November 2018 Newsletter


News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
November Reading: National Novel Writing Month
Author Corner: Cherie Dimaline
Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction
Illustrator’s Studio: Ashley Spires
Booksellers’ Picks

News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends

Picture Books the Star at the 2018 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Awards

The winners of the CCBC Book Awards were announced at a event in Toronto on October 29th, sponsored by TD Bank Group. Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith, won the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, taking home a total of $50,000 thanks to the prize increase from TD Bank Group. Picture the Sky by Barbara Reid won the CBC Fan Choice Award, voted on by kids ages 5 to 12.  The winners of the French-language awards will be announced at an invitation-only gala event in Montreal on November 19, 2018.

Find more details and the full list of  winners here. Congratulations to all!

Applications for TD Book Week 2019 are Opening Soon!

TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is getting closer and closer! Thirty creators will be traveling throughout Canada from May 4-11, 2019, visiting children in 175 communities across the country. You can see who is touring here. On November 15, you’ll be able to see who is touring where and apply for them to visit your school, library or community centre.

The theme of the 2019 TD Book Week is Readers are Dreamers and this year’s poster will be illustrated by the talented Elly MacKay! Find out more about TD Book Week here.

The Winners for the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Awards

The winners for the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Awards were announced on October 30.

Young People’s Literature — Text (English)

  • Sweep by Jonathan Auxier (Puffin Canada)

Young People’s Literature — Illustrated Book (English)

  • They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood Books)

Young People’s Literature — Text (French)

  • Le chemin de la montagne by Marianne Dubuc (Comme des géants)

Young People’s Literature — Illustrated Book (French)

  • Ferdinand F., 81 ans, chenille by Mario Brassard and Jean-Luc Trudel (Soulières éditeur)

Find out more here.

2019 Forest of Reading® Nominated Titles Announced

Earlier this month the Ontario Library Association (OLA)  announced the English and French nominees for the 2019 Forest of Reading program, the largest recreational reading award program in Canada.


CANSCAIP Presents Packaging Your Imagination

This year’s Packaging Your Imagination features a fantastic line-up of sessions! Choose four sessions from the 12 offered, see memorable keynote speakers Deborah Ellis and Ruth Ohi, be a part of One-to-One evaluation meetings for your manuscript and enjoy a warm and welcoming day in the wonderful CANSCAIP community. The event is sold out, but you can still register for the online Packaging Your Imagination. The event will take place on Saturday November 10, 2018.

Winners Announced for the Sunburst Award and the Copper Cylinder Awards

The Sunburst Award Committee has announced the winners of the 2018 Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic in Adult, Young Adult, and Short Story categories.

The 2018 winner of the Sunburst Award for Young Adult Fiction is The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline.

The Sunburst Award Society also announced the winners of the seventh annual Copper Cylinder Award. The 2018 Copper Cylinder Young Adult Award is shared by two works, Scion of the Fox by S.M. Beiko, and Weave A Circle Round by Kari Maaren. Find out more here!

Finalists Announced for Science Book Awards

AAAS and Subaru have announced the finalists for the 2019 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books in the Children’s Science Picture Book category and Middle Grade Category. Canadian titles include The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs, by Kate Messner (Author) and Matthew Forsythe (Illustrator), Rewilding: Giving Nature a Second Chance, by Jane Drake and Ann Love and Trash Revolution: Breaking the Waste Cycle, by Erica Fyvie (Author) and Bill Slavin (Illustrator). Find out more about the middle grade award here and the children’s book award here.

Winners announced for 2018 Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature

The winners of the 2018 Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature have been announced. Each writer will receive $10,000.

The winner for the Children’s/Young Adult Category is Rare is Everywhere by Deborah Katz (Miss Bird Books)

Find out more here.

Speaking Our Truth by Monique Gray Smith wins the Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize

At the 15th annual Victoria Book Prize Gala, Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation by Monique Gray Smith won the Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize and was awarded $5,000.

The Victoria Book Prize Society establishes the policy and criteria for the prizes, appoints the juries, and administers the competitions.

Congratulations to Monique Gray Smith!

Whoopi Goldberg to Narrate The Most Magnificent Thing TV Short

The cast has been announced for The Most Magnificent Thing short film — Whoopi Goldberg narrating and Allison Pill as the mom!

Two other books by Kids Can Press are making their way to the small screen! P.U.R.S.T Agent Binky is based on the graphic novels by Ashley Spires and The Remarkable Mr. King is based on the series by Geneviève Côté.

