September 2021



News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Book Reviews
Links We Love
September Reading List: Back-to-School
Author Corner: Kallie George
Illustrator’s Studio: Qin Leng
Experts’ Picks

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends

Walk, Wheel or Run to Support the CCBC Through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge

The Scotiabank Charity Challenge is a unique fundraising program that is taking place virtually all across Canada. Participants can make their exercise endeavours more meaningful by raising funds for the charity of their choice. For the CCBC, the challenge provides a platform for a friendly fundraising competition with other organizations and groups. This year’s 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. Register at and join the CCBC’s team, the Speed Readers, or start a team of your own!

CCBC Survey For Educators

We are asking you once again to answer a few questions to dig down further into specific programs and services we offer to educators and librarians. Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. We value your commitment in the work of the CCBC.

Take the survey today!

ICYMI: Celebrating Indigenous Picture Books

IBBY Canada and Bibliovideo are proud to present the launch of the 2021 edition of From Sea to Sea to Sea: Celebrating Indigenous Picture Books.

25 of the best Indigenous picture books published in Canada between 2018–2020 were selected for this collection. Care was taken to ensure that the collection reflects the diversity of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit voices from sea to sea to sea, and that the titles are available and in print for anyone who wishes to access them. Watch the virtual launch with host Waubgeshig Rice for a virtual launch event celebrating the 25 titles selected for the 2021 edition of From Sea to Sea to Sea: Celebrating Indigenous Picture Books!

Malaika’s Costume Selected as the 2021 TD Grade One Book Giveaway

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.

Learn more here.

Call for Submissions: Best Books for Kids & Teens, Spring 2022

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) is now accepting submissions for the spring 2022 edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens (BBKT), the CCBC’s semi-annual selection guide to the best Canadian children’s books, magazines, audio and video.

Learn more here.

Home Is Where the Bookshelf Is: Architecture Inspired Reads

Elsa Lam is the editor of Canadian Architect magazine, and formally trained in architectural design and architectural history. She also has a pre-schooler who loves books. We asked her for her recommendations of books about architecture appropriate for kids aged 2-4.

Read the full list here.

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!


The Walrus is seeking young writers and artists for a special upcoming series!

If you are a writer, illustrator, or photographer between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, we want to hear from you!

For article submissions, please send 100–200 words outlining a topic or idea that’s important to you. We don’t need to know the whole story now—just tell us what you want to write about. Whether it’s politics, health, the environment, or the arts, we want to know what’s on your mind.

Learn more here.


Experience Stories! at the Telling Tales Virtual Festival

Aliens. So many aliens … fantastic creatures that emerge from broken crayons…a dragon riding assassin … being charming in NYC this year Telling Tales has it all!

Books have the power to transport us to different worlds, cities and places where we truly Experience Stories. In a year where we are staying home more than ever before, Telling Tales is excited to launch its 2021-22 season to bring these stories to you.

Following the success of last year, the 2021 Telling Tales season will continue as a virtual festival with an all-star line-up of authors, illustrators and storytellers sharing their stories and engaging audiences both near and far. Attendees to the Telling Tales Virtual Festival can look forward to interactive video presentations from an award-winning, diverse line-up, whose unique backgrounds and experiences reflect those of our audience.

Learn more here.

Follow Bibliovideo on Social Media!

Bibliovideo, the YouTube channel all about Canadian books for young people, is now on social media! Follow on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with the newest videos!

Order the Fall Issue of Canadian Children’s Book News!

The Fall issue of Canadian Children’s Book News looks at how disabilities are represented in Canadian children’s books and what publishers are doing to help those with learning differences who struggle with reading. We look at how accessibility and inclusion have been represented in Canadian children’s picture books and author Andrew Katz shares with us how important it is for children with neurological differences, such as ADHD, to see themselves represented in a positive light.

