October 30, 2019

The 2019 First Page Student Writing Challenge

Get your students in Grades 7 to 12 writing with
CBC Books


in which two winning entries 
 (one for Gr. 7-9 and one for Gr. 10-12) 
will be selected by
 award-winning YA author
Kelley Armstrong

The Challenge:  
• Write the first page of a novel (any literary genre) set in 2169 with the protagonist dealing with an issue currently relevant  (climate change, diversity, gender, refugees, leadership, etc.) and show how it has played out 150 years from now.
• Write 300-400 words.  Be sure to give your "book" a title.

Eligible Participants:
• All Canadian residents who are full time students enrolled in Gr. 7 to 12 may enter.

• Submit between November 4, 2019 and November 25, 2019

• Author Kelley Armstrong will judge the entries based on the following criteria:
  • creativity;
  • critical thinking; and
  • quality of writing
• Shortlists of 10 entries per grade category will be selected from which the winner will be chosen.

• One year subscription to OwlCrate, a monthly delivery of a box of books (winner may select middle grade or young adult)
• The school library of each winner will also receive 50 YA books chosen by CBC.

Full details of this writing challenge are provided at CBC Books 
with rules and regulations available here.

Teachers' guides, writing tips, posters and more are also available at
the CBC Books website for the contest.

October 29, 2019

2019 Governor General's Literary Awards: Winners announced today

Today, the Canada Council for the Arts announced the winners for the highly prestigious Governor General's Literary Awards.

Congratulations to the winners
of all the awards
and especially for these of books for young readers

English-language: Young People's Literature (Text)

Stand on the Sky
Written by Erin Bow

English-language:  Young People's Literature (Illustration)

Small in the City
Written and illustrated by Sydney Smith
Groundwood Books

 French-language: Young People's Literature (Text)

L'albatros et la mésange
par Dominique Demers
Éditions Québec Amérique

French-language: Young People's Literature (Illustration)

Jack et le temps perdu
par Stéphanie Lapointe
Illustrée par Delphie Côté-Lacroix
Quai no 5, Les Éditions XYZ


There will be
Public Readings and Book Signings


Wednesday, December 11, 2019 (English-winning books)
Thursday, December 12, 2019 (French-winning books)
12 p.m. (both days)


Canada Council for the Arts
Massey-Lévesque Board Room (2nd floor)
150 Elgin St.
Ottawa, ON


Winners will be presented later at Rideau Hall.

October 28, 2019

He Must Like You: Upcoming release

We all 💕 Danielle Younge-Ullman's 

Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined
Written by Danielle Younge-Ullman
368 pp.
Ages 13-17

(It did win the White Pine Award and
was nominated for
a Governor General's Literature Award and
 the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award.) 

Now we can look forward to her newest YA novel,
one that blends that same depth of issue with the humour that made Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined such a hit.

He Must Like You
Written by Danielle Younge-Ullman
Penguin Teen
July 14 2020

Read this excerpt to get a sense for why you're going to want to read this one!

“I have the item” is the first thing I hear when I walk into work on Sunday night.

The item in question is my duvet, and the person winking at me about it is Kyle.

Kyle, who is standing behind the host stand in the cheery foyer of the Goat wearing a mini cowboy hat with plush horns curling out of it—the latest in his growing collection of goat-themed apparel. He looks hilarious, cute, and deceptively harmless.

“It’s in my truck. I’ll give it to you after?”

“Sure. Thanks,” I say, with what I hope is a neutral-seeming nod.

I’ll have to wash it in hot water. Twice.

“Or we could go for a drive, climb into the back, get cozy,” Kyle suggests, with a waggle of his white-blond eyebrows.

My insides take flight like a flock of startled birds, and then I’m doing this awkward thing where I’m cringing and trying to smile at the same time. But smiling might be too encouraging and so I stop, because even after three weeks of my ignoring his texts and generally avoiding him as much as possible, Kyle continues to look at me with those stupidly hopeful, flirty eyes.

