From the Editor
President’s Report / Rapport du presidente
Regional Report: East
Regional Report: Ontario
Regional Report: West
National Reading Campaign & National Reading Plan – Be Part of It
Wanted: Hans Christian Andersen Award Co-Chair
CANSCAIP Spotlight: Marsha Skrypuch
Ah, summer! It’s a quiet time for resting and enjoying the warm weather. It’s also when The Word On The Street happens, so I hope you all go out to this terrific literary event if you can!
Soon it will be “back to school” time again, which is also about when IBBY Canada starts thinking about awards. Watch your email inboxes for a call for nominations for the Claude Aubry Award and a call for proposals for the Frances E. Russell Grant. Also, we’re still looking for a co-chair for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, so if you’re interested, please see our wanted ad below for details!
– Jessica Fung
Summer is almost over and it is soon time to fly to the 33rd IBBY International Congress where the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Awards, the IBBY-Asahi Reading Promotion Award, and the IBBY Honour List will be presented.* This biennial event is also an opportunity to meet and interact with fans of children’s literature from around the world, an opportunity that you would not want to miss.
The coming months will be busy for IBBY Canada. When looking at the fall season in children’s literature, one can only be excited by the quality of works our authors and illustrators will offer. We want to provide quality works that will speak to children’s interests and concerns. An impressive harvest that will provide stories that will captivate kids of all ages.
Lina Gordaneer, who chairs the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award, is about to receive bids from vendors for this award given to a Canadian illustrator.
To add to your calendars: The Word On The Street (WOTS) in Vancouver, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Kitchener, Toronto, and Halifax to be held at the end of September. Also, an exhibition not to be missed is “The Art of the Picture Book,” to be held at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from September 14 to October 14, 2012. This exhibition, featuring over 80 original illustrations from Canadian picture books by our great illustrators, will be followed by Take Home an Original, an auction to benefit the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.
– Susane Duchesne
*The 33rd IBBY International Congress has already taken place at time of publication. For a recap of selected presentations, please visit the 2012 IBBY Congress blog here.
L’été tire déjà à sa fin et c’est bientôt le temps de s’envoler vers le 33e Congrès d’IBBY international où seront présentés le prestigieux prix Hans Christian Andersen, le prix de promotion de la lecture IBBY-Asahi et la Liste d’Honneur d’IBBY.* Ce rendez-vous biennal est aussi l’occasion de rencontrer et d’échanger avec les mordus de la littérature jeunesse du monde entier ; une opportunité qu’on ne voudrait pas laisser passer.
Les prochains mois s’annoncent bien occupés pour IBBY. La production automnale en littérature jeunesse, nous emballe par la qualité des œuvres que nous proposent les auteurs et illustrateurs de chez nous. On ressent leur volonté d’offrir des livres de qualité qui plairont aux jeunes tout en rejoignant leurs préoccupations. Une récolte impressionnante nous attend. Elle fournira des lectures captivantes pour les jeunes de tout âge.
Lina Gordaneer qui préside le prix Elizabeth- Mrazik-Cleaver s’apprête à recevoir les soumissions des éditeurs pour ce prix remis à un illustrateur canadien.
À ajouter à vos calendriers: The Word On The Street (WOTS) de Vancouver, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Kitchener, Toronto et Halifax qui se tiendront à la fin du mois de septembre. Aussi, une exposition à ne pas manquer: «L’Art des livres jeunesse » qui se tiendra au Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal du 14 septembre au 14 octobre 2012. Cette exposition qui propose quatre-vingt illustrations originales tirées d’albums de nos grands illustrateurs canadiens. Elle se termine par un encan d’une des œuvres dont le bénéfice ira au Centre canadien du livre jeunesse.
– Susane Duchesne
*Le 33e Congrès d’IBBY international a déjà eu lieu au moment de publication. Pour un récapitulatif des présentations sélectionnées, veuillez visiter le blogue de le 33e Congrès d’IBBY international ici.
I was recently contacted by Nova Scotia author/illustrator Ron Lightburn following a very successful StoryWalk™ hosted at a local park. Ron suggested that perhaps IBBY members across Canada might be interested in this event and might consider organizing a StoryWalk™ in their own province. To quote Ron: “Wouldn’t it be cool to start a StoryWalk trend across Canada?” I heartily agree!! What a way to promote Canadian children’s books and IBBY Canada and have fun at the same time. So, what do you think everyone? Is there a StoryWalk™ in your future?
