Canadian Award Winners: Book recommendations from the Ottawa Public Library

This is the second post in a series of monthly blog posts by Ottawa Public Library children’s librarians! We hope you enjoy today’s post and remember to check back every month for great children’s books ideas. by Margaret Kirkpatrick, Children's Librarian, Carlingwood Branch        

*Click on the picture of each book to be directed to the Ottawa Public Library page about it

I am always interested in how readers choose their books. One way is to look for the gold stickers on books, meaning that they have won an award. But who puts the stickers on the books? What do they mean?

For me, I look to the Canadian Library Association Book Award’s website. The Canadian Library Association sponsors three book awards, each reviewed by a panel of Canadian librarians across the county. These people know their books!

Kids Can Press has a list of their books that have won book awards. This will give you an idea of the vast number of book awards there are. You can decide which ones are your favourites! Scholastic Canada also has a list of book awards that their books have won: I want to tell you about four of my favourite authors, who are Canadian Award Winners, and some of their books. All of these books, and others by the same authors and illustrators, are available at the Ottawa Public Library. And don’t forget, Ottawa Public Library is a bilingual library, so we have copies of many of these favourites available in French too.

Paulette Bourgeois

Everyone knows Paulette Bourgeois because she wrote the Franklin books. But before those books, she wrote two of my favourites.

Big Sarah's Little BootsPerhaps an oldie, but definitely a good one! Sarah loves her yellow boots. But one day, they just won't fit anymore. No amount of stretching will make them big again, and a disappointed Sarah must choose new boots. This picture book tells an endearing story about facing and happily resolving a familiar childhood dilemma. Illustrated by Brenda Clark, and published in 1987.

Too Many ChickensWhen a farmer brings Mrs. Kerr's class a dozen eggs to incubate, the class project quickly goes awry. In no time at all, Mrs. Kerr's classroom has become a farmyard and the situation is spiraling out of control. Illustrated by Bill Slavin, and published in 1990.

Non-fiction readers will enjoy the following books:

The Dirt on DirtThe Dirt on Dirt covers not only what you think of as dirt, but also everything on and around the planet relating to dirt, from dirt homes big and small to secrets the dirt hides and much more. Youngsters will also find a bucketful of fun things to do with dirt, including how to build a bike racetrack, create fossil footprints and grow a garden playhouse. Illustrated by Martha Newbigging, and published in 2008.

The Jumbo Book of SpaceWhy does the sun shine? How big is our solar system? Where do comets come from? How far away are the stars?  Find out how to • make your own telescope • make a two-stage balloon rocket • make moon craters • look at the sun safely • cook with the sun's rays Written with Cynthia Pratt Nicolson, and illustrated by Bill Slavin. Published in 2007.

And some other non-fiction books by Paulette Bourgeois worthy of attention: Changes in You and Me: A Book about Puberty Mostly for Girls (2005) Changes in You and Me: A Book about Puberty, Mostly for Boys (2005)

Phoebe Gilman

I love Phoebe Gilman for her strong female characters, even in picture books. Princesses? Yes, but problem solving, resourceful princesses!

The Balloon TreeWhen Princess Leora's father leaves the castle, he tells her if anything goes wrong to release balloons from the castle tower as a warning to him. While he's away, her evil uncle, the Archduke, makes himself king. What's worse, he pops every balloon in the kingdom. Princess Leora must find at least one balloon to save the kingdom! (1984)

Grandma and the PiratesThe delicious smell of Grandma’s noodle pudding tempts a group of pirates to steal it. They steal Grandma too, and it takes some clever thinking on Melissa’s part to rescue her. (1990)

Once upon A Golden AppleIn this hilarious fractured fairy tale, everything seems to go wrong. Goldilocks lives with the seven dwarfs, a princess kisses a reluctant dragon, and she and her prince rescue the Wicked Witch of the West...until all mischief is sorted out and everyone lives happily ever after. Jean Little and Maggie de Vries’ whimsical text and Phoebe Gilman’s magical illustrations make this a magnificent feast for anyone who loves a good story — even when it’s wrong!

