Melanie Florence, François Thisdale win $30K TD Canadian Children's Literature Award


François Thisdale (left) and Melanie Florence share the $30,000 prize for their children's book about a young girl grieving the loss of her mother.

Cree writer Melanie Florence and Quebec illustrator François Thisdale took home the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award for the picture book Missing Nimâmâ during the Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards in Toronto on Nov. 17.

The annual $30,000 prize honours the best of the year in Canadian children's books. Florence and Thisdale's winning title is about an Indigenous girl named Kateri whose mother has gone missing. The book follows Kateri through major life milestones, alternating between her voice and that of her missing mother, who observes from beyond.

"Haunting free verse and ethereally beautiful illustrations combine to show that memory and familial love can bring a sense of hope, peace and joy in life after a painful loss," said the jury in a press release.

"The faces of missing and murdered Indigenous women find life in Missing Nimâmâ... Florence's words and Thisdale's illustrations fuse to create a powerful emotional impact."

"I wrote Missing Nimâmâ to give a voice to the women and girls who voice was stolen from them through violence," Florence said when accepting the award. "And to give a voice to the women and daughters they left behind."

The other finalists for the award were Kenneth Oppel for The Nest, Carolyn Beck and Thisdale for That Squeak, Willow Dawson for The Wolf-Birds and Michelle Barker and Renné Benoit for A Year of Borrowed Men.

A Fan Choice Award was also awarded. Readers aged 8-13 chose The Nest by Kenneth Oppel as the Fan Choice Award winner through popular vote. The contest winner was Grade 5 student Livia Kilburn from Alberta. As the contest winner, Livia will receive $500 and her school library will receive $2,000. One of the authors nominated for the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award will also visit Livia's school.

Six other prizes were presented at the Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards.

Danielle Daniel of Hanmer, Ont. received the $20,000 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award for her book Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox

Writer Cory Silverberg and illustrator Fiona Smyth won the $10,000 Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction for Sex Is a Funny Word: A Book About Bodies, Feelings, and You.

Karen Bass received the $5,000 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People for Uncertain Soldier. The story, set during World War Two, describes the unlikely friendship between a 12-year-old Albertan boy and a 17-year-old German prisoner of war. 

Kevin Sands won the $5,000 John Spray Mystery Award for his debut novel The Blackthorn Key

Erin Bow was awarded the $5,000 Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy for her young adult novel The Scorpion Rules

B.C.-based award-winning author Susan Juby won the $5,000 Amy Mathers Teen Book Award for The Truth Commission. Known for her absurd comic novels for both teens and adults, judges said "Susan Juby is, quite simply, the best."

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The Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards 2016 winners:

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