News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre
Staffing Announcement: Tara Mandarano joins the CCBC as Marketing and Communications Coordinator
We are thrilled to share that Tara Mandarano will be joining the CCBC’s team as the new Marketing and Communications Coordinator. Tara brings several years of experience as a marketer and product manager in the book publishing industry. She also has extensive experience editing manuscripts and managing online content. She holds a Bachelor in Journalism from Ryerson/Toronto Metropolitan University. In her spare time, she writes poetry and creative nonfiction, and her work has appeared The Washington Post, Today’s Parent, Canadian Living and Chatelaine. Tara lives north of Toronto and is the mother of one young reader and three cute-but-demanding cats. Her favourite book for kids is Willow’s Whispers. Learn more here.
Congratulations to the winners and finalists of the CCBC Book Awards!
The winners of the CCBC Book Awards were announced at an in-person event on September 29, 2022 as part of the Toronto International Festival of Authors. Learn more here.
The TCS Charity Challenge (formerly the Scotiabank Charity Challenge) is a unique fundraising opportunity that is taking place virtually across Canada throughout the month of October. Participants can make their exercise endeavours more meaningful by raising funds for the CCBC. This year’s virtual Charity Challenge will take place from October 1-31 with participants able to take part anywhere in Canada by walking, wheeling and running at a distance of their own choosing. An in-person event takes place in Toronto on October 16 as part of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
Register at bookcentre.ca/run and join the CCBC’s team, The Speed Readers, or start a team of your own! Whether you register for either the in-person or virtual team, $5 will automatically go to the Canadian Children’s Book Centre and 100% of all the funds you raise go back to the CCBC to support our many amazing programs throughout the year, including Canadian Children’s Book Week. Please join us in this fun endeavour! Challenge your friends, family, office mates, or just yourself! Help us get to our fundraising goal! Go, Speed Readers!
Call for Applications: Canadian Children’s Book Week 2023
Are you a published Canadian author or illustrator who is passionate about connecting with and inspiring young people? Apply to take part in the 46th Canadian Children’s Book Week! This hybrid tour will allow you to engage with youth all across the country to celebrate books, stories and illustrations. The application deadline is October 14, 2022. Learn more here.
Call for Illustrator Submissions for The Picturebook Gallery
The CCBC is expanding The Picturebook Gallery and is now seeking applications from Canadian children’s book illustrators. If you’re a Canadian illustrator and you’re interested in supporting the work of the CCBC, send in your application today! Learn more here.
I Read Canadian Day: November 2, 2022
I READ CANADIAN DAY is a national day of celebration of Canadian books for young people. This is a day dedicated to ‘reading Canadian’ and will empower families, schools, libraries and organizations to host local activities and events within the week. Sign up at ireadcanadian.com/day.
Fast Friends Selected as the 2022 TD Grade One Book Giveaway
Fast Friends, written by Heather M. O’Connor, illustrated by Claudia Dávila and published by Scholastic Canada, will be distributed to over 550,000 Grade 1 students this fall through the TD Grade One Book Giveaway. Translated into French by Isabelle Allard, francophone Canadians and French immersion students across Canada will receive copies of Amis instantanés, published by Éditions Scholastic.
When Suze, a nonverbal student, is introduced to high-energy Tyson’s class, everyone is tentative about him being around her. But while the other students and even the teacher don’t understand Suze, Tyson does. And Tyson and Suze might have more in common than anyone thought.
Marina Cohen grew up in Scarborough, Ontario where she spent far too much time asking herself What if… In elementary school, her favourite author was Edgar Allan Poe. She adored his mysterious and creepy works and aspired to write similar stories. She loves old castles, dusty books, hot cocoa, thunderstorms, and mysterious doors of all shapes and sizes. Her novels, Ghost Ride, The Inn Between, The Doll’s Eye, A Box of Bones, and Shadow Grave have been nominated for numerous awards in Canada and the United States, including the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the Sunburst Award, the Silver Birch Award, the Red Maple Award, the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award, the Rocky Mountain Book Award, the Pacific Northwest Library Association Children’s Choice Award, and are Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selections and Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Best Books for Kids & Teens selections. Marina has a Master’s degree in Literature from the University of Toronto and is an elementary school teacher in the York Region District School Board.
