Monthly Archives: March 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday – Holy Science, Batman!

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I’m excited to be joining Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy in this year’s Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2014  I’m hoping to discover many new nonfiction books that I can share with my students at school and with other teachers at workshops.  Link up here to join in!

This week, I thought I would feature some new Nonfiction Series that have just been released or soon to be.  Many of these I am excited about bringing into our library as they are not only appealing for students but great for teachers as they can be used to support many different content areas.

Batman Science Series  – Tammy Enz

This new series by Capstone Press explores the facts behind some of Batman’s high tech gadgets.  What could be better than combining the famous super hero with science facts?  I can just imagine how popular these books will be, particularly with boys.  I really liked the way the book compared Batman technology with real-life facts and photos.  My only slight concern is that for the younger Batman fans, the information, language and content is rather sophisticated.  Despite my slight reservation, I will be purchasing the series for our library!

 

            

 

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Seasons Series – Lizanne Flat

While these look like books about the seasons – they are, in fact, more focused on math concepts than science.  (I should have paid more attention to the titles!)  But once I understood what the books were trying to do, I LOVED the idea!   They are interactive and with very colorful pictures and introduce the concepts of patterning, sorting, estimating, probability.  A WONDERFUL link to Math!

                   

                 

Adapted to Survive Series –  Angela Royston  (Captsone Press)

Another new great series by Captstone Press focuses on different animals’ common skill – flying, climbing, digging – and how they have adapted to survive in its own particular environment.   The photographs are wonderful and I love that the reading level is low enough for children to read independently.  For teachers looking for engaging high interest-low vocabulary books, I would highly recommend these books!

        

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Benjamin Blog and his Inquisitive Dog – Anita Ganeri  (Capstone Press)

WOW!  Another amazing brand new series by Capstone Press.  This one is a definite WINNER!  Not only is it filled with amazing photographs and interesting information – but it is written as a travel blog!  How great is that for all you bloggers out there?   Benjamin Blog and his inquisitive dog Barko Polo (ha!)  travel the globe blogging about the world’s most exciting habitats including  rivers, deserts, rainforests, coasts, coral reefs, and mountains.  There is also a series in the works for Benjamin and his dog to explore different countries.   I’m excited at the thought of using these books anchors for many different research and writing projects!

         

  

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 Infographics  – Chris Oxlade (Capstone)

For those of you, like me, who are unfamiliar with this term – “infographics” are creative graphic visual representation of information.  In this series, the author creates a variety of engaging infographics that teach readers all about  animals, environment, weather and population.   I love the simplicity of using creative visuals to share information and numerical facts about different topics and think that these would be wonderful books for children who may have difficulty accessing information from written texts.

           

Weather Infographics           

Well… there you have it!  And if you hadn’t noticed – most of these new series are published by Capstone Press – one of the best publishers of nonfiction books for kids!  Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Math, New Books, NFPB Challenge 2014, Nonfiction, Science, Seasons, Social Studies

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? A sloth, a penguin, a fish and a few birds!

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It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week.  Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

The first weekend of spring break had me pouring over several recently released picture books!   Here are a few of my favorites…

Sparky!

Sparky – Jenny Ofill

 I loved the humor in Jenny Ofill’s previous books (17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore and 13 Experiments That Failed) and this book did not disappoint.  A young girl begs her mother for a pet and her exasperated mother insists that the pet needs to be one that does not need to be walked, fed or cleaned.  The determined girl heads to the library (love this part!) and with the help of the librarian (loved this part too!) researched a pet to meet her mother’s criteria – a SLOTH!  But when the mail order pet arrives, it isn’t good at tricks or hide-and-seek . . . or much of anything.  But Sparky is irresistible and I found myself wanting to mail order a sloth for myself!  The illustrations by Chris Appelhans were a perfect fit to this touching story.

