2017: The Year in Review

What a year it’s been! I feel so fortunate to have had such amazing experiences. In March, I had the pleasure of being part of the Rainforest of Reading, an annual children’s book festival in Grenada, Saint Lucia, Montserrat and Nevis run by OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation. The festival is the largest literacy initiative undertaken in a region still reeling from infrastructure damage caused by Hurricane Ivan (2006) and Hurricane Tomas (2010) and the economic impact of a global recession. It was an honour to work side by side with this charity. It was especially moving to be in St Lucia on the day that poet laureate Derek Walcott died and hear from teachers and writers who have been influenced by his work. Also, I got to spend all my time with Jael Richardson, a true Force For Good in the world


As a Blue Spruce nominee I visited many schools across Ontario presenting If I Had a Gryphon and was invited to take part in both the Toronto and Sault Sainte-Marie Festival of Trees celebrations. I met so many engaged readers in addition to teachers, librarians, and parents who work tirelessly to bring Canadian books to Canadian children. If you are worried about books or the state of literacy in this country, this program is a good reminder that The Kids Are Alright!


Also in the spring, this Anglophile visited England for the first time. I had such fun traipsing through historical sites by day and seeing incredible theatre by night. Highlights include the Roman baths, late night cocktails at Evans & Peel Detective Agency, catching my friends Harrow Fair on their first UK tour, high tea at The Savoy, and every Potterhead’s pilgrimage to King’s Cross Station.


September brought the publication of my sixth book, The Winnowing. This is my first foray into science-fiction and an unabashed love letter to the X-Files. It was also an excuse to get the skirt of my dreams made. Thanks to Kingi at Peach Berserk for making my sartorial dreams come true!


And I couldn’t have been more grateful to see The Winnowing on the 2018 Red Maple Fiction Award list. The Forest of Reading program grows by leaps and bounds every year and I was thrilled to be included among this year’s stellar nominees. I can’t wait to visit schools to talk about conspiracy theories, The X-Files and The Winnowing in early winter 2018!

red maple 2018

As for 2018? I am looking forward to my trip to Manitoba for Canadian Children’s Book Week, one of many wonderful programs facilitated by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (are you a member? You should be! More info here). I also have some book news to share, but you’ll have to wait a little bit longer.

Much love and best to you & yours in 2018!


What I Read in 2016: Picture Books

I value my picture book collection the way that Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler values her files: deeply, though you wouldn’t know it by my lack of an ordered cataloging or shelving system. Here are some of the books published in 2016 that made it onto my shelves this year.


Panda Pants  is a dialogue between a young panda and his father. The little Panda is set on a pair of pants. The father is unconvinced. The silliness is tempered by a dead-pan delivery and a touch of philosophy. Like Zen Shorts, if conceived by the Comedy Network.


My Friend Maggie is another fantastic offering from Hannah E. Harrison. All of her books have the emotional realism of Kevin Henkes’ work and her illustrations GLOW. This book isn’t just kid-friendly, it strikes a deep, deep chord. I’m not a crier, but this book makes me tear up every darn time.


Miss Moon lives in a beautiful, well-mannered world of dogs and dresses and boating parties that I would also love to live in. In Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess, Janet Hill’s collection of life lessons are accompanied by her distinctive oil-paintings and would be a great gift for dog lovers, graduates, or people with a taste for whimsy.

Groundwood Logos Spine

Sara O’Leary is grand master of the list poem. In A Family is a Family is a Family she lists a wide range of families, accompanied by Qin Leng’s delicate illustrations of the small pleasures of domestic life.

Groundwood Logos Spine

Jo Ellen Bogart’s quietly magnificent The White Cat and the Monk is an ode to work, peace, and stillness. Even non-cat lovers will admit that there is something delightful in a monk comparing his daily routine to that of his cat’s. Illustrator Sydney Smith does a great job getting into the head of a cat and demonstrates why his work keeps turning up on award lists.


Lion Lessons is begging to be turned into a piece of theatre. A boy studies to be a lion with an actual lion. Simple, funny, genius. Jon Agee’s books are on my auto-buy list.


Just when you thought there were no new ways to tell a first day of school story, Adam Rex comes along with the perspective of a new school building in School’s First Day of School. Christian Robinson’s bright, retro art helps make this brand new book feel like an old favourite.


My favourite debut of the year is Ooko, by author-illustrator Esme Shapiro. Foxes abound in children’s books, but never has a fox been so sweetly delusional before. A quirky friendship story with a twist. Bonus human leg hair!


Julia Sarda’s colour palette of rich jewel-tones and Goth-meets-Art Deco sensibility is an unexpected but brilliant pairing with Kyo Maclear’s fable about a list-making family. Maclear tends to be paired with airier, more whimsical illustrators, but The Liszts is proof that her canny text works just as well with a darker, earthier art style.


In Scribble, child-whisperer Ruth Ohi imbues simple shapes (circle, square, and triangle) with matching personalities who are thrown for a loop (shape pun!) when scribble arrives. The book works on two levels, as both a story about learning to accept other’s differences and also as an ode to imagination.


There will always be a desire for counting books and Lucy Ruth Cummin’s A Hungry Lion or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals adds an element of mystery and dark humour to this tried and true formula. In a post-Klassen/hat eat hat world you may think you know the twist…but DO you?


Thanks to Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick I have always been drawn to topiaries (yes, even after The Shining). The Night Gardener features some pretty fantastic creations and captures a sense of wonder and possibility in a spare text accompanied by old-timey, sepia-toned illustrations.

Magical Contest Alert: Win a Custom Illustration of your Pet!


How much do you love that little guy? Now imagine YOUR pet with the fantastic beasts treatment!

November is the month of fantastic beasts, and the good folks at Penguin Random House Canada are running a wonderful contest to celebrate all things magical.The prize? A signed copy of If I Had a Gryphon AND a custom illustration of your own beloved pet (with some magical additions) by illustrator Cale Atkinson! I wrote If I Had a Gryphon as a primer on the pleasures and perils of magical pet care after seeing the vast numbers of kids at storytime who were a tad too young for Harry Potter or the wonderful Candlewick “Ology” books (Dragonology, Mythology, etc).

To enter, tweet a picture of your pet using the hashtag #IfIHadaGryphon before November 25th, 11:59pm EST. You do *not* need to include the book in your picture, just your pet being adorable will do!

I  cannot wait to see all your pet photos in my twitterfeed.

Contest open to Canada & the United States. Full rules here.