Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Each year around the holidays the Annick East gang gets all dressed up for some festive fun and a delicious lunch. This year our production manager opened her home for us on the stormiest day of the year so far for a potluck of delicious goodies.
We also shared the results of our annual charitable donation exchange. Everyone in the house picks a name and then chooses an organization to donate to in that person’s name. At the holiday lunch everyone takes a turn in sharing which charity they chose for the recipient and why.
This year some of the charities included:

and many other worthwhile causes.

Happy holidays!

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's all about sex, baby...

Well, that's not absolutely true. It's also about relationships, youth culture, and staying healthy. That was the message when The Little Black Book for Girlz: A Book on Healthy Sexuality and The Little Black Book for Guys: Guys Talk About Sex, were officially launched last Thursday at St. Stephen's Community House in downtown Toronto. Hailed as "necessary," "honest," "frank," and "empowering," these two books are the result of an amazing collaboration among teens who would drop in regularly to The Youth Arcade at the community-based St. Stephen's. The combination of well-researched facts, personal stories, poetry and art makes these two books ground-breaking in their ability to reach young adults. Many of the youth who wrote the books came out to celebrate, as well as people from other social service agencies, The Hospital for Sick Children, St. Stephen's Board of Directors and the media. After speeches, the crowd was treated to an original song beautifully sung by one of the teen contributors to The Little Black Book for Guys. This launch was the culmination of many years of hard work, persistence and the knowledge that these books have the potential to change, and perhaps save, young lives.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wowing audiences wherever she goes

Her riveting memoir, The Bite of the Mango, has been called "powerful," "raw" and "inspiring." It has received starred reviews from three of the most influential journals in the United States: Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. But nothing quite prepares audiences for meeting Mariatu Kamara face to face. Her diminutive frame, hip clothes, and especially her radiant smile, seem to surprise those who have read her harrowing story. But once she starts to speak, her physical presence only underlies her message: she is a survivor with a boundless love of life.

Mariatu's speaking and interview schedule would daunt even the most seasoned professional. She has been as far as Vancouver, where she managed to do three school visits in one day. That was followed by a visit to Edmonton where she spoke at the University of Alberta's Festival of Ideas. High schools from as far away as North Carolina have asked if she would come to speak to their students, and whenever possible, Mariatu has readily accepted.

This week, Mariatu spoke at the Toronto Public Library's North Central Branch, where she received a warm welcome from the audience. Happy to answer any questions about her life in Sierra Leone or here in Canada, Mariatu's warmth, optimism and sense of humour draw people to her.

The next few months will continue to be busy for Mariatu as she visits Winnipeg, Halifax and many schools in and around Toronto. A glimpse of her recent appearance in Surrey, B.C., can be found in the Surrey Leader.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Interview with Author Drew Hayden Taylor on Cynsations

Drew Hayden Taylor, author of The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel, talks about his inspiration for writing for teens and what it's like to get published in an interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith's posted on her fabulous blog on literature for children and teens, Cynsations.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Surprise Visitor

Saying that he just happened to be in the neighborhood, well-known Annick author Richardo Keens-Douglas paid us a surprise visit a few days ago. Considering that he lives most of the year on the Caribbean island of Grenada, we were quite taken aback, not to mention delighted, to see him walk through the door! Before taking off again, Richardo caught up on all the news and met the new people at Annick. We're trying to figure out how we can all go down to Grenada (around mid-February would be nice...) for a meeting. Let's just say we're working on it.

Check out some of our favourite books by Richardo:
Anancy and The Haunted House
La Diabless and the Baby
Freedom Child of the Sea
Miss Meow Pageant, The
The Nutmeg Princess
Tales from the Isle of Spice
Trial of the Stone

Monday, November 3, 2008

Look who came to visit...

