SWCC Book Awards Winners

The Science Writers and Communicators of Canada is pleased to announce the winners of this year's book awards for books published in 2017. 

Science Writers and Communicators of Canada offer two annual book awards to honour outstanding contributions to science writing 1) intended for and available to children/middle grades ages 8-12 years, and 2) intended for and available to the general public. Books are judged on literary excellence and scientific content and accuracy. In addition the two book juries look for initiative, originality, clarity of interpretation, relevance and value in promoting greater understanding of science by the general reader. The independent juries are composed of writers, scientists and members of the intended audience. Winners receive a certificate and cash prize of $1,000 that will be presented during Science Literacy Week in September. 


youth book winner


The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw'ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson) | illustrated by Natasha Donovan 

Portage & Main Press, High Water Press

To the Gitxsan people of Northwestern British Columbia, the sockeye salmon is more than just a source of food. Over its life cycle, it nourishes the very land and forests that the Skeena River runs through and where the Gitxsan make their home. The Sockeye Mother explores how the animals, water, soil, and seasons are all intertwined.

Brett D. Husonis from the Gitxsan Nation, an Indigenous people from an unceded territory in the Northwest Interior of British Columbia, Canada. For the past decade, Brett has worked in the film and television industry, and has volunteered for such organizations as Ka Ni Kanichihk and Indigenous Music Manitoba.

Growing up in a strong matrilineal society, Brett experienced and learned about the culture, land, and political landscape he was born into. From this came a passion to create and share the knowledge and stories of his people, which reflect the importance of environmental balance and a cultural knowledge that spans thousands of years.

The jury for this award was: 

Teresa MacDonald

Middle School Math/Science Teacher

The York School, Toronto


Neelam Mal (Grade 6 Teacher)

Student Services

Twelve Mile Coulee School, Calgary


Eileen van der Flier-Kelle

Teaching Professor

Dept of Earth Sciences

Simon Fraser University, Vancouver


Romilla Karnick

Documentary Producer

New York, New York


Jury Chair:

David McKay

Communications Dept.

Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto

general book winner


Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future by Edward Struzik

Island Press

For two months in the spring of 2016, the world watched as wildfire ravaged the Canadian town of Fort McMurray. Firefighters named the fire “the Beast.” It acted like a mythical animal, alive with destructive energy, and they hoped never to see anything like it again. Yet it’s not a stretch to imagine we will all soon live in a world in which fires like the Beast are commonplace. A glance at international headlines shows a remarkable increase in higher temperatures, stronger winds, and drier lands– a trifecta for igniting wildfires like we’ve rarely seen before.

This change is particularly noticeable in the northern forests of the United States and Canada. These forests require fire to maintain healthy ecosystems, but as the human population grows, and as changes in climate, animal and insect species, and disease cause further destabilization, wildfires have turned into a potentially uncontrollable threat to human lives and livelihoods.

Our understanding of the role fire plays in healthy forests has come a long way in the past century. Despite this, we are not prepared to deal with an escalation of fire during periods of intense drought and shorter winters, earlier springs, potentially more lightning strikes and hotter summers. There is too much fuel on the ground, too many people and assets to protect, and no plan in place to deal with these challenges.

In 
Firestorm, journalist Edward Struzik visits scorched earth from Alaska to Maine, and introduces the scientists, firefighters, and resource managers making the case for a radically different approach to managing wildfire in the 21st century. Wildfires can no longer be treated as avoidable events because the risk and dangers are becoming too great and costly. Struzik weaves a heart-pumping narrative of science, economics, politics, and human determination and points to the ways that we, and the wilder inhabitants of the forests around our cities and towns, might yet flourish in an age of growing megafires.


Edward Struzikhas been writing about scientific and environmental issues for more than 30 years. A fellow at the Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, his numerous accolades include the prestigious Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy and the Sir Sandford Fleming Medal, awarded for outstanding contributions to the understanding of science. In 1996 he was awarded the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and spent a year at Harvard and MIT researching environment, evolutionary biology, and politics with E.O. Wilson, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin. His 2015 book, Future Arctic, focuses on the effects of climate change in the Canadian Arctic and the impacts they will have on rest of the world. His other books include Arctic Icons, The Big Thaw, and Northwest Passage. He is an active speaker and lecturer, and his work as a regular contributor to Yale Environment 360 covers topics such as the effects of climate change and fossil fuel extraction on northern ecosystems and their inhabitants. He is on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, a citizens’ organization dedicated to the long-term environmental and social well-being of northern Canada and its peoples. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

