White Pine Awards & Toronto’s Reading Festivities

On May 17th, I got up early and made my way down to Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre for the first day of the Festival of Trees. It’s a two day literary festival, with a third day in French, and has expanded to satellite events in Sault Ste. Marie and London, Ontario. It’s put together by the Ontario Library Association (OLA) in partnership with the International Festival of Authors (IFOA). It’s a great event where kids and teens get to meet their favourite authors/illustrators, participate in workshops, have their books signed, and play games to win prizes.

During the festivities, there are different award ceremonies that come out of the Forest of Reading program, which is the largest reading program of its kind in Canada. Organized by the OLA, there are eight programs divided into different age groups (i.e., Red Maple is for Grade 7-8). First, librarians nominate the Canadian books from that year for each program, then students read the nominees and vote for a winner in their age group. Libraries across the country help host these programs from public libraries to school libraries. Then the winners are announced at the Festival of Trees, which brings me to why I was there on Tuesday.

It was my first time at the festival, and I was there primarily for the White Pine Award, which is for the teen category (Grade 9-12). The nominees were:

  • All The Rage by Courtney Summers (St. Martin’s Press)
  • The Art of Getting Stared At by Laura Langston (Penguin Group Canada)
  • The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts (Knopf/Penguin Random House Canada)
  • Delusion Road by Don Aker (HarperCollins Canada, Limited)
  • The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, Kelly Mellings (House of Anansi Press Inc.)
  • Rabbit Ears by Maggie De Vries (HarperCollins Canada, Limited)
  • A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books)
  • Soldier Doll by Jennifer Gold (Second Story Press)
  • The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnson (Lerner Publishing Group)
  • The Troop by Nick Cutter (Pocket Books)

The ceremony started at ten, but I got there early to get a look at the festival as a whole.

There were tents for where the signings would be, as well as workshops and games. First Nation dancers were performing on the stage, along with a woman who was very good with hula hoops (quite a few authors were mesmerized by it as they were signing). It was a gorgeous day, and I couldn’t get over the location, which was right by Lake Ontario, at the Harbourfront Centre, within full view of the CN Tower.

After browsing and smelling the food trucks, I found my way to where the White Pine Award ceremony was taking place. It had already started but I got there in time to see the authors—and the students accompanying them—getting on stage.

White Pine Award. Festival of Trees. 2016. Toronto.

The award show was hosted by Talli Osborne, and each author was introduced by a different student before the three finalists were announced:

  • The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts (Knopf/Penguin Random House Canada)
  • Delusion Road by Don Aker (HarperCollins Canada, Limited)
  • The Troop by Nick Cutter (Pocket Books)

Then after a drumroll, the winner was announced:

Afterwards, the White Pine authors went off to sign their books and the festivities continued the rest of the day. It was great watching both teen girls and boys geek out over authors like Courtney Summers and E.K. Johnston. I loved how the festival incorporated kids into its programming, and it made reading a fun experience. I’m surprised that the Forest of Reading program isn’t more of a presence in the city or that the festival isn’t given more coverage, but I’m really glad kids have something like it. It’s important, and I hope it’s here to stay.

Ardo Omer

Ardo Omer

Former WWAC editor. Current curmudgeon and Batman's personal assistant. Icon art by Diana Sim.