April 12, 2024

Sydney Smith wins 2024 Hans Christian Andersen Award


On April 8, 2024 at the Bologna International Children's Book Fair, IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) announced the winners of the very prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award. This award, given biennially, to an international author and an illustrator of books for young people has never been awarded to a Canadian, until now. This year, alongside Austrian author Heinz Janisch, the award was given to Nova Scotia illustrator (and also author) Sydney Smith.
 
At CanLit for LittleCanadians, I have had the pleasure to review a great number of Sydney Smith's books, both those that he illustrated and those that he wrote and illustrated. They include:
 
Written by JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
2015
 
Written by Monica Kulling
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
2015
 
Written by JoEllen Bogart
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
2016 

 
Written by Esta Spalding
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Tundra
224 pp.
Ages 8-12
2016
 
Written by Joanne Schwartz
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Groundwood Books
52 pp.
Ages 5-9
2017 
 
Written by Kenneth Oppel
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
HarperCollins
256 pp.
Ages 8-12
2018
 
Written and illustrated by Sydney Smith
Groundwood Books
40 pp.
Ages 4-7
2019

 
 
 
Written by Jordan Scott
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
Neal Porter Books (Holiday House)
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
2023

Written and illustrated by Sydney Smith
Groundwood Books
40 pp.
Ages 3-6
2023
 
 
 
 
 
These are only a selection of Sydney Smith's books. For a more complete listing, check out his web page at https://www.sydneydraws.ca/.
 
Also, if you'd like to read the press release from IBBY, with lovely comments about Sydney Smith's art, it is posted  here.
 
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

Congratulations to 
Sydney Smith 
on this extraordinary recognition!

April 11, 2024

The Keeper of Stars

Written by Jennifer Harris
Illustrated by Dorothy Leung
Owlkids Books
978-1-77147-568-6
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
April 2024 
 
We know the bedtime routine. It usually includes getting washed, brushing teeth, dressing in pajamas, and the reading of stories. Milo's routine includes these but with a few extras, like tapping his dad's picture three times and then hitching a ride on a comet to help the Keeper of Stars. He'll have a busy night ahead.
From The Keeper of Stars, written by Jennifer Harris, illustrated by Dorothy Leung
What does the Keeper of Stars do? They clean up the skies, and there's a lot to clean up. There are airplane smudges, balloons, and stray feathers, but also stars that need washing and polishing. (This sweet sentiment is so reminiscent of my own father speaking about moving the clouds and shining the stars while we slept that I get a little lump in my throat.)

From The Keeper of Stars, written by Jennifer Harris, illustrated by Dorothy Leung
The Keeper of Stars, a large bear with a star patch upon its forehead, instructs Milo how to bathe the stars, even as they get ticklish, and then, watched over by owlets and bats, how to put back all those fallen stars which sailors use for navigation. It's a lovely playful time for Milo and the stars.
 
When they are finally done for the night, the Keeper of Stars and Milo sit down for a repast of herring sandwiches and cocoa before the child returns to his bed, not always remembering his nightly endeavours.
From The Keeper of Stars, written by Jennifer Harris, illustrated by Dorothy Leung
Most bedtime stories are filled with tenderness as little ones settle and a quiet descends. But Jennifer Harris's story has a special gentleness to it. Perhaps it's the solemnity with which Milo taps his father's photo beside his bed when sleep is nigh. Perhaps it's his mother's exhaustion as she maintains Milo's bedtime routines as she falls asleep as he slips away to join the Keeper of Stars. Perhaps it's the camaraderie of working alongside others to get a job done but still having time for a bit of joyous play. Perhaps it's all of those things. Reading The Keeper of Stars will leave young readers calm and intrigued, looking into the heavens for the big bear of Ursa Major and falling stars and even owls and bats in the night sky. And maybe even dreaming of their own celestial adventures.
 
