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Great Can-Lit picks for all ages

December, 2009

Former Governor General’s Literary Awards finalist Budge Wilson, author of several novels, short stories, and a prequel to Anne of Green Gables, once said she never liked the “young adult” category in fiction writing. This label implies, she says, that such a book is less worthy as literature. “Yet, all it means is that the central character is a child or that the story is told from a child’s perspective”.

This year’s GG award winner in the category of children’s literature, Caroline Pignat’s Greener Grass, is a case in point. The book recreates perhaps the most painful period in Irish history, the 1847 potato famine, when conditions were unimaginably inhumane and thousands were left to starve. The story, told by young Kathleen Byrne, is one of heroism, courage and survival.

In Sister Wife, also nominated in this category, Shelley Hrdlitschka recreates a polygamous community, here known as Unity, where young girls are married off to older men and where a strict code of behaviour overrides individual human rights.

Still in Children’s Literature, Tim Wynne-Jones’ The Uninvited takes readers on an eerie journey to an enchanting country house. The setting’s quaint charm merely adds to the sense of uneasiness throughout this gripping thriller that is also a family drama.

Alice Munro’s short stories have been compared to Chekhov’s work. In Too Much Happiness, nominated in the fiction category, Munro brings us ten stories that display her mastery of short fiction writing. Though a GG finalist this year, Munro is a three-time winner of the Governor General’s Awards.

Munro was a primary influence on a young emerging writer, Deborah Willis, whose first short story collection, Vanishing and Other Stories, was nominated this year.

Willis is an exciting and original voice in the landscape of Canadian fiction. Her handling of form is almost musical, as she sometimes tells her stories in more than one voice, in multiple time frames or alternative scenarios.

“The emotional range and depth of these stories, the clarity and deftness, is astonishing,” commented Munro on this debut collection.

Those who want to escape this reality and enter another world will be entertained and enchanted by Annabel Lyon’s The Golden Mean. In a bold leap of the imagination, Lyon explores the relationship between the philosopher Aristotle and his 13-year-old student and future conqueror of the Ancient World, Alexander the Great.



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