February 2023

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
Accessibility Column
Author’s Corner: Khodi Dill
February Reading List: Black History Month
Experts’ Picks

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends

Register for Our Get Published! Webinar Taking Place on March 25!

Exciting news! Our Get Published! webinar will take place on March 25, 2023 and will focus on writing picture books and fiction for young people. Panelists include Karen Li, Publisher, Groundwood Books, Ruth Ohi, author/illustrator, and Joel A. Sutherland, author. Full of expert advice from industry professionals, budding creators will not want to miss this session!

Register here!

Looking for Some Artistic Inspiration or a Special Gift? Check out our Picture Book Gallery!
A Place to Call Home Sweet Home 3 by Jamileh Salek

If you haven’t checked out the addition of more artists to our Picture Book Gallery, now is the perfect time! The Picture Book Gallery features Canadian illustrators (many award-winning) who sell prints and original art to support the CCBC’s annual Canadian Children’s Book Week program. Illustrators donate 60 percent of the value of their art sold in support of the CCBC. All funds raised contribute to connecting authors, illustrators, and storytellers with young audiences across Canada.

Visit the gallery here!

A Magic-Filled Adaptation of Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s Bestselling Children’s Book

It’s 1969 and Apollo 11 is about to land on the moon. Nine-year-old space-loving Chris spends his days dreaming of becoming a brave astronaut. But at bedtime, the night closes in and so too does his fear of the dark. For Chris, watching history being made hinges on conquering his fear—and embracing the unknown. From the imagination of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield comes a ground-breaking new theatrical experience. More than five years in the making, The Darkest Dark is inspired by Commander Hadfield’s bestselling children’s book and brought to the stage by co-writers Jim Millan and Ian MacIntyre, and renowned magician David Ben. Weaving theatre, multi-media and magic, The Darkest Dark reveals a universe where anything is possible. And where the dark… is for dreaming.

Learn more.

Family of Terra May-Kremer Makes Donation to CCBC in Their Daughter’s Name

Terra was an amazing nine-year-old, inside and out. She loved fantasy books and books about nature, space, and science. Being read to by her family, hospital teachers, and care facilitators was one of her favourite things while in care at McMaster hospital for her leukemia. We spent many days at the library before and then during her treatment when her health allowed for it, and she could easily find 15-25 books at a time to take home to explore. Even up to her last moments, we read to her as we knew it brought her comfort.

We decided as a family to donate the funds from our “Turn It Blue 4 Terra” fundraiser to the CCBC as we truly wanted it to go to something that Terra loved. We specifically remember her bringing home her Grade 1 book from your program, waving it around saying she got to “KEEPS” it. Her excitement in receiving a new book just for her to keep was a great moment. And knowing that the CCBC helps Canadian authors and illustrators is just one more thing that made it the perfect place to reflect and honour her journey.

~Shannon May, Terra’s mother

Right to Read: Accessible Books for Everyone

Why Accessible Books For Youth With Print Disabilities Are So Important

by Mohammed Ali, CCBC Accessible Books Intern

Having access to accessible books from a young age allowed me to explore, learn, and gain the same benefits from reading as anyone who is sighted. Being able to learn and read Braille empowered me to handle mathematics, audiobooks allowed me to get through lengthier titles, and print Braille enabled me to realize my scholastic potential and discover my love of reading. As someone with sight loss since birth, I can speak to how important it is for us to have access to the same material as our sighted peers. There is a tremendous sense of belonging when I can partake in discussions on a particular author or book, knowing that I gained the same insight from it as anyone else.

Oftentimes, finding these books can be challenging. This is where the Accessible Books playlist on the Bibliovideo YouTube channel can help. Here you can find videos about Canadian books for kids and youth with print disabilities, including audio, Braille, ePub, decodable formats, and more. Stay tuned for news about a searchable book bank of accessible books from Canadian creators in the weeks ahead.

Head to Bibliovideo to watch or listen to a reading of We Move Together with described audio for all viewers ages 6 to 9, but especially for those with low or no vision. A perfect tool for families, schools, and libraries to facilitate conversations about disability, accessibility, social justice, and community building.

