The 2021 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Book Awards Celebrate Excellence in Literature for Young People, with the Fan Brothers Taking Home the $50K Top Prize

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Toronto (October 29, 2021)The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) is excited to announce the winners of its six English‐language children’s book awards. Awarded tonight at a virtual event in Toronto hosted by CBC host Tony Kim, The Barnabus Project by Terry, Eric and Devin Fan, took home the title of most distinguished children’s book of the year and $50,000—the largest cash prize in Canadian children’s literature—by winning the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. Tundra Books, the winning publisher, will receive $2,500 for promotional purposes, and an additional $10,000 is to be shared among the four remaining finalists for their contributions to Canadian children’s literature. 

Among the six English-language awards presented tonight was the inaugural Jean Little First-Novel Award. Inspired and named after the prolific Jean Little, the $5,000 cash prize was awarded to Tziporah Cohen, author of No Vacancy. Jillian Tamaki, winner of the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award for Our Little Kitchen, had previously won the 2019 CBC Fan Choice Award for They Say Blue and Janice Lynn Mather is the winner of the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award, for which she was also nominated in 2019. Other winners include Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane and Jordyn Taylor, who are both first-time nominees and winners for the CCBC Book Awards. 

The awards event was hosted through the Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA). Leading up to the awards ceremony, a series of panels showcasing the awards took place as a part of TIFA. These videos will be available on Bibliovideo, the CCBC’s YouTube channel, permanently, after the festival. 

Six prizes in total were awarded earlier tonight:

  • The Barnabus Project, written and illustrated by Terry Fan, Eric Fan and Devin Fan (Tundra Books), won the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award ($50,000)
  • Our Little Kitchen, written and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood Books), won the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award ($20,000)
  • Powwow: A Celebration Through Song and Dance, written by Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane (Orca Book Publishers), won the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non‐Fiction ($10,000)
  • The Paper Girl of Paris, written by Jordyn Taylor (HarperTeen), won the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People ($5,000)
  • Facing the Sun, written by Janice Lynn Mather (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), won the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award ($5,000)
  • No Vacancy, written by Tziporah Cohen (Groundwood Books), won the Jean Little First-Novel Award ($5,000)

“Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists for the 2021 CCBC Book Awards,” says Rose Vespa, Executive Director of the CCBC. “From a picture book set in a secret lab under a pet shop to a novel that introduces us to a Caribbean community whose public beach is being threatened by a hotel development, the outstanding books awarded tonight offer us stories of hope and perseverance. When looking at each of the winning titles, the theme of human connection is the thread that ties these books together. Whether it’s a group of pets that are misunderstood in society, a community coming together in a food kitchen, a celebration of culture and family, an exploration of hidden family secrets, the coming-of-age story of four friends, or the story of a family facing hardship together, these outstanding books delve into relationships and what connects us. Amidst these uncertain and difficult times, these titles all remind us of two things that can heal and help us move forward: stories and one another.” 

“Congratulations to the winners of this year’s TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, Terry, Eric  and Devin Fan, along with winners of the other five awards and all nominees,” says Farah Kurji, Senior Manager, Philanthropy (Canada), TD Bank Group. “The Barnabus Project is a magical story that highlights the importance of being yourself and following your dreams. We are proud to support the CCBC and its work that helps children across Canada to develop reading skills at an early age while setting a foundation for their futures.”

In total, $107,500 in prize monies was awarded tonight, and an additional $67,500 was awarded yesterday to the winners of the Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse and the Prix Harry Black de l’album jeunesse as a part of TIFA Kids. Both awards were presented to Vigg, author and illustrator of Ma maison-tête. The French-language awards are facilitated by our sister organization, Communication-Jeunesse. You can view the press release in English or French

“We are especially thankful to our sponsors TD Bank Group, A. Charles Baillie, Mary Macchiusi and the Fleck Family Foundation for helping us elevate Canadian books and their creators,” says Zain Velji, President of the CCBC’s Board of Directors. “Tonight’s festivities would not have been possible without our partnership with the Toronto International Festival of Authors, who helped us bring the awards celebration to people all across the country.” 

