Renegade takes top publishing prizes

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Canmore-based Renegade Arts Entertainment recently received two awards for one of its graphic novels.

The Book Publishers Association of Alberta (BPAA) awarded The Loxleys and Confederation with the Children and Young Adult Book of the Year and Best Illustration during the Alberta Book Publishing Awards gala in Calgary, Sept. 16.

The Loxleys and Confederation, written by Alexander Finbow, Canadian military historian Mark Zuehlke and University of Manitoba Native Studies professor Nigaanwewidam Sinclair, tells the story of Canadian confederation as seen through the eyes of a fictional family, the Loxleys. Its predecessor, The Loxleys and the War of 1812, won the Children and Young Adult Book of the Year in 2014.

Finbow, who is also Renegade Arts’ editor and publisher, said the award affirms that good storytelling and finding ways to help readers connect emotionally with the characters is the right approach when it comes to telling stories about Canada’s history.

“It’s nice to have the awards recognition for the book because it is a gamble to try and weave a compelling narrative on a subject that can be as dry as the politics of a country coming together,” Finbow said. “I know it has struck a chord with readers who have picked it up already, so it’s nice to see industry recognition.”

On its website, the BPAA said the jury chose The Loxleys and Confederation as the Children and Young Adult Book of the Year for its ambition and scope and for Renegade’s effort to include the Indigenous perspective. The Best Illustration award recognizes the work of artist Claude St. Aubin, a member of the Canadian Comic Book Hall of Fame.

“The graphic novel has an amazing attention to detail and a good team effort to the writing, design and publishing,” the BPAA stated. “It is well written, researched, beautifully illustrated and very appropriate to its target audience. The jury was quick to praise the Indigenous consultation and important inclusion of an Indigenous perspective to confederation. One juror commented that she had given it to her grandchild, and to see his eyes light up at Canadian history was the best thing she could say about a book every student should have access to.”

While all of the jury’s comments resonate with Finbow, he said the last two carry the most weight.

Finbow has long been a champion of using comic books and graphic novels as a vehicle to promote literacy and to share history. He is also passionate about also giving Indigenous writers and artists an opportunity to tell their own stories.

Renegade first took those step with The Loxleys and the War of 1812 by consulting with Indigenous people and historians and deepened it altogether by inviting Sinclair and Zuehlke to join the writing team.

“One of the nice things about this book is it is very collaborative. The three of us worked together, with Mark (Zuehlke) being an expert and pulling the history together and Nigaan (Sinclair) bringing in the Indigenous viewpoint and weaving that narrative into the story.”

Finbow said Renegade plans to continue using the Loxleys as a vehicle to tell stories rooted in Canadian history, at least where it is appropriate.

“It’s a great vehicle for exploring history; not all history, but where history allows that family dynamic to come into it,” he said.

One avenue where the Loxleys won’t fit is with Indigenous stories told by Indigenous writers and artists, much like what the Renegade Arts did with Arctic Comics, which was launched earlier this year to great acclaim.

Along with the two BPAA awards, Renegade saw three of its titles – Underworld, Redcoats-ish and Arctic Comics – included among a list prepared by CBC earlier this summer of 15 Canadian comics that would be ideal for readers new to comic books and graphic novels.

The U.S. Science Fiction Book Club also recently included one of Renegade’s other notable publications, Shame, in its list of titles.

Initially released as a trilogy, Shame is set for release as a single hardcover edition that Finbow describes as “224-pages of awesomeness and beautiful storytelling.”

Shame, written by Lovern Kindzierski and illustrated by John Bolton, is the story about the evil that is unleashed when the purest woman in the world has a single impure thought.

The hardcover edition will be available in Café Books starting Sept. 28.

“That was the original plan,” Finbow said of the hardcover edition. “It’s the kind of story that should be in a beautiful hardcover. As nice as it is in the softcovers, it is a proper epic story, and it demands the hard-cover treatment.”

It makes sense to publish the trilogy as a single hardcover from a business sense as it becomes practical to stock it in bookstores and not just comic book stores.

“The individual graphic novels are too small and the spines are too thin for bookshelves. So most bookstores wouldn’t even try to stock them,” said Finbow. “This is the first time the bookstore reader is going to be exposed to the world of Shame.”

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