Seventeen years ago I won the third ever OLA (Ontario Library Association) Silver Birch Award for Bringing Up Beauty,(Fitzhenry Whiteside) a novel about best friends and boyfriends and fostering a puppy for Guide Dogs Canada. See above on the right my prize which is a braille painting of a silver birch tree.  If you run your hands over it, you can feel the image–the perfect award for a book about a future guide dog.

The award is the genius of the OLA to encourage and empower grade four to six students to read and vote for their favourite book from a list of ten librarian-selected Canadian novels.  Seventeen years ago, I also met Marsha Skrypuch author of this year’s Silver Birch winner Making Bombs for Hitler (Scholastic Canada)On the left is Marsha’s prize which is a grade six student , Gurleen Randhawa’s drawing and design–a winner of a contest in itself.   

 In the twenty years since it’s inception, the Silver Birch has morphed into many tree awards for different age groups and readerships.  I count eight tree symbols: Blue Spruce, Red Maple, White Pine,Golden Oak, Evergreen, Le Prix Tamarac et Le Prix Peuplier but each may have a nonfiction component, the Silver Birch has an express award. ( browse for Forest of Reading)

Along the way, Marsha and I have bumped into each other at many conferences and have driven as well as roomed together, becoming great friends.  When the OLA asked Silver Birch authors to create a two minute video to tell how the award has affected us, Marsha and I decided to celebrate together.  We asked my son Craig McNicoll, videographer and editor, to create our two minutes professionally.


First Craig set up an impromptu studio in our family room in the basement with lights and cameras.  Here he is attaching Marsha’s microphone.  Then I acted as interviewer for Marsha asking her the OLA supplied questions in intervals.  We repeated some takes so that Craig could edit the best answers together.  Then we switched chairs.  I had this moment when the hands of time shifted to 1996 when Craig was 14 and he filmed the Silver Birch ceremony even interviewing himself on Beta.  I will have to search the tape out and convert it to digital for old times sake.

After the video session (stay tuned for the youtube links when Craig finishes editing) we celebrated again with wine and an impromptu lunch, with our film crew’s family (Eireann, Violet, Desmond) and another local author, Gisela Sherman (Grave Danger, Scholastic Canada).  Happy 20th Anniversary Forest of Reading.  Thank you to the Ontario Library Association for all the support and readership you have given us.  For the alternate version to our years together and the day go to Marsha Skrypuch’s blog


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