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.

Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award Honor

The Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award was established in 1985 and is named for one of Canada’s preeminent book illustrators. In her will, Cleaver left a fund for an award to be given annually in recognition of outstanding artist talent in a Canadian picture book. The Cleaver Award is administered by a committee of three members of the Canadian section of the International Board on Books for Young People. We are thrilled to announce that King Mouse, written by Cary Fagan and illustrated by Dena Seiferling, has been selected as an honor book. 

King Mouse
By Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Dena Seiferling
ISBN 9780735264045 | Hardcover
Ages 3-7 | Tundra Books
“Monochromatic illustrations with hints of pale pastel really bring the story to life and their whimsy and gentleness add to the story. The wordless double page spread of the crowns spilling from the wagon and the final page with the crowns left on the table add another dimension to the story. An exquisite book that looks like being discovered in an antiquarian bookshop with its sepia coloured fine drawings of talking animals and an embossed golden ex libris. A charming tale of treasure hunting and make believe orchestrated by its hidden narrator.” – The Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award judges 

 

Quill & Quire Best Books of 2019

Quill & Quire recently released their list of best books of 2019 and we’re so happy to see some of our titles were included! Congratulations to our creators!

The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster
By Cary Fagan
ISBN 9780735266216 | Hardcover
Ages 10-14 | Tundra Books
“A sublime reading experience, Cary Fagan’s The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster is a flawlessly written, not-to-be-missed middle-grade book. Featuring wonderfully drawn young characters staring down emotional crossroads, the novel threads two interconnected storylines to offer a tender tale of loss, uncertainty, art, and the quiet promise of resolution and hope.” – Michelle Callaghan, Fab Book Reviews blog, Vancouver


Honourable Mentions

Broken Strings
By Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
ISBN 9780735266247 | Hardcover
Ages 10-14 | Puffin Canada
“Walters and Kacer pull off this impressive feat of complex storytelling and make it look easy, with a novel that flows and entertains and devastates. Above all, they respect their intended audience by not trivializing the high and lows of middle-school and by being honest, open, and unflinching about some of the more dark and traumatic aspects of history.” – Starred Review, Quill & Quire

We Contain Multitudes
By Sarah Henstra
ISBN 9780735264212| Hardcover
Ages 14+ | Penguin Teen Canada
“Opposites attract: a powerful yet familiar story. Governor General’s Literary Award-winner Sarah Henstra uses the premise well, sweeping us up in the giddy joy of fulfilled narrative expectations. She leverages another potent story too: the difficulty and importance of coming out…. Henstra’s latest is certainly multitudinous: worth reading, enjoying, interrogating.” – Quill & Quire

The Globe 100: Books That Shaped 2019

Every year, the reviewers and editors at the Globe and Mail put together their list of notable books called The Globe 100 and we’re so happy to see some of our titles were included! Congratulations to our creators!

Albert’s Quiet Quest
By Isabelle Arsenault
ISBN 9781101917626 | Hardcover
Ages 4-8 | Tundra Books
Albert just wants to read his book in peace . . . why won’t his friends give him some quiet? A delightful picture book about finding alone time from an internationally acclaimed illustrator.

Broken Strings
By Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
ISBN 9780735266247 | Hardcover
Ages 10-14 | Puffin 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. A violin and a middle-school musical unleash a dark family secret in this moving story by an award-winning author duo.

It Began With a Page
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
ISBN 9781101918593 | Hardcover
Ages 5-9 | 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.

Skinnamarink
By Sharon Hampson, Lois Lilienstein, and Bram Morrison, with Randi Hampson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
ISBN 9780735264069 | Hardcover
Ages 3-7 | 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.

The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster
By Cary Fagan
ISBN 9780735266216 | Hardcover
Ages 10-14 | Tundra Books
Hartley Staples, near-graduate of middle school, is grappling with the fact that his older brother has run away from home, when he finds a handmade postcard that fascinates him. And soon he spots another. Who is G.O. and why are they scattering cards about the town?

NYPL’s Best Books of 2019

Every year, librarians who work for the New York Public Library read thousands of new releases and make a list of their favorite titles to recommend. Each book on their Best Books for Kids list features compelling characters and inspiring ideas and we’re thrilled that several of our titles were included this year! Congratulations to our creators!

The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster
By Cary Fagan
ISBN 9780735266216 | Hardcover
Ages 10-14 | Tundra Books

Hartley Staples, near-graduate of middle school, is grappling with the fact that his older brother has run away from home, when he finds a handmade postcard that fascinates him. And soon he spots another. Who is G.O. and why are they scattering cards about the town?

Ho’onani: Hula Warrior
By Heather Gale
Illustrated by Mika Song
ISBN 9780735264496 | Hardcover
Ages 4-8 | Tundra Books

Based on a true story, Ho’onani: Hula Warrior is a celebration of Hawaiian culture and an empowering story of a girl who learns to lead and learns to accept who she really is – and in doing so, gains the respect of all those around her.

King Mouse
By Cary Fagan
Illustrated by Dena Seiferling
ISBN 9780735264045 | Hardcover
Ages 3-7 | 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.”

The Not-So Great Outdoors
By Madeline Kloepper
ISBN 9780735264175 | Hardcover
Ages 3-7 | Tundra Books

A reluctant camper discovers that the (not-so) great outdoors can be just as exciting as screens and skyscrapers in this playful picture book celebration of the pleasures of unplugging and embracing nature.