Toronto's Dorothy Leung, who illustrated When the Wind Came and The Bird Feeder, uses a style of art that enhances Jennifer Harris's sensitive story. She uses pencil and gouache, as well as Photoshop, to create images that are both ni and grounded, taking readers into the heavens but from the familiarity of a child's room at bedtime. Even when juggling the stars and arranging them into messages, Milo has an earnestness about him. He is quiet and busy, doing what he must but recognizing the joy in what he is doing, for himself and others. Dorothy Leung gives him an inner serenity which, considering his focus on his father's photo, would be a challenge for many. She brings the quiet and takes away the fears of the night, through her choice of colours, the softness of her shapes, and the expressive lines of her characters, which include the stars.
 
If you have a little one who needs to be drawn gently into the world of sleep, The Keeper of Stars will do just that. It will take them in hand to dream of nightly duties by joining those who populate our heavens and add sparkle to our lives. It will help them sail into the calm of sleep and the respite of the tireless.

April 10, 2024

Group Book Launch: May 26, 2024 (Toronto, ON)

If you read my January 1st post about upcoming books, you'll know that there are hundreds of books of kidCanLit released in a 6 month period. While it's hard to get to all the launches that are set, it is far easier when multiple authors get together to launch their new books. In the spirit of cooperation, and under the umbrella of Authors' Booking Service, eight authors of picture books, and middle-grade fiction and non-fiction will be launching their new books in a special Group Book Launch.  
 
Creators who will be present are Dana L. Church, Caroline Fernandez, Deborah Kerbel, Amanda West Lewis, Monique Polak, Sade Smith, Michael F. Stewart, and Farida Zaman. These are their books:
 

Remember This: The Fascinating World of Memory (Orca Think)
Written by Monique Polak
Illustrated by Valรฉry Goulet
Orca Book Publishers
96 pp.
Ages 8-13
March 2024


Iggy Included
Written by Deborah Kerbel 
Scholastic Canada
240 pp.
Ages 8-12
May 2024
 

Seeking Draven
Written by Michael F. Stewart
Red Deer Press
200 pp.
Ages 9-12
April 2024
 
 
 
 
A Planet is a Poem
Written by Amanda West Lewis
Illustrated by Oliver Averill
Kids Can Press
40 pp.
Ages 8-12
May 2024
 

Asha and Baz Meet Katia Krafft
Written by Caroline Fernandez
Illustrated by Dharmali Patel
Common Deer Press
114 pp.
Ages 6-9
February 2024
 
 
 
Plague Thieves
Written by Caroline Fernandez
DCB Young Readers
208 pp.
Ages 9-12
May 2024
 
 

The Monarch Effect: Surviving Poison, Predators, and People
Written by Dana L. Church 
Scholastic Focus
320 pp.
Ages 8-12
April 2024

 
 
 
Meena Can't Wait 
Written and illustrated by Farida Zaman
Orca Book Publishers
32 pp.
Ages 6-8
March 2024

 
 
 
And the launch?  Here are its details:

Sunday, May 26th, 2024

2-3 PM (EST)

at

Toronto Public Library
Northern District Branch
Gwen Liu Meeting Room
40 Orchard View Blvd.
Toronto, ON

Get this free, family-friendly event into your calendar now. It's a great opportunity to chat with creators of kidCanLit and get autographed books for all your young readers.

April 08, 2024

Club Microbe

Written and illustrated by Elise Gravel
Translated by Montana Kane
Drawn & Quarterly
978-1-77046-702-6
56 pp.
Ages 4+
April 2024
 