Something from NothingThe blanket Joseph's grandfather made him is transformed into many things as the years go by: a jacket, a vest, a tie, a handkerchief--and finally a button. Gilman's modern adaptation and lively illustrations turn this favorite Jewish tale into a contemporary classic (1992)

Captain Plunk and his pirates find a treasure chest floating on the ocean waves, but instead of a cache of pearls inside, they find a baby girl! Precious Pearl becomes the pirate crew's lucky charm, even though she has a bad habit of giving away their treasure. When Pirate Pearl leaps onto the deck of Prince Basil's ship, he recognizes her as the long-lost Princess Pearl. In no time flat, the princess has rushed back to the castle and dumped the evil Count Crumple in the dungeon. But wait —    she's not ready to marry Prince Basil and settle down to rule the kingdom yet. Pearl invites the prince to join her pirate crew, and he helps her give away her newest treasure! (1998)

Melanie Watt

Melanie Wattis an award winner extraordinaire! Her books Chester and Scaredy Squirrel won the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbons Award for illustrations (sponsored by the Canadian Library Association) two years in a row! Impressive!

Scaredy SquirrelScaredy Squirrel never leaves his nut tree. It's way too dangerous out there. He could encounter tarantulas, green Martians or killer bees. But in his tree, every day is the same and if danger comes along, he's well-prepared. Scaredy Squirrel's emergency kit includes antibacterial soap, Band-Aids and a parachute.Day after day he watches and waits, and waits and watches, until one day … his worst nightmare comes true! Scaredy suddenly finds himself out of his tree, where germs, poison ivy and sharks lurk. But as Scaredy Squirrel leaps into the unknown, he discovers something really uplifting … (published in 2006)

After reading Scaredy Squirrel, you will definitely want to read Scaredy Squirrel makes a Friend (2007), Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach (2008), and Scaredy Squirrel at Night (2009). And remember, they are available in french too at the Ottawa Public Library.

ChesterChester is more than a picture book. It is a story told, and retold, by dueling author-illustrators. Mélanie Watt starts out with the story of a mouse in a house. Then Mélanie's cat, Chester, sends the mouse packing and proceeds to cover the pages with rewrites from his red marker, and the gloves are off.Mélanie and her mouse won't take Chester's antics lying down. And Chester is obviously a creative powerhouse with confidence to spare. Where will this war of the picture-book makers lead? Is it a one-way ticket to Chesterville, or will Mélanie get her mouse production off the ground? (published in 2007) Chester and Melanie have more adventures in Chester’s Back (2008) and Chester’s Masterpiece (2010).

Have I Got A Book for You!Watt presents a character you just can't say "no" to: salesman Mr. Al Foxword. Al can sell anything. You can't help but be impressed by his lineup of satisfied customers: he's sold an icebox to a penguin, an umbrella to a fish and a dirt vacuum to a mole. Al knows you're looking for a great book, and this is your lucky day. Say goodbye to books that leave you bored and uninspired. Research shows that 100 percent of Al's customers notice a dramatic increase in happiness after buying his book. Not totally convinced yet? Just when you think you're ready to close the book on this relentless salesman, he comes up with a clever tactic that you simply can't refuse.The retro design and the sheer absurdity of Foxword's powers of persuasion make for an off-the-wall picture book with major crossover appeal that pokes fun at our hard-sell society.

Barbara Reid

Barbara Reid. My absolute favourite. My favourite author. My favourite illustrator (plasticine is her medium). My favourite everything. If you haven’t discovered Barbara Reid, run to your nearest library, or computer and request all of books by Barbara Reid. Every one of her books. You will not be disappointed. French or English, you can choose, but choose Barbara Reid.

Read Me A BookTell me a story, read me a book... Babies love books, sharing books with your child every day will open up a world of fun and learning. Bouncy verse and delightful illustrations of babies and children reading make this a great place to start. (2004)

The PartyEveryone loves a party! Help yourself to a slice of cake and join the gang for the best get-together ever. Barbara Reid's rhythmic text and bright Plasticine pictures capture all the fun - the games, the food, the friends. We all give a cheer for the party! (1997)

GiftsMy grandma went a-travelling, said: "what would have me bring?" "Not much," said I, "just a piece of sky, and a hundred songs I can sing..." And Grandma manages to do just that, delivering into a young girl's hands a pack of unusual souvenirs, from "billabong goo" to a sitar's zing. But more important, she brings the enduring gifts of enthusiasm, love and respect for a hundred different places and peoples the world over. (1994)

Perfect SnowIt came in the night. "Perfect!" said Scott. "Snow!" said Jim.At recess the schoolyard is full of happy kids. Scott is making snowmen, Jim is working on the world's greatest snow fort. At lunchtime they join forces to create a perfect snow surprise! Barbara Reid combines her trademark plasticine artwork with ink and watercolour panels to bring a timeless Canadian tale of winter fun to life. (2009). This book has been described as a “perfect book”, and has won many awards! This is an all-too-short list of four of my favourite award winning authors and an introduction to some of their books. Next time you are at the library, ask your librarian which authors, illustrators, and books, are her favourites. She will have a long list too!