Canadian Children’s Literature Awards

Last night, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre handed out its Canadian Children’s Literature Awards at The Carlu in downtown Toronto (except for the Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse, which will be announced October 29 at a separate event in Montreal). As a proud member of the CCBC, I had the privilege of attending the ceremony.

The awards, sponsored by TD Bank Group, featured a fan’s choice award for the first time this year. Children voted online for their favourite book from all of the nominated titles. Young Annaka Leib won a trip to Toronto and had the honour of presenting the award (and looking adorable doing so as she stood on a step to reach the microphone). The award went to Polly Horvath for One Night in Coal Harbour. 

The remaining winners were:

Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

John Spray Mystery Award: The Lynching of Louie Sam by Elizabeth Stewart

The Lynching of Louie Sam

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People: The Lynching of Louie Sam by Elizabeth Stewart

The Lynching of Louie Sam

Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-fiction: Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely through a Never-Ending War by Deborah Ellis

Marilyn Balilie Picture Book Award: Mr. Zinger’s Hat, written by Cary Fagan and illustrated by Dušan Petričić

TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award: One Year in Coal Harbour by Polly Horvath

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees!

Alice Munro wins Nobel Prize

Okay, this is old news now, but on October 10 beloved Canadian short story writer Alice Munro has won the Nobel Prize for literature. Unfortunately, the eighty-two-year-old Munro will not be attending the ceremony to receive her award due to health concerns. I have a confession to make. Despite majoring in English in university and taking a course in Canadian literature, I have read very little of Alice Munro’s work. Why, I have no idea. I suppose in part because she is known for her short stories, and I really ‘t read short stories that often. Still, I feel a bit guilty as a Canadian that I am not more familiar with her work.

On a lighter note, the CBC has created the “Who said it Quiz: Alice Munro or Jay-Z?” Despite my limited knowledge of both the writer and the rapper, I managed to score 70%. Not bad!


Forest of Reading 2014 Nominations

The nominations for the 2014 Forest Of Reading were announced today. This means I can finally talk about the books I read as part of the Red Maple selection committee! Here’s the list:

Eric Walters – Between Heaven and Earth

Valerie Sherrard – Counting Back From Nine

Sigmund Brouwer – Devil’s Pass

Ted Staunton – Jump Cut

K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr – Loki’s Wolves: The Blackwell Pages

Deborah Ellis – My Name is Parvana

Cynthia d’Entremont – Oak Island Revenge

Joanne Levy – Small Medium at Large

Kenneth Oppel – Such Wicked Intent

Susin Nielsen – The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen


Over the next few weeks I will share my reviews of these books while I get started reading some of the nominated titles from the other lists. A full list of nominees can be found here.


Canadian Library Month

October is Canadian Library Month, which seems as good a time as any to resurrect this blog. In truth, it has been a busy year. From January to April I was working six days a week at two jobs and had no energy to blog. After that, my reading for the Read Maple selection committee got into high gear, and of course I cannot write about what I am reading. Good news, though: the lists of Forest of Reading nominees for 2014 will be announced in just two weeks on October 15. I can’t wait to see which books the other committees have chosen!

Fall is a busy season for book awards and book-related events. The Canadian Children’s Book Centre will hand out their awards in Toronto October 22 and Montreal October 29. The list of nominated titles is available here. On November 4, the Scotiabank Giller Prize will be awarded. The longlist is available here, and the shortlist will be announced October 8. Finally, the International Festival of Authors gets under way this month. I have actually never attended an IFOA event, but now that I live so close the the Harbourfront Centre perhaps this will be the year I finally go. Hey, it would give me something to blog about, right?

Race in YA

I read an interesting article awhile back on the YALSA Hub about race in YA, and it got me wondering, is YA too white-washed? Certainly, there are a LOT of YA books about Caucasian protagonists, especially girls, but this could be said of many literary genres. Annie Shutte, the article’s author, comments that, too often, when a protagonist is an ethnic minority, the image on the cover is a silhouette, the character’s race cannot easily be discerned, or the cover model is Caucasian. I can’t help but agree that this is a problem in publishing and is in no way limited to YA. Look at the cover of any Harlequin romance novel about a sheikh and the model you see is most likely a white guy with a really nice tan. But what should we do? Should we stop buying books like this? Should we write to the publisher and express our concerns? And what do teens think about this? Do they have trouble finding stories with characters who “look like them”? Do they want to read stories about characters of other ethnic backgrounds and if not, why not? I wish I were running a TAG group. I think this could be an interesting topic of conversation.

