The 2008 Governor General's Awards for Literary Merit: Finalists in 14 categories (73 books) were announced October 21, winners announced November 18.[1] The prize for writers and illustrators was $25,000 and "a specially bound copy of the winning book".[1]


The Canada Council for the Arts, the award program's administrator, faced some criticism around its nomination of the graphic novel Skim in the Children's Literature category. The nomination was credited to Mariko Tamaki, who wrote the graphic novel's text, but not to her cousin and co-creator Jillian Tamaki, who drew the illustrations.

Two prominent Canadian graphic novelists, Chester Brown and Seth, circulated an open letter to the Canada Council asking them to revise the nomination,[2] arguing that unlike a more traditional illustrated book, a graphic novel's text and illustration are inseparable parts of the work's narrative, and that both women should accordingly be credited as equal co-authors. Their letter was also endorsed by other prominent Canadian and American graphic novelists, including Lynda Barry, Dan Clowes, Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware and Julie Doucet, as well as by Chris Oliveros of Canadian comic and graphic novel publisher Drawn & Quarterly and Peter Birkemore of Toronto comic store The Beguiling.[3]

Melanie Rutledge, a spokesperson for the Canada Council, responded that it was too late to revise the nominations for the 2008 awards, but that the council would take the feedback into account in the future.[4]

The Canada Council later faced controversy over its selection of Jacob Scheier's More to Keep Us Warm. Di Brandt, one of the poetry award's jurors, was credited by Scheier as a friend and mentor in the book's creation, resulting in debate over whether Brandt should have recused herself from the judging panel.[5]


Category Winner Nominated
Fiction   Nino Ricci, The Origin of Species
Non-fiction   Christie Blatchford, Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army
  • Douglas Hunter, God's Mercies: Rivalry, Betrayal and the Dream of Discovery
  • Sid Marty, The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek
  • James Orbinski, An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action in the Twenty-first Century
  • Chris Turner, The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need
Poetry   Jacob Scheier, More to Keep Us Warm
Drama   Catherine Banks, Bone Cage
Children's literature   John Ibbitson, The Landing
Children's illustration   Stéphane Jorisch, The Owl and the Pussycat (Edward Lear)
French to English translation   Lazer Lederhendler, Nikolski (Nikolski, Nicolas Dickner)


Category Winner Nominated
Fiction   Marie-Claire Blais, Naissance de Rebecca à l'ère des tourments
Non-fiction   Pierre Ouellet, Hors-temps: poétique de la posthistoire
Poetry   Michel Pleau, La lenteur du monde
Drama   Jennifer Tremblay, La liste
Children's literature   Sylvie Desrosiers, Les trois lieues
Children's illustration   Janice Nadeau, Ma meilleure amie (Gilles Tibo)
English to French translation   Claire Chabalier and Louise Chabalier, Tracey en mille morceaux (The Tracey Fragments, Maureen Medved)


  1. ^ a b "Canada Council for the Arts announces finalists for the 2008 Governor General’s Literary Awards". News Releases – 2008. Canada Council ( October 21, 2008. Archived 2013-05-29. Retrieved 2015-08-20.
  2. ^ "Seth and Chester Brown's open letter to the Governor General's Literary Award"[dead link], National Post, November 13, 2008.
  3. ^ "Artist left out by awards" Archived 2012-11-05 at the Wayback Machine, Calgary Herald, November 15, 2008.
    Subtitle: "Canada's top graphic novelists, Chester Brown and Seth, have written an open letter to the Governor General's Literary Awards expressing concern that only one of the co-creators of the first graphic novel ever nominated has been recognized."
  4. ^ "Canada Council won't revisit graphic-novel nod", The Globe and Mail, November 14, 2008.
    Archived November 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine 2008-11-15. Retrieved 2015-08-20.
  5. ^ André Alexis, "Literary prizes and judgment calls", The Globe and Mail, November 29, 2008. (purchase required)
    Lead paragraph archived 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2015-08-20.[dead link]