Look north this spring for some imaginative efforts to end bullying, inspire creativity, and foster a love of reading.

From Screen to Page

Shane Koyczan’s poem “To This Day” has had a remarkable trajectory, from an expression of the intensely lonely experience of being bullied as a child to an important rallying cry of the anti-bullying movement, as seen in an online animated video that has been viewed more than 13 million times. In September, Toronto-based Annick Press will publish the poem as an illustrated book, To This Day: For the Bullied and the Beautiful.

“To This Day” first appeared as a spoken-word poem on Koyczan’s 2009 album Shut Up and Say Something, then later with music on an album with his band. “Soon after I started to receive mail about it,” he wrote in the introduction to the Annick book. “The response from strangers was beautiful and made me want to share the poem on a broader scale.” He crowd-sourced animated shorts that could be woven together. “Eighty-six animators and motion artists from around the world donated their time and considerable talent to create something that would speak to those who felt they were alone.”

The video was launched on YouTube on February 19, 2013, to mark Pink Shirt Day, an initiative started by two Canadian students to raise awareness about bullying. The video went viral and had received 1.4 million hits within two days, and seven million by the end of March 2013. Koyczan spoke and performed the poem with music at the TED2013 Conference in California, the online video of which has been viewed more than 1.3 million times.

Annick associate publisher Colleen MacMillan knew of Koyczan’s poetry but said it was a freelance editor who first brought the video to her attention. MacMillan proposed the book idea to Koyczan and his agent; after they signed on, MacMillan and project manager Paula Ayer solicited illustrations from 30 new artists. Walker, who is simultaneously publishing the book in Australia and U.K., recommended artists from both of those territories, and the book includes illustrations from a few of them, as well as from artists from Canada, the U.S., Germany, Japan, France, and Peru, MacMillan said.

When the artists returned their sketches, one of them wrote about her own experience of being bullied, which MacMillan said sparked the idea of asking all the artists if they would like to add any of their own stories to an afterword in the book; a number of them responded and their notes are included.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but writing became the way I could stand up for myself,” Koyczan wrote in the introduction,, encouraging others who have been bullied to look for a form of self-expression.

Hack This Book

Ashley Spires’s The Most Magnificent Thing (Kids Can, April) centers on an inventive girl’s efforts to build something wonderful, and it follows her progress from first concept through frustrated attempts, despair, revival, and finally, success. Inspired by the book and by “maker culture” – with its focus on DIY projects, often with a tech element – the marketing team at Kids Can came up with a thematically appropriate promotional idea.

They created 100 “Hack This Book” kits and sent them to select reviewers, librarians, book bloggers, and other media. Along with a finished copy of Spires’s book, the kits included a mini paperback version with bits of the text left out to allow book hackers to change the story with their own dialogue and action. The kits also included colorful buttons, pipe cleaners, feathers, and other art materials to enhance the book.

Some of the kits also included a child-friendly circuit kit, provided by New York-based littlebits. “A lot of what the makers are doing has to do with engineering and with tech,” Michaela Cornell, communications strategist with Kids Can, said. “So we wanted to incorporate a little bit of that in some of the kits in the hopes that people who are really inclined that way would go gangbusters.”

Spires got into the maker spirit herself, making a copy of the book into a purse – an effort recorded in a video that Kids Can used to launch the campaign. Cornell said that the publisher is inviting others to submit photos and videos of their projects, the best of which will be posted on [the book’s web site]kidscanpress.com/MakeSomething.

Kids Can will officially launch The Most Magnificent Thing on May 23 at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, where book hack events will be held all weekend. Cornell said that Kids Can has also had a request for more mini-books from the Edmonton Public Library, and that the Toronto Public Library has planned an event with Spires in July – two early signs of a positive response. “This has got to be the first time that anyone has sent out a book for review with another [copy], saying ‘Go to town, wreck it and make something completely different,’ ” Cornell said.

Dream Travels

The book selected for the 2014 TD Grade One Book Giveaway, which provides a book to every grade one student in Canada, celebrates imagination. Doors in the Air by David Weale, illustrated by Pierre Pratt, is about a boy who follows a red bird into a dream world where “doors in the air” open the way to adventure.

Orca publisher Andrew Wooldridge said this is the first time an Orca title has been selected for the program, which began in 2000. Noting that it must be challenging for the organizers to find books that work for the program because they need to appeal equally to girls and boys, he said, “I think this one is a great fit. It’s all about imagination, how you can travel in your head.”

Wooldridge also said the book was an unusual choice for Orca to publish. “It came to us as a self-published book, which we never do,” he said, “but we liked the story.” Orca commissioned illustrations from Pratt and published Doors in the Air in 2012. The Canadian Children’s Book Center, which runs the giveaway program in partnership with sponsor TD Bank Group, listed the title as a best book of 2012, but, Woolridge said, the selection for the giveaway program came as a surprise.

About 600,000 copies of the book, printed in English and French and with a small TD logo on the cover will be distributed to first-grade students in the fall.

Real Travels

Literally going the distance to inspire a love of reading among Canadian children, authors, illustrators and storytellers fanned out across the country from May 3–10 for the annual TD Canadian Children’s Book Week, reading and doing other events at schools, libraries, and community centers.

“The main idea is to get authors, illustrators, and storytellers into more remote communities that wouldn’t normally have access to these people,” explained the CCBC’s interim program coordinator, Sandra O’Brien. The program launched in 1977, and this year sent 29 participants out to English-speaking communities across the country, as well as two who did French tours in Quebec. This year’s most remote visit, O’Brien said, was author Claire Eamer’s (Super Crocs & Monster Wings: Modern Animals’ Ancient Past) trip to Iqualuit and Cape Dorset in Nunavut; others traveled to communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, and in the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

Author Stephanie McLellan (The Chicken Cat) blogged about her tour in Labrador, sharing anecdotes about her flight on a Twin Otter plane (when the co-pilot saw her looking for a seat number on her boarding pass,he said, “Any seat you want, darlin,”), being whisked into Inuit communities on ski-doo, and warmly welcomed by excited young readers wherever she went.