Looking at Migrant by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

A New York Times Book Review choice as one of the 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2011, an Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award Honour Book, and finalist for the Governor General's Award: Children's Illustration and Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Awards: Picture Book  <i>Migrant</i> by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Migrant by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
A New York Times Book Review choice as one of the 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2011 ∙ Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award Honour Book ∙ Finalist for the Governor General’s Award (Illustration) ∙ Finalist for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award

In a good world, I will be on vacation when you read this post. We rent a cottage near Point Pelee National Park, which is a gorgeous part of Canada. We are able to buy the most incredible produce there because of all the farms nearby, but not until I saw Migrant, written by Maxine Trottier and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, did I really think about the Mexican temporary workers who make this bounty possible. It’s something we should all think about.

— Sheila Barry, Publisher of Groundwood Books

Migrant_int2 Migrant_int3

Northwest Passage and that new-book smell

Hot off the press: Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers, illustrated with pictures and commentary by Matt James, available September 2013.

Hot off the press: Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers, with pictures and commentary by Matt James, available September 2013.

When publishing people get together, we always talk about the same thing. Sure, we might start off with an analysis of world events or a friendly argument about what we’re going to order for dinner. But sooner or later, we always get around to that one really important question: what’s your favourite stage in the process of making a book?

Editors might tell people that the very best part comes early. It could be the “made your day” moment of telling an author that her book is going to be published, or the first glimpse of rough sketches that makes a picture book seem finally real. But, honestly, everyone who works in publishing agrees that nothing, simply nothing, can compare to the first time you hold a finished book in your hands. To help you experience that feeling for yourselves, here is a sneak peek of a fall 2013 title that had people in our office jumping up and down (for real!) last Friday. I’m only sorry that I can’t figure out how to share that new-book smell with you via cyberspace.

— Sheila Barry, Publisher of Groundwood Books

(Psst: for more behind-the-scenes photos, check out Groundwood on Instagram. Anansi is on Instagram too.)

Hot off the press: Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers, with pictures and commentary by Matt James, available September 2013.

Some spreads from Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers, with pictures and commentary by Matt James, available September 2013.

Happy Canada Day from Groundwood Books

Sheila Berry, President and Publisher of Groundwood Books

Sheila Barry, President and Publisher of Groundwood Books

I have long wondered what on earth drove my mother’s family to leave Ireland in the 1780s and settle in Conche, Newfoundland. Conche, current population 225, can be found way up on Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula—and if you don’t know where the Great Northern Peninsula is, that’s okay, you can find it on a map.

Most of the time, I assume it was sheer eccentricity (to use the polite word) that saw my ancestors leave relative civilization for a place that was pretty harsh, and I’m not just talking about the weather.But deep down I know that they moved to Newfoundland because however hard life there was, it was still an improvement on what they left behind.

I was thinking about what people leave behind and what they hope to find as I waited at the passport office today. The lines were long, and some of the staff were, if not actively hostile, certainly walking a thin line between bureaucratic indifference and willful withholding of information. And yet there we all were, waiting patiently for the document we needed in order to been seen as Canadians in the world. Many of the people in that office were not Canadians by birth, but they are now Canadians by choice. And I guess that means that no matter what they left behind, they hope to find something even better here. On the dawn of the Canada Day long weekend, I hope all their dreams come true.

Happy Canada Day from all of us here at Groundwood Books!

On YA literature with LGBTQ characters

Suzanne Sutherland, editorial assistant at Groundwood Books

Suzanne Sutherland, editorial assistant at Groundwood Books, and author of When We Were Good, published by Three O’Clock Press. You can follow her on Twitter @sutherlandsuz, and read her blog.

In September of 2011, my mom was nervous.

“I was listening to Q,” she said, “you know, with Jian Ghomeshi?”
“Uh huh?”
“And he said that no one buys YA with gay characters.”
“Oh, really.”
“He’s says it’s very hard to get published.”

I then proceeded to totally interrupt her story (about co-authors Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith being asked by a major literary agent to ‘straighten out’ a gay character in their post-apocalyptic novel, Stranger) to spout off a list of exceptional young-adult literature with LGBTQ characters. A list that started with Groundwood’s own Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki.

My mom was concerned because I had just sent my first novel off to a publisher for consideration. The book was (and is) called When We Were Good and was (and is) about two girls falling in love, among other things.

The coming-out speech I gave my parents was unlike most.

“I’m not gay,” I told them, “but my book is.”

Though they were, and always have been, unconditionally supportive of my work and of me, my mom was worried that I would be asked to change my story—that maybe they’d tell me to turn my leading lady, Katherine, into a Kurt or a Kenny.

But so many of the novels I read as a teenager, during that formative time when books hit harder than they ever will again (if you’re lucky), reflected the lives of the people around me who identified as LGBTQ. Ariel Schrag’s autobiographical high school comics (particularly Potential) shocked and amazed me with their gutting honesty, and local Toronto authors like Mariko Tamaki (with her first novel, Cover Me) and Debra Anderson (Code White) inspired me to write more stories about our city.

