CCBC January 2016 Newsletter


News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre
Notable Links
January Book List
Author Corner: Sarah Ellis
Amy’s Travels in YA
Illustrator’s Studio: Gabrielle Grimard
Out Now: Fall 2015 issue of Best Books for Kids & Teens

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre

The TD Canadian Children’s Book Week application deadline has been extended to January 15, 2016. Why apply? Click here to read about the many benefits of Book Week!

Family Literacy Day, a national awareness initiative created by ABC Life Literacy Canada, is coming up soon on January 27. Check out our book list below for reading suggestions, as well as our Family Literacy Day-themed January 2015 newsletter!

Notable News & Links
Articles and videos of interest to educators

Author David Alexander Robertson on how to talk to kids about residential schools (video)

Boy who couldn’t afford books asks mailman for junk mail to read

Teacher uses LEGOs to explain math to schoolchildren

Publishing Children’s Books That Matter by Sheila Barry

The Essential Role of School Librarians by Marie-Louise Gay

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January Book List: Family Literacy Day

Family Literacy Day is a national event created by ABC Life Literacy Canada and held annually on January 27 to raise awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family. This month, our library coordinator Meghan Howe shares her recommended reads for Family Literacy Day.

Picture Books

Dipnetting with Dad
Written by Willie Sellars
Illustrated by Kevin Easthope
Caitlin Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-927575-53-6
IL: Ages 4-9  RL: Grades 2-3
Set in the beautiful landscape of the Cariboo Chilcotin region, this is a delightful story of a father teaching his son the Secwepemc method of fishing known as dipnetting. Together they visit the Sweat Lodge, mend the nets, select the best fishing spot and catch and pack their fish through rugged bush back to the family home for traditional preparation.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Eat, Leo! Eat!
Written by Caroline Adderson
Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
Kids Can Press, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-77138-013-3
IL: Ages 3-7  RL: Grades 1-2
Every Sunday, Leo’s family has lunch at his Nonna’s house. Everyone is hungry… except Leo, who’d rather play. But as Nonna passes around the bowls of soup with stelline — small, star-shaped noodles — she also serves the start of a story featuring different pasta shapes. Leo eats as he listens to Nonna’s tale, and over the next few Sundays, Leo grows hungrier for more pasta… and more of the story!
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Edmund Unravels
Written and illustrated by Andrew Kolb
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-399-16914-4
IL: Ages 5-8  RL: Grades 2-3
Edmund is an adventurous and energetic ball of yarn! From the time he could roll, he’s been bouncing down his front steps to explore, and his parents have always been there to reel him in and wind him back up. Edmund can’t resist the tug of adventure, the twists and turns of discovery, but as he ventures far from home, he learns the importance of family and friends.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Fire Pie Trout
Written by Melanie Mosher
Illustrated by Renné Benoit
Fifth House Publishers, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-92708-318-5
IL: Ages 4-8  RL: Grades 2-3
Grace loves being with Gramps, but there are things she is not so sure of: scary movies, the dark and trying new things. So when Gramps takes her fishing on a dark, foggy morning, she has her doubts. How can she tell Gramps she’s not so keen on adventure without spoiling their time together? This book brings the warmth of a special relationship and the excitement of growing just a little bigger to the darkest, foggiest of mornings.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Little Miss, Big Sis
Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
HarperCollins Publishers, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-230203-8
IL: Ages 4-8  RL: Grades 2-3
In the perfect follow-up to Plant a Kiss, Little Miss learns her mother is going to have a baby! She and her family celebrate the momentous arrival of a new baby and Little Miss experiences all the wonders of becoming a big sis — from drool wiping and cuddling to chasing, sharing and playing!
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
My Family Tree and Me
Written and illustrated by Dušan Petričić
Kids Can Press, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-77138-049-2
IL: Ages 4-7  RL: Grades 1-2
Explore a boy’s family tree, one side at a time. His father’s side starts from the front of the book, and his mother’s side starts from the back. The grand finale in the centre reveals the boy’s entire extended family, with all the members from both sides identified by their relationship to him. Can you spot the family resemblances through the generations? This title is also available in French as Ma grande famille.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Junior & Intermediate Fiction