First there was The Mushroom Fan Club (2018). Then there was The Bug Club (2021). (Soon there will be Disgusting Critters: A Creepy Crawly Collection.) And now the genius of Elise Gravel takes us to the microscopic level to introduce those germs which can harm us and all the microbes that help keep us healthy, make our food, and do so much more.
From Club Microbe, written and illustrated by Elise Gravel
From a quirky definition of microbes, Elise Gravel introduces us to different groups such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, protists, and algae. She discusses their sizes, where they can live, and the many fabulous shapes they take. Much of the text involves bacteria and viruses and, though they can cause illness, their roles in helping us with our health and the environment is well noted.
From Club Microbe, written and illustrated by Elise Gravel
I especially appreciate Elise Gravel's notes about how we can keep safer from the illnesses they cause, and she does it with humour and wisdom, mentioning hand-washing, vaccinations and antibodies, and foods that promote gut health.
You know I'm a big fan of germs, but I'm not a big fan of the ones that can make me sick.
There is much science embedded in Elise Gravel's report of microbes. She speaks to the use of a microscope to view them and never avoids using their Latin (scientific) names. And she peppers her straightforward text with numerous quirky facts including about a 150-million-year-old bacterium, van Leeuwenhoek's discovery, and even an experiment how to grow some on bread.
From Club Microbe, written and illustrated by Elise Gravel
As with all Elise Gravel's books, it's her artwork that completes the stories. And while many bacteria and viruses can look creepy, especially when we know of those that can do harm, like coronavirus, Rabies lyssavirus, and papillomavirus, she is able to keep her illustrations authentic–there is no dispute about identifying COVID with its red-orange spike proteins–but to also make them less than scary, with eyes and sometimes little teeth. And by placing them in the context of similarly anthropomorphized intestines and the brain, and a world of familiar situations, Elise Gravel delights, entertains, and teaches. 
 
There's a lot of learning that can happen here, from the role of bacteriophages to the use of microbes in making bread and cheese, and it's aimed at young children who are able to comprehend that there are microscopic organisms that impact our lives, even if we can't see them. We've already got our own Club Microbes going on in our bodies, so why not help little ones become more familiar with their mutualistic tiny organisms and those that contribute to our worlds. It's a membership we already support or can try to keep at bay. With Elise Gravel's Club Microbe, we'll know even better how they work.

April 05, 2024

No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons): 25th Anniversary

Written by Jean E. Pendziwol
Illustrated by Martine Gourbault
Kids Can Press
978-1-55074-571-9
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
Spring 2024 
(Originally published in 1999)
 
An important part of the primary curriculum is safety for children. And short of saying, "No!" or "Don't do that!" safety education by parents is often limited. A series of picture books (see below) by Jean E. Pendziwol and illustrated by Martine Gourbault from Kids Can Press offer a subtle but informative way of teaching everything from fire safety to stranger and water safety, and dealing with bullies. And this year, Kids Can Press is reissuing No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons) for its 25th anniversary. 
From No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons), written by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Martine Gourbault
A child and her mother head down to the bay for a day of fun on the beach. Along the way, the girl bumps into a dragon–we may need a book for safe driving of a wagon–and invites him to play. When their day in the sand is over and the family heads home, the child invites the dragon to join them for nibbles. All is going well until the child and dragon both sneeze from a generous sprinkling of pepper. But a dragon's sneeze is far more dangerous than that of a child, and when his sneeze causes the curtains to catch fire, it's mayhem. Thankfully, the child had learned well all the right things to do when a fire breaks out. From getting out fast and staying low to the ground, heading to the family meeting tree, and not going back inside, this child knows what to do. And with her knowledge, she helps the dragon who wants to hide and go back inside for its teddy bear do the right things too.
From No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons), written by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Martine Gourbault
Learning fire safety is never outdated. As long as fires are potential hazards in any home, families with young children must be prepared. Jean E. Pendziwol's light rhyming story of a child and a dragon keeps the importance of the message without terrorizing young readers with the capacity for harm from fires. Much will be familiar to children from playing with friends, having a snack, wanting to hide when scared, and wanting to do back for a cherished toy. But the child has learned the most important rules of fire safety from a rhyme which Jean E. Pendziwol appends to her story. The five-verse rhyme begins as follows:
When the smoke alarm sounds, here's what you should do:
Leave your toys all behind, 'cause there's only one you.
In addition to this summary rhyme, Jean E. Pendziwol includes a checklist of discussion points and actions for family to implement their own safety plan.
From No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons), written by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Martine Gourbault
The same care that Jean E. Pendziwol takes to create an informative but gentle story about a not-so-trivial message is shown in the artwork of Martine Gourbault. Her use of coloured pencils brings the innocence of children or dragons at play but can still evoke the gravity of a fire in the home. The expressions on the faces of the child and dragon suggest fear but not panic, at least not on the girl's part. But with her well-rehearsed knowledge of what to do in a fire, she is calm enough to help a dragon who needs support to also do the right things.
From No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons), written by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Martine Gourbault
It's hard to believe it's been 25 years since this story was first published and, though it could add the use of a cell phone rather than using a neighbour's phone or a phone booth, it's as relevant today as it was then. I would encourage parents and teachers to help little ones embed this learning, whether through the story alone or by learning "The Dragon's Fire-Safety Rhyme." It, like all the titles in the Dragon Safety series, could help save lives.

