|Winter 2016, Vol. 35, No. 4
Letter from the Editor
This winter has seen a few initiatives from IBBY Canada that have made me so proud to be a part of the organization. To help welcome the 25,000 Syrian refugees who are arriving in Canada, we will be donating copies of the picture book Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith (Groundwood Books, 2015). You can read more about this initiative in this issue of the newsletter.
The IBBY Silent Books Exhibit continues to tour Canada and has wrapped up its dates at the Halifax Public Library and is now at the Winnipeg Public Library until March 12. In the Regional Report East, councillor Jane Baskwill reports on the success of the exhibit in Halifax. The exhibit will be in Hamilton from March 21 to April 14.
As well, we’ve got news on our Annual Meeting of Members, the Cleaver Award shortlist, a Q&A with author Deborah Hodge, the announcement of the Canadian titles selected for the 2016 USBBY Outstanding International Books List, and more!
– Katie Scott, Newsletter Editor
A new year and a new beginning!
IBBY Canada has begun planning for the coming year. This includes our Syrian refugee donation of the wonderful Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith (Groundwood Books, 2015) being distributed through the Department of Canadian Heritage, in collaboration with libraries across Canada.
This year the Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence will be moving! The award-winning Edmonton Public Library will be hosting the illustrator in 2016. Congratulations! We can’t wait for our Edmonton friends to have a chance to enjoy the talents of the selected illustrator.
The IBBY Silent Books Exhibit is winding up its Canadian tour, with a stop in January in Halifax, and Winnipeg in February and March, before heading home to Lampedusa, Italy. This important project is more relevant than ever as the refugee crisis has taken global importance. Thank you to Mariella Bertelli, Deborah Soria, and IBBY Italia for this incredible collaboration.
Most importantly, our Annual Meeting of Members will be taking place on Saturday, February 27, at the Northern District Branch of the Toronto Public Library (40 Orchard View Blvd., Room 224). Please join us for coffee at 9:30 a.m. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. We invite you to join us to hear more about IBBY’s actions in Canada and abroad.
I’d like to extend a warm welcome to incoming President Sheila Barry. Her contribution to IBBY Canada has already been significant. As I finish my term, I’d like to extend special thanks to Sheila and to Second Vice-President Theo Heras, and Treasurer Yvette Ghione for their excellent collaboration on the executive. Thank you to all of the board members for their invaluable expertise and very hard work — I have learned so much from each of them: Helena Aalto, Nafiza Azad, Jane Baskwill, Lesley Clement, Danièle Courchesne, Stephanie Dror, Merle Harris, Meghan Howe, Camilia Kahrizi, Alice Moore, Katie Scott, and Debbie Spring. Thank you, too, to Mariella Bertelli, Past-Presidents Josiane Polidori and Catherine Mitchell, Leigh Turina, Sharon Moynes, and Deirdre Baker for their support.
We at IBBY Canada believe in the power of children’s literature to make a difference in the world. Thank you for helping us support children’s book creators, readers, and communities in Canada and around the world.
– Shannon Babcock, President
Regional Report East
The IBBY Silent Books Exhibit arrived in Halifax just before Christmas. On Saturday, January 9, a wonderful launch was organized at the Halifax Central Library. It was very well attended with lots of families and interested community members (about 50 people, not counting the many children). I noted many nationalities in the audience. There were shadow puppet presentations and a short film excerpt all highlighting storytelling.
I was asked to say a few words about the exhibit, and I linked its timeliness to the arrival of refugees from Syria. I called on everyone to not only read the beautiful books but to consider spreading the word to others in the community about how a silent book can be a bridge between cultures.
Following my short talk, a young man came over to me and said he was attending with Syrian families who had arrived only a few days prior. He thanked me for what I said and for the exhibit, and told me that he had brought 23 children from Syria along with the adults. A community member who had heard about the exhibit in a newspaper article also thanked me. She was grateful for the work of IBBY and appreciated that the exhibit had come to Halifax.
