CCBC February 2016 Newsletter
News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre & Friends
February Book List: World Read Aloud Day
Author Corner: L.M. Falcone
Amy’s Travels in YA
Illustrator’s Studio: Qin Leng
News from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre
• February is Black History Month. Click here for our 2016 reading list for kids and teens.
• We will be at the Reading for the Love of It Conference in Toronto on February 18-19. Come visit us at booth #102!
• We are still looking for volunteer drivers to help authors, illustrators and storytellers get to and from their presentations during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week 2016 (May 7-14, 2016). This is a wonderful opportunity to meet Canadian creators while helping them reach young readers all across the country. Drivers must have access to a personal vehicle. Mileage will be reimbursed at the rate of $0.40 per kilometre.
If you are interested in helping, please contact Shannon Howe Barnes, Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416.975.0010 x 227. Please include your city and province and we will contact you should there be any opportunities in your area.
News from our Friends
• Freedom to Read Week is a national celebration of freedom of expression that takes place in libraries, schools and arts venues across Canada. This year’s program runs from February 21 to 27, 2016. Visit freedomtoread.ca for more information.
• World Literacy Canada’s Write for a Better World contest is open to submissions from students in Grades 5-8. The 2016 Write for a Better World contest encourages students to write an original story in 400 words max, following a unique story lead. Click here for more information.
• Harbourfront Centre has announced the return of their fun, creative and safe camps for kids aged 4-15 this March Break. With 16 camps to choose from, children can find their inner dancer, musician, circus performer or DIY specialist – the possibilities are endless. Registration is now open for Harbourfront Centre’s 2016 March Break and Summer Camps. Click here for details.
Notable News & Links
Articles and videos of interest to educators
• Why it’s never too early to start reading with your kids
• Eleven-year-old girl launches #1000BlackGirlBooks
• How Canadian kids’ book became London’s hottest family show
• This teacher dancing with his students has already won 2016
• Where have all the readers gone?
• Newscaster reunites with kindergarten teacher 30 years later
February Book List: World Read Aloud Day
World Read Aloud Day, organized by LitWorld and held on February 24, 2016, calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories. This year, LitWorld introduced 7 Strengths to celebrate all of the ways that reading makes us resilient and ready to thrive in school, work and life. They are: Belonging, Curiosity, Friendship, Kindness, Confidence, Courage, and Hope. Our library coordinator, Meghan Howe, put together this reading list of books that fit each of the strengths. Don’t forget to visit the WRAD website to download a great classroom kit full of activity suggestions.
Not My Girl
Escape from Tibet: A True Story
Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking
The Truth Commission
The Secret Life of Squirrels
Fragile Bones: Harrison & Anna
The Little Yellow Bottle
Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids
Author’s Corner: L.M. Falcone
L.M. (Lucy) Falcone was a couch potato growing up and loved watching television, but developed a love of reading when she discovered the local library and Nancy Drew. She wrote for television in Los Angeles for several years, before returning to Canada and transitioning to writing books for preteen audiences. She will be touring Quebec for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week in May.
How did you get started as a writer?
As I was growing up, TV was my best friend. I did homework during commercials, sitting cross-legged in front of the screen. Oy! Where was my mother? Why did she allow this? Maybe it was meant to unfold as it did because the seed was planted and I knew, from a very young age, that I’d be a television writer. As soon as I was old enough to write scripts, I began submitting story outlines to Canadian networks. Producers on the CTV series The Littlest Hobo liked one of my outlines, and that was my first paid writing gig. I went on to write for CBS’s The New Monkeys and Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark? A decade later I turned my hand to writing books — spooky books — for middle grade readers.
What were your favourite books growing up?
I wish I could say classics like Little House on the Prairie, Huckleberry Finn, A Wrinkle in Time, Chronicles of Narnia — but books never found their way into my home — and since my parents were immigrants who couldn’t speak English, I was never read to as a child. My first memory of truly loving a book was Nancy Drew Mysteries. I was already in Grade 4 or 5 by then, but I bless Carolyn Keene (and all the writers who wrote as Carolyn) for sparking my love of reading. As an adult I did get to read the classics, but I don’t think it’s quite the same as discovering them in the first flush of youth.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?
Like a lightning rod, I attract story ideas wherever I go. I write each and every one of them down as they come to me and squirrel them away. Out of the bunch there’s always one that leaps up and pierces my heart with excitement. That’s the one I can’t stop thinking about — and that’s the one I’ll start developing. I do a ton of research first (no matter what the topic) and that sparks a motherlode of details and characters and scenes. I then focus on creating a delicious plot (my books are all plot-driven) and start building it — much like you’d build a house — foundation first, floor second, attic, roof, windows, doors, etc. Somehow, by some mysterious alchemy (combined with a ton of work and little sleep) a story forms — and I exhale.