With the new Jean Little First-Novel Award being awarded for the first time this fall, fellow children’s author Sarah Ellis, a long-time friend of Jean’s, shares with us the impact of Jean’s writing and the legacy she has left behind. Leigh Turina, Lead Librarian for the IBBY Collection for Young People with disabilities, offers a personal introduction to the collection and highlights some of its uses. Our Keep Your Eye On column introduces readers to Sabina Khan, whose first book, The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali, garnered international praise. Our Bookmark! column features a list of hi-lo books suitable for middle-grade and young adult readers and showcases the types of books publishers are producing to help reluctant readers enjoy reading. As always, our We Recommend section has over 40 fabulous new Canadian books for you to discover.

Buy the issue 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: 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.

41 Canadian picture books to watch for in fall 2021 (CBC Books)

WATCH: 10 Canadian Books for Back-to-School 2021 (CTV)

Books for Back-to-School (49th Shelf)

These N.B. kids ditched their tech toys and spent the summer reading classics instead (CBC News)

Publishing Essentials: How to Find an Agent (5 Otter Editorial)

WATCH:  Word On The Street Weekly Feature: YA Write! ft. Amy Mathers

New children’s book from B.C. author celebrates Nuu-chah-nulth family and culture (CBC)

Back to School Merchandise (OLA Library Marketplace) 

LISTEN: This Place Podcast (CBC)

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September Reading List: Back-to-School!

This month’s reading list is all about out favourite books to read this summer!

Picture Books

1, 2, 3 Off to School!
Written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc
Kids Can Press, 2021
ISBN 978-1-5253-0656-3
IL: Ages 3-5 RL: Grades PreK-1

Pom is ready for the first day of kindergarten. Not the real first day, that’s not for another year. But Pom has been hearing a lot from all the animals about each of their schools. So today Pom is visiting them all, to see what kindergarten is really like. Pom starts by watching the mouselings ride the bird bus; then the rabbits learning to read, write and count; the froglets making art; the foxes playing sports; the bear cubs sharing lunch; the sloths napping; the squirrels exploring nature; the wolf pups reading stories; the turtles doing classroom tasks; and, finally, the hedgehogs waiting to be picked up in the schoolyard. Pom is thrilled to discover there are so many fun activities to enjoy at school!


The First Day: A Story of Courage

Seven Teachings Stories
Written any Katherena Vermette
Illustrated by Irene Kuziw
HighWater Press, 2014
ISBN 978-1-55379-521-6
IL: Ages 5-7 RL: Grades 1-2

Makwa is going to a new school in the city… and he doesn’t want to. How will he face his first day? His mother reminds him that being scared is part of being brave. The Seven Teachings of the Anishinaabe — love, wisdom, humility, courage, respect, honesty and truth — are revealed in this seven-book series about home and family.


Ira Crumb Makes a Pretty Good Friend
Written by Naseem Hrab
Illustrated by Josh Holinaty
Owlkids Books, 2017
ISBN 978-1-77147-171-8
IL: Ages 5-8 RL: Grades 2-3

Meet Ira Crumb. He’s the new kid in town. Ira launches a campaign to befriend neighbourhood kids before the first day of school. But his best-laid plans fall flat, and just as Ira decides school will be HORRIBLE, he meets Malcolm, who was the new kid last year and totally gets it — and who, it turns out, will make a pretty good friend.


My Teacher’s Not Here!

(Kitty and Friends)
Written by Lana Button
Illustrated by Christine Battuz
Kids Can Press, 2018
ISBN 978-1-77138-356-1
IL: Ages 3-7 RL: Grades PreK-2

As soon as she arrives at school, Kitty knows there’s trouble. “Smiling Miss Seabrooke should be here to meet me. But my teacher is missing and NOT here to greet me.” With no Miss Seabrooke, everyone should be sent home, right? But no! Kitty and her classmates line up as usual and walk into the school building. Kitty’s worries build as she wonders how she will get through the day without her teacher. What will she do when her Thermos gets stuck or her jacket won’t zip? Miss Seabrooke is the only one who can fix these things. Or is she?


The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family
Written by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali
Illustrated by Hatem Aly
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019
ISBN 978-0-316-51900-7
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 2-3

Faizah has a new backpack and light-up shoes, ready for the first day of school! It’s the start of a brand-new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong.




