CCBC January 2017 Newsletter
News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre
Now available: Canadian Children’s Book News, Winter 2016
In this issue, Amy Mathers gives us some insight into where she sees the future of teen fiction heading while Rachel Seigel interviews three YA writers of serial fiction. We get to know Erin Bow (winner of the 2016 Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy) in a profile written by Tracey Schindler and “Keep Your Eye On” features Kevin Sands (winner of the 2016 John Spray Mystery Award).
Alison Morgan also chats with three book sellers about their opinions on how to make a stronger publishing industry while our “Bookmark!” column features titles that would make great gift ideas recommended by book sellers across the country. This issue’s “Book Bits” column features four new books to share with kids about celebrations. Plus, read over 30 reviews of great new Canadian titles.
Get your copy here.
The Canadian Children’s Book Centre is now accepting applications from schools and libraries that are interested in participating in TD Canadian Children’s Book Week 2017, which runs from May 6-13, 2017.
Top 5 Reasons Why Book Week is Awesome!
- Book Week is a great opportunity to invite an experienced author, illustrator or storyteller from another part of the country in your classroom or library.
- Meeting authors, illustrators and storytellers can be a turning point in a child’s life, inspiring a lifelong love of reading and helping them gain new perspectives.
- Your school will be part of a national celebration of Canadian books and reading. Over 28,000 people in over 190 communities participate in the readings and workshops that take place all across the country during the week.
- TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is a cost-effective way to invite an author or illustrator into your school or library. All travel, accommodations and meal expenses are covered by the CCBC. You are just responsible for paying the creator’s Reading Fee, which is partially subsidized by the TD Bank Group and Canada Council for the Arts.
- The CCBC creates a theme guide featuring the latest books by the touring authors and illustrators. The theme guide includes activities and teacher guides to help prepare your classroom and get your students excited for the visit.
Visit www.bookweek.ca to find out who will be touring your province/territory and to complete the online application. The deadline for applications is January 15, 2017.
January Book List: New Year Resolutions
To celebrate the new year, we put together a list of books that might help kids and teens with health, wellness and maybe some of their resolutions — and to inspire them to take better care of both themselves and the planet.
Do Your Bit to Be Physically Fit!
On a Mission for Good Nutrition!
You Need Rest to Be at Your Best!
Junior and Intermediate
Anxiety: Deal With It Before It Ties You Up in Knots
Brilliant! Shining a light on sustainable energy
Don’t Stress: How to Handle Life’s Little Problems
How to Save a Species
Sex Is a Funny Word: A Book About Bodies, Feelings, and You
Starting from Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking
Try This at Home: Planet-Friendly Projects for Kids
Foodprints: The Story of What We Eat
Making It Right: Building Peace, Settling Conflict
Author’s Corner: Laura Scandiffio
Laura Scandiffio is the author of many non-fiction books for young readers, including People Who Said No: Courage Against Oppression, Escape from Tibet: A True Story, and her latest, Fight to Learn: The Struggle to Go to School. She lives in Toronto, ON.
First, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get started as an author?
I loved reading as a child and teen, as well as inventing my own stories, so it felt like a natural choice to study English at university. After that I worked in publishing as a book editor, and learned a lot about creating books for children and teens. Eventually I started writing books of my own. My first was The Martial Arts Book. With many kids learning martial arts, I wanted to give them a larger context about where these arts came from and why they were created in the first place, and to do that through engaging, dramatic or surprising stories.
From there, I was drawn to writing books that bring history or contemporary events to life through storytelling. I feel that many of the non-fiction books I’ve written are really stories about ordinary people placed in extraordinary circumstances, crises of history or of today’s world. I want to tell their story in such a way that young readers feel what it would be like to be in their place, and wonder what they would do.
What were your favourite books growing up?
I was completely engrossed by J.R.R. Tolkien’s world in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Another favourite was Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. From there, as I became intrigued by history, I was drawn to historical fiction. I think I really loved imagining myself living in another time!
What is your research and writing process like?