It was so heart-warming to have been invited to this event. Library staff did a wonderful job in making everyone feel welcome. The display was nicely featured in an area with comfy chairs for reading the exhibit’s books, and with additional silent books from the library’s collection featured nearby and available to be signed out.
We are thankful to the Italian Cultural Institute in Toronto and the Italian Consulate in Montreal for sponsoring the tour to Halifax.
The IBBY Silent Books Exhibit will be making its last stop in Winnipeg, at the Millennium Branch of the Winnipeg Public Library (251 Donald Street, Children’s Services, Main Floor) from February 9 to March 12, 2016. If you are in the Winnipeg area, we encourage you to stop by!
– Jane Baskwill, Regional Councillor East
Shortlist Announced: 2015 Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award
The Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award jury is pleased to announce the shortlist for 2015. This year was a banner year for picture books, and the list suggests the breadth and depth of the stories, themes, and media to be found in the picture books.
The winner will be announced at the Annual Meeting of Members on Saturday, February 27, 2016.
A Gift of Welcome: Picture Books for Syrian Refugee Families
In early 2016, Canada will be welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees. The Department of Canadian Heritage put out a request to publishers last fall, seeking book donations for the welcome packages being assembled for these newcomers.
IBBY Canada answered the call in an initiative spearheaded by Patsy Aldana, president of the IBBY Foundation and founder of the National Reading Campaign, and Sheila Barry, IBBY Canada First Vice-President. The initiative will provide copies of Sidewalk Flowers, written by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Sydney Smith (Groundwood Books, 2015), to the Syrian families. This award-winning wordless picture book provides a visual story, with no language barriers to understanding.
The creators have generously donated their royalties, publisher Groundwood Books will be foregoing any revenue, and Webcom has generously donated the printing.
IBBY Canada has also printed cards in English, French, and Arabic that encourage children and their families to go to their public library, where they will find so many of the resources they will need for their new lives. The IBBY Foundation in Switzerland is supporting the printing of the cards. The cards will be distributed in libraries across Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Quebec City, with more cities expected to join.
2016 USBBY Outstanding International Books List
USBBY has announced their selection for the 2016 USBBY Outstanding International Books List. This honour list represents some of the best children’s books published in 2015 from around the world.
This year, 11 Canadian titles made the list:
You’re Invited: IBBY Canada Annual Meeting of Members
Another year has passed and it’s time once again for the IBBY Canada Annual Meeting of Members (AMM).
Date: Saturday, February 27, 2016. Join us for coffee at 9:30 a.m. Meeting beings at 10 a.m.
Location: Room 224, Northern District Branch, Toronto Public Library. 40 Orchard View Blvd.
Come out and join us on the morning of February 27 to meet the outgoing and incoming executive board, to catch up on what IBBY Canada has accomplished over the past year, to vote on upcoming changes, and to learn about what we’re looking forward to in 2016!
We’ll be announcing the winner of the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award and discussing IBBY Canada’s exciting activities and involvements from 2015 — like the IBBY Silent Books Exhibit, which toured Canada!
The AMM is a great opportunity meet with like-minded folks (adults who never quite grew up and still believe in the power of story), and to talk about Canadian children’s literature and how IBBY Canada is involved in the international community of children’s literature and literacy.
IBBY Canada is always seeking new membership, so if you know someone who might like to get involved please invite them to join! Furthermore, if you or someone you know would like to become more involved with IBBY Canada, either on the board or with a special project, please join us at the AMM or send us an email inquiry or suggestion to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that, while all are welcome, in order to vote at the AMM you have to be a current member in good standing. You can renew your membership at any time online. We will also be renewing membership in person at the AMM with cash or cheque ONLY.
We hope to see you there!
