November 2021



News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Book Reviews
Links We Love
November Reading List: Winter Holidays
Author Corner: Rina Singh
Illustrator’s Studio: Kass Reich
Experts’ Picks

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends

Congratulations to the Winners and Finalists of the 2021 CCBC BookAwards!

The  CCBC Book Awards virtual gala took place on October 28 in French and October 29 in English. Thank you to all of  those who watched from home! View the  press release for the English-language awards here and the French-language  in French or English.

The Great Canadian Book Project

TEACH Magazine is excited to launch a new video series that showcases Canadian books as valuable teaching tools. Plus, the videos come with a suite of curriculum-linked lesson plans to support teachers and implementation!

Learn more here.

To celebrate, we’re also offering a free giveaway! Check us out on Twitter, where you can enter to win a selection of books as featured in the videos. Contest ends December 15.

Terrific Storyific Day on November 24 with Barbara Reid and Suzanne del Rizzo

Here’s a REALLY FUN live virtual presentation for grades 1-4, where teachers and students will have the opportunity to meet, ask questions of, and be inspired by two of our country’s premier creators — award-winning author-illustrators Barbara Reid and Suzanne del Rizzo, who will deliver great stories and great writing advice during the 45-minute event.

Register as a friend of the CCBC here!

Thank You For Helping Us Raise Money Through the Charity Challenge!

Throughout the month of October participants all across Canada ran, walked and wheeled to raise money for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC). Thank you to everyone who donated or participated in the CCBC’s Charity Challenge. Funds raised through this initiative will support various CCBC programs in 2022, including Canadian Children’s Book Week, our awards programs and YouTube channel Bibliovideo.

Thanks to your generous support, we surpassed our goal of raising $5,000 for our 2022 programs and raised a total of $5,190.37. These funds will help connect more children across the country with Canadian books and creators.


Save the Date: Canadian Children’s Book Week!

Canadian Children’s Book Week is the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children’s books and the importance of reading.

The upcoming tour will take place from May 1 to May 7, 2022, and will allow young readers to connect with highly acclaimed and emerging authors and illustrators. The deadline for applications is end of day on Friday, October 22nd.

Learn more about Canadian Children’s Book Week at and at

Students All Across Canada Have Started to Receive Their Copies of Malaika’s Costume

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) is excited for the 2021 TD Grade One Book Giveaway. Malaika’s Costume, written by Nadia L. Hohn and illustrated by Irene Luxbacher, will be distributed to over 550,000 Grade 1 students in the coming months. The book is the first in a series of three and is published by Groundwood Books, with the French edition (Le costume de Malaika) published by Éditions Scholastic. Free downloads of activities and lessons are available online. Learn more here.

FOLD Kids Bookfest 2021, November 4-7, 2021

FOLD Kids Bookfest will host virtual events from November 4-7, 2021 on a brand new virtual platform that allows participants to chat with authors and industry professionals and to participate in our inaugural virtual scavenger hunt.

The 20+ events include workshops, story times, and conversations for children of all ages, as well as writers, families, and educators. Live sessions will take place during the school day, in the evenings, and over the weekend Nov 4-7. After the sessions air live, all sessions will remain available on-demand to passholders until December 7. Learn more here.

Internationally beloved children’s story, THE PAPER BAG PRINCESS, optioned for the big screen

Annick Press is thrilled to announce that The Paper Bag Princess, written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko, has been optioned by Universal Pictures as a live-action motion picture. Elizabeth Banks and Margot Robbie are producing for the studio with Banks slated to direct the feature film. Partners in the option are WildBrain who hold animation rights to the title. Purported to be one of Canada’s largest feature film deals to Hollywood, Robert Munsch confirms that “I is going to be a movie! Yes, Yes, Yes!” The deal was brokered by Janine Cheeseman of Aurora Artists.

Learn more here.

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre is Nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

The CCBC is Nominated for the 2022 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Among the nominees are a full 282 names from 71 countries including some of the world’s foremost creators of literature for children and young people, as well as reading promoters. You can view the full list here.

