May 2020


News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
May Reading List: Going Digital
Author Corner: Vikki VanSickle
Illustrator’s Studio: Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Experts’ Picks

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends

Subscribe to Bibliovideo!

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre has taken Canadian children’s books to where youth already are: YouTube. Introducing Bibliovideo, our new YouTube channel all about Canadian books for young people. Subscribe before May 5 and be entered to be win exclusive prizes as a part of our #10DaysOfGiveaways! Learn more here.

With funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, Bibliovideo is the first step in a long-range digital strategy being developed by a consortium of organizations led by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre that includes the Association of Canadian Publishers/49thKids, Canadian School Libraries, CANSCAIP, Communication-Jeunesse and IBBY Canada.


We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts. 

Learn more here.

Mortimer Selected as 2020 TD Grade One Book Giveaway Title

We are thrilled to announce that Mortimer, written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko, has been selected as the 2020 TD Grade One Book Giveaway title. As we celebrate 20 years of the TD Grade One Book Giveaway program, we are reminded of the way books can bring us together as a community. Mortimer joins 19 other phenomenal picture books that have been selected as TD Grade One Book Giveaway titles since 2000.

Learn more here.

Canadian Children’s Book Week Goes Virtual!

Bibliovideo will serve as the home for a special virtual edition of Canadian Children’s Book Week. The tour is the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children’s books and was unable to occur as planned due to COVID-19. Through the week of May 4-9, special videos from Book Week authors and illustrators will appear on the Bibliovideo channel. Instead of visiting hundreds of children, each participating author will be able to reach children all across the country. Participating authors include Robin Stevenson, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Eugenie Fernandes, Shane Peacock, Paul Covello and Monique Polak. A new video will be added to Bibliovideo each day.

Subscribe to Bibliovideo and tune in May 4-9!

Finding Hope in Hard Times Reading List

Like all of us, children are confused and scared right now. With so many uncertainties and our way of living changed in a short period of time, it is understandable for young ones to feel anxious right now. This reading list includes books about curbing stress and fears, remembering what’s important and finding ways to be calm during hard times.

Find the whole list here.

Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publishers of the Year Finalists Announced

Two Canadian publishers have been named finalists for this year’s Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publishers of the Year (North America), awarded annually by the Bologna Children’s Book Fair to the most distinguished publishers in the world. Annick Press and Les 400 Coups are among the North American nominees. Although this year’s in-person event has been canceled due to the pandemic, winners will be announced live online May 4, 2020 and the fair will resume April 12–15, 2021.

Learn more here.

Spring Issue of Canadian Children’s Book News Available Now!

The Spring 2020 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News is filled with fun and interesting articles to read. It includes a profile of Anne Millyard, one of Canada’s most cherished children’s book publishers, and a special tribute to Richard Chase, a longtime advocate for children’s literature and our Book Week Coordinator for Alberta. We introduce you to Michelle Kadarusman, author of three novels for middle grade students, in our “Keep Your Eye On” column and Joyce Grant and Jan Dolby chat about the magical decade they’ve had with the Gabby books. In an article by Jennifer Maruno, we learn about the Burlington Authors Mafia and how they support and encourage each other. Eugenie Fernandes updates us on her latest two picture books and Carol McDougall explains why it’s so important to read to infants and toddlers and suggests various titles for the different ages and stages of infancy.

Buy your copy now!

Resources for Parents to Read Canadian at Home

Like families all across the country, the CCBC is currently in self-isolation. Just because we’re spending some time away from each other doesn’t mean that we can’t connect through stories in this difficult time. Updated daily, here is our list of resources for parents of young readers.

View the full list here! Updated daily

CANSCAIP’s Writing for Children Competition 2020: Deadline for entries May 31

The Writing for Children Competition for 2020 is now open for entries by unpublished writers.  The Competition launched in 1996  with the goal to encourage and promote new writers.  A unique benefit for writers who enter the Competition is that all entries receive evaluation comments. 

Entry length is a maximum of 1,500 wordsThe entry deadline is May 31, 2020.  

Learn more here.

The 2020 Alberta Literary Awards Finalists Announced

The Writers’ Guild of Alberta is excited to announce the finalists for the 2020 Alberta Literary Awards and Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize.  The finalists  for the R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature (Chapter Books) are:

See the full list of finalists here.

