September 2022

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre
Illustrator’s Studio: Zoe Si
September Reading List: Humour
Experts’ Picks

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre

Staffing Announcement: Sarah Sahagian joins the CCBC as Executive Director

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) is pleased to announce the appointment of Sarah Sahagian as Executive Director effective September 7, 2022. Sarah has been appointed to this role following an extensive recruitment and interview process informed by the objectives of the current strategic plan, staff, stakeholder and member consultation, and in anticipation of the direction and needs of the CCBC as a leader in the Canadian children’s book ecosystem.

“Sarah will bring fresh energy, enthusiasm and considerable experience to the ED role at the CCBC. I look forward to working with her,” says Zain Velji, President of the CCBC’s Board of Directors. 

Sarah comes to the Canadian Children’s Book Centre from a five-year role as the inaugural Executive Director of the Speech and Debate Canada Foundation. She brings integrated skills and experience in communication, strategic planning, fundraising and management through the key lenses of inclusion and collaboration. Sarah is a writer and podcaster whose book reviews, opinion pieces and podcasts have appeared in such outlets as The Washington Post, Toronto Star, National Post, and Frequency Podcast Network. She is also a published young adult author. 

Sarah graduated from the London School of Economics, Gender Institute with a Master of Science degree in Gender Studies, advancing her knowledge gained at Queen’s University where she earned an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Gender Studies.

Sarah lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Canadian Children’s Book Centre,” says Sarah Sahagian. “As a book lover, it is my privilege to work with a team of people who believe Canadian readers should have access to high-quality Canadian young adult and children’s literature. The CCBC has a long and impactful history of encouraging Canadian children to develop a love of reading. I am excited to continue that important work. I also look forward to collaborating with this community as we find new ways to spread a deep love of Canadian children’s literature. This role is truly my dream job”.

Introducing the 2022 CCBC Book Awards Shortlists!

Congratulations to all of the nominees for the 2022 CCBC Book Awards. The nominated titles represent the exceptional quality of the work by Canadian authors and illustrators from across the country. Every single title nominated has made a valuable contribution to Canadian children’s literature. Read the full list of nominees 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 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!

Join leading children’s book illustrators Rosena Fung, David Namisato and Julie Flett, finalists for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre Book Awards, for a discussion of their illustrative styles and techniques, moderated by Audrey Hudson, Richard & Elizabeth Currie Chief, Education & Programming at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Picture books and graphic novels enable readers to develop visual literacy. These two literary forms also help children to understand their relationships with themselves, other people, and nature. This panel discussion explores how these creators use illustration, in picture books and graphic novels, to explore the concept of connection and to depict the ways in which we connect to ourselves, others, the land, and our country.

This event is presented in partnership with the TIFA Kids! To purchase tickets, visit

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.

Purchase One-Of-A-Kind Art to Support the CCBC!

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) is excited to share the virtual Picture Book Gallery. Award-winning Canadian illustrators are selling original art to support the CCBC’s annual Canadian Children’s Book Week program. Illustrators are donating 60% of the value of their original art in support of the CCBC.

Visit the gallery here

Illustrator’s Studio

Zoe Si is a cartoonist and illustrator living in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. She has a lifelong passion for laughing at her own jokes and is always looking for new ways to tell stories with her art. Zoe holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of British Columbia and practiced law for a number of years. She now spends her days making children’s books, cartooning and writing for The New Yorker, freelance illustrating, and drawing comics of everything in sight.

Photo credit: Ben Si

First, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get your start as an illustrator and cartoonist? We find your transition from a career in law to illustration really interesting.

Drawing has been my favourite pastime and primary personality trait since before I could read or write, but I never imagined that a career in the arts was possible. I was also strongly encouraged to pursue a university degree and a “traditional” career path from a young age. In my first month of law school, I started a blog where I committed to posting one drawing per day for one year. This was an exercise in personal stress management, intended to enforce creativity in what I knew was going to be a very challenging year. Over time, this practise morphed into me drawing funny comics about my life as a way to blow off steam and make sense of difficult experiences, and it continued into my lawyering years. In 2016, my online comics caught the eye of an editor at Tundra Books and I was offered my first book illustration deal. I continued to illustrate books on the side of my full-time job for another four years, and was finally able to make the leap to full-time illustration in the summer of 2020.

As an artist, where do you draw inspiration from? Is there anything or anyone in particular who has influenced your art style?

I draw inspiration from the world around me and things that happen to me—most of my comics are at least a little bit autobiographical. I have always tried to emulate artists who are able to convey a lot of story and emotion loosely and in very few lines—some of my biggest inspirations are Quentin Blake, Kate Beaton, and The New Yorker cartoonists Charles Barsotti, George Booth and Jean-Jacques Sempé. Plein air painting is also something that I find endlessly fun and challenging and that I want to get much better at—Wendy MacNaughton’s work in graphic journalism is endlessly inspiring for this. 

In your latest book, How to Teach Your Cat a Trick, your illustrations convey a lot of humour. How important is humour in your personal life and in your creative process?