Find out more about these upcoming shows here.

First Book Canada and Amazon Canada to deliver $100,000 in new, high quality books to children across the country for the holiday season

For every qualifying children’s book purchased on over the next two weeks, Amazon Canada will donate $1 to First Book Canada, up to $100,000.

To learn more and browse a selection of children’s books on that will directly contribute to the donation amount, visit

Get your copy of The Landing by John Ibbitson
978-1-5253-0025-7 $12.99 | Ages 12-14

Set in Depression-era Muskoka, this evocative and powerful Governor General’s Literary Award–winning novel follows a young musician’s awakening to the possibilities of a world beyond his borders.

The Landing is geared toward young adults, but just as easily belongs to the Canadian coming-of-age genre occupied by the likes of Alice Munro and Margaret Laurence.” — The Globe and Mail

Proceeds from this 10th Anniversary edition support the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

On sale now! Available in bookstores or through the CCBC’s online shop. Order through the CCBC and receive a FREE subscription to Canadian Children’s Book News and Best Books for Kids & Teens. Enter coupon code landing to take advantage of this limited time offer.

The Fall issue of Best Books for Kids and Teens Available November 6!

Whether you’re stocking a bookshelf in a classroom, library or at home, Best Books for Kids & Teens is your guide to the best new Canadian books, magazines, audio and video for children and teens.

Expert committees of educators, booksellers, school and public librarians from across Canada have handpicked the materials listed in this guide. 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.

Bonus feature! Expert tips for choosing the best books for young readers.

Pre-order your copy today!

Mark your calendar for the Osborne Collection’s next fall lecture
Thursday, November 15, 2018
The 31st Helen E. Stubbs Memorial Lecture
Jan Thornhill: On Capturing Children’s Ecological Imagination

Find out more here!

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

Seeds of a Story: Kids’ Book Nominees Tell All

Finalists for 2018 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature Announced

5 Reasons We Love Libraries

Tundra Illustrator Studio: Kelly Hill

What are we teaching boys when we discourage them from reading books about girls?

THE BOOK SHELF: Picture book translated into Mi’kmaw to help kids learn traditional language

Can Diverse Books Save Us? In a divided world, librarians are on a mission

13 children’s books for sports lovers of all ages

Peterborough’s Kathryn Durst illustrating Paul McCartney’s new children’s book

#IndigenousReads by Indigenous Writers: A Children’s Reading List

Why Barbara Reid made the background the star of Picture the Sky

Toronto ‘book bank’ looks to invest in young readers

How East Coast mining culture inspired Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith’s beautiful picture book

Author Kallie George introduces Anne to the next generation of young readers

Students in Montreal discuss what reconciliation looks like with Speaking Our Truth author Monique Gray Smith

The 5 books Barbara Reid would love to illustrate

Why Christopher Paul Curtis writes best from a place of fear

Mark it Read Shines a Light on Dyslexia in Canada

Woozles celebrates 40 years in business

Why I Wrote a Middle Grade Novel About a Child Without a Home by Susin Nielsen 

The lesson Wendy Orr wants to share with readers: ‘We’re all stronger than we think we are’

What’s Going On In Your Child’s Brain When You Read Them A Story?

Required reading: The books that students read in 28 countries around the world

Why ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and ‘Little Women’ Still Inspire Us Today

Bestselling YA writer Kevin Sands reveals the toughest literary rejection he ever received

What’s the one book all young Canadians should read? 12 teens share their picks

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November Reading List: National Novel Writing Month!

November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. Writers take on the daunting task of writing a manuscript in one month, making November the perfect time to foster a life of writing in children and teens. This month’s reading list is all about the world of writing, with books to be used in classrooms or libraries.

Picture Books

Any Questions?
Written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
Groundwood Books, 2014
ISBN 978-1-55498-382-7
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 2-3

Marie-Louise Gay’s new picture book is a whimsical exploration of the writing process. When she has a fictional encounter with some very curious children, they end up collaborating on a fantastical story within a story. Here is a world where kids can become part of the story and let their imaginations run wild… and maybe they will be inspired to create stories of their own.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

A Squiggly Story
Written by Andrew Larsen
Illustrated by Mike Lowery
Kids Can Press, 2016
ISBN 978-1-77138-016-4
IL: Ages 4-7 RL: Grades 2-3

