News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
April Reading List: Taking Care of Our Earth
Author Corner: Isabelle Groc
Illustrator’s Studio: Scot Ritchie
News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Like families all across the country, the CCBC is currently in self-isolation. Just because we’re spending some time away from each other doesn’t mean that we can’t connect through stories in this difficult time. Updated daily, here is our list of resources for parents of young readers.
Get Excited for Bibliovideo!
The Canadian Children’s Book Centre is taking Canadian children’s books to where youth already are: YouTube. While Bibliovideo, our new YouTube channel all about Canadian books for young people, was originally set to launch May 2, we are hard at work to make an earlier launch date.
With funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, Bibliovideo is the first step in a long-range digital strategy being developed by a consortium of organizations led by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre that includes the Association of Canadian Publishers/49thKids, Canadian School Libraries, CANSCAIP, Communication-Jeunesse and IBBY Canada.
Learn more here.
Finding Hope in Hard Times Reading List
Like all of us, children are confused and scared right now. With so many uncertainties and our way of living changed in a short period of time, it is understandable for young ones to feel anxious right now. This reading list includes books about curbing stress and fears, remembering what’s important and finding ways to be calm during hard times.
Authors and Illustrators Announced as Part of Canada’s Literary Delegation for the Frankfurt Book Fair
As the guest of honour at the 2020 Frankfurt Book Fair, 53 Canadian authors and illustrators have been announced as a part of Canada’s literary delegation at the festival this October. The list includes authors like Margaret Atwood and André Alexis and many authors and illustrators for young people, including Ashley Spires, David A. Robertson, Diane Carmel Léger, Lesley Livingston, Michel Tremblay, Nancy Vo, Sydney Smith, Lisa Moore, Vivek Shraya and Catherine Hernandez. You can view the full list here.
Rachel Wada wins 2020 Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award for The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden
IBBY Canada (International Board on Books for Young People, Canadian section) is pleased to announce that Rachel Wada has won the 2020 Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Picture Book Award for The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden, written by Heather Smith, published by Orca Book Publishers. The winner receives $1,000. The jury also selected two honour books from the list of 10 finalists: King Mouse, illustrated by Dena Seiferling and written by Cary Fagan (Tundra Books); and Small in the City, written and illustrated by Sydney Smith (Groundwood Books). Learn more here.
IODE Jean Throop Book Award
At the recent meeting of the IODE Jean Throop Book Award Selection Committee, five titles were selected for the shortlist for the 2020 IODE Jean Throop Book Award. There were 75 titles from 17 publishers which were submitted and reviewed; these are books published in 2019 by a Canadian author and/or illustrator living in Ontario. The winning book will be announced in Hamilton on April 23rd, 2020.
Learn more here.
The 2020 Braille Creative Writing Contest is now accepting entries!
Since 1997, the CNIB Foundation has organized a Canada-wide Braille Creative Writing Contest for children and youth. This important competition celebrates braille literacy and encourages young people to flex their creative muscles while practicing their braille skills. Learn more here!
The 2020 Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) Announces Virtual Festival, Cancellation of In-Person Events
The Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) will be cancelling its in-person festival events, previously scheduled for April 30 – May 3, 2020. In its place, FOLD is thrilled to debut its first virtual festival, which will take place from April 30 – May 3, as per the original festival’s plans.
Learn more here.
Canadian Publishers Launch “Read Aloud Canadian Books” Program for Teachers & Librarians
As schools remain closed indefinitely and classrooms shift to online learning, educators and librarians are seeking out ways to connect with students and provide meaningful learning opportunities from a distance. In response, the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP) and Access Copyright have partnered to start the Read Aloud Canadian Books Program.
Reading books aloud and sharing stories is a treasured daily activity in classrooms and libraries. Many educators and librarians have sought permission from Canadian publishers to read part or all of a book and to share a video of the reading for online story-time with their students.
Learn more here.
CCBC Library Collections Find New Homes at Ryerson University and Hamilton Public Library
The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) is thrilled to announce that a home has been found for the CCBC’s regional collection at the Ryerson University Library and Hamilton Public Library.
Our offices are moving to 425 Adelaide Street West, Suite 200, Toronto. We will be sharing our offices with Canadian Scholars/Women’s Press. We are looking forward to being in a more central location and closer to many children’s publishers. While our original plan was to move by April 1, with the CCBC office currently closed, our move has been delayed.
Links We Love
Articles and videos of interest to educators and parents
April Reading List: Taking Care of Our Earth
Our reading list this month is about reconnecting with nature and the importance of the environment! These books are great for reading at home while everyone is self-isolating. You can also find our reading list of ways to enjoy nature in your own backyard here.
