Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith win $50K TD Canadian Children's Literature Award for Town Is by the Sea

Six awards recognizing great Canadian children's books were handed out on Oct. 29, 2018.
Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith is the winner of the 2018 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award. (Groundwood Books/Steve Farmer)

Prizes celebrating the best of Canadian children's literature were handed out at the 2018 Canadian Children's Literature Awards on Oct. 29, 2018. 

Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith won the top prize of the evening, the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award, for their illustrated look at one boy's experience of East Coast mining culture, Town Is by the Sea

The $50,000 prize is awarded annually to the best book written for children under the age of 12.

According to the jury for the prize, Town Is by the Sea asks readers "to see the contrasts of freedom and restriction, childhood and adulthood, choice and fate as the main character embraces who he is and who he longs to become." 

The other 2018 finalists were Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr, Picture the Sky by Barbara Reid, Speaking Our Truth by Monique Gray Smith and When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge and Matt James

A public vote was held to determine the CBC's Fan Choice Contest winner. Students from across Canada could vote for their favourite finalist for the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award, and the book that received the most votes was Picture the Sky by Barbara Reid. As well, 11-year-old Hamza Khan was randomly selected from among participating voters to receive a school visit from one of the finalist creators, copies of that creator's book for students in their class, a two-thousand dollar donation to their school library and five hundred dollars spending money. 

Five other awards were given out at the Oct. 29 gala, honouring Canadian children's books in a range of genres. Those winners were: 

You can learn more about each of these books below. 

Amy Mathers Teen Book Award: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline 

Cherie Dimaline's The Marrow Thieves won the 2017 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature. (Cherie Dimaline/Dancing Cat Books)

Told from the perspective of a young boy on the run from so-called "recruiters," the young adult novel The Marrow Thieves is a harrowing look at a near-future where only Indigenous peoples have retained the ability to dream. With dreamlessness plaguing the rest of the population, Indigenous people are now on the run — hunted for their bone marrow, which is rumoured to restore hold the key to dreaming. 

The jury said: "In The Marrow Thieves, Dimaline has woven a complex, timely and poignant story about survival, the will to continue to be, and the power of love and family… Dimaline's characters are drawn with depth and nuance and her exquisitely lyrical prose is captivating – drawing readers into a dystopian world that is too close to reality for comfort." 

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People: The Assassin's Curse by Kevin Sands

The Assassin's Curse is the third in a series by Kevin Sands, featuring a resourceful, rebellious apothecary's assistant. (kevinsandsbooks.com/Aladdin)

The third instalment in Kevin Sands's Blackthorn Key series, The Assassin's Curse returns to the adventures of Christopher Rowe. This time, the young code-breaker must solve a series of puzzles to determine who is behind a murder, before they can strike again. 

The jury said: "An enduring and entertaining addition to a compelling historical series… The mystery adventure is plotted beautifully and leaves readers with questions, and constantly in search of answers to the mystery presented… Sands is a skilled and talented author whose writing style succeeds in engaging readers… Mystery, suspense, murder and codes is a recipe for an entertaining, engaging and intriguing read." 

John Spray Mystery Award: The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook 

Eileen Cook's novel The Hanging Girl is about a fake kidnapping and a girl pretending to be a tarot card reader, who's tasked with investigating the crime. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Eileen Cook)

In Eileen Cook's novel The Hanging Girl, a fake psychic named Skye Thorn gets caught up investigating a kidnapping she happens to know was fake too. Now, Thorn is in over her head, and will need to use the powers of observation that have long fuelled her phony tarot card readings to determine the true identity of the people she's involved with. 

The jury said: "When the most popular girl in school goes missing, the class psychic, Skye, conveniently starts to have visions about what might have happened to her… The Hanging Girl is a quick paced thriller with amazing plot twists from beginning to end… It was hard to decide who to root for and who to blame… A great page turner and psychological thriller." 

Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award: When the Moon Comes, written by Paul Harbridge and illustrated by Matt James

When The Moon Comes, written by Paul Harbridge and illustrated by Matt James, is about a group of kids who play hockey by moonlight on a frozen lake. (Matt James/Penguin Random House/Paul Harbridge)

Inspired by Paul Harbridge's own childhood memories of playing pond hockey on frozen backyard rinks, When the Moon Comes is an evocative look at the magic of time spent outdoors, and celebrates a sense of adventure that all readers will appreciate — whether they're hockey fans or not.

The jury said: "A remarkable book in every respect… The quietly told tale is beautifully enhanced by James' stunning artwork. Even the wordless spreads speak volumes... This nostalgia filled adventure with friends will resonate with those who love the moon, nature and hockey… There's a bit of mystery and magic, too, captured on these pages... An outstanding book worthy of many readings." 

Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction: #NotYourPrincess, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

#NotYourPrincess is an anthology of art, essays, interviews and poetry edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale. (lisacharleyboy.com/Annick Press/marybethleatherdale.com)

This eclectic collection of poetry, essays, interviews and art brings together work from a variety of Indigenous women to explore the past, present and future of the Indigenous experience in North America. Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale, #NotYourPrincess is a provocative and creative look at what it means to be Indigenous and a woman in the world today. 

The jury said: "#​NotYourPrincess celebrates the talents and accomplishments of Indigenous women and dispels stereotypes... A rich collection that acknowledges the Indigenous experiences as we move towards recognition and positive change… It empowers individuals to be proud of who they are and to demand change so that all voices are heard." 

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