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1987 Notable Canadian Picture-Books

By Joan Weller
Ottawa Public Library

Volume 16 Number 4

Here are some of the highlights from Canadian illustrated children's books of 1987. On November 17, 1987, at the National Library of Canada, Barbara Reid was awarded the 1987 Elizabeth Mrazik Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award for Have You Seen Birds? (Scholastic-TAB). In her letter of acceptance, Barbara Reid said,


When working on a picture book, l feel that the illustrator must please herself--not fill some marketing need or hit a specific target group. This makes a more honest book, but it can terrify the illustrator when it's time to reveal this personal vision.... Awards like this are encouraging. It's gratifying to know that someone is looking at this book. . .it's exhilarating to find out they Iike it.... I think Elizabeth would be gratified to know that all her hard work has made a real impact on Canadian children's book illustration as well as children's illustrators. With this award she further encourages us on our journey.

Reid also won the prestigious Ezra Jack Keats Award, which carries a prize of $5,000 (U.S.).

We have honoured Marie-Louise Gay with the 1988 Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award for Rainy Day Magic (Stoddart). This outstanding picture-book brought Gay the 1987 Canada Council Award for illustration of an English language picture-book. Children's literature and translation have been recognized by the Canada Council in the past but were included in the 1987 Governor General's Awards to increase their public profile and prestige. The winners were announced in Calgary in conjunction with the Olympic Arts Festival.

Here are some interesting statistics:

French picture-books: 19
French translations: 4
Total: 23

English picture-books: 70
English translations: 2
Total: 23


I Want a Dog by Dayal Khalsa Tundra explores with vitality and humour a child's unfailing imagination and sheer determination. Undaunted by parental disapproval the inventive young May substitutes a roller skate for the pet denied her. Hilarious scenes showing her care of the dog-cum-roller skate follow one after the other until the satisfying grand finale. Interiors reminiscent of the 1940s and expansive cityscapes and neighbourhood scapes add a breath of warm deja vu to a mischievous tale.

Josephine returned to us in 1987 in Can You Catch Josephine? by Stephane Poulin Tundra). More immediate and universal in its school setting, the book launches Josephine and the children on a merry chase through the classrooms, the gym and even the girls' washroom of a city school. A sparkling story with a happy surprise ending by an author-illustrator who understands children and skillfully matches text and illustration.

Ann Blades illustrated Sue Ann Alderson's Ida and the Wool Smugglers (Groundwood Books) in 1987. Set on the islands off the west coast of Canada at the turn of the century, the book again features Blades' delicate watercolours of broad island landscapes and intimate, appealing interiors.


In 1987 we happily received Barbara Reid's Sing a Song of Mother Goose (Scholastic-TAB). A beautifully designed book, it features Reid's upper and lower borders framing the thirty-nine classic nursery rhymes set in large, attractive print. Reminiscent of Walter Crane's artistic border artwork, her white leaf-entwined trellises serve as setting and background for her small whimsical and gently humorous nursery characters. Her plasticine creations are highlighted with textured fabric, beads and pins that add lustre to the artist's already delicious colours. Barbara Reid's original interpretations of timeless rhymes of yesteryear offer readers of all ages a lap book to treasure today and, indeed, tomorrow.

Gay's 1987 Rainy Day Magic (Stoddart) offers a fantasy-packed solution to a rainy day for children aged three to seven. Readers should be prepared to let their imagination go wild. That is what Gay's two characters do. Victor and Joey turn another dull day into riotous fun and adventure as they careen around the house on their bicycles. Finally, banished to the basement by dad who has a bad headache, the characters make a new life for themselves:

The blue turned to purple
Then black and then gray
We crawled to a place
Where banana trees sway.

And what a place it is to us who "see" where they are going. Up over a sleeping tiger, down a slithery snake, into the sea and inside a whale. As in any good and true fantasy, Joey brings, unwittingly, a souvenir back to the real world in the form of a starfish. Fans of Gay's previous award-winning book Moonbeam on a Cat's Ear will see many familiar objects from that book, including a big, white pussy cat. Vibrant action pictures move readers along through this amazing, magical world of children. Gay's text is better than ever with its fast-moving pace set to musical cadence. An accomplished work by a very talented author and illustrator.

Finally, on to the 1987 picture-book stage appeared some familiar illustrators from past years.

That indefatigable team of Munsch and Martchenko returned to bring us Moira's Birthday (Annick). Every parents nightmare and every child's birthday wish of having the whole class and others come to her birthday party is hilariously captured in text and picture.

Big Sarah's Little Boots (Kids Can Press) by Paulette Bourgeois and illustrated by Brenda Clark tells of a school-aged little girl's frustrations when her beloved yellow boots shrink on her. A realistic family story with charm and appeal in picture and text.

A well-loved children's song takes on the comic dress of a funny story in Maryann Kovalski's 1987 encore, The Wheels on the Bus (Kids Can Press). With visual puns and a cast of off-beat characters, she brings a fresh look at a traditional song.

In Franklin Hammond's Ten Little Ducks (Groundwood Books), children can count to ten watching the antics of ten rainbow-coloured ducks, all to the rhythmic tune of wonderfully squishy sounds.

Two folktales appear in new dress with the 1987 appearance of Robin Muller's light-hearted and golden renderings for The Lucky Old Woman (Kids Can Press) and Laszlo' Gal's illustrative paintings for The Enchanted Tapestry (Douglas & McIntyre).

Ian Wallace returns with his water-colours in Morgan the Magnificent (Groundwood Books) as does Kim LaFave with Goldie and the Sea (Groundwood Books).

Finally, Halifax in all its beauty is captured in original paintings by the talented Gordon Roache in A Halifax ABC (Tundra).


On that note l leave the 1987 picture-book-scape-inviting you to enjoy it with our children. Walk your roller skate. Go to school with Josephine. Explore the basement on a rainy day. Stay home and count ducks. But remember to look up at the sky. You may see all kinds of birds or Mother Goose sailing by.

1987 Notable Canadian Illustrated Books

Alderson, Sue Ann. Ida and the Wool Smugglers. Illustrated by Ann Blades. Groundwood Books, 1987.

Bourgeois, Paulette. Big Sarah's Little Boots. Illustrated by Brenda Clark. Kids Can Press, 1987.

Gay, Marie-Louise. Rainy Day Magic. Stoddart, 1987.

Hammond, Franklin. Ten Little Ducks. Groundwood Books, 1987.

Khalsa, Dayal Kaur. I Want a Dog. Tundra, 1987.

Kovalski, Maryann. The Wheels on the Bus. Kids Can Press, 1987.

Muller, Robin. The Lucky Old Woman. Kids Can Press, 1987.

Munsch, Robert. Moira's Birthday. Illustrated by Michael Martchenko . An nick Press, 1987.

Poulin, Stephane. Can You Catch Josephine? Tundra, 1987.

Reid, Barbara. Sing a Song of Mother Goose. North Winds Press, 1987.

Roache, Gordon. A Halifax ABC. Tundra, 1987.

Saltman, Judith. Goldie and the Sea. Illustrated by Kim LaFave. Groundwood Books, 1987.

San Souci, Robert D. The Enchanted Tapestry. Illustrated by Laszlo' Gal. Douglas & McIntyre, 1987.

Wallace, Ian. Morgan the Magnificent. Groundwood Books, 1987.

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