Illustrator Cynthia Nugent and author Tom Saunders with an original newspaper front page celebrating the 1969 moon landing at the I Want To Go To The Moon book launch in 2011.

Saunders ‘over the moon’ with book award

White Rock writer/musician receives junior readers' vote for I Want To Go To The Moon

Well-known White Rock multi-talent Tom Saunders has a new accolade.

The singer/composer/writer/humourist (each year he supplies the special lyrics for the White Rock Pantomime song The Wonderful Year We Fell In Love) is now the recipient of a 2013 Chocolate Lily Young Readers’ Choice Award for best picture book, for I Want To Go To The Moon.

The award, which each year honours the best children’s writers and illustrators in B.C., is based on votes from grade school students.

Children from kindergarten to Grade 3 across B.C. voted I Want To Go To The Moon ahead of its competition for the award, which was presented June 13 at a ceremony at Heath Elementary in Delta.

I Want To Go To The Moon, illustrated by Vancouver artist Cynthia Nugent, is based on a song written by Saunders which imagines the early life of NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong, who in 1969 became the first man to walk on the surface of the moon.

The text imagines the well-meaning advice of parents and friends who believe young Neil’s goal of journeying to the moon is hopeless – with the implicit message for children that it’s best to follow your dreams and not be dissuaded.

Saunders said he’s particularly pleased that the award was given on the basis of reaction from children to the book.

“That’s kind of nice – it’s like the people’s choice award for little folk,” he said.

“In a way, I kind of like that a touch more. It’s the intended audience, rather than someone adult looking at it analytically – or counting my spelling mistakes.”

Another unexpected accolade, he said was having the whole gym full of children at the school join him in singing the song.

“They just knew it – they drowned me out on the choruses,” he said.

The award, Saunders said, is “really another out-of-the-blue thing with this book – everything’s been a bonus with this thing.”

He recalled his surprise in first hearing from Nugent – who he’d met through the Vancouver Ukelele Circle – that she wanted to illustrate his song, originally written for a private album recorded to entertain the children of family members and friends.

“I thought, at the very least, I’d get a couple of sketches of hers that would illustrate the song, but to see the book published – every step of the way has been a bonus,” he said.

The book was also given the Vancouver Elementary Principals and Vice-Principals Association Award last May, he noted, adding that it appears the book, first published in 2011, may still be eligible for other awards for a while yet.

“I understand very little of these things.”

The award, a glass plaque cut in the shape of B.C., is actually named for an plant indigenous to the province, he said.

“It’s kind of a cool shape if you’re going to have a big chunk of broken glass lying around,” he said.

“But I also got some chocolate as well – I wasn’t leaving there without chocolate.”

I Want To Go To The Moon is published by Simply Read and is available at Kidsbooks and Chapters, all online retailers and at libraries.


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