Links We Love

Articles of interest to educators and parents

This Hamilton teen brings her love of representation in books to the small screen (CBC)

New online exhibit offers close-up look at original Anne of Green Gables manuscript (CBC)

Courtney Summers will judge the 2023 First Page student writing challenge (CBC)

Nelvana Greenlights New Series Mille Magnificent (Newswire)

2023 Spring Preview: Books for Young People – Picture Books (Quill & Quire)

My kid won’t read chapter books. What do I do? (Phys Org)

CBC Kids Book Club | Choose Kindness | Ruth Ohi (CBC)

Why Disability Representation In Children’s Books Is Key To An Equitable Future (Forbes)

Author’s Corner

Carly Brown Photography

Khodi Dill is an award-winning Bahamian-Canadian spoken word artist, author, and anti-racist educator from Saskatoon. Centering equity at the heart of his practice, Khodi hopes that his work will engage people of all ages in social justice and the arts. 

Dill is the author of two picture books, including Welcome to the Cypher, which introduces young people to the transformative power of rap music, and Little Black Lives Matter, a book of affirmation and Black history for children. 

Coming fall of 2023, watch for Khodi Dill’s highly anticipated non-fiction book: stay up: racism, resistance, and reclaiming Black freedom (Annick Press)

For more information, visit thegreygriot.com or follow @KhodiDill on social media.

First, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get your start as a poet/spoken word artist?

Writing has always been something that seemed to come naturally to me. I discovered poetry around the age of 11 or 12 and really took to it, but it wasn’t until I found hip-hop, around the age of 14 or so, that I really began to develop my voice as a poet. Finally, when I attended my first poetry slam in 2010, I felt like a whole new world had opened up for me. The ability to use the sound of my voice and my whole body and stage presence to add to the delivery of my poetry was liberating. That’s when I really started deeply committing myself to the world of writing poems.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Most of my writing focuses on themes of identity, race, racism, and social justice. That is to say that often it is injustice that moves me to write, but the reason I write is to secure justice, so I think that truly justice is where the inspiration lies—the yearning for justice, and the will to see it served on our planet for all human beings. I have been blessed to have many great teachers of social justice over the years—professors and unofficial teachers alike—rappers, poets, elders, and the writings and teachings of historical figures.

How did you come up with the images for your book, Welcome to the Cypher?

This idea came to me fairly spontaneously. As a huge fan of hip-hop, when I became a father, I wanted to share my passion for rap with my own kids. But when I went to the bookstore to look for a book about rap that would be suitable for very young children, I couldn’t find one. Not a one! Simply not being able to let that stand, I went home and penned the first draft of Welcome to the Cypher the same day. Again, to me it was an injustice that there were no children’s picture books about rap music available. And it was an act of justice for me to create one.

Carly Brown Photography

As a Black Canadian creator, what does Black History Month mean to you?

I am blessed to feel like I’m a part of a growing group of Black Canadian authors who are currently in the process of making history. We are reclaiming spaces within the publishing industry that have been historically denied to members of our community. 

The number of Black Canadians writing in the area of children’s literature especially is exciting, considering the historical exclusion. 

Black History Month may be a time to celebrate that, but Canada and its schools and organizations must honour these contributions year-round, by boosting the representation of Black books in schools and libraries everywhere, something that all students will benefit from.

How can children’s publishing do better when it comes to the representation and inclusion of Black voices?

One aspect of this that I am passionate about is the honouring of authentic voices. When I was in school, my teachers often said that one could never be published if they didn’t learn standard English grammar and spelling. Today as an author and as an English teacher myself, I see the privileging of standard English grammar in schools and publishing to be one of the many ways in which assimilation to white norms is still promoted and perpetuated within our society. Top linguists will tell you that there’s no such thing as bad grammar or incorrect speech. The way that most people write or speak is always contextually correct within their home language communities. Each dialect of English has its own grammar and conventions, and the fact that we only privilege one in schools, thereby forcing everyone else to change and adhere to that, is problematic in that it can be rooted in racist beliefs about whose ways of speaking and writing are superior. I was elated to have the support of my first publisher Annick Press in allowing me to write Welcome to the Cypher in a way that employed some of the conventions of Ebonics, or Black English, to keep the voice of the book authentic and therefore engaging.

