Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Holidays!

The days are short, the air is chilly, and school is closed for the winter break. Now is the time of year when many of us gather with family and friends to eat, drink and be merry.

I send you best wishes for the holiday season. May you have a warm and wonderful time, and many good books to read!

(The lovely image above is from a Unicef card.)

See you in 2014. Cheers!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Writing the West Coast...

It's a wonderful thing to live on the west coast of Canada and I recently wrote a book for kids saying so. It won't be published for another year — the illustrator is just working her magic now.

Earlier this fall, Karen (the illustrator) and I went on a lovely research trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island. She is from the Toronto area and hadn't seen the amazing landscapes we have out here in the wild west. I wanted to show it all to her, so we spent the better part of a week hiking through the rainforest, taking long beach walks and doing what kids really love to do — search every nook and cranny of the beach to find interesting sea creatures.

Here are a few photos of our trip: Karen in front of a gigantic 800 year old tree; Karen on the beach photographing the sky; and a few other pictures you might enjoy.

Now I am working really hard trying to think of a good writing excuse to go back! Hmm... there must be some facts I need to check.

If you ever get a chance, come out to visit the Pacific Rim region of Vancouver Island. I promise — you won't be disappointed. And who knows? You may even write your own book!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Happy Fall!

The seasons have changed since I last posted, and in my neighbourhood, it is obvious that fall has arrived. This photo was taken on my street, an area of Vancouver that is full of beautiful old trees.

I had a small accident a couple of weeks ago and have been recuperating from a concussion. I haven't been able to read or write much (not easy for a writer!) but I have been able to take a short walk each day. And what a lovely time of year for a stroll!

In other news, there have been a lot of interesting literary events taking place, and I will be back soon to post more about them.

Until then, I wish you a happy and productive fall — a great time of year to read all the new books being introduced to the world.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wonderful News!

Alice Munro has won the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature! The Nobel committee called her "a master of the contemporary short story." And so she is.

Congratulations to her! And to us! It is a memorable day for Canada.

Read more about Alice Munro's accomplishments here.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Circumpolar Animals!

Look what came in the mail! A brand new copy of Polar Animals translated into Norwegian.

I also received a Swedish and Finnish edition. (I had to employ Google translate to figure out which book was which.) :-)

It is thrilling to see these translations and to know that children in Scandinavia will be turning the pages and reading all about the animals that live in the far north (and a few in Antarctica).

A big thank you to Sandviks, in Norway, for publishing these lovely books.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kids and Reading

I have never been the kind of person who believes we should tell kids what to read. In my mind, we should give kids opportunities to read all kinds of books and surround them with many chances to do so: at bedtime or school story time, by taking trips to the library, giving gifts of books on topics that a child is interested in and showing our own interest by having a house filled with books and providing daily examples of us reading. 

Nor have I been the kind of person who thought kids shouldn't read [fill in the blanks here: comic books, scary books, books with fantasy elements etc.]. I think kids should be able to read widely and in any way that suits them.

So you can imagine my distress the other day, when I was in a local bookstore and I saw an adult stop a child from buying a book that she really wanted to read. The adult had decided that the book was too difficult for the girl and made her return it to the shelf. It is true that the girl couldn't fluently read every word on the page (the adult made her read aloud in the store), but the child definitely had the gist of the story and was very keen to tackle it. It was all I could do to stop myself from buying the book for the girl and smuggling it into her backpack. 

I thought to myself that if there is ever a way to discourage a child from reading, this was the way to do it. Not every child reads fluently, not every child picks the most age-appropriate book, but if we want kids to develop a love of reading, we want to encourage them — not set up roadblocks to their enthusiasm and eventual success. 

On that note, a big thank you to my parents who let me read anything and everything, and I did so voraciously, including the volumes of Sigmund Freud when I was still a kid. I don't think I understood anything about the theories or even the language, but I was grateful to be allowed to wander over to the adult section of the library and pick out any book I wished to read. It made me feel like a reader and gave me a sense that the world of knowledge was wide open to me. It was liberating!

Sincere thanks to all those adults out there who are working hard to put great books into the hands of kids, and to help them become avid and enthusiastic readers. It is a most worthy endeavour.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Book News...

I've had a bit of good news in the book department recently and I hope you don't mind if I share it here.