Finding Ruby Starling
Written by Karen Rivers
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-545-53479-6
IL: Ages 9-12  RL: Grades 4-5
Ruth is an extroverted American girl. Ruby is a shy English one. As they investigate whether or not they are long-lost twins, they share lives full of friends, family and possible romances — and they realize they each may be the sister the other never knew she needed. A funny, touching novel written entirely in emails, letters, Tumblr entries and movie scripts.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Jacob’s Landing
Written by Daphne Greer
Nimbus Publishing, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-77108-279-2
IL: Ages 8-12  RL: Grades 3-4
Coping with the death of his father, 12-year-old Jacob is spending the summer with his estranged (and strange!) grandparents in Nova Scotia. His grandfather dresses like a sea captain and his grandmother has him running in circles! Jacob has two months to figure out how to deal with his ailing grandfather, the surging Avon River tides and a mysterious family secret that’s haunting his new-found family.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
The Mosquito Brothers
Written by Griffin Ondaatje
Illustrated by Erica Salcedo
Groundwood Books, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-55498-437-4
IL: Ages 8-11  RL: Grades 3-4
After he nearly drowns in a parking-lot puddle, Dinnn Needles is fearful of many things, including flying. After his 400 siblings swarm off, Dinnn is lonely and filled with an unexplained longing. Then Dinnn gets his chance to visit his relatives in The Wild and discovers that being cool is a matter of what you do, especially for friends and family, including two new brothers.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
No Place for Kids
Written by Alison Lohans
Wandering Fox Books, 2014 ©1999
ISBN: 978-1-772030-17-4
IL: Ages 9-12  RL: Grades 5-6
Sisters Jennifer and Sarah were once part of a happy, stable family, but their idyllic life ends with the death of their mother. Their father loses his way, and the two sisters decide to run away to their aunt in Vancouver. Along the way, they must overcome fear, loneliness, illness and the sibling conflict.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Shack Island Summer
Written by Penny Chamberlain
Sono Nis Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-55039-175-6
IL: Ages 11-14  RL: Grades 4-5
The summer of 1969 is the summer of flower children and moon landings. In this evocative coming-of-age novel, 12-year-old Pepper and her oddball brother are spending this summer on Shack Island with Grandma. As the summer days and starlit nights work their magic, Pepper explores ESP, dreams and infatuation and decides to look for her birth family.
Amazon | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Something Wiki
Written by Suzanne Sutherland
Dundurn, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4597-2821-9
IL: Ages 9-14  RL: Grades 5-6
Twelve-year-old Jo Waller has one deep, dark secret: she edits Wikipedia for fun. When her 24-year-old brother moves back home with his pregnant girlfriend, Jo’s whole world is thrown into chaos. Faced with impending aunt-hood, major friendship turbulence, an unrequited crush and a bad haircut, it’s looking like Jo will be lucky to make it out of the year alive.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Young Adult Fiction

Fight Back
Written by Brent R. Sherrard
Lorimer, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4594-0858-6
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grades 5-6
Tyler Josten, abandoned by his mother and abused by his father, has grown up with a wild temper. In trouble with the law, he is placed with the Conways, a foster family. Wayne Conway teaches him how to box, and Tyler finds an outlet for the violence inside him. He starts taking responsibility for his own life and actions, but can he learn to trust others — and himself?
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
If You Live Like Me
Written by Lori Weber
Wandering Fox Books, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-77203-052-5
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 6-7
Cheryl is the unwilling witness to her father’s morbid fascination with “dying cultures.” His decision to study the defunct fishing industry in St. John’s is Cheryl’s breaking point — she is determined to get back to the bright lights of Montreal. Will Cheryl’s cold, goth exterior and her refusal to embrace a new life cut her off from those who love her?
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
In Search of Sam
(Truths I Learned from Sam, Book 2)
Written by Kristin Butcher
Dundurn, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4597-2960-5
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grades 9-10
When Dani sets out to uncover her father’s past, she also discovers her own future. Raised by her mother, 18-year-old Dani Lancaster had just six weeks to get to know her father Sam before he lost his battle with cancer. It was long enough to love him, but not long enough to get to know him — especially since Sam didn’t even know himself.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
This One Summer
Created by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Groundwood Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-55498-152-6
IL: Ages 13 and up  RL: Grades 5-6
Rose and Windy are summer friends whose families have stayed at Awago Beach for as long as they can remember. But this summer is different, and they soon find themselves tangled in teen love and family crisis. It’s a summer of secrets and heartache and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other. A stunning and authentic story of friendship, illuminated by subtly heart-breaking moments and pure summer joy.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Written by Lisa Harrington
Dancing Cat Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-77086-413-9
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 7-8
When her mother dies, Lyssa flees her oppressive stepfather and heads to Halifax. After her plans go awry, she decides to reconnect with her stepbrother, Aidan. But when Lyssa discovers his discarded medication and Aidan’s behaviour becomes more and more erratic, she realizes he is not the person she remembers.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
We Are All Made of Molecules
Written by Susin Nielsen
Tundra Books, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-77049-779-5
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 7-8
Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially “ungifted.” Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the “It” girl of Grade 9, but her marks stink. When Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom, their worlds collide. They are complete opposites. And yet, no matter their differences, they share one thing in common: they — like the rest of us — are all made of molecules.
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

