CCBC February 2018 Newsletter
News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Links We Love
February Book List: Winter Olympic Sports
Author Corner: Joëlle Anthony
Amy’s Travels in Teen Fiction
Illustrator’s Studio: Ruth Chan
News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
Coming in April 2018: CBC’s annual Shakespeare Selfie competition
The challenge: Grades 7 to 12 students write monologues or soliloquies in the voice of a Shakespearean character inspired by a current affairs event or trend from the past year (April 2017 to April 2018). Award-winning YA author Kenneth Oppel returns as judge. The competition opens April 6 to 27, 2018. Click here for more information.
Links We Love
Articles and videos of interest to educators
February Book List: Winter Olympic Sports
5-Minute Hockey Stories
Join in the fun at the rink and on the ice with stories that are perfect for bedtimes and on the go! From building an ice rink in your living room, to scoring a golden goal, to the thrill of your first hockey game, this book is packed with a dozen true stories of Canada’s game. Each story is the perfect length for reading aloud in five minutes — ideal for young fans and future stars!
Henry Holton Takes the Ice
When Henry Holton holds a hockey stick, he becomes a menace to the game — and an embarrassment to his hockey-mad family. When he sees an ice-dancing performance, Henry recognizes that’s what he is meant to do. He desperately wants a pair of figure skates, but first Henry has to convince his hockey-obsessed family to let him follow his own path.
Lucy Tries Luge
Lucy has a new luge sled, but she isn’t sure about this unique sliding sport. You have to lie on your back and steer with your legs? The luge track’s twists and turns look pretty scary, too. But with her parents’ support and a bit of courage, Lucy’s up for the speedy adventure and discovers a thrilling winter sport! Fans of Lucy will also want to read Lucy Tries Short Track.
On My Skis
This follow-up to On My Walk, set on a ski hill atop of one of Vancouver’s mountains, takes very young readers on a family’s winter adventure. A young child has an exciting day learning to ski while her family cheers her on. Whimsical illustrations are set to a simple, rhythmic story.
Jax is in his last year at Podium Sports Academy and he’s got a sponsorship from a big snowboarding company in the bag. But when his older brother, always the troublemaker in the family, shows up in Calgary unexpectedly, Jax’s sponsorship is threatened. The police are asking questions about a break-in at the house where he lives, and, although he wants to help his brother, he doesn’t want to risk his future as a professional boarder.
Nick Macklin was a talented hockey player and an A student and he had the greatest dad in the world. His dad was not only there for him after his mom died, he was also a star player for the Vancouver Canucks. But when Nick’s father is convicted of murder and given a life sentence for a crime he says he didn’t commit, the only thing that keeps Nick going is the burning desire to seek justice for his dad.
Paul dreams of playing with the Wildcats hockey team, but knows that his mother can’t afford the fees or the equipment. So he plays boot hockey with his friends and practises alone. When illness decimates the team and his best friend is injured, an opening is created on the Wildcats. Paul finally gets the chance to prove that he deserves his time on the ice.
When his dad goes overseas on assignment, Rennie’s grandma comes to stay. But Grandma has fun on her mind and she takes Rennie out of school for a surprise birthday ski trip. Soon, Rennie stumbles into a murder plot involving shady businessmen and dangerous explosions. But not even the threat of an avalanche is as exciting as meeting the most beautiful girl in the world!
Crazy Canucks: The Uphill Battle of Canada’s Downhill Ski Team
Canada’s downhill ski team, made up of Ken Read, Steve Podborski, Dave Irwin and Dave Murray, took the European and North American ski circuits by storm during the 1970s and early 1980s. These men gained a reputation for taking risks other skiers were afraid to take. Black-and-white photos, sidebars, and a glossary are included.
The Big Book of Hockey For Kids
This second edition includes updated stats and records, new content about careers in hockey, the latest on equipment, expanded information on women’s hocky plus twice as many photos as the original edition.
Celebrate the outdoors, and all the fun ways we have learned to enjoy winter in Canada! Canadians of all ages and skill levels enjoy a wide range of sports including: ringette, sledge hockey, snowboarding, downhill and cross-country skiing, luge, bobsled, figure skating, speed skating, dog sledding, snowmobiling and more! This title is also available in French as L’hiver au Canada : Les sports.
