by Jeffrey Canton
This spring has been just hopping for Canadian kids' booksłas well as a wonderful new crop of fiction for children and teens, picture books and great non-fiction, a number of the major children's book awards have been announced recognizing great Canadian books for kids. Frances Virginia Schwartz's first novel, If I Just Had Two Wings, took home both The Canadian Children Book Centre's Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical fiction for Young People and the Ontario Library Association's Silver Birch Award, an award given annually by kids for their favourite book. Older readers in Ontario chose Kathy Kacer's Clara's War as their choice in the Red Maple Awards while in British Columbia, Ken Oppel's ever-popular Sunwing was the winner of this year's Red Cedar Award. The Ruth Schwartz Children's Book Award went to Paulette Bourgeois and Stephane Jorisch for their book, Oma's Quilt, in the picture book category and first-time-novelist Mary C. Sheppard for her YA novel, Seven for a Secret. And Brian Doyle won the IODE National Chapter's Violet Downey Book Award for his novel, Mary Ann Alice. We still have the Norma Fleck Non-fiction Award, the Information Book Award, the Mr. Christie Book Awards and the Canadian Library Association prizes to look forward to, but so far it's proving to be a wonderful year for some great new books. And a passage from National Librarian Roch Carrier's wonderful children's book, The Hockey Sweater, has now found itself into the hands of millions of Canadiansłvia the design of our new five dollar bill! Who says that children's books are just for kids!
But in all the midst of all these celebrations, Books in Canada also wants to mark the passing of a great Canadian, Bernice Thurman Hunter, whose celebrated Booky series so thoughtfully and with just that right touch of humour took young readers into the world of a young girl growing up in Toronto during the Depression years. The Booky books were based in part on Hunter's own memories of hard times in the Swansea neighbourhood of Toronto and it was that ability to reenter the child's world that made Hunter such a fine writer. Winner of the Vicky Metcalfe Award in 1990 for her body of work, Bernice was to have been awarded the Order of Canada in recognition of her contribution to Canadian children's literature later this year, an award that will now be made posthumously, but she knew how loved her books were by Canadian kids.
Jeffrey Canton, Editor, Children's Books section