Flight School – Lita Judge

Well, I fell in love with Sparky the sloth in the last book – and now I’m in love with this penguin!  This penguin claims to have “the soul of an eagle” and wants desperately to be able to fly so he registers for Flight School.  After many failed attempts and plunges into the sea, his teacher (love this part!) helps him derive a plan to help him fly, if only for a few short seconds.  This is a book about determination and dreaming big, and those who help along the way.  I LOVED the illustrations in this book!  Lita Judge captured the characters of so many different land and seabirds with lively colors and exhaggerated features.  Soft blues, sea greens and sand browns – beautiful pictures and a beautiful story.  (T-T connection to Learning to Fly – by Sebastian Meschenmoser)

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The Dandelion’s Tale – Kevin Sheehan

This is a poignant story about friendship and a powerful introduction to the cycle of life.  There is also a celebration of story woven into the story which I loved.  A sparrow and dandelion meet and become friends.  The dandelion explains that she used to be beautiful and bright and sunny yellow but now she has few pods left.  Her fear is that with one big wind, her pods will disappear.  Her new friend sparrow helps her write her story in the dirt and Dandelion tells Sparrow all the things she has seen and loved.  This is such a beautiful story (I got a bit teary when I read it)  and one I could see being used with both young and older children.  The illustrations are lovely.

Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale

Poor Doreen – A Fishy Tale – Sally Lloyd Jones

Doreen is a fish with a very optimistic disposition.  On the way to visit her cousin, who just gave birth to 159 babies, she nibbles on a dragonfly, which ends up being bait and catches a ride on a fishing pole.  In spite of her every optimistic outlook, Doreen is also a wee bit clueless – and so does not realize that she is in a dire situation.  There is humor as the reader is “in” on the situation that Doreen clearly does not seem to be aware.  Comical, fun and a character whom I admire because she sees the world with a “glass half full” approach.

Mama Built a Little Nest

Mama Built A Little Nest – Jennifer Ward

I can’t resist any book written or illustrated by Steve Jenkins.  This book is a delightful exploration of the diverse range of different nests that birds build for their babies.  Who knew there were so many different kinds of nests made from so many different things?  This book has playful, fun rhymes and of course, filled with Jenkins trademark paper collage illustrations.  A wonderful book for bird lovers (that’s you, Carrie!) and Jenkins lovers (that would be me!)

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? – Rita Gray

Two children wander through the countryside listening to calls of common birds and wonder why the nesting robin does not make a sound.  The children carry on through the woods and begin to identify different calls from birds ranging from the chickadee to the blue jay.   While the previous book made us aware of the many different types of nests there are, this book introduces us to the wide variety of bird calls.  I found myself trying to replicate the calls myself!   The “Word with the Bird” Q-and-A at the back of the book explains in detail why the robin is silent while hatching her eggs and answers many other questions about the role of father bird and what happens to the babies when they leave the nest. 

Aviary Wonders, Inc – Kate Samworth

Wow – this book is gorgeous!  exquisite! remarkable!  It is an imaginary (sci-fi) mock catalogue of bird parts to choose from for the purpose of assembling your own bird.  The illustrations are stunning and some of the sidebar comments hilarious.  But the underlying tone of this book is rather somber – as it is meant to be a thought-provoking look at what happens birds become extinct.  My friend Carrie Gelson posted a detailed review of this book on her blog last week.  You can read it here:  There’s A Book For That.