Learn more here.

Want to stay updated on the world of Canadian children’s books all month long? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

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Links We Love

Articles and videos of interest to educators and parents

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May Reading List: Going Digital

In celebration of the launch of Bibliovideo, our reading list this month is all about going digital!

Picture Books

Ara the Star Engineer
Written by Komal Singh
Illustrated by Ipek Konak
Page Two Books, 2018
ISBN 978-1-989025-05-5
IL: Ages 6-9 RL: Grade 3

Ara loves BIG numbers. She wants to count all the stars in the sky… but how? In this STEM adventure, Ara and her sidekick droid, DeeDee, use smarts and grit to solve a BIG problem and discover an amazing algorithm of success — coding, courage, creativity and collaboration!

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Goodnight, Little Bot
Written by Karen Kaufman Orloff
Illustrated by Kim Smith
Sterling Children’s Books, 2017
ISBN 978-1-45492-118-9
IL: Ages 2-4 RL: Grades PreK-1

Even little robots need their rest—and their parents tuck them in just like human mommies and daddies do. It doesn’t matter if young bots slip on their pajamas over their power packs and enjoy batteries for their pre-sleep snack; just like children, they love bedtime stories, hugs, a cuddly toy, and lullabies. This charming picture book is perfect for winding kids (and robots) down for the night.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Junior & Intermediate Fiction

Anyone’s Game
Written by Sylv Chiang
Illustrated by Connie Choi
Annick Press, 2018
ISBN 978-1-77321-046-9
IL: Ages 10-12 RL: Grades 4-5

Jaden and Cali live in different cities, but they connect online almost every day, playing their favourite game, Cross Ups. Jaden comes to Cali’s city to play in a gaming tournament, but their reunion is awkward and things go badly from there. Cali is unhappy and she keeps changing her gamer tag. What is she trying to hide?

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Me and Banksy
Written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Puffin Canada, 2020
ISBN 978-0-73526-691-9
IL: Ages 10-13 RL: Grades 5-6

Dominica’s private school is covered in cameras, and someone is hacking into them and posting embarrassing moments for the whole school to see.
Who has access to the school security cameras and why are they doing this? Dominica and her best friends, Holden and Saanvi, are determined to find out, and in the process start an art-based student campaign against cameras in the classroom.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Young Adult Fiction

When Sophie’s boyfriend breaks up with her because she is too predictable and too boring, her best friend, Ella, comes up with a plan to help Sophie find her spontaneous side. In the 90 days before the start of university, Sophie will do amazing, new, different, and sometimes scary things. Can 90 days of different create a different life?

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Cut Off
Written by Jamie Bastedo
Red Deer Press, 2015
ISBN 978-0-88995-511-0
IL: Ages 13-15 RL: Grades 7-8

Fourteen-year-old Indio McCracken found instant stardom after his father posted a video of him playing guitar. But things go sour, and Indio seeks escape online by creating a virtual identity, an obsession that nearly kills him. Facing school expulsion — or worse — Indio is shipped off to a teen addictions rehab centre in the wilds of northern Canada, where the adventure of a lifetime awaits him.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Kat and Meg Conquer the World
Written by Anna Priemaza
HarperTeen, 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-256080-3
IL: Ages 13 and up RL: Grades 8-9

Kat’s anxiety makes it hard for her to talk to people, while Meg’s ADHD makes sustaining relationships difficult. When the two girls are thrown together for a year-long science project, they discover they’re both obsessed with the same online gaming star and his hilarious videos. It might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship — if they don’t kill each other first.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Nice Try, Jane Sinner
Written by Lianne Oelke
Clarion Books, 2018
ISBN 978-0-544-86785-7
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 9-10

Expelled from high school, Jane Sinner grudgingly enrolls in community college; the situation is made better when she signs up to be on House of Orange, a student-run reality show that provides cheap housing, the chance to win a car, and an opportunity to reinvent herself. Jane’s going to prove to the world — or at least viewers of substandard TV — that she has what it takes to win.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers



A 21st-century activist’s guide for anyone who has access to a smartphone. This how-to manual looks at specific ways you can create social change through the tap of a screen. Filled with examples of successful hashtag campaigns, viral videos and new socially conscious apps, the book provides practical advice for using your smartphone as a tool for social justice.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Creating in the Digital World 
(Your Positive Digital Footprint)
Written by Megan Kopp
Crabtree Publishing, 2018
ISBN 978-0-7787-4605-8
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grade 5

