CCBC October 2015 Newsletter


News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre
News from our Friends
Notable News
October Book List: CCBC Awards
Author Corner: Marty Chan
Top Grade: CanLit for the Classroom
Amy’s Travels in YA
Illustrator’s Studio: John Martz
Out Now: Summer 2015 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre

Last chance to sign up for our So You Want to Get Published! seminar! What does it take to get a children’s book published? What are children’s book publishers looking for? How do booksellers pick the books they sell? On October 24, let our panel of experts show you what you need to do to get your manuscript published!

Our panel of industry professionals will include Tara Walker (Publisher, Penguin Random House Canada Children’s Publishing Group), Lynne Missen (Publishing Director, Penguin Canada Young Readers), Maria Martella (Owner, Tinlids Inc.), Michael Solomon (Art Director, Groundwood Books), Amy Tompkins (Agent, Transatlantic Agency), author-illustrator Ruth Ohi and author Gillian O’Reilly.

The seminar will take place on Saturday, October 24 in Toronto, ON. Click here for more information.

Next year’s TD Canadian Children’s Book Week will take place from May 7-14, 2016. Thirty Canadian children’s authors, illustrators and storytellers will be touring across Canada visiting schools, libraries, bookstores and community centres. Visit the TD Book Week site ( in mid-October to find out who will be touring in your area and the types of readings and workshops they will be giving. If your school or library is interested in hosting a Book Week visitor, you can apply online starting mid-October.

TD Bank Group is partnering with CBC Books to present the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Fan Choice Award. Young people across Canada are encouraged to vote for their favourite book online at from October 1 to 30, 2015. This year, in partnership with Radio-Canada, the Fan Choice Award will also be presented to a French-language title — young readers can vote for their favourite book from September 28 to October 24, 2015 at Two lucky voters will be selected to attend the Montreal and Toronto galas to meet their favourite author/illustrator and present the award.

News from our Friends

CBC Books will once again be running the Shakespeare Selfie writing challenge in April 2016! They asked us to circulate this information now, so that teachers have time to pencil this into their teaching plans around Shakespeare and writing.

Here are features they wrote about the 2015 winners from the Grades 7-9 and Grades 10-12 categories (including their winning entries).

Shakespeare took selfies all the time—but instead of a camera, he used a quill. And instead of calling them “selfies,” they were called “soliloquies.”

When: APRIL 2016 (specific contest period TBA)

The challenge: Write a modern-day soliloquy or monologue by a Shakespearean character, based on a prominent news, pop culture or current affairs event from the last year (April 2015-April 2016). Could be in iambic pentameter or modern syntax.

Word count: 200-400 words

Age categories: Grades 7-9 and Grades 10-12

Prizes, judge and other details: TBA.

All entries will be published online so that students can share and teachers can verify/assess their students’ entries.

Inspired by YA author Patrick Ness, who has started an enormously successful UK fundraising campaign for Syrian refugees, Canadian children’s/YA authors Robin Stevenson and Sarah Harvey decided to do something similar in Canada. They are calling on Canadian children’s book authors, illustrators, publishers and readers to contribute what they can to Doctors Without Borders. Donate today at Canada Helps.

This October, illustrator John Martz (interviewed below) will be running several workshops at Toronto Public Library’s Northern District Branch, as part of IBBY Canada‘s Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence program. Click here for more details.

Notable News
Articles and videos of interest to educators

Did you miss the list of the 100 Best Canadian Kids Books that was released by Today’s Parent over the summer? Our very own library coordinator, Meghan Howe, was part of the selection committee!

What do you think of “Buddy Benches”? Will they help children make friends in the school yard?

Wow! Ellen DeGeneres gives BC dance teacher $10K to start school

See how this Alabama gym teacher gets his students exercising!

Halloween Crafts & Activities

Looking to invite an author or illustrator into your classroom or library? Check out the CCBC’s online directory which lists over 150 of Canada’s favourite children’s book creators!

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October Book List: CCBC Book Awards

This month, we are highlighting the nominated books for four of the awards administered by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre: the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy and the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction. The winners will be announced on November 18, 2015. We will be sharing our other three awards next month.

