CCBC December 2016 Newsletter
News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
December Book List: #GiftingReconciliation
Author Corner: Danielle Daniel
Amy’s Travels in YA
Illustrator’s Studio: François Thisdale
Coming soon: Canadian Children’s Book News, Winter 2016
News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre
Now available! The Fall 2016 edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens 2016 — your gift buying guide for the holidays.
Best Books for Kids & Teens is your guide to the best new Canadian books, magazines, audio and video for children and teens. Whether you’re stocking a bookshelf in a classroom, library or at home, every title in this guide has been given the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s stamp of approval.
Expert committees of educators, booksellers, school and public librarians from across Canada have handpicked the materials listed below. Committees look for excellence in writing, illustration or performance. Most importantly, these committees focus on selecting materials that will appeal to children and young adults.
Get your copy here.
The Canadian Children’s Book Centre is now accepting applications from schools and libraries that are interested in participating in TD Canadian Children’s Book Week 2017, which runs from May 6-13, 2017.
Top 5 Reasons Why Book Week is Awesome!
- Book Week is a great opportunity to invite an experienced author, illustrator or storyteller from another part of the country in your classroom or library.
- Meeting authors, illustrators and storytellers can be a turning point in a child’s life, inspiring a lifelong love of reading and helping them gain new perspectives.
- Your school will be part of a national celebration of Canadian books and reading. Over 28,000 people in over 190 communities participate in the readings and workshops that take place all across the country during the week.
- TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is a cost-effective way to invite an author or illustrator into your school or library. All travel, accommodations and meal expenses are covered by the CCBC. You are just responsible for paying the creator’s Reading Fee, which is partially subsidized by the TD Bank Group and Canada Council for the Arts.
- The CCBC creates a theme guide featuring the latest books by the touring authors and illustrators. The theme guide includes activities and teacher guides to help prepare your classroom and get your students excited for the visit.
Visit www.bookweek.ca to find out who will be touring your province/territory and to complete the online application. The deadline for applications is January 15, 2017.
Links We Love
Articles and videos of interest to educators
December Book List: #GiftingReconciliation
Recently, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, launched a new #GiftingReconciliation #IndigenousReads campaign. This campaign encourages all Canadians to participate in reconciliation this holiday season by adding an Indigenous book or author to their holiday giving and wish lists. To celebrate this wonderful initiative, we’ve put together a reading list of Canadian books for kids and teens featuring Indigenous authors and illustrators. Click here for more information about the campaign.
The Chief: Mistahimaskwa
The Great Law
I Am Not a Number
My Heart Fills With Happiness
Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors: A National History
Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox
Urban Tribes: Native Americans in the City
Author’s Corner: Danielle Daniel
Danielle Daniel is mixed-media artist and writer, whose art has appeared in many group exhibitions and solo shows in Quebec and Ontario, and has been published in international art magazines. Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox, her first picture book, won the Marylin Baillie Picture Book Award last month. She lives in Sudbury, Ontario.
First, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get started as an author?
I consider myself a storyteller. My maternal grandmother never learned to read or write but she has shared hundreds of stories with me orally. I have always been captivated by her true stories of perseverance and triumph. I think that’s why, even as a child, I sat by her side and listened for hours while she peeled the potatoes and made soups and pies. I’ve always understood the importance of sharing our stories. I write for both children and adults and I enjoy both of these worlds immensely. Writing for children is definitely where my joy is, whereas the stories I write for adults are mostly about loss and love. They are much more serious yet I feel compelled to write them just as much as the picture books.
What is your writing process like?
It depends. If I’m writing for children, the idea, the seed of the story hits me like a flash and then it will not let me go until I give in. My forthcoming picture book, Once in a Blue Moon, wouldn’t stop tapping on my shoulder until I sat down to write it eight months later. I write the first draft by hand, scribbling and scratching out words and phrases. This part always feels like magic. It’s really about surrendering to the creative process and trusting the words that surface on the page. Writing my memoir, The Dependent, was a much more brutal process and it took many years for me to complete. It felt like I wrote a hundred thousand drafts.
