January 2023

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
Accessibility Column
Author’s Corner: Sandra Bradley
January Reading List: Graphic Novels
Experts’ Picks

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends

Application Deadline for Canadian Children’s Book Week: January 13

Canadian Children’s Book Week is the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children’s books and the importance of reading. The upcoming tour will take place from April 30 to May 6, 2023, and will allow young readers to connect with highly acclaimed and emerging authors, illustrators, and storytellers. See the complete list of everyone touring here. Your school, library, or community centre can apply to take part! Don’t forget to apply by January 13! Check out bookweek.ca for more details.

Submissions for 2023 TD Grade One Book Giveaway Due January 20

Don’t forget: The submission deadline for the 2023 TD Book Giveaway is January 20!  It is part of every year’s focus to feature characters of different ethnicities, cultures, genders, family structures, and abilities. This year, we are seeking a picture book by creators from Asian communities that speaks to Asian experiences in Canada, and one that is appropriate for Grade 1 students. We welcome submissions from and about South Asian, East Asian, and Pacific Islander communities. It is the CCBC’s hope to support the important work being done by the “Stop Asian Hate” movement through our choice of book. We welcome submissions that address issues of overt racism as well as microaggressions; however, submitted stories are not required to specifically encompass such themes, as long as they centre characters of Asian backgrounds.

Learn more.

Have You Visited Phase II of our Picture Book Gallery?
Northern Lights by Barbara Reid

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

Visit the gallery here!

Wallace Edwards (1957-2022)

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of beloved Canadian children’s book author/illustrator Wallace Edwards, affectionately referred to as Wally, on December 25, 2022. Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Wally attended high school at Lisgar Collegiate Institute and was a graduate of the Ontario College of Art (now OCADU), Toronto. He lived in Yarker, Ontario. Winner of the Governor-General’s Literary Award for his first book, Alphabeasts, he went on to write and illustrate 16 more books, winning many national and international awards. His most recent book, Do You Wonder? was published this year by Scholastic Canada. After receiving a diagnosis of terminal cancer in August, he completed work on his final book, Pigs Can’t Fly, currently in press.

Read more.

Aubrey Davis (1949–2022)

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Aubrey Davis. Born in Toronto, Ontario, in 1949, Aubrey grew up loving to read Greek myths, Tom Sawyer, and Mad Magazine. Before he became an accomplished storyteller and author, he worked many different jobs, from construction labourer to retail salesman to an antique restorer. Aubrey’s passion for writing and telling stories eventually won out, however. As a young man, he travelled across Europe and North Africa and discovered traditional Teaching-Stories collected by the Afghan writer Idries Shah. For 40 years he told traditional stories to people of all ages across North America. And he taught oral language for 17 years to primary and special needs students.

Read more.

Right to Read: Accessible Books for Everyone

Finding a Love of Reading through Audiobooks

by Mélissa Castilloux

I’m somebody who has dyslexia. For a long time, I didn’t fall in love with reading. I would be really curious about books, but it was quite hard for me to read. When I discovered audiobooks with human voice narration, my brain no longer had to run a thousand miles an hour to decode the letters. I could just go in the story.

Now that I have discovered the potential of accessible books, it’s really hard for me in my day-to-day life to be confronted with inaccessible formats because I know I could have a much better reading experience. But I’m really optimistic. I’m doing work towards a more accessible publishing ecosystem with NNELS, the National Network for Equitable Library Services. I think there are a lot of people who are starting to realize the importance of accessible formats.

If I had had access to audiobooks when I was younger, I would have been reading a lot more. Having the opportunity to go into books and discover the world around you—it’s really important.

>> Watch and/or listen to Melissa share more about her experiences with accessible books in English and French.

Tell us what you’d like to know about accessible books. Send your comments or questions to tara@bookcentre.ca.

 How to Find & Use Accessible Books

Are you interested in bringing more accessible Canadian children’s books into your classroom or library? Watch our webinar all about accessible books now! We need your feedback. Be sure to fill out our survey after watching and enter to win a collection of fantastic Canadian children’s books!

