October 30, 2021

2021 Canadian Children's Book Centre Book Awards: Winners announced


On October 28 and 29, 2021, the Canadian Children's Book Centre announced the winners for the 2021 Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards. (Finalists were announced in September.) These awards were presented at virtual events (streamed for all to attend) in partnership with the Toronto International Festival of Authors as well as Communication-Jeunesse.

Congratulations to the winners of this year's eight major children's book awards:
  • 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;
  • Amy Mathers Teen Book Award ($5,000), Sponsored by Amy Mathers' Marathon of Books;
  • Le Prix Harry Black de l’album jeunesse ($5,000), Sponsored by Mary Macchiusi; and
  • Jean Little First-Novel Award ($5,000).

TD Canadian Children's Literature Award

The Barnabus Project
Written and illustrated by Terry Fan, Eric Fan and Devin Fan 
Tundra Books

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


Ma maison-tête
Written and illustrated by Vigg
Éditions Fonfon

Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award

Our Little Kitchen
Written and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Groundwoods Books

Norma Fleck Award For Canadian Children's Non-Fiction
Powwow: A Celebration Through Song and Dance
Written by Karen Pheasant-Neganigwane
Orca Book Publishers

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People 

The Paper Girl of Paris
Written by Jordyn Taylor

Amy Mathers Teen Book Award

Facing the Sun
Written by Janice Lynn Mather
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Le Prix Harry Black de l'album jeunesse

Ma maison-tête
Written and illustrated by Vigg
Éditions Fonfon


Jean Little First-Novel Award

No Vacancy
Written by Tziporah Cohen
Groundwood Books



October 27, 2021

Lights Day and Night: The Science of How Light Works

Written by Susan Hughes
Illustrated by Ellen Rooney
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 5-8
September 2021 

If you're a regular reader of CanLit for LittleCanadians, you'll know that while I do review some non-fiction books, I do so infrequently. It's not that there aren't great non-fiction books out there–there most definitely are–but I tend to find many dry and text-heavy in their efforts to provide quality content for young readers. While many books are organized well and enhanced with colourful illustrations and typical features of non-fiction texts like maps, glossaries and  info boxes, I find that the content can bog down the book. This is not the case with Susan Hughes and Ellen Rooney's Lights Day and Night: The Science of How Light Works. It's informative but text-light and captivating in its organization and storytelling.
From Lights Day and Night by Susan Hughes, illus. by Ellen Rooney
A child and her tuxedo cat enjoy the darkness of a summer evening before witnessing the light that comes from a firefly and the stars. Natural light sources like the sun, volcanoes, lightning and the northern lights are all noted, as is artificial light and the need for some source like electricity or the burning of wood.
From Lights Day and Night by Susan Hughes, illus. by Ellen Rooney
Discussions of the uses of light leads to a focus on the sun and energy, the water cycle, absorption, reflection and refraction, and the eyes, all while the girl and her cat enjoy the outdoors, playing and making observations at their cottage on a lake.
From Lights Day and Night by Susan Hughes, illus. by Ellen Rooney
Susan Hughes gives young readers the basics about light: where it comes from, what it does and how it works, all within the context of a child playing with her feline companion. Readers will learn important words like translucent and retina and artificial, which are bolded and reinforced in a glossary called "Words to Know." But while learning about light, information which is never cumbersome, kids can enjoy natural landscapes, a cute cat, people in activities supported with light such as walking at a crosswalk or hockey game results on a scoreboard, and know that light is part of their lives too. That same mix of science information and story is blended by BC's Ellen Rooney in her artwork, using cut paper, paint, pencil crayons and a computer to create these collages of light and dark and life.

I know teachers and parents will enjoy using Lights Day and Night as a solid introduction to light and its role in our lives but kids will get more out of the educational messages because of Susan Hughes's text and Ellen Rooney's artwork. After all, an idea is more easily absorbed when presented as in a captivating manner–did I mention the instructions for a shadow puppet show are provided?–and with transparency and brightness.  Lights Day and Night does just that.

