Read 148 Novels in 4.5 months? Yup.

FINALLY, the winners of the 2015 Governor General’s Literary Awards were announced today. Huge congratulations to Caroline Pignat, who won her second GG for her beautiful book, The Gospel Truth. 2015_text-e_PignatAlong with Rachna Gilmore and David Poulsen, I had the privilege of being on the peer assessment committee for the Children’s Literature (Text) Award this year. As part of that task, we each read the 148 novels submitted for consideration – all between mid-April and the end of August. More than one book a day, and many were 300+ pages. What an incredible (and somewhat intimidating) learning experience!

Never having done this before, I had no idea how I would go about choosing from such a fine collection of books. But as I read, certain books simply emerged; their characters, stories and words all stayed with me long after I’d finished reading. I went to our Ottawa meeting in early September naively believing it would take only a couple of hours for the three of us to discuss the short-listed books and come to a consensus re the five finalists and one winner.

I was wrong.

It was more like ten hours of intense discussion and debate that left both my brain and body exhausted, but I think we all left the room feeling like we’d done a good job. We also collaborated on this brief, yet hard-to-write, jury statement:

Caroline Pignat’s The Gospel Truth is the powerful and poignant story of 16-year-old Phoebe, a slave girl in 1858 Virginia. Written in lyrical and elegant free verse, it is an unflinching look at the brutality of slavery and Phoebe’s struggle for freedom and truth. Ultimately, this is a story of hope.

We weren’t allocated sufficient words to mention that the story is told in six different voices. The other four finalists, all of them excellent books, are Young Man With Camera (Emil Sher), 2015_text-e_SherWe Are All Made of Molecules (Susin Nielsen), 2015_text-e_NielsenAre You Seeing Me? (Darren Groth), 2015_text-e_Grothand Audrey (Cow) (Dan Bar-el). 2015_text-e_Bar-elCongratulations to one and all. There sure are a lot of amazing children’s authors writing brilliant, diverse books in Canada today. Happy reading!

10 thoughts on “Read 148 Novels in 4.5 months? Yup.

  1. That does sound intimidating. I once went to a lecture by a librarian who was on the Newbery committee. And although an amazing experience, exhausting!!! Congratulations to Caroline Pignat — it’s come onto my radar a couple of times already and it sounds amazing.

    1. The Gospel Truth has certainly been getting a lot of recognition, in Canada at least. It’s interesting that the GGs are considered to be Canada’s top literary awards, but they’re always chosen by “peer assessment committees” – in other words, fellow authors. I wonder if librarians would make similar choices…

  2. mirkabreen

    Unlike Vijaya^, I don’t call reading a book a day, many 300 pages long, “intimidating.” I call it IMPOSSIBLE. I speak for myself, of course, and this makes you Superwoman in my eyes!

  3. Becky Shillington

    WOW. I love to read, but I am not sure my brain could process reading so many meaningful, meaty texts in such a short time. What an amazing experience that must have been. Congratulations to the winners!

    1. I’m definitely looking at my own writing through different eyes these days (more critically, in fact, if that’s even possible). It’s amazing how many different topics/situations authors think to write about. I found there was a lot of futuristic/dystopian in the mix, especially in the YA books.

  4. Wow! One hundred and forty-eight books in 4.5 months?! I’m impressed. I know you are a prolific author; did you have to put your own work-in-progress on hold? I’m constantly amazed by writers who are able to juggle school visits, book tours, creative writing AND judging.

    1. I’m still kind of surprised myself that it was doable! And while I was at Fool’s Paradise, I wrote all day and read all evening – pretty nice way to spend your time! I’m a fast reader, so I would do it again, I think… Thanks for saying hi!

  5. I just re-read it, and confirmed my original opinion. I’ll be dining at Rideau Hall on December 2nd with the GG et al, so I can congratulate Caroline and JonArno Lawson in person:)

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