Monday, October 25, 2010

Silver Birch 2011 Shortlist Announced

Today is one of the biggest days on the Canadian kidlit calendar - the day the Ontario Library Association formally announces its shortlists for the Forest of Reading program.

I'm thrilled to see that my own book, What's the Big Idea? has been nominated in the non-fiction category for the Silver Birch!

Here is the complete shortlist for the Silver Birch, fiction and non-fiction nominees:

The Awards ceremony, which is held in May, is always such a great event. This year, alas, I'm going to have to miss it, since I'll be touring for the Hackmatack Award Program that same week. When it rains, it pours eh? I've already had a lovely chat with my OLA rep, though, about skyping in a visit on the big day, just so I can get my little Silver Birch fix!

A hearty congrats to all the nominees, in all the Forest of Reading categories!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hayley Wickenheiser was told "Girls Can't Play Hockey." Er, False.

Apropos to my earlier post, in which I was told by a young boy that we gals somehow can't whallop a puck because we have ovaries (ok, I'm paraphrasing...), Hayley Wickenheiser's new book Gold Medal Diary sure puts that piece of nonsense to rest. Wickenheiser's fun "as told to" piece in the National Post today recounts the time as a kid when she was told this very same thing - and was cut from her AAA midget team. But bad luck turned to good, when she wound up, instead, on the National Team. The rest, as they say, is history.

I hope that I'll get to meet Wickenheiser sometime as we do the hockey book author circuit. Hmmmm - maybe I'll just send her a copy of my book with the bits about her highlighted. I bet she'd like that. Heck, I would!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What? Girls Can't Play Hockey?

So claimed the ten-year-old boy who attended my presentation last week at the Mississauga Literary Festival.

You can bet I set him straight - and fast - with a quick crash into the boards (of knowledge, that is - maybe I can say he was given a crash course in feminism!) Alas, my newest book, The Hilarious History of Hockey, was not yet out, or I could have shown him how we gals have been on the first line of hockey since the game began. 

The book is out now, and I'm expecting to be quite popular for a while with all the young street hockey players on my street.

For those who, like my chum in Mississauga ,don't think girls belong on the ice, here are some facts from The Hilarious History of Hockey:

  • The first woman's hockey team was founded in 1889 by Isobel Stanley, daughter of the guy who donated the Stanley Cup to the sport.
  • Between 1930 and 1940, the winning-est team in Canadian hockey was the Preston Rivulettes - a women's team.They won or tied 348 out of 350 games played!
  • Albertine Lapensee, who played for the all-women's team, the Cornwall Victorias, during World War I, was nicknamed "The Miracle Maid"  - she once scored 15 points in one game!
  • Hailey Wickenheiser was named one of the "25 Toughest Athletes" by Sports Illustrated and one of the "Top 100 Most Influential People in Hockey" by The Hockey News. She was such an amazing hockey player she was invited to participate in the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers' rookie camps two years in a row!
  • On December 13, 1993, Manon Rheaume made history when she played in goal in a regular season game against the Salt Lake City Golden Eagles. It was the first time a woman had ever played in a men's professional hockey game! She played for a little less than six minutes and let in just one goal on six shots. The following year, with more experience under her belt, she won her first pro game! She played three games that season with the Nashville Knights and finished with a 3–0–0 record.
  • The Canadian Women's Hockey team is a powerhouse - and the reigning champions. They took home gold in 2002, 2006 and 2010, and everyone knows the Canadian National Mens Team is afraid to play against them!


Image courtesy of the Canadian Olympic Committee for more information, go to

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Library Is Born

Back in June, when my friend Nancy suggested I get a book drive together with books from Canadian kids' authors for an impoverished inner city school in LA, I sipped my white wine, nodded enthusiastically, and said, "Sure! What a great idea!"  I had no idea what I was getting myself into with that nod.

The next day, I posted a note on the CANSCAIP forum and here on this blog, and on facebook, asking for books.

In they poured. More than 1500 books from across the country, representing over 100 individual donors and 6 Canadian publishers.

Now I was stuck. How would I get all these books to California? Nancy Runstedler, an awesome school librarian stepped in and twisted some arms, getting us a bargain basement freight rate from Erb Transport.

Then several other individuals stepped up and donated air miles to allow 4 Canadian authors to fly down to LA to be on hand for the event.

Miracles pulled out of thin air, all of it. But the most amazing miracle of all was what happened this past weekend at Bunche School in Carson, California. The school had been selected by our partner on the ground in LA, Access Books, based on its extreme need.

Saturday morning. October 2, 2010. We arrived at the school to find the cafeteria flooded with boxes of books.
There were more than 5000 books - donated by the Canadian contingent, but also collected by Access Books' on the ground efforts. Step two was to open the boxes and sort the books by category. What a thrill it was to find our own donations in the giant piles!

Some of the books we found weren't Canadian, but could have been...

