|Winter 2017, Vol. 36, No. 4
- Letter from the Editor
- President’s Report
- Regional Report Ontario
- Regional Report West
- Call for Submissions: 2017 Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence Program
- Shortlist Announced: 2016 Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award
- IBBY Canada’s Indigenous Picture Book Collection
- 2017 Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities
- IBBY Auction for Children in Crisis
- You’re Invited: IBBY Canada Annual Meeting of Members
- CANSCAIP Spotlight: Joan Marie Galat
- Upcoming Events
Letter from the Editor
A new year is a great opportunity to reflect on everything that IBBY Canada accomplished in 2016. Doing so makes me very proud to be part of this organization! Here are just a few highlights of some of the things we achieved last year:
- The silent picture book Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith (Groundwood Books, 2015) was donated to Syrian refugee families as a gift of welcome.
- The Silent Books Exhibit made its final stop in Hamilton after a cross-country tour.
- The Executive Council welcomed two new members: Rob Bittner, Regional Councillor West, and Jolise Beaton, Membership Secretary.
- We began working on a funding application for the Indigenous Picture Book Collection.
- We continued to honour Canadian authors and illustrators with our numerous national awards and programs, and held a special presentation to honourees at CANSCAIP’s Packaging Your Imagination (PYI) on November 19.
- The Cleaver Art Raffle celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award, with illustrations from Isabelle Arsenault. Thank you to everyone who supported the raffle, and congratulations to the winners, Diana Barry and David Hersh.
I also wanted to extend a big thank you to everyone who stopped by the IBBY Canada table at PYI to talk about IBBY and learn more about what we do. We hope that you’ll join us at the Annual Meeting of Members (AMM) on March 4 to find out how you can get more involved with the organization in 2017.
Here’s to a wonderful year ahead!
– Katie Scott, Newsletter Editor
Happy new year, IBBY Canada friends and supporters!
As I write this letter, the board is preparing for the Annual Meeting of Members, which will take place in Toronto on Saturday, March 4. I hope to see many of you there, not least because we will be taking some time after the formal portion of the meeting concludes to ask for input from members on how they (you!) might participate more actively in IBBY Canada’s work over the next year. We will circulate possible discussion questions ahead of the meeting, and if you are not able to attend in person, I encourage you to submit your thoughts by email to me at email@example.com.
The IBBY Canada board is looking forward to a new year and some exciting new projects. One of the most ambitious is the Indigenous Picture Book Collection, which is described in Mary Beth Leatherdale’s report in this edition of the newsletter. If you are interested in helping with this project, we would be very happy to hear from you.
With thanks for your support, and best wishes for 2017,
– Sheila Barry, President
Regional Report Ontario
Based at Toronto Public Library’s North York Central branch, the IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities has developed a catalogue for distribution at the 2017 Bologna Children’s Book Fair (April 3–6, 2017). A digitized version of the catalogue will be available on the Toronto Public Library website. Four Canadian titles have been selected for inclusion.
Save the date: March 24 to April 2 will see a jam-packed schedule for the 2017 Toronto Storytelling Festival. Storytellers and listeners are invited to the many events taking place in venues throughout Toronto, which have partnered with Toronto Public Library. They include the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre Toronto, Harbourfront Centre, Royal Ontario Museum, and others. The festival includes a three-day Storytellers’ Camp for those wanting to explore how stories are part of community development, social justice work, education, and healthcare. The TD Story Jam celebrates family storytelling. This year the festival has also partnered with Shoe Project and Parent-Child Mother Goose Program to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary by highlighting stories brought to Toronto by refugees and immigrants. For more information, visit their website.
