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Milestones: a look at 100 Years of Canadian Children's Books.

This is the year when we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables as well as significant anniversaries for two bookstores (see page 20) and publisher Groundwood Books. I've decided on a personal way to mark this anniversary, but before I explain it, I'd like to look at a little history.

There are excellent and detailed lists of milestones on both the Library and Archives Canada website and on the CCBC website. I'd like to present to you here a relatively short and rather particular list of milestones from the past century.

1908 Publication of Anne of Green Gables

1912 Lillian H. Smith becomes the first children's librarian in the British Empire when she joins the Toronto Public Library.

1929 The Boys and Girls Book Shop opens in Montreal (it closes in 1942).

1932 Canadian Association of Children's Librarians (CACL) is established with goals which include the encouragement of the writing and publishing of good children's books in Canada.

1947 First Canadian Library Association's Book of the Year for Children Award is given to Roderick Haig Brown for Starbuck Winter Valley.

1967 Tundra Books is established in Montreal by writer and editor May Cutler.

1967 First issue of In Review (last issue 1982), a quarterly magazine of critical reviews of Canadian literature for children.

1967 The Republic of Childhood: A Critical Guide to Canadian Children's Literature in English, written by Sheila Egoff (Oxford University Press), is published. This is the first definitive guide to Canadian children's books in English.

1968 The Wind Has Wings: Poems from Canada, compiled by Mary Alice Downie and Barbara Robertson, illustrated by Elizabeth Cleaver, is published by Oxford University Press, Toronto. It is the first Canadian children's book with full four-colour illustration.

1971 Communication-Jeunesse is established in Montreal for the promotion of children's literature published in Quebec.

1971 Canadian Library Association awards the first Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award to Elizabeth Cleaver for The Wind Has Wings: Poems from Canada.

1971 First issue of Canadian Materials (also known as CM) is published in Ottawa (last print edition 1994; electronic version available from 1995 on).

1973 National Library of Canada exhibition "Notable Canadian Children's Books / Un Choix de livres canadiens pour la jeunesse" is mounted in Ottawa, focusing on the historical development of Canadian literature for children.

1973 Kids Can Press is established.

1974 Children's Book Store is established in Toronto by former librarian Judy Sarick, devoted exclusively to the sale of children's books (it closes in 2000).

1975 Second edition of Sheila Egoff's The Republic of Childhood: A Critical Guide to Canadian Children's Literature in English includes, for the first time, a chapter on picture books and picture storybooks.

1975 First issue of CCL: Canadian Children's Literature / LCJ: Litterature canadienne pour la jeunesse, the first scholarly journal devoted to analytical discussion and review of Canadian children's books.

1975 Canadian Children's Literature Service is established at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa, with Irene Aubrey, well-known children's librarian, at the helm.

1975 Canada Council Children's Literature Prizes are established. (These prizes become part of the Governor General's Literary Awards in 1987.)

1976 First issue of OWL magazine.

1976 Annick Press is established.

1976 First Pacific Rim Conference on Children's Literature is held in Vancouver, exploring the relationship between child and book, with speakers from ten countries.

1976 Children's Book Centre is established (name changed to Canadian Children's Book Centre in 1987.)

1976 Ruth Schwartz Children's Book Award (later the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award) is established; it is the first award where the winner is chosen by child readers.

1977 First annual supplements to the National Library of Canada exhibition catalogue Notable Canadian Children's Books / Un Choix de livres canadiens pour la jeunesse are published. These bibliographies were produced under the direction of Irene Aubrey until 1991.

1977 First Our Choice appears (12 pages; 50 new and classic titles).

1977 First Children's Book Festival (later Canadian Children's Book Week) with poster by Frank Newfeld; 12 authors tour, each giving four readings.

1977 First Children's Literature Roundtable is established in Edmonton; it is the first of many active Roundtables across the country.

1977 CANSCAIP (The Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers) is established to provide a forum for individuals involved in writing and illustrating children's books and in performing for children.

1977 First Kaleidoscope conference is held in Calgary. (Sponsored by the Alberta Learning Resources Council and focusing on literature for children and youth, the conference is held every four years.)

1978 Groundwood Books is established.

1978 First issue of Lurelu is published in Montreal, a magazine of reviews, articles, interviews and information about Quebec and French-Canadian children's literature.