We were pleased that Laura Trunkey of Victoria, B.C., author of The Incredibly Ordinary Danny Chandelier, stopped in to visit us last week. And even more pleased that she was in town as the Scotiabank Giller Prize Guess the Giller contest winner - congratulations Laura! As grand prize winner she won a trip for two to a Canadian literary festival of her choice and chose to visit the International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. During her visit, Laura revealed that she is working on another book for Annick Press. We can't wait!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dragon Finds New Home in Library

Reading and dragons come together at the Dufferin/St. Clair Branch of the Toronto Public Library in a special room inspired by The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko. After a major renovation and restoration, one of Toronto's oldest public libraries reopened this week. The Dufferin/St. Clair Branch features a KidsStop with an Enchanted Forest theme. KidsStops are interactive early literacy centres where children and their parents and caregivers can learn pre-literacy skills in a hands-on environment. And who better to help young children become excited about books and reading than the iconic dragon from the classic Munsch favourite? The Toronto Public Library is the world's busiest urban public library system, and we're delighted that Annick Press is a visible presence in this renovated branch.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Time for Celebrating

The second floor of the Gladstone Hotel in downtown Toronto was jam-packed with people of all ages. The beat of an African drum reverberated throughout the room. The media was there armed with cameras and notepads. The occasion? The launch party for The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara and Susan McClelland.

Heralded by School Library Journal as “honest, raw and powerful,” The Bite of the Mango, in addition to being a memoir about lost childhood, suffering, and hope, is first and foremost a labour of love. That was readily apparent in the speech by Susan McClelland, who talked about hearing of Mariatu, then meeting her, and finally knowing that she had to tell her story. It also came across loud and clear from Mariatu herself who spoke about leaving behind the traumatic events of the past to come to Canada where she was warmly embraced by the Sierra Leonean community, supported by teachers and new-found friends, and welcomed into the home of Kadi and Abou Nabe as one of their own. And if there was any doubt left at all, Kadi and Abou spoke about their “daughter,” Mariatu, and how the publication of her book was one of the proudest days of their lives. By this point, there were very few dry eyes left.

The warmth, the pride, the satisfaction of being associated with a book that has the power to change lives were palpable to all those who were part of this very special evening.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Video - Secrets in the Fire

Secrets in the Fire by Henning Mankell (Ages 11+) ;
The unforgettable true story of an indomitable young girl as she transcends the horror of her shattered childhood in war-torn Mozambique.

“A hard-hitting, eye-opening novel that brings readers face to face with the horrors of war.”—School Library Journal, starred review

“One of the first books to dramatize the global landmine crisis…will grab readers with the truth of one child’s terror and courage.”—Booklist, starred review

“Puts a human face on a tragic issue.”—Heather Mills McCartney

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Video - Chanda's Secrets

Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton (Ages 14+ ) ...A book of great sorrow and great hope that puts a human face on the AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Smart and determined, Chanda is a character whom readers come to care for and believe in, in spite of her almost impossible situation.”—School Library Journal, starred review

“The statistics of the millions infected with HIV/AIDS in southern Africa find a human face in this gripping story of one teenager.”—Booklist, starred review

“The strong, respectful writing makes this crucial and broadly relevant story unfailingly human.” —Kirkus

“It is not only an important book; it is also a good story.” —VOYA

*Michael L. Printz Honor Book for Excellence in YA Literature, ALA *Best Book for Older Readers, Children’s Africana Book Awards *Best Books for Young Adults List, ALA *Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults List, ALA *“Editor's Choice”, Booklist *Top 10 Black History Books for Youth, Booklist

Now available from your favorite bookseller
Published by Annick Press
Distributed by Firefly Books

(c) BookShorts Inc for Annick Press who acknowledge the assistance of the OMDC Book Fund, an initiative of Ontario Media Development Corporation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Video - Rise of the Golden Cobra - Rise of the Golden Cobra, Written by Henry T. Aubin (Ages 11+): An action-packed tale of revenge and forgiveness from the time of the pharaohs.

