Posts Tagged ‘Canadian author’

Storytime Standouts Looks at a New Picture Book: The Hockey Song

Posted on October 9th, 2016 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts looks at The Hockey Song by Stompin' Tom Connors, published by Greystone BooksThe Hockey Song written by Stompin’ Tom Connors and illustrated by Gary Clement
Hockey-Theme Picture Book published by Greystone Books

OH! The good ol’ Hockey game, is the best game you can name.
And the best game you can name, is the good ol’ Hockey game.

An outdoor game of pick up hockey is the setting for this fun, energetic tribute to Stompin’ Tom Connors’ widely known anthem. The well-lit rink is in a city and it glistens beneath the stars on a wintry evening. It feels as though it would be a the centerpiece of a community, drawing players from far and wide for a casual, drop in game.

Engaging illustrations show us the game from ice level and above, depicting players from various races who are young and old, petite and burly and male and female. It is fun to see more than one multi generational family group; moms and dads enjoying the game with their children.

The game begins with just two players on the ice but soon swells and, by the end of the song, the rink is crowded with enthusiastic hockey players. Some wear familiar NHL-style jerseys while others are dressed less traditionally. Some wear hockey helmets and others have toques, headphones, pony tales and stocking caps. Young readers will enjoy playing eye spy and noticing all sorts of interesting details about the dozens of players who finish the game.

Very good fun for children aged four and up. The Hockey Song would be a great gift for a hockey-loving grandparent to share with a newcomer to the game.

The Hockey Song at

The Hockey Song at

Meet Author Illustrator Loraine Kemp

Posted on November 20th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Meet Illustrator Loraine KempLoraine Kemp, born in Kelowna, B.C., grew up loving the outdoors on acreage with her horses. Her other favorite pastime was reading fantasy novels. After she graduated from high school, she took two years of Fine Arts. Later, she married an amazing man and had two sons. When her two sons were growing up, she discovered her passion for reading and telling children’s stories. Her sons have grown, but her passion remains.

Many writing courses later, her writing accomplishments include being selected by jury twice to attend the Literary Arts Program (Children’s Writing) of the British Columbia Festival of the Arts. Her short stories also won first place in the following contests: The Willamette Writers Society conference contest in Portland; Byline Magazine contest; Bard’s Ink Writing Contest; and The World Guild’s 2013 Fresh Ink writing contest.

Loraine has written two juvenile novels, and her children’s fantasy Orion’s Sword, won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ 2013 Genesis Contest.

Other accomplishments include illustrating three books. One of them called Tabasco the Saucy Raccoon, was written by Lyn Hancock and published by Sono Nis Press. She toured to schools and libraries with the Lyn doing illustrating workshops and presentations. The other two books will be published by Webb Publishing. Loraine has just been commissioned to illustrate a picture book called Growing Up in Wild Horse Canyon, written by good friend, Karen Autio, and published by Sono Nis Press. She now continues to write and illustrate, and enjoys giving illustrating presentations to schools.

Loraine is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Canscaip, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

Illustrator website

Illustrator Facebook page

Twitter Account @loraine_kemp

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

Tabasco the Saucy Raccoon written by Lyn Hancock and illustrated by Loraine KempTabasco the Saucy Raccoon is my latest published children’s book, aimed at kids, 9 – 12 years of age. It is a true story about a raccoon that was taken around by author Lyn Hancock on her writing tours. The crazy escapades Tabasco gets into will entertain kids of all ages. I am most proud of the fact the I engaged a whole school in the process of illustrating the book. I used Ann McClymont Elementary in Kelowna, B.C. as my home base for all my illustrations. I used the kids, teachers, secretary, principal and the vice principal as my models for the book. I had a blast and so did my models!

Tabasco the Saucy Raccoon at

Tabasco the Saucy Raccoon at

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?

I visit schools and do illustrating workshops for now. When I’m published as a writer, I will do both writing and illustrating workshops. I have gone on book tours to B.C., and Ontario and had wonderful times with the author as we toured together to libraries and schools. Now I do them by myself, although in 2016 when my book Growing up in Wild Horse Canyon is published I will again tour with an author, Karen Autio, doing presentations and workshops. In my workshops, I entertain kids by demonstrating my drawing techniques when I draw popular animated characters. I also invite them to display their work on my website. I take copies of their drawings or ask them to send me more. They love to see their work and others on my website. There are many very talented kids out there!! Have a look on my website. You will be astounded!! I also engage on twitter, and would love to see more kids!

What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

I derive the greatest pleasure when I engage the kids in the classrooms with my drawings and show them that they too can draw as I walk them through simple and fun drawings. Their presents of pictures they drew are my treasures!! My greatest pleasures of being an author is escaping into my fantasy worlds and playing with my characters on paper!

What are the biggest challenges of being an author / illustrator?

My biggest challenge is that I love both illustrating and writing and it is hard to be away from either for any period of time. Although both take a lot of time. I feel like I’m being split down the middle when I have to decide which to do in a day!

If you could dine with any author/illustrator (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?

I would dine with Kenneth Oppel. He writes such amazing stories and has such a great imagination, that I would love to know him better!

Do you do school or library presentations? If so, please briefly describe topics/ geographical limitations.

Yes I do library and school presentations. I do presentations right now on illustrating to elementary and middle schools, but when my book is published, I will do both presentations and workshops for both as well. My topic for illustrating is discovering details around you, and incorporating them into your drawings. I show them how to use special techniques to be better drawers. I would be happy to go anywhere, although I live in B.C. Canada.

Anywhere but Here – written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Posted on October 3rd, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts writes about #YAlit Anywhere But Here by Tanya Lloyd KyiAnywhere But Here written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Young Adult Fiction published by Simon and Schuster

I feel compelled to share some aspects of my personal life before I write about Anywhere but Here. I was attending university and living with my folks when my mom died four days prior to surgery that had been scheduled to repair a heart valve. It was shocking and devastating and, without a doubt, the most difficult experience of my life.

Weeks later, my dad began dating. When I say ‘weeks,’ I mean less than three months later. While still grieving the sudden loss of my mom and feeling as though my life had been turned upside down, I was watching as my dad began a relationship with a woman he would eventually marry. Dad’s second marriage was an enduring one. To be honest, I am not sure which of his marriages was longer: he celebrated twenty-fifth wedding anniversaries twice.

Anywhere but Here is the story of a young man, still in high school, who is coping with the loss of his mom. Cole finds life in a small town stifling. He is eager to finish high school and make a break from his acquaintances, friends and family. He has ended a two year relationship with a girlfriend and finds her behavior and that of some classmates confusing. His family life is in ruins. Cole’s dad drinks heavily and meets an exotic dancer. Before long, she is pregnant and Cole’s dad explains that she will be moving into the family home along with her young daughter.

With the encouragement of a school guidance counselor, Cole considers enrolling in a post secondary cinematography program. As part of his application, his must create a short film. It is while filming that Cole examines his community and gains perspective.

Beautifully written, Anywhere but Here accurately depicts the turmoil and confusion that occur when one parent dies and the surviving parent enters into a new relationship – especially when the surviving child(ren) are young adults. I especially liked the authenticity of Cole’s voice and the relationships between Cole and his guidance counselor, his mom’s former nurse and his classmates. This is a novel that begs for a sequel and I very much look forward to reading it.

Anywhere But Here at

Anywhere But Here at

Bone, Fog, Ash & Star: The Last Days of Tian Di, Book 3

Posted on October 1st, 2014 by Jody


Storytime Standouts guest contributor @1prncs writes about Bone, Fog, Ash & Star: The Last Days of Tian Di, Book 3Bone, Fog, Ash & Star: The Last Days of Tian Di, Book 3 written by Catherine Egan
Young Adult fiction published by Coteau Books

Read our interview with Catherine Egan

The lengthy title of Catherine Egan’s third book, The Last Days of Tian Di: Bone, Fog, Ash, and Star, alludes to the depth and complexity that is wrapped up within the story. Like the characters of this book, I felt myself immersed in unfamiliar, amazing worlds, pulled back and forth between them by the common thread: Eliza. A story of friendship, loyalty, strength, and finding the truth, Egan isn’t afraid to make her characters suffer to reach reward. In fact, it is understood and stated that “there is loss and gain with every act”. I think what was most powerful, for me, was the way this book echos life. There are consequences to every action and we do the very best we can at the time, but then we must go from there, from the result of our decisions. It is a heavy burden on the main character’s shoulders, knowing that the choices she makes will lead to her own heavy heart. But I think it is an important message for readers, particularly the young adult ones who are, in some ways, facing a similar journey. At the age of sixteen, they are making choices that feel right at the time, but have long term consequences that need to be weighed and judged. Sometimes, life really is choosing the lesser of two evils and this is a lesson that Eliza faces constantly.

In this third book of her series, Catherine Egan pulls the reader in with intense action right from the start. When Eliza’s friend, Charlie, becomes the victim of an assassination attempt, just as she’s trying to tell him she has feelings for him that go beyond friendship, the reader is immediately hooked. Aside from the action, the magical realism, the vivid imagery that drops you right inside of the book, the characters are connectable.

I realized within the first chapter that I was drawn in because when the first major event happens, I literally gasped out loud. At that point I thought, wow, I already care about the characters and I can totally see the scene. As a writer and a reader, I know that this is not an easy combination to present on the page. From there, Egan takes us on a journey to save her friend that is met with seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Like the title, the story seemed to always have one more tangent. Whether you’re thinking that they cannot possibly escape the next vicious attack or they are finally safe, the reader is constantly surprised. The term magical realism is an interesting one to me: if done poorly, you can distance yourself from the book because it’s fantasy and you know that everything is okay. If done properly, as Egan has done, you can forget that transforming, shape-shifting, and spell-binding aren’t a possibility. I saw the characters as regular teenagers– Eliza with too much responsibility on her young shoulders, Nell with the exam she desperately wanted to ace, and Charlie with the youthful irritation of someone stuck in a situation they cannot control.

Even in the magical, there is a sense of the real: the faeries’ overall disdain of humans, the faery mother who can’t abide by her son, Jalo helping a human because he’s in love with her, the oracle grandmother, saved by the ancients, who shares her knowledge in riddles, the fight for power between the Mancers, and each character trying to choose between good and evil, trying to find their way out of a situation that is bigger than themselves.Through it all, we are reminded, as are the characters, that best laid plans often go astray and the things we truly believe we want and need in life are not necessarily what we end up getting. Accepting that and moving forward anyway is not easy, but it can be done, as Eliza shows us.

Bone, Fog, Ash & Star: The Last Days of Tian Di Book 3 at

Bone, Fog, Ash & Star: The Last Days of Tian Di, Book 3 at

Meet Author Illustrator Ruth Ohi

Posted on September 4th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Meet Author illustrator Ruth Ohi (photo by AnnieT)Ruth Ohi is the illustrator of over 50 children’s picture books (17 of which she is also the author). She lives in Toronto, Canada and is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design.

Her books have been selected for the Pennsylvania Centre for the Book’s “Bakers’ Dozen”, the Canadian Toy Testing Council’s “Great Books”, the Ontario Library Association’s “Best Bets” and the Toronto Public Library’s “First & Best”. They have been shortlisted for awards such as the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book, Amelia Francis Howard-Gibbons, Shining Willow, Blue Spruce and Rainforest of Reading awards.

Ruth Ohi’s Facebook page
Ruth Ohi’s website URL
Instagram: @RuthOhi

Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend created by Ruth OhiMs. Ohi’s latest published children’s book is Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend (Scholastic Canada/Sept 2014)
Social Issues/Friendship
Social Issues/Emotions and Feelings

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it?

My hope would be that “Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend”(Fall 2014/Scholastic Canada) could be enjoyed by anyone who is a friend, would like a friend or wishes to be a friend. Fox and Squirrel’s first story, Fox and Squirrel (Scholastic Canada, Fall 2013) showed that despite their differences, the two could find enough in common to be friends. Their second story came from looking out my studio window and admiring how squirrels could hang out in the highest, teeniest tree branches and thinking, “Hm, Fox couldn’t go there.” And I wondered what if Squirrel met someone else way up high and forgot all about Fox for awhile and how that would make Fox feel.

Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend at

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

For chapter books it was Lois Darling of the Beverley Cleary original releases. She drew Ramona and Beezus in a way that was so satisfying for me. I very much empathized with Ramona about apples and marshmallows. For picture books, there are too many to list. I think the combination of artists like Leo Lionni, Maurice Sendak, Ezra Jack Keats, Dr. Suess and Robert McCloskey resonated with me because their words and pictures made me want to linger on the pages. They made me care about their characters.

When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?Storytime Standouts looks at Shh! My Brother's Napping by Ruth Ohi

Making stories with pictures has always been incredibly satisfying and I’ve always loved picture books, but it wasn’t until university that I seriously considered art as a career. It just took a little while for me to realize it could be an actual full time job! My family was amazingly supportive and that was huge for me. It still is. My sister, Deb (who writes and illustrates under the name of Debbie Ridpath-Ohi) is my guru for all things internet. Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend is dedicated to my first Great Nephew, Ian who is truly a bundle of joy.

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?

I do have a website where I post preliminary work sketches, my portfolio, and news that made me happy. It’s also where you can find a listing of my upcoming public events, info about booking visits, activity sheets and everything you will ever need to know about my books. Hm, except where to buy them, what their ISBNs are…okay, my website needs work! I’ve also just joined Instagram where I’ll be posting personal illustration and story projects.

Oh, and I’ve made two booktrailers for “Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend”! The first is only 21 seconds and is the result of my experimenting with stop motion photography. The Second is 56 seconds and includes a snippet of a live drawing demo. I’m the one filming the live demo—it’s truly tricky drawing and taping at the same time! Both trailers can be found on my website and YouTube.

What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

Just doing the work—writing, revising, scribbling, painting. Finding the perfect balance between the words and the drawings. But I honestly don’t think a picture book really comes into being until a reader finds it. Seeing or hearing about someone who enjoys the book—that’s an incredible source of pleasure for me.

Seeing students use my books or brainstorming tips for their own stories and pictures is super awesome. One of the greatest letters I’ve ever received was after a presentation from a young child, which read:
“Now I love to right.”

Clara and the Bossy by Ruth OhiIf you weren’t an author / illustrator, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

In the summers, as a teen, I’ve worked as a florist, a daycamp counselor, a city special events co-ordinator. As an adult I’ve been fortunate enough to illustrate and write full time. If I wasn’t an author/illustrator, I’d very much love to work with young people in the creative arts.

Do you do school or library presentations? If so, please briefly describe topics/ geographical limitations.

I have enjoyed presenting to many schools, libraries, conferences and family festivals across Canada. It’s definitely one of my favourite aspects of this job—sharing words and pictures with adults and kids. And my presentations are easily adapted to suit any age group.I'd Know You Anywhere

Presentations typically include a digital slideshow demonstrating where I get my ideas from. I show character sketches, storyboards and how I draw to brainstorm new ideas. Also included are Q&A, some original artwork and an interactive drawing demonstration. The last 10-15 minutes may be a hands on workshop where participants are very keen to try a brainstorming activity that I tailor especially for that audience. I enjoy speaking one on one to as many as possible about their work during this time. Typically a school or library visit is 45-60 minutes. A maximum audience size of 120 works well for JK/SK through Grade 8. Numbers may increase for older audiences.

Shh! My Brother’s Napping is a highlight of 2014

Posted on September 2nd, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts looks at Shh! My Brother's Napping by Ruth OhiShh! My Brother’s Napping written and illustrated by Ruth Ohi
Picture book published by North Winds Press An Imprint of Scholastic Canada

Read our interview with Ruth Ohi

My two children were born about 2 1/2 years apart. My older boy was always a great sleeper – he slept through the night from six weeks and had very regular naps. My second son was a completely different story. It took months and months before he slept through the night and naps were never easy and rarely of a predictable duration. Sometimes he slept for thirty minutes, sometimes he slept for two hours. Sleep was an on-going challenge and source of frustration to his weary parents. Given my experience with children napping, I was intrigued to read Shh! My Brother’s Napping.

Ruth Ohi’s picture book Shh! My Brother’s Napping is a highlight of 2014.

From cover to cover the characters ooze personality. Poor mama, she struggles through a rainstorm, carrying groceries and pushing a stroller. She holds her umbrella so it will protect her youngest child. Her older child is walking ahead, filled with energy and enthusiasm for the day. By the time the family arrives home, the baby is asleep in the stroller and his older brother warns readers that it is time to be quiet.Shh! My Brother's Napping spread

Shh! My brother’s napping.
He really needs his sleep.
He was grumbly as a grouch,
and now lies in a heap.

What follows is a charming tale of mama’s wish to prolong the nap as long as possible despite older brother’s play. Children and adults will be charmed by the illustrations and will laugh at the older brother’s lack of sensitivity – he’d like to play some makeshift drums and paint his brother’s face.

Featuring many great opportunities for youngsters to inference and make predictions, Shh! My Brother’s Napping, will be thoroughly enjoyed by parents. It would be a great gift for those who are celebrating the arrival of a second, third or fourth child.

Free Shh! My Brother’s Napping printables from Scholastic Canada

Shh! My Brother’s Napping at

Shh! My Brother’s Napping at

Meet Author Laura Thomas

Posted on August 29th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts introduces Laura Thomas AuthorLaura is married to her high school sweetheart, has three wonderful children, and an adorable English bulldog. Born and raised in England and Wales, she immigrated to Canada in her mid-twenties, and now lives in Kelowna, British Columbia, where her authoring dreams have become a reality.

After completing thirteen years of home schooling her children, she is now able to focus on writing, and treasures the privilege of sharing her heart in the form of her published Christian teen fiction novels Tears to Dancing (2012) and Tears of a Princess (2013), numerous short stories and articles published in children’s magazines and online, her recently published marriage book Pearls for the Bride, and on her blog. Laura’s strongest desire is to provide wholesome reading for children, challenging books for teens, and encouragement as well as entertainment for her adult readers.

Twitter account: @Laura_Thomas_
Facebook page
Author Website

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

Tears of a Princess by Laura ThomasMy latest published children’s book is a Christian teen fiction novel, Tears of a Princess. It was published last year as the sequel to Tears to Dancing, and I’m currently finishing the third book in the series, Tears, Fears and Fame. As you might guess from the titles, these books are rather emotionally charged! They are written for female readers aged eleven-plus, and press into some topical issues for teen girls, always offering hope amidst challenges and tragedies. I have thoroughly enjoyed creating believable, vulnerable characters, and have been incredibly encouraged by readers requesting sequels— that’s the best complement!

Tears Of A Princess at

Tears of A Princess at

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

As a child, I was a total bookworm, and my favorite book was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. She brought the characters of all four sisters to life, and I particularly resonated with this, as I am one of four girls! Even though I had no grand illusions of being an author back then, and I was more of a reader than a writer, there was something incredibly inspirational about the sister Jo. In the story when Jo’s book was finally published, Alcott showed all her readers (especially girls!) that we should never underestimate ourselves, and that we can accomplish even our widest dreams. I am proof of that, as being an author was my pie-in-the-sky, all-out crazy dream!

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?

I have never met an author who found it easy getting their first book published. I started out writing short stories for children’s magazines, and the rejection was unbearable at first. In time, I learnt to develop a slightly thicker skin, and practiced the art of sending a story off and forgetting about it, rather than constantly fretting over it. My first novel took several attempts until it found my current publisher, Dancing With Bear Publishing. I can’t begin to explain how excited I was to receive an acceptance email— I had to re-read it several times, as I was so used to reading the rejections, and I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing for way too long! I still have numerous manuscripts out with potential publishers— picture books, middle grade, even Christian romantic suspense. Originally, I desperately wanted to be a Beatrix Potter clone and write purely adorable picture books, but here I am with teen fiction novels published. I would encourage aspiring writers to avoid boxing themselves into a specific genre— spread the net wide, don’t give up hope, and just keep writing.Tears to Dancing by Laura Thomas

When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?

To be honest, I was not that child who wrote essays for fun and penned wannabe books at the age of seven. I adored reading, and somewhere deep inside I dreamed of writing a children’s picture book one day, but I buried that secret desire for many years. It wasn’t until 2006 when I was having a coffee date with my husband, that I exposed my secret dream. He urged me to start the ball rolling right away (even though I was homeschooling my kids and volunteering and had zero spare time), so I enrolled with the Institute of Children’s Literature to take a correspondence course. I knew right away I had found my sweet spot, and haven’t looked back since. My husband has been my encourager, supporter, and number one fan every step of the way, and thanks to him I have been able to pursue my passion. What a guy!

If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing / illustrating process look like?

If you watched me working on a book, you would probably be amazed at how bad my typing is! I am painfully slow for a “real writer”, but I always say it’s the speed my brain churns out the words, so it works perfectly for me! I like to work at my desk in my study, which is the only room where I can enjoy some hot pink accents (I live with all boys!) I start a novel with a chapter outline before diving into the actual writing, and I enjoy having some visual inspiration on Pinterest. Once I have written the whole story, I go back and revise and edit and add chunks and get rid of the stuff that doesn’t make sense— a somewhat painful yet rewarding process. Lastly, I send it off and wait to see if anyone else thinks it’s wonderful and worth publishing.

What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

Being an author is rather surreal. Weird hours, poor income, wild imagination. But that moment you see your name on a shiny book cover containing words you wrote— it’s absolutely priceless. All writing is a joy to me. I love writing for little children, curious middle graders, searching teens, and for adults like myself journeying through life. I love that I can share my faith in written form, to weave it into novels or mold it into good morals in a young child’s short story, or encourage readers in my blog. A writer’s life is an unpredictable, exciting, sometimes tumultuous privilege, and I intend to live it to the fullest for as long as I am able.

Do you do school or library presentations?

I gave a school presentation with Raise A Reader, where I presented my first book Tears to Dancing, described my writing journey, and held a Q & A session with grade 5’s. I have also held book-signing events in various locations in the Okanagan Valley, B.C. but would be willing to go further afield.


Score with this Young Adult Mystery: Breakaway by Michael Betcherman

Posted on August 20th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts writes about young adult mystery: Breakaway by Michael BetchermanBreakaway written by Michael Betcherman
Young adult mystery published by Razorbill an imprint of Penguin Canada

Read our interview with Michael Betcherman

Those of you who visit our website regularly will know that I am a mother to two teenage boys and that one of my sons is a hockey player. Very often friends will comment about the challenges of encouraging teenage boys to read. We’ve been fortunate with our boys, they both enjoy reading and are good readers. Unfortunately, for some kids, it is not so easy. I often wonder if some reluctant readers simply have not found a book that matches their interests.

Last month, while on holiday, I had an opportunity to read Michael Betcherman’s first mystery novel: Breakaway. It was a finalist for the 2013 John Spray Mystery Award.

Set in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Breakaway tells the story of a 16 year old Midget hockey player whose father is wrongly convicted of murder. Nick Macklin’s dad (a former professional hockey player) has been convicted for killing another former NHL player who once viciously cross-checked him in the head. and ended his playing career.

Nick is devastated by his father’s conviction and is determined to uncover the truth but it is not an easy job. Nick’s anger and disappointment with his dad’s conviction results in problems at school, the loss of good friends and his involvement with minor hockey.

He remembered something his mother once told him. “Tragedy is part of life. It’s going to happen whether you like it or not. The trick in life is get as much joy as you can.” As long as dad was in jail, tragedy would be part of his life.

Bit by bit, as time passes, Nick begins to recover from the shock of his dad’s conviction. He starts to focus more on his schoolwork, he becomes more social and he resumes playing hockey but his obsession with investigating the crime and finding the murderer does not falter.

Young adults, especially those who play hockey will enjoy Breakaway’s hockey theme. The book references NHL, WHL and minor hockey teams, rinks and the dynamics of playing a sport at high level. At the heart, this is a story of loyalty and determination as Nick Macklin remains steadfast in his determination to uncover the truth.

