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The Chat, With 2015 GGs Winner Caroline Pignat (Children's Text)

Next up in our series of interviews with the winners of this year’s English-language Governor General’s Award is Caroline Pignat, winner of the 2015 Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature.

Caroline Pignat wins her second Governor General’s Literary Award with The Gospel Truth (2015), the young adult novel that also won her the Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book of the Year Honour Book. Other award-winning books include Egghead (Red Maple Book Award, 2009) and Greener Grass (GG Award, 2009).

This year’s jury called The Gospel Truth “the powerful and poignant story of 16-year-old Phoebe, a slave girl in 1858 Virginia. Written in lyrical and elegant free verse, it is an unflinching look at the brutality of slavery and Phoebe’s struggle for freedom and truth. Ultimately, this is a story of hope.”

TheChat-GGs

 

THE CHAT WITH CAROLINE PIGNAT

Sometimes when we think back to the nineteenth century and slave ownership, we tend to lump the experiences of slaves together and contain them in one thought bubble: “They suffered, they sang songs to keep them going, they hatched plans to escape.” The Gospel Truth veers away from this simplification. Why was this important to you in writing the book?

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Shelf Talkers: September 2015

You would think that school would be paradise for a bookish, nerdy kid, like I was. But as any former bookish, nerdy kid will tell you, that was hardly the case. Sure, there was always lots to read, new books to discover, stories to talk about (and sometimes even write!). But there was a downside as well. So often, the books we had to read were old hat, or overly familiar. Things I’d read long before, or things I had no interest in reading.

I lost track, early on, of the number of times I got caught reading the books I had chosen, not the ones assigned in class. I thought I had it all worked out: keep the book in your lap, and glance down to read when the teacher’s not looking. Keep the book you want to read underneath the book you’re supposed to be reading, with only a few lines visible at a time. It seemed like it should work, but I got caught almost every time.

That didn’t stop me, though. I don’t think it stopped any bookish, nerdy kid.

And we never forget it. We never quite grow up.

Even now, decades later, I’m still that kid close to the back of the room, sneaking Tom Swift or Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators or John Bellairs, when I’m supposed to be reading ... Funny. I can’t even remember what I was supposed to be reading, but those books I snuck? Those books I loved enough to risk the ire of the teachers, and the threats of the hallway or principal’s office? Those books became a part of me.

In celebration of September, this is a special editi …

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