CANSCAIP Spotlight: Deborah Hodge
Internationally acclaimed, award-winning author Deborah Hodge from Vancouver, British Columbia, has written more than 25 non-fiction books for children, focusing mainly on nature and wildlife publications for younger children and historical topics for older children. She has also written several picture books.
Deborah has won the Information Book Award and the Green Prize for Sustainable Literature Award. She has also been named to American Library Association’s List of Top Ten Best Environmental Books for Youth, and to IBBY’s Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities list. She was also a finalist for the National Jewish Book Awards.
How did your family upbringing influence you to become an author?
We were a family who loved books. My childhood memories include regular weekend trips on the bus (all six of us!) to the public library, where we were encouraged to check out as many books as we wished. Our favourite family gifts were books, from both our parents and grandparents. My dad is a writer, and from him I learned a great respect for the written word. There was always something wonderful to read and discuss in our house.
What inspired you to leave teaching to become a full-time writer?
I hadn’t planned to leave teaching; it was a job I enjoyed so much. I taught primary students, mainly Grade 1, and was always inspired when the children learned to read. After a decade of teaching, I was invited to take a leave of absence to write distance education materials for the BC Ministry of Education. It was at this job I realized how much I loved writing, and I never returned to the classroom. While continuing the curriculum work, I began to ponder developing a manuscript and submitting it to a publisher. One day, I was brave enough to attempt it — and my book writing life began.
How did you find your niche of writing children’s books?
My earliest books, a wildlife series for Kids Can Press, were created out of a desire to provide high quality non-fiction to children with new reading skills. When I was a teacher, my young students were always looking for interesting wild animal books they could read on their own. At that time (about 20 years ago), there was very little available to them at their level, so I decided to try to write books that were accessible to new readers. My aim was to create books that had a child-friendly layout, big beautiful pictures, interesting facts and text that was broken up into small bits across the page instead of grouped into one large block. These books were well-received by students and teachers alike, and many of the titles are still in print 20 years later. (Bears was the first in the series.)
You write on a variety of topics and for both younger and older children. Does this wide range of books reflect your own variety of interests?
It’s true that I have a wide range of interests, but I think that a book for children works best when their interests intersect with mine. Young children are keen nature lovers and they experience a genuine sense of wonder as they observe and interact with the natural world. I try very hard to capture this sense of wonder when I write about nature and its creatures. I, too, love to observe the cycles of the seasons and the earth, and learn about the plants and animals that share our world. It’s fun to think (as I write a book) that the young readers and I are watching and learning together.
I also have a strong sense of social justice, as many older children do. Older kids are acutely aware of what is fair and right. When I write books for them, I often choose topics that focus on social issues and explore fairness, justice, and acceptance of one another. My history books don’t shy away from pointing out the discrimination and intolerance that exists in our society today. Even so, I always feel it’s important (for the children and myself) to include many examples of what is hopeful and good in our world.
In The Kids Book of Canadian Immigration (Kids Can Press, 2006) you write that people from more than 200 cultures call Canada home and that each one has a fascinating story to tell. How do you tackle a book with such a large scope?
When I wrote this book, I wanted to celebrate our wonderfully diverse nation and to reflect the faces and experiences of new Canadian children that I was meeting in classrooms across the country.
Working on this project was both rewarding and challenging. It took two to three years to research and write. The book opens with a classroom of culturally diverse Canadian children whose families are from every corner of the world. The book ends with another group of new Canadian kids. Between these pages, I tried to tell concise stories, going back over the past 200 years, of as many cultural groups as I could, with personal accounts (often featuring children) that described why people had left their home countries to settle here. For every cultural group featured in the book, I also showed prominent Canadians from the group and their important contributions to the country. Ultimately, it is a book of hope, I believe.
Rescuing the Children: The Story of the Kindertransport (Tundra Books, 2012) was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. The book tells the story of 10,000 Jewish children who were rescued from Nazi Europe and sent to safety in Britain just before the outbreak of World War II. What was your inspiration for this book and for your recommended classroom activities that teach about the Holocaust and touch on important issues of discrimination, persecution, diversity, and compassion?
