News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
October Reading List: Fall into Reading
Author Corner: Danny Ramadan
Illustrator’s Studio: Ellie Arscott
News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Watch the English-language CCBC Book Awards Online!
All are invited to attend the 2020 CCBC Book Awards virtual ceremony, broadcasted live from the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto on Friday, October 30 from 6-7:30 EST, with a virtual bar held afterwards. Partnering with the Toronto International Festival of Authors, the winners of the English-language awards will be announced at the most-anticipated event in the world of Canadian books for young people. This year’s award ceremony will be hosted by Tony Kim, co-host of CBC Kids Studio K. Register to attend today!
Read the full list of nominees here.
Watch Finalists for the CCBC Book Awards as a Part of TIFA
Three panels are being held from October 27-29 as a part of Toronto International Festival of Authors, featuring finalists for the #CCBCBookAwards. These virtual field trips are perfect for students in the classroom or at home.
The Art of the Picture Book
October 27th, 10 AM EST
Featuring host Audrey Hudson, with Sydney Smith, Rachel Wada and Qin Leng.
Bridging the Gap: Writing for Children About True Topics
October 28th, 10 AM EST
Featuring host Brandon Mitchell, with Kyo Maclear, Serah-Marie McMahon and Tina Athaide.
Fiction as a Tool for Resilience Building
October 29th, 10 AM EST
Featuring host Larry Swartz, with Erin Bow, Eric Walters, Kathy Kacer and Natasha Deen.
2021 Forest of Reading® Nominated Titles Announced
The Ontario Library Association (OLA) has announced the English and French nominees for the 2021 Forest of Reading Awards, the largest recreational reading award program in Canada.
Bibliovideo to Release Telling Tales Episodes in New Partnership
For more than a decade, Telling Tales has celebrated a love of reading. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Telling Tales has gone virtual, creating 13 episodes of quality children’s programming that will engage and delight children from tots to teens.
Bibliovideo is pleased to partner with Telling Tales to release all 13 episodes, starting on October 14, 2020, and continuing twice weekly. Watch the videos here.
Bring the Outside in with Great Canadian Books about Biodiversity
We need nature and nature needs us. Studies show that kids and families who spend time outdoors are happier and healthier. And the better we understand our role in biodiversity — the jigsaw of life — the more likely we are to take action to protect our planet. Lucky for us, there are many wonderful books from Canadian creators that help children get to know more about the natural world and their place in it. With ClearWaterKids, we celebrated Science Literacy Week by promoting great books about biodiversity. Watch the video above and download our list of recommendationss here. Many thanks to the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council for making this project possible.
Apply to Take Part in Canadian Children’s Book Week 2021
Are you a Canadian creator who has written or illustrated at least two books for young people? Do you love talking about your books and sharing your love of reading with young readers? Apply to take part in Canadian Children’s Book Week’s 2021 to virtually visit young people all across the country and celebrate books and stories.
Next year’s tour will take place from May 2 to May 8, 2021, and will allow young readers to connect with their favourite authors and illustrators. Apply today!
Call for Submissions for Best Books for Kids and Teens
The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) is now accepting submissions for the spring 2021 edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens (BBKT), the CCBC’s semi-annual selection guide to the best Canadian children’s books, magazines, audio and video. The deadline is October 16th; learn how to submit here.
The Rick Hansen Foundation School Program (RHFSP) is inspired by Rick’s belief in the power of youth and their ability to change the world. RHFSP raises awareness, challenges perceptions, and changes attitudes, through a variety of lessons and activities, empowering youth to take action on important issues.
RHFSP resources are designed for youth from K-12 and include age-appropriate lessons and interactive activities for every grade level. Free, bilingual, and connected to provincial curriculum, our resources are:
- Deliverable online or in the classroom
- Developed by educators, for educators
- Grounded in Universal Design for Learning and incorporate Differentiated Instruction Strategies
The Fall issue of Canadian Children’s Book News pays tribute to the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It includes a profile of Kathy Kacer, one of Canada’s most influential writers on the Holocaust and Jewish stories. Author Heather Camlot explores the emotional toll that writing and researching the Holocaust has on writers. There is also a thoughtful roundtable discussion with authors who have written about the Holocaust, as well as one special publisher who has made it her mission to showcase/elevate Jewish stories and voices. If you’re a teacher looking to introduce your students to the Holocaust, long-time educator Larry Swartz has written a piece about teaching the Holocaust using Canadian books. Our bookmark column features a selection of Holocaust-themed books for Kindergarten to Grade 12 which will enlighten young readers about a dark time in history. We also introduce you to Naseem Hrab, a writer with a gift for humour and emotions in our “Keep Your Eye On…” column.