Ready, Set, Kindergarten!
Written by Paula Ayer
Illustrated by Danielle Arbour
Annick Press, 2015
ISBN 978-1-5545-1703-9
IL: Ages 3-5 RL: Grades PreK-K

Preparing for kindergarten is a huge step for young children. This encouraging tale of a little girl’s experience touches on the many milestones towards this big goal. The girl can count out plates when she helps Dad set the table. She can call out letters when she walks down the street with Mom. She can even help her stuffies say sorry after they fight. And with a little help from Mom, Dad, her cat, and faithful stuffed mouse, she’s now ready for her new adventure … kindergarten!



A Tattle-tell Tale: A Story About Getting Help
I’m a Great Little Kid
Written by Kathryn Cole
Illustrated by Qin Long
Second Story Press, 2016
ISBN 978-1-927583-92-0
IL: Ages 5-8 RL: Grades 2-3

Joseph tries to deal with a lunchroom bully. His brownie is taken, then his sandwich. The bully follows him into the bathroom to take his lunch, and Joseph ends up outside eating his lunch all alone. Finally, Joseph goes to the principal’s office where he learns the difference between tattling and telling.



When Molly Drew Dogs
Written by Deborah Kerbel
Illustrated by Lis Xu
Owlkids Books, 2019
ISBN 978-1-77147-338-5
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 2-3

Before the first day of school, a pack of stray dogs moves into Molly’s head. Friendly, but a bit wild, they scamper through her anxious thoughts, begging to be let out. So, Molly draws them. Set free, the dogs tame her troubled feelings, giving her peace. Inspired by the Japanese folktale, “The Boy Who Drew Cats,” this story celebrates the healing powers of art and imagination.



Junior & Intermediate Fiction

Anne’s School Days
(An Anne Chapter Book)
Written by Kallie George
Illustrated by Abigail Halpin
Tundra Books, 2021
ISBN 978-0-7352-6720-6
IL: Ages 6-9 RL: Grades 1-3

Anne loves autumn in Avonlea, and she’s been enjoying her first three weeks of school. It helps that she walks to school with and sits next to her kindred spirit, Diana Barry. However, one day, Gilbert Blythe joins the class. According to Diana, he’s very handsome, and smart too. However, Gilbert immediately gets on Anne’s nerves. When he pulls on Anne’s braid and calls her “Carrots” because of her red hair, enough is enough. How can Anne enjoy school when Gilbert is ruining everything?


The Case of the Snack Snatcher
West Meadow Detectives
Written by Liam O’Donnell
Illustrated by Aurélie Grand
Owlkids Books, 2015
ISBN 978-1-77147-069-8
IL: Ages 7-9 RL: Grades 2-3

Meet Myron: a third-grader whose unique perspective from the autism spectrum makes him a top-notch sleuth. Myron doesn’t love new things and now he’s starting his first day at a new school. But when the school kitchen is burgled, Myron is on the case! Helping him are his classmates from Resource Room 15, whose creative problem-solving skills and unique talents come in handy!



Fatty Legs: 10th Anniversary Edition
Written by Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton and Christy Jordan Fenton
Illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes
Annick Press, 2020
ISBN 978-1-77321-351-4
IL: Ages 10-12 RL: Grades 4-5

The beloved story of an Inuvialuk girl standing up to the bullies of residential school, updated for a new generation of readers. Eight-year-old Olemaun wants to learn to read, but nothing can prepare her for the reality of residential school and a cruel nun who torments her. Originally published in 2010 (Best Books for Kids & Teens 2011 Starred Selection).



Jo: An Adaptation of Little Women (Sort of)
Written and illustrated by Kathleen Gros
HarperAlley, 2020
ISBN 978-0-06-287597-6
IL: Ages 10-13 RL: Grades 4-6

With the start of eighth grade, Jo March decides it’s time to get serious about her writing and joins the school newspaper. But becoming a hard-hitting journalist is harder than she imagined. And then there are her feelings for a girl named Freddie… feelings she’s never shared before. What does it take to figure out who you are? Jo March is about to find out.




