December 2019


News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
December Reading List: Our Favourite Books of 2019
Author Corner: Kyo Maclear
Illustrator’s Studio: Isabelle Arsenault 
Experts’ Picks

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Support Canadian Children’s Book Week This #GivingTuesday

This year, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre is participating in #GivingTuesday on December 3 to raise money for Canadian Children’s Book Week 2020, a national tour of authors, illustrators and storytellers who travel across Canada giving readings in this annual celebration of books. The donated funds will go directly towards the Adopt-a-School program, which allows schools, libraries and community centres who cannot afford the price for a reading to participate. Every $250 raised will cover the cost for a reading, which can have a lifelong impact on young people.

Donate Today!

The Winners of the Prix TD and Prix Harry Black Were Awarded in Montreal

The winner of the 15th annual Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse is Anatole qui ne séchait jamais, written by Stéphanie Boulay, illustrated by Agathe Bray-Bourret and published by Éditions Fonfon.  The 3rd annual Prix Harry Black de l’album jeunesse was given to Mémé à la plage, written by Rhéa Dufresne, illustrated by Aurélie Grand and published by Éditions Les 400 coups. This year, Stéphanie Boulay and Agathe Bray-Bourret also took home the $5,000 award for Anatole qui ne séchait jamais (Éditions Fonfon). Thank you to everyone who voted!

First-Ever National I Read Canadian Day to Take Place on February 19, 2020

A new nationwide initiative that celebrates the richness, diversity, and breadth of Canadian literature was recently announced.  I Read Canadian Day, taking place for the first time ever on February 19, 2020, will empower families, schools, libraries, bookstores and organizations to host activities and events by reading Canadian books for just 15 minutes. We are working with OLA, CANSCAIP and Eric Walters to make this nationwide event possible.

Sign up for free today!

Introducing Bibliovideo!

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) is taking Canadian children’s books to where youth already are: YouTube.

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.

12 Days of Bookmas

From December 1 to 12, the CCBC is giving away a prize pack each day, featuring amazing Canadian books for young people! There’s something for everyone: whether you would love to give great books to your kids or grandkids or fill the shelves of your school library, there is a chance to win every day!

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and check back each day for your chance to win.

Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers for sponsoring many of the prizes!

Good luck and happy holidays!

My Heart Fills With Happiness is this year’s TD Grade One Book Giveaway title

Every fall we give every Grade 1 student in Canada a free book to take home through the TD Grade One Giveaway Book program. This year’s book is My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett, published by Orca Book Publishers in Victoria, BC. Over 550,000 copies will be given to students in French and English, with each copy including text in Plains Cree. For the first time, the Children’s Canadian Book Centre has partnered with the CNIB Foundation to undertake a pilot project that will distribute printbraille editions of the book to grade one students who are blind or partially sighted. Printbraille copies of the book will also be available at select CNIB Foundation centres and hubs throughout Canada.

Are you a Grade 1 teacher? Download our free activities and downloads here.

Gift Guide

Need a little extra help with gift-giving? Be sure to check out our Gift Guide for great ideas for kids and teens!

Canadian Children’s Book Week: Request for Expression of Interest

Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) is seeking sponsorship for one of our most important programs, Canadian Children’s Book Week. We are seeking organizations interested in sponsoring programs that help kids succeed in Canada.

Please download our Request for Expressions of Interest for more information.

Our New Magazines Are On Newsstands Now!

Be sure to read the newest issues of Best Books for Kids & Teens and Canadian Children’s Book NewsBest 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.

In our winter issue of Canadian Children’s Book News, Robin Stevenson reflects on her career and the reason she writes books that focus on inclusion and diversity, LGBTQ2+ and women’s rights. Emma Hunter, the CCBC’s very own Marketing & Communications Coordinator, talks about growing up with a lack of LGBTQ2+ titles in her life and how that made it hard to find herself and others like her in the literature she was reading. We introduce you to author Abdi Nazemian in our “Keep Your Eye On…” section and have put together a gift-giving guide of recommended books from booksellers across the country!

Buy your issues today!

Want to stay updated on the world of Canadian children’s books all month long? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

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Links We Love

Articles and videos of interest to educators

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December Reading List: Our Favourite Books of 2019

Our reading list this month features our favourite books of 2019. These books can be read in the classroom, in libraries or at home.