Review: Cinders & Sapphires

Cinders & Sapphires
Leila Rasheed
ISBN 9781423171171

*Reviewed from galley via*

Rose Cliffe is a housemaid to Lady Ada Averly at the lavish Somerton house. As the housekeeper’s daughter, she seems to be a favourite of the master of the house, which doesn’t exactly endea her to the rest of the staff. But could there be another reason for Lord Averley’s interest? Meanwhile, Lady Ada must marry a wealthy man in order to erase the hint of scandal that has followed her family from their decade spent in India. But on her voyage to England, Ava meets an enchanting stranger and finds herself falling in love with someone she can never marry.

I wanted to read this book because it sounded very Downton Abbey-esque, although I don’t know if that will matter to teens. Lady Ada being in love with an Indian scholar was a nice twist on the typical unrequited love story. I also liked having the story told from multiple perspectives, as this helped gain insight into the minds of both the characters upstairs and those serving below stairs. Otherwise, the writing was a bit cliché at times and the story line dragged a little. Still, I’m a fan of historical novels and will probably check out the next book in the series.

Review: The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys
Maggie Stiefvater

Blue Sargent has grown up in a household of clairvoyants. Each year, she and her mother go to the churchyard on St. Mark’s Eve to see the progression of those who will die within the coming year. Blue, whose presence makes others’ psychic powers stronger, has never seen the dead herself, until this year when she sees a boy named Gansey, a wealthy student at nearby Aglionby Academy. Blue typically sees such boys as trouble and to be avoided at all costs, but something about him and his friends and their quest to find a long-buried king intrigues her. Blue has always been warned that she may kill her true love with a kiss. She’s never worried about this before, but the more time she spends with the Raven Boys, the less sure she is.

I  really wanted to love The Raven Boys given how much I loved Stiefvater’s other books, but it didn’t quite measure up for me.  I don’t mind a bit of paranormal fiction but I feel all the talk of ley lines and spirit worlds was perhaps a bit much for me. I was much more interested in learning more about the Raven Boys themselves and their backgrounds, such as Adam the scholarship student and hotheaded Ronan. Stiefvater’s ability to create compelling characters is where this book shines. I do want to know if Gansey is indeed Blue’s true love despite her burgeoning romance with Adam. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Review: (You) Set Me on Fire

(You) Set Me on Fire
Mariko Tamaki
Penguin Canada

Allison has been burned in the past – literally and figuratively. A failed high school romance resulted in emotional and physical scars, but now Allison is off to college, where she can be whoever she wants to be. When she meets Shar outside a frat party, Allison is instantly drawn to her. The two quickly become inseparable, blowing off school to party and making fun of the “normal” girls in their student residence. As their friendship begins to become toxic, will Allison once again go down in flames?

I was inspired to read this book after hearing author Mariko Tamaki read from it at The Word on the Street in September. I guess this book could be considered part of the emerging “new adult” trend since it is about the college experience. I found this to be a nice change from reading about younger teens in high school. While I can’t say my university life was anything like Allison’s, having recently finished graduate school at a school where last night’s partying was a frequent topic of discussion among the undergrads on the bus, I can still somewhat relate. Allison finds herself in a number of awkward situations throughout the book, and these stories, such as getting sick from too many shots after climbing the “Tower of Power” at a frat party, are laugh-out-loud funny. Tamaki does an excellent job of capturing a young adult’s dialogue and worldview. Readers will cringe at Allison’s misfortunes while still rooting for her to get her life in order.

Review: Nice Recovery

Nice Recovery
Susan Juby
Viking Canada

This gripping memoir tells the story of author Susan Juby’s addiction to alcohol. As a socially awkward teen in a small town, Juby turned to alcohol to ease her through social situations. Her heavy drinking led to fights with friends, random hookups, and waking up in a strange place after blacking out. Though she always vowed never to drink again, she continued her turbulent relationship with alcohol until finally seeking help at 20 – an age when most of her peers were partying heavily.

This book was so good I couldn’t put it down, finishing in just over a day. Juby doesn’t try to glamourize her substance abuse but instead presents her story in an honest and often self-deprecating manner that can still cause the reader to smile despite the tragedy unfolding. At the end of the book, Juby presents the stories of other young people in recovery and discusses resources of interest to those struggling with substance abuse. A powerful read.

Book links roundup

I’m always looking for book news online. Here are some of the things I’ve come across recently:

Publishers Weekly: Insiders Talk Young Adult Blockbusters: An interesting discussion of mega-hits such as the Twilight an Hunger Games series that are taking over children’s publishing.

Casting rumours for the movie adaptation of Veronica Roth’s Divergent.

If you love reading YA, considering filling out the 2012 YA Readers Survey.

Kirkus Reviews chooses the Best Children’s Books of 2012.

Taylor Swift talks reading, from Scholastic.