CCBC November 2015 Newsletter


News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre
Notable News
November Book List: CCBC Awards
Author Corner / Amy’s Travels in YA
Illustrator’s Studio: Wallace Edwards
Out Now: Fall 2015 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre

Applications are now open to host an author, illustrator or storyteller visit during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week 2016. TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children’s books and the importance of reading. Thirty authors, illustrators and storytellers will be visiting schools, libraries, bookstores and community centres in every province and territory across the country in May 2016.

Who is touring in your area?
Click here to learn more about the authors, illustrators and storytellers who will be touring in your province or territory in May 2016.

40 Years of Great Canadian Books!
The theme for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week in 2016 is 40 Years of Great Books to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Canada is home to some of the best children’s authors and illustrators in the world and many of us have grown up reading classic Canadian stories – Kathy Stinson’s beloved Red Is Best, Robert Munsch’s iconic Paperbag Princess, Phoebe Gilman’s incomparable Jillian Jiggs, Dennis Lee’s memorable Alligator Pie. It is now time to introduce a new generation to these Canadian classics, while also exploring fantastic new books that are destined to become the classics of a new generation. Click here for more information.

Apply today!
Invite an author, illustrator or storyteller to your school, library or community centre today and share the magic of books and reading! Applications to host an author, illustrator or storyteller during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week 2016 are now open.

Visit to apply today! Deadline for applications is December 31, 2015.

Notable News
Articles and videos of interest to educators

Children at a Vancouver daycare read When I Was Eight to learn about Indian residential schools

Should schools hold back students?

Today’s Parent on the importance of male teachers in the classroom

Canadian Books for High School Readers

Teaching children about child soldiers: Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War (Kids Can Press, 2015) has been featured on Canada AM and in Maclean’s

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November Book List: CCBC Book Awards

This month, we are highlighting the nominated books for three of the awards administered by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre: the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, the John Spray Mystery Award and the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award. Find out who the winners are on November 18, 2015!

Junior & Intermediate Fiction

Arrow Through the Axes
(Odyssey of a Slave, Book 3)
Written by Patrick Bowman
Ronsdale Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-55380-323-2
IL: Ages 10-15  RL: Grades 5-6
Trojan slave Alexi, now free of his captors, infiltrates Greek strongholds, searching for his missing sister. Travelling through the Greek lands, Alexi must face a terrible truth about the war that destroyed Troy. Recasting the Odyssey as a young reader’s adventure, Bowman brings ancient mythology to life.
Nominated for: Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
The Show to End All Shows
(Master Melville’s Medicine Show, Book 2)
Written by Cary Fagan
Puffin Canada, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-670-06586-8
IL: Ages 8-11  RL: Grades 4-5
Sullivan is still trapped with the Melville’s Medicine Show. Jinny is back on the road with Manny, trying to pick up the trail of the mysterious medicine show. The Melvilles are unhappy with the children’s performances, and a new girl is kidnapped for the show. With their families ever closer, the children of the travelling medicine show band together to solve the mystery of who the Melvilles really are and just what they are looking for.
Nominated for: John Spray Mystery Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Underground Soldier
Written by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Scholastic Canada, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4431-2437-9
IL: Ages 11-15  RL: Grades 6-7
Desperate to escape the Nazi labour camp where he works alongside Lida from Making Bombs for Hitler, young Luka hides in a truck under a pile of dead bodies. He then joins the Ukrainian resistance where his cell, caught between advancing Nazis and Soviet troops, mount guerrilla raids, help other escapees and do all they can to sabotage the Nazi and Soviet forces until the end of the war. A companion to Stolen Child and Making Bombs for Hitler.
Nominated for: Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Young Adult Fiction

