Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy, Healthy Holidays!

Have you seen this video about how to improve your health in half an hour a day that's been making the rounds? It stars none other than Dr. Michael Evans, co-author of The Adventures of Medical Man!

He also just released a second video, Concussions 101. (Concussions are one of the topics covered in The Adventures of Medical Man, along with broken bones, strep throat, ear infections, asthma, and nut allergies.) If you want to learn about common health ailments in easy-to-understand terms, Dr. Mike's your man! We hope everyone enjoys a safe, healthy holiday season.

Speaking of holidays... Happy Holidays from the Annick elves! Our offices close at the end of the day and will re-open on Tuesday, January 3. So let me add a preemptive Happy New Year, too!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Skype Author Visits and Holiday Book Buying

Recently, author Sylvia McNicoll interviewed our author Sharon McKay for a Skype classroom visit with a middle school. They discussed Sharon's book Thunder over Kandahar: how did she do her research? What are the issues involved with writing from the perspective of a culture you don't belong to? Sylvia has a great post about it on her blog, so please click here to read it.

In other news, you may have noticed that it's December 16th. Which means there are less than ten days until Christmas! If you'd like to give your loved ones books for Christmas (and who wouldn't?), here are some places to start.

What book are you most excited to give or receive this year? Let us know in the comments!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Supporting Books and Literacy

Today, we had a visit from local MP Mark Adler, who presented Annick with a Canada Book Fund grant on behalf of the Department of Canadian Heritage. He said a few words about the importance of literacy and Canadian stories, and also shared his fond remembrance of a children's book from his childhood, The Hockey Sweater. In return, Annick Press Director Rick Wilks gave him some books to take home to his children, and also introduced him to local author/illustrator Ruth Ohi.

Here are some pictures from the visit:

MP Mark Adler (left) receives books for his children from Director Rick Wilks

MP Mark Adler and Director Rick Wilks with books

Left to right: MP Mark Adler, author/illustrator Ruth Ohi, Annick Press Director Rick Wilks
Annick Press has been publishing Canada's stories for over 35 years. Generations have grown up with books like The Paper Bag Princess, Red is Best, and more recently, Chanda's Secrets. The voices of Canadian writers shape and build our identity and have become a cornerstone of the knowledge economy. We're truly grateful for the support from the Department of Canadian Heritage. In a globalized entertainment industry it is more important than ever that we continue to share our stories. This support makes that possible.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day

December 1st is World AIDS Day, dedicated to raising awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. If you're looking for a powerful, realistic yet hopeful novel about how AIDS affects families and communities, pick up a copy of Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton.

Originally published in 2004, Chanda's Secrets is now in its twelfth printing and has been translated into eleven languages. Although it stands on its own as a compelling work of fiction and has won twenty-five awards and honors, it can also be used in the high school classroom (click here for a free teacher's guide). An e-book edition is available from Kobo, Sony, Barnes & Noble, and others.

Last year, a film adaptation of Chanda's Secrets debuted at the Cannes film festival as Life, Above All and took home the prestigious Prix François Chalais. The movie is now available through Sony Classics.

Whether you read Chanda's Secrets or watch Life, Above All, we hope Chanda's story will be inspiring.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ten Reasons Why Books Are Better Than Thanksgiving Dinner

For those in the U.S., it's the Thanksgiving long weekend (or for shopaholics and bargain hunters alike, it's the Black Friday long weekend). I was going to make a list of book-related things to be thankful for, but instead, my mind wandered to food...

Mmmm... a delicious book feast!
Ten Reasons Why Books Are Better Than Thanksgiving Dinner
1. No travel required.
2. You can have as many second helpings as you want without feeling ill or gaining a single pound.
3. No turkeys were killed in the making of your book.
4. There's no risk of forgetting to thaw your book.
5. If the book's tone is getting on your nerves, you can just put it down without starting a family feud.
6. Reading for a few hours won't leave you in a stupor.
7. It doesn't matter how long the book's been on the shelf--it won't be "too dry." (And if it is, pick something livelier.)
8. Your pets won't devour your book if you just leave it on the table for a while after you're done.
9. You don't need to do any prep work before sitting down to a delicious book.
10. There's no clean up: when you've finished reading, you don't need to wash the book!

Do you agree? Disagree? Have a better reason why a book is better, or why Thanksgiving dinner is? Share your ideas in the comments!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

50 Burning Questions Wins Information Book Award

We're very proud to learn that the the winner of the Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable's 2011 Information Book Award is 50 Burning Questions by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird.

But wait, there's more! The Honour Book is Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes.

The Information Book Award is given to a book that "arouses interest, stimulates curiosity, captures the imagination and fosters concern for the world around us." (More criteria here.) The winners were announced on November 15, and they will be presented with their award on February 25, 2012, at the Roundtable's annual Serendipity event.