You recently won the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award for Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox. Can you tell us about what inspired you to write the book, and what the creative process was like?
Yes I did! I’m still pinching myself for this incredible honour. This book was first created for my son. It was an act of love to write it and paint the illustrations. I was looking for various ways to help teach him about our Indigenous Algonquin roots. As a former elementary school teacher, I also wanted to share this book with students and teachers. I knew there was a need for books that represented and honoured Indigenous culture. I was really hoping it would be used as an educational tool as well as a recreational one.
Do you have any tips or activity suggestions for teachers who would like to use Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox in the classroom?
Yes! This book is meant to integrate the many subject areas from the curriculum. Of course, it can be used as inspiration for children to write their own poetry, but it can equally be used in the dramatic and visual arts. For example, puppet- and mask-making, and plays with the animals from the book could be crafted and executed. Animal habitats and classifications could be introduced in the Sciences and, of course, Social Studies — with teaching Indigenous culture and history. Health could also be integrated through using this book, since it is a vehicle for children (and adults) to talk about identity and character as well as feelings and emotions. Mental health is something that needs to be discussed as much as the importance of exercise and eating our vegetables. I think this book could easily open a door to our inner world. The animals make these important concepts accessible and easy to examine and discuss.
What’s next for you? What projects are you working on now?
I am currently working on the illustrations for my next picture book, Once in a Blue Moon, coming out next fall from Groundwood Books. I am also writing a new book that may or may not be middle grade, and I am having the time of my life constructing this new world. Additionally, I’m working towards my MFA in Creative Writing through UBC. I feel extraordinarily blessed to be writing and painting stories. I hope it never ever ends.
For more information about Danielle’s work, visit danielledaniel.com.
To finish out the year, this is the full speech I planned to give at the Canadian Children’s Literature Awards Gala, had time permitted. I am thrilled to announce that The Truth Commission by Susan Juby has won the 2016 Amy Mathers Teen Book Award! Congratulations to Ms. Juby and to all the finalists! Join me in the new year as I delve into the changing terms of YA.
The tragic fate of a would-be queen, gendercide and its effect on the future, a search for truth that begins at home, an artist’s developing eye and an unlikely friendship — these are the themes that grace the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award finalists this year.
I was delighted for two reasons when I heard the list — one, because it contained some of the books I have personally loved over the past while, and two, because it introduced me to authors and books I hadn’t heard of before. Learning about talented new authors makes me feel like I’m discovering a hidden treasure.
Once I had read (or re-read) all the books, what struck me was the range they contained: speculative fiction, dystopian futures, contemporary themes, crime and mystery, as well as romantic comedy. I cried both from sorrow and from laughter, and each story gave me new understanding of the world in general.
I love the ability of stories to reach you right where you are. For Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules, Greta’s story found me in a hospital bed, dealing with another medical complication. Her stoicism and dignity became my own, helping me get through a difficult time by providing me with a character who wasn’t afraid to explore the philosophical questions of life in the midst of dire situations.
The Truth Commission by Susan Juby found me on a Kitchener bus coming home late. For those of you who weren’t fans of Normandy’s thorough footnotes, imagine trying to read them in the dim lighting of a moving vehicle. A challenge for sure, but a memorable and worthwhile one, as Normandy’s earnest search for truth reminded me as a reader that while truth can be painful and twisted, being able to admit it to ourselves and others paves the way for change.
While the rest of the books found me during a mini-Marathon of Books I used as author-interview prep, they were by no means less impactful.
5 to 1 by Holly Bodger reminded me we must constantly consider the future effects of our current actions, and find the courage to be the voice of dissent when overcorrection leads us astray.
Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly explores our infinitely complicated relationship with the United States, an especially timely topic. By framing the give-and-take between our two countries as a powerful friendship between two teenagers, new insight into our symbiotic relationship is gained through humorous yet serious situations.
Young Man With Camera by Emil Sher captures the dichotomy of the stories told and left untold within a photograph. T—’s artistic eye challenges him to consider his roles as both an observer and a participant in the world around him.
