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Retired Coquitlam teacher wins B.C. kids readers' choice award

Sophie Trophy by Coquitlam writer Eileen Holland clinches a provincial award for her début chapter book for children.

Just like Sophie, Eileen Holland is about to get a trophy.

This month, the Coquitlam writer of the young readers’ publication Sophie Trophy took the top prize in the 2021 Chocolate Lily Book Awards, in the chapter book/early novel category.

The accolade has a lot of meaning for Holland, a former elementary school teacher in Coquitlam, as her début work was voted on by children at B.C. schools participating in the award program.

In total, students had eight chapter books from B.C. authors to pick as their favourite this spring.

“I’m thrilled,” Holland told Tri-City News. “They had to vote on eight books by the end of April and they chose mine. Having a readers’ choice award means more than anything to me.”

Besides the glass trophy from the non-profit organization, Holland also hopes the recognition will see Sophie Trophy — and its follow-up Sophie Trophy Too — on shelves in more book stores and libraries.

Still, the provincial nod isn’t the only recent highlight for Holland.

Last month, she made the shortlist for The Joan Betty Stuchner — Oy Vey! — Funniest Children’s Book Award, in the chapter book category, competing against Gordon Korman (The Unteachables); Cynthia Nugent (Kiddo); Tanya Lloyd Kyi (Mya’s Strategy to Save the World); and Beverley Brenna (Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life).

Holland didn’t win the national book prize, announced on May 15 at a virtual presentation; however, she was pleased to be among the nominees — some of whom have published dozens of works for children. 

“It’s an honour to be included on this list.”

As for her next book in her Sophie series, Holland said she’s already got it off to her publisher Crwth Press for consideration.

And with the social distancing restrictions easing later this year as more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, Holland hopes to re-secure her book signings and readings that were cancelled just as the lockdown happened last spring.

In addition, she’s getting help from local writers and book stores including Chapters and Western Sky Books. Recently, Tamara Gorin of Western Sky Books was interviewed on CBC about being an independent book seller in Port Coquitlam and promoted the Sophie series.

“I’m getting wonderful support. I depend so much on them,” Holland said. “It’s really an amazing community.”