Books & Writing

A Story of Spring

Many of us are in the midst of a very cold winter, donning mitts and wielding snow shovels, and looking ahead to warmer days.

We on the west coast, however, have kindly been spared the Arctic temperatures of other places.  We’re grateful to see the sunshine and blue sky today, although the air is not yet close to spring temperatures. (Update: Actually, it snowed a lot the day after I posted this!)

Why the talk of spring? There’s a new book on the horizon and it’s a spring story. Cooking with Bear will be released on April 1 and the illustrator, Lisa Cinar, and I are feeling like expectant parents, happily anticipating our newborn’s arrival.

This illustration is from the opening page of the book. It shows Bear looking outside of his den window and seeing the sunshine and green all around. He’s delighted that spring is finally here. (It’s been a long cold winter in his forest.) He can hardly wait to gather some fresh plants of spring and get cooking with his friend, Fox.

Lisa and I will be delighted when spring arrives, too, especially when we get to hold our brand new book in our hands.

Nature Book Nook


I was delighted to see a mention of West Coast Wild in a review of nature books posted on Twitter and Facebook by Nature Book Nook, a group from Portland that is dedicated to finding and exploring great nature books for kids. I hadn’t heard of the group previously but I will definitely follow them now. I’m always happy to see books that celebrate nature.

And if you’re interested, here are the kind words they posted:

“As residents of the Pacific Northwest, West Coast Wild: A Nature Alphabet by Deborah Hodge and also illustrated by Karen Reczuch, struck in us the desire to explore more of our region – while we live in Portland, Oregon, the landscape and flora/fauna presented in this book is from coastal British Columbia. From A (for Ancient Forests) to Z (for Intertidal Zone), each letter of the alphabet brings alive just one part of this ecoregion (a temperate rainforest), which taken altogether create the whole of a wild landscape. Humans show only twice – one figure craning their head high to peer up at the tree canopy at the beginning of the book and two children exploring along a sandy coastline at the end. With all the species of plants and animals (both marine and terrestrial) shared in between, West Coast Wild is a reminder that there is much more going on in our world than each of us will ever be able to experience. Where we encounter nature, whether in an ancient forest or along an intertidal zone, we we are only scratching the surface – and the more wild we allow some spaces to remain, the better.”

A big thank you to Nature Book Nook!

Fall Books

My friends have been busy! It is fall book season and I’ve been attending launches of talented local writers to hear about their new books. It’s exciting to have my desk piled high with copies of their original and compelling stories.

What am I reading? Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey is a story for kids about how the idea of Frankenstein came to young Mary Shelley in a dream. The story is wonderfully accessible for younger readers and is full of amazing art by Julia Sarda.

Lost Boy by Shelley Hrdlitschka is a sequel to her earlier work, Sister Wife. Both are stories of a polygamous community similar to that in Bountiful, BC. Each features a teen protaganist and how their experience is shaped by their time in the repressive community. Sister Wife describes young girls who must marry men with many wives, and Lost Boy features teen boys who are banished from the community. Powerful stuff!

Other local fall books I’ve been enjoying or looking forward to reading include: Dodger Boy by Sarah Ellis (a story that takes place during the time when American draft dodgers found sanctuary in Canada), Miles to Go by Beryl Young (a Saskatchewan story set in the 1940s) and No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen (about a young boy who lives in a camper van with his mother).

What a creative, prolific bunch out here on the west coast!

Congratulations to them all!


Culinary Adventures for Kids

For the last year or so, I’ve been hard at work on a combination story and cookbook for young readers. It’s been oodles of fun, spending much time in the kitchen, both on my own and with the eager kids in my family, testing out all sorts of yummy recipes. The work has almost wrapped up and the book is about to go to print, with an anticipated release date of April 2019.

The book is titled Cooking with Bear: A Story and Recipes from the Forest and is a sequel to my earlier story, Bear’s Winter Party, both published by Groundwood Books.

In this new book, Bear gives cooking lessons to Fox, who is tired of eating the same old thing. The two of them visit their forest friends for ideas and to collect local ingredients, then return to Bear’s den to cook up a feast. Along with the story, the book also contains 15 forest-themed recipes for kids who are keen on adventures in the kitchen. (Watercress soup, anyone?)

If you scroll down the blog to a previous entry, you can see the front cover of the book that I posted earlier. The art I’m showing here is the illustration for the back cover, with two very happy friends, kitchen tools in hand.

Lisa Cinar has once again created wonderful art for the book. She and I are very excited about its release. We hope you’re going to love it!

A Spring Launch

I recently attended a launch of new spring books published by Groundwood. It was a great evening at Kidsbooks hearing about a variety of fun and interesting titles, and catching up with my writer friends.

The books included The Snuggly by my friend, Glen Huser, and is the charming story of a little boy who thinks a snuggly is a great place to carry all manner of things — until it’s not!

Children’s poet and my friend, Robert Heidbreder, introduced his book Rooster Summer, a nostalgic and poetic look back at his childhood growing up on a mid-western farm in Illinois.

And finally, I met Nancy Vo, the author and illustrator of her first book for kids, The Outlaw, a story of a mysterious stranger who rides into town.

Much great spring reading from talented people!

Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada


Isn’t this a wonderful illustration! It was created for our local children’s book organization by the talented artist and children’s book illustrator, Mary Jane Muir.