Congratulations again to the winners and finalists!

Friday, November 11, 2011

In Remembrance

Today is Remembrance Day, a time to pause and reflect on the wars of the past and present, and to thank those who have served and those who are still serving today.

To truly appreciate what trench warfare in WWI was really like, we recommend Generals Die in Bed, originally published in 1930 and acclaimed as “the best of the war books” by the New York Evening Standard.

Click here to read an excerpt. And if you'd like to teach this novel to your high school class, you can download a free lesson plan here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

How an Author Learned to Read Graphic Novels

Prolific author Tanya Lloyd Kyi is the star of this week's blog post, with her behind-the-scenes tour of a seminar on comics and graphic novels. Take it away, Tanya!

A few weeks ago, I escaped my keyboard, left my children to the ice-cream indulgence of their grandparents, and headed off to a professional development seminar for teachers called Getting Graphic: Effective Literacy Learning with Comics and Graphic Literature.

Tanya Lloyd Kyi (right) with an intermediate school teacher

Official Story:
I was at the conference as part of a CWILL BC group of writers and illustrators. The opportunity to meet more than 100 teachers and librarians was too good to resist--I set up a display of the 50 Questions series and The Lowdown on Denim, spread out some teachers' guides, and prepared to boast about some of the comic-style illustrations incorporated by Ross Kinnaird and Clayton Hanmer.

Unofficial Story #1:
I was secretly spying.

Teachers and librarians know what catches student interest. Many of the teachers who stopped to chat seemed to think 50 Underwear Questions would appeal to both the girls and the boys, while teachers with reluctant boy readers turned directly toward 50 Poisonous Questions. Apparently, there's still a need for good, gross, bubbling boy topics.

Unofficial Story #2:
A stellar panel talking about graphic novels? Sign me up! This whole meet-the-teachers thing was a great way to sneak in and see the actual presentations.

There were four experts speaking about their experiences with graphic novels: senior UBC instructor Margot Filipenko, UBC Instructional Programs Librarian Jo-Anne Naslund, illustrator Kathryn Shoemaker, and primary teacher Dionne Risler.

Now, I have a confession to make. Graphic novels make me go cross-eyed. I'm usually a fast reader. Slowing down to absorb all the visual information makes me feel like a long-distance runner in lead sneakers. I love novels. I love the visual cornucopia of entirely illustrated books such as Shaun Tan's The Arrival. But a mix of the two? I feel like I may have a seizure.

This was the advice of Kathie Shoemaker: get over it.

In technical teacher terms, I'm lacking the ability to decode multi-modal texts. In other words, once I learned to read, I stopped paying enough attention to the pictures.

I now have a list of graphic novels to check out, both fiction and non-fiction. And did you know the opera was a multi-modal experience?

As I'm getting over my visual impairment, I can now notice all sorts of graphic novel details. The way time passes. The way panels can show moment-to-moment action, or scene-to-scene. The way white space can leave room for emotion.

Thanks to Kathie and her panel cohorts, the next time one of my books is destined for graphic-novel-style illustration panels, I have a whole new world of variety to consider.

So, from this conference-crasher, many thanks to the panelists, Vi Hughes, and LOMCIRA for a great morning!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Making Math Cool with Ms R's Class

Today's guest post is courtesy of author Gillian O'Reilly, author of The Great Number Rumble and Slangalicious.

This is Pascal's Triangle, created by the amazing Grade 3/4 students in Nancy Rawlinson's class at Davisville Public School in Toronto:

Pascal's Triangle is pretty cool. Each number in the triangle is made from adding the two numbers above it, but the intriguing aspect is all the other patterns that you can find: regular ordinal numbers (1, 2, 3, 4...); triangle numbers (1, 3, 6, 10, 15...); multiples of 11; powers of 2 and even Fibonacci numbers.

Nancy Rawlinson was one of the people who advised Cora Lee and me when we were writing The Great Number Rumble: A Story of Math in Surprising Places (where you can read more about Pascal's Triangle). I love hearing about all the wonderful ways she teaches math to her students and shows them that there is math all around us. When she taught Grade 6, one of her skeptical students finally admitted three-quarters of the way through the year, "I give up. Math IS everywhere!"

Ms Rawlinson's students created all the elements of the triangle and posted questions around it based on the 5 Ws: Who, What, Why, When and Where. It's on the bulletin board outside their class for all the school to see.
Answering all these questions gave even the less enthusiastic math students an avenue into some of the cooler parts of math. And I have to admit that, as a kid myself, it was the weird and cool bits of math that I always remembered best.