Humour is essential to everything I do! I often joke that I’ve learned to deal with any hard experience by turning it into a cartoon and laughing at it. I’ve also learned that humour is such an effective way to connect with people and find common ground. This became very clear during the pandemic when I found myself drawing a lot of political cartoons about our shared experiences. When things are this difficult, all that you can do is laugh, and I am thrilled that I get to create and share art that makes people happy or feel a little less alone.

What advice would you give students who are interested in pursuing the arts?

  • Make art a habit. The beauty of the present is that you don’t necessarily have to go to art school to be a working artist—I know this well! I would encourage anyone with an interest in art to make it a habit and a personal practice, at the very least. It doesn’t have to be as ambitious as making something every day, as long as it’s consistent, you’re challenging yourself, and you’re making things that you enjoy. From experience, this practise will evolve and give back to your life in ways that you might not have imagined possible, both during school and long after it is done.
  • Put your work out there—make an online portfolio, create an Instagram account. It’s great to have somewhere to send people if they’re interested in your work, and you never know who could be scrolling through your page or what opportunities could arise from that.
  • Meet like-minded people. Because of my first career, it took me a long time to start trying to connect with other cartoonists and illustrators, but doing so was what convinced me that this career was possible and the one for me. The community is so supportive and inspiring, and keeps me going on the hard days.

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

I’m currently illustrating Volcano Dance and Cloud Dance, two non-fiction picture books authored by Jessica Kulekjian that are coming out in fall 2023. Apart from this, my next big projects are writing and illustrating my own picture book and graphic novel—more on those soon!

Learn more about Zoe by visiting her website at

September Reading List: Humour

Our September newsletter is all about humour! Get young readers excited about reading with this list of humour-themed books, great for parents, librarians and teachers to use.

Picture Books

Cone Cat
Written by Sarah Howden
Illustrated by Carmen Mok
Owlkids Books
ISBN 978-1-77147-361-3
IL: Ages 4-7 RL: Grades 1-2

Jeremy used to be an ordinary cat, nimble and quick. But he wakes up at the vet’s one day sporting an awkward cone that blocks his view and bungles his cat senses. Life as he knows is over… Until a happy accident shows him all is not lost! Now Jeremy is embracing his newfound superpowers as Cone Cat!


Don’t Eat Bees: Life Lessons from Chip the Dog
Written by Dev Petty
Illustrated by Mike Boldt
Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2022
ISBN 978-0-5934-3312-6
IL: Ages 3-7 RL: Grades 2-3

Are you a dog in need of advice? Chip the dog is ON IT in this super-silly guide to living your best canine life. Chip is seven; he knows what to eat—socks, the Thanksgiving turkey, homework, and Grandpa’s teeth! Chip also what not to eat—lemons, fire and bees! But that cactus sure looks good…


Having You Seen Gordon?
Written by Adam Jay Epstein
Illustrated by Ruth Chan
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021
ISBN 978-1-5344-7736-0
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 1-2

Have you seen Gordon? Oh. There he is. Gordon isn’t very good at hiding, is he? The narrator wants to play hide and seek with Gordon and the reader, but Gordon just wants to stand out! What about Jane the construction worker? Turns out she doesn’t like a lot of attention. Can the narrator find anyone who wants to hide?


Lentil Soup
Written by Carole Tremblay
Illustrated by Maurèen Poignonec
Translated by Charles Simard
Orca Book Publishers, 2021
ISBN 978-1-4598-2701-1
IL: Ages 5-8 RL: Grades 2-3

When a younger brother decides his soup is too hot to eat, he starts peppering his older brother with questions: Where do lentils come from? Why is it called celery? One question leads to another and another, and the older brother answers them all with humour. Includes a recipe for lentil soup! Available in French as La soupe aux lentilles.


Junior & Intermediate Fiction

Cranky Chicken
(Cranky Chicken, Book 1)
Written and illustrated by Katherine Battersby
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2021
ISBN 978-1-5344-6988-4
IL: Ages 6-9 RL: Grades 2-3

Cranky Chicken is, well, cranky. With one cranky eyebrow, cranky eyes, and even cranky, scratchy feet. But then, one day, Cranky meets a very friendly worm named Speedy who wants nothing more than to be friends. The mismatched friendship grows over the course of three short adventures as Chicken and Speedy become BFFs (Best Feathered Friends).


Farm Crimes! Cracking the Case of the Missing Egg
(Farm Crimes!, Book 1)
Written and illustrated by Sandra Dumais
Owlkids Books, 2020
ISBN 978-1-77147-415-3
IL: Ages 6-9 RL: Grades 2-3

A peaceful day on the farm turns to panic when Hen discovers her egg has been stolen, but goat detective Billiam Van Hoof is on the case! As the barnyard animals collect clues, the answer to the mystery becomes obvious to everyone except the bumbling inspector. Available in French as Crimes à la ferme : l’affaire de l’oeuf disparu.


Me Three
Written by Susan Juby
Puffin Canada, 2022
ISBN 978-0-7352-6872-2
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 4-5

Rodney is starting sixth grade in a new school, in a new home, in a new state. In Las Vegas, he’d been a popular fifth grader with a cool dad—a successful professional poker player. Now his old life is over and his dad is in rehab, facing sexual harassment allegations. Can Rodney accept the truth of his new life?


