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Ruth Schwartz Children’s Book Award

Toronto, Ontario, April 23, 2001 -- Students from Fielding Drive Public School in Ottawa, Ontario celebrated Canada Book Day by selecting authors Janet McNaughton and Stephanie Simpson McLellan and illustrator Sean Cassidy as winners of the 2001 Ruth Schwartz Children’s Book Award. The announcement was made today at The National Library in Ottawa.

The Ruth Schwartz Children’s Book Award includes two prizes – one for a children’s picture book and one for a young adult book. First-time published author Stephanie Simpson McLellan and illustrator Sean Cassidy will share the $3,000 prize in the picture book category for The Chicken CatJanet McNaughton a St. John’s, Newfoundland writer, won the $2,000 prize in the young adult/middle reader category for The Secret Under My Skin.  

Each year, the Ontario Arts Council selects an Ontario school to provide the juries for the prizes. This year, students from Ottawa’s Fielding Drive Public School provided the adjudication.  Students from grades 4 chose The Chicken Cat as the best picture book, saying they found it “magical” and  “heartwarming” with “wonderful illustrations.”  Students from grades 7 and 8 chose The Secret Under My Skin as the best young adult/middle reader book, saying that in this work of speculative fiction , the author had created “a believable possible world” and that they “couldn’t put it down.”

The Ruth Schwartz Children’s Book Award was established in 1976 by Sylvia Schwartz in honour of the late Ruth Schwartz, a respected Toronto bookseller. The administration of this award is shared by the Ontario Arts Council which selects the juries, the Ontario Arts Council Foundation and the Canadian Booksellers Association, whose members select the short list of books.

The winning authors and illustrator will receive their prizes at the Libris Awards ceremony hosted by the Canadian Booksellers Association in Toronto at the end of June.


The Chicken Cat
Written by Stephanie Simpson McLellan
Illustrated by Sean Cassidy
Published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited

Merlin is not a typical kitten.  No one knows who his mother is.  Guinevere, the oldest hen in the barn is perfectly willing to take the frail kitten under her wing.  But, in spite of the genuine love that Guinevere and Merlin feel for each other, a kitten can’t grow and thrive on seeds and grain.  Guinevere knows that something must be done.  When a little girl looking for a pet kitten visits the farm, Guinevere grasps at the chance to give Merlin a home where he will be safe and cared for.

Newmarket (Ontario)-based author, Stephanie Simpson McLellan, has a degree in English from Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario) and a Master’s degree in Marketing from the University of Toronto.  In 1995, Stephanie founded Neverending Stories, a mail-order children’s book company.  

Sean Cassidy
was born in Montreal and now teaches high school art in Brampton, Ontario.  He used watercolour, goache and coloured pencils on the illustrations for The Chicken Cat.  He lives with his family near Orangeville, Ontario.


The Secret Under My Skin
Written by Janet McNaughton
Published by Harper Collins Publisher Ltd.

Blay Raytree has no family, no birthday, no proper name and almost no memories.  Her world in the twenty-fourth century is the bleak monotony of a “model social welfare project.”  The state controls technology, which is deemed too dangerous to be held by the people.  Blay’s world is turned upside down when the powerful, beautiful bio-indicator, a young woman with acute environmental sensitivities who monitors the health of the town’s air and water, chooses Blay to be her servant.

Janet McNaughton is the author of Catch Me Once, Catch Me Twice and To Dance at the Palais Royale, which won the Geoffrey Bilson Award, the Ann Conner-Brimmer Award and the Violet Downey Book Award.   Her third book Make or Break Spring was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award and the Ruth Schwartz Children’s Book Award and others.  Janet was born and grew up in Toronto and has lived in St. John’s Newfoundland for many years.


OAC Media Contact: Kirsten Gunter, Manager of Communications
Tel: (416) 969-7403. Toll-free outside of Toronto: 1-800-387-0058, ext. 7403.