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 one all too familiar to the vast majority of authors. It was a long and winding road—a road riddled with potholes, enormous obstacles, and paved with rejection and tears. Though I wrote a great deal when I was young—lyrics, poetry, and short stories just for fun—it was after having heard author Eric Walters speak at the school I was teaching at that I began to take my writing seriously. I wrote several manuscripts that garnered attention from neither agent nor publisher. Frankly, I had nearly given up my dream of becoming a published author when I had the good fortune of meeting author Marsha Skrypuch and joining her critique group. Though I have a Master’s degree in literature, it was only with the help of other writers that I began to truly learn the craft. Even with nine novels under my belt now, the road can still get a bit bumpy.
As for my writing process, I consider myself neither a true plotter nor a pantser, but rather a hybrid of the two. I do plot—a great deal—but most of this happens in my head, consciously and subconsciously, rather than on paper or screen. I mull ideas over, often for years, but I need several things in place before I can begin to write. I must know who my character is, what they desire most, the inciting incident that sets the whole story in motion, and the ending. It is only by knowing the ending that I can (hopefully!) craft a plot with twists and turns my readers won’t see coming. Of course, I discover a great deal about my characters and the themes of the novel along the writing journey and it’s these discoveries which ultimately help shape the novel.
The theme of this month’s newsletter is spooky reads in honour of Halloween. Have you always been drawn to spine-tingling tales?
Yes! As a child I was always drawn to the mysterious, the otherworldly, the fantastical, and the creepy. I’m not really sure why. I like to believe it’s in my DNA. But perhaps it’s a combination of nature and nurture.
I grew up in Scarborough and my parents were quite serious, hard-working people—always telling me to keep my feet firmly on the ground and my head out of the clouds. My mother would read to me from an old book of German fairy tales she brought with her when she immigrated to Canada. These originals, quite dark and frightening, warned of the dangers in society and in character flaws. I would listen, equal parts captivated and horrified, as not all characters made it out of these tales unscathed.
Without the myriad sources of entertainment that exist today I sought out stories and movies that would spirit me away from the mundane and into worlds of mystery, magic and mayhem. There is a particular thrill one gets from feeling scared. Fear, sadness, anger and happiness share common neural building blocks and activity in both the orbitofrontal cortex and the amygdala increases regardless of the emotion being felt. It may seem odd to some, but stories that keep me on the edge of my seat, wondering what lies around the corner, make me happy.
Do you have any activity suggestions or tips for teachers who would like to use your books in the classroom?
My number one goal in writing is always quite simply to entertain my readers. As a teacher, however, I confess I can’t keep curriculum entirely from my thoughts.
Perhaps because I have been so inspired by great works, most of my novels have text-to-text connections that a teacher might explore with students. The Doll’s Eye, for example, is in part, based on The Monkey’s Paw and makes reference to creatures from the old German fairy tales I loved. The students in A Box of Bones are reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (another favourite), while Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” is integral to the plot of Shadow Grave. Shadow Grave was also inspired by my decades-long obsession with Natalie Babbitt’s novel, Tuck Everlasting, and The Inn Between contains bits and pieces of Greek mythology.
I’m also passionate about science and so there are always plenty of science-related elements in my novels. The creature in Shadow Grave is a cross between a tardigrade—those practically indestructible tiny creatures—and H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu. At the risk of spoiling the twist, at its heart, Shadow Grave is about dealing with disease. In The Doll’s Eye, characters are bug-obsessed and must contend with soil erosion, while in A Box of Bones, the characters are desperate to make Periodic Table Day happen at their school, introducing many fun activities. Readers can also find a bit of quantum physics in that one.
A Box of Bones has a comprehensive teachers’ guide including math, science, music and art activities and is available for free of the Mackids School and Library website.
As for Shadow Grave, one of the characters receives a creepy root doll. Teachers can find a video on my website in which I demonstrate how, using sticks, a scrap of material, and googly eyes, students can make their own roots dolls!
Because this is our Halloween-themed newsletter, we have to ask: what’s your favourite costume you’ve ever had?
Growing up, I was often tasked with the creation of not only my own costumes, but those of my little brother. So, I’d have to say, my favourite costume was one I made, though not for myself. One year, I paper-mâchéd a large punching-balloon and then cut out two large holes for eyes and one for a mouth. I covered it entirely in aluminum foil creating a ginormous alien head. This would definitely not pass any modern-day safety standards, but transforming my little brother into an alien was a source of great amusement. It would be my brother, however, who would have the last laugh. After trick-or-treating Halloween night, he thoroughly enjoyed smashing, in less than a minute, what took me a week to make.
