Our Corner Grocery Store

This Spring marks the 10 year anniversary of my first picture book Our Corner Grocery Store. It was such a pleasure to write that book because it’s based on a beloved corner grocery store in my neighbourhood. Research for the book meant hanging around the store and talking with it’s owners, the very wonderful, Domenico and Rosa Cozzi. The store is the heart of the neighbourhood and for every kid who grows up nearby, going to Dom’s, as it is locally known, is a quintessential experience. What better subject for a picture book?

And I could not have had a better illustrator than the very talented Laura Beingessner. Her illustrations beautifully capture the spirit of the story, embellishing the pages with a myriad of charming details for a child to look at again and again. (Find the cat in every page!) Many, many thanks to Laura for the wonderful artwork, from the inviting cover to the cozy last page.

Many, many thanks to Kathy Lowinger, former publisher of Tundra Books, for accepting my first manuscript. Many, many thanks to Kathryn Cole, former editor at Tundra Books, for her skilled editing. It was a learning experience to publish my first picture book and both Kathy and Kathryn guided me through the process with generosity and care. The book received many wonderful reviews and it was a Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award Finalist in 2010 .

“In this endearing book, the grocery store is the cornerstone of the neighbourhood, a place where people come together in the daily act of living… A vivid slice of life packed with sensory delights, neighbourly warmth, and children’s pleasures… Beingessner’s detailed illustrations overflow with charm, brilliantly capturing the sights, sounds and gentle emotions of this busy and completely satisfying day.” – Jury Comments

I’m so happy to say that after 10 years the book is still out there being read and enjoyed, and the Cozzis are still running the store! If you want a peak into the real store, watch Liam Kearney’s wonderful short doc  .

My biggest thanks go out to Domenico and Rosa.

They have been the heart of the neighbourhood for over 50 years. What an immeasurable contribution!

Does Pinny have parents?

It’s always a pleasure to read Kerry Clare’s reviews on her blog Pickle Me This. Not only are they insightful and engaging but when it comes to her reviews of children’s books they often incorporate reactions from her own children which adds a reader response to an otherwise adult perspective. I’m happy to say that Kerry and her kids loved my first Pinny book, Pinny in Summer, and I’m thrilled that they are equally enamored with Pinny in Fall.

“…we’ve been looking forward to Pinny’s return with Pinny in Fall, a collection of four miniature adventures that demonstrate the amazing possibilities of a single day, smallness (and slowness) writ large in an approach that reminds me of the Frog and Toad books.”

Pinny lives in a cottage by the sea and whether or not her parents are hiding somewhere in the background of this story is left ambiguous. In this sense Pinny steps into the realm of many other children’s books where one way or another parents need to be removed for an adventure to flourish. In Pinny’s case the adventures are small and close to home, nonetheless being on her own is central to her discovery and engagement with the world around her. Is Pinny really living alone or is the world of childhood she inhabits so separate that it’s best represented parent-free?

Kerry’s kids asked the question, does Pinny have parents, and her answer is perfect.

“I tell them that her parents are probably curled up in comfortable chairs somewhere reading.”

A not surprising answer from a voracious book-reading parent yet one that also places the parents right where they need to be  – nearby but oblivious, comfortably absorbed reading a book so that “Pinny can do whatever she wants to.” Not every child will ask if Pinny has parents but for the ones that do you might just give them Kerry’s answer. With the parent question settled, the child reader can then accompany Pinny as she heads out to experience a little bit of life all on her own.

“Pinny in Fall is a gorgeous, old-fashioned story with such reverence for language, and wholly infused with a sense of wonder that will inspire readers to look at the world differently and seek out adventures of their own.”

 

TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award

Town is by the Sea is nominated for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award.

Here is what the jury has said about the book:

“Town is By the Sea is the deceptively simple tale of a day in the life of a boy growing up in a small mining town… The beautiful illustrations make tremendous use of light and shadow throughout, emphasizing the contrast between the dazzling beauty of the sea-side town on a bright, sunny day with the ominous darkness of the mine waiting below… The reader is asked to see the contrasts of freedom and restriction, childhood and adulthood, choice and fate as the main character embraces who he is and who he longs to become.”
For more background on each of the books and their creators, see the CBC post.
Congratulations to the other authors and illustrators on the list.
It’s an honour to be in your company.

Pinny in Fall

My latest picture book, Pinny in Fall is now available. It was a pleasure to imagine Pinny’s adventures in my favourite season. The wind and fog and “special kind of rain” of a crisp Fall day are beautifully captured in Isabelle Malenfant’s illustrations.

Publisher’s Weekly has given it a starred review, saying:

“Malenfant illustrates in a delicate style, with figures and landscapes rendered in misty pastels and    wispy lines. Schwartz dreamily captures the small wonders of childhood and the air of magic that can accompany season’s change.”

 

Pinny in Fall, Pinny in Summer

My new picture book, Pinny in Fall, is coming soon. I’m so pleased to share a second story about Pinny and her adventures by the sea.

Kirkus has given it a starred review and said, “Pinny’s pleasure in her friends, in being helpful, and in nature’s ephemeral treats is contagious.”

In the meantime, while we are in high summer, tag along with Pinny in Summer.

The New York Times said, “it sets an idyllic mood.”

Atlantic Books Today said “the beautifully written text and frame-worthy illustrations to the overall high quality of book design, make Pinny in Summer an excellent choice”

And Kirkus called it “a serene treat.”

And after you read Pinny in Summer, check out the terrific activities that Kerry Claire came up with in 49th Shelf. They are just too much fun to miss.

Pinny is all about stepping out into the new day full of curiosity and wonder, revelling in the smallest adventures and relishing the tiniest of treasures. Living in a cottage by the sea is just about the perfect place to do this.

The Atlantic Independent Booksellers’ Choice Award 2018

I have just received the incredible honour of winning the Atlantic Independent Booksellers Choice Award for writing Town is by the Sea. The award was presented at a wonderful evening last night in Halifax. I can’t thank the AIBA enough for this recognition. A very special thank you to Lisa Doucet, co-manager of Woozles and out-going president of the AIBA, for her tireless work organizing such a great event.

Cheers to the independent booksellers of Atlantic Canada!
The contribution you make to your communities is enormous!

Sydney Smith wins Kate Greenaway Medal

Very exciting news –

Sydney Smith has won the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal for his illustrations in Town is by the Sea. The award is considered the “gold standard in children’s literature” and Sydney follows in the footsteps of such greats as Quentin Blake, Lauren Child, and Chris Riddell.

My heartiest congratulations goes out to Sydney for his stellar illustrations!
They have brought my story of a Cape Breton mining town to vivid life.

2018 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Awards shortlist

I received very nice news this week. Town is by the Sea is shortlisted for the 2018 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award. It is an honour to be shortlisted for this award, alongside four other excellent picture books. A very interesting feature of this award is that the jury is made up of five kids in grades 3 and 4. They will discuss the books and decide on the winner. What a wonderful way to engage young students in developing a critical lens when approaching their reading material. Thank you to the Ontario Arts Foundation for this lovely nomination.