CCBC November 2017 Newsletter


News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
November Book List: CCBC Award Nominees
Author Corner: Jennifer Mook-Sang
Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction
Illustrator’s Studio: Soyeon Kim
Booksellers’ Picks

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends

So You Want to Get Published! Seminar

What does it take to get a children’s book published? What are children’s book publishers looking for? How do booksellers pick the books they sell? Join us on November 4 and let our panel of experts show you what you need to do to get your manuscript published!

Panelists will include industry professionals such as Kathy Lowinger, former publisher of Tundra Books; Gail Winskill, publisher of Pajama Press; Heather Kuipers, owner of Ella Minnow Children’s Bookstore; Joel A. Sutherland, author; and Rebecca Bender, author & illustrator, and art director at Pajama Press.

The seminar will take place November 4, 2017 at 10:00 AM at the Northern District Library in Toronto, ON. Click here to register.

Vote in the CBC’s Fan Choice Contest!

Canadian residents aged 5 to 12 are invited to vote for their favourite book among the 2017 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award nominees. Each participant in the CBC’s Fan Choice Contest gets a chance to win: a visit by one of the finalist authors to their school, copies of that author’s book for all of the students in their class, $2000 donation to their school library and $500 spending money.

Vote now!

CBC’s The First Page student writing challenge

CBC’s The First Page student writing challenge is fast approaching! Here are some tools to help get your students ready.

Submission will be accepted from Nov. 9, 2017 at 9 a.m. ET to Nov. 30, 2017 at 6 p.m. ET. Students can submit their entries online. A link will be available on during the submission period.

Writing tips & discussion questions can be found on Five writers, including Governor General’s Literary Award finalist Cherie Dimaline and The First Page judge Erin Bow, read from the first page of their books and pass on some wisdom that students may find helpful. A teacher’s guide with discussion questions are provided for each video.

Download a printable flyer for your library or classroom: in colourblack and whitefor mobile.

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

Celebrating Margie Wolfe of Second Story Press

Elizabeth Banks attached to direct The Paper Bag Princess movie

Here are the winners of the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Awards

The 5 books Barbara Reid would love to illustrate

Notes From a Children’s Librarian: Books on Government

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October Book List: CCBC Book Awards

This month, we are continuing to highlight nominated books for three of the awards administered by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre: the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award, John Spray Mystery Award, and the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. The winners will be announced on November 21, 2017.


Picture Books


The Artist and Me
Written by Shane Peacock
Illustrated by Sophie Casson
Owlkids Books, 2016
ISBN 978-1-77147-138-1
IL: Ages 5-9 RL: Grades 2-3

Vincent van Gogh | Art | Painting | Bullying | Perspective | Passion

During his life, Vincent van Gogh was mocked for being different. Children and adults alike called him names and laughed at him. Nobody bought his art. But he kept painting. Inspired by these events, this is the fictional confession of one of van Gogh’s bullies — a boy who taunts van Gogh until the day he realizes there is more than one way to see the world.

Nominated for: Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


The Darkest Dark
Written by Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion
Illustrated by Eric Fan and Terry Fan
Toronto: Tundra Books, 2016
ISBN 978-1-101-91862-3
IL: Ages 4-7 RL: Grades 2-3

Facing Fears | Dreams | Space | Moon Landing | Imagination | Possibilities

Chris loves rockets and planets and pretending he’s an astronaut! Only one problem — at night, Chris doesn’t feel so brave. He’s afraid of the dark. But when he watches the first moon landing on TV, he realizes that space is the darkest dark there is — and it is beautiful and exciting when you have big dreams to keep you company. This title is also available in French as Plus noir que la nuit.

Nominated for: Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


I Am Not a Number
Written by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer
Illustrated by Gillian Newland
Toronto: Second Story Press, 2016
ISBN 978-1-927583-94-4
IL: Ages 8-11 RL: Grades 3-4

Residential Schools | First Nations | Education | Canadian History | Human Rights

Based on the true account of Jenny Kay Dupuis’s grandmother, this picture book tells the story of eight-year-old Irene who is taken from her Nipissing First Nation home by an Indian Agent and sent to live in a faraway residential school. Stripped of her name, frightened and homesick, Irene endures, holding on to her mother’s words “Never forget who you are!” This title is also available in French as Je ne suis pas un numéro.