StoryWalk™ at Annapolis Valley Regional Library
The Annapolis Valley Regional Library, Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, received funding to create a StoryWalk™ from the picture book, Juba This, Juba That by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Ron Lightburn, published by Tundra Books. StoryWalk™ is an exciting initiative that combines a children’s story with a walking route, and was developed in September, 2007 by Anne Ferguson and the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition. This project combines the benefits of physical activity, time spent outdoors in nature, literacy, and family time. Funds to create the project came from the Wellness Initiative Fund from the Annapolis Valley Health Community Health Board, and additional funds came from Eastern Kings and Annapolis County’s Active Kids Healthy Kids funding. Other partners included the Town of Bridgetown, Nova Scotia and the Municipality of the County of Kings.
The StoryWalk™ was installed at Jubilee Park in Bridgetown and at the Port Williams Community Park. There are also sets of the signs available for schools and community groups to borrow for group events. The StoryWalk™ was unveiled on June 11 at Jubilee Park in Bridgetown at 10:45 a.m. Illustrator Ron Lightburn attended the launch and actively led the public through the pages of the book. There was a reading of the book, walking the StoryWalk™, stickers for the kids, a book draw and refreshments.
Click here to see highlights from the walk on YouTube. For more about the original Vermont project, click here.
For further information, please contact Angela J. Reynolds, Head of Youth Services, Annapolis Valley Regional Library at 902-665-2995 ext. 224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope those of you in the area will make it a point to stop by the IBBY booth at The Word On the Street (Sunday, September 23rd from 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.), on the Halifax waterfront surrounding the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. We can talk StoryWalk™ and all things books!!
– Jane Baskwill
Ontario IBBY Canada is getting ready for The Word On the Street on September 23, 2012! Come by the booth between 11 am and 6 pm to say hello! We also need volunteers to work 1.5 hour shifts between 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. If you are interested in volunteering, please send me an email by clicking the link below.
– Rebecca Gold
IBBY Canada’s West Region is finally enjoying some lovely summer weather, but we are looking forward to the upcoming The Word On The Street, to be held at the Library Square Marketplace in Vancouver from Friday, September 28 through Sunday, September 30. The event promises author readings, exhibits, performances, and all-around literary mayhem.
This year IBBY Canada is sharing a booth with the Children’s Writers and Illustrators of British Columbia (CWILL BC) ) and the Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable (VCLR). We would invite everyone in the vicinity to attend this event.
One additional opportunity is available to groups or individuals: for $100.00 you can adopt an author! Participants will receive an adoption certificate, a copy of the author’s book for their library, and recognition in the WOTS program and at the author’s performance.
– Kay Weisman
The third and final TD National Reading Summit of the National Reading Campaign, held in May in Vancouver, was a great success.
Please visit the National Reading Campaign website to learn more about what was accomplished there.
The keynote opening address by Marcelo Suárez-Orozco and the final address by Jeanette Armstrong are highly recommended viewing material. Videos from the summit are available online.
To help spread the word about the National Reading Campaign, please download the National Reading Campaign brochure (PDF) and forward it to anyone you think might be interested in becoming involved.
What did you read today?
Would you like to help promote Canadian children’s authors and illustrators abroad and nominate them for the Hans Christian Andersen Award? The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, awarded biennially, are internationally recognized as the highest honour for children’s authors and illustrators. IBBY Canada is the only Canadian nominating body for these prestigious awards.
We need a committee co-chair for the IBBY Canada Andersen Award committee. You will be co-chairing with Josiane Polidori, IBBY Canada Past President and Head of Children’s Literature at Library and Archives Canada. You will help organize all the necessary nominating materials and keep the committee on track and on time to make sure our nomination package is complete and submitted on time. You must have excellent project management skills and strong editorial skills. Time commitment is approximately 200 hours per award cycle. We would like someone who would be able to commit to co-chairing for at least two awards cycles. If you are interested, please send your resume and cover letter to Mahak Jain at email@example.com.
Interviewed by CANSCAIP Liaison Officer Debbie Spring
Marsha Skrypuch is a member of both CANSCAIP and IBBY Canada. She is a Brantford, Ontario author with a long prestigious list of Canadian awards and nominations for her children’s and young adult historical fiction including most recently:
She is also internationally recognized as the winner of the 2011 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Crystal Kite Award for the Americas and has twice been honoured as a Woman of Distinction, World Congress of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations for her body of work (2006, 2010).
