CCBC October 2018 Newsletter


News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
October Reading: Spooky and Scary
Author Corner: Joel Sutherland
Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction
Illustrator’s Studio: Kim Smith
Booksellers’ Picks

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends

TD Canadian Literature Awards Will Be Announced October 29

The winners of the CCBC Book Awards will be announced at a event in Toronto on October 29th, sponsored by TD Bank Group. Thanks to the prize increase from TD Bank Group, $175,000 in prize monies will be awarded. The winners of the French-language awards will be announced at an invitation-only gala event in Montreal on November 19, 2018.

Find more details and the full list of shortlisted books here. Congratulations to all of the nominees!

TD and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre are once again working with CBC/Radio-Canada to present the Fan Choice Award/Choix du public littérature jeunesse. Young readers are invited to choose their favourite book from the titles shortlisted for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award and the Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse. Find out more at the CBC and Radio-Canada websites; the voting period will run from September 6 to October 25.

Charlotte Teeple to Retire

After 22 years at the helm of the CCBC, Executive Director Charlotte Teeple is retiring at the end of 2018. Under her leadership, the CCBC has gone from an annual budget of $250,000 to $2.0 million, with one full-time and one part-time staff to four full-time and two part-time staff organizing a diverse range of programs and services in English and French across Canada — most notably book awards to authors and illustrators, the TD Canadian Children’s Book Week touring program, and the TD Grade One Book Giveaway program, just to mention a few. Learn more here.

There will be big shoes to fill for the new Executive Director. Find out about the position here.

TD Canadian Children’s Book Week 2019 Updates

We’ve been thinking about Book Week 2019 since the moment Book Week 2018 ended and we can finally announce who’s touring! Go to for the complete (and amazing) list of authors, illustrators and storytellers who will travel across Canada sharing their love of books with children and teens.

Each year we have a special Book Week poster made and 2019’s illustrator will be Elly MacKay! Elly was a part of 2018 Book Week, touring in Prince Edward Island. She is an award winning picture book maker and is the author and illustrator of books such as Butterfly Park, Red Sky at Night and If You Hold a Seed. We are big fans of Elly’s books and are looking forward to the beautiful poster she’ll make using her paper art style.

CANSCAIP Presents Packaging Your Imagination

This year’s Packaging Your Imagination features a fantastic line-up of sessions! Choose 4 sessions from the 12 offered, see memorable keynote speakers Deborah Ellis and Ruth Ohi, be a part of One-to-One evaluation meetings for your manuscript and enjoy a warm and welcoming day in the wonderful CANSCAIP community. The event will take place in Toronto on Saturday November 10, 2018 at Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, 209 Victoria Street.

Find out more here.

Get your copy of The Landing by John Ibbitson
978-1-5253-0025-7 $12.99 | Ages 12-14

Set in Depression-era Muskoka, this evocative and powerful Governor General’s Literary Award–winning novel follows a young musician’s awakening to the possibilities of a world beyond his borders.

The Landing is geared toward young adults, but just as easily belongs to the Canadian coming-of-age genre occupied by the likes of Alice Munro and Margaret Laurence.” — The Globe and Mail

Proceeds from this 10th Anniversary edition support the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

On sale now! Available in bookstores or through the CCBC’s online shop. Order through the CCBC and receive a FREE subscription to Canadian Children’s Book News and Best Books for Kids & Teens. Enter coupon code landing to take advantage of this limited time offer.

Penguin Random House Canada Uses Instagram Stories To Read Bedtime Stories To Kids

Tundra Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada, has teamed up with advertising agency Rethink Canada to develop and produce the reading series “StoriesTime” launching September 10th, 2018. The new initiative designed to encourage families to read together, shares celebrated children’s books on Instagram through a series of bedtime Instagram Stories. New stories featured on @tundrabooks Instagram each Monday and Thursday showcase beautifully illustrated children’s books from a collection of best sellers and new favourites, including Almost a Full Moon, written by Juno Award-winning musician Hawksley Workman.  The stories, shot against a cozy home-like setting, and charmingly read, are designed to create an enjoyable experience for the whole family. Find out more here.