A boy wants to write a story, just like his big sister. But, though he knows his letters, he doesn’t know many words. “Every story starts with a single word and every word starts with a single letter,” his sister says. So the boy tries. And to his delight, with just one letter and the power of his vivid imagination, an amazing story unfolds.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen
Written by Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Balzer + Bray, 2018
ISBN 978-0-06237-330-4
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 2-3

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is one of our greatest writers. But before that, she was just an ordinary girl. In fact, young Jane was a bit quiet and shy; if you had met her back then, you might not have noticed her at all. But she would have noticed you. Jane also loved to read. She devoured everything in her father’s massive library and before long, she began creating her own stories. In her time, the most popular books were grand adventures and romances, but Jane wanted to go her own way… and went on to invent an entirely new kind of novel.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein
Written by Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Júlia Sardà
Tundra Books, 2018
ISBN 978-1-77049-559-3
IL: Ages 8 and up RL: Grades 3

The inspiring story of the girl behind one of the greatest novels — and monsters — ever, perfectly timed for the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein. For fans for picture book biographies such as I Dissent or She Persisted. A riveting and atmospheric picture book about the young woman who wrote one of the greatest horror novels ever written and one of the first works of science fiction, Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is an exploration of the process of artistic inspiration that will galvanize readers and writers of all ages.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Junior & Intermediate Fiction

Clara Voyant
Written by Rachelle Delaney
Puffin Canada, 2018
ISBN 978-0-14-319853-6
IL: Ages 8-12  RL: Grade 5

Pragmatic Clara and her New-Agey mother have moved to Kensington Market, where her mom can “follow her bliss.” When Clara joins the school newspaper to sharpen her journalistic skills, she is relegated to the horoscopes. Worse, her horoscopes come true! But when a mystery unfolds at school, she proves herself as an investigative journalist… with mystical powers!

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

How To Get Awesome
Written by Nancy Wilcox Richards
Illustrated by Mathieu Benoit
Scholastic Canada, 2016
ISBN 978-1-4431-4821-4
IL: Ages 6-9 RL: Grade 3

Owen’s plans for Grade 3 include buying his dream skateboard, hanging with his best friend, Max, and walking his neighbour’s dog — not writing journal entries every week for a school assignment called Project Awesome. Owen hates writing. But things don’t go according to plan, and Owen turns to his journal entries as an outlet for some of his thoughts and feelings. Is it possible that Project Awesome isn’t so lame?

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Polly Diamond and the Magic Book
Written by Alice Kuipers
Illustrated by Diana Toledano
Chronicle Books, 2018
ISBN 978-1-4521-5232-5
IL: Ages 6-9 RL: Grades 2-3

Polly loves words. And she loves writing stories. So, when a magic book appears on her doorstep that can make everything she writes happen in real life, Polly is certain all of her dreams are about to come true. But she soon learns that what you write and what you mean are not always the same thing!

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius
Written by Stacey Matson
Illustrated by Simon Kwan
Scholastic Canada, 2014
ISBN 978-1-4431-3317-3
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 5-6

Arthur Bean, a soon-to-be-rich-and-famous author, has two goals for himself: to win the school writing contest and to win the heart of his secret crush, Kennedy. But his life has had some major twists and turns, and the recent loss of his mother definitely complicates things. Welcome to a year in the life of the irreverent and outrageous Arthur A. Bean.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


Young Adult Fiction

Fourteen-year-old Lucy Maud Montgomery dreams of going to college and becoming a writer. When she leaves PEI to live with her father and his new wife and daughter in Saskatchewan, her dream seems possible. Here Maud has another chance at love, as well as attending school… until Maud discovers her stepmother’s plans that threaten Maud’s future — and her happiness.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Written by Charlotte Gingras
Illustrated by Daniel Sylvestre
Translated by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou
Groundwood Books, 2018
ISBN 978-1-77306-099-6
IL: Ages 14 and up  RL: Grades 9-10

The kids at school call her “rag girl” because she hides under layers of oversized clothing, but she calls herself Ophelia. One night, Ophelia finds an abandoned warehouse and claims it for her own — a space to make her larger-than-life art. When she discovers that a classmate is also using the building, the two form an uneasy truce. This title is also available in French as Ophélie.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

The Pain Eater
Written by Beth Goobie
Second Story Press, 2016
ISBN 978-1-77260-020-9
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 9-10

Maddy Malone told no one about that night and what had been done to her. She’d wanted to tell, but then had come the shame and the intimidation from the boys who held her down and raped her. But when her English class is given a group novel-writing assignment, fact and fiction blur. Can Maddy take control of the story and reveal the truth?