Still, I don’t want to be rude. We work together, and in that capacity Kyle has been fine. In fact, except for the one (admittedly problematic) incident, he’s been great. Not to mention, I’m the one who asked him to bring me the duvet when my mom finally noticed it was missing today. I’m also the one who let him wear it home from my house in the first place.

“I’ll just grab it from you after,” I say. “I have a lot of homework.”

“Your call,” he says with a shrug.



“Nothing,” I say, with another too-bright smile. “Um, what’s my section?”

“The patio,” Kyle says, gesturing at the giant, erasable seating chart that sits on the host podium.


“Yeah. That okay?”

It’s a big section to handle solo but more tables means more tips, so I say, “Totally.”

“By the way, Perry’s coming in, and he asked for you specifically,” Kyle says, looking at me like he expects this to make me ecstatic.

Perry Ackerman is a handful, and high on the list of people I’d rather not have to deal with right now. But he’s a great tipper, and a regular, so I give Kyle a thumbs-up and say, “Awesome.”

“I knew that’d make you happy.”

“So happy,” I say, and walk away taking deep breaths.

On my way through the restaurant I wave at my fellow servers Brianna and Kat, both of whom are working in the front tonight. Kat seems not to see me, but Brianna gives me a thumbs-up and pulls a comically panicked face that tells me she’s already in the weeds.

The patio is at the back of the restaurant, and is, in fact, not a patio at all, but a windowless, rectangular space tricked out with fake plants, paper lanterns, an anemic fountain, and painted “windows” on every wall that do not fool anyone.

I have just enough time to tidy the section, tally my float, and gulp down a half cup of hideously bitter coffee behind the wall of the service station before I hear, “Libbyyyyyyyy!”

“You got the ol’ perv?” Brianna gives me a wry, dimpled grin as she comes through with a stack of dirty plates. Her amazing crown of black braids adds at least three inches to her diminutive stature.


“All right, tits up,” she says, which I’ve come to understand means some combination of “chin up” and “good luck.”

I snort and square my shoulders.
(Retrieved from
on October 16, 2019.)

October 25, 2019

Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez

Written by Christiane Duchesne
Illustrated by François Thisdale
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 5-9
September 2019

Who is Mister Rodriguez? Where has he gone? These are two questions that the children of a charming coastal town are asking about the exceptional elderly man in the navy swing coat and red scarf. In the end, though, all that matters is that he is happy wherever he has ended up.
From Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez by Christiane Duchesne, illus. by François Thisdale
Each day, a group of children, the narrators of this tale, watch for Mister Rodriguez. But on one Monday, they watch him pause and look at his feet and realize the day is going to be different.
From Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez by Christiane Duchesne, illus. by François Thisdale
When a dove lands upon his foot and he attaches a very fine thread to her foot, the children notice. The next day the man seems to float just above the street while carrying a goldfish in its bowl upon his head. The following day, an old sheepdog approaches him and he transports the dog down the street in a wicker sled, again levitating above the ground. On Thursday, Mister Rodriguez ties wings to the back of a limping cat. On Friday, he rests upon a piano that appears on the street. And on Saturday, Mister Rodriguez does not appear and the children look for him. Finally the elderly man reappears floating far above them, accompanied by the fish, the cat, the dove, the dog and the piano. Knowing he would never return, they leave him a message in the sand.
From Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez by Christiane Duchesne, illus. by François Thisdale
Though the children did not weep for their loss of Mister Rodriguez, knowing that he was happy, I wept. I wept for an extraordinary man whose time had come to pass to the other side but who eased the passage of others with him. Though there is much for young readers to interpret about Mister Rodriguez and his existence on this plane and the next, they will appreciate the richness he brought to the lives of children who took pleasure in "seeing" him walk through or above the street, his cap low on his forehead, his bright red scarf a beacon of his brightness and his overcoat light billowing "as if he had clouds under" it. Christiane Duchesne's text leaves open what the children actually see and what actually happened to Mister Rodriguez but still laces it with the heartfelt emotion of a dear friend's passing.
From Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez by Christiane Duchesne, illus. by François Thisdale
Because of the surreal, perhaps supernatural, texture of Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez, François Thisdale's illustrations, created with acrylic and digital media, have the perfect blend of the ethereal and the realistic. The foggy coastal town is ghostly with its overhanging mist and crashing waves and a man who may be intangible. Still François Thisdale allows us to see how the children see Mister Rodriguez: walking, helping, guiding, living and not. He is a sympathetic and intriguing character, both down-to-earth and elevated.