How many authors have the privilege of being named Princess? Marsha was bestowed with the Order of Princess Olha which is the highest honour awarded to citizens of foreign countries, by President of Ukraine, Victor Yushchenko. She was given this honour for her picture book, Enough, which is set during the 1930s Stalin-induced famine in Ukraine that killed millions. When that book was published in 2000, Marsha endured hate mail and death threats. It is hard to believe that something as non-threatening as a picture book about one girl and her father who save one village from starvation could generate such an emotional response, but when the book came out, there had never been commercial fiction written on the topic. People who send death threats and hate mail don’t identify themselves, but their likely goal was to bully Marsha into silence. It is hard to believe that a decade ago there were still people who idolized Stalin, but his genocides were not widely known about back then. Enough is used in schools across Canada, and it has been translated into Ukrainian as well, so that Ukrainians who were raised during Soviet times will have a better understanding of their own history.
D.S. You are a highly successful author, but it wasn’t always that way. Tell the readers about your first books and how you handled the rejections.
M.S. I started writing a big fat historical novel set during the Armenian genocide back in the late 1980s and thought I’d finished writing it in about 1992. It clocked in at 500 pages. I sent out this monstrosity to over 100 publishers and got rejected by them all, and rightly so. I was a terrible writer. I also knew nothing about submitting, so some of those rejections came from cookbook publishers. Somehow, that horribly written manuscript attracted the attention of a small Hollywood film company and so my very first fiction sale was for a film option. I nabbed an agent to broker the deal for me, but this was an agent I deserved. She was as bad as me. She couldn’t sell my manuscript. I got rid of her and set that manuscript aside.
One of the most valuable pieces of feedback that I got in rejection letters was that my voice was for children or young adults, but definitely not adult. That boggled me, but I decided to try writing something for a younger audience. Silver Threads was one of my early pieces. I expected it to be rejected 100 times so I sent it to dozens of places at once. Within two weeks, I had three publishers interested! It was published as a picture book, illustrated by Michael Martchenko, by Penguin Canada in 1996.
Years later, I did go back to that original manuscript. I tore it apart and rewrote it from scratch into five separate novels – three linked YA historicals: The Hunger, Nobody’s Child and Daughter of War, as well as two linked chapter books called Aram’s Choice and Call Me Aram.
D.S. Many people will be surprised to learn that you are dyslexic. How did you overcome that obstacle in order to read and get an education?
M.S. I have a horrible time with directions and I still transpose letters. You should hear how I pronounce some words that I’ve only seen in print.
When I was a kid, I could pick up a book and “read” it out loud – a combo of memorizing, looking at pictures and guessing, but after reading a passage, if the teacher asked me the meaning of what I’d just read, I couldn’t tell her. Still, I was able to fake it until Grade Four, when I got caught out on a provincial reading test. They made me repeat the grade.
There wasn’t remedial help in the 1960s and I’m not sure it would have helped me anyway. My parents had just split up and I was categorized by the teachers as “the product of a broken home and unteachable.” So I went to the library and got out the fattest book in the kids’ department – Oliver Twist – and slowly and methodically taught myself by sounding out words one by one and stringing them together for the context. The reason I could read that complex book but not simple school books is because Oliver Twist had a compelling story. It filled my head with images and questions and made me want to puzzle it out. With the simple school books, even once I puzzled out the words, there was no story, no context and nothing to compel me to read.
My own learning challenges made me the kind of writer that I am. I write the kinds of books that I would have liked to be able to read when I was a kid – complex and lots of action and not talking down to the reader. I like to plunge my readers into difficult times so they can see how they would react to horrific circumstances.
D.S. As winner of the Calliope Award for Mentorship and Excellence in Writing for the Humber School for Writers, talk about your teaching and helping other writers at the school and in other avenues.
M.S. Mentoring other writers is a big part of my life. I didn’t have the chance to meet a writer until I was a writer, so I like to give to others what I would have loved. In addition to teaching at Humber, I have run a free online critique group since 1995 called Private Kidcrit in Compuserve’s Books and Writers Forum. It is the longest-running online crit group for kids’ writers on the net. I’ve also run writing workshops in my home town of Brantford, Ontario. Many of the people who would attend were from my critique group. A good percentage of them became published. I did Humber School for Writers for three summers. I was asked to do more, but it really takes a lot out of me. I didn’t eat with the faculty, but instead used lunch and early morning sessions to give each of my students extended one-on-ones. Additionally, word spread that I was open to giving feedback to students from other groups, so I would have a line-up each morning and lunch time. I pride myself on being blunt but also encouraging. I see good writing as a craft that needs much practice and honing rather than a gift that is bestowed from above. Giving aspiring writers practical tools and incremental feedback is key. I was thrilled to be honoured with the Calliope Award.
