Meet the finalists for the $30K 2017 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award

The prize is the biggest for a Canadian children's book.
The five books nominated for the 2017 Canadian Children's Literature Award are A Day of Signs and Wonders, The Skeleton Tree, The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk, Tokyo Digs a Garden, and When We Were Alone. (CBC Books)

Five books comprised the shortlist for the 2017 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award, an annual prize awarded to the best Canadian book of the year for readers up to the age of 12. The $30,000 is the richest prize for children's literature in Canada.

On Nov. 21, 2017, Jan Thornhill won the award for her nonfiction picture book The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk. Prior to the announcement, CBC ran kids book clubs across the country, featuring the nominated creators. 

The finalists were: 

A Day of Signs and Wonders by Kit Pearson

Kit Pearson's book A Day of Signs and Wonders is inspired by the childhood of Canadian artist Emily Carr. (TD Canadian Children's Literature Award)

Kit Pearson draws from the childhood of artist Emily Carr in this novel for middle grade readers, telling the story of two young girls and one magical day spent on a beach in Victoria, B.C. in 1881. Pearson has published 18 books throughout her career including The Sky is Falling, Looking at the Moon, The Lights Go on Again and the 1997 winner of the Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Literature, Awake and Dreaming.

From the jury: "In this fictional story about two historical figures — the young Emily Carr and Victoria socialite, Kitty O'Reilly — Pearson delves with astute perception into the qualities and psyches of two very different personalities… Both characters are surprising and convincing, and Pearson's respect for children's emotions and intelligence — both her characters' and her readers' — is admirably apparent throughout."

The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence

Iain Lawrence's The Skeleton Tree tells the story of two improbable friends and their quest to survive the Alaskan wilderness. (TD Canadian Children's Literature Award)

This tale of endurance and friendship takes place in the harsh Alaskan wilderness, where two boys who dislike each other intensely find themselves the only survivors after a tragic boat accident. Iain Lawrence, based in Gabriola Island, B.C., won the 2007 Governor General's Literary Award for children's literature for his book Gemini Summer.

From the jury: "Lawrence is well known for his tales of high seas adventure: here he offers a compelling yarn of sea and shipwreck close to his home in the Pacific Northwest… Lawrence weaves a touching tale of struggle and conflict, hope and determination, of family and identity, in a page-turning, breathtaking style… His firsthand knowledge of his setting brings lush, exhilarating vibrancy to this excellent survival story."

Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano, illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka

Tokyo Digs a Garden, written by Jon-Erik Lappano (left) and illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka, won the Governor General's Literary Award for young people literature — illustrated books in 2016. (Robert Scarborough/Kiersten Hatanaka)

In this picture book by Jon-Erik Lappano and Kellen Hatanaka, a young boy named Tokyo is given seeds with the promise they will grow into whatever he desires. Tokyo plants the seeds and wakes up to find that his city, previously dominated by highways and skyscrapers, has been overtaken by a lush forest. Lappano and Hatanaka won the 2016 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's Literature — illustrated books for Tokyo Digs a Garden.

From the judges: "Spare, humorous text accompanied by bright, bold illustrations create a timely modern fable about suburban sprawl and a child's desire for things to be the way they were when his grandad was a little boy… The charm of Tokyo Digs a Garden lies in its understated text which contrasts perfectly with its colourful and wildly imaginative illustrations."

The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk by Jan Thornhill

The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk is a nonfiction picture book by Jan Thornhill. (TD Canadian Children's Literature Award)

This nonfiction picture book by Jan Thornhill describes how the Great Auk, a North Atlantic bird that lived for hundreds of thousands of years, became extinct in 1844 and how its disappearance contributed to the creation of the conservation movement. Thornhill has been writing and publishing children's books since the 1980s, including The Wildlife ABC and The Wildlife 123, both of which were nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award for children's literature — illustration.

From the jury: "The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk is a riveting story about an unlikely hero, a bird, whose fate the reader knows in advance: extinction. Nonetheless, readers will feel compelled to root for its success in the face of adversity... Distinctive and evocative images mesh with strong writing about the lifestyle and obstacles that are a part of daily life for this resourceful bird… This is a book that draws the reader into its world — our world — in a way that's both haunted and haunting."

When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett

In When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett, a young girl listens to her grandmother's stories about attending residential school. (TD Canadian Children's Literature Award)

While working in the garden, a girl asks her grandmother about why she wears her hair in a long braid and why she speaks in another language. Her grandmother responds by describing her childhood, growing up in a residential school. When We Were Alone is David Alexander Robertson's first picture book, though he's published graphic novels like Will I See? and the novel The Evolution of Alice. Julie Flett is an award-winning illustrator, whose books include Little You and Owls See Clearly At Night (Lii Yiiboo Nayaapiwak lii Swer), the latter of which was nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Literature — Illustration.

From the jury: "When We Were Alone is an affirmation of human spirit, of truth and reconciliation in equal measures, beautifully captured by Robertson's simple yet powerful text and Flett's vibrant illustrations… Powerful words and illustrations combine to tell a beautiful story of a grandmother, after the horrors of residential school, taking back and celebrating her culture and language and ensuring her family feels the same pride."