Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I am Invited to a Party! by Mo Willems

I have loved Mo Willems since Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! first hit bookstores. I was thrilled when Knuffle Bunny won the Caldecott Award and have enjoyed the further adventures of pigeon. So, when I heard that Mo Willems was speaking at a Seattle conference that I was attending, I rushed to his website to check out a bit of background info. It was all I expected and more. I was so excited. Willems was entertaining but not as informative as I'd hoped, relying on his quirky, off-the-cuff humor and general charm. It was a bit disappointing coming from someone with such obvious talent.

Still, I remain a fan of Willems picture books as well as his early readers like I am Invited to a Party from the Elephant & Piggie series. Willems uses a minimum number of words along with priceless illustrations to maximum effect. His simple line-drawn animal characters are perfectly imbued with facial expressions and body language that children easily identify with. Like other Willems' stories, I am invited to a Party! has that perfect story arc that kids find universally appealing. The tension in the story develops as a result of the familiar personality types that kids will recognize and appreciate. It's classic, and yet not. Willems success lies in his ability to bring an appealing freshness & quirky sensibility to the familiar. In fact, I've yet to read a Willems book that I didn't like. Still, I think I'll stick to enjoying his books and leave public appearances for other conference attendees.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I'm the proud owner of a Janet Wilson sketch

Just back from Vancouver where I attended a fabulous fundraiser for the Canadian Children's Book Centre. Wine, cheese, seriously yummy deserts and 100 illustrations donated by Canadian book illustrators were up for grabs. My daughter managed to get a very cool Wallace Edwards sketch and I, lucky me got a graphite sketch done by Janet Wilson from the book by Andrea Spalding, Sarah May and the New Red Dress. I have always wanted the chance to work with Janet who is a wonderful illustrator, but never had the chance. Owning one of her drawings is the next best thing. I totally love both the sketch and the book. You can't check out my sketch because it's too big too scan, but you can check out the book. It's such a lovely story, but then that's no surprise because Andrea Spalding always writes lovely stories.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

All-Season Edie by Annabel Lyon

Every now and then you come across one of those delightful characters that make you glance back longingly at your childhood. Eleven-year-old Edie Jasmine Snow, from All-Season Edie, is just such a girl. Edie is nothing like her perfect older sister Dexter who has been allowed to stay with her best friend to attend dance camp instead of accompanying the family on their annual holiday to the lake.

As far as Edie is concerned, it barely feels like Dex is gone since her sister is one of her parents main topics of conversation. The other conversation topic is Edie's beloved grandfather who has suffered a series of small strokes. At the lake, Edie passes the time fishing with Robert, a fat boy who doesn't quite fit in either. The two become fast friends.

Once back home, Edie comes up with a rather outlandish plan to help her beloved grandpa with the help of a little witchcraft and the library. Not surprisingly, Edie's unique efforts to save her grandfather come to naught. Here is where author, Annabel Lyon's deft hand is strongest. There are no magic bullet for grief yet we see many small ways that grief brings Edie's family together without overdoing the sappy. Life goes on, including the self-serving Dexter and her best friend, Mean Megan's plot to get Edie out of the way for a pool party. Edie's eventual revenge is as sweet as it is subtle and unexpected. All-Season Edie is both playful and freshing. Although Annabel confided that it took her fifteen years to complete All Season Edie, (she has written several adult titles in between) I am hoping that her Ramona Quimby-like character is one that we see more of soon.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Can Lit. Award Round-up

Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize


The Corps of the Bare-Boned Plane
Written by Polly Horvath
Published by Groundwood Books (2007)

Like her National Book Award-winning The Canning Season, The Corps of the Bare-Boned Plane is filled with plot twists and extraordinarily strange characters. It is also a moving meditation on loss and finding family in the most unlikely places. Following the death of their parents, two cousins are sent to live with their distant, scholarly uncle and his eccentric house staff. Told in four characters’ voices, the novel is a layered account of one bad year from multiple points of view linking humour and pain. Polly Horvath has written many award-winning books for children and young adults, including The Trolls and Everything on a Waffle, which won the Sheila Egoff Prize in 2002. She lives in Victoria.

Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize
Supported by Kate Walker and Company


A Sea-Wishing Day
Written by Robert Heidbreder
Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
Published by Kids Can Press (2007)

On a hot summer day, a wish transforms an urban backyard into a place of breezy high-seas adventure. As our bold Captain and Skipper ride the salty waves, they encounter a beastly sea monster, buried treasure, a scurvy pirate crew, lovely mermaids and more. The creative pair who brought you the acclaimed I Wished for a Unicorn offer up another celebration of the boundless distances a childhood wish can travel. A retired elementary school teacher, Robert Heidbreder has been enchanting children with his joyful poems and rhymes for more than two decades. His 2005 book, Drumheller Dinosaur Dance, won the BC Chocolate Lily Young Readers’ Choice Award. Kady MacDonald Denton is an author and illustrator of books for children and lives in Peterborough, Ontario

Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award 2008 (NB)

English Fiction

No Safe Harbour: The Halifax Explosion Diary of Charlotte Blackburn
Written by Julie Lawson
Published by Scholastic Canada

English Non-Fiction

Hiding Edith
Written by Kathy Kacer
Published by Second Story Press

2008 Manitoba Book Awards Winners Announced

The Younger category of this award was deferred to 2009.

McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award—Older Category


Sandbag Shuffle
Written by Kevin Marc Fournier
Published by Thistledown Press (2007)

Results are in for the Red Cedar and Stellar Awards

Red Cedar information book winner:
Bill Slavin for Transformed: How Everyday Things are Made (Kids Can Press)

Red Cedar fiction winner:
Pamela Porter for The Crazy Man (Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press)

Stellar Award winner:
Diane Tullson, Red Sea (Orca Books)

Finalists for the Arthur Ellis Best Juvenile Crime Award (announced June 5)
Racing for Diamonds Written by Anita Daher Published by Orca Book Publishers
Spider’s Song Written by Anita Daher Publlished by Puffin Canada/Penguin Group (Canada)
I.D. Written by Vicki Grant Published by Orca Book Publishers
Eye of the Crow Written by Shane Peacock Published by Tundra Books
The Night Wanderer Written by Drew Hayden Taylor Published by Annick Press

Martha Brooks wins Vicky Metcalf Award
Martha Brooks of Winnipeg received the Vicky Metcalf Award for Children's Literature. Sponsored by the George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation, this award, which carries a $15,000 prize, is awarded to a writer of children's literature for a body of work.
Jury comments: “Her novels and short stories push the boundaries of the young adult genre in terms of character, situation, and theme, the result of which is works notable for their depth and resonance.”
Jury members: Nora Flynn (St. John’s), Jean Little (Guelph, Ontario) and Susan Perren (Toronto).

The shortlisted titles for the 2008 Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award are: Announced May 20.
Ben's Bunny Trouble Illustrated by Daniel Wakeman & Dirk van Stralen (Orca Book Publishers)
Birds of Prey: An Introduction Illustrated by Robert Bateman with Nancy Kovacs (Scholastic/Madison Press)
ChesterIllustrated and written by Mélanie Watt (Kids Can Press)
Grumpy Bird Illustrated and written by Jeremy Tankard(Scholastic Press)
I am Raven Illustrated by Andy EversonWritten by David Bouchard (MTW Publishers)
Lickety-Split Illustrated by Dušan Petričić Written by Robert Heidbreder (Kids Can Press)
Marja's Skis Illustrated by Jirina Marton Written by Jean E. Pendziwol (Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press)
Mechanimals Illustrated and written by Chris Tougas (Orca Book Publishers)
My New Shirt Illustrated by Dušan Petričić Written by Cary Fagan
(Tundra Books)
Painted Circus Illustrated and written by Wallace Edwards (Kids Can Press)
Pink Illustrated by Luc Melanson Written by Nan Gregory Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press)

CLA Announces 2008 Young Adult Book Award Shortlist (13-18)
The Space Between Written by Don Aker (HarperCollins)

Mistik Lake Written by Martha Brooks (Groundwood Books)
For Now Written by Gayle Friesen (Kids Can Press)
The Corps of the Bare-Boned Plane Written by Polly Horvath (Groundwood Books)
How It Happened in Peach Hill Written by Marthe Jocelyn(Tundra Books)
Another Kind of Cowboy Written by Susan Juby(HarperCollins)
Retribution Written by Carrie Mac (Penguin)
Eye of the Crow Written by Shane Peacock(Tundra Books)
Into the Ravine Written by Richard Scrimger Tundra Books)
Better than Blonde Written by Teresa Toten (Penguin)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Me Hungry by Jeremy Tankard

I'm just back from the most awesome Literacy for Life conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where close to 5000 kids were fortunate enough to meet authors, illustrators and science journalists over three days at the University of Saskatchewan. The program was designed for grades 3-12, and featured a fourth day to inspire the business and political community to get on board with literature and literacy .

I was lucky enough to meet a long-time hero, author and radio and TV personality Bob McDonald who hosts Quirks & Quarks, one of my all time favourite science shows. I loved seeing the fabulous Northern Cree, meeting Jamie Bastedo, George Littlechild and Joe Schwarcz, and catching up with old friends Helaine Becker, and Diane Swanson.

I also met Jeremy Tankard, the talented young illustrator of Grumpy Bird, which I adored. I am delighted to report that his new book is just as engaging. Kids will love Me Hungry, and so will adults. When a stone age boy announces, "Me hungry," a "Me busy," reply from parents sends him in search of food. Comical encounters with a crafty rabbit, a too-prickly porcupine, and a saber-toothed tiger are sure to make even the most grumpy readers smile. The simple text adds to the humour implicit in the what has rapidly become a signature illustrative style. Tankard is clearly a creator to be watched, and you might even find him featured in Betsy Bird's "Hot Men of Children's Literature Column" if (I'm hoping when) she reinstates it.