Graphic Novel and Picture Book Series from Kids Can Press to Launch on TV

Two books by Kids Can Press are making their way to the small screen! P.U.R.S.T Agent Binky is based on the graphic novels by Ashley Spires about ” the adventures of Binky and his fellow P.U.R.S.T. agents (Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) on a mission to protect their human families from aliens, robots and interstellar threats.” The Remarkable Mr. King is based on the series by Geneviève Côté and  is about “a well-meaning, short sighted, little lion whose ‘big thinks’ sometimes cause big snags and tangles.”

Find out more about these upcoming shows here.

The Fall issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

In the Fall issue of Canadian Children’s Book News we chat with five authors who have written books about immigrant and refugee experiences. The stories are uplifting and help children gain a better understanding of the world we live in today. Be sure to check out our “Bookmark!” column where you’ll find even more titles on this topic. Award-winning author Christopher Paul Curtis, whose latest title, The Journey of Little Charlie, came out earlier this year, is featured in our profile piece. You’ll meet Sarah Sawler in our “Keep Your Eye On…” column and Larry Swartz introduces teachers to picture books they can use to discuss diversity in the classroom. Lee Edward Födi and Kallie George introduce us to the Creative Writing for Children Society which helps children nurture their love of reading and writing. And, as always, our “Red Leaf Literature” and “We Recommend” sections contain reviews of fabulous books for the children and teens in your life.

The fall issue is available for purchase in our online shop and newsstands.

Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize Shortlist Announced

The $5,000 Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize is awarded to a Greater Victoria author or illustrator for the best children’s book published in the preceding year. The three finalists are Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation by Monique Gray Smith,  A Blinding Light by Julie Lawson and On Our Street: Our First Talk About Poverty.

Find out more here.

The CBC First Page Student Writing Challenge

Students in Grades 7 to 12 can enter to win a one-year subscription to OwlCrate and 50 YA books for their school! The challenge is to write the first page of a novel set 150 years in the future, with the protagonist facing an issue that’s topical today and setting the scene for how it’s all playing out in a century and a half. Learn more here.

Canadian Jewish Literary Awards 2018 Winners

Now in its fourth year, the Canadian Jewish Literary Awards recognizes and rewards the finest Canadian Jewish writing. Two titles for young people are among the winners: To Look a Nazi in the Eye: A Teen’s Account of a War Criminal Trial by Kathy Kacer with Jordana Lebowitz (Second Story Press) for Memoir/Biography and Fania’s Heart, written by Anne Renaud and illustrated by Richard Rudnicki (Second Story Press) for Children and Youth. Congratulations to all!

Find out more here.

Celebrate Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence program and the 2018 illustrator

IBBY Canada and the Toronto Public Library invite you to celebrate the 2018 Illustrator in Residence Nahid Kazemi. The celebration will take place today at the Northern District Library at 6pm. Find out more here.

During Nahid’s residency in the month of October, Nahid will present art activities for school children at the library, lead evening workshops in the library for adults and teens, make presentations to art students in high schools and colleges, and offer portfolio reviews. All of the Illustrator in Residence programs are free.

You’re Invited to Pembroke Showcase, North Bay

Pembroke Publisher has announced their next #pembrokeshowcase, which will take place Saturday, November 3, at Nipissing University in North Bay. You’re invited to join for this FREE workshop featuring some of Pembroke’s newest and best author-educators, as well as award-winning children’s author Kathy Kacer! This is a can’t-miss opportunity to learn and share with leading educators, as well as your peers in education.

Register now to reserve your spot! Just call 1-800-997-9807, or send an email to You can read the full schedule here.

Mark your calendar for the Osborne Collection’s two fall lectures

The Osborne Collection is holding two fall lectures you won’t want to miss!

Thursday, October 18, 2018
The 12th annual Sybille Pantazzi Memorial Lecture
Sydney Smith: Small in the City: Building a Picture Book
Thursday, November 15, 2018
The 31st Helen E. Stubbs Memorial Lecture
Jan Thornhill: On Capturing Children’s Ecological Imagination

Find out more here!

