April 30, 2012

Hackmatack 2011/2012 Award Winners announced!

Readers 9 to 12 years of age and living in Atlantic Canada who participated in the annual Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award literary program have made their selections.  Last Friday night, April 27, 2012, the winners of the 2012 Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award were announced at the Capitol Theatre in Moncton, New Brunswick.  

Hearty congratulations to the winners in the four categories:

Hugh Brewster
Prisoner of Dieppe: World War II, Alistair Morrison, 
Occupied France, 1942
Scholastic Canada
222 pp.



Catherine Rondina
Don’t Touch That Toad & Other Strange Things Adults Tell You
Illus. by Kevin Sylvester
Kids Can Press
96 pp.

 Richard Petit
Ton journal intime Zone Frousse
120 pp.


Stéphanie C. Dubois
Le petit livre des affaires dégueulasses
Les Malins Editions
105 pp.

April 29, 2012

2012 Saskatchewan Book Award winners announced!

Last night the winners of the Saskatchewan Book Awards were announced in Regina.  The news of the award winners comes to us courtesy of Saskatchewan writer, Shelley Banks, at her blog, Latitude Drifts.  

The winner of the Children's Literature Award is . . .

Adele Dueck   
for her book Racing Home 
published by Coteau Books

 Racing Home
by Adele Dueck
Coteau Books
186 pp.
Ages 9-13

Racing Home tells the story of making a new home in Saskatchewan by Norwegian immigrants at the turn of the twentieth century.  This story of historical fiction is told from the perspective of twelve-year-old Erik who is working to connect with his new step-father, Rolf, to make a sod-house and a new home for the family, while enduring the hardships experienced by all immigrants and settlers.

    2012 Manitoba Book Award winners announced!

    The winners of the Manitoba Book Awards which are administered by the Manitoba Writers’ Guild and the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers were announced yesterday at a gala at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain.

    Congratulations to all winners of the Manitoba Book Awards which cover thirteen categories of which only one is exclusively for books for younger readers, the McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award, in two categories.

    The winner of the McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award in the Younger Category is...
    S is for Scientists: A Discovery Alphabet 
    by Larry Verstraete
    Sleeping Bear Press

    Take a trip through the alphabet covering a wide variety of fields and specific scientists.

    The winner of the McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award in the Older Category is...
      Tori by Design 
      by Colleen Nelson
      Great Plains Teen Fiction

      Tori's dream of following a career in fashion design comes closer to reality when her family moves from Winnipeg to New York City for her father's job.  Though life in the big city is very different and some sacrifices have to be made, Tori embraces new opportunities, meets new people, and aims for an internship at the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology, while dealing with obstacles in her and her family's lives.

      April 28, 2012

      Willow Award 2011/2012 Winners announced!

      The winners of the Willow Awards, Saskatchewan's young readers' choice awards, were announced last night at the SaskEnergy Willow Awards Gala 2012 in Moose Jaw.  The titles nominated for these three awards were announced last spring (2011), and readers in Kindergarten to Grade 9 read and then voted on the titles in their award category. 

      Congratulations to the  
      winners of the three Willow Awards!

      The winner of the Shining Willow Award, selected from those books written for youngest readers, those in Kindergarten to Grade 3, is...
      The King’s Taster
      by Kenneth Oppel
      Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

      The king's cook is having a hard time getting the young king to eat his fare.  In an exhaustive series of trips, the cook and the king's taster look for new dishes to serve the king.  But, it isn't until the king's taster reveals a secret that the youthful king is compelled to enjoy his meals.

      The winner of the Diamond Willow Award, selected from those books written for readers of Grades 4 to 6, is...
      The Midnight Curse
      by L. M. Falcone
      Kids Can Press

      --> When their great-great-uncle Jonathan dies, eleven-year-old fraternal twins, Charlie and Lacey Darcy, and their mom are summoned to England hopeful for an inheritance.  But, it is a curse that transfers from Uncle Jonathan to Charlie, already a nervous worrier, which condemns him to a life sleeping in water from midnight to daybreak, or suffer death.

      The winner of the Snow Willow Award, selected from those books written for readers in Grades 7 to 9, is ...
      Dear George Clooney, 
      Please Marry My Mom
      by Susin Nielsen
      Tundra Books

      Also, winner of the 2012 Rocky Mountain Book Award Gold Medal, Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom tells the story of Violet's struggle to look for an appropriate match for her mom after Violet's TV-director dad leaves Vancouver and reshapes his life into that of a rich LA big-shot with a beautiful actress-wife and perfect twin daughters.  With Dad blissfully unaware of the impact his choices have had on others, and her younger sister bed-wetting again, and her mom dating loser after loser, Violet decides to take matters into her own hands, compelling her to make some abominable and hilarious decisions.

