Students across Canada chose these 9 books as the 2023 Forest of Reading Award winners

Forest of Reading selects Canadian titles for children to read and vote for their favourite. The winners were announced at a hybrid festival in May.

Forest of Reading selects Canadian titles for children to read and vote for their favourite

A group of elementary school students cheering for authors on an outdoor stage.
Students from kindergarten to high school are encouraged to read from a selection of shortlisted books and vote for their favourites in the Forest of Reading program. (Forest of Reading)

The 2023 Forest of Reading Awards, divided by age group and reading level, have been announced through combined in-person and virtual ceremonies.

Forest of Reading is Canada's largest annual recreational reading program where children and young adults pick their favourite authors and illustrators.

The hybrid award ceremonies took place from May 16 to 18. Ainara Alleyne of TVOkids' Aianara's Bookshelf and CBC's Canada Reads host and comedian Ali Hassan hosted this year's celebration. 

The 10 finalists in each category are chosen by a committee of library practitioners. The Forest of Reading program is organized by the Ontario Library Association.

Young readers across Canada vote on their favourite to determine the winner.

The 2023 winners are:

Learn more about the winning titles for the English-language categories below.

Silver Birch Express Award: Bear in the Family by Eric Walters, illustrated by Olga Barinova

White man with blue eyes and short grey hair smirking. Illustrated book cover of two kids, a white shaggy dog and a small black bear sitting on a log in the leafless forest; orange and white text overlaid. White woman with light hair and glasses in front of a red brick wall.
Bear in the Family is an early chapter book by Eric Walters and illustrated by Olga Barinova. (Anita Walters, Orca Books, Olga Barinova)

The Silver Birch Express Award is for fiction or nonfiction for readers in Grades 3 to 4.

Bear in the Family is an illustrated early chapter book about two kids who take care of a lost bear cub in the aftermath of a wildfire. Inspired by Walter's experience of a wildlife sanctuary in northern B.C., young Jasmin and Hunter have to find and care for the cub until their local sanctuary can safely make it through the fires.

Eric Walters is one of Canada's most prolific writers for young people. He's penned over 100 books, including Camp XThe Power of Three and Run. Walters won the 2020 Governor General's Literary Prize for young people's literature — text for The King of Jam Sandwiches.

Olga Barinova is a children's book illustrator based in Calgary. She has illustrated the books Buckle Up by Stephanie Scott and Maxy Survives the Hurricane by Ricia Chansky.

 Silver Birch Fiction Award: The Undercover Book List by Colleen Nelson

illustrated book cover of two small kids sitting down, loose pages flying around blue background. Woman with brown hair and red lipstick smiling with white dog in lap.
The Undercover Book List is a middle-grade book by Colleen Nelson. (Pajama Press, Thomas Nelson)

The Silver Birch Fiction Award is for fiction for readers in Grades 3 to 6.

In The Undercover Book List, Jane is missing her father and her best friend who moved away. Tyson feels helpless against his reputation at school as a bad kid. When Jane's best friend leaves a message in a library book so that she might find a new friend who loves books, Tyson decides to respond. 

Colleen Nelson is a YA author based in Winnipeg. Her other books include Pulse PointSpinBlood Brothers and Finding Hope.

Blue Spruce Award: Are You a Cheeseburger? by Monica Arnaldo 

Woman with dark brown hair and brown eyes smiling. Illustrated book cover of a raccoon looking at a lime with black eyes.
Are You a Cheeseburger? is a children's picture book by Monica Arnaldo. (Sebastian Porco, HarperCollins)

The Blue Spruce Award is picture books for readers in kindergarten to Grade 2.

Are You a Cheeseburger? is a humorous story about a raccoon named Grub and a seed he finds in the trash. Grub, lonely and hungry, hopes that Seed will grow into a cheeseburger, which is his favourite food. Seed, on the other hand, is not so sure what they will be but is eager to help!

Monica Arnaldo is an author and illustrator currently based in Montreal. She has published several other children's books including, Margo Thinks Twice and The Little Book of Big Fears.

 Red Maple Award: Children of the Fox by Kevin Sands 

illustrated book cover of five kids standing on a rooftop. clocktower in the background. Black and white photo of man with glasses and short hair
Children of the Fox is a middle-grade book by Kevin Sands. (Puffin Canada)

The Red Maple Award is for fiction for readers in Grades 7 to 8.

Children of the Fox is the first book in the fantasy middle-grade series, Thieves of Shadow. Five young kids with excellent skills in thievery are tasked with a magical heist. They must obtain a treasure from a powerful sorcerer in the city and while on this adventure must also learn to trust one another.

Kevin Sands is a children's writer from Ontario. His literary career began in 2015 with the publication of The Blackthorn Keya middle-grade fantasy novel about the adventures of an orphaned apothecary's apprentice. The book received the John Spray Mystery Award and was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Best YA Crime Novel Award. He's continued the bestselling Blackthorn Key series with Mark of the PlagueThe Assassin's Curse and Call of the Wraith.

White Pine Award: Daughter by Kate McLaughlin 

Book cover or a blurred woman's face behind a cracked mirror. White text overlaid. Woman with brown hair, bangs and dark pink lipstick on.
Daughter is a YA thriller novel by Kate McLaughlin. (Macmillan, Kate McLaughlin)

The White Pine Award is for fiction for readers in high school.

Daughter is a young adult thriller following a teen named Scarlet after her world is turned upside down in discovering that her father is an infamous serial killer. When the FBI inform Scarlet that her father is dying and will only reveal his victims to her, she's faced with an impossible choice. Can Scarlet escape this horrifying legacy?

Kate McLaughlin is an author from Nova Scotia currently based in Connecticut. Her other books include the Steampunk Chronicles series and the YA novel What Unbreakable Looks Like, which won the Forest of Reading White Pine Award in 2022.

Yellow Cedar Award: Fred & Marjorie by Deborah Kerbel, illustrated by Angela Poon

White woman with blonde hair and bangs smiling. Illustrated book cover of a white man in glasses, a white blazer and red tie petting a black and white dog on a table.
Fred & Marjorie is a kid's graphic historical novel by Deborah Kerbel and illustrated by Angela Poon. (Owlkids)

The Yellow Cedar Award is for nonfiction for readers in Grades 4 to 8.

Told as a graphic novel, Fred & Marjorie: A Doctor, a Dog, and the Discovery of Insulin follows Dr. Frederick Banting in 1921 as he had an idea to treat diabetes. Banting formed a strong connection to one of his test dogs, Marjorie and together they discovered a miraculous treatment - insulin. 

Deborah Kerbel is a children's book author from Ontario. Her other books include the picture books Before You Were Born and Sun Dog, both illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo, the middle-grade books Feathered and Bye-Bye Evil Eye and the YA books Mackenzie, Lost and Found and Girl on the Other Side.

Angela Poon is a Mississauga-based freelance illustrator and comic artist. 

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