In this roundup of Canadian children’s publishing news: a picture book about random acts of kindness; a gala event in honor of feminist kidlit publisher Margie Wolfe; a YA novel about neo-Nazis and punk rockers; and a book to celebrate girls and discuss gender equality worldwide.
Celebrating Small Acts of Kindness
Coming in January from French author Amélie Callot and Montreal-based illustrator Geneviève Godbout, The Pink Umbrella (Tundra) is a whimsical picture book that promotes a sense of community and small acts of kindness. It’s the author’s first book to be translated into English, and the illustrator’s second time working with Tundra. The 80-page book, with pastel illustrations drawn with colored pencils, was originally published in French in 2016 by Montreal-based publisher La Pastèque.
The Pink Umbrella tells the story of Adele, a woman who owns a café that acts as produce market, cinema, and general safe refuge in her small town. Adele is “the village’s sun—lively, sweet and sparkling”—but on rainy days, she finds it hard to get out of bed. A thoughtful and mysterious friend notices her reaction to the bad weather, and one by one, perfectly fitting pink gifts start appearing in her café: rain boots, then a raincoat, and finally, a pink polka dot umbrella.
“The goal for this book is to get a greater sense of empathy in terms of how you can interact with someone who’s having a bad day—and maybe it’s a bad day, or maybe it’s an ongoing mental illness, but it sort of cracks open the world a little bit for children,” said Vikki VanSickle, marketing and publicity manager at Tundra. “And it’s still very hopeful—I think it’s very comforting to see this community around her.”
To celebrate the themes of the book, Tundra is launching the Pink Umbrella Award, a campaign in which independent bookstores across the U.S. and Canada can nominate their favorite local indie café or bakery for demonstrating kindness. The prize—a copy of The Pink Umbrella, a bouquet of flowers, a pink apron, and a personalized certificate—will be awarded on Random Acts of Kindness Day, February 17, 2018. (Nominations can be emailed to YoungReaders@penguinrandomhouse.com through February 1, 2018.)
“The book is about being patient, being there for someone when they need that, and taking those little steps that can help someone,” said VanSickle. “And because we find that local independent communities are so supportive of each other, we wanted to recognize that and amplify people with this prize.”
Margie Wolfe Honored at Gala Event
On October 25, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre hosted an event to honor Margie Wolfe, feminist publisher and co-founder of Second Story Press, who has worked in the publishing industry for 40 years. Toronto’s Arcadian Court was filled with hundreds who have known and worked with Wolfe, celebrating the work she has done publishing books for young people on themes such as women’s rights, Holocaust remembrance, and Canadian Indigenous stories.
Wolfe, who was also honored this year by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association for her work advocating for human rights, co-founded Second Story Press in 1988. She has also served as president of the Association of Canadian Publishers and the Ontario Book Publishers Organization. At the event, one of her Second Story co-founders, Carolyn Wood, described Wolfe as “a courageous publisher, generous mentor, and beloved friend.”
“She’s the preeminent publisher of feminist books in this country and an internationally recognized publisher of important books—that is the macro Margie,” Wood said. “The micro Margie simply lives her principles every day in every way. Those principles shine through in the way she engages with and supports the publishing industry.”
Second Story authors, including Karen Levine (Hana’s Suitcase) and Kathy Kacer (The Secret of Gabi’s Dresser), took the opportunity to express gratitude for how fiercely protective and passionate their publisher has been for decades, starting when Wolfe took a chance on then-unknown authors.
Wolfe took to the stage at the end of the night, showing off the style she’s known for with a chunky necklace, bright red shoes, and round glasses. She thanked everyone for coming to the event—some of whom traveled from British Columbia, Washington, and even Israel—and shared some good news: 2017 has been the most profitable year in Second Story’s 29-year history.