Below is the full list of prizes presented, with comments from the jurors. For a complete list of the shortlisted titles, click here.  To download the PDF version of this press release, click here. 

Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists!

For more information, please contact: 


Emma Hunter
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
The Canadian Children’s Book Centre
416 975-0010 ext. 2
emma@bookcentre.ca


Heather Reinsborough
Manager, Corporate and Public Affairs
TD Bank Group
416 413-3433
Heather.Reinsborough@td.com


TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award ($50,000)
Sponsored by TD Bank Group

The Barnabus Project
Written and illustrated by Terry Fan, Eric Fan and Devin Fan (Toronto, ON)
Tundra Books
for ages 6 and up

“The Fan Brothers have created a uniquely charming story filled with fantasy, adventure and heart… With illustrations that are detailed, precise and perfect, this exquisite collaboration uses simple, spare and understated text to tell a poignant and powerful story about self-acceptance and accepting one’s flaws and differences… This is an instant classic that is sure to delight readers of all ages for many years to come.”

​​TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award honour books include:

  • The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson (Puffin Canada)
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Goodbye by Melanie Mosher (Nimbus Publishing)
  • Bloom by Kenneth Oppel (HarperCollins Publishers)
  • When Emily Was Small, written and illustrated by Lauren Soloy (Tundra Books)

JURY MEMBERS: Lisa Doucet, Co-Manager, Woozles and Young Readers Editor, Atlantic Books Today; Colette Poitras, Manager, Indigenous Public Library Outreach, Government of Alberta; Joel A. Sutherland, Silver Birch Award-winning author and Manager of Client Experience, Pickering Public Library. 


Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award ($20,000)
Sponsored by A. Charles Baillie

Our Little Kitchen
Written and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki (Toronto, ON)
Groundwoods Books
for ages 6 and up

“Readers of this exceptional comics-style story are pulled right into a raucous swirl of activity as this enthusiastic kitchen crew prepares a big community meal. Sights, sounds and aromas are superbly woven through the masterfully propulsive art speeding without pause from spread to spread, while speech balloons dramatically provide the cooks’ many expressive comments as the meal comes together. The uplifting energy of this perfectly balanced narrative celebrates something nearly ineffable: the brightly glowing satisfaction of working together to give to others.”

JURY MEMBERS: Bonnie Farmer, author and teacher, English Montreal School Board; Sheba Meland, retired children’s book editor and publisher; Sara Spencer, teacher, Montcrest School.


Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction ($10,000)
Sponsored by the Fleck Family Foundation

Powwow: A Celebration Through Song and Dance
(Orca Origins)
Written by Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane (Calgary, AB)
Orca Book Publishers
for ages 9 and up

“Everything you ever wanted to know about powwows all in one book… This timely and relevant book shares an important cultural celebration without overlooking the sad historical truths tied into the subject… Starting with the history of the Indian Act and bringing us into the present day, this book is a perfect introduction to the importance and beauty of powwows… A must-read for anyone wanting to know more about Indigenous people on Turtle Island.”

JURY MEMBERS: Nancy Cooper, author of The Trading Tree; Betsy Fraser, Selector, Calgary Public Library; Maria Martella, owner of Tinlids Inc., a wholesaler of children’s and teen books for schools and libraries. 


Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People ($5,000)
Sponsored by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Bilson Endowment Fund

The Paper Girl of Paris
Written by Jordyn Taylor (Long Island City, NY)
HarperTeen
for ages 13 and up

“A well-told story of the French resistance is balanced perfectly between the horrors of the past and the angst of a young 16-year-old girl trying to unravel her family’s mysterious history in present-day Paris… Taylor’s smooth shifts from the present to the past and back again make for an evocative narrative that drives home the point that we all should remember where we come from. The uncovering of Alice’s family’s secrets and the impact the keeping of those secrets had on generations, keeps you turning pages at breakneck speed… This is historical writing at its best.”

