Northern Sask. author, illustrator announced as finalist for $20K national award

Miriam Körner/Submitted. Miriam Körner poses with her book, CCBC award finalist Fox and Bear, which she illustrated using cutouts of recycled paper and cardboard.

A northern Saskatchewan children’s book author and illustrator has been shortlisted for a $20,000 national award.

Miriam Körner’s book, Fox and Bear, is in the running to win the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award by The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC). Out of the seven awards, the Marilyn Baillie award holds the second largest prize, behind the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award for $50,000.

“The other shortlisters, the illustrators on there, are some illustrators that I’ve always looked up to when I started out my career,” said Körner, who lives in Air Ronge.

“It was just a really incredible feeling to see my name next to their names.”

The story follows the fox, who begins coming up with ways to make life more efficient without having to hunt and gather. Then, the bear is left to decide how he wants to live his life.

Although the book is up for interpretation, Körner said it’s intended for children “to think deeply about the relationship we have to the natural world.”

“When we think about the future, if there’s a way to move back towards that (connection) – and Fox and Bear kind of represent two very different characters.”

Fox and Bear is told through illustrations that Körner cut out from recycled paper and cardboard. She put the cut-outs together in a small theatre and photographed them to create the pages.

“This is a story that was kind of inspired by the massive amount of clearcutting that was happening in northern Saskatchewan. Just seeing the devastation of that, I didn’t want to use paper that comes from the forest,” she said.

On the list of finalists, the book’s illustrations are described as “inventive” and “intricately detailed,” which “perfectly underscore the message of this timely tale that raises important questions for young readers to ponder about sustainability and decision making.”

Körner said if she won, the $20,000 would go towards re-building a cabin that was destroyed by wildfires in 2015.

“It’s been such an honour to be on that shortlist, and even if it goes as far as that, it caught the attention of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre in Ontario, which means the book if falling into the hands of new readers and that’s already a big reward in its own,” she said.

The four other shortlisters for the award are Boobies by Nancy Vo (Vancouver), I’m Not Sydney by Marie-Louise Gray (Outremont, QC), Lizzy and the Cloud by The Fan Brothers (Toronto), and Mina by Matthew Forsythe (Montreal). The winner will be announced on Oct. 23.

Fox and Bear was originally published about a year ago.

Körner has come out with several other children’s and young adult books since her first was published in 2016. This includes When We Had Sled Dogs, Winter Dogs, Qaqavii and Li’l Shadd: A Story of Ujima. @JournalistJayda