Representing Canada are:

Isabelle Arsenault, Author/Illustrator
Canadian Children’s Book Centre, Organisation
Deborah Ellis, Author
Jacques Goldstyn, Author/Illustrator
Robert Munsch, Author/Illustrator/Storyteller
Eric Walters, Author

Nahid Kazemi, Illustrator

Canada/United States
Zetta Elliott, Author/Illustrator
Jon Klassen, Author/Illustrator


2022 Forest of Reading® Nominated Titles Announced

The Forest of Reading, Canada’s largest recreational reading program, is excited to announce the English and French-language nominees for the 2022 Awards. The Forest of Reading’s mission is to instil the love of reading in people of all ages, while supporting programming in schools and libraries and celebrating Canadian authors, illustrators, and literature.


Resources for Discussing Residential Schools and Indigenous Issues

Residential school history is a difficult subject to teach kids, but it’s something that all Canadians should know – so how do we do it?

Learn more here.

IBBY Canada Named Host of IBBY’s 40th International Congress in Ottawa in 2026

IBBY Canada, the Canadian national section of the International Board on Books for Young People, is thrilled to announce that Canada has been selected to host IBBY’s 40th World Congress. The event will take place in Ottawa, Ontario from August 19 to 23, 2026.

Learn more here.

Empowering Youth, One Generation at a Time: Free Resources 

The Rick Hansen Foundation School Program (RHFSP) is inspired by Rick’s belief in the power of youth and their ability to change the world. RHFSP raises awareness, challenges perceptions, and changes attitudes, through a variety of lessons and activities, empowering youth to take action on important issues.

RHFSP resources are designed for youth from K-12 and include age-appropriate lessons and interactive activities for every grade level. Free, bilingual, and connected to provincial curriculum, our resources are:

  • Ready-to-use
  • Deliverable online or in the classroom
  • Developed by educators, for educators
  • Grounded in Universal Design for Learning and incorporate Differentiated Instruction Strategies

Learn more here.

Purchase Our Greeting Cards and Support the CCBC!

With everyone across the country separated from their friends and families, we are all searching for ways to connect with one another. Support the CCBC and send your loved ones a greeting featuring art from past Canadian Children’s Book Week posters. Perfect for stocking stuffers, these greeting cards feature original art by illustrators Barbara Reid, Julie Flett, Ian Wallace, Wallace Edwards, Bill Slavin, Elly MacKay, Gabrielle Grimard and Eugenie Fernandes. All purchases from these packs of eight cards go towards programs like Canadian Children’s Book Week, the CCBC Book Awards and Bibliovideo

Visit our shop today!


SOYEON KIM is IBBY Canada’s Illustrator in Residence

IBBY Canada is delighted to announce that Soyeon Kim is the 2021 Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence. The residency program will be hosted online by Toronto Public Library for the month of October.

Soyeon Kim is a Korean-born artist and educator who came to Canada in 2000.

Follow the CCBC on TikTok

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre is now on TikTok! Follow us, like our first video and stay tuned for more!

Pre-Order the Fall Issue of Best Books for Kids & Teens!

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.

Buy the issue here!

#GiveKidsBooks / #LectureEnCadeauPourJeunes

Get an early start to your holiday shopping with this great playlist of authors and illustrators recommending their favourite books. Find the full list of videos 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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Canadian Children’s Book News Online Preview

Canadian Children’s Book News: Fall Reading

It’s time for fall reading! Published quarterly, our magazine Canadian Children’s Book News reviews books, interviews authors and illustrators, includes annotated reading lists, informs and updates readers about issues affecting children’s education and reading, and provides information and news about the world of children’s books in Canada.

We are currently featuring bonus reviews online. See them all here. 

Links We Love

Articles and videos of interest to educators and parents.

‘The stories will be the last thing to go’: Robert Munsch on his legacy as one of Canada’s great storytellers (CBC)

StoryWalks: A Fun Way to Engage Students’ Minds and Bodies With Books (Edutopia)

Children’s book on Governor General’s Literary Award short list a win for Indigenous publishing, author says (CBC Books)

A children’s book about traditional drumming ‘feels like coming full circle’ for this Indigenous author (Maclean’s)

This Indigenous Girl’s Ancestral Language Was Lost To Time, So She Wrote a Children’s Book About Finding It Again (mitú)

Beloved children’s bookstore Woozles moves out of iconic yellow building in Halifax (CBC)

Rainn Wilson Narrates Animated Children’s Video A Horse Named Steve (ET Canada)


November Reading List: Celebrate Winter Holidays

In celebration of today being Diwali, our November newsletter is all about winter holidays!