Picture Books

Any Questions?
Written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
Groundwood Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-55498-382-7
IL: Ages 4-8  RL: Grades 2-3
Marie-Louise Gay’s new picture book is a whimsical exploration of the writing process. When she has a fictional encounter with some very curious children, they end up collaborating on a fantastical story within a story. Here is a world where kids can become part of the story and let their imaginations run wild… and maybe they will be inspired to create stories of their own.
Nominated for: TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Dolphin SOS
Written by Roy Miki and Slavia Miki
Illustrated by Julie Flett
Tradewind Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-896580-76-0
IL: Ages 4-8  RL: Grades 2-3
Based on true events, this expressive and strikingly illustrated picture book recounts the story of three dolphins trapped in an ice-covered cove on the coast of Newfoundland. After authorities fail to provide assistance, some young people take matters into their own hands in order to save the distraught dolphins. This story of animal distress and heroism has a happy and heart-warming ending.
Nominated for: Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
From There to Here
Written by Laurel Croza
Illustrated by Matt James
Groundwood Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-55498-365-0
IL: Ages 5-8  RL: Grades 1-2
A little girl and her family have just moved across the country by train. Their new neighbourhood in the city of Toronto is very different from their home in the Saskatchewan bush, and everything about “there” seems better than “here.” There she watched the northern lights, now she only sees the streetlights. There her dad came for lunch, but here she doesn’t see him all day. Will finding a friend make “here” a better place?
Nominated for: Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Hope Springs
Written by Eric Walters
Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Tundra Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-77049-530-2
IL: Ages 6-12  RL: Grades 3-4
A drought has settled in the area around the orphanage where Boniface lives, and the orphans are unwelcome at the village’s tiny spring. When the orphanage’s well is completed, Boniface has an idea to help the villagers. A lovely tale of kindness and heart, this story shows that through compassion and understanding, true generosity can spring from unexpected places.
Nominated for: Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress
Written by Christine Baldacchino
Illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
Groundwood Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-55498-347-6
IL: Ages 3-8  RL: Grades 2-3
Morris loves using his imagination and he dreams about having space adventures. His favourite place in his classroom is the dress-up centre — because he loves wearing the tangerine dress! But the children in Morris’s class don’t understand. Dresses are for girls, astronauts don’t wear dresses! Warm, dreamy illustrations perfectly capture Morris’s vulnerability and the vibrancy of his imagination. This is a sweetly told story about the courage and creativity it takes to be different. This title is also available in French as Boris Brindamour et la robe orange.
Nominated for: TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award • Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
The Most Magnificent Thing
Written and illustrated by Ashley Spires
Kids Can Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4
IL: Ages 3-8  RL: Grades 2-3
This is a charming book about a girl who wants to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look and how it will work. But making her magnificent thing is hard, and everything she builds comes out wrong. Eventually, she gets so mad she quits. After a walk with her dog, she comes back with renewed enthusiasm and manages to get it just right. This funny, sweet story offers a perfect example of the rewards of perseverance and creativity.
Nominated for: Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Nancy Knows
Written and illustrated by Cybèle Young
Tundra Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-77049-482-4
IL: Ages 3-7  RL: Grades 1-2
This is the charming story of an elephant who remembers lots of things, except the very thing she is trying to remember. Each spread of this whimsical, arresting picture book features fantastic miniature paper sculptures within the expressive outlines of a puzzled pachyderm. It’s a book that will be remembered and treasured by readers young and old.
Nominated for: Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Junior & Intermediate Fiction