About That Night
Written by Norah McClintock
Orca Book Publishers, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4598-0594-1
IL: Ages 13 and up  RL: Grades 6-7
In the depths of winter, a woman wanders off in the snow. A full-blown search begins. Meanwhile, Derek is staying with his new girlfriend and her parents while his family is out of town. When he disappears the same night, questions arise. Did he run away? Or did something happen to him? Two disappearances in one night. Someone knows the truth.
Nominated for: John Spray Mystery Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
The Art of Getting Stared At
Written by Laura Langston
Razorbill Canada, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-670-06750-3
IL: Ages 13 and up  RL: Grades 6-7
Sixteen-year-old Sloane is given an incredible opportunity — the chance for a film school scholarship. Then she discovers a bald spot on her head and is diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that has no cure and no definitive outcome. Determined to produce her video and keep her condition secret, Sloane is forced to make the most difficult choice of her life.
Nominated for: Amy Mathers Teen Book Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Blues for Zoey
Written by Robert Paul Weston
Razorbill Canada, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-14-318328-0
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grades 6-7
Kaz Barrett isn’t saving for college. Every penny he earns is to send his mother to a renowned sleep clinic in an attempt to cure the rare neurological disorder that causes her to fall asleep for days at a time. But when Kaz meets Zoey, his life begins spinning out of control. Zoey is unlike anyone else… but there’s another side to her that he can’t figure out. When he goes looking for answers, he finds lies, half-truths and violence.
Nominated for: Amy Mathers Teen Book Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
The Bodies We Wear
Written by Jeyn Roberts
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-385-75412-5
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grades 9-10
Heam is the hottest drug around. It smells like strawberries and looks like liquid silver. People say when you take Heam your body momentarily dies and you catch a glimpse of heaven. Faye was only 11 when drug dealers forced Heam on her and her best friend Christian. Faye didn’t see heaven… she saw hell. And her only friend died.
Nominated for: Amy Mathers Teen Book Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Dance of the Banished
Written by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Pajama Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-927485-65-1
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 7-8
Ali and his fiancée Zeynep dream about leaving Anatolia and building a life together in Canada. Ali finds passage to Canada, but he must leave Zeynep behind. Then World War I breaks out, Ali is declared an enemy alien and interned in Kapuskasing. Alone in a country plunged into war, Zeynep is determined to stay alive, cross the ocean and find Ali again.
Nominated for: Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Dead Man’s Switch
Written by Sigmund Brouwer
Harvest House Publishers, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-7369-1747-6
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 6-7
When William King receives a warning email from Blake he’s terrified — Blake drowned weeks ago! But Blake’s dead man’s switch computer program has been activated and King is being led on a technological hunt to unravel a dark conspiracy. Soon, King himself becomes the hunted on his remote island home, which is also home to a high-security prison. King will have to decide — whom can he trust?
Nominated for: John Spray Mystery Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
The Gospel Truth
Written by Caroline Pignat
Red Deer Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-88995-493-9
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 6-7
Sixteen-year-old Phoebe is a plantation slave and a keen observer of the brutality that comes with being owned. Mute since her mother was sold, Phoebe has taught herself to read — an advantage and a danger. When a Canadian doctor, the ‘birdman,’ visits the plantation for bird watching, Phoebe soon realizes it’s more than birds that he is after.
Nominated for: Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People and Amy Mathers Teen Book Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Written by William Bell
Doubleday Canada, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-385-68205-3
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 6-7
Fifteen-year-old Aidan has had too many foster parents and he longs to strike out on his own. When he saves the life of a young boy, Aidan earns the gratitude of the child’s grandfather, Mr. Bai, a man of wealth, resources and shadowy influence. When Mr. Bai asks how he can repay him, Aidan replies, “Can you make me disappear?”
Nominated for: John Spray Mystery Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Written by Caroline Pignat
Razorbill Canada, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-14-318755-4
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 7-8
On her first voyage as a stewardess aboard the Empress of Ireland, Ellie was drawn to Jim, the passionate but solitary fire stoker. Ellie tries to tell herself that he survived that terrible night, but it’s hard to believe when so many didn’t. When a journalist shows her Jim’s journal, she jumps at the chance to to read it herself. There’s one catch: she will have to tell her story in order to get the journal, one page at a time.
Nominated for: Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
The Voice Inside My Head
Written by S.J. Laidlaw
Tundra Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-77049-565-4
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grades 7-8
Seventeen-year-old Lake’s older sister, Pat, has always been his moral compass, like a voice inside his head every time he has a decision to make. So when Pat disappears on a tiny island off the coast of Honduras and the authorities claim she’s drowned, Luke gets on a plane. Determined to get to the bottom of Pat’s disappearance, Luke risks everything, including his own life, to find the answer.
Nominated for: John Spray Mystery Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
What We Hide
Written by Marthe Jocelyn
Tundra Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-77049-642-2
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grades 7-9
When Tom enrols in a British university to dodge the Vietnam draft, Jenny gets a semester at an English boarding school, Illington Hall. This is Jenny’s chance to be special, so she tells everyone she has a soldier boyfriend. But in the small world of Illington Hall, everyone has secrets. Robbie and Luke pretend they don’t. Brenda won’t tell about the school doctor. Percy won’t tell about his famous dad. Oona lies to everyone. Penelope lies only to herself.
Nominated for: Amy Mathers Teen Book Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

