NOTES FROM CANSCAIP MEETING September 14, 2016
SPEAKER: Anne Shone, Scholastic Canada
President: Sharon Jennings
Recording Secretary: Bev Katz Rosenbaum
- Sharon Jennings welcomed a large audience of about 90.
MEMBER ANNOUNCEMENTS: NEW CREATIONS
- Sibling Shenanigans, an early chapter book by author Marjorie Cripps, published by Your Nickel's Worth in Regina, is a collection of the adventures of a close-knit brother and sister, with references that highlight the author’s love of quilts.
- Theo Heras presented her new picture book, Hat On, Hat Off, illustrated by Renné Benoit, published by Pajama Press. When it’s time for a toddler to go outside, is his hat on or off? Her other new book, Reading the World’s Stories: An Annotated Bibliography of International Youth Literature, co-edited by Annette Goldsmith and Susan Corapi, published by Rowman & Littlefield. It’s the fifth volume in a US IBBY initiative, covering international children's books published in English from 2010 to 2014. Recommended Canadian books are well represented!
- Author Mireille Messier presented The Branch, a picture book illustrated by Pierre Pratt, published by Kids Can Press. A young girl is crestfallen when a branch from her favourite tree breaks off during an ice storm. With the help of her elderly neighbour, she finds new potential in her beloved branch and repurposes it into something to be cherished forever.
- The Doll’s Eye, by Marina Cohen, is a middle grade novel published by Roaring Brook Press. The day 12 year-old Hadley discovers the lone glass eye under the bed in her new house is the day her life changes forever. Marina also shared the story of how her earlier version of the book was rejected, and after putting it aside for two years, Marina substantially reworked it and her editor loved the new version.
- Rona Arato presented Sammy and the Headless Horseman, a middle grade sequel to Ice Cream Town, published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside. Thanks to his Aunt Pearl, 11 year-old Sammy is stuck in the Catskill Mountains for the summer with his awful cousin Joshua.
- Barbara Reid presented Baby’s First Treasury, published by Scholastic, which includes seven of her books for and about babies.
- Maple Moon by Connie Brummel Crook and illustrator Scott Cameron, published in 1997, has been chosen by Open Book/Open History as part of its promotion of Canadian history.
PRESIDENT’S ANNOUNCEMENTS (Sharon Jennings)
- The list of nominees for the eight categories in the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s TD Children’s Literature Awards were recently announced. Many CANSCAIPers are on the list!
- The fall newsletter is now available, and has many terrific articles. Sharon congratulated Barbara Greenwood for another great job. Barbara is currently recovering from surgery.
- Sad news that we recently lost two members: Nancy Prasad, poet and author, and former CANSCAIP office secretary, known as ‘the kind voice of CANSCAIP’, and William Bell, author of 19 books.
ADMINISTRATIVE DIRECTOR’S UPDATES (Helena Aalto)
- Packaging Your Imagination conference is on Saturday, November 19th. PYI committee is Heather Camlot, Joyce Grant, Holly Main, and Jennifer Maruno. Registration is going great, perhaps due to the new downtown location Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute.
- Sharon noted that the CCBC’S TD Awards Gala is on Thursday, November 17, which is two days before PYI – a double great reason for out of towners to come to Toronto. All members of CCBC get an invitation to the Gala.
- The new PYI location doesn’t have in-house tech staff and equipment needed for live-streaming PYI. Committee is looking into market costs of rentals for Virtual PYI in 2016. Humber College, where PYI had been since 2013, offered their equipment and staff for well below market rates.
- Two PYI volunteers needed: Communications coordinator to write weekly promotional e-mail blasts AND Virtual PYI volunteer to work with an AV company prior to and during the conference. Both volunteers would participate in the weekly PYI planning conference calls.
- Volunteer also needed for the Blue Pencil program, in which a writer or illustrator is matched with a published author who evaluates their manuscript.