Access to digital tools has made it easier for individuals to be creative with media. This important book gives advice on choosing the appropriate platforms and tools to achieve your creative goal, how to improve and grow as a digital creator and how to make sure you get credit for your work, as well as give credit to others where it is due.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks
Written by Sam Maggs
Quirk Books, 2015
ISBN 978-1-59474-789-2
IL: Ages 13 and up RL: Grade 7

Fanfic, cosplay, cons, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs, RPGs and MMOs and more — it’s a great time to be a girl geek! This handy guide to the geek life is filled with everything a savvy fangirl needs to know, including how to make nerdy friends, how to defeat Internet trolls and how to attend your first con. A feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The Vlogger’s Handbook
Written by Shane Birley
Illustrated by Audrey Malo
QED Publishing, 2019
ISBN 9780711242876
IL: Ages 10 and up RL: Grades 5-6

With a fresh, stylish design and bite-sized text and project prompts, this is a no-nonsense approach to learning everything about the world of YouTube. Throughout the book, Q&A panels feature successful young vloggers who give their own personal tips and stories about how they got started. Your own vlogging success comes next!

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

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Author’s Corner: Vikki VanSickle

Vikki VanSickle is the author of a number of acclaimed books for children, including the Clarissa and Benji series (Words That Start With B, Love is a Four-Letter Word, Days That End in Y),  If I Had a Gryphon and the multiple award-winning The Winnowing. In addition to writing for kids, she is the Director of Marketing and Publicity for the young readers program at Penguin Random House Canada and resident bookworm at CTV Your Morning. Her latest book is Teddy Bear of the Year. Connect with her online @vikkivansickle | 

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

I’ve always been a writer and I tried many different forms and genres until I took my MA in children’s literature at UBC and realized that I wanted to write for kids.  I had enjoyed working with kids as a camp counsellor and in the library and everything sort of clicked.

What is your writing process like? 

There’s lots of walking, ruminating, and brainstorming, which I do by hand in a journal.  Eventually I get to a point where my brain is so full I have to start writing and I move to a computer. I don’t do much outlining and I don’t write in order. To me, writing is an act of discovery, so I go where the characters and the story takes me and then I worry about structure, plot, and all those things later.

What is an activity that kids can do in their own homes to celebrate Teddy Bear of The Year?

Teddy Bear of the Year is all about a teddy bear’s picnic, which is an easy thing to do at home! Have a picnic lunch in your living room and invite all your teddies. Create certificates for each teddy that recognizes something special or the thing you love the most about that teddy. Tundra Books made a great free downloadable activity kit that has printable certificates, colouring and activity sheets, and a bear ears craft.

In these uncertain times, how do you suggest that families continue to prioritize reading in their lives?

Think of the act of reading like an act of self-care, or in this case, family-care. It’s a moment of pause in which you can all be together, escape into a story, and truly be in the moment. Family reading can provide fodder for discussion and it’s a great opportunity to share your own favourite books or stories with your kids. Once a kid learns the pleasure of slipping into a book, it’s a tool or a coping mechanism they will have for the rest of their lives.

How can teachers and librarians utilize video to reach young readers when they can’t see them in person?

The great thing about video and virtual events is that you don’t have to go anywhere to experience a live reading or see an author face to face and there are so many authors who are creating content. Suddenly barriers like travel, distance, timing, and cost do not play as large a factor.

What projects are you working on now? Can you tell us about any upcoming books?

I just saw brilliant final art for a new picture book coming from Tundra Books next year called Anonymouse, about a mysterious artist who creates street art for the animals in a city. The illustrator is Anna Pirolli and her work is absolutely stunning! I’m also working on a middle grade novel that takes place during a grade seven sex-ed class.

Find out more about Vikki at @vikkivansickle and

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Illustrator’s Studio: Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the author and illustrator of Where Are My Books? and Sam & Eva, and her illustrations have appeared in books written by Judy Blume and Michael Ian Black, among others.

A former computer programmer analyst, Debbie launched one of the first online communities for writers and was also a columnist and author for Writer’s Digest/F&W. Now she writes and illustrates for a living, and has helped create nearly 25 books for young people.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get your start as an illustrator and author?