1978 There are 12 children's bookstores in Canada.

1978 The success of OWL magazine prompts the launching of Chickadee for younger readers.

1979 National Library of Canada exhibition of Canadian picture books "Pictures to Share/Images pour tous" celebrates the International Year of the Child.

1980 First issue of Hibou, the French version of OWL.

1981 CLA Young Adult Canadian Book Award is established; the first award goes to Kevin Major for Far from Shore.

1982 Harbourfront exhibition "Images of Childhood--The Art of the Illustrator" is mounted in Toronto, featuring illustrations from Canadian children's books.

1984 First issue of Coulicou, the French adaptation of Chickadee.

1984 Marie-Louise Gay wins the Canada Council Children's Literature Prize for illustration, in English for Lizzy's Lion, and in French for Drole d'ecole.

1984 The CCBC hires its first regional officers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

1984 Annick Press is chosen as Publisher of the Year by the Canadian Booksellers Association; it is the first children's publisher to win this award.

1986 Ann Connor Brimer becomes the first CCBC Atlantic regional officer.

1986 First Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award (given by IBBY Canada), is won by Ann Blades for By the Sea: An Alphabet Book.

1986 First Canadian Images Canadiennes conference. Sponsored by the Manitoba School Library Association and held every four years, the conference program features Canadian children's and young adult literature.

1987 There are 11 Children's Literature Roundtables across the country.

1987 New edition of Pictures to Share: Illustration in Canadian Children's Books / Images pour tous: Illustration de livres canadiens pour enfants, prepared by Irene Aubrey, National Library of Canada, is published.

1988 Vancouver Art Gallery Exhibition "Once Upon a Time" is the first public art gallery exhibition in Canada devoted to the work of contemporary children's book illustrators.

1988 First Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People goes to Carol Matas for Lisa.

1989 First Roundtable Information Book Award goes to Terence Dickinson for Exploring the Night Sky.

1990 Jan Thornhill wins the UNICEF-Ezra Jack Keats International Award for The Wildlife 1, 2, 3.

1990 Orca Book Publishers (established in 1984) releases its first children's book.

1990 The "Canada at Bologna" exhibit at the Bologna Book Fair features 118 pieces of art by 43 Canadian children's illustrators; it is an acknowledgement from the international publishing community of the outstanding quality of Canadian artists' work.

1990 First annual Read Up On It/Lisez sur le sujet kit is published by the National Library of Canada.

1991 Hat trick for Paul Morin's The Orphan Boy, when he wins the Governor General's Literary Award for Illustration, the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award and the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award.

1991 Ann Connor Brimer Award is established to recognize Atlantic authors; first winner is Joyce Barkhouse for Pit Pony.

1991 First Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award goes to Gordon Korman for The Zucchini Warriors; this is first of many regional or library association "readers' choice awards" and it was followed in the next decade by the Red Cedar, Rocky Mountain, Willow and Hackmatack Awards and OLA's Forest of Reading programs (Blue Spruce, Silver Birch, Red Maple and White Pine among others).

1995 The CCBC publishes Writing Stories, Making Pictures, which includes biographies of 150 Canadian children's authors and illustrators.

1995 125 pieces of art by Canadian picture book artists are auctioned to raise funds for the CCBC; this is the first of several art auctions held over the next 13 years.

1996 Tenth annual Guadalajara Book Fair, Mexico, "features" Canadian publishing, including a large number of children's publishers and an exhibition of work by 47 children's book illustrators from across the country.

1997 National Library of Canada exhibition "The Art of Illustration" opens, presenting the original art of 29 contemporary Canadian children's book illustrators.

1999 First Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction is awarded to Deborah Pearson and Andy Turnbull for By Truck to the North: My Winter Adventure.

2003 The Fun of Reading: International Forum on Canadian Children's Literature brings national and international participants to Ottawa to explore Canadian children's literature.

2005 First TD Canadian Children's Literature Award goes to Marthe Jocelyn for Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril & Romance.

2006 First Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award goes to Sara O'Leary and Julie Morstad for When You Were Small.

You will note that these milestones are, by and large, not about books, wonderful though many of our Canadian books are.

They aren't, by and large, about the publishers either--though we rejoice that so many fine ones exist and have been in business for many years.

Rather, these milestones are about the network of institutions and supports--the organizations, the prizes, the librarians, the reviewing publications, the bookstores that have fostered both the promotion of children's books and the professionalism of children's book creators.