Picture Books

Written and illustrated by Julie Flett
Greystone Kids, 2019
ISBN 978-1-7716-4473-0
IL: Ages 3-8 RL: Grades 2-3

When a young girl moves from the country to a small town, she feels lonely and out of place. But soon she meets an elderly woman next door, who shares her love of arts and crafts. Can the girl navigate the changing seasons and failing health of her new friend? Acclaimed author and artist Julie Flett’s textured images of birds, flowers, art, and landscapes bring vibrancy and warmth to this powerful story, which highlights the fulfillment of intergenerational relationships and shared passions.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

King Mouse
Written by Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Dena Seiferling
Tundra Books, 2019
ISBN 978-0-7352-6465-6
IL: Ages 3-7 RL: Grades 1-3

King Mouse finds his authority in question when his subjects find crowns of their own. A gentle and humorous modern fable about imaginative play and kindness in the tradition of classics like Little Bear and Frog and Toad. A sweet, thoughtful tale of friendship, sharing and play, King Mouse begins when a mouse comes upon a tiny crown in the grass. The mouse puts the crown on his head, and when a bear subsequently comes upon him and asks if he’s king, the mouse responds “Yes.”

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

My Cat Looks Like My Dad
Written and illustrated by Thao Lam
Owlkids Books, 2019
ISBN 978-1-77147-351-4
IL: Ages 3-7 RL: Grades 1-3

New from the creator of Wallpaper and Skunk on a String comes a witty and uplifting picture book that will speak to families of all varieties about how family really is what you make it.
Minimal text paired with bright paper-collage illustrations create comparisons on each spread in which the narrator talks about their family—especially the striking similarities between Dad and the cat. Both have orange hair, love milk, start their days with stretches, appreciate a good nap, and are brave (some of the time). The narrator is more like Mom, with wild hair, blue eyes, and a love of dancing.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden
Written by Heather Smith
Illustrated by Rachel Wada
Orca Book Publishers, 2019
ISBN 978-1-4598-2103-3
IL: Ages 6-8 RL: Grades 2-3

When the tsunami destroyed Makio’s village, Makio lost his father . . . and his voice. The entire village is silenced by grief, and the young child’s anger at the ocean grows. Then one day his neighbor, Mr. Hirota, begins a mysterious project—building a phone booth in his garden. At first Makio is puzzled; the phone isn’t connected to anything. It just sits there, unable to ring. But as more and more villagers are drawn to the phone booth, its purpose becomes clear to Makio: the disconnected phone is connecting people to their lost loved ones. Makio calls to the sea to return what it has taken from him and ultimately finds his voice and solace in a phone that carries words on the wind.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Small in the City
Written and illustrated by Sydney Smith
Groundwood Books, 2019
ISBN 978-1-7730-6198-6
IL: Ages 4-7 RL: Grades 1-2

On a snowy day in a big city, a little boy hops off a streetcar and walks through downtown, between office buildings, through parks and down busy streets. Along the way, he provides helpful tips about which alleys make good shortcuts, which trees to climb and where to find a friendly face. All the while, the boy searches for what he has lost …

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Small World
Written by Ishta Mercurio
Illustrated by Jen Corace
Harry N. Abrams, 2019
ISBN 978-1-4197-3407-6
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 1-2

When Nanda is born, the whole of her world is the circle of her mother’s arms. But as she grows, the world grows too. It expands outward—from her family to her friends, to the city, to the countryside. And as it expands, so does Nanda’s wonder in the underlying shapes and structures patterning it: cogs and wheels, fractals in snowflakes. Eventually, Nanda’s studies lead her to become an astronaut and see the small, round shape of Earth far away. A geometric meditation on wonder, Small World is a modern classic that expresses our big and small place in the vast universe.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Junior & Intermediate

Broken Strings
Written by Kathy Kacer and Eric Walters
Puffin Books, 2019
ISBN 978-0-7352-6624-7
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 5-7

It’s 2002. In the aftermath of the twin towers — and the death of her beloved grandmother — Shirli Berman is intent on moving forward. The best singer in her junior high, she auditions for the lead role in Fiddler on the Roof, but is crushed to learn that she’s been given the part of the old Jewish mother in the musical rather than the coveted part of the sister. But there is an upside: her “husband” is none other than Ben Morgan, the cutest and most popular boy in the school.

