September 17, 2020

Jo: An Adaptation of Little Women (Sort of)

Written and illustrated by Kathleen Gros
Quill Tree Books (HarperCollins)
272 pp.
Ages 8-13
September 2020
Everyone knows Louisa May Alcott’s story of Little Women, her classic novel about the March sisters set in the 1800s. There's the girls, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, and their mother whom they call Marmee, and their father who is away in the military. There is also their neighbour Mr. Laurence and his grandson Laurie, as well as a number of family and acquaintances who visit or become part of the March girls' world. As the author and illustrator Kathleen Gros tells us in her subtitle, this is an adaptation of Little Women, sort of, but it is more.
From Jo: An Adaptation of Little Women (Sort of) by Kathleen Gros
The story begins with thirteen-year-old Jo writing her blog about life with her family. Meg is the oldest and starting high school and tutoring a couple of younger children. The shy Beth is eleven years of age, musically-inclined, and has leukemia. The youngest is the self-centered Amy who loves to draw. Jo really wants to become a writer and, though she thinks she prefers creative writing, she joins the Newspaper Club where she meets Freddie Bhaer (another familiar name from the original Alcott story) who is the student editor. It is this relationship with Freddie that helps Jo identify as gay and come out to her family. 
From Jo: An Adaptation of Little Women (Sort of) by Kathleen Gros

As Jo develops her writing, continuing to entertain her family with her stories while finding her journalistic voice, the other March sisters face their own challenges. Beth, of course, has her medical issue which requires medication, tests and hospital visits but she also is struggling to learn to play the flute. Meg who is crushing on a boy and wondering if he likes her is also dealing with her tutees who are always on their devices. Young Amy is frustrated with her art teacher who wants to teach the class skills like perspective when Amy would just prefer to draw. With the help of Marmee, who works as a nurse at a children's hospital, and their father with whom they have occasional video chats, as well as a host of characters, the March girls come of age in a contemporary setting.

From Jo: An Adaptation of Little Women (Sort of) by Kathleen Gros

By modernizing the story of Little Women to include technology, LGBTQ+ characters, the all-important school milieu and more, Kathleen Gros has honoured the original but made it relevant to today's readers. Beth's scarlet fever would be easily treated by antibiotics today so leukemia, a cancer that has some forms more common to children, replaces it. Jo's original ink and paper writing is now done on computer and gets published online via blogging and in a school newspaper. Even how the Newspaper Club members introduce themselves and share what pronouns they would prefer used is exemplary of how the story is inclusive. This is Little Women but it is more real, relatable and germane for a 2020 audience. Moreover, by creating her story as a graphic novel, Kathleen Gros firmly lands Jo into the present-day, giving us colour and movement, encouraging readers to learn about the March sisters' stories in a version, sort of, that is accessible and visual. 

Much more than an adaptation of Little Women, Kathleen Gros's Jo is a modern and realistic coming-of-age story that broadens the original story and invites all readers to see themselves in it, and learn lessons about being kind and brave and being part of a family.

September 16, 2020

2020 Canadian Children's Book Centre Book Awards: Finalists announced

Yesterday, the Canadian Children's Book Centre, our nationally-renowned authority on all things related to youngCanLit, announced the finalists for the 2020 Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards. (See their website announcement here with pdf here and video of shortlists here.)

The eight major children's book awards, which will be awarded later this fall, include:
  • TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award ($50,000) Sponsored by TD Bank Group;
  • Le Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse ($50,000) Sponsored by TD Bank Group;
  • Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award ($20,000) Sponsored by A. Charles Baillie;
  • Norma Fleck Award For Canadian Children's Non-Fiction ($10,000) Sponsored by the Fleck Family Foundation;
  • Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People ($5,000) Sponsored by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Bilson Endowment Fund;
  • John Spray Mystery Award ($5,000) Sponsored by John Spray of Mantis Investigation Agency;
  • Amy Mathers Teen Book Award ($5,000) Sponsored by Amy Mathers' Marathon of Books; and
  • Le Prix Harry Black de l’album jeunesse ($5,000) Sponsored by Mary Macchiusi

Here are the short lists for each award category, as announced by the Canadian Children's Book Centre:

TD Canadian Children's Literature Award


Written and illustrated by Julie Flett
Greystone Kids

Broken Strings
Written by Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
Puffin Canada

It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way

Written by Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
Tundra Books
Small in the City
Written and illustrated by Sydney Smith
Groundwood Books
Reviewed here

