Settling into September

It’s been a couple of weeks that school in my area has been back in session and judging by the lovely schools the young children in my family attend, the year is off to a great start!

It is heartening to see the efforts of the teachers who work so hard to make the children comfortable in their new settings. And it often makes me wish that I was back in the classroom saying hello to all the young students as they come through the door.

A big thank you from me to all the teachers and librarians who do so much for the students in their care. I hope you have a wonderful year!

And just for fun: here’s a photo of the school I used to teach at many years ago in beautiful Armstrong, BC.

Saying Goodbye to Summer

The summer is winding down and in a few days, school will start again. Here on the west coast, it has been a warm and beautiful couple of months.

Living near the ocean lets me see incredible views like this all summer long. (It’s the Vancouver harbour as seen from Granville Island.) I feel very lucky.

Soon the Vancouver rain will return and the giant trees and thirsty lawns will be happy to see it. In a way, so will I. Fall is one of my favourite seasons, with many new books to read, writing festivals to peruse, and the chance to visit children in schools.

Two of the children in my family are starting full-day kindergarten this year. I wish them a happy and successful time as they make this big transition. And to all the students and teachers heading back to the classroom, I wish you the best, too!

Summer Inspiration

I’m just back from a little holiday on the west coast of Vancouver Island and feeling both relaxed and inspired by the beauty of that area.

I spent a lot of time walking the beaches, listening to the sounds of the ocean, and immersing myself in the magnificent scenery. One morning, I watched a graceful bald eagle soar overhead.

This is the place where West Coast Wild was set and an area I hope to return to often. Thoughts of a new west coast book are beginning to percolate.

Here is a photo I took of the beach at sunset. I felt lucky to be there.

Wishing you the best of summer, too!

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!

School in the Mountains

I’m just back from a couple of days visiting schools in Pemberton and Whistler. It was wonderful to meet the teachers and students at Signal Hill Elementary and Spring Creek Community School.

Both schools are situated amidst the stunning nature of that region, with glorious mountains rising above them in Pemberton and a thick forest surrounding the Whistler school. (The photo shows the vista above Signal Hill school in Pemberton.)

The students knew a lot about the wildlife in their area and were happy to share stories of bears and other interesting animals they had encountered in their communities. And I had fun talking to them about the wild creatures I have come to know on the west coast.

These visits mark the last school talks for me for the school year – but what an amazing way to finish up!

Thank you to teacher-librarians Nicole Benes and Sara Leach for the invitations to speak at their schools and also to the staff and students at both places for their kind hospitality and warm welcome. It was lovely to meet you all!

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!

Spring Has Sprung

I’m happy that May is here! It is finally starting to feel like spring in my part of the world. Our west coast weather has been cooler and rainier than usual, and even though the blossoms were on the trees and the flowering shrubs were blooming, the sunshine was nowhere to be seen. That seems to be changing now (hooray!) and the warm sun was shining brightly when I stepped out for a walk today.

This month is gearing up to be a busy one. In a couple of weeks, I will be flying to Toronto to the “Forest of Reading” festivities, where Ontario school kids will reveal the books that have won their hearts in the children’s choice awards. Karen Reczuch and I are thrilled to have a nomination for our book West Coast Wild and look forward to attending the award ceremony.

And before the trip to Toronto, I will be visiting the Richmond Public Library to meet the students who were winners in the Richmond Heritage Fair. It will be fun speaking to them about my two Canadian history books, The Kids Book of Canada’s Railway and The Kids Book of Canadian Immigration. I’ve even borrowed some old-time railway artifacts from a train museum to show the kids.

To round out the month, I will finish up at schools in Pemberton and Whistler, BC. I’m excited about it all!

A Fresh Start

It’s spring — the season of new beginnings!

In that spirit, here is a beautiful spring image painted by Karen Reczuch in our book West Coast Wild. Along the coast of BC, the sandpipers are stopping by on their annual migration to northern parts, where they will lay their eggs and hatch their babies.

Also in the spirit of new beginnings, I’d like to introduce you to my new website! Welcome!

For ten years, I had a lovely website created by Carol at Third Planet Design in Toronto. She did a fabulous job of updating it and keeping me current. But with the changing technology of today’s world, I realized that many authors were now building and updating their own websites. I thought it was time for me to dive in!

This new website was set up by the good folks at Kits Media in Vancouver. It’s been a lot of work to organize the content and images (and my thoughts!) and the format is new to me. But it’s been fun learning how to update the website myself. Forgive me if a few mistakes occur as I figure it all out!

Please have a look around and see what you think. Feel free to send me some comments via my Contact page.

I’d love to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by!

P.S. If you’ve read my blog in the past, you may recognize the earlier entries here. Like the sandpipers, they’ve migrated too!