Recommended for youth aged 14 and up.

Note: This book has been published with two different covers. The cover shown above is the American cover. This photo features the Canadian cover (adjacent to a rather nice pool).Breakaway by Michael Betcherman poolside

Breakaway at

Breakaway at

Meet Author Karen Autio

Posted on August 15th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts interviews author Karen AutioAfter growing up horse-crazy and book-loving in Nipigon, Ontario, Canada, Karen Autio now lives in Kelowna, British Columbia, only a little less horse-crazy and far more book-loving. Karen graduated from the University of Waterloo and worked as a software developer for several years, then decided to pursue her long held dream of writing for children. She signed up for a “Writing Fiction for Children” course at the local college, joined a writers’ group, and began writing—and re-writing—her stories.

Karen is the author of a trilogy of historical novels for readers ages 10 and up: Second Watch, Saara’s Passage, and Sabotage. She loves to interact with students, sharing her journey to becoming an author and her passion for research and the resulting “jigsaw puzzle” of transforming historical facts into a fascinating story.

Author website

Author Facebook page

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

Sabotage by Karen AutioSabotage, enemy aliens, paranoia, and German spies… in Canada? Sabotage is the third book in my trilogy of Canadian historical novels for young readers (all standalone reads) in which the courage and wits of siblings Saara and John Mäki are put to the test. The trilogy tells the adventures and mishaps of this Finnish-immigrant family living in Port Arthur (now part of Thunder Bay), Ontario, in 1914-15. From travelling on the palatial but doomed Empress of Ireland steamship, to tuberculosis sanatoriums, to the compelling untold stories of the home front in Canada during the First World War, these books bring history to life. Readers discover both how much has changed since the early 1900s and what remains timeless, such as fickle friends, new-immigrant experiences, the struggle to do the right thing, and family dynamics.

Sabotage is suitable for any age of reader from grade 4 up and is of equal interest to boys and girls. Partly that’s due to the story being told by both Saara and her younger brother John, in alternating chapters. I’m delighted that through doing research I learned the truth behind what I thought was a made-up story I’d heard growing up in Nipigon, Ontario. There actually were German agents at work in my hometown in 1915 plotting to destroy the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge.

Sabotage is a 2014 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Juvenile/YA Crime Book Finalist and is shortlisted for the 2015 Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award.

Sabotage at

Sabotage at

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

Rosemary Sutcliff. Her historical novels drew me into their time periods. The characters and settings seemed so real, I felt like I was living the story. After immersing myself in one of her books for several chapters, I’d look around me, puzzled. Where am I? In particular I remember enjoying The Eagle of The Ninth and The Lantern Bearers. I’m not surprised that her writing resonated with me because of how historical fiction has become my favourite genre to read and write.

Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?Second Watch by Karen Autio

Two experiences come to mind. At a recent presentation to elementary school students in an Ottawa public library, the majority of them had read my book Second Watch in which my characters are involved in the Empress of Ireland shipwreck. After my presentation, a boy handed me a piece of paper. He’d been so affected by the story and the tragedy, that he’d written and illustrated a poem for me about the Empress of Ireland. What a special gift.

The other experience resulted from my presentation in a school where I did a reading from Second Watch. Afterward, the librarian told me a student who hated reading informed her he just had to get my book and read it. A couple of weeks later I received an email from the librarian saying the boy’s attitude had changed from hating reading to “I can read this!” What an honour to have been part of that transformation.

How do you stay connected with your readers?

I have a website and an author Facebook page where I regularly post information relevant to children’s book publishing and writing, my book news, and photos from my book tours. I’ve had the privilege of going on several book tours, in B.C., Alberta, and Ontario. I love meeting readers whether at school or library presentations or at signings in bookstores or at book clubs. My grade 5 student editors for Saara’s Passage became friends with me on Facebook and I still keep in touch with them that way (both just graduated from high school). Whenever a reader emails me, I’m happy to reply.

What are the joys of being an author? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

There is certainly joy and satisfaction in the writing, but I’d say my greatest pleasure as an author is to hear from readers about how they’ve connected with my characters and stories. One of my favourite emails from a young reader included her describing my books as “real page turners” and then sharing her response to my character Saara: “I think we would be friends if she was real.” Also, it’s such a delight whenever my books and presentations inspire writers of all ages and get kids reading who were reluctant or infrequent readers.

If you weren’t an author, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

As a kid, my future dream job alternated between children’s book illustrator and jockey! Although I still enjoy drawing, writing has become my passion. And before entering high school I’d already grown too tall to be a jockey. For several years I worked as a software developer, and since 2004 when I’m not busy writing I’m editing other writers’ manuscripts as a freelance copyeditor.

Saara's Passage by Karen AutioDo you do school or library presentations?

I welcome the opportunity to present to intermediate students in schools and libraries across Canada. I love sharing my passion for researching history and writing historical fiction, and talking about the writing process. During my 60-minute interactive presentation, I:
• engage students in Canadian history with a lively, visually appealing presentation
• spark enthusiasm for writing
• focus on the immigrant experience with curricular tie-ins
• read a brief excerpt from one of my books
• reveal how family stories inspired me to write novels
• unravel the process of publishing and book design
• include time for students to ask questions

Teacher resources are available for all of my historical novels and can be downloaded from my website. For more information, please visit

Meet Author Lana Button

Posted on August 7th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts interviews author Lana ButtonLana Button is a children’s author, freelance writer and early childhood educator. She has enjoyed working with young children for over twenty five years. As a freelance writer, Lana has contributed to national magazines including Today’s Parent and Parents Canada. But Lana’s passion is picture books! Her first picture book, Willow’s Whispers (Kids Can Press, 2010) was nominated for a Blue Spruce Award, and a Shining Willow Award. Both the Canadian Children’s Book Centre and the Bank Street Children’s Book Committee listed it as a ‘Best Book for Kids’. It was also listed as an Outstanding Book for Young People with Disabilities IBBY winner.

Lana’s picture book, Willow Finds a Way (Kids Can Press, 2012) was a Blue Spruce Award finalist, a Canadian Children’s Book Centre “Best Book” and was listed on Publisher’s Weekly’s ‘Bullying Resources: A Selected Listing’. Most recently, Willow Finds a Way has been shortlisted for the Rainforest of Reading Award.

Twitter account @LanaButton
Author Facebook Page
Author Website

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

Lana Button's Picture Book Willow Finds a WayWillow Finds a Way is the second book about Willow, who is the quietest child in the class. The story, which is intended for children from pre-k through primary grades, begins when Kristabelle comes to class with a list of all the children invited to her birthday party. Everyone is invited! But in order to stay on Kristabelle’s birthday list, the children must follow her every command. Willow struggles to find a way to stand up for her friends and speak up to Kristabelle. In the end Willow discovers that actions sometimes speak louder than words!

I am so very proud that Willow Finds a Way has been recognized as an anti-bullying book. Although the terms ‘bullying’ and ‘bystander’ are never used within the story, it was my hope that it would spark this type of conversation!

Read our post about Willow Finds a Way

Willow Finds a Way at

Willow Finds a Way at

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?

I submitted and resubmitted my Willow’s Whispers manuscript for 6 years before finding an editor who was willing to work with me. So my strongest word of advice is- Don’t give up! And also keep in mind that ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘no forever’ it just means ‘no, for right now’.Lana Button's picture book Willow's Whispers

I recommend to any aspiring author struggling to get that story published to find ways to get other material published, whether that be a short story in a children’s magazine or a freelance article for a magazine or local newspaper. Editors are more likely to take a chance on you if you’ve been published elsewhere before.

Writing groups and organizations can also be very helpful. I found lots of inspiration and great practical advice from the CAINSCAIP organization (check them out at when I first started out and I still look forward to their terrific Packaging Your Imagination Workshop in Toronto every fall.

Read our post about Willow’s Whispers

Willow’s Whispers at

Willow’s Whispers at

Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?

The best feedback I’ve had from my books have been conversations children have had with each other! After hearing Willow Finds a Way, a group of girls were overheard in the playground making a pact that they would be “Willows” and not be “Kristabelles”.

And at a different school a young girl nudged in front of another girl so she could be first in line. A third little girl was overheard saying, “Hey, don’t push in front of her! She hasn’t had a turn to be line leader yet. Don’t be a ‘Kristabelle’!”

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?

I visit children and read my books whenever the opportunity presents itself! It is one of my greatest joys!! I have visited many bookstores and libraries, and jump at the chance to visit classrooms. Scheduling weekday classroom visits has been a challenge lately, as I am currently in my own kindergarten classroom as an Early Childhood Educator, but I have made room for a few visits each school year, and have scheduled evening visits during school ‘open houses’. My favorite is when we schedule a ‘pajama party’ evening where everyone (including myself!) comes to school with pajamas and cuddly toys and we gather in the library for a story time chat!

I schedule book tours during the summer months whenever possible, and have toured throughout Ontario, into the Maritime Provinces and in different parts of the United States. I also love connecting with students and teachers through Facebook and Twitter.

What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

To be able to read my story aloud to a child is my greatest accomplishment. To know that the stories have inspired others is my greatest joy! I have been so fortunate to talk with children, parents and teachers who share their experiences regarding their personal challenges in finding their own voice, or helping a child find their voice. To hear that Willow has given others inspiration to dig a little deeper, take a brave breath, and speak out for themselves has filled me with overwhelming joy!

If you could dine with any author/illustrator (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?

I have been so very fortunate to actually meet some of my favorite Canadian children’s authors over the past few years. I found myself completely tongue tied when coming face-to-face with Paulette Bourgeois (author of the Franklin series) and was totally awestruck when trying to discuss the weather with the incredible Barbara Reid!

If I could dine with any author, it would probably be Maurice Sendak, as his Where the Wild Things Are is my all-time favorite picture book. I’d love to hear all about how he came up with such incredible characters and how he managed to create such a rich and vivid story with so few words!

Do you do school or library presentations? If so, please briefly describe topics/ geographical limitations.

I love doing presentations!! During my 45-minute presentation I discuss the unique writing process involved in creating a picture book. I read both books and discuss the importance of speaking up and speaking out. Both books are strongly based on empathy and self-assurance and I open us discussion around ‘the bully’, ‘the bullied’, and ‘the bystander’. I live in Southern Ontario (Canada), but have presented across Ontario and into the Maritime provinces. You can contact me through my website for more information.

Meet Author Jacqueline Guest

Posted on July 17th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts interviews author Jacqueline Guest Jacqueline Guest is an international award winning author with eighteen published novels. She has presented across Canada and in the United States to audiences of all ages including the University of Calgary; Manitoba Association of Teachers of English; Alberta Association of Library Technicians; MASC Conference Ottawa; University of Victoria; Cultural Diversity Institute North Central Teachers Association; Young Alberta Book Society; Wordsworth Writing Camp; Dreamcatcher Aboriginal Conferences; Saskatoon Reading Council Teachers Conference; Batoche Historical Site; the Edmonton Young Offenders Centre; Mamawenig; Back to Batoche Days; Fort Calgary’s Metis Cultural Festival, the American Indian Library Association, plus a host of other conferences and engagements. Jacqueline is the current Creator in Residence for the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers. She has been Writer in Residence for the Marigold Library System and is the proud recipient of the 2013 Indspire Award for the Arts. With her experience in writing, editing, promotion, touring and the business aspects of being a writer, Jacqueline feels sharing her expertise can help new authors achieve their goals faster and with better results.

Twitter account @JacquelineGuest

Author website

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

The Comic Book War by Jacqueline GuestThe Comic Book War is a great novel for readers of all ages. It tells the story of how one teenaged boy discovers a cosmic link between his comic book superheroes and his three brothers fighting overseas in WW2. It all starts when a meteorite falls from space in front of his eyes and he is able to find it…

This novel will make you believe in ‘What if?’, the biggest question in the universe. What if cosmic links do exist? What if we are all connected? What if we can tap into those connections to protect our loved ones?

This story is more than a coming of age novel, it shows us how we all cope with stress in different ways.

The Comic Book War at

The Comic Book War at

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

Mark Twain was, is and always will be my favorite author. I have many other stars on my book shelves too numerous to mention, but Twain’s stories continue to entertain and resonate with me even after all these years.

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?

First books are always hard, but don’t give up! Learning to write at a professional level is just like learning how to perform an athletic event at an Olympic level – it takes years of practice and dedication to achieve your goal, but it is so worth it. We will always need new books to inspire and entertain, and new writers coming up now will provide those wonderful books.

Outcasts of River Falls by Jacqueline GuestWhen did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?

I have always wanted to be a writer, but was afraid to say it out loud when I was growing up in case I was ridiculed. After all, published authors don’t come from a small village like Turner Valley, Alberta, they come from New York, or Toronto, or Vancouver- big cities with fancy schools. Well, I’m here to tell you, authors do come from small towns everywhere and you don’t need an agent or fancy letters after your name. You just have to believe- and be willing to pay your dues.

If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing / illustrating process look like?

Writing a novel is like running a marathon. It is hours of grueling practice, then many more hours honing your skills, and finally putting all that practice to work as you sit in front of your computer for hours on end, creating a world where not only your characters can live, but your readers too. I sit for long hours writing, oblivious to everything around me, eating chips with one hand while the other hand juggles a cup of tea as I pound on the keys. It’s not magic, it’s hard work. ;)

I call the room where I write a ‘Scriptorium’, (I even have a sign on the door!). People who have 9-5 jobs work in an ‘office’; a writer doesn’t have such nice tidy hours, which is why I like ‘scriptorium’ better.

Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?Rink Rivals by Jacqueline Guest

One of the coolest experiences I have had was working at a First Nation’s school when a young boy in Grade 5 came up to me and told me he read Rink Rivals, a hockey novel about twin boys who scrap on the ice and off. I said that was great, and he became excited, telling me he read all the pages, right to the end and he was going to read another book now and that it was the first book he had ever read in his entire life! That was the ultimate compliment.

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?

I love travelling to share my excitement about reading with students everywhere. To see a student’s excitement when they tell me about one of my books that they are reading and how the characters are so real, the adventure so exciting and the story so compelling, now, that’s worth the time, expense, long hours and effort. I wish I was better at social media and keeping my website up to date, but I’m not a tech type, and if anyone out there would like to work on my website for me, let me know!!!

If you weren’t an author / illustrator, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

I have worked every job under the sun to support my writing habit: house cleaner, retail clerk, waitress, day care worker, core analyst in the oil industry and about a million more jobs I shudder to remember. I know how fortunate I am to have this dream job of being a writer.

If you could dine with any author/illustrator (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?

I would pay to dine with Mark Twain. Not only handsome, but the most talented writer ever!

Does music play a part in your writing/illustrating? If so, what sort of music do you connect with your work?

When I write, it has to be absolutely quiet. No music, no TV, no distractions. (I even shut the chimes off on my wall clock because it was driving me nuts!)

Do you do school or library presentations?

I travel extensively to schools and libraries everywhere. I recently was at two schools in Tanzania while there volunteering to teach an adult writing class. I have various presentations geared to tandem with curriculums. Here’s some information:

Belle of Batoche by Jacqueline GuestThe Era of the Fur Trade explores Canada’s past with a session that includes over fifty artifacts such as beaver pelts, bone fishing hooks, horn sewing needles, plus we learn the uses of the Metis Sash, and the laws for the buffalo hunt. It is very interactive with students from the audience assisting me as we paddle down the river with our canoe laden with furs or demonstrating how old fashioned aboriginal toys worked. Belle of Batoche and Outcasts of River Falls are great companion reads for this session.

Dinosaurs! This is geared for students in Kindergarten and grade one/two who dig dinosaurs. The PPT session includes fossils of bones, trees, dino poop and an actual dinosaur egg and comes complete with a coloring handout.

Ghost Messages: A Voyage with the Author, a sixty minute PPT session, tandems with my novel Ghost Messages and deals with laying the transatlantic cable in 1865,an event which changed the world for all time because it changed the way we communicate. Those texters in the audience need to know how this communication explosion we live in today started. Students see an actual piece of the first transatlantic cable, plus students can win a prize by decoding and answering a secret Morse Code question.

The Comic Book War: WW2, Meteorites and Comic Book Superheroes involves my new novel The Comic Book War. Students learn about the home front war effort including savings stamps, rationing, victory gardens and a host of other helpful facts. Plus, we explore the possibility that we are all connected on a cosmic level. Could a meteorite found by our hero connect comic book super heroes here in Canada with three soldiers fighting overseas? ‘What if?’ the most powerful question in the universe!

Jacqueline Guest’s books are published by Coteau Books, Orca Book Publishers and James Lorimer and Company. She also works with Scholastic, Pearson Canada and Rubicon for short stories and levelled reading.

Meet Author Elizabeth MacLeod

Posted on July 3rd, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Author Elizabeth MacLeodElizabeth MacLeod is one nosy author, which is why she loves writing non-fiction. She’s very curious about why people do what they do, and she likes sharing with kids the amazing facts and secrets she uncovers.

As a kid in Thornhill, Ontario, the idea of being a writer never crossed her mind — she figured most authors were already dead and they definitely weren’t Canadian. Besides, it was science that interested her.

But writing was already part of her life. After dinner on school nights, she and her two brothers would trudge up to their rooms, close their doors and start to do their homework — or so their parents thought. A few minutes later, a piece of paper would come sliding under her door. One of her brothers had drawn a picture, usually of some weird creature.

She really couldn’t draw (she still can’t!), so the only way she could respond was to write a short story, often about a mad scientist or space alien. she’d slip the story under her brother’s door and — well, not a lot of homework got done.

At university, she studied sciences — there was hardly any writing involved at all. After she graduated she had a number of jobs, but none of them had anything to do with writing. She wanted to be an author but she was too scared to admit it to anyone, especially herself. However, one day she gathered up her courage, phoned a newspaper and sold an article she’d written. Wow!

Soon after this she attended a publishing workshop in Banff, Alberta, which led her to a job as an editor at OWL magazine. After a few years she switched to book publishing and became an editor at Kids Can Press. Meanwhile, in her spare time she began writing non-fiction books for kids. Then she became a part-time editor and writer. Now she’s a full-time writer, working for a number of different publishers.

One of the things she especially likes about writing for kids is that she gets to investigate so many interesting topics. She’s written articles or books on subjects such as weird breeds of dogs, Marie Curie, hoaxes, the northern lights and many, many more. Did you know that some dinosaurs were as small as chickens? Or that Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, got tired of having his work interrupted by his invention?

She’s written many biographies about such people as Helen Keller, Albert Einstein and Samuel de Champlain. One of her favourite things is discovering how inventors and writers come up with their ideas. She’s written a series of biographies for readers ages 6 to 8, and one for kids aged 8 to 12.

More recently she’s written about royalty, and the mysteries and crimes that surround them. Monarchy has always fascinated her. She loves going behind the scenes with monarchs from Cleopatra to Dracula to find out just what they would do to hold onto power or protect their families. These books have also let her research forensic techniques, ranging from DNA testing to crime-scene procedures.

Secrets Underground North Americas Buried Past written by Elizabeth MacLeodTell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

Secrets Underground: North America’s Buried Past is for readers age 10 and up. This is a great book for anyone who likes spine-tingling mysteries and eerie surprises! I think kids will be amazed to read about these buried secrets, including the top-secret equipment that lies deep below Grand Central Terminal in New York City and the network of abandoned tunnels below Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

The book also tells about the ships that were abandoned in San Francisco harbor during the Gold Rush. I travelled to the city and found numerous plaques and displays about the forgotten, buried ships. Many people who lived in San Francisco knew nothing about the ships but I’m proud of the fact that I was able to track them down.

Secrets Underground: North America’s Buried Past at Amazon,com

Secrets Underground: North America’s Buried Past at

Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?

I’ve had a different writing career from most other writers. I started as an editor at OWL Magazine, so I was on the inside of the publishing world from the beginning. The first few books I published were books that publishers asked me to write.

It can be really tough to get a publisher to accept a book proposal so I’d suggest aspiring authors prepare themselves as much as possible. Colleges and universities offer great writing courses, and so do organizations such as CANSCAIP and SCBWI. These are wonderful opportunities to meet other writers, have your proposal assessed by an expert and improve your writing.

I think it’s important for all authors, aspiring and published, to remember to never give up. If you really believe in a book idea but a publisher turns it down, revise the proposal as necessary, then send it out to another publisher. From being on the inside of the publishing world, I know there are lots of reasons why one publisher will turn down a book idea that will work very well for another publisher.

If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing / illustrating process look like?

I work at a large desk with a keyboard and good-sized computer monitor. I’ve got piles of papers and books, as well as a ceramic vase full of pens, a pewter pot holding paper clips, a grapefruit-scented candle (I read somewhere it helps with creativity) and a few other bits and pieces.

But you probably wouldn’t notice any of these things because you’d likely be focusing on our cat Cosimo. While I work, he’s usually stretched out under my desk lamp. Even on the hottest summer day, he seems to like the warmth!

Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?

In my presentations, I ask a lot of questions, so you’d think I’d be used to receiving some amazing answers, but kids always surprise me. I was talking once about the biographies I’ve written and telling kids about magician Harry Houdini. One boy shot up his hand and offered to share a magic trick with the group. How could I say no?The Kids Book of Canada at War by Elizabeth MacLeod

I also wrote The Kids Book of Canada at War, so I talk to students about John McCrae (author of the poem In Flanders Fields) and other brave Canadians who served in World War I and II (including my dad). I often get teary-eyed when I think of their courage and kids usually notice this. I wish I weren’t quite so emotional, but then the kids always want to share their stories about relatives who served in wartime. I guess I help them form a connection that makes them proud.

How do you stay connected with your readers? Have you gone on book tours? Do you engage on social media or through a website? Do you visit classrooms, libraries or bookstores?

I’ve taken part in a number of book tours, in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and throughout the Maritimes. I write about such interesting people and topics, so I love sharing the incredible facts I’ve uncovered. I visit classrooms, libraries and bookstores and have also done interviews on radio and television.

If you could dine with any author/illustrator (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?

I’d choose Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables books. I still re-read those books and I’ve written two biographies about her. Maud (as she liked to be called) had a tough life, so I’d ask her where she found her inspiration. I’d also like to know if she’s surprised that Anne is still so popular, what Maud thinks of all the books written about her and how she feels about Anne’s incredible fame in Japan.

Do you do school or library presentations? If so, please briefly describe topics/ geographical limitations.

I’ve written a series of biographies for first readers as well as a series for 8 to 12 year olds. So I can bring some of the world’s most incredible people to life for kids of many different ages. Kids are drawn into the wonderful stories about these well-known personalities with the many photos and artifacts that I use to illustrate my talks. I ask questions, request opinions, involve students in activities, etc.

Bunny the Brave War Horse by Elizabeth MacLeodFor students up to grade 2 or 3, I can also speak about my latest picture book, Bunny the Brave War Horse (Kids Can Press). This is a World War I story and is based on a real horse and rider. I can talk about the war as well as about horses; I also discuss World War II and show artifacts that belong to my father, who was a navigator with Bomber Command in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

As well, for older students I can look at the mysteries of history and how we’ve used modern technology to solve many of them. Using images and artifacts from my books Secrets Underground, Bones Never Lie and Royal Murder, I look at historic events and show why they matter, how they affect us today and how we can learn more about them. I also explore the forensic techniques used to solve crimes and mysteries and encourage kids to consider how to use deductive reasoning and other investigative methods in their own lives.

I’ve worked as an in-house editor, so as part of my presentation, I can also talk about the publishing process, from initial idea to final book. I discuss the team of people needed to produce a book, and again show artifacts to illustrate the various steps and to involve the audience.

As well, I have given many presentations to adults. One of my most popular talks is about how to get your children’s book published, including writing the best query letters, avoiding first-timers’ mistakes, etc. Since I have worked as an in-house editor, I can provide the view point of both an insider and a freelancer. I’ve also given presentations to many teachers and librarians about why biographies are important (for instance, they’re fun, they make history come alive, they can boost self-esteem and more) and how to interest children in biographies. I can provide handouts to participants for both of these talks.

