At the 19th annual Victoria Book Prize Gala, Esi Edugyan was awarded the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize for Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling (House of Anansi Press).  Wendy Proverbs won the City of Victoria Children’s Book Prize for Aggie & Mudgy: The Journey of Two Kaska Dena Children (Heritage House Publishing).

City of Victoria Children’s Book Prize

Wendy Proverbs

Aggie & Mudgy: The Journey of Two Kaska Dena Children
Heritage House Publishing

Juror Citation

Themes of family, love and courage weave through the tale of Aggie and Mudgy. Using traditional storytelling in her gentle, loving way, Nan teaches her granddaughter Maddy the truth about their past with the heartbreaking story of two sisters from long ago. Over several days, Nan recounts the journey of the young girls, who were forced to travel 1600 kilometres to residential school where they remained far from their family for over ten years. Author Wendy Proverbs has created a triumph of a book that honours her family’s history, all the while weaving a magical tale with memorable characters.

About this Work

Based on the true story of the author’s biological mother and aunt, this middle-grade novel traces the long and frightening journey of two Kaska Dena sisters as they are taken from their home to attend residential school.

When Maddy discovers an old photograph of two little girls in her grandmother’s belongings, she wants to know who they are. Nan reluctantly agrees to tell her the story, though she is unsure if Maddy is ready to hear it. The girls in the photo, Aggie and Mudgy, are two Kaska Dena sisters who lived many years ago in a remote village on the BC–Yukon border. Like countless Indigenous children, they were taken from their families at a young age to attend residential school, where they endured years of isolation and abuse.

As Nan tells the story, Maddy asks many questions about Aggie and Mudgy’s 1,600-kilometre journey by riverboat, mail truck, paddlewheeler, steamship, and train, from their home to Lejac Residential School in central BC. Nan patiently explains historical facts and geographical places of the story, helping Maddy understand Aggie and Mudgy’s transitional world. Unlike many books on this subject, this story focuses on the journey to residential school rather than the experience of attending the school itself. It offers a glimpse into the act of being physically uprooted and transported far away from loved ones. Aggie and Mudgy captures the breakdown of family by the forces of colonialism, but also celebrates the survival and perseverance of the descendants of residential school survivors to reestablish the bonds of family.

Wendy Proverbs is an emerging Indigenous author of Kaska Dena descent. She holds a BA and MA in anthropology from the University of Victoria. Like thousands of Indigenous people across Canada, as an infant she was caught in the sweeping scoop of Indigenous children taken from their birth families and was only reunited with biological family members as a young adult. She has acted as a community liaison with Indigenous communities and strives to help younger generations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, learn more about their past. 

Wendy Proverbs’ debut novel, Aggie and Mudgy: The Journey of Two Kaska Dena Children, is based on the true story of her biological mother and aunt. Aggie and Mudgy won the 2022 Jeanne Clarke Regional History Book Award and has been shortlisted for the 2023 Rocky Mountain Book Award and 2022/2023 First Nations Communities Read Award. 

City of Victoria Butler Book Prize

Esi Edugyan

Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling
House of Anansi Press

Juror Citation

Esi Edugyan’s Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling is a complex and wide-ranging book that explores points in art, literature, history and contemporary events where peoples of African descent have been erased; their narratives re-told, distorted, ignored–or even fabricated. A six-part Massey Lecture series, each essay considers a distinct location, piece or art or historical narrative to weave personal reflection and cultural analysis that reveals “the ways we have constructed and continue to construct race”.

About this Work

In the 2021 CBC Massey Lectures, two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize winner and internationally bestselling author, Esi Edugyan delivers a major work of nonfiction, and an incisive analysis of the relationship between race and art.

 History is a construction. What happens when we begin to consider stories at the margins, when we grant them centrality? How does that complicate our certainties about who we are, as individuals, as nations, as human beings? Through the lens of visual art, literature, film, and the author’s lived experience, Out of the Sun examines the depiction of Black histories in art, offering new perspectives to challenge the accepted narrative.

Esi Edugyan is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Victoria, and was raised in Calgary, Alberta. She is the award-winning and internationally bestselling author of Washington Black, which was a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Man Booker Award and won the Scotiabank Giller Prize; Half-Blood Blues, which was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Man Booker Prize and won the Scotiabank Giller Prize; and The Second Life of Samuel Tyne. She is also the author of Dreaming of Elsewhere, which is part of the Kreisel Memorial Lecture Series. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

City of Victoria Children’s Book Prize Finalists

Beavers: Radical Rodents and Ecosystem Engineers
Frances Backhouse
Publisher: Orca Wild

By cutting trees and building dams, beavers shape landscapes and provide valuable wetland homes for many plants and animals.