D.S. One of the many hats you wear is book reviewing. Expand on this aspect of your career.
M.S. I am currently the Young Adult columnist for The Winnipeg Review, an online literary journal. I took this position on the condition that I could choose which books to review. There are so many fabulous children’s and young adult books out there, so I concentrate on highlighting the good. I have done book reviews on and off for the last 30 years. Anyone who writes should read widely, especially in their own genre. For me, it’s a natural progression to then review those books.
D.S. In one of your book reviews you discussed how children’s books are ideal for those with Alzheimer’s Disease, and anyone who has short term memory loss and milder forms of dementia. Please expand on that.
M.S. Many children’s novels are written in a linear way and with fewer intertwining story lines than adult fiction. As well, children’s novels are written more tightly, with lots of action. And they’re shorter. All these factors make them ideal for people with memory issues. As well, when a person suffers from short-term memory loss, their past memories are vivid. They can tell you everything that happened on a particular day in 1940. Just don’t ask what they had for breakfast today. The downside is that seniors who have lived through war and genocide are now re-experiencing those horrors in dreams and flashbacks. So the trick is to look for meaty children’s books that are set in a familiar past but that don’t evoke the terrifying memories.
Intelligent seniors who used to enjoy literary fiction or big fat meaty novels will be more satisfied with literary children’s novels than with light commercial fiction for adults. Much of the light commercial adult fiction is disposable and so cookie-cutter in plot and character development that it cannot hold the attention of an intelligent person with memory issues. Just like when I was a kid and struggling to read, it was the good story of Oliver Twist that made me into a reader, not the dumbed down school stories. For people with dementia, they need the substance and the meat of well written children’s fiction.
D.S. How were the citizens of Georgetown impacted by your two chapter books about Aram?
M.S. Aram’s Choice (2006) and Call Me Aram (2009) were chapter books lushly illustrated by Muriel Wood. These books were about a true event in the history of Georgetown, Ontario, Canada. In 1923, 50 boys who were survivors of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey traveled to Georgetown, Ontario, where they were nurtured and educated at Cedarvale Farm, a plot of land and buildings that had been purchased with donations raised by Canadians to save these boys. The orphans became known as The Georgetown Boys and the event went down in history as “Canada’s Noble Experiment” – our first international relief effort.
This event had been largely forgotten. Even the residents of Georgetown were no longer aware of their own history. When the books came out, they were also made into a play in Georgetown, and it turned out that some of the actors were the descendants of residents who had helped bring the Boys over. It was the re-education of an entire town. As well, descendants of the original Georgetown Boys came to the play in droves. It was quite an emotional time for the town and the descendants.
Word came during all of this that the one last standing building of the Georgetown Boys Farm – the original dormitory – was scheduled for demolition.
The townspeople and the Canadian Armenian community worked together, along with myself and playwright Sam Hancock, to make sure that didn’t happen. The building is now a heritage site.
D.S. Many of the topics of your books are about war, genocide affecting Ukrainian children. What draws you to write about this?
M.S. I am drawn to write about historical injustices that have been brushed under the carpet. Because Ukraine suffered under Soviet oppression for so long, their history has been propagandized or ignored in the west. The current political situation there isn’t much better, but since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, masses of previously suppressed documents and first person accounts have become available. There is so much to write about! In 2010, my novel, Stolen Child, was published. This is about a Ukrainian girl stolen from her family by the Nazis in their Lebensborn program and deemed “racially valuable.” She is brainwashed and placed in a Nazi home. This year, the companion novel was published – Making Bombs For Hitler – about the girl’s older sister, who is deemed “not racially valuable,” is made an Osterbeiter (Eastern worker) and is sent to gruelling labour in a Nazi slave camp.
D.S. What was it like switching from fiction to narrative non-fiction?
M.S. I didn’t think that I could do it at first but Gail Winskill, publisher at Pajama Press, encouraged me to try. She pointed out that my historical fiction is a hair short of narrative non-fiction as it is. Narrative non-fiction still has a story format, but the people and incidents are real. With the kind of fiction that I write, the incidents are real, right down to the daily weather, but my characters are composites of real people.
D.S. Do you have an interesting tale about an author visit?