Diwali: Festival of Lights
(Orca Origins)
Written by Katie Smith Milway
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Orca Book Publishers, 2016
ISBN 978-1-4598-1007-5
IL: Ages 8-12 RL: Grades 5-6

During Diwali, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains celebrate the legends and stories that describe the triumph of good over evil and justice over oppression. Critically acclaimed author Rina Singh explores her Indian roots as she tells the Diwali stories, which remind us that eventually light will prevail over darkness.


Diwali Lights
Written by Rina Singh
Orca Book Publishers, 2018
ISBN 978-1-4598-1908-5
IL: Ages 0-3 RL: Grade 1

Diwali, the biggest and the brightest of all Hindu festivals, celebrates the victory of good over evil and light over darkness. People celebrate by lighting clay lamps and candles, sharing sweets, exchanging gifts, offering prayers to gods and goddesses and watching fireworks. Introduce little ones to the awe of this festival of light through dazzling photographs and Singh’s lyrical prose.


Shubh Diwali!
Written by Chitra Sounder
Illustrated by Charlene Chua
Albert Whitman & Company, 2019
ISBN 978-0-8075-7355-6
IL: Ages 3-5 RL: Grades 2-3

It’s time to prepare for Diwali! Everyone helps clean the house, hang strings of flowers and create special Rangoli art on the floors. When Diwali arrives, we ring the bells, light the lamps, and welcome the New Year with friends and family. This picture book offers a joyful introduction to the celebration of the Hindu festival of lights.


‘Twas the Night Before Diwali
Written by Manon Lariviere
Illustrated by Milan Pavlović
Independently published, 2020
ISBN 979-8-6911-1792-3
IL: Ages 3-5 RL: Grades 1-2

On the eve of Diwali, the jalebis, chum chums and gulab jamuns are piled high! But who is the surprise guest that shows up? And where, oh where, are the mithai? Enjoy this South Asian rendition of a familiar holiday poem and the introduction of a new character to the much celebrated festival of lights, Diwali.



A Chanukah Noel
Written by Sharon Jennings
Illustrated by Gillian Newland
Second Story Press, 2010
ISBN 978-1-8971-8774-6
IL: Ages 3-5 RL: Grades 2-3

Luc thought he knew what his passion was: football. He lives it, breathes it. So when his coach orders him to sign up for contemporary-dance classes to improve his game, Luc agrees. He never expected to fall in love with dance. Now Luc faces a tough decision. Is he willing to give up a future in pro football to pursue a new dream?


Hanukkah Lullaby
(The Lullaby Series)
Written by Ruth Abrams
Illustrated by Tia Mushka
Baby Lullaby Books, 2015
ISBN 978-0-9919-463-7-2
IL: Ages 0-6 RL: Grades 1-2

This sweet board book is a tribute in art and song to the celebration of Hanukkah. The song is available by following a link on the back of the book. Watercolour illustrations depict Hanukkah traditions being enjoyed by a young boy and girl — making dreidels, lighting the menorah and eating potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts — all wrapped in the embrace of family love.



A Rugrats Chanukah
Written by Mahtab Narsimhan
Illustrated by Kim Smith
Quirk Books, 2021
ISBN 978-1-6836-9286-7
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 2-4

On the eighth night of Chanukah, Grandma Minka reads aloud a story about the meaning of the holiday to Tommy, Chuckie, Lil, Phil, and Angelica. The babies imagine themselves as the characters in the story, but then Grandma stops reading to make latkes, and the ending is left unknown. Soon they’re all off to the synagogue, where Grandpa Boris is acting in the Chanukah play. The kids, misunderstanding the phrase “the meaning of Chanukah,” believe that an actor in the play is the “meany of Chanukah” and storm the stage to save Grandpa. How will the Rugrats get out of trouble this time? And will they ever learn the true meaning of Chanukah?




Yitzi and the Giant Menorah
Written and illustrated by Richard Ungar
Tundra Books, 2016
ISBN 978-1-77049-812-9
IL: Ages 5-9 RL: Grades 2-3

On the eve of Hanukkah, the People of Chelm receive a giant menorah, a gift from the Mayor of Lublin. Every night, the villagers meet to watch the lighting of a candle on the menorah and they wonder how to thank the Mayor. Finally, on the last night of Hanukkah, Yitzi orchestrates the perfect surprise thank you gift.