Ms Rawlinson says her students loved the idea of growing patterns and they loved hearing the history of Pascal's Triangle. They also were intrigued by the idea that things can be named after people who didn't really discover them. While Blaise Pascal gave his name to it, the idea of the triangle first began with Chinese mathematicians, was further developed by Indian and then Arab scholars and then brought to Europe. Even though a number of European mathematicians were working on it, Pascal took the credit.

Next up on Ms Rawlinson's class calendar is Fibonacci numbers, named after the Italian mathematician who also brought the concept of zero to Europe. Were Fibonacci numbers actually discovered by Leonardo Fibonacci? Ms Rawlinson's class can tell you the answer!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Eight Annick Titles Shortlisted for OLA Forest of Reading!

We're very pleased to announce that eight of our titles--encompassing fifteen authors and illustrators!--have been shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading awards.

And the nominees from Annick Press are...
For the Blue Spruce award, A Flock of Shoes by Sarah Tsiang with art by Qin Leng

For the Silver Birch Non-Fiction award:
50 Poisonous Questions by Tanya Lloyd Kyi with art by Ross Kinnaird
Africans Thought of It by Bathseba Opini and Richard B. Lee
Animals That Changed the World by Keltie Thomas
Game Day by Kevin Sylvester

For the Red Maple Fiction award, Thunder Over Kandahar by Sharon McKay with photos by Rafal Gerszak

For the White Pine Non-Fiction award, i.d. by Kate Scowen and Peter Mitchell

For the Golden Oak award, Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton with art by Liz Amini-Holmes
Congratulations to all of the authors and illustrators, and to everyone who had a hand in bringing these books to life. We're keeping our fingers crossed and looking forward to the awards ceremony in 2012!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Erebos Wins German Children's Literature Prize!

We have some happy news from Frankfurt: the young adult novel Erebos has won a prestigious German award. Here's what Annick's associate publisher Colleen MacMillan had to say about it:
EREBOS, by Ursula Poznanski, won the most prestigious German children's prize at the Frankfurt book fair on Friday night--the Jugendliteraturpreis, which is awarded based on the number of votes from young readers across Germany. Annick Press purchased North American English-language rights for the title, which originated with Loewe Verlag. Annick is proud to be the publisher of EREBOS, which will be released in early February, 2012. Watch for more exciting developments around this title.
Find out more about this thrilling tale of an intelligent computer game with a disturbing agenda on our website.

(Left to right) Celebrating Erebos's award win: Tina Moser, the former rights seller for Loewe Verlag, with Annick Press's associate publisher Colleen MacMillan.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Review Our Titles on NetGalley!

We're pleased to announce that we recently signed on with NetGalley, a company that allows publishers to upload e-galleys of new and upcoming books for reviewers, including book bloggers, librarians, and educators. Currently, Annick Pres has five titles available for review, all from our Fall 2011 list:

If you review children's books--whether it's in a local newspaper, a book blog, or just for your school or library--please check out our titles on NetGalley. We'd love to know what you think!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Interactive Book Talks

One of the challenges for publishers like Annick Press is how to make the best use of new technologies in order to connect kids and books. An exciting development in classroom technology is the use of interactive white boards, which allow educators to present new material to a group of students while actively engaging them in the learning process. We were first introduced to white boards by a very committed and enthusiastic school librarian in York Region who demonstrated how she used this tool very effectively to do book talks for groups of students. With funding from the Ontario Media Development Corporation, Annick decided to create interactive book talks for selected titles aimed at students in grades 4 to 8. These ready-made book talks allow teachers and librarians to present titles in a highly visual, interactive way while providing background information, author profiles and short excerpts from the text.

We're very excited that these book talks are now available on the Annick website, and hope that they make it easier for educators to get their students excited about books.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Annick Goes to Word on the Street

The weather couldn't have been better for this year's Word on the Street. The warm, sunny day brought out thousands of people to the annual book festival in downtown Toronto. This year, Annick displayed mostly board books and picture books, which were very popular. Visitors with small children were particularly drawn to the board book versions of Red is Best and the Robert Munsch titles. And a signing by Andrea Wayne von Königslöw resulted in many happy kids walking away with their own copy of How Do You Read to a Rabbit? and Toilet Tales. Thanks to the wonderful people at Mabel's Fables for hosting us and making everything run so smoothly.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Judie Oron on the Anna Aidoo Show

Last week, Judie Oron appeared on the Anna Aidoo Show to talk about Cry of the Giraffe. If you missed it, never fear: we've got the video!

Judie Oron with Anna Aidoo from David Grossman on Vimeo.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW)!

This week was Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and it was great to see all the giveaways, interviews, and awards. Visit the BBAW website for a full re-cap!

