News

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.

Happy News!

I was very happy to hear the news that my upcoming book Cooking with Bear has received a starred review from Kirkus! I think every author dreams of such high praise from this important review magazine. Here’s what the reviewer said:

“Spring is here at last in this companion to Bear’s Winter Party  (2016), and Bear begins cooking for himself and his forest friends.

First, Bear makes watercress soup. Then his friend Fox arrives to share the soup. “Can you teach me to cook like this?” Fox asks. So Bear shows Fox where he gathers his ingredients in the forest, and along the way, they visit friends. Squirrel has gathered nuts, so Bear shows Fox how to make nut burgers. Chickadee dried berries last summer, so granola with dried cranberries is next on the menu. Beaver’s dreams of apples lead to a recipe for maple-apple crisp, and Deer and Hare’s browsing to a spring greens salad with honey vinaigrette.

The recipes provided for each dish have been taste-tested and are straightforward and clearly written. Young chefs are encouraged to cook with adults and ask them for help with anything sharp or hot. The volume subtly encourages eating seasonally and locally, using farmers markets, and planting gardens. Cinar’s colorful, large-format illustrations have a Raschka-esque flair to them, with loose, inky outlines and splashy watercolor fill; the animals’ faces are, appealingly, done in an especially childlike manner.”

“A fun, accessible first cookbook for the little foxes in our lives.” Starred review! Kirkus.

Available on April 1st! Published by Groundwood Books.

Happy New Year!

Here’s hoping you’re enjoying the holidays and looking forward to the start of a brand new year!

As is often the case, I plan to spend some time in 2019 on the beautiful west coast of Vancouver Island (see photo). It is the location of my most recent manuscript, now being illustrated by Karen Reczuch. The book is a sequel to our earlier collaboration, West Coast Wild. I can hardly wait to see her lovely art!

Wishing you the best in 2019, with happiness and health, and many good books to read!

Twas the Night…

I’ve had a lot of fun reading and re-reading a cache of seasonal books for kids and enjoying their delight at both the stories and the upcoming festivities. One of the most entertaining books for our youngest family member was Barbara Reid’s The Night Before Christmas with charming little mice as the characters. Jolly Old St. Nick also appears as a mouse.

This classic poem is illustrated with Barbara’s wonderful Plasticine art, the form she is so well-known for. I hope you enjoy her illustration of the stockings “hung with care.”

And I wish you the best of the season: Happy times with family and friends and many good books to read!

Cooking with Bear!

I’m excited about my upcoming book, Cooking with Bear, that features both an illustrated story and a cookbook with forest-themed recipes for kids.

It was a project that spanned a couple of years, with me spending oodles of time in the kitchen coming up with recipes and testing them to make sure they were reliable. I tried to use ingredients that could be easily found in most kitchens or local stores and farmer’s markets. And I hoped to make the recipes fun and relatively simple for children (with adult help) to execute.

The kids in my family inspired me and helped me try out many of the recipes. My daughters, too, were enormously generous with their advice about cooking with kids. (And I have not forgotten those years of cooking classes with Grade One students when I was still a teacher.)

I’m not usually the kind of cook who follows a recipe exactly. I like to try out new things and be a little experimental in my approach but in this case, I had to be very disciplined and decide such matters as: “Is it 1/4 tsp of salt or 1/8 tsp?” It was hard to stick to the rules!

The book won’t be available until April 2019 but it is being printed now. Thank you to my wonderful publisher, Groundwood Books! I’m looking forward to seeing some advance copies before too long.

And for your viewing pleasure, here’s one of the first illustrations in the book, created by the lovely and talented Lisa Cinar. It shows Bear in his kitchen cooking watercress soup and his friend Fox, who has followed his nose to the den, hoping to be invited in for a delicious spring lunch.

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 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!

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!

September Start

In my corner of the world, on the lovely west coast, today is the first day of school.

It is a bright sunny day, which bodes well for the students and teacher who are headed back into the classroom.

Wishing you all the best of luck as you start this new school year!

And many good books to read!