The Boundless
Written by Kenneth Oppel
HarperCollins Publishers, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-44341-026-7
IL: Ages 10-14  RL: Grades 5-6
The Boundless, the most magnificent train ever built, is on its maiden voyage across Canada, and Will Everett is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime! There’s a murder, and Will, now protecting the key that unlocks the train’s treasures, becomes the target of sinister figures from his past. With villains chasing him and sasquatches and bog hags lurking outside, Will and Maren, a young tightrope walker, must save the Boundless before someone else winds up dead.
Nominated for: Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
The Nethergrim
(The Nethergrim, Book 1)
Written by Matthew Jobin
Philomel Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-399-15998-5
IL: Ages 11-14  RL: Grades 5-6
Decades ago, in an epic battle, the brave knight, Tristan, and the famed wizard, Vithric, defeated the evil Nethergrim. But now something dark has crept over the village. First animals disappear, their only remains a pile of bones. But when a group of children vanishes, the villagers know the Nethergrim has returned! When Edmund’s brother is taken, Edmund and his friends set out to battle an ancient evil whose powers none of them can imagine.
Nominated for: Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
The Night Gardener
Written by Jonathan Auxier
Puffin Canada, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-670-06772-5
IL: Ages 10-14  RL: Grades 5-6
Orphaned Irish siblings Molly and Kip, fleeing the potato famine, arrive at Windsor estate to work as servants at the creepy, crumbling English manor house that is entwined with a massive, sinister tree. Although warned about the evil of the place, Molly and Kip are unprepared for the malevolence they find within. The terrible secrets of the cursed home will change their lives forever.
Nominated for: TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award • Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Young Adult Fiction

Sea of Shadows
(Age of Legends, Book 1)
Written by Kelley Armstrong
Doubleday Canada, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-385-67200-9
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 7-8
In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned. Only, this year, the souls will not be quieted. Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known.
Nominated for: Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim
Written by E.K. Johnston
Carolrhoda Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4677-1066-4
IL: Ages 12 and up  RL: Grades 6-7
Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had a few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival. At 16, with dragons advancing and his grades plummeting, Owen faced impossible odds — armed only with a sword, his legacy and the classmate who agreed to be his bard.
Nominated for: Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison
Written by Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson
Pajama Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-927485-63-7
IL: Ages 6 and up  RL: Grades 3-4
Ted Harrison’s passion for learning saved him from a life in England’s coal mines and led him to become one of Canada’s most celebrated artists whose distinctive images of the Arctic are recognized worldwide. This child-friendly volume is a wonderful introduction to an iconic Canadian artist. Includes a preface by the late Ted Harrison and many beautiful full-colour reproductions of his artwork.
Nominated for: TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
From Vimy to Victory: Canada’s Fight to the Finish in World War I
Written by Hugh Brewster
Scholastic Canada, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4431-2461-4
IL: Ages 10-14  RL: Grades 5-7
After their hard-won victory at Vimy Ridge, Canada’s soldiers proved themselves again and again on bloody battlefields. Their sacrifice cost a young country dearly, yet many historians believe it was in this fiery crucible that modern Canada was born. This title is also available in French as De Vimy à victoire: Le combat du Canada durant la Première Guerre mondiale.
Nominated for: TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award • Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers
Written by David J. Smith
Illustrated by Steve Adams
Kids Can Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-894786-34-8
IL: Ages 8-14  RL: Grades 3-4
This intriguing guide to better understanding all those really big ideas and numbers children come across on a regular basis uses clever devices to scale down everything from timelines (the history of Earth compressed into one year), to quantities (all the wealth in the world divided into one hundred coins), to size differences (the planets shown as different types of balls).
Nominated for: Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors: A National History
Written by Larry Loyie with Wayne K. Spear and Constance Brissenden
Indigenous Education Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9939371-0-1
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grades 7-8
This unique national history co-authored by award-winning Cree writer Larry Loyie, a residential school survivor himself, reflects the ongoing commitment to express the truths about residential school experiences and to honour the survivors whose voices are shared in this book. Along with the voices, readers will be engaged by the evocative archival and contemporary photographs. A must-have resource for schools and libraries.
Nominated for: Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction
Amazon | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Starting from Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking
Written by Sarah Elton
Illustrated by Jeff Kulak
Owlkids Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-926973-96-8
IL: Ages 10 and up  RL: Grades 5-6
Written to entice kids to start cooking, this book is a manifesto on food, helping kids relate to what they eat and inspiring both budding chefs and food lovers in the process! Recipes are demystified and cooking is boiled down to the basics, inspiring kids to go beyond the pre-packaged meal, to eat better, to try new flavours and to understand what’s on their plate. What a delicious idea!
Nominated for: Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers
Why We Live Where We Live
Written by Kira Vermond
Illustrated by Julie McLaughlin
Owlkids Books, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-77147-081-0
IL: Ages 8-12  RL: Grades 5-6
Geography, topography, climate, landscape, food security, politics, economics and more all play a role in how we choose the place we call home. This book takes readers on a tour of the various ways we humans adapt to our environments — or change them to suit our needs. This comprehensive resource explores human habitation and gives context to our place on the planet.
Nominated for: Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction
Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

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Author’s Corner: Marty Chan

Marty Chan is an author, playwright and radio personality who works and lives in Edmonton, Alberta. His works include the Marty Chan Mysteries and the Ehrich Weiss Chronicles for young adult readers. In 2016, he will be touring for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week.