Links We Love
Articles and videos of interest to educators and parents
October Reading List: Fall into Reading
This month’s reading list is all about the beauty of autumn, featuring Canadian books for young people of all ages.
Author’s Corner: Danny Ramadan
Danny Ramadan is a Syrian-Canadian author, public speaker and LGBTQ-refugees activist. His debut novel, The Clothesline Swing, won the Independent Publisher Book Award, The Canadian Authors Association’s award for Best Fiction, and was shortlisted for Evergreen Award, Sunburst Award and a Lambda Award. The novel is translated to French, German and Hebrew. His children’s book, Salma the Syrian Chef, was published in March 2020 to positive reviews. He is currently finalizing his next novel, The Foghorn Echoes.
Danny graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and lives in Vancouver with his husband, Matthew Ramadan.
First, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get your start as an author?
When I was twelve my father asked me in front of family members what I wanted to do when I grow up. I, quite proudly and without missing a beat, announced that I wanted to be an author. My father laughed, and all of my family members told the story for months to come amused by my limited understanding of what is considered good work and what’s a pipe-dream.
When I was nineteen, I published my short stories on an internet forum (remember those?) located in Egypt. An Egyptian publisher crossed paths with me online, and he published my first collection of short stories in Egypt, a country I hadn’t visit before then, in 2003.
I’m truly thankful this journey started there, and continued until today. With every new project I put out in the world, I wonder if this is the moment my career as an author comes to a disappointing end. Then, I am genuinely surprised people still want to read what I have to write.
Salma the Syrian Chef is your first book for young people. What inspired you to write this story?
My first writing gig back when I lived in Egypt was writing comics and short stories for children magazines, so I had that skill developed from back then. However, when I published The Clothesline Swing, I never imagined that I would be writing for children again.
The folks at Annick Press approached me with their interest to write a children’s book navigating the refugee experience. They gave me full range to do what I want with the story, and I took on the opportunity, not knowing how difficult it would be. I wanted to write a story that is digestible for young readers while also not shying away from the challenges faced by newcomers and refugees when they arrived into a new homeland. So, I sat there uninspired for a good month or two, not sure what to do with this story.
Then one morning, I decided to cook a Syrian breakfast item, called Foul Shami, for my husband and our close friends: that ended up becoming an adventure of sorts. Where to find all the speciality ingredients, who has olive oil to bring, and where in the world can one buy fresh fava beans. The collaborative morning of cooking became a highlight for all involved, and we shared a fantastic and yummy meal together while also sharing narratives about our own heritages and history. By the evening, the first draft of Salma the Syrian Chef was written.
What advice do you have to aspiring young writers who want to tell their own story?
I would say the advice that I have received and it truly changed my career: be kind to your writing. We as writers are emersed in literature. We tend to believe that we know what’s good and what’s not, and we see the tricks and tools other authors use to tell stories. When we sit down to write, we become this monster of a critic to our own writing, unable to see past our own words. Honestly, any words you write down in a document are words that you otherwise didn’t have. Any stream of consciousness you force yourself to pour into paper, is better than nothing at all. So, be kind to your own writing. Be kind to the words you put out there for yourself and accept your own limitations. No author ever published their first draft. We all re-write, edit and re-edit.
In Salma and the Syrian Chef, you honestly portray Salma’s discouragement and frustrations as a newcomer to Canada. Why did you think it was important to show both the challenges as well as the positive elements of the newcomer’s experience?
There is a misconception about the experiences of newcomers and refugees: this idea that a newcomer arrives to Canada, and suddenly the world is a much better place and everything is now paved with roses and opportunities.
As I experienced this first hand, newcomers face big challenges: language barriers, finding meaningful work, creating communities and feeling a sense of belonging to Canada. Not to mention, overcoming this narrative of the “Grateful Refugee” as if those who arrive here are not contributing equally to the society around them.
I thought the best way to showcase that is to provide the challenges on the page, but also to showcase our little Salma as a resilient, open, communicative and emotional child with an ability to navigate her new world with curious eyes and accepting ways.
What projects are you working on now? Can you tell us about any upcoming books?
