2021 Willow Awards

The Saskatchewan Young Readers’ Choice Awards aims to promote reading and celebrate Canadian literature each year. We would like to congratulate Mireille Messier and Kass Reich whose Sergeant Billy has won the Shining Willow award.

Sergeant 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.
Billy . . .
•   Trained with the soldiers
•   Was smuggled across the ocean
•   Got snuck into the frontlines in a box of oranges
•   Ate some secret documents and was arrested for treason
•   Got trench foot
•   Head-butted soldiers into a trench and saved them from a shell
•   Came back home a decorated war hero
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!

2021 Chocolate Lily Awards

The Chocolate Lily Awards have been celebrating the creative work of children’s authors and illustrators living in British Columbia since 2002.  We would like to congratulate Susin Nielsen whose Princess Puffybottom . . . and Darryl won in the picture book category!

Princess Puffybottom . . . and Darryl
By Susin Nielsen
Illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller
32 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781101919255 | Tundra Books
Princess Puffybottom has the perfect life – her subjects serve her delicious meals, clean up her “delicate matters” and wait on her hand and foot. Life is good . . . until Darryl arrives. Princess Puffybottom thinks he’s disgusting, horrid, and a true animal. Though she tries everything in her power to banish him (including hypnosis, trickery, and even sabotage), it looks like this puppy is here to stay. Can Princess P. and Darryl find a way to co-exist? A hilarious picture book from acclaimed author Susin Nielsen, with adorable illustrations by Olivia Chin Mueller, Princess Puffybottom . . . and Darryl is perfect for not only warring siblings, but also anyone who loves cute pets (and some toilet humor).

Books for Pride Month

June is Pride month when the spotlight is on celebrating and honoring all types of love – to start, here’s a list of everything from picture books to middle grade that recognize people’s different orientations.

Almost Flying
By Jake Maia Arlow
352 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593112939 | Dial BFYR
Would-be amusement park aficionado Dalia only has two items on her summer bucket list: (1) finally ride a roller coaster and (2) figure out how to make a new best friend. But when her dad suddenly announces that he’s engaged, Dalia’s schemes come to a screeching halt. With Dalia’s future stepsister Alexa heading back to college soon, the grown-ups want the girls to spend the last weeks of summer bonding – meaning Alexa has to cancel the amusement park road trip she’s been planning for months. Luckily Dalia comes up with a new plan: If she joins Alexa on her trip and brings Rani, the new girl from her swim team, along maybe she can have the perfect summer after all. But what starts out as a week of funnel cakes and Lazy River rides goes off the rails when Dalia discovers that Alexa’s girlfriend is joining the trip. And keeping Alexa’s secret makes Dalia realize one of her own: She might have more-than-friend feelings for Rani.

Big Bob, Little Bob
By James Howe
Illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson
32 Pages | Ages 4-6 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536215922 | Candlewick
It’s not easy to become friends with someone who is nothing like you – but surprising things can happen when you give it a try. Despite the fact that they share a name, Big Bob and Little Bob are different. Big Bob likes trucks and throwing balls and being loud. Little Bob likes dolls and jingling bracelets and being quiet. No matter what they do, they do not do it the same. Could they possibly be friends despite these differences? With humor and tenderness, James Howe and Laura Ellen Anderson beautifully depict the struggles and rewards that come when friendships are forged between different kinds of people.

Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope
By Jodie Patterson
Illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593123638 | Crown BFYR
Jodie Patterson, activist and Chair of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Board, shares her transgender son’s experience in this important picture book about identity and acceptance. Penelope knows that he’s a boy. (And a ninja.) The problem is getting everyone else to realize it. In this exuberant companion to Jodie Patterson’s adult memoir, The Bold World, Patterson shares her son Penelope’s frustrations and triumphs on his journey to share himself with the world. Penelope’s experiences show children that it always makes you stronger when you are true to yourself and who you really are.

Ho’onani: Hula Warrior
By Heather Gale
Illustrated by Mika Song
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264496 | Tundra Books
Ho’onani feels in-between. She doesn’t see herself as wahine (girl) OR kane (boy). She’s happy to be in the middle. But not everyone sees it that way. When Ho’onani finds out that there will be a school performance of a traditional kane hula chant, she wants to be part of it. But can a girl really lead the all-male troupe? Ho’onani has to try. . . . 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.

Julián at the Wedding
By Jessica Love
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536212389 | Candlewick Press
Julián and his abuela are going to a wedding. Better yet, Julián is in the wedding. Weddings have flowers and kissing and dancing and cake. And this wedding also has a new friend named Marisol. It’s not long before Julián and Marisol set off for some magic and mischief of their own, and when things take an unexpected turn, the pair learns that everything is easier with a good friend by your side. Jessica Love returns with a joyful story of friendship and individuality in this radiant follow-up to Julián Is a Mermaid.

My Rainbow
By DeShanna Neal and Trinity Neal
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984814609 | Kokila
Warm morning sunlight and love fill the Neal home. And on one quiet day, playtime leads to an important realization: Trinity wants long hair like her dolls. She needs it to express who she truly is. So her family decides to take a trip to the beauty supply store, but none of the wigs is the perfect fit. Determined, Mom leaves with bundles of hair in hand, ready to craft a wig as colorful and vibrant as her daughter is. With powerful text by Trinity and DeShanna Neal and radiant art by Art Twink, My Rainbow is a celebration of showing up as our full selves with the people who have seen us fully all along.

