News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
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.
The Prix TD and the Prix Harry Black will be awarded in Montreal on November 7.
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. The 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 next Canadian Children’s Book Week touring program will run from Saturday, May 2 to Saturday, May 9, 2020. Up to 15 Canadian children’s authors, illustrator and storytellers will be visiting schools, libraries, community centres and bookstores across Canada throughout the week. Apply today!
Writers Wanted: Seeking Next Great Middle Grade or YA Book.
Trap Door Books, an imprint of Nevermore Press, publishes books for middle grade and YA readers. Their aim is simple: to publish high quality writing by strong storytellers, stories that need to be told. They are seeking writing that provides insight into the human condition of Atlantic Canadians, specifically, and into the universal condition of the struggle of what it means to be a person. For submission guidelines, please head to their website.
Governor General’s Literary Awards Winners Announced
The winners of the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Awards were announced in Ottawa on October 29th. The winners in the youth category were:
Stand on the Sky by Erin Bow won the Young People’s Literature – Text (English-language)
Small in the City by Sydney Smith won the Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books (English-language)
L’albatros et la mésange by Dominique Demers won the Young People’s Literature – Text (French-language)
Jack et le temps perdu by Stéphanie Lapointe and Delphie Côté-Lacroix won the Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books (French-language)
My Heart Fills With Happiness is this year’s TD Grade One Book Giveaway title
Every fall we give every grade one 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 one teacher? Download our free activities and downloads here.
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 Sheila Barry Best Canadian Picturebook of the Year Award has been established by the Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable (VCLR)
From VCLR: “The late Sheila Barry was a highly regarded publisher at Groundwood Books and a beloved editor to all who worked with her. Her legacy includes many wonderful award-winning books for children. The new Sheila Barry Best Canadian Picturebook of the Year Award is a fitting and well-deserved tribute to her. She would be pleased.” Learn more here.
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November Reading List: Our Favourite Fantasy Reads
Our reading list this month features books full fantastical worlds and creatures. These books can be read in the classroom, in libraries or at home.
Written and illustrated by Ashley Spires
Tundra Books, 2019
IL: Ages 3-7 RL: Grades 2-3
Esther the fairy doesn’t believe in magic. But fairies are all about magic, despite Esther’s best efforts to reveal the science of their world. No matter how she and her bird, Albert, explain that rainbows are refracted light rather than a path to gold, or that mist is water evaporating rather than an evil omen, or the importance of the scientific method, her fairymates would rather just do magic. So when the other fairies’ solution to helping a dying tree is to do a mystical moonlight dance, Esther decides to take it upon herself to resuscitate the tree . . . with the scientific method.
If I Had a Gryphon
Written by Vikki VanSickle
Illustrated by Cale Atkinson
Tundra Books, 2016
IL: Ages 2-6 RL: Grades 2-3
Sam’s new pet hamster mostly just eats and sleeps and hides. Inspired by her book of mythological creatures, Sam imagines a more exciting pet. But she soon realizes that gryphons need to fly, unicorns are shy, hippogriffs are scary and a dragon breathes fire. Maybe her hamster really is the best pet for her. A nice safe pet… right?
The Night Gardener
Written and illustrated by Eric Fan and Terry Fan
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 2-3
One day, William discovers that the tree outside his window has been sculpted into a wise owl. In the following days, more topiaries appear, and each one is more beautiful than the last. Soon, Grimloch Lane is full of colour and life. And though the mysterious night gardener disappears as suddenly as he appeared, William — and his town — are changed forever.
The Tallest Tree House
Written and illustrated by Elly MacKay
Running Kids Press, 2019
IL: Ages 4-8 RL: Grades 2-3
Mip and Pip are two fairies who live in a beautiful forest near a waterfall. One day, Mip has a brilliant idea to build a tree house and decides to make it into a contest: whoever can build the tallest tree house the fastest wins! Pip, who is much more thoughtful and a planner, reads about architecture and sketches out blueprints while Mip, the speedster, is already halfway done constructing her house. But when a powerful gust of wind threatens Mip’s tree house and Pip’s safety, the two friends must learn to appreciate each other’s talents to save the day-and to build the tallest tree house in the forest.