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Links We Love

Articles and videos of interest to educators

How Paul Harbridge and Matt James captured the magic of moonlight

Why Monique Gray Smith almost stopped writing Speaking Our Truth

Meet the finalists for the 2018 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award

How East Coast mining culture inspired Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith’s beautiful picture book

Our Banned Books Reading List

Publishing in Québec 2018: A Cornucopia of Children’s Books

Our Orange Shirt Day Reading List

Second Story Press and Anne Frank House answer kids questions about the Holocaust

Our Photos from Telling Tales 2018

Canadian Publishing 2018: Remembering Sheila Barry at Groundwood Books

Elise Gravel makes learning about fungi fun in The Mushroom Fan Club

LISTEN: Monique Gray Smith’s new book for young readers charts a path to reconciliation

13 Canadian works of fantastical fiction for young readers

30 Children’s Books About Diversity That Celebrate Our Differences

Interview with Elly MacKay

WATCH: How Tech is Changing the Way We Read

‘Nothing short of remarkable’: Study finds parents’ chats with their toddlers pay off 10 years later

LISTEN: Mabel’s Fables Celebrates 30 Years

12 New Books For Anne of Green Gables Fans 

The key to children’s literacy: a book of their own they can touch, read and talk about

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October Reading List: Spooky Reads For Halloween!

October isn’t just any month, it’s the month of Halloween! If you’re like us and love everything spooky, you’ll love these Halloween reads by Canadian creators.

Picture Books

The Ghosts Go Spooking
Written by Chrissy Bozak
Illustrated by Patricia Storms
Scholastic Canada, 2015
ISBN 978-1-4431-3904-5
IL: Ages 3-8 RL: Grades 1-2

It’s Halloween night and the ghosts are marching in! Little ghosts go trick-or-treating by ones, twos and up to 10 in this spooky and fun-filled take on “The Ants Go Marching.” Young readers will find ghostly silhouettes and other spooky objects hidden in the illustrations to count along the way! This title is also available in French as Le défilé des fantômes.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Go To Sleep, Little Creep
Written by David Quinn
Illustrated by Ashley Spires
Crown Books for Young Readers, 2018
ISBN 978-1-1019-3944-4
IL: Ages 2-5 RL: Grade 1

Even monsters have to go to sleep. But before little trolls turn out the light and werewolves settle in to dream, there’s fur to be brushed, pajamas to find, and moons that need howling. So grab your cuddly critter and snuggle in for this new bedtime tradition. Debut storyteller David B. Quinn teams up with bestselling author/illustrator Ashley Spires to create a wondrously funny and supremely sweet picture book sure to charm little creeps who aren’t quite ready to fall asleep.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween
Written and illustrated by Melanie Watt
Kids Can Press, 2013
ISBN 978-1-8947-8687-4
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 2-3

“Halloween is creeping up quickly,” warns everyone’s favourite worrywart, “and it’s time to gather the courage to face the ghoulish festivities!” From costume ideas to trick-or-treating strategies, Scaredy Squirrel helps readers plan for the spookiest night of the year!

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Sir Simon Super Scarer
Written and illustrated by Cale Atkinson
Tundra Books, 2018
ISBN 978-1-101-91909-4
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 2-3

A delightful, funny story of friendship, ghost chores, a spooky house and a professional haunter. Meet Sir Simon, Super Scarer. He’s a professional ghost who has been transferred to his first house. And just in time! He was getting tired of haunting bus stops and forests and potatoes. And to top it off, this house is occupied by an old lady — they’re the easiest to haunt! But things don’t go as planned when it turns out a KID comes with this old lady.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Junior & Intermediate Fiction

The Doll’s Eye
Written by Marina Cohen
Illustrated by Nicolette Ceccoli
Roaring Brook Press, 2017
ISBN 978-1-62672-204-0
IL: Ages 10-12 RL: Grades 4-5

Hadley wants her old life back. She doesn’t want to live in this musty old house with her new stepfather and stepbrother. Skulking in the attic one night, Hadley finds a lone glass eye and a mysterious dollhouse with a family of perfect dolls. Holding the eye, Hadley wishes her family were more like those lovely dolls! Her wish will change her world forever.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The Ghost Road
Written by Charis Cotter
Tundra Books, 2018
ISBN 978-1-101-91889-0
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grade 5

For the first time, Ruth is heading to Newfoundland to stay with family she’s never met instead of spending the summer travelling with her dad. Ruth’s cousin Ruby is also staying for the summer, and the two discover they have a lot in common: they both lost their moms when they were two years old, they’re the same age and they even like the same food. When they find ominous information on some tombstones in the local cemetery, Ruth and Ruby start investigating their family’s past and the rumours of a family curse.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Laura Monster Crusher
Written by Wesley King
Puffin Canada, 2017
ISBN 978-0-670-07002-2
IL: Ages 10-12 RL: Grades 4-5

