Monday, November 21, 2016

The CCBC Awards - Be Both

On Thursday, November 17, 2016, I was at the 2016 TD Canadian Children's Literature Awards ceremony at the Carlu in downtown Toronto. This was my second time at this gala event. I enjoyed myself immensely. My fellow teacher-librarian, Joel Krentz, and I were the last to leave and I didn't return home until midnight. As I looked through the photographs I took and read the tweets that were shared with the #CCBCAwards hashtag, I was struck by a couple of contrasts.

Exclusive and Inclusive

The Canadian Children's Literature Awards is a very exclusive event. Invitations are non-transferable and not particularly easy to obtain. (I received mine because I was on one of the Best Books for Kids and Teens review committees. It's one of the perks of the volunteer job.) Attendees are a whos-who of the Canadian children's literature scene - authors, publishers, and significant movers-and-shakers. - YET - The group of people I spent the evening with were the most welcoming and inclusive bunch I could have the pleasure of socializing with. I'd occasionally hesitate before speaking with a particular famous face, shy and uncertain about the reception I'd receive, and every time I was addressed warmly and enthusiastically. It didn't matter that I was "just" a teacher-librarian; I was worth affection and attention, and the same was true for other educators who attended.

Lisa Dalrymple (author) and me

Jess Longthorne, Teresa Totten (author), Melissa Jensen, Pam Jeffrey

Willow Dawson (author/illustrator) and Joel Krentz
Diverse and Uniform/Homogeneous

The awards ceremony was a treat to see and hear. Unlike the Oscars, where it is unlikely for me to have experienced the nominated works, I was pleased to discover how many of the titles I own in my school library and have read myself. The acceptance speeches were heartfelt and grateful. The bravest speech, in my opinion, was by Cory Silverberg (@aboutsexuality on Twitter), who wrote Sex is a Funny Word: a Book about Bodies, Feelings, and You, the winning book for the 2016 Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction. He expressed a desire to see greater diversity in the Canadian's children's literature industry and in those we recognize - different faces, reflecting different experiences. I thought it was courageous of him to use his time on stage to draw attention to concerns about homogeneity, and it's true that the podium and audience held many similar looking faces.   - YET - there seem to be steps made towards greater diversity. The winner of the top prize, the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award, was Missing Nimama by Melanie Florence and illustrated by Francois Thisdale - Melanie is of Cree and Scottish heritage (see

Also, this tweet:

Independent and Dependent

Corporate involvement in non-economic affairs can be a dicey business and a delicate balancing act. Many of the activities and awards of the Canadian Children's Book Centre would not be possible without companies like the Toronto Dominion Bank, Sylvan Learning Centre, Friesens and other sponsors. I know that the York Region District School Board used to refuse to distribute the Grade One Book Giveaway title because it was funded by TD and the book had the TD logo on it. (They didn't like what they considered advertisements.)  The CCBC is dependent on these patrons. - YET - Good things happen because of these generous donations. Half a million children receive a book of their very own, to keep forever. I myself have seen the thrill on the faces of the young students as they are given these quality books. Selection of the winners has nothing to do with the businesses funding the awards. Alec Morley, the Senior Vice President of TD Bank Group joked several times throughout the night about a sad lack of children's books about banking but I doubt it will actually have any impact on the stories told or honoured.

Don't misinterpret my list of contrasts as a slight against the Canadian Children's Book Centre of the Canadian Children's Literature Awards. I think it's pretty amazing that they can be simultaneously inclusive and exclusive, diverse and homogeneous, dependent and independent.

I was delighted to be a part of this incredible event, especially because it gave me an opportunity to thank someone in person. Gail de Vos presented the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People. She was my professor for my "Comics and Graphic Novels in School and Public Libraries" course at the University of Alberta in 2004. My Masters of Educations studies was conducted completely online, from 2004-2010. It was that course and her guidance that led me to learn so much about the medium - and I was finally able to tell her the impact of her teaching on my learning path face to face.

Thanks Gail. Thanks CCBC.

Me with Gail deVos

1 comment:

  1. Once again a brilliant post I agree that was a special night