Author’s Corner: Isabelle Groc
Isabelle Groc is a writer, conservation photographer and documentary filmmaker who specializes in endangered species and the relationships between people and the natural world. With degrees in journalism from Columbia University and urban planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she brings a unique perspective to documenting the impacts of human activities on threatened species and habitats. Isabelle grew up in France and now lives in Vancouver. She is a fellow of the Explorers Club and the Royal Geographical Societies of Canada and the UK. She is the author of two non-fiction children’s book, and . Isabelle has also written and directed over a dozen films on North America’s endangered wildlife. Her most recent feature documentary, co-directed with Mike McKinlay, Toad People, has received international recognition including a 2018 Wildscreen Impact Panda Award in Bristol.
First, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get your start as an author? What is your writing process like?
I grew up in a small town in the South of France. When I was 10 years old, an oil tanker ran aground near the coast of Brittany. This resulted in the largest loss of marine life ever recorded after an oil spill at the time. I remember seeing the images of oiled seabirds on television, and I was truly devastated even though I had never seen the ocean, never been to Brittany, and never encountered a seabird in my life. I wanted to help rescue the birds and clean up the shoreline but at that tender age, I had to stay in school and couldn’t do anything. However this early experience had a lasting impact on me. I became aware of the power of images and I decided that I would become a writer and photographer to document environmental issues and the plight of wildlife around the world. I kept this promise and graduated from Columbia University in New York with a master’s degree in journalism, with a special focus on photojournalism. I have always been passionate about educating youth about the natural world, and writing children’s books on this topic was a natural progression. My writing process is always linked to visual storytelling. When I write a story or a book, I start with images in my head and these images then flow into words.
Climate change can be an overwhelming topic, especially with the barrage of news stories concerning our earth’s health. Because of this, it’s easy to feel helpless. What advice would you give to someone, especially to the younger generation, who want to make a change, but don’t know where to start? And how do you inspire optimism, instead of helplessness?
When we are bombarded with daily headlines about ecological changes in every corner of the planet, it is definitely easy to lose hope, to feel overwhelmed and powerless. Many children and youth particularly feel anxious about the climate crisis and experience some sense of grief. At the same time, many young people are engaging adults in unprecedented ways, leading climate marches and asking us to take action. I believe we have a responsibility as adults to empower and not overwhelm children and youth when considering wildlife extinction, and we can do this from a place of optimism and hope. Of course the problems affecting global wildlife are not easy to solve. However, each of us can take action before it is too late. After all, saving any animal or ecosystem begins with an individual person. Everyone, regardless of age, can do something to help. The younger generation can help too, and youth do not have to travel to the far side of the world to help protect endangered wildlife. Conservation starts on our doorstep. As Jane Goodall, one of my conservation heroes, says, “every single individual makes an impact on the planet — every single day.” We can choose what sort of impact we make, and there are many steps that children and youth can take on their own or with the adults around them. For example, they can join a citizen science project to help scientists collect information about local animals and plants; plant native vegetation to support pollinators; fundraise for a conservation cause (for example, hold a garage sale); speak publicly for natural spaces and species; or enhance biodiversity in an urban park, community or sidewalk garden. We live in a very connected world, and while this connectivity can sometimes remove us from nature, it is also an opportunity to bring everyone together who cares about an issue. What we do on our doorstep for the natural world can be shared and amplified globally, and it can also give strength to others who are taking action in their own communities. Knowing that we are not alone can help us maintain hope and optimism.
Let me just say that your wildlife photography is amazing! It truly feels as if you are literally standing right beside the animal! Can you tell us about your most interesting encounter and what made it so special?
There are so many, it is hard to choose one. However this one encounter stands out for me. A few years ago I travelled to Oregon to produce a story and a short video on the northern spotted owl. These magnificent birds live in the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest, where they nest in holes in big old trees. Unfortunately, because of logging the old-growth forest has been disappearing, and spotted owls have been declining. I remember walking with an owl biologist in the forest, and within minutes a spotted owl flew in, landed on a tree only a few feet away and stared intensely at us with eyes the colour of dark chocolate. There was a sense of calm, gentleness and trust coming from that bird that surprised me. The paradox is that even though spotted owls have lost most of their world to us, they are unafraid of humans. This was a profound moment for me, and I often think about this owl looking at me. I mention spotted owls in all my public presentations and our responsibility to do everything we can to protect habitat.