Slug Days
Written by Sara Leach
Illustrated by Rebecca Bender
Pajama Press, 2017
ISBN 978-1-77278-022-2
IL: Ages 7-10 RL: Grades 2-3

On slug days, Lauren feels slow and slimy. Everyone yells at her and she has no friends. But on butterfly days, the world is full of good things — like making classmates laugh or getting ice cream. For Lauren, who has autism spectrum disorder, school friendships have always been a challenge, until she discovers that being different makes her exactly the friend a brand-new classmate needs.



The Unteachables
Written by Gordon Korman
Scholastic Canada, 2019
ISBN 978-1-4431-7016-1
IL: Ages 9-13 RL: Grades 4-5

The Unteachables, a class of misfits, delinquents and academic train wrecks, have been removed from the student body and isolated in room 117. Their teacher is Mr. Zachary Kermit, a burned-out teacher who is just a year away from blessed retirement. Over the course of a school year, room 117 will experience mayhem, destruction and, maybe even a shot at redemption.





Young Adult Fiction

Both Sides Now
Written by Peyton Thomas
Penguin Teen, 2021
ISBN 978-0-7352-6975-0
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grades 7-8

There’s only one thing standing between Finch Kelly and a full-blown case of high school senioritis: the National Speech & Debate Tournament. Taking home the gold would not only be the pinnacle of Finch’s debating career, but the perfect way to launch himself into his next chapter: college in Washington, DC, and a history-making career as the first trans congressman. What could possibly go wrong?

Charming as a Verb
Written by Ben Philippe
Balzer & Bray, 2020
ISBN 978-0-06-282414-1
IL: Ages 13 and up RL: Grades 8-9

Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University. His neighbour Corinne uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme and blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. What starts as a mutual hustle becomes something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for.


Pemmican Wars
A Girl Called Echo
Written by Katherena Vermette
Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson
Coloured by Donovan Yaciuk
HighWater Press, 2017
ISBN 978-1-55379-678-7
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grades 6-7

Echo is a lonely 13-year-old Métis girl separated from her mom and adjusting to a new school. Then an ordinary day in history class turns extraordinary as Echo is transported through time to a bison hunt on the prairie. Slipping back and forth in time, Echo visits a Métis camp, travels old fur-trade routes and experiences the perilous bygone era of the Pemmican Wars.


The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life
Written by Dani Jansen
Second Story Press, 2020
ISBN 978-1-77260-121-3
IL: Ages 13 and up RL: Grades 8-9

Determined to be class Valedictorian, Alison agrees to produce her school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That’s her first mistake. The second is saying yes to a date with her friend Jack, even though she’s crushing on Charlotte. As misadventures befall the play, Alison grapples with what it means to be “out” and what she’s willing to give up for love.



How to Become an Accidental Genius
Written by Elizabeth MacLeod and Frieda Wishinsky
Illustrated by Jean Playford
Orca Book Publishers, 2019
ISBN 978-1-4598-1676-3
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 4-5

What do Kevlar, smart dust, popsicles and plastics have in common? They were all invented by accident! This book showcases a diverse cast of fascinating innovators and their inventions. From Sara E. Goode, who developed the first folding bed in 1885, to Narinder Singh Kapany who, in 1954 as a high school student in India, invented fiber optics.


Be an Active Citizen at Your School
Citizenship in Action
Written by Helen Mason
Crabtree Publishing, 2016
ISBN 978-0-7787-2606-7
IL: Ages 5-8 RL: Grade 2

In this inviting book, young readers discover ways to practise democratic principles in their schools and classrooms. Accessible, child-centred examples demonstrate key skills and practices, including active listening, consensus building and voting procedures. Readers will also learn ways to clearly communicate their own points of view while showing respect for others’ perspectives.


