Sidura Ludwig, You Are Not What We Expected (House of Anansi)

A series of linked stories that draws you into the quirky world of the Levine family, characters dealing with loss, and the long shadow of absence. This is storytelling with a heartbreaking comedic sense of timing that captures the resonance of powerful moments, like that uh-oh moment when you realize something horrendous is about to happen and you have no power to stop it. Ludwig’s short-clipped understated prose is by turns surprising, touching, funny, beautiful, and sad. – Vine Awards Jury

Nessa Rapoport, Evening (Counterpoint Press)

Lyrical and poetic, Evening is a beautifully and sharply written, yet deeply sensitive, portrayal of grieving. Over the seven-day period of sitting shivah, what unfolds is an intricate narrative of love, sibling rivalry and the uncovering of family secrets. Ultimately, this is a story of self-acceptance. – Vine Awards Jury

Carol Windley, Midnight Train to Prague (HarperCollins Canada)

Midnight Train to Prague’s epic sweep encompasses multiple countries and multiple decades, as the protagonist and her entourage of richly realized characters come of age and ultimately struggle to survive, in interwoven journeys throughout central Europe and to Argentina, during the decades between the end of the First World War and the end of the Second. Windley has conjured her settings so intricately, and woven her characters’ lives together so cleverly and densely, that to enter this story is to travel inside a fully realized universe, its nooks and crannies replete with treasures. – Vine Awards Jury



Rick Salutin and Gideon Salutin, illustrated by Dušan Petričić, Gideon’s Bible: A Father and Son Discuss God, the Bible, and Life (ECW Press) 

Part illustrated footnotes, part memoir marginalia, the book follows the conventions of Jewish Biblical commentaries, where discussions about life, history, morality, and philosophy are braided around Bible stories. The structure of the narrative is matched conceptually and aesthetically in form and content, and the father-son relationship is at the heart of this story, insightful and endearing. – Vine Awards Jury

Myriam Steinberg, illustrations by Christache, Catalogue Baby: A Memoir of (In)fertility (Page Two Books)

A riveting graphic novel/memoir on infertility. Steinberg leads the reader through the emotional and physical roller coaster of getting pregnant — the highs and lows, her body endlessly prodded and tested, repeated success and rejection, decision-making dilemmas, mixed feelings of failure and self-doubt — all underpinned by humour and determination. The accompanying artwork in hues of purple adds a dramatic effect to the narrative. – Vine Awards Jury

Rachel Matlow, Dead Mom Walking (Penguin Random House Canada)

In this memoir of the illness and death of her mother, Rachel Matlow brings her unusual family vividly to the page, and addresses with both agony and sharp humour her conflict with a beloved mother who refused surgery that all but promised to save her life from cancer, opting instead for unproven treatments that ultimately failed to save her. Matlow delves fearlessly into the deepest and most vulnerable facets of her story with an unforgettably honest, wry, and deeply loving voice, and while her frustration with her mother’s decision is palpable, she attempts, with great empathy, to understand and show how and why her mother came to her worldview, and to choices that seemed, on the surface, unfathomable.   – Vine Awards Jury



Sharon Kirsch, The Smallest Objective (New Star Books)

In the wake of her mother’s illness, and driven by lore of hidden treasure, Kirsch excavates history from ephemera found in her parent’s home; she follows clues to wherever they lead in a meandering path along different research trajectories that unearth mysteries and figures from her family tree. With poetic prose, and a proclivity for listings of things, Kirsch has a microscopic attention to detail that matches the theme of objects put under scrutiny to divine secrets. This writing has a way of hinting at the ineffable and drawing synaptic connections that reveal a real playfulness and love of words. This listing is stylistic, but also a method for coping with grief. There are themes of memory and forgetting, loss and lost things, and of course the search for treasure, where things — letters, postcards, photographs, slides, seashells, and rocks — become archival documents.  – Vine Awards Jury

Paul Roberts Bentley, Strange Journey: John R. Friedeberg Seeley and the Quest for Mental Health (Academic Studies Press)

A well-researched and fascinating biographical exposé of John R. Friedeberg Seeley, a renaissance man who changed the face of mental health and education in Canada in the 1950s. A staunch believer and advocate for liberal education, Seeley endured life-long personal and professional rejections, betrayals and ostracization.– Vine Awards Jury

Celia Rabinovitch, Duchamp’s Pipe: A Chess Romance--Marcel Duchamp and George Koltanowski (North Atlantic Books)

In a history that manages to be both highly structured and kaleidoscopic, Celia Rabinovitch reveals the chess friendship between surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp and chess champion George Koltanowski. Her compelling narration is based on interviews, previous histories, and a wealth of unearthed material — from photographs to exhibition posters to score books, and by tracing those moments that the two men’s biographies intersected, including their chess matches, the gifts they exchanged, and the art objects they created together, she explores Duchamp’s philosophy of the intersection of chess and art. – Vine Awards Jury



Michelle Barker, My Long List of Impossible Things (Annick Press)

A compelling YA novel from the standpoint of a 16-year-old German girl navigating her survival through the Soviet occupation at the end of World War II. A page-turner where the reader grapples with the ethics of truths and lies and the upended norms of right and wrong. – Vine Awards Jury

Gordon Korman, War Stories (Scholastic Canada)

War Stories brings WWII history to life in an engaging way that is accessible for younger readers without glamourizing or sugar-coating the horrors of war. Alternating flashbacks to the past are interwoven with the present along two adjacent narrative arcs. Two families are implicated in events coming to a head; the liberation of a small town in France, a hero’s welcome, and a blood-debt stemming back to a grave miscalculation. Here are dramatic action-pact scenes with life-and-death stakes, the random luck of survival, narrative tension building to a confrontation undercut with the threat of violence, and a younger generation who must come to terms with the past.  – Vine Awards Jury

Helaine Becker, illustrated by Kari Rust, Emmy Noether: The Most Important Mathematician You’ve Never Heard Of (Kids Can Press)

Emmy Noether introduces young readers to a remarkable mathematician, whose ingenious contributions before and during the Second World War deserve as much recognition and reverence as those of her colleague, Albert Einstein. The book shows how and why history has elevated some thinkers to superhero status and completely forgotten others, how both systemic prejudice against women and genocidal policies against the Jewish people worked to silence so many, and how, with good fortunate and tenacity, it is sometimes possible to make important contributions against the odds – all this in a prose style at once accessible and sophisticated, matched perfectly with dense, lush illustrations that bear repeated contemplation. – Vine Awards Jury
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