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Author’s Corner / Amy’s Travels in YA

The TD Canadian Children’s Literature Awards is quickly approaching, and with it the first presentation of the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award! To celebrate, this month’s Amy’s Travels in YA is an interview with all five nominees: Marthe Jocelyn, Laura Langston, Caroline Pignat, Jeyn Roberts and Robert Paul Weston! I hope you enjoy their thoughtful answers about writing for a Canadian teen audience as much as I did, and are inspired to read your way through this compelling, wide-ranging collection of stories. —Amy Mathers

Marthe Jocelyn

How has being Canadian influenced your writing?

Hmm, do I make this an answer about snow or about self-image?

I am a Canadian who lived in New York City for 30 years, so my identity is blurred at the edges, much like the locations in most of my books which tend to remain unnamed and even unpatriated. Only two — Mable Riley and A Big Dose of Lucky — are firmly set in Canada, without a single snowflake.

The book up for the Mathers prize, What We Hide, takes place in England with no Canadian in sight. We in Canada tend to measure ourselves by the yardsticks of other cultures (mainly British or American), just as teenagers constantly assess their peers, absorbing what they admire and rejecting what doesn’t suit. It is both a relief and an irritation that the objects of our scrutiny either ignore or misunderstand who we are. Which leads to your second question…

What motivates you to write for a teen audience?

Teenagers feel things. They watch and think and judge with passion. What more could one hope for in a reader?

You have the distinction of writing the only book on the nomination list that was also part of Amy’s Marathon of Books! Given What We Hide has such an ensemble cast, how did you decide how much of each character’s story to include?

Thank you, Amy, for pausing in Stratford, Ontario on your way across the country!

Figuring out who would tell which pieces of the story, and when, was certainly the biggest challenge in making this book make sense. Some of the stories can really stand alone, but as we get deeper into the book, the accumulation of tiny details that needed to be judiciously placed became pretty hard to track. Originally the narrative was told from 13 points of view. Although I was sad to let some of it go, and nearly defeated by the redistribution of key bits of the (admittedly meandering) plot, I think the editor was absolutely right in asking me to pull focus a little.

With the background events of the Vietnam War, your choices about emphasizing certain story aspects over others are key while also being a major theme in your book. What inspired you to tackle this historical period from the vantage point of a boarding school in England?

As a Canadian teen during the war in Vietnam, I was not living in fear of losing relatives or classmates. My knowledge was entirely through television and encounters with draft evaders who became friends with my older brother. The distance widened when I spent my tenth grade year at school in England. The war was happening very far away. For Jenny, the lone American amongst the Brits in the book, the connection with her soldier friend is more about her memories of him than any true understanding of his current reality. She even uses him to manipulate her status, despite her affection.