I have always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a child. My first comic strip was about a baby named Boppy. My first published comics were in a Canada-wide newspaper called Sunshine News, and I ended up winning a typewriter and a dictionary! It never crossed my mind that I would ever be able to make a living as an illustrator as well as a writer.

Children’s book author, Lee Wardlaw, was the first non-family children’s book professional to ever give me encouragement. I say “non-family” because my sister Ruth encouraged my writing from
the very beginning, and has read every single middle grade novel I’ve written. None have been published (YET) but she continues to encourage me, and I haven’t given up!

But I digress.

As a favour to my father-in-law, Lee Wardlaw agreed to read one of my first middle grade manuscripts, and also critiqued it. When it was ready, she introduced me to her agent, Ginger Knowlton at Curtis Brown Ltd., and I submitted my manuscript. I was thrilled when Ginger took me as a client!

I’ve written four middle grade novels so far. I never did send the first out; I could tell it wasn’t very good. The second manuscript is the one that Lee Wardlaw helped critique and the one that Ginger first read— it never did find a publisher, but the rejection letters from publishers were encouraging. Rejection letters are all ego-blows, of course, but I always appreciated the personal comments and suggestions. We decided to put the manuscript aside and Ginger sent out my third middle grade manuscript. I could tell I had improved because the rejection letters were even more encouraging. Sometimes my manuscript made it all the way to acquisition meetings. Once, an editor whom I greatly admire worked on the revision with me, but ended up rejecting it. That was the most heartbreaking rejection but I learned a great deal during the process, and I appreciated the editor taking the time to work with me.

I decided I needed to start meeting people. I am an introvert and up to that point, I had just been working in isolation. If I could tell my younger writer self one thing, it would be to get to know others in the children’s book community, especially face-to-face. I used to think networking was a negative thing, akin to “schmoozing.” I also dreaded the idea of having to introduce myself to strangers and talk about my work. It drives me a little bit crazy when some people tell me how LUCKY I am, that I’m so good with people, how easy it is for me to talk with strangers, how good I am at networking.

The truth is that I had to really push myself to step out of my comfort zone. It takes practice and the willingness to sometimes fail, to make mistakes. BUT each time I pick myself up and keep going, it makes me a little bit stronger and helps thicken my skin. It DOES get easier over time. 

My big break came at the 2010 SCBWI Summer Convention in Los Angeles. My husband convinced me to go despite the cost, and I’ll always be grateful for that encouragement. I paid to submit my middle grade manuscript for the critique program but it was rejected because my manuscript had illustrations (my fault — I hadn’t read the guidelines closely enough). I was so disappointed.  An illustrator friend, Beckett Gladney, convinced me to enter the portfolio showcase instead, and she even helped me put it together. My sister encouraged me as well, saying that was art was good enough.

I ended up winning an Honour Award and an Illustration Mentorship Award. Justin Chanda of Simon & Schuster Children’s asked if I’d be interested in illustrating a picture book by a comedian-actor named Michael Ian Black.

I said YES, of course!

In these uncertain times, how do you suggest that families continue to prioritize reading in their lives?

Taking time to read is more important now than ever. And to be clear, I’m talking about reading books, not obsessively checking the news online. Some suggestions:

Set aside a regular silent reading time as a family. No screens (unless they are for e-books), no Animal Crossing, no Zoom chats during this time. It could be even as short as 20 minutes. I find that being with other people who are also doing silent reading helps me focus on my own.

Do read-alouds! Have older kids or parents/caregivers read to the younger ones. It doesn’t have to be a picture book; it could be a chapter from a middle grade or young adult novel. If you record it on video, considering sharing with long-distance family and friends.

Listen to audiobooks. If you don’t want to buy your own, check out your library — chances are good it will have many audiobooks to choose from. 

Book and movie match-ups. After reading a book as a family, look for the movie version.

How can teachers and librarians utilize video to reach young readers when they can’t see them in person?

