Anywhere is a good place to read…

In a box...

In a box…

Picture Book Review: When Emily Carr Met Woo

Monica Kulling’s When Emily Met Woo is a perfect introduction to one of Canada’s most famous artists, Emily Carr. Young readers will find an engaging story,  a brief history, some of Ms. Carr’s most famous images and the charming illustrations of the very talented Dean Griffiths.

Monica Kulling paints a vivid picture of Emily Carr’s life in simple, direct language. Emily is thought to be a “strange bird” whose art no one wants.  “To make a living, she [Emily] made and sold clay bowls and hooked rugs.”  The painter was known as an eccentric who housed a menagerie of animals, including a monkey she called Woo. The depth of love Emily feels for her animal companions is clear when Woo becomes gravely ill.  Fortunately, Woo makes a full recovery and accompanies Emily to the forest where “Cedars touched the sky. They touched the painter’s heart too.”


I especially like the design of the dust jacket. The front cover integrates a photograph of Carr and Woo within the illustration while the back cover features several of Carr’s paintings as well Griffiths illustration of Woo.

Picture book biographies are difficult to write well, but Pajama Press, Monica Kulling and Dean Griffiths all get top marks with When Emily Carr Met Woo.

Why I stock a free library

These neighborhood kids rode over after school yesterday to choose a book.


Summer fun

I love summers and so do kids, but some days, but every now and then, a rainy…I’m bored day comes along. What to do?  National Geographic Kids has some very cool coloring pages to download, but why stop there?  Kids can use the pages as jumping off points for there own drawing projects, or accompany the art with their own stories.

Stories come in all shapes, sizes and mediums

I love that stories can be told in so many ways.  Here’s a Ted Talk by Jim Toomey that is really cool…it’s his story on how he became a cartoonist, but it’s also the story of how “Story” comes in a variety of forms and how it can have an impact on our world.  So, for all you parents and teachers out there who tell kids to stop doodling, you may want to check this out. And for those of you who are kids and doodle-inclined, this is for you.

Orca book Publishers spring book launch

Orca Book Publishers is celebrating some awesome authors in their spring book launch.  If you’re in town, be sure to drop in. If you can’t make it, books will be available through your local bookstore, or online.


If you want to be a winner, you have to practice…that goes for basketball, or writing.

Forsythia  & Magnolia about to flower

Forsythia & Magnolia about to flower


I love this time of year.  The longer days.  The gorgeous blooms in my garden.  Watching excessive amounts of college basketball.  And – most importantly – choosing a winner for The Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Writing Contest. As in past years, I’ll be the judge for the grade four category.

Writing and March Madness basketball are two of my favorite passions. It’s true that writing is a solitary endeavor while basketball is very much a team sport. But, the two activities have a lot more in common than you might think. Both basketball and writing are based on practicing a set of skills, and both rely on participants mastering those skills.

Unlike college basketball coaches, I don’t expect perfection from the young writers from across Canada who submitted stories. However I do want to see some sense that they are starting to develop their writing skills. It’s easy to tell when a young writer has spent extra time at their writing. They’ve figured out the importance of story with a beginning, middle and end.  They’re starting to understand how to develop their characters.  And, they are better at using engaging and interesting language.  All these are indicators of time spent honing their craft.
While the NCAA is in the process of choosing their best teams to compete, I’ve narrowed my choice down to the top five stories. Soon, I’ll have picked a winner, and two runners up. If you end up winning the contest, congratulations.  If you didn’t, take the time to revise your story and make it stronger.  Keep practicing.  Keep writing more stories.  Keep working to get better at something you love.  You can bet that all those NCAA basketball players will be  out on the court honing their b-ball skills and getting better at doing something they love too!


Advice from Neil Gaiman

I can’t believe it’s already 2014!  I thought I’d start the new year with a sage bit of advice offered to a young writer by author, Neil Gaiman. Gaiman drops in on an episode of the Arthur cartoon to impart some writerly wisdom, but his advice is true for writers of any age…trust your story and don’t give up.  You just might be lucky enough to live the author dream of hearing a reader ask, ‘What happens next?’

…and thanks to GalleyCat for the heads up.

Grades 5-8 Write for a Better World Contest

2014 Write for a Better World Contest

World Literacy Canada
presents its annual
for Canadian students in Grades 5-8
This year, the writing theme was created by  
Kelley Armstrong
 author of numerous award-winning fantasy books
(here’s a sample below)

What to do:
• Using this story starter, tell what happens next in 400 words or less:

It’s been a long, sleepless night of strange dreams. Even once you wake up, you think you’re still dreaming, because you aren’t in your own bed. You aren’t even yourself! It’s no dream. You’ve woken in another part of the world, as someone from another culture. 

How stories will be evaluated:

  • Has the writer written about a place and culture that is different from their own? Is there indication that the author learned something about the culture?
  • How unique is the writer’s approach to the topic?
  • How is the story organized? Is there a clear beginning, middle and ending?
  • Does the writer use proper spelling and grammar?
  • Is the main character well-written? Does he/she represent the ideals of global citizenship?

• April 4, 2014

Full Details:
• Details of prizes and the entry form can be found at

Short-lists and winners

It’s award season, and yes, it’s hard to keep up.  If you hail from north of the 49th parallel, you’ll be familiar with the Ontario Tree Awards…These are a big deal here, cuz they’re a reader’s choice award, and what author doesn’t want his/her readers to love their books!  There are awards for fiction as well as non-fiction with 6 English categories and two French.  Their site has a handy template that links each category to this year’s short list as well as short lists and winners for several previous years.  I recommend printing the lists off for future reading.


The short-list for the Governor General’s Literature Award For Children’s Text (see below)


The White Bicycle by Beverley Brenna

Becoming Holmes by Shane Peacock

Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean E. Pendziwol

Counting Back from Nine by Valerie Sherrard

and short-list for the Governor General’s Literature Award for Illustration (see below) were also recently announced.


Miss Mousie’s Blind Date illustrated by Rachel Berman

Oy, Feh, So? illustrated by Gary Clement

Northwest Passage illustrated by Matt James

The Dark illustrated by Jon Klassen

How To illustrated by Julie Morstad


Our friends south of the Canuck border are also celebrating short-lists of their own. The finalists for the 2013  National Book Award for Young People’s Literature has just been announced.

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt (S&S/Atheneum).

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata (S&S/Atheneum).

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal (Knopf).

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff (Putnam).

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang (First Second).


And finally, here in Victoria, BC we are celebrating Polly Horvath’s Bolen Books Prize win for Children’s Literature.

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