Winning Gold: Canada’s Incredible 2002 Olympic Victory in Women’s Hockey
When women’s hockey became an official Olympic sport in Nagano, Canada’s female team was expected to win gold. When they brought home the silver, it was a huge upset. As they headed into the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, they’d been on an eight-game losing streak to the favoured American team. What no one knew was that the players had harnessed a special tool to help them win — the power of belief.
Author’s Corner: Joëlle Anthony
Joëlle Anthony is a playwright, actress, writing teacher, and author. Her YA novels include Restoring Harmony, The Right & the Real, and Speed of Life (published under the name J. M. Kelly). Her first middle-grade novel, A Month of Mondays, is her most recent work. She lives on Gabriola Island in British Columbia.
How did you get your start as an author?
I wrote my first book in Grade 5. It was a “should’ve been bestseller” called A Best Friend is Always a Friend. I did all the illustrations myself, mostly of people in bell-bottom pants because I wasn’t very good at feet (also, it was the 1970s). Eventually, I traded in my pen for a life on the stage, getting my degree in theatre arts as an actor. After university, I realized I wasn’t really cut out for that lifestyle, and I asked myself, “What could I do without leaving the house so much?” My mother was writing for kids back then, and I thought, “Well, I’ve always loved books . . . why not?” Why not, indeed!
My husband at the time was a fantastic artist, so naturally I started with picture books hoping we’d someday get to work together. And I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, knowing nothing about the business or my new craft and learning so much. I studied, and I practised, and I got a million rejections on things that I know now were pretty horrific (I apologize to all you editors who had to read my picture books!). My training as an actor gave me a tough skin, which is really useful when you’re starting out. After a while, I lost interest in picture books (probably due to all the rejections!) and tried a novel. And then another, and another.
Interestingly, A Month of Mondays is the second novel I ever wrote, and it wasn’t published for 20 years! I wrote about six or seven complete novels before selling my first book, Restoring Harmony (17 years from when I first started writing), and all of them I abandoned as learning experiences, except for A Month of Mondays. I just couldn’t let Suze go. Over the years, she moved from Portland to Canada with me, and I rewrote, and revised, and cut, and added characters, and tried again and again, but it wasn’t until I sat on the jury for a B.C. book prize, the Red Cedar Book Award, and read over 85 middle grade books, that I found a place where I knew Suze belonged (Second Story Press). And once I knew there was a publisher where she would fit in, I worked on it until they agreed and made me an offer!
What is your writing process like?
I generally work five days a week, taking two days off either in the middle of the week (winter) or weekends (summer). I have an amazing little writing cabin we built on our property seven years ago, and so all I have to do is go outside and down the stairs and I’m at work. I report for duty excited to be there every day, but I can’t really write for more than three to four hours total, unless I’m on a deadline or heading for the finish line, so there’s also a lot of reading, business type stuff, meditating, crazy dance breaks, and sometimes visual art going on in the cabin, too. I also try to get in a two-mile walk each day.
For years I wrote on the computer exclusively, but in 2014, I found myself writing my young adult novel Speed of Life (published under the pen name J. M. Kelly) and the book was coming to me so fast, it was as if I were channeling it. Office hours went out the window and I started writing longhand in a notebook at all times of the day and night, in the woods while on a walk, on the couch while my husband played his guitar (I had always needed complete silence to write before this), in cafés, on the ferry, everywhere. I would write a scene, and then type it up, then write the next one, type it up, over and over, and instead of taking me three or four months (or years) to get down a book, I wrote the first draft in 13 days. I revised it and gave it to my critique group eight days later. And then I sort of collapsed. Interestingly, unlike all my other books that I’ve had to edit heavily, the published version of Speed of Life is quite close to that original draft!
I haven’t had a gift quite like that since then, but it did change the way I write entirely. Now I almost always write a scene longhand while sitting in my easy chair, then type it up at my standing desk, and so on. I rarely write new scenes directly on the computer anymore, although I still do a lot of revision on it. What I discovered is writing longhand keeps my writing tight and concise (because your hand hurts if you write too much extra stuff!), and learning that was a real bonus for me, because I was always one of those writers who had to cut a lot of repetition and extra words and scenes.