The Boy Who Moved Christmas
Written by Eric Walters and Nicole Wellwood
Illustrated by Carole Liu
Nimbus Publishing, 2020
ISBN 978-1-77108-911-1
IL: Ages 6-8 RL: Grades 2-3

It’s October, but in seven-year-old Evan’s town, every house is decorated for Christmas and a holiday parade is about to begin. The bump in Evan’s head means he might not make it to December, so his family and community have moved Christmas just for him. Based on a true story, this loving tribute is a reminder of the power of the Christmas spirit.

The Christmas Wind
Written by Stephanie McLellan
Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan
Red Deer Press, 2017
ISBN 978-0-88995-534-9
IL: Ages 6-10 RL: Grades 2-3

As Jo helps her sick mother and baby brother on a cold and windy Christmas Eve, the only shelter she can find is a barn owned by an unfriendly old farmer, Franklin Murdoch. Will Murdoch help the little family? This starkly beautiful story highlights the heroic spirit of a young girl and the generosity of a stranger — revealing the real spirit of Christmas.


Deck the Halls: A Canadian Christmas Carol
Written by Helaine Becker
Illustrated by Werner Zimmerman
Scholastic Canada, 2018
ISBN 978-1-4431-6394-1
IL: Ages 1-6 RL: Grade 4

Porcupine and his friends are back, singing “Deck the Halls!” in this sturdy board book edition. Join Canada’s favourite porcupine for a hilarious Christmas Eve party! Loons, beavers, moose and more appear, decorating, wrapping gifts and, of course, eating holiday goodies… until the big surprise is unveiled! Originally published as a hardcover picture book in 2016.


The Lotterys More or Less
Written by Emma Donoghue
Illustrated by Caroline Hadilaksono
HarperCollins Publishers, 2018
ISBN 978-1-44344-560-3
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 5-6

Nine-year-old Sumac Lottery, the fifth of seven kids, is the keeper of her family’s traditions — from Pow Wow to Holi, Carnival to Hogmanay, she ensures that no Lottery celebration gets forgotten. But, this winter, all Sumac’s plans go awry. A Brazilian visitor overstays his welcome. A terrible ice storm grounds all flights. And then the power starts going out across the city…


Peril at Owl Park
(Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen)
Written by Marthe Jocelyn
Tundra Books, 2020
ISBN 978-0-7352-6549-3
IL: Ages 9-11 RL: Grades 5-6

Aspiring writer Aggie Morton is looking forward to spending Christmas with her sister Marjorie, the new Lady Greyson of Owl Park, and her fellow sleuth and partner in crime, Hector Perot. An enormous estate in the country, Owl Park holds many delights. But when Aggie and her friends discover a body on Christmas morning, things take a deadly turn.


When Santa Was a Baby
Written by Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Geneviève Godbout
Tundra Books, 2015
ISBN 978-1-77049-556-2
IL: Ages 3-8 RL: Grades 1-3

Santa’s parents think their little one is absolutely wonderful, even though his first words are HO HO HO, he gives his birthday presents away, he will only wear red… and he has an unusual interest in chimneys. An adorably funny portrait of an oddball kid who fulfills his destiny — and of his very proud parents. This title is also available in French as Quand le père Noël était petit….



(Celebrations in My World)
Written by Molly Aloian
Crabtree Publishing, 2008
ISBN 978-0-7787-4302-6
IL: Ages 5-11 RL: Grades K-6

Kwanzaa is an African American festival that celebrates family, community and culture. It began in 1966 and based on various African harvest festivals in an attempt to bring African Americans together and remind them of their roots. On this day, African American families light the Kinara, a special candleholder, and discuss the seven principles that form the basis of the festival.



Chinese New Year

The Animals of Chinese New Year
Written by Jen Sookfong Lee
Translated by Kileasa Che Wan Wong
Orca Book Publishers, 2019
ISBN 978-1-4598-1902-3
IL: Ages 0-3 RL: Kindergarten

Drawing on the myth of the Chinese zodiac, this board book follows 12 toddlers (representing the animals of the zodiac) competing to represent the imminent new year in a race held by the Jade Emperor, the most powerful Chinese god. Each animal competes in its own unique way. Who will win? In English and Simplified Chinese.


