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!

Roundtable Honour

Thank you to the Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada for choosing West Coast Wild as the winner of this year’s Information Book Award. Karen Reczuch, the marvellous illustrator, and I were thrilled!

We were honoured to be in the company of so many wonderful books on this year’s shortlist, and send congratulations to all!

You can see more about West Coast Wild at Anansi Press and read a behind-the-scenes look at its creation at Groundwood Books.

Bear’s Winter Party!

I’m excited about the release of my lovely new picture book, Bear’s Winter Party! It’s the story of a lonely bear and how he makes friends. (He has a party!)

The book is beautifully illustrated by Lisa Cinar and published by Groundwood Books. Would you like to know more? Here’s a link to Groundwood‘s page and to Lisa’s page.

Reading Lights

I’m delighted that my book, Watch Me Grow! has been selected as part of “Reading Lights.” This is a collaborative project by the Vancouver Public Library and the Children’s Writers and Illustrators of BC to feature excerpts of local children’s books, on plaques, on lamp posts around the city. What a wonderful idea!

My lovely plaque is at the northwest corner of Sunrise Park (near Rupert and 1st Ave.) in East Vancouver. Thank you to everyone involved in this amazing initiative!

To see more about Reading Lights, please check the website of the Vancouver Public Library. Watch for more plaques around the city!

Forest of Reading

Karen Reczuch and I are thrilled that West Coast Wild is nominated on the Silver Birch Express list in the children’s choice awards (Forest of Reading) being held in Ontario this spring. I have been receiving lots of Twitter posts from schools in the region and it is so much fun to see them!

Here are a couple:


You can find out more about the Forest of Reading here and the Silver Birch Express nominations here.

Thank you to the Ontario Library Association for this wonderful initiative! It’s great that kids and teachers have the opportunity to read and vote on so many books.

In May, Karen and I will travel to Toronto to take part in the festivities. We can hardly wait!

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!

Happy New Year!

Here on the west coast, we are leaping into the New Year with snow and ice. It is unusual for us to have such a cold winter (we are accustomed to balmier temperatures) and we are muddling our way through it.

The big old trees in my neighbourhood are beautiful in their coats of white, but some have come tumbling down with a bang under the weight of the heavy snow. Watch out!

The side streets have not been cleared of ice and snow in a month, nor salted or sanded, and so driving (and walking!) remain somewhat treacherous — like navigating an ice rink in ballet slippers.

But we brave west-coasters carry on, and look forward to the beginning of a fresh and shiny New Year. We have high hopes that there will be many bright spots in the days ahead.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and productive 2017 — with many good books to read!