Written and illustrated by Cale Atkinson
Tundra Books, 2019
IL: Ages 3-7 RL: Grades 1-2
Top professors working in the field of Unicorn Science have come together for the first time to create this comprehensive guide to the unicorn: Dr. Glitter Pants, Grand Unistorian; Dr. Sprinkle Steed, Doctor of Magic; Dr. Star Hoof, Rainbowmetrics Specialist; and Dr. Sugar Beard, Certified Hornologist. These highly trained scientists will reveal all of the secrets you’ve been dying to find out: What is a unicorn’s horn made of? Why do I never see unicorns? What do unicorns like to eat? And what do unicorn homes look like?
Storyline and illustrations by Thao Lam
Owlkids Books, 2018
IL: Ages 4-7 RL: n/a
This exquisitely illustrated, wordless picture book tells the story of a young girl who is too shy to say hello to the kids outside her new house. So, she picks at the old wallpaper in her room — revealing an entry way to a fantastic imaginary adventure world. When she comes back to reality, the girl finds the courage to approach the other kids.
The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes (The Adventurer’s Guide, Book 1)
Written by Wade Albert White
Illustrated by Mariano Epelbaum
Little, Brown and Company, 2016
IL: Ages 8-13 RL: Grades 5-6
Anne and her best friend, Penelope, are finally leaving Saint Lupin’s Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children. Unexpectedly, a twist of fate leads to Anne being charged with an epic quest. Now Anne, Penelope and questing partner Hiro must solve perplexing riddles, travel to strange places, defeat devious foes and endure surprising plot twists. Readers will cheer on the courageous companions as they face seemingly insurmountable odds on their journey.
Written by Wendy Orr
Pajama Press, 2017
IL: Ages 10-14 RL: Grades 5-6
In this mythological portrayal of the Bronze Age Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, subject nations are forced to send a boy and a girl each year to dance with bulls in the god-king’s bloody ceremonies. For Aissa — scarred, silent and rejected — this may be her only chance to escape, so she seizes the opportunity… daring to fight for her own worth.
Dragons in a Bag (Dragons in a Bag, Book 1)
Written by Zetta Elliott
Illustrated by Geneva B
Random House Children’s Books, 2018
IL: Ages 8-10 RL: Grades 3-4
When Jaxon is sent to spend the day with a mean old lady called Ma, he finds out she’s a witch! Now Ma needs his help delivering baby dragons from Brooklyn to a magical realm where they’ll be safe. There are only two rules: Don’t let them out of the bag and don’t feed them anything sweet! Is Jaxon up to the task?
A Pocket Full of Murder
Written by R.J. Anderson
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015
IL: Ages 10-12 RL: Grades 5-6
In the city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic, while the poor can barely afford the spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but also brave and loyal — and her father has been wrongfully arrested for murder. Quiz, the eccentric, eye patch–wearing street boy can’t resist a good mystery. Together they set out to solve the magical murder and save Isaveth’s Papa from execution.
Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard
(The Continuing Adventures of Peter Nimble)
Written by Jonathan Auxier
Puffin Canada, 2016
IL: Ages 10-13 RL: Grades 5-6
Two years ago, Peter Nimble and Sir Tode rescued the kingdom of HazelPort. Now they have been summoned for a new mission: find Sophie Quire — 12-year-old bookmender and Storyguard. Sophie repairs old books and also rescues storybooks from Inquisitor Prigg’s pyres, but when Peter and Sir Tode appear with a mysterious book, she finds herself pulled into an adventure beyond anything she has ever read.
Written by Lena Coakley
Illustrated by Jaime Zollars
HarperCollins Publishers, 2018
IL: Ages 8-12 RL: Grades 3-4
The Queen of the Fairies has gone away, leaving the mischievous woodland fairy, Nix, to protect the forest from its most dangerous enemies — peoples. Nix’s wicked magical skills are put to the test when a determined, cottage-dwelling invader refuses to leave. And it becomes clear that this invader — and this sprite — may not be all they seem to be.
Another Castle: Grimoire
Written by Andrew Wheeler
Illustrated by Paulina Ganucheau
Oni Press, 2017
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 7-8
Princess Misty of Beldora is captured by Lord Badlug, the ruler of Grimoire, who intends to marry her and conquer Beldora. Together with Grimoire’s long-suffering citizens and a bumbling prince, Misty must protect her kingdom and free both realms from Badlug’s tyrannical rule. Misty is determined not to be another damsel in distress… she is going to be the hero of this story!
