CCBC December 2017 Newsletter
News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
December Book List: Cozy Reads
Author Corner: Rina Singh
Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction
Illustrator’s Studio: Carey Sookocheff
News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
TD Canadian Children’s Book Week – Applications Now Open!
TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children’s books and the importance of reading. Why?
- Thirty authors, illustrators and storytellers will be visiting schools, libraries, bookstores and community centres across the country in May 2018.
- Every year, over 400 readings are given in schools, libraries and other public venues across the country.
- Authors, illustrators and storytellers connect with approximately 28,000 children and teens.
- By bringing the work of Canadian authors, illustrators and storytellers to schools and libraries, the CCBC introduces children to both quality Canadian books and their talented creators.
- Meeting an author, illustrator or storyteller can encourage children to create their own stories and provide them with an avenue to explore their own creativity.
When is it?
The next Book Week touring program will run from Saturday, May 5 to Saturday 12, 2018.
Who is touring in your area?
Click here to learn more about the authors, illustrators and storytellers who will be touring in your province or territory in May 2018.
What does it cost?
TD Book Week makes it affordable to invite an author, illustrator or storyteller into your school or library. The CCBC covers all travel, meals and accommodations. Schools and libraries must pay the tour participant’s presentation fee.
Invite an author, illustrator or storyteller to your school, library or community centre today and share the magic of books and reading! Applications to host an author, illustrator or storyteller during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week 2018 are now open.
Visit www.bookweek.ca/apply to apply today! Deadline for applications is January 25, 2018.
2017 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards
Last month, we celebrated the winners our eight children’s literature prizes, including the $30,000 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. See the full list of winners.
Win an author visit to your school! Enter the Telling Tales School Contest
Calling all teachers and educators: your class has a chance to win an incredible author experience from one of this year’s Telling Tales presenters!
How to enter: Read a book from the 2017-2018 Telling Tales Reading List for inspiration. Together as a class, use your imagination to create a picture, collage, video, song, or poem based on this year’s theme: Stories Take You Anywhere.
Visit the Telling Tales website for full contest details including registration, marking rubric, and to see the winning entries from last year. Contest deadline is January 31, 2018.
This is a great opportunity to have an author visit your school to help inspire children to create their own stories. Good luck!
Links We Love
Articles and videos of interest to educators
December Book List: Cozy Reads
As the weather gets colder and the sun sets earlier, there’s nothing like curling up with a good book to lift your spirits. Our library coordinator, Meghan Howe, has compiled this list of cozy Canadian reads perfect for the winter season.
A Bedtime Yarn
Like a well-worn, snuggly blanket, this sweet bedtime story about a little bear who’s afraid of the dark and his mother’s creative solution will warm and comfort readers big and small.
The Christmas Wind
This starkly beautiful story highlights the heroic spirit of a young girl and the generosity of a stranger in a book that reveals what the real spirit of Christmas is all about.
Duck, Duck, Dinosaur: Snowy Surprise
What could be more fun than a snow day? But Feather and Flap are too cold to play outside with Spike. To keep them outside, Spike surprises them with gifts — skates, a sled and a snowman. When these aren’t enough to keep his siblings from shivering, Spike comes up with the best gift of all.
When Cliffy doesn’t feel like getting dressed, he tells his mom it’s jammie day and heads to school in pajamas. Cliffy’s mom, dad and teacher are too distracted to notice. It’s not long before every day becomes jammie day! This story is a true-to-life depiction of family chaos, emotion and warmth.
The Lost Gift: A Christmas Story
It’s Christmas Eve, and Bird, Rabbit, Deer and Squirrel are eagerly waiting for Santa to fly overhead. When he does, a gift tumbles out of his sleigh, landing in the woods. The friends find the gift and read the tag: “For the new baby at the farm. Love, Santa.” And so, the friends set off on a long journey to deliver it.