October 25, 2021

Hello, Dark

Written by Wai Mei Wong
Illustrated by Tamara Campeau
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
October 2021

Tomorrow's release of Wai Mei Wong and Tamara Campeau's picture book Hello, Dark may herald the use of a new strategy for young children to help them cope with their fears of the dark. After all, the dark will always be there and if there's a way to make friends with it, it's certain to make bedtime and sleep time much easier.

From Hello, Dark by Wai Mei Wong, illus. by Tamara Campeau
After a child has been put to bed, he sits on his bed, facing his closet and begins a conversation with the dark. Starting with a cordial "Hello, Dark," he begins to recite what he knows of the dark, such as that it creeps in when the sun goes down and keeps him wide awake and worrying. He knows of the creaks and the sounds it makes, hiding everything in its shadows and making him feel helpless and alone. But tonight the boy is determined that things will be different.
I'm tired of being afraid of you.
Tonight, can we talk?

From Hello, Dark by Wai Mei Wong, illus. by Tamara Campeau
Now the child recounts all the good things that the darkness helps to happen, from animals like the fox and the owl that feel safe in the shadows and the moon and stars that can only shine when in the darkness.

Thinking that maybe the dark isn't scary but really just lonely, the boy offers to be its friend. He suggests that they talk about happy things, play imaginary games–the dark makes a good shadow pirate–count sheep, breathe, and listen to music, many strategies offered to help all of us fall asleep. But by making the dark his partner in those strategies, the child removes the dark from a sleep-inhibiting role and truly makes it a friend.
From Hello, Dark by Wai Mei Wong, illus. by Tamara Campeau
Too many parents and teachers dismiss children's fears of the dark by telling them that there's nothing to be afraid of. Sadly, that does not eliminate the fear. By addressing a child's fear as something tangible, even as a dark amorphous form, Wai Mei Wong has let this child have his fear and helps him, and every child who reads this book, to cope with it. He is every child and so his solutions to deal with the dark could also belong to every child. Moreover, by having him try a variety of strategies from breathing to listening to music, using his imagination and self-soothing through talk, Wai Mei Wong offers children opportunities to make friends with the dark for themselves.

Artist Tamara Campeau could have given the night the eerie nature that many children attribute to it but this deeply-coloured book is anything but dark. Tamara Campeau, who recently illustrated the gorgeous Grandfather Bowhead, Tell Me a Story, uses rich blues and purples to evoke the night but permeates the child's room with the primary colours, even if subdued in a lack of light. From his pajamas and bed covers to growth chart and books, everything that is familiar to him is always there, even if the dark is too, and reassures children that all those much-loved playthings and familiar bedroom items will still be there in the morning. 

If you know a child who struggles with the night, Hello, Dark will offer them more than one way to cope with being left in a room without light, the greatest of which is embracing the darkness as a companion, not villain.

October 22, 2021

The Midnight Club

Written by Shane Goth
Illustrated by Yong Ling Kang
Owlkids Books
40 pp.
Ages 3-7
October 2021
The darkness of the night doesn't stand a chance when two sisters, and a cat, head out on a secret adventure, unbeknownst to their sleeping parents. With a secret hand sign and a quiet step, the Midnight Club is in session.
From The Midnight Club by Shane Goth, illus. by Yong Ling Kang
After Milly wakes up her older sister Becca and they give the secret sign of the Midnight Club–one finger on one hand and two on the other–the two girls sneak out of their bedroom and guardedly past their parents' room. In a game, following the club's rule of not touching the shadows, the pair cautiously make their way down the creaky stairs to the uncharted land of their night-time main floor. They enjoy their dad's forbidden chair and jelly beans, including the use of his back-scratcher, try on their mother's clothes and play with the shadows made by the streetlights.
From The Midnight Club by Shane Goth, illus. by Yong Ling Kang
Always listening for a creak or a scratch, they let in Oliver the cat a.k.a. the President of the Midnight Club, before playing a feline version of Follow the Leader. And even though they are reluctant to admit sleepiness, the two sisters yawn and stretch and return to bed as carefully as they vacated it, determined to keep the secret of the Midnight Club.
From The Midnight Club by Shane Goth, illus. by Yong Ling Kang
Though this is Shane Goth's first picture book, this Vancouver writer has the lightness of touch to charm us with a story of the sisters' night time exploration of their house. It's not just sneaking out of their room at night; it's an opportunity to bond and let their imaginations play while both safe in the familiar and vulnerable with the novelty. There is play and some impulsivity though also caution. Most of all, there is togetherness as Becca and Milly delve into the unknown nature of their home.
From The Midnight Club by Shane Goth, illus. by Yong Ling Kang
Yong Ling Kang's artwork has graced several picture books previously reviewed here (Tanna's Owl and This House is Home) so I know that she has a fluid style that fits the story. As such, her pencil and watercolour art in The Midnight Club gives the story the low-light softness of a late night caper. The blues, greens and purples of the dark house are never scary, only mysterious, compared to the brightness of the occasional light inside or outside the house, illuminating the children with warmth and an etherealness. Yong Ling Kang's delicate touch evokes the fleeting nature of the children's antics, ephemeral in fact, only for that meeting of the Midnight Club.
By bringing play into the scariness of the dark, Shane Goth and Yong Ling Kang's The Midnight Club will charm many a young child to new perspectives on their own homes and spur on imaginative play, whether in the night or the day.