Chinese New Year: A Celebration for Everyone
(Orca Origins)
Written by Jen Sookfong Lee
Orca Book Publishers, 2017
ISBN 978-1-4598-1126-3
IL: Ages 8-12 RL: Grades 4-5

From its beginnings as a farming celebration marking the end of winter to its current role as a global party featuring lots of food, gifts and public parades, Chinese New Year is a snapshot of Chinese culture. Award-winning author and broadcaster Jen Sookfong Lee weaves family stories into the history, traditions and evolution of Chinese New Year. Illustrated with colour photographs throughout.




Birthdays Around the World
(Around the World)
Written by Margriet Ruurs
Illustrated by Ashley Barron
Kids Can Press, 2017
ISBN 978-1-77138-624-1
IL: Ages 3-7 RL: Grade 3

Everyone has a birthday — but not everyone celebrates the same way. Meet 17 children from around the globe who share their own birthday traditions, including how they say happy birthday in their native language. Young readers are invited to compare their own birthday traditions with the ones they’ve learned about in the book. There are so many ways to have a happy birthday!

Happy Birthday, Alice Babette
Written by Monica Kulling
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Groundwood Books, 2016
ISBN 978-1-55498-820-4
IL: Ages 5-9 RL: Grades 2-4

It’s Alice’s birthday! But her friend Gertrude seems to have forgotten. No matter, Alice goes out and enjoys her day just the same. A beautiful spring afternoon in Paris — what could be better? Little does she know that her dear friend has a few surprises up her sleeve. Inspired by the lives of artist Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, this is a sweetly joyful story of love, friendship and creative inspiration.


Mega Bat and the Not-Happy Birthday
Written by Anna Humphrey
Illustrated by Kass reich
Tundra Books, 2020
ISBN 978-0-7352-6604-9
IL: Ages 7-10 RL: Grades 2-4

It’s Daniel’s birthday, and Megabat wants to join in all the fun, but his excitement gets the best of him and suddenly the birthday celebrations are on the brink of disaster. The next laugh-out-loud book in this sweet and funny chapter book series featuring a talking bat.


Son of Happy
Written by Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Milan Pavlović
Groundwood Books, 2020
ISBN 978-1-77306-178-8
IL: Ages 6-9 RL: Grades 2-3

The boy in this story never wants to go to his friends’ birthday parties because Happy the Clown is always there. And Happy is… his dad. But when his dad has to go back to his old job, something feels different. The boy wonders if his dad misses being a clown. Or is he the one who misses Happy?


Today Is the Day
Written by Eric Walters
Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Tundra Books, 2015
ISBN 978-1-77049-648-4
IL: Ages 6-9 RL: Grades 2-3

In this third book from celebrated author Eric Walters set in his Kenyan orphanage, Mutanu is helping prepare for a celebration. Every year, the orphanage honours its newest arrivals by creating a birthday day especially for them. From that day forward, Mutanu and the other orphans have a real birth certificate and citizenship rights, as well as a day that they know is theirs.


Your House, My House
Written by Marianne Dubuc
Translated by Yvette Ghion
Kids Can Press, 2020
ISBN 978-1-5253-0490-3
IL: Ages 3-8 RL: Grade 2

It’s a special day at 3 Maple Street. It’s Little Rabbit’s birthday and he’s having a party! But that’s not all. The Cat family is moving in upstairs, the Foxes’ are having a new baby, and Mr. Bear has a cold. There’s so much happening at 3 Maple Street, and it’s hard to keep track! Available in French as Chez toi, chez moi.



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Author’s Corner: Rina Singh

Rina grew up in a small town in India that didn’t even have a public library. Imagine that! However, the library at the Catholic school she attended was well stocked and the books came from England. It didn’t matter that she didn’t relate to the mysteries and adventures set in castles or islands as long as she got to read.

When she grew up, she moved to Canada and spent a decade in Montreal, where she got an MFA in creative writing at Concordia University and then a teaching degree from McGill University. One of the assignments was to write a picture book. That started it all. She got a job in an arts-based school in Toronto, and for the next twenty-five years she taught hundreds of children poetry, visual arts and drama. In 2016, she left teaching, hoping to write full time. But truth be told, writing takes up 70% of the time and baking the rest.