Peggy – Anna Walker
Peggy gets an unexpected adventure in the city when a big gust of wind sweeps her up and drops here there.  She soon enjoys the sights and sounds of the unfamiliar place but begins to miss home.  She cleverly devises a plan to get home.  What I loved most about this book was the illustrations.  The text is very simple but the detailed illustrations tell the story beautifully.  They are soft, muted and pale but fit Peggy perfectly!
Steelheart (Reckoners, #1)
Steelheart – Brandon Sanderson
Oooooo…. this is a FANTASTIC book!  I am reading it with my 13 yr. old son and I am not sure who is enjoying it more.  It is a YA-Sci-fi-futuristic superhero-fast-paced-compelling-thrill-ride!  I’m embarrassed to say I had not heard of this writer before (sorry!) but I am most impressed by the writing so far.  I was hooked half-way through the prologue – and felt as if I were watching a movie!  Can’t wait to read more!
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The Glassblower’s Children – Maria Gripe
I came across this book in the library and was drawn to the title and the etching illustration on the cover.  This fairy tale by Swedish writer Maria Gripe was published in 1973 was awarded the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award the following year.  This story has all the components you could ask for in a fairy tale – A hard working glassblower and his wife,  their two children, a fortune teller, an evil governess whose only wish is to have children.  But it is more than a fairy tale – it is thought provoking and poignant with incredibly exquisite writing.  A little gem that I’m so glad I discovered!  It would make a wonderful class read aloud or a quiet read by the fire.
What have you been reading this week?

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Filed under It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books

Celebration Saturday

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I’m happy to be joining Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes and others to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of the past week.

Here are the things I’m celebrating this week:

1) Spring Break is here!  Ahhhh…I am celebrating the thought of two full weeks of extra time with family, books and just hanging at home!  We are heading up to Kelowna to visit my mother in law and also hope to get in a few days skiing.  I have a “to do” list that is always long – so perhaps I shall make an attempt to shorten the list!  (or perhaps not!)

2) Book launch – Last week, I celebrated the launch of my 4th book – Nonfiction Writing Power.  Phyllis Simon, co-owner of Vancouver Kidsbooks, hosted the event for me at her amazing bookstore.  I was surrounded by so many dear friends, family and colleagues – not to mention books!  Thanks to everyone who came and those far away friends who sent me well wishes and beautiful flowers!   In my speech, I quoted Pablo Picasso  – “The meaning of life is to find your gift – the purpose of life is to give it away”.  I celebrate that I have found my gift and am now able to give it away through teaching, writing and presenting.

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Signing books for friends. (Carrie Gelson waiting for her turn!)

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Four Fab Vancouver Elementary Administrators!

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My sister, her beautiful daughters and my handsome boys!

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Happy to be celebrating with my boys!

3) Nonfiction Writing Power in Action!  –  This term, I have been teaching some of my lessons from my new book to a grade 7 class at my school.  Because they are focusing on Ancient Mesopotamia in Social Studies, I decided to link this subject to our nonfiction writing focus. Each student selected an invention from ancient Mesopotamia that has impacted our lives today.  This list includes the sail, wheel, plow, calendar and mathematical counting system.  Over the course of several weeks, I introduced four different nonfiction text structures including description, instruction, persuasion and comparison.  I focused on text structure and the language features of these different forms.  They then wrote several pieces about their invention in these different forms and then created posters.  I was AMAZED at how much they learned about their ancient invention and several different forms of writing!

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4) Workshop in Ashcroft –  One of the many rewarding things about my work is being able to visit places in this beautiful province of British Columbia that I may not otherwise see.  Earlier this week, I travelled to Ashcroft to present a workshop in Gold Trail School District.  I was lucky enough to stay in a BEAUTIFUL Bed and Breakfast called Willow’N perched high on a hill with a views of the Thompson and Bonaparte River Valleys.  After a delicious breakfast of fresh berries, yogurt, oatmeal and coffee, I drove down the hill to Ashcroft Elementary School and presented Nonfiction Writing Power to a group of teachers ranging from grade 1 to grade 11!   It was a wonderful day!

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View from my room when I woke up!

5)  Proud Mom  – My 15 year old has spent the last 12 days in Arizona for spring training with his baseball team.  He and a few other Jr. Players were was invited to join the Senior team for training and to participate in a tournament.   He comes home on Sunday (I can’t wait!)  I have missed him terribly but know he is having the time of his life!  I’m very proud of him and grateful he has found his passion.