Links We Love

Articles of interest to educators and parents

The project? Dismantling gender barriers in trades. The strategy? Colouring books for kids (CBC)

The top 10 kids’ books of 2022 (The Globe and Mail)

The best Canadian books for kids and young adults of 2022 (CBC)

How a new adaptation of the hit book Braiding Sweetgrass delivers Indigenous wisdom to a younger generation (CBC)

Who don’t we see in children’s books? Disabled people just living their lives. Here’s why it matters (The Toronto Star)

N.W.T. author pens children’s book based on Dene legend (CBC)

The inspiration for this Innu archeologist’s new children’s book? Herself (CBC)

Author’s Corner

Sandra Bradley is a clinical social worker and a children’s book author. Her first picture book, Henry Holton Takes the Ice, was a finalist for the OLA Forest of Reading Blue Spruce Award and the Maine Chickadee Reader’s Choice Award.

Born in Toronto, Sandra earned her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and her Master of Arts at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, then earned her Master of Education (Counselling) from the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

Today Sandra is back in the Kingston area where she lives on the beautiful Rideau Canal with her New Zealander husband, Grant, and their three teenage kids.

First, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get started as an author?

I began writing children’s stories in earnest when my first child was very small and we spent our days happily ensconced together in rural Vancouver Island. Once the rejection letters started rolling in, I quickly came to understand that the prospect of becoming a professional writer (which had always been my dream) was a long shot. A decade and dozens of rejection slips later, I was over the moon when my debut picture book, Henry Holton Takes the Ice, was picked up by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. Working with the wonderful team at Pajama Press on my second book, Cocoa Magic, has been the best part of my writing journey thus far.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Oh, so many places!  I am always inspired when I read old and new children’s books. I still think back on the stories that gave me joy and comfort as a child and later, countless hours of pleasure reading to my children when they were young. My bookshelf is full to overflowing with children’s stories that I’ve read again and again.

I am inspired by the children and young people in my life, especially my own kids. I am always amazed by the way they overcome adversity and demonstrate the indomitable human spirit by facing each day with courage.

And I’m inspired by the natural world, from which I derive so much meaning, pleasure, and peace.

How did you come up with the idea for your book, Cocoa Magic?

When my son was very young, he came to ask if we could bake cookies for him to bring to a boy in his class who often seemed sad and alone. I was struck by my child’s natural ability to feel empathy and his desire to respond in such a simple, concrete way. After clearing it with the teacher, we did exactly as my son had suggested and Samuel had a friend for life. Later, I discovered that the child in question had been in quite dire need of comfort during that time, and our small gesture had made an actual difference. When I wrote the story, I suppose this was part of where that “germinal idea” came from. The first draft was about a young boy who loved to bake, but a clever editor put her stamp on it by suggesting that it could be more unique. It wasn’t a leap to let the giving of chocolate come to symbolize the empathetic expression of love.

What projects are you working on now?

I have a number of projects in the works. Several years ago, I received the best piece of advice from a writer whose work I greatly admire. He said, “As soon as you send something out, get working on a new project. Don’t stew, don’t obsessively check your inbox, just get writing!” I am not always successful at following that sage counsel, but I do try!

Can you tell us about any upcoming books?

I am super excited to be working on one particular picture book manuscript that I think is shaping up really well. No details to report yet, but please stay tuned! 

Learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at sandrabradleybooks.com.

January Reading List: Graphic Novels

Our January newsletter is chock-full of graphic novels! Get young readers excited about reading books by Canadian authors and illustrators with this list—great for parents, librarians, and teachers to use.


Alien Nate
Written and illustrated by Dave Whamond
Kids Can Press, 2020
ISBN 978-1-5253-0209-1
IL: Ages 6-9 RL: Grades 2-3

Nate’s on a mission to Earth from the planet Vega. His goal: eat pizza! Soon after crash-landing he meets Fazel, who helps him learn the ways of Earthlings. But government agents are starting to close in. Can Fazel and Nate elude the Men in Beige while they find fuel for Nate’s spacecraft? And will Nate get his fill of pizza?


Giju’s Gift
(Adventures of the Pugulatmu’j, Book 1)
Written by Brandon Mitchell
Illustrated by Veronika Barinova
HighWater Press, 2022
ISBN 978-1-5537-9947-4
IL: Ages 6-10 RL: Grades 2–3

When her hair clip disappears, Mali is devastated. It was special, made by her giju’. Her mom thinks she lost it, but Mali knows it was stolen by the pugulatmu’j. Soon after, Mali is surprised to meet Puug―and he’s wearing her hair clip. If she helps him find what he needs, she has a chance of getting it back. As they hunt for the objects on Puug’s list, Mali uncovers a lot of unanswered questions along the way. Why is there a giant chasing them? Will she really get her hair clip back? And why is Puug collecting these things anyway?