"A well-crafted and intriguing adventure.”—School Library Journal
“Reflects the moral dilemmas that our political and military leaders of today face.” –CM Magazine

“…takes young readers on a memorable journey through one of the greatest periods in ancient history.” —Resource Links

*2008 Honor Book, Children’s Africana Book Awards
*Nautilus Book Award 2008, Silver
*2008 Skipping Stones Honor Award
*Young Adult Fiction Top 10 List, Ontario Library Association

Now available from your favorite bookseller
Published by Annick
Distributed by Firefly Books

(c) BookShorts Inc for Annick Press who acknowledge the assistance of the OMDC Book Fund, an initiative of Ontario Media Development Corporation.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Video - The Bite of the Mango

Pictures often speak louder than words. That is why Annick Press teamed up with Book ShortsInc. to produce video trailers for four of our novels. Centred on the theme of Africa Then and Now, these trailers will be posted on our website for everyone to see. We’re hoping that this small taste of our books will make people hungry for more. Let us know what you think.

Click below to play a trailer for The Bite of the Mango, by Mariatu Kamara and Susan McClelland.

Video thumbnail. Click to play.
Click to play

Friday, October 10, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Perfect Day

Warm sunshine on a cloudless day, stacks of books wherever you looked, balloons, food, and hundreds of kids, dogs, and families enjoying a beautiful autumn day - such was the scene at this year's Toronto Word On The Street Festival. Things were hopping at the Annick booth where we shared space with Barefoot Books and Random House Children's Books. With the good people from Mabel's Fables tending both cash registers, things were hopping inside the tent and out. Appearances by two of Annick's best loved authors, Kathy Stinson and Loris Lesynski drew crowds, while interest was high in The Bite of the Mango, the moving memoir by Mariatu Kamara and Susan McClelland. While many people came looking for their old favourites - books by Robert Munsch, Ruth Ohi, Kathy, and Loris - they often left with new treasures such as Elizabeth MacLeod's Royal Murder or Mattland by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert. For book lovers, booksellers, families and friends, it was a perfect day in the park.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's Festival Time

It's that time of the year--cool nights, fall colors and book festivals! Sunday, September 28 is when cities across Canada will be holding their annual The Word On The Street Book and Magazine Festival this year. Authors, readings, arts and musical performances--and lots of fabulous books will be the order of the day as people flock to hear and see the best that Canadian publishers have to offer.

For those living in Toronto, we hope that you'll come by and visit the Annick booth (#347 on Kidstreet). And make sure to catch two of our most popular authors, Kathy Stinson and Loris Lesynski.

Loris will read from her latest book, Shoe Shakes, at the Children's Reading Tent at 2:00, and will be signing books at the Author Signing Tent at 2:30 and at the Annick booth at 3:30.

Kathy will read from A Pocket Can Have a Treasure in It and from her classic Red is Best at the Children's Reading Tent at 1:30 and the Little Readers' Tent at 4:00. Come and have your books signed at the Author Signing Tent at 2:00 and at the Annick Booth at 2:30.

And if you're planning to attend the Kitchener Word On The Street, you're in for a treat as Ruth Ohi reads from her new book, Chicken, Pig, Cow at 11:30 at the 96.7 CHYM Children's Reading Tent.
For those of you who will be at The Word On The Street in Vancouver, make sure to visit the Canada Writes tent at 11:20 to hear author Laura Trunkey read from her just-published junior novel, The Incredibly Ordinary Danny Chandelier.
And what would a festival be without a few show specials at the Annick booth?
• Buy any 3 books and get 2 free hardcover picture books (for younger kids), or 2 free paperbacks (fiction & non-fiction assortment, for older kids)
• Surprise bags $5 each (cash only)

The Word On The Street is celebrating it's 19th year, and is expecting over 300,000 people across Canada; can't wait to see you there!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Let the Fall Begin!

It's official! Our fall books are up and running.

This week, blogger Cheryl Rainfield posted a lovely review of one of our favorite new fall titles, Chicken, Pig, Cow by Ruth Ohi. This made me think that I should offer YOU the opportunity to receive books for review too!