      Just an aside:
      If I err in my labelling of the awards, please let me know so that I may amend my posts.  I'm sure others have been confused as well.  For example, the 2011 Willow Award Winners were announced at the SaskEnergy Willow Awards Gala 2012.  The nominated titles for the 2011 Willow Awards were announced in 2011, read in 2011 and 2012, voted on in 2012, and awarded in 2012.  But they are the 2011 Willow Awards.  Just to add to the confusion, the 2012 Willow Award nominees were announced while young readers were voting for their 2011 Willow Awards.  Just a thought: why not announce the nominees just before the reading programs begin?  As I said, just a thought.)

      April 27, 2012

      Run Marco Run

      by Norma Charles
      Ronsdale Press
      183 pp.

      Marco has not done anything wrong, if you're thinking that's why he's running.  He's running because his father, James Graham, a journalist in Colombia, tells him to run while himself being kidnapped from a marketplace in Buenaventura.  Even though only thirteen, Marco knows the ins and outs of Buenaventura's criminal elements: its kidnappings of foreigners and journalists and their families, and corrupt police, drug cartels, and rebel groups.  His father, whose light skin distinguishes him as a gringo, is not silent about illegal or corrupt practices, making him an easy target.  Although Marco is Colombian-born and speaks Spanish more easily than English, he is vulnerable, without a mother now and the only child of a target.  So when his father cries out, "Run, Marco, run," he does just that.

      Run Marco Run follows Marco in his quest first for safety and then for help in saving his father from potential death.  Although his mother's cousin, Aunt Rosa, and her children, Juan and Rosita, are family living in Buenaventura, asking for their help will only put them in danger.  So, when he finds refuge under a lifeboat on a ship heading for Vancouver, his father's former home, Marco latches onto the idea of getting help there, specifically from an influential international lawyer, Rolando Mendoza, who Marco's father had helped immigrate to Canada.

      While Marco's decision to travel to Vancouver as a stowaway and the ensuing journey seem too implausible, Marco's introduction to Canada reads as legitimate as he suffers physical trauma, hunger and thirst, meets Canadians both helpful and scary, and experiences obstacles to his goal of finding Mr. Mendoza.  His suspicions of almost everything new (people, food, water) are clearly evident, though he acknowledges to himself his need to accept risks in order to have any hope of achieving his goal.

      The legitimacy of Marco's need to help is father takes him on a very purposeful adventure, which middle grade readers will appreciate.  There are no awkward jumps from past to present and back again to confuse younger readers, or subplots that stray from Marco's desire to reunite with his father.  While Marco's voice may come across as awkward sometimes (for example, I don't know anyone who uses the word "hurray" anymore), and this may just be a reflection of his less-comfortable use of English, his need to find Mr. Mendoza as his father's only hope is convincing.

      Norma Charles, author of The Girl in the Back Seat (Ronsdale Press, 2008) and Bank Job (Orca, 2009) with James Heneghan, has tackled some tough issues in her books: polygamy, peer pressure, foster children.  In addressing the vulnerability of foreigners and journalists, as well as the Buenaventura's criminal notoriety (Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to the city of Buenaventura due to the "presence of illegal armed groups." Colombia Travel Report, Still Valid April 27, 2012), Run Marco Run provides young readers with a bona fide action-adventure while seeing their own country from another young person's perspective.

      April 26, 2012

      Under the Moon

      Written by Deborah Kerbel
      Dancing Cat Books (Cormorant Books)
      194 pp.
      Ages 12-15

      Contemplating under the moon seems an appropriate activity on a dark night when you are burdened with the worries of daily life.  Even if you're not looking for answers, the darkness seems to absorb the uncertainties while the moonshine offers a glimmer of hope.  But what if that contemplation is not a singular event but a nightly ritual because the burden is the night, a time of sleeplessness?

      Teen Lily MacArthur has never been a great sleeper, managing barely a few hours a night.  But, when her dear Aunt Su, an eccentric romance novelist and Lily's nighttime interlocutor, dies unexpectedly, Lily's minimal sleep becomes nonexistent.