What projects are you working on now?

I feel like at any given time, I have about five book ideas at various stages of development. Right now, I’m excited about a young adult novel that I’ve been slowly revising. I hope that when this book comes into the world, it can help be a guide for young people to try and find themselves early in life, to confront childhood traumas, and to find outlets that will help them heal and solidify their identities before the pressures of conformity and other negative influences can take hold in their lives. Each young person is deserving of a life that is guided by open conversations about mental health, identity, goals, compassion, and healing. I want to add to those conversations with this coming-of-age project.

Can you tell us about any upcoming books?

Watch for stay up: racism, resistance, and reclaiming Black freedom, coming this fall from Annick Press.  If I said I put my heart and soul into writing this book, it would be an understatement. The non-fiction book is meant to arm people, including young adults, with a foundation of intersectional anti-racist education. Many many people in our society want to be involved in the important fights for social justice, but feel unequipped to do so, especially sometimes when it comes to having the right language and terminology. This book will provide that, but also, hopefully, it will provide a buy-in for people to truly want to invest in this important work. I use memories of my own upbringing as a biracial Black kid on the prairies to try and illustrate the various anti-racism concepts that I discuss in the book. My hope is that this will help breathe life into those concepts and help inspire people to not just read the book, but then to act also.

February Reading List: Black History Month

Our February newsletter is honouring Black History Month by featuring books written and illustrated by Black Canadians. Get young readers excited about reading books by Black Canadian authors and illustrators with this list—great for parents, librarians, and teachers to use.

Picture Books

Black Boy, Black Boy: Celebrate the Power of You
Written by Ali Kamanda and Jorge Redmond
Illustrated by Ken Daley
Sourcebooks eXplore, 2022
ISBN 978-1-7282-5064-9
IL: Ages 4-7 RL: Grades 1-2

From athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick to musician Sam Cooke, inventor Elijah McCoy and writer Chinua Achebe, there are so many inspirational men in Black history. This lyrical, rhythmic text encourages boys to imagine everything they can be and the great things they can do, drawing on the strength of people throughout history that paved the way for Black boys today.


Dear Black Girls
Written by Shanice Nicole
Illustrated by Kezna Dalz
Metonymy Press, 2021
ISBN 978-1-9990-5883-8
IL: Ages 6-8 RL: Grades 1-2

Dear Black girls all around the world, this one is for you—for us.” This book is a love letter to Black girls—an affirmation that no two Black girls are the same, but they’re all special and that being a Black girl is a true gift. This poem reminds young readers that they all deserve to be loved just the way they are.


Malaika’s Surprise
(The Malaika Series)
Written by Nadia L. Hohn
Illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
Groundwood Books, 2021
ISBN 978-1-7730-6264-8
IL: Ages 4-7 RL: Grades 1-2

It’s summertime, and Malaika and Adèle are enjoying playing carnival in their bright costumes, dancing and laughing in the sunshine. But when Mummy announces that they will soon have a new baby brother or sister, Malaika is unsure how to feel about another change in her family. Will Mummy forget about me? Back at school, Malaika is excited to see her teacher and classmates, and makes friends with a new girl who has recently arrived from a faraway country, just like Malaika. Then on her birthday, a surprise arrives to remind Malaika of the importance of family, and the story ends with a celebration of her family’s love.


Welcome to the Cypher
Written by Khodi Dill
Illustrated by Awuradwoa Afful
Annick Press, 2021
ISBN 978-1-7732-1563-1
IL: Ages 4-7 RL: Grades 1–2

Starting with beatboxes and fingersnaps, an exuberant narrator introduces kids in his community to the powerful possibilities of rap, from turning “a simple phrase/into imagery that soars” to proclaiming, “this is a voice that represents me!” As Khodi Dill’s rhymes heat up, the diverse crew of kids—illustrated in Awuradwoa Afful’s bold, energetic style—gain self-confidence and a sense of freedom in this wonderful picture book debut that is perfect for reading aloud. 