She is the author of many books. She has presented at literary conferences and festivals across Canada and even in Singapore. She is a spoken word coach for the tdsbCREATES Arts Festival.

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

I am a Children’s Author and Spoken Word coach based in Toronto. I grew up in a small town in India which didn’t even have a public library. However, the library of the Catholic school I attended was well stocked and the books came from England.

It didn’t matter if I didn’t relate to any of the adventures in castles and rivers–– all I wanted was to read. What were my chances of seeing a castle when I hadn’t even seen a library? None.

And incidentally Children’s Literature as a genre did not even exist in India at the time.

There weren’t too many exciting things happening in my small town, so I escaped into the world of books.

When I was grown up, I moved to Canada and spent a decade in Montreal where I got an MFA in Creative Writing from Concordia University and a teaching degree from McGill. I had to write and illustrate a picture book as an assignment and that’s how I fell in love with them and wanted to write my own.

I wrote my first picture book when my daughter, Amrita was six years old.

This month’s newsletter is celebrating upcoming holidays, like Diwali! What inspired you to write Diwali Lights and Diwali: Festival of Lights?

When I was a child growing up in India, Diwali was not only the most important festival and lasted the longest, but it was also my favourite. There was something magical about Diwali –– the lights, the shopping, the sparklers, the fireworks, and mithai, the sweets that gave me the sweet tooth. My favourite memory is watching my mom pour mustard oil into diyas and arrange cotton wicks in them. She set them in large platters that I eagerly carried to my father. I stood by his side as he lit the diyas and placed them around the house. After that I would stand back and let myself be dazzled by the lamps lighting up the darkest night of the month.

When I got married, I moved to Canada. For many years after leaving India, Diwali lost its lustre. Friends took turns hosting Diwali dinner and that was it. No lights, no sparklers, no prayers. Years passed.

One day, my daughter Amrita, who was in grade one at the time, came home and asked me: Mom,what is Diwali?

Her question made me realize what I had left behind and what I could lose if I didn’t do anything about it. Ever since that day I have celebrated Diwali with such devotion that even my non-Indian friends and their children have grown to love the festival.

So, when the opportunity to write this book came my way, I felt goddess Lakshmi was shining a light on me.

Diwali: Festival of Lights had done extremely well and was also nominated for the Red Cedar Award. I had written a board book on Holi Colors for Orca Books and that book garnered a lot of interest and starred reviews so the publisher asked me if I would write a board book on Diwali.

I would never say no! That’s how Diwali Lights came into being.
Your books like Grandmother School and 111 Trees are based on real stories. How did you research the real events for these books?
As a writer I feel drawn to real life stories about social justice and the environment. I’ll start with Grandmother School –– a story about a young girl, a grandmother, and a grandmother school. It was inspired by true events.

It’s published by Orca Books and gorgeously illustrated by Ellen Rooney.

This book was inspired by true events that happened in 2016 in Phangane, a remote village in Maharashtra, India. I read a news clip that the village teacher thought to himself – that everyone in the village could read some, write some, and do enough math to get by except the 29 grandmothers. So, he built a one room school, and he invited the grandmothers to attend. They jumped at the opportunity and attended school for the first time in their lives. The teacher insisted that the grandmothers wear a bright pink, a colour reserved for celebratory occasions. The bright pink saris looked so revolutionary and that was what drew me into the story first.

Then I listened to some interviews and the grandmothers said that they felt ashamed that they could not even sign their names and didn’t want to die illiterate. That’s the moment I felt I had to tell this story. I was fascinated by the idea, and I had a starting point. The setting was already there but I only had to do my research to make sure my details were authentic. I had to imagine my characters, their relationship with each other and what they were going to do in the story and give a satisfying ending. My own grandmother never went to school, and I think that helped me to tell the story with heart. I must be respectful of the cultural details. Being from India helped with that. I have traveled extensively in rural India and that gave me an edge, I think.

111 Trees is published by Kids Can Press and beautifully illustrated by Marianne Ferrer. The book is based on true events.

I’d like to share a little background for the story. In India, gender inequality has been part of everyday life for centuries. India was originally an agricultural society, where an extra pair of hands was valued in the fields, so the birth of a boy was a cause for celebration. A girl, however, was considered a disappointment and a burden. Gender bias, formed centuries ago, continued into modern times, and crept into all walks of life.