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

Never underestimate the impact of a good teacher, and my high school language arts teacher, Mr. Nigro, was an awesome one. I never dreamed of becoming a writer until he gave our class a writing assignment. We had to imagine we had won the lottery. We could spend our winnings on anything, but we had to describe what we would do to redecorate our bedrooms. A lazy teenager, I wanted a bed I never had to leave to do all the things I wanted to do. Bear in mind, this was in the days before iPads and laptop computers. I decided that I’d use my money to put my bed on an elevator. The top level is where I slept. One push of a button on the nightstand and the bed descended to my library. The level below that featured a big screen TV and all the movies I ever wanted to watch. Under that level, I could raid my personal kitchen that was stocked with all my favourite junk foods. Below that, I had a games room with every video game ever invented. The final level was the best one of all because it had an indoor swimming pool. I remember Mr. Nigro read my essay aloud to the class, and he suggested I should keep writing. From that moment on, I put every thought I had down on paper, and I’ve never stopped.

What were your favourite books growing up?

Because my parents were Chinese immigrants who worked full time, they never had the time to read to me. As a result, I was behind my classmates when it came to reading level. I read Archie comics, Superman comics and a Chinese comic. All that turned around when the school librarian helped me catch up with the other students. She introduced me to the Illustrated Classics, a graphic novel adapted from classic novels. After I had read those books, I wanted more, and she introduced me to the Hardy Boys detective series. I couldn’t get enough of them. My favourite was The Mystery of the Flying Express.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

The best way I can describe my writing process is to compare it to storytelling. If you’ve ever had something odd happen to you, the first thing you want to do is tell your co-workers, your friends or your family. However, the first time you tell the story, it’s a bit rough. Even though you can capture a sense of what happened, you miss a few details. The second time you tell the story, you embellish the details and build the drama. By the time you’re telling the story for the tenth time, you have the kind of tale that makes you the centre of attention at any social gathering. My process is just like that, except the first time I “tell” my story is with a beat sheet — a skimpier version of an outline. I jot down the major plot and character beats I think should happen in the story. Then I talk through the beats and change the ones that don’t make sense, cut the ones that don’t add anything to the story and invent new ones to fill in the gaps. I’ll revise the beat sheet several times until I can actually tell someone the story. Unfortunately for my wife, she’s the one who has to listen to my pitch over and over again.

Once I feel comfortable enough with the beat sheet, I’ll start writing the first draft, but I give myself permission to deviate from the beat sheet if inspiration takes me. I know that if the new idea doesn’t pan out, I can always go back to the beat sheet. When the first draft is done, then the real work begins. Some people hate revisions; I love them. I think of revising as playing with Lego blocks. I can shift plot points around, explore characters and have fun with the story. I’ll revise a manuscript about 4 or 5 times before I have something I’ll even show someone (and yes, that someone is my wife). I’ll go through to clarify the story, then again for the protagonist, then a third time for the other major characters, and then for writing style and flow. It sounds like a lot of work, but I’m only focused on one mission on each pass, so I will skip sections of the novel that don’t relate to my mission.

When I’m happy with what I call my official first draft, I’ll show it to my wife. She’s a stage manager in theatre and she’s very good at telling me when my story is boring or doesn’t make sense. I go through the manuscript and address her notes. Once I’m happy with the fixes, I’ll have a first draft that I’m prepared to send out. I know I will have to revise when and if a publisher accepts the manuscript, and I look forward to that. If you think of revision as a chance to play with the characters, it’s fun to revise. Well, for me, anyway.