I live in Toronto and I’m very willing to discuss travelling with anyone who would like me to speak in their classroom or library.

Wonderful Canadian Picture Books

Posted on June 28th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books

I couldn’t possibly create a list of Top Ten Canadian Picture Books or Even Favorite Canadian Picture Books – there are far too many wonderful Canadian picture books to consider.

For this list, I selected great Canadian picture books for a read aloud setting – perhaps circle time in a classroom or storytime in a library. All of the authors are Canadian. In a couple of instances the illustrators are not.

Many of these authors and illustrators have created several wonderful books for children. We invite you to use this list as an introduction to wonderful Canadian Picture Books

Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books including Bearcub and MamaBearcub and Mama written by Sharon Jennings and illustrated by Mélanie Watt
Canadian Picture Book about the relationship between mother and child published by Kids Can Press

Rich, warm, luminous illustrations enhance the story of a young cub and his mama. As the cub grows, he gains independence and gets separated from his loving, supportive and encouraging mother. Thankfully, he remembers the lessons she taught him and returns, through a snowstorm, to their cave. When he awakens in the morning, she is right there beside him. A lovely and reassuring story, best suited for preschool children.

Bearcub and Mama at

Bearcub and Mama at

Also by Mélanie Watt – Scaredy Squirrel and Chester’s Masterpiece. Also by Sharon Jennings – No Monsters Here

Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books including The Blue Hippopotamus
The Blue Hippopotamus – written by Phoebe Gilman and illustrated by Joanne Fitgerald
Canadian picture book published by Scholastic Canada

A finalist for the 2007 Governor General’s Literary Awards, The Blue Hippopotamus is the story of a little hippo who falls in love with the Pharoah’s daughter. When he comes to the sad realization that the young girl will not love a hippo, he seeks the help of a magician and is changed into a clay toy. His love for the girl endures for many years and, when he observes her loneliness as a young woman, he unselfishly wishes for her happiness. His generosity is magically rewarded and he is once again transformed.

Blue Hippopotamus at

Blue Hippopotamus at

Also by Phoebe Gilman – Jillian Jiggs and Something From Nothing. Also by Joanne Fitzgerald – Yum! Yum!!: Delicious Nursery Rhymes

Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books including Ella  May and the Wishing StoneElla May and the Wishing Stone written by Cary Fagan and illustrated by Geneviève Côté
Canadian picture book about friendship, problem solving published by Tundra Books

While on a trip to the beach, Ella May is fortunate to find an extra special stone – a stone that has a white line all around it. Certain that her extra special stone has the power to grant wishes, Ella May decides that her first wish should be to show the stone to all of her friends. Before long, Ella May’s friends have gathered ’round her, hoping to touch the magical stone. When Ella May refuses to let them hold it, they decide to find their own special stones. Although the children find all sorts of interesting stones, none is equal to Ella May’s.

  • “You’re not nice,” Manuel said. He put his stone in his pocket and tromped down the sidewalk to his own house.
  • Ella May watched him go, “Hey,” she said, “I wanted Manuel to go home and he did. Thank you again, wishing stone.”
  • Unable to find their own wishing stones, Ella’s friends come up with a creative but short-lived solution to the problem. Unfortunately, nothing resolves the conflict amongst the children; Ella May wants to be the only person with a wishing stone and she wants to keep her friends. The other children are resentful of the stone and of Ella May.

    When Ella May finally realizes that having a wishing stone is not nearly as special as having friends, the stage is set for a happy and imaginative solution that reunites the group.

    A great choice for children aged four and up, Ella May and the Wishing Stone is a (32 page) story that invites readers to think about what it means to be a friend, how best to share treasured items and imaginative ways to solve problems.

    Note – illustrations and children’s names depict a racially diverse group of friends.

    Ella May and the Wishing Stone at

    Ella May and the Wishing Stone at

    Also by Cary Fagan – Book of Big Brothers and My New Shirt. Also by Geneviève Côté – What Elephant?

    Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books including The Hockey TreeThe Hockey Tree written by David Ward and illustrated by Brian Deines
    Canadian picture book published by Scholastic Canada

    This is a favourite wintertime picture book that beautifully captures a Canadian winter day. Set in Saskatchewan, Owen and Holly are excited because Humboldt Lake has finally frozen over and it is a perfect morning for a spirited game of pond hockey. The two children are excited to drive to the lake with their dad and before long their skates are laced and the three are laughing and playing together. Unfortunately, just as the family starts to talk about taking a break and enjoying a mug of steaming hot chocolate, Holly smacks at the puck and it flies across the frozen lake and into an ice fishing hole.

    The children are terribly disappointed that they’ve lost their puck and assume that the game will have to end. Dad is not quite so willing to concede. He helps Owen and Holly to find a fallen poplar tree near the lake. Once a suitable tree is found, dad saws a piece from the trunk to create a wooden puck and the hockey game resumes.

    Brian Deines’ luminous illustrations include icy cold winter scenes that are made warm by his depiction of the joy of playing a favourite sport with friends and family.

    A lovely book to share with young children, this is one of my favourite wintertime picture books.

    The Hockey Tree at

    The Hockey Tree at

    Also by David Ward – One Hockey Night. Also by Brian Deines – Camping and Bear on the Train

    Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books including I Want My Hat BackI Want My Hat Back written and illustrated by Jon Klassen
    Canadian Picture Book published by Candlewick Press

    Poor Bear, he has lost his pointy, red hat. He searches the forest, politely asking, “Have you seen my hat?” He meets Fox, Frog, Rabbit, Turtle, and Snake. None has seen his hat. Bear is bereft and despondent. He frets that his hat is gone forever.

    When Deer finally asks, “What does your hat look like?” Bear remembers something important.

    Picture book, I Want My Hat Back is a breath of fresh air with a hint of mystery and a touch of revenge.

    Best suited to older readers, adults and children (aged five and up) will thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to “read between the lines” and enjoy Klassen’s gallows humor.

    Would I read it to a group of three year olds? “Maybe not.” Would I read it to a group of jaded six year olds who think they know all there is to know about picture books? “You betcha!”

    Storytime kit from Candlewick Press - includes I Want My Hat Back activities.

    I Want My Hat Back at

    I Want My Hat Back at

    Also by Jon Klassen – This is Not My Hat and Cat’s Night Out

    Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books including The Imaginary GardenThe Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
    Canadian Picture Book published by Kids Can Press

    Theo is blessed to have a very special relationship with her grandfather, Poppa. When Poppa moves into an apartment, they decide to create an imaginary garden on his balcony. The first Saturday of spring is marked by the arrival of a giant, blank canvas. Before long, Poppa and Theo have created a long stone wall and beautiful blue sky. Soon they have added beautiful spring flowers to their masterpiece. When Poppa leaves for a holiday, Theo worries about tending their special garden by herself. With gentleness and love, Poppa assures her that she will know what will nurture their imaginary garden. This lovely picture book would be a great gift for a special Grandpa.

    The Imaginary Garden at

    The Imaginary Garden at

    Also by Andrew Larsen – In the Tree House

    Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books including The Paper Bag Princess The Paperbag Princess written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
    Canadian picture book published by Annick Press

    Princess Elizabeth is betrothed to Prince Ronald when a large dragon destroys her kingdom, including all of her clothing. Wearing nothing but a paper bag, the very resourceful Princess Elizabeth sets out to rescue her fiancé. When Elizabeth finds the dragon’s cave, she challenges the dragon to prove that he can burn up five forests with just one firey breath. The flattered dragon not only burns up forests, he also flies around the world until exhausted.

    Once the dragon is well and truly asleep, Elizabeth finds Prince Ronald who is not nearly as grateful as he ought to be. He is unimpressed with her hair and unimpressed with her clothing and he’d rather she looked like a princess.

    A delightful story that depicts the princess as rescuer and the prince as a shallow ingrate, The Paperbag Princess is a great resource for exploring stereotypes.

    The Paper Bag Princess at

    The Paper Bag Princess at

    Also by Robert Munsch – Love You Forever, We Share Everything and many other books. Also by Michael Matchenko – Mortimer and I Have to Go!

    Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books including Picture a TreePicture a Tree - written and illustrated by Barbara Reid
    Canadian picture book published by North Winds Press, an imprint of Scholastic Canada

    Marvelous Plasticine illustrations may initially distract young readers from the thought-provoking text in Picture a Tree. Using a combination of Plasticine and paint, Ms. Reid has created beautiful, richly detailed images of trees and the variety of people living, working and playing near them.

    Readers are encouraged to notice how trees, whether enormous or freshly planted, change through the year, how various creatures dwell in trees and how the life cycle of a tree can be viewed metaphorically. A variety of perspectives are also shown as Ms. Reid illustrates shadows of trees, more than one reflection and the view from above a forest of trees.

    You may see a drawing on the sky. A game of dress-up. The first drops of colour then all the art supplies at once.

    Simply beautiful, Picture a Tree is sure to inspire young artists and encourage environmental awareness. It is suitable for children aged four and up.

    Picture a Tree at

    Picture a Tree at

    Also by Barbara Reid – The Subway Mouse, The Night Before Christmas, Perfect Snow, Sing a Song of Mother Goose

    Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books including Pink by Nan Gregory and Luc MelandsonPink – written by Nan Gregory and illustrated by Luc Melanson
    Canadian Picture book published by Groundwood Books

    We’ve all seen them, “The Pinks,” Vivi calls them, but not out loud. Every day at school they parade their glory – from hair bows to tippy toes, every shade of perfect pink.”

    Poor Vivi would love to be just like “The Pinks.” Her rather ordinary world is not at all pink. She lives, with her blue collar parents and her baby brother, in a brown working class world that leaves her yearning. Her parents are not unaware of her desire to be a “Pink,” they have had their share of disappointments but they have found ways to accept and live within their means.

    One day, when Vivi is running an errand for her mom, she discovers the ultimate pink treasure. She sees a beautiful doll, dressed in a cascading pink bridal gown. It is displayed prominently in the window of an exclusive neighbourhood shop. Vivi feels she must have it so she does chores and small jobs all winter to earn money. She saves and saves in order to buy the beautiful doll. She is certain that having the spectacular doll will enable her to live like the wealthy “Pink” girls she sees at school.

    Pink is a marvelous story that is both poignant and thoughtful. Vivi wants so much to be a “Pink” and her young heart is filled to bursting with desire for the doll. When Vivi witnesses one of the “Pinks” leaving the store with “her” doll, she is heartbroken but ultimately enriched by the experience.

    It would have been so easy to create a magical happy ending and have Vivi’s world become a pink one. Thankfully, Ms. Gregory understands that life is not always fair and that if we take time to look, beauty (and especially pink) is all around us. When sharing this thoughtful story with a child, be sure to take note of Mr. Melanson’s illustrations and especially his masterful depictions of Vivi’s emotions.

    Very highly recommended, for children four and up.

    Pink at

    Pink at

    Also by Nan Gregory – How Smudge Came Also by Luc Melanson – Book of Big Brothers

    Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books including The Pirates of Captain McKeeThe Pirates of Captain McKee! written by Julie Lawson and illustrated by Werner Zimmermann
    Canadian Picture Book published by Scholastic Canada

    Originally published as Whatever You Do, Don’t Go Near that Canoe, The Pirates of Captain McKee is a rollicking adventure story that will have broad appeal to young children, especially those who love pirates.

    A nominee for The 1996 Canada Council for the Arts Governor General’s Literacy Award for illustration, The Pirates of Captain McKee tells the story of two children, a brother and sister, who are warned not to go near a canoe. The warning, given by Captain Kelsey McKee, is accompanied by a wink so the children are undeterred. They don lifejackets and climb into the canoe. Before long they find themselves well away from the dock.

    Through fast-running currents, through slow-rolling tides,
    Far into the fading light,
    Through sun flecks and sunset, through dusk’s purple haze,
    The canoe sped into the night.