While I am often disheartened by what feels like a lack of respect for teen fiction in our country, I only have to look to the books we are producing to regain my optimism. Canadian writers continually create thought-provoking works that challenge teen readers where they are — inspiring empathy and understanding.
Looking at this list, I also see a cross-section of distinctly Canadian settings, as well as the global perspective we are known for. This mix is what makes our writing unique, as we are beginning to embrace our country more and more, while also maintaining our world focus. The wonderful books featured here are a small sampling of the incredible array of Canadian teen fiction that came out in 2015, and each year seems to surpass the last.
I am happy to partner with Sylvan Learning to present this award — I’ve heard that writers need money — not only because Sylvan shares my enthusiasm for literature and learning, but because as a teen fiction award, it is hopefully the start of a deeper appreciation of our teen writers.
Amy Mathers read and reviewed 365 YA books to raise money for the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award in 2014. Read about her journey at www.amysmarathonofbooks.ca.
Illustrator’s Studio: François Thisdale
François Thisdale is an award-winning illustrator and author. His style combines drawing and digital images to create captivating pieces of art that have been featured in children’s books such as The Stamp Collector by Jennifer Lanthier and That Squeak by Carolyn Beck. Last month, he and author Melanie Florence took home the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award for Missing Nimâmâ.
How did you get started as an illustrator?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been attracted by drawing and art in general. At the age of four or five, I was moved deeply by a book, Tintin and the Blue Lotus. This book haunted me with the beauty of its images, the strange architecture and colourful exoticism, and I could follow the story without knowing how to read. This was the moment when I started to draw for the rest of my life.
My love for drawing gave me a lot of self-esteem and was a good way to communicate differently with others. It became a way to say things without using words necessarily, a kind of language in itself. This is still my favourite language and where I’m the most comfortable.
Then, as a young adult I studied graphic design and decided to become a freelance illustrator. It was a natural choice. I started to work in illustration in 1986.
Can you tell us about your illustration style and how it came about?
Thirty years ago, my style was quite different, using traditional media like watercolour, pencil, ink, pen and coloured pencils on watercolour paper. I worked a lot in that way, mostly for very young kids and for educational use. After working in that direction for over 12 years, I realized that I was doing lots of painting and music outside of my job, probably because my style didn’t give me enough satisfaction. I decided spontaneously to take a step back and to find a way to combine painting, music and illustration in a sole activity by identifying what I liked and needed the most in painting, music and illustration. That’s how my actual style was born. In painting, the pleasure of doing something nice and aesthetic was something clearly natural for me. I was working a lot with photographs blended with acrylic and textures on canvas, something close to my actual work.
With music, it was all about passion, experimental work for short films. I loved the pure creativity, building atmospheres, being surrounded by sounds and the post production with the computer. And illustration was clearly important—it was all about communication, talking with kids, the most important part of the equation. I wanted to talk to everyone. This is how I developed that style, around 1998 to 2000. Immediately I felt entirely satisfied and soon I received assignments and did picture books for several Montreal-based publishers. I’m now working on book covers, picture books, magazines, educational books and annual reports, but what I prefer the most is doing picture books. Being involved for several months on a project permits me to go further in my creative process, on a daily basis, and gives me the ability to search and discover new ways to create with entire satisfaction. The most important thing is probably the relationship created with the author and the editor. This artistic style also gives me the chance to work on more difficult topics, something I really enjoy.
What is your illustration process and where do you find inspiration?
A picture book project starts with reading the manuscript. That’s the moment when the inspiration comes. Each text brings different challenges to face. I need to understand characters, to learn from their stories and to find a link with my own life. I’m very grateful for authors; it is a real gift to share the world of other creators for months. This is a very intense feeling, months and months of passionate work. Of course, it’s tough at the end when I send final illustrations—I feel a kind of emptiness but the cure is to start another project! I would say on the other hand that the inspiration is possible because of my family, my wife and my daughter—two marvelous women who give me the most important thing, their love.