Nominated for: Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


The Snow Knows
Written by Jennifer McGrath
Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
Halifax: Nimbus Publishing, 2016
ISBN 978-1-77108-441-3
IL: Ages 3-8 RL: Grades 2-3

Winter | Nature | Natural World | Woodland Animals | Snow

In this engaging, lyrical winter lullaby, readers learn who is hiding, who is sleeping and who is slinking, sliding and tunnelling through the snow! Whimsical hide-and-seek illustrations will keep youngsters searching for glimpses of woodland creatures hiding in each winter landscape.

Nominated for: Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


We Found a Hat
Written and illustrated by Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press, 2016
ISBN 978-0-7636-5600-3
IL: Ages 4-10 RL: Grades 2-3

Turtles | Friendship | Sharing | Humour | Temptation | Loyalty

Two turtles have found a hat. But there are two turtles… and there is only one hat. Evoking hilarity and sympathy, the shifting eyes tell the tale in this brilliantly paced story highlighted by Jon Klassen’s visual comedy and deceptive simplicity. The delicious buildup takes an unexpected turn that is sure to please loyal fans and newcomers alike. This title is also available in French as Nous avons trouvé un chapeau.

Nominated for: Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Junior & Intermediate Fiction


Howard Wallace, P.I.
Written by Casey Lyall
Sterling Children’s Books, 2016
ISBN 978-1-4549-1949-0
IL: Ages 8-12 RL: Grades 4-5

Mystery | Friendship | Detectives | Blackmail | Humour

Twelve-year-old Howard Wallace, a big Sam Spade fan and amateur gumshoe, runs his detective agency from a makeshift office behind the school and wears a bathrobe for a trench coat. When a hot case of blackmail lands on his desk, he’s ready to take it on himself… until the new kid convinces him to take her on as a junior partner.

Nominated for: John Spray Mystery Award

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


The Road to Ever After
Written by Moira Young
Illustrations by Hannah George
Doubleday Canada, 2016
ISBN 978-0-385-68742-3
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 5-6

Orphans | Death | Adventure | Intergenerational Friendship | Journeys | Supernatural | Art

Davy, a 13-year-old orphan, ekes out a living in the dead-end town of Brownvale, finding solace in the library and movie theatre. His secret is his art — angels drawn in the dirt with homemade brushes. Circumstances lead Davy into the life of Miss Flint, an elderly recluse with one last road trip planned, and he finds himself driving her. An extraordinary adventure awaits them both.

Nominated for: John Spray Mystery Award

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard
(The Continuing Adventures of Peter Nimble, Book 2)
Written by Jonathan Auxier
Puffin Canada, 2016
ISBN 978-0-670-06773-2
IL: Ages 10-13 RL: Grades 5-6

Adventure | Storybooks | Fantasy | Magic

Two years ago, Peter Nimble and Sir Tode rescued the kingdom of HazelPort. Now they have been summoned for a new mission: find Sophie Quire — 12-year-old bookmender and Storyguard. Sophie repairs old books and also rescues storybooks from Inquisitor Prigg’s pyres, but when Peter and Sir Tode appear with a mysterious book, she finds herself pulled into an adventure beyond anything she has ever read.

Nominated for: John Spray Mystery Award

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Young Adult Fiction


Girl Mans Up
Written by M-E Girard
HarperCollins Publishers, 2016
ISBN 978-1-44344-704-1
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 7-8

Gender | Sexuality | Coming of Age | Self-Discovery | Identity | Labels | LGBTQ

Why does everyone have a problem with Pen being the kind of girl she’s always been? They think she should quit trying to be something she’s not. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships and feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth — respect and loyalty are often empty words, and that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.

Nominated for: Amy Mathers Teen Book Award

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Julia Vanishes
(The Witch’s Child, Book 1)
Written by Catherine Egan
Doubleday Canada, 2016
ISBN 978-0-385-68465-1
IL: Ages 13 and up RL: Grades 8-9

Fantasy | Magic | Witchcraft | Romance | Mystery | Paranormal

Julia has the ability to be… unseen: just beyond most people’s senses. It’s useful magic for a thief and a spy. Posing as Mrs. Och’s housemaid, Julia learns about the house’s strange residents, and wants to be done with this unnatural job. But she is entangled in a struggle between powerful forces — escape will come at a terrible price.