Written by Kelley Armstrong
IL: Ages 13 and up RL: Grades 8-9
Strange things are happening in Maya’s tiny Vancouver Island town. First, her friend Serena, the captain of the swim team, drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. Then, one year later, mountain lions are spotted rather frequently around Maya’s home—and her reactions to them are somewhat . . . unexpected. Her best friend, Daniel, has also been experiencing unexplainable premonitions about certain people and situations. It doesn’t help that the new bad boy in town, Rafe, has a dangerous secret, and he’s interested in one special part of Maya’s anatomy — her paw-print birthmark.
The Last Namsara (Iskari, Book 1)
Written by Kristen Ciccarelli
IL: Ages 13 and up RL: Grades 8-9
Asha is the Iskari — the death-bringer. She is a skilled dragon-slayer, luring dragons by telling secret stories. Asha wants to escape both her tragic past and her impending marriage to a cruel, controlling commandant. When she is offered a chance for freedom in exchange for killing the most dangerous dragon in Firgaard, she takes it. Asha’s hunt, however, uncovers terrible truths about her past.
The Light Between Worlds
Written by Laura E. Weymouth
IL: Ages 13 and up RL: Grades 8-9
Cowering in a bomb shelter, 11-year-old Evelyn wishes desperately to be “anywhere but here.” Her wish granted, she and her siblings find themselves in a beautiful kingdom called the Woodlands. There they live for years before being returned to 1944 London, as if no time had passed. Evelyn, a Woodlander at heart, has never stopped trying to walk between worlds. Can she find her way home?
Rebel of the Sands
Written by Alwyn Hamilton
IL: Ages 12 and up RL: Grades 7-8
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumour has it that djinn still perform magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned or female — Amani Al’Hiza is all three. Desperate to escape Dustwalk, she throws in her lot with Jin, a foreign fugitive, but she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse.
A Thousand Nights
Written by E.K. Johnston
IL: Ages 14 and up RL: Grades 9-10
Lo-Melkhiin killed 300 girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. He wants the loveliest girl — her sister — but she takes her sister’s place, sure that death will follow. But each night, Lo-Melkhiin listens to her stories and she continues to live. With each tale she spins, her power grows. She dreams of more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can end the rule of a monster.
Kelley Armstrong is the author of the Rockton crime thrillers and A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying middle-grade fantasy series. Past works include Otherworld urban fantasy series, the Darkest Powers & Darkness Rising teen paranormal trilogies, the Age of Legends fantasy YA series and the Nadia Stafford crime trilogy. Armstrong lives in Ontario with her family.
First, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get your start as an author? What is your writing process like?
I’ve been writing short stories all my life but didn’t start writing novels until my twenties. My first book was published in 2001, and I’ve been a full-time novelist ever since. As for my process, I write a very fast and rough first draft, which then takes me just as long (if not longer!) to edit.
Did you always know that you wanted to write paranormal and fantasy stories?
While I grew up reading everything I could get my hands-on, my favourites were always mystery and fantasy. So it’s not surprising that I got my start with paranormal fiction! I’m a folklore and mythology geek, and I love any opportunity to include those in my fiction.
We love A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying and we’re so happy it’s going to be a series! Where did your inspiration for this story come from?
A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying actually started life as a young adult novel. I wanted to put a different spin on princess and monster-hunting stories by combining the two. I spent about three years rewriting the first 5000 words, returning to it every six months or so. I love the concept, but something about it wasn’t working. One day I had the epiphany that it was a middle-grade story instead. I reinvented the main characters as 12-year-olds and rewrote those opening scenes from scratch. Then I just kept writing.
You have so many amazing books for teens, adults and middle grade readers. How do you keep up such a pace of writing?
When my first book was published, we had an eight-year-old daughter and two sons under the age of two. That meant I had to learn to write a novel a year with very little writing time. Once the boys started school, I added a young adult book each year. Now that they’re all over 18, I have time to write just about anything I want!
What projects are you working on now? Can you tell us about any upcoming books?