    Although returning to the safety of home seems a great idea, the children are not in control. The magical canoe is deciding their course. Just before dawn, the canoe and the children approach a pirate ship at anchor and many, many intimidating pirates onshore. The pirates recognize the canoe and decide to teach the children a lesson. Frightened about their predicament, the children fear the worst until they notice a “marvellous smell… There’s marshmallows roasting round here!”

    Gorgeous illustrations and delightful rhyming text make this a wonderful read aloud for children aged four and up.

    The Pirates of Captain McKee at

    The Pirates of Captain McKee at

    Also by Julie Lawson – The Klondike Cat, Emma and the Silk Train Also by Werner Zimmerman – Pippin the Christmas Pig and Snow Day

    Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books including Stella Fairy of the ForestStella, Fairy of the Forest – written & illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
    Canadian Picture book published by Groundwood Books

    Marie-Louise Gay’s picture books about Sam and Stella are marvelous. This, their third adventure, begins when Sam asks Stella about fairies. Stella knows just where to find some. She leads Sam on a pleasant walk through gorgeous meadows, across a sparkling stream and into a magical forest.

    This Stella and Sam story is truly lovely especially in its treatment of the siblings’ relationship. Sam, who is nervous, clearly looks up to his confident older sister and Stella is more than happy to share her knowledge of the outdoors and all things magical with her younger brother.

    Ms. Gay’s distinctive illustrations have a luminous quality, particularly her depictions of the delightful red-head heroine, Stella. Don’t miss it!

    32 pages and suitable for children aged three and up. Stella, Fairy of the Forest is well- suited to circle time and could be used as part of a preschool or kindergarten Family or Forest theme.

    Marie Louise Gay’s website includes printable stickers, colouring sheets, posters and bookmarks

    Stella, Fairy of the Forest at

    Stella, Fairy of the Forest at

    Also by Marie-Louise Gay – On My Island and Caramba

    Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books including A Sack Full of FeathersA Sack Full of Feathers
    Written by Debby Waldman and illustrated by Cindy Revell
    Canadian Picture Book published by Orca Book Publishers

    Young Yankel is a storyteller. He overhears bits of news at his father’s store and excitedly shares the gossip throughout the village.

    One day a wise rabbi gives Yankel a job; he is to put one feather on each doorstep in the village. Puzzled, Yankel willingly distributes the feathers even as gusts of wind send some flying.

    When the rabbi subsequently asks Yankel to collect all the feathers and return them to the sack, Yankel comes to understand the danger of gossip.

    A delightful folktale is retold in A Sack Full of Feathers with engaging illustrations and warmth.

    A Sack Full of Feathers at

    Sack Full of Feathers at

    Also by Debby Waldman and Cindy Revell – Clever Rachel

    Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books including Timmerman was HereTimmerman Was Here written by Colleen Sydor and illustrated by Nicolas Debon
    Canadian Picture Book published by Tundra Books

    Timmerman Was Here is written from the perspective of a young girl. We share her nervousness as a stranger arrives at her home. The stranger moves into a bedroom, recently vacated by the girl’s grandfather who has gone to live in a residence for seniors. The young girl is not happy about the stranger’s arrival but as she watches and interacts with him, she discovers a gentle heart. When the stranger is discovered walking the neighbourhood at night (with a spade and a burlap sack), gossip abounds. The neighbours speculate that he could be a bank robber or responsible for the death of a cat.

    Timmerman Was Here is a lovely, thought-provoking picture book that encourages the reader to rethink assumptions and stereotypes. Highly recommended.

    Suggested for children 4 – 8

    Timmerman Was Here at

    Timmerman Was Here at

    Also by Nicolas Debon A Brave Soldier and Thing-Thing

    Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books including Under a Prairie SkyUnder a Prairie Sky written by Anne Laurel Carter and illustrated by Alan and Lea Daniel
    Canadian picture book published by Orca Book Publishers

    Under a Prairie Sky features detailed, striking watercolour illustrations and the equally dramatic text. A terrific Canadian picture book read aloud for four and five year olds, Under a Prairie Sky is the story of a farm boy who aspires to be a RCMP Officer when he grows up. While harvesting wheat with his father, he is sent to find his younger brother before a storm arrives at the farm. Knowing that this is a job that will demand the detective skills of a Mounted Police Officer, he quickly changes his clothes, dons a Stetson and mounts his trusty black horse. He follows young Will’s trail through the fields and into the wild, taking in flora and fauna native to the Canadian prairies.

    Under a Prairie Sky at

    Under a Prairie Sky at

    Also from Anne Laurel Carter – The F Team and Tall in the Saddle Also from Alan and Lea Daniel – The Best Figure Skater in the Whold Wide World

    Storytime Standouts Looks at Wonderful Canadian Picture Books including You're Mean Lily JeanYou’re Mean, Lily Jean written by Frieda Wishinsky and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
    Canadian Picture Book published by North Winds Press, an imprint of Scholastic Canada

    You’re Mean, Lily Jean tells the story of a new girl who moves into the neighbourhood. Lily Jean is the same age as Sandy and is domineering and a braggart. She joins Sandy and her younger sister Carly for a couple of playdates. Lily Jean does not want Carly to be a part of their imaginary games and each time the three girls play together, Lily Jean dictates what they will play and how they will play. She gives the younger sister, Carly, the less desirable “parts” in their imaginary world. Lily Jean and Sandy are the king and queen, Carly is told to be the dog. Lily and Sandy are cowgirls, Carly is told to be the cow. “She did not want to moo or eat grass, but Lily Jean said she had to if she wanted to play. So she did.”

    Lily Jean’s smug appearance and Carly’s bitter disappointment are depicted beautifully by Ms. Denton. Readers will cheer for Carly when Sandy decides she would prefer to play with her younger sister than with an overbearing bully.

    You’re Mean Lily Jean is best suited to children four and up. It offers many opportunities for children to consider each girl’s perspective and ways to resolve difficult social situations.

    You’re Mean, Lily Jean at

    You’re Mean, Lily Jean at

    Also from Frieda Wishinsky – Oonga Boonga, Give Maggie a Chance and Please, Louise!

    Meet Author Michael Betcherman

    Posted on June 5th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


    Storytime Standouts introduces author Michael BetchermanMichael Betcherman is an award-winning author and screenwriter. He has numerous writing credits in both dramatic and documentary television, including several episodes of the popular CBC drama, Street Legal. He is also the author/creator of The Daughters of Freya and Suzanne, two groundbreaking online novels that were highly praised by numerous publications, including The Globe and Mail and The (U.K.) Guardian.

    Michael has written two young adult mystery novels, Breakaway and Face-Off, both published by Penguin Canada. Breakaway was short-listed for the John Spray Mystery Award.

    Author Facebook page
    Author Twitter account @MBetcherman

    Tell us about your latest published book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

    My latest book is Face-Off, a Young Adult mystery published this February.

    Here’s a brief synopsis:

    Storytime Standouts profiles Michael Betcherman, the author of Faceoff17 year-old Alex Petrovic came to Canada with his mother when he was an infant, after his father was murdered during a civil war in their home country in Eastern Europe.
    He is playing goal for Team B.C. in an international hockey tournament against a team from the old country. After the game, he shakes hands with the opposing goalie, Stefan Divac, and finds himself staring at his identical double. His heart tells him Stefan is his brother but his brain tells him that can’t be – until his mother sees Stefan, and faints dead away.

    Stefan had been with the boys’ father when he was murdered, and all these years Alex’s mother believed he was dead as well. Only now does she find out that he was rescued and raised by another family.

    All his life, Alex has felt a part of him was missing, and when Stefan comes to live with him and his mother in Vancouver in order to pursue his hockey career, it seems like a fairy tale come true – until sibling rivalry rears its ugly head. When Stefan proves to be a better goalie than Alex, Alex’s life goes off the rails.

    As Alex struggles with his personal demons, he and his brother get caught up in a mystery involving the two war criminals from their home country who were responsible for tearing their family apart.

    I think the book has wide appeal. Although the background is hockey, readers don’t have to be hockey fans to enjoy it. There’s a very strong female character, Lara, who is Alex’s love interest, and a competitive kick boxer who plays a major role in the mystery. She is feisty and fearless and funny, and reminds me of my daughter. She’s probably the character I’d most want to hang out with.

    Face-Off at

    Face-Off at

    Michael’s first book, Breakaway was a finalist for the 2012 John Spray Mystery AwardBreakaway by Michael Betcherman

    Breakaway at

    Breakaway at

    Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?

    I was extraordinarily lucky with my first YA novel, Breakaway. Everything came together relatively easily – if one discounts the time and effort it took to actually write the book, and the years I spent honing my craft.

    Once the book was finished, I decided to look for an agent. That can be difficult these days – many agents aren’t accepting new clients – but the first agent I contacted agreed to represent me. She sent the book to five of the top publishers in Canada and a couple of months later Penguin offered me a two-book deal. I still have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.

    I’ve got three pieces of advice for aspiring authors:
    Number one: Make sure your book is as good as you can possibly make it before you send it out it into the world. Agents and publishers will only look at it once. I think it’s helpful to have friends and colleagues whose opinions you respect read the book before you submit it anywhere, but keep in mind this cautionary note from Neil Gaiman: “When people tell you that something in the book doesn’t work for them, they are usually right. When they tell you how to fix it, they are always wrong.”

    Number two: Write about something that touches you, something you care about. Our emotions are what make us unique. If you write about something you feel strongly about, you will write something that’s powerful and that will move your audience.

    Number three: Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. I wish I’d learned that lesson a lot earlier in life.

    If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing process look like?

    I work at home most of the time but that can get isolating, so I often go to a neighbourhood cafe for a couple of hours in the afternoon for a change of scenery – and to reassure myself that I’m not alone in the universe. In either place I alternate between staring off into space and tapping away on my laptop. Fortunately, as my writing process has evolved, I’m increasingly doing more of the latter than the former.

    Everybody has to find the process that works best for them. Basically what I try to do is get the first draft out as quickly as possible, and then trust the creative process, trust that my imagination will find solutions for the problems that inevitably arise.

    When I first started writing, I tried to have the whole story worked out before I started in on the actual manuscript. That’s probably because I’m a bit of a control freak. But it didn’t take long to realize that didn’t work. Everything would inevitably change once I started writing the manuscript which meant that I was wasting a lot of time trying to work things out in advance.

    The main reason was that my characters hadn’t taken shape yet. Writers often say that at some point their characters take over, as if they were real individuals with wills of their own. I wouldn’t put it this way but what does happen, or at least what happens for me, is that as soon as I put my characters in a specific situation, it gives my imagination something concrete to think about, and I come up with all sorts of possibilities that I could never come up with when I was thinking about the story more abstractly.

    Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with teens. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?

    Last year I did a book signing at a boys’ hockey tournament. Getting boys to read is a real problem, and the parents were generally keener about the book than their sons. One man dragged his son over to the table. After I told them what the book was about, the father turned to his son and asked, somewhat plaintively, “Do you think you’d read this?” The boy thought it over for a few moments. “I’d start it,” he said finally, “but I wouldn’t finish it.”

    Cracked me right up, but it underlines how difficult it is get boys to read. (By the way, the boy’s dad bought the book for him. I never did find out if he finished it.)

    What are the biggest challenges of being an author / illustrator?

    This may sound strange, but I think one of the biggest challenges is to write a compelling synopsis for your book. You may have written the greatest book in the world but an agent or a publisher won’t even read it unless they’re captivated by the synopsis. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to write. You have to distill your manuscript into a few short paragraphs that convey the plot, the main characters, the conflicts and the themes. I spent eight hours working on a ten-sentence synopsis for Breakaway. It was the most useful eight hours I ever spent. The agent I sent it to got right back to me, said she found the synopsis intriguing and that she had put my manuscript at the top of her reading pile.

    If you weren’t an author, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

    I always wanted to be a writer, but I came to it rather circuitously. I started out my working career as an entertainment lawyer and eventually became a consultant to the CBC series, Street Legal. Through that connection, I got the opportunity to write an episode of the show. The producer liked it, and hired me to several more, which gave me the encouragement I needed to give up law and write full-time.

