Books

Jillian Tamaki, Jonathan Auxier shortlisted for $50K TD Canadian Children's Literature Award

The annual prize recognizes the best Canadian children's book.
Jillian Tamaki and Jonathan Auxier are award-winning Canadian children's book creators. (Reynard Li, Libby Hilf)

Jillian Tamaki's debut picture book They Say Blue and Jonathan Auxier's fantasy middle-grade novel Sweep are among the finalists for the 2019 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award, an annual $50,000 prize for the best children's book in Canada for readers up to age 12.

Both books won Governor General's Literary Awards for young people's literature in 2018 — They Say Blue won the illustrated books category while Sweep took home the text category.

The other three books on the list are Heather Smith's novel-in-verse Ebb & FlowMarie-Louise Gay's picture book Mustafa and Merrie-Ellen Wilcox's nonfiction book After Life.

The winner will be announced on Oct. 15, 2019.

The shortlist and eventual winner were selected by a jury comprised of librarians Betsy Fraser and Arwen Rudolph and Canadian Children's Book News editor Sandra O'Brien.

Young readers can vote for their favourite nominee through the CBC's Fan Choice Contest. Students who participate will be entered in a draw for a chance to win a school visit from one of the 2019 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award finalists, copies of that creator's book for their class, $2,000 for their school library and $500 in spending money. The Fan Choice Contest is open until Oct. 3, 2019.

Keep reading to learn more about each of the nominated books and authors.

Sweep by Jonathan Auxier

Jonathan Auxier is the author of Sweep. (Puffin Canada)

Set in Victorian London, Sweep is a middle-grade novel that revolves around a young orphan girl named Nan who sweeps chimneys for a dangerous and hardscrabble living. Nan nearly perishes in a deadly chimney fire, but is saved when a piece of charcoal comes to life as a mysterious golem-like creature. Together, the two hatch a plan to rescue young orphan chimney sweeps from losing their lives on the job for cruel masters.

Sweep won the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text. Auxier won the 2015 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award for The Night GardenerOriginally from Vancouver, he now lives in Pittsburgh.

Mustafa by Marie-Louise Gay

Marie-Louise Gay is the author of Mustafa. (House of Anansi Press)

Marie-Louise Gay's picture book tells the story of a young boy named Mustafa, whose new country is very far away from his old home. Sometimes he wakes up forgetting where he is, but then his mother shows him the moon — the same moon from their old country. In the park, Mustafa watches kids play, but he always feels like he's an outsider looking in. One day, "girl-with-a-cat" invites him to join in the fun.

The Montreal illustrator has twice been nominated for the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award — in 2015 for Any Questions? and in 2008 for Please, Louise! written by Frieda Wishinsky.

Ebb & Flow by Heather Smith

Heather Smith is the writer behind the free-verse middle school book Ebb & Flow. (Kids Can Press)

This free-verse middle-grade novel by Heather Smith tells the story of an 11-year-old boy named Jett, who moves with his mother to a new town for a fresh start after his father is incarcerated. But things do not go well for Jett — he makes a new friend, but he also makes some bad decisions and now carries a dark secret. Over the course of a summer with his eccentric grandmother, Jett comes to terms with what he has done.

This book was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text. Smith is a writer based in Waterloo, Ont. Her other books include Chicken Girl and The Agony of Bun O'Keefe.

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki

They Say Blue is Jillian Tamaki's first picture book. (Groundwood, Reynard Li)

A vibrant picture book, They Say Blue is an exploration of colour told from the perspective of a curious and inquisitive little girl. The book won the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustration.

Tamaki is an award-winning comics creator from Toronto. Her previous books include SuperMutant Magic Academy, Boundless and This One Summerwhich was written by Mariko Tamaki.

After Life by Merrie-Ellen Wilcox

After Life is a nonfiction book by Merrie-Ellen Wilcox geared to readers aged 9 to 12. (Tzenka Dianova, Orca Book Publishers)

Merrie-Ellen Wilcox's nonfiction book explores how death has been treated through history and around the world. Each chapter is devoted to a different myth or cultural tradition around death. The book ends with a discussion about how to deal with grief or help others who are dealing with loss.

Wilcox is a writer and editor who grew up in B.C. After Life is her second book, following the nonfiction book about bees, What's the Buzz?

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