On September 29th 2017, the 27th annual MANITOBA YOUNG READER’S CHOICE AWARD was presented to Allan Stratton for his novel The Dogs. He was selected by Manitoban children who had read at least three books from the nominated list. Honour book winners were Kevin Sylvester for his novel Minrs and Kevin Sands for his novel The Blackthorn Key.
Allan Stratton is a prolific Canadian author who has won numerous (and I mean NUMEROUS) awards both in Canada and internationally. As he told the children who came to see him, he worked as an actor for many years, but writing was always his dream. Allan says that his greatest influence in life was his mother, who showed incredible fortitude in leaving his father and his violent abuse while he was a child in the days when such things were frowned upon. The Dogs was directly influenced from these events as is the character of Granny in The Way Back Home. Like Granny, Allan’s mother passed away from Alzheimer’s and he spent much time with her in her twilight, often reading her the dedication page from The Grave Robber’s Apprentice. It reads “For Mom, who took me to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival when I was a kid”. It was a joy and surprise to her every day.
The Dogs is a mystery, a thriller, and a ghost story all rolled into one! Cameron (Cam) and his mother live life on the run from Cam’s abusive father, although the reader is never sure if Cam’s mother is justified in her fear of his return. They move into a creepy old farmhouse and Cam starts seeing the ghost of a little boy who died on the property. Cam begins to wonder if he is losing his mind. However, the barking of dogs that he knows are not there is real to him, and he dives into the mystery of the former homeowners. The true beauty of this novel is how it appeals to all age groups. Both young and old alike enjoy the suspenseful atmosphere and the surprise ending!
Fun Fact: Allan Stratton names his characters by determining what year they were born, then looking into census records to see what the top names were at the time of his character’s “birth”.
The MYRCA award ceremony was held at the Manitoba Theater for Young People and was attended by over 300 students from Winnipeg and rural Manitoba. The ceremony is an invitation only event and the room was filled to capacity with students who read the nominees and voted for the award. The MYRCA committee was very proud to be able to partner with Thin Air, the International Writer’s Festival, who provided us with theater space and hosted Allan on their “School Stage” events during the week. Allan was able to take in several readings and was very excited to be invited during this incredible event. He told us that Thin Air is one of his favorite festivals in all of Canada!
Lisa Ferguson’s class from Victor Mager School were honoured to host the event. The grade 6, 7, and 8 students did a wonderful job presenting Allan with his award. They also produced a book trailer about The Dogs that Allan loved so much that he asked them if he could use it for his website. The students were very excited to meet him and the buzz backstage before the ceremony was electric. Allan offered the students some sage words of advice regarding nervousness before a show, and his past years of working as an actor clearly showed. Lisa’s class added some fun elements this year, as the students wrote out some trivia questions and the audience was invited to answer them. Participants were gifted with an autographed bookmark!
Allan then read from his new novel The Way Back Home . Anyone who has a relative with Alzheimer’s will be able to relate to Zoe’s struggle as she watches her Granny deteriorate and eventual placement in a nursing home against her will. With bullies at school and parents who cannot seem to support her in a positive way, Zoe begins to make some drastic decisions. Will they be able to find the mysterious Uncle Teddy whom everyone claims is dead but Granny insists is still alive? Recently short listed for both the Governor General’s award and OLA’s Red Maple award, The Way Back Home is a must read for any #canlit fan.
After the ceremony, attendees were invited to compete in a scavenger hunt in the afternoon. The talented and amazing (local author) Colleen Nelson organized a scavenger hunt. Students were given a map and clues where they could find hidden pictures of dogs. Once located, the students had to answer a multiple choice question about the nominees from the 2017 list. Students enjoyed running around the Forks on a beautiful fall day and were rewarded with a selection of Canadian books provided by the numerous publishers who support MYRCA every year. Thank you publishers!
Being part of the MYRCA committee is incredibly rewarding and the yearly award ceremony is the highlight of the year. The MYRCA committee is entirely run by volunteers and the ceremony is no exception, so a special thanks must go out to our volunteers – Susan C. who ran the reception table and kept all the classes organized before entry, and Susan from MTYP, the professional and gracious front of house manager who helped Lori and I seat all those excited children. Sabrina was on hand to live tweet from the event (you can follow us on twitter @Myrcaward) plus Tabitha and her students from Red River Collegiate were there to help with the Q and A as well as the book prize give-away and scavenger hunt. Lisa and Colleen made the entire day possible by organizing and putting on the event, which was a memorable day thanks to all their efforts. We are so grateful that you all volunteered your precious time to help celebrate Allan’s achievement with our young voters. Job well done!
If you and your child/students are interested in participating in MYRCA, there is no cost and it is easy to do. Simply have you child read, or read to them a minimum of three books from the nominated list. Voting begins in late March and the winner is announced in early May. Only voters are invited to the ceremony, so get reading so you can join us for all the fun next year!