      Under similar circumstances, most people would seek out the support of friends or family.  With no friends, which Lily attributes to her introversion, and with her parents divorced and incapable of providing support during her wakefulness, Lily finds some relief in sneaking out at night, often chatting with the moon as if a friend.  On one such outing, she walks through the drive-thru at McCool's Fries and makes the acquaintance of the boy she calls Rude Dude whom she later learns is Ben Matthews, a new classmate.  While Lily is attracted to Ben, their occasional encounters, whether at school or at night when she's awake and he's working, are perplexing, occasionally honest and companionable, often undermining and ambiguous.

      Coupled with her puzzling relationship with Ben, Lily is shaken by a post-funeral revelation from her aunt, and she begins to tally her sleepless nights believing they will lead to her death.  As she tries to respond to shifting circumstances, with Ben, a new friend Emma, a classmate Todd, and others, Lily begins to delve into the veracity of her own perceptions, and becomes worthy of the magnanimity Aunt Su suggests she has.

      Though Under the Moon's title and cover suggest a more innocuous story, Deborah Kerbel's potent writing maintains the shadows of the night and the tangled thinking of the sleepless.  Lily's desperation to stymie her sleeplessness while yielding to new feelings contrasts with Ben's need to balance his unexpected attraction to her while avoiding pity.  In Under the Moon, Deborah Kerbel effectively portrays the turmoil of the teen heart and mind: apprehensive of the unknown, like the obscurity of the dark night, while still hopeful for possibilities that glimmer in the moon.

      April 24, 2012

      Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards 2012 Short Lists announced!

      Today, the
      Ontario Arts Foundation, on behalf of the Ruth Schwartz Foundation, announced the 2012 short lists for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Awards.

      Administered by the Ontario Arts Foundation, the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Awards recognize artistic excellence in writing and illustration in English-language Canadian children’s literature. The award was established in 1976 by Sylvia Schwartz in memory of her sister, Ruth Schwartz, a respected Toronto bookseller.  In 2004, the Schwartz family renamed the awards to honour both sisters.

      While funded generously by the Ruth Schwartz Foundation ($6000 for each award) and administered by the Ontario Arts Foundation, the awards are selected by two juries of young readers from Parkdale Junior and Senior Public School.  Five students from Grades 2 and 3 select the award-winning book for the Children's Picture Book Award, and five students from Grade 8 select the Young Adult/Middle Reader Book Award recipient.

      Here are the titles short-listed for the 2012 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards:


      Along a Long Road
      by Frank Viva
      HarperCollins Canada

      by Susan Vande Griek
      Illustrated by Karen Reczuch

      by Maxine Trottier
      Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

      Picture a Tree
      by Barbara Reid
      Scholastic Canada

      The Vole Brothers
      by Roslyn Schwartz
      Owlkids Books


      Blink and Caution
      by Tim Wynne-Jones
      Candlewick Press

      No Ordinary Day
      by Deborah Ellis

      Scribbling Women: True Tales from Astonishing Lives
      by Marthe Jocelyn

      That Fatal Night: The Titanic Diary of Dorothy Wilton, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1912
      by Sarah Ellis
      Scholastic Canada

      The Whole Truth
      by Kit Pearson
      HarperCollins Canada

      The 2012 winners will be announced at Toronto’s Parkdale Junior and Senior Public School at 1:00 p.m. on May 31, 2012.

      Rocky Mountain Book Award 2012 Winner Announced!

      For the past month, readers in Grades 4-7 have voted for their favourite book from twenty fiction and non-fiction nominees and the results tallied and announced yesterday. 

      The Winner of the 2012 Rocky Mountain Book Award Gold Medal is...

      Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom 
      by Susin Nielsen 
      Tundra Books
      229 pp.
      Ages 10-14
      --> After Violet's TV-director dad leaves Vancouver and reshapes his life into that of a rich LA bigshot with a beautiful actress-wife and perfect twin daughters, he doesn't see the wreckage he has left behind: Violet's younger sister begins bed-wetting; Violet's mother, a stylist, starts dating loser after loser; and Violet is seething with such anger that it compels her to make abominable and hilarious decisions, including looking to match her mom up with George Clooney, the actor.

      First two runners-up are:

      by Alma Fullerton
      Dancing Cat Books/Cormorant
      255 pp.
      Ages 10-13

      Tower of Treasure: Three Thieves 
      by Scott Chantler
      Kids Can Press
      112 pp.
      Ages 9-12

      Congratulations to the winners and all nominated titles.