When Laura’s family moves to a fixer upper in a new town for grade eight, she expects more of the same: kids bullying her about her weight. What she doesn’t expect is making real friends for the first time or being given the most important job in the world: Monster Crusher. Her new role? To protect the world from the horrors beneath the Earth.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The Nest
Written by Keneth Oppel
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
HarperCollins Publishers, 2015
ISBN 978-1-44343-862-9
IL: Ages 11-14 RL: Grades 6-7

In this beautiful, menacing novel, an anxious boy becomes convinced that angels will save his sick baby brother. But these are creatures of a different kind, and their plan for the baby has a twist. Layer by layer, he unravels the truth about his new friends as the time remaining to save his brother ticks down. Evocative, disquieting illustrations enhance this journey into one boy’s deepest insecurities and darkest fears.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Young Adult Fiction

Moments after several huge earthquakes shake every continent on Earth, something strange starts happening to some people. An inner rage has been released and some people cannot fight it. For those who can, life becomes an ongoing battle to survive — at any cost!

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim
Written by Shane Peacock
Tundra Books, 2016
ISBN 978-0-7352-6311-6
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grade 7

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.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

This Dark Endeavor : The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein
Written by Kenneth Oppel
HarperCollins Publishers, 2011
ISBN 978-1-5546-8339-0
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grades 7-8

In this prequel to Mary Shelley’s gothic classic, Frankenstein, 16-year-old Victor Frankenstein begins a dark journey that will change his life forever. Victor’s twin, Konrad, has fallen ill, and no doctor is able to cure him. Unwilling to give up on his brother, Victor enlists his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and best friend Henry on a treacherous search for the ingredients to create the forbidden Elixir of Life. Impossible odds, dangerous alchemy and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Through the Woods
Written and illustrated by Emily Carrol
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014
ISBN 978-1-4424-6596-1
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 9-10

Journey through the woods in this sinister, compellingly spooky collection featuring five hauntingly beautiful, spine-tingling graphic stories, including webcomic sensation “His Face All Red.” These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll. Come, take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Haunted Canada 8: More Chilling True Tales
(Haunted Canada)
Written by Joel Sutherland
Illustrated by Mark Savona
Scholastic Canada, 2018
ISBN 978-1-4431-4883-2
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 5-7

The eighth book in the bestselling series of hauntingly true Canadian stories — back, and scarier than ever! These chilling true tales from across Canada will keep you up at night. Moody black-and-white illustrations and archival photos bring these shockingly compelling true stories to life.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein
Written by Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Júlia Sardà
Tundra Books, 2018
ISBN 978-1-77049-559-3
IL: Ages 8 and up RL: Grades 3

The inspiring story of the girl behind one of the greatest novels — and monsters — ever, perfectly timed for the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein. For fans for picture book biographies such as I Dissent or She Persisted. A riveting and atmospheric picture book about the young woman who wrote one of the greatest horror novels ever written and one of the first works of science fiction, Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is an exploration of the process of artistic inspiration that will galvanize readers and writers of all ages.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

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Author’s Corner: Joel Sutherland

Joel A. Sutherland is the Silver Birch and Hackmatack Award-winning author of Haunted Canada 4 to 8 (a series that now has more than 400,000 copies in print), and the Red Maple Award Honour Book Summer’s End. His new series, Haunted, including The House Next Door, Kill Screen and Night of the Living Dolls, has been praised by Goosebumps author R.L. Stine. Joel appeared as “The Barbarian Librarian” on the Canadian edition of the hit television show Wipeout, making it all the way to the third round and proving that librarians can be just as tough and crazy as anyone else. He has a Masters of Information and Library Studies from Aberystwyth University in Wales and lives in southeastern Ontario with his family, where he is always on the lookout for ghosts.

First, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get started as an author? What is your writing process like?

My path to publication is the same story you’ve heard countless times before: I wrote and wrote and wrote and racked up rejection after rejection until, finally, I made a sale. I think I earned $5 for the first story I sold, a horror-comedy about an undead pet goldfish, so I didn’t get to quit my day job, but seeing that tale in print was the fuel that fired me through the countless rejections that would follow.

