CCBC April 2018 Newsletter
News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
April Book List: National Poetry Month
Author Corner: JonArno Lawson
Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction
Illustrator’s Studio: Matt James
News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
TD Canadian Children’s Book Week will take place from Saturday, May 5 to Saturday, May 12, 2018. Bring books to life in your classroom or library with posters and bookmarks, featuring Gabrielle Grimard’s stunning illustration.
Book Week materials are available now at the CCBC’s online shop. Posters are $5.95 and bookmarks are $4.95 for a set of 30. Schools and libraries with visiting authors and illustrators will receive one free poster.
Learn more about the creators visiting your province or territory at bookweek.ca.
Enter Formac’s Write To Win! Contest
Submissions are now open for Formac Publishing Company’s Write to Win! Contest. Atlantic Canadians aged 18 to 40 who write literary or non-fiction can enter for free. Their original unpublished work must be 20,000 to 60,000 words and written for teen or adult readers. The winner will receive $1,500 and a publishing offer. Second and third place will receive $1,000 and $500, respectively. Submissions will be judged by writers George Elliot Clarke, Sheree Fitch and Wanda Lauren Taylor. Submissions are open until June 30th, 2018.
Find more information here.
Get your copy of The Landing by John Ibbitson
Set in Depression-era Muskoka, this evocative and powerful Governor General’s Literary Award–winning novel follows a young musician’s awakening to the possibilities of a world beyond his borders.
“The Landing is geared toward young adults, but just as easily belongs to the Canadian coming-of-age genre occupied by the likes of Alice Munro and Margaret Laurence.” — The Globe and Mail
Proceeds from this 10th Anniversary edition support the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.
On sale now! Available in bookstores or through the CCBC’s online shop. Order through the CCBC and receive a FREE subscription to Canadian Children’s Book News and Best Books for Kids & Teens. Enter coupon code landing to take advantage of this limited time offer. Offer ends April 30th, 2018!
Attend the TD Canadian Children’s Book Week Kick Off in Halifax
Meet Sylvia Gunnery, Tom Ryan and Jessica Scott Kerrin on April 21 at 2 pm before they head out on tour for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week 2018. They’ll read from their newest novels and discuss the real-life inspirations behind the stories they’ve created. There will be time for questions and to chat with the writers individually.
Books will be available on site for purchase from Woozles.
Find more information here and RSVP through the event page here.
Attend the FREE #PembrokeShowcase!
Hosted by Pembroke Publishers, this free workshop on April 25th will cover teaching methods to use in your classroom and what’s new in literacy. Space is limited so be sure to register by phone at 1-800-997-9807 or by email to email@example.com.
Find more information here.
Purchase your tickets to this year’s Festival of Trees (May 15-16, 2018)
Do you love to read? Are you ready to make some noise for books? Do you want to meet your favourite authors and illustrators? Have you ever been to a “rock concert” for reading? This is your chance – be part of the largest literary event for young readers in Canada, the Festival of Trees!
The Festival of Trees is Canada’s largest literary event for young readers and is continuing to grow. It culminates in a two-day awards celebration for the school-aged and French-language programs of the Forest of Reading® in Toronto, with other satellite Festivals taking place across Ontario. More than 10,000 people attend the Festival in Toronto, which is co-presented by International Festival of Authors (IFOA), at the Harbourfront Centre.
Enter CANSCAIP’s Writing For Children Contest
CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers) is holding its 21st annual Writing for Children Contest. Submissions are open until May 31, 2018.
Two winners will be awarded $750 for a picture book/early reader entry and a chapter book/middle grade/young adult entry. Eight finalists will also be selected. CANSCAIP submits the winners and finalists to publishers Annick Press, Kids Can Press and Scholastic Canada for their consideration.
Find out more here.
CBC’s annual Shakespeare Selfie competition
The challenge: Grades 7 to 12 students write monologues or soliloquies in the voice of a Shakespearean character inspired by a current affairs event or trend from the past year (April 2017 to April 2018). Award-winning YA author Kenneth Oppel returns as judge. The competition opens April 6 to 27, 2018. Click here for more information.