During the Toronto Storytelling Festival, IBBY Canada will be hosting Andy Jones at an informal brunch at the Free Times Cafe (370 College St.) on Friday, March 31, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ($20 incl. HST). Andy Jones, Newfoundland’s best-known storyteller, has won prizes for his retelling of traditional Jack tales, published by Running the Goat Books & Broadsides. Andy has been a professional writer, actor, and storyteller for over 40 years. He is one of the groundbreaking members of the Newfoundland comedy troupe CODCO. Andy’s numerous awards include two Gemini awards, five Gemini nominations, two Emmy nominations, two Genie nominations, election to the Newfoundland Arts Council Hall of Honour, the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council’s Award of Excellence, “Best Performance” at the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax, and the ACTRA Award of Excellence for Lifetime Achievement. Andy was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where he co-founded the Resource Centre for the Arts at the L.S.P.U. Hall, co-writing, acting in, and directing many original productions. Andy’s books will be available for purchase and signing. For reservations, please email Theo Heras.
– Lesley Clement, Regional Councillor Ontario
Regional Report West
While a good amount of fall 2016 was somewhat uneventful, January saw a Celebration of BC Authors and Illustrators. The purpose of the celebration was not only to highlight the winning author and illustrator of the Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada’s Information Book Award (West Coast Wild: A Nature Alphabet written by Deborah Hodge and illustrated by Karen Reczuch), but to also celebrate the achievements of other local artists and to be introduced to CWILL BC’s innovative new website.
Also of note is the Serendipity one-day conference happening at the University of British Columbia on March 4, 2017. While I know that this is at the same time as the IBBY Canada Annual Meeting of Members in Toronto, if you happen to be in the Vancouver area, I would encourage you to check out Serendipity (featuring Vancouver-based Jeremy Tankard along with Jennifer A. Nielsen and Martha Brockenbrough) and engage with the rich and vibrant community of children’s literature students, scholars, teachers, and artists! For more information please visit the Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable’s website.
I look forward to running into other members of IBBY Canada at events across Canada!
– Rob Bittner, Regional Councillor West
Call for Submissions: 2017 Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence Program
IBBY Canada invites submissions from Canadian children’s book illustrators for the Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence Program for the month of October 2017, hosted at Toronto Public Library’s Northern District Branch. Submissions are evaluated by a jury with expertise in children’s books and illustration. The submission deadline is Friday, April 28, 2017.
The Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence Program is a joint project of IBBY Canada, Toronto Public Library, and the Canadian Urban Libraries Council. The program is funded by the family of Joanne Fitzgerald (1956–2011), whose books include Plain Noodles, Emily’s House, The Blue Hippopotamus and Doctor Kiss Says Yes (winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award). The Illustrator in Residence in previous years has been Martha Newbigging (2013 in Toronto), Patricia Storms (2014 in Toronto), John Martz (2015 in Toronto) and Dianna Bonder (2016 in Edmonton).
Overview of IBBY Canada’s Joanne Fitzgerald Illustrator in Residence Program in 2017:
- Held at Toronto Public Library Northern District Branch from October 1 to 31, 2017
- The illustrator leads art activities for classes of children, makes presentations to adults and students, and offers individual portfolio reviews
- The illustrator’s original work is exhibited in the art gallery in the library
- Remuneration of $4,000 is provided to the illustrator, plus up to $300 for art supplies
- Travel, accommodation and meals are the responsibility of the illustrator
- The illustrator will provide about 20 to 25 programming hours per week, with some evening and possible weekend events
Requirements for illustrators:
- Has illustrated four or more professionally-published children’s books, with the publication of a new book expected within the next few years
- Has experience in developing and delivering programs for kids, teens and adults
- Is friendly and empathetic, with an understanding of the needs of aspiring artists
- Has preparatory sketches and finished work that can be displayed in the library’s art gallery
- Is available for the month of October 2017 (the illustrator is not scheduled on every day)
- Is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
Send submissions by Friday, April 28, 2017 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions must be a single attachment of a Word or PDF document that includes:
- Your ideas for workshops and presentations; provide a few ideas for each audience: school kids, adults, high school/college students (see Programming Guidelines below)
- CV that includes your presentation experience and published books (with publisher and year)
- Two letters of reference about your presentation experience
The selected illustrator will lead the following types of workshops and presentations. We encourage illustrators to propose creative and engaging programming ideas and to be open to suggestions from the library and IBBY Canada.