It was against this backdrop that I read a news clip about a man in a desert village in Rajasthan who planted trees every time a girl child was born in his village. Not 1 tree, not 11 trees, but 111 trees.

The story sounded too good to be true.

So, I decided to make a trip to this village on my visit to India. I was surprised to see such a beautiful and clean village. I visited the school and was very proud to see girls learning along with the boys. I talked to the girls, and they shared their dreams with me. Most of them wanted to become teachers and police officers. I figured education and safety was so important to them.

I saw a forest growing in the middle of a desert. I met Sundar Paliwal (the protagonist of the book) and he spent the day showing me the village and then invited me to his home where I interviewed him. At the time I wasn’t sure if it will ever become a book, but the story had already begun to form in my heart.

I kept in touch with him and every time I needed clarification; I would call him. I’m still in touch with him and plan to keep supporting his efforts.

When possible, I like to get in touch with my protagonists and hear their stories. 

What advice do you have for educators who want to use your books in the classroom?

The book 111 Trees could start a great conversation with kids. You can ask the following questions:

Do you care about the environment?

Do you want to become eco-friendlier?

Do you want boys and girls to be treated equally?

This story illustrates the quote – “Be the change you want to see in the world” perfectly. One person can make a difference and no act is too small.

Really, it didn’t take that much to get started; it just took someone who thought differently and made it happen.

Canada is such a diverse country, and we need diverse books to reflect the different cultural experiences that children have and that all children can see themselves reflected in the books. My books are diverse, and they can read and learn about people from other backgrounds and cultures.

My books are also based on a lot of research for e.g., Diwali: The Festival of Lights and can be used in the classroom to teach research skills. Nearly Nonsense can be used for storytelling units. My board book on Holi Colors can be used to inspire kids to write their own Color Poetry.

Here is a link for a lesson plan on Grandmother School.

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

I have a few stories in progress and they are mostly non-fiction. I think it’s a little early to talk about them because they are in the research stage.

I’m excited that I have four picture books coming out in 2023 and 2024.

A Garden of Grenades (Illustrated by the Iranian artist– Hoda Hadadi and published by Greystone Kids) is a collection of six vignettes of six stories happening quietly in different parts of our world.

Set against the background of war, poverty, and violence, these stories told in free verse, reimagine our complex and sometimes troubled world through the lens of love, courage, and compassion – showing phenomenal strength of the human spirit. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things to make their communities a better and a safer place is the string that ties these real-life stories together.

Empty (illustrated by Nathalie Dion and published by Orca Books) is the first wordless book I wrote. I wrote it during the pandemic when most of us were feeling disoriented. On a solitary walk during lockdown, I passed a field, a school, a playground, a park, a trail. They were all empty. A stillness had fallen over the city. I looked up and saw a bird in a tree. The skies were safe, and the birds were thriving, living, and caring for each other. They offered hope that one day humans will too. The book, I hope brings some winged magic to the young readers.

The other two are The Forest Keeper and The Lion Queen, also non-fiction.

Find out more about Rina on her website,

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Watch Your Favourite Book On Bibliovideo

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Featured Video

Playlists to Binge Watch 

For Educators / Pour les éducateurs

Indigenous / Autochtone


I Read Canadian / Je lis un livre canadien

Telling Tales: Celebrating Stories

Illustrator Demonstrations / Démonstrations des illustrateurs

TD Summer Reading Club / Club de lecture d’été TD

Stay Home, Read Together / Lisons ensemble à la maison

Author Interviews / Entretiens avec des écrivains

Book Readings / Séances de lecture


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


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Illustrator’s Studio: Kass Reich

Kass Reich was born in Montreal Canada. She works as an artist and educator and has spent a majority of the last decade traveling and living abroad. Kass graduated with a degree in Art Education from Concordia University then picked up and moved to Beijing where she worked as an early childhood educator for nearly three years. Working with the little ones inspired her to start making picture books for very young learners. After Beijing she lived in Hong Kong, London England and Melbourne Australia. She now finds herself back in Canada but this time in Toronto.

