2021 Sheila Barry Best Canadian Picturebook of the Year Award Winner

The Sheila Barry Best Canadian Picturebook of the Year Award is named for the late publisher of Groundwood Books, and honors books that follow in the footsteps of its namesake, celebrated for her talent for matching authors and illustrators in the creation of beautiful and resonant picture books. We would like to congratulate Kyo Maclear and Rashin Kheiriyeh whose gorgeous Story Boat won this year’s award.

Story Boat
By Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263598 | Tundra Books
“Where is home for a refugee child? In Story Boat, home is ‘here’ and ‘now’, shaped by imagination from objects of comfort.  This elegant picture book is both a story in lyrical prose about the refugee crisis from a child’s perspective and a visual narrative describing the harsh ‘lived’ experience of the adults. Comfort to a child is found in things that are ‘here’: a cup, a blanket, a flower, a lamp.  These represent home, family, dreams, and hope. Along the journey, objects are reimagined into the uncertain future, becoming a sail boat, a ladder, a lighthouse, and a story. In contrast, the adult perspective, revealed in vivid illustrations, is a story of hardship.  A continuous line of people burdened with their belongings trudges along, resting in tents, boarding a boat, sailing a rough sea. Their faces are sad, fearful and anxious, yet hopeful and joyful in story and song. Kheiriyeh uses a limited colour palette to create a multi-layered landscape of lines: a line of refugees, of birds, of trees, of waves on the sea, beams from the lighthouse, a constellation of stars. The colours are symbolic, stories in colour. Blue merges land and sea, orange is warmth, light and hope. In beautifully crafted language and multi layered visual narrative about the refugee crisis, Story Boat is a powerful example of the picture book as an art form.”  – Sheila Barry Award jury

We’d also like to congratulate the Fan Brothers and Lauren Soloy whose titles, The Barnabus Project and When Emily Was Small were named honor books.

The Barnabus Project
By Terry Fan, Eric Fan, and Devin Fan
72 Pages | Ages 5-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735263260 | Tundra Books
“Welcome to the dystopian (if rather cozy) world of genetically-engineered pets.  Such pets as the Turtle Puff and Moop are deemed a success and are marketed through the outlet “Perfect Pets.” But what of the failed experiments? Such is Barnabus, half elephant half mouse, a doughty hero who leads a group of other “failures” to a rebellion, escaping imprisonment in the bell jars of a lab to a life of autonomy, freedom and the joys of the natural world.  For the youngest reader/listener this is an adventure of suspense and the triumph of the little guy.  Older readers will pick up on the subversive social satire, a world where “cuteness” is valued above all.  Young adults will resonate to the critique of genetic engineering. Everyone will enjoy the goofy inventive language (who could resist creatures called Lite-Up Lois and Wally the Ripple?) and the generous large-format detailed illustrations that invite visiting and revisiting, finding the embedded jokes, solving the mysteries, perusing the endpapers, dustjacket and cover for more information.”  – Sheila Barry Award jury

When Emily Was SmallWhen Emily Was Small
By Lauren Soloy
44 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266063 | Tundra Books
“When Emily Was Small is a poetic burst of joy, a celebration of creative inspiration found in nature. The book imagines a day in the life of a young Emily Carr, when she wanders beyond the currant bushes. Emily feels small when her mother reprimands her. But when she dances through the garden into the wild place, she becomes Small, a creature wild and curious.  A wolf appears, Wild, perhaps an imagined part of herself. Look closely, it urges, at the ‘thousand shades of green, the sunlight in every shadow, the sun dazzled wings and clouds of flowers’.  Emily flies above it all and is inspired. When Emily hears her mother’s voice, Wild vanishes and she is lying at her mother’s feet, small again, reprimanded for getting dirty. But Emily is changed, ‘the butterfly wings dancing to the rhythm of her own small heart. Soloy’s poetic text sparkles and pops: lippety, lippety, thumpety, bumpety, glitter and glimmer, fizz. It begs to be read aloud. The illustrations, primarily watercolours with bold outlines, capture the look of Emily and are reminiscent of Emily Carr’s art. When Emily Was Small invites the reader to hurry into the wild places. Then it urges them to pause at paintings overfilling the pages, lush landscapes in many shades of green.” – Sheila Barry Award jury