Powell River Welcome

I’m just back from a couple of lovely days in beautiful Powell River, BC. I had been kindly invited by local librarian, Megan Cole, as part of their BC Author Series, where four BC writers were invited throughout the year to speak to Powell River audiences. I was delighted to be one of the four!

I flew up on a (teeny-tiny!) plane and spoke to an adult audience one evening and to audiences of children at Edgehill school the next day. Both age-groups seemed interested, engaged, and keen to talk about books. Many thanks to the library and school for thinking of me! And a big thank you to children’s librarian Sonia Zagwyn for arranging the school visit.

Powell River is a special place with a flourishing arts community. The new library is only two years old and is aesthetically pleasing and very welcoming to the public. I could happily live in that library, which is bright, decorated with local art and sculptures, and even has a small food and coffee bar that serves local and delicious items. Not only that, you are permitted to enjoy your food and drink at a table in the library as you read. It was wonderful!

Edgehill school was also a treat. It was so nice to meet the librarian Darcy Gesell, and to hear about the many interesting school programs in Powell River, and to see again principal Ian Landy, whose library in Lumby I had visited some years ago. The children in the audiences (from Grades 1 to 4) were enthusiastic and well-informed, and a real pleasure to meet.

All in all, a very good trip. Huge thanks to the Powell River folks who invited me into their warm and welcoming community. I hope to have the opportunity to return some day.

Book Launch!

Here’s the amazing Lisa Cinar and I signing books at our launch at Kidsbooks for Cooking with Bear.

Kidsbooks is a marvellous store and the best place in the world to have a book party! And Lisa Cinar knows how to bring the fun!

It was a wonderful night, with friends and family, hazelnut-chocolate chip cookies (made by Bear and I) and festive bubbly! A lovely time, indeed!

Huge thanks to everyone who came to help us celebrate. It made us happy!

Book Launch

I’m pleased to announce the launch for my new book Cooking with Bear. Please join illustrator, Lisa Cinar, and I in celebrating our latest collaboration. Fun, food and friends! An evening to enjoy. See you there!

Fall Festival Time

The rain outside my window is falling heavily now after days of bright sunshine and beautiful autumn foliage. We are clearly into the west coast rainy season.

It’s been a good time for literary festivals in our area over the last month or so and I’ve been pleased to both attend and present at some of them.

First up, was CapFest at Capilano University where they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their school. As part of the festival day, I was invited to kick off their storytelling series and speak to the public about what stories mean to me and to share some of the books I have written. It was lovely to see so many aspiring writers in the crowd!

Next, I attended the Vancouver Writers Festival and had the opportunity to listen to some talented children’s authors including: Christopher Paul Curtis, Susan Nielsen and Rachelle Delaney. It’s always inspiring to hear authors talk about their books and where their stories come from, and this was no exception. It was an excellent session!

And yesterday, I had the great pleasure of participating in Authorfest UBC, presenting to Education students as part of their Language and Literacy studies. This is one of my favourite audiences – all student teachers and keen to use books by local authors in their practicum classrooms. It’s always an enthusiastic group and a real privilege to be invited to speak to them.

Rainy days and books: Is there any better combination? I don’t think so. Happy fall reading!

Forest of Reading Celebration

I just got back from an exciting (and whirlwind!) few days in Toronto at the Forest of Reading festivities! Thousands of students gathered together at Harbourfront on the lake in a celebration of the books they had read and loved this year. It was an amazing sight to behold. Apparently, 270,000 school kids took part in the program (voting for their favourite books in a number of categories) and over 11,000 people attended the festivities. Those are impressive figures!

West Coast Wild didn’t win its category (that honour went to The Biggest Poutine in the World by Andree Poulin — Congratulations to her! ) but we weren’t too disappointed. During our signing session, Karen Reczuch and I had many children tell us they loved our book, and one boy told us it was the number one choice of his classroom. That made us happy!

A big thank you to the organizers of this magnificent event. Everything ran like clockwork! It was a lot of fun to catch up with author, illustrator and publishing colleagues from across Canada and even more marvellous to meet the kids who are reading our books.

Thanks to everyone involved in hosting this lovely celebration of books and reading. And a special and heartfelt thank you to Nour and Kyra, the wonderful students who held up our sign and introduced us to the massive audience of Silver Birch Express kids.

I am grateful for it all!

Richmond Heritage Fair

A big bouquet of thanks to the Richmond Heritage Fair for inviting me to speak to their students this week! It was lovely to meet all your keen and engaged students and to see their amazing Canadian history projects.

In my workshops, I was lucky to hear the topics that were on the minds of the kids I met. They included: multiculturalism and diversity, First Nations history, free healthcare, poutine and maple syrup, democratic government, immigration, the Japanese fishing industry, nature and clean air, and much, much more.