JURY MEMBERS: Tina Athaide, author and educator; Shaula Corr, former middle school librarian, and Astrophotographer; Matt McCarney, teacher (Grade 7/8 English and History), Selwyn House School, and PhD student, Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University; Gail de Vos (chair), author, storyteller and Adjunct (Associate) Professor, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta.


Amy Mathers Teen Book Award ($5,000)
Sponsored by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre

Facing the Sun
Written by Janice Lynn Mather (Delta, BC)
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
for ages 15 and up

Facing the Sun is a rich story told with lyricism and insight about four girls, their families, and the small Bahamian town that is their home… Janice Lynn Mather does a fantastic job weaving four perspectives that offer a look into the lives of Black girls…[examining] the ways in which Black girls are often expected to bear the weight of responsibility in their homes while also interrogating Blackness set outside of Canada… This novel is beautifully realized, written not just for teens, but for all of us in search of a better understanding of how communities, knitted together through struggle and circumstance, can hold us in difficult times… Mather is an uncommonly gifted storyteller.”

JURY MEMBERS: Dr. Dave Jenkinson, Editor, CM: Canadian Review of Materials and Professor Emeritus, Children’s & YA Literature, Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba; Kathleen Martin, writer, editor and Past President, Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia; Ardo Omer, writer, podcast host and Kids Coordinator, Festival of Literary Diversity.


Jean Little First-Novel Award ($5,000)
Sponsored by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre

No Vacancy
Written by Tziporah Cohen (Toronto, ON)
Groundwood Books
for ages 9-12

“Cohen allows the child’s feelings to shape this story in a way nicely reminiscent of Little’s most salient literary quality. But it’s not just emotion that undergirds this assured, engaging novel: an unpredictable incident and character provide abundant interest as Miriam adjusts to a new home and looks for ways to resolve her family’s financial struggles. Cohen offers a gentle exploration of belief, faith and various modes of religiosity, along with an entertaining portrait of motel ownership in a tiny, rural town.”

JURY MEMBERS:  Deirdre Baker, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto Star children’s books reviewer, and author; Maggie de Vries, author; Kit Pearson, author.


About the Canadian Children’s Book Centre
The Canadian Children’s Book Centre is a national, not‐for‐profit organization founded in 1976. We are dedicated to encouraging, promoting and supporting the reading, writing and illustrating of Canadian books for young readers. Our programs, publications, and resources help teachers, librarians, booksellers and parents select the very best for young readers. For more information, please visit bookcentre.ca.

About Communication-Jeunesse
Communication-Jeunesse is a national non-profit cultural organization that was founded in 1971 to promote and appreciate Quebec and Franco-Canadian literature aimed at young people age 0 to 17. The vitality of the organization is largely based on the quality of its associative life and the commitment of its members has been at the heart of its operations since its creation. The members of Communication-Jeunesse enrich its actions and promote its development with as much rigor as energy. For more information, please visit communication-jeunesse.qc.ca.

About TD Global Corporate Citizenship
TD has a long‐standing commitment to enriching the lives of its customers, colleagues and communities. As part of its corporate citizenship platform, The Ready Commitment, TD is targeting CDN $1 billion (US $775 million) in total by 2030 towards community giving in four areas critical to opening doors for a more inclusive and sustainable tomorrow—Financial Security, Vibrant Planet, Connected Communities and Better Health. Through The Ready Commitment, TD aspires to link its business, philanthropy and human capital to help people feel more confident—not just about their finances, but also in their ability to achieve their personal goals in a changing world. For further information, visit td.com/thereadycommitment.

About the Toronto International Festival of Authors
The Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA) is Canada’s longest-running literary festival, a charitable, non-for-profit cultural organization. It presents the finest of Canadian and international writers, artists and thinkers across the range of literary genres from fiction to non-fiction, poetry to plays, graphic novelists and illustrators. It enables audiences access and empowerment to meet, hear and learn from the finest contemporary writers and thinkers of our time. For more information, visit festivalofauthors.ca.