On that note, I attended a lovely literary event at UBC last week and wanted to say how grateful I am to the Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable and to its counterparts across Canada. These are the groups that created the “Information Book Award of Canada” some twenty-five years ago, recognizing and stating how important nonfiction books are to children.

The winner of this year’s award was Jan Thornhill for her beautifully illustrated book, The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk. It was the third time Jan has won this prestigious award and it was a well-deserved honour. The evening was a chance to hear Jan speak about her books and also to celebrate the local Vancouver authors who had been nominated for or won other awards this year.


(I, too, have been fortunate enough to win the Information Book Award twice and consider it one of the highlights of my writing career.)

These days, nonfiction books for children span the age groups and tackle a wide diversity of topics. Most are creatively illustrated and designed, and are highly readable and engaging for the students who gobble them up.

Thanks so much to the Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada for their work on behalf of this award, the authors who write the books and, especially, the children who read them.

Vancouver Writers Festival

It is teeming rain outside and brightly coloured leaves are covering the streets and lawns. This is fall in Vancouver! As long as you don’t mind carrying an umbrella with you, it’s a great time to be in this city.

One of my favourite fall events is the Vancouver Writers Festival, now in its 30th year. This afternoon I heard some wonderful children’s authors speaking about their books on child refugees, past and present. The young students in the audience were mesmerized!

And in a couple of days, I will go to hear a panel of authors who have penned new memoirs, always a riveting session. More on that later.

If you are on the west coast, I hope you are staying warm and dry. It’s wet out there! And if you are somewhere else, I hope you are having a great fall, too.

WORD Vancouver

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the festivities at Word Vancouver (the west coast version of Word on the Street) and what a grand day it was. As always, it was wonderful to see the range of books published by authors who live here.

The highlight was hearing some of my colleagues talk about their new works. I especially enjoyed seeing Irene N. Watts (author) and Kathryn Shoemaker (illustrator) speak about their graphic novel, Seeking Refuge — the story of a young girl, Marianne, who finds refuge in England after being rescued from the Nazis on the Kindertransport. (Irene helped me enormously on my own book on this topic, Rescuing the Children.)

I also stopped by the booth of our local organization,  CWILL BC (Children’s Writers and Illustrators of British Columbia), and was happy to see their presence there. At the top of this post, is the lovely CWILL banner designed and drawn by our very own Mary Jane Muir. (If you are ever looking for an author or illustrator to visit your classroom, you can search for one on the CWILL website.)

It was an excellent day to celebrate books and writing in our book-loving community!

If I Weren’t a Writer

I’ve often said if I weren’t a writer, I’d like to be a cook. Spending time in the kitchen is one of my favourite things to do. I find it both relaxing and creative — especially when I am baking pies (my specialty) for family and friends.

For years, I’ve wanted to combine my two of my favourite pastimes: writing and cooking, and now I’m happy to say, I am hard at work on a cookbook for kids. It turns out that writing a cookbook isn’t as easy as I might have thought. Each recipe requires much testing and retesting, both on my own and with the kids in my family, who provide me with a lot of great feedback and inspiration.

And helping me along are the books on food that I am currently reading: The Cassoulet that Saved Our Marriage, which is a wonderful collection of essays about people and their relationship with food and family; and Feast: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Roadtrip, an account of two women who spent five months camping across Canada, eating and talking to locals about their favourite foods.

My own book, Cooking with Bear, which combines a story and 20 recipes won’t be out for some time, but it continues to be a fun and interesting project. More on this later.

In the meantime, I can recommend both of the books noted here. I’m certain they will provide you with hours of happy reading and eating!

Conversation with Berkshire Park Elementary

I was visiting a school last week and enjoyed speaking with the students so much. Hello Berkshire Park Elementary! Thank you for inviting me.

The students had many great questions about books and writing, and it was a real treat to talk with them. Some of the questions that stood out were:

When you write a manuscript and it doesn’t get published, are you devastated?

(Yes! — although this happens to every writer, and we know it is part of the job. We trust our editors and publishers to know when a manuscript is working or if it is right for them. And then we put that manuscript away in a drawer. We might go back to it later to see if we can improve it. But usually we start writing something new.)

Did you always know you wanted to become a writer?

(No, but I always knew I loved books. When my mother was expecting me to clean my bedroom or do other chores, she often found me reading instead. Later in life, I discovered that kids who love to read as much as I did, often become writers.)

 What about kids who love to draw?

(They often become artists or book illustrators.)

Which book of yours is your favourite?


(This is always a hard question to answer. Every book is a favourite for some reason. But my current favourite is a book that will be published next September. It’s called Bear’s Winter Party and is the story of a lonely bear who wants to make friends.)

Do you make a lot of money?
(About 5 cents on every book.)


Whaaat??? You should make $50,000 on every book!

(That would be nice but it doesn’t happen for most writers. Usually we have to work at other jobs to earn our living. We write because we love to do it, not for the money we might be paid.)

Can someone who is 10 years old publish a book?

(There aren’t many places to do that, but you can have your stories or poems published at a website started by my friend and author, Margriet Ruurs. It is called KidsWWwrite and you can email your stories to: http://www.kalwriters.com/kidswwwrite.)
Good luck to all the budding authors and illustrators at Berkshire Park School, and everywhere else. There’s nothing more satisfying than creating a piece of writing or art that you are proud of.By the way, I loved seeing your stories in the display case just outside the library. Well done!