Picture books about death and dying are plentiful and all aim to help children understand loss and grief. But Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez presents the concept of death in a wholly unique fashion, leaving open what happens after we leave the physical world. Mister Rodriguez, along with a lovely assortment of companions, may transition from one world to the next under the watchful of a group of children but it's evident that his life is far greater than just a physical presence in this world.

October 22, 2019

Sergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War: Book launch (Toronto, ON)

Join author Mireille Messier and illustrator Kass Reich

for the launch of their first collaboration

a non-fiction picture book

Sergeant Billy: The True Story of a Goat Who Went to War
Written by Mireille Messier
Illustrated by Kass Reich
Tundra Books
40 pp.
Ages 4-8
September 2019


November 3, 2019

2 - 4 p.m.


Queen Books 
914 Queen Street E
Toronto, ON

From the Penguin Random House Canada website:

A delightful tale inspired by the true story of a brave goat war hero. Perfect for fans of Finding Winnie and Rescue and Jessica.

During World War I, a goat named Billy was adopted by a platoon of soldiers and made his way across the ocean to be part of the war effort.

Billy . . .
  •   Trained with the soldiers
  •   Was smuggled across the ocean
  •   Got snuck into the frontlines in a box of oranges
  •   Ate some secret documents and was arrested for treason
  •   Got trench foot
  •   Head-butted soldiers into a trench and saved them from a shell
  •   Came back home a decorated war hero

This charming true story follows Sergeant Billy from his small prairie town to the trenches of World War I and back, through harrowing moments, sad moments, moments of camaraderie and moments of celebration. This unforgettable goat and the platoon that loved him will capture your heart!

for this free event at

October 21, 2019

In My Anaana's Amautik

Written by Nadia Sammurtok
Illustrated by Lenny Lishchenko
Inhabit Media
24 pp.
Ages 3-7
September 2019

Love and security are often found with a person or a place but to find them together in both is extraordinary. In My Anaana's Amautik is about a child finding them both in the pouch at the back of its mother's parka.
From In My Anaana's Amautik by Nadia Sammurtok, illus. by Lenny Lishchenko
In its anaana's amautik, a child travels, sleeps and enjoys the closeness of being with its mother and experiencing its world of land, water and sky from a position of safety and intimacy. They feel the sun and compare it to the warmth of her skin, see the clouds and compare them to being swaddled, and are reminded of summertime flowers with her scent.
In my anaana's amautik, I feel safe. The protection of the hood around me is like my own tiny iglu. I love peeking out from inside my anaana's amautik. (pg. 11)
From In My Anaana's Amautik by Nadia Sammurtok, illus. by Lenny Lishchenko
The child likens everything about being in its anaana's amautik to those familiar attributes of its own Arctic environment: sun, clouds, flowers (like Arctic poppy, blueberry and dock), cottongrass, iglu, ocean, stream. But most importantly it's about home.
In my anaana's amautik, I feel loved. The gentleness of her movements reminds me of her hugs and her love for me. I love my anaana's amautik. (pg. 19)
While the earlier books of Nadia Sammurtok's which I reviewed (The Caterpillar Woman, 2016; Siuluk: The Last Tuniq, 2018) had a distinct ambiance of darkness and legend, In My Anaana's Amautik is all lightness and affection. While still based in the Inuit culture, Nadia Sammurtok's heritage, and the Arctic environment, In My Anaana's Amautik enfolds the readers in the experience familiar to the very young Inuit. It brings us into that amautik to feel the bond of mother and child and of the land.
From In My Anaana's Amautik by Nadia Sammurtok, illus. by Lenny Lishchenko
In a series of double-spread illustrations depicting only a child's head or hand, the only body parts that would ever be exposed from rest in an amautik, Lenny Lishchenko also focuses on the feeling, not the logistics. She makes the sun, or the clouds, the cottongrass or the water, all things with which the child analogizes their amautik experiences, the emphasis. In this way, the child is but a small part of everything but still part of it all.

