DEAR PETER, DEAR ULLA by Barbara Nickel (Thistledown Press) and BOY FROM BUCHENWALD by Robbie Waisman with Susan McClelland (Bloomsbury US) are both finalists for the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize in the 2022 BC and Yukon Book Prizes! Established in 1985, the BC and Yukon Book Prizes work to recognize and promote the achievements of the book community in BC and Yukon through the BC and Yukon Book Prizes and related programs. The prizes will be awarded at the BC and Yukon Book Prize Gala in September.


Dear Peter, Dear Ulla is an imaginative and beautifully crafted historical middle-grade novel about two cousins who are fast friends even though they have never met. Letters fly back and forth between them, and although Ulla lives in Danzig, Germany, and Peter on a Mennonite farm in Saskatchewan, their lives become inextricably entwined through an intense, empathetic connection that plays out in the first months of World War Two. Peter is a talented pianist and Ulla a skillful storyteller with a talent for drawing—will these skills help or hinder them through the challenges brought about by war? They can’t think of one another as enemies, even though that’s what the world is telling them that they are. Unfolding in alternating chapters, suspense builds as suspicion mounts all around both young protagonists. Will German-speaking Mennonites on the Canadian prairies be accused of sympathizing with the Nazis? Is Peter safe from the bully who despises him for playing music instead of hockey? Will the Nazis catch Ulla in the act of helping a Jewish friend? Will Ulla’s father lose his job entirely because of his views? These urgent questions, and the danger the war will sever the deep connection between Peter and Ulla, will keep young readers enthralled through this deft weaving of complex cultural and moral questions, told here with energy, humour, and empathy. Throughout the novel, the character Ulla sends her cousin Peter drawings she has done along with her letters. These pictures include a battleship attacking the city of Danzig, crowds greeting Hitler on his visit there, other family members, and the basement her family hides in during bombardment. The book’s illustrations will depict these drawings.

Barbara Nickel grew up in Saskatchewan and attended Goshen College in Indiana, where she studied music (violin) and English literature. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, where she also taught. Barbara has published acclaimed books for both adults and young people. Her children’s titles include Hannah Waters and the Daughter of Johann Sebastian Bach, which won a B.C. Book Prize and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award, as well as a picture book, A Boy Asked the Wind, which was a finalist for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award. Barbara lives in Yarrow, British Columbia, with her husband and two sons. Barbara is represented by Amy Tompkins.


It was 1945 and Romek Wajsman had just been liberated from Buchenwald, a brutal concentration camp where more than 60,000 people were killed. He was starving, tortured, and had no idea where his family was-let alone if they were alive. Along with 472 other boys, including Elie Wiesel, these teens were dubbed “The Buchenwald Boys.” They were angry at the world for their abuse, and turned to violence: stealing, fighting, and struggling for power. Everything changed for Romek and the other boys when Albert Einstein and Rabbi Herschel Schacter brought them to a home for rehabilitation.

Susan McClelland is a freelance magazine journalist based in Toronto. She has won and been nominated for numerous investigative reporting and feature-writing awards, and is the recipient of the 2005 Amnesty International Media Award. Susan is represented by Rob Firing.

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