Malaika’s Winter Carnival
When Malaika moves to Canada, there’s a lot to get used to — it’s cold in her new city, no one understand when she talks and Carnival is nothing like the celebration Malaika knows from home! This title is also available in French as Le carnaval de Malaika.
Mittens to Share
The wonder of winter is brought to life in this simple tale of a young girl who loses her mitten on a snowy day. Back indoors, she explores the colours and textures of an overstuffed box of family mittens. Outside again with Dad, she makes a sweet discovery. This title is also available in French as Une mitaine pour deux.
Kisimi Taimaippakut Angirrarijarani / Only in My Hometown
The northern lights shine, women gather to eat raw caribou meat and everyone could be family in this ode to small-town life in Nunavut, written in English and Inuktitut.
As a storm approaches, two strangers arrive in the forest. All the animal families turn them away when they ask for shelter, and the strangers are left to fend for themselves. But then the fox family is forced out into the storm, and they must ask these outsiders for help. This title is also available in French as L’abri.
The Snow Knows
In this engaging, lyrical winter lullaby, readers learn who is hiding, who is sleeping and who is slinking, sliding and tunnelling through the snow! Whimsical hide-and-seek illustrations will keep youngsters searching for glimpses of woodland creatures hiding in each winter landscape.
A True Home
When Mona the mouse stumbles across the wondrous world of the Heartwood Hotel in the middle of a storm, she desperately hopes the staff will let her stay. As it turns out, Mona is precisely the maid they need at the grandest hotel in Fernwood Forest. But it’s not all acorn soufflé and soft, moss-lined beds. Danger lurks nearby, and as it approaches, Mona has to use all her wits to protect the place she’s come to love.
Waiting for Snow
Badger cannot wait one more minute for it to snow. When Hedgehog explains that everything comes in its time, Badger remains unconvinced and impatient. But Badger’s friends have a few tricks up their sleeve to try to get the snow’s attention and distract their pal. Badger eventually learns there’s no trick — only waiting — until it’s time at last.
Waltz of the Snowflakes
A gorgeous wordless picture book by esteemed author-illustrator Elly MacKay that celebrates the magic of theatre and The Nutcracker as seen through the eyes of a young girl and her grandmother.
When the Moon Comes
In this atmospheric story, a group of kids play hockey on a frozen lake by moonlight. At once nostalgic and timely, this is a gorgeous book that will speak to readers young and old.
The Wish Tree
Charles wants to find a wish tree. His brother and sister don’t believe there is such a thing, but his trusty companion, Boggan, is ready to help Charles on his search. Along the way, Charles and his toboggan discover that wishes can come true in the most unexpected ways. Poetic text and heartwarming illustrations evoke the true essence of the holiday season. This title is also available in French as L’arbre des souhaits.
Author’s Corner: Rina Singh
Rina Singh is an author, presenter, and writing coach. As well as having written many critically acclaimed books for children, she has taught art, drama, and writing in Toronto for the last 25 years. Her upcoming book, Holi Colors (Orca Book Publishers, 2018), will be published in February.
How did you get your start as an author?
I’ve always been excited about books, stories, and imaginary worlds. I was 15 when I started making books of my poetry. I hand painted the covers and gave them cheesy titles. Now that I look back, I think I was visualizing being an author.
A decade later, I moved to Canada. I applied to get into Concordia’s MFA program in Creative Writing. I got in because I had a chapbook of poetry published in India in my portfolio. But I ended up doing my thesis in prose and only got introduced to children’s literature when I was in the teaching program at McGill University.
After ten years in Montreal, I moved to Toronto because I found a teaching job here. I met an artist — Farida Zaman — at an art course at OCAD. Little did I know she would become the illustrator of my first picture book and a good friend. We are still friends. A small press published our first picture book — The Magic Braid. We didn’t get a dime out of it, but I got my foot in the door and addicted to writing!