Next year I have a couple of adult releases, a standalone thriller and a new book in my ongoing mystery series. For fantasy, I have the next middle-grade, called The Gryphon’s Lair, coming out in June.
Our new podcast is all about books for kids! In our first episode, the CCBC sat down with Heather Smith, winner of the 2019 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award! We talked about the spark of a story, drag queens, the writing process and more!
Brothers Eric and Terry Fan received their formal art training at OCAD University. Their work is a blend of traditional and contemporary techniques, using ink or graphite mixed with digital. The Night Gardener was their widely acclaimed debut picture book, which received the Dilys Evans Founder’s Award from the Society of Illustrators. In 2017 they were awarded a Sendak Fellowship, and their second book Ocean Meets Sky was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Kate Greenaway Medal. They both live in Toronto. You can see more of their work at: thefanbrothers.com
Tell us a little about yourselves. How did you get your start as illustrators and storytellers?
Both of us went to OCAD University, which is an art and design school in Toronto. After graduation we continued to pursue art in our spare time but both of us had full-time jobs in non-art related fields. It wasn’t until much later that we started selling our artwork online, through various sites like Threadless, Society6 and Redbubble.
Our agent, Kirsten Hall, discovered our work online and approached us about representation. She had just started her own agency, Catbird, with a focus on picture book illustrators. She asked us if we had any ideas for picture books that she could pitch, and we remembered an old illustration we had collaborated on earlier called The Night Gardener. We always felt there might be a story in it, so we went ahead and developed a pitch around that one image and did some sample illustrations, which Kirsten sent to Simon & Schuster. Thankfully, they loved it, and that turned out to be our first picture book.
What is like collaborating together as artists and brothers on your projects?
For us it comes pretty naturally. We’ve always had our solo work but we’ve also collaborated on stuff for as long as we can remember. Even when we were very young kids we collaborated on a story about dinosaurs called Many Years Ago. It was drawn in crayon and stapled together, and our mom helped us write out the story. Incredibly we still have the book to this day. As adults the process isn’t really very different; both of us contribute to the writing and illustrating. It’s a bit like being in a band where different musicians contribute to one sound, and each bring something a little different to the final song.
We love your whimsical and imaginative art! Where do your ideas come from?
Thank you! Inspiration is a funny thing. Ideas probably come from the substratum of memory and experience that you’ve built up over your life. To some extent you always hope they will just arrive, fully formed, to your conscious mind, and sometimes that’s exactly what happens. Other times it’s a more arduous task of mining those ideas from your subconscious. The worst thing for writer’s block, or any kind of artistic block, is to be paralyzed. It’s better to just start working on a bad idea rather than do nothing, because within that process new connections are made and sometimes you’ll get the butterfly emerging from the caterpillar.
When writing your own stories, like Ocean Meets Sky and The Night Gardener, does the art or the words come first?
As mentioned before, The Night Gardener started as a stand-alone image, and the same was true of our next book Ocean Meets Sky. I guess as visual artists we tend to conceptualize things in pictures more than words, so that tends to be our jumping off point for creating a story.
What is next for you? What projects are you working on now?
We’re just doing final art for a book with our younger brother Devin, who is also an artist and writer. It’s called The Barnabus Project and will be published by Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada in Fall 2020. After that, we have another book with Simon & Schuster for 2021. It hasn’t been announced yet so I’m not sure if we’re allowed to say anything about it at this point, but we’re very excited by both projects.
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: Small in the City, written & illustrated by Sydney Smith (Groundwood Books, 2019) Ages 4-8
In his first book as both author and illustrator, Sydney Smith tells a story, in words and images, that is simple and understated but packs a powerful emotional punch. There is a sweet melancholy to the text in which the young narrator give advice on how to navigate the urban landscape that he/she knows intimately, conveying both childlike innocence and quiet confidence. The illustrations are vivid, strikingly detailed and picture-perfect, while also dreamlike and indistinct, beautifully capturing the cold, wintry city streets and all the subtle elements of the narrator’s neighbourhood. The story, so simply told and beautifully rendered, is open-ended and resonates differently with each reader, but leaves a lasting impression on all. —Lisa Doucet, Co-manager
If your independent bookstore would like to participate in this feature, please contact us.
Canadian librarians share their recommendations for kids and teens.
