Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Canadian Book Awards just announced...

Fall is the time of the year when awards are as numerous as falling trees (at least out here on the west coast with our wild wind storms). Here are a few Canadian awards just announced. I find that when I'm pressed for time, reading the award books as well as the books short-listed is a good way to keep abreast of what's going on in kid's books. So, the list of award books below should keep you busy for a while...


The Canadian Children's Book Centre Announces Winners of

Four Awards at Celebration at Toronto’s Design Exchange

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Toronto: October 20, 2006) – Last night, the Canadian Children's Book Centre (CCBC) announced the winners of four book awards at the Canadian Children’s Literature Awards Celebration at Toronto’s Design Exchange. The TD Bank Financial Group, Dr. James Fleck, Marilyn and A. Charles Baillie and staff and board members of the Canadian Children's Book Centre announced the winners and celebrated an evening of outstanding books for children and teens by Canadian authors and illustrators.

And the winners are…

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People

The Crazy Man
written by Pamela Porter
Groundwood Books

The Bilson jury called The Crazy Man…“A poignant and touching novel written with a unique voice…this spare and intense writing really evokes life on the Prairies and the resiliency of a young girl…it recreates the experiences and maturation of Emaline in a compelling and highly readable way…The Crazy Man is wonderful, powerful and so different.”

Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction

Transformed: How Everyday Things Are Made
written by Bill Slavin and Jim Slavin, illustrated by Bill Slavin
Kids Can Press

The Fleck jury called Transformed “A window into complicated subjects…Slavin presents difficult information in a humorous and appealing way … Each process is described in such a way that you understand everything … The illustrations and text are one … Transformed satisfies a young reader’s hunger for answers.”

Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award

written and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
Groundwood Books

The Baillie jury called Caramba“An engaging, exquisitely written story that captivates you from the very first page … Gay uses humour and warmth to introduce young readers to this wonderfully original new feline friend…This is Marie-Louise Gay at her best.”

TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award (English-language)

The Crazy Man
written by Pamela Porter
Groundwood Books

The TD jury called The Crazy Man“Beautiful and powerful… This book depicts the possibility of a world filled with humanity and healing... so carefully and lovingly crafted… has a strength and power that is different than most books… an amazing, rich storyline... The Crazy Man is exquisite.”

. . .

Pamela Porter was the big winner of the night taking home both the $1,000 Geoffrey Bilson Award prize and the $20,000 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award prize for her novel The Crazy Man.

Bill Slavin and his brother Jim Slavin accepted the $10,000 Norma Fleck Award prize for their collaboration Transformed: How Everyday Things Are Made.

Marie-Louise Gay won the inaugural $10,000 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award prize for her latest book, Caramba.

. . .

The following are the honour books for each award:

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People
Honour Books

The Death of My Country: The Plains of Abraham Diary of Geneviève Aubuchon
written by Maxine Trottier

written by Barbara Haworth-Attard

Four Steps to Death
written by John Wilson
Kids Can Press

Turned Away: The World War II Diary of Devorah Bernstein
written by Carol Matas

Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction
Honour Books

Coming to Canada: Building a Life in a New Land
written by Susan Hughes
Maple Tree Press

Hiding Edith: A True Story
written by Kathy Kacer
Second Story Press

My Childhood Under Fire: A Sarajevo Diary
written by Nadja Halilbegovich
Kids Can Press

Our Stories, Our Songs: African Children Talk About AIDS
written by Deborah Ellis
Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award Honour Books

Bearcub and Mama
written by Sharon Jennings, illustrated by Mélanie Watt
Kids Can Press

Eddie Longpants
written and illustrated by Mireille Levert
Groundwood Books

Lullaby Berceuse: A Warm Prairie Night
story and songs by Connie Kaldor and Carmen Campagne, illustrated by Brian Deines
La Montagne Secrète

written by Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Kim LaFave
Groundwood Books

TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award (English-language)
Honour Books

Earth to Audrey
written by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Stéphane Poulin
Kids Can Press

Mella and the N’anga: An African Tale
written by Gail Nyoka
Sumach Press

written by Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Kim LaFave
Groundwood Books

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre is a national, not-for-profit organization, founded in 1976 to promote the reading, writing, and illustrating of Canadian books for young readers. The CCBC provides programs, publications, and resources for teachers, librarians, authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers and parents. For more information about the CCBC and the Bilson Award, please visit the CCBC website at www.bookcentre.ca.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Exit Point by Laura Langston

Provocative definitely describes Exit Point, Laura Langston’s new YA novel in the Orca Soundings series. Gripping is another way to describe it. In fact, I couldn’t put it down. The premise is that there are various points that we can exit or die at, and we in fact have a choice about those points of exit.