Nominated for: Amy Mathers Teen Book Award

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Written by Caroline Pignat
Razorbill Canada, 2016
ISBN 978-0-14-318757-8
IL: Ages 13 and up RL: Grades 7-8

School Life | Suspense | Self-Discovery | School Shootings | Secrets | Collaboration

Five teens end up together in a high school bathroom during a lockdown drill. Telling the story in five unique voices, the students reveal pieces of their true story while they wait for the drill to end… except it isn’t a drill. There is a shooter in the school, and the bathroom doesn’t seem so safe anymore. Especially when they learn one of them knows more about the shooter than they realize.

Nominated for: Amy Mathers Teen Book Award, John Spray Mystery Award

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


With Malice
Written by Eileen Cook
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
ISBN 978-0-544-80509-5
IL: Ages 13 and up RL: Grades 7-8

Mystery | Death | Amnesia | Friendship | Truth

A dream trip to Italy for two best friends turns into a nightmare when 18-year-old Jill wakes up in a hospital bed with no memory of the last six weeks, including the accident that killed her best friend — only what if the accident wasn’t an accident? Found guilty in the court of public opinion, Jill desperately tries to put the pieces together and uncover the truth.

Nominated for: Amy Mathers Teen Book Award

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim
(The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim, Book 1)
Written by Shane Peacock
Tundra Books, 2016
ISBN 978-1-77049-698-9
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grades 7-8

Mystery | Gothic Fiction | Monsters | Scotland | Secrets | Horror

Edgar Brim has always suffered from nightly terrors, exposed to tales of horror by his father. As a frightened orphan, he is sent to a gloomy school in Scotland where he is bullied for his fears. Years later, Edgar finds his father’s journal and learns that monsters from famous works of literature are real. Along with a ragtag crew of friends, Edgar sets out on his dark mission.

Nominated for: John Spray Mystery Award

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

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Author’s Corner: Jennifer Mook-Sang

JenniferJennifer Mook-Sang is a writer living in Burlington, Ontario. She has a master’s degree in psychology and has worked with children of all ages in health and educational settings. Her first novel, Speechless, was short-listed for several awards, and her latest title, Captain Monty Takes the Plunge, came out last month.

How did you get your start as an author?

I’ve been an avid reader all my life and I lost myself in books as a child. The idea of being an author seemed much like the idea of being a superhero — ridiculous! Those kinds of jobs were for people with special powers. But while reading to my two sons, I became enamoured of funny, touching, mesmerizing picture books. Swept away by these tiny powerful stories, I had a daring notion — they were so short and perfect, I wanted to write one — besides, they’re short. Ha! I struggled to write, and almost gave up, until I started taking a class with an instructor who explained what I needed to know. I read books about the craft. I joined a critique group. I wrote a lot of different beginnings to many stories, over a long period of time. I learned that writing is mostly rewriting, and if you can see what’s wrong in a story, you can almost always fix it. It might not be the same story in the end, but it will be a better story.

What is your writing process like?

I finish books through sheer persistence and procrastination. I write in intense bursts followed by periods of intense idleness. One step in front of the other, wander off the trail in chase of shiny things, get back on the trail, try to remember which direction I was going in, take another few steps, remember there’s a leftover bit of curry in the fridge, and so on. I work best when I start early in the morning and make myself sit at my desk for a couple of hours. I work best when I write every day, or most days. But usually, I don’t.

61Y13nvLFjLIn the past year, I’ve had many shiny things come my way and have been thoroughly and happily distracted from consistent work. But November is at hand and I’m going to be buckling down to a companion novel to Speechless. There, I said it. This is actually the crux of my writing process. I declare that I’m going to accomplish something, so I have to do it — or else I’ll be a liar.

Your latest book, Captain Monty Takes the Plunge, features a pirate with an aversion to baths. What inspired the story?

The inspiration for Captain Monty, as for most things in my life, was a deadline. I had homework due for a writing class. We were assigned to think of a character and put them in a difficult situation. Well, who doesn’t like pirates? So, pirate it was. And what’s the worst thing that a pirate could face? Fear of the water, of course (I later found out that many pirates didn’t know how to swim anyway). And since stories have to make sense, I had to explain why he was afraid of the water. Ta da! Can’t swim. Dream up a convincing reason for him to jump in the water, and the story was born.