A boarding school is conveniently isolated and parentless, increasing the self-absorption of its inmates. The timeline of 1970 is happily cell phone and Google free — drama killers in almost any story. I wasn’t consciously tackling the period, but more the urgent need and great difficulty of keeping secrets in a place where your every move is seen by a hundred other kids.

Laura Langston

How has being Canadian influenced your writing?

I like to think there’s a Canadian sensibility to my writing generally but, in truth, I think living on the west coast has influenced my writing more than anything. While I grew up in Vancouver, and lived in both Edmonton and Winnipeg, I was born on Vancouver Island and I returned here when my first child was born. The west coast is in my blood. I know the flora and fauna, the birds and animals. When someone complains about a heron fishing at their pond, I know exactly what that sharp, two-toned beak looks like as it dips into the water. When a friend mentions that the bark is peeling from their arbutus tree, my mind immediately goes to the intoxicating honey scent of the arbutus flowers that bloom in spring. I know what spring is like here, and summer and fall and winter, too. I’ve lived with the nuances of light and dark, I’ve experienced drought and floods and windstorms. I understand the politics, the environmental issues and the social nuances that permeate towns and cities up and down the coast.

I think setting plays as big a role as character. So, while a few of my books are set on the prairies, many are set in coastal communities. Even those that take place in the US almost always play out along the coast — Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. I think that’s telling.

What motivates you to write for a teen audience?

The story dictates the audience. While I write mostly for teens, I also write picture books for young readers and novels for an adult audience, too. It really depends on whose story I’m telling and what audience will find that story entertaining. That said, I spend a large part of my time writing for teens these days. The teen years are generally a time of change and growth, and they can be challenging. They were certainly difficult for me. I was on my own — unwillingly — from the age of 14. It was a confusing, lonely time. I had to draw on a reservoir of inner strength I didn’t know I had and grow up very fast. Maybe that’s why I like to write about teens facing difficult situations and overcoming them.

Centered around the themes of beauty and appearances, The Art of Getting Stared At challenges how we present ourselves to the world. What sparked you to write about alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease resulting in hair loss)?

My daughter had a friend who didn’t spend much time on makeup or clothes. She cared about her appearance, but not overly so. I noticed this because before a school dance, our house was the gathering place. We’d supply the pizza and my daughter and her friends would spend hours doing their hair and makeup, and figuring out what to wear. This particular girl would spend maybe 20 minutes getting ready. After that, she’d surf the net or talk to us. What intrigued me the most was the dynamic I witnessed between her and the other girls. They were all good friends, but they thought she was a little weird, and she thought they were a little shallow. Around this same time, I met someone who had lost her hair to alopecia. She commented that she’d never truly appreciated her hair until it was gone. I began to wonder how it would be for my daughter’s friend if her appearance was significantly altered. What if she began to obsess about her looks? How would she feel if she’d always prided herself on being ‘just a little bit better than those other girls because she didn’t spend so much time on her appearance?’ From there, the novel took shape.

Sloane experiences a great deal of growth throughout the story and some of this is influenced by an unlikely source, her stepmother Kim, with whom she has a contentious relationship. Often in YA books, parental figures have minor roles, was the decision to cast Kim as an involved parent a conscious one?

That’s hard to say because I’m never entirely sure how much of any book I write is conscious and how much is the result of things bubbling away below my consciousness. In this case, it was probably a little of both. I certainly knew as I began the story that Sloane’s mother and stepmother would play a role but I was surprised to see Kim taking on as much of a role as she did. And yet that’s the way the story played out and since it felt right to me, I went with it.

Caroline Pignat

How has being Canadian influenced your writing?

Though I was born in Ireland, I grew up in Canada. I attended Canadian schools. I became a citizen, married a Canadian, and gave birth to two more. My writing is Canadian, simply because I am.

A theme I’ve noticed in my work is that despite the many obstacles, my main characters have hope. I think the same can be said of the Canadian spirit. Canada is young, relatively speaking. And maybe it’s because I teach high school students, but I see great things associated with youth: enthusiasm, potential, openness and above all, I see an eagerness to make a difference and the optimism to think they can. All of that flavours my writing.