First I read widely on the subject I’d like to tackle, focusing as much as I can on primary sources, and if possible I interview experts or someone with firsthand experience. I find this part interesting and enjoyable and sometimes I take too much time researching! Then it’s time to shape all my notes and thoughts on the matter into a narrative that will both appeal to and enlighten young readers. This transition phase can be rocky, but once I’m over that and have the general plan of the book mapped out, the next part is fun again: playing with words and shaping the storytelling. I am always trying out new ways to trick myself into productivity during the writing process, but really it comes down to regularly scheduled writing time, day after day. Eventually you get there! When the finished manuscript is in sight, it’s a great feeling.
Your latest book, Fight to Learn: The Struggle to Go to School, is about people from around the world who are working towards making education accessible to all children. What inspired you to write the book?
Awareness of Malala Yousafzai’s struggle for the girls of Pakistan prompted me to notice other examples of children around the world who have to fight for their education. I read more about Shannen Koostachin and her amazing campaign for First Nations kids in Canada. A radio program on Chicago teens trying to finish high school in a war zone created by gangs was another news story that made me think this was an important and timely book to write. From there, it was startling and unsettling to find so many examples around the globe of children who struggle to get the education others take for granted––child soldiers, Roma children, India’s “Untouchables.” I wanted to find individual stories that bring to life with immediacy the plight of millions of others. Poverty, violence and discrimination are the three big barriers worldwide. But the positive side to these stories is the extraordinary resolve and optimism of the students and teachers who refuse to give up.
Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how to incorporate Fight to Learn into the curriculum? Do you have any activity suggestions?
I think Fight to Learn is an ideal springboard for discussions on social justice, both in education and other areas. The stories demonstrate very practical ways in which young people have not only overcome their own obstacles to an education, but have also started grassroots movements to promote change or share their own learning with others. These could lead to discussions about identifying issues of equality, access or justice in students’ own communities. What practical steps could they undertake to raise awareness? In a social studies context, the stories of Fight to Learn also illustrate daily life as it is experienced by children and teens around the globe.
What’s next for you? What projects are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on a book about some recent archaeological discoveries that have dramatically overturned what we thought we knew about our past. Besides being great stories with surprising outcomes, I think the accounts communicate the idea to young readers that we don’t know it all yet. There’s so much left for us to learn, and any one of them could be the person who someday unearths new evidence or has the out-of-the-box idea that changes our perspective.
For more information about Laura’s work, visit laurascandiffio.com.
Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction
Lately, I’ve been having trouble determining the intended audience for young adult books. I recently read The Pact by Amanda West Lewis, a fascinating read about a boy named Peter Gruber growing up in Nazi Germany. The book tells Peter’s story from the time he is 10 to when he is 16, and while the story ends with him as a teenager who is now fully aware of the atrocities committed during World War II, there’s still an innocence about him. He’s not evil, he’s just young, and misled by his country.
It’s hard to know where to place a book like that. Middle grade because Peter is 10 at the beginning? Young adult because he becomes aware of new truths and an unpleasant reality that takes him out of his childhood with a shattering force? Or perhaps teen because he falls in love and his story shares a deep resonance with such Russian classics as The Brothers Karamazov and War and Peace.
While writing for a young adult audience used to encompass an age range of about 10 to 18 with relative ease, nowadays middle grade books (grades 4 to 6), young adult books (grades 7 to 9) and teen books (grades 10 to 12) are quite distinctive. Record Breaker by Robin Stevenson is middle grade because while Jack is aware his mother is grieving the death of his baby sister, his childlike response is to try and give her a reason to be happy again. We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen falls under young adult because step-siblings Stewart and Ashley keep butting heads over perceptions, showing they are painfully aware of the effect the opinions of others have on their lives. Something Wicked by Lesley Anne Cowan is most definitely teen, as Melissa’s journey includes coping with grief via drug use and sexual encounters.
Unfortunately, sometimes things get mixed up. I read an advanced blurb about The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow that labelled it as middle grade, which it certainly is not. Also, an age classification of 12 and up can be pretty non-specific, as some books in that category would appeal more to 12-to-14-year-olds while others feature mature themes that would work better for 15-to-18-year-olds. Today, YA is a term still used to describe the range of books for middle grade to teen, but in doing so it has become inaccurate and burdensome.
