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  • Writer's pictureCharis Cotter

Hooray! Footsteps in Bay de Verde Wins Newfoundland Book Award

Hey, wait a minute! Didn’t The Dollhouse win the Newfoundland Book Award, back in September?

Well—yes and no.

It’s a bit of a story. Last year, two of my books were finalists for the Bruneau Family Children/Young Adult Literature Award: The Dollhouse and Footsteps in Bay de Verde. The third finalist was Once Upon an Iceberg: Errol’s Twillingate Adventure by Sheilah Lukins. The jury chose Footsteps as the winner, but due to an administrative error, The Dollhouse was named the winner by mistake.

All this has taken a while to come to light and be corrected. But now it’s official: The winner is Footsteps in Bay de Verde, illustrated by Jenny Dwyer and published by Marnie Parsons at Newfoundland’s Running the Goat Books & Broadsides. Congratulations Marnie and Jenny!

One of the questions I often get from kids in schools is, “Which is your favourite book you’ve ever written?” I always answer the same way: “Have you ever asked your mother who is her favourite child? And what does she say?” Inevitably, the answer is “She says she loves us all the same.” I go on to explain that every book is my baby and I can’t choose my favourite. Although I usually add that you could say my favourite is the one I’m working on right now, because that’s where all my energy and imagination are going. (And right now that book is: Roxy Malone and the Shadow of Dread. Wait for it!). But all in all I like my books equally. I could never choose.

The Dollhouse and Footsteps are very different books: a novel and a picture book. Both mean a lot to me, in different ways. The Dollhouse was inspired by an exquisite Georgian mansion and two very special people. In a nutshell, there are ghosts, mysteries, waking dreams, an enchanted dollhouse, a family tragedy and a train crash.

Footsteps was a story I reimagined from a ghost story passed on to me by a wonderful storyteller and friend, Brian Walsh. He was the kind of storyteller that would have you laughing one minute and terrified the next. The book resonates with Brian’s memories and the Newfoundland tradition of sitting around the kitchen table telling tales. Jenny Dwyer’s haunting illustrations revealed a whole new level of the story to me.

I’ve been telling the Footsteps story in schools for years, scaring literally thousands of kids across Canada, but especially here in Newfoundland. Sadly, Brian died a few years ago, but he always said he’d come back to haunt me. Whenever I make kids jump or even scream at the scary parts of the story, and then we all laugh, I know that Brian’s spirit is not far away. This book is a tribute to him and to all the Newfoundland storytellers who have shared their tales over the years. The fact that Footsteps has now won the Newfoundland Book Award for 2022 is very fitting, and I’m sure Brian is having a good laugh at all the kerfuffle we went through to get here.

Here's what the jury said about Footsteps:

“An imaginative retelling of an old Newfoundland ghost story, Charis Cotter weaves the tale from a child’s point of view, as three children listen to grownups tell stories on a cold winter’s night. A true story, gently evoking the atmosphere of an outport Newfoundland kitchen a century ago. There’s a delightful lilt and wonderful pacing as events unfold. Beautiful spare writing. Authentic characters and pitch perfect dialogue. Spooky without being terrifying. An author’s note at the end explains where the story comes from, adding depth and interest, a bonus for adults and children wanting more. The book is beautifully designed with warm, realistic illustrations that give the look and feel of times past. A concise, well-rounded story written simply enough for children, yet eloquent and classic enough to appeal to adults. And in the end the question remains open – what really happened here? Truly mysterious.”

I am absolutely delighted that Footsteps has been recognized by the Bruneau Award and I want to thank everyone involved for their hard work in making these awards happen: the jury, all the staff at the Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador (WANL), the WANL Board, and the Literary Awards Committee. Thanks also to my fellow finalist, Sheila Lukins.

And thanks to the Bruneau family who have so generously supported this award for many years. Children's literature is alive and thriving in Newfoundland, and this award helps bring much-needed attention to the many top-notch children's books produced by Newfoundland writers, illustrators and publishers. Thank you everyone.

WANL has issued a press release telling the story of what happened in more detail. Here’s the link:

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