What motivates you to write for a teen audience?

I don’t set out to write for teenagers, but I do love writing about teenagers. If I become overly aware of my audience and what they should learn or know, my work would have that let-me-tell-you-something lesson or that in-my-day-blah-blah tone (which I am sure my own teenaged kids would recognize.)

But in my writing and my teaching, I am fascinated by people who are at that teenage stage of life where their true self is emerging. Whatever the historical setting, teenage years are a time of great conflict both within and without. Teens are too young for this and too old for that. They crave both reassurance and independence. They are impulsive and passionate — and express it in interesting ways. In fiction, as in life, teenagers are very intriguing characters.

With so many of your books focusing on historical events and having a vast number of historical periods to explore, how did you decide to write about slavery in the 1800s?

The Gospel Truth was meant to be the next book in my Greener Grass series. I was going to write about the youngest sibling, Annie. To make her my teen main character, meant setting the story in the 1850s… so I Googled “Canadian History 1850s.” Up came the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and its implications for people escaping to Canada… and I was hooked.

As my year of research progressed, the more I learned about this time period — about the injustice of slavery and the facts of the Underground Railroad — the more fascinated I became. The pitch to my publisher had Annie working for an abolitionist, but as I wrote the first few chapters, I realized this was Phoebe’s story, not Annie’s. In the end, I took Annie out of it all together, switched it to free verse and gave other Whitehaven Plantation residents a voice as well.

Up until now, Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker has been the classic children’s story in Canada to introduce kids to slavery and the Underground Railroad (URR). Do you see The Gospel Truth as a companion story to Smucker’s work, providing more information for older readers through Phoebe’s experiences, or is it intended to be its own introductory piece for teens to expose them to the realities of slavery?

I remember reading Underground to Canada as a kid, as a teacher, and then most recently as part of my research. The Gospel Truth is a story about a journey to freedom, as are many wonderful books about slavery and the Underground Railroad. But besides form and multiple points of view, what makes mine different is that it is about the inner journey.

As I researched the amazing stories of escape along the URR, what most moved me was each person’s courage in making that choice to leave. Just imagine how terrifying it must have been to risk, even life itself, to leave all you know for that unknown — led on by that tiny glimmer of hope. For many reasons, they must have agonized over the decision.

My story takes place on the plantation and not along the URR. For Phoebe, it’s all about the inner journey, the small ways her independence emerges. It’s about discerning the different truths we tell ourselves and each other. Ultimately, it’s about finding the courage to stand up and speak up for what is right.

Jeyn Roberts

How has being Canadian influenced your writing?

It’s influenced me in some interesting ways. I remember doing a talk shortly after writing Dark Inside and someone asked me why there were no guns in the book. I was a little surprised by the question and my first thought was ‘well, it takes place in Vancouver…’ It was a good question though and I had to take it to heart while writing Rage Within.

What motivates you to write for a teen audience?

I love writing for teens. Personally I think I’m a big teenager at heart. Sometimes I look around my home and wonder when I grew up? The best part about teenagers is the passion. They are so passionate about everything they love and hate. I like being able to be a part of that. I think as adults, we forget about how to really get excited about the small things.

Your writing is often deliciously dark with serious themes of survival and being haunted by the past. Was it difficult from an emotional standpoint to write about Faye’s experiences with drug addiction and thirst for revenge?

Addiction is never an easy subject to talk about, especially from a voyeuristic point of view. I’ve never been in Faye’s place, but once I got inside her head, it was easy for me to understand the choices she decided to make. I often say when I write characters, they often take on lives of their own and I just go along for the ride. I wrote Bodies shortly after my own father died, so I could understand her grief and helplessness. Trust me, if there had been a way to go after the cancer that claimed my Dad, I would have relentlessly hunted it down.

