CCBC January 2018 Newsletter


News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
January Book List: Family Literacy Day
Author Corner: Lana Button
Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction
Illustrator’s Studio: Alex A.
Booksellers’ Picks

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends

TD Canadian Children’s Book Week – Applications Now Open!

TD Canadian Children's Book Week

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.

Apply today!
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 to apply today! Deadline for applications is January 25, 2018.

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

Sheila Barry Was the Superhero of Canadian Children’s Literature

Why we should all be reading aloud to children

2017 Books of the Year: Librarians’, book bloggers’, and booksellers’ kidlit and YA picks

The best Canadian young adult and children’s books of 2017

Why So Many Adults Love Young-Adult Literature

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January Book List: Family Literacy Day

Family Literacy Day is a national awareness initiative created by ABC Life Literacy Canada and held annually to raise awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family. Celebrate this January 27 with our list of Canadian books that celebrate and encourage reading as a family activity.

Picture Books

Groundwood Logos Spine

A Family Is a Family Is a Family
Written by Sara O’Leary
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Groundwood Books, 2016
ISBN 978-1-55498-794-8
IL: Ages 4-7 RL: Grades 2-3

What makes a family? When a teacher asks her class to think about what makes their families special, the answers are all different in many ways — but the same in the one way that matters most of all. A warm and whimsical look at the great diversity of families and the bonds of love that matter most.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


My Two Grandmothers
Written by Diane Carmel Léger
Illustrated by Jean-Luc Trudel
Nimbus Publishing, 2016
ISBN 978-1-77108-400-0
IL: Ages 3-7 RL: Grades 1-3

Acadian Mémére and Scottish Nannie seem to have nothing in common, but their love for their grandchildren is a bridge that brings them together. This picture book is a whimsically illustrated, heartwarming tale of the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, and a celebration of family of all shapes and sizes. This title is also available in French as Mémére Soleil, Nannie Lune.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Ready, Set … Baby!
Written by Elizabeth Rusch
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017
ISBN 978-0-544-47272-3
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grade 3

Anna and Oliver, big siblings extraordinaire, are here to tell you about what to expect when a new baby is on the way — and what life will be like when your baby sister or brother arrives! This story offers a funny, loving and reassuring peek into the life of a big brother and sister — with real information, helpful tips and kid-friendly humour!

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


We Sang You Home
Written by Richard Van Camp
Illustrated by Julie Flett
Orca Book Publishers, 2016
ISBN 978-1-4598-1178-2
IL: Ages 0-3 RL: Grades 1-2

We sang you from a wish/we sang you from a prayer. This sweet and lyrical board book captures the wonder new parents feel as they welcome baby into the world. Julie Flett’s warm, evocative illustrations complement Richard Van Camp’s spare but emotionally effective text celebrating that special bond between parent and child. A perfect love song to share with little ones.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Junior & Intermediate


Balthazar Fabuloso in the Lair of the Humbugs
Written by I.J. Brindle
Illustrated by Sholto Walker
Holiday House, 2016
ISBN 978-0-8234-3577-7
IL: Ages 9-11 RL: Grades 4-5

Eleven-year-old Balthazar Fabuloso’s eccentric family of magicians actually have magic powers — all except Balthazar. So when the entire family, except Balthazar, disappears, the only Fabuloso without real magic must find them. Balthazar teams up with a long-lost lunatic uncle and the loathsome Pagan Fistula against a force so evil that even powerful magicians cower before it. What hope does a ragtag crew of misfits have?

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Book Uncle and Me
Written by Uma Krishnaswami
Illustrations by Julianna Swaney
Groundwood Books, 2016
ISBN 978-1-55498-808-2
IL: Ages 8-11 RL: Grades 4-5

Every day, nine-year-old Yasmin borrows a book from Book Uncle’s curbside free lending library. But when the mayor tries to shut down the rickety bookstand, Yasmin must take her nose out of her book and do something. But what can she do? With the help of friends, family and neighbours, Yasmin launches a campaign to make sure the voices of the community are heard.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Downside Up
Written by Richard Scrimger
Tundra Books, 2016
ISBN 978-1-77049-845-7
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 5-6

Fred is grief stricken at the loss of his beloved dog, Casey. When Fred loses Casey’s worn tennis ball down a sewer grate, Fred goes down the sewer where he finds himself tumbling into a parallel universe. In this downside-up world Fred discovers his own family except… better. Best of all, Casey is alive! It’s a place where nothing gets lost. But can everything lost be found again?