Fight to Learn: The Struggle to Go to School
Written by Laura Scandiffio
Annick Press, 2016
ISBN 978-1-55451-798-5
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 5-6

In this inspiring title, Laura Scandiffio provides a frank look at current global struggles for education. For many children around the world, war, poverty, discrimination and violence are seemingly insurmountable obstacles to going to school. But there is hope, and this book also presents uplifting stories of people who have made the dream of education come true for many young people.



What Kids Did: Stories of Kindness and Invention in the Time of COVID-19
Written by Erin Silver
Second Story Press, 2020
ISBN 978-1-7726-0164-0
IL: Ages 6-8 RL: Grades 1-3

“What is a school? Is it a building with classrooms? Or can it be any place where children learn?” The fascinating stories that follow will expand how young readers think of school, as they learn about the experiences of real children in 13 different countries around the world. Each school experience is different in this engaging book about the many places and ways children learn and play.



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Author’s Corner: Kallie George

Kallie George is an author, editor, speaker and instructor of creative writing workshops. She has a master’s degree in children’s literature from the University of British Columbia. She is the author of a number of books for young readers, including the Duck, Duck, Dinosaur series, the Magical Animal Adoption Agency series, the Heartwood Hotel series, and the Wings of Olympus series, as well as numerous picture books, such as Goodnight, Anne, The Secret Fawn, The Lost Gift, The Doll Hospital, and the Anne of Green Gables early readers. She grew up on the Sunshine Coast in BC, where she spent her days roaming the forests and beaches. Now, she and her husband have made a home there so that her son can do the same. 


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

I’ve always loved reading and writing from the time I was very small, and I was creating my first stories before I could even write. I used to dictate them to my parents and then I would do the pictures. They really encouraged me. When I was about five years old an author/illustrator came to live with my family for a while to finish her book. We lived tucked in the forest, and it was a good getaway for her. I remember sitting in a corner of the room where she was working, fascinated. I was star-struck. I wanted to be a writer too! I remember spending many days wandering the woods, daydreaming about stories, much like Anne Shirley. When I visited the city and went to my parents’ office, there was a photocopier. I loved that. I used it to make Christmas stories for my family as gifts. Santa and the Bubblegum is one of my favourites (I wrote it when I was about 7 or 8 years old.) The Snow Angels, about snow angels that are the guardians of Christmas Castle—sort of like superheroes—is pretty cute too. My first book was published over ten years ago, around the time when I graduated university.



How did the idea of adapting the Anne series for younger readers come about?

The Anne early chapter books and picture books came about in a unique fashion. I have always been a fan of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. But it was Tundra Books, the publisher, that was looking for someone to write some easy chapter books to introduce the classic to younger readers. I love the format of easy chapters AND I love Anne of Green Gables. I gave it a try, and they were happy with what I did. Now, Anne’s School Days is book three, and there are three more books in the works. I’ve written the fourth, Anne’s Tragical Tea Party, and am working on the fifth now. I am trying to stay as faithful as I can to the original. I’m SO enamoured with the art done by Abigail Halpin. It’s just perfect.  I’ve read Anne of Green Gables probably thirty times now, and honestly, the magic of the story and the writing NEVER grows old. There is always SO much to discover in Montgomery’s writing. My goal is that the picture books (illustrated by Genevieve Godbout) and the easy chapter books (illustrated by Abigail Halpin) encourage readers to discover the novels. 

How has your love of fairy tales impacted you as a storyteller?

I do love fairy tales. I actually did my thesis on them. Fairy tales feature thoughtful sparse storytelling and the magic of three and have timeless themes. I am fascinated by the variations of the same tale. I often try out many variations of my own stories, to see what might be the strongest. I think I get this from fairy tales. I also love how fairy tales change and adapt and grow with the times. 

A new school year is a great new start! What advice do you have for budding storytellers?

It IS a great new start. I think fall is my favourite season. As Anne says, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” 

In terms of advice for budding storytellers: 

  • Have fun!
  • Don’t worry about spelling too much. I’m not a great speller. I used to worry about it, but learned over time that it isn’t so important; spelling is fixable.
  • Share ideas that you are working on with friends, family, teachers, etc! It’s fun to story-tell together. 
  • Read a lot.
  • Bring a notebook to jot down ideas/sketch/write. 

