Jonathan Auxier’s YA novel The Night Gardener (Puffin Canada), a Victorian ghost story about orphaned Irish siblings Molly and Kip, has won the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, announced at a Toronto gala on Wednesday, November 18. The prize, worth C$30,000, is the largest in Canada for children’s literature, and is presented annually by TD Bank Group and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.
Auxier’s book also won Wednesday night in another award, for the C$5,000 Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy. The jury said of the book that “the tone is deliciously sinister, and yet Auxier manages to pepper the text with pitch-perfect humor when necessary.”
Auxier grew up in western Canada but now lives in Pittsburgh with his family. In May, Disney bought the film rights to The Night Gardener, which was also shortlisted last year for the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature, and Auxier has signed on to write the screenplay himself. He was unable to attend the gala event due to illness, but his editor, Lynne Missen, publishing director of the Penguin Canada Young Readers Group, read a statement from the author.
“When this book was finally released in the world, I was terrified. The reception, however, has been nothing short of magical, and I’ve had a chance to connect with readers all across Canada,” she read. “Ours is, above all, a nation that supports and celebrates its tradition of literature, and I am so grateful to you for the part you have played in that experience.”
“Even before being published, the book felt like it was a children’s classic already,” Missen said after the ceremony. “I think a good, strong scary story is always fantastic – every child loves that. This award just naturally elevates the book and gives him more exposure across the country.”
The other four finalists, each of whom will receive C$10,000, were Any Questions? by Marie-Louise Gay (Groundwood Books); A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison by Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson (Pajama Press); Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino, nd illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant (Groundwood Books); and From Vimy to Victory: Canada’s Fight to the Finish in World War I by Hugh Brewster (Scholastic Canada).