The Bodies We Wear explores the fallout from the choices we make and the decisions that are made for us. This theme plays a vital role in Faye’s own story set in a violent and drug addicted world. Do you see in Faye’s story a message for your teen readers?

When I set out to write a novel, I never try and focus on any particular message. I just want to write a good story. Sometimes the accidental message is the best of all. A girl sent me an email a while back. She told me she’d spent time in her life wanting to die and holding grudges against people who hurt her. She said the book gave her hope for regaining her life. That was one of the most touching emails I’ve ever received. It makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing.

Robert Paul Weston

How has being Canadian influenced your writing?

Writing is like the rest of life, greatly informed by your childhood. If you grow up in Canada, you can’t help but absorb what will eventually become profound influences on your writing: your first language, the political stances you think of as “normal,” the stories, music, popular culture you enjoy. Eventually, these become the ingrained reference texts you turn to while writing.

At the same time, there’s the cliché that Canada is an extremely multicultural country, and it is. That means all of the above may be different depending on where you come from. I was born in the United Kingdom, so I’m a Canadian immigrant, meaning my experience is different from someone who has lived in Montreal for seven generations. I also come from a very mixed background. Both my parents are “mixed-race” and half my grandparents had mixed faith marriages. As a result, my family has Turkish, British, Grenadian, Indian, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Ba’hai influences. On top of all that, I married a Shinto-Buddhist from Japan. For me, the idea of ethnicity is fairly fluid, which is reflected to a small degree in Blues for Zoey.

What motivates you to write for a teen audience?

I don’t write exclusively for teens, but all my best known works have indeed been for youth. What I like about novels for young people is the intensity of the reading experience. As an adult, my favourite books periodically change as I read new ones, so it rarely feels like the books I read as an adult have the same impact as the best books I read as a child. Those have never changed, probably because you only get to read your first book once. That’s the best part of youth, so many firsts. The first time you realize what a book can do. The first time the letters make sense. The first time you finish a novel. The first time a book touches you, or makes you cry. You never forget those books. That’s why I write for youth, in the vain hope one of mine will become that sort of book for someone else.

Kaz’s journey in Blues for Zoey is puzzling at times because it is told solely from his perspective. As the writer, knowing the bigger picture of the story, was it difficult to limit yourself to his point of view and let the pieces slowly fall into place?

It wasn’t really difficult, as it’s what I set out to do. I wanted to write a book in which, while reading one story, another story formed, hidden between the lines. I realize this asks a lot of the reader, but it’s a kind of book I enjoy, the ones I finish thinking, “Well, never saw that coming, but of course, how could it end any other way?” I’m sure it’s debatable whether or not I pulled that off with Blues for Zoey, but I hope — at least for some readers — I did.

Cast as a young caregiver due to his mother’s sleeping illness as well as his father’s premature death, Kaz bears a lot of responsibility to keep his family together and take care of them. What do you hope other readers in similar situations will get out of Kaz’s story?

I hope a young person caring for a loved one or who finds themselves in financial difficulty finds a kindred spirit in Kaz. Seeing yourself reflected in a book has been inspiring for me, and I hope this would be the same for others. Also, in spite of good intentions, trying to do everything yourself, especially to the point of keeping secrets, is rarely a good thing. I hope readers will come to understand this along with Kaz, that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help.

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Illustrator’s Studio: Wallace Edwards

Wallace Edwards’ first book, Alphabeasts, was published in 2002 and won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Illustration. Since then, he has written and illustrated nine more books, for which he has won many national and international awards. In 2016, he will be touring Prince Edward Island as part of TD Canadian Children’s Book Week.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started as an illustrator?

I have been drawing since the age of four so I pretty well knew I was going to be an artist of some sort since childhood. As luck would have it, I have no other marketable skills so the decision to go to art school was an easy one.