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Worlds of Ink and Shadow
Written by Lena Coakley
HarperCollins Publishers, 2016
ISBN 978-1-44341-659-7
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 8-9

Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been inseparable. Their vivid imaginations let them escape from their strict upbringing, transporting them into their created worlds. But as Branwell descends into madness and the sisters feel their real lives slipping away, they must weigh the cost of their powerful imaginations, even as their characters refuse to let them go.

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers



Be a Writing Superstar
Written by Joel A. Sutherland
Illustrated by Patricia Storms
Scholastic Canada, 2010
ISBN 978-0-5459-8000-5
IL: Ages 9-12 RL: Grades 5-7

Be a Writing Superstar is an irreverent, encouraging writing guide for young readers, which covers a whole spectrum of topics. It succeeds in teaching them the nuts and bolts of the entire writing process — from brainstorming their early ideas and shaping them on paper, right through to hosting their own book launch! Yes, kids will be trading witty repartee and bon mots with their fellow scribes, as they get their literary game on!

Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

What Will I Write?
(My World)
Written by Bobbie Kalman
Crabtree Publishing, 2018
ISBN 978-0-7787-9608-4
IL: Ages 5-7  RL: Grade 1

Students love to write about things that interest them! This title explores fiction and non-fiction styles of writing, different text structures, dialogue, similes and metaphors and formulating questions. Children are encouraged to write poems, songs, stories, projects and simple books. They will also learn about the important parts of a book, such as front and back covers, title page, contents, glossary and index.

Amazon | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Teacher Resources

Marvelous Minilessons for Teaching Nonfiction Writing K–3
Written by Lori Jamison Rog
Pembroke Publishers, 2015
ISBN 978-1-55138-303-3
IL: Adult

This remarkable book shows that even our youngest writers can consider audience and purpose as they use non-fiction writing to document their ideas and share those ideas with others. A wealth of hands-on mini lessons offer strategies for writing informational, persuasive and procedural text. Teachers will find plenty of ideas for guiding young students to write about what they know and care about.

Amazon | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers

Marvelous Minilessons for Teaching Intermediate Writing Grades 3-8
Written by Lori Jamison Rog
Pembroke Publishers, 2018
ISBN 978-1-55138-329-3
IL: Adult

The minilessons in this practical book will help students craft their ideas more effectively, and encourage them to organize their thinking, solve problems, identify key ideas and reflect on different perspectives. Writing is important to help students communicate ideas to others, as well as document their own thoughts, and these lessons will help your students’ work shine a little brighter!

Amazon | Canadian Bookstores | Wholesalers


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Author’s Corner: Cherie Dimaline

Cherie Dimaline is a writer and editor from the Georgian Bay Métis Community in Ontario who has published four books of short stories, literary fiction and young adult fiction. Her latest book, The Marrow Thieves, won the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award, the prestigious Kirkus Prize for Young Readers and the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award. It was a finalist for the White Pine Award, One Book – One Brampton, the Trillium Prize and the Swartz Award and was a selection for CBC’s 2018 Canada Reads. The Marrow Thieves was also named a Book of Year on numerous lists including The National Public Radio, The School Library Journal, the New York Public Library, The Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire and the CBC, and is a national bestseller. Cherie currently lives in Toronto, Ontario where she coordinates the annual Indigenous Writers’ Gathering. She recently signed a four-book deal with Penguin Random House and writes for TV.

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

I have always wanted to write, since before I physically could write. I was privileged enough to grow up with story and as soon as I understood that you could trap a story in pages so that it could be returned to again and again, there was nothing else I wanted to do. That being said, I spent a lot of years working other jobs — magazine editor, governance consultant, museum curator, policy advisor. But in and around it all, I wrote.

My writing process is a mess, really. I get obsessed with an idea and then I am consumed with the need to say the right words in the right order that will impart that idea into the imaginations of others. I mostly write at night, but I’ll do it anywhere at any time. The next book started on the back of a barf bag while I was flying home to Toronto from Vancouver.

Congratulations on winning the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award! This definitely isn’t the first award you have won, after winning awards like the Kirkus Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award. Do you have any writing advice for aspiring authors out there? How about advice specifically for young Indigenous writers?

I am so excited by winning the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award. Every time there is a shortlist that I am lucky enough to be on, it takes me hours — sometimes days, before it really sinks in. It’s like Christmas Eve every time.

The best writing advice I’ve every received came down to two simple ideas: read voraciously; and never throw anything out.