Over the Shop
By JonArno Lawson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781536201475 | Candlewick
A lonely little girl and her grandparent need to fill the run-down apartment in their building. But taking over the quarters above their store will mean major renovations for the new occupants, and none of the potential renters can envision the possibilities of the space – until one special couple shows up. With their ingenuity, the little girl’s big heart, and heaps of hard work, the desperate fixer-upper begins to change in lovely and surprising ways. In this bustling wordless picture book, JonArno Lawson’s touching story and Qin Leng’s gentle illustrations capture all angles of the building’s transformation, as well as the evolving perspectives of the girl and her grandparent. A warm and subtly nuanced tale, Over the Shop throws open the doors to what it means to accept people for who they are and to fill your home with love and joy.

Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Skinnamarink
By Sharon Hampson, Lois Lilienstein, and Bram Morrison, with Randi Hampson
Illustrated by Qin Leng
40 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264496 | Tundra Books
What does “skinnamarink” mean? You may not find its definition in a dictionary, but the meaning is clear to the generations of children who sang along: friendship, happiness, sharing, community and, ultimately, love. This song has been sung in weddings and in classrooms. It can be fun and silly – especially with the accompanying actions! And it has a way of bringing people together. 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 Legend of Auntie Po
By Shing Yin Khor
304 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525554882 | Kokila
Aware of the racial tumult in the years after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Mei tries to remain blissfully focused on her job, her close friendship with the camp foreman’s daughter, and telling stories about Paul Bunyan – reinvented as Po Pan Yin (Auntie Po), an elderly Chinese matriarch. Anchoring herself with stories of Auntie Po, Mei navigates the difficulty and politics of lumber camp work and her growing romantic feelings for her friend Bee. The Legend of Auntie Po is about who gets to own a myth, and about immigrant families and communities holding on to rituals and traditions while staking out their own place in America.

Too Bright to See
By Kyle Lukoff
192 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593111154 | Dial BFYR
It’s the summer before middle school and eleven-year-old Bug’s best friend Moira has decided the two of them need to use the next few months to prepare. For Moira, this means figuring out the right clothes to wear, learning how to put on makeup, and deciding which boys are cuter in their yearbook photos than in real life. But none of this is all that appealing to Bug, who doesn’t particularly want to spend more time trying to understand how to be a girl. Besides, there’s something more important to worry about: A ghost is haunting Bug’s eerie old house in rural Vermont . . . and maybe haunting Bug in particular. As Bug begins to untangle the mystery of who this ghost is and what they’re trying to say, an altogether different truth comes to light – Bug is transgender.

Tuesday Is Daddy’s Day
By Elliot Kreloff
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780823448913 | Holiday House
The girl in this story has two rooms: one at Mommy’s house and one at Daddy’s apartment, which he shares with his partner Harry. All that’s lacking is a puppy! Daddy picks her up after school on Tuesdays. But mommy is here instead! What’s going on? Becky likes everything to be the same. But sometimes change can lead to a happy surprise! Tuesday Is Daddy’s Day is a reminder that family comes in many forms, but always comes with love. In this book, best-selling author-illustrator Elliot Kreloff writes from the heart, as the story is based upon his own family.

The Unbelievable Oliver and the Sawed-in-Half Dads
By Pseudonymous Bosch
Illustrated by Shane Pangburn
208 Pages | Ages 7-9 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525552352 | Dial BFYR
Oliver is new to the magical arts. In fact, he has only performed one act so far, and that one was interrupted by a theft-in-progress that he, his friends the twins Teenie and Bea, and his wisecracking rabbit, Benny, managed to thwart. Now Oliver has been hired for an even more important gig: a wedding. Teenie and Bea’s fathers are finally getting married, and Oliver is supposed to entertain at the rehearsal brunch. He has chosen the classic sawed-in-half trick, which will be especially amusing when he calls up the grooms as volunteers. What could go wrong? Except that weddings are supposed to be about bringing people together, not splitting them up . . . and before the trick is over, one of the fathers will have disappeared. Luckily, Oliver seems to be a better sleuth than a magician!

2021 Rocky Mountain Book Award

Since 2000, the Rocky Mountain Book Award is chosen by students and educators in Alberta from a shortlist designed to stimulate the reading interest of students in grades 4-7. We would like to congratulate Mireille Messier and Kass Reich whose adorable Sergeant Billy won this year’s Gold Medal.

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.
Billy . . .
•   Trained with the soldiers
•   Was smuggled across the ocean
•   Got snuck into the frontlines in a box of oranges
•   Ate some secret documents and was arrested for treason
•   Got trench foot
•   Head-butted soldiers into a trench and saved them from a shell
•   Came back home a decorated war hero
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!

And congratulations to Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer whose Broken Strings was awarded third place!

Broken Strings
By Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
288 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735266261 | Puffin Canada
It’s 2002. In the aftermath of the twin towers, 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.

2021 Geisel Award Honor Book

The Geisel Award is an annual award given to the most distinguished book for beginning readers published in English. We would like to congratulate Anne Hunter whose adorable Where’s Baby? was named an honor book in this year’s 2021 ALA Youth Media Awards! This irresistible picture book is a perfect read aloud and we’re thrilled to see it get such a wonderful accolade.

Where’s Baby?
By Anne Hunter
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735264984 | Tundra Books
Papa Fox is looking for Baby Fox, who is just out of his sight . . . but not ours! In this clever introduction to prepositions, a near-sighted Papa is looking for his baby. Is Baby up in the tree? Is Baby under the log? Is Baby around the corner? Where could Baby be? Readers will delight in spotting the little fox on every page as Papa wanders the forest, encountering other animals all along the way, but never quite able to spot his own baby. Anne Hunter’s delicate and lovely illustrations with their limited palette highlight the humor of this adorable hide-and-seek tale.

Congratulations once more to Anne Hunter, and to her editor Samantha Swenson. Thank you to the 2021 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Honor Book Committee for all their hard work. For more information about the Geisel Award and this year’s honorees, please click here.