Hermit Hill
(Sueño Bay Adventures, Book 3)
Written by Mike Deas and Nancy Deas
Illustrated by Mike Deas
Orca Book Publishers, 2022
ISBN 978-1-4598-3149-0
IL: Ages 6-10 RL: Grades 2-3

In the small village of Sueño Bay, famous for its mysterious crystals and legendary moon creatures, friends Ollie, Jenna, Sleeves and Kay are building a go-kart for the annual Fall Fair competition. Living in the nearby hills are tiny moon creatures, the Hivers, who play a crucial role in the health of the local mushroom crop. But the Hivers’ important job is interrupted when Sleeves, the youngest of the group, stumbles upon them. Stories say that the last person who messed with the Hivers, the Hillside Hermit, was cursed to roam alone and never return to Sueño Bay. Is Sleeves destined to suffer the same fate or can he and his friends return balance to the island in time?


Burt the Beetle Doesn’t Bite!
Written and illustrated by Ashley Spires
Kids Can Press, 2021
ISBN 978-1-5253-0146-9
IL: Ages 5-8 RL: Grade 2

Meet Burt; he’s a June beetle. Burt wishes he had a superpower like ants who can carry 50 times their weight or some termites who can spray paralyzing venom. But when some other bugs find themselves in trouble that even their superpowers can’t get them out of, Burt discovers there is one thing that only a June beetle can do!


Middle Grade

Rabbit Chase
Written by Elizabeth LaPenseé
Illustrated by KC Oster
Anishinaabemowin translation by Aarin Dokum
Annick Press, 2022
ISBN 978-1-7732-1620-1
IL: Ages 10–12 RL: Grades 4-5

Aimée, a non-binary Anishinaabe middle-schooler, is on a class trip to offer gifts to Paayehnsag, the water spirits known to protect the land. While stories are told about the water spirits and the threat of the land being taken over for development, Aimée zones out, distracting themselves from the bullying and isolation they’ve experienced since expressing their non-binary identity. When Aimée accidentally wanders off, they are transported to an alternate dimension populated by traditional Anishinaabe figures in a story inspired by Alice in Wonderland.


Stealing Home
Written by J. Torres
Illustrated by David Namisato
Kids Can Press, 2021
ISBN 978-1-5253-0334-0
IL: Ages 9–12 RL: Grades 4-7

Sandy Saito is a happy boy who reads comic books and is obsessed with baseball—especially the Asahi team, the pride of his Japanese Canadian community. But when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, his life, like that of every other North American of Japanese descent, changes forever. His family is forced to move to a remote internment camp, and his father must spend months away from them. Sandy, his mother and his brother cope as best they can with the difficulties at the camp. Over time, Sandy comes to realize that life is a lot like baseball. It’s about dealing with whatever is thrown at you, however you can. And it’s about finding your way home.


Written and illustrated by Marla Lesage
Orca Book Publishers, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-4598-2839-1
IL: Ages 8-12 RL: Grades 4-7

As a military child, eleven-year-old Leah moves…a lot. But this summer she will be the one left behind when her best friend’s family is reassigned. To make matters worse, her mother will be away for training, leaving Leah at home with her father, who has just returned from deployment. When a new girl moves into her neighborhood, Leah must navigate the ups and downs of making a new friend while avoiding her father’s unpredictable mood swings.



Version Control
(The Reckoner Rises, Vol. 2)
Written by David A. Robertson
Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson
Coloured by Donovan Yaciuk
HighWater Press, 2022
ISBN 978-1-5537-9967-2
IL: Ages 16 and up RL: Grades 10-11

After finding out Mihko reinstated the Reckoner Initiative in Breakdown, Cole and Eva confronted Mihko head-on. But when Eva stumbles across a secret laboratory, she finds her worst nightmares come to life. After a vicious battle with Mihko’s newest test subject leaves Cole close to death, Eva is forced to continue their investigation without him. With Brady missing and Cole in recovery, Eva is on her own. What new terrors has Mihko created? Can they be stopped? And can Eva find Brady before it’s too late?


Cyclopedia Exotica
Written and illustrated by Aminder Dhaliwal
Coloured by Nikolas Ilic
Drawn & Quarterly, 2021
ISBN 978-1-77046-437-7
IL: Ages 15 and up RL: Grades 10–11

This graphic novel captures the experiences and interior lives of the cyclops community, a largely immigrant population displaying physical differences from the majority. Despite facing microaggressions and overt xenophobia daily, cyclopes are bent on finding love, cultivating community, and navigating life alongside the two-eyed majority with patience and the occasional bout of rage.