The title of this one is "The Flying Hockey Stick!"

We got a group picture going before the hard work of sorting began.

That's me at the top left. The handsome guy in the middle is Rob Weston, author of Zorgamazoo and the just-pubbed Dust City, with his fiancee Machiko at the front left.Behind Rob, sticking her head up, is Sandra Tsing-Loh, who made the vital connections between the Canadian crowd and Access Books which made this whole thing happen. (Thanks Sandra!) To Sandra's left is New Brunswicker Wendy Kitts, a freelance journo whose nonfic about Sable Island will be out next year from Nimbus Books. In front of Wendy, in red, is Kari-Lynn Winters, author of Jefffrey and the Sloth and On My Walk, both from Tradewind Books. And last but not least, in black, is Montrealer Jill Murray, author of Rhythm and Blues, from Doubleday Canada.

Sorting of the books was done by about 70 volunteers, including authors, kids, parents, and staff of Bunche School.

The books had to be sorted into several rough categories - library-worthy (ie hardcover), classroom sets by grade, YA for another school, and older or torn books that could be taken home by the kids and the community members.

Then each book had to be stamped, and a pocket needed to be affixed along with a matching card. Bar codes were added in two places, one of which was protected with a second clear sticker.

THEN, we had to add the catalogue code to the books spine,and cover that with another clear sticker. Only then were the books ready to head to the library.

Meanwhile, other volunteers were hard at work painting and preparing the library for its new acquisitions.

This tree mural was designed by Rob and Machiko and graced the wall of the junior grade library

Another mural, in the primary grade library, featured an illustration from Kari-Lynn's book On My Walk.
That's Kari, waving the flag :) and putting the finishing touches on the mural.
A third fab mural is in an outdoor corridor.

 That's Jacqui, a professor at UC Irvine, adding her academic touch to the Books car.

We worked hard. But by 2PM, we could see the fruits of our labours! Three new murals, 5000 new books sorted and shelved, and lots of happy faces, especially on the kids who were taking home armloads of book as their thank you gift for helping.

I'm hoping we will be hearing from Bunche School's kids in the next few weeks, the wonderful principal has told me she'll be forwarding on thank you notes from the kids once they've had a chance to experience their new-and-improved library.

Best of all, I'm looking forward to all the future spin-off projects this little Air Lift has spawned, and will spawn in the future.

What project will YOU take part in?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Magic of School Book Clubs

As a kid, one of my favorite days in each month was when the Scholastic Book flyer would be handed out in school. How I pored over those flimsy sheets of cheap newsprint! Ach, how I coveted.

I coveted every single book in every single flyer. But life being what it is, I was forced to choose - 1 book, maybe 2, each month. How tough that choice was!

Even better than the day the flyer came around was the day the book order arrived - with my long anticipated choices within!

I still remember some of those books. Magic Elizabeth  was one I treasured, and read over and over and over again. I know the cover was tattered  but not torn, because I still have that book on my "favorite kidlit" shelf!

I think my favorite of all time, however, was the one I bought just before Halloween: The Haunted House and Other Spooky Poems and Tales.
It was grade 4  - or fourth grade as we called it in America. I read this book from cover to cover. I memorized the poem "The Haunted House" by Vic Crume so I could freak out my friends during recess. I acted out "The Cradle that Rocked Itself" with my stuffies. I had nightmares over Ann McGovern's "The Velvet Ribbon," but took to wearing my own velvet ribbon around my neck for at least a few weeks - very Goth, I was, back in 1970!

All of these fond memories came back to me with renewed vigor this past week when I learned that my own scary Halloween book, The Haunted House that Jack Built, appeared in the September edition of Scholastic's Seesaw book club flyer, both in English and French. The book also can be purchased with a read-along audio disk, which I recorded over the summer - apparently I have a "professional caliber witch's cackle." The CD includes the text, spooky sound effects and turn-the-page cues so pre-readers can still enjoy the book on their own.

How the worm turns. Here I am, creating books to scare and delight kids who purchase it from the Scholastic Book Club program, just as I was once scared, delighted, and inspired by a book I bought long ago from the same wonderful program. I don't know about you, but that gives me shivers....

Thanks, Scholastic, for putting books in the hands of kids who might otherwise not get the chance to purchase a book of their own choice. And thanks, too, Scholastic, for publishing my books and putting them in your new club flyers!

Post Script: My books will be appearing in several Scholastic Book club flyers during the coming school year. Here's the schedule, if you want to get a super great price on these fun titles!

Haunted House that Jack Built: Seesaw September, Club de Lecture September  - French Edition

A Porcupine in a Pine Tree: Holiday Gift November; Seesaw December, Club de Lecture December  - French Edition

Hilarious History of Hockey: Club de Lecture December - French Edition; Arrow January - English Edition.

The Quiz Book for Boys: Arrow January

The Quiz Book for Girls: Arrow January

Because: Science!