At Annick Press, we love book bloggers--especially when they review our books! Read through our Meet a Book Blogger archives to get to know some of the excellent avid readers we work with. Or check out some of our recent reviews from bloggers:

In honor of BBAW, we're giving away a signed copy of Kate Cayley's new historical YA fiction The Hangman in the Mirror. Leave a comment about your book blog--or your favorite, if you don't have your own!--for a chance to win!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Back to School with Picture Books

There's no denying it: school is back in season. And not just for the kids: this fall, Ruth Ohi's popular characters Chicken, Pig, and Cow go to school for the first time in Chicken, Pig, Cow and the Class Pet. What will they do without their best friend Dog? And how will they save their beloved Popsicle stick barn when the class pet mistakes it for lunch? This is the perfect book for kids starting school for the first time, or for curious preschool children who want a sneak peek.

If you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Chicken, Pig, and Cow yet, Ruth just posted a lovely video introducing them (spoiler: it includes pictures of the real Chicken, Pig, and Cow!):

What do your kids enjoy most about school? Do they have class pets? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fried Book on a Stick?

We're on the cusp of the Labor Day long weekend, which is also the last weekend to visit the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition). One reporter made a video detailing 30 food-on-a-stick items she found at the CNE, so if that's your thing, drop on by. A warning for avid readers: you won't find fried-book-on-a-stick, so better bring your own reading material.

If you're heading back to school, this may also be your last weekend to fit in some non-required reading. Fans of historical fiction should pick up The Hangman in the Mirror by Kate Cayley. Set in 18th century Montreal, this suspenseful book follows a teen maid who is arrested for stealing a pair of gloves. Sentenced to death, her only hope lies in a law that pardons male prisoners if they become the hangman, and female prisoners if they marry the hangman. Luckily for her, the post of hangman is empty... now if she can only convince the young man in the next cell to become the hangman and marry her. But how can she persuade him if they can't even see each other?

Watch the book trailer:

Happy long weekend!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Canada Writes & Fan Expo!

Earlier this month, I posted about Canadian Bookshelf's blog, Off the Page. This week, I've got another great Canadian book website to tell you about: Canada Writes, the new CBC addition to Canada Reads! It's got information on CBC's Literary Prizes, writing challenges (the current competition involves writing part of your autobiography), features such as writing tips from authors and a regular series exploring the relationship between writers and editors, and resources for Canadian writers. If you love writing, you could get sucked into this site for hours.

In other news, if you're in Toronto, Fan Expo is on from Aug. 25-28 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This huge convention celebrates comics, anime, science fiction, computer/video games, and horror movies, and attracts thousands of enthusiastic fans, many of whom dress up as their favorite fictional characters. Our own graphic artist Fiona Smyth, author/illustrator of The Never Weres, will be at the Koyama Press booth all weekend, so drop by and say hi!

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Vancouver Vacation: Guest post by Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem

Today's post is by author Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem, who recently took a vacation in Vancouver, B.C.

 * * *

I flew with my wife and children from Belgium to Vancouver in July. We cycled around the city center and Stanley Park. We rented a car and took the ferry to Victoria, where we stayed with my friend Brian. He treated us to fish and chips on a houseboat in the harbor and introduced me to Munro's Books, which is perhaps the most wonderful bookshop I ever saw. If there's a heaven for books, this is the place where they'd go. The sheer elegance of the place makes you want to linger there and devour letters forever. Of course, I immediately raced to the young adult section to see if they had A Sword in Her Hand in stock (they did) and I signed their copy and the shop assistant put a sticker on it. I browsed though their selection of young adult favorites and came out with (too) many titles.

Author Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem signs a copy of his book at Munro's Books in Victoria, B.C.
Jean-Claude and his friend Brian outside Munro's Books: book heaven!
We drove up Vancouver Island and spotted bears, eagles, deer and whales--animals you don't get to see in Flanders. The wildest animals that we have in our part of the world are runaway housecats. We took a ferry to Bella Coola, drove through Tweedsmuir park and stayed at the Eagle's Nest Resort near Anahim lake. The resort owner, an elegant Austrian woman who makes a seriously tasty schnitzel, had a cozy library with a story attached to it. The library used to be the log cabin of a certain Richmond Hobson Jr. And this Mr. Hobson, so I was told, drove his cattle over the mountains to more or less uncharted territory in the ol' days and he wrote books about it, of which the first is called The Grass Beyond the Mountains. And this cabin is the place where the book's adventure took off. So I read parts of the book (a good story well told!) and tried to imagine the cowboys sitting in that cabin chewing whatever they chewed in those days and dreaming of the unknown beyond the mountains.

Next, we flew to Ottawa where we stayed with my wife's cousin. When in the center of town, I raided the huge Chapters bookshop on Rideau Street where they had a handful of copies of A Sword in Her Hand in stock. A friendly shop assistant helped me to sign them and he gave them a special place in their very large young adult section. (I also popped into another Chapters in Ottawa at Carling Avenue, where I also signed a copy.)
Jean-Claude with a signed copy of his book, in an Ottawa Chapters store
Signed copies of A SWORD IN HER HAND, available at select Chapters stores in Ottawa!

