It’s actually not about trees (much to my surprise). It’s an annual festival, organized by the Ontario Library Organization that encourages reading across the province and recognizes Canadian children’s books authors and illustrators. It’s also a great opportunity to meet some of your favourite authors and illustrators and to participate in games and win prizes.
I had a wonderful opportunity to speak with Meredith Tutching, Program Coordinator, from her office in Toronto:
What is the Festival of Trees about?
The Festival is the culmination of the Forest of Reading Awards. We have 7 trees that are in our forest and 5 of them are geared towards kids. So, these are the kids programs that are wrapping up. There are a quarter of a million kids from across the province that read Canadian books that were on our short list, ending in the month of April. And the winners are being announced tomorrow and Wednesday and 12 of those nominated authors are coming to Ottawa.
How do you choose the books that are nominated?
The books are submitted by publishers from across the country (they’re all Canadian publishers). We have teachers and librarians who have selection experience and they read all of the books that are sent in to submission and they short list it to down to 10.
The Festival in Ottawa will focus on the Silver Birch and Red Maple Programs? What are they about?
The Silver Birch is geared towards kids that are in grades 3 to 6 and the Red Maple is for kids in grades 7 and 8. And, so, in the Silver Birch there are 3 lists: a fiction list, a non-fiction list and a list called the express list, which is geared towards the grade 3 or 4 reader and the more reluctant reader and it’s a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. And Red Maple is just a list of fiction this year. And, so, that’s 40 books among the 4 programs.
When did the Festival start?
The Festival is in it’s 5th year. We did have small ceremonies before. The Program started in 1993 with just the Silver Birch. And it was a small Program and it’s just grown. And different people have come to us from across the province to add more trees to our forest. And, so, then we added Red Maple and it’s sort of grown and we have White Pine and Bruce Spruce and all sorts of different trees. We, now, have a French program and this year, in October, we’re going to be launching a French picture book program.
And, finally, can you tell us about the nominated authors, who are going to be present at the Festival?
We have over 80 of the authors coming to Toronto over the 2 days and we have 12 of the authors coming to Ottawa. None of them know if they’re short-listed or if they’re winners. So, it will be a big surprise to them tomorrow and Wednesday. And, hopefully, there will be some winners among those who are going to Ottawa.
Each author will be doing a workshop and an autographing session. The authors and illustrators coming to Ottawa this year are: Philipa Dowding, Natalie Hyde, Jan Andrews, Anna Kerz, Rachna Gilmore, Jill MacLean, Patrick Bowman, Sharon E. McKay, Bill Slavin, Romi Caron, Susin Nielsen, Anna Ziegler.
The Ottawa Festival of Trees is taking place on May 17th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fieldhouse, Carleton University. Tickets are $10 +HST and can be purchased on-line. For more details, you can click here.