You are touring Quebec for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week in May! What do you have planned for the schools you are visiting? What are you looking forward to the most?
For my Quebec TD Canadian Children’s Book Week I’m planning to do an interactive presentation of my favourite genre — mysteries! From Encyclopedia Brown to Scooby Doo — and let’s not forget Nancy Drew — young readers love to solve mysteries. Nothing is more satisfying than the feeling they get when pieces finally start to fit and a picture begins to form. My ‘Detective/Mystery Presentation’ focuses on my latest kid-detective series The Ghost and Max Monroe, and will introduce students to the many elements of writing a mystery: crime, motive, alibi, detectives, suspects). The students will get to test their observation and memory skills — and we’ll also solve a mystery together!
I’m so looking forward to seeing smiling faces and spending time with young readers.
Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how to incorporate your books into the curriculum? How do you like to see your books used in classrooms? Do you have any activity suggestions?
Solving mysteries activates the “little grey cells” as Poirot is so fond of saying. Using my books in the classroom teaches students how to think, organize, observe, deduce, recall, etc. — all great components in any curriculum. The Ghost and Max Monroe series provides a great introduction to the mystery genre, perfect for honing critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
- Observation and Memory Skills games (both handouts and hands-on).
- Students create original mini-mysteries that can happen right in the classroom, school or yard, and other students solve them using their observation, memory and deductive reasoning skills.
What projects are you working on now?
I’m sooo excited about the series I’m currently working on called Cupcake Detective Agency for Grades 2-4. Like all cherubs, Lolly and Coco have a job. Theirs is to assist people on earth who need help. Dastardly crimes don’t stand a chance when these two angelic detectives get on the case!
For more information about Lucy’s work, visit www.lmfalcone.com.
Amy’s Travels in YA
by Amy Mathers
With Freedom to Read Week quickly approaching at the end of February (February 21- 27), I have been reflecting on the state of censorship in Canada. Did you know Canada has officially banned seven books? One is about Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, another denounces the Holocaust as a hoax, a third was written by the leader of the Front de libération du Québec. The others are considered racist, anti-Semitic, misogynic and one features the seduction of a minor. Yet, banning books in Canada is no longer considered a common practice, the last banning (Lethal Marriage by Nick Pron) occurring in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1995.
Even the list of challenged young adult books is small. The Freedom to Read Challenged Works Database contains a few, ranging from Brian Doyle’s Hey, Dad! (Groundwood Books, 1978) to Deborah Ellis’s Three Wishes (Groundwood Books, 2004). While the latter has been removed or placed under restricted access by certain school boards, Margaret Buffie, author of Who Is Frances Rain? (Kids Can Press, 1987) had a public school cancel her visit during Canadian Children’s Book Week in 1990 due to objections to swearing in the novel, and the historical fiction young adult novel The King’s Daughter by Suzanne Martel (Groundwood Books, 1998) was edited to remove controversial sections in a reprinting without notifying the author.
In Canada, while the former instances are troubling, we are sheltered, something I was reminded of last year when I read the award-winning young adult novel Into the River by New Zealand author Ted Dawe (Mangakino University Press, 2012). It had been banned in his home country. Immediately upon reading a young adult book had been banned, preventing distribution of it in New Zealand as well as making it illegal for Dawe to sell his own book to foreign customers, I did what I usually do when someone tells me I can’t read something — I got my hands on a copy and read it.
This is where I think those who seek to challenge or ban books go wrong. Hearing about the ban did not make me afraid of the book; it did not even prevent me from reading it. It simply encouraged me to be more creative about seeking a copy once I found out it was not at the library. If not for Family First New Zealand making international news in their fight to keep a restriction preventing readers under the age of 14 from reading the book, I mostly likely never would have heard of Into the River. Instead, I read about a young man who was an outsider at home, thrust into a new culture because of his smarts, and while it did feature drugs, sex, ‘offensive’ language and pedophilia, it also told a tale of resilience and choice.
In the end, I don’t think it’s about preventing our children and teens from reading books adults deem questionable. It’s about providing them with a safe space to discuss the ideas and their reactions. We should strive to raise critical readers, not teach them to bury their heads in the sand.
And if you are a challenged or banned author, take heart and talk about what’s going on. Media attention will pique the interest of critical readers who already exist, encouraging them to want to make their own minds up about your book.