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Author’s Corner: Sarah Ellis

Sarah Ellis is a children’s book author born in Vancouver, BC. Her books have won many awards, including the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, the Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Literature and the Sheila A. Egoff Award. This May, she will be touring Saskatchewan as part of TD Canadian Children’s Book Week.

How did you get started as a writer?

I came to writing from reading. Malcolm Gladwell has a theory that mastery of any skill takes ten thousand hours. I figure that by the time I was in my early thirties, when I began writing, I had put in my ten thousand hours of reading. All that time I spent as a kid with my nose in a book, as a teenager trying to figure out life through fiction, as a university student reading for school, and as a young children’s librarian reading for work I was getting ready to be a writer, even though I didn’t know it.

What were your favourite books growing up?

In the read-to years my mother read us fairy tales, Tom Sawyer, Winnie the Pooh. My brothers hated Winnie the Pooh but I loved it. They got revenge by requesting a book of Canadian explorer biographies for the next nightly read-aloud. It was hideously boring. In self-defence I learned to read for myself and then my tastes were omnivorous. I chowed down on Little House on the Prairie, the Black Stallion books, Peanuts cartoon collections and my family’s selection of Reader Digest Condensed Books. Two books had a particular appeal for me: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. When I was a teenager I developed a possibly unhealthy obsession with Thomas Hardy.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

My process is inefficient and highly enjoyable. I start with something small, a relationship between two characters (say, a well-behaved girl and her wilder friend) or a place (say, a hidden bunker under the city reservoir), a single character (say, an American draft dodger who comes to Canada) or something that is intriguing or bothering me (say, the role of siblings in the adoption process). Then I just jump in and write around it. I put the characters in situations and I get to know them by writing about them. At this stage anything goes and I feel like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up all the material of the world around me. All the time I’m writing I’m keeping alert to the possibility of a plot, hoping it will arise organically from the characters. Once I have an inkling of the plot (conflict, story arc, resolution, all that stuff ) I switch over to the left brain and start organizing and editing the material that I have created.

You are touring Saskatchewan for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week next year! What do you have planned for the schools you are visiting? What are you looking forward to the most?

I like to do a presentation that is interactive, with lots of input from the children. Mostly I want to convey the deep and abiding pleasure of making art and to encourage kids in their creative lives. I look forward to being surprised. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen — how the presentation will go, what questions the kids will ask, what the teacher or librarian will be like, the weather, what brand of tiny shampoo will be in the motel bathroom, life throws you a curve ball. From such curve balls come the beginnings of stories.

Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how to incorporate your books into the curriculum? Do you have any activity suggestions? How do you like to see your books used in classrooms?

Reading aloud is a simple and powerful approach. I’m always delighted when teachers use my stories as springboards for the students’ own creative writing. (Or drawing or theatre or . . .) In terms of something more focussed and teacherly, for my latest novel Outside In I hired a grade school teacher (and one of my former writing students) to write a curriculum guide. It has lots of dandy discussion and activity ideas and is available for free on my website.

