May 2023

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
Accessibility Column
Author’s Corner: Heather Smith
May Reading List: Mental Health Children’s Books
Experts’ Picks

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends

Chaiwala! Selected as the 2023 TD Grade One Book Giveaway 

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) is proud to announce the title for the 2023 TD Grade One Book Giveaway, Chaiwala!, written by Priti Birla Maheshwari, illustrated by Ashley Barron and published by Owlkids Books, will be distributed to over 500,000 Grade 1 students in fall 2023. Translated into French by Benoit Laflamme, francophone Canadians and French immersion students across Canada will receive copies of the French translation, also entitled Chaiwala ! 

Learn more.

Thank You to Our Silent Auction Donors—It Was A Great Success!

Our virtual silent auction took place from April 20-27 last month and grossed $5,227 in profits! We are thrilled that $525 of this amount has been donated in support of Canadian Children’s Book Week. Congratulations to all our auction winners! We would like to thank everyone who participated by bidding on items, and an extra-special thank you to our donors.

  • 3 Pumpkin Designs
  • Alisha Sevigny
  • Babar Books
  • Baskin-Robbins
  • Bonnie Farmer
  • Brainspace Magazine
  • Canadian Opera Company
  • Charlene Chua
  • Crow’s Theatre
  • Customaps
  • David A. Robertson
  • Ella Minnow
  • Eric Walters
  • Geordie Theatre
  • Greenhouse Juice
  • Helaine Becker
  • Hoa Crochet
  • Ishta Mercurio
  • Jennifer Faria
  • Jennifer Mook-Sang
  • Jessica Laforet Photography
  • Kids Can Press
  • Kristin Butcher
  • Library Marketplace
  • Lubertex
  • Monique Polak
  • Natasha Deen
  • Nimbus Publishing
  • Nutritower  
  • Ontario Library Association
  • Paul Coccia
  • Pizza Nova
  • Rabba Fine Foods
  • Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
  • Sara O’Leary
  • Shannon Barnes
  • Shelburne Museum
  • Sylvia Gunnery
  • Tarragon Theatre
  • Temperance Tonics
  • Tinlids
  • Valerie Sherrard
  • Wool Food
  • Woozles
  • Young People’s Theatre

Become a Member of the CCBC and Help Us Promote the Books You Love!

All throughout the month of May, we’re reminding everyone of what we do here at the Canadian Children’s Book Centre and how becoming a member will not only help us—but more importantly—will help Canadian creators, publishers and the young people who read their books. From Canadian Children’s Book Week to the TD Grade One Giveaway, our programs are impactful and far-reaching, and help instill a lifelong love of reading in children across the country!

Make a difference by becoming a member today!

Celebrate Spring With One-of-a-Kind Canadian Art—It’s For a Good Cause!
“Brand New Day” by Jeni Chen

Choosing a piece of art can be a big decision, but it’s also a striking way to show off your taste and transform your space into something you’ve created to reflect your personality. The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) is excited to present our virtual Picture Book Gallery, the perfect destination if you’re looking for unique gifts for yourself or someone else this spring! Whether you know someone graduating or retiring, we have something suitable for every occasion. You’ll find the ultimate group baby shower gift for the book-loving coworker or loved one in your life. Perhaps you’re in search of a wedding gift. Maybe you want to freshen up your office space or liven up your home with something long-lasting and eye-catching. Whatever your needs, you can find a piece of unique art for every type of celebration and location in our online gallery.

Visit the Picturebook Gallery.

The CCBC’s 2023 Virtual Annual General Meeting is June 8!

Where: Zoom (link will be sent by email on the evening of June 7).

Attention Members: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) will take place on Thursday, June 8, 2023 at 1:00 pm (EDT). Members in good standing and the public are welcome to attend.

This year’s AGM will feature a talk by Priti Birla Maheshwari, author of Chaiwala! Published by Owlkids Books, Chaiwala! is the selection for the 2023 TD Grade One Book Giveaway. In her address, Ms. Maheshwari will discuss the importance and meaning of diverse representations in children’s literature, and the power of books to make kids feel seen.