This development is encouraging. The selection of books for 10-to-18-year-olds has grown so much in sheer volume and quality that the term YA can no longer contain it. It demands to be broken up and further classified, especially with the emergence of books like (You) Set Me on Fire by Mariko Tamaki, which features Allison Lee, a 17-year-old heading off to university — thus defying the usual high school backdrop of teen books.
In support of redefining the terms so children and teens can easily find the stories that are best suited to them, I am starting the new year off by renaming my column. Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction will continue to explore the often-grittier side of YA, and, by claiming the teen title, clarifies that the books mentioned are for mid-to-older teens. My favourite kind of book.
Wishing everyone a happy new year of reading!
Amy Mathers read and reviewed 365 YA books to raise money for the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award in 2014. Read about her journey at www.amysmarathonofbooks.ca.
Illustrator’s Studio: Lisa Cinar
Lisa Cinar is an educator and the author and illustrator of two picture books, The Day It All Blew Away and Paulina P. (for Petersen). Her latest book is Bear’s Winter Party, written by Deborah Hodge. She lives in Vancouver, BC.
How did you get started as an illustrator?
I graduated from The Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design in 2004 with a BFA in Visual Arts. At the time, illustration was not something that was taught there, so I mainly focused on drawing, painting and printmaking. After I graduated, I wrote and illustrated a story called The Day It All Blew Away. I then submitted it to a publisher and low and behold it got published a couple of years later. That was my first taste at illustration. Now, over 10 years later, I’m still doing it. It’s nice to know that there are some things I’ll always enjoy. I guess for me that’s drawing. And telling stories with these drawings.
Can you tell us about your illustration style and how it came about? What is your illustration process and where do you find inspiration?
I think style is something that can really only happen by creating a lot of work. I teach courses on illustration and this is something I try to tell students who are concerned with creating a specific style right off the bat. Style is just a natural extension of your devotion to your work. The more hours you put in the faster your “style” will show itself. And of course, style is also ever-evolving. Personally I am really interested in creating images and lines that are spontaneous and not over-thought. I strive to have as much life in my images as possible while still working within set parameters or a theme I try to work within. My process really varies from project to project. Some things require initial sketches, some don’t, sometimes I prefer watercolour or ink and brush and sometimes I prefer photoshop for colour. It really all depends on the project itself and what I think would suit it best. I do fancy a brush and ink a lot! For inspiration, I keep a sketchbook and use the Internet quite a bit to reference certain animals or objects. I am also a big fan of going on forest walks. Recently I think those have inspired me the most.
Tell us about your latest picture book, Bear’s Winter Party, written by Deborah Hodge. How did you get involved in the creation of that book and what was the process of doing the artwork like?
I had sent my portfolio to Groundwood Books in the hopes of getting hired for a project. A while later I was contacted by their team with Deborah’s manuscript for Bear’s Winter Party. I read it and immediately fell in love with the story. I really can’t think of a better story they could have offered me to illustrate. There are so many things I love about it. The setting, the characters, the message. The editor at Groundwood mentioned that when viewing my portfolio they had especially enjoyed my watercolours of animal faces I had done recently. It was a slightly different illustration style from that of my previous books so I was a bit nervous when I first started out. I created a set of sketches, which then got approved and then I set out to re-create those sketches in watercolour and added a bit of photoshop magic here and there to the watercolour finals. I had a really fun time creating the illustrations for Bear’s Winter Party and am very grateful to Groundwood Books for trusting me with the story and encouraging me to pursue the medium of watercolour more for this project. They allowed me a lot of freedom and that is something I value a lot.
Do you have any activity suggestions or tips for teachers who would like to use your books in the classroom?
I think this book is really great for talking to kids about bullying, friendship and ideas on how to make friends. I think especially the little Chickadee is important in the story because while Bear is very proactive and courageous when he invites all the animals over to his house, Chickadee is the ice breaker and the first to fly over and say hello. I actually think this story really lends itself very well to being made into a play. It might be fun to assign kids the different animals names and each in turn act out the roles of the characters. Then, afterwards, there could be a discussion about the different characters and how each character probably felt in the different scenes. If that’s too much, how about just drawing the different animals and asking each child what they think each character felt like in each scene? And what they would do if they were the character. It would also help to not think of the characters as “real” animals, but more human-like, so as not to focus too much on who would eat whom in the real animal kingdom. In other words, to think of the story more as a fable rather than a story about real animals. Also, if you do create drawings of the characters, I would LOVE to see them. So please do email me some of them if time permits.
What projects are you working on now? Anything you are particularly excited about?
I am just about to wrap up illustrations for the second book in the middle grade reader “Clara Humble” series I am illustrating for Owlkids Books, which will be out in 2017. For my shop Draw Me A Lion I am always brainstorming new fun projects in the realm of cards, prints and fun things to colour, and, last but not least, I am very excited to say that there might be another book featuring Bear in the works shortly! I’m feeling very lucky with so many fun projects on the go and want to say a big THANK YOU here to all of you who love and support Canadian books, publishers and local shops. I love what I do and I know I couldn’t do it without you.
Images courtesy of Lisa Cinar. Visit www.lisacinar.com for more information about her work.
Canada’s independent booksellers share their recommendations for kids and teens. To find a local independent bookstore, visit findabookstore.ca.
• Mabel’s Fables Bookstore in Toronto, ON: Downside Up by Richard Scrimger (Tundra Books, 2016), Ages 10+
I loved this book. When a book can tackle sensitive issues that are hard to talk about with light, perspective and humour — I’m a happy bookseller. Main character Fred’s feelings about the loss of his dog Casey are the tip of an iceberg of buried grief from the past — and his deep feelings are enough to lead him to an upside down world… a parallel world. This book was a delight to read and a great dialogue opener on the subject of death. Leave it to Scrimger to create a quirky upside down world where, whether we know it or not at the time, can help us to straighten out what’s in heart and head up here in the real world. —Erin Grittani, Kids Bookseller
Mabel’s Fables Bookstore: 662 Mt Pleasant Rd, Toronto, ON M4S 2N3 www.mabelsfables.com
• Type Books in Toronto, ON: Little Blue Chair, written by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Madeline Kloepper (Tundra Books, 2017), Ages 3 to 7
Boo’s favorite chair is little and blue. He sits in it, reads in it and makes a tent around it… until the day he grows too big for it. His mother puts the little blue chair out on the lawn where a truck driver picks it up. The truck driver sells it to a lady in a junk store where it sits for many years until it’s sold and put to use as a plant stand. In the years that follow, the little blue chair is used in many other ways — on an elephant ride, in a contest, on a Ferris wheel, in a tree… until the day it flies away, borne aloft by balloons, and lands in a garden of daffodils where a familiar face finds it.
A charming, beautifully illustrated read-aloud that follows the adventures of a little chair, beginning as the seat of a small child who loves books and circling back to that child’s child many years (and bottoms) later.
Recommended Serah-Marie McMahon, Children’s Buyer for Type Books
Type Books: 427 Spadina Rd. & 883 Queen St. W., Toronto, ON www.typebooks.ca
• Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS: Rebel of the Sands , written by Alwyn Hamilton (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016), Ages 14+
Amani’s future in her hometown of Dustwalk, a town where women traditionally wind up “wed or dead”, is bleak. She dreams of fleeing this sorry life and making her way to Izman, a legendary town that her mother had often told stories of. When a mysterious stranger arrives in town he unexpectedly provides the opportunity she needs to make her get away. As the two journey together, Amani learns more than she ever could have imagined about herself, her travelling companion and the complex and exhilarating world around them. A thrilling, richly-developed YA fantasy that combines Middle Eastern folklore with a distinctly wild west flavour. —Lisa Doucet, Co-manager
Woozles Children’s Bookstore: 1533 Birmingham St., Halifax, NS B3J 2J1 www.woozles.com