Posts Tagged ‘non fiction’

Meet Children’s Book 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.

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.

4 Eye-Popping Picture Books for Children – add them to your TBR list!

Posted on October 28th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

I want to let you know about four picture books for children that are sure to appeal to both boys and girls. I sincerely hope you will make time to share special books with the children in your life each and every day.

Welcome Winter
Four Eye Popping Picture Books for Children including Welcome WInterWritten by Jill Ackerman, illustrated by Nancy Davis

This sturdy, fun board book caught my eye and will have great appeal for toddlers. The illustrations and text are simple and yet very engaging. I especially liked the description of “snow crunching under boots” and a matching slippery, noisy surface that begs to be touched. Very young children will thoroughly enjoy checking out a variety of textures as they learn about the season of swirling snowflakes, cold temperatures and wind.

Welcome Winter at

Welcome Winter at

The Little Word Catcher Written by Danielle Simard, illustrated by Geneviève Côté
Four Eye Popping Picture Books for Children including The Little Word CatcherOriginally published in French, The Little Word Catcher won a Governor General’s Award for Illustration. It was written with Alzheimer patients and their families in mind but also illustrates the impact of aphasia (an acquired communication disorder that is often due to stroke). Elise’s grandmother is losing her words. When in conversation, she has difficulty coming up with the right word to use. The affliction is terribly difficult for her young granddaughter to understand. Eventually, Elise takes comfort in the thought that perhaps Grandma has given her the words to use. A lovely story about the special relationship between a grandparent and a child, The Little Word Catcher will have special poignancy for families dealing with aging and loss.

The Little Word Catcher at

The Little Word Catcher at

Smart-Opedia Junior
Four Eye Popping Picture Books for Children including Smart Opedia Junior
The Amazing Book About Everything from Maple Tree Press

It is all too easy to get locked into the idea that bedtime stories or even picture books ought to be fictional. For many children, a good nonfiction book will have terrific appeal not to mention loads of valuable information. Smart-Opedia Junior is intended for children aged 5 through 8 and provides all manner of interesting facts. Generously illustrated, youngsters will learn about body science, inventions, plant and animal life, our universe and more.

Smart-opedia Junior: The Amazing Book About Everything at

Smart-Opedia Junior Smart-Opedia Junior: The Amazing Book about Everything at

The 3 Bears and Goldilocks
Four Eye Popping Picture Books for Children including The 3 Bears and GoldilocksWritten by Margaret Willey, illustrated by Heather M. Solomon

I wonder how many different books tell the recognizable tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I expect there are dozens and dozens of interpretations but perhaps none quite as original or fascinating as this one. Here, a bold and daring Goldilocks discovers a small, cave-like cabin that is home to three extremely untidy creatures. Should we really be surprised that bear porridge is not at all like the oatmeal humans enjoy or that a bear’s bed is similarly unfamiliar? Children who know the traditional story well will thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to consider an alternate account of Goldilocks’ adventure.

The 3 Bears and Goldilocks at

The 3 Bears and Goldilocks at

Paul Romanuk has scored a winner with the Book of Hockey Lists

Posted on September 16th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

As hockey tryouts begin, we recommend a hockey-theme book that will score with playersAtom Rep (Hockey) tryouts are underway. Stinky gear is airing in my otherwise attractive front hall. meals and activities are carefully planned and pressure mounts as my youngest son attempts to “make” the top team in his division. It won’t be easy but we are cautiously optimistic that he will be successful.

To be honest, I’m hoping this year the rep try-outs will be more efficient than last when we drove him to the rink eleven times before learning which team he would play on. He had a fantastic season and really wants to play for the same coach this year… My fingers are crossed.

As summer winds down, I’m not really mentally prepared for the start of winter activities. Pulling my warm jacket out of the closet just doesn’t seem right. But, since nine-year-old thoughts have already turned to hockey, we picked up Scholastic Canada’s Book of Hockey Lists. It is a perfect choice for hockey-hungry nine-year-olds. We’ve checked out lists of player accomplishments, milestones, quotes and all sorts of interesting hockey trivia. The author, Paul Romanuk knows his audience and has scored a winner with this title.

Scholastic Canada’s Book of Hockey Lists at

Scholastic Canada’s Book of Hockey Lists at

Summertime Means Lots of Opportunity for Kids to Read and Do

Posted on July 11th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

The Kids Campfire Book will inspire children and create learning opportunities over the summer

The lazy days of summer are perfect for reinforcing your child’s emerging reading skills. When you are out and exploring, take a child-friendly reference book with you and keep it nearby as you do some star gazing, bird watching, beach or nature walks.

When sitting around a campfire, encourage story-telling or pull out a book of spooky stories and a flashlight. Snuggling up around a fire is the perfect place to listen to spine-chilling tales.

At home, provide easy access to supplies of crayons, pencils, lined and unlined paper. Keeping a summertime scrapbook or diary will encourage your child to do some writing and/or illustrating.

The Kids Night Sky will provide learning opportunities during summer holidays

Look for books on CD or download audio books. Long drives are so much more pleasant when everyone is listening to an engaging story. I can still remember where we were driving when we heard the amazing recording of Cressida Cowell’s hugely entertaining  How to Train Your Dragon (Heroic Misadventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III)Storytime Standouts recommends a great audio book. The miles simply flew by as our entire family created a fabulous memory.

Finally, don’t forget the all-important trip to the library. For young children, look for a mix of rhyming books, alphabet books and other not-to-be-missed picture books. For older children why not find some books of science experiments or art projects to go along with some chapter books?

The Kids Campfire Book, Official Book of Campfire Fun at

The Kids Campfire Book, Official Book of Campfire Fun at

The Kids Book of the Night Sky at

The Kids Book of the Night Sky at



Earth Smart How to Take Care of the Environment is great for grade 2

Posted on February 10th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts writes about Earth Smart How to Take Care of the Environment
Earth Smart How to Take Care of the Environment written by Leslie Garrett
Beginning to Read Book published by Dorling Kindersley

Part of Dorling Kindersley’s DK Readers series, Earth Smart is appropriate for children aged 7 to 9. Generously illustrated with photographs, it is rated “Level 2, Beginning to Read Alone.” Introducing ways we can help to look after the environment, content touches on recycling, a look at a landfill, disposing of toxic substances, reducing energy consumption, dangers of pollution and global warming, the benefits of enjoying local produce and ways trees help us.

Leslie Garrett’s Blog The Virtuous Consumer.

Earth Smart at

Earth Smart at

Be sure to visit our page highlighting
picture books about caring for our environment,
ecosystems, recycling,
reducing our environmental footprint and more
Terrific resources for Earth Day and Arbor Day.

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