I had tasted my name in print and seen awe on the faces of my students when I read them the book. From that moment, I knew I wanted to write for children.
What is your writing process like? Do you take a different approach when writing non-fiction?
For 25 years I had been a full-time teacher and a part-time writer. I wrote after work, on weekends and my summer break. I remember how I outlined the chapters in my Diwali book.
I outlined Chapter 1 in the December break, Chapter 2 in the March break, and the remaining two chapters in the summer break. The rest of the time was spent on research and the countless interviews I had to do to collect my information. For almost two years, I worked relentlessly on the book. I was actively involved in sourcing out some photographs, too. I come from a family of photographers and so I had everyone out on photo assignments in India and in Canada. My daughter, Amrita Singh, is a photographer and she contributed many photographs to the book.
A year ago, I left teaching to be a full-time writer. I’ve signed five more books since Diwali and they all happen to be non-fiction or picture book stories based on true stories. My research has taken me to remote villages in India and I have found ways to connect with my protagonists.
To me that is the exciting and romantic part about the writing process. I need to verify the information myself rather than just relying on Google, which, by the way, is the most amazing invention.
But most of the time, my writing process starts with an image, an idea — something that sparks my interest or imagination. I walk around with it in my head all the time. Then my first draft is usually quick because I want to get the story down. I’m always afraid it will slip away if I don’t do that. Then I revise and revise until I think it’s ready to show my agent.
You have two new books coming out in 2018, Holi Colours and Diwali Lights. What inspired you to write them?
I had submitted a picture book manuscript to my publisher. It was during the month of March, when the editors at Orca were inundated with Holi (The Festival of Colours) images on the Internet.
Well, they didn’t take my book, but softened the blow by asking me if I would like to write a board book on Holi instead. I had never attempted a board book before but I do love a challenge. I took a shot. I was pretty amazed that I pulled it off and Orca loved it.
The Holi book gave them the idea to do a series of board books on holidays. Passover by my friend, Monique Polak, is coming out in Spring 2018 too. Monique is such an accomplished novelist and she said it was the hardest thing she had ever attempted.
Once the series was established, Orca came back and asked if I would do one on Diwali. I totally freaked out. I was so sure Holi came to me by fluke and I would never be able to deliver the next one. I said, yes, I’d give it a try.
For a month and a half, I walked with my head down, muttering poetry to myself. I went to bed with my notebook by my bedside. I even woke up nights to scribble a line or two. The whole book had to be written in 100 words. Scary!
I picked up courage to send the manuscript to them and waited and waited. “I love this!” wrote the editor. That’s how miracles happen. To me every book is a miracle!
You have taught art, drama, and writing for the last 25 years, and your books, including your latest, Diwali: Festival of Lights, would make excellent classroom resources. Do you have any tips or suggestions for teachers on how to incorporate your books into the classroom? Do you have any activity suggestions?
I would suggest introducing older students to the joy of research. Facts don’t have to be boring. I’m so fascinated by how research can lead you to beautiful stories. When I was researching how Diwali is celebrated in slums — my research led me to The Dirty Wall Project website. Started by a young Canadian from Victoria, the NGO has built a school and a clinic in the slums of Mumbai. I would suggest older students research different non-profit organizations in the world. This could be a great start to a social justice unit.
Reading Chapter 2 on the History of Immigration can be a great starting point of discussion on what it was like a hundred years ago in Canada, not only for immigrants from India but China and Japan, too.
Younger students can make rangolis with coloured sand and diyas with self-drying clay.
You’ll be touring for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week in May 2018. What do you have planned for your classroom visits?
I always share the ups and downs of my writing journey with students, especially emphasizing the editing process. Editing is a huge part of writing. I’m also putting together a poetry workshop based on colours. I think it’ll be exciting.
Do you have any tips for aspiring children’s book authors?
Read. Read. Read.
Get to know the children’s book market. If the current trend is to write picture books with 500 words or less, don’t submit a 1,500-word picture book manuscript to a publisher.
