John Spray Mystery Award


The John Spray Mystery Award, established in 2011, honours excellence in the mystery book genre. The prize is awarded annually with a cash prize of $5,000. To be eligible, the book must be an original work in English, aimed at readers eight to 18 and written by a Canadian. A mystery book can be a thriller, a crime novel or a whodunit.

John Spray, President of the Mantis Investigation Agency, is delighted to give the prize, saying that reading mysteries made him a passionate reader at an early age and helped him find his chosen career. “For many years, through the publishing career of my wife, Gail Winskill, I became acquainted with both contemporary children’s literature as well as the unwavering support of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre for children’s writers and illustrators. While attending the 2010 Canadian Children’s Literature Awards Celebration, I was struck by the absence of an award for mystery writing. My childhood was spent rapidly turning the pages of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, which morphed into the Spillanes and le Carres on my adult bookshelf. Offering a prize for children’s mystery books seemed to me to be a modest payback for a lifetime of joy spent reading great mysteries.”

Criteria and Submission Information

Eligibility Requirements:
  • Books must be published between January 1 and December 31, 2018.
  • Both the author and illustrator (if applicable) must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada (who have resided in Canada for at least two years).
  • 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.
  • Books must be in English.
  • The book should be aimed at young readers aged eight to 18 years old.
  • Translations are eligible, provided the translator is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada (who has resided in Canada for at least two years).
  • Graphic novels are eligible.
  • Picture books are not eligible.
  • Novels involving fantasy, supernatural or science-fiction plots (e.g., ghosts, time travel, etc.) are permissible provided they don’t “cheat” the mystery (i.e., the mystery is not solved by these elements).
  • Short story collections by more than one author are not eligible.
  • Stories must be original (i.e., not a retelling of an already published mystery for adults).
  • Books written as part of a series or published in serial form will be judged as separate entries and must be able to ‘stand-alone’.
  • 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.
  • The award honours excellence in the mystery book genre. A mystery book can be a thriller, a crime novel or a ‘whodunit’.
  • The book must be of high literary quality with the story having a logical and predetermined endpoint.
  • Storyline must be plausible, well-researched and filled with tension and suspense.
  • The story must have well-developed characters whose actions are consistent with their personalities.
Submission Information:

Please send five (5) copies of each title along with a completed title submission form (PDF / RTF) to:

John Spray Mystery Award
c/o The Canadian Children’s Book Centre
Suite 217, 40 Orchard View Blvd.
Toronto, ON M4R 1B9

The submission deadline for all awards is January 15, 2019. All submissions must be received by this date.

OFFICE CLOSURE: The CCBC’s office will be closed for the holidays from December 24, 2018 to January 7, 2019. Please avoid sending your submissions during this time frame. They should arrive before we close or after we reopen in the New Year.

General Inquiries:

If you have any questions regarding eligibility or the award in general, please contact Meghan Howe at 416.975.0010 ext. 222 or

Award Recipients

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

Year Recipient
2018 Eileen Cook. The Hanging Girl. Boston: Houghlin Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.
2017 Caroline Pignat. Shooter. Toronto: Razorbill Canada, 2016.
2016 Kevin Sands. The Blackthorn Key. New York: Aladdin, 2015.
2015 William Bell. Julian. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2014.
2014 Ted Staunton. Who I’m Not. Victoria: Orca Book Publishers, 2013.
2013 Elizabeth Stewart. The Lynching of Louie Sam. Toronto: Annick Press, 2012.
2012 Rob Mills. Charlie’s Key. Victoria: Orca Book Publishers, 2011.
2011 Y.S. Lee. A Spy in the House. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2010.

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