Tell us about your latest book, A Month of Mondays. What inspired the story?
Usually, there are two or three small ideas that I carry around for a while before they join together and I know I have something big enough for a book. With A Month of Mondays, two memories jumped out. When I was in high school, I remember standing next to a teacher and a boy walked by I knew pretty well. He was the kind of kid who was very friendly, but was always in trouble for skipping, or not doing homework. For some reason, after he passed, the teacher said to me, “He’s one of those kids who’s falling through the cracks. And not because he’s stupid like everyone thinks, but because he’s very smart and he’s bored out of his mind.” It made me wonder why she didn’t do anything to help him. I sort of held onto that question for a long time, and that’s where Mr. Baker comes in and where I got the idea for his relationship with Suze.
The other thing came later, probably about the time I wrote the book. I was working with a man who had a young daughter, and he was raising her on his own because the girl’s mother was MIA (I think it was drugs). Back in the late 1980s, a single dad was pretty unusual, and so I held onto that idea too. Eventually they sort of joined forces and the book started to take shape.
Where Suze came from, well . . . I think she’s a bit like me, maybe more so than any of my other characters. Like her, I usually did just enough schoolwork to get by and didn’t work up to my potential. My teachers saw my creativity and imagination as a good thing, but I bet most of them would be surprised I could finish writing anything as long as a book.
You offer classroom presentations for Grades 6–12. Do you have any tips or suggestions for teachers on how to incorporate your books into the classroom? Do you have any activity suggestions?
My first book, Restoring Harmony, has a teacher’s study guide (scroll down http://joelleanthony.com/visitsworkshops/) with all kinds of activities and crossovers into other curriculum. I’ve also put together a lot of discussion questions and activities to go with Speed of Life, because it is a 2018 White Pine Nominee. Anyone participating in the Forest of Reading can access those activities and questions through the OLA site, and after the festival in May, I’ll be adding them to my site as well. I’m just finishing up similar activities and discussion questions for A Month of Mondays, and by the time this interview goes out, they should be available on my website.
Do you have any tips for aspiring middle-grade or YA authors?
Read. Read. Read. And then read some more. I teach a lot of workshops for aspiring writers and I always tell them, if you only have an hour a week to write, but you’re not reading, read instead. Assuming you’re already reading, then my best advice is to study your craft and to just keep writing. I read books on writing regularly as a way to improve my craft, too.
Also, don’t be in such a hurry. Find a few other writers, build a relationship, and share your writing with each other in a way that works for you. I am indebted every day to my early readers and I couldn’t get anything worth sending to my agent without them, but in the same way you date to find a partner, they were friends before we started sharing our writing. I think many times we fail at forming critique groups because we think of it as strictly business, but writing is so much more personal than that. Still, if you try to go at it alone (as I did for the first ten years), it’s not only lonely, but you don’t have as much chance for growth.
What projects are you working on now? Can you tell us about any upcoming books?
The book I’ve been working on for the last eighteen months is called Meet Me at Monroe’s. It’s an historical novel for adults set in 1962 Vancouver against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Not what you were expecting, right? I have always considered myself a “children’s writer,” but a few years ago, I was inspired by a picture taken by the Vancouver photographer Fred Herzog called “The Shopper” and I just kept thinking about that man, or someone like him, and eventually a few ideas collided, and this book came to me. It’s been incredibly fun to write, and doing research was such a new and exciting thing for me. I plan to write more historical fiction for adults, in addition to my writing for kids and teens.
At the moment, I’m taking a short breather from writing to launch a new professional mentoring program with the writer Eileen Cook called The Write Potential (www.thewritepotential.com), but once it’s up and running, I’ll be diving back into a middle-grade novel I’ve been working on over the last two years, and I’m pretty excited about that. While it definitely won’t be a sequel to A Month of Mondays, it is about one of the characters in that book.
Thanks so much for having me, and for all you do for children’s literature and readers.
Find out more about Joëlle’s work at www.joelleanthony.com.
Illustrator’s Studio: Ruth Chan
Ruth Chan is a children’s book author and illustrator best known for her Georgie and Friends series. Before becoming an illustrator, she studied art and education at Wellesley College and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and spent decade working with kids in schools, after school and summer programs in underserved communities. Originally from Canada, she now lives in Brooklyn, New York.