Sixteen year old Logan is the story’s narrator. Logan is not like most other sixteen year olds and it doesn’t take the reader long to discover why. Logan is dead. Or is he? Maybe he’s just having a bad dream. After all, he can’t remember much and who ever heard of a round room where you are fed colours except maybe in your dreams? Then there is Wade, the snake-tattooed, six foot-four man who insists that he is Logan’s Guide. But Logan is skeptical. After all, there was no tunnel of light, and he hasn’t seen any pearly gates either.

When Logan meets up with his dead grandmother, the cigarette-smoking, straight-talking, gambling-addicted Arlene, doubt begins to creep in. Maybe he isn't dreaming? Maybe he really is dead? The real clincher comes when Wade takes Logan to his own funeral. Logan is now mere ashes in an urn next to his high school picture while the "ghost" of his former self looks on from the back pew. Logan is finally forced to believe that he died in a fiery car crash that left his best friend in a wheelchair, his father wracked by guilt, his mother devastated, his girlfriend broken-hearted, and his little sister hollow-eyed. Wade whisks him away, explaining that he has exited at the wrong time.

But, Logan discovers that his death isn’t the only thing troubling his little sister. By exiting too soon, he will no longer be around to help and protect her and she is terrified. He has to go back. He has to help her now that he knows. But how? And will he be strong enough to stand up to pure evil?

All I can say is read this compact YA novel which has flashes of brilliant insight. It may not answer any questions, but it certainly will push you to pose some of your own—about life, about death, and most especially about what may or may not come after. Who could ask a novel to do more?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Omar's Halloween by Maryann Kovalski

Teachers and parents are always on the look out for great seasonal kid’s book titles, so I thought I’d pass this one along. Omar’s Halloween is hot off the press. This time, Maryann Kovalski’s never perfect, but always loveable bear, is having a Halloween party after trick-or-treating with his friends. Omar is beyond excitement. He plans to have the scariest costume ever. But Omar finds out that scary isn’t easy to do. At first he thinks he might be a spider. All those scary legs make him shiver, but his friend explains how helpful spiders are in controlling the bug population, putting a kybosh on Omar’s scare. He even tries painting himself green, but finds that he still looks like himself only green! In the end, he ends up dressed as a ghost. No no one is the least bit frightened of him.. What’s worse, is when it starts to rain, Omar finds himself tripping and getting tangles in the sheet that his mother has made into a costume for him. Soon all of Omar’s friends have outrun him leaving poor Omar to trudge home alone wet and dirty and discouraged. He doesn’t’ realize that he is nothing like the cute ghost who left the house. By the time he gets home, everyone is already at his party! When he opens the door, Ormar is greeted by shrieks and near-feinting. Rain and mud and twigs sticking to him have transformed. He is SCAREY. And, despite the rain and mud, and arriving late at his own party, this is his happiest Halloween ever.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The End by Lemony Snicket

For Lemony Snicket fans out there, today, Friday 13th, is the release of the final in A Series of Unfortunate Events, appropriately entitled #13:The End. My kids and I have loved these books that followed the misadventures of the unfortunate Baudelaire orphas and Count Olof from the time the first one was released seven years ago. None of us loved the movie as much as the books. I read that the new book has a whopping 2.5 million book print run.

I think I have mention before that my all time favourite was The Unathorized Autobiography, but I admit that my girls didn't like that one quite as much as I did. I probably won't read this one immediately, but I'll definately get around to it despite thinking that the series has gone on a little too long for my taste. Still, misadventure has never been so much fun, and I so want to find out what is in store for this most unlucky of families!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Blue Jean Book: The Story Behind the Seams by Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Just finished The Blue Jean Book: The Story Behind the Seams by Tanya Lloyd Kyi. I can't believe it took me so long to read it! I've had it in my bedside pile (an ever growing pile I might add―yikes!) since it won the BC Book prize for Illustrated Children's Book back in April of this year.