Learn more.

Order the Spring Issue of Book News!

The Spring issue of Canadian Children’s Book News celebrates the beauty and wonder of picture books. It includes a profile of illustrator Carmen Mok and an interview with Marilyn Baillie, whose award celebrates excellence in the picture book format. Educator and book expert Spencer Miller shares his experience introducing Indigenous stories to his students and recommends recent picture books from Indigenous authors and illustrators. Elementary teacher and equity consultant Rabia Khokhar reflects on her life with books and the need for representation and diversity in picture books. Our Keep Your Eye On column introduces you to chemist-turned-writer Emily Sakoto Seo, whose latest book, The Perfect Sushi, is included in our review section. Our Bookmark! section lists recent debut picture books that are not to be missed. And, as always, we have reviews of over 40 new Canadian books for you to enjoy!

Buy the issue here!

Available for Pre-Order! Best Books for Kids & TeensSpring 2023

Best Books for Kids & Teens is your guide to the best new Canadian books, magazines, audio and video for children and teens. Whether you’re stocking a bookshelf in a classroom, library or at home, every title in this guide has been given the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s stamp of approval. Expert committees of educators, booksellers, school and public librarians from across Canada have handpicked the materials listed in this guide. Committees look for excellence in writing, illustration or performance. Most importantly, these committees focus on selecting materials that will appeal to children and young adults

Pre-order it today!

Right to Read: Accessible Books for Everyone

Why I Need Accessible Books

By Amy Mathers, the founder of the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award, an annual award that is given out to Canadian teen fiction authors by the CCBC. She’s also the host of YA Write!, a podcast that interviews Canadian teen fiction authors.

I use accessible books because I was born with a muscular dystrophy that has gotten worse over time. My muscles can get weak pretty easily, and sometimes, picking up those heavy YA books that I love to read is just too much.

I like to listen to audiobooks. I also find it amazing to have the e-publication on my phone and just flip through it without having to lug the physical copy around.

I think that you should read in whatever format that works for you. Listening to a book, reading it visually, reading it by touch with braille, using a book that is in a dyslexic-friendly format—they’re all important and they all fall under the umbrella of reading. No method is superior to another. The important thing is that you read. Whatever inspires you, whatever entices you, grab it and read.

Watch Amy share more of her story as she discusses her experiences using accessible formats and why they’re so important to readers everywhere.

Links We Love

Articles of interest to educators and parents

2023 R. Ross Annett Award Finalists for Children’s Literature Announced

Announcing the 2023 Atlantic Book Award Nominees

IBBY Canada presents the 2022 Claude Aubry Award for distinguished service in children’s literature to: Merle Harris and Yves Nadon

2022 Frances E. Russell Grant Awarded to Gillian O’Reilly

Winners of the 2023 Joan Betty Stuchner — Oy Vey! — Funniest Children’s Book Award Announced!

Meet the writers reading The First Page student writing challenge entries for 2023! (CBC)

Celebrating Asian Heritage Month 2023 (Vicki VanSickle blog)

New children’s book by Kwantlen Nation author set for release (Yahoo! News)

Local volunteer still teaching children 25 years after retirement (

Esi Edugyan to publish first picture book, Garden of Lost Socks — get a look now! (CBC)

The Tragically Hip ABC is a picture book inspired by the band’s decades in music — get a first look now! (CBC)

27 Canadian young adult books to read in spring 2023 (CBC)

Joan Clark (1932–2023)

Author’s Corner

Heather Smith is the author of several books, including her middle-grade novel Ebb and Flow, which was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award, and winner of the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. Her YA novel, Barry Squires, Full Tilt was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award and her YA novel The Agony of Bun O’Keefe won the OLA Forest of Reading White Pine Award. Originally from Newfoundland, Heather lives in Waterloo, Ontario, with her family. When she is not writing, Heather can be found browning bread by radiant heat and dreaming about her imaginary play: Toast! The musical.