In My Anaana's Amautik is an experiential picture book filled with the sensory reality of being close and safe and warm and loved. Oh, that every child could feel this.

October 18, 2019

Wolfe in Shepherd's Clothing (A Shepherd & Wolfe Mystery, Book 3)

Written by Angie Counios and David Gane
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing
480 pp.
Ages 15+

Regina authors Angie Counios and David Gane introduced their teen protagonists Tony Shepherd and Charlie Wolfe in Along Comes a Wolfe (Your Nickel's Worth, 2016) when Tony's girlfriend disappeared and the two went sleuthing. Now in their third book, Wolfe in Shepherd's Clothing, a finalist for the John Spray Mystery Award of the Canadian Children's Book Centre's book awards, the two teens are in their senior year of high school and trying to respect Detective Gekas's request that they try to keep out of police business. But there's a serial killer on the loose and the two can't seem to stop themselves from investigating, especially after it becomes personal.

While Tony's family includes parents celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, supportive older siblings Heather and Jodi and countless family and close friends akin to family, Charlie's is more of a black hole. Though treated like a son by the Shepherds, Charlie tends to keep himself at a distance, that is until he is evicted and comes to live with them and attend school with Tony.

School becomes the focal point for the two boys and Charlie definitely seems to be fitting in. He comfortably hangs with Tony and his best friend Mike, makes new friends, and seems to catch the eye of several girls. When Tony is convinced that Detective Gekas wants their help in investigating the brutal murders of three seemingly-unrelated persons, the boys pursue leads left by a manipulative killer who feels compelled to retaliate against them when they get too close. But, as the title suggests, not all are as they seem and the deadliest character may be hiding in plain view.

Wolfe in Shepherd's Clothing is a cat-and-mouse psychological thriller as Tony and Charlie attempt to uncover a serial killer. Even as author Angie Counios and David Gane alternate the story from the boys' perspective with that of the twisted killer, it was impossible to predict the criminal's identity. With a plethora of twists and turns and a multitude of characters, Wolfe in Shepherd's Clothing is as involved a read as it is a thrilling plot. Still Angie Counios and David Gane tie things up effectively without being frivolous or simple–no one likes solving a mystery easily– even leaving readers hanging with a teaser about the elusive Charlie for their next Shepherd & Wolfe Mystery book.

October 17, 2019

2020 Forest of Reading® Nominated Titles Announced

On Tuesday, the Ontario Library Association announced its 2020 (that's nominated in 2019 but awarded in 2020) nominated titles for the Forest of Reading book award programs. It's always an exciting time of year for readers and authors and illustrators and publishers and teachers and librarians...but this year the announcement will be even more special as a new look for the Forest of Reading is implemented. It's clean and fresh and heralds a new season of reading with a new award, Yellow Cedar. With ninety titles nominated, I've broken them down into three posts on CanLit for LittleCanadians Awards page or you can visit the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading page at http://www.accessola.org/web/OLA/Forest_of_Reading/Nominated_Lists/OLA/Forest_of_Reading/Current_Program_Year.aspx