As a writer of historical novels, I was greatly impressed by the National History museums in both Ottawa and Victoria which give wonderful recreations of time passed. Story ideas were available there (and for free!) in almost every room, but a writer should, I think, always write about the history of the small part of the world that he knows best. For me that's Flanders, so I write (with my brother-in-pens Pat van Beirs) about a stubborn countess of Flanders (as in A Sword in Her Hand) or about 16th century cut-purse who risks her life spying for the Dutch in Spanish Seville (as in Gallows' Girl).

My favorite spot in Canada was the small jetty of Hidden Cove Lodge at dusk. To see the sun go down in the seas from that jetty was, indeed, beautiful.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kids Helping Kids

Abby McIntyre-Tsiang, age 6, works on some art
Yesterday, I discovered a heartwarming and inspiring story about six-year-old Abby McIntyre-Tsiang, daughter of Sarah Tsiang (author of A Flock of Shoes and Dogs Don't Eat Jam). Abby is holding an art show called Kids' Art from the Heart to raise money to help less fortunate children. Proceeds will be going to Doctors Without Borders. In her own words, Abby says she wants to "feed the kids who don't have enough to eat." Her story has been covered by the Kingston Whig Standard and CBC.

Events details:
When: This Saturday, August 13, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: The Rocking Horse toy store, 193 Princess Street, Kingston, ON
How you can help:
* Come out and buy some art!
* Contribute your own art for the sale: kids are encouraged to drop off their artwork, with their signature and age, at The Rocking Horse before the show. (Check the website for store hours.)

If you can't attend in person but would still like to help, you can visit the event's Facebook page (note: you need to log into Facebook to access the page), choose a piece of art from the photo gallery, and send Sarah Tsiang a message with proof of your donation (e.g., e-receipt) to Doctors Without Borders. You will then receive the art by mail.

Abby would also like to encourage kids in other cities to hold lemonade stands, art shows, and bake sales in support of Doctors Without Borders. Anyone, small or big, can make a huge difference. As she says, "We should all do what we can."

EDITED TO ADD: Click here for a news clip from CKWS about Abby's event!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Get Your Canadian Book Fix!

There are tons of great Canadian book blogs out there, but today I'd like to introduce you to a new one: Off the Page, the Canadian Bookshelf blog. From reviews of eclectic bookstores, to advice on reading short stories (2011 is the Year of the Short Story, after all!), to in-depth author interviews and guest posts, this blog really does have something for everyone... and it's all Canadian. (You don't have to be Canadian to read it, though!)

Who's your favorite Canadian author?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Meet Kate Cayley!

Yesterday, author Kate Cayley visited the Annick office to sign some copies of her new book The Hangman in the Mirror. Set in 18th-century Montreal, this is the thrilling story of a sixteen-year-old maid who is sentenced to death by hanging for stealing a pair of gloves. The only way she can escape her sentence is to somehow convince the prisoner in the next cell--who she can't even see--to become the hangman and marry her. Believe it or not, this tale is based on a true story.

We're running a giveaway for this book on; details below!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Hangman in the Mirror by Kate Cayley

The Hangman in the Mirror

by Kate Cayley

Giveaway ends August 25, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Friday, July 22, 2011

Glowing Reviews Pour In for Life, Above All

Life, Above All--the award-winning movie based on Chanda's Secrets--has been in theaters for less than ten days and already it's getting rave reviews. This is no surprise, of course, as the movie won the Prix François Chalais at Cannes, where it received a standing ovation. It currently holds an impressive Rotten Tomatoes score of 83%.

Here's some of the great press the film has received:
For a limited time, you can also buy the ebook of Chanda's Secrets for just $7.95--a savings of over 25%! Don't miss out... visit Kobo today!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Life, Above All Is in Theaters!

Life, Above All--the award-winning film based on Chanda's Secrets--is in theaters now! See below for more details.

Here are some great interviews with people involved with the book and film:

"Pure human drama.
'Life Above All' is about deep human emotions,
evoked with sympathy and love."

"Alone among the films at Cannes,
'Life Above All' was one that had critics cheering like school kids in a
10-minute standing ovation, and weeping tears from their gimlet eyes.
It has the high art and big heart of any award-worthy film."
- Mary Corliss, TIME MAGAZINE

LIFE, ABOVE ALL is a emotional and universal drama about a young girl (stunningly performed by first-time-actress Khomotso Manyaka) who fights the fear and shame that have poisoned her community. The film captures the enduring strength of loyalty and a courage powered by the heart. Directed by South African filmmaker Oliver Schmitz (MAPANTSULA, PARIS JE T`AIME), it is based on the international award winning novel "CHANDA`S SECRETS" by Allan Stratton... (More)

Starts July 15 at Cumberland Cinema!