If you are an online reviewer/blogger/podcaster, and would like to receive copies of our fall books for review, or would like to be added to our mailing list, please leave a comment on this post, or e-mail us at annickpress(at)annickpress(dot)com.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Just One More Book!! Podcast of But If They Do

Check out Just One More Book!! for a podcast review of the nighttime tale, But If They Do, by author Bill Richardson, and illustrator Marc Mongeau.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Brillante Weblog Premio Award

Anastasia Suen nominated Tea Time at Annick Press for the Brillante Weblog Premio Award. Thanks, Anastasia!

I’m supposed to nominate MORE blogs for this award, so, in no particular order, here are a few among the many I love!

1. Open Book Toronto

2. Tanya Lloyd Kyi: My Reading and Writing Life

3. Cheryl Rainfield: Avid Reader, Teen Fiction Writer, and Book-a-holic. All Things Books, With a Focus on Children’s and Teen Fiction

4. So Misguided: A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

5. Just One More Book!!

6. Sanctuary for Offbeat and Quirky Children's Lit

7. Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog Cynsations: interviews, reading recommendations, publishing information, literacy advocacy, writer resources, news in children's and young adult literature and her resource site: Exploring Diversity: Themes & Communities (not a blog I know, but worth mentioning)

Rules for next recipients of the Brillante Weblog Premio are as follows:

1. The award may be displayed on a winner’s blog.

2. Add a link to the person you received the award from.

3. Nominate up to seven other blogs.

4. Add their links to your blog.

5. Add a message to each person that you have passed the award on in the comments section of their blog.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hope for Tomorrow

Check out Barbara Turnbull's article in the Toronto Star where she interviews Mariatu Kamara, co-author (with Susan McClelland)of The Bite of the Mango.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Starring Horse

Chicken, Pig, Cow was based on a popsicle stick barn that my eldest daughter made when she was younger. I happened upon it when she wasn't quite finished, so I thought she had forgotten to make a door. The barn included a Horse, who just didn't make it into the story this time. Here is a photo of Horse who is still a bit miffed that he didn't get a starring role. I am currently working on a sequel to be released next Fall. Horse suggests that it involve something where he gets to eat lots of chocolate while wearing fluffy, flannel pajamas. We will see, Horse....

Ruth Ohi

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mariatu & Me: Article by Susan McClelland in More Magazine

Photo credit: More magazine Canada website

Check out Mariatu & Me: The Story of a Child Victim of Sierra Leone's Civil War, A Curious Toronto Journalist, and the Metamorphosis in the Septmember 2008 issue of More magazine (Canada's Magazine Celebrating Women Over 40). Journalist Susan McClelland tells the story of how she and Mariatu Kamara came together to write about Mariatu's journey from a victim of war to UNICEF Special Representative in The Bite of the Mango.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dirty Dog Boogie Podcast Review on Just One More Book

Listen to a podcast review of Dirty Dog Boogie by Loris Lesynski. Just One More Book!! thinks it's"flipping, flopping, bouncing, buzzing, twitching, itching, hissing, humming, fizzing, popping, whizzing, waltzing, shaking, leaping, rug-cutting rhyme"! What do you think??

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mortimer on Oprah's Kids Reading List

Great news! Mortimer has been included in Oprah's Kids Reading List: 6-9 Years!

This all-time favorite by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko has been making children and parents laugh out loud since it was first published 25 years ago. The rollicking story of a little boy who can't fall asleep is definitely a super star among children's books. Thanks Oprah - now a whole new generation of kids can go to sleep with a big smile on their face.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Math for Mom and Me

A little rambling on my roots: I rarely think about the fact that my ancestry is Chinese, but recently there’s been some excitement surrounding that culture. The Olympics? Maybe for some. But for me, it was the arrival of the Complex Chinese version of The Great Number Rumble in my mailbox, and on its heels, the news of an impending deal for Simplified Chinese rights.