I'm delighted to announce that Polar Animals has made the leap across the ocean and will be released by the publisher Sandviks (based in Norway), in three Scandinavian languages: Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish. I just love the thought of children in those countries turning the pages of my book. I hope they like it! :-)

In Canada, it's awards season and I am happy to report that Rescuing the Children: The Story of the Kindertransport has been named as a finalist for several awards. They include: the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Nonfiction, the Information Book Award (Children's Literature Roundtable of Canada), the Hackmatack Award (Atlantic provinces children's choice award), and the Red Cedar Award (BC children's choice award). I'm blushing now...

An enormous thank you to the hard-working juries who read and select the books on these lists. And congratulations to all the other nominees. It's good to be in your company!

Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope your fall is going well. 


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back to School!

Today, I'm thinking about the students and teachers who are headed back to school after their summer break. Best of luck to all of you!

Special good wishes to those going to school for the first time, including the wonderful twins in my family. :-)

May your school year be full of friends, fun, and lots of great books to read!


Friday, August 30, 2013

3 Day Novel Weekend

It's time again for the annual 3 Day Novel Contest, and I can hear pencils being sharpened all around the world in anticipation of its midnight start time tonight. (Or, I can envision the finger calisthenics that writers everywhere are using to limber up their digits for intense keyboard time.)

I'm proud to say that my dad, a most excellent writer, will be taking part in what I think is his 8th year of the contest.

It's a marathon, sleep deprived, crazy writing exercise and if anyone can do it, my dad can.

Pencils sharpened? Coffee on?

On your mark, get set... GO!

And may the Muse be with you.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

West Coast Inspiration!

I'm just back from a wonderful trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island, where my family and I go each summer.

I like to say I get my annual dose of writing inspiration there. In fact, last summer's visit led to the writing of a new book for children about the Pacific west coast. It won't be out for awhile, but the writing is done and the art will begin soon.

Maybe there will be another book springing from this year's trip. I have a few ideas percolating...

For your viewing pleasure, here are a couple of photos of the ocean vista (day and night view), snapped from the deck of the cabin we stay in, and another photo showing the treasures of a beach walk.

I hope your summer is going well, and that you have many good books to read.

Thank you for stopping by.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stamps for Stella!

I stopped by the post office to mail a package this week and was excited to see brand new stamps featuring the art of my colleague, Marie-Louise Gay. What an honour for her! Imagine having your work on a Canadian stamp!

The illustration is from Marie-Louise's award-winning children's book series that feature charming stories of a sister and brother, named Stella and Sam.

If you'd like to read more about Marie-Louise and her work, check this article from the National Post or her website.

Congratulations, Marie-Louise!

Thursday, July 4, 2013


I'm pleased to announce that three books in my Who Lives Here? series were released as e-books today. It's great to see them get a second life! If you are interested in the e-book version, they are available at iBookstore, Kobo, B&N Nook and Amazon. And if you'd like to read more about the series, please go here.

Happy Summer! I hope yours is going well.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer Approaches...

I packed away my presentation materials a few days ago, after finishing my last talk of the school year.

My final audience may have been the most challenging to date — 3 and 4 year olds at a preschool that the young children in my family attend. But it might have also been the most fun! :-)

And with presentations over until September, I will turn my mind to various book projects: the revision of one manuscript and the beginning of another. Summer is a good time for writing.

As the year winds down, I'm remembering all the wonderful students, teachers and librarians I met this year. Thank you to everyone who invited me to visit their school.

Have a safe and happy summer!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Back from the Badlands!

I've just returned from the Badlands of Alberta — a fascinating place where the dinosaurs roamed!

The geography is so interesting, with sedimentary layers of the past millions of years exposed on the hillsides. You could almost feel the dinosaurs lurking there.

We visited the Royal Tyrell Museum to see the huge dinosaur skeletons and models on display. It was amazing!

I feel a book brewing...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Who Lives Here? in China!

Look what came in the mail!

It's my new book from China, called Who Lives Here? (in English) and is a compilation of the six little books from the earlier series of the same name.

I wish I could read Chinese, but in spite of my shortcomings, I can tell that the publisher, Shanghai Xiron Media Company, has done a lovely job. I'm thrilled that kids in China will be reading my book!

To see the original books in the Who Lives Here? series, please go here.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Settling in...

I'm back at my desk after a busy couple of weeks visiting schools. It was great to meet all the students (and their teachers) and to see the excitement about books and reading. It's fun to think that some of the kids I met may end up becoming writers some day.

But now I'm home and working on a few new books. It is quiet and thoughtful (and a real contrast to the fast pace of the last few weeks). I will enjoy it.

I hope your spring is going well, and that the sun is shining where you live.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Book Launch: Shelley Hrdlitschka!

