Ten Birds net Governor General's Award
Canada: Hillcrest resident wins prestigious award for children's book
Professional artist and Hillcrest-area resident Cybele Young's latest career move has paid off with a Governor General's Award.
Young won the prestigious award in the Children's Literature - Illustration category for her book Ten Birds.
The work tells the story of 10 birds who are faced with the task of crossing a river. While none of the birds can fly, they each find their own way across.
The birds themselves bear names that effectively double as labels, ranging from "Exceptional" and "Remarkable" to "Needs Improvement".
Their solutions in crossing the river range from overly elaborate to extremely simple, though each makes it across in due time, demonstrating that, while each individual has his or her own way of thinking, that does not make any one person better than another.
Young noted that, as a mother, she has seen children who are often pigeon-holed due to their mind's workings.
"Our education system has good and bad points, but it's definitely not a perfect system," she said. "You can see kids who you know are quite brilliant but who do things their own way."
While the story is ostensibly for children, it has had an impact on readers of all ages. Young said she has heard of young children who - after first expressing skepticism over the book's black and white pen-and-ink illustrations - request the book night after night. Perhaps more touching, however, is the reaction she has received from some parents who have read Ten Birds to their children.
"Adults will come up to me and talk about their own personal experiences dealing with a learning disability and some have said they cried when the last bird went across," she said.
Young started drawing the illustrations 16 years ago and did not decide to turn them into a book until more than a decade later. In the meantime, she has worked extensively as a sculptor, creating pieces out of fine Japanese papers. She has exhibited her works around the world and sells them to clients locally.
While sculpture was her first love, the Ontario College of Art and Design grad noted her art has typically evoked certain narratives. She pointed out that, by getting involved in the world of literature, she is opening up her creative side to many who would never experience her sculpture.
"I absolutely adore (sculpture) but people can take themselves very seriously in the art world, and I can see that but it doesn't resonate with me," she said. "Books are a way of communicating with a larger audience while visual art is usually limited to a certain group of people. Writing (children's books) is sort of the antidote to the seriousness of the art world for me."
Ten Birds was Young's first book, though a second, titled A Few Blocks, was released shortly after her debut novel came out. She was also nominated for a Governor General's Award for children's illustration in 2000 for Pa's Harvest.
With her newfound success, Young plans on writing more while maintaining her career as a sculptor.
"Every time you break out from doing what people know you for, it's very challenging and risky," she said. "I'm so happy being able to do both books and fine art."
She finds the Hillcrest community she calls home a perfect spot for someone so invested in the arts.
"I'm completely in love with it; for me, it's the best place to live on earth," she said. "I think (the neighbourhood) has one of the highest percentages of self-employed creatives anywhere, so you have so many people working on their own schedules who really understand each other. There's a real creative vein that runs down Shaw (Street), with lots of pedestrians, and every time I walk down it, I get inspired."
Ten Birds and A Few Blocks are available at bookstores and online retailers.
Source: Inside Toronto.com