You are so versatile and have been able to inspire change through many different mediums — from wildlife photography, films for National Geographic, and books for children — what would you say is your favourite form of expression? And why?
It all comes down to story-telling, and I don’t separate filmmaking from photography or writing. Each medium helps me tell a better story. For example, when I am writing a children’s book, I rely on my filmmaking experience to build scenes that draw readers in. Conversely when I am out in the field, directing a film, I always consider the shots that will support the words of a character or will visually serve a story. I never lose sight of the story.
Do you have any tips or advice for teachers using your books in their classrooms? What are some of your favourite fun activities to do to engage children?
My books have tips for children to take action for the wild and locally contribute to global conservation. For educators, parents and adults who have children in their lives, the place to start is the local community, engaging children to pay attention to the natural world around them with all their senses, noticing together all the wildlife that lives near them — even in urban settings — including those species that we tend to take for granted because we commonly see them. For adults it is also a chance to share with the younger generation the changes they have seen. After all, a recent study has shown that birds have declined by 29 percent in the United States and Canada since 1970, and that includes birds that we used to consider as common, like barn swallows. So activities that build this ecological memory from an early age are important. In my school presentations, we often listen together to some animal calls, some of them are easy to identify, others are harder because they are now so rarely heard, and we reflect why. Immersing in these wild soundscapes is a way to build a direct connection with nature, and an understanding of what we have and what we stand to lose.
I am excited that my upcoming children’s book, Sea Otters: A Survival Story (Orca Book Publishers), with a foreword by Dame Judi Dench and David Mills, will be released at the end of April 2020. Sea otters are very special to me. I have spent extended periods of time over the last 12 years documenting sea otters and the coastal communities they influence, and to me they symbolize the large impact — both positive and negative — that humans can have on wildlife. Their story is one of hope and resilience, and I am excited to share this story! I am presently writing my next children’s book in the Orca Wild series that will be out in 2021. I am also working on a new feature documentary.
Listen to Our Two Podcasts!
Scot Ritchie is an award-winning author/illustrator of over 50 books including Join the No-Plastic Challenge!, Follow That Map! and Look Where We Live! He draws on paper then scans the ink line into his computer where the colouring is done. He is especially proud of his Exploring Our Community series with Kids Can Press. Scot lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get your start as an illustrator and author?
I’ve been drawing all my life and basically kept at it until I started to make a living.
After moving to Toronto I started doing gallery shows. Then a friend and I started a greeting card company. After 11 years — and running out of clever ways to write and draw ‘Happy Birthday’ — I found an agent so I could draw other things. Soon I was doing illustrations for
magazines, educational publishing and advertising. A few of the jobs my agent got me were kids books (the first publishers I worked with were Annick Press and Kids Can Press). It wasn’t a conscious choice but slowly I drifted over to kids publishing. After illustrating about 40 books I decided to try writing. This was partly for monetary reasons (I could double my income) but it was also an exciting new dimension in a field where I already felt at home. My first books were very simple but they gave me the confidence to carry on and write more.
You write and illustrate Kids Can Press’ “Exploring Our Community” series. How important is it to introduce children to important topics at a young age?
It is most important. I’m very proud to be able to help kids learn more about substantial issues like plastic, bees, food and mindfulness (the next book in this series). I do want to say how much I appreciate my publishers for deciding to go ahead with these topics and my editors who keep me on track as well as improving anything I
write and draw.
I also write fiction and find I usually have some kind of a message there as well — much more subtle of course.
We love your book the Join the No-Plastic Challenge! Have you attempted the challenge yourself?
Thank you! I’m very happy with it, too.
I did challenge myself before writing the book to not use plastic in a normal day but soon realized plastic is everywhere. So I went for a more achievable goal, avoiding single-use plastics.
Then, while writing the book, the challenge seemed like a great fit because it would engage the reader. It’s exciting to think that kids are now taking this on. While I have your ear — here’s a challenge: Ignore the plastic bags when you’re shopping. Instead use the paper bags meant for mushrooms for your fruit and veggies!
What role does the environment and the natural world play in your writing and illustrating?
I don’t think I really knew, until I looked back at my books, how much of an environmentalist I am! Other books I’ve written, from Federica where I touch on rewilding, to Owen at the Park where nature is the centre of the story, to another book I’m working on now (about leaving nature alone) most often have a green theme. I think growing up in Vancouver, beside the woods and the ocean, turned me into a bit of a tree hugger and unapologetic hippie.
What is next for you? What projects are you working on now?
I’m having a busy year with three books underway.