Deciding to throw herself into the role, she rummages in her grandfather’s attic for some props. There, she discovers an old violin in the corner — strange, since her Zayde has never seemed to like music, never even going to any of her recitals. Showing it to her grandfather unleashes an anger in him she has never seen before, and while she is frightened of what it might mean, Shirli keeps trying to connect with her Zayde and discover the awful reason behind his anger. A long-kept family secret spills out, and Shirli learns the true power of music, both terrible and wonderful.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The Ghost Collector
Written by Allison Mills
Annick Press, 2019
ISBN 978-1-77321-295-1
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 5-6

Shelly and her grandmother catch ghosts. In their hair. Just like all the women in their family, they can see souls who haven’t transitioned yet; it’s their job to help the ghosts along their journey. When Shelly’s mom dies suddenly, Shelly’s relationship to ghosts—and death—changes. Instead of helping spirits move on, Shelly starts hoarding them. But no matter how many ghost cats, dogs, or people she hides in her room, Shelly can’t ignore the one ghost that’s missing. Why hasn’t her mom’s ghost come home yet?

Rooted in a Cree worldview and inspired by stories about the author’s great-grandmother’s life, The Ghost Collector delves into questions of grief and loss, and introduces an exciting new voice in tween fiction that will appeal to fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Louisiana’s Way Home and Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Written by Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler
Groundwood Books, 2019
ISBN 978-1-5549-8972-0
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 5-8

It’s almost the end of middle school, and Charlie has to find her perfect song for a music class assignment. The class learns about a different style of music each day, from hip-hop to metal to disco, but it’s hard for Charlie to concentrate when she can’t stop noticing her classmate Emile or wondering about Luka, who hasn’t been to school in weeks. On top of everything, she has been talked into participating in an end-of-year performance with her best friends. Then, the class learns about opera, and Charlie discovers the music of Maria Callas. The more she learns about Maria’s life, the more Charlie admires her passion for singing and her ability to express herself fully through her music. Can Charlie follow the example of the ultimate diva, Maria Callas, when it comes to her own life?

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Pickles vs. the Zombies
Written by Angela Misri
DCB, 2019
ISBN 978-1-7708-6558-7
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 5-6

The comfortable life of Pickles, the calico housecat, is turned upside down when humans succumb to a zombie apocalypse. She doesn’t know where her “pet” – human child Connor – has gone, only that there are zombies everywhere. Determined to find Connor, Pickles sets off with her cat friends and a streetwise raccoon, exploring a world she has only seen through a window. Fending off human zombies, street cats from the wrong side of the track, and a fearsome gang of chipmunks, Pickles and her crew search for remnants of human society.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Young Adult Fiction

It’s been a year since the Catalog Killer terrorized the sleepy seaside town of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing without a trace. Like everyone else in town, 18-year-old Mac Bell is trying to put that horrible summer behind him — easier said than done since Mac’s best friend Connor was the murderer’s final victim. But when he finds a cryptic message from Connor, he’s drawn back into the search for the killer — who might not have been a random drifter after all. Now nobody — friends, neighbors, or even the sexy stranger with his own connection to the case — is beyond suspicion. Sensing that someone is following his every move, Mac struggles to come to terms with his true feelings towards Connor while scrambling to uncover the truth.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me
Written by Mariko Tamaki
Illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Groundwood Books, 2019
ISBN 978-0-0617-9702-6
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 9 and up

All Freddy Riley wants is for Laura Dean to stop breaking up with her. The day they got back together was the best one of Freddy’s life, but nothing’s made sense since. Laura Dean is popular, funny and SO CUTE … but she can be really thoughtless, even mean. Their on-again, off-again relationship has Freddy’s head spinning — and Freddy’s friends can’t understand why she keeps going back. When Freddy consults the services of a local mystic, the mysterious Seek-Her, she isn’t thrilled with the advice she receives. But something’s got to give: Freddy’s heart is breaking in slow motion, and she may be about to lose her very best friend as well as her last shred of self-respect. Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnist Anna Vice, to help her through being a teenager in love.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Like a Love Story
Written by Abdi Nazemian
Balzer + Bray, 2019
ISBN 978-0-0628-3936-7
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 9 and up

It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing. Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS. Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance… until she falls for Reza and they start dating. Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs. As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart — and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