Attend conferences and writing workshops.
Join a writing critique group. Don’t send anything out until other writers in your group have critiqued it.
Learn patience. Publishing is a painfully long process.
Enjoy the journey. It can be beautiful.
Find out more about Rina’s work at www.rinasingh.com.
Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction
Before I volunteered for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, and before my Marathon of Books when I was just an aspiring reviewer, I had a book blog.
Since teen is an audience and not a genre (something I learned from author Alice Kuipers), my favourite genre is, in fact, not teen, but science fiction/fantasy. My blogspot site was called Delving into the Darkness, and I only reviewed 14 books, all dystopias, and none of them Canadian.
Science fiction’s endless examination of what could be fascinates me and often has real-life applications. Jeyn Roberts’ Dark Inside (part dystopia, mostly horror) taught me what happens to people with chronic illnesses when there is an ongoing power outage. As Puerto Rico’s crisis has taught us, Roberts has done her research accurately.
Then there’s The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow. With the recent start of a religion based on the development of a godhead A.I. by Anthony Levandowski in California, an overlord like Talis doesn’t seem so far away anymore. Or what about James Bow’s Icarus Down? Science fiction can also remind us not to make the same mistakes as a civilization that we did before.
On the fantasy side, what looks like an escape read also helps us think of our own lives and world in a new way. Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina explores being different and learning to be confident about standing out. The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli tackles power structures and deception. Sarah Raughley’s Fate of Flames highlights what it really means to be a hero, and how the outside perspective is much different from the inside perspective.
Author Monica Hughes was the master of the science fiction/fantasy genre. She imagined the consequences for young people of an overpopulated Earth in An Invitation to The Game, and reached for the stars with The Keeper of the Isis Light. I admit I haven’t read as many of her books as I would like to have, but each read is thoughtful and well explored, with relatable characters in impossible situations.
The first year I went to the Canadian Children’s Literature Awards was the first year the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy was presented. PJ Sarah Collins won for What Happened to Serenity?, a mind-blowing read about a secret Canadian experiment that takes a turn when a member of the community needs outside help. I was so excited to see Adrienne Hughes present the award and talk about her mother’s life and work. I look forward to hearing about new science fiction and fantasy books that I haven’t come across in my own reading, and celebrating the recognition of the excellent titles I have read. With a range of books for ages 8 to 18, there are always some books geared toward teens on the list.
You can imagine, then, how disappointed I was to find out the funding ended for the Monica Hughes Award last year and it was not given out at the CCBC Book Awards. I was personally hoping Movers by Meaghan McIsaac would be nominated, or Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, or The Hunt of the Dragon by C.C. Humphreys, or MiNRS 2 by Kevin Sylvester, to name just a few, and that’s not even mentioning the amazing titles that would have been eligible for the 2018 award.
It’s a great loss, not only because the award honours the memory of a distinguished, well-loved Canadian children’s writer, but because we need science fiction and fantasy books now more than ever. During times when it seems like things can’t get any worse, we need the books that imagine future possibilities for us, books that approach challenging topics from a fantastical perspective, and books that are willing to show us the subsequent consequences of our actions and attitudes, so we can work to change and avoid them.
This is what science fiction and fantasy are for, and reading those books ultimately offers us hope, or, at the very least, a substantial break from the world around us. I would like to see the Monica Hughes Science Fiction and Fantasy Award continue for years to come, so children and teens know that we, as adults, value imagination, innovation and dreaming in their lives.
With this in mind, I plan to do my best to find a new source of funding for the 2018 Monica Hughes Award. If you have any ideas about potential funders, please email me through my amysmarathonofbooks.ca website.
Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!
In 2014, Amy Mathers read and reviewed 365 YA books to raise funds to create the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award.
