Alcuin Society’s Best-Designed Canadian Books of 2019

Since 1981, the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada recognizes and celebrates fine book design in Canada, and promotes the appreciation of beautifully produced books. We would like to congratulate our designers (who are also authors!) Kelly Hill and John Martz on their awards.

First Prize (tie)

Anne’s Alphabet
By Kelly Hill
Designed by Kelly Hill
28 Pages | Ages 0-3 | Board Book
ISBN 9780735262867 | Tundra Books
Iconic moments from the beloved L.M. Montgomery classic are celebrated in this adorable concept book. Artist Kelly Hill creates vignettes of the most recognizable moments from Anne of Green Gables, including nosy neighbors, freckles, kindred spirits and imagination. Each letter of the alphabet is brought to life through a memorable Anne scene, with simple text and tactile, gorgeous works of art created from cut fabric and embroidery.

Second Prize (tie)

It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
Designed by John Martz
48 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101918593 | Tundra Books
Gyo Fujikawa’s iconic children’s books are beloved all over the world. Now it’s time for Gyo’s story to be told – a story of artistic talent that refused to be constrained by rules or expectations. Growing up quiet and lonely at the beginning of the twentieth century, Gyo learned from her relatives the ways in which both women and Japanese people lacked opportunity. Her teachers and family believed in her and sent her to art school and later Japan, where her talent flourished. While Gyo’s career grew and led her to work for Walt Disney Studios, World War II began, and with it, her family’s internment. But Gyo never stopped fighting – for herself, her vision, her family and her readers – and later wrote and illustrated the first children’s book to feature children of different races interacting together.

Third Prize (tie)

King Mouse
By Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Dena Seiferling
Designed by John Martz
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264045 | Tundra Books
A sweet, thoughtful tale of friendship, sharing and play, King Mouse begins when a mouse comes upon a tiny crown in the grass. The mouse puts the crown on his head, and when a bear subsequently comes upon him and asks if he’s king, the mouse responds “Yes.” This diminutive monarch settles into his new role very comfortably . . . until a snake comes upon a crown and claims she is queen. The mouse is not amused, especially when one by one the other animals find crowns and claim they are kings too. But when the bear can’t find a crown, King Mouse makes a most surprising decision. This inspired collaboration between an award-winning author and debut picture book illustrator Dena Seiferling is quietly profound in its simplicity and has the feeling of a modern classic.

Honourable Mentions

Alma and the BeastAlma and the Beast
By Esmé Shapiro
Designed by John Martz
44 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263963 | Tundra Books
Alma lives happily in her hairy world, where she can braid the trees, comb the grass, pet the roof and feed her plumpooshkie butterfly. Until one day . . . a hairless, button-nosed beast appears in the garden! At first Alma is scared, but when she realizes the beast is lost and misses her hairless home, Alma offers to help her find her way back. As the two take a fantastical journey through the red-headed woods and the bearded mushroom glen to the beast’s bald abode, they discover that they are much more alike than different. This quirky and charming story about friendship, empathy and perspective invites readers into a surreal, fantastical world that evokes Alice in WonderlandWhere the Wild Things Are and The Lorax.

Your First Day of Circus SchoolYour First Day of Circus School
By Tara Lazar
Illustrated by Melissa Crowton
Designed by John Martz
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263710 | Tundra Books
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages! It’s the most amazing day on earth: the first day of school! It can be a daunting prospect, but don’t worry – your big brother can show you the ropes. Join a nervous boy and his enthusiastic older brother as they navigate the highs and lows of a first day at school . . . except this school is a big top, the teacher is named Miss Stupendous, and the cafeteria can be a zoo, literally! It turns out, school isn’t so scary when you can let off steam during recess (on a steam train) and walk on stilts to all of your classes. With a bit of help from family and some new friends, you’ll make it to the top of the class in no time! This charming take on school readiness will delight new school-goers and take a bit of the fear out of those first-day jitters.