I’m a full-time Children’s & Youth Services Librarian with a wife and three kids, so I need to make use of every spare minute to write and edit and respond to emails and visit schools and get some occasional sun. In addition to evenings and weekends, I write during every lunch break at work and it’s remarkable how much you can accomplish in one hour a day, five days a week. In fact, the busier I’ve become in life, the more productive I’ve become with my writing. I began to understand how precious free time is once I had significantly less of it; I haven’t played a game of computer solitaire in years.

How do you find the ghost stories for your Haunted Canada series? What started your love for stories like these?

Research! I love research, and it’s a lot of fun to share this fact with a large group of school kids (at first they look at me like I’m nuts, but then when I tell them I’m researching murders and battles and haunted houses a light bulb goes off and they nod along; they begin to get it). My editor and I go to great pains to ensure the Haunted Canada books are historically accurate — we look at the books as Canadian history books in disguise as ghost books. And it’s fortunate that I work in the perfect location to dig up old articles, journals, and photos, etc. during my free time.

I’ve always loved classic ghost stories. It’s such a treat (no trick!) to sit around a fire with a group of family and friends taking turns telling thrilling tales. While horror isn’t everyone’s cup of tea I honestly believe there’s a lot of good in it. It can be therapeutic and can teach us so much about the world. As Neil Gaiman has said, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” The same, I’d argue, can be said of ghosts stories. They can help readers get through dark times; they can help us see the light.

Do you have any activity suggestions or tips for teachers who would like to use your books in the classroom?

As my books have grown in popularity I’ve heard more and more from teachers and librarians who use them in the classroom, and that has been one of the greatest compliments I’ve received as a writer. Since each chapter of the Haunted Canada books is quite short they work really well as group readalouds. I try to cover every province and territory in each book, so kids love reading about haunted locations close to home while also learning about different parts of the country. A lot of kids have taken green screen photos in front of some of the most infamous of the haunted locations and made book trailers, and many teachers have had their students write their own scary stories… sometimes fictional, sometimes real. I love when teachers and librarians post the results online and tag me so I get to see how creative people can be.

Because this is our Halloween-themed newsletter, we have to ask: what’s your favourite costume you’ve ever had?

Oh man, so many. How do I pick just one? All right, let’s go with this: two years ago my wife and I and our two oldest kids went as the Ghostbusters, and our four-month old baby was the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. She was adorable. At one point while we were out trick-or-treating a car drove by blasting the Ghostbuster theme song, and when the driver spotted us he followed us around the block with the music blaring on a constant loop. Everyone thought we’d planned it, which was totally awesome (or completely dorky, depending on your point of view, but I’m definitely going with awesome).

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

Night of the Living Dolls, the third book in the Haunted series, was recently released. As a fan of Chucky and Annabelle I knew I’d one day write my own possessed doll story. The fourth book in the series, Field of Screams, will be published on January 29, 2019. It might be the book that’s nearest to my heart since it was the first idea I developed for the series a few years back when my wife and I took our kids to a fall farm. While we were making our way through the corn maze I started to think, “What if we got separated? What if we couldn’t find our way out? What if something… evil dwelled within the corn?” And I’m currently writing Haunted Canada 9 for a 2019 release. It truly is the series that will not die (insert maniacal laughter here).

Find out more about Joel’s work at

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Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction


It’s the most wonderful time of the year — the Canadian Children’s Book Centre award nominees have been revealed, and the 2019 Forest of Reading lists will be close behind. I am happy to announce this year’s nominees for the Sylvan-sponsored Amy Mathers Teen Book Award are: The Agony of Bun O’Keefe by Heather Smith, Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman, The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, Munro vs. the Coyote by Darren Groth, and The Way Back Home by Allan Stratton!

For the past few years, kidlit author, founder of Raising Readers, and Giller Prize marketing manager Michelle Kadarusman has been inviting me to Between the Pages: An Evening with the Scotiabank Giller Prize Finalists. It’s an evening filled with readings and powerful discussion about writing processes and ideas, as well as the creative muse. Every year it inspires me, and every year since the beginning I’ve thought how awesome it would be to have a similar discussion with my favourite people — teen authors.

