It’s on. The TD Canadian Children’s Literature Awards are tomorrow night — Thursday, November 17.
It’s going to be lit.
(I’m assured that “lit” is a good thing when the kids say it. So, consider me hip and in-the-know.)
This is a massive, pack-a-million-people-into-a-room-full-of-booze-and-food-then-let-the-fun-begin event. It’s a magical night that transforms normally introverted authors and editors into extroverts — or at least, whatever is between introvert and extrovert.
Let’s be honest for a second. We’re all friends here. We love kids. Love ’em, love ’em, love ’em. We’re in children’s books, after all. But when we get an invitation that says the event is “not a suitable venue for children” … well, we know we’re in for some fun. Hell ya. Party on.
“Not a suitable venue for children” is code for “there will be alcohol.” It’s open bar, too, which is my favourite kind of bar.
Okay, I’m making it sound like a booze-fest. It’s a glamour event, and the most glamorous event on the kidlit calendar. It’s the kidlit version of the Writers’ Trust Awards or the Giller Prize. Except that it’s with kidlit authors, who are a lot of fun.
So, I won’t fixate on the open bar. There’s also food. Lots of food. And it’s great food. I usually only eat the hors d’oeuvres, since the “dinner” food usually requires two hands, and one of my hands is constantly occupied with some sort of beverage. But the hors d’oeuvres are always good. And sometimes weird.
Which reminds me … I swear that one year one of the hors d’oeuvres was popcorn on a bean. A single piece of popcorn stuck to the end of a green bean. I think they used cream cheese to make it stick. It goes without saying that I had to try it to see what it tasted like. (Remember, there was an open bar, so my sense of adventure was heightened.) It tasted like popcorn and bean. Not sure what I was expecting. And that’s fine … but it was a little weird. Creative, though.
The thing is, no one else seems to remember this appetizer. People think I imagined it. So, if you remember the popcorn-on-a-bean treat, please @ me on Twitter or Facebook to confirm that I was not imagining this.
But enough about food. No one’s reading this for the food. Back to the drinks.
I don’t know if they’ll have the open martini bar this year. That was a popular stopping spot in years past, but it was skipped last year. One year they goofed a bit — they were serving a drink called something like a “Plain Kate-ini.” This was a nod to one of the titles nominated for the TD Children’s Literature Award — Plain Kate by Erin Bow. And it was a cute idea, though it struck me as odd that they named a drink after only one of the nominees. Then it dawned on me: the drink was named after the winner, and someone messed up and started serving it BEFORE the ceremony, thus accidentally tipping off who the winner would be.
On the bright side, it was a good drink. And I tried my best to have enough of it that I’d forget that I knew who was going to win. The “drink the spoiler away” strategy failed, but the effort was worth it.
This event is invitation-only, so if you didn’t get invited this year, get a Canadian Children’s Book Centre membership next year and you’ll be on the guest list. If you have been invited and are trying to decide whether to attend, I’ll make up your mind for you: you’re going. Thank me later.
TD is, of course, the sponsor of the event and of the “big” award of the evening. Many brush aside sponsorship, pointing out that there are benefits to spending money to appear to be good corporate citizens. Fine … but TD could have put their “good corporate citizen” money into anything they wanted; they chose to put it into children’s books. And they’ve put a lot of money into it. Publishers, authors, and most importantly, children, have benefited. So, that deserves applause.
Bookcave.ca just got up and running yesterday, in a very short period of time, so I haven’t had a chance to write reviews for all the nominated books — that’s something I’ll be doing in future years. For now, I’ve posted brief reviews of four titles (links below), and have created this preview.
There are eight awards up for grabs on Thursday.
TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award
The big prize is the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. All children’s books are eligible for this award — the only award of the evening that is for all ages, formats, and genres. In its eleven-year history, the award has heavily favoured chapter books, with picture books only winning twice. But this year, there is only one chapter book nominated — Kenneth Oppel’s The Nest. It’s a gorgeous middle-grade novel and has been piling up award wins, but it’s up against some pretty special competition. This is a very tough one to call.
Canadian presses are well-represented on the list, and two are relative newcomers — Clockwise Press and Pajama Press are recent additions to the kidlit community (though both are run by industry veterans).
The nominees are:
Missing Nimama, written by Melanie Florence, illustrated by François Thisdale (Clockwise Press). See my review here.
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel (HarperCollins)
That Squeak, written by Carolyn Beck, illustrated by François Thisdale (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
The Wolf-Birds, written and illustrated by Willow Dawson (Owlkids Books)
A Year of Borrowed Men, written by Michelle Barker, illustrated by Renné Benoit (Pajama Press)
Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse
TD and CCBC make sure they cover all of Canada, so there is a French component to the evening. I am a poor excuse for a Canadian, sadly, and don’t have a particularly strong reading ability in French, so I’m unable to comment on the list — I can just present it to you. For next year’s preview I’ll make an effort to get a French-speaking contributor to preview this award. My only comment will be “I’ll bet they’re all very good.”