So, as it happened, my mom worried for nothing.

When We Were Good book coverWhen We Were Good found a perfect publisher in Sumach, and as I worked with my editor, Sarah Wayne, to bring the manuscript to its finished state, I noticed that there seemed to be more and more new works of LGBTQ-themed YA.

In addition to Groundwood’s own excellent contributions to the field—shout-outs to Paul Yee’s Money Boy, Tamara Bach’s Girl From Mars and Diana Wieler’s Bad Boy, which was particularly trailblazing when it was published in 1990—there is a wealth of fantastic queer YA being published right now.

Happily, Brown and Smith’s co-authored novel, Stranger, eventually found a home with Penguin’s imprint Viking in 2012, and is due out in 2014, reportedly with its gay characters intact.

And my own novel, When We Were Good, was released in May, appropriately feted with a launch at the world’s oldest LGBTQ bookshop, Glad Day.

On Father’s Day

Marketing Manager Fred Horler, reading with his girls.

Marketing Manager Fred Horler, reading with his girls.

This Sunday is Father’s Day, an occasion that will be marked in my house. I have two daughters, which makes me a dad, as was my father before me, and his father before him and… well, you get the picture.

My father died when I was young and I came late to the Dad role myself. I was forty-seven when my first daughter was born and it was three years before my second daughter decided to make an appearance. This meant that I had a thirty-five-year drought between Father’s Day celebrations. Perhaps that’s partly why the day is so special for me. But it also freaks me out. I can’t look at my girls without marvelling at the absurdity of being personally responsible* for such delightful, complex, and intriguing people.

First of all, my two girls are so damn smart. In just a couple of years they became fluent in a language — that’s incredible! (Fluent: the ability to talk on and on and on about such topics as the Tooth Fairy industry or skipping rope etiquette.)

But it’s not just their smarts that make them so remarkable. Now, I know that all parents feel their kids are special, but in my case this really is true. My girls are kind and generous and always get their chores done. Oh wait, I’m thinking of Laura and Mary from Little House on the Prairie. We’ve been watching the DVDs and sometimes I get confused. But my two are kind and generous.

I (mostly) treasure the time I get to spend with them. Unlike my own father, and probably many of his generation, I choose to hang out with my kids a lot. Lately I’ve been taking the half-hour walk to school with them in the morning. (I even let them wear shoes, unlike when I was a kid.) The girls take turns making up stories to pass the time and I marvel at the ease with which they can create an entire universe and populate it with characters and creatures. What a gift!

And sometimes we talk about more serious topics such as their playground dramas, wiggly teeth, or future aspirations. For example, on one of these walks my youngest shared her plans to be a Princess-Librarian when she grows up. A wise career choice, it seems to me. Not only does it capitalize on her love of books but, after a hard day working in the stacks, who wouldn’t want to grab their favourite tiara and head over to the Prince’s palace for some down time?

Whatever my girls decide to do with their lives, I know that I will be proud of them (as long as they never wear torn fishnet stockings with shorts. I don’t think I could ever forgive them for that).

Being a dad also means that I don’t have as much time for the quiet things I used to do. Romantic dinners with my wife have been replaced with loud and cheerful recounts of everyone’s day as we eat and laugh together. Hitchcock thrillers have been replaced by Shrek I, II, and III (and the Shrek Christmas and Halloween specials)! And settling down with a good spy novel has been replaced by one of the highlights of my day. Because no matter how much bad behaviour has taken place, whether it is me swearing, me losing my temper, or me forgetting to serve the kids fruits and vegetables, at the end of the day I know I’ll have one of my girls snuggled up to me as we share a book together.

To all the dads out there — Happy Father’s Day!

– Fred Horler

*I admit that it should read “partly responsible.” This reminds me of something I heard the other day:
Questions kids ask their Mother: “Mom, where are my shoes?” “Mom, what’s for dinner?” “Mom, can you get me a band-aid?”
Questions kids ask their Father: “Dad, where’s Mom?”

The Rights of the Child

Sheila Barry, Publisher of Groundwood Books

Sheila Barry, Publisher of Groundwood Books

I cannot read the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child without tearing up at item 3, which begins “You have the right to a name….” I am simply undone to realize that we live in a world where this right has to be articulated, and to realize also that, like the other statements in this declaration, every child’s right to a name remains more a hopeful promise than a firm guarantee. So when I indulge in one of my frequent fantasies about how things would be different around this planet if I were supreme ruler of the universe, I don’t stop at picturing all the world’s children entering light-filled classrooms staffed by well-trained teachers who read to them every day no matter how old they are. I also picture groups of children being given a copy of this book along with an assurance that the adults they encounter, both in school and outside, will work as hard as they can every day of their lives to deliver on the hopeful promises it contains.

I Have the Right to Be a Child by author Alain Serres, illustrated by Aurélia Fronty, translated by Helen Mixter

I Have the Right to Be a Child By author Alain Serres, illustrated by Aurélia Fronty, translated by Helen Mixter

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