Workshops for Grades 2 to 6
Classes of about 30 kids from Grades 2 to 6 come to the library to participate in 90-minute workshops led by the illustrator; teachers are there to supervise the class. The workshops are scheduled in the morning and afternoon on 2 days of each week in October, about 15 workshops in total. Since a different class comes each time, workshop content can be similar/the same for all the classes, perhaps with modifications for different ages. Workshops must include a hands-on art activity, with everyone creating a piece (or group project) they take with them. The illustrator provides the art materials (costs of materials is reimbursed). The workshop can also include short presentations with projected visuals such as PowerPoint, but most of the time should be spent on the hands-on art activities.
Presentations for adults are 60 minutes, scheduled in the library on one evening of each week in October, about 5 adult presentations in total. The content of each presentation should be different, since the same people often come back. The focus should be on topics like getting started as an illustrator, work opportunities for illustrators, promoting illustration work, building a portfolio, and illustrating for publishers. Adult presentations should include projected visuals such as PowerPoint. Hands-on art activities aren’t recommended for adult presentations.
Student Presentations at High Schools and Colleges
High school presentations are held at the school or college, not in the library. Presentations for student audiences can be similar to those for adults. Presentations in schools are about 45 to 60 minutes long, depending on each school’s class schedules.
Artists and art students can book individual 30-minute portfolio review meetings with the illustrator for feedback on the artwork they bring with them. Portfolio reviews are held in the library on one evening of each week in October, with up to six portfolio reviews scheduled per evening. A program coordinator books the portfolio reviews, and the illustrator receives an ongoing updated schedule.
Shortlist Announced: 2016 Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award
On behalf of the Cleaver Award jury, I am pleased to announce the shortlist for 2016 Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award. Canadian illustrators, authors, and publishers once again created a rich and diverse body of work in 2016. This award for illustration honours the synergy between art and text, visual storytelling, artistic originality, and design. We would like to recognize the following artists on the shortlist for this year’s award.
Isabelle Arsenault for Louis parmi les spectres. Written by Fanny Britt. Published by Éditions de la Pastèque.
Eric Fan and Terry Fan for The Darkest Dark. Written by Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion. Published by Tundra Books.
Kellen Hatanaka for Tokyo Digs a Garden. Written by Jon-Erik Lappano. Published by Groundwood Books.
Matt James for The Stone Thrower. Written by Jael Ealey Richardson. Published by Groundwood Books.
Jan Thornhill for The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk. Groundwood Books.
The winner and honour books will be announced at IBBY Canada’s Annual Meeting of Members on March 4, 2017.
– Allison Taylor McBryde, Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award Chair
IBBY Canada’s Indigenous Picture Book Collection
In 2016, a committee was formed to develop initiatives around Indigenous literature in Canada. Last fall, the committee applied to the Canada Council for the Arts New Chapter Fund for support in creating and exhibiting an Indigenous Picture Book Collection. Working in partnership with Indigenous writers, artists, and librarians, we would like to create a collection of more than 100 picture books celebrating the talents of contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit writers and illustrators from across Canada. The goal of the collection is to shine a spotlight on Indigenous children’s books today, promoting the work of contemporary authors and artists and offering insight into the diverse cultures, languages, experiences, and perspectives of Indigenous Canadians.
Our request for more than $200,000 in funding would allow us to build four collections of Indigenous picture books — one housed in the east, one housed in the west, one housed in Library and Archives Canada (there is currently no Indigenous children’s collection), and one to tour across the country. In addition to touring across Canada to 15 libraries or more, we have requested support for author and illustrator presentations at each location. To ensure that Indigenous voices are present at the exhibit at all times, we’ve requested funding to create a short video featuring authors and illustrators speaking about their work. The application also included the budget for a part-time staff person and monies to acquire resources for the administration and promotion of the project.
Although our Canada Council application is focused on the creation and exhibition of the Indigenous Picture Book Collection within Canada, we believe other opportunities will grow from the initiative. After the Canadian tour, our hope is to present the Indigenous Collection at the 2018 IBBY Congress and then tour the collection internationally, partnering with IBBY national sections around the world. As well, we would like to create a Donor Collections that individuals and organizations could fund, allowing Indigenous youth in remote and under-resourced communities access to high quality reading materials by Indigenous artists.