Stand on the Sky
Written by Erin Bow
Scholastic Canada

Le Prix TD de littérature pour l'enfance et la jeunesse canadienne

Les étoiles

Written and illustrated by Jacques Goldstyn
Éditions de la Pastèque

Le grain de sable : Olivier Le Jeune, premier esclave au Canada

Written by Webster
Illustrated by ValMo
Éditions Septentrion

Mon ami Pierrot

Written by Annie Gravel
Illustrated by Enzo
Éditions Planète rebelle


Written by Amélie Dumoulin
Illustrated by Todd Stewart
Éditions Québec Amérique

Quand le vent souffle

Written and illustrated by Todd Stewart
Translated by Nadine Robert
Comme des géants

Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award


Written and illustrated by Julie Flett
Greystone Kids

King Mouse

Written by Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Dena Seiferling
Tundra Books

My Winter City

Written by James Gladstone
Illustrated by Gary Clement
Groundwood Books

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden

Written by Heather Smith
Illustrated by Rachel Wada
Orca Book Publishers

Small in the City

Written by Sydney Smith
Groundwood Books
Reviewed here

Norma Fleck Award For Canadian Children's Non-Fiction

Beastly Puzzles: A Brain-Boggling Animal Guessing Game

Written by Rachel Poliquin
Illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler
Kids Can Press
Reviewed here 

Cells: An Owner's Handbook

Written and illustrated by Carolyn Fisher
Beach Lane Books

Fairy Science
(Fairy Science, Book 1)
Written and illustrated by Ashley Spires
Tundra Books

Killer Style: How Fashion Has Injured, Maimed, & Murdered Through History

Written by Serah-Marie McMahon and Alison Matthews David
Illustrated by Gillian Wilson
Owlkids Books

Picking Up the Pieces: Residential School Memories and the Making of the Witness Blanket

Written by Carey Newman and Kirstie Hudson
Orca Book Publishers

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People 

Among the Fallen

Written by Virginia Frances Schwartz
Holiday House

Be My Love

Written by Kit Pearson
HarperTrophy Canada

The Big Dig

Written by Lisa Harrington
Nimbus Publishing

City on Strike

Written by Harriet Zaidman
Red Deer Press

Orange for the Sunsets

Written by Tina Athaide
Katherine Tegen Books

John Spray Mystery Award

The Athena Protocol
Written by Shamim Sarif
304 pp.
Ages 13+

Keep This to Yourself
Written by Tom Ryan
Albert Whitman & Co.
320 pp.
Ages 13+

The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane
Written by Julia Nobel
320 pp.
Ages 8-12
Reviewed here

Songs from the Deep
Written by Kelly Powell
Margaret McElderry
320 pp.
Ages 12+

The Starlight Claim
Written by Tim Wynne-Jones
240 pp.
Ages 13+
Reviewed here

Amy Mathers Teen Book Award

All Our Broken Pieces

Written by L.D. Crichton

The Candle and the Flame

Written by Nafiza Azad
Scholastic Press

In the Key of Nira Ghani

Written by Natasha Deen
Running Press Teens

Keep This to Yourself
Written by Tom Ryan
Albert Whitman & Company

Love from A to Z

Written by S.K. Ali
Salaam Reads


Prix Harry Black de l'album jeunesse

La case 144

Written by Nadine Poirier
Illustrated by Geneviève Després
Éditions D'eux

La corde à linge

Written and illustrated by Orbie
Éditions les 400 coups

Des couleurs sur la Grave

Written by Marie-Andrée Arsenault
Illustrated by Dominique Leroux
Éditions la Morue verte

Laurent, c'est moi!

Written by Stéphanie Deslauriers
Illustrated by Geneviève Després
Éditions Fonfon

Le poisson et l'oiseau

Written by Kim Thúy
Illustrated by Rogé
Éditions de la Bagnole

The winners of the English-language awards will be announced at a small, socially distanced event, co-hosted by the Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA). There will be a free live stream of the event available on the Canadian Children's Book Centre's YouTube channel, Bibliovideo, afterwards. Leading up to the event, the CCBC and TIFA will host free panel discussions with some of the nominated creators. More event information will be available at on September 22.

The French-language awards will be celebrated as a part of Salon du livre Montreal, hosted by Communication-Jeunesse, with a virtual event announcing winners of Prix TD and Prix Harry Black in mid-November.