. Get young readers excited about reading interfaith books with this curated list—great for parents, librarians, and teachers to use.

Picture Books

Crescent Moon Friends
Written by Wadia Samadi and Mo Duffy Cobb
Illustrated by Lisa Lypowy
Acorn Press, 2022
ISBN 978-1-7736-6096-7
IL: Ages 4-8 and RL: Grades P-3

This story book features two young girls, both from different countries. Amelia is Canadian, and Aisha is Afghan: both of them have different traditions that they share with each other throughout the story. As a teaching tool, this book is a great way to show young readers the importance of religion, culture, and dialogue. With an emphasis on Islam, both Muslim and non-Muslim readers will have a chance to engage in important conversations about faith.


I Love Matzah
Written by Freidele G.S Biniashvili
Illustrated by Angelika Scudamore
Lerner Publishing Group, 2020
ISBN 978-1-5415-5727-7
IL: Ages 1-4 RL: Kindergarten-Grade 1

How many times a day and how many ways can one eat matzah, the quintessential Passover cracker? Friedele G.S Biniashvili and Angelika Scudamore introduce the cracker eaten during Passover with cutesy rhymes and vibrant illustrations. The story features a Jewsih toddler enjoying the Matzah bread throughout the holiday—in different ways and at different times!


If You Met the Easter Bunny
Written and illustrated by Holly Hatam
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2023
ISBN 978-0-593-37501-3
IL: Ages 0-3 and RL: Kindergarten-Grade 1

In this picture book, children have the chance to meet a symbolic icon: the Easter Bunny! Surrounded with glittery eggs and fun illustrations, the Easter Bunny will show your little reader his fun collection of bow-ties, and teach them how to dye eggs—along with other fun preparatory activities for the holiday. With Easter just around the corner, children will enjoy the sensory nature of this book, and learn different ways people celebrate Easter.


Sangeet and the Missing Beat
Written and Illustrated by Kiranjot Kaur
Rebel Mountain Press, 2022
ISBN 978-1-9899-9605-8
IL: Ages 4-10 RL: Grades 2-3

Author Kiranjot Kaur celebrates her artistic influences in this joyful book, including her Panjabi, Sikh, and Canadian heritages. Sangeet loves music, and she’s good at composing it, too. Her favourite instrument is the tabla. One day, Sangeet hears all kinds of noises everywhere and together, they have the most incredible beat. But when she tries to play it on her tabla—something is missing! Will Sangeet find her Missing Beat?


Junior & Intermediate Fiction

Miriam’s Secret
Written by Debby Waldman
Orca Book Publishers, 2017
ISBN 978-1-4598-1425-7
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 4-5

Set in the 1930s, 11-year-old Miriam becomes good friends with Cissy, a young girl hiding in Miriam’s grandparents’ barn. On the run from an abusive uncle, Cissy finds solace in Miriam, and vice versa. Miriam teaches Cissy about the festivals of Purim and Passover, and learns a lesson herself in relation to these holidays.


No Vacancy
Written by Tziporah Cohen
Groundwood Books, 2020
ISBN:  978-1-77306-849-7
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 4-5

Eleven-year-old Miriam Brockman is a Jewish girl who moves into a run-down Inn in New York with her family: something she never imagined. However, she meets a young Catholic girl named Kate next door, and together, the pair come up with some interesting ideas to spruce up the motel. After all, it’s failing, and Miriam and Kate must work hard to change the “No Vacancy” sign. This middle-grade book is great for comparing and contrasting different perspectives and point-of-views.


Once Upon an Eid
Edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed
Illustrated by Sara Alfageeh
Amulet Books, 2020
ISBN 978-1-4197-5403-6
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 4-5

In this collection of Eid stories, Muslim authors highlight some of the ways they celebrate the holy day with their loved ones. From stories about food to fasting in Ramadan before feasting on Eid, the book is a unique look at the ways these holidays are observed by the Islamic community. Personal experiences, fictional stories and graphic comics are just some of the ways this anthology uplifts Muslim voices.


Young Adult Fiction

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali
Written by Sabina Khan
Scholastic Inc., 2019
ISBN  978-1-338-58215-4
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 9-10

This is a story about a 17-year-old girl facing the demands of various cultures and traditions. Bangladeshi, Muslim, and queerness intersect for Rukhsana Ali: a combination that causes issues when it comes to her self-identity and familial loyalty. When her parents take Rukhsana to Bangladesh, she must reflect on her place in the world, and fight for it as well. 


Love from Mecca to Medina
Written by S.K Ali 
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022
ISBN 978-1-6659-3415-2
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 9-10

The sequel to Love from A to Z, S.K Ali is back with another romantic adventure for Adam and Zayneb. After some time in long-distance, Adam and Zeyneb both find themselves on a trip to complete Umrah. While Adam is eager to use the opportunity to pray for his and Zaynab’s relationship, Zayneb struggles with her spirituality. With Muslim characters, and a representation of Umrah, this story provides a unique insight into the pilgrimage many Muslims complete throughout the year.