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

I have a few projects that are upcoming. There’s a picture book this fall called I Hear You, Forest, illustrated by Carmen Mok, and a picture book called Merry Christmas, Anne, illustrated by Genevieve Godbout.  Next year, I have an early chapter book series called Crimson Twill: Witch in the City illustrated by Birgitta Sif out spring 2022, and Bibbidi Bobbidi Academy illustrated by Lorena Alvarez in fall 2022. These projects have been in the works for a while. I’m actually currently working on another longer story. We will see what happens with it. Truly, writing is an adventure! 

Find out more about Kallie on her website,

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Subscribe to Bibliovideo today to watch videos made specifically for booklovers! Don’t forget to push the bell to receive updates when new videos are uploaded.

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: Qin Leng

photo by Lian Leng

Qin Leng is a designer and illustrator known for her illustrations of children books. She graduated from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema and has received many awards for her animated short films and artwork.

Throughout her career, Qin has illustrated picture books, magazines and book covers with publishers around the world. Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, written by Chieri Uegaki, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, and received the APALA Award for best picture book.

She lives in Toronto, with her husband and her son.

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

I grew up in a family of very visual people. My mother would draw in her spare time and looking at her old doodles now, knowing that she did not receive any artistic training, her sketches were quite well executed.

My father Leng Hong is an artist himself, a professional painter whom I’ve watched work in his studio since I was a little kid. And my twin sister is incredibly skilled as well, creating life-like illustrations (we call her the human scanner in the family). I think being surrounded by a group of very visual people has always ignited my love for the arts.

I went to school to become a biologist, getting accepted to the Biology program at McGill university, but at the last minute I changed my mind and enrolled in film animation at Concordia University (MelHoppenheim school of cinema). It was a revelation… I was excited at the prospect of turning my love for drawing into a career.

After a few years designing layouts in animation, I realized I needed more. I wanted to get my own work published into the world and was tired of designing other people’s creations.

I submitted portfolios to publishers across the Globe and slowly but surely grew my network of contacts and accumulated projects. I mainly focus on magazine and picture book illustrations with publishers in Canada, the US, and France.

Art from A Family is a Family is a Family

We are excited for A Kid is a Kid is a Kid! What was it like illustrating this companion to A Family is a Family is a Family?

Working on A Family is a Family is a Family was such a dream! Sara O’Leary’s writing style seems to be the perfect fit for me. I like books that give me room to explore the words further and add my own touches to the story and Sara allows me to do just that.

What made it really exciting to work on A Kid is a Kid is a Kid is that it came 5 years later. By that point, my style had evolved quite considerably. The images in A Family is a Family is a Family were inked on paper then scanned and painted digitally. However, I now work exclusively with traditional mediums (ink, watercolor, oil pastel and pencil crayons) and it was very interesting to explore Sara’s world with new visuals.

You have illustrated so many amazing books! How do you keep up with such a full workload?

When I first started picture book making, I took on as many projects as I could pack in a year. I was young, eager to make my work seen and known in the industry and I wanted to gain as much experience as possible. During all this time however, I never left the animation industry. So for the last 11 years, I have been juggling a full time job as a layout supervisor in studios in Toronto as well as picture book making (which usually takes place during evenings and weekends).  It definitely takes a lot of discipline. Not many hours in a day to do much else than draw draw draw. But I love what I do and drawing fills me with such joy and sense of accomplishment.

And then, I had a little boy 4 years ago and quickly realized I was only one person and this was getting to be too much.

I am slowly trying to find a better balance, be a little more selective with my book projects and cut down on my animation work hours.

Hopefully I will find where the best of both worlds sits.

You are a master at telling stories through your wonderful illustrations; how did you find working for the first time on both the text and images for I Am Small as author-illustrator?

I never thought I was that good at making up stories. Writing is so
intimidating and writing good picture books is really difficult. I always felt more inspired to develop a visual world from other people’s words. But seeing so many illustrators successfully write their very own stories gave me the push to give it a try. I am not usually the type of person to sit and wonder if I can do something. I prefer to be proactive, to give things a try and find out for myself if I can be successful at it.