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts
Written by Esta Spalding
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Tundra Books, 2016
ISBN 978-1-77049-876-1
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 4-6

Meet the Fitzgerald-Trouts, a band of four loosely related children living together on a tropical island. They take care of themselves. They sleep in their car, bathe in the ocean, eat fish they catch and fruit they pick, and can drive anywhere they need to go — to school, the laundromat or the drive-in. The Fitzgerald-Trouts can do anything… maybe even find a real home.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Young Adult Fiction


Blood Brothers
Written by Colleen Nelson
Dundurn, 2017
ISBN 978-1-4597-3746-4
IL: Ages 12-15 RL: Grades 6-7

Jakub and Lincoln are best friends and graffiti artists. When Jakub gets a scholarship to an elite private school, it’s a chance for a better life, but he must leave Lincoln, who soon gets lured into the violent world of a gang, the Red Bloodz. Then Jakub is targeted and Lincoln must decide — save his friend or embrace his life as a gangster.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Once, In a Town Called Moth
Written by Trilby Kent
Tundra Books, 2016
ISBN 978-1-101-91811-1
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grades 7-8

Ana, 14, and her father have fled their Mennonite community in Bolivia and come to Toronto. Ana only knows that her father is trying to find her mother who disappeared years ago. Torn between worlds, and troubled by the things she and her father left behind, Ana is determined to find the one person who can tell her what they are running from — her mother.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Subject to Change
Written by Karen Nesbitt
Orca Book Publishers, 2017
ISBN 978-1-4598-1146-1
IL: Ages 13 and up RL: Grade 7

Declan’s life in small-town Quebec is a series of let-downs — from his parents’ divorce, his delinquent brother and his own lacklustre performance at school to the real kicker — his father’s five-year absence. Then he meets Leah, whose grandmother is a Holocaust survivor, and he begins to see how rage has permeated his life. Slowly Declan begins to rebuild a relationship with his father.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


The Way Back Home
Written by Allan Stratton
Scholastic Canada, 2017
ISBN 978-1-4431-4838-2
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grade 7

Zoe Bird is going nowhere fast. She’s angry and lonely, and her only true friend is her granny, whose Alzheimer’s is worsening. When her parents put Granny in a home, Zoe decides now is the time to break free. She smuggles Granny out and they hit the road, taking an unforgettable trip to Toronto to find her long-lost uncle.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

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Author’s Corner: Lana Button

LanaLana Button is the author of the award-winning Willow picture books series and the upcoming My Teacher’s Not Here. She has also worked as an actress in TV, film and stage, and will be touring Alberta during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week in May. She lives in Burlington, Ontario.

How did you get your start as an author?

I began writing shortly after returning to school to study early childhood education. I had initially attended Concordia University, in their specialization in acting program. I worked as an actress in Montreal and Vancouver, in film, television, and theatre, but eventually craved stability that’s not typically part of an acting career. In addition to my love for performing and creating characters, working with young children has always been a big part of my life. It was in those early childhood education classes that I fell in love with picture books, and the dream of writing a book was born. For me, writing for children combines my passion to create and my desire to inspire young children.

I took writing classes and followed advice from every how to write for children book I could get my hands on. I joined CANSCAIP and found their Packaging Your Imagination workshop to be the highlight of my year. And I began to submit my work. There were years of rejection letters, but eventually the rejection letters became more personal, and more encouraging. Instead of, “Dear Author, No, thank you,” they might say, “Dear Lana, This is cute. I like a lot of it. But we don’t have room. No, thank you.”

My first acceptance was for a story called Baily Became a Bullfrog, published by LadyBug Magazine. This was my introduction to the pace of children’s publishing. I would be paid for the story “upon publication,” and they intended to publish the story — in two years. But that acceptance fuelled my fire. Almost on a whim, I wrote an article for parents about how to prepare yourself when your child starts preschool. I emailed it off to Today’s Parent magazine and got an acceptance right away! This started a freelance career in writing about young children for a variety of parenting and early childhood education magazines. By the time the LadyBug Magazine story was out, I had a handful of published articles in other magazines. This built my confidence and added some clout to my query letters. I moved away from several stories I had written, after receiving a pile of rejections. But this one story, about a little girl who was desperately trying to be heard, just wouldn’t let me go. I had received a rejection from every major publisher. So I sent revised versions back out, to the same publishers, hoping it would land on the right desk.

Eventually I got a letter in the mail from Kids Can Press. Yvette Ghione said she liked a lot of the story, and would I consider making some changes. This started a year-long process of edits. No promises. Working with Yvette was a thrilling experience. I am so grateful for her patience with this story. She held my hand and guided me through the sometimes long and painful editing process. She had a vision of what the story could be and she pulled it out of me. But when she pitched it to the publisher, it was rejected. Yvette said she wanted to hold onto it and try again. I had almost lost hope when she emailed months later with more edits. Let’s try again. This time when it was pitched, it was accepted. It would be two more years after that unforgettable phone call telling me the book was accepted, before I would hold Willow’s Whispers in my hands, but what a thrill it was when I did!