I also heard some very moving family stories about escaping from Vietnam on a small paddleboat under enemy fire, and what it was like settling into a Canadian school after emigrating from Egypt.

The students (from Grade 4-7) clearly knew their Canadian history. It was fascinating to hear their thoughts and impressions of our country’s past. In my workshops, we talked about the building of the CPR 150 years ago and how that event had shaped the growth of Canada, and also about Canadian immigration (past and present) and how our multicultural population makes this a wonderful place to live.

Grateful thanks to Christine McCrea from the Richmond Public Library and to Emily Ooi from the Richmond Museum for their kind invitation to participate in this marvellous day.

A warm thank you to Alicia Henríquez-Bull for generously sending her photos and story that were the inspiration for the students in my workshops.

Thanks also to Markus Fahrner for his loan of railway artifacts from the Port Moody Station Museum. The students loved feeling the weight of the heavy railway hammer. We were all amazed that the navvies would have swung this massive tool all day long as they hammered in the railway spikes.

And a heartfelt thank you to the students, teachers and other volunteer staff who made this day so special!

Award Presentation

On Tuesday night, the Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada presented Karen Reczuch (illustrator) and I with the Information Book Award — honouring the year’s “most outstanding” nonfiction book for children in Canada. It was given to us for West Coast Wild: A Nature Alphabet.

We couldn’t be more thrilled or grateful! Thank you to the Roundtable for this award and for establishing it all those years ago, highlighting the importance and value of nonfiction books for children. Thank you also to Kay Weisman, Chair of the award and to the jury who worked hard and read many books.

There was an amazing shortlist this year — books that ranged in style, topic, diversity, art, design and age-group. Any one of the books was deserving of this special award! Karen and I were honoured to see our book in such exceptional company.

We are also thankful to our publisher, Groundwood Books, who took a chance on what I thought was a regional manuscript, with limited appeal, and who allowed Karen and I to work together — something that is unusual in publishing these days. (Authors and illustrators are generally expected to communicate via their editor and art director, and not speak directly to one another.)

The presentation of our award at a celebration evening was lovely! Many of our friends in the children’s writing and illustrating community were there.

Thank you to everyone involved. We are so appreciative!

Celebrating Literacy with Vancouver Schools

It was a wonderful event yesterday at Shaughnessy Elementary, celebrating books with a big group of enthusiastic students from Vancouver schools.

The Vancouver Elementary Principals and Vice Principals Assocation (VEPVPA) chooses a book by a local author each year to donate to all Vancouver Schools. What an amazing show of support for literacy! And then students from every school, along with their teacher-librarians and school administrators, are invited to a celebration afternoon where they receive their book and get a chance to meet the author.

Karen Reczuch and I were fortunate to have our book, West Coast Wild, chosen this year. It is a such an honour and we are thrilled.

In addition to receiving a book, the children each get a chocolate gift and this year, it was in the shape of an orca whale (to match the ocean theme of our book). What fun!

Thank you so much to the VEPVPA for an amazing day and for their support of books for children in the schools!

Here are the student greeters handing out books as each child entered the library.


After the presentation, almost every student had a photograph taken with me. I loved meeting them all!


Here’s me holding my chocolate orca.


And here’s the book that the VEPVPA kindly selected this year as their choice for all the Vancouver schools. Thank you so much to everyone involved!


I have been busy visiting schools over the last couple of months and have greatly enjoyed speaking to the students I’ve met.

Even though the schools varied from one another in size, tone, composition, and geographical location, there has been a striking similarity in their enthusiasm for books and stories. The students were keen readers and writers, and eager creators of their own work. And there were many amazing librarians who had done a sensational job of directing students to excellent reading material.

It has been heartening to see the high-spirited literacy in action.

I love question time with the children because I never know what they will ask.

At a recent school, one young student asked me how old I was when I started writing books. I told him. Then a second student asked how many years I had been a writer. I gave that answer too. Then someone burst out: “I know how old you are!” and announced my age.

“You don’t look that old,” another student said. I smiled and said thank you. And we quickly moved on to the next question. 🙂

A virtual bouquet of flowers, and warm and sincere thanks to all the wonderful schools and teacher-librarians who invited me to visit this spring.

It’s been a privilege to meet you all!

Thank you, Crofton House!

I just spent a lovely morning at Crofton House School and wanted to say a sincere thank you to the teachers and students!

It was wonderful to meet you all and to hear about the alphabet books that the Grade 6 students are creating. It was fun to talk about my own experience writing an alphabet book — and to say that they aren’t as easy to write as they look. (Some of the students are also finding this out.) 🙂

I wish you the best of luck with your books and hope to see some of them when they are done.