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

For Grades 3 and up, I have a slide presentation that shows the writing of Speechless — starting with the inspiration for the story through to what happens when I run out of ideas. I show pictures of the things that surprised me during research, which subsequently went into the book, and I reveal the utter despair that is a manuscript marked-up by a beloved writing friend. I give out my handy-dandy tips for people who want to become writers (#1: read, read, read). And I disclose the notes I leave for myself, beside my laptop, reminding me to get my butt in the chair and write, write, write.

For Grades 2 and down, I don a pirate hat and talk like a pirate. There is a spirited reading of Captain Monty, followed by a discussion of swimming lessons, the need for a lifeguarding certificate before you jump in to save anyone, and the meaning of bravery.

Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how to incorporate your books, Captain Monty or your middle-grade novel Speechless, into the classroom? Do you have any activity suggestions?

61raJ6fkEtLCaptain Monty can be used to talk about fears, and how they lose their power when we admit to our flaws. What did Monty think would happen if people knew he couldn’t swim? What happened after he told Meg? Meg is a strong female role model — smart, brave, and generous; she is equal to Monty, and they end up saving each other in different ways. This book can begin a discussion of each person’s strengths and weaknesses, and of how different people are from each other — and that’s a very good thing.

Speechless can be used as a starting point to discuss issues of friendship, bullying and volunteering. Scholastic Canada’s website has a great speech topic generator here. It’s fun for everyone to get a random speech topic, take one minute to think about it, five minutes to write as fast as you can about the topic, then share your silly speech with the class. Some people find it difficult to write off the top of their heads, but it’s an experience that can lead to some very interesting ideas that you didn’t even know you had. There is also a page of tips for making a great speech here.

What’s next for you? Can you tell us about any upcoming books?

Captain Monty is a Junior Library Selection and has been nominated for a Rainforest of Reading award. I’ll be attending the Rainforest festival in St. Lucia in March 2018. I feel your pity. There are so many sacrifices authors have to make for their craft. November will bring me back to my middle-grade novel, currently titled Sam. A companion to Speechless, this book follows one of the secondary characters, Sam, as she attempts to impress her hockey-loving father by joining the Robotics team at school. Her attempt will be impressive indeed, because Sam’s real passion is not math and science, but dance. Extracurriculars conflict, twin brothers get all the attention, best friends are running with the wrong crowd and creating drama. I’m about two-thirds of the way in, with a giant plot hole (or five). Everyone please cross your fingers for me as I glue myself down and strap myself into my chair. If you’d like to know more about me and my writing and presentations, my website is

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Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction

amycolumnSince the influx of fall release books has hit my shelves, I’ve been reading frantically. Usually I try to keep to a schedule of reading at least 100 pages a day, but fall is my busiest time of the year, so I haven’t been that successful lately. It’s also been a long year in terms of health issues and hospital stays, and the year isn’t over yet.

During times like these, I look to stories to find solace. Since my childhood/teen years, I have been searching relentlessly for books that help me make sense of my experiences with the medical world, dealing with life-long chronic illness and now disability. The problem is, I am still searching, because for me, they aren’t there.

But a Twitter conversation with YA author Darren Groth about the Netflix show, Atypical, made me realize something. Groth is the father of twins, one of which has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Groth is open about this in his biography, and his YA book Are You Seeing Me? reflects his inside knowledge of living with someone with ASD. So, when Atypical, a show that revolves around 18-year-old Sam’s life with ASD, came out, I wondered what Groth thought of it.

To put it mildly, he was not a fan. You can check out Groth’s responses to viewing Atypical in detail on his Twitter account: @darrengroth. While I actually liked the show, and learned a great deal as an outsider to ASD, Groth, with personal experience, did not.

This is because there are two kinds of stories featuring disabilities and/or chronic illness. The first are the stories that expose and educate the public about the challenges of various disorders, with varying degrees of accuracy, and the second are the stories that actually connect with the people that live with these challenges.

They’re two very different things, which is why I may be excited when I read there’s a book coming out featuring a character with muscular dystrophy (a rare occasion), and often end up very disappointed by the outcome of it. At the same time, because I know so few books exist on the topic, I still feel a need to promote them anyway, even if I thought they were overly dramatic or inaccurate. At least they got the word out there.