M.S. I’ve had many wonderful author visits and others that were less than stellar. As an example, last spring I spent an afternoon at an older inner city Toronto school that was celebrating multiculturalism. I was greeted at the door by the principal. Usually I don’t like to present in a gym but because the school’s library was tiny and the audiences were large, I accommodated that. The first group of students came in and sat in a giant circle on the gym floor, their teachers mingling with them. All were attentive and asked great questions. About halfway through the first session, there was a crashing whooshing noise from the janitor’s room, beside the gym exit. The principal jumped up and checked it out, then motioned for me to continue. I did. Moments later, water cascaded from the suspended ceiling about six feet away from me. The janitor rushed out and placed a plastic garbage can beneath the leak. The principal smiled and asked me to continue. I did, shouting over the sound of the waterfall beside me. The students and staff ignored the waterfall and continued to listen attentively and ask great questions. In the moments between the first session ending and the next session, I asked the principal if we might relocate to a different room. “We don’t have another room,” he said. “But don’t worry, you were great!” So I continued with the next group as water filled one garbage can and another. The kids were attentive throughout. This can only be explained by the patterning of the teachers. With them sitting amongst their students and showing interest in the presentation, it made what could have been a disaster into a memorable visit.
D.S. Many of your stories centre around little known pieces of history. How hard is it to do research?
M.S. I like to think of myself as a historical detective. One of my pet peeves is poorly researched historical novels – and there are many of them. An advantage to writing about lesser-known times in history is that I make no assumptions before I begin. I go to the primary data – depending on the era, that may be personal memoirs, government documents, archeological digs, or interviews with people who have lived through those times. I take everything with a grain of salt and cross-verify. For me, doing the research is as exciting as writing the story.
D.S. Your current book Making Bombs for Hitler published by Scholastic Canada is about child slavery in WWII. What feedback have you received from teachers or parents about teaching or reading about this topic to children?
M.S. I am humbled by the amount of praise this book has received. The topic is dark, but there are no graphic scenes. That’s the difference between children’s fiction and adult fiction. With adult fiction, a character’s suffering is shown as a form of entertainment for the reader, going into great and gruesome detail, which makes the reader less sensitive. In children’s fiction, the reader steps into the shoes of the person who is experiencing the mistreatment, and that builds compassion.
D.S. What are your upcoming books?
M.S. I just finished writing the sequel to my first narrative non-fiction, Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue From War. The sequel is called, One Step at a Time: A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way. It will be published in the fall of 2012. Next year, I have two picture books coming out with Fitzhenry & Whiteside. In the spring, there will be a new edition of my 1998 picture book, The Best Gifts. It will have all new illustrations and I am excited to see it. In the fall of 2013, a brand new picture book, called When Mama Goes to Work, will come out.
Currently, I am working on a companion novel to Stolen Child and Making Bombs For Hitler, and I expect that one to be published in 2014. I am also writing a YA novel set during WWI in Canada and Turkey and expect it to be published in 2014 as well.
Marsha Skrypuch is one of Canada’s most talented children’s and young adult historical fiction authors. She bravely writes about little known historical topics that no one else wants to touch because of their difficult nature. She opens children’s eyes to buried truths that stay in readers’ minds long after the books are finished.
– Debbie Spring
Debbie Spring is the author of eight children’s books. The latest books are Screwed by Solstice Publishing and The Kayak by Thistledown Press.
IBBY Canada Executive
President, Susane Duchesne
Past President, Patricia Ocampo
Vice-President, Mahak Jain
Treasurer, Yvette Ghione
Membership Secretary, Ellen Wu
Recording Secretary, Vasso Tassiopoulos
Promotions Officer, Helena Aalto
Liaison CANSCAIP, Debbie Spring
Liaison CCBC, Meghan Howe
Liaison Communication-Jeunesse, Louise Tondreau-Levert
Councillor-West, Kay Weisman
Councillor-Ontario, Rebecca Gold
Councillor-East, Jane Baskwill
Alberta Chair, Merle Harris
Newsletter Editor, Jessica Fung
Website Chair, Jennifer Dibble
Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award Chair, Lina Gordaneer
Frances E. Russell Grant Chair, Deirdre Baker
Hans Christian Andersen Award Chair, Josiane Polidori
IBBY (International) Executive Committee
President, Ahmad Redza Ahmad Khairuddin (Malaysia)
Vice-President, Wally De Doncker (Belgium)
Vice-President, Linda M. Pavonetti (USA)
Executive Director, Liz Page (Switzerland)
Visit www.ibby.org for a full list of the executive
IBBY Canada Newsletter
French Translations by Susane Duchesne
Proofread (English text) by Meghan Howe