The winners of Canada’s prestigious Governor General’s Literary Awards were announced yesterday by the Canada Council for the Arts.

The 14 awards ­­— worth C$450,000 in total —are presented to both English and French winners in seven categories: fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry, translation, children’s text and children’s illustration. Each winner receives C$25,000, and non-winning finalists receive C$1,000.

Among the English winners, Linda Spalding’s novel The Purchase (McClelland & Stewart, now a division of Random House of Canada) won the award for fiction. The novel is story of a shunned Quaker man who moves his family to West Virginia and out of misplaced compassion buys a slave boy at an auction. The jury praised its “warm, dignified prose” and said it is a historical work that is “refreshingly free from retrospective judgment.”

Author Ross King won the English nonfiction category for his book Leonardo and the Last Supper (Bond Street Books, an imprint of Doubleday Canada). The biography describing da Vinci while he creates his most famous painting uses “impeccable research delivered with a novelist’s panache,” said the jury. King won a “GG,” as the awards are often called in Canada, in 2006 for The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism.

In the children’s literature categories, Vancouver writer Susin Nielsen won the text award for her novel The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, published by Tundra Books (now a division of Random House of Canada.) The book chronicles the devastating consequences of bullying on one family, but the jury appreciated the humour that Nielsen was able to add to the tragic story, describing it as “moving and weirdly, wildly funny.”

In the illustration category for children’s books, Isabelle Arsenault won for her whimsical illustration of Kyo Maclear’s book Virginia Wolf, published by Kids Can Press. The jury said it has the feeling of “childrens’ sidewalk drawings.

Winners of the other awards are:

  • France Daigle, Pour sûr
 (Éditions du Boréal) for fiction in French
  • Normand Chaurette, Comment tuer Shakespeare (Presses de l’Université de Montréal) for nonfiction in French
  • Julie Bruck, Monkey Ranch
 (Brick Books) for poetry in English
  • Maude Smith Gagnon Un drap. Une place. 
(Éditions Triptyque) for poetry in French.
  • Catherine Banks, It is Solved by Walking
 (Playwrights Canada Press) for drama in English
  • Geneviève Billette, Contre le temps
 (Leméac Éditeur) for drama in French
  • Aline Apostolska, Un été d’amour et de cendres
 (Leméac Éditeur) for children’s text in French
  • Élise Gravel, La clé à molette
(Éditions de la courte échelle) for children’s illustrations
  • Nigel Spencer, Mai at the Predators’ Ball
 (House of Anansi Press)
for English translation of Mai au bal des prédateurs by Marie-Claire Blais (Les Éditions du Boréal)
  • Alain Roy, Glenn Gould
 (Éditions du Boréal)
for French translation of Glenn Gould by Mark Kingwell (Penguin Group Canada)