      April 22, 2012

      World Book & Copyright Day: April 23

      World Book and Copyright Day a.k.a. International Day of the Book was inaugurated in 2003 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as April 23
      By celebrating this Day throughout the world, UNESCO seeks to promote reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright.
      From UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day 
      at http://ow.ly/ark98

      The UNESCO website for World Book and Copyright Day tells of the origin of this celebration as Catalonia where, on 23 April (Saint George's Day) a rose is traditionally given as a gift for each book sold.  Coincidentally, April 23 is also the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth (1564 ) and death (1616), and the death of Miguel de Cervante (1616), although the issue of the Gregorian versus Julian calendar may negate this claim.

      Because 2012 will mark the 80th anniversary of the Index Translationum, an international database of bibliographic information about translated books, the focus of World Book Day is books and translation.

      The answer to the inevitable question of why translation matters is well answered by the UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova who addressed this in her Message for World Book and Copyright Day 2012
      Translation is the first step towards the rapprochement of peoples, and is also a decentralizing experience, teaching diversity and dialogue. Translation is one of the driving principles of our creative diversity, which enriches each language through contact with all the others. 
      For teachers interested in commemorating this date with specific activities, consider:
      • discussing plagiarism and pirating of copyrighted materials;
      • reading the same book in different translations to assess accuracy and validity of the translation (from children's perspective);
      • listening to audio books in different languages;
      • discussing the value of translated books;
      • allowing book trades between children to share their love of reading;
      • calculating the proportion of books in the school library which would be worthy of translation into another language and discuss why; and 
      • having older students translate a well-known CanLit picture book into their own mother tongue.

      n.b. Some countries, such as Ireland and the United Kingdom, celebrate "World Book Day" on alternative days, such as March 1.

      Hana's Suitcase: 10th Anniversary

      When the director of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource 
      Centre, Fumiko Ishioka, attempted to bring in Holocaust artifacts to enhance the educational experience for children at the Centre, she could not have expected the chain of events that would be set into motion by the delivery of one item.  A small suitcase of unknown origin set Fumiko Ishioka on a quest for information which led her from Tokyo to Auschwitz and finally to Toronto and seventy-four-year-old George Brady, the brother of Hana, the young girl to whom the suitcase belonged.

      Czechoslovakian-born Jews, Hana and George's parents were taken away by the Gestapo in 1941.  The following year, orphans Hana (11) and George (14) were deported to Terezin (Therenseinstadt), the concentration camp.  In 1944, the two young people were sent on different transports to Auschwitz, never seeing each other again.

      When Hana Brady's story, via Fumiko Ishioka's meeting with George Brady, hit the Toronto news, Karen Levine, who worked for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), picked up the story and created a radio documentary about it.  Later Karen Levine wrote Hana's Suitcase which was published by Second Story Press in 2002. 

      Hana's Suitcase
      by Karen Levine
      Second Story Press
      120 pp.
      Ages 9-12

      Since Fumiko Ishioka received that lone archived suitcase, Hana Brady's story and Hana's Suitcase have been retold in dozens of translations, in an award-winning documentary (Odyssey of Hope: Hana's Suitcase), in a stage play (Hana's Suitcase Onstage) and in a docu-drama (Inside Hana's Suitcase).  Now, ten years later,  Second Story Press has published Hana's Suitcase Anniversary Album (2012), with numerous extras, like letters, photographs, play excerpts and more.

      Hana's Suitcase Anniversary Album
      (Holocaust Remembrance Series for Young Readers)
      by Karen Levine
      Second Story Press
      176 pp.
      Ages 9-13

      If you'd like to extend your exploration of Hana's Suitcase, Quill & Quire is commemorating the tenth anniversary of Hana's Suitcase with a free podcast (available on iTunes).  Get full details of this Quillcast (Episode 7) on Quill & Quire's website. 

      Also, CBC Television's Doc Zone which aired the documentary Inside Hana's Suitcase last year (lousy timing on our part) has discussion forums, Q & As and links here used to promote the documentary's airing.

      Finally, the Brady family has a wonderful website www.hanassuitcase.ca where Hana's family background is documented, as well as the timeline of events leading to the publication of the book Hana's Suitcase.  There is a wealth of information here to further the reader's appreciation of the book and Hana's story.

      Imagine:  Such a big story from such a small suitcase.