Finally, I can show my mother what I spent almost all of my spare time doing the last 3 years! Her English is bare bones, and my Chinese is … well, let’s call it immature (to give me some credit, I found the character for my last name easily enough)…so our conversations are rather limited in their scope and depth. I showed her the North American and Korean editions, but this one’s different – she’ll actually be able to read it! So that takes care of one mystery for her. Now to explain what I do with the rest of my life: how does one say “regulatory documentation for the biopharmaceutical industry” in Chinese?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Podcasts on Open Book Toronto

Over the next few months Open Book Toronto will be featuring the Annick podcast series.

Listen to interviews with key authors as they discuss their latest books. And if you want to find out more about our authors and their books, visit our website.

Catch the first story about Melanie Little, author of The Apprentice's Masterpiece, here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Writing by the Sea

Hello from the Rock! I’m sitting at my writing desk overlooking a spectacular view of the ocean. A winding road lined with wildflowers leads to the lighthouse, my daily walk.

Last year I bought a little cottage beside the sea in my beloved Newfoundland, so I could work here for part of the year. Now I’m halfway through my second summer and I have to pinch myself every day to make sure I’m not dreaming. Yes, it’s that much fun! I’ve been fixing up my house, painting it yellow and blue, baking bread and hobnobbing with my friendly neighbours.

In fact, it’s so much fun that I have to give myself a stern lecture every day, right after I pinch myself: Charis, get to work! I open up my e-mail and look at the art for A World Full of Ghosts, coming out next winter. Yikes! Marc Mongeau has created a series of spooky but hilarious illustrations. I’d like to pore over the details for an hour or two but I have to get on with my writing.

Today I want to finish the chapter about Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time) for my book about children’s authors. It’s tough going: I always find the first chapter the hardest to write, as I find my way into the book.

Every so often, searching for just the right word or phrase, I look up from my computer. The ocean is still there, stretching away to the horizon. I take a deep breath, pinch myself again, and then turn my thoughts back to Madeleine L’Engle, tesseracts and time travel.

Author of Kids Who Rule, Wonder Kids, and forthcoming A World Full of Ghosts

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Podcast Review of 52 Days by Camel on Just One More Book

Listen to what the fine folks at Just One More Book!! have to say in a podcast review recorded on live TV of Lawrie Raskin's 52 Days by Camel.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Podcasts are Here!!

We are so excited! Our podcasts are ready and available for your listening pleasure!

  • Go behind-the-scenes with your favorite Annick authors.
  • Listen to them talk about the inspiration for their books.
  • Find out what it’s like being an author.
  • Learn about the fun and fabulous things they discovered researching their books.

Listen to Lawrie Raskin, author of the fascinating travel adventure across the Sahara Desert, 52 Days by Camel.

Listen to Melanie Little, award-winning author of the brilliant story set during the Spanish Inquisition, The Apprentice's Masterpiece.

Listen to Mariatu Kamara, co-author of The Bite of the Mango, as she shares her astounding journey from victim of war to UNICEF Special Representative.

Listen to Susan McClelland, journalist and co-author of The Bite of the Mango.

Listen to author Laurie Coulter, author of two funny, fact-filled books about jobs in 19th-century America, and in Mesoamerica before the Spanish Conquest.

Listen to Peter Christie as he discusses his latest book, The Curse of Akkad, a fascinating look at how climate has shaped human history.

Listen to Charis Cotter whose latest book, Wonder Kids, explores the lives of child geniuses.

Listen to Bridget Sinclair as she talks about how St. Stephen's Community House fostered the development of The Little Black Books, teens talking to teens about sex and relationships.

Listen to Anna McQuinn, author of My Friend Jamal, first in a series of colorful picture books about young friends across cultures.

Listen to Kate Scowen whose book, My Kind of Sad, offers potentially life-saving advice to teens suffering from depression.

Listen to Kathy Stinson, best known for the children's classic, Red is Best, as she talks about her first picture book in over 20 years.

Listen to Henry Aubin, author of Rise of the Golden Cobra, a thrilling story from the time of the pharaohs.