2499The second category exists in tiny quantities, which is why I keep searching. When I do recognize something from my own experience in another’s story, even if we don’t share a similar diagnosis, it brings a tremendous cathartic release. And while reading some pretty amazing stories this fall, I found one that I truly connected with: Plank’s Law by Lesley Choyce.

At first glance, I was skeptical. Main character Trevor has Huntington’s disease and a year to live. As a reader of Lurlene McDaniel’s books, that’s usually a recipe for sappy, melodramatic nonsense. Choyce is the anti-McDaniel though — his previous works approach serious narratives with logic, reason and a great deal of thoughtfulness — so I was cautiously optimistic.

I wasn’t disappointed. While I didn’t learn much about Huntington’s disease, Choyce explored something more vital and universal through Trevor’s story: what makes you want to live when you’re facing death?

It’s a simple question, and Trevor’s journey through his circumstances is relatively uncomplicated and un-angsty as well. When I finished reading, I cried. While I have faced that question many times over the course of my life, I have never seen it put quite so succinctly. What made me cry most was how much I needed Plank’s Law when I was a teen, and it wasn’t there.

Getting caught up in the drama of chronic and life-threatening or terminal conditions is easy. Taking a disorder to its most stereotypical form, as Atypical does, ultimately misinforms and does people a disservice. But give me an accurate idea of the different challenges people face and then tell me how they face them, and I am hooked. In this way, we can have books that satisfy both groups.

Speaking as someone who fits the categories of having a genetic, life-threatening, disabling chronic disease, we don’t all die, and those of us who live need stories that tell us we’re not alone and how to keep going.


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: Soyeon Kim

Soyeon KimSoyeon Kim is an illustrator, artist and art educator, originally from South Korea. Her work specializes in merging fine sketching and painting techniques to produce three-dimensional dioramas. She has illustrated several children’s picture books, including You Are Stardust, Is This Panama?, Wild Ideas, and her latest, Sukaq and the Raven. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

How did you get started as an illustrator?

I started working as an illustrator when I was in my last year of university. I was doing my first art exhibition at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition as a student. I remember being so nervous and I wasn’t sure what to expect! During the exhibition, I had a special visitor — one of the editors from Owlkids. Shortly after the exhibition, I received an email from the editor asking if I would be interested in illustrating a children’s picture book, You Are Stardust. And that is how it all started! Ever since then, I have been working as an artist and illustrator, creating illustrations for You Are Stardust, Wild Ideas – Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking, Is This Panama? and the latest book, Sukaq and the Raven.

Can you tell us about your unique illustration style and how it came about?

My illustration style started when I was taking a drawing course at York University. It was (and still is) my favourite art class with my favourite professor of all time. There were no rules or set projects, but I remember that the professor had asked us to draw what we really wanted to explore and express.

first project-Jane

I still remember my first project, which was done on a long piece of Chinese paper. I drew images of a girl (whom I called Jane) going through an emotional state, using pen and ink and watercolour. To explore different ways of drawing, I used a needle and thread to stitch some parts of the drawing.

After the first project, I created a book to illustrate a story inspired by a Korean folk tale (a love story of Gyunwoo and Jiknyo). I thought it would be interesting to work with more than one image, and I wanted to play with layers (for some pages, I actually used tracing paper — so that you can still view previous/upcoming pages).

It is funny to think back that I had actually thought about creating a wordless picture book. Without realizing it, I think I enjoyed telling a story through my work, and seeing how people would respond (or even how they would interpret my story through their perspectives).


After creating the book, I thought, why not try to bring all those pages into one artwork that is not on a flat two-dimensional page, but in a three-dimensional space. And that is how I started creating a diorama. I still have the first diorama that I created, which was made out of a recycled cardboard box. For this diorama, I revisited my first drawing of Jane, which turned into a series of works. As I created art in a diorama style, I knew that this is the art style and form that I wanted to make mine.

diorama thumbnail 2My illustration process involves a little bit of everything. But no matter what the project is, the beginning is always the same for me — idea sketch! Everything starts with a rough sketch before I start anything else, so that I can put my ideas into lines, shapes and colours. Once the rough sketches are done, I share them with a designer and editor, and revise as needed.

After the rough sketch, the first studio I visit is the woodworking studio. I use the woodworking studio at a community centre in Oakville, where I also learned everything about woodworking! In the woodworking studio, I build diorama frames. In fact, it is quite interesting how I appear to work backwards, making the frames before the art (because usually it’s the other way around — art and then the frame). But at the end, it all works out the same for me, since a diorama frame serves two purposes — a blank canvas, like a drawing paper, and a frame.

diorama frame 1So, it starts with a big rough block of wood, which I run through a jointer (for smooth, flat surfaces along the four edges) and planer (cutting it into a desired thickness). Then, I take it to a table saw to cut it into strips, and glue them together to form a box. When the glue is all dried, I stretch fabric on the top and bottom, which allows me to suspend any drawing or painting using fishing wire.

watercolour paletteOnce the skeleton of the diorama is done, I come back to my art room, where I create all the drawings and paintings that go inside the box. My go-to materials are pen and ink, watercolour and pencil crayon. (I still use the same watercolour palette that I’ve had since I was eight years old!) I also use a lot of different types of paper, such as acetate (clear plastic), mylar, Korean paper, Japanese paper and watercolour paper. I have to admit that paper shopping is one of my favourite parts, especially when it comes to Japanese and Korean paper. (Sometimes I literally spend hours in the shop, admiring papers!)

When working inside a diorama, it can be tricky to decide where I want the spread to be placed. Sometimes one diorama can have two to three spreads, and I need to make sure that all the spreads will fit inside a diorama and work as one artwork. I also need to consider where the gutter (the center of the book where it is folded) will be for each spread so that I don’t place any important pieces there. As a guide, I use green tape to mark the gutter and spread.

green tape placement diorama

Once all of the pieces are drawn, painted and cut, I start placing them inside the diorama using glue and fishing wire (for anything that needs to be suspended). I also choose a few background papers, so that I will be ready for a photo shoot.

diorama for sukaq and the raven

Tell us about your latest book, Sukaq and the Raven. How did you get involved and what was the process of illustrating it like?

Danny Christopher, the art director of Inhabit Media, saw one of my books, You Are Stardust, and asked if I would be interested in illustrating a story about a child and the raven. As soon as I read the manuscript, I pictured the big raven flying through the dark sky with the boy on his back, snow flittering across like stars, and that is when I knew I wanted to illustrate this book.

71r67TIC2bLThe illustration process started with researching the town where the boy, Sukaq, lived. Then I created the character sketches of Sukaq, his mother and the raven. I remember that I couldn’t wait to get started working on the final art once I submitted my rough sketches!

I made five dioramas in total; each diorama contained two to three spreads. For these dioramas, I used screen-printing fabric (it is light, but very strong), so that I could play with lighting to create a more dramatic effect during the photo shoot. I really enjoyed creating the dioramas for the raven and Sukaq, because that made me feel as if I made the journey together with them!

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

I have planned for two different types of classroom visits:

Diorama workshop – Kindergarten to Grade 10
We will be working together as a class to create a diorama, inspired by Sukaq and the Raven, You Are Stardust, and Wild Ideas — Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking! I will be sharing my original sketches and dioramas from the books to inspire the students. Depending on time, I am hoping to squeeze in a photo shoot where I can show students how light can change the mood and final look of the diorama. I will take a photograph of the finished diorama, which I will share with the class after TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is completed.

Dream Big! – Artist/Illustrator Talk – Grades 8 to 12
Working as a freelance illustrator and Toronto-based artist, I will be sharing my journey of how I achieved my dreams. I will discuss: mastering skills through practise, developing personal style, building a portfolio, time management, importance of sharing and listening to others, and much more!

Your educational background is in fine arts and education. Do you have any activity suggestions or tips for teachers who would like to use your books in the classroom?

Depending on which subjects teachers want to connect (e.g. Science, Literacy, Art, Social Studies), my books can be used in many ways. They can be used to introduce and discuss the ideas that the books explore. They can also be used to explore the art behind the books.

I have done many art workshops based on the books, where I created dioramas and/or artworks (drawings/paintings) with students. The books are great examples of how we can create images based on the texts. They are also a great way to inspire students to be imaginative thinkers. You can discuss the creative ways of illustrating texts (maybe drawn in comic style, painted, collaged, or even sculpted!) and how to convey ideas through visuals. Teachers can show examples of illustrators (past or contemporary) to explore their different approaches to illustration and styles. As part of a lesson, teachers can ask students to come up with a sentence based on a topic, and ask them to illustrate their message.