The nominees are:
L’arbragan, written and illustrated by Jacques Goldstyn (Éditions de la Pastèque)
Aux toilettes, written by André Marois, illustrated by Pierre Pratt (Éditions Druide)
Camille by Patrick Isabelle (Leméac Éditeur)
L’épopée de Petit-Jules by Maryse Rouy (Éditions Hurtubise)
Le prisonnier sans frontiers by Jacques Goldstyn (Bayard Canada)
Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award
This is where illustrated books get the focus — the only award of the evening that is open exclusively to picture books. Willow Dawson’s The Wolf-Birds is, notably, a two-award nominee this year, and the only book in this group nominated for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. But that double-shot hasn’t been a strong predictor in the past. Dawson is up against some heavy hitters and previous winners.
In a Cloud of Dust, written by Alma Fullerton, illustrated by Brian Deines (Pajama Press)
InvisiBill, written by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Dušan Petricic (Tundra Books)
Sidewalk Flowers, storyline by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith (Groundwood Books)
Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox, written and illustrated by Danielle Daniel (Groundwood Books)
The Wolf-Birds, written and illustrated by Willow Dawson (Owlkids Books)
Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction
This award give us one of the more charming moments of the evening as multiple generations of the Fleck family take the stage to make the presentation. As for the books themselves … I am sold on every single one of these books because of their titles/subtitles. Damn, that’s some great title-writing.
The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics, written by Edward Keenan, illustrated by Julie McLaughlin (Owlkids Books)
A Beginner’s Guide to Immortality, written by Maria Birmingham, illustrated by Josh Holinaty (Owlkids Books)
Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War, written by Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanine, illustrated by Claudia Dávila (Kids Can Press)
Foodprints: The Story of What We Eat, by Paula Ayer (Annick Press)
Sex is a Funny Word: A Book About Bodies, Feelings, and You, written by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth (Seven Stories Press)
Shoutout to Seven Stories Press for having the good sense to use a serial comma in the subtitle of Sex is a Funny Word. Power to the Pause, my friends.
Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People
The Bilson Award jury gets this year’s thumbs-up from me for having the most indie representation of all the awards: four of the five titles come from independent, Canadian-owned presses. Don’t spend that thumbs-up all in one place.
And a high-five to Willow Dawson, who appears yet again on a shortlist. She’s nominated for a three awards this year. (Two as a writer-illustrator, and here as an illustrator.)
Avis Dolphin, written by Frieda Wishinsky, illustrated by Willow Dawson (Groundwood Books)
The Farmerettes by Gisela Tobien Sherman (Second Story Press)
Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra (Razorbill Canada)
Uncertain Solder by Karen Bass (Pajama Press)
The Unquiet Past by Kelley Armstrong (Orca Book Publishers)
John Spray Mystery Award
If you follow the Canadian kidlit world, you know there has been a lot of crime fiction published over the years, so it was welcome news when the Spray Award was introduced in 2011. The lists have been consistently excellent in its first six years.
Sharp observers will notice that Kelley Armstrong pops up again. She is also nominated for the Bilson Award for The Unquiet Past, and is the only writer to be nominated for two awards this year for two different books. (Willow Dawson was nominated for three awards for two different books — she was the illustrator on both books and the writer on one.)
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands (Aladdin)
The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford (Alfred A. Knopf)
Delusion Road by Don Aker (HarperTrophy Canada)
The Masked Truth by Kelley Armstrong (Doubleday Canada)
Masterminds by Gordon Korman (HarperCollins Publishers). See the Bookcave review here.
Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy
Two titles on this list are also nominated for other awards this evening: Kenneth Oppel’s The Nest is up for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, while Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules is nominated for the Amy Mathers Award.
Clover’s Luck by Kallie George (HarperCollins Publishers)
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel (HarperCollins Publishers)
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (Margaret K. McElderry Books). See the Bookcave review here.
A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston (Disney-Hyperion)
The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett (Greenwillow Books)
Amy Mathers Teen Book Award
This is only the second year for this award, which was long overdue and made possible by the efforts of Amy Mathers, whose “Marathon of Books” a few years back helped fund the prize.
5 to 1 by Holly Bodger (Alfred A. Knopf)
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
Trouble Is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly (Kathy Dawson Books)
The Truth Commission by Susan Juby (Razorbill Canada)
Young Man with Camera by Emil Sher (Arthur A. Levine Books). I’ve got a review of this book here.
I’m not going to post my picks for any of the awards this year — I don’t think it’s my place to do that as I haven’t read every single book. Next year I’ll be making some predictions on this site. This year, you’ll have to get my picks out of me after I’ve been to the bar a few times.