2020 National Parenting Product Awards

For over 30 years, the National Parenting Product Awards have been celebrating the best products for children and their families including toys and books. We would like to congratulate Sharon Hampson, Bram Morrison, Randi Hampson, and Qin Leng – their beautiful edition of Skinnamarink was named one of the best books of 2020.

Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Skinnamarink
By Sharon Hampson, Lois Lilienstein, and Bram Morrison, with Randi Hampson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264069 | Tundra Books
Based on the classic folk song made famous by a beloved trio of children’s entertainers, this picture book is best sung aloud! Skinnamarink is a timeless anthem of love and inclusion.

Evaluation comments:

  • “This is a yes, yes, yes. Absolutely yes!”
  • “This is a classic song from a Canadian group that is well loved.”
  • “The book is delightful.”
  • “Tt’s a great book and people who have loved the group and/or this song will definitely want to know (and then buy!) the book.”

Did you know?

October 8 is also #SkinnamarinkDay and we’re hosting a giveaway! Enter by commenting on the Tundra Books Facebook post calling for entries with your favorite Sharon, Lois & Bram memory. Please read the official rules here.

2020 BC Book Prize Winner

The BC and Yukon Book Prizes, established in 1985, celebrate the achievements of British Columbia writers and publishers. We would like to congratulate Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad whose beautiful book It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way won the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize!

It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
48 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101918593 | Tundra Books
Growing up quiet and lonely at the beginning of the twentieth century, Gyo learned from her relatives the ways in which both women and Japanese people lacked opportunity. Her teachers and family believed in her and sent her to art school and later Japan, where her talent flourished. But while Gyo’s career grew and led her to work for Walt Disney Studios, World War II began, and with it, her family’s internment. But Gyo never stopped fighting — for herself, her vision, her family and her readers — and later wrote and illustrated the first children’s book to feature children of different races interacting together. This luminous new book beautifully and openly touches on Gyo’s difficult experiences and growth. Through Julie Morstad’s exquisite illustrations, alternating between striking black-and-white linework and lush colour, and Kyo Maclear’s artful and accessible writing, the story of this cherished figure is told at last.

Hamilton Public Library Junior Teen Top Novel 2020 Winner

The Hamilton Public Library Summer Reading Club has voted for their favourite novel from a set of four options. We would like to congratulate Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer whose novel, Broken Strings, is the Junior Teen Top Novel Winner.

Broken Strings
By Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
288 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266247 | Puffing Canada
It’s 2002. In the aftermath of the twin towers — and the death of her beloved grandmother — Shirli Berman is intent on moving forward. The best singer in her junior high, she auditions for the lead role in Fiddler on the Roof, but is crushed to learn that she’s been given the part of the old Jewish mother in the musical rather than the coveted part of the sister. But there is an upside: her “husband” is none other than Ben Morgan, the cutest and most popular boy in the school. Deciding to throw herself into the role, she rummages in her grandfather’s attic for some props. There, she discovers an old violin in the corner — strange, since her Zayde has never seemed to like music, never even going to any of her recitals. Showing it to her grandfather unleashes an anger in him she has never seen before, and while she is frightened of what it might mean, Shirli keeps trying to connect with her Zayde and discover the awful reason behind his anger. A long-kept family secret spills out, and Shirli learns the true power of music, both terrible and wonderful.

2020 The Christophers Award

First presented in 1949, the Christopher Awards honors outstanding books that encourage people to pursue excellence in creative arenas. We would like to congratulate Mireille Messier and Kass Reich whose book, Sergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War, won a Christopher Award in the Books for Young People Category.

Sergeant BillySergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War
By Mireille Messier
Illustrated by Kass Reich
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 |  Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264427 | Tundra Books
During World War I, a goat named Billy was adopted by a platoon of soldiers and made his way across the ocean to be part of the war effort. This charming true story follows Sergeant Billy from his small prairie town to the trenches of World War I and back, through harrowing moments, sad moments, moments of camaraderie and moments of celebration. This unforgettable goat and the platoon that loved him will capture your heart!