Amy Mathers read and reviewed 365 YA books to raise money for the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award in 2014. Read about her journey at www.amysmarathonofbooks.ca.
Illustrator’s Studio: Qin Leng
Qin Leng was born in Shanghai, China, and grew up in Bordeaux, France, and Montreal. She currently lives in Toronto, where she works as a designer and illustrator. She has published children’s books in Canada, United States, Hong Kong, Sweden, France, United Kingdom, and South Korea.
How did you get started as an illustrator?
I come from a family of very visual people. My mother would draw in her spare time, and my father is an artist. I remember spending days watching him work in his studio, and from that I have developed the love of art. Since I was a pretty shy and quiet kid, drawing was the perfect way to express myself and create my own world through colourful pictures.
Throughout the years, I knew I would be drawing forever but it was always something I thought I would be doing as a hobby, never as a career. I studied science in college, and applied for biology at McGill University. But when I received my letter of acceptance, somehow I couldn’t picture myself doing research for the rest of my life. Tossing aside my science background, I enrolled in film school and studied animation.
After three years in the industry, however, I felt the need to be more creative and get my work published. After spending a whole year sending my illustrations to a huge amount of publishers, I landed my first project with Annick Press in 2009, and from that point on, I have been very very busy!
Can you tell us about your illustrating process?
I always start with very loose sketches to get the basic idea out. The looser the rough, the better, as I like to keep my final ink lines very fluid and free.
At the clean up stage, I use a very fine nib and acrylic ink. Because I work very small, I need to use the finest nib I can find in stores! To give you a sense of scale, a character I draw wouldn’t be much larger than an eraser!
Once the illustration is inked, I scan it into the computer and the entire colour stage is realized in Photoshop. I particularly love the softness of watercolour and so I try as best I can to replicate those textures digitally, using various Photoshop brushes.
What were your favourite children’s books and illustrators growing up?
I spent my early childhood in France, and so European illustrations are a big part of my influences.
My [most] favourite artist I never tire to reference is Sempé, creator of the famous series Le petit Nicolas. His lines are extremely simple and very loose, something I always strive to achieve in my own illustrations.
I also love Gabrielle Vincent, illustrator of the picture book series Ernest et Célestine, adapted to an animated film in 2012. Her brush strokes have so much energy, like very loose painting sketches. Her watercolour illustrations are a real treat! I actually still have the first print of that picture book, sitting on my book shelf in my studio at home.
Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how they could use your books in the classroom?
Many of my books cover subjects which can be great discussion topics in classrooms. For instance, one of my latest picture books (which I just recently wrapped up with Groundwood Books), A Family is a Family is a Family (written by Sara O’Leary), depicts various family portraits. In the book, each kid presents his family to his classmates, and you quickly discover that a family is much more than just a mom and dad, and that there are so many different kinds of families.
I could imagine a class doing the exact same thing, where each student could bring objects, pictures or even drawings representing their family, and talk about how their household is very special to them.
What projects are you working on? Can you tell us about any upcoming books?
This can turn into a lengthy answer, as I always have multiple projects on the go at once. I actually find this constant flow of work very stimulating and inspiring. I think I would be very bored if I didn’t draw, even just for one day.
At the moment, I have two picture books coming out this Spring.
The first is Harry and Walter, written by Kathy Stinson and published by Annick Press. It’s about a very special friendship… I loved working on this book. It is an incredibly heart-warming story!
The second book coming out is Happy Birthday, Alice Babette, written by Monica Kulling and published by Groundwood Books. The story takes place in 1920s Paris! What a treat it was to research the fashion and architecture for this book!
I also have a series of six picture books (some came out last year but a couple more are coming out this year) with Second Story Press, written by Kathryn Cole, about children empowerment.
As for ongoing projects, I just finished the picture book called A Family is a Family is a Family, written by Sara O’Leary, published by Groundwood Books, as well as an educational book to teach kids how to be prepared for a new sibling: Ready, Set… Baby! A Kids Know Book, with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and written by Elizabeth Rusch.
I am also working on the fourth book of a chapter book series with Penguin Random House, written by Ellen Potter, called Piper Green and the Fairy Tree, following the adventures of a girl and her magic tree.
God’s Little Lambs: Bible Stories is another big project I am working on with Zonderkids, written by Julie Stiegemeyer. This is a pretty ambitious project as it is a retelling of the Old and New Testament.
Finally, I am just getting started on a brand new picture book with Groundwood Books, written by Emil Sher, called Away.
This is it for now but I am planning to find more projects to keep me occupied with!
Images courtesy of Qin Leng. Visit qinleng.tumblr.com for more information about her work.