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
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.
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!
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.
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!
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers for sponsoring many of the prizes!
Good luck and happy holidays!
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.
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.
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 News! 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.
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!
Links We Love
Articles and videos of interest to educators
December Reading List: Our Favourite Books of 2019
Our reading list this month features books full of fantastical worlds and creatures. These books can be read in the classroom, in libraries or at home.
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 kyomaclearkids.com
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!
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 www.isabellearsenault.com
Canada’s independent booksellers share their recommendations for kids and teens. To find a local independent bookstore, visit findabookstore.ca.
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 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.
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
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.
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, 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.
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
“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
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!