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My 13 year old is fortunate to be attending an amazing Fine Arts School – the only public high school in Vancouver that offers a unique focus on performing arts, visual arts and band.  His grade 8 class performed their first play last week – they had written it themselves.  A great story-line – with some singing, dancing and humor mixed in.  I was very proud to see how confident he was on stage.

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6) Dog Scare – Our dearest dog, Bailey (Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever) is recovering from a very serious eye infection.  She had a small scratch that got infected and went from bad to worse in a very short period of time.  The vet thought that she might, in fact, lose her eye.  After 2 weeks of a very rigorous eye drop routine (every 3 hours ALL day and night!) I am celebrating that she is on the road to recovery and will not lose her eye.  The vet has now decreased the frequency of drops so my hubby and I are also celebrating being able to sleep a few extra hours!

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Bailey has to wear a “cone” to prevent her from scratching her eye.

It’s been a week full of celebrations and I am grateful for them all.   What are you celebrating this week?

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Filed under Celebration Saturday, Lesson Ideas

It’s Monday – What Are You Reading? New Books for Spring!

IMWAYR

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week.  Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

After an extremely busy and eventful week (some amazing events and a few not!)  I am grateful I had the chance to take some time out to read some fantastic new picture books that I will be sharing with my students and staff in the coming weeks as we prepare for spring break and the last term of school.

Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons

Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons – Jon Muth

What is not to love about this book?   Jon Muth is one of my favorite writer/illustrators.  I adore his soft watercolor pallet of colors and his gentle words.  This latest book is a charming collection of haiku poems to celebrate the seasons.  From careful observations of nature to insightful moments to nudge our thinking , I love every corner of this book.  Delightful.

Maple

Maple – Lori Nichols

In another charming book about seasons, we meet Maple – a sweet girl who is has a special bond with her namesake tree that her parents planted when she was born.  As Maple grows, the tree becomes an important part of her life and as she grows and changes through the seasons, so does her tree.  And when a baby sister arrives and won’t stop crying, Maple takes her outside and introduces her to her tree.  This is a wonderful book to celebrate a new baby.  An impressive debut picture book!

A Book of Babies – Il Sung Na

I loved Il Sung Na’s book Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit so was excited to see this new picture book about baby animals.  I am so drawn into his soft, charming illustrations  and simple, poetic text.  A baby duck takes the reader on a tour of different baby animals.  I like how each animal is distinguished by one unique feature:  father seahorse carry babies in their pouch, a baby zebra walks right away, baby fish are born with lots of brothers and sisters.  This would be a wonderful share for kindergarten and grade one students.

Spring is Here!

Spring is Here – Heidi Pross Gray

While there are numerous books about spring, I love the way this one weaves together both nature and family time.  The watercolor illustrations (have you inferred I am drawn to watercolor?) and rhythmic text creates a book that feels wholesome and excited about the coming of spring.

Poppleton In Spring

Poppleton in Spring – Cynthia Rylant

 I have so many wonderful memories of dear Poppleton and his friends Cherry Sue, Filmore and the wonderful characters in these beginning chapter book series by the profound Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Marc Teague.  Each book has three chapters – 3 short stories written featuring Poppleton the pig and his neighbours.   Some are funny, others tender and thoughtful.  In this book Poppleton does some spring cleaning, buys a new bike and stays up all night in a tent “noticing”.  I have many fond memories of reading Poppleton stories to my boys when they were younger and continue to spread Poppleton joy to the children at my school.  If you have never read a Poppleton story – I highly recommend it.

The Highest Number in the World

 The Highest Number in the World – Ray MacGregor

I live in a household where hockey takes precedent over pretty much anything else!  We were all up at four am to watch Canada play for gold at the Sochi games.  The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier is one of my all time favorite picture books.  There have been many hockey stories since but I have yet to find one that compares to it – until now.  This book is a gem.   It tells the story of a little girl who obsesses over the number 22 for her hockey jersey because it’s the number of her hockey hero, Hayley Wickenheiser.  Unfortunately, her new hockey team gives her the number 9 instead. She hates the jersey and wants to quit.  Enter her grandmother, who explains the important history of the number nine in hockey.   This is so much more than a hockey story – and the relationship between the granddaughter and grandmother brought tears to my eyes.  The illustrations are wonderful and full of detail – down to the NHL quilt set on her bed!  Whether you love hockey or not, this is a wonderful story.