The jury for this award was: 

Annie Locas

Technical Food Safety Specialist 

Gatineau, QC


Kelly Crowe

Journalist CBC

Toronto ON


Jim Davies

Cognitive Scientist, Playwright, Artist, and Author, Carlton University

Ottawa ON


Mark Winston

Biologist and Writer, Simon Fraser University

Vancouver, BC


Jury Chair:

Veronique Morin

Journalist

Québec, Québec












Youth Book Shortlist 


The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson)illustrated by Natasha Donovan

Portage & Main Press, High Water Press

To the Gitxsan people of Northwestern British Columbia, the sockeye salmon is more than just a source of food. Over its life cycle, it nourishes the very land and forests that the Skeena River runs through and where the Gitxsan make their home. The Sockeye Mother explores how the animals, water, soil, and seasons are all intertwined.



Biometrics By Maria Birmingham and Ian Turner

Owlkids

Biometrics — the science of using the body to identify a person — is everywhere, not just in science fiction, but in everyday life. Today, biometrics is on the cutting edge of security. It’s used for access into banks and airports, as well as to keep money and personal information safe. Methods like fingerprinting and retinal scanning might be more familiar, but biometrics can also identify people based on ear shape, scent, vein pattern, and much more. 

This book explores nine biometrics in detail, explaining how each works, where it’s used, its pros and cons, and how it compares to other techniques. It also discusses privacy, security, why we need methods of identification, and touches on biometrics of the future. Engaging and colorful design and playful illustrations alongside surprising anecdotes, historical context, and humor make this an enjoyable, in-depth look at a hot topic. Informational text features include sidebars, diagrams, sources, a glossary and an index.


Eyes and Spies: How You’re Tracked and Why You Should Know by Tanya Lloyd Kyi,illustrated by Belle Wuthrich

Annick Press

Who is watching you . . . and why?

Social media and the internet are great for sharing information, meeting new friends, and exchanging points of view. But they also make it very easy to find out everything about you—including things you may not want others to know. This book asks three simple questions: Who’s watching, and why? Where is the line between public and private? How can you keep your secrets to yourself?

Eyes and Spieslooks at the way information and data is collected and used by individuals, governments, companies, and organizations. Each chapter covers one aspect of the subject, from data collection to computer surveillance and personal privacy. Arguments for both increased security and increased privacy are offered, encouraging readers to think critically about the issues. “Creepy Line” sidebars highlight controversial real-life scenarios, often involving youth. “Action Alert” entries explain how to find out more about the implications of surveillance and data mining. Other topics include how students are tracked at school, cyberbullying, and online safety.


Rewinding:Giving Nature a Second Chance by Ann Love and Jane Drake

Annick Press

It’s not too late! The natural world can still be healed.

Rewilding is an important environmental movement to restore habitats to their natural state. By reintroducing native plant species, we also protect the wildlife that depends on them for food. In this comprehensive look at rewilding, the authors present examples from around the world where endangered animals have been returned to their natural habitats. From pandas and peregrine falcons to jaguars and wolves, the stories of these animals testify to the fact that with good management, the extinction of species can be avoided. This book also relates how cities have begun to create new habitats for animals and plants everywhere from tiny rooftop gardens to huge parks on disused land. This timely book filled with striking photos is for anyone who cares about nature and the environment.


What a Waste!Where Does Garbage Go? by Claire Eamer illustrated by Bambi Edlund

Annick Press

Hold your nose!

Yes, garbage is disgusting, but it’s also fascinating. Piles of garbage dating back to prehistory reveal how people lived, what they ate, and how they prepared their food. But garbage is also a problem. From leaving it in ancient caves to dumping it at the very edge of space, people have always had the challenge of what to do with it. And now that challenge has reached epic proportions as the world runs out of places to throw garbage away.

What a Waste! delves into the weird and fascinating world of garbage, covering topics like water pollution, modern “throwaway” culture, landfills, human waste, and recycling. The highly visual treatment with lots of sidebars and humorous illustrations makes this an engaging, kid-friendly introduction to an important issue.

Readers will find answers to questions like: Why is there so much garbage? What are the different kinds of garbage? Are some worse than others?, and Is there still time to clean up the mess? Fortunately, the answer is yes—and this book looks at the efforts being made around the world to do so.