Written by Gordon Korman
Scholastic Canada, 2021
ISBN 978-1-4431-8741-1
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 4-5

Jett Baranov is Silicone Valley’s number one spoiled brat. Tired of his pranks, Jett’s father sends him to Oasis Mind and Body Wellness Center in the Arkansas wilderness. As Jett adjusts to an unplugged life and helps care for a baby-lizard-turned-pet, he notices something very wrong at Oasis. Can Jett convince others he’s not just making trouble?


Young Adult Fiction

The Delusionist
Written by Don Calame
Candlewick Press, 2021
ISBN 978-0-7636-9689-4
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 9-10

When 15-year-old Quinn and his best friend-slash-magic partner, Perry, receive invitations to audition for a coveted spot at the Masters of Magic Fantasy Camp, Quinn is faced with a dilemma—audition with Perry and risk disqualification, or go it alone, and risk sacrificing his friendship. Can Quinn navigate an upstaging partner, a cute rival, and a con-artist mentor?


Short for Chameleon
Written by Vicki Grant
HarperTrophy Canada, 2017
ISBN 978-1-44344-898-7
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grades 6-7

Cam Redden works for his dad’s company: The Almost Family Surrogate Agency, which rents out fake family members. Cam’s job is to be whoever clients want him to be. Then he meets Albertina, an old lady on a mission, and Raylene, a beautiful girl with a painful secret. To figure out the mysteries that drive them, Cam may finally have to be himself.


Tremendous Things
Written by Susin Nielsen
Tundra Books, 2021
ISBN 978-0-7352-7120-3
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grades 7-8

It’s the start of ninth grade and Wilbur is still haunted by his middle school humiliation at the hands of a bully who continues to torment him. Participating in the school band exchange program, Wil falls hard for French girl Charlie… but his feelings are not reciprocated. Wil’s good friend Alex, Alex’s boyfriend and Wil’s elderly neighbour Sal join forces to help Wil win the girl.


The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life
Written by Dani Jansen
Second Story Press
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.



Germy Science: The Sick Truth about Getting Sick (and Staying Healthy)
(Gross Science)
Written by Edward Kay
Illustrated by Mike Shiell
Kids Can Press, 2021
ISBN 978-1-5253-0412-5
IL: Ages 8-13 RL: Grades 5-6

Germs are everywhere… even on this book! Learn what germs are, how we get sick, how the human immune system works and the best ways to stay healthy. This book also includes intriguing stories about early attempts to fight disease and the plagues and pandemics that changed the course of history. Up-to-date, accessible and engaging.


How to Promenade with a Python (And Not Get Eaten): A Polite Predators Book
(Polite Predators, Book 1)
Written by Rachel Poliquin
Illustrated by Kathryn Durst
Tundra Books, 2021
ISBN 978-0-7352-6658-2
IL: Ages 6-9 RL: Grades 2-3

Celeste the cockroach is ready to give advice on surviving an encounter with a polite predator! Promenading with a reticulated python named Frank may be a bad idea but, using her pythonine knowledge, Celeste comes up with various survival strategies and solutions—many dangerous, most absurd—but all based on the biology of pythons. What could possibly go wrong?


Experts’ Picks

Bookseller’s Picks

Canada’s independent booksellers share their recommendations for kids and teens. Find an independent bookseller here.

Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS:

If You Could Be Anything by Jennifer Britton, illustrated by Briana Corr Scott (Nimbus Publishing, 2022); Ages 0-7

Lyrical and lovely, this exquisite collaboration poses the ever-intriguing question “if you could be anything, what would you be?” The gently rolling rhythm has an almost dream-like quality as the narrator contemplates various possibilities ranging from a tall ship to a pilot whale, a lighthouse or a lupin. Briana Corr Scott’s lush, light-infused illustrations reflect the rugged beauty of the landscapes that these musings evoke, elegantly capturing the many moods of the ocean as well as the peaceful stillness of the forests and fields. Flowers, birds and majestic waves grace these pages as the author invites readers to consider their own answer to this question.


—Lisa Doucet, Co-manager

Woozles Children’s Bookstore: 6013 Shirley St, Halifax, NS B3H 2M9

Librarian’s Picks

Canadian librarians share their recommendations for kids and teens.

Berani by Michelle Kadarusman (Pajama Press, 2022); Ages 8-12

From memorable, courageous characters to thought-provoking themes, Berani has it all. Set in Indonesia, the latest middle-grade novel by Governor General’s Literary Award finalist Michelle Kadarusman centres around an orangutan held in captivity and the converging efforts of two seemingly disparate seventh graders. This affecting story is told from three points of view: Malia, an environmental and animal activist who starts a petition at her school decrying rainforest decimation; Ginger Juice, a caged pet orangutan who misses her mother and home; and Ari, a compassionate, skilled chess player who is able to better his education by working in his uncle’s restaurant. Kadarusman expertly explores how doing the right thing isn’t always easy, and what is easy isn’t always right. Berani is a multilayered, nuanced novel with a strong message: “One person can make a difference.”     


—Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library

See you in October for our next issue!