We’re so happy to announce that Dear Peter, Dear Ulla by Barbara Nickel Wins the High Plains Book Award for their Children’s Books Category! 

The High Plains Books Awards recognize regional authors and/or literary works which examine and reflect life on the High Plains. The High Plains region includes Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

DEAR PETER, DEAR ULLA (Thistledown Press) 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 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.

To learn more, check out https://www.highplainsbookawards.org/2021-winners-2/