This Place: 150 Years Retold
Edited by the editors of HighWater Press
Highwater Press, 2019
ISBN 978-1-55379-758-6
IL: Ages 15 and up RL: Grades 9-10

Explore the past 150 years through the eyes of Indigenous creators in this groundbreaking graphic novel anthology. Beautifully illustrated, these stories are an emotional and enlightening journey through Indigenous wonderworks, psychic battles, and time travel. See how Indigenous peoples have survived a post-apocalyptic world since Contact.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Celebrate the accomplishments and heroics of the overlooked heroes of Canadian history, with inspiring tales of 10 women who were integral to our national legacy, and whose stories have not been told . . . until now! Often relegated to the sidelines of history, the women highlighted in this book were performed feats that most people would never even dream of. You may not know their names now, but after reading their stories, you won’t soon forget them. It’s time to hear the stories of Marguerite de la Roque, Ttha’naltther, Catherine Schubert, Charlotte Small, Alice Freeman (AKA Faith Fenton), Lucile Hunter, Ada Annie Jordan (AKA Cougar Annie), Victoria Cheung, Mona Parsons, and Joan Bamford Fletcher!

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

My Body My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights

Written by Robin Stevenson
Orca Book Publishers, 2019
ISBN 978-1-4598-1712-8
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grades 8-9

Abortion is one of the most common of all medical procedures. But it is still stigmatized, and all too often people do not feel they can talk about their experiences. Making abortion illegal or hard to access doesn’t make it any less common; it just makes it dangerous. Around the world, tens of thousands of women die from unsafe abortions every year. People who support abortion rights have been fighting hard to create a world in which the right to access safe and legal abortion services is guaranteed. The opposition to this has been intense and sometimes violent, and victories have been hard-won. The long fight for abortion rights is being picked up by a new generation of courageous, creative and passionate activists. This book is about the history, and the future, of that fight.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

On the Playground: Our First Talk About Prejudice
Written by Dr. Jillian Roberts
Illustrated by Jane Heinrichs
Orca Book Publishers, 2019
ISBN 978-1-4598-2091-3
IL: Ages 6-9 RL: Grades 1-3

On the Playground: Our First Talk About Prejudice focuses on introducing children to the complex topic of prejudice. Crafted around a narrative between a grade-school-aged child and an adult, this inquiry-focused book will help children shape their understanding of diversity so they are better prepared to understand, and question, prejudice witnessed around them in their day-to-day lives and in the media. Dr. Jillian Roberts discusses types of discrimination children notice, what prejudice means, why it’s not okay, how to stand up against it and how kids can spread a message of inclusion and acceptance in the world around them.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

You Are Never Alone
Written by Elin Kelsey
HarperTeen, 2018
ISBN 978-1-7714-7315-6
IL: Ages 4-7 RL: Grades 1-2

Drawing examples from the clouds and the cosmos, the seafloor and the surface of our skin, You Are Never Alone explores how we are always surrounded and supported by nature. Whether it’s gravity holding us tight; our lungs breathing oxygen synthesized by plants; the countless microorganisms that build our immunity; or the whales whose waste fertilizes the plankton that feed the fish we eat: nature touches every aspect of how we live. Using lyrical text grounded in current science alongside detailed diorama art, this informational picture book presents the idea that we thrive through connections to the land and sea and sky, and togetherness is key to nature.

Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

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Author’s Corner: Kyo Maclear

Kyo Maclear is a self-professed spork—her father is British and her mother is Japanese. She was born in England but moved to Canada at a young age. Spork, the story of a mixed kitchen utensil and Kyo’s debut book for children, was originally conceived with her husband to celebrate the birth of their first child. Kyo lives and works in Toronto, on the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the New Credit, the Haudenosaunee, Métis, and the Huron-Wendat. She shares a home with two sons, two cats, and a singer.

In addition to writing for children, Kyo is also a novelist and widely published essayist. She holds a doctorate in environmental humanities and is on faculty with The Humber School for Writers and associate faculty with the University of Guelph Creative Writing MFA. She has presented at universities, schools and festivals around the world.

First, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get your start as an author? What is your writing process like? 