The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster, by Cary Fagan (Tundra Books, 2019) Ages 10- 14
The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster by Cary Fagan is a striking artistic creation, in so many ways. Eighth-grader Hartley Staples is trying to keep it together after his older brother runs away from home. A welcome reprieve from all of his troubles comes in the form of handmade postcards with cryptic typewritten messages that he serendipitously finds around town. Hartley not only embarks on a coming-of-age journey, but also on a quest to collect the complete, numbered series and meet the mysterious artist. The pitch-perfect, first-person narration makes readers feel as if Hartley were whispering his secrets to them. In this gem of a novel, connections are discovered in unexpected places, and the full-colour, collage illustrations are sure to inspire more random acts of art.
— Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library
Boxitects, written and illustrated by Kim Smith (HarperCollins Publishers, 2019) Ages 4-7
Meg is a “Boxitect”, and loves building wonderful structures with cardboard boxes. She attends Maker School, a special school where the students pursue their chosen style of crafting. Meg is the only Boxitect and enjoys being the only one at her school. This all changes with the arrival of another Boxitect at the Maker School: Simone. This beautifully illustrated book examines childhood jealousy and strategies to cope. Meg and Simone’s rivalry is exemplified with their larger than life structures, and the conclusion is heartwarming and rewarding. This book carries home the message that working together is more fun than competing apart.
—Meghan Tinmouth, Collections Librarian–Youth, Hamilton Central Library
Zorgamazoo, written by Robert Paul Weston, illustrated by Victor Rivas (Razorbill, 2008) Ages 8-12
Katrina Katrell is a lonely young lady, left with an evil (and boring) guardian while her parents do other things. Katrina has a wild imagination and a lot of spunk, two things her guardian would like to be rid of forever, and will be, with the help of an evil doctor who offers to give Katrina a lobotomy. So Katrina runs away, and meets the mysterious creature she once saw in a subway tunnel, who turns out to be a Zorgle, named Morty. Morty, a very boring and unadventurous Zorgle, has been chosen by lottery to solve the mystery of what has happened to the Zorgles of Zorgamazoo, who have all disappeared. So Morty and Katrina set off to find the missing Zorgles, and find wild adventures involving space travel, giant scary monsters, and a very boring alien planet.
If you’re a serious reader of children’s books, the best description of this book is that if you crossed The Lorax with The Phantom Tollbooth and Matilda, the result might be something like Zorgamazoo!
—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.
Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2019) Ages 4-8
Once there was a little frog family who lived in a mushroom in the woods. Their quiet life is interrupted when the mother and father decide to give their daughter, Pokko, a drum. Soon, the only sound anyone can hear in their little mushroom house is the beating of Pokko’s drum. When Pokko goes on a walk, she is told to not be too loud, but soon she can’t help but bang on her drum, louder and louder as she walks.
This picture book is literally about playing to the beat to one’s own drum, and the joy and sense of community that can come from that. With deadpan humour and vivid illustrations, this is Matthew Forsythe’s first picture book that he has written and illustrated and is a charming story about family, music and frogs.
— Emma Hunter, CCBC Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Cells: An Owner’s Handbook by Carolyn Fisher (Beach Lane Books, 2019) Ages 6-8
As someone who studied biology in university, and whose favourite course was third-year histology, I was immediately drawn to this humorous early introduction to cells. In this non-fiction picture book by Carolyn Fisher, young readers are introduced to Ellie. At first, the reader may be under the impression that Ellie is a dog (based on the first illustration). However, they soon come to realize that Ellie is not a dog, but in fact is a skin cell that lives on the derrière of a Boston terrier.
From skin cells to nerve cells and blood cells to… yes, reproductive cells, young readers learn about these microscopic entities that make up our bodies. Did you know that every human being is made up of 37 trillion cells? Plus or minus a few trillion! The text includes short, concise descriptions of the small structures (known as organelles) that make up each cell. Kids will have fun trying to pronounce the names of structures like mitochondria and ribosomes. Luckily, Fisher provides the phonetic spelling to help them along. This book is ideal for budding scientists.
— Meghan Howe, CCBC Library Coordinator
Look for our December newsletter early next month, which will be all about our favourite books of 2019! Look forward to interviews with author Kyo Maclear and illustrator Isabelle Arsenault!