Not the most brilliant response to hearing I’d just won The Red Maple award but it was the best I could do. I was too shocked to come up with anything else. I’d been absolutely positive The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong was going to win. I stood there with my mouth hanging open and a stunned look on my face until someone told me to go up to the microphone.
To be fair, it’s not surprising I was a little hesitant to collect my prize. I’d already suffered an embarrassing moment once before at the Forest of Reading awards. Six years ago, I was standing on the same stage with nine other authors in front of hundreds of screaming kids, waiting to hear if The Puppet Wrangler had won The Silver Birch award. Next to me, also waiting, was the amazing Natale Ghent, author of No Small Thing. The announcer read out the first finalist, “Natale Grant!” Natale and I both stood up.
Then I had to sit back down.
It was Natale’s book that made the finals. Embarrassing. Who wouldn’t be cautious after that?
The Red Maple and Silver Birch are children’s choice awards administered by the Ontario Library Association. Over 100,000 kids participate in the program every year. And no wonder. It’s fabulous. The teacher-librarians do a great job at getting their students fired up about reading and the organizers put together a real barn-burner of an awards show. Thirty-five hundred kids are bussed in to Harbourfront in downtown Toronto to participate in a day filled with readings, author panels, live music and circus acts. It’s an extraordinary production that just gets better and better every year.