Authors Werner Zimmerman, Heather Smith shortlisted for GG Literary Award
Children's books not just for kids, say authors
Werner Zimmerman of Guelph and Heather Smith of Waterloo have been shortlisted for their children's books in the 2018 Governor General's Literary Awards.
Zimmerman is nominated for At The Pond, in the Young People's Literature — illustrated books category, and Smith for Ebb & Flow, in the Young People's Literature — text category.
At The Pond
Inspired by a reflecting pool in his backyard and a counting poem Zimmerman invented with his young granddaughter, At The Pond is a contemplative picture book he hopes will resonate with young readers.
"It's a quiet book," Zimmerman said, which is very different from the frenetic, cartoonish energy of his best-known work A Porcupine in a Pine Tree.
"This is, I guess, the polar opposite. Just contemplating beauty in a moment," he said.
"I want to share with kids, and anybody, the magic of looking into the pond and just watching slowly as things change."
Ebb & Flow
Smith's novel is for middle graders age nine to 12, and tells the story of a young boy named Jet who has made a serious mistake. He's sent to spend the summer with his eccentric grandmother Jo and it changes him.
Smith said the idea came to her when visiting her own family one summer in Newfoundland.
"I found this piece of sea glass," she said, and it got her thinking. "It begins as just a broken piece of sharp glass that's not very nice and over time in the ocean it gets turned and tumbled until it's this beautiful gem."
Smith said she knew she wanted to use that metaphor as a way of showing personal change. She began to write simple free verse poems — for a picture book, she thought. But the story was too big, and it eventually became a series of free verse poems that together tell the story of Jet's transformation over that summer in Newfoundland.
Young People's Literature categories no slouch
Though the fiction award usually gets the most attention, both authors feel children's books are worth paying closer attention to.
"People seem to forget the magic in children's books and how important they are to anybody's life," Zimmerman said.
"They might be in the children's category, but from the ones I've read, they're for anybody," Smith said. "Really I think all of these maximum age levels, should just say 'and up.'"
"They're not just simply put together," Zimmerman added.
"The care and the work and the craftsmanship that goes into those is equal to any adult book, truly," he said. "Everything that goes into those books comes from the heart but it takes a lot of craft in the head to do it."
Listen to both Werner Zimmerman and Heather Smith talk about being shortlisted on The Morning Edition: