TD Children’s Book Week

I spent last week winding my way from Ottawa to Toronto as part of TD Children’s Book Week. The event is organized each year by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. The centre chooses thirty authors, illustrators, and storytellers from across Canada, shuffles them up, and sends them across the country.

The official TD Book Week banner.

There were LOTS of B.C. folks travelling this year. My friend Kallie George explored Prince Edward Island. Another writing group member, Sara Gillingham, flew around the Northwest Territories on frighteningly tiny planes. And Lee Edward Fodi zipped back and forth across Toronto.

I began my trip with a visit to the Carp branch of the Ottawa Public Library, which is on the grounds of the Diefenbunker, a steel and concrete structure built as a Cold War hideout for Canadian government officials. You could see it in this photograph, except… it’s underground.

This is where you hide from impending nuclear disaster.

I did a second presentation at lovely Elmwood School near downtown Ottawa, then I was off to the picturesque but teensy village of Sharbot Lake, followed by ever-so-slightly-larger Tweed.

Apparently North America’s smallest jailhouse.

Along my route, there were storybook farms and Canadian shield scenes which I’m quite sure came straight from my seventh-grade social studies textbook.

Probably a movie set? Could farm scenes this perfect be real?

Marmora had both the prettiest church and the prettiest school library. (Don’t you want to just stay here and read forever?)

Sacred Heart Catholic School in Mormora.

By Friday, I was worried my voice or my energy might give out, but Trent Lakes turned out to be one of my favourite stops. I signed an armload of books at Trent Lakes Public Library (home of über-cool librarians), presented to a super-enthusiastic bunch of students at Trent Lakes Elementary, and was given a “seal of approval,” complete with flipper clapping. Plus, THEY HAD MADE ME A SIGN! So I flew home on Saturday feeling like a rock star.

Those Trent Lakes kids really know how to make someone feel special.

A huge thank you to the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, to TD Bank, and to the teachers and librarians who spent hours organizing and who made the week an absolute pleasure. And to the hundreds of kids I met! You are all amazing, and many of you perform EXCELLENT dramatic death scenes, create highly realistic explosion sound effects, and invent absolutely ridiculous things with pipe cleaners. Thank you!

Launched!

Kallie George and I were at Kidsbooks last night to celebrate the release of our new middle-grade novels, Mya’s Strategy to Save the World (Penguin Random House) and Wings of Olympus (Harper Collins).

I stole this photo from Lee Edward Fodi, who launched his own new book this month: The Secret of Zoone, published by Harper Collins. Lee was at the launch with his wife, Marcie, and the world’s most adorable toddler.

It was wonderful to see so many friends there. I felt like I should be renewing my vows or something. Can you renew writer vows?

Kidsbooks was amazing, as always. When Maggie introduced my book , she said readers only needed to read the first paragraph. Then they’d be hooked. Apparently, that was true!

The first paragraph is about snot.
Also, Angela is a spectacular writer, author of Krista Kim-Bap. Look her up!

I talked a little about the inspirations for Mya, including my daughter’s save-the-whales letter from years ago. (That letter was a hit. I think I’m going to subcontract all my writing to Silence from now on.) I talked about how Mya, the young activist in my book, wants to work for the United Nations, win a Nobel Prize, and, perhaps most of all, get her very own cell phone.

Then Kallie took the stage to talk about love vs. might. Wings of Olympus is about a winged-horse race, and about whether the love between one girl and her horse can help them triumph over mightier teams.

Kallie also told us about writing down her ideas for this book in a café. She was thinking about the words, smiling out the window, when a cute boy walked by and assumed she was smiling at him! He came inside to introduce himself. Now, several years later, that cute boy is her husband and Wings of Olympus is published book.

Overall, it was a fabulous night, full of books and cookies. Thank you to everyone who joined us for the celebration!

Cookies! Baked and decorated by Silence. Well, a few were decorated by Min and me (see the blue one in the foreground), but we were quickly fired.

Warm fuzzies

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre released its Best Books for Kids & Teens 2015 edition last week. I’m sure I’m not the only person who treats it as a giant to-read list each winter. I’m also honoured to have a book included.

Minding Nana is a true story I wrote about growing up next door to my grandma, who suffered from dementia. Pearson released a Well Aware series of 60 books for middle-grade readers this year, all focussed on different aspects of mental health, and Minding Nana was included. It was a difficult story to write and I sort of felt as if I had sold my soul by publishing it (much easier to write other people’s stories!), so I am sincerely touched to have it included by the CCBC.

Others included in this year’s Best Books list include my lovely author friends Paula Ayer, Kallie George, Caroline Adderson, Lee Edward Födi, and Lori Sherritt-Fleming. Congratulations, all!

In more warm-fuzzy news, DNA Detective received a wonderful review from CM Magazine. The reviewer thinks I’m smarter than I really am, so please… no one reveal the truth.

The TD Book Week Tour Thus Far…

1. Lee Edward Fodi and I got lost in the Toronto airport parking lot.

2. We crashed with Kari-Lynn Winters in St. Catherines, then headed to Spring Into Reading, a literacy festival in Niagara. The whole show was orchestrated by the Ontario Literacy Association, and the kids were wonderful — fun, engaged, and willing to try their hands at anything. Even dangerous survival situations…

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3. Lee and I got lost in the Best Buy parking lot. This could have become a theme except…

4. Lee was eaten by a giant T-Rex.

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5. Finally, for a little extra awesomeness, Niagara Falls.

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On the Tour Bus

In just a few short weeks, I set sail (on a plane) for Ontario, as part of TD Children’s Book Week. I am beyond excited. I have prepared my presentations, stocked the freezer with food so my family doesn’t starve while I’m gone, and even bought a few new, publicly acceptable items of clothing.

I fly into Toronto, then Lee Edward Fodi and I drive to St. Catherines to meet Kari-Lynn Winters for a day-long literacy festival.

After that, I speak at schools and libraries in Pelham and Mississauga before jetting off to Ottawa for four more days of presentations.

We are not going to discuss here how many times I am going to (a) misplace my hotel key, (b) wear my clothes backwards, or (c) get lost. No. Because we are focussing on how amazing it’s going to be to meet hundreds of kids who love books.

There’s a Book Week interview with me here. And if you want to know more about the tour in general, check out the website. It’s an amazing program, and I’m feeling thoroughly honoured to be a part of it all.