What projects are you working on now? Can you tell us about any upcoming books?
I’m in the process of completing another creepy middle-grade—this one with dark sci-fi undertones and plenty of real science. At the same time, I’ve begun my first YA murder mystery. It’s still in its early stages, but I’m excited to see where it takes me.
October Reading List: Spooky Reads for Halloween
Our October newsletter is all about Halloween and spooky reads! Get young readers excited about reading with this list of spine-tingling tales, great for parents, librarians and teachers to use.
Footsteps in Bay de Verde: A Mysterious Tale
Written by Charis Cotter
Illustrated by Jenny Dwyer
Running the Goat Books and Broadsides, 2020
IL: Ages 9-11 RL: Grades 4-5
Bridie loves to listen to the adults tell stories about ghosts, shipwrecks and pirates. One stormy night the talk turns to poor Keye, an old, infirm neighbour in hospital. Suddenly the front door slams, and they all hear the sound of shuffling footsteps… Has poor Keye come home? The next morning a telegram arrives with shocking news. A deliciously spooky tale.
Written and illustrated by Cale Atkinson
Tundra Books, 2020
IL: Ages 6-8 RL: Grades 2-3
Monsters! They’re so much more than just that scary thing under your bed. Join Professors Vampire, Blob and Werewolf, and their trusty lab assistant—a zombie named Tina—as they open the dungeon, unseal the crypt and shed light on all the furry, slimy, fangy monster secrets! Top-secret monster knowledge is within your grasp—become an honorary Monster Scientist!
Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween: A Safety Guide for Scaredies
Written and illutrated by Mélanie Watt
Kids Can Press, 2013
IL: Ages 5-10 RL: Grades 2-3
Scaredy Squirrel helps readers prepare for the spookiest night of the year with everything from costume ideas and trick-or-treating strategies to decorations and a party-planning guide! This is the second in a series of nutty safety guides featuring everyone’s favourite worrywart. This title is also available in French as Frisson l’écureuil se prépare pour l’Halloween: Un guide de sécurité pour les stressés.
Sir Simon: Super Scarer
Written and illustrated by Cale Atkinson
Tundra Books, 2018
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 2-3
Sir Simon, Super Scarer, is a professional ghost who has his first gig at a haunted house. It’s an old couple, which is great — old people are at the top of the pyramid of haunting! Except a KID (named Chester) moves in! Simon and Chester discover they aren’t cut out to do each other’s chores… but they are cut out to be friends!
Junior & Intermediate Fiction
Be Wary of the Silent Woods
(The Weirn Books, Book 1)
Written and illustrated by Svetlana Chmakova
Yen Press, 2020
IL: Ages 8-12 RL: Grades 3-4
As weirns-in-training, 12-year-old Ailis and her cousins Na’ya and D’esh attend night school along with children of werewolves, vampires and demons. One night, while taking a short cut through the Silent Woods, they are stalked by a mysterious night thing. Then D’esh goes missing and Ailis and Na’ya must confront the mystery of the Silent Woods…
The Doll’s Eyes
Written by Marina Cohen
Illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli
Roaring Brook Press, 2017
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.
The Elevator Ghost
Written by Glen Huser
Illustrate by Stacy Innerst
Groundwood Books, 2014
IL: Ages 8-12 RL: Grades 3-4
Carolina Giddle is a babysitter with a difference. She wears sequin-sprinkled sneakers and her sidekick is a tarantula named Chiquita! The parents are happy because Carolina seems to have an uncanny ability to calm the most rambunctious child with her ghostly stories. But just what is Carolina’s connection to the Blatchford Arms and the ghost that still haunts it?
The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray
Written by E. Latimer
Tundra Books, 2018
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 5-6
Bryony Gray is becoming a famous painter in London art circles. But her aunt and uncle keep her locked in the attic, forcing her to paint for their rich clients. But now her paintings are taking on a frightening life of their own, and customers are going missing under mysterious circumstances. It seems Bryony has unleashed a family curse… and it’s spreading fast.
Young Adult Fiction
Amber Fang: Hunted
(Amber Fang, Book 1)
Written by Arthur Slade
Orca Book Publishers, 2019
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grades 6-7
Amber Fang likes her meals straight from the jugular but, raised to eat ethically, she only dines on killers. Studying to be a librarian, Amber uses her research skills to search for her missing mother and hunt down prey. But when Amber walks into a trap, the hunter becomes the hunted. Now Amber finds herself in a world of spies, organized crime… and other vampires.