• • • • • • • 
 
Dragon Safety Series
No Dragons for Tea: Fires Safety for kids (and Dragons) (1999)
Once Upon a Dragon: Stranger Safety for Kids (and Dragons) (2005)
A Treasure at Sea for Dragon and Me: Water Safety for Kids (and Dragons) (2006)
The Tale of Sir Dragon: Dealing with Bullies for Kids (and Dragons) (2007)
 
• • • • • • •  

April 03, 2024

Spotting Dottie (Orca Currents)

Written by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
Orca Book Publishers
978-1-4598-3483-5
112 pp.
Ages 9-12
R: 2.5
April 2024 


There's Nessie, the Loch Ness monster. There's also Chessie, the Chesapeake Bay creature,  and Champ, the lake monster of Lake Champlain. But in Gail Anderson-Dargatz's latest hi-lo novel for Orca Currents, we have Dottie, a cryptid that lives in the deepest part of Dorothy Lake. Or does she?

Charlotte believes wholeheartedly in Dottie, just as her grandmother Donna always has. Ever since Donna saw the lake monster when she was 14, as Charlotte is now, she has been interested in Dottie, collecting memorabilia and photos, interviewing prospective witnesses, and patiently watching through her spotting scope and binocs. This has earned her the moniker of Dottie Donna, and though her grandmother doesn't mind, it really bothers Charlotte's mom Anna who is not a believer in the creature.  When Anna gives Charlotte a drone with a camera for her birthday, Charlotte (a.k.a. Lottie) and Grandma and Charlotte's friend Scott witness something large, with humps rolling out the water. Convinced they have footage of Dottie, Charlotte shares it with the Dorothy Lake News website. 

That posting starts everything, from media attention, local ridicule–Charlotte becomes known as Dottie Lottie–self-doubt, and an undesirable draw of tourists and cryptid hunters to the lake. All Charlotte had wanted was to get her mother to believe Grandma in her assertion that Dottie existed. Instead, she has brought chaos and perhaps danger to her friends and family and perhaps, worse of all, to Dottie.
 
There is a natural interest in the unknown, attempting to understand the unexplainable, to prove that which has not been proven. It's wondering about things we don't know and defending those whose beliefs may be different than our own. Charlotte is a sweet granddaughter who really just wants to help her mother and grandmother get along better. The two strong women in her life are pulling Charlotte to different perspectives and Charlotte is convinced that if she can find evidence of Lottie and prove it to her mother, then everything will be alright. Unfortunately, beliefs can be entrenched and making someone believe something other than what they've always held true is a tall order. It doesn't help when there are those who ridicule you for those beliefs. But Gail Anderson-Dargatz doesn't force Charlotte or Anna or even Donna to believe something they don't. She lets them be a family who can love and accept differences and bend as needed. Spotting Dottie may lead young readers to investigate the real story of BC's cryptid–Ogopogo in Lake Okanagan–but that mystery is one that will remain while families come together, and sometimes fall apart. And Gail Anderson-Dargatz will let us watch them and learn.

Whether Nessie or Chessie or Champ are logs, mega eels or cryptids, it doesn't matter to Dottie's story. Dottie is as real as she needs to be for all the families involved. And we're going to keep her secrets safe.