Shifting Sands: Life in the Times of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad
Written by Kathy Lowinger
Annick Press, 2014
ISBN 978-1-5545-1617-9
IL: Ages 12-18 RL: Grades 7-8

Kathy Lowinger artfully crafts the story of three young adults who are introduced to the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. At different time periods, there is oppression and upheaval in the lives of these young characters, and they are faced with making difficult decisions: should they stay firm in their faith, or succumb to slavery? Should they take a chance on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth? Should they follow Muhammad (PBUH) despite being an outcast? This historical reimagining takes readers through a significant period in time and uses hard facts to show the cultures and religions that blossomed in the era.



Passover Family
Written by Monique Polak
Orca Book Publishers, 2018
ISBN 978-1-4598-1852-1
IL: Ages 0-2 RL: Kindergarten

Teach babies and toddlers about this important Jewish festival by exploring what happens during the Passover seder with this delightful photographic board book. This primer features family and friends coming together to share a meal, tell stories and sing songs, and encourages little ones to participate in this special time. Children of all faiths will enjoy the bright photos and primary text that focuses on bringing family together to celebrate and observe a holiday tradition.


Passover: Festival of Freedom
Written by Monique Polak
Orca Book Publishers, 2016
ISBN 978-1-4598-0990-1
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 4-5

Bestselling author Monique Polak explores her own Jewish roots as she tells the Passover story, which reminds us that the freedom to be who we are and practice our religion, whatever it may be, is a great gift. It also teaches us that if we summon our courage and look out for each other, we can endure and overcome the most challenging circumstances. Enlivened by personal stories, Passover reminds us that we can all endure and overcome the most challenging circumstances.


Beliefs and Religions Around the World
Written by Judy Kirton
Illustrated by Val Lawton
Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing, 2011
ISBN 978-1-8944-3160-6
IL: Ages 2-8 RL: Grades 2-3

An introduction for young children to what different people and cultures believe. Judy Kirton offers a quick glimpse into world religions and incorporates different beliefs in this book to teach young children about the ways people express their faiths. She also introduces the concept of religion itself. This book will help your little ones understand the subject from a young age, and teach them about multiculturalism and diversity!


Experts’ Picks

Bookseller’s Picks

Canada’s independent booksellers share their recommendations for kids and teens. Find an independent bookseller here.

Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS:

Simon Sort of Says
Written by Erin Bow
Scholastic Canada, 2023
ISBN 978-1-3680-8285-3
IL: Ages 10–12 RL: Grades 5-6

When Simon’s mother accepts a job in Grin and Bear It Alaska, it seems to be the fresh start that Simon’s family needs. As the sole survivor of a school shooting in his Grade 5 class, Simon is now starting 7th grade and longs for the anonymity that he hopes their new home will provide. But he also finds friendship and unexpected support as he and his parents continue their journey toward healing, and soon he and his new friends are eagerly immersed in plans to fake a message from space aliens. A plan that does not unfold quite as they had anticipated. This book is truly outstanding on so very many levels, but is perhaps most noteworthy for its brilliance in deftly balancing a complex exploration of grief and loss and surviving trauma with truly outrageous, laugh-out-loud humour. Erin Bow artfully manages to create a book that sensitively deals with extremely heavy, heart-wrenching issues in a way that is thought-provoking and deeply respectful while simultaneously creating the most hilarious situations and interactions between characters. She is undoubtedly a master of her craft and this book is not to be missed!  


—Lisa Doucet, Co-manager

Woozles Children’s Bookstore: 6013 Shirley St, Halifax, NS B3H 2M9 woozles.com

Librarian’s Picks

Canadian librarians share their recommendations for kids and teens.

The Invitation
Written by Stacey May Fowles
lustrated by Marie Lafrance
Groundwood Books, 2023
ISBN 978-1-77306-661-5 
IL: Ages 4-7 RL: Grades 1-2

Fern, a botanical beauty with a feathery frond hairdo, receives an invitation to a “super special surprise exhibition” at the local museum causing her worst-case-scenario worries to spike. Catastrophic “What if, what if, what if” imaginings cloud her mind and she’s rooted in place with fear. Offering calm, steady support, her friend Fawn guides her through the forest and through her distress. When Fern frets about being late or unexpected falling trees, Fawn has solutions and posits possible positive outcomes. Lafrance’s lush graphite pencil and digitally coloured illustrations capture a gloriously whimsical world including a grumpy bear with a sweet tooth, noble knights in shining armor serving hors d’oeuvres on silver platters, and dancing Egyptian mummies. An outstanding picture book about anxiety, friendship and being present in the here and now, The Invitation delivers many conversation openers and invites understanding. 


—Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library

See you in May for our next issue!