For more information about Heather and her work, visit

How did you get your start as a children’s book author?

Back in 2001, I brought one of my manuscripts to Kathy Stinson, who was the writer-in-residence at the Kitchener Public Library. Kathy saw promise in my work and asked me to do a reading at one of her events.

With her encouragement, I was motivated to pursue children’s book writing as a career. Over the next few years, I took classes with Kathy and began working on the craft. Kathy fostered in me a sense of what it means to write for a young audience.

My writing began to grow from there.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Inspiration comes from just about everywhere for me. It comes from my own personal experiences or those of my friends and family members. It also comes from the world around me—what I see and what I hear day to day. I always keep my eyes and ears open to what’s going on in the world, especially when it comes to young people. As a children’s book writer, I think it’s important to be tuned into what kids are going through, what is important to them, and what’s affecting them on a daily basis. I’m also inspired by other forms of storytelling. From live-action films to animated movies to the creativity shown in a sixty-second TikTok. All of these things open me up to new ideas and different ways to tell stories.

I recently came across the following quote from Rick Rubin: “Self-expression is not about you. Everything we are comes from outside of us first. We are a container storing up the stuff we’re surrounded by.” This quote speaks to me. Who I am creatively does not solely come from who I am on the inside. It comes from the interactions and observances, big and small, that I experience every day.

How did you come up with the idea for your book, Waking Ben Doldrums?

The initial spark for this book came about when I was watching a British architectural design show. In one episode they were talking about the history of a housing area in England called the Warner Estate. The historian described how the homes were split into four flats and the walls were so thin the occupants woke each other up by knocking on the floors and walls. I was so taken with the community spirit of this unique morning alarm system I wanted to capture it in a book for children. Even before I began writing I knew that one of the occupants would one day struggle to get up in the morning—and that is when Ben Doldrums was born!

The word depression is never used in the book, but it is clearly implied. Why was it important to you to write a book that touches on mental health challenges from a child’s perspective?

I felt it was important to write about depression from a child’s perspective so that children who are impacted by it feel seen and those who are not are introduced to the concept in a gentle way. Not identifying the mental health issue by name was a deliberate decision. Oftentimes, children don’t actually know the medical terms for what is affecting their family members, so labelling Ben’s mental health issue didn’t seem important to the story. What I really wanted to focus on is not what a child knows in these situations but what they see and hear and feel. That way, whether a reader shares Frida’s experience or not, they will be able to connect with her from an empathy standpoint—and if they do share her experience, they will see their own complicated feelings reflected back and know that they are not alone.

How can children’s publishing do better when it comes to representing and including characters who are living with mental health issues?

I think we need more books out there that address mental health issues in a nuanced but authentic way. I feel that it’s important that books with mental health themes don’t offer up unrealistic solutions but instead provide gentle support to the reader. In my experience, seeing your situation portrayed realistically in a book is more beneficial than being given false hope through “it’ll get better” platitudes. Letting a reader know that what they are feeling is tough and complicated and sometimes scary can be more comforting than a portrayal that doesn’t ring true to them. That said, I think it’s important to reveal to the reader that glimmer of hope that’s always there—somewhere—even though it’s often hard to find. Sometimes, it is these little glimmers that can make a huge difference to those struggling with mental health.

As someone who describes much of her early life as “wrestling” with words and speech, and being a reluctant reader, do you approach your writing any differently?

Because I was (and still am) a reluctant reader, my goal when telling stories is to make the writing accessible but literary. I want the text to be engaging and thoughtful but also simple—but by simple I don’t mean basic. I mean pared back in a beautiful, straightforward way. That’s the goal anyway—try as I might, I don’t always reach it!

I think it’s important to not underestimate reluctant readers. If they’re anything like me, they also want to read sentences that are thoughtful in structure and deep in meaning. A hard balance to strike but one worth achieving.