I always loved reading. Growing up, I especially loved comics. I worshipped Peanuts. I loved the simple line-work paired with the wonky, truthy existentialism. It just made sense. It felt like home— literally as well as figuratively because my mum was an artist who worked with traditional (Japanese) ink and my dad was a writer/reporter who had a serious philosophical bent. I hold my parents equally responsible for showing me the power of lines and words. As for my start as an author, I began writing reviews for art magazines in my late teens and eventually started writing books for adults. Then, when my first son was born, I wrote Spork for our friends and family and that chapbook, with the help of Jackie Kaiser and Tara Walker, launched my kids’ lit journey. The highlight has been collaborating/alchemizing with the most incredible illustrators imaginable. I feel so lucky.

Operatic was one of our favourite books this year! How did this book come about and what would your one song to define yourself be?

That’s so nice to hear! The book had several muses. One was an inspirational middle school music teacher named Adam Platek who taught both my sons. He invited me into his Toronto classroom and became the spark for the character Mr. K. The second muse was the perfectly imperfect diva, Maria Callas. It was my husband who introduced me to opera, which I had always considered the most bourgeois and baffling of art forms. What I now like about (some!) opera is its power to cut to the chase, to get to deep feelings as quickly as possible. I just felt opera would be a perfect metaphor for the drama of middle school where days are mini-epics and emotions quickly take on outsized proportions. But I also wanted to explore the idea that all music can be an outlet for feelings we try to stifle, feelings that can be embraced or distorted into cruelty depending on the situation. As for my one song…hard to choose but maybe My Favorite Things played by John Coltrane — to capture my magpie, collector nature. Or Sound and Vision because Bowie was my first massive music crush.

You have written some amazing picture books inspired by real women, such as Julia Child, Virginia Wolf, Elsa Schiaparelli and Gyo Fujikawa. What drew you to these women and their stories and who would you love to write about next?

I’m drawn to iconoclasts. To women who are perceived as making themselves “too much.” All the women I’ve written about show us complicated ways of being in the world: fragile and tough, beautiful and ‘ugly,’ etc. I would love to write about Yoko Ono one day but only with her blessing.

You have written books for adults, plenty of picture books and now a graphic novel. How did the writing process of Operatic differ from what you’re used to?

The book has an ensemble cast so one challenge was to individuate characters quickly without being reductive. I was also conscious of
leaving space for the art to help carry the story’s emotion. I wanted moments of narrative “rest.” Illustrating a picture book is never just drawing a picture that goes with the story on each page. It’s thinking about the entirety of the book, its tonal quality, as part of the experience of the story. In the case of Operatic, the question became: how do we create the feeling of noise and music in a silent medium like writing and drawing? What Byron ended up doing still amazes me. He created the feeling of music — swirling opera, pounding heavy metal, bass-heavy hop hop— with no musical notes. Not one! Not even a treble clef.

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

I have a picture book called Story Boat, illustrated by the ultra-talented Rashin Kheriyeh (Tundra Books, February 2020). It’s a story of migration and the power of one child’s imagination under difficult circumstances. Rashin’s art is very moving and captures the experience of being uprooted in a tender and gently fantastical way. I really hope you like it. Beyond that, I have a few other magical collaborations in the near-ish future. I pinch myself all the time to be working with such artistic wizards.

Find out more about Kyo at

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Introducing Readerly!

Our new podcast all about books for kids! In our second episode, the CCBC sat down with Monique Gray Smith, author of My Heart Fills With Happiness, the 2019 TD Grade One Book Giveaway title. We spoke about happiness, what it’s like to have you book sent to 550,000 grad ones and how Monique got her start as a writer.

Interested in YA? Listen to YA Write with Amy Mathers!

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Illustrator’s Studio: Isabelle Arsenault

Isabelle Arsenault is an internationally renowned children’s book illustrator whose work has won many awards and much praise from critics. Her books include the graphic novels Jane, the Fox and Me and Louis Undercover by Fanny Britt, Spork and Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky (Bologna Ragazzi Award 2017) and Colette’s Lost Pet, which marks her debut as an author. She has won the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Literature three times, and three of her picture books were named as New York Times Best Illustrated Books of the Year. The poetry expressed through Isabelle Arsenault’s graphic universe, the gentle flow of her lines and the overall charm of her books have made her one of Quebec’s best-known and esteemed illustrators.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get your start as an illustrator and author?

