Announcing the Winners of the 2020 Governor General’s Literary Awards

The Canada Council for the Arts celebrates the best in Canadian literature. The Governor General’s Literary Awards recognize finalists and winners in seven categories, in both official languages, for readers of all ages.

The Governor General’s Literary Awards are among Canada’s oldest and most prestigious prizes. The awards, worth $25,000 each, annually recognize the best published books in Canada.

The prizes are given to seven English-language and seven French-language books in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, young people’s literature — text, young people’s literature — illustration, drama and translation.

The winners in the youth categories are:

Young People’s Literature – Text (English)

The King of Jam Sandwiches by Eric Walters (Orca Book Publishers)

The King of Jam Sandwiches pulls us into the unforgettable friendship of hard-working Robbie and tough-as-nails Harmony in an exceptionally honest survival story that is also compulsively readable and emotionally gripping. Walters has written a heart-wrenching novel about what it is like to grow up amidst poverty and mental illness, one that speaks to contemporary young readers and offers them hope.”

—Peer assessment committee: Catherine Austen, Cary Fagan, Shenaaz Nanji

Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books (English)

The Barnabus Project by The Fan Brothers (Tundra Books / Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers)

“A twisty-turny adventure story that travels from the deep underground to the starry skies, featuring a gang of friends, aka ‘Failed Projects,’ who show the power of solidarity and non-conformity. This sweet and surreal ode to sticking together radically breaks from typical storylines to deliver a manifesto for mass escape from any system that demands perfection, sameness and compliance. Stunningly and intricately illustrated, this book pays cinematic attention to pacing and detail. Like Barnabus, the Fan Brothers have broken the mold.”

—Peer assessment committee: Wallace Edwards, Bonnie Farmer, Kyo Maclear

Young People’s Literature – Text (Francais)

Lac Adélard by François Blais (la courte échelle)

“With Lac Adélard, François Blais has given us a thriller that is as incredibly gentle as it is efficient, and that makes masterful use of topography. A veritable writer’s workshop, this gripping novel flows exceptionally well and is punctuated with spicy dialogue, humour and poetry. Both children and adults can enjoy the best young people’s literature, as their reading pleasure is constantly renewed.”

—Peer assessment committee: Anne Bernard-Lenoir, Mario Brassard, Diya Lim

Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books (Francais)

Pet et Répète : la véritable histoire by Katia Canciani and Guillaume Perreault (Fonfon)

“A homegrown book that is both universal and inclusive, funny, whimsical, and playful. The vintage-style, halftone illustrations and photography references add a bunch of fun details and bring a second and even a third layer to the text. A worn-out joke is finally told and revealed in a surprising and original way.”

—Peer assessment committee: Marie-Louise Gay, Mireille Messier, Sylvain Rivard