    I spent many years writing for television. I also wrote a couple of screenplays and two online novels. I had never thought about writing for young adults, but one day a few years ago I woke up with the idea that became Breakaway – a story about a boy whose father has been wrongly convicted of murder. I sat down and wrote 15 pages in less than an hour, something that had never happened to me before but which told me I was onto a good thing.

    I love writing for this age group. It’s not about flowery language or description which I’ve never been keen on, it’s about telling a good story about characters people will care about.

    Do you do school or library presentations?

    I enjoy doing presentations at schools. I like to talk about writing, and the writing process, based on my personal experience, so the best fit for me is a senior grade (11 or 12) writing class where the students are interested in becoming writers.

    I live in Toronto (Canada), so that’s the most convenient locale but would be prepared to go elsewhere.

    Meet Author Frieda Wishinsky

    Posted on May 29th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


    Frieda Wishinsky AuthorFrieda Wishinsky is the author of over sixty books. She writes picture books, chapter books, novels and non-fiction and is the author of the popular Canadian Flyer Adventures. Her books have been translated into many languages and have been nominated or won many awards internationally. JENNIFER JONES WON’T LEAVE ME ALONE won three English Children’s Choice awards and PLEASE, LOUISE! won the prestigious Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award. EACH ONE SPECIAL was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award (Text) in 1998. Frieda loves speaking to kids and adults about the writing process and the joy of reading.

    Author website
    Author Facebook page

    Ms. Wishinky’s latest book is A HISTORY OF JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING, non-fiction for grades 3 and up. She co-wrote it with Elizabeth MacLeod.
    Published by Kids Can Press

    A History of Just About Everything by Frieda Wishinsky and Elizabeth MacLeodTell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

    My latest book, A HISTORY OF JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING was the biggest project I ever worked on and I didn’t even write it alone. Elizabeth MacLeod and I co-wrote the book and luckily we had an excellent editor, Val Wyatt who helped us organize our huge topic. I think our approach is a dynamic way of presenting history. We show how everything is linked and how events from the past ripple forward. We wrote the book in a conversational, easy-to-understand and fast-paced style. Both kids and adults tell us they enjoy the book (and learn a lot along the way).

    A History of Just About Everything at

    A History of Just About Everything at

    If we were watching over your shoulder as you work on a book, what would we see? Where do you work? What does your writing / illustrating process look like?

    I love writing in coffee shops. Maybe that’s because I grew up in New York City and like the hum and buzz behind me as I write. I also write at home in my office overlooking tall evergreens but I’m most creative when I’m out. I write by hand with a pencil (hooray for erasers) and then transfer the text to the computer. I revise by hand and then it’s back to the computer. I like to get feedback for my work and ask wise, honest yet supportive readers for their comments. Then I listen to what they say. I may not use everything, or change everything but I listen.Please, Louise! written by Frieda Wishinsky and illustrated by Marie Louise Gay

    What are the joys of being an author? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

    I love hearing, reading and making up stories. Stories keep us connected to each other, help us through tough times and let us know that we’re not alone. I enjoy writing in many genres, although I especially love picture books. It’s an exciting challenge to say so much in so few words. I believe that the best picture books are for readers of any age. (I read picture books all the time)

    I also believe that non-fiction should be presented as a story. After all, history is the story of everyone’s past.

    I have fun visiting schools, meeting teachers and librarians and my fellow authors. Book people are wonderful!

    Have any of your books been published electronically? If so, what was that process like? What sort of feedback have you had from readers?

    You're Mean, Lily Jean written by Frieda Wishinsky and illustrated by Kady MacDonald DentonA bunch of my books have been published electronically, especially my Orca titles. I find I still sell way more books the old fashioned paper way. Maybe it’s the genre I write in. I don’t know.

    If you could dine with any author/illustrator (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?

    Top of my list would be my dear friend, Phoebe Gilman. I wish she were here to talk to and share work with again. I miss her. She always had insightful yet supportive comments. And I would have loved to meet William Steig. I love that he began writing kids books late in life. His writing and art are funny and so “true”.

    Our reviews of some of Ms. Wishinky’s books:
    Canadian Flyer Adventure Series
    You’re Mean, Lily JeanCanadian Flyer -  Beware Pirates Frieda Wishinsky

    Do you do school or library presentations?

    I do many school, library and conference presentations all over Canada and beyond. I love sharing writing ideas and books with kids and adults. My background in teaching and educational writing has been invaluable in connecting with kids, teachers and the curriculum. My talks are lively, interactive and curriculum-linked.
    I’ve also taught writing workshops and courses for kids and adults and offer one-to-one manuscript evaluations.

    Meet Author and Storyteller Joan Marie Galat

    Posted on May 22nd, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


    Storytime Standouts introduces Joan Marie Galat author and storytellerAlthough she started making books at the age of nine, Joan Marie Galat wasn’t published until the age of 12, when she became a paid weekly newspaper columnist. Today she is an award-winning and best selling author.

    Joan shares her love of the stars in the Dot to Dot in the Sky series, which combines the science of the night sky with the ancient myths that give constellations and planets their names. Her first title, Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories in the Stars, became a best seller within six weeks of its release.

    Joan’s books for children explore astronomy, ancient myths and legends, light pollution, history, and nature. She writes fiction and non-fiction, including two books for Scholastic classified as “info-fiction fantasy story.” A prolific writer for all ages and relentless promoter of reading, Joan loves to use storytelling to connect with audiences. A highlight in her career involved presenting Korean translations of her books at an international book fair in Seoul.

    Joan operates MoonDot Media, a communications business offering writing and editing solutions in broadcast, print, and multi-media. She is the contributing editor of a quarterly magazine called The Advocate. Her freelance jobs have encompassed writing radio and video scripts, an Internet cartoon, exhibit text, speechwriting, and much more.

    Author Website
    Author Facebook page
    Author/Storyteller Twitter Account @joanmariegalat

    The Discovery of Longitude Joan Marie GalatTell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?
    My most recently published children’s book is The Discovery of Longitude, illustrated by Wes Lowe.

    The story explores human struggle—something anyone can relate to. It offers all the elements of a great story: a challenge, hero, and conflict, followed by justice. Discovering how to measure longitude changed the world, in part because it created time zones. I’m proud to have taken a complicated subject and made it understandable and interesting to young readers.

    The Discovery of Longitude is a picture book, intended for ages five and up. However, its story will interest anyone unfamiliar with the dangers of ocean travel before people knew how to determine their east-west location at sea.

    The Discovery of Longitude at

    The Discovery of Longitude at

    I’m excited to share that I have a number of new titles scheduled for release in 2014 and 2015:
    Dark Matters—Nature’s reaction to light pollution (Red Deer Press)
    Branching Out: How trees are part of our world (Owlkids)
    Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories of the Aurora (Whitecap Books)
    Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories of the Sun (Whitecap Books)
    Cloud to Cloud in the Sky, Weather Science and Mythology from Around the World (Whitecap Books)

    Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?

    It took several years to get my first book published. When Dot to Dot in the Sky—Stories in the Stars was released, I was enormously pleased. The path to publishing taught me that it’s not enough to have interesting, well-expressed ideas. It’s also necessary to understand how the publishing industry operates.

    I applied myself to understanding the needs of publishers and that helped me. Today I teach a workshop to aspiring authors called The Business of Getting Published. I also offer one-on-one consulting (virtual or in-person) to help people realize their writing goals.Dod to Dot Stories in the Stars Joan Marie Galat

    My advice to aspiring authors:

    1. Read current books in the genre you wish to be published. Analyze why award-winning titles are effective.
    2. Remember that writing is about rewriting. Never submit your first draft.
    3. Take rejection in stride and persevere. You only need to find one editor who likes your idea.

    When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?

    I wanted to be an author since first falling in love with stories as a young child. Because I liked books so much, I wanted to make my own. At age 12, I was lucky to become a weekly newspaper columnist. I thank my father for always taking me to the library and my mother who is a fine proofreader. She surely saved me from having my early errors become public!

    Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?

    Sharing my books with children is an extremely rewarding part of this career. Young children are unfailingly honest, so it means everything when they tell you they like your books. After a recent astronomy presentation at an elementary school, a child came up afterwards to look at my books, and said, “This is the best day ever!”

    School and library presentations

    Joan Marie Galat offers school and library presentations, writing workshops, and residencies, including virtual presentations via Skype. She’s willing to travel to any location, budget permitting. Please contact her (see above) about funding possibilities.

    Dot to Dot in the Sky Literacy
    - Author presentations that build reading and writing skills

    When it comes to helping students find the joy in reading and writing, the sky’s the limit for astronomy author, Joan Marie Galat. In a lively presentation that blends facts, storytelling, and writing tips, Joan launches reluctant readers into books.

    Students of all ages find it hard to resist the lure of astronaut food, exploding stars, and black holes—topics that fascinate kids. Joan also intrigues young writers with ancient myths and her story of becoming a paid columnist at age 12. By the end of the presentation kids will be heading to the library to take out books.

    Meet Author Illustrator Patricia Storms

    Posted on May 15th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


    Storytime Standouts Profile of Patricia StormsPatricia Storms is an award-winning editorial cartoonist and author/illustrator of children’s books and humour books. Her cartoons have been published in numerous magazines and newspapers including Reader’s Digest, The Town Crier, The National Post, The London Times, The London Evening Standard, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Canadian Notes and Queries. Her newest picture book, Never Let You Go (Scholastic Canada, 2013) has been described as “profound” with “exuberant illustrations”, and has been published in numerous languages. She lives in Toronto, Ontario with her husband and two fat cats in a cozy old house full to the brim with books.

    Author website
    Author Facebook page
    Author/illustrator Twitter Account: @stormsy

    Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

    Storytime Standouts looks at Never Let You Go by Patricia StormsMy latest picture book is Never Let You Go, written and illustrated by myself, published by Scholastic Canada. A description of the book:
    “ In this warm, funny book, an adorable penguin learns that Mom or Dad “will never let you go.” Safely assured by the steadfast love of a parent, the little penguin can begin to explore its world bit by bit — draw a picture, chase the stars, even throw a tantrum — secure in the knowledge that a doting parent is always waiting in the wings.

    Tender but never cloying, Never Let You Go gives a great, warm hug, followed by an encouraging pat as it sets up young readers to take their first big steps on the path to growing up. This story is destined to be a favourite read-aloud for parents and children alike, as the simple but powerful message of enduring love and support is one little readers will take to heart.”

    I think everyone should read it! I know young ones enjoy the bright funny pictures (and who can resist a cute purple penguin?); I also know that adults are very drawn to the story because it makes them think of their relationship with their child or grandchild. I’m quite proud of this book because it’s the first time I really ‘opened up my heart’ so to speak, in my professional work. I’m also very please with how the art turned out. I pushed myself to improve my colours, and I tried some new techniques, and I think it worked out quite well!

    Read what Storytime Standouts said about Never Let You Go and see a video of Patricia sharing the book.

    Never Let You Go at

    Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

    I was probably most drawn to Maurice Sendak, but not ‘Where the Wild things Are’. I was totally in love with his Nustshell LibraryChicken Soup with Rice, One was Johnny, Alligators All Around and Pierre. The stories are very well-written and clever. And the art is so rich and warm. As an adult, I’ve discovered the early work of Sendak (titles like A Hole is to Dig, Kenny’s Window, The Moon Jumpers, Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present and Charlotte and the White Horse). I am totally in love with this period of his career. Dare I say it? I think his early work is much more appealing than Where the Wild Things Are.

    Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?
    If I really think about it, it wasn’t that difficult for me initially getting published. I entered this bizarre world at a time when the internet & blogging was new. I was far too scared to show my art to an art director in person (who likes rejection? Nobody). It was much easier to just put one’s art online and get rejected in a less direct way. Fortunately for me, various art directors liked my work, and I was quite busy doing a variety of illustration – magazine gags, greeting cards, editorial cartoons, book cover illustration and yes, children’s book illustration.