One of my good friends, children’s author Irene N. Watts, was just seven years old when she travelled from Berlin to London on the Kindertransport. Over the years, I had heard the story of her amazing rescue. Irene, who has written three children’s novels about the Kindertransport, encouraged me to pen a non-fiction account of this humanitarian effort. Writing the book was a profound experience. I was tremendously moved by the generosity of the Kinder (the rescued children, now senior citizens), who shared their most personal stories and photographs with me, and allowed them to appear in print. In the book’s conclusion, I asked the Kinder to write messages for children today. Many of them spoke about the need for tolerance and acceptance, and emphasized our responsibility to help others who face persecution or discrimination. “There is always something we can do to help,” they said.
As an accompaniment to the book, I have written a teachers’ guide with classroom activities that focus on social responsibility, empathy, compassion, and tolerance — all important themes of the book. You can find this guide on my website at: www.deborahhodge.com.
Turning to nature now: Watch Me Grow! A Down-to-Earth Look at Growing Food in the City (Kids Can Press, 2011) has an impressive list of awards and recognitions:
– Winner, Green Prize for Sustainable Literature Award, 2012, in the Best Community Garden Book for Children, Santa Monica Public Library
– Best Children’s Books for the Year, 2012, Bank Street College of Education, New York City
– Best Books for Kids & Teens, Canadian Children’s Book Centre
– Best Books of 2011, Resource Links
– Finalist, Green Earth Book Award, Newton Marasco Foundation
This book takes an inspiring look at the children and adults who are transforming our cities into greener, more beautiful spaces and growing earth-friendly food right where they live.
How did you do the research for this book? Have schools been inspired by this book to make gardens in their schoolyards? What has been your feedback about this environmental book?
I wrote this book and its companion Up We Grow! A Year in the Life of a Small Local Farm (Kids Can Press, 2010) a few years ago when the sustainable food movement was picking up speed. Children around my city were very involved in setting up school and community gardens. At the same time, my daughter gave birth to twin boys. I used to give her a break by taking the babies for long walks through their East Vancouver neighbourhood, where there were abundant food gardens on every street. As I walked, I spent a lot of time thinking about the bounty of plants that were flourishing and all the children (including the twins), who were growing up on healthy, delicious food produced right where they lived.
My text was paired up with beautiful images of children gardening, shot by a local photographer, Brian Harris. Both of us were committed to creating books that were appealing in look and tone, and that also had a clear focus on sustainable practices, with encouragement for us all to care for the earth as we grow our food. The response to the books has been very positive. When I visit schools and talk about them, the students and teachers are always keen to show me their own wonderful gardens.
West Coast Wild: A Nature Alphabet (Groundwood Books, 2015) is your latest book. Talk about your experience of collaborating, travelling and researching with the artist Karen Reczuch on this project.
For most of my life, I have been in awe of the pristine wilderness that exists on our Pacific west coast — a magnificent area that combines an ancient rainforest, a rugged beach and a vast, open ocean, and is home to whales, bears, wolves, eagles and a rich variety of marine creatures. Over the years, my family and I had spent many days here, beachcombing and watching wildlife, and I became inspired to write about it.
Karen Reczuch, who is from Ontario, was keen to visit in order to do her visual research. So, she and I embarked on a weeklong adventure where I showed her everything I loved about the west coast. We hiked the glorious rainforest trails and saw plants and trees in a remarkable palette of greens. We watched salmon on their fall spawning run, leaping up waterfalls, and black bears scooping them up with their big paws. We walked the beautiful beaches, listening to the crashing surf and revelling in the expanse of sea and sky. And wherever we went, Karen snapped photographs — some 400 of them — that became the basis for her gorgeous watercolour paintings. Surprisingly, she was so impressed by what she saw on our trip that she has decided to move to BC!