Click here for showtimes and to purchase tickets.

Join us on Facebook for access to advance screenings, contests and more!

Please pass this message along to friends and family!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

ALA Wrap-Up

Today's post is from Annick's production manager, Heather Davies, who attended ALA this year along with sales and rights manager Gayna Theophilus.

From June 24–27, Annick attended the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in New Orleans. The Louisiana heat was something else for this Canadian, but New Orleans is beautiful and couldn’t have been more welcoming.

Many of the scheduled seminars were very popular, with standing-room-only crowds. Despite arriving 20 minutes early, I couldn’t even get in the door for “Ebooks: Has Their Time Come?” Having learned my lesson, I arrived half an hour early for “Picture Books Go Digital” which was very interesting and sparked a lot of participation from the audience.

Visitors checking out Annick Press books at ALA

With attendance figures topping 20,000, booth traffic was steady. Visitors to our booth were engaged and interested and, on the whole, quite familiar with many of our titles. Many, many reviewers and committee members came by to make sure they were on our mailing list and getting our books.

There were lots of positive comments about Chanda’s Secrets, and lots of excitement upon hearing about the movie, Life, Above All, which comes out this month. Many people who loved Fatty Legs were very excited about the sequel, A Stranger at Home. The 50 Questions series got plenty of attention, as did the Jobs in History titles. And clearly, the Chicken, Pig, Cow books are well-loved.

I'll wrap up with my two favorite comments:
One visitor to her companion in the next booth: “Hey, they’re Canadian!”
Me: “Is that good or bad?”
Visitor: “It’s great – Canadian publishers have much better quality!”

New Orleans native: “You’re here with the librarians?”
Me: “Yes.”
New Orleans native: “Oh! We love the librarians!” (ALA was the first major conference in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Canadian Books for Canada Day!

Tomorrow, July 1st, is Canada Day. So why not celebrate with some Canadian books? Here are three ways to discover excellent CanCon for all ages!

1. Check out Canadian Bookshelf, the new website featuring books by Canadians. Tagline: "If it's Canadian, it's here."

2. Enter the Great Canadian Blog Bash for a chance to win some great prizes (including books, of course!). The contest closes on Canada Day, and is open to Canadian residents only--plus, the giveaways are all Canadian-sponsored! How cool is that? (We're sponsoring SMS Book Reviews, if you'd like to win some of our books!)

3. Starting July 4th, visit Ten Stories Up for Cantastic Authorpalooza! Interviews with a total of 20 Canadian children's authors and illustrators will be posted, and each week will be topped off with a giveaway. We're pleased to announce that two of our authors will be profiled: Ruth Ohi on July 5th and Claire Eamer on July 12th. Stop by and check it out!

Happy Canada Day!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

In Honor of National Aboriginal Day: Christy Jordan-Fenton on Shannen's Dream

Today's post is by author Christy Jordan-Fenton, who is spreading the word about Shannen's Dream.

When I heard the youth of Attawapiskat speak about Shannen’s Dream, I felt a need to do something beyond signing a petition or writing a letter. How could I not be inspired, as the students spoke of their friend Shannen Koostachin and her dream for the right of all children to attend “comfy” schools? For Shannen, that didn’t mean a school where students lounge around all day on fluffy pillows. It meant one with a regularly operating school bus, where learning was not done in a cubicle set on a toxic field, and running water was something that could be counted on. I was dismayed to discover that Shannen’s friends, like many Aboriginal youth, do not go to the type of school Shannen wanted for them.  Instead, they endure conditions most of us would find absolutely unacceptable for our own children, and they do it for a chance to learn.

The story of Attawapiskat reminded me of my mother-in-law, Margaret. In the book Fatty Legs, I wrote about how she actually begged her father to take her to a residential school. She attended for two years without seeing her parents and endured some very harsh conditions, all for her own chance to learn. It seemed shocking to me that in today’s day and age, some Canadian children must still fight for what many of us take for granted, and must often leave their communities to pursue a full grade twelve education.

I felt a need to do something that would encourage the children to keep up their campaign, while helping with their plight at the same time. So, I decided to start a book drive and I put a call out to all of my friends (some who are also authors, like Susan Hughes) to send books to the community, which is on the coast of James Bay, Ontario. And I didn’t stop there. I contacted Annick Press to see if they were willing to help out… and were they! Annick responded by sending 12 kgs of books! As you can see, the children were very grateful to receive them.

Sadly, Shannen is no longer with us, having been taken in a car accident last year at the age of fifteen. But I think she would be very proud of her community’s efforts to improve education for all First Nations children. The campaign she started has become the largest youth-driven, children’s rights movement in Canadian history, earning her a nomination at age thirteen for the International Children’s Peace Prize. Her dream will become a reality for Attawapiskat in 2013, at which time the government has pledged to build a new school for the community.