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

At the moment I’m in the saggy baggy stage (as described above) of a novel set in 1970, at the tail end of edits for an easy reader and I’m playing around with an idea for another picture book about my small reluctant hero Ben, last seen in Ben Says Goodbye.

For more information about Sarah’s work, visit

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Amy’s Travels in YA

by Amy Mathers

It’s January 2016, and as I write this I can hardly believe it. Since 2001 I’ve had this overwhelming feeling that we are living in the future, even though this future has not always turned out as movies, books and popular culture would have led us to believe. While last year we reached the date Marty McFly travelled to in the future back in the eighties, we are living in a future that has segways, not hoverboards.

2016 also marks eight years since American author Suzanne Collins’ first Hunger Games book came out (Scholastic Press, 2008), and while I can point to other equally incredible speculative/dystopian YA novels that came out earlier and were Canadian (Invitation to the Game by Monica Hughes, Simon Pulse, 1991, Big Big Sky by Kristyn Dunnion, Red Deer Press, 2008, and Countdown by Michelle Maddox (now Michelle Rowan), Love Spell, 2008), the Hunger Games series seems to be most widely credited as the beginning of the YA dystopian obsession.

Unlike other trends in YA though, the speculative/dystopian genre has staying power. Lately, I read about a future where an AI entity has taken responsibility for bringing peace to a warring world with devastating but mostly successful results (The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2015), a parallel universe situation where the inhabitants of one Earth are conquering the other Earth by becoming sleepers and taking over their alternate’s life (The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett, Greenwillow Books, 2015), and a future where humans are bred for their skills through a highly regulated existence (Aptitude by Natalie Corbett Sampson, Fierce Ink Books, 2015). I also continued reading a series about a future Earth where fragments of the moon float in the atmosphere and are home to a whole civilization while some still live below on Earth and some also live above on the moon (Broken Sky Chronicles by Jason Chabot, HarperCollins Canada, 2014-2015).

The attraction of YA speculative fiction lies in its’ attempt to answer the pressing questions of young adults as they consider their own futures. Sadly, such stories tend to be dystopian in nature given all of the serious problems facing our world, supplying authors with an endless well of bleak probable futures to imagine and pick from. I wasn’t a huge fan of Scotland YA author Julie Bertagna’s Raging Earth series (Macmillian, 2002-2011), but with all we have learned about climate change it seems almost prophetic. The genre is also changing from being about reluctant heroes thrust into the role of saving the world to philosophical explorations of the pertinent issues of our time, following them through to their logical (and often frightening) conclusions. Classics 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, written in response to World War II and the Western world’s hedonistic attitudes respectively are excellent examples of this.

Reading speculative fiction feels like opening a message in a bottle — a voice crying out in the wilderness warning us about the errors of our ways before the damage is irreversible. Sometimes there is a bit of fantasy involved, lessening the realism of the story, but most often I find myself thinking over how those varied futures could easily become very dark realities. With the signing of the Paris Agreement though, I wonder if writers will be inspired to turn the dystopias into utopian stories. Perhaps we can finally send our youth a more hopeful message regarding their future.

Happy New Year!

– Amy

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Illustrator’s Studio: Gabrielle Grimard

Gabrielle Grimard is an illustrator who currently lives in the Eastern Townships in Quebec. Born in Montreal, she studied Fine Arts at Concordia University, and started her career as an illustrator in 2001. She will be touring Nunavut as part of TD Canadian Children’s Book Week this coming May.

How did you get started as an illustrator?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. My mother kept the first mark of a crayon I ever made on a piece of paper, when I was 18 months old. Later, I drew at home, in class (in secret), and even in my ballet classes when I could… It was a bit like a compulsion! When I was younger, I didn’t know about illustration as a career. But I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to make drawings, lots of drawings! Greeting cards, calendars and even books… I thought painters did that! So, I wanted to be a painter.

I studied Fine Arts in CEGEP and at Concordia University. To support myself while I was studying, I would sell art in cafes, and I would paint murals and windows for businesses in Montreal. I would walk around everywhere with a large bag full of pots of paint and my brushes. After I had a baby, it became clear to me that I wanted to work from home. I had an illustrator friend who helped me figure out how to make a career out of it. I signed up with Illustration Québec and made myself a page in their directory in 2001. In the following months, I started to get calls, and within a year and a half, it became my full-time job!