Junior & Intermediate Fiction

Beatrice and Croc Harry
Written by Lawrence Hill
HarperCollins Publishers, 2022
ISBN 978-1-44346-336-2
IL: Ages 9-13 RL: Grades 4-8

Beatrice, a young girl of uncertain age, wakes up all alone in a tree house in the forest. How did she arrive in this cozy dwelling, stocked carefully with bookshelves and oatmeal accoutrements? And who has been leaving a trail of clues, composed in delicate purple handwriting? So begins the adventure of a brave and resilient Black girl’s search for identity and healing in this middle-grade debut.


Metatron’s Children
Written by Chy Ryan Spain
Illustrated by Sydney Kuhne
Flamingo Rampant, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-9991-5627-5
IL: Ages 8-12 RL: Grades 4-5

Meet Yren: a 12-year-old Black, non-binary kid growing up in the safety of The Village during the time After the Fall. Yren never wanted to be special, but the Universe had other plans. Together with their sibling Augi, Yren navigates the development of their unusual extra-sensory abilities and their feelings of grief and guilt following a tragic accident that takes their parents. Exploring these strange and exciting new powers will take Yren outside the safety of the life they’ve known and into a perilous adventure.


Written by Zetta Elliott and Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2022
ISBN 978-1-2508-6651-6
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 5-6

Punk rock-loving JJ Pankowski can’t seem to fit in at his new school in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, as one of the only white kids. Pie Velez, a math and history geek by day and graffiti artist by night, is eager to follow in his idol, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s, footsteps. The boys stumble into an unlikely friendship, swapping notes on their love of music and art, which sees them through a difficult semester at school and at home. But a run-in with the cops threatens to unravel it all.


Young Adult Fiction

Written by Andre Fenton
Nimbus Publishing, 2020
ISBN 978-1-77108-892-3
IL: Ages 12-15 RL: Grades 7-8

Returning to her childhood home, Anna, once known as Annaka, faces the death of her beloved Grampy and memories from her younger self. With more questions than answers, Anna learns the danger of dwelling in the past—especially when she’s confronted with some uncomfortable truths. This bittersweet homecoming forces Anna to reconcile who she was with who she is becoming.


The Bones of Ruin
Written by Sarah Raughley
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2021
ISBN 978-1-5344-5356-2
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 9-10

As an African tightrope dancer in Victorian London, Iris is used to being strange. She is certainly an unusual sight for leering British audiences always eager for the spectacle of colonial curiosity. But Iris also has a secret that even “strange” doesn’t capture…​ She cannot die.


A House Unsettled
Written by Trynne Delaney
Annick Press, 2022
ISBN 978-1-7732-1695-9
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 9-10

With her dad’s incarceration, escalating fights with her mom, and an overbearing stepdad she’s not sure she can trust, Asha is desperate for the fresh start promised by a move to the country. Her great aunt Aggie’s crumbling, pest-ridden house isn’t exactly what she had in mind, but the immediate connection she makes with her new neighbour Cole seems like a good sign. Soon, though, Asha’s optimism is shadowed by strange and disturbing occurrences within the old house’s walls: footsteps stalking the halls; a persistent chill; cold hands around her neck in the middle of the night…


Until We Break
Written by Matthew Dawkins
Wattpad Books, 2022
ISBN 978-1-9893-6587-8
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 9-10

As the only Black student at her ballet academy, Naomi Morgan knows her feelings of isolation and artistic sacrifice are the price she has to pay in order to win the Youth American Grand Prix, the country’s most prestigious dance competition. Winning means access to a spot in a top ballet school and, ultimately, a place with the New York City Ballet. Nothing else matters.



