Stolen Words has Won the 2018 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award

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Stolen Words

Written by Melanie Florence Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

Stolen Words has won the 2018 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award in the Children's Picture Book Category– the only Canadian literary award where student jurors work together to choose the winning books.

June 20, 2018, TorontoStolen Words, written by Melanie Florence and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard, has won the 2018 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award in the Children's Picture Book Category. The Schwartz Awards are the only Canadian literary award where student jurors work together to choose the winning books. Stolen Words tells the story of a little girl who asks her grandpa how to say something in his Cree language, only to learn that he cannot teach her. He tells her that his words were stolen from him when he was taken to live at a residential school as a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandpa find his language again.

Melanie Florence has been recognized for her ability to write about Indigenous history and culture with sensitivity and compassion, and Quebec artist Gabrielle Grimard's illustrations perfectly capture the spirit of the story. Stolen Words offers a glimpse into the intergenerational impact of the residential school system—known as boarding schools in the United States—that separated Indigenous children from their families with the stated goal of erasing their language and culture.

The book has received many notices since its publication last September: Kirkus Reviews' Best Picture Books of 2017 to Give Readers Strength; Shelf Awareness' 2017 Best Picture Books of the Year; The Children's Book Review's Best Picture Books of 2017; Ontario Library Association's 2018 Best Bets; and the Canadian Children's Book Centre's Best Books for Kids and Teens - Starred Selection.

Melanie Florence is an award-winning writer of Cree and Scottish heritage. She wrote Stolen Words in honor of her grandfather. Melanie never had the chance to speak to him about his Cree heritage, and the story is about the healing relationship she wishes she had been able to have with him. Her book Jordin Tootoo was an American Indian Library Association Honor Book, and Missing Nimama won the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. Melanie lives with her family in Toronto.

Gabrielle Grimard uses various media to research and create the illustrations for a book, but her favorite aspect will always be color. She uses mainly watercolors, gouache, and oil. She adds a touch of wooden pencil for the details. She has illustrated dozens of books and has been nominated for several awards. She lives near Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Allie Chenoweth