Tell us about the book that was named to IBBY’s list of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities.
Lily and the Mixed-Up Letters, illustrated by France Brassard (Tundra Books, 2007), is a picture book about a girl in Grade 2 who struggles to learn to read. Lily loves art class and is a very good painter, but the letters and words on a page escape her. She is worried because Parent Day is approaching and all the children in her class will read a page of their book out loud to the parents. Lily is based on my own daughter who is smart and motivated, but struggled with reading in school. I wanted to write a book that honoured her experience and told her how brave and talented I thought she was. Like my daughter, Lily does not give up. In this book, I also wanted to send an encouraging message to other children who might feel daunted by their school experience. Happily, the story ends on an upbeat note. I was thrilled and grateful that IBBY felt it was book they wanted to recognize.
What is your next project? What is your dream topic to write about?
Every book feels like a dream topic when I am working on it. I love to immerse myself in something new and exciting, and to challenge myself to tackle something I haven’t done before. I am currently working hard to get better at writing picture books. I am excited about my new picture book Bear’s Winter Party that will be published by Groundwood Books in Fall 2016. It is the first work that has emerged solely out of my imagination, and I am quite delighted by that!
Other projects? It would be great fun to travel more and write about children in other places around the world.
Thank you, Debbie Spring, for interviewing me and to IBBY for your wonderful organization. I appreciate it very much!
Deborah Hodge is passionate about writing engaging books that kids will love, and on subjects that matter to them. Her fondness for nature and social history topics resonates throughout her work. She also enjoys visiting schools and speaking at conventions. Thank you, Deborah, for teaching children to appreciate and protect the environment and for helping them to learn about the history of Canada by reading your books.
Debbie Spring has nine published books. She likes to write children’s books about sports and overcoming obstacles, as in The Kayak and Breathing Soccer, published by Thistledown Press.
– Debbie Spring, Liaison CANSCAIP
Please be notified that IBBY Canada will no longer offer subscriptions to Bookbird: A Journal of International Children’s Literature. Individuals can subscribe directly through John Hopkins University Press, for both print and online editions, here.
News from Our Partners
CODE is now accepting submissions for the Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Literature. The submission deadline is March 31, 2016. More information is available on the CODE website.
Each year, the National Reading Campaign selects a Canadian city to create an exemplary model of what a reading city looks like. The organization has partnered with Sudbury, Ontario, this year for a week-long Reading Town that will take place the first week of May. For more information, please visit the National Reading Campaign’s website.
February 9 – March 12, 2016: IBBY Silent Books Exhibit at the Millennium Branch of the Winnipeg Public Library. 251 Donald Street, Children’s Services, Main Floor.
February 27, 2016: IBBY Canada Annual Meeting of Members. Coffee at 9:30 a.m. Meeting starts at 10 a.m., Room 224, Northern District Branch, Toronto Public Library. 40 Orchard View Blvd.
March 21 – April 1, 2016: IBBY Silent Books Exhibit at the Central Library branch of the Hamilton Public Library. Children’s Department, 55 York Blvd., Hamilton, Ontario. Please join us for the opening celebration on March 30, from 6 to 7 p.m.
April 4 –8, 2016: IBBY Silent Books Exhibit at the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board Education Centre. 20 Education Court, Hamilton, Ontario.
April 9 – 14, 2016: IBBY Silent Books Exhibit at the Terryberry Branch of the Hamilton Public Library. 100 Mohawk Rd. West, Hamilton, Ontario. Please join us for the closing celebration on April 14, from 6 to 7 p.m.
August 18–21, 2016: 35th IBBY International Congress in Auckland, New Zealand. For more information, please visit the IBBY Congress website.
IBBY Canada Newsletter
Editor: Katie Scott
Copy editor (English): Meghan Howe
Formatter: Camilia Kahrizi
Banner design: Martha Newbigging