I’m finalizing my next novel The Foghorn Echoes [working title], which navigates the themes of trauma, racism in the gay community, and the way we see ourselves through the eyes of others and through our own perspectives. The collection of short stories titled The Eight Gates of Damascus [working title] follows the lives of eight characters navigating their own troubles while willfully ignoring the impact of the civil war in Syria on their lives. The second novel is a Young Adult book, titled Son of the Silk Maker, which needs some more love from me in the coming months! Wish me luck!
Find out more about Danny at dannyramadan.com
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Illustrator’s Studio: Ellie Arscott
Ellie has been sharing her love of colour and paint with clients for over 20 years. Her first picture book, Night Walk written by Sara O’Leary and published by Groundwood Books, was released this fall. Her latest love is a personal project titled Girls Stand Tall. It is her way of helping girls maintain self esteem and a belief in their dreams of becoming whatever it is they wish. A graduate of Sheridan College’s Interpretive Illustration, Ellie is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP) and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC). Originally from Fenelon Falls, Ellie and her family call Toronto’s east end home.
First, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get your start as an illustrator?
I’ve always loved to draw. It’s my go to form of record keeping whether I’m travelling, thinking or capturing my kids growing up. I went to Sheridan College’s Interpretive Illustration program and really loved learning to tell stories through pictures, drawing comes a lot easier than writing my ideas down.
Illustrating picture books has been a long journey. I left to travel right after Sheridan and when I got back I started a career in painting scenic art for theatre companies including The National Ballet of Canada. I was attracted to the large scale of painting backdrops with it’s broad strokes and having to use my whole body to create the work. I still relish the opportunity when I get a chance to work on a show.
It wasn’t until I had my kids that I started to get back into illustrating. I was at home with them full time but I still needed to be creative. I found time to work in a way that was conducive with parenting and satisfying my need to paint. A friend of mine I went to Sheridan with, Peggy Collins, suggested that I attend a CANSCAIP event with her in Toronto and my world opened up to the possibility of pursuing getting published. I joined CANSCAIP, SCBWI and CCBC to learn about the industry and keep working on my portfolio. I’ve been attending workshops, working through different ideas and networking with many authors and illustrators who have been so supportive and encouraging along the way to stay confident and focused on getting my work out there.
Night Walk is your first picture book as an illustrator. What was it like working on your debut book?
I feel so lucky that Night Walk came to me because it felt like the story was telling a truth from my own life. Sara O’Leary’s writing is so beautiful and I could already see images floating through my mind the first time I read it. I often walk with my kids in the evening and enjoy hearing about the different things they notice; if people are watching TV or cooking in the kitchen, the colours people choose to paint their rooms or how many cats there are in the window. It always feels like an adventure. This was the magic I wanted to capture in the book.
For Night Walk I really liked the idea of being able to pull the illustrations out of the book, accordion style so that you would have one long street scene. I remember reading a book similar to this when I was small and feeling like I was part of the illustration. Keeping the sidewalk at the same level in all the street scenes I felt accomplished that and it also gives that feeling of travelling along in the adventure with the characters.
Being my first time working on a book I was a little nervous because I didn’t have the parameters for how the process worked in real time. Michael Soloman and Nan Froman, from Groundwood Books, were so encouraging with me. They made me very comfortable when I showed them my sketches and were always open and patient when discussing ideas and working through changes. I feel very honoured to have them as my first art director and editor to work with in children’s publishing.
As an artist, where do you get your inspiration from?
I’m always buying new picture books or getting them out of the library. I really can’t stop myself! I also look on instagram at what other artists are doing. I get motivated and inspired seeing artists post new work, in-process and “happy accident” work. I love going to galleries and the [Osborne Collection] Lillian H. Smith library exhibits. I follow Danielle Krysa from The Jealous Curator and Maria Papova from Brain Pickings because of their storytelling, zest for all things interesting and amazing attitude towards pursuing doing the things you love.
My kids, their stories and perspectives keep me open. The way the light plays through the trees or bounces off different surfaces. How ink moves on it’s own path on a wet piece of paper. A quote I read or hear at random sends my mind wandering. The possibilities of becoming inspired are endless.
Do you have any recommendations on how educators can use your book in the classroom?
Night Walk is perfect for the classroom. It offers a starting point to explore neighbourhoods, communities, family traditions and routines. There are several cross-curricular ways you can explore neighbourhoods and communities. Night Walk allows teachers and students to ask questions like: What are the different areas in my community? How are these areas laid out and what characteristics make them different from each other? What makes an area a park, shopping or community centre? Do people work, play or relax in these areas? You can even tie-in mapping and measurement activities with Night Walk. Mapping out your own community with non-standard units of measurement like footsteps, blocks or buildings is a great way to really get to know your neighbourhood and the people who live in it.