For Indigenous emerging or aspiring writers, I would just reiterate that we are the People of Story. When we write from our own truth, from our worldview, from our community, therein lies the magic. We have so many incredible Indigenous writers out there right now publishing. Reach out, find a mentor, and keep moving towards your story.

Personally, The Marrow Thieves has been one of my favourite books in a while. What was your chief inspiration in writing it?

When I was young(er) the youth I was at the Friendship Centre with had the good fortune of spending time with an Inuk Elder who wanted to know why we were so mad; just who were we so mad at? We talked to him about Canadians and white people and colonization and attempted genocide. He responded that he thought we imagined that a ship full of warriors showing up on our shores, when in reality, because these people had killed off or severed ties with their medicine people, their teachers and their ancestors — the Pagans were being killed, women were being executed, and the Druids had disappeared. Europeans were tribal people and now they were lost. He explained that when a people lose these roots, these connections, they are a civilization of children. And so what we were dealing with was a boat full of kids.  He reminded us that when children are left without boundaries, they can be quite cruel trying to survive.

Years later I was in the Northwest Territories with a group of Indigenous women writers and we were talking about motherhood. My friend Kelly Benning, a Métis writer from northern Alberta, said, “Pregnancy is exhausting. It’s because the children we carry will do anything to survive. They literally leach the vitamins from your bones. They’re just the cutest little marrow thieves.”

This idea of what we do to keep going and how that has played out for us, Indigenous people already living in our post-apocalyptic world, stayed with me.

How do you think The Marrow Thieves fits into the continuum of truth and reconciliation?

As truth. It wasn’t difficult to write about Indigenous people continuing to dream even through the apocalypse because we have already survived an apocalypse and we continue to dream. We know this because even as the schools and assimilation attempts ravaged communities, our ancestors kept the language, the stories, the ceremonies, the teachings. They kept them for us, knowing that one day we would be here, in this time. We are our ancestors’ best dream. I don’t truly think that reconciliation is possible now — not with continuing systemic racism and the inaction of the government beyond words. But I am hopeful for the next generation. And I want to put every story I can out there that might inform these youth, that might provide them with some truth.

Do you have any activity suggestions or tips for teachers who would like to use The Marrow Thieves in the classroom?

The best thing I saw was when I was visiting a grade 9 classroom in Sudbury. They had used the journey in The Marrow Thieves to kick off a map exercise that layered current Indigenous communities with language groups and traditional territory- both pre-contact and now. This lead to conversations about how Indigenous knowledges (science, geology, story, conservation) are the best tools we have to live on this particular land. They brought in Indigenous speakers and knowledge holders as part of the curriculum.

The other thing that makes me more hopeful than I’ve ever been is teachers asking kids to write their own ‘Coming To’ stories. We are all responsible for our own creation stories. When that is true, we tell the things that are important to us, what makes us who we are and how we came to be here. Its not about gender roles or assigned identities; its about honouring the ways in which a person sees themselves in the world and in their own future, from a curated past of their own memory and feeling. I love that kids are being empowered to tell their own stories and set their own markers of success and goals.

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

The TV series for The Marrow Thieves will shortly be underway, so that will be a huge project for me. I am very cognizant that this is now a story that belongs to the community and I want to honour the ways in which it is valuable for them. And there is another book coming out next year with Random House. Its an adult literary fiction story about a Rogarou, resource extraction, tradition and an evangelical church. And right now I am writing the next YA book. There’s so much coming and I am excited and grateful for it everyday.

Find out more about Cherie on twitter.

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Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction


My guest this month for Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction is Michelle Barker, author of The House of One Thousand Eyes, a novel about life under the East German regime in Berlin after World War II. Listen as we explore the differences and commonalities of writing sci fi/fantasy and historical fiction, learn about the unimaginable tactics of the Stasi, and be inspired by Lena, a teen character who is thought to be simple minded but has more courage than most. I hope you will be as enthralled as I was.
Until next month, Happy Reading! —Amy

*Any beliefs expressed in this podcast do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

In 2014, Amy Mathers read and reviewed 365 YA books to raise funds to create the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award.

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Illustrator’s Studio: Ashley Spires

Ashley Spires is the author and illustrator of many books including the bestselling The Most Magnificent Thing and the Binky The Space Cat series. She thrives when working on far too many projects and consumes large quantities of tea and chocolate to make her deadlines. Ashley lives in Ladner, BC with her husband, her dog and far too many cats.