If youth like Shannen and her friends can accomplish all of this without receiving an education at an acceptable standard, just imagine what they can accomplish with proper learning conditions. Hopefully their efforts will eventually see all Canadian children learning in “comfy” schools.

So, this National Aboriginal Day (June 21), I would like to ask you to think of the youth who need your support.

A big thank you to Annick Press and everyone who sent books! Way to get behind some inspirational students! For more information on Shannen’s Dream, please visit their website, join their Facebook page, and watch this video of the Attawapiskat youth talking about Shannen's Dream:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

In Defense of Dark Fiction for Teens

Last week, a Wall Street Journal article entitled “Darkness Too Visible” criticized contemporary young adult fiction for being so dark and explicit that some parents feared its effect on young readers’ “happiness, moral development and tenderness of heart.”

After lamenting the popularity of such books, the article ended by encouraging parents to protect their teens: “The book business exists to sell books; parents exist to rear children, and oughtn’t be daunted by cries of censorship. No family is obliged to acquiesce when publishers use the vehicle of fundamental free-expression principles to try to bulldoze coarseness or misery into their children's lives.”

The YA community quickly rallied, and soon readers, authors, teens, librarians, and parents were posting their own perspectives and tweeting about the importance of authentic YA fiction with the hashtag #YASaves. (Bookshelves of Doom compiled a handy list.). Their counter-arguments brought up many good points: it’s unfair to compare contemporary YA literature against the classics (after all, who knows which of today’s YA blockbusters will still be around in fifty years?); teens going through tough times need to know that they’re not alone and that there’s hope; teens have always had access to edgy fiction, usually intended for adults (for example, at the age of eleven or twelve, many of my friends were devouring V.C. Andrews books, which are full of explicit sex with a bit of incest thrown in); and of course, the fact that horrible things do happen—and ironically enough, teens learn about such things from the news, where human suffering is often sensationalized and provided without further context.

At Annick Press, we don’t publish dark, realistic teen fiction for the sake of sensationalism or to “bulldoze coarseness or misery” into any teen’s life. We publish it because it speaks to teen readers about things that are important to them, and it does so without speaking down to them or lecturing them. In books such as Leslie’s Journal (dating violence), Double or Nothing (gambling addiction), and In Ecstasy (drug use), teens figure out how to deal with complex problems on their own—an important step in becoming an adult. And yet these books aren’t meant to be “lessons”—they are, first and foremost, compelling stories that draw teens in for the same reason as adults: they want to know what happens next.

Now more than ever, when there are so many forms of entertainment competing with the joy of losing oneself in a good book, it is vital to encourage a reading culture. And that starts with well-written stories that reflect the world we live in, and also allow us to imagine ourselves in other worlds.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Cry of the Giraffe" Wins Prestigious Award

Cry of the Giraffe, the moving story of author Judie Oron's daughter, Wuditu, whom she rescued from slavery in Ethiopia, has garnered a number of prestigious awards. Fittingly, in the 20th anniversary year of Operation Solomon, the clandestine airlift of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, Cry of the Giraffe was honored once again with the Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Award for Youth Literature. In her acceptance speech to a packed audience in the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library, Judie spoke of her difficult decision to tell Wuditu's story, but in the end, she is gratified to know that Cry of the Giraffe has brought to the public's attention the harrowing experiences of Ethiopian Jews whose dream to one day reach Yerusalem sustained them through famine, wars and persecution.

Other honorees at the star-studded event included Charles Foran for his acclaimed biography of Mordecai Richler, Mordecai: The Life and Times, Alison Pick for her novel Far to Go about a Czech family during the Holocaust, and
Tarek Fatah for his courageous essay about anti-Semitism in the world today, The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism.

Congratulations to Judie and to all the winners of this coveted award!

Monday, May 30, 2011

BEA Wrap-Up

Last week, Colleen MacMillan and I had the great pleasure of showcasing Annick Press's new books at Book Expo America in New York. The show ran from May 24 to 26, and drew a crowd of over 20,000. Here's our lovely booth, complete with a voracious young reader:

Although we were there primarily to speak to booksellers, we had many app developers, aspiring writers and printers approach us with their projects or services. There’s no question we came away with even greater appreciation for how much the landscape of the book industry has changed and continues to change. We still managed to connect with booksellers, librarians, teacher librarians, and special interest organizations looking for suitable books for their readers. Our young adult titles that focus on characters and issues in Third World countries--such as The Bite of the Mango, Cry of the Giraffe, and Thunder over Kandahar--drew particular attention, but we were happy to see strong interest in the new Munsch board books as well (I Have to Go!, Mortimer, The Paper Bag Princess, and Thomas' Snowsuit).