“That’s great because of the profitability, but what’s more important is that we never did a book that didn’t fit what we were supposed to be doing,” she said. “We have a book on women aging, on women in the law, we have child refugee books, we have three books that deal with the experiences of Indigenous children. It’s what I like to think you’ve come here to recognize, because we aren’t on the fringes of book publishing—we are in the middle of it. We have our small place, and I thank you all today for valuing it.”
YA Novel Inspired by 1980s Punks Who Brought Down Neo-Nazis
Warren Kinsella has been a persistent figure in Canadian politics and media for decades, as a strategist for various Liberal Party politicians, and even working for Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He has also been a commentator in newspapers including the Globe and Mail and the National Post, and is now a partner with Daisy Consulting Group, a consulting and crisis management firm in Toronto. But as a teenager in mid-’70s Calgary, Kinsella was deeply entrenched in the punk music scene, as a member of a band called the Hot Nasties.
He has written a handful of adult nonfiction books over the years—Web of Hate: Inside Canada’s Far Right Network and Fury’s Hour: A (sort-of) Punk-Rock Manifesto, among others—whose titles form a logical path to his newest book, his first young adult novel. Recipe for Hate (Dundurn), available now in Canada and next month in the U.S., is a murder mystery set in Portland, Maine, about a group of punks in the ’70s dealing with their community’s “anti-punk hysteria” and the fallout after two of their friends are murdered by a gang of neo-Nazis.
According to Kinsella, the book is inspired by the Silent Brotherhood, a white supremacist terrorist group that he covered in the 1980s as a reporter for the Calgary Herald. The theme of neo-Nazis, however, is one that he’s unfortunately seeing echoes of again today. “The election of Trump and the passage of Brexit have obviously made it easier for these hate groups to be active and prominent. They’re bolder now than ever before,” Kinsella said. “And that’s because, in my opinion, Trump is a white supremacist and a bigot, and many of the people who supported him and are involved with him have the same views. The book’s timing is perfect to warn people about how these groups work and how they are a danger to civil society.”
Recipe for Hate—named for a Bad Religion song—launches a trilogy of books, with the second title, New Dark Ages, expected next fall. Kinsella said it takes place with the same group of people at a later period in time, and features a character “who looks and sounds an awful lot like Donald Trump.”
New CitizenKid Book to Promote International Day of the Girl
A forthcoming book from Kids Can Press was the brainchild of Rona Ambrose, a former Canadian politician who held several federal Cabinet positions and was once the interim federal leader of the Conservative Party. In 2011, while Ambrose was the Minister responsible for the Status of Women, she made a successful proposal in the United Nations General Assembly to create the International Day of the Girl—an annual day to increase awareness about gender discrimination faced by girls worldwide.
Kids Can has announced that in 2020, it will publish an as yet untitled book based on the Day of the Girl as part of its CitizenKid collection—books on global issues aimed at ages eight to 12. Ambrose brought the idea to the publisher after reading one of the recent CitizenKid books, Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War, by Michel Chikwanine and Jessica Dee Humphreys.
“I will never forget the day I met a group of courageous girls at the UN who asked me simply, ‘Will you help us fight for a day just for our voices, girls’ voices?,’ ” Ambrose said in a statement. “At that moment, it was clear to me that if we could teach girls their rights at a young age, they would be much more likely to exercise them.”
Humphreys, who has worked in the past for organizations such as the United Nations Development Fund for Women and Save the Children Canada, will write the new book, with a foreword expected from Ambrose. The two women have met to discuss the direction of the book, and some of its proceeds will support Plan International Canada’s Because I Am a Girl Fund.
Humphreys has already begun interviewing girls around the world, whose stories about the positive impacts they’ve made in their communities will be included in the book. The book will address, in an age-appropriate way, issues ranging from lack of access to education to violence against girls and child marriage.
“I want the readers to come away with a strong understanding of the importance of equality and what it truly means,” Humphreys said, “that boys and girls and every person, regardless of their gender or their ability or their lot in life, their geographical location or the color of their skin or their height, are all important and valuable and equal.”