Over the next month, we are creating working groups for the development of the project. IBBY Canada members of diverse talents are enthusiastically encouraged to get involved. Working groups include:
- Collection Selection
- Travelling Exhibition and Author Tour
- Marketing and Promotions
If you’re interested in joining a group or just want to learn more about the project, please contact Mary Beth Leatherdale at email@example.com.
2017 Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities
IBBY Canada is pleased to announce that four Canadian titles have been selected for the 2017 Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities:
- Calvin by Martine Leavitt (Groundwood Books, 2015)
- Dépourvu by Victoria Grondin (Éditions Hurtubise, 2016)
- Rebound by Eric Walters (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2014)
- Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith (Groundwood Books, 2015)
The IBBY Collection for Young People with Disabilities, housed at the North York Central Branch of the Toronto Public Library, received 201 submissions from 26 countries. Fifty books are selected for the catalogue. The 2017 Outstanding IBBY Book Selection will be premiered at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair from April 3 to 6, 2017. The IBBY press conference at the book fair is scheduled for Monday, April 3 at 2:30 p.m. at the Illustrators’ Café. The 2017 selection will be launched at the conference and the books will be on display throughout the fair at the IBBY stand A51 in hall 29.
After the press conference, the annotated print catalogue of the 2017 selected titles, including publishing information, will be digitized and available on the IBBY Collection website. Meanwhile, the list of the selected outstanding titles will shortly appear on the same site in a blog. All physical submissions are retained in the main Collection. Their bibliographic records will be posted on the Toronto Public Library website after the launch at the book fair.
IBBY Auction for Children in Crisis
IBBY International is pleased to announce the launch of an art auction in support of the IBBY/REFORMA Children in Crisis Project. The auction offers original illustrations from the picture book Somos como las nubes / We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Alfonso Ruano, and translated from the Spanish by Elisa Amado (Groundwood Books, 2016).
For more information, and to enter the auction, please visit the IBBY website.
You’re Invited: IBBY Canada Annual Meeting of Members
Another year has passed and it’s time once again for the IBBY Canada Annual Meeting of Members (AMM).
Date: Saturday, March 4, 2017. Join us for membership renewal and coffee at 9:30 a.m. Meeting begins at 10 a.m.
Location: Northern District Branch, Toronto Public Library, Room 200, 40 Orchard View Blvd.
Please join us to meet the outgoing and incoming executive board, to catch up on what IBBY Canada has accomplished over the past year, to vote on upcoming changes, and to learn about what we’re looking forward to in 2017! We will also be announcing the recipients for our 2016 awards and grants.
Guest speaker Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis will talk about the importance of Indigenous literature being widely accessible to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, librarians, educators, and families to explore the truth, honour community voices, and build understanding of the historical and contemporary realities of Indigenous peoples. The talk is in conjunction with the Indigenous Picture Book Collection that is currently in development.
After the formal meeting, we will be holding a discussion on how members can more actively participate in IBBY Canada. We will circulate possible discussion questions ahead of the meeting. If you are unable to attend, please email your thoughts to Sheila Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that, while all are welcome, in order to vote at the AMM you have to be a current member in good standing. You can renew your membership at any time online. We will also be renewing membership in person at the AMM with cash or cheque ONLY.
We hope to see you there!
CANSCAIP Spotlight: Joan Marie Galat
CANSCAIP member Joan Marie Galat is a stellar author who writes about the stars, aurora, and other night sky phenomena. Her award-winning books encourage children to learn more about space and their own roles in protecting the environment through activities from planting trees to turning off the lights at night. She lives in the countryside just outside Edmonton where the skies are dark.
How did you get published as a child? And how did you stay motivated at that young age to keep on writing? Do you encourage and give advice to students on how to get published?
I first started “making books” when I was about nine years old. I wrote a book of stories and poems, as well as my first non-fiction title — how to care for pet budgies. My desire to write initially started with liking to read and wanting to make my own books. I discovered it was fun to play with words, get them just right, and experience the reactions of readers (family only at this point).
My first break came when I was 12 years old. The Edmonton Journal started a kids’ page and advertised a writing contest. I didn’t win but an honourable mention got my name in the paper. As a result, the editor of a weekly newspaper invited me to contribute articles and even offered to pay me.
I was in Grade 8 and very excited. The editor likely thought I was older, but we corresponded only by mail and I never brought it up. My motivation to meet the weekly deadline was 1) fear of losing the opportunity, 2) the fun of seeing my name in the paper, and 3) that it was the ’70s — a glorious time when a 10-inch column translated into enough cash to buy at least four chocolate bars.
As a frequent presenter to students, my advice for kids who dream of being published is to take steps such as:
- Read books of all kinds, and remember to explore the non-fiction section. Non-fiction can lead to amazing adventures.
- Ask an adult to arrange getting a few pen pals to write to by snail mail. Writing by hand forces a learning writer to gain a stronger awareness of what makes a good sentence and what does not. Corresponding with a pen pal challenges students to think about writing in an entertaining way and consider what topics will interest the reader. Receiving letters provides a reward for writing, and teaches that people from other places experience the world in different ways — important knowledge for someone who wants to share creative ideas.
- Only show your work to others after you can read it out loud — from start to finish — without finding anything to fix.
- Find creative ways to share your stories: make your own newsletter, newspaper, book, storytelling bulletin board, or all-about-the-facts poster.
Aspiring young writers can access websites and publications that publish kids’ writing through the resources tab on my website.
Tell us about the journey of your career and how it led to what you do today.
I studied biological sciences with a focus on ecology but often found jobs that enabled me to write. As a park naturalist, I wrote scripts for interpretive plays and programs. When a radio station opened in the small town where I happened to live, I wormed my way in and learned to write commercials, news, and other program content. Radio led to opportunities to write video scripts.
Writing for radio particularly helped me fine-tune the skills needed to write for children because I wanted to create stories that would be read aloud. Writing for video taught me to think about how images would be paired with words. Eventually I had children and mistakenly thought this period of my life — staying home to raise a family — would give me more time to write! Despite the shock of discovering otherwise, I set myself goals to write a set amount each week.
While pregnant with my third child, I took my first-born to playschool, put my second child down for a nap, and wrote until pick-up time. After nine months, I had a manuscript.
The submission process before the days of the Internet was even more laborious, particularly in a small northern Alberta town hours away from a bookstore or large library. Realizing I would have a better chance if my query letter included writing credits from the print world, I set myself a new goal — to have an article in a newspaper or magazine once per month.
I worked my way up from unknown publications to mainstream, aided by the fact that during the process, life took me to the outskirts of Edmonton. Proximity allowed me to further build my credits by freelancing for CBC Radio and the Edmonton Journal. I learned all I could about the business of getting published (a workshop I now teach) and eventually was offered a contract for Dot to Dot in the Sky: Stories in the Stars (Whitecap Books, 2001) — a title that became a bestseller within six weeks of its release.
How did you get the nickname “Star Lady”? What influenced you to write about astronomy for children?
The “Star Lady” nickname came from my first book about constellations. I was fortunate to get a lot of publicity with the first title, and when people met me they would say, “Oh, you’re the star lady!”
My interest in astronomy started as a child when I went on long driving trips with my parents or lay outside in a snow fort looking up at the night sky. I was curious enough to borrow science books from the library, but the ones I chose were too complicated. My questions remained unanswered until I was an adult. As my children grew, I wanted to make it easy to show them how to spot constellations. I also wanted to tell them the stories from early cultures that matched the pictures in the sky. I couldn’t find a book that paired the topics and the Dot to Dot in the Sky series was born.
As of 2016, the series includes five titles from Whitecap Books: Dot to Dot in the Sky: Stories in the Stars (2001), Dot to Dot in the Sky: Stories of the Planets (2003), Dot to Dot in the Sky: Stories of the Moon (2004), Dot to Dot in the Sky: Stories of the Zodiac (2007), Dot to Dot in the Sky: Stories of the Aurora (2016).
