Books

Canadian kids' books This is How I Know and Firefly win 2022 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards

The Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards celebrate artistic excellence in writing and illustration in English-language Canadian children's literature.

Philippa Dowding, Brittany Luby and Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley recognized for their work

Brittany Luby, left, Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, and Philippa Dowding are the winners of the 2022 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards. (Groundwood Books, Cormorant Books)

Writers Philippa Dowding and Brittany Luby and illustrator Joshua Maneshig Pawis-Steckley are the 2022 winners of the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Books Awards.

The awards, established in 1976 by Sylvia Schwartz in memory of her sister, Ruth, a respected Toronto bookseller, present two $6,000 prizes annually to recognize artistic excellence in writing and illustration in English-language Canadian children's literature.

This year's winners were selected by two juries of young readers from Toronto's Faywood Arts-Based Curriculum School.

Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know, written by Brittany Luby and illustrated by  Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, won the Children's Picture Book Award.

The lyrical story-poem, written in Anishinaabemowin and English (with Anishinaabemowin translation by Alvin Ted Corbiere and Alan Corbiere), follows a child and grandmother as they explore their surroundings, taking pleasure in the familiar sights that each new season brings.

The book was also shortlisted for a 2021 Governor General's Literary Award.

 "We love the gentle story and the vibrant colours," the student jurors said, noting the decision to tell the story in both Anishinaabemowin and English would help draw more readers who speak either language.

"As a creative, you practice hope — hope that your message will reach and resonate with others," author Brittany Luby said in accepting the award.

Luby, of Anishinaabe descent, is an assistant professor of history at the University of Guelph who often touches on Indigenous issues in her work.

"Winning this award is very important to me as this book highlights Indigenous languages and Anishinaabe culture," added illustrator Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley. "It's particularly exciting to see the next generation recognizing the importance of language revitalization and celebrating Indigenous artistry."

Pawis-Steckley is an Ojibwe artist and a member of Wasauksing First Nation who splits his time between there and Vancouver. In his work, he aims to reclaim and promote traditional Ojibwe stories and teachings in a contemporary woodland style.

Philippa Dowding's YA novel Firefly won the Young Adult / Middle Reader Award.

The book explores the concepts of what home and family means to Firefly as she goes to live with her Aunt Gayle, who owns a costume shop. There, she tries on various costumes that might fit her best — an allegory for her quest to feel at home.

"Firefly is so relatable, with very human flaws, and we want to see her again in another story," the student jurors wrote.

"Receiving this award will encourage the next generation of readers to discover the book, and hopefully build awareness and empathy around the issues explored in it," Dowding said.

Dowding is an award-winning children's author, poet, musician and copywriter based in Toronto. Firefly is her most recent book and also won the the 2021 Governor General's Award for young people's literature.– text.

The Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards are funded through the Ruth Schwartz Foundation and are administered by the Ontario Arts Foundation with support from the Ontario Arts Council.

Last year's winners were Wab Kinew and illustrator Joe Morse for Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes, and Colleen Nelson for Sadia.

Past winners also include Kenneth Oppel, Susin Nielsen and Kathy Kacer.

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