I graduated from the Ontario College of Art in 1980 and became a freelance illustrator. After about 20 years of illustration, I decided to create a series of paintings of animals based on the alphabet as a project in my spare time. After a rather convoluted series of meetings with agents and publishers, the paintings became my first book Alphabeasts (Kids Can Press). This book won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Illustration in 2002. I had such a good time making that book that I was hooked and have tried to make at least one picture book a year ever since.

Can you tell us about your writing and illustrating process?

My picture books tend to be collections of images connected by an overarching theme. Bookmaking is a collaborative process and I have had the good fortune to work with very talented and helpful editors and designers. Once a concept is agreed upon, I sketch out the basic shape of the book then use that as my starting point. I usually show a series of rough sketches of what I have in mind. From there I develop the final painting. The examples shown are from The Cat’s Pajamas (Kids Can Press). The roughs are for the idioms “Getting his feet wet” and “Frog in his throat.” The pen sketches give the general direction, and the final paintings are the result. I usually have only a vague notion of what the finished piece will look like so it is with a sense of curiosity that I embark on a painting.

Click to enlarge.

This is fun and exciting for me, but must be rather nerve-wracking for the publisher. Business models tend to work with the concepts of control and predictable results. Creativity on the other hand is a flying leap into the unknown. Publishing is a very brave business!

Click to enlarge.

You will be touring for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week next May! What are you looking forward to the most?

One of the best things about touring is getting to interact with and do live drawing demonstrations for the students. My audiences tend to be from JK to Grade 8 and are still very enthusiastic about live performance art. I draw images suggested from the audience, so there is no way of knowing what will happen until it does. It is always interesting. I try to encourage the students to be the agents of creativity and not just passive receivers. I also enjoy seeing a different part of the country. It is always an adventure.

How do you see your books being used in the classroom? Do you have any suggestions for teachers or parents?

Teachers often use my books as springboards for student art and writing projects. This holds especially true for Mixed Beasts and Unnatural Selections. These books showcase creatures that are combinations of two or more animals in one. This tends to appeal to the Mad Scientist in all of us. It is a fun way for children to be creative as they fashion strange creatures of their own.

My books Monkey Business and The Cat’s Pajamas are visual representations of common idioms. Children are encouraged to explore the visual interpretations that exist in our language. Mainly though, I hope kids enjoy the books on whatever level they a comfortable with.

What were your favourite books growing up?

I am slightly dyslexic so reading came rather slowly to me. I tend to be much more visual, so pictures played an important role in keeping me engaged with books. I enjoyed a book series called “The Junior Classics” with marvellous illustrations by the great illustrators of the 20th century.

Dr.Suess, Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte’s Web come to mind as well as lots of different comic books from Archie to Batman and all points in between. Mad Magazine also holds a special place as an influence on my drawing. I read all kinds of books these days, but it all started with the Junior Classics.

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

I have just finished a picture book with Pajama Press called Once Upon A Line. The book showcases a series of images that all share a common visual line that was drawn by an enchanted pen. Each image is the beginning of a story that the reader may elect to finish if they feel inspired to do so. Each story begins with the phrase “Once Upon A Line.” I had a very good time making this book and hope it is enjoyed when it gets out into the world.

I am also working on a book entitled What is Peace? (working title). This is a visual meditation on the question of peace. It is proving to be an interesting experience. Other than that, I am preparing for an art show at Ingram Gallery in Toronto set for December 5, 2015. It will consist of many of the original paintings from Once Upon A Line. I also have another book with Pajama Press in the works. I like to keep busy.

Images courtesy of Wallace Edwards. Visit for more information about his work.

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Out Now: Fall 2015 edition of Canadian Children’s Book News

Diverse books, illustrating non-fiction and more in the Fall issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

We have diverse books, argues editor Gillian O’Reilly in the new issue of Canadian Children’s Book News, and we need to celebrate it. In this issue, we also talk with four talented artists about the delicate balance of appeal and accuracy in illustrating non-fiction. Plus a profile with Tim Wynne-Jones, an interview with Angela Misri, a top-notch list of recent science books, and much more.

Click here to purchase a copy!

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