What projects are you working on now?

Since June 2022 I’ve been dealing with long COVID so my writing process has been quite different. For example, this interview is being dictated rather than typed—something that I’ve never done before. Surprisingly, although I have felt unwell and spend most of my time at home, I’ve continued to become inspired by the things around me and have been able to write on and off. Currently, I am writing a series of personal essays about my experience with long COVID. I’ve never written in this genre before but I’m enjoying the process. I’m not writing at my usual pace, but it feels good to have a project on the back burner.

Can you tell us about any upcoming books?

I have a picture book called Granny Left Me a Rocket Ship that is coming out this June as well as a middle-grade novel called The Boy, the Cloud and the Very Tall Tale which will be available this fall. The following fall (2024) I have a novel coming out called Tig. I can’t wait to start sharing these upcoming books with readers.

May Reading List: Children’s Mental Health Books

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In today’s constantly changing world, it is easy for children and teens to be overwhelmed by life. The books below allow young people to experience the wide range of emotions that overtake us all, and remind them that it is okay to feel them all. Get the young readers in your life interested in reading books that deal with this challenging subject with this curated list—great for parents, librarians and teachers to use.

Picture Books

The Bird Feeder
Written by Andrew Larsen
Illustrated by Dorothy Leung
Kids Can Press, 2022
ISBN 978-1-5253-0483-5
IL: Ages 6-8 RL: Grades 2-3

Award-winning author Andrew Larsen beautifully captures the special bond between a child and a grandparent, and sensitively deals with a child’s loss of a loved one. Using the motif of their shared love of birds and its physical manifestation in the form of the bird feeder allows for a continuity in the child’s life that puts the loss in a larger context. Larsen offers an authentic presentation of the process of a loved one’s death, from being sick, to going to the hospice, to participating less and less in their relationship, to death. It will lead young readers to ask their own questions about life, death and how we remember those who die.


Dark Cloud
Written by Anna Lazowski
Illustrated by Penny Neville-Lee
Kids Can Press, 2023
ISBN 978-1-5253-0657-0
IL: Ages 4-8 and RL: Grades 2-3

Abigail has a dark cloud. It follows her everywhere. It can be a ball of worries, a swirl of fog or a long shadow. But it’s always with her, getting in the way of things. Her dark cloud makes the other children distant and messes with her grand jeté during ballet class. It even takes away her appetite for birthday cake. Then one day, Abigail begins to figure some things out about her dark cloud. Like how it’s not always the same size. How she can trap it in a sandcastle at the beach. And how, sometimes, she can even step away from it and feel the sunshine on her skin.


Olivia Wrapped in Vines
Written by Maude Nepveu-Villeneuve
Illustrated by Sandra Dumais
Translated by Charles Simard
Orca Book Publishers, 2022
ISBN 978-1-4598-3103-2
IL: Ages 5-8 and RL: Grades: 2-3

When Olivia starts to feel overwhelmed by her big feelings, she sprouts vines. They are thorny and twisty and make it impossible for Olivia to do the things she loves to do, like ride her bike or play with her friends. Plus, no one wants to come near a giant ball of thorns. Luckily, Olivia has a very special teacher. Someone who sees past the prickly and the pokey to the upset little girl and helps Olivia learn to manage the vines.


The Remembering Stone
Written and illustrated by Carey Sookocheff
Groundwood Books, 2023
ISBN 978-1-77306-589-2
IL: Ages 3-6 and RL Grades: 2-3

Alice keeps a perfectly round skipping stone in her pocket to remember her grandfather by—but the stone goes missing. Her friends search high and low and can’t find the stone—but their friendship gives Alice an idea of another way that she can remember. A gentle look at loss, grief, and how small everyday actions can connect us to those we love.