Links We Love
Articles and videos of interest to educators
How Children’s Books Are Inspiring the Next Generation of Activists
Media Literacy for Kindergarten by Julie Booker
Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Pictures
Can Write – Meet Monique Gray Smith
Kids’ Book Aims to Improve Literacy Skills, Preserve Indigenous Languages
April Book List: National Poetry Month
April is National Poetry Month and this year marks the 20th anniversary of the month long celebration of poetry in Canada. All throughout April, bring a little poetry into your classroom or library with one of these great Canadian books in verse.
Author’s Corner: JonArno Lawson
JonArno Lawson is a children’s poet and author of Think Again, Down in the Bottom of the Bottom of the Box, Leap!, Sidewalk Flowers and more. He is the four time recipient of the Lion and Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Children’s Poetry and has received an Alcuin Award, a Prix Libbylit Award and a Governor’s General Literary Award for Illustrated Children’s Books. He currently lives in Toronto.
How did you get your start as an author/poet?
I wrote for a long, long time before I published anything. My first real poem was written for my high school girlfriend, and I don’t think I wrote another decent poem for another 10 years. Sometimes I think that first poem was the only real poem I’ve written.
In terms of how I actually got my start publishing, I made a chapbook of a few poems I’d written for a contest (which I didn’t win) and I sent a copy of the chapbook to Timothy Findley at the same time. I was in my late twenties at that point. I got a letter back from Findley four or five months later. In this letter, he asked if he could use one of the poems in his next novel, told me he sent my work to Barry Callaghan (the editor of Exile Editions) asking him to see if I had a full manuscript, and wrote a blurb for the back of my future first book.
That’s when I got my start in terms of being taken seriously as a writer.
What is your writing process like?
With poetry, I usually begin with a few words that sound good together, and go from there. Sound comes first, then comes sense, even if the sense is nonsense. I write every day, though I discard most of what I write eventually — most of my time is spent rewriting. With other books, like the picture books I’ve written, the process is more visual. I picture the story usually, and then sometimes I find words for the pictures, and sometimes I never get further than the pictures!
April marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month in Canada. Why are you drawn to poetry?
The magic of sound. I always loved songs — the wordplay of lyricists like Yip Harburg, Tom Lehrer, Stephen Sondheim and Sheldon Harnick are probably what drew me first to poetry. Also the dark, clever Gumdrop Follies recordings of Jim Copp and Ed Brown, which were made specifically for children – I couldn’t get enough of them. Paul Francis Webster’s lyrics for the Spiderman theme song really stuck out for me as well. I wanted to work in that world of word-magic too.
The poem that’s meant the most to me, though, as an adult, is David Pendlebury’s translation and abridgement of Hakim Sanai’s The Walled Garden of Truth. To me, it’s poetry at its highest and finest. It’s the most personally challenging poem I’ve read, though it’s completely accessible. The struggle isn’t to understand the poem, but to understand yourself once you’ve read it.
What was the inspiration for your latest book Leap!? How would you suggest teachers use the rollicking rhythm and rich array of action words in the book to introduce the power of language to children? Do you have any activity suggestions?
It started as a prose book about creatures that move by leaping — it wasn’t a poetry idea — I was briefly fascinated by how different creatures had evolved as leapers. And I was walking past Kids Can Press’s old offices on Birch Avenue near Yonge St. when the idea occurred to me, so it was sort of fitting that Kids Can would publish the book later!
I re-wrote the concept as a poem a few years on, and I was happy with the result. I kept submitting it here and there, but it kept getting rejected. Then I sent it to Kids Can. Two presses that had previously rejected it asked to consider it again a week after Kids Can accepted it, but I was so happy Kids Can got to it first, because I had a wonderful time working on it with Yvette Ghione. Yvette was incredibly fun to work with — she had lively, detailed, suggestions. It couldn’t have come together as it did without her.
Leap! might be interesting to act out — if you take “leap” as it appears in the text as an opportunity to actually leap. I like the idea of keeping language connected to the body, since it’s a product of the body — of refined movements of muscle, bone and breathing.
It might be fun to take the book as a departure point for using and exploring action words too — doing another series using “crawl” and its synonyms — slide, slither, squirm, skulk. Or strut, swagger, sway, parade.
Do you have any tips for aspiring authors/poets?