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

I grew up in a creative household, my mom is an artist and my twin sister and I were always obsessed with creating things. I originally fell in love with oil painting. When I was 15 my bedroom floor was covered in paint and my parents never said a word, they just supported me and let me do my thing. It was only when I finished university when I switched gears to illustration. I graduated with a degree in Art Education from Concordia University then immediately packed my bags to go traveling. I ended up living and travelling abroad for nearly seven years with my then boyfriend, now husband. We spent the first three years in Beijing China. Our apartment was small and didn’t have space for large canvases and oil paints so I started to experiment with illustration. At the time I was teaching English to preschoolers so I decided to write and illustrate books for them. One of those books was Hamsters Holding Hands. I read it to my class and put it aside. Two weeks later I got an email from Orca Book Publisher saying that they were interested in publishing my work. It turns out my mom submitted my book without telling me. I owe her so much. 

You have lived all over the world: how have your travels influenced your art style?

It was only after I left China that I really started to push my style further and figure out who I was as an illustrator. We lived in London England for a brief period of time and I got a job teacher life drawing to adults. I loved getting my students to loosen up and really experiment with texture while working on their gesture drawings. Life drawing doesn’t pair well with finicky detail, often the models will pose for such a short period of time that all the artist can do is capture the essence of a pose. I fell in love with celebrating those textures on the page. I think that’s why today my work has the same loose qualities and has so many layers of those beautiful hand painted/drawn textures.

Your first books, the Hamster series, were authored and illustrated by you. How does that experience differ from illustrating books written by someone else?

I consider myself a visual artist above all else. The Hamster books were great because they were created during a time when I was surrounded by their target audience: preschoolers. But they are very simple, only a few words per page. Actually writing picture books is a completely different form of art. I would love to write something a little more involved one day but for now I’m happy to bring the vision of other authors to life.
What advice do you have for educators to encourage young artists?

I taught art for years and I always told my students the same thing: keep a sketchbook. If a student loves art, they don’t need fancy classes. The key is consistency; they need to make time to create nearly everyday. Encourage them to experiment at first then focus on the mediums and subjects they find the most interesting. Drawing from real life and learning new techniques from YouTube are excellent ways to practice. Their skills will inevitably improve and having it all contained in one (or multiple) sketchbooks will prove it. At the end of the semester I would have my students look back on what they created in the beginning compared to their most recent work. I used to have them talk about what they were most proud of and it was always such a rewarding experience.

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

Right now my biggest project is raising my young family. I have a 2 year old son and another one on the way. I still find time to create and am always adding new illustrations to my online print shop. I haven’t been able to take on as many book projects as I would like but plan to get right back into it when my kids are a little older, I would miss it too much if I didn’t.

Find out more about Kass on her website,

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Experts’ Picks

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:

Time is a Flower, written and  illustrated by Julie Morstad (Tundra Books, 2021) Ages 3-7

This latest offering from Julie Morstad is a thoughtful reflection on the nature and nuances of the ever-elusive concept of time. Pensive and poetic, lyrical and lovely, Morstad’s elegant text and exquisite illustrations playfully describe time as a seed, a flower, a web, a sunset, a face, a song, a batch of bread and so much more. It’s moods are many and varied: it can be slow or fast; a line or a circle. With images that combine bold, retro colour combinations and fine-lined and softly-shaded black and white illustrations, Morstad artfully captures her subject. An evocative musing that is timeless and universal in its appeal.


—Lisa Doucet, Co-manager

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

Librarians’ Picks

Canadian librarians share their recommendations for kids and teens.

The Girl Who Loved Giraffes: And Became the World’s First Giraffologist, by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by François Thisdale (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2021) Ages 4-10

This compelling narrative nonfiction picture book details the extraordinary, lifelong conservation work of Anne Innis Dagg, a trailblazing scientist who is the world’s leading expert on giraffes. In the 1950’s Dagg traveled by herself from Canada to Africa and was the first person to study animals in the wild.  The path was never easy, and as one of the few women in her field, Dagg faced many gender biases and barriers.  This inspiring biography of an eminent animal rights and equal rights defender showcases Dagg’s passion, determination and courage.  Fascinating facts about giraffes are also included on every page.  François Thisdale’s stunning illustrations capture the intrinsic beauty of these majestic animals.  A portion of the royalties for this book will be donated to giraffe conservation “in the hope that when today’s young readers want to visit giraffes in the wild, giraffes will still be there – galloping free.”



—Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library

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

Next Issue

See you in December for our next issue, featuring our favourite books of 2021!

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