Linwood Barclay's middle-grade novel Chase among Forest of Reading winners

Seven books received prizes at the 2019 Festival of Trees event, which annually celebrates children's literature by Canadian authors.
Chase by Linwood Barclay is a novel aimed at readers aged 8 to 12. (Bill Taylor)

Chasea middle-grade novel by bestselling thriller writer Linwood Barclay, was among the seven winners at the annual Festival of Trees in Toronto, which celebrates Canadian children's literature.

The Festival of Trees is the culminating event of an Ontario-wide program called Forest of Reading, in which students from kindergarten to high school are encouraged to read from a selection of shortlisted books and vote for their favourites over several months.

Nearly 170,000 readers across the province voted in 2019, choosing winners across categories based on age and genre.

Barclay won the Silver Birch Fiction Award for literature targeted to students in Grades 3 to 6. Chase is about a part-robot dog named Chipper who runs away from a secret institution and meets three preteens eager to help him remain free.

Wesley King won the Red Maple Fiction Award, a category for readers in Grades 7 and 8. His book, A World Belowtells the story of a Grade 8 class field trip that goes awry when an earthquake sends everyone underground.

Heather Smith was awarded the the White Pine Award for novels targeted to secondary school students. Her book is The Agony of Bun O'Keefe, a story set in 1986 in Newfoundland following a sheltered young girl who ventures outside her agoraphobic mother's home and ends up living with an eccentric group of outcasts.

Co-authors Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland received the Red Maple Non-Fiction Award, a category for Grades 7 and 8 readers. Their book, Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea, is Lee's memoir of growing up under brutal conditions and spending five years as a street orphan in North Korea before being smuggled out of the country.

Here is the full list of winners:

  • Blue Spruce Award (picture books for JK to Grade 2 students): Barnaby Never Forgets by Pierre Collet-Derby
  • Red Maple Fiction Award (Grade 7 & 8 students): A World Below by Wesley King
  • Red Maple Non-Fiction Award (Grade 7 & 8 students): Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland
  • White Pine Award (Grade 9-12 students): The Agony of Bun O'Keefe by Heather Smith
  • Silver Birch Non-Fiction Award (Grade 3-6 students): Carey Price: How a First Nations Kid Became a Superstar Goaltender by Catherine Rondina
  • Silver Birch Fiction Award (Grades 3-6 students): Chase by Linwood Barclay
  • Silver Birch Express Award (Grades 3-4 reluctant readers): Meet Viola Desmond by Elizabeth MacLeod and Mike Deas