The work begins with pencil and watercolour sketches, far from a final illustration but enough to give a direction to the book. I love to work in a sketchbook to brainstorm, and each page of that notebook is important. I feel the same as when I’m traveling. From there, with comments from my editor, I start to work on images. First off, I take pictures of different details needed—characters, elements, landscapes, things that can help me build my illustrations, which are sometimes halfway between photography and painting. Then, from sketches done, I create a collage of photographs and scanned painting details in Photoshop. I print that proof on my wide format printer and I work with acrylic paint on that print. I scan this image to work on it again in the computer. I add textures, collage, painted elements such as skies and painted textures, and then I adjust contrasts, levels and saturation. This is a long process, a kind of alchemy. Usually, I come back to each final illustration at the end to standardize all the work.
Every single day starts almost the same, a good pot of Oolong tea; my favourite one is Dan Cong tea. I need lots of music and we’re in business! I also need to take an hour to an hour-and-a-half a day to ride my bicycle for 30 to 40 km. It helps me to keep in shape, of course, but frequently I’m coming back from a ride with clear solutions about the illustration I’m working on. And I do love the sensation of being on my bike, to feel the wind and all the elements. I’ve cycled 6,000 km this year.
You won the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award for Missing Nimâmâ last month, with author Melanie Florence. How did you get involved in the creation of that book and what was the process of doing the artwork like?
Everything started with a call from Christie Harkin, the editor at Clockwise Press. I met Christie five years ago. We worked together on The Stamp Collector and on That Squeak, also shortlisted for this year’s TD award. She proposed that I illustrate the first picture book from Clockwise Press, her brand new publishing house, and she sent me that marvelous and moving text from Melanie Florence. This kind of text is a real gift for an illustrator. And Christie is a fantastic editor. I knew right away that this collaboration would be unforgettable.
My first reading was a deeply moving one and immediately I fell under the spell. This story seemed made-to-measure for my style and it inspired me deeply. Melanie talks about missing and murdered Indigenous women, maybe a difficult topic to talk about but her poetry is filling that text so nicely. I wanted to create an atmosphere of hope and resilience.
Kateri, the main character, has lived through difficult moments at an early age. When I work on a picture book, I need to understand the characters, to search inside for how they might feel. Kateri reminded me a bit my daughter. This is quite different but we adopted Nini 14 years ago. When you are adopted, you’ve been abandoned and it immediately creates a wound inside. Around the age of eight, my daughter sometimes felt sad and uprooted when thinking about her past and her Chinese mother, knowing that it would be impossible to know who she is and why she abandoned her. I realized that she had built her strengths upon her weaknesses, the quality of resilience I’ve found in Kateri.
Working on these illustrations was very inspiring. The challenge of adding a ghostly figure on some spreads was nice. Doing illustrations for a picture book means I am “telling” the story differently, with my own pictorial language and creating a dance between images and words. Atmospheres, colours and expressions are among the different elements that can increase or add some emotion to the story.
I consider each image in a book as if it is a painting for an exhibition, and as part of a travel. I must be moved by each illustration, I must bring emotions to each scene.
During the process, Melanie talked to me about adding Cree syllabics in some places. The idea was great, so I decided to incorporate some specific syllabic elements through a transparency. Cree words have been put here and there to increase the importance of Cree culture and to situate the story in that context.
Some elements were brought in to add an emotional side to the story. The butterfly, kamâmakos in Cree, was the nickname her mom gave to Kateri. That’s why I put plenty of butterflies throughout the scenes. The table with the red phone in the book is a piece of art done by my wife’s grand-dad, a very talented blacksmith who worked with butterflies on that special table.
Do you have any activity suggestions or tips for teachers who would like to use your books in the classroom?
Cree words have been integrated into the artwork throughout the story. Searching for these words in illustrations can be an engaging way to explore and look closely at the artwork. Also, for younger readers, searching for butterflies can be fun. Butterfly, or kamâmakos in Cree, is Kateri’s nickname. I put several butterflies in my illustrations, sometimes real ones, sometimes as parts of the furniture. Of course, Missing Nimâmâ is also a good opportunity to investigate and discuss the true story of missing and murdered Indigenous women and to create a dialogue with kids. Some very good teachers’ resources can be found on the Clockwise Press website under the book’s description.