I worked as a freelance illustrator for a few years but after giving birth to my two children, I became more and more interested in children’s books illustration. Working on book projects seemed more adapted to my young family’s lifestyle and rhythm. I won a Governor General’s Award award for the first children’s book I illustrated. I must admit that this was a great pat on the back and encouraged me to pursue my work in that field. I started writing my own stories a few years ago. I love developing ideas for the Mile End kids’ series but I am still stimulated by the words of others and opened to inspiring collaborations.


We love Just Because by Mac Barnett and we love your illustrations and the contrast between the little girl in bed and the world of her imagination. What was it like creating the art and were you given a lot of artistic freedom?

I received the manuscript for Just Because along with two images, which were some visual references suggested by Mac Barnett. I liked these vintage images very much. They looked as if they came out of an old documentary book or encyclopedia from my childhood. The project started taking shape in my mind. Then I did more research and experimentation around styles. I wanted to find an approach that would be classic and warm but still contemporary. Developing the visual language of a book is always challenging, but so stimulating in the same time. For this book, I was given complete freedom by my publisher Candlewick. I felt I could go in any direction I wanted with the book and this is something rare and precious for an illustrator.

What artists and illustrators have influenced your own art style?

I’m inspired by artists who do things their own way, yet can reinvent themselves over and over again. Illustrators who, despite expectations, do not hesitate going out of their comfort zone, pushing further the limits of their creation and of kid’s lit. Kitty Crowther, Beatrice Alemagna, Dominique Goblet, Manuele Fior, B.B. Cronin, Alain Pilon, Gérard DuBois, Frédérique Bertrand, Carson Ellis, Jon Klassen, just to name a few inspirational colleagues.

You have worked with some amazing authors and also written your own books. With a book like Albert’s Quiet Quest, does the art or the story come first?

For Albert’s Quiet Quest, and the Mile End kids’ series in general, the idea — or a vague intuition of a possible story — comes first. Then I quickly try to elaborate some roughs just to visualize things a bit. If I feel my idea has some potential, I write a first draft scenario. But as there’s often a lot of the storytelling happening visually, I need to explore page breaks, panels, rhythm and compositions at the same time to create a dummy and see if it works as a book. This whole process is exciting and can happen very quickly because I’m always eager to see if the story works or not!  When I have finalized a version of the dummy with dialogues that my publisher and I agreed on, then I can start working on the final art.

What is next for you? What projects are you working on now? 

I’m exactly there right now, starting on final artwork for the third book of the Mile End kids’ series. This one will be featuring Maya as the main character. I’m thrilled going back to this little bunch of friends that I wish I could see more often! The book will be coming out early 2021.

Find out more about Isabelle at

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Booksellers’ Picks

Canada’s independent booksellers share their recommendations for kids and teens. To find a local independent bookstore, visit

Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS: A Pocket of Time: The Poetic Childhood of Elizabeth Bishop, written by Rita Wilson and Elizabeth Bishop, illustrated by Emma FitzGerald (Nimbus Publishing, 2019)  Ages 4-8

This unique and utterly charming picture book biography takes readers into Elizabeth Bishop’s early childhood, a time that she spent with her maternal grandparents in Great Village, Nova Scotia.  The author takes the reader on a journey with Elizabeth through the various rooms of Gammie and Pa’s house, sharing some of Elizabeth’s thoughtful musings and her very own words as she ponders the loving and beautiful world around her.  Emma FitzGerald’s loose-lined,softly-coloured and whimsy-filled illustrations are accented with occasional photographs in a collage style that lends itself well to this delightful offering.  A captivating glimpse into the mind and heart of this much-loved poet, this book is a beautiful tribute to both the poet and to the wonder of words themselves. —Lisa Doucet, Co-manager

Woozles Children’s Bookstore: 1533 Birmingham St., Halifax, NS B3J 2J1

If your independent bookstore would like to participate in this feature, please contact us.

Librarians’ Picks

Canadian librarians share their recommendations for kids and teens.

Just Lucky by Melanie Florence (Second Story Press, 2019) Ages 13-18

Just Lucky by Melanie Florence is a novel that tackles difficult issues with compelling candour and authenticity.  After being abandoned by her mother as a child, 15-year-old Lucky Robinson has grown up with the loving support of her grandparents.  Lucky’s world irrevocably changes when her grandmother’s progressing dementia draws the attention of authorities.  While dealing with grief and loss, the teen is also bounced around the foster care system.  The first-person narration is by turns heartbreaking and resiliently hopeful:  “What did you wish for when life didn’t turn out the way you planned?” Lucky is a memorable, whip-smart character whose tumultuous journey to find a new home, and herself in the process, will linger in readers’ minds.

—Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston  (Holiday House, 2019) Ages 12 and up

Dragons are a problem, even in rural Ontario. Dragons feed on carbon, and since there’s carbon everywhere, dragon slayers are useful people to have around. Trondheim has never had its own dragon slayer, but then Owen Thorskard and his dragon-slaying family relocate there, and Siobhan, a teenage musician, finds herself drawn to them, and especially to Owen. And when their entire region is threatened by a plague of dragons that the adults won’t even believe in, it`s Owen and his bard who have to deal with it, even if it means the end of Owen, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim and his Bard, Siobhan.

 Polly Ross-Tyrell, Children’s Librarian, Aurora Public Library

If you are a librarian that would like to participate in this feature, please contact us.

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Staff Picks

My Winter City by James Gladstone, illustrated by Gary Clement (Groundwood Books, 2019) Ages 4-8

Story and art unify perfectly in this story of Toronto in the winter and how one’s child sees it. The words flow together rhythmically and the illustrations perfectly capture the magical world of winter. Toronto is brought to life in this simple story that follows one child through a snowy time, from morning to night. Whether they live in the city of a small town, all Canadian children can relate to this story of finding moments of joy in winter.

Emma Hunter, CCBC Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Pickles vs. the Zombies by Angela Misiri (DCB, 2019) Ages 9 to 12

Pickles, a short-haired calico cat, is about to embark on an epic adventure where no indoor cat has ever ventured before… a zombie apocalypse! Together with her band of misfit friends, from a street-smart raccoon, to a feisty hamster, Pickles and her companions are going to have to outsmart a malicious opossum leader, conniving chipmunks, and of course, hungry zombies, all in hopes of rescuing her beloved pet human, Connor. Will Pickles be able to get to Connor before it’s too late?

Though brimming with humour, Pickles vs. the zombies will surprise readers with its cast of genuinely likeable and brave characters. This is a story about love, friendship, and perseverance, packed with a lot of action (and zombies) that is sure to keep young readers engaged till the very end.

Break in Case of Emergency by Brian Francis (HarperCollins Canada, 2019) Ages 14+

Toby has struggled with her emotional health ever since her mom committed suicide when she was just 10-years-old. To cope, Toby has kept people at arms length for fear of letting them get too close. Fast-forward 5 years, and her erratic absentee father, who also happens to be a famous female impersonator, has now suddenly appeared in her life with no explanation. After a failed suicide attempt, Toby is forced to re-evaluate her relationship with her family and friends, and realizes though far from perfect, there may just be something worth living for after all.

Break in Case of Emergency is a powerful coming-of-age story that explores topics of mental illness and suicide and its impact on young people. It is both a heartbreaking and hopeful read about acceptance and knowing one’s own worth, as Toby learns to also forgive those who have disappointed her in the past. A must read for any teenager or adult looking for a meaningful read that will stay with them long after they’re done.

— Paola Gonzalez, CCBC Magazine & Marketing Intern

You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood by Aimee Reid, illustrated by Matt Phelan (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019) Ages 5-8

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood / A beautiful day for a neighbor / Would you be mine? / Could you be mine?”

As a preschooler I loved watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I can even remember my favourite episode — the one where Mister Rogers visits the set of the Incredible Hulk television series. I was a fan of Mister Rogers, and I was a fan of the Incredible Hulk character because he was green – my favourite colour! Remember… I was three.

In this picture book biography, author Aimee Reid introduces young readers to Fred McFeely Rogers, a shy young boy who was often housebound due to childhood illnesses. This often made it difficult for him to make friends and left him with feelings of loneliness and sadness. His solution to combating these feelings was hand puppets — similar to the iconic hand puppets from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. He was encouraged by his family to make friends with the helpers in his community and to explore the world around him. And when he grew up, he created a television show that would instill in young children the importance of compassion, equality and kindness, and teach them that “there’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you the way you are.”

Included in the book is back matter on Mister Rogers, as well as an author’s note, illustrator’s note and selected bibliography.

— Meghan Howe, CCBC Library Coordinator

Next Month

Look for our January newsletter early in the new year, which will be all about graphic novels! Look forward to interviews with Faith Erin Hicks and Mike Deas!

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