Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People



The Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People is awarded annually to reward excellence in the writing of an outstanding work of historical fiction for young readers, by a Canadian author, published in the previous calendar year. In 2008, the value of the prize was increased from $1,000 to $5,000.

The award winner is decided by a jury selected by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. All books written by Canadian citizens or permanent residents are eligible for consideration. The first Geoffrey Bilson Award in 1988 was presented to Carol Matas for her book Lisa.

About Geoffrey Bilson

Born on January 27, 1938, Geoffrey Bilson was an avid reader from an early age, and began to write while quite young. His published historical novels for children include Death Over Montreal and Goodbye Sarah. He also published several books for adults. Before his sudden death in 1987, Geoffrey Bilson taught as a professor of history at the University of Saskatchewan. The Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People was created in his honour in 1988.

Criteria and Submission Information


In identifying the best historical novel of the year, each jury member shall consider the following:

  • Historical setting and accuracy
  • Strong character and plot development
  • Well-told, original story
  • Suitability of book for its intended age group
Eligibility Requirements:
  • Books must be published between January 1 and December 31, 2020.
  • Both the author and illustrator (in the case of graphic novels) must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada.
  • Books may be published in Canada or abroad.
  • Books must be first foreign or first Canadian editions. New editions or re-issues of previously published titles are not eligible for submission.
  • Books must be in English.
  • Translations are eligible, provided the translator is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada.
  • Books should be written for young people up to age 18. Adult books are not eligible.
  • Books submitted for consideration must be original works.
  • Books submitted must be a work of historical fiction.
  • Graphic novels are eligible.
  • Autobiographies, picture books, and short story collections by more than one author are not eligible.
  • Novels involving alternative universes (i.e., steampunk) or plots involving time travel are not eligible.
  • Books written as part of a series or published in serial form will be judged as separate entries and must function as a ‘stand-alone’ story.
  • The award is only for books in the printed format, as distinct from digital (i.e., eBooks) and audio visual formats.
  • Books in manuscript form are not eligible.
  • All books must have an ISBN and be distributed in Canada.
  • Self-published books are eligible for submission provided they have a valid ISBN

Publisher and creator expectations prior to submission:

  • Publishers agree to pay the $25 non-refundable submission fee per title per award.
  • If a book is shortlisted, the publisher, author and illustrator may be asked to participate in a series of events highlighting and promoting the shortlisted author and illustrator, in addition to the award celebration.
  • The CCBC is unable to assume the costs for travel and accommodation. It is our hope that publishers will assist the award winner(s) with providing the resources for attending the in-person awards ceremony (should we be able to hold an in-person event) or for creating an acceptance speech video of appropriate quality should the creator(s) be unable to attend an in-person event.
  • Publishers agree to prepare and encourage their authors and illustrators to participate in all reasonable publicity associated with the award: interviews, readings, appearances, etc.
  • Publishers agree to spend an appropriate sum on media advertising the winning book (i.e., whatever your advertising budget allows).

Submission Information:

The submission deadline was March 1, 2021. We are no longer accepting submissions.

General Inquiries:

If you have any questions regarding eligibility or the award in general, please contact Meghan Howe at 416.975.0010 ext. 3 or

Award Recipients

For the full list of finalists and winners, please click here.

Year Recipient
2020 Tina Athaide. Orange for the Sunsets. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2019.
2019 Christopher Paul Curtis. The Journey of Little Charlie. Toronto: Scholastic Canada, 2018.
2018 Kevin Sands. The Assassin’s Curse. New York: Aladdin, 2017.
2017 Kevin Sands. The Mark of the Plague. New York: Aladdin, 2016.
2016 Karen Bass. Uncertain Soldier. Toronto: Pajama Press, 2015.
2015 Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. Dance of the Banished. Toronto: Pajama Press, 2014.
2014 Karen Bass. Graffiti Knight. Toronto: Pajama Press, 2013.
2013 Elizabeth Stewart. The Lynching of Louie Sam. Toronto: Annick Press, 2012.
2012 Kate Cayley. The Hangman in the Mirror. Toronto: Annick Press, 2011.
2011 Valerie Sherrard. The Glory Wind. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2010.
2010 Shane Peacock. Vanishing Girl: The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His Third Case. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2009.
2009 John Ibbitson. The Landing. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2008.
2008 Christopher Paul Curtis. Elijah of Buxton. Toronto: Scholastic Canada, 2007.
2007 Eva Wiseman. Kanada. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2006.
2006 Pamela Porter. The Crazy Man. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2005.
2005 Michel Noël. Good for Nothing. Translated by Shelley Tanaka. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2004.
2004 Brian Doyle. Boy O’Boy. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2003.
2003 Joan Clark. The Word for Home. Toronto: Penguin Books Canada, 2002.
2002 Virginia Frances Schwartz. If I Just Had Two Wings. Toronto: Stoddart Kids, 2001.
2001 Sharon McKay. Charlie Wilcox. Toronto: Stoddart Kids, 2000.
1999 Iain Lawrence. The Wreckers. New York: Delacorte Press,1998.
1998 Irene N. Watts. Good-bye Marianne. Toronto: Tundra Books, 1998.
1997 Janet McNaughton. To Dance at the Palais Royale. St. John’s: Tuckamore Books, 1996.
1996 Marianne Brandis. Rebellion: A Novel of Upper Canada. Erin, ON: The Porcupine’s Quill, 1996.
1995 Joan Clark. The Dream Carvers. Toronto: Viking, 1995.
1994 Kit Pearson. The Lights Go On Again. Toronto: Viking, 1993.
1993 Celia Barker Lottridge. Ticket to Curlew. Illustrated by Wendy Wolsak-Frith. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 1992
1991 Marianne Brandis. The Sign of the Scales. Erin, ON: The Porcupine’s Quill, 1990.
1990 Kit Pearson. The Sky is Falling. Markham, ON: Viking Kestrel, 1989.
1989 Martyn Godfrey. Mystery in the Frozen Lands. Toronto: James Lorimer & Co., 1988.
1989 Dorothy Perkyns. Rachel’s Revolution. Hantsport, NS: Lancelot Press, 1988.
1988 Carol Matas. Lisa. Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1987.