General Audience Shortlist


Firestorm

How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future by Edward Struzik

Island Press


For two months in the spring of 2016, the world watched as wildfire ravaged the Canadian town of Fort McMurray. Firefighters named the fire “the Beast.” It acted like a mythical animal, alive with destructive energy, and they hoped never to see anything like it again. Yet it’s not a stretch to imagine we will all soon live in a world in which fires like the Beast are commonplace. A glance at international headlines shows a remarkable increase in higher temperatures, stronger winds, and drier lands– a trifecta for igniting wildfires like we’ve rarely seen before.

This change is particularly noticeable in the northern forests of the United States and Canada. These forests require fire to maintain healthy ecosystems, but as the human population grows, and as changes in climate, animal and insect species, and disease cause further destabilization, wildfires have turned into a potentially uncontrollable threat to human lives and livelihoods.

Our understanding of the role fire plays in healthy forests has come a long way in the past century. Despite this, we are not prepared to deal with an escalation of fire during periods of intense drought and shorter winters, earlier springs, potentially more lightning strikes and hotter summers. There is too much fuel on the ground, too many people and assets to protect, and no plan in place to deal with these challenges.

In Firestorm, journalist Edward Struzik visits scorched earth from Alaska to Maine, and introduces the scientists, firefighters, and resource managers making the case for a radically different approach to managing wildfire in the 21st century. Wildfires can no longer be treated as avoidable events because the risk and dangers are becoming too great and costly. Struzik weaves a heart-pumping narrative of science, economics, politics, and human determination and points to the ways that we, and the wilder inhabitants of the forests around our cities and towns, might yet flourish in an age of growing megafires.



The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save the World

by David R. Boyd

ECW Press

An important and timely recipe for hope for humans and all forms of life

Palila v Hawaii. New Zealand’s Te Urewera ActSierra Club v Disney. These legal phrases hardly sound like the makings of a revolution, but beyond the headlines portending environmental catastrophes, a movement of immense import has been building — in courtrooms, legislatures, and communities across the globe. Cultures and laws are transforming to provide a powerful new approach to protecting the planet and the species with whom we share it.

Lawyers from California to New York are fighting to gain legal rights for chimpanzees and killer whales, and lawmakers are ending the era of keeping these intelligent animals in captivity. In Hawaii and India, judges have recognized that endangered species — from birds to lions — have the legal right to exist. Around the world, more and more laws are being passed recognizing that ecosystems — rivers, forests, mountains, and more — have legally enforceable rights. And if nature has rights, then humans have responsibilities.

In The Rights of Nature, noted environmental lawyer David Boyd tells this remarkable story, which is, at its heart, one of humans as a species finally growing up. Read this book and your world view will be altered forever.



The Vaccine Race

Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease

By Meredith Wadman

Penguin Random House

The epic and controversial story of a major breakthrough in cell biology that led to the conquest of rubella and other devastating diseases. 
 
Until the late 1960s, tens of thousands of American children suffered crippling birth defects if their mothers had been exposed to rubella, popularly known as German measles, while pregnant; there was no vaccine and little understanding of how the disease devastated fetuses. In June 1962, a young biologist in Philadelphia, using tissue extracted from an aborted fetus from Sweden, produced safe, clean cells that allowed the creation of vaccines against rubella and other common childhood diseases. Two years later, in the midst of a devastating German measles epidemic, his colleague developed the vaccine that would one day wipe out homegrown rubella. The rubella vaccine and others made with those fetal cells have protected more than 150 million people in the United States, the vast majority of them preschoolers. The new cells and the method of making them also led to vaccines that have protected billions of people around the world from polio, rabies, chicken pox, measles, hepatitis A, shingles and adenovirus.
 
Meredith Wadman’s masterful account recovers not only the science of this urgent race, but also the political roadblocks that nearly stopped the scientists. She describes the terrible dilemmas of pregnant women exposed to German measles and recounts testing on infants, prisoners, orphans, and the intellectually disabled, which was common in the era. These events take place at the dawn of the battle over using human fetal tissue in research, during the arrival of big commerce in campus labs, and as huge changes take place in the laws and practices governing who “owns” research cells and the profits made from biological inventions. It is also the story of yet one more unrecognized woman whose cells have been used to save countless lives.
 
With another frightening virus imperiling pregnant women on the rise today, no medical story could have more human drama, impact, or urgency today than The Vaccine Race.