You have a lot of experience doing classroom presentations and writing workshops. 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?

With the Marty Chan Mystery Series, I explore bullying and discrimination. Each book explores a different aspect of discrimination. The Mystery of the Frozen Brains deals with race. In The Mystery of the Graffiti Ghoul, the discrimination focuses on kids who have less money than others. I’d suggest teachers use the books to launch discussions of other examples of discrimination in the kids’ lives.

If you want to do something fun, get the kids to comb The Mystery of the Frozen Brains for clues to help them build what the alien spaceship might look like or get them to design their own mind-reading protection helmets.

The Ehrich Weisz Chronicles intersect history and fiction, drawing real events and historic people into a fantasy setting. An interesting exercise for students is to research the real Harry Houdini and Nikola Tesla to compare the real figures to the fictional ones. The students can also see if they can find the other historical characters referred to in the novel and discuss how they fit in the fantasy world. Also, I’d like to mention that I had intended the series to be an allegory for the treatment of Chinese immigrants to North American in the 1890s. The students can compare the treatment of the dimensional immigrants in my series to the treatment of Chinese immigrants in North America during that same period.

You are touring for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week next year! It’s still several months away, but what are you looking forward to the most?

Book Week is a party week for me. After being cooped up in my basement office working on a manuscript, I look forward to talking to the students who either have read my books or will want to read my books. I love inspiring kids to read and write. My biggest challenge is trying to convince kids that reading and writing is more than just a passive experience of sitting at a desk hunched over a book or a piece of paper. To that end, I’ve created some dynamic and interactive sessions designed to show the real-world applications of writing.

For example, to get across the concept of descriptive writing, I play a game of eyewitness with the students. One volunteer leaves the room and another student “steals” an item from me. The rest of the kids are eyewitnesses who must describe the thief to the kid who left the room. The kids catch on pretty quickly that generic details don’t do much, but vivid and specific ones instantly paint a picture.

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

I’m finishing the third book in my Ehrich Weisz Chronicles. Metamorphosis should be coming out in 2016. I’m also working on the second book in the Keepers of the Vault series, which should also come out in 2016. I’m also toying with the idea of writing a political satire for adults, but I don’t know if that will take the shape of a novel or a stage play.

For more information about Marty’s books and workshops, visit

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Top Grade: CanLit for the Classroom

Top Grade: CanLit for the Classroom is a sampling and promotion program coordinated by the Association of Canadian Publishers’ Children’s Committee. Starting this month, the Top Grade team will be sharing news and information about their program.


There’s a reason the program is called “Top Grade.”

Five books from recent Top Grade selections were named as finalists for the prestigious 2015 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards, which honours titles that “…exemplify some of the very best work by Canadian authors and illustrators.” (To see the full list of nominees, click here.)

Another six Top Grade selections were finalists or winners for other important awards — some of which are even decided by students themselves. This is high praise for authors and illustrators, and great news for educators looking for quality Canadian content!

Thank you for your continued enthusiasm for Canadian books and authors. Top Grade couldn’t exist without support from educators like you who want great Canadian materials in their school libraries and classrooms.

To discover more great books, please visit or

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Amy’s Travels in YA

by Amy Mathers

The day I had hardly believed was possible arrived on September 10th when the first Amy Mathers Teen Book Award shortlist was delivered in a press release alongside a plethora of fabulous Canadian books for children and young adults!

I had a bunch of doctor appointments that day but I kept refreshing the Canadian Children’s Book Centre website in between. Meghan Howe had told me the night before it was probably coming out the next day, but in the morning Camilia Kahrizi emailed me to say definitively yes, the list was being revealed.

Seeing the award added to the CCBC’s highly respected award list was exhilarating. I felt slightly delusional when I mentioned to my parents and Meghan Howe after the first Canadian Children’s Literature Awards Gala (2012) I was invited to that I wanted to see the CCBC get a teen award. But at the 2013 Gala, the CCBC was announcing my Marathon of Books and at the 2014 Gala, the CCBC announced the new award and this year, at the 2015 Gala, I will be presenting the first award to one of the stellar nominees listed below:

The Art of Getting Stared At by Laura Langston (Razorbill Canada, 2014)

Blues for Zoey by Robert Paul Weston (Razorbill Canada, 2014)

The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014)

The Gospel Truth by Caroline Pignat (Red Deer Press, 2014)

What We Hide by Marthe Jocelyn (Tundra Books, 2014)

It goes to show that as in the creation of the books I so dearly love, there’s a process to everything. If I had shut myself down at any point, if others had, if no one had donated — this award would not have come into existence.