Visit Mark Oakley to learn more about his innovative book, The Seventh Expert, where history meets interactive storytelling.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

And the Winner is...

At the recent ALA Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Annick Press held a draw to commemorate the upcoming publication of The Bite of the Mango, a memoir by Mariatu Kamara written with Susan McClelland. A victim of the civil war in her native Sierra Leone, Mariatu tells the astonishing story of her experience at the hands of rebel soldiers and its aftermath. Now living in Toronto, Mariatu has been named a UNICEF Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

The winner of the ALA draw is Linda Adams, in whose name a $100 donation has been made by Annick Press to UNICEF. Linda will also receive a copy of The Bite of the Mango.

Linda is the Young Adult Coordinator at the San Bernardino (California) Public Library. She has three children and two grandsons, both under a year old. In her “spare time,” she works with Cartoonists across America, a group which promotes literacy around the world, using art and humor.

Thank you to all who participated in the draw.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Harmony Book Reviews Interviews Claire Carmichael

Interview with Claire Carmichael - Harmony Book Reviews

I’m lucky enough for Claire Carmichael to take a few minutes out of her schedule to answer a few questions on Leaving Simplicity and writing. Now, without farther ado, the wonderful Claire Carmichael:

1. Inspiration for Leaving Simplicity?
The realization that advertising was becoming more and more intrusive in everyone’s life, particularly online. Advertisers are becoming sneakier, too, with product placement in movies and TV programs.

2. My opinion of advertising today and where it will be in the future.
We are bombarded with so many ads that we scarcely notice most of them, which leads advertisers to do two things–either produce ads that are frantic to catch our fleeting attention with noise, color, movement, or to find more underhand ways of seeping into our consciousness.

The future will be more of the same, but utilizing even more research into consumer’s motivations and psychological hot buttons. Also ads will be tailored to specific receptive audiences, rather than to the general public.

3. My favorite character in Leaving Simplicity? Whom am I most like?
My favorite would be Barrett. It was fun seeing the world of the near future through his astonished eyes.
I’m not like any of the characters, although of course, like most authors, I realize there’s a little bit of me in every one of them.

4. Writing process–outline or wing it?
I start with a premise and one or two main characters come to life as I ask myself “What if…?”
I know how the novel begins and ends–but everything in between I discover as I write.

5. Write with music playing? Some of my favorite singers and bands?
I have to have absolute silence while I write so I can hear my characters speaking to me. I read all dialogue aloud to make sure it sounds natural for the individual in question.

As far as music is concerned, I enjoy the widest range, from classical to the latest hits. My only true dislike is Hawaiian music–I can’t stand it!

6. Favorite books? All-time favorite author?
I have countless “favorite” books–there are so many excellent writers in the young adult field. Two authors I do particularly admire are Lois Lowry (”The Giver” is a masterpiece) and Philip Pullman (especially “His Dark Materials” trilogy).

7. Working on now?
I’m writing a YA novel about the need for young people to be electronically connected to each other 24/7. It’s called “Gotta B” (got to be connected) and is set slightly in the future where huge communication companies link everyone in a worldwide electronic sea. I asked myself what would happen if one of those young people were to be totally cut off from everyone–no Internet, no instant messaging, no team game-playing. In my imagination, I heard the character say, “When I’m disconnected, I feel like I don’t exist.”

8. Advice for readers?
The world is full of the most fascinating things. Don’t waste of moment!

This interview can be found on Harmony Book Reviews along with Harmony's review of Leaving Simplicity.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Thinking Ahead

While most companies gear down for the summer, that is not usually the case with publishers. This is the time when we frantically make last-minute editorial or design changes to our Fall titles, send them out to the printer and start executing the marketing plans that were developed months ago.