UPCOMING MEETING SPEAKERS & TOPICS
Wed. Oct. 12 Joel Sutherland - Writing Non-Fiction
Wed. Nov. 9 Joyce Grant and Angela Misri - Author Websites & Social Media
Wed. Dec. 14 Ruth Ohi and Debbie Ohi - Seasonal Books
Wed. Jan. 11 Kat Mototsune - Diversity in Kids Publishing
GUEST SPEAKER: Anne Shone
Patricia Storms introduced our speaker for the evening, Scholastic Senior Editor Anne Shone, speaking on the topic ‘Is Funny Worthy?’
Anne opened her talk by saying that obviously the answer to ‘Is Funny Worthy?’ is a resounding yes! Awards are nice, but editors are equally concerned about how the books connect with real live kids. On the same day Anne learned a book she’d worked on had been nominated for a big award, she got a text from a parent saying her son had shared a book she’d also worked on with his daycare class and they all loved it—both of those acknowledgments were thrilling! High quality books can also be books kids want to read, and a big goal of Anne’s is to create lifelong readers.
Anne shared a childhood experience in which a teacher crossed out many of the books on Anne’s ‘Books I Read Over the Summer’ list (including stories by Enid Blyton), and the teacher’s note said, ‘These don’t count.’ Even then, Anne said, she knew the teacher was wrong.
Funny books invite kids into the world of reading, which competes with TV and computers. Captain Underpants author Dave Pilkey is a strong advocate for kids and reading. Funny books also provide respite from the turmoil of childhood, can teach readers to look at things critically, and blast things open and get kids to look at things in new ways. Studies show that kids are more likely to read books that they choose themselves, and they often choose funny.
It takes great skill to get humour on the page and to get it right. Anne presented some Scholastic examples. What Is Peace? by Wallace Edwards is philosophical, but his sense of whimsy comes through, and he makes the inaccessible accessible, opening up an important conversation. Ruth Ohi’s Fox and Squirrel: The Best Christmas Ever, never overtells, and her humour is deadpan. Patricia Storms’ Never Let You Go has unexpected humour as well as sweetness, which makes it different from many other books about parents expressing love for their children. Both kids and parents need to love a book, and the humour must not be at the expense of the child.
Frieda Wishinsky’s and Elizabeth MacLeod’s Colossal Canada (non-fiction) has an energetic, fun tone. They added speech balloons and thought bubbles to photos that were a bit boring, and there are running gags throughout to engage the reader and make connections to the material. Stacey Matson’s A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius is about a kid who pushes everybody’s buttons, drives everybody crazy, but underneath the humour is the tragedy of losing his mother. Emil Sher’s Young Man With Camera doesn’t feature a traditional happy ending, but the protagonist has a wicked sense of humour and a unique way of seeing the world, which mitigates the bleakness and leaves you with the feeling the kid will be okay. In Jennifer Mook-Sang’s Speechless, the main character would have preferred to fly under the radar, but gets involved in a speech competition and learns that while he may fall on his face, he won’t die. Ted Staunton’s upcoming Bounced is a funny, touching detective story, with humour that comes mostly from the characters’ smart dialogue.
Anne encouraged writers not just to add more jokes, but to become a better writer and write the stories that speak to you. She mentioned that she read an interview with one of Seth Myers’ TV writers who said she became funnier when she started writing to please herself, not others.
Highlights from the Q&A that followed Anne’s talk:
- There is a recently announced Canadian award for humour in children’s books--the Joan Betty Stuchner ‘Oy Vey’ Funniest Children’s Book Award
- The Forest of Reading award-winning titles are voted on by kids and include a lot of humourous books
- The illustrator generally takes ownership of the humour-within-the-illustrations aspect of a book
- The element of surprise is important but hard to get right
- Sometimes kids pick up stuff in art that adults miss – don’t underestimate their ability to understand things
- You can’t just “add farts” to make book a funny; there has to be something more to it (the way Captain Underpants is not just about underpants)
- Funny is all around us; finding it and reflecting it back is the skill
- Scholastic looks at everything across all age groups, not just funny books, and is always looking for Canadian content
- Scholastic has a rights team; which rights they request is on a case-by-case basis