A career highlight must have been speaking at a United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) event in Seoul, South Korea. How did this come about? What did you talk about? What was the outcome or impact of your speech?
My invitation to speak at the United Nations Environmental Program event was triggered by events that actually began several years ago. The first three books in the Dot to Dot in the Sky series were translated into Korean. This led to an invitation to present at an international book fair in Seoul in 2009. When UNEP planned a Special Rendezvous of the Environment and the Arts in 2016, my original host thought the blend of science and arts portrayed in my books — the northern lights/night sky, sustainability/ecology, and ancient stories — would be a good fit.
My speech, “The Nature of Night,” revealed the relationship between art and science in our earth and sky environment. My talk touched on the northern lights and partnered science and storytelling, as in my recent book Dot to Dot in the Sky: Stories of the Aurora (Whitecap Books, 2016). I also discussed climate change, reflecting content in Branching Out: How Trees Are Part of Our World (Owlkids Books, 2014). And, speaking on the importance of dark nights, I shared research from my upcoming title Dark Matters: Nature’s Reaction to Light Pollution (Red Deer Press, Spring 2017). The outcome was increased awareness about sustainability, as well as how our environment extends into the night sky, connecting us with one another across continents.
How did you become an advocate for a new science called scotobiology and turning off the lights at night?
My interest in the importance of dark nights started with wanting a view of the night sky without interference from artificial light. Research led me to discover that dark nights are vital to wildlife, plants, and people. Animals need darkness to find food, avoid enemies, sleep, and live their lives, but light at night makes it hard for them to thrive and survive. When a topic intrigues me, I want to share it with everyone! When a topic is vitally important, such as the environmental impact of light at night, I want to encourage others to care, too. Children care about animals. I hope learning about this issue will inspire young people to lead the way toward using light in ways that are responsible and non-wasteful. It’s a problem that everyone can tackle.
How exciting was it to receive the Green Prize for Sustainable Literature by the Santa Monica Public Library for Branching Out: How Trees Are Part of Our World? How important was the topic and message of this book to you?
Very exciting! The Green Prize for Sustainable Literature was a particular honour because it recognized this book for achieving exactly what I hoped: to broaden children’s awareness of sustainability (the importance of meeting our needs without compromising the future) by showing the extensive role trees play in our world. The book takes a look at 11 trees from around the globe. It provides specific examples of how people and animals use each species. Readers discover even fish need trees! The book also offers conservation tips and shows it doesn’t matter how old you are if you want to make a difference.
Can you elaborate on your editorial role for your communications business MoonDot Media? Talk about your freelance writing in broadcast and print. How creative is this outlet?
MoonDot Media arose in response to requests to “fix this.” From one day to the next, I may write speeches, edit business literature, or consult on a website or multimedia project. Business writing is creative because it calls for me to imagine what the audience needs to know and picture the best way to deliver that information. An especially fun project was writing an Internet cartoon. I also like writing speeches, which is like solving multi-level puzzles. It demands I figure out how to best express a topic to spark feeling, ensure understanding, or encourage a call for action. Meeting challenges such as these takes a purposeful creativity that enhances the skills needed in other types of writing.
Tell us about the writing workshops you offer.
When not writing, I’m talking about writing, either to children or adults. During a residency, I may help set up a school newspaper or bring a transmitter to a school and teach kids how to write for radio. This approach allows young writers to enjoy the reward of sharing their work with a larger audience. For adults, I offer creative writing, interview skills for history projects, a session on the business of getting professionally published, and other workshops to help others realize their writing and publishing goals. Corporate training includes plain language writing, public speaking, writing for the online world, and a favourite — “Reduce Your Email with Effective Writing.” You can find details by visiting www.moondotmedia.com and looking under the Workshops tab.
Tell us about your unusual performances that get children’s attention at various events.