At Annick, this is a particularly exciting summer as we look forward to some very special books. Every so often, a book comes along that makes you realize the power of the written word to transform the reader. Such is the case with The Bite of the Mango, a memoir written by Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland. The true story of Mariatu's experiences growing up in Sierra Leone, her imprisonment and torture at the hand of rebel soldiers, and her survival, is a striking example of a book that leaves the reader with a sense of wonderment at the strength of the human spirit. Mariatu today looks like any young, hip woman you might pass in the street. It is hard to imagine how she managed to pull together the pieces of her broken life after her horrendous experiences. Her courage, resilience and unflagging optimism are a welcome antidote to the cynicism that often creeps into books and movies aimed at young adults. We can't wait till the finished copies of The Bite of the Mango arrive from the printer so that we can share this remarkable story with the world.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Annick Goes to BEC

Melanie Little, author of The Apprentice's Masterpiece

The number of exhibitors was noticeably down from previous years, and there were fewer independent booksellers than everyone had hoped for, but even so, Book Expo Canada 2008 was a successful show for Annick. Thanks to the presence of a number of teachers and librarians, the booth was busy with people stopping to ask about our upcoming books. The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara and Susan McClelland drew a lot of attention as did The Apprentice's Masterpiece by Melanie Little. Long line-ups awaited all our authors who signed books: Loris Lesynski, Melanie Little, Elizabeth MacLeod, Ruth Ohi, Charis Cotter, and Kathy Stinson.

Loris Lesynski, author of Shoe Shakes

Most of the publishers, association representatives and some booksellers attended a meeting on Monday to discuss the future of BEC. While everyone agreed that something had to be done to increase attendance, there was no consensus as to what that should be. There seems to be a movement afoot to move the show from June to September. As a publisher of children's books, we would be concerned that teachers and librarians who now attend BEC will not come to a fall show.
Elizabeth MacLeod, author of Royal Murder

The idea of opening BEC up to the public is a good one, but not unless a way can be found of allowing them to purchase books. Why else would they want to spend money to get in? For those who want to see and hear big name authors, there is the International Festival of Authors held later in the fall, and for those wanting bargains, there's The Word On The Street. Perhaps the appeal to the public would be being able to purchase the new Fall titles before they actually hit the stores. As for The Word On The Street, those publishers interested in selling could partner with an independent bookseller of their choice. Whatever the case, it looks as if BEC as it stands now is not viable for either its owners, Reed Exhibits, or for the publishers who attend. It'll be interesting to see what happens next.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Book Expo America

Photo from Book Expo America Website

Traditionally, getting together with booksellers is one of the highlights of the year. It's an opportunity for publishers to crawl out from behind their desks and actually speak with people on the front lines. The exchange of information and ideas flow both ways, as booksellers learn about publishing projects while we publishers get the lowdown on how our work has been received (or not).

Book Expo America is the place where it all happens; the book fair that's got it all. This year in LA, it did have it all - except for the booksellers. I exaggerate - there were some wonderful, inspiring conversations, an exchange of ideas and worldviews, or at least views on the state of bookselling. But I think the conversations that began, "I used to be a bookseller before I was a... teacher, librarian, literary worker, film maker, etc., outnumbered those with actual booksellers. What's happened?

Independent booksellers are under siege in a market that is dominated by large chains and internet sites that can obtain, and in turn, offer discounts that render competition virtually impossible. More and more, if you wish to browse, seek out that title or titles that capture the imagination, and have someone who is knowledgeable make a recommendation, you can’t count on finding a bookstore that provides those opportunities.

While customers certainly appreciate a good discount off retail, this is costing us all. The community store that knows its customers and deeply cares about selection is an increasingly unviable economic proposition. This is in spite of the creative solutions that independents do embrace, such as specializing in a particular genre or holding events in their store.

Environmentalists remind us that diversity is the key to healthy systems. So while a good price looks attractive on the surface, we're left with less and less choice. And on the publishing side, there is more and more pressure to get on that bestseller list, or the project is not worth the investment. In fact, our bank manager once asked, "Why not just publish bestsellers?" We would love to, but there's a lot more to reading and the love of literature and telling stories than "bestseller or bust.” So hats off to those booksellers whose vision and commitment allow them to carry on. We value them deeply.

Rick Wilks