Amazing Black Atlantic Canadians:
Inspiring Stories of Courage and Achievement
Written by Lindsay Ruck
Illustrated by James Bentley
Nimbus Publishing, 2021
ISBN 978-1-7710-8917-3
IL: Ages 8–12 RL: Grades 3-4

This book features over 50 amazing Black Canadians from the Atlantic provinces, sharing their incredible stories and accomplishments both past and present: from boxer George Dixon, inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1955; to Viola Desmond, who inspired many by challenging racist policies all the way to the Supreme Court; and Donald Oliver, the first Black Nova Scotian senator.


Black Women Who Dared
Written and illustrated by Naomi M. Moyer
Second Story Press, 2018
ISBN 978-1-7726-0071-1
IL: Ages 10 and up RL: Grades 5-6

Artist Naomi M. Moyer presents powerful biographical portraits of 10 black women and women’s collectives who were committed to uplifting their communities. Celebrate these remarkable women— anti-slavery activists, businesswomen, organizers who promoted healthcare, and educators who taught literacy and scholarship in Black neighbourhoods—and the profound impacts they’ve had. These are inspiring and indomitable Black women whose stories need to be told


Chasing Bats and Tracing Rats:
Urban Ecology, Community Science, and How We Share Our Cities
Written by Cylita Guy
Illustrated by Cornelia Li
Annick Press, 2021
ISBN 978-1-7732-1539-6
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 4-5

What can city bees tell us about climate change? How are we changing coyote behaviour? And what the heck is a science bike? Featuring the work of a diverse group of 11scientists—herself included!—Dr. Cylita Guy shows how studying urban wildlife can help us make cities around the world healthier for all of their inhabitants. In the process, Guy reveals how social injustices like racism can affect not only how scientists study city wildlife, but also where urban critters are likelier to thrive.


Experts’ Picks

Bookseller’s Picks

Canada’s independent booksellers share their recommendations for kids and teens. Find an independent bookseller here.

Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS:

Mi’kmaw Moons: The Seasons in Mi’kma’ki
Written by Cathy Leblanc and David Chapman
Illustrated by Loretta Gould
Formac Publishing, 2022
ISBN 978-1-4595-0703-6
IL: Ages 7–11 RL: Grades 2-3

In a book that is both visually stunning and thoroughly captivating, the authors and illustrator of Mi’kmaw Moons provide a wealth of information and insight into Mi’kmaw history and culture. Written as a set of stories in which an aunt shares with her niece about each of the lunar months and the seasons of the year, this book describes how the months were named, traditions that are associated with each month and season of the year, and other related facts about the natural world. It also introduces readers to the concept of “two-eyed seeing.” The book is beautifully designed and magnificently illustrated, and it highlights both the significance of storytelling in Mi’kmaw culture and their close ties to nature. Loretta Gould’s artwork is vibrant, bold, and filled with colour and warmth. The stylized images are luminous and uncluttered, the perfect complement to the stories and information herein. It is a truly beautiful book for readers of all ages.


—Lisa Doucet, Co-manager

Woozles Children’s Bookstore: 6013 Shirley St, Halifax, NS B3H 2M9 woozles.com

Librarian’s Picks

Canadian librarians share their recommendations for kids and teens.

P.S. Tell No One
Written by Vikki VanSickle
Illustrated by Holly Allerellie 
Scholastic Canada, 2023
ISBN 978-1-4431-9401-3
IL: Ages 9-14 RL: Grades 4-5

When four seventh graders have their phones confiscated in class, they come up with another stealth mode of communication. Kicking it old school, the pals write to each other in a pass-around diary. Within the safety of their secret pages, the girls joke around, comfortably share true feelings, unabashedly ask lots of questions, and get knowledgeable answers. The straight-talking, free-flowing discussions in the PAD cover all the bases: crushes, periods, body image, consent, and much more. Designed like a diary, doodles and comments adorn the margins (including what just could be the greatest of all-time sketch of the female reproductive system). With refreshing candor, quick-witted quips, and solid information, the author has created a support network every tween needs. Vikki VanSickle really is the Judy Blume of Canadian children’s lit today. 


—Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library

See you in March for our next issue!