There are so many great video resources for young readers these days. Many are already on YouTube and Vimeo, while others are being created specifically for use during school closures. Most publishers have modified their online read-aloud policies because they know it’s more of a challenge for young readers to access books during the pandemic. If you’re interested in doing a read-aloud for your students or young library patrons, I recommend you check out the publisher’s guidelines first. School Library Journal has a list here

I’ve also started using Flipgrid with teachers and librarians to connect with young readers. I love this free, video-based discussion platform because it’s a safe and easy-to-use environment, and much easier for me in terms of scheduling than a live visit. For those interested in finding out more about how to do remote learning with Flipgrid, learn more here

I have compiled some of my own video read-alouds and other home learning resources on my website, for those interested.

Your books are so much fun! We think that humorous and joyful books are more important than ever. Do you agree?

Absolutely! We all need ways to boost our spirits during trying times.

What projects are you working on now? Can you tell us about any upcoming books?

I’m excited about working on the sequel to Sam & Eva for Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. I’m in the early revision stages right now, working with my editor Justin Chanda. The illustrations will include found object art!

I’m also working on a middle grade novel and a graphic novel for young people. No guarantee that either will be published, of course, so please cross your fingers for me!

The next picture book I have coming out launches August 25 from Simon & Schuster. Gurple and Preen: A Broken Crayon Cosmic Adventure is written by Newbery medalist Linda Sue Park and illustrated by me. I used 491 Crayola crayons in the making of the illustrations in this book! I’m especially thrilled because Linda Sue wrote this story specifically for me, after seeing my “you never know what will come out of a broken crayon” art.

Find out more about Debbie 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


Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS:

Going Up!, written by Sherry J. Lee; illustrated by Charlene Chua (Kids Can Press, 2020) Ages 3-7

In this warmhearted debut picture book, Sophie and her dad are invited to a birthday party on the tenth floor. So they bake their favorite cookies and board the elevator…going up!  On each floor, more friends and neighbors pile in, all bound for Olive’s party. And oh what a delightfully diverse cast of characters they are from the heavily-tattooed Santucci brothers and Mr. & Mrs. Habib with their grandchildren to the Flores family and musicians Grace and Arnie (with their clarinet and bass), along with many others. When they finally arrive at the tenth floor, the doors open with a magnificent gatefold spread in which this exuberant batch of birthday revelers spill out of the elevator and into a joy-filled celebration. The story is simply but beautifully told in both the text and the illustrations which capture not only the tremendous variety of people who live in this building but also the loving, familial bonds that have formed between them. The watercolor and colored pencil illustrations are playful and energetic, delightfully cluttered, and perfectly capture the spirit of anticipation.  A jubilant celebration of urban life and the relationships that make up our lives, this book is a delight in every way.  (P.S. Like Sophie, this reviewer also loves molasses cookies with jam in the middle!)

Lisa Doucet, Co-manager

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.

Librarians’ Picks

Canadian librarians share their recommendations for kids and teens.

Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman (Pajama Press, 2020) Ages 8 -12

Music for Tigers by Governor General’s Literary Award finalist Michelle Kadarusman, is a beautifully orchestrated novel that sings from the heart. Louisa isn’t too keen on the prospect of spending her summer in a remote Tasmanian rainforest camp with a veterinarian uncle she’s never met.  Instead of practicing the violin for an audition with the Toronto Youth Symphony, the middle grader encounters not only a spider the size of a hand, but also a tiger thought to be extinct. While reading her great-grandmother’s journal, Louisa discovers her family’s long history of conservation efforts to protect endangered species. She also comes to realize that their secret sanctuary for endangered animals, in operation for generations, is now under threat. Louisa’s bonds to her family, music and the environment are thoughtfully explored in this multilayered story.

—Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library

If you are a librarian that would like to participate in this feature, please contact us.

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Staff Picks

Staff of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre recommend their favourite books for kids and teens.

Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell
, written and illustrated by Selina Alko (HarperCollins, 2020) Ages 4-8

This picture book follows the life of a woman who paints her feelings with words: Joni Mitchell. From her childhood in the Canadian prairies to her life as a famous singer, this book follows Joni’s life and recounts the inspiration for many of her most famous songs. The unique and beautiful art, made from mixed-media, manages to convey music through pictures alone: while looking at the images you can easily feel like you can hear “Chelsea Morning” or “California.” Joni sets itself apart from other picture book biographies and is like a burst of colour when all you can see and feel is blue.

Emma Hunter, CCBC Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Next Month

Look for our June newsletter next month, which will be all about diverse families!

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