Books

550,000 Canadian Grade 1 students to receive children's classic Mortimer by Robert Munsch

The Canadian Children's Book Centre hosts the annual TD Grade One Book Giveaway, an initiative that delivers picture books to every Grade 1 student in Canada. 
Robert Munsch is the author of several classic Canadian children's books, including Mortimer. (Annick Press, Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

The Canadian Children's Book Centre (CCBC) has announced that Mortimer, written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko, is the 2020 TD Grade One Book Giveaway title. 

Each year, the CCBC hosts the TD Grade One Book Giveaway, an initiative that delivers Canadian children's picture books to every Grade 1 student in Canada. 

For some of the children, the book they receive may be the first one they ever own.

According to a press release, the CCBC distributes over 550,000 giveaway books each year.

More than 10 million books have been given to Grade 1 students across the country since the program's inception.

As the program is celebrating its 20th year, the CCBC was looking for a classic Canadian book for their 2020 giveaway, one that maintained appeal among children since it was originally released. 

Mortimer will join 19 other picture books that have been selected as TD Grade One Book Giveaway titles since 2000. 

The book tells the story of a boy who would rather sing long past his bedtime than go to sleep, making his parents frantic in the process.

"I watched Robert Munsch telling the story, Mortimer, to a class of little kids," says Martchenko. 

"When it came time to sing, 'Mortimer, BE QUIET!', the kids were so excited they were practically levitating. I knew then that we had a winner and it's still a winner today."

Children's author Robert Munsch discusses his experiences visiting Native Canadian communities during his book tours and presentations. As an author who has given free rights to his work to any aboriginal group, Munsch shares a Mohawk interpretation of his renowned "Love You Forever," claiming it's better than his original. 21:48

Since its 1983 release, Mortimer has sold 1.5 million copies. 

According to the release, the picture book was selected for 2020 for its classic status and its longstanding ability to "instill a love of stories" in children. 

"With so many uncertainties in our current world, one of the few things that we can be sure of is the power of stories to heal, to make us laugh, and to foster a sense of connection with each other," says Rose Vespa, executive director of the CCBC. 

"It is exciting to be able to introduce this Canadian children's favourite to a whole new generation of young readers who will fall in love with this joyful story." 

This year's round of giveaways will be distributed in fall 2020.  

Francophone and French immersion students will receive copies of Le dodo de Mortimer, the French translation edition by Christiane Duchesne.

The CCBC has also partnered with CNIB Foundation to distribute print braille editions of the book to Grade 1 students who are potential braille readers. 

Print braille copies of the book will also be available at select CNIB Foundation centres and hubs across Canada.

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