Going Places

Going Place – Peter and Paul Reynolds

Peter H. Reynolds pairs up with his brother for a their first book together, filled with the same creative free-spirit theme of Reynolds’s other books.  It’s time for the annual “Going Places”  go-cart contest.  Time to grab a kit, put together your go-cart and race to the finish line.  Each child grabs a “go-cart kit” and puts together identical carts.  Maya, however, decides to be creative and think outside the box, creating her own version and crossing the finish line in her own way.  A perfect book for encouraging children to march to their own drum on their way to the finish line!

Say Hello Like This

Say Hello Like This! – Mary Murphy

The Kindergarten teachers at my school do a farm unit in the spring so I was excited to find this new book by Mary Murphy for them to use!  It is a wonderful, interactive book that will make a perfect read-aloud to introduce the different sounds that animals make.  I love the funny adjectives Murphy uses in this book which is a follow up to her book  A Kiss Like This!  A wonderful book for younger students – prepare yourself for a noisy read-aloud!Orangutangled

Orangutangled – Sudipta Bordham-Quallen

This book is simply a fun, frolicky, read-aloud!  Two hungry orangutans climb a tree for some mangoes and end up falling together in a sticky, goey mess.  Other animals try to help but end up getting tangled up as well.  The rhyming text works perfectly and I love the word play and the bright illustrations.  Another great read-aloud choice for the younger folk!

Hokey Pokey

Hokey Pokey – Jerry Spinelli

I am a big fan of Jerry Spinelli – Maniac Magee one of my favorite books to read to my class.  This one took me a while to get into – I was very confused at first and had to go back and reread several sections. I was once again amazed at his ability to weave characters we can identify with so well into a completely imaginative setting.  Hokey Pokey is an adult-less world of childhood and play – where kids play games, ride bikes, have adventures and follow the simple laws of the land.  Jack, the main character, experiences his world turn upside down when his beloved bike is stolen by a girl.  Without his bike, Jack feels lost and things start to go very wrong for him.  This book is reminiscent of Peter Pan – a boy who is struggling in the place between childhood and adolescence.   This story is unusual, it’s confusing in parts, and I’m still a little on the fence about it.  But it is certainly a book that is lingering in my thinking – a place where many great books have taken up residence.  I’d love to know what you think about it!

The Bear: A Novel

Bear – A Novel – Claire Cameron

This book is quite extraordinary.  It is written in first person, present tense in the voice of a 5 year old girl.  She and her brother are left alone to survive the elements after their parents are killed by a bear while out camping.  I was riveted by this story – many reminders of the child’s voice in ROOM.  I was also caught up by the emotional roller coaster of the story.  The description of the bear attack in the first 40 pages was completely terrifying – I had to stop reading it a few times.  While this book is considered an adult novel – I could really see it being read to a middle school class.  It is a story of survival and courage and I loved every moment of it.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  What have you been reading lately?

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Filed under It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Poetry, Read-Aloud, Seasons

Celebration Saturday – Snow, Gold Medal and RFTLOI Celebrations!

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I’m happy to be joining Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes and others to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of the past week.

Here are the things I’m celebrating this week:

1)  SNOWFALL –  We had a significant snowfall here in Vancouver – unusual for the Westcoast, particularly at this time of year.  The best part was that the snow did not turn to rain and wash away.  We enjoyed some sunny days with a lovely white blanket!  More snow  is expected next week so likely I will be doing another snow dance in my kitchen!  Even my 15 yr old got outside to enjoy some sledding and snowball fun with his friends!

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2) REPORT CARDS – Report cards are finished!  This is always a huge relief when all the comments and marks complete and handed in!  Hooray!