I'm back from my tour of schools in the North Okanagan/Shuswap and very grateful to everyone for making me feel so welcome. Thank you, teachers, librarians and students. It was lovely to meet you all!

And now that I'm home, I'm getting back into the swing of literary things right here in Vancouver. Today, I'm looking forward to attending the book launch of my pal, Shelley Hrdlitschka, who is introducing her new teen novel, Allegra, to the world. 

You can read all about her novel here.

And, if you're in the neighbourhood, come and join us at the launch!

Congratulations, Shelley!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thank you, SD 83!

Wow! What an amazing trip it's been. Thank you so much to all the teachers, librarians, students and staff of the schools I've visited this week: Parkview, Hillcrest, Salmon Arm Middle School, Highland Park, and Silver Creek. You were all wonderful!

Today, I visit Bastion and Sorrento Schools. I can hardly wait to meet you.

A HUGE bouquet of thanks to everyone who has made me feel so welcome! I'm not going to want to go home. :-)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hello School District 83!

I am busy organizing my presentation materials and beginning to pack for my trip to Salmon Arm, Armstrong, Sorrento and Sicamous next week. I will be visiting schools there and look forward to meeting all the students and staff.

It is a double pleasure for me to travel to the area because this is the school district where I was a teacher some years (decades!) ago. I have many happy memories of teaching at Armstrong Elementary School. In fact, it was teaching those classes of primary children that led to my becoming a writer — something I've never forgotten.

A big thank you to my friend and colleague, Chris McMahen, who invited me to the schools and organized my trip. Chris is a teacher-librarian in the district and he is also a popular and award-winning author. His most recent (and wonderfully written) book, Box of Shocks, just won the Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award. Hooray for Chris!

And now, it's back to packing... See you soon, District 83.

And Happy Spring to everyone else. I hope it's sunny where you are.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Thank you, Kent Elementary!

A big bouquet of thanks to the students and staff of Kent Elementary School for making me feel so welcome yesterday! It was wonderful to meet you all. From the attentive audiences, to the potluck lunch, student research projects on the wall, and the sign on the front of the school, it couldn't have been a nicer time!

Thank you especially to teacher-librarian, Karen Dumas, for inviting me and organizing the visit. Thank you to the PAC for making it possible, and to principal, Chris Wejr, and his wonderful staff and students. It was an amazing day!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hello Kent Elementary!

I have the pleasure of visiting Kent Elementary School this week. Here's a photo from the school's website.

The school is situated in the scenic Fraser Valley and I look forward to seeing the mountains and trees on the drive out.

More importantly, I am excited to meet the students and staff who so kindly invited me to visit. See you all soon.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Thank you to Osler Elementary!

A big thank you to Patricia Bartha, teacher-librarian, and the students at Sir William Osler School in Vancouver. It was lovely to spend the afternoon with you yesterday! You were a fabulous audience, full of great questions and comments. :-)

When I looked out the windows of the school library, I could see several ornamental cherry trees in full bloom.

Here on the west coast, it is the season for beautiful blossoms and for spring school visits. What a wonderful combination!

I'm looking forward to spending a day at Kent Elementary in Agassiz next week. See you soon.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Happy About Hackmatack!

I just received the happy news that my book, Rescuing the Children, has been nominated for the Hackmatack Award. This is the children's choice award from the Atlantic provinces. Hooray!!!

The kind folks who administer the award apply for Canada Council grants to bring authors to their region for the award ceremony and for tours in the local schools. This will all happen in Spring 2014 (which seems a long time away), but nevertheless, I am thrilled!

If you are interested in reading more about the Hackmatack Awards, please go here.

By the way, the award is named after a tree (a species of Larch) that grows in the Atlantic provinces. The photo above shows the tree in bloom.

I look forward to seeing the tree in person. :-)


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Quote About Writing

I enjoy hearing about other authors' feelings on writing, and I'm always pleased when I come across a quote I haven't heard before. Today, I read this one by Gloria Steinem:

"Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else."

And that's exactly how I feel.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Dr. Seuss was born on March 2, 1904, so today we salute his contribution to the world of children's books. Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!!!

I was reading a bio of him on Writer's Almanac (check out the March 2 entry) and came across a quote that I had not seen before. He said, "Writing for children is murder. A chapter has to be boiled down to a paragraph. Every word has to count." 