Junior & Intermediate Fiction

Living with Viola
Written and illustrated by Rosena Fung
Annick Press, 2021
ISBN 978-1-77321-549-5
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 4-5

As the new girl at school, Livy is having trouble fitting in. What’s worse, Livy’s “shadow” twin Viola is an embodiment of her anxiety—and only Livy can see and hear her. Constant negativity and self-depreciative talk haunt Livy every day, and when both home and school get worse, Livy must tell someone about Viola to figure out how to deal with and live with her. This graphic novel is an essential read for youth who are struggling with their own versions of “Viola.” Rosena Fung invites her readers to speak up about mental health issues before things get worse, and creates a safe space for kids who need representation.


Sara and the Search for Normal
Written by Wesley KIng
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021
ISBN 978-1-5344-2114-1
IL: Ages 8-12 RL: Grades 3-4

Sara wants one thing: to be normal. What she has instead are multiple diagnoses from Dr. Ring. Sara’s constant battle with False Alarm—what she calls panic attacks—and other episodes cause her to isolate herself. She rarely speaks, especially not at school, and so she doesn’t have any friends. But when she starts group therapy she meets someone new. Talkative and outgoing Erin doesn’t believe in “normal,” and Sara finds herself in unfamiliar territory. But there’s more to Erin than her cheerful exterior, and Sara begins to wonder if helping Erin will mean sacrificing their friendship.


The Scroll of Chaos
Written by Elsie Chapman
Scholastic Press, 2023
ISBN 978-1-338-80323-5
IL: Ages 8-12 RL: Grades 3-4

Astrid Xu and her younger sister embark on a treacherous journey into the realm of Zhen, where the Chinese legends of old live. Here, they team up with two great mythological figures, Erlang Shen and Lan Caihe, and lead a quest to save the world from the “fog”: a depression that has kept her mom bedridden, and is slowly taking over the rest of the world, too.


Young Adult Fiction

Boys and Girls Screaming
Written by Kern Carter
DCB Young Readers, 2022
ISBN 978-1-77086-645-4
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 9-10

After one traumatic event after another, Ever is overwhelmed and filled with anger at the constant tragedies that strike at her. To deal with the pain, Ever creates a group with her brother and best friend: Boys and Girls Screaming. Here, teens from her school can come together to share their trauma and collectively heal together. However, Ever finds herself sinking deeper and deeper into depression, and it is up to the members of the group to pull her out of her anguish. This is the story of a generation of teens finding the support they need to process their trauma in their own ways. 


I’m Good and Other Lies
Written by Bev Katz Rosenbaum
DCB Young Readers, 2021
ISBN 978-1-77086-632-4
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 8-9

Kelsey Kendler just wants to earn some money for university, hang out with friends, maybe even snag a boyfriend. But her pill-popping mom and distant dad scare off anybody she tries to bring home, making those last two things feel impossible. Her part-time ice cream shop job’s a slog, but at least there, she can escape her parents’ constant fighting…until the COVID-19 pandemic forces a lockdown and she’s stuck at home with them 24/7. As the lockdown takes its toll on Kelsey’s mental health, she starts to see the appeal of her mom’s pills. Horrified to find herself following in her mom’s footsteps, she can only hope she’ll eventually figure out some other way to cope…


Until We Break
Written by Matthew Dawkins
Wattpad Books, 2022
ISBN 978-1-9893-6587-8
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 9-10

Naomi is the only Black student at her ballet academy, where she works tirelessly to train for the Youth American Grand Prix. Nothing can stop her from her goals of winning and getting a spot at the top ballet school in New York City—except the doubts in her mind. After losing her best friend to a car accident, and getting injured while dancing, Naomi’s mental health begins to deteriorate and she can no longer forget her pain in a world of dancing. Luckily, a new friend named Saint shares a new perspective that helps Naomi see that there are lots of ways she can shine in this world.