With Kids Can Press I’m about to start the final illustrations for the ninth book in this series. This is a ‘First book’ of heritage, teaching kids what it is and how we can appreciate the heritage of other people. Not surprisingly the topic has been a challenge at times. Heritage can stray into sensitive areas but I think we’ve managed to help kids understand what it is while bringing something new to the topic.
Groundwood Books has kindly agreed to publish a story I wrote about tugboats and logging in BC. It’s a big part of Canadian history and we all know kids love tug boats! We are just winding up the editing on that and I am excited to get going on the final illustrations.
And finally I’m excited to be doing a book with Harbour Publishing, somebody I’ve not worked with before. I wrote an environmental story with, I hope, a comical twist. It’s very Canadian, focusing on a pond I used to go to with my friends when I was young. It involves frogs, a bit of magic and a clever girl named Lilliana. The tree hugger in me has surfaced again as the story is ultimately about being good to nature by leaving it where it belongs.
I also have a number of stories in the wings that I work on when I can. The process of finding a publisher and getting things underway can be very long so you need to plan ahead by always having some irons in the fire.
I love to hear how other creative people work but being an author and illustrator I find my stories can spring from notes I’ve scribbled down or from sketches I do. It’s really about finding some kind of spark in those ideas that propels you forward.
Find out more about Scott at scotritchie.blogspot.com
Canada’s independent booksellers share their recommendations for kids and teens. To find a local independent bookstore, visit findabookstore.ca.
Mya Parsons is a seventh grader with a plan! Many plans, in fact. Her major life goal is to one day work for the United Nations and solve many (if not most) of the world’s greatest injustices. In the meantime, however, her more immediate need is to devise a plan to convince her parents to let her have a cell phone. But with her mom in Myanmar and her dad struggling to keep their household running, Mya’s cell phone crusade doesn’t seem to be getting much attention. In addition to this frustration, she also has to deal with her annoying little sister, best friend woes and cooking lessons with Aunt Winnie. Mya has her hands full but there’s nothing this future diplomat can’t handle… is there? This middle-grade novel is delightfully hilarious and equally heartfelt. Mya is a thoroughly relatable preteen who is witty and wonderful. The secondary characters are also believable, and the author’s depictions of middle school as well as Mya’s home life are well-drawn and realistic. This book is a pure joy… for adults as well as the intended audience! —Lisa Doucet, Co-manager
Woozles Children’s Bookstore: 1533 Birmingham St., Halifax, NS B3J 2J1 www.woozles.com
If your independent bookstore would like to participate in this feature, please contact us.
Canadian librarians share their recommendations for kids and teens.
Boreal forests circle the northern hemisphere like “a scarf around the neck of the world.” This stunning narrative non-fiction book provides an informative guided tour of the biggest biome on the planet. Lyrical text takes you to Norway in winter, where reindeer eat witch’s hair lichen dangling from Scots pine trees; to China in spring, where endangered merganser chicks waddle to flowing creeks for their first swim; to Canada in summer, where puffball mushrooms shoot up in tufts called “wolf farts”; and to Russia in autumn, where hoarfrost dresses trees “in diamonds”. There are lots of sights to see in Josée Bisaillon’s gorgeous watercolour and collage illustrations. Now that we are all armchair travellers, book some time with this splendid scientific travelogue.
—Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library
Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett team up for two beautiful books for
babies. The simple text is perfect for the newest of babies and Julie Flett’s beautifully unique illustrations are eye catching for babies and caregivers alike. We Sang You Home is especially poignant for babies born or adopted after a struggle — We sang you from a wish / We sang you from a prayer. In Little You, the nature-themed illustrations compliment the text perfectly — Little you little wonder / Little wish gentle thunder. Both these titles celebrate the special time of being a small but mighty baby and are great read alouds for a baby time or a quiet lap time at home.
Both titles are available as dual language in English/Plains Cree.
—Kat Drennan-Scace, Manager, Red Hill Branch, Hamilton Public Library
If you are a librarian that would like to participate in this feature, please contact us.
Staff of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre recommend their favourite books for kids and teens.
While the CCBC office has been closed because of Covid-19, I’ve been working from my childhood home and living with my family while in self-isolation. With so many uncertainties in our daily life at present, this book is a reminder of what’s important. A truly diverse representation of all the different types of families, this book celebrates what makes us different and what we all have in common. I love Qin Leng’s sweet illustrations that pair perfectly with this heartwarming story.
— Emma Hunter, CCBC Marketing & Communications Coordinator
Look for our May newsletter next month, which will be all about the ways the digital world can help us connect with books!