Can you tell us about your illustrating process?

When I dive into a story, I start by sketching the characters. I do research in magazines, in books and online to find types of faces, hairstyles, clothes, patterns and colours (palettes) which would express their personalities visually. After the approval of my sketches by the editor, I do the sketches on my watercolour paper. I start the colouring process with watercolour that I love for its airy quality, followed by gouache for more subdued and vivid colours, and I finish with oil for the shadows and depth. Afterwards, I use coloured pencils to add details… It’s quite a long process! It takes about 4 or 5 days to complete a double-page spread, and around three months to complete a whole picture book.

The barn where Grimard has her studio.

La nuit de Gabrielle in progress.

This May, you will be visiting Nunavut for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week! What do you have planned for the schools? What are you looking forward to the most?

I feel so privileged to have been invited to visit Nunavut! It’s a gift. I’m looking forward to meeting the children and their teachers. I can’t wait to learn about their lives, which seem so different than mine.

This is what I have planned for the school: first, I will show them a picture of where I work, what inspires me in my work, and explain what an illustrator does. I will be telling them about the process of creating a book (developing characters, sketches, the editing process, and final artwork). I will be bringing sketches and artwork to show them.

I will talk about the colours and the strong meaning or power they can have in an illustration. There is a colour for envy, for sadness, for love, tenderness… Even one for authority! I like to help kids discover that concept. I am curious to see if they will have the same associations with certain colours that I do. And at the end, I will illustrate a small character with a strong emotion, and with their help, we will decide which colour we will use to dress him (or her) using watercolour.

To illustrate Les jeux de ficelles (Dominique et compagnie), When I Was Eight (Annick Press) and Not My Girl (Annick Press), I spent a lot of time pouring over photos of the north in order to best depict the region in my work. At this point I still had not set foot in that part of the country. Recently, I went to Yellowknife with Communication-Jeunesse, and fell in love with the northern landscapes — I can’t wait to see them again! I want to fill my head with beautiful stories and images for future projects.

Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how they could use your books in the classroom?

Using Today, Maybe (Orca Book Publishers), teachers can ask their students to imagine and draw a new character they would like to see in the story. It can be their friend, a cat, a grandparent or someone from their imagination. The only rule is that they have to create the character — it can’t be a character that already exists on television or in a video game, for example. In one school in Vancouver, they folded a sheet of paper in half, like a greeting card. On the cover, they drew a door with a handle, and on the inside, their character in full view.

With my new book, Lila and the Crow (Annick Press), teachers can ask their students which animals they identify with the most and have them draw a self-portrait combining their faces with their chosen animals.

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

In 2016, Les Éditions de la Bagnole will publish La nuit de Gabrielle, a picture book written by Gilles Tibo that I illustrated. La boite à sourire by Anne Renaud (Dominique et compagnie), Flocons (Éditions de l’Isatis), and Fatima and the Clementine Thieves (Red Deer Press) are all in the works.

I’m also finishing the first book that I wrote myself, Lila and the Crow. It’s a story I wrote following a meeting with my editor Colleen MacMillan (Annick Press) in Vancouver in 2014. We were talking about a new book that was about bullying, and I told her a story from my childhood. When I was a child, I was often compared to a crow in a pejorative way. I always had skin and hair that was darker than the other kids in my neighbourhood and in my school. I was different, and you don’t need much more than that to get negative attention. Colleen saw a story in this experience, and she encouraged me a few times over the summer to work on it. Since I didn’t know where to start, Gilles Tibo offered me his help. Around December 2014, my story was finally ready and they loved it! Lila and the Crow will be published in September 2016 by Annick Press.

Images courtesy of Gabrielle Grimard. Visit for more information about her work.

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Out Now: Fall 2015 edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens

Best Books for Kids & Teens contains recommended books for kids and teens ages 0-18 and helps parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers and children’s literature enthusiasts stock their bookshelves with the very best books Canada has to offer.

All of the titles in Best Books for Kids & Teens have been handpicked by expert committees of educators, booksellers, school and public librarians from across Canada, so every book included in the guide is guaranteed to be a great read!

Click here to purchase a copy!

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