Champion for Health: How Clara Hughes Fought Depression to Win Olympic Gold
Written by Richard Brignall
Lorimer, 2016
ISBN 978-1-4594-1080-0
IL: Ages 12-18 RL: Grades 7-8

Clara Hughes has won multiple medals in both summer and winter Olympic Games. As a cyclist and speed skater, Clara pushed through pain to get to the finish line, trying to have her best race every day. Few knew that the same determination and focus were also needed to fight her own personal battles. Clara’s inspiring story does not end with winning gold. Using her fame as a platform, she has devoted time and resources to helping children gain access to sports in the world’s most troubled regions. And she has become a symbol of the fight to remove the stigma from mental illness by cycling thousands of kilometres in all kinds of weather to raise awareness. Clara is a remarkable athlete, but it is her strength and courage off the track that have made her a true champion.


Follow Your Breath! A First Book of Mindfulness
(Exploring Our Community)
Written and illustrated by Scot Ritchie
Kids Can Press, 2020
ISBN 978-1-5253-0336-4
IL: Ages 4-7 RL: Grades 2-3

From the popular “Exploring our Community” series, Scot Ritchie writes a factual story of five young kids learning the benefits of being mindful of their feelings. As their friend Pedro feels worried about moving away in a few days, his friends Yulee, Nick, Martin and Sally practice deep breathing with the help of Pedro’s mother. This picture book is packed with accurate information about breathing exercises, and the benefits that come from using them!


Heads Up: Changing Minds on Mental Health
Written by Melanie Siebert
Illustrated by Belle Wuthrich
Orca Book Publishers, 2020
ISBN 978-1-4598-1911-5
IL: Ages 12-18 RL: Grades 8-9

Melanie Siebert is a youth and family counselor for people living with depression, anxiety and trauma in British Columbia. With award-winning illustrator Belle Wuthrich, she has created an important resource for young adults dealing with mental health issues. This book includes voices from the field of psychology, along with youth who’ve experienced mental illnesses. This title is filled with hope, and incorporates both innovative and holistic ways to approach healing. Traditional ways of healing from Indigenous stories, and trauma-informed activities like yoga and hip-hop are just some of the ways this book reaches out to its audience.


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:

I Want to Build a Seahouse
Written by Whitney Moran
Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
Nimbus Publishing, 2023
ISBN 978-1-77471-147-7
IL: Ages 3–6 RL: Grades 2-3

When a new arrival brings unwanted change to her household, a feisty young adventure-seeker decides that what she needs is a new home: a seahouse, “a place that’s wild and free.” Her vivid and unfettered imagination creates an idyllic dreamscape of oceanic delight, one in which she cavorts with whales and merfolk and feasts on seafood treats while traversing the seas by starlight. But ultimately even as she dreams of the freedom and wonders that life aboard a seahouse might bring, she realizes that in order for it to truly feel like home it needs one more very important thing. Playful and energetic text that leaps off the page makes this book a joy to read aloud and the colourful, detailed illustrations expertly capture the story’s whimsy. It is a sweet and sensitive story of adapting to change.


—Lisa Doucet, Co-manager

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

Librarian’s Picks

Canadian librarians share their recommendations for kids and teens.

Otis & Peanut
Written by Naseem Hrab
Illustrated by Kelly Collier
Owlkids Books, 2023
ISBN 978-1-77147-496-2 
IL: Ages 6-10 RL: Grades 2-3

Otis, a hirsute guinea pig, and Peanut, a bespectacled naked mole rat, are an immensely likeable buddy duo. Throughout three short stories, the bestie mates support, console and encourage each other. Otis and Peanut’s kind-hearted and philosophical conversations explore being afraid of change (“I’m still me. Only different”), living with grief (“I think I’ll always be a little sad, even when I’m happy”), and making a house a home (“It’s hard to tell what’s missing when you don’t know what’s missing”). Distinct personalities shine through Collier’s digital illustrations. The sunny yellow and hot pink background shades are as warm as a hug—or “Peanut’s Perfect Baked Potatoes for Two” (recipe included!). By turns whimsical and wistful, this is a winning graphic novel series opener.


—Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library

See you in June for our next issue!