3) BOOK LAUNCH – This Tuesday, March 5th, Vancouver Kidsbooks will be hosting a book launch for my new book – Nonfiction Writing Power!  It should be a wonderful evening with family, friends and colleagues.  Will post more about this next week!

4) GOLD MEDAL GAME:  The men’s Olympic gold medal hockey game aired at 4 am our time – so we set our alarm and got up to watch.  Although it doesn’t look like my 3 boys are excited (photo below) – we were thrilled to win the gold medal!  It did feel a little anti-climactic after the Women’s gold medal game and the Men’s semi finals… and of course nothing can beat Sydney Crosby’s overtime goal to win gold in Vancouver in 2010!  We are proud of our Canadian hockey teams and all the athletes who kept us on the edge of our seats for 2 exciting weeks!

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4) READING FOR THE LOVE OF IT CONFERENCE – Last Thursday and Friday I attended the 38th Reading For the Love of It Conference in Toronto – the largest reading conference in Canada.  Close to 4000 teachers attend from across the country and the line up of speakers, authors and presenters each year is incredible.  I was honoured to be invited to present two sessions – one on Reading Power and the other on Writing Power.  The sessions went so well and I was overwhelmed by the positive response from everyone!  It was truly an experience I will never forget – and certainly one of my most “celebrated” moments of the year so far!

Below are my highlights and some photos from the conference:

  • Dinner with my publisher Mary Macchuisi from Pembroke, along with other Pembroke authors including;  Kathy Lundy, Larry Shwartz and David Booth.  Mary brought along a copy of my new book, Nonfiction Writing Power, which I got to see for the first time.  Always a thrill to see all your work complete!

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Mary and me with my new book Nonfiction Writing Power         Me with Pembroke author David Booth (my hero!)

  • A full house at my first session!  I wasn’t sure that very many people would come to my session, since this was my first visit to Toronto and most of my work is in on the west coast. It was exciting to see a great turnout at both of my sessions.   (Before I started, I took a photo of the keen crowd! )

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  • During my session on Writing Power – I was speaking about the difference between editing and revision and when I spoke about the fact that editors can do the editing but only the writer can do the revision because it is their “vision” – someone from the audience made a sound I couldn’t quite make out.  It turns out she had just experienced a huge “ah-ha moment” with her “outside voice”!  It was beautiful!

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  • Listening to illustrator Steven Kellog talk about his experience collaborating with Patricia McLachlan on Snowflakes Fall – the book written in honour of the children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary school.  Steven Kellog lived in a farm in Sandy Hook and his children went to that school.  It was a moving presentation – not a dry eye in the house.

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Steven Kellog signing my book.

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Meeting Jon Klassen – a most unassuming and humble and very young man!  And of course he wore a hat!  His presentation was on “words and the spaces between”.  LOVED it!    Here he is signing my book.

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  • Meeting my editor for the first time!  Kat Mototsune has been my editor for all four of my books.  She is AMAZING at what she does.  Because we live on opposite sides of the country, we have only corresponded through email.  At the Pembroke reception on Thursday night – I got to meet her for the first time!  What a thrill it was to sit and talk with her about her side of the publishing process.  And I now have a face to the name!  (for my next book!)

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  • Pembroke author Kathy Gould-Lundy (author of Creating Caring Classrooms and Teaching Fairly in and Unfair World as well as many other books) received a special award at the banquet dinner for her contribution to the conference over many years.  Kathy teaches in the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University.  She is smart, humble and kind and I adore her.  (in the photo is Kathy and her son on the right, me on the left and Stenhouse President Dan Tobin in the back)
  • My cousin lives in Toronto with his fiancé and their brand new baby.  I spent a few hours visiting them and meeting baby Oscar for the first time.  An added bonus to my amazing trip.  baby oscar

I had an amazing week, filled with many things to celebrate and be grateful for!  Thank you for reading my blog!

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Filed under Celebration Saturday, Recent Workshops