Fire Starters
Written by Jen Storm
Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson
Coloured by Donovan Yaciuk
HighWater Press, 2016
ISBN 978-1-55379-685-5
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grade 8

Looking for a little mischief after discovering an old flare gun, Ron and Ben find themselves in trouble when the local gas bar on Agamiing Reserve goes up in flames, and they are wrongly accused of arson by the sheriff’s son. As the investigation goes forward, community attitudes are revealed, and the truth slowly comes to light.


Written and illustrated by Ben Rankel
Renegade Arts Entertainment, 2018
ISBN 978-1-9878-2550-3
IL: Ages 15 and up RL: Grades 10-11

It’s 1903, and Eve Lee is in a self-destructive spiral — her plans for a new life in Frank, Alberta, have not gone as intended. Eve must confront her expectations when her partner disappears under questionable circumstances. Is something sinister at play, or is she being obsessive and self-centred? Can she put her past behind her before she finds herself buried under it?



Written and illustrated by Andrea Dorfman
Firefly Books, 2018
ISBN 978-0-2281-0071-3
IL: Ages 13 and up RL: Grades 8-9

Andrea has a big nose, which is fine, until it isn’t. Andrea Dorfman tells the true story of how she falls in love with Dave, which is a problem because he’s a plastic surgeon. And Andrea thinks plastic surgery makes people feel flawed. Dorfman’s journey of self-reflection brings her to the question: Can she accept herself, flaws and all?


Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos, and Me
Written and illustrated by Lorina Mapa
Conundrum Press, 2017
ISBN 978-1-77262-011-5
IL: Ages 13 and up RL: Grades 7-8

When she learns of her beloved father’s fatal car accident, Mapa flies to Manila to attend his funeral. His sudden death sparks childhood memories. Weaving the past with the present, Mapa entertains with stories about religion, pop culture, adolescence, social class and politics, including her experiences of the 1986 People Power Revolution that made headlines around the world.


Who Was the First Man on the Moon? Neil Armstrong
(Who HQ Graphic Novels)
Written by Nathan Page
Illustrated by Drew Shannon
Penguin Workshop, 2022
ISBN 978-0-5932-2444-1
IL: Ages 8–12 RL: Grades 3–4

From his childhood experiments to his first encounters with flight, explore the steps Neil Armstrong took in order to become the first person to land on the moon. A story of calculated risk, perseverance, and earth-defying reward, this graphic novel invites readers to immerse themselves in the life of the famous astronaut — brought to life by gripping narrative and vivid full-color illustrations that fly off the page.


Experts’ Picks

Bookseller’s Picks

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

Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS:

Two Crows
Written by Susan Vande Griek
Illustrated by Emma FitzGerald
Nimbus Publishing, 2022
ISBN 978-1-77471-102-6
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 1-3

Inspired by a traditional Scottish Gaelic ballad, this is a haunting and beautiful book that features lovely and lyrical poetry as well as exquisitely atmospheric illustrations. The author revels in the joy of language and word play, making this a perfect read-aloud as the titular crows call others to join them as they “perch in the grey of a November-tree day.” Crows continue to arrive, two by two, and there is much jabbering and howling, squawking and bickering until ultimately they depart, leaving just “two lonely, cawing bg black crows” once again. The text and illustrations are evocative and elegant, but also capture a sense of the crows’ playfulness and craftiness. 


—Lisa Doucet, Co-manager

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

Librarian’s Picks

Canadian librarians share their recommendations for kids and teens.

Only the Trees Know
Written by Jane Whittingham
Illustrated by Cinyee Chiu
Kids Can Press, 2022
ISBN 978-1-5253-0492-7
IL: Ages 3-7 RL: Grades 1–2

Little Rabbit is very weary of winter. With his friends hibernating or relocated to warmer climes, the bunny feels bored and lonely. Longing for sunny days full of fresh grass to nibble and soft meadows to hop through, he wonders, “When will it be spring?” Little Rabbit’s grandmother advises him to seek the wisdom of the trees. His vigorous efforts to get a response leave him tuckered out and disappointed. Just when the rabbit begins to lose hope, a breath of fresh air ushers in some welcome surprises. The challenges and rewards of patience are elegantly expressed. Chiu’s gorgeous pastel and gouache illustrations are a wonderland full of wintery whites, frosty blues, and eagerly anticipated budding greens. A standout picture book choice for storytime.  


—Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library

See you in February for our next issue!