Lon Levin, XanateMedia's creative director, came by to chat about some of our new books. Here's a video of me pitching Dogs Don't Eat Jam by Sarah Tsiang and Qin Leng.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by our booth--see you next year!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Event Wrap-Up: Operation Solomon 20th Anniversary

On Tuesday, May 24th, author Judie Oron (Cry of the Giraffe) hosted an event at Kensington Place Retirement Residence to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the secret airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, known as Operation Solomon.

The event attracted a crowd of grandparents and their children and grandchildren; 120 celebrants shared food, a film of the Operation and a lively talk about some of the refugees who arrived on that airlift in May, 1991. “Being a part of the Operation was an experience I’ll never forget--it was history in the making,” Judie recalled. “But even in the midst of all that drama there was comedy--one of the problems I was asked to solve that day was to redirect a group of young Ethiopian kids who’d never seen an elevator before. They’d been gleefully riding up and down for hours and preventing everyone else from moving around the building. I had to bribe them with candy to get them to stop!”

Here's Judie reading at the event:

Photo credit: Krystyna Lagowski

Thanks to everyone who came out!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Come See Us at BEA Next Week!

Annick Press will be exhibiting at Book Expo America (BEA) at the Javits Center in New York next week, from May 24-26. Drop by Booth 2461 to take a look at our Spring and Fall titles and pick up posters, bookmarks, and candy. We look forward to meeting you!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Twenty Year Anniversary of Operation Solomon

Twenty years ago, over the course of one weekend, a clandestine airlift took place. 14,323 Ethiopian Jews were plucked from Addis Ababa, a city in Ethiopia about to fall into rebel hands, and flown to Israel. Well, to be precise, two babies were born during the flights--so, in fact, 14,325 people were rescued over those two exhilarating days. The mission was named Operation Solomon, and Judie Oron, author of Cry of the Giraffe, recalls, "It was an unbelievable privilege to not only be a witness but to actually play a small part in those thrilling events." She continues, "I just couldn't let that day go by unnoticed. So, I'll be hosting an event in Toronto on May 24th at 6:30 p.m. Please join us there!"

For details and to reserve a place, call Lisa at 416-636-9555. Here's the event's poster (click on the image to enlarge it):

Friday, May 13, 2011

Forest of Reading Award Winners Announced

On May 11, a few of us from Annick headed down to picturesque Harbourfront to attend the Festival of Trees gala put on by the Ontario Library Association. We were very proud to have three books nominated: The Bite of the Mango and Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road for the Red Maple award (non-fiction), and Kaboom! for the Silver Birch award (non-fiction).

We're pleased to announce that Mariatu Kamara's powerful true story The Bite of the Mango, co-written with Susan McClelland, took home the Red Maple non-fiction prize. Here's Mariatu on stage:

The other winners were My Think-a-Ma-Jink by Dave Whamond (Blue Spruce), Not Suitable for Family Viewing by Vicki Grant (Red Maple: fiction), The Monkeyface Chronicles by Richard Scarsbrook (White Pine), How to Build Your Own Country by Valerie Wyatt (Silver Birch: non-fiction), Neil Flambe and the Marco Polo Murders by Kevin Sylvester (Silver Birch: fiction), and Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires (Silver Birch Express). In the French category, La quête du dernier dodo: Les aventures de Cosmo le Dodo by Patrice Racine won Le Prix Tamarack and Les Dragouilles 2: Les Bleues de Montréal by Karine Gottot and Maxim Cyr won Le Prix Tamarack Express.

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Watch Judie Oron on KioskToronto

Journalist and author Judie Oron recently appeared on KioskToronto, along with Muluken Muchie (@hawarya on Twitter), to talk about Muchie's new publication, The Multicultural Journal.

In the video below, Judie discusses her role as one of the writers on the new journal's editorial board, and also talks about her book, Cry of the Giraffe, which recently won the Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Award in the Youth Literature category. The awards ceremony will take place in Toronto on May 30th.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Royal Picture Book!

We have Google alerts set up for our book titles, authors, and illustrators, to keep an eye out for reviews and online mentions. Our most famous book, Robert Munsch's The Paper Bag Princess, pops up at least a few times a week. But last week, I was amused to see a few mentions of The Paper Bag Princess turn up in connection with the royal wedding!

On the parenting blog Upbeats and Downbeat, Gail Underwood Parker writes about how The Paper Bag Princess teaches that "it is up to each of us to discover what OUR 'happily ever after' looks like." And on the Kabongo blog, Margaret gives the book a review "in honor of the new Princess Kate."

If you haven't checked out this classic strong-princess tale yet, you're in luck: you can choose from the original edition (paperback or hardcover), the 25th anniversary edition, the Annikin edition (for tiny hands), or the board book version!