Illustrator’s Studio: Carey Sookocheff
Carey Sookocheff is a writer and illustrator living in Toronto, Ontario. After studying illustration at OCAD in Toronto, she worked for a number of years as an editorial illustrator. After having children of her own, she decided to pursue her love of books. Since then she has written two picture books and been the illustrator of four more. Her latest book is Wet (Henry Holt, 2017).
How did you get started as an illustrator?
I suspect I really got started as an illustrator when I was a kid, drawing on the floor on scrap paper my dad brought home from his work. I went through a lot of paper and I even drew on the underside of our kitchen table! I also read a lot. My mom was a librarian, so we always had lots of books in our house. I can’t say enough how much reading has helped shape me as an illustrator.
After I finished university, I worked at a bookstore for a while. It was fun, but not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My mom encouraged me to go to art school, so I applied to the Ontario College of Art and Design and studied in the illustration program. After graduating, I worked as a freelance editorial illustrator. I did work for lots of magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Real Simple. I took some time off from illustration to look after my kids full time when they were little, and when I went back to work, I decided I needed to make a change. I had always collected kids’ books, even before I had kids, but reading them to my own children made me look at them in another light. I wrote a manuscript, put together a postcard to mail out to art directors, reached out to everyone I knew in the children’s book industry, and did a lot of reading and research at the library. All that work paid off, and with lots of luck and good timing, I ended up illustrating my first picture book in 2014.
Can you tell us about your illustration style and how it came about? What is your illustration process and what materials do you use?
My style has really evolved slowly over time. I used to do a lot of printmaking — mostly linocuts, but I never enjoyed being that precise. I preferred it when my images weren’t registered properly. I’ve continued the process of layering the line work on top of the background and having it not match up perfectly, even though I’m no longer printmaking. I still like using big blocks of flat colour and really defined shapes. I’m working now on adding more details and textures into my illustrations.
I do a lot of sketching drawings with pencil when I’m coming up with ideas. Just like when I was a kid, I go through a lot of paper! For the final artwork, I paint with acrylic gouache and assemble the final images in Photoshop. I like to establish a colour palette before I start, so I do lots of mixing of paint and trying out blobs of colour. Sometimes I work on paper, but mostly I prefer illustration board. The digital part at the end is really just so that I can be indecisive and make changes more easily. I would prefer to not use the computer at all, but it’s a helpful tool!
The fifth Buddy and Earl book will be out next summer. How did you get involved in that series, and what has the process of illustrating it been like?
Buddy and Earl was the first book I ever did. When I was first trying to get work as a picture book illustrator, I reached out to Michael Solomon at Groundwood Books. He had spoken to my class when I was a student at OCAD, and I still had his contact info. Amazingly, he claimed he remembered me and was happy to take a look at my manuscript. It is always good to hold onto contact info! In the end, Groundwood turned down the manuscript, but that was enough to get them to take a look at my illustration work. Sheila Barry contacted me shortly after and asked if I would be interested in illustrating Buddy and Earl.
It has been a very fun series to be involved with. Maureen Fergus is amazing, and I love the characters she has created. Sheila and Michael also gave me a lot of freedom to develop the characters and add my own ideas to the story. I have really appreciated that level of trust from the team at Groundwood. It has been a dream job to be involved with such a great series and such a great group of creative people. It has been such an honour and a privilege to work with Sheila Barry. She will always be remembered for the amazing work she did in children’s publishing, but also by me for the huge influence she had on my work and my career.
You’ve now authored (as well as illustrated) two books: Wet and Solutions for Cold Feet. What is your writing process like? Is your approach to illustration different when working on your own stories?
There is a great deal of comfort in having a manuscript to reference and rely on. It gives me the structure and framework to develop the illustrations. When I’ve been the author as well, I’ve had to figure out a way to give myself that structure to work from. I’ve definitely found the writing process more challenging, but that’s not to say it hasn’t been wonderful.