Blue jeans have been around for more than a century. While they began as tough-wearing work pants, over the years, they became synonymous with groups as diverse as cowboys, rebellious teens, and high fashion designers. The impact of blue jeans on economic, social and cultural history can be felt around the globe. Who knew that so much was woven into blue denim threads? I love the way Kyi teases out each of these threads in such a easy to read style. Old ads and plenty of old and new photographs, sit easily alongside “pockets” of facts and asides. The Blue Jean Book is packed with information that is both interesting and provocative, but what I liked most about the book was that the author doesn’t shy away from difficult issues. She tackles toxic chemicals, sweatshops and advertising and explains the way in which we as consumers can impact the industry. And book’s design fits like a snug pair of jeans. What more you want from this superb team of author, editor, designer and publisher...just another superb title.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Just finished Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes. It’s one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for ages; or at least since it came out in 2003. It was a Nerwbery Honor Book, an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults for a very good reason. It’s really really really good.

To start, I loved the cover which is simultaneously soothing and provocative; so like the story. Twelve year old Martha opens the door the day before she and her family are to leave for summer vacation to find a stranger, with a disturbing message from the grave. She is Olive’s mother and she is there to thank Martha for befriending Olive, and to deliver a page from Olive’s diary. But Martha barely knew Olive, a classmate who was recently killed when she was hit by a car while riding her bike. But, with a page from Olive’s life before her, Martha realizes that they might easily have been friends. Thus Olive becomes a messenger from the grave; a catalyst to changes in the way Martha looks at herself, and her world, including her aging grandmother.

A stolen kiss, a near drowning, baby food jars of coloured water that refract the ligh, a stolen video tape, and sea water in a jar. These are the materials that Henkes weaves into a most poignant of novels.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Peter and the Starcatchers

Read a very cool item from Children's Bookshelf. On September 28th, middle school students in Florida broke the Guiness world record for "Most People Reading Aloud Simultaneously in Multiple Locations".Three hundred thousand kids read Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson breaking the previous record set in 2004 by students in the UK. Who even knew there was such a record to be broken! Now that you do though, wouldn't it be a fabulous thing to give a go at. I wonder if someone in Canada might be interested in taking up the challenge...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Children's Laureate

So today's hot topic for the Canadian children's author's listserve was "Should we have a Children's Book Laureate?" England has one, and has had for years. Jacqueline Wilson is the current Laureate whose two year term is just about up. Jack Prelutsky was recently named the Children's Poet Laureate in the US. I mean, we all seem to agree that kids and reading go together like peanut butter and jam (or jelly in the case of the US), oops, having a kid with a peanut allergy, I of all people, should use a nut-free example! So, try this one, kids and reading go together like a duck and water. In any case, raising the profile of the importance of books for children could use a little profile, and I don't mean the self-serving 'Madonna's new kid's book' kind of profile.

So, what do you non-writers think?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Know and Yes

Know is a relatively new science and technology magazine for the 6-9 year old crowd, and it really is a treasure. Kids will love the cool experiments and activities such as how to make an edible magnifying lens. They'll also love having their burning questions like "How are crayons made?" answered; although I predict that the parents and teachers of inquisitive kids will be even happier with this regular feature. The magazine has something for everyonefrom accessible age-appropriate science articles, to a "Di-know" section. Puzzles, games and contests round out the content. Of course the web presence adds to magazine's appeal, and it even features a blog. And best of all, when kids outgrow Know they can move straight onto Yes, the award-winning sister magazine for 9-14 year olds. Check them both out today.

2006 Information Book Award Shortlist

What a busy time of the year. I'm trying to get through several information books before October 16th, the date that the Victoria Children's Literature Roundtable votes for the National Information Book Award. So many good titles: So little reading time!

Are You Psychic? The Official Guide For Kids

by Helaine Becker. Maple Tree Press

Backyard Birds: An Introduction

by Robert Bateman. Scholastic Canada

The Blue Jean Book: The Story Behind the Seams

by Tanya Lloyd Kyi. Annick Press

Media Madness: An Insider’s Guide to Media

by Dominic Ali. Kids Can Press

Our Stories, Our Songs: African Children Talk About AIDS

by Deborah Ellis. Fitzhenry and Whiteside

Terry Fox: A Story of Hope

by Maxine Trottier. Scholastic Canada

Transformed: How Everyday Things Are Made

by Bill Slavin. Kids Can Press

I am in the middle of Our Stories, Our Songs: African Children Talk About Aids by Deborah Ellis. Very compelling and often times heart wrenching reading so far, with kids as young as 8 and 9 telling their stories. I'll report back when I'm finished.