    Patricia Storms illustrated (humor book) Good Granny Bad GrannyI would suggest to aspiring authors/illustrators to persist, persist, persist. Work hard at figuring out who you are and what you like. Be careful who you listen to regarding your dreams. If you are near people who are mocking your desires, or being very harsh & cruel regarding your work, get away from them. Constructive criticism is worthwhile, but stay away from those who maliciously cut you down.

    When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?
    The Pirate and the Penguin by Patricia StormsI had wanted to write & illustrate books ever since I was a teenager. But I had no clue back then how to make it a profession, and I struggled a great deal with confidence issues. When I was in my early 20s I was fortunate to encounter a very kind cartoonist by the name of Steven Toth who really encouraged me and helped me on my creative path. I’ll be forever grateful to him.

    Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?
    Well, with my latest book, Never Let You Go, it’s not the response of children that has surprised me – it’s the response of adults. On numerous occasions when I’ve watched various adults read Never Let You Go for the first time, they have started to cry. Last year I put one of my pieces from the book (the page with the Southern Lights, known as Aurora Australis) in an art show, and I actually witnessed someone crying, just from looking at my art! I’ve never had that sort of response from my art before. It’s quite an odd and humbling feeling, I must say.

    What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?
    Creating something that comes from inside me, and seeing it become a real live book is a pretty amazing feeling, I must say. It does feel really great to be in alone in a room and drawing. It also feels pretty wonderful to see people young & not-so-young enjoying my books – seeing them laugh, ask questions, cry, and also seeing young kids being inspired to their own art once they encounter my books.

    Do you do school or library presentations?
    Yes, I do school presentations. I can present grades K-12. For Kindergarten I keep things simple – half hour session showing how to draw animals using basic shapes like circles, squares, triangles. I can also do a slide presentation of my new book, Never Let You Go, and then show the little ones how to draw penguins. Grades 1-5 I do an interactive ‘Create a Character’ gig, getting audience to give me ideas on how to draw eyes, nose, hair, etc for a character. After character is made I create a short story for the group to illustrate, introducing them to concepts like characters, setting & action. Grades 4-8 I do a slide presentation of my work, focusing mainly on creating a book cover for a publisher. Near the end of the presentation I provide the group with ideas for creating their own book cover. For grades 9-12 I present a picture book writing workshop, discussing trends in picture book publishing, and then near the end of the workshop I present some short writing exercise for the class to work on.

    Meet Author Margriet Ruurs

    Posted on May 8th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


    Margriet Ruurs Author Profile
    Margriet Ruurs lives on Salt Spring Island (in British Columbia) and is the author of 30 books for children. With a Master of Education degree from Simon Fraser University, she teaches writing workshops at elementary schools across North America. Recipient of the Presidential Award for Reading & Technology of the International Reading Association, she has conducted writing workshops in Lahore, Pakistan and author visits to International Schools around the world.

    Margriet writes a regular column for Canadian Teacher Magazine, as well as freelance articles for Reading Today, the magazine of IRA.

    She is a popular speaker at conferences, including many State Reading Conferences, National Service Learning Conference, East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools, IRA National and Regional Conferences, Vancouver International Writers’ Festival and others. She conducts school visits throughout the school year, sharing her love of reading and writing with thousands of students and teachers. “I love to use my imagination,” she says, “but also to research and write nonfiction books.”

    Emmas Eggs written by Margriet Ruurs and illustrated by Barbara Spurll Several of her books have won awards, including the Storytellers World Award Honor Title for Emma’s Eggs and short listings for the Mr. Christie Award of Excellence, the Shining Willow and the Chocolate Lily, Blue Spruce, Utah Information Book Award and National Crown Award. My Librarian is a Camel was awarded Teacher’s Choice Award and named IRA’s Notable Book for Global Awareness.My Librarian is a Camel Margriet Ruurs

    Many of Margriet’s books reflect her interest in the natural environment: A Mountain Alphabet, When We Go Camping, Wild Babies, Logan’s Lake and In My Backyard. She also likes humour as shown in Virtual Maniac, Silly & Serious Poems for Kids and Ms. Bee’s Magical Bookcase.

    Margriet currently runs Between The Covers, a booklovers’ B & B on Salt Spring Island where the rooms are full of books. She also initiated and manages Kidswwwrite Magazine, an online magazine in which she publishes stories and poems written by kids. The ezine is used by young authors all over the world. In June, Margriet will be receiving an Honorary Fellowship of Okanagan University College for her work on this popular website.

    Author website
    Author Facebook Page
    Author Twitter Account: @margrietruurs

    Amazing Animals written by Margriet Ruurs and illustrated by W. Allan HancockTell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?
    Amazing Animals is a fun and interesting picture book for curious kids. It is full of mind blowing facts that made me say ‘wow’! I used all those wow factors to encourage kids to appreciate nature, and to conduct their own research into amazing animals. I love the art work done by Allan Hancock, whose paintings almost look like photos. I’m proud of the research I had to do to find so many interesting tidbits.

    Amazing Animals: The Remarkable Things That Creatures Do at

    Amazing Animals: The Remarkable Things That Creatures Do at

    Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?
    I grew up in The Netherlands and immigrated to Canada as an adult, so I grew up on very different books. Many North American books don’t work in Europe when translated, and visa versa. I find it interesting how different books reflect different cultures. I grew up on the writing of Dutch author Annie M. G. Schmidt. Every child in Holland knew her name and her work. She wrote beautiful novels, but also hilarious picture books and engaging poetry. Her work was performed on radio and TV as musicals, movies, and TV shows. We sang her songs and quoted her stories. What intrigued me, even as a young child, was her power with words. I was enthralled with the fact that she could get us all to recite the same poems or sing the same words. I marveled at her play with language, puns, double meanings and the magic which she wove into her writing. She was so versatile. Roll into one our Canadian Robert Munsch, Pierre Berton and Leonard Cohen and you would get close to her skills. I loved her humor, her wicked way with words and her skills as a storyteller.

    Was it difficult for you to get your first book published? What suggestions/words of encouragement do you have for aspiring authors/illustrators?
    I was so lucky in getting my first books published. The very first one was when I still lived in The Netherlands. I was working in a primate center, raising baby chimpanzees. Of course, their photos were adorable and the stories were interesting. I put them together and my very first book was accepted by the very first publisher to whom I showed it. Then I immigrated to Canada and had to learn speaking and writing in English. I lived in the Yukon when my own two children were growing up. I wrote a funny story for them about a purple cat called Fireweed. Again, the first Canadian publisher to whom I showed the story, decided to publish it. I had two books!

    After that it got harder and I had my first rejections.

    Now I have 30 books and realize that each one has to be able to stand on its own legs. Each one is still a challenge, none a given to be accepted. I am excited about my two upcoming books with Kids Can Press: one about Families Around the World, the next about Schooldays Around the World. Doing a lot of traveling, these global stories are close to my heart.

    And I am especially excited about my new book with Pajama Press: A Brush Full of Colour will be the picture book biography of Canadian painter Ted Harrison. When we lived in the Yukon, Ted was a good friend and my children ‘painted’ with him. I am thrilled that I was able to write his interesting story. It promises to be a beautiful book.

    Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?
    I conduct many author visits to schools around the world. I enjoy sharing my books but also stories on how I get ideas and how kids can be inspired to write their own stories and poems. Often I see that this works as an eye opener for kids. They realize that they can write about simple things and their own experiences. It’s fun to see how they get ideas to create their own stories. I also love talking to parents, who often don’t realize the importance of modeling the joy of reading and reading aloud to children even if those are old enough to read by themselves. I am passionate about the importance f promoting reading and sharing books with children. But having shared my books for many years, with thousands of kids, my biggest thrill is reading books with my own 2 and 4 year old grandsons. They devour books and it was very cool to see them select my stories as some of their favorites! A whole new reason to keep writing!

    What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from? and what are the biggest challenges of being an author / illustrator?
    I love being a storyteller on paper. I like to use my imagination to dream up stories, but I also love researching any topic in which I am interested. To tell you the truth, I think that I am still a kid at heart: curious and always saying ‘what if..’. I love the variety and being able to stay home to write. But I also love the days when I get to travel and talk to children in Ladysmith or Toronto or Shanghai.

    At the same time, what I like most about being a writer is also what poses the biggest challenges: being able to afford being a writer because royalties don’t pay the bills. So I do lots of school visits and conference presentations in order to be able to stay home and write at other times. It is hard to be disciplined and to write all the time. I do a lot of rewriting and editing while I travel. And I have to make sure that I spend enough time at working on my writing when I really want to be outside, working in the garden or playing with my grandsons!

    Never Let You Go by Patricia Storms Celebrates the Special Bond Between Parent and Child

    Posted on May 6th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


    Storytime Standouts looks at Never Let You Go by Patricia StormsNever Let You Go written and illustrated by Patricia Storms
    Picture book celebrating love between an adult and a child published by Scholastic Canada

    I’ll be honest, I completely underestimated Never Let You Go when I first viewed the cover art. I assumed (wrongly) that it would be a treacly story about a mother’s love for her child. When I took time to carefully read the story and appreciate the playful illustrations, I discovered that this is indeed a special picture book that will be treasured by children and their adult caregivers.

    Readers may assume that Never Let You Go is about a mother’s love for her child but one could argue that it could also be interpreted as a portrayal of a father’s love or a grandparent’s love. The beauty of the author’s words is that the affection shared by the adult penguin and the young penguin makes no reference to gender or relationship. The story will ‘work’ for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. It will work for single parent families or families where the primary caregiver is not a parent.

    Spread from Never Let You Go by Patricia Storms

    Initially the adult penguin reassures the youngster, I will care for you, and treasure you always. And I will never let you go. But soon we discover, there will be times when the adult will give the child space to safely explore the world and gain independence. The adult won’t be there when nature calls or if the child is quietly working on a project. With humor, we discover that the adult prefers to grant space when the child has a tantrum and that the adult will visit with other adults while the boisterous young friends play together nearby.

    Recommended for children aged three years and up, bright, bold illustrations and breezy, affirming text make this a great read aloud for small groups.

    Never Let You Go at

    Kid Lit Blog Hop

    In the Tree House – Andrew Larsen and Dušan Petričić

    Posted on January 1st, 2014 by Carolyn Hart


    In the Tree HouseIn the Tree House written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Dušan Petričić
    Picture Book published by Kids Can Press

    One of my favorite parenting memories involves snuggling with my sons and watching the Perseid Meteor Showers. When they were young, we scheduled an annual camping trip with friends so that we would be away from city lights and able to watch for shooting stars. I will never forget the experience of sitting beachside in a folding chair with one of my sons on my lap. We would wrap a blanket around us and wait. Most years there were eight of us searching for the dramatic streaks of light across the night sky. Each time a meteor appeared, there would be squeals of delight, “Oh, did you see THAT one?”

    Andrew Larsen’s In the Tree House tells of a young boy who is feeling the changes that time brings. He and his family move into a new house and, instead of sharing with an older brother, he has his own room. He misses having his brother in his room and he has trouble falling asleep. He uses his wakefulness to plan treehouses. He’s excited when his brother starts drawing treehouses and he’s thrilled when his dad agrees to make his dream a reality. It is not long before Dad and sons are perched up high, gazing at the night sky.Storytime Standouts looks at In the Tree House

    “Why arent there any stars?” I asked between gulps of lemonade.

    “They’re up there,” Dad said. “We just can’t see them,”

    He explained how the lights from the city make the sky too bright for us to see the stars shine.

    They boys love spending their summer in the tree house. They play cards and read comics and watch their neighborhood.

    The following year, circumstances have changed. The older brother has new friends and they keep him busy. The tree house that was once magical now seems empty until a chance power outage transforms the neighborhood. In the darkness, the older brother returns to the tree house and the boys’ special relationship is revealed once again – just as the utter darkness reveals a sparkling night sky.

    In the Tree House is a shining tribute to the special relationship between siblings and the small, meaningful moments that make a world of difference.

    Nominated for a (Ontario Library Association) 2014 Blue Spruce Forest of Reading Award

    In the Tree House has also been nominated for a 2013 Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Award.

    In the Tree House at

    In the Tree House at

    Andrew Larsen on Reading and Writing Picture Book Dads from 49th Shelf

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