So this year, we did! I can still hardly believe it, but as I’ve learned since I started volunteering at the CCBC, the Canadian kidlit community is unfailingly generous. We coordinated five different schedules and three different time zones to get together in person, through Skype, Facetime and a long-distance phone line to include authors all the way from British Columbia to the United Kingdom. All to talk about teen books. It was like a dream — except it was real.

I hope you enjoy the results – sadly, we lost Cherie Dimaline about halfway through and had to keep going without her — but a good time was had by all. Special thanks go to Emma Hunter and Robin Smith for their technical assistance with recording and sound editing — I could not have done it without them.

While I am looking forward to finding out the winner at the TD Book Awards on October 29th, I am reminded of Allan Stratton’s insight during our podcast — that while awards pick out a few books to showcase, their main purpose is to highlight the category. The book nominees are exceptional this year and I highly recommend them, but they are also just a small representation of the excellence 2017 had to offer in Canadian teen fiction.

Until next month, Happy Reading! —Amy

*Any beliefs expressed in this podcast do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

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: Kim Smith

Kim Smith is an illustrator who has been professionally illustrating for 10 years and working primarily in children’s book illustration for the past six. She has illustrated a number of picture books including Over the River and Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure, The Great Puppy Invasion and Builder Brothers: Big Plans, a picture book starring HGTV’s Property Brothers. The picture books that she is best known for are the Pop Classics picture book series from Quirk Books, which takes popular TV shows and movies and adapts them into picture book form. Titles have included Home Alone, The X-Files: Earth Children are Weird and, most recently, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Kim lives in Calgary, Alberta with her husband, Eric, and beloved border terrier, Whisky. 

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

I’ve always loved drawing and have never stopped. What really inspired me to start drawing professionally was a Disney art book, from Treasure Planet, I came across when I was in high school. Before finding that book, I was planning on going into the sciences, but the book of artwork changed my mind. I could see there was a career to be had in the arts. From there, I decided to change my planned career path and pursue a career in animation.

Kim’s office assistant, Whisky, is ready to work!

After graduating from the Alberta College of Art and Design, were I had earned a bachelor’s degree in visual communications, I tried pursuing a job in visual development. Upon graduation, I actually didn’t want to be a children’s book illustrator. I wanted to do something “more edgy”, but boy was I wrong. After being asked to illustrate my first picture book, Kaugjagjuk published by Inhabit Media, in 2008 I was hooked.

Can you tell us about your illustration style and how it came about? Which artists have served as an inspiration? 

Kim’s work space.

In art school, when I was repenting around with different ways of working artistically I gravitated towards the 1960s children’s book illustrators for the Little Golden Books. The work created by artists such as Mary Blair, Richard Scarry, and Alice and Martin Provensen. I loved the use of bright colours, gouache brush strokes, and a bit of roughness in painting. Even though my work is primarily done digitally, this is the aesthetic I drive for.

Also, I’ve always been inspired by animation. Eyvind Earle is a huge inspiration. I love the details he would put into his environment art in films such as Sleeping Beauty. The lighting in animated films and the way they masterfully use colours in their story telling always inspires me. If you love colour and the ways it can be used to tell mood and stories, I highly recommend The Art of Pixar: 25th Anniversary: The Complete Color Scripts and Select Art from 25 Years of Animation. I love to try and incorporate this tactic into my picture books, especially the Pop Classics.

You have adapted Home Alone, The X-Files, E.T., Back to the Future and now Buffy the Vampire Slayer into picture books. What’s another movie or TV show you would love to adapt?

There are two books on my wish list to be able to adapt. The first one is my all time favourite film: Jurassic Park. For anyone who has seen the movie, we can agree that It might be a challenge. I watched it for the first time when I was eight and it has given my nightmares for the past 24 years. If there was a way to keep all the fun parts, and take out the parts that are too violent for a audience of 4-8, I think it would make a perfect addition to the Pop Classics series. It would be a fun way for parents to share the story with their children before introducing them to the real thing.

The second on my list is The Goonies. I’ll admit to it now, I have never seen the original movie, but it’s on my list. The reason why it’s on my list is that it’s something I get requests for all the time. I think fans of the Pop Classics series would really enjoy it.

How does adapting stories and characters we already know and love compare to illustrating original stories?