Worksheets for Night Walk are also available. One mapping worksheet lets a child visualize their route home through their neighbourhood. There is also a template for kids to make a 3D paper structure to represent their home or favourite place in their neighbourhood. All you need to do is print the templates and follow the instructions. You could even make several structures and create an entire 3D neighbourhood map if you get excited!
Night Walk also helps teachers and kids talk about bedtime routines. It gets questions started like: What does your bedtime routine look like? Is it different from your friends’ routines? Have you ever had trouble falling asleep? What helps you fall asleep? Do you sometimes go for walks?
There are so many more conversations that can begin with this book. I can’t wait to see all the creative ways teachers and librarians use it!
What projects are you working on now? Can you tell us about any upcoming books?
I’m unable to share any upcoming book titles with you at the moment but I can share a couple of personal projects that I’ve been working on. A portrait project called Girls Stand Tall focuses on girl’s self esteem. It’s about creating a space for girls to put their dreams out to the universe and see themselves as not alone. I have a goal of 200 Girls Stand Tall portraits which will be displayed together once complete and then each girls will receive their portrait as a keepsake. I’m currently working on my 124th portrait! You can find Girls Stand Tall on my website www.elliearscott.com, instagram and Facebook.
I’ve also been creating a book around the theme of losing someone you care about. It’s a hard topic to talk about with kids and having books that help start conversations around loss are immensely helpful. I lost my dad, my kid’s Papa, to cancer this summer. It was a rough experience for all of us but I learned so much from my kids in those tough moments. They proved to me over and over how resilient kids are, and that it’s ok to just be in my emotions. I thank them for that. With this lived experience I would like to add my voice to the great books already out there dealing with loss.
Find out more about Ellie at elliearscott.com
Canada’s independent booksellers share their recommendations for kids and teens. To find a local independent bookstore, visit findabookstore.ca.
With spare, evocative prose, Jordan Scott poignantly conveys a small boy’s deep agony as he “wake(s) up each morning with the sounds of words all around me. And I can’t say them all.” The words Scott uses to describe this child’s heartache are elegant and quietly beautiful, painting a heartbreaking picture of a boy who tries to stay quiet and hidden because the words get mangled in his mouth and stick in his throat, and he is so painfully aware of how different he is from the other children. But when the boy’s father, whose love for his son is so present on every page, takes him to the river and pulls him close and helps him to see that “you talk like the river”, that changes everything. Every single detail of this book is exquisite: each carefully-chosen word and every eloquent illustration. Multi-award winning illustrator Sydney Smith’s images capture the boy’s sadness and shame, his frustration, in images that are blurry and indistinct and fuzzy close-ups of his eyes and the sad set of his shoulders as he braces himself to face another day. But he also magnificently depicts the boy’s inner transformation as he comes to realize that he is not broken: he is like the river! Luminous, light-dappled, churning and powerful…his magnificent images speak volumes about both boy and river. A stunning and deeply moving collaboration that will touch readers of all ages.
—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.
Based on author Jordan Scott’s personal experiences, this lyrical picture book is about a boy whose words never come out the way he wants them to. Honest, first-person narration cuts to the heart. The child’s dread of being called upon to speak in class is palpable: “All those eyes watching/my lips/twist and twirl,/ all those mouths/giggling/and laughing.” After a “bad speech day”, his father takes him to a place where they can find quiet together. Sydney Smith’s dazzling, luminous watercolour illustrations show the boy wading in his river refuge. The shimmering waters bubble, churn and whirl, and a transformative, aha moment comes when the child realizes, “Even the river stutters. Like I do.” I Talk Like a River is an exceptionally poetic, reflective and eloquent work of art.
—Linda Ludke, Collections Management Librarian, London Public Library
If you are a librarian that would like to participate in this feature, please contact us.
Staff of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre recommend their favourite books for kids and teens.
Food nourishes us, but it also connects us. This story behind the making of one meal at a community kitchen is a colourful feast written and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. Based on the author’s experience in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, this book celebrates community and what we can accomplish together with a little help from nature and our neighbours. The illustrations are bright and rich, making you feel like you can smell the food and feel the warmth from the food through the pages. The story is sandwiched between two beautifully drawn recipes, perfect for budding chefs.
— Emma Hunter, CCBC Marketing & Communications Coordinator
Look for our November newsletter next month, which will be all about food and cooking!