How did you get started as an illustrator?
I grew up in Ottawa, where I spent much of my time either outside exploring our neighbourhood forest, or inside surrounded by books. I loved Richard Scarry books the most (and The Cat in the Hat stressed me out to no end!). I went to college and grad school in the US, where I studied education and photography, and then went on to teach for a few years, before moving on to manage youth development programs in underserved communities. So, basically, I was constantly surrounded by picture books.
I’d always loved picture books because they seamlessly encompass some of the most beautiful things in life: a good story, beautiful language, incredible art, humour, wit, tenderness, and universal truths. I’d amassed a huge collection of them, but never allowed myself to really consider making them. While I doodled here and there, I had no formal illustration background, and, in my mind, there was no way I’d make it in such a competitive industry.
Then, in 2012, a number of really difficult things happened at the same time and I found myself alone, jobless, and, quite honestly, depressed. I remember sitting down in the mornings and drawing because I didn’t really know what else to do, and then—as things sometimes unfold— that aimlessness led to more illustrations, which led to taking a few continuing education classes in illustration, and then to attending a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference in New York City, where I was and still live. Returning from it, I gave myself a year to work on illustration, do my research and networking, with the intention of attending the 2014 SCBWI Winter Conference with a new portfolio. My portfolio ended up receiving a Runner-Up award at the Portfolio Showcase and, within six months, I had signed with an agent, and had a two-book deal. It was insane and I couldn’t believe just how quickly it all happened. I know I am very fortunate to have had such a quick passage into making children’s books, but I’m also reminded of how many different ways there are to get your “break” into the industry.
Can you tell us about your illustration style and how it came about? What is your illustration process and what materials do you use?
As I mentioned, I’ve got a special place for Richard Scarry. As a kid, I loved finding all the odd little details he had in his illustrations (like the pickle car!), and this has carried through into my own illustration. Including those little details in a character or setting is such a fun opportunity to add some humour, insight, and depth to a story. I also loved that his characters were sort of awkward in an endearing and idiosyncratic way. No one’s perfect, and some of those imperfections are the best opportunities for making a character someone we care about.
That being said, I think there’s often talk about “figuring out your style as an illustrator.” I had some great friends tell me not to overthink it, to just draw what I love to draw in a way I love to draw, and what I’d end up with is “my style.” And it turns out they were right! It didn’t mean drawing was easier or faster, but I did keep thinking, “I love getting to do this thing called illustrating!” Of the illustrations I’ve made, the ones I love the most are the ones that made me laugh the hardest and made me even more excited to draw more.
In terms of process and materials, I found myself naturally gravitating to a certain aesthetic when perusing books, museums, and even Instagram. They tended to have clean lines, muted colours, and lots and lots of detail. So I found materials and a process that fit that. To start, I sketch out what I’m going to draw in pencil, and then I use waterproof black ink and a paintbrush to do all the linework. I then use watercolour to add colour, and finally scan it in to make any changes I might need.
With actual idea making, the fact that you can’t quite control when or where or in what capacity a good idea comes is still a concept I’m having a hard time accepting. There are things you can do to provide a fertile thinking ground—reading, looking at art, walking in a park, watching your pets, talking with friends—but it’s definitely a practice to learn to be observant when a good idea comes. For me, I keep a list of funny or tender or beautiful moments I notice or experience, and make sure I have at least one every day, and then I’ll go back to this list for ideas. Other times, I’ll have a dream and write myself an email, though they don’t seem to make sense. One time I sent myself and some friends an email that said simply “pickle jar, pickle song, pickle community,” and, while I have no recollection of what I meant, it helped form the climax to Georgie’s Best Bad Day.
I’m also always trying out different techniques and materials on the side and try to allow space for my visual “style” to change as I change as an illustrator. For example, right now I’m exploring silk screening, matte acrylics, gouache, and graphite on different personal projects.
The second book in your Georgie and Friends series, which you also wrote, is available now. What was your initial inspiration for that series?
Well, Georgie the cat was my actual real-life cat (who sadly passed away this past summer) and was best friends with Feta, my actual real-life dog (who is still going strong at 14). They were so odd and hilarious and were best friends—they slept together, cleaned each other, and got upset when the other wasn’t home. So, quite understandably, I knew I wanted to make them into characters in a picture book.
