Jean Little First-Novel Award

Established in 2021, the Jean Little First-Novel Award is intended to recognize the achievements of a first-time Canadian children’s middle-grade novelist. For the purposes of this award, “middles grades” are defined as typically grades 3-7/ages 8-12. The annual award is a cash prize of $5,000.

After the beloved Jean Little died in April 2020, Sarah Ellis, Kit Pearson and Maggie de Vries came up with the idea of establishing an award in Jean’s name. “We decided that the most appropriate honour would be a prize for a Canadian middle-grade novel by a first-time writer. Much of Jean’s writing was for the middle grades, and Jean was always an enthusiastic supporter of beginning writers. This award would honour her long and successful career and encourage the next generation of writers following in her footsteps.”

To contribute to the Jean Little First-Novel Award fund, click here.

Criteria and Submission Information

The Jean Little First-Novel Award honours excellence in middle-grade fiction by first-time authors. The celebration of diversity is an equally significant element to achieving excellence. A work of excellence in Canadian children’s literature should also be successful in making people feel a sense of belonging in their communities.


In identifying the achievements of a first-time Canadian children’s novelist, each judge shall consider the following criteria for excellence:

  • Quality of the text or storyline.
  • Interpretation of the theme or concept. Presentation of information including accuracy, clarity and organization.
  • Appropriateness of style and presentation. Books should have distinguished qualities in all of the elements pertinent to them, such as interpretation of theme and concept.
  • Books need to be self-contained and not dependent on other media for their enjoyment.
  • Elements of the story that draw upon or are inspired by real cultures, folklore and history should be done respectfully and authentically.
  • Books should have been written for a child audience and should achieve excellence of presentation.
  • Each book is to be considered as a contribution to literature.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Books must be written by first-time authors of novels for a middle-grade reading audience. Only authors who have not previously published a book are eligible for consideration
  • Books must be published between January 1 and December 31, 2022.
  • Books may be published in Canada or abroad.
  • Books must be first foreign or first Canadian editions. New editions or re-issues of previously published titles are not eligible for submission.
  • For the purposes of this award, “middles grades” are defined as typically grades 3-7/ages 8-12.
  • Author and illustrator (in the case of graphic novels) must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada.
  • Books must be in English
  • Translations are eligible, provided the translator is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada.
  • Graphic novels are eligible. If a graphic novel wins, the author and illustrator will share the award
  • Picture books are not eligible.
  • Stories must be original: while stories inspired by classic works such as fairy tales are permissible, retellings of original stories are not.
  • The award is only for books in the printed format, as distinct from digital (i.e., eBooks) and audio-visual formats.
  • Books in manuscript form are not eligible.
  • All books must have an ISBN and be distributed in Canada.
  • Self-published books are eligible for submission provided they have a valid ISBN.

Publisher and creator expectations prior to submission:

  • Publishers agree to pay the $35 non-refundable submission fee per title per award.
  • If a book is shortlisted, the publisher, author and illustrator may be asked to participate in a series of events highlighting and promoting the shortlisted author and illustrator, in addition to the award celebration.
  • The CCBC is unable to assume the costs for travel and accommodation. It is our hope that publishers will assist the award winner(s) with providing the resources for attending the in-person awards ceremony (should we be able to hold an in-person event) or for creating an acceptance speech video of appropriate quality should the creator(s) be unable to attend an in-person event.
  • Publishers agree to prepare and encourage their authors and illustrators to participate in all reasonable publicity associated with the award: interviews, readings, appearances, etc.
  • Publishers agree to spend an appropriate sum on media advertising the winning book (i.e., whatever your advertising budget allows).

Submission Information:


There is a $35 non-refundable fee for each title submitted to each of the CCBC book awards. Therefore, if, for example, you have a title that is eligible for three of the awards and you would like it considered for all three awards, the submission fee for that particular title is $105 ($35 x 3). The fees will be used to offset administration costs, as well as costs associated with the presentation of the awards.

Submission fees are payable by cheque, credit card or online. If paying by cheque or credit card, please complete the submission fee form. To pay online, visit

You are required to complete an online title submission form for each title being submitted. Please follow up by emailing a final PDF of each title* by the January 20, 2023 deadline to

If you are paying the submission fee(s) by cheque or credit card, please mail the completed submission fee form to the address at the bottom of the form. Alternatively, you can email the completed form to Upon receipt of the submission(s), you will be sent instructions for where to send the physical books, as well as the quantity required. Please do not send any books to the CCBC’s office.

The title submission form includes a question about accessible formats. While these formats are not a requirement for submitting to the CCBC book awards, we would very much appreciate it if you could let us know if the title(s) is available in an accessible format and if so, which format(s).

* With the ongoing supply chain issues, we are requesting that PDFs of final titles be emailed to when title submission forms are submitted. The PDFs are not to replace the physical books. They are to be used in the event that publishers are experiencing any disruptions/delays with their supply and distribution channels caused by the pandemic.

General Inquiries:

If you have any questions regarding eligibility or the award in general, please contact Meghan Howe at 416.975.0010 ext. 3 or

Award Recipients

For the full list of finalists and winners, please click here.

Year Recipient
2022 Leslie Gentile. Elvis, Me, and the Lemonade Stand Summer. Toronto: DCB Young Readers, 2021.
2021 Tziporah Cohen. No Vacancy. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2020.