Just keep going. Find a way in, but also, make sure to keep looking for ways out again. Don’t get stuck. If what you’re doing isn’t working, or doesn’t seem to be working (sometimes it is, but you aren’t being patient) experiment. Forget everything you’ve heard about what it means to be a writer, or what you need to do to get published. The publishing world changes all the time. What you need to do is write well, and to be persistent.
What projects are you working on now? Can you tell us about any upcoming books?
I’m working on an Arabian nights sort of book — a book of interwoven tales. But my next book out is a picture book called Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon illustrated by Nahid Kazemi. It’s being published this summer by Enchanted Lion Books in Brooklyn. It was supposed to be wordless, but at some point Nahid’s pictures demanded a text, and that turned it into something different again. Claudia Bedrick, the book’s publisher and editor, made brilliant suggestions for changes and additions to the words I came up with. In 2019 I’ll have a picture book out with Groundwood called The Playgrounds of Babel, which will be illustrated by Piet Grobler. And there are some other things set up already for 2020, but I don’t have enough details to share more than that yet!
Find out more about JonArno Lawson by following him on Twitter.
Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction
Hello Canadian teen book readers! After a medical leave of absence I am back with a podcast interview with Star Spider! Her first teen book, Past Tense, is coming out in April. Listen to our 46 minute conversation covering such topics as mental illness and and LGBTQIA2 issues in YA, and the unique writing processes of short stories and full length novels. Up next month is Danielle Younge-Ullman, GG & White Pine nominee for Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined. Enjoy, and happy reading! —Amy
*Any beliefs expressed in this podcast do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.
In 2014, Amy Mathers read and reviewed 365 YA books to raise funds to create the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award.
Illustrator’s Studio: Matt James
Matt James is a painter, author/illustrator and musician whose many highly acclaimed children’s books include I Know Here by Laurel Croza (Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award); The Pirate’s Bed by Nicola Winstanley, The Stone Thrower by Jael Ealey Richardson (CBC Best Books) and When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge. Matt’s illustrations for Northwest Passage, a stunning tribute to the iconic Stan Rogers’ song, won the Governor General’s Literary Award. The Funeral is the first picture book he has written and illustrated. Matt lives in Toronto with his family.
How did you get started as an illustrator?
I was always drawing from the time that I was a young kid. I stuck with it throughout high school and wound up going to Sheridan College to study Children’s Illustration. I moved Toronto in my early twenties and played in rock bands with my friends which gave me endless opportunity to design poster art and to make art for record covers and what have you — those were my first jobs as an illustrator. More than that though, I made paintings and I exhibited my work regularly in galleries. It was through one of those exhibitions that I met my agent and got started making picture books.
Can you tell us about the process you go through to illustrate a picture book? What materials do you use and how did your technique come about?
Woah! This is a big one!! I’ll try to condense this a bit, here goes…
It usually starts with a conversation with publisher or editor, an introduction to a manuscript of some kind. This is followed by much hand-wringing — should I take this job? Can I do a good job of it? That sort of thing.
1) Stare at the wall a lot. Draw and paint, fill sketchbooks with ideas, visit galleries and libraries, fill more sketchbooks until an idea starts to take shape for the overall feel and look of the book. This is the stage where decisions have to be made regarding the size and shape of the book.
At some point its gonna be time to break the text down into pages and to figure out how long your book is gonna be; they used to always be 32 pages but lately 40 pages and even bigger is quite common.
2) My process sorta changes from one book to the next, but generally speaking now is the time for roughing out the book in earnest. At this stage I sometimes make little models to help me visualize parts of the story.
I tend to make many really quick passes at roughing out the entire book. I hardly ever make it all the way to the end, but I do end up with enough different versions of each page that I can piece something together that feels right. These roughs could be pencil drawings, charcoal, watercolour or India ink, (and sometimes just photographs of the little models).
Sometimes its helpful to make a dummy book at this stage too — it can be hard for to tell if everything is working or not until you have actual pages to turn.
3) Finals. I prep enough Masonite panels that I have at least two shots at each image. I gesso and sand three or four layers as a base layer for each piece. I usually work a little bigger than print size.
I never sketch out a painting with pencil, I just jump right in with paint and pen. My paintings end up being fairly sloppy but they have a lot of energy this way. I use acrylic paint, acrylic ink, India ink, graphite and sometimes elements of collage in my finals. I use brushes, fingers, spray bottles to put colour down, then I sometimes scratch it away with x-acto knives or brush handles. I just work until the piece feels right. I’ve been painting this way for years, my style has evolved a bit and possibly it’s become a bit more refined but mostly this is how I started painting years ago when I began exhibiting my work in neighbourhood Toronto galleries.