There are lots of teaching resources available for my books, such as An Educator’s Guide to You Are Stardust, which was created by the dedicated educators at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School (OISE, University of Toronto). There is also a video about how Cindy Halewood’s Grade 2 class at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute uses You Are Stardust in a knowledge-building cycle.

For Is This Panama? Owlkids Books offer a migration map, showing the warblers’ journey. Make sure to check the podcasts on Wild Ideas — Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking. Author Elin Kelsey discusses the ideas that Wild Ideas introduces and explores the science behind them.

Images courtesy of Soyeon Kim. Find out more about her 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
9781770494947Ella Minnow Children’s Bookstore in Toronto, ON: Yak and Dove,  written by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Esmé Shapiro (Tundra Books, 2017), ages 4-6.

Friends Yak and Dove are complete opposites. Yak is large and Dove is small. Yak has fur and Dove has feathers. Yak is polite. Dove is ill-mannered. Yak likes quiet. Dove likes noise. One day as Yak and Dove list their differences they come to the conclusion that maybe they aren’t meant to be friends. In the hope of finding a new best friend, Yak holds auditions. But when a small feathered contestant sings Yak’s favorite song, the two begin to think that maybe they are alike after all . . .

Yak and Dove whimsically captures the highs and lows of friendship through the three interconnected tales of two very different friends.

Recommended by Heather Kuipers

Ella Minnow Children’s Bookstore: 991 Kingston Rd, Toronto, ON M4E 1T3

9781626721586McNally Robinson at Grant Park in Winnipeg, MB: The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2017), ages 9-13

The Stone Heart is the second book in the Nameless City trilogy from Faith Erin Hicks. Kaidu and Rat have only just recovered from the assassination attempt on the General of All Blades when more chaos breaks loose in the Nameless City: deep conflicts within the Dao nation are making it impossible to find a political solution for the disputed territory of the City itself.To complicate things further, Kaidu is fairly certain he’s stumbled on a formula for the lost weapon of the mysterious founders of the City. . . . But sharing it with the Dao military would be a complete betrayal of his friendship with Rat. Can Kai find the right solution before the Dao find themselves at war?

Recommended by Josef Estabrooks

McNally Robinson at Grant Park: 1120 Grant Ave., Winnipeg, MB R3M 2A6

91cO6-uki1LType Books in Toronto, ON: Biometrics: Your Body and the Science of Security by Maria Birmingham (Owlkids, 2017), ages 8-12.

Biometrics — the science of using the body to identify a person — is everywhere, not just in science fiction, but in everyday life. Methods like fingerprinting and retinal scanning might be more familiar, but biometrics can also identify people based on ear shape, scent, vein pattern, and much more. This book explores nine biometrics in detail, explaining how each works, where it’s used, its pros and cons, and how it compares to other techniques. It also discusses privacy, security, why we need methods of identification, and touches on biometrics of the future. Engaging and colorful design and playful illustrations alongside surprising anecdotes, historical context, and humor make this an enjoyable, in-depth look at a hot topic. Informational text features include sidebars, diagrams, sources, a glossary and an index.

Recommended by Serah-Marie McMahon, Children’s Buyer for Type Books.

Type Books: 427 Spadina Rd. & 883 Queen St. W., Toronto, ON

5414Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS: Camped Out by Daphne Greer (Orca Book Publishers, 2017), ages 10-14.

In this latest installment in the Orca Currents series, Max desperately wants to go to summer camp with his best friend Ian. But the only way that his mom can afford to send him is if his autistic brother goes too and Max will attend as his special needs assistant.  Max really wants a break from Duncan and his home life in general (i.e. his mom’s new boyfriend).  Although having to look out for Duncan makes camp different than he expected, Max eventually discovers that it can still be everything he had hoped it would be, and maybe more. Greer’s honest and straightforward depiction of Max makes him an extremely sympathetic and relatable protagonist, and her heartfelt descriptions of camp life will have young readers every bit as anxious as Max to experience the wonders of summer camp. This is a delightful follow-up to Maxed Out and is a satisfying read for more reluctant readers as well as those who will simply feel invested in, or drawn to, Max’s story. —Lisa Doucet, Co-manager

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

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