We tend to think that Canadian children's literature sprang out of the late 1960s and early 1970s--with few antecedents beyond L.M. Montgomery's books and possibly Lyn Cook's The Bells on Finland Street (1950), Scott Young's Scrubs on Skates (1952) and Farley Mowat's Owls in the Family (1962). Not true. There weren't many books published in the first 60 or so years of this century and those that were rarely remained in print. But publishers definitely made attempts to present the country to Canadian children. My husband grew up with Claire Bice's 1949 Across Canada, a full-colour illustrated look at different ethnic groups across the country. A colleague was entranced by Joyce Boyle's 1953 Muskoka Holiday, which reflected the vacation area she loved. I grew up with poet Anne Wilkinson's Swann and Daphne (1960), and The Mystery of the Missing Emerald, set in Toronto, one of Little Brown's Secret Circle mysteries written by popular journalists in the early 1960s. And while I had not heard of it until recently, a glance at the Library and Archives Canada website has got me intrigued about the 1919 Bob and Bill See Canada: A Travel Story in Rhyme for Boys and Girls written by Alfred E. Uren and illustrated by W. Goode, and featuring two suitcase-toting, binocular-wearing rabbits. (The LAC site says, "An amusing example of an early concern that Canadian children should learn more about their country and that books should be there to help.")

The tumult of world history through much of the first six decades of the twentieth century--two world wars and the Great Depression--certainly put obstacles in the way of developing Canadian publishing. But there were other things missing from the publishing picture too. We didn't have a commitment from the government to assist with the development of new literature--to allow publishers to take risks with a new author and to let them keep publishing that author as his or her craft grew--or keeping their books in print. With the lonely exception of the CLA Book of the Year for Children Award, we didn't have librarians' awards that recognized excellence in children's books. We didn't have other awards that rewarded authors with, in some cases, very significant funds to continue writing. We didn't have readers' choice awards that drew children into reading lots of Canadian titles and picking their favourites. We didn't have reviewing publications that let librarians and booksellers and the public know what to read; and we didn't, for many years, have school libraries that complimented the children's classroom learning with a wealth of literature. We didn't have a multitude of superb conferences and exciting venues where those who loved Canadian children's books could gather and discuss and learn about new books.

While, today, there are still many challenges for those who write, illustrate, produce and sell Canadian children's books, what helped the industry to produce such quantity and quality of titles over the last three or four decades is the system of supports that begins to emerge and then rapidly grows in our milestones lists. It's a system that promoted and rewarded the risks that publishers took and the learning--by experience--that writers and illustrators needed.

That system included: the reviewing magazines and journals that advised librarians, booksellers, teachers and parents what was excellent; the bookstores who took chances on children's books (and gave needed feedback to the creators and publishers); the granting programs that enabled publishers to take the risks they did and to travel to other countries to proudly sell the work of Canadians; the awards that celebrated excellence in the field. In addition, we didn't have the promotional organizations like the Canadian Children's Book Centre and Communication-Jeunesse and an internationally-linked organization like IBBY Canada to add a needed marketing boost and to insist that we celebrate the books that give our children--in that wonderful phrase--both a window and mirror to the world.

And how does one celebrate the 100th anniversary of a great Canadian classic and the development of so many other classics since then? My modest plan is, in good literary tradition, adapted from someone else's idea (in this case, a librarian regarding her support of IBBY Canada) and it is this: I was a member of and admirer of the Canadian Children's Book Centre for many years before I was lucky enough to become the editor of Canadian Children's Book News. And while I've dutifully paid my fees and, more recently, donated to the Geoffrey Bilson Award endowment fund, and will do so again this year, I've decided to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables by committing to bring in at least one new member for the Centre this year--through a gift to a friend, a sales pitch to a colleague or by some other means. And if every reader of Canadian Children's Book News took up this challenge, it would be a great kick-start to a new century of classic Canadian reading.

Websites: "The Coming of Age of Children's Literature in Canada: A Chronology" is part of The Art of Illustration: A Celebration of Contemporary Canadian Picture Book Illustrators under the Exhibitions section of the Canadian Children's Literature Service (Resources).
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Title Annotation:OPINION
Author:O'Reilly, Gillian
Publication:Canadian Children's Book News
Article Type:Chronology
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 22, 2008
Previous Article:From the editor.
Next Article:Osborne Collection acquires over 400 works by Ian Wallace.

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