Apparently, Dr. Seuss spent nine months writing the Cat in the Hat. I'm not surprised at all. It is true that shorter books for younger children often take more time to write than longer manuscripts. What did surprise me, however, was how well it sold. Here's another quote from the article: "Within a year of publication, The Cat in the Hat was selling 12,000 copies a month; within five years, it had sold a million copies." Wow! That is impressive.

Today, I have been trying to pick my favourite Dr. Seuss story and it is not an easy choice. One of the books I read again and again (both for myself and my children) was Bartholomew and the Oobleck (remember the great gobs of green goo that fell from the sky?) But there are many other wonderful stories, too. 

Which one is your favourite?

Happy Birthday, and thank you, Dr. Seuss!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Oliver Jeffers

I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Olive Jeffers this weekend (see his lovely art above).

He is a talented Irish-born author/illustrator from New York. He was funny and personable, and awfully wise about how he creates his books. I especially enjoyed the part where he talked about knowing "what to leave out" when making a book. That's something I think about when writing my books, too.

If you'd like to find out about Oliver Jeffers and how he creates, you can check out his video here. Or see his website here.

A big thank you to Margo Filipenko and Kathryn Shoemaker of the Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable for bringing Oliver to our fair city.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Getting Started: Writing for Kids

Here's another wonderful book to help you get started writing and illustrating for children. It's full of information on how to submit a manuscript, what publishers are looking for, and all kinds of other "how-to" tips. I've consulted the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market for years and it's always been excellent.

In the last month or so, I've had several inquiries from people keen to begin writing for children, and this is the book I like to recommend. Above is the most recent edition, but older editions are great, too. You can often track them down at the library. Or order the new edition at your local bookstore.

Just today, in fact, I was flipping through my copy trying to find the right publisher for a manuscript I am ready to send out into the world. I hope I chose wisely.

And you can go here for a reminder about the Getting Started Panel at the Vancouver Public Library on March 4.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Are you interested in writing or illustrating for children? If so, you may wish to order a copy of The BOOK: The Essential Guide to Publishing for Children, written by SCBWI — a wonderful organization for children's authors and illustrators.

I don't have my own copy yet, but I look forward to receiving it soon. Here's where you can get yours.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Library Fines and Bibliophiles

For those of us who love books, it is easy to rack up overdue fines at the library. I personally have paid a hefty stack of late charges. Thank goodness libraries now send out email reminders to wayward borrowers. That helps us get things back on time!

And while I have had late books, they have never been this late.

Cheers, and Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

ALA Youth Media Awards

As part of the recent American Library Association conference in Seattle, the annual awards for the best written and illustrated books for children and teens were announced.

To see the complete list of honoured books, please go here.

Congratulations to all the winners and finalists!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Seattle Conference

I'm back from the ALA conference in Seattle and it was spectacular! Thank you to my publisher, Tundra Books, for inviting me to attend and sign my new book in their booth.

It was wonderful to meet the librarians who stopped by for a chat. Many were from various corners of the USA, some were from Canada, and one (at least) was from the UK. It was good to meet so many great folks who love books! Apparently, 12,000 librarians were registered. Wow!

One librarian told me she was a proud bibliophile and was surprised that I knew the word. I told her I also adored books and had a houseful myself.

Maybe you were at the conference, too. If so, I hope you had a fabulous time and picked up many new books to read.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

ALA Midwinter Conference

The American Library Association Midwinter Conference begins in Seattle next weekend and I'm happy to say I will be attending. If you're going to be there too, stop by the Tundra booth #2638 and say hello. I will be signing my new book, Rescuing the Children: The Story of the Kindertransport, on January 27 at 10:00 am.

For details on the conference, please go here.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Writing for Children: Getting Started

If you're interested in writing or illustrating a book for children and you live in the Vancouver area, you might want to attend the upcoming panel discussion at the Vancouver Public Library on how to get started.

It's always a great night — full of information and inspiration. I hope you get inspired!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Forging Ahead in 2013...

The New Year has begun and it is always a wonderful experience to ponder what lies ahead in the coming months. Do you have new projects on the horizon? A long list of resolutions? Wherever you are and whatever you have planned, I wish you the best of luck.

As for me, I have some new projects to start and some resolutions to keep. I'm looking forward to tackling both!

And, I'm happy to report some good news that came my way recently. My book, Rescuing the Children: The Story of the Kindertransport was selected by the American Library Association to be on their "Lasting Connections of 2012" List. I am thrilled! To read more about the list, please go here. (You'll need to scroll a long way down to see my book, but you'll find lots of great titles on your way.)

Happy 2013! May your year be a good one.