What projects are you working on now? Anything you are particularly excited about?
I’m working right now on a couple of book covers for US clients and on a picture book called The Spirit Trackers from Jan Bourdeau Waboose, to be published by Fifth House. This is a very nice text about two Native brothers who listen to their uncle’s story about tracking. A nice tale of mysteries, adventures and snow.
When this book is completed, I’ll start to work on another picture book, a very poetic story from Caroline Pignat, all in landscapes, to be published by Red Deer Press.
I’m also working on a wordless picture book, but this is still a work in progress.
Images courtesy of François Thisdale. Visit www.thisdale.com for more information about his work.
Canada’s independent booksellers share their recommendations for kids and teens. To find a local independent bookstore, visit findabookstore.ca.
• Kaleidoscope Kids’ Books in Ottawa, ON: Girl Mans Up, written by M-E Girard (HarperCollins, 2016), Ages 14+
I loved M-E Girard’s debut novel, Girl Mans Up. It’s a fierce, tender and truthful story of a young woman learning about what respect means to her. Her best friend, Colby, thinks that respect and loyalty require her to act as his wing man and back him up no matter what he does. Her Old-World parents believe that respecting them means she has to “dress like a girl” and obey them. Eventually Pen realizes that she has to respect, and be true to, herself — a girl who has strong feelings for other girls, loves gaming and looking the way she wants to. —Kelly Harrison
Kaleidoscope Kids’ Books: 1018 Bank St., Ottawa, ON K1S 3W8 www.kaleidoscopekidsbooks.ca
• McNally Robinson at Grant Park in Winnipeg, MB: Trouble is a Friend of Mine, written by Stephanie Tromly (Kathy Dawson Books, 2015), Ages 12+
When Zoe moves to River Heights, she finds herself knee-deep in conspiracies, drug rings and two missing persons cases, all thanks to the enigmatic Digby—the town’s charming social pariah with a hidden agenda. This is a thrilling crime noir-esque teen novel with an amazing cast of characters that you really shouldn’t miss. —Shanleigh Klassen, Kids Bookseller
McNally Robinson at Grant Park: 1120 Grant Ave., Winnipeg, MB R3M 2A6 www.mcnallyrobinson.com
• Type Books in Toronto, ON: The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics, written by Edward Keenan, illustrated by Julie McLaughlin (Owlkids, 2015), Ages 10 to 14
In a time when so many of us feel helpless and hopeless about the state of American politics, this 2015 book has never felt more relevant. Keenan does a great job of outlining the democratic process, including concrete examples of how kids can be part of the process, even if they can’t vote yet. —Serah-Marie McMahon, Children’s Buyer for Type Books
Type Books: 427 Spadina Rd. & 883 Queen St. W., Toronto, ON www.typebooks.ca
• Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS: Love, Lies and Spies, written by Cindy Anstey (Swoon Reads, 2016), Ages 14+
When Juliana Telford finds herself headed to London for the season, she is prepared to make the most of the opportunity. But not to attract a suitor or find a husband. Her secret goal is to find a publisher for the scientific research that she and her father have done. Meanwhile, Spencer is on a mission for the War Office to help uncover a smuggling ring. But the two inevitably form a friendship and find themselves increasingly drawn to one another. Filled with misadventures and assorted unintended escapades, this book is a charming and delightful Regency romance that is filled with winsome characters.—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.
Coming soon: Canadian Children’s Book News, Winter 2016
In this issue, Amy Mathers gives us some insight into where she sees the future of teen fiction heading while Rachel Seigel interviews three YA writers of serial fiction. We get to know Erin Bow (winner of the 2016 Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy) in a profile written by Tracey Schindler and “Keep Your Eye On” features Kevin Sands (winner of the 2016 John Spray Mystery Award).
Alison Morgan also chats with three book sellers about their opinions on how to make a stronger publishing industry while our “Bookmark!” column features titles that would make great gift ideas recommended by book sellers across the country. This issue’s “Book Bits” column features four new books to share with kids about celebrations. Plus, read over 30 reviews of great new Canadian titles.