Blue Spruce Award™
(JK-Grade 2, picture books)
 Current nominees posted here
Silver Birch Express Award®
(Grades 3-4, fiction, non-fiction)
Current nominees posted here

Silver Birch Fiction Award®
(Grades 3-6, fiction)
Current nominees posted here

Yellow Cedar Award (New!)
(Grades 4-8, non-fiction every year)
Current nominees posted here
Red Maple Award™
(Grades 7-8, fiction every year)
Current nominees posted here

White Pine Award™
(Grades 9-12, fiction)
Current nominees posted here

Le prix Peuplier
(picture books, less text, simpler subject matters, perfect for read alouds)
Current nominees posted here
Le prix Mélèze (formerly Le prix Tamarac Express)
(shorter chapter books maximum 100 pages or more mature picture books, larger text with pictures, simpler vocabulary and verb tenses)
Current nominees posted here
Le prix Tamarac
(chapter books from 100 to 250 pages, smaller text with little or no illustrations, more complicated verb tenses and vocabulary)
Current nominees posted here

Let the Forest begin! 

October 16, 2019

2019 CCBC Canadian Children's Book Awards: English-language Winners announced

Last night the winners of English-language Canadian Children's Book Centre Book Awards were announced at a gala in Toronto.  MCed by Kim's Convenience Appa, actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, the event celebrated an auspicious collection of titles by Canadian authors and illustrators, all worthy nominees, selected by hard-working juries. Congratulations to all nominated authors and illustrators and, of course, especially to those winners of these awards. (The French-language awards will be presented on November 7th in Montreal.)

TD Canadian Children's Literature Award: Winner
Ebb & Flow
Written by Heather Smith
Kids Can Press
232 pp.
Ages 9-12

Fan Choice Award: Winner
They Say Blue
Written and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Groundwood Books
40 pp.
Ages 3-7

Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award: Winner
Written by Shauntay Grant
Illustrated by Eva Campbell
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-7

Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction: Winner

Turtle Pond
Written by James Gladstone
Illustrated by Karen Reczuch
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-7

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People : Winner
The Journey of Little Charlie
Written by Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic Canada
234 pp.
Ages 9-12

John Spray Mystery Award: Winner
Written by Courtney Summers
St. Martin's Press
308 pp.
Ages 14+

Amy Mathers Teen Book Award: Winner
The House of One Thousand Eyes
Written by Michelle Barker
Annick Press
354 pp.
Ages 14+

October 15, 2019

The Three Spartans: Book launch (Vancouver, BC)

New publisher Crwth Press

is launching its newest middle-grade novel

praised by
 youngCanLit authors

 Eric Walters as
"A great read! You’ll feel like you’re with them in the battle. Go Spartans Go!"


 Arthur Slade as
"This is a smart, funny story that cleverly sneaks in a history lesson. The action scenes are epic and the characters really shine."

The Three Spartans
Written by James McCann
Crwth Press
160 pp.
Ages 9-12
October 2019

It launches on

Thursday, November 7, 2019

7 p.m.


2557 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC

From the publisher's website at https://www.crwth.ca/thethreespartans/:
Twelve-year-old Arthur loves his summers in Birch Bay, a quirky seaside village where he spends all of his time with his best friend Lea. They play video games together, hang out at the beach and explore on their bikes.

This year is different, though. First, Arthur learns it will be Lea’s last summer in Birch Bay. Then their freedom is threatened by the Immortals, the swim team who torments all the local kids.

Lea and Arthur decide to take a stand. Using their video-game network, they gather a small army of kids who’ve had enough of the Immortals.

Armed with paintball guns and shields made of garbage can lids, the Spartan army takes on the Immortals. Their goal is control of a treehouse, but the prize is knowing they stood up for themselves.

A humorous retelling of the Greek battle of Thermopylae, The Three Spartans is a story of friendship and belonging and of standing up for what’s right—even when the odds are against you.