I also wanted to create a world that had a Sesame Street feel, where readers got to know a community of neighbours and friends, each with their own set of likes, dislikes, insecurities, and attitudes. I liked the idea of having them pop in and out of a story or stay along for an entire adventure (or misadventure). I also wanted to have the characters learn things about real life—like friendship or bad days—through funny and imperfect ways, since that’s often how things pan out in real life.
Do you have any activity suggestions or tips for teachers who would like to use your books in the classroom?
I’ve found the Georgie and Friends books to be a wonderful way to talk about all aspects of a friendship, not just the obvious ones. For example, in Where’s the Party?, I’ve had students discuss and debate whether it was “right” or “wrong” for Georgie’s friends to deceive him into believing they couldn’t come to his party.
I like using Georgie’s Best Bad Day as an opportunity to explore emotions and what to do with them. We start off by drawing Georgie happy, then sad, then angry, then elated. We’ll come up with synonyms for those emotions, and then discuss how Georgie’s eyes, or mouth, or body changes as his emotions change. We also brainstorm situations in which we might feel those emotions, and how we can express them in healthy ways.
For Where’s the Party?, students have enjoyed creating their own answer to that question, creating characters (or using the Georgie and Friends characters), deciding on a setting, and ultimately a plot surrounding having a party.
Do you have any advice for aspiring author-illustrators?
Work through the self-doubt, and keep gunning at it. Everyone has moments of crippling self-doubt (almost daily over here), but if you want to do this, then you have to just keep working at it.
Learn the industry, everything you can about it—how it works, what makes a good picture book, who’s who in the industry, etc. Read blogs and sites, follow key people on social media, listen to podcasts, attend book launches, take some classes, read picture books incessantly.
Find a group of people who also want to write/illustrate children’s books and use each other to help brainstorm, critique, or just to vent to. Learn to receive feedback with openness and grace from them, understanding that there’s always room to make your story or illustration better, whether it’s the first or even 23rd pass.
Join the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). They have chapters in almost every region of the US and Canada, as well as all over the world.
Images courtesy of Ruth Chan. Find out more about her work at www.ohtruth.com.
Canada’s independent booksellers share their recommendations for kids and teens. To find a local independent bookstore, visit findabookstore.ca.
Type Books in Toronto, ON: They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood Books, 2018), Ages 5 to 7
Caldecott and Printz Honor-winning illustrator Jillian Tamaki brings us a poetic exploration of colour and nature from a young child’s point of view. They Say Blue follows a young girl as she contemplates colours in the known and the unknown, in the immediate world and the world beyond what she can see. The sea looks blue, yet water cupped in her hands is as clear as glass. Is a blue whale blue? She doesn’t know — she hasn’t seen one.
Stunningly beautiful illustrations flow from one spread to the next, as time passes and the imagination takes hold. The world is full of colour, and mystery too, in this first picture book from a highly acclaimed artist.
Recommended by Serah-Marie McMahon, Children’s Buyer for Type Books.
Type Books: 427 Spadina Rd. & 883 Queen St. W., Toronto, ON www.typebooks.ca
Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax, NS: Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad (Tundra Books, 2018), ages 4-8.
This bold, beautiful picture book biography simply and elegantly outlines the life of legendary fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. In short, lyrical sentences, Kyo Maclear’s first-person narration gives readers a glimpse of the young Schiaparelli and her less-than-happy family life as well as her ongoing fascination with beauty and colour and imagination and art. Her determination to succeed eventually pays off when she opens her first shop and she goes on to challenge notions of beauty, to fill the world with her wildly colourful creations and to inspire countless women to pursue their own dreams. Julie Morstad’s mixed-media illustrations magnificently capture Schiaparelli’s spunk and spirit. They are rich and vivid and joyful, perfectly bringing to life Maclear’s thoughtful narrative. Another exquisite offering from this author/illustrator duo, they have created a stunning sketch of an iconic and inspiring figure. —Lisa Doucet, Co-manager
Woozles Children’s Bookstore: 1533 Birmingham St., Halifax, NS B3J 2J1 www.woozles.com
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