I originally tried to write the book in English and after many attempts, realized it just didn’t feel right. I was struggling to find the right words, the right rhythm. Then I thought about the books I grew up reading and what I loved about them. That’s when it clicked: I spent my early childhood in France. It made sense to revisit the language of my childhood in order to write a children’s books. From that point on, the words came out on their own, very naturally.

Art from I Am Small

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

2021 has been one of my busiest years! I have many projects I am so excited about. Two upcoming picture books with Tundra Books which are follow ups to Sharon Lois and Bram’s Skinnamarink (with words by Randi Hampson), a new project with Quebec publisher Comme des Geants, written by author and publisher Nadine Robert which will be a beautiful book celebrating nature (60 pages of woodsy landscape, my most favorite subject to illustrate).

2022 will be filled with more projects as well: At the Window with Candlewick Press written by Hope Lim and Insect Expedition with Greystone Kids, written by David Suzuki and Tanya Lloyd Kyi.

Find out more about Qin 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:

Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: The Body Under the Piano, written by Marthe Jocelyn and illustrated by Sabelle Follath (Tundra Books, 2020) Ages 10 and up

Clever and spirited Aggie Morton makes a friend, finds a dead body and determines the identity of the murderer in this delightful and carefully-crafted mystery. In this fictional version of Agatha Christie’s childhood, Marthe Jocelyn creates a vivid setting, charming characters (most notably the heroine), and a pleasing puzzle to be solved. Aggie is a smart. observant but somewhat socially awkward protagonist whose “Morbid Preoccupation” with death frustrates her mother but enables Aggie to remain calm and analytical when she stumbles upon the body of a neighbour under the piano in her dance class. Her quiet but very real grief over the recent passing of her father is also sensitively depicted, making her even more relatable in her vulnerability. This is a wonderful addition to Marthe Jocelyn’s already impressive oeuvre! 


Lisa Doucet, Co-manager

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

If your independent bookstore would like to participate in this feature, please contact us.

Librarians’ Picks

Canadian librarians share their recommendations for kids and teens.

The Bug Club, written and illustrated by Elise Gravel (Drawn & Quarterly, 2021) Ages 6 – 10

In The Bug Club, Elise Gravel shares her ardour for arthropods. Smiling, wide-eyed insects of all different shapes and sizes are on colourful display in the zippy cartoons, like the harmless Scorpion Fly who has a scary-looking tail and a funny one-liner: “Well, I’m cute on the INSIDE.” Pithy, attention-grabbing facts about irresistible invertebrates abound, including the Praying Mantis’s strict diet (“live insects and even small birds”), the Stink Bug’s odorific aroma (akin to “sweaty feet and cilantro.  Yummy”), and the tiny Tardigrade’s hardiness (able to survive “ten years without water, and thirty years frozen!”).  Gravel pays close attention to crawly critters we often take for granted and leans into their delightful weirdness.  One peek inside this buzz-worthy book and readers will catch the entomology bug.  


—Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library


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

Staff Picks

Staff of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre recommend their favourite books for kids and teens


On the Other Side of the Forestwritten by Nadine Robert and illustrated by Gérard DuBois (Greystone Kids, 2021) Ages 4-7 

Catalina has the perfect life until she has to share her home with three Labrador Retriever puppies. While before their arrival she could feel a little sad and alone, now she is never alone and has to share all of her things. Eventually Catalina realizes that her new family isn’t so bad and that she’ll never have to be lonely again.

Catalina is a delightful story, perfect for young children adapting to change, or anyone who just likes cats. The bright and vibrant illustrations have a retro and unique style that jumps off the page. The text also uses Newfoundland place names and expressions that add to the story’s charm and even teaches the reader a bit about Newfoundland and Labrador. I loved this sweet and fun story about adapting to life’s changes and making new and unlikely friends.


Emma Hunter, CCBC Marketing & Communications Coordinator


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Next Issue

See you in October for our next issue, all about staying active!

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