March 28, 2024

The Reflection in Me

Written by Marc Colagiovanni
Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Orchard Books (Scholastic)
978-1-338-812048-6
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
March 2024 
 
When you look in the mirror, do you see your hair out of place, or a crooked smile, or a body shape that is too little or too much? Do you see something less than the perfection you want? Are those expectations from others, from social media, from yourself? Wouldn't it be nice to hear the voice inside tell you you're more than enough? What if it was your voice telling you that you are "perfectly perfect"? In The Reflection in Me, it is.
From The Reflection in Me, text by Marc Colagiovanni, art by Peter H. Reynolds
Before our story has even started–the above illustration is from the title page–a child has glanced in a mirror and casts their eyes down, dejected. But surprisingly the reflection in the mirror speaks to the child and tells them, "I like being you."  The child is astonished as the reflection recounts all the wonderful things about the child. From their amazing eyes that "sparkle like stars on the darkest of nights" to their marvelous voice that is as "joyous as a songbird whistling in the trees.
From The Reflection in Me, text by Marc Colagiovanni, art by Peter H. Reynolds
At first, the child listens in disbelief, finding it difficult to believe these positive statements about themselves. (Their reflection is talking to them after all.) But, with each affirmation by the reflection, who speaks in a lilac font, the child begins to accept the positives about their smile, smartness, bravery and more, and always receives them with humility and delight. 

"I like that you are friendly."
I leaned in closer.
"It's very important to be caring, you know."
"It sure is. You're as gentle as a butterfly."

From The Reflection in Me, text by Marc Colagiovanni, art by Peter H. Reynolds
Like their earlier collaboration, When Things Aren't Going Right, Go Left (2023), Marc Colagiovanni and Peter H. Reynolds  have given us a story to empower children. In The Reflection in Me, children will learn to take stock of their positive attributes so that there may be self-acceptance and self-love. Children may not always get the encouragement or love they need to sustain themselves or to help them tackle challenges which they must face. With The Reflection in Me, kids are encouraged to look a little more closely at themselves and see the good stuff, without becoming arrogant or self-important. (For example, a tumble after a twirling dance could have embarrassed the child but they ended up laughing instead.)

Though Marc Colagiovanni is American which should preclude a review of The Reflection in Me on CanLit for LittleCanadians, his collaboration with Peter H. Reynolds gives him the favour of inclusion here. His words are impactful but spoken and heard by a child who needs to hear them. There is no pretense or preaching. There is only hope that all children will see the best in themselves.
 
 May you always see yourself as you truly are... perfectly perfect.
 
From The Reflection in Me, text by Marc Colagiovanni, art by Peter H. Reynolds
Peter H. Reynolds is all about the light and goodness that children have and can find in themselves. His collection of books, which include his recent All We Need is Love and a Really Soft Pillow! and Say Something!, are gentle reminders that children can be and do good. Peter H. Reynolds puts it all their hands, showing them what they can do. And he does it with brightness and colour. The Reflection in Me is similarly vibrant in colour but Peter H. Reynolds keeps the art simple so as not detract from the focus on self-acceptance (and not finding acceptance from the approval of others). It's a child and a mirror, and that's it. He doesn't need anything else. The expressions on the child and their reflection say it all. With just a subtle shifting of a line for a brow or a smile, or the reach of an arm, Peter H. Reynolds gives us delight and spirit and connection. It invites us to enjoy their repartee and be charmed with the self-learning that happens.

Self-acceptance may come from within but a little reinforcement from The Reflection in Me will certainly not hurt. With its perfect tone of support and brightness of art, The Reflection in Me will charm and inspire and hopefully empower children to find the best affirmations are inside themselves.

๐Ÿ’œ ๐Ÿ’›  ๐Ÿ’™  ๐Ÿ’œ  ๐Ÿ’š  ๐Ÿงก  ๐Ÿ’œ

This short film, from 2017, upon which The Reflection in Me is based, is available at the channel of FableVision Studio (founded by Peter H. Reynolds) on YouTube.

 
Posted by FableVision on June 16, 2017 on YouTube