Kenneth Oppel's Starclimber is in the running for the 2009 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards. He captured last year's prize in the young adult category with Darkwing. ((HarperCollins))

Bestselling authors Kenneth Oppel, Robert Munsch and Budge Wilson are three of the writers who have landed on the short list of the 2009 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards.

The two awards, worth $6,000 each, honour the best in writing and illustration in Canadian children's literature.

In the young adult/middle reader category are:Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel;Libertad by Alma Fullerton;Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson;Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen; andThe Shadow of Malabron by Thomas Wharton.

The Port Alberni, B.C.-born Oppel won last year for Darkwing, a book in the popular Silverwing saga. Oppel, who now lives in Toronto, garnered a  Governor General's Literary Award in 2004 for English language children's literature (for Airborn). 

Starclimber is his third book in the fantasy series about "astralnaut" Matt Cruse.

Wilson's book is a prequel to Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic Anne of Green Gables

Before Green Gables —  released last year on the 100th anniversary of the publication of Montgomery's book — explores the background of the spirited, red-headed heroine Anne Shirley before she began a new life in Prince Edward Island.

In the children's picture book category are:

  • Just One Goal! by Robert Munsch.
  • M is for Moose: A Charles Pachter Alphabet by Charles Pachter.
  • A Pocket Can have a Treasure in It by Kathy Stinson.
  • Chester's Back! By Melanie Watt.
  • Stanley at Sea by Linda Bailey.

The winners, to be announced May 20 in Toronto, will be selected by two juries of young readers chosen from students attending Toronto's Market Lane Junior and Senior Public School.

The Ruth Schwartz Children's Book Awards were first established by Sylvia Schwartz to honour the memory of her sister, Ruth, a prominent bookseller in Toronto. In 2004, their family renamed the awards to honour both sisters.