The Dark Missions of Edgar Brimm
(The Dark Mission of Edgar Brimm, Book 1)
Written by Shane Peacock
Tundra Books, 2016
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grades 7-8
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.
Written by Allan Stratton
Scholastic Canada, 2015
IL: Ages 12-15 RL: Grades 6-7
Cameron and his mom have been on the run from his father for five years. When they settle in an isolated farmhouse, Cameron starts to see and hear things that aren’t possible. Soon he’s questioning everything he thought he knew—including his own sanity. What’s hiding in the night? Buried in the past? Cameron must uncover the dark secrets before they tear him apart.
The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass
(Metamorphosis, Book 1)
Written by Adan Jerreat-Poole
IL: Ages 15 and up RL: Grades 9-10
Eli isn’t just a teenage girl; she’s a made-thing the witches created to hunt down ghosts in the human world—a flawless machine, a deadly assassin. But when an assignment goes wrong, Eli starts questioning everything she was taught. She teams up with a mysterious coalition of rebel witches, ghosts and humans to get answers—and earn her freedom.
Haunted Canada 11: Frightening True Tales
(Haunted Canada, Book 11)
Written by Joel A. Sutherland
Illustrated by Steven P. Hughes
Toronto: Scholastic Canada, 2022
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 4-5
In this terrifying collection of haunted stories, author Joel A. Sutherland has assembled chilling ghost stories from coast to spooky coast, including: a hateful house that torments a new bride; the chime of an old clock that makes a grim prediction for a family; and the sound of mysterious footsteps that signals the presence of spirits at a fire hall.
Screech! Ghost Stories from Old Newfoundland
Written by Charis Cotter
Illustrated by Genevieve Simms
Nimbus Publishing, 2020
IL: Ages 8-12 RL: Grades 4-5
There is no dark like the Newfoundland dark. These ominous words beckon readers onward in this spooky collection of ghost stories. Reimagined from family stories told across Newfoundland, these 10 spine-tingling tales traverse centuries and introduce readers to the Rock’s nooks and crannies. These eerie yarns bring Newfoundland to vibrant life (and death) for a new generation!
What Makes a Monster? Discovering the World’s Scariest Creatures
(The World of Weird Animals)
Written by Jess Keating
Illustrated by David DeGrand
Alfred A. Knopf, 2017
IL: Ages 8-12 RL: Grades 3-4
Monsters are real—and they’re everywhere in nature! Animals like aye-ayes, goblin sharks and vampire bats may look scary, but they pose no threat to humans. Others, such as the prairie dog, seem innocent, even cute, yet their behaviour could give you goose bumps. What makes a monster? Read this book to find out… if you dare!
Canada’s independent booksellers share their recommendations for kids and teens. Find an independent bookseller here.
Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS:
Heartbreak Homes by Jo Treggiari (Nimbus Publishing, 2022); Ages 12 and up
A wild and raging back-to-school bash hosted by popular jock Mal Bradley becomes the scene of his murder in this complex and cleverly-plotted murder mystery. Told from the perspectives of three teens who each attended the party for very different reasons, their respective stories gradually unfold as they become caught up in the quest to find the killer. Tense and compelling, the shifting narrators are well-developed and multi-faceted characters whose relationships and motivations are realistically depicted, and the secondary characters are equally dynamic and relatable. Treggiari has created a satisfying mystery that also reminds readers to remember that there is always so much more to each person’s story than what we see on the surface.
—Lisa Doucet, Co-manager
Woozles Children’s Bookstore: 6013 Shirley St, Halifax, NS B3H 2M9 woozles.com
Canadian librarians share their recommendations for kids and teens.
Apartment 713 by Kevin Sylvester (HarperCollins Canada, 2022) Ages 8-12
In this intriguing mystery-adventure novel with a time travel twist, Jake and his mother move into a run-down apartment building. As Jake gets to know the other tenants, he discovers there is much more to the Regency than first meets the eye. When the legacy building seems doomed for demolition, the tween travels back to its Art Deco glory days and unlocks secrets from the past in an effort to stave off the wrecking ball. Like a welcoming, distinctive building, Apartment 713 is well structured, offers unexpected surprises behind every door and has lots of personality. An affecting inspection into friendship, community and finding home.
—Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library