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

I was in art school for photography, having long ago decided that I was lousy at drawing, when I took a book making class. My instructor was an author/illustrator and it was the first time I realized that writing whimsical stories and drawing silly pictures could be a career. I worked on developing a small portfolio and sent it out to all the Canadian publishers accepting unsolicited queries. Thankfully someone took a chance on me, despite my lack of experience, and here we are!

We love your art style! Which artists have served as an inspiration for developing your approach to illustrating?

SO many! But I think the one illustrator that really inspired me (and still does) is David Roberts. His watercolour and line work made my head explode the first time I saw his books! To this day his illustrations and characters make me squeal with delight. I’m a sucker for incredible character design and I seem to be drawn to a lot of UK and European illustrators, like Alex T. Smith and Júlia Sardà.

Not only are you an amazing illustrator, you’re a writer as well! When you have an idea for a book, what comes first: the writing or the illustrating?

It really depends on the book. I’ve had several stories that developed from one little doodle in my sketchbook and I’ve had stories that started as a concept. One thing is always the same though, before I even write a draft I always do a character sketch. Seeing how a character will look on the page gets me revved up enough creatively to delve into their story.

What advice do you have for aspiring creators?

Always create from your voice and experience. It’s so easy to want to make a book because you think that’s what kids/publishers/teachers/the market wants to read. If it’s not true to your voice the audience will sniff it out. Plus, if you create things that are close to your heart you increase your chances of being satisfied with the results.

What advice would you give to teachers who want to use your books in their classrooms?

Oh boy, I wouldn’t dare to tell teachers how to do their already very difficult job! I suppose the one thing I’d encourage is to use my books as a tool to show the importance of making mistakes. My stories often deal with characters messing up because I mess up all the time! I struggle to forgive myself for not doing anything perfectly, and if my books can inspire even one child to forgive themselves for the same then it’s a win.

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

I’ve just finished a picture book about a Fairy Scientist, I’m writing a long format graphic novel and I’ll be illustrating a new picture book series for an author that I greatly admire. Oh, and I foster way too many kittens, but that probably doesn’t count as work, even though it takes up way too much of my time!

Find out more about Ashley Spiers and her work 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: Mustafa by Marie-Louise Gay (Groundwood Books, 2018), Ages 4-8

When Mustafa and his family travel to a faraway land which becomes their new home, things seem very different at first.  He goes to the park each day and sees flowers and birds and insects that are all so different from the ones he used to see in his old country.  And he sees a girl-with-a-cat who speaks to him in words he can’t understand.  With each passing day Mustafa finds himself feeling more and more invisible.  Until one day the girl-with-a-cat beckons to him: “come and follow me”.  Soon Mustafa knows that he really isn’t invisible after all.  This gentle, heartwarming story features Marie-Louise Gay’s distinct and delightful watercolour illustrations.  The loose-lined, sketchy images are filled with warmth and colour, and help capture Mustafa’s loneliness and uncertainty as he tries to adapt to his new home, as well as the joy of making a new friend.  A timely tale that is told in prose that is gentle and spare and lovely.  —Lisa Doucet, Co-manager

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

Happy Harbor Comics in Edmonton, AB: Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules by Tony Cliff (First Second, 2018),  Ages12 and up

Delilah Dirk is an adventurer who does it all, with a little help from her faithful and long-suffering companion Selim. In this third installment of her story, the continent hopping and dashing heroics continue with Delilah helping the pompous writer, Van Dessel, to solve an ages-old mystery. The power of words and the power of a sword are both strong themes as we journey along with Delilah and Selim. The incredible artwork alone is enough to draw you into this fun and fast-paced world, but it’s the Indiana Jones-esque adventure, quirky characters, and meaningful friendships that keep you wanting more. — Tania, Bookseller

Happy Harbor Comics: 10729 – 104 Avenue, Edmonton, AB T5J 3K1

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

Staff Pick

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers, adapted by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Geneviève Godbout (Houghton Mifflin, 2018), Ages 6-8

This picture book manages to do what I only hope the upcoming film sequel will accomplish — capture the magic of the original while also creating something unique and new. Geneviève Godbout is one of my favourite illustrators and her soft pastel drawings make this book an irresistible take on an old favourite. This picture book also captures moments from the original book that fans of the 1963 film will be unfamiliar with. — Emma Hunter, CCBC Marketing and Website Coordinator

Next Month

Look for our December newsletter early next month: we’re looking back on our favourite books of 2018.  Look forward to interviews with Joanne Schwartz and Geneviève Godbout.

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