October 20, 2021

Halloween Mouse

Written by Philip Roy
Illustrated by Lisa Ferguson
Ronsdale Press
32 pp.
Ages 2-6
October 2021
If the leaves are falling, then Halloween is on the horizon. Undoubtedly many children are already gearing up for the trick-or-treat holiday of costumes and candy, but there's one little mouse named Happy who's just learning of the spooky event and is ready to embrace it completely. 
From Halloween Mouse by Philip Roy, illus. by Lisa Ferguson
When Happy the Pocket Mouse, John's enduring purple-hued murine friend, sees the leaves falling and an elderly neighbour decorating her house with ghosts and such, he does what he always does: asks lots of questions. 

"Well, they dress up and go door-to-door to ask for treats."

"That sounds boring, John! I'm glad we don't do that. What are treats?"


"Candy? Treats are candy?"

Of course, with the intensity of a youngster, Happy decides they should dress up and go out for Halloween. Unfortunately, John is reluctant, claiming he's too old. But Happy, through a series of pointed questions, gets John to relent–after all, you're never too old for candy!–and helps with some surprise face-painting to make John scary-looking.
From Halloween Mouse by Philip Roy, illus. by Lisa Ferguson
Eager and impatient, Happy prods John into heading out before all the candy is gone. But being an adult going trick-or-treating, an activity generally limited to youth, John is not always welcomed with enthusiasm and is often questioned.
From Halloween Mouse by Philip Roy, illus. by Lisa Ferguson
Still, the friends return home with a cornucopia of candy and Happy dives in a little too enthusiastically, as children often do, and needs to recover while John discovers the nature of his disguise.

When Philip Roy introduced young readers to Happy the Pocket Mouse in Mouse Tales (2014), he gave us a unique friendship as the basis for positive messages about curiosity, adaptation, and sharing. John may act like the adult or even parent in the relationship, trying to educate Happy and help him understand so much of the human world but he's so much more, mixing companion, sidekick, and mentor into a congenial sage. And Happy is the bright spot of inquisitiveness and heart, eager to learn and experience new things, but always with John by his side for guidance.

This is the first Happy the Pocket Mouse book to be illustrated by Ontario's Lisa Ferguson (https://studioferguson.com/) who emulates the characters and landscapes of the original books with dexterity and feeling. Happy is still sweet and innocent and John is insightful and warm-hearted. Their touching relationship and honest explorations are portrayed with gentle colours and soft lines, even as related to potentially scary Halloween. 
But Halloween is anything but scary, something Happy is often concerned about, with Halloween Mouse because Philip Roy's words and Lisa Ferguson's art have given us the sweetness of a chocolate bar and the amusement that comes with dressing up wrapped up in a special friendship that the very young will appreciate. And, of course, there is candy!

🎃 🎃 🎃 🎃 🎃

There are now five books in the Happy the Pocket Mouse series from Philip Roy. Books 1 through 4 were illustrated by Andrea Torrey Balsara with Lisa Ferguson doing the artwork for Book 5.