What is your writing process like?

It’s pretty messy. Throughout the day, (and night, and right after I get out of the shower…) I scribble on scraps of paper as stories or characters come to me. If I’m organized, I’m writing with a sharp pencil on lined paper attached to a clipboard. But often I’m writing on the back of receipts or envelopes with whatever writing tool I can find (which is sometimes a crayon, or a teeny tiny pencil, because I work in a kindergarten classroom during the school year). As I scribble, I wait to see if the story has enough bones to make a picture book. I find if I rush this stage and commit myself to a keyboard, I can wreck the spark of the story, so I continue to write on paper, allowing myself to scribble and scratch out ideas. Some story ideas stay in this stage for years before I find the scenes that make it picture book worthy.

This summer something finally clicked with a story I’ve been trying to write for years. I took all my scraps of paper and, within a few weeks, found the scenes to complete that story. I then took it to my computer. At this stage, I’m excited and committed to getting up early in the morning (when my house is quiet) to write. I spend a lot of time reading my story out loud. I listen to my family members read it out loud. I share it with my amazing writing group, who provide great feedback. Putting my work away and sitting on it for a bit is the hardest thing for me. When I feel like it’s finished, I can’t think of anything else until I’ve sent it to my editor. So I spend a good amount of time on my query letter. I think of it as my one chance to fight for this story, my elevator pitch for why children need this book.

Then I go back to the manuscript to see if there are any more tweaks to be made. When it becomes impossible to think about anything else, and my family runs in the other direction when they see me coming, because they can’t bare to hear one more word about it or read it one more time, I send it off to my editor.

my teacher's not hereYou have a new book coming out this spring called My Teacher’s Not Here. What inspired the story?

I’m an early childhood educator in Kindergarten. I work very closely with a teaching partner. When my partner is away, I see, firsthand, how this impacts the children. Some of our more sensitive children can really be affected by any major change in routine. I would spend a good amount of time, on those days, guiding our more sensitive children through their day.

But when circumstances prevent me from being in class, I find myself worrying about how the children are getting along, feeling guilty that my absence will make for a difficult day for some of them. Yes, I left notes for the supply ECE when to read stories and what time to have lunch, but I didn’t have room to say that Grace needs help with her thermos and will probably be too shy to ask, and when Dean does a wiggly hop from one foot to the other, you need to remind him to go to the bathroom. I sat on my couch, one absent-from-school morning, and My Teacher’s Not Here! poured out of me. And it poured out in rhyme, which is the kiss of death for all picture book manuscripts. But no matter how hard I tried, this story would not come out in any other form. I sent it to my editor. She said, “This is cute…but it rhymes!” Well, we started working on the story, rhymes and all, and I couldn’t be more pleased with it. Christine Battuz has created the cutest illustrations that are so perfect for this story; I can’t wait to share it!

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 think the Willow series, about how the shyest child in the class deals with social and emotional challenges, provides teachers with a great springboard for important conversations around emotional and mental wellness, empathy, anti-bullying strategies, behaviour management, and self-regulation.

Willow’s Whispers is just begging to create magic microphones. I’ve received amazing feedback from teachers about how the story has encouraged many children — from children who are shy, to ESL children, to children with anxiety and even selective mutism — to begin speaking in class. In particular, one child, who was in her second year of school who had not spoken at all, created a magic microphone as an activity in class, and used it to speak to her friends for the first time. Even if these children don’t speak — yet — at least they feel heard, and realize others struggle with this same challenge. The book also allows other children in the class to see first hand what their peers may be going through when they are struggling to speak up for themselves. This can be an awesome empathy-builder for a classroom.

Willow Finds a Way is often used as an anti-bullying book. It is a great conversation starter for coming up with strategies for standing up for yourself and others, as well as creating classroom rules for what everyone thinks is fair and acceptable behaviour. Activities can include making lists and creating birthday hats and decorations.

Willow’s Smile is about Picture Day at school, but it’s also about accepting yourself for who you are, and reading emotional cues from others. Large group discussions can include what makes us smile and what makes it difficult to smile. Activities I’d suggest would be self-portrait drawing, with the use of mirrors. It’s also fun to print photos of the children in the class portraying different emotions. Give the children the photos and writing materials to create a class book of emotions. You can find more detailed teaching guideline for the books on my website:

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 very excited to be touring for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week! I will be heading to Alberta, and I can’t wait to share my Willow series and my new picture book, My Teacher’s Not Here! I love to interact with my young audience when I’m presenting, encouraging their thoughts and their input. Through a character analysis of the books, we form a conversation around the importance of developing resilience, self-reliance, and  keeping empathy alive in our schools. And they usually give me a microphone, so I throw in a song or two as well! I will be posting about my trip on my Lana Button Instagram account if anyone would like to follow my Alberta adventures.