Your new book, The Funeral, is your first picture book that you have authored. How was the process of creating this book different from your other books? What was your initial inspiration for the story?
Well for one, I put a lot more pressure on myself. I struggled with fear of failure more than I did with other projects. Beyond that though I had a blast. I loved the freedom to shape the text to fit the images instead of always illustrating to suit the text.
The biggest difference was that instead of putting pictures to words I was creating a story using both pictures and words in tandem. It’s a subtle difference but from a story telling perspective I had quite a bit more control and once I got on track — I loved that.
I think that most authors and illustrators are constantly walking around wondering if this would make a good story or if that would make a good picture book and I’m no different.
So it was, no surprise here, at a funeral that I first had the idea. I watched my oldest son and his cousin live out quite bit of the story. I filled it out with vignettes from my childhood and some invention I suppose.
Do you have any activity suggestions or tips for teachers who would like to use your books in the classroom?
Hmmm, I think I would probably approach each book differently. I tend to try to show students that I make a lot of mistakes and that my books are not perfect. I teach them, not to put too much pressure on themselves. I think people should make art because its fun, because it can help us to learn about ourselves, it can even give us a place to hide or rest, when the going gets tough I find sitting down to make art to be as good as a breath of fresh air.
Do you have any advice for aspiring author-illustrators?
See the answer to the previous question!
Have fun! Embrace your mistakes, your imperfections. Don’t compare yourself with other artists! Make art that you would like to see.
Find out more about Matt and his work at mattjamesillustration.ca
Canada’s independent booksellers share their recommendations for kids and teens. To find a local independent bookstore, visit findabookstore.ca.
Glad Day Bookshop in Toronto, ON: Splinters by Kevin Sylvester (Tundra Books, 2010), Ages 6-9
As we’re nearing the end of hockey season, I thought I’d throw out this pick! This twist on a Cinderella story put on ice sends the right messages all around. With a stance against bullying and a message to believe in yourself, this awesome story features girls playing hockey. Let’s celebrate STRONG GIRLS and the true Canadian sport with this fantastic picture book. A must have! — Erin Grittani, Assistant General Manager
Glad Day Bookshop: 499 Church St., Toronto, ON M4Y 2C6 www.gladdaybookshop.com
McNally Robinson at Grant Park in Winnipeg, MB: The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015), Ages 4-8
The Princess and the Pony follows the tale of Princess Pinecone, a girl wanting a big strong horse to help her win the viking tournament. As her birthday approaches her parents decide to grant her wish, but in their own way. She receives a cute little pony instead. Unsure how to handle it, Princess Pincone starts trying to train the pony into a strong horse. But as her attempts fail, she ends up entering the tournament anyway.
The Princess and the Pony is a humorous picture book that will leave you laughing, and learning all at the same time. It a good way of showing kids that sometimes we do not always receive the things we want, but learning to love the things we have anyway. The illustrations are also very adorable and friendly as well. — Sabrina Simmonds, Children’s Bookseller
McNally Robinson at Grant Park: 1120 Grant Ave., Unit 4000, Winnipeg, MB R3M 2A6 www.mcnallyrobinson.com
Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS: The Frame-Up by Wendy McLeod MacKnight (Greenwillow Books, forthcoming, June 5, 2018), Ages 9-12
When 12-year-old Sargent Singer goes to New Brunswick to spend the summer with his father, he makes an unexpected and amazing discovery: the people in the paintings at the Beaverbrook Gallery, where his father is the curator, are alive! He strikes up a friendship with Mona Dunn, a girl from one of the paintings, but a sinister plot to steal a number of the paintings could spell disaster for Mona, Sargent and their families and friends. Vividly-depicted and relatable characters, an intriguingly imagined alternate world within the paintings and a perfectly-paced plot make this a thoroughly delightful read. — Lisa Doucet, Co-manager
Woozles Children’s Bookstore: 1533 Birmingham St., Halifax, NS B3J 2J1 www.woozles.com
If your independent bookstore would like to participate in this feature, please contact us.