The way they differ is that while working on illustrations for the Pop Classics series I already have a visual jumping off point. I know what the characters should look like (or close to if I’m creating younger versions of the characters in stories books such as Buffy or Fox and Dana). I can take the visuals that already exist and draw from them (literally!) when creating the book.

When illustrating original stories, there is only the words on the page and sometimes a few notes from the art director on what things should look like. In this case, it takes a lot of inventing. I usually spend a lot of time researching and drawing to figure out what the characters, places and colours will look like in the book.

Because this is our Halloween-themed newsletter, we have to ask: what’s your favourite costume you’ve ever had? 

My favourite Halloween costume was a beautiful renaissance dress and cloak I wore for three straight Halloweens in junior high school. I have to give my mom most of the credit here, as it was all hand made by her. She made all the best ones. She also made very cute cat and pumpkin costumes both me and my two sisters wore for various Halloweens.

What is next for you? What projects are you working on now?

Right now I’m finishing up my first authored picture books, Boxitects, which is super exciting. It’s about a girl, Meg, who constructs extraordinary things out of ordinary cardboard boxes. It will be out Fall of 2019. I’m also hard at work on the next Pop Classics picture book, whose title has yet to be announced!

Find out more about Kim Smith and 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

Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS: The Dress and the Girl by Camille Andros, illustrated by Julie Morstad (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2018), Ages 4-8

In prose that is lyrical and lovely, Andros tells the story of a girl and the dress that she loves. Together they savour the quiet goodnesses of each day and they dream big dreams of grand adventures and extraordinary things.  Then one day the girl and her family must truly embark on a life-changing adventure as they leave their Grecian home to begin a new life in America. Alas, when they arrive in America, the girl becomes separated from her beloved dress! So begins the dresses’ quest to be reunited with the girl.  When the two do eventually find their way back to one another, it is a joyous occasion indeed. Morstad’s light-infused illustrations are gentle and evocative, exquisitely rendering both time and place and perfectly capturing the somewhat wistful tone of the story. —Lisa Doucet, Co-manager

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

Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge, ON: EveryBody’s Different on EveryBody Street by Sheree Fitch, illustrated by Emma FitzGerald (Nimbus Publishing, 2018), Ages 4-8

One of my favorite picture books at the moment is EveryBody’s Different on EveryBody Street written by Sheree Fitch and illustrated by Emma FitzGerald.  Hidden in this wonderfully illustrated poem is a celebration of community and what makes it unique and special.  The story shares, in verse, the ways we are different or the same, the things we may like or dislike, lifestyles and quirks, our triumphs and failings, allowing us a view into other people’s lives.  The rhyming pace walks us down Everybody Street opening our eyes to the possibility that we all have a little bit of everyone and anyone in us, a simple truth which connects us all.  This book was written to raise awareness of mental illness and addiction and I find comfort in the message that through understanding and compassion we can help everyone find their place,  wherever that may be. — Sue Sauderson, Children’s Bookseller

Blue Heron Books: 62 Brock Street West, Uxbridge, ON L9P 1P3

McNally Robinson in Winnipeg, MB: Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith (Groundwood Books, 2015) Ages 4-7

Sidewalk Flowers is a beautifully illustrated, wordless picture book that follows a girl and her dad as they walk throughout a city. On their walk, a girl collects flowers, which end up being gifts along the way. It shows how both a gift effects both the giver and the receiver. —Sabrina, Children’s Bookseller

McNally Robinson at Grant Park: 1120 Grant Ave., Unit 4000, Winnipeg, MB R3M 2A6

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Staff Pick

Go Show the World by Wab Kinew, illustrated by Joe Morse (Tundra Books, 2018), Ages 5-9

I recently heard Wab and Joe talk at the Toronto Reference Library and was so inspired and impressed by this book. Go Show the World celebrates the lives of Indigenous people from the past and present. The phrase “We are people who matter, yes, it’s true; now let’s show the world what people who matter can do” echoes throughout the book and gives the young reader a clear path forward. The verse  follows a hip hop like beat and Joe Morse’s illustrations are perfect, with hidden intricacies that show the amount of care put into this story. — Emma Hunter, CCBC Marketing and Website Coordinator

Next Month

Look for our November newsletter early next month: we’re celebrating National Novel Writing Month with a newsletter all about writers and their craft. Look forward to interviews with Cherie Dimaline and Ashley Spires!