Right now I’m going back and forth with the CCBC about what the award seal will look like and the possibilities are eye-catching and cool. Once the seal is finalized I will post it on the Marathon of Books Facebook page.

I thought about writing up book summaries for the five nominees but they are all books I encourage you to discover for yourself. It’s truly a teen list and features wonderful stories ranging from thriller to mystery to historical fiction with heartfelt characters. Once again I would like to thank jury members Melissa Bourdon-King, Lisa Doucet and Pam Jeffrey for all of their hard work in picking the nominees.

In other YA news, authors Robin Stevenson and Sarah Harvey took up the call started by UK YA author Patrick Ness to contribute to the Syrian refugee crisis. Their Canadian Children’s Authors and Illustrators Support Refugees campaign to raise money for Doctors Without Borders has fostered over $20,000, with large donations from authors Kenneth Oppel and Susin Nielsen, as well as Orca Book Publishers. Visit their Canada Helps page to contribute before their Thanksgiving deadline.

Last but not least, it’s October once again and another great Canadian teen book list is coming out soon. The Forest of Reading White Pine Nominees!

Sigh. Isn’t fall just an amazing time for Canadian teen fiction?

Happy Reading!

– Amy

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Illustrator’s Studio: John Martz

John Martz is an illustrator, cartoonist and designer living in Toronto. John was the founding editor of and the 2014 TD Summer Reading Club artist. This month, he will be the 2015 Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence at Toronto Public Library.

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

I studied graphic design in school. My two favourite subjects were always art and computers, and graphic design was a natural combination of the two.

I worked in web design and, eventually in television, creating motion graphics and artwork for TV stations like Much Music and Space.

During this time I started a website called Drawn, which was a blog about art and comics and illustration. Eventually I realized that that’s what I wanted to do with my life, so I quit my job, and I’ve been a freelance illustrator for the last 10 years.

This October, you will be the 2015 Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence at the Northern District Branch of the Toronto Public Library. Can you tell us about what you have planned for the month?

With kids’ classes we’re going to have some fun doing some drawing exercises and learning how to make comics. The adult classes will be focused on navigating the world of professional illustration, and I’ll be showing how I get my ideas, how I turn those ideas into finished illustrations. The sketchbook is such an integral tool in my process, and I’m excited to talk about sketchbooks and their importance.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing and illustrating process?

Everything starts in my sketchbook. I go through a lot of sketchbooks with notes, doodles, rough drawings, character sketches, page layouts — it all goes in the sketchbook.

If I’m writing, I need to be alone, and it needs to be quiet. Once I’m drawing I can put music on, or a movie in the background, but the thinking that writing requires needs to be done in silence.

Click to enlarge.

Much of my work is digital, so from the sketchbook I’ll go to Photoshop, which is the software I do most of my work in. I occasionally use other drawing and painting programs, but I’m most proficient in Photoshop, so that’s what I tend to use.

I just moved into a new house and have just settled into a new workspace that has a sunroom for my drawing table, which is paradise. I still need to hang artwork to make the place feel like home, but I love it.

Click to enlarge.

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

One thing I like to do with my comics is to subvert the reader’s expectations and play with unconventional panel layouts and wordless sequences that might be a little challenging but that, I hope, reward exploration and study.

I like to show kids these sorts of wordless sequences and ask them to describe what’s happening in the comic, and how it’s supposed to be read.

What projects are you working on now? Anything you are particularly excited about?

I’m working on my next book, which I can’t say too much about yet, but I’m excited about it. It has elements of science fiction in it, which is my favourite genre. I’ve written science fiction comics before, but not for kids yet, so I think it should be fun.

Images courtesy of John Martz. Visit for more information about his work.

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Coming soon: 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.

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