Mouse Pet (2015)
Halloween Mouse (2021)

October 18, 2021

2022 Forest of Reading® nominees: Le prix Peuplier, Le prix Mélèze, Le prix Tamarac

This is the final listing of nominees for the 2022 Forest of Reading® book award programs of the Ontario Library Association.

Listed below are the nominees for the French-language reading programs:
  • Le prix Peuplier: French-language picture books, less text, simpler subject matters, perfect for read-alouds
  • Le prix Mélèze: shorter French-language chapter books with maximum 100 pages or more mature picture books, larger text with pictures, simpler vocabulary and verb tenses
  • Le prix Tamarac:  French-language chapter books from 100 to 250 pages, smaller text with little or no illustrations, more complicated verb tenses and vocabulary
Links for the other six reading programs follow.


Albertine Petit-Brindamour déteste les choux de Bruxelles
Écrit par Anne Renaud
Illustré par Élodie Duhameau
La courte échelle

La chasse aux taches tenaces

Écrit par Émilie Demers
Illustré par Élodie Duhameau
Éditons de l’Isatis

Clovis a peur des nuages

Écrit par Guylaine Guay
Illustré par Orbie
Les Éditions de la Bagnole

Le cochon qui voulait dire non

Écrit par Carine Paquin
Illustré par Laurence Dechassey
Éditions Michel Quintin

La grève de câlins

Écrit par Simon Boulerice
Illustré par Francis-William Rhéaume
Les Éditons de la Bagnole

Joyeux ou triste?

Écrit par Bertrand Gauthier
Illustré par Sabrina Gendron

La morve au nez

Écrit et illustré par Orbie
Les 400 coups

Les petits et les (trop) gros secrets

Écrit par Mylen Vigneault
Illustré par Maud Roegiers
Alice Jeunesse

La ruelle d’hiver

Écrit par Céline Comtois
Illustré par Geneviève Després
Éditions D’eux

Victor et Lino

Écrit et illustré par Caroline Merola
La courte échelle


L’agence Mysterium 03: Mission Nanouime

Écrit par Alexandre Côté-Fournier
Illustré par Sophhie Bédard
La courte échelle


Écrit et illustré par Marya Zarif
Bayard Canada

L’épouvantable histoire de l’ogresse qui mangeait que les enfants sages

Écrit par Danielle Chaperon
Illustré par Baptiste Amsallem
La courte échelle

Espion malgé moi 01: Opération parents très spéciaux

Écrit par Andréanne Dubois
Dominique et compagnie

Honey et Ketchup

Écrit par Jonathan Bécotte
Illustré par Sabrina Gendron
Éditions Québec Amérique

Kellan et le roi de la montagne

Écrit par Dïana Bélice
Illustré par Audrey Jadaud
Dominique et compagnie

Oizo s’inquiète trop!

Écrit et illustré par Éric Péladeau
Éditions Z’ailées

Le retour du Capitaine Baboune

Écrit par Michel Ouellette
Illustré par Réjean Roy
Bouton d’or Acadie

Tombés dans...la gomme!

Écrit par Julie Rivard
Illustré par Rémy Simard

Voyages autour de mon cœur

Écrit par Gilles Tibo
Illustré par Geneviève Després
Les Éditions de la Bagnole


Am Stram Gram

Écrit et illustré par Sophie Labelle
Éditions Hurtubise

La bête à pile

Écrit par Pierrette Dubé
Illustré par Vigg
La courte échelle

Cabane Sinistre

Écrit par Karine Lambert
Héritage jeunesse

Comme un ouragan

Écrit par Jonathan Bécotte
Héritage jeunesse

Un festin pour les chiens

Écrit par François Gravel
La courte échelle

Fric-Frac: Le parcours d’un billet de banque

Écrit par André Marois
Illustré par Pauline Stive
Éditions de l’Isatis

Louis Riel et le pays improbable

Écrit par André Leblanc
Les 400 coups

Nish 01: Le Nord et le Sud

Écrit par Isabelle Picard
Éditions les Malins

Panique à la mi-temps

Écrit par Mika
Illustré par Mathieu Lampron
Bayard Canada

Saraline: 160 jours en Islande

Écrit par Louise Phaneuf
Héritage jeunesse


Nominees for the other programs can be linked to from below: