Top Interview of Top Dogs Author!

Abbotsord Christian interviews Top Dogs author Elizabeth MacLeod:

  1. What inspired you to write this book?

I knew there were lots of great stories about dogs in history and dogs who have shown incredible bravery during war time. I wanted to share these tales with kids. I’d just written a similar book about horses (called Galloping Through History), and I know how much kids like dogs so I hoped readers would really enjoy Top Dogs.

  1. Do you have a dog?

I don’t have a dog but almost all of my neighbours do, so there are lots in the neighbourhood. I have a cat named Cosimo, so of course I had to write about cats in history! If you like cats, you might like to read Super Cats.

  1. What is your favorite dog? When researching this book, did you discover your favorite breed or have your mind changed about your favorite breed?

My best friend has a Tibetan Spaniel, so think that’s my favourite breed of dog. Carmen (the dog) looks a lot like the Pekingese on page 18 of Top Dogs. While I was writing the book, I also fell in love with Stubby, the little Boston terrier in chapter 3 of the book. I love the image of Stubby standing up on his two back legs and saluting his owner’s commanding officer!

  1. How long did it take you to write this book?

It took me about 5 months to write the book. That involves working with my wonderful editor to write a couple of different versions of the manuscript, each time making it better. Then I had to answer any questions from the copy editor — that’s the editor who really knows all the rules about grammar and punctuation. I also had a number of meetings with the photo researcher to help choose the best photos for the book. And finally I had to prepare the index, which takes a lot of very picky work. I was writing two other books at the same time, so I wasn’t working on Top Dogs exclusively.

  1. When you do research, where do you look for information?

I use as many sources as I can. I read lots of books, check Web sites (but only ones that I really trust, like encyclopedias, government institutions, etc.) and read newspapers and magazines. I also talk to experts — many are especially helpful when they find out I’m writing a book for kids. As well, I’m at my local library often, either picking up books, or getting help with my research. Librarians are really smart and very helpful!

  1. Did you have a dog as a child? Where did you grow up?

I’ve never owned a dog, not even as a child. (But we did have a cat named Jeremiah and many guinea pigs.) I grew up in Thornhill, Ontario, just north of Toronto.

  1. Where do you live now?

I live in Toronto but I love visiting British Columbia. You live in a beautiful province!

  1. How did you become interested in writing books? What age did you start?

I studied sciences at university — I think the whole time I was there, I only wrote one essay! (I DID have to write lots of lab reports, tests, etc.) After university, I took the Banff Publishing Workshop in Banff, Alberta, and I thanks to that course I soon got a job at OWL Magazine. While there, I started writing books — I think that was in the late 1980s.


  1. How many books have you written?

I’ve written around 65 books. I obviously really like writing!

  1. Have you ever been rejected by a publisher?  If so, what made you continue to write?

Like every author I know, I’ve had book ideas rejected by publisher. It hurts but I really love writing so I just have to keep trying and proposing new book ideas. It feel so great when a book proposal is accepted! Because I’m a non-fiction writer, I don’t have to write a whole book before getting a decision from a publisher about publishing it or not. I prepare an outline, describing what stories I think should be in the book, etc. It’s still a lot of research and work but not as much as writing the whole book.

  1. Why did you call the book “Top Dogs”?

If you read the introduction to the book, then you know there are lots of expressions with the word “dog” in them. That’s because dogs are so important to people. I thought it would be fun to use one of these expressions for the title. Luckily for me, my editor agreed! I don’t think we considered any other title for the book.


Vote May 6-17

Voting will be open from May 6-17 this year! Don’t forget to download your voting tallies at the Group Leader Resource site

Who will win? Not long now before we find out!

Author Presentation Opportunity

For Red Cedar Leaders!

A message from Sigmund Brouwer: The presentation, Vimy Ridge Today, tells the story of how Canadians succeeded (without any spoilers for the students reading the book!). Along the way, I encourage students to use story as foundation in their own expository writing. I also celebrate the ways that teachers in the classroom mirror the leaders of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and how we can all be better as team mates, similar to the soldiers in the trenches.

I would welcome anyone interested in learning more about the presentation to email me directly at: sbrouwer at Also, here is a link to the TVO interview that features Innocent Heroes: <>

Again, thanks!


South Sahali Elementary interviews Yolanda Ridge!

South Sahali Elementary’s interview with Yoland Ridge, author of Inside Hudson Pickle
Was the fire based on a true story? If it was, did the fire hurt anybody?
The fire was not based on one true story but a combination of two. When I was in University, a friend really did fall asleep with the kettle on. No one could believe she slept through both the kettle whistle and the fire alarm. Luckily, the people who lived upstairs heard it and managed to wake her up. No one was hurt and there wasn’t even a fire – the stove was turned off in time to prevent it. But when my mom was young, her house did burn down. Again, no one was hurt but her family lost everything. Because of that, my mom’s always been very worried about house fires. It’s something I thought about a lot during the last few summers with all the forest fires in BC – especially since I live on an acreage outside of Rossland surrounded by trees (and no fire hydrants).

What inspired you to write the story?

When I worked as a genetic counsellor, I had to tell an 18-year-old aspiring firefighter that based on the result of his genetic test, firefighting was the one profession he shouldn’t pursue. As someone who hates being told I can’t do something, this experience still affects me to this day.
Do you have asthma or do you know someone that has asthma?
No, I don’t have asthma. But my best friend growing up had asthma. And my son had it when he was younger.
What inspired you to become a writer?
My sons inspired me to write fiction for kids. (I have twins who just turned 13.) They had health problems when they were born so I had to quit my job. When I got short breaks from taking care of them, I was too tired to read. So I would escape into stories I wrote for myself. And since I was surrounded by young people, the heroes of my stories were young people and before I knew it – I was writing picture books and middle grade fiction.
How old were you when you first started writing?
I think I have always been a writer. When I was in elementary school, my family moved around a lot and I was always writing letters to my friends. As a teenager, I got into journal and poetry writing. Even when I became a scientist, I was still drawn to writing. I wrote scientific articles, informational pamphlets, and educational material for doctors – whenever something needed to be written, I would always volunteer. But I didn’t start writing stories until I was 33-years-old.
How long does it usually take you to complete a book?
It usually takes me about six months to write a complete manuscript. But it takes much longer for that manuscript to become a book. After I finished writing Inside Hudson Pickle, I spent another six months making changes based on feedback from my writing friends. Then it took me another six months to find an agent who could sell the book to a publisher. Once the publisher bought it, I spent another six months making more changes with the editors that work for them. By the time it was actually published into a book, at least two years had passed since I first started working on it.
What’s your favourite book of all the books you’ve written?
My favourite book of all the ones I’ve written hasn’t actually been published yet. It’s called Reasons to Tell and it’s about a competitive swimmer who has epilepsy. I haven’t sold it to a publisher yet but I’m hoping I will soon so you can all read it!
What’s your favourite book that you’ve read?
I fall in love with books easily so my favourite is usually the last one I read! I just finished Fadeaway by Maura Ellen Stokes. Now I’m starting Nikki on the Line by Barbara Carroll Roberts. I don’t always read sports books but there’s been some good ones about basketball published recently!
Do you have any other careers besides being an author?
I used to be a genetic counsellor, like the one Hudson and his family meets with. But now I just write and drive my boys around – which involves carrying my laptop with me to many hockey practices and libraries. (I’m actually writing this email at the ice rink!)
Is Hudson based on a person you know?
Hudson is the combination of a few different people I know. One of my friend’s sons did get cut from AAA hockey after a growth spurt. It was really hard on him because he didn’t know what else to do with himself. A lot of people I know – including one of my twins – sees the world through sport just like Hudson. I can relate to this because I spent a lot of my school years playing sports. And when I got cut from a provincial volleyball team, I put all my energy into basketball. So I guess I would saw that Hudson is based on many people I know – including myself!

Interview an Author!

It’s time again for author interviews!! Kids always ask such great questions.

The authors below have indicated they’re available for groups to interview. Send your top two choices to asap, and we’ll do our best to accommodate you. When you are matched, we will send details about making contact. As always, keep a transcript of your interview, then send it in to us to add to our blog!

Fiction authors:

Kallie George, Natalie Hyde, Anna Humphrey, Alex Lyttle, Yolanda Ridge, Linda Bailey, Sigmund Brouwer, Charis Cotter, and Emma Donoghue

Information authors:

Maria Birmingham, Claire Eamer, Joanne George, Linda Granfield, Monique Gray Smith, Ann Love, Jane Drake, Elizabeth MacLeod, Antonia Banyard, and illustrator Paula Ayer

Information Wall Chart Fixed!

Thanks to Melisa and her staff (School District 73, Kamloops) for sending a revised Information Book chart for the website. Now it actually shows all the titles!

If any group leaders have suggestions for improving our website, or notice errors, please email us: We love to make the site as useful as possible!