These radical rodents were once almost hunted to extinction for their prized fur, but today we are building a new relationship with them, and our appreciation of the benefits they offer as habitat creators and water stewards is growing. Packed with facts and personal stories, this book looks at the beaver’s biology and behavior and illuminates its vital role as a keystone species. The beaver’s comeback is one of North America’s greatest conservation success stories and Beavers: Radical Rodents and Ecosystem Engineers introduces readers to the conservationists, scientists and young people who are working to build a better future for our furry friends

White Raven
Teoni Spathelfer
Publisher: Heritage House Publishing

All grown up with a family of her own, Little Wolf moves from the big city to the island of her ancestors. She wants to share the beauty and mysteries of nature with her children, and she wants them to learn as much about their culture as possible. One day, Little Wolf’s mother, White Raven, visits and begins to tell her grandchildren stories from her own childhood. But the stories are not happy ones. As a child, White Raven left her family to attend St. Michael’s Residential School in Alert Bay, BC. While there, she experienced hunger, loneliness, shame, and isolation from her language and her culture. Even years later, as a grown woman and Elder, she has nightmares about her time at the school. But by sharing her story with Little Wolf and her grandchildren, White Raven begins to heal and brings the family closer together. Through simple, heartfelt text and vivid illustrations that combine contemporary and traditional Indigenous motifs, White Raven is an engaging teaching tool as well as a relatable narrative about the impact of intergenerational trauma on families. Based on the author’s own life and her mother’s residential school experience, the central message of this book is one of healing and family unity.

City of Victoria Butler Book Prize Finalists

On Borrowed Time: North America’s Next Big Quake
Gregor Craigie
Publisher: Goose Lane

Mention the word earthquake and most people think of California. But while the Golden State shakes on a regular basis, Washington State, Oregon, and British Columbia are located in a zone that can produce the world’s biggest earthquakes and tsunamis. In the eastern part of the continent, small cities and large, from Ottawa to Montréal to New York City, sit in active earthquake zones. In fact, more than 100-million North Americans live in active seismic zones, many of whom do not realize the risk to their community.

Arleen Paré

Publisher: Brick Books

The poems in First, Arleen Paré’s seventh collection, search for a long-lost first friend. They conjure the subtle layers of meaning in that early friendship to riff on to a search for how we might possibly understand the primal First: the beginnings of the cosmos that contains our own particular lives, beginnings and longings.

The Science and Spirit of Seaweed: Discovering Food, Medicine and Purpose in the Kelp Forests of the Pacific Northwest
Amanda Swinimer
Publisher: Harbour Publishing

Sustainable Pacific Northwest-based seaweed harvester Amanda Swinimer describes the ecology, culinary uses, evidence-based health benefits and climate change-resisting potential of seaweed and shares highlights from her remarkable life beneath the waves.

Related to the most ancient living organisms on earth, seaweeds are incredible and unique life forms, sharing qualities with both plants and animals, as well as fungi. They have been prized as a nutrient-dense food source for millennia and contain essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, protein and fibre as well as biologically active compounds not found anywhere else in nature. Seaweeds are also a source for innovations combating climate change due in part to their ability to absorb massive quantities of carbon dioxide.

Possessing Meares Island: a Historian’s Journey into the Past of Clayoquot Sound
Barry Gough
Publisher: Harbour Publishing

Centred on Meares Island, located near Tofino on Vancouver Island’s west coast, Possessing Meares Island weaves a unique history out of the mists of time by connecting eighteenth century Indigenous-colonial trade relations to more recent historical upheavals. Gough invites readers to enter a dramatic epoch of BC’s coastal history and watch the Nuu-chah-nulth nations spearhead the maritime sea otter trade, led by powerful chiefs like Wickaninnish and Maquinna. Eventually, Meares Island declines into an economic backwater due to overhunting the sea otter, the bloody Clayoquot War of 1855, and most importantly, the proxy of empire—the Hudson’s Bay Company—establishing colonial roots in nearby Victoria. Caught up in the tides of change, the Oregon Treaty of 1846 ushers in a new era as the island is officially declared property of the British Crown.

Gough bridges the gap between centuries as he describes how the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council draw on this complicated history of ownership to invoke their legal claim to the land and defend the majestic wilderness from the indiscriminate clear-cut saw. Possessing Meares Island will not only appeal to history buffs, but to anyone interested in a momentous triumph for Indigenous rights and environmental protection that echoes across the nation today.