      In the next few weeks, I'll be putting together a number of CanLit book lists on different issues related to social justice, a hot curriculum topic in Ontario schools and elsewhere.  One such book list will be devoted to the Holocaust, and Hana's Suitcase will feature prominently in this list.  Look for it here soon.

      April 20, 2012

      Arthur Ellis 2012 Shortlists announced!

      In a series of events nation-wide, the Crime Writers of Canada last night announced the nominated titles for the 2012 Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing. Details about the awards were posted here in January but the award short-lists for books and others writings from 2011 were only announced last night.

      Congratulations to the nominated authors in all seven award categories.  On May 31, 2012, some of them will be leaving the Arthur Ellis Awards Banquet in Toronto with their own wooden statuette of a hanging man (whose arms and legs flail when the string is pulled).

      As an aside (okay, more like its own paragraph), the origin of the statuette's design has an interesting connection to children's literature.  Children's and YA author, Tim Wynne-Jones, author of Blink and Caution (Candlewick, 2011), recently reviewed here, apparently had a role in its design.  However,  Tim Wynne-Jones, who became an officer of the Order of Canada in December of 2011, humbly explains his role in this note on the Crime Writers of Canada website.

      A note on Arthur by Tim Wynne-Jones
      I'm happy to clarify Arthur's history. It was my job to head the committee, as Tony said. And my big contribution, as far as I'm concerned, was in realizing that a book prize is kind of a stage prop. The darn thing should look good in somebody's hands as well as on their mantel. So I thought to go to a stage designer, Peter Blais, who happened also to be a wonderful actor, and who happened to be someone I had acted with and knew to have a wicked sense of humour. He got it! He understood what I was trying to say and came up with the jumping jack. So Peter very much deserves the kudos for Arthur and I'm just pleased to have got him on board. It's the best prize around, as far as I'm concerned. I'm lucky enough to have won one and also to have won an Edgar and Arthur beats Edgar all to heck!  (Retrieved from http://www.crimewriterscanada.com/awards/arthur-ellis-awards/history on April 19, 2012.)
      Now, back to the shortlists.

      Here are the titles and authors nominated for the  2012 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Juvenile/Young Adult Crime Book:

      Blink and Caution 
      by Tim Wynne-Jones

      Charlie's Key
      by Rob Mills
      Orca Books

      Empire of Ruins: The Hunchback Assignments III
      by Arthur Slade
      HarperCollins Canada
      by Edeet Ravel
      Annick Press

      by Becky Citra
      Orca Books

       We look forward to the announcement of winners at the end of May.

      Special thanks to Bill Selnes at Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan (you can get all shortlists here) and tweeps @evacmo and @barbhowson for the scoops.

      April 18, 2012


      by Ashley Spires
      Kids Can Press
      32 pp.
      Ages 3-7

      There's no way anyone could think that the term "abominable snowman" is a synonym for a sasquatch when that sasquatch is Larf.  How could anyone possibly consider a seven-foot vegetarian who jogs, gardens and cares lovingly for his pet bunny, Eric, as anything but adorable. (Hmm.  Adorable? Abominable? They must have the two words confused.)  So what if he's big and elusive?  In these times of social justice, we should embrace his uniqueness and individuality and respect his privacy.

      And, if Larf reads about another sasquatch and decides he'd like to meet another of his kind, so be it.  Solitude, after all, isn't always the only option.  So, Larf camouflages himself in a pair of jeans and a black beret, and, with Eric strapped into his front baby carrier, Larf takes the bus to the busy town of Hunderfitz.  But, meeting the sasquatch is not as Larf predicts, and disappointment ensues.  However, this sasquatch still helps fate bring companionship to Larf's life through an unexpected encounter.

      Just as Ashley Spires' Binky the Space Cat (Kids Can Press, 2009) and Small Saul (Kids Can Press, 2011) have charmed their way into readers' hearts, so will Larf, the gentle giant of sasquatches.  Although Larf believes he is the only one of his kind, children will have heard about the terrifying Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, and Bigfoot whose size overrides any other descriptors other than vicious.  But Larf's size does not define him because his character is far too lovable to be impeded by his bulk.  Charmingly, Ashley Spires uses bright and unpretentious ink and watercolour (just like Larf himself) to illustrate his story.  But it's the details that will have readers searching for hints and hidden humour throughout, whether it be the declaration on Larf's mug or the very Canadian blanket he drapes across his lap.  Ashley Spires' Larf uses a light touch to illustrate how we should be ourselves but be open to new adventures that may enrich our lives in unpredictable ways.