Juggling: I really want kids to understand my messages about literacy — books lead to new adventures and there’s a perfect book for every person in the world, you just have to find it. One of the ways I reinforce literacy at presentations is through juggling. I bring star-shaped beanbags, make sure students understand I learned to juggle from reading a book, then juggle. If/when the bags hit the ground, I can talk about gravity and falling stars, thus also promoting science literacy and the idea that science is fun. It helps for kids to think authors are fun, too!
Stiltwalking: Another method I use is stiltwalking, which can also be tied to the importance of reading. I keep the stilts hidden until the question-and-answer period, then put them on while answering questions. I explain how reading led me to the opportunity to walk on stilts, emphasizing the importance of reading news and staying current with community information. Hearing an author insist books are important from a height of nearly nine feet (three metres) sends a powerful message!
Books in Rockets: It’s a lot of work to write a book and see it through the publishing process! Once in a while it’s nice to celebrate a new title in a spectacular way. I’ve launched four of my astronomy/mythology books in rockets at Edmonton’s science centre. Dot to Dot in the Sky: Stories of the Aurora reached 175 metres (nearly 600 feet). After reaching maximum height, a parachute opened and the book floated down. Launching a book in a rocket shows kids that books should be celebrated. (You can see the blast off on my YouTube channel.) The launch also included two stiltwalkers in aurora-themed costumes appearing through an aurora-like mist.
Share your performance side as a storyteller during school and library visits.
When first published, I read from my books, but after sharing certain tales so frequently, I evolved into an oral storyteller. With both hands free and the freedom to move across a space, I find I’m able to create a storytelling experience that is richer than a straight reading. It’s been exciting and satisfying to discover I can share a story with different ages, from preschool to seniors, and evoke a sense of wonder. The fact that stories from ancient cultures still call to people today shows why they have lasted so long.
How do you use the stories of ancient cultures to enhance your talks?
The partnership between science and storytelling is important. If you have a student who likes stories, but not science, that child might reconsider after finding out some of the characters in the stories can be seen as constellations or other objects in the night sky. At the same time, if you have a child who likes facts and knowing how things work but does not like reading, the partnership of science and stories in the Dot to Dot in the Sky series can provide a satisfying foray into literature.
What are your upcoming books? Do you see yourself continuing in the same direction or changing direction as a children’s writer?
I see myself continuing to partner stories and science, but I also have several new projects with different approaches. For example, my upcoming title on light pollution is a unique presentation with a narrative of personal stories and animal facts. My upcoming engineering book, Solve This! (National Geographic Kids, Spring 2018), is full of unusual challenges that invite kids to discover the fun of problem-solving.
A selection of upcoming titles includes:
CATS (National Geographic Kids, Fall 2017)
Dark Matters: Nature’s Reaction to Light Pollution (Red Deer Press, Spring 2017)
Dot to Dot in the Sky: Stories in the Clouds (Whitecap Books, Fall 2017)
Erupt! 100 Fun Facts About Volcanoes (National Geographic Kids, Fall 2017)
Maker Projects for Kids Who Love Printmaking: Be a Maker! (Crabtree Publishing, Spring 2017)
Solve This! Wild and Wacky Challenges for the Genius Engineer in You (National Geographic Kids, Spring 2018)
Debbie Spring has nine published books. She likes to write children’s books about sports and overcoming obstacles, as in The Kayak and Breathing Soccer, published by Thistledown Press.
January 20 to April 5, 2017: An art auction in support of the IBBY/REFORMA Children in Crisis Project is underway! For more information, and to enter the auction, please visit the IBBY website.
March 4, 2017 (TORONTO): Join us for our Annual Meeting of Members at the Northern District Branch, Toronto Public Library, Room 200. Featuring guest speaker Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis. Membership renewals and coffee at 9:30 a.m.; meeting begins at 10 a.m.
March 31, 2017 (TORONTO): IBBY Canada hosts brunch with Andy Jones in conjunction with the 2017 Toronto Storytelling Festival. Free Times Cafe (370 College St.), 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. $20 incl. HST. For more information and to RSVP, please email Theo Heras.
IBBY Canada Newsletter
Editor: Katie Scott
Copy editor (English): Meghan Howe
Formatter: Camilia Kahrizi
Banner design: Martha Newbigging