I’ve figured out that I need to work from a place that I know and love, and I need to be authentic. Both Solutions for Cold Feet and Wet came out of personal experiences. I’ve also figured out that it is okay to start the manuscript visually. Sometimes ideas come as images and words can be added later. I do a lot of scribbling images and jotting down words. I guess you could say my writing process is putting random ideas down on paper until there are enough of them that they all stick together! I honestly love both ways of working and hope to continue writing my own stories as well as illustrating other authors’ books.
Do you have any activity suggestions or tips for teachers who would like to use your books in the classroom?
Wet is a great book to use as part of a discussion about the water cycle and water use, since it gets kids thinking about all the different ways they use water. Wet can also be used as part of a writing exercise to have kids use a single word as a prompt for generating ideas.
Solutions for Cold Feet is good for exploring different ways of solving problems. I’ve used this in a class where everyone came up with their own problems and we brainstormed solutions that were practical and also pretty crazy. The kids did drawings of their solutions and it was assembled as a class book. My publisher Tundra also has an educators guide that is available for downloading from their website here.
Buddy and Earl Go to School is a fun book to talk about heading back to school and what kind of supplies and classes you would have if you were the teacher. Groundwood Books also has an activity guide for Buddy and Earl Go to School that is available on their website here. All the books in the Buddy and Earl series are fun books that get kids thinking about imagination and friendship.
You’ll be touring for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week in May 2018. What do you have planned for your classroom visits?
I am so excited to be going on tour with Book Week! I am really looking forward to meeting and connecting with so many kids! I have lots of books to choose from, so I am hoping that each class and teacher will let me know which book(s) they would like me to read!
Reading Solutions for Cold Feet to a group of kids will end with a brainstorming session where everyone comes up with new problems and solutions — the crazier the better! I draw the solutions, or the kids can participate and draw as well. I will also talk to the kids about how my dog Rosie inspired the book and how they can look for inspiration in their own lives.
I will also have a new book out to read called What Happens Next, written by Susan Hughes. It is a powerful book that looks at being an outsider, bullying, and the ways that everyone is connected despite their differences. I plan to talk about how I used colour in the illustrations to help convey the ideas, emotions and characters in the book.
Depending on the size of the classes, I want to incorporate art activities into my presentation. I will also show my old drawings from when I was five or six years old, so they can see that I wasn’t any different than they are now. I really just want to inspire and encourage kids to read, and also to draw, write and tell their own stories!
Images courtesy of Carey Sookocheff. Find out more about her work at www.careysookocheff.com.
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: The Cosmopolitan Nomad by Karim G R Ladak, Ages 10 and over
This incredible true story shows us how, no matter how far apart or different, we are all connected. All photos were taken by this remarkable globetrotter on his travels by iphone. You can’t pick up this book without it starting a dialogue! —Erin Grittani
Glad Day Bookshop: 499 Church St, Toronto, ON M4Y 2C6 www.gladdaybookshop.com
Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS: A Blinding Light by Julie Lawson (Nimbus, 2018), ages 10-15.
On the morning of December 6, 1917, Livy, her older brother Will and their mother each find themselves in Richmond, Halifax’s north end, on assorted errands. At 9:05 that morning, when two ships collide in Halifax Harbour and one of them explodes, decimating most of Richmond, these three experience this catastrophic event first-hand. What follows is the story of Livy and Will as they frantically search for their mother, try to do what they can to help, and struggle to make sense of this horrific tragedy and how it has changed them forever. Lawson’s second book about the Halifax Explosion explores such themes as the prejudice and strong anti-German feelings that were prevalent at that time, the need to find someone to blame when tragedy strikes, the class divisions that existed and how events such as this bring out both the best and worst in human nature. It is a powerful, moving and thought-provoking story that will speak to young readers and give readers of all ages much to think about. —Lisa Doucet
Woozles Children’s Bookstore: 1533 Birmingham St., Halifax, NS B3J 2J1 www.woozles.com