I’ve always been a fan of Canadian literature. As early as I remember, my adult reading has focused at least partially on books written by Canadian authours. I think that there is something really special that shines through in their voices and I love the extra dose of relatability that I feel when reading Canadian books.
For the last three years, I’ve committed to reading the Giller Prize lists – long and short – to explore the best of new Canadian literature that is published in English. It’s been a really rewarding and enjoyable experience because it’s opened my reading experiences up to new authours and books I may never have read otherwise.
Earlier this year, I got to record a chat with Megan Cole, host of the BC and Yukon Book Prizes podcast, Writing the Coast. Here’s a link to that episode.
The meaningfulness and value of book prizes is one of the topics that we get into on the podcast and a number of people have reached out to me about it since then. I said that I really like book prizes because they do the heavy lifting for us as readers. Even though I may not always agree with the results, I find the lists of books to be almost like a cheat sheet for all the best books that have been published according to the criteria at hand. In fact, quite often I am actually much more interested in the finalists than I am the actual winners. Every year when book prize season rolls around, my TBR (that’s book nerd talk for to be read) list explodes.
To date, I’ve only committed to reading the Giller Prizes, but I review a number of book prize lists throughout the year (Booker, Women’s Prize, Aspen Words) and pluck the most interesting-to-me titles from each of them. Even though I already have more books lined up that I can probably read in my entire life, I am always still looking for more.
A few years ago, I became aware of the BC and Yukon Books Prizes and the work that they do to support and promote writers in the region where I live. As I’ve participated in some of the events they offer throughout the year, listened to the podcast and even attended the virtual awards ceremony, I have really grown to appreciate the writing community in BC and the Yukon. That appreciation translated into inspiration to try and make the most out of finalists list for all of the 2022 prizes. I’m hopeful that this will be the first of many (at least eight, anyway) posts about the categories and the books they are considering.
Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Book
From the BC and Yukon Book Prizes website: Awarded to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of picture books, picture story books, graphic novels, and illustrated non-fiction books for children. The prize is shared by the author(s) and illustrator(s). It is also noted that: The illustrator(s) of the book are considered authors for the purposes of residency eligibility.
To read more about the prize and about Christie Harris, visit that page here.
I am far from a children’s book aficionado so I was blind coming into this category, but, funny enough, this was the group for which copies of all the books came together most easily. I was able to get a couple from my local library and the other three from a bookstore.
The finalists for the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize are:
Long Distance by Whitney Gardner (10 years+)
This book is different than the others in that this is a graphic novel targeting the oldest audience, at a grade five level. It’s the story of Vega whose parents have moved their family from Portland to Seattle, much to her chagrin. In an attempt to get her to meet new friends, Vega goes off to camp where things don’t go as expected. Long Distance is a fun little adventure. Whitney Gardner both wrote and illustrated the book.
The Midnight Club by Shane Goth, illustrated by Yong Ling Kang (3-7 years)
I really liked The Midnight Club. While reading it, I felt that, if I were a young child, this one would be my favourite. Sisters sneak out of bed and explore the house after everyone was supposed to be asleep. They make a few discoveries, experience a few scares, all with their cat in tow, and vow to stay up late again, do it all over, and to keep the secret midnight club going. The story is very cute and the illustrations are soft and it’s the perfect combination between brave adventure and bedtime story.
On The Trapline by David A. Robertson and Julie Flett (4-8 years)
On The Trapline by David A Robertson is the most richly told story about a boy who goes to the trapline with his grandfather. It shares many similarities with Robertson’s memoir, Black Water and, as a word lover, my favourite thing about the story was that it introduced Cree words with many of its pages. The illustrations are beautiful and suit the tone of the story perfectly. Robertson and Flett are an excellent pairing.
The Secret Fawn by Kallie George & Elly MacKay (3-7 years)
Based solely on their covers, I loved The Secret Fawn immediately and most. The images are so soft and beautiful and the story is very sweet. It’s written in the voice of the youngest child in a family who feels as though she misses out on everything because she is the smallest. In the end, she has her own experience and I think it’s brilliant that she keeps it a secret. (That’s a spoiler. Sorry.)
Time Is A Flower by Julie Morstad (3-7 years)
Time is a Flower was the most abstract and philosophical of all the books in this category. It contemplates the question that we’ve all been asking a lot over the past several years: what it time? And it provides some pretty beautiful images to go along with those pretty thoughtful contemplations. It’s a pretty little contemplation of all the ways that time makes itself evident to us.
You can learn more about all the prizes and the finalists on the finalists page of the BC and Yukon Book Prizes website here. The winners of all the awards will be announced at the BC and Yukon Book Prizes Gala on September 24th.