Two Victoria authors win prizes at book awards gala

Two Victoria authors were awarded $5,000 each during the 2017 Victoria Book Prize Awards Gala at the Union Club on Wednesday night.

Author Yasuko Thanh won the 14th annual Victoria Butler Book Prize for Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains, set in historical Vietnam’s chaotic streets and overflowing with busy markets, filthy opium dens and angry ghosts.

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Margriet Ruurs was named the winner of the 10th annual Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize for Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey.

The picture book, inspired by the stone artwork of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr, used pieces he had created to tell the story of the Syrian refugee crisis. The story is told through Rama and her family, forced to flee their once peaceful village and walk to “freedom” in Europe to escape the ravages of a civil war.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and event sponsor Brian Butler awarded Thanh with her cash prize and Samantha Holmes from Bolen Books awarded Ruurs at the gala MCed by former CBC journalist Jo-Ann Roberts. Badr was unable to attend, but Ruurs shared the prize with him.

Mel Bolen founded the Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize 10 years ago with the goal of providing authors and illustrators a chance for greater recognition.

Before winning the Journey Prize for her short story Floating Like the Dead in 2009, Thanh, a University of Victoria graduate, earned her living many ways including as a busker, bed-and-breakfast operator, and panhandler. She is in the punk band 12 Gauge.

Ruurs is the author of many award-winning books for children. She enjoys speaking about reading and writing to students at schools around the world. Her adventures have taken her to many countries, including Myanmar, Pakistan, Laos and Tanzania.

Victoria’s poet laureate, Yvonne Blomer, and youth poet laureate, Maita Cienska, opened the evening with a poetry reading.

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