Rise of the Necrofauna

The Science, Ethics, and Risks of De-Extinction

by Britt Wray

Greystone Books

Jurassic Park meets The Sixth Extinctionin Rise of the Necrofauna, a provocative look at de-extinction from acclaimed documentarist and science writer Britt Wray.

What happens when you try to recreate a woolly mammoth—fascinating science, or conservation catastrophe?

In Rise of the Necrofauna, Wray takes us deep into the minds and labs of some of the world’s most progressive thinkers to find out. She introduces us to renowned futurists like Stewart Brand and scientists like George Church, who are harnessing the powers of CRISPR gene editing in the hopes of “reviving” extinct passenger pigeons, woolly mammoths, and heath hens. She speaks with Nikita Zimov, who together with his eclectic father Sergey, is creating Siberia’s Pleistocene Park—a daring attempt to rebuild the mammoth’s ancient ecosystem in order to save earth from climate disaster. Through interviews with these and other thought leaders, Wray reveals the many incredible opportunities for research and conservation made possible by this emerging new field.

But we also hear from more cautionary voices, like those of researcher and award-winning author Beth Shapiro (How to Clone a Woolly Mammoth) and environmental philosopher Thomas van Dooren. Writing with passion and perspective, Wray delves into the larger questions that come with this incredible new science, reminding us that de-extinction could bring just as many dangers as it does possibilities. What happens, for example, when we bring an “unextinct” creature back into the wild? How can we care for these strange animals and ensure their comfort and safety—not to mention our own? And what does de-extinction mean for those species that are currently endangered? Is it really ethical to bring back an extinct passenger pigeon, for example, when countless other birds today will face the same fate?

By unpacking the many biological, technological, ethical, environmental, and legal questions raised by this fascinating new field, Wray offers a captivating look at the best and worst of resurrection science.



Matters of Life and Death

Public Health Issues in Canada

By: Andre Picard

Douglas & McIntyre

Respected health reporter André Picard tackles the nation’s most pressing public health topics.

Health issues have long occupied top headlines in Canadian media, and no journalist has written on public health with more authority or for as many years as André Picard. Matters of Life and Deathcollects Picard's most compelling columns, covering a broad range of topics including Canada's right-to-die law, the true risks of the Zika virus, the financial challenges of a publicly funded health system, appalling health conditions in First Nations communities, the legalization of marijuana, the social and economic impacts of mental illness, and the healthcare challenges facing transgender people.

The topic of health touches on the heart of society, intersecting with many aspects of private and public life—human rights, aging, political debate, economics and death. With his reporting, Picard demonstrates the connection between physical health and the health of society as a whole, provides the facts to help readers make knowledgeable health choices, and acts as a devoted advocate for those whose circumstances bar them from receiving the care they need.

Providing an antidote to widespread fear-mongering and misinformation, Matters of Life and Deathis essential reading for anyone with an investment in public health topics—in other words, everyone.


The winners will be announced in June and the awards will be presented during 

Science Literacy Week in September, 2018

 Science Writers and Communicators of Canada offers two annual book awards to honour outstanding contributions to science writing 1) intended for and available to children/middle grades ages 8-12 years, and 2) intended for and available to the general public. Competitors must be Canadian citizens or residents of Canada, but need not be members of the SWCC. Entries, in either French or English, must have been published in Canada during the 2017 calendar year. 

The prize for each award is $1,000 and the presentations will take place in the authors hometowns during Science Literacy Week.

Judging Criteria

Entries may deal with aspects of basic or applied science or technology, historical or current, in any area including health, social or environmental issues, regulatory trends etc.

Books will be judged on literary excellence and scientific content and accuracy. Specific judging criteria will include initiative, originality, clarity of interpretation and value in promoting greater understanding of science by the general reader.

Books must be understandable to the layperson or children, with appropriate clarification of medical and scientific terminology, and an orderly marshalling of facts.

Also the subject matter should be significant and relevant for the majority of the public or children, and so presented that it increases public awareness. 

Rules for Submissions

Include a fully completed entry form with each submission

Submit a brief biography of the author(s)

6 copies are required for judging purposes

Entry must have been published in Canada during the 2017 calendar year

Entries should be received at the SWCC National Office by Dec 15, 2017

Entries failing to comply with these rules will be rejected. For more information please phone the SWCC office at 1-800-796-8595, or email office@sciencewriters.ca

All entries become the property of the SWCC

English Entry Form available here


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