Do you have any tips for aspiring children’s book authors?

Surround yourself with great stories and with the publishing world. Join CANSCAIP. It is an invaluable group of incredibly supportive artists who understand your passion and your struggles. Keep up your membership with the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Study their reviews to learn who is publishing the great new books, and then read those books. Join a writing group, or create one of your own. It really makes a difference to have other eyes on your work. And, again, the support you receive and are able to give will fuel your writing fire when those nagging doubts roll in.

Find out more about Lana’s work at

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Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction


Happy New Year readers of Canadian teen fiction! This year I will be shaking things up by turning my column into a podcast where I interview teen authors and talk about life, books, and the art of writing. For my first month, author of Baygirl and The Agony of Bun O’Keefe, Heather Smith, was happy to be my guinea pig to talk about Newfoundland and the different approaches to writing her books. Our forty-two minute interview is a little quiet in a couple of places, but I will work on getting a better microphone for next month. 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.

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Illustrator’s Studio: Alex A.

AlexAuthor and illustrator Alex A. created the L’Agent Jean! graphic novel series, which now includes over 10 books. His books have sold over 800,000 copies in Quebec alone, and have been translated in English as Super Agent Jon Le Bon! He will be touring Ontario for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week. Alex A. lives in Montreal, Quebec.

How did you get started as an author-illustrator?

I don’t think there was an actual moment when I started. I have been drawing, well, since forever. My parents told me that when I was two years old, I already knew how to draw squares, circles, and simple cartoon characters. At the age of nine, I started drawing my own characters and created my very first comic book. It was a complete story, 22 pages, done in less than a day. It was such a thrill to create a book like this. I knew at that moment that I was going to do this for the rest of my life.

Desk 2
Click to enlarge.

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 main inspiration for my drawings was everything with cartoon characters in it. TV shows like The Simpsons. Books like The Smurfs. Video games, too, like Super Mario. Even cereal boxes!

Since the age of 15, I mostly use a computer. I draw on Wacom Cintiq. Everything, from sketches to colours, is made with a computer. It allows me to create books much faster. This way, I have time to materialize all the crazy ideas that are in my head — and I have a lot!

Your Super Agent Jon Le Bon series is incredibly popular. What was your initial inspiration for that series?

It all started with an old James Bond video game called Goldeneye, on Nintendo 64. I played that game when I was 10 or 11. It was so much fun that it gave me the idea to create my own secret agent character. At the beginning, it was just a James Bond parody, but, with time, it became its own thing, its own universe.

Do you have any activity suggestions or tips for teachers who would like to use your books in the classroom?

I always try to tell real stories in my books — with real emotions and real consequences. I think it may be a good way to teach students writing techniques and story structure. Students could analyze one of my books and try to understand the structure, and, after that, they could try to write their own stories.

Click to enlarge.

You’ll be touring Ontario for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week in May 2018. What do you have planned for your classroom visits?

When I visit classrooms with young students, I always try to create with them. I bring my personal drawing computer with me, I ask for their ideas, and together we create new characters, and sometimes even new comic series. It’s a real thrill to see what’s inside their heads, and what they can create with their wild imaginations.

Do you have any advice for aspiring graphic novelists?

Just do it. Draw, write, every day. There is no secret method to becoming a graphic novelist. You just have to practice a lot, for many, many years, and you will become good at it. And have fun!

Images courtesy of Alex A. Find out more about his work at

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Booksellers’ Picks

Canada’s independent booksellers share their recommendations for kids and teens. To find a local independent bookstore, visit

9780316305310Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS: The Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (and Why They Keep Biting Me) by Wade Albert White (Little, Brown, 2017), ages 8-12.

This witty and wonderful sequel is every bit as action-packed and entertaining as its predecessor! Anne, Penelope and Hiro are more than a little dismayed when a boy named Valerian steals Anne’s gauntlet and before she knows it, she triggers a new quest. And not just any quest: a quest to kill the dragon queen! Determined to warn (not kill) the dragon queen, this intrepid trio are off once again. Between searching for an ancient sword, undertaking the dragon trials and a whole host of other unexpected adventures, they manage to begin to put together the pieces of the political puzzle they find themselves in. Like the first book, this book is a sheer delight, offering warmhearted and wonderful characters, a sophisticated and well-realized world, and surprising plot twists.

Woozles Children’s Bookstore: 1533 Birmingham St., Halifax, NS B3J 2J1

If your independent bookstore would like to participate in this feature, please contact us.