You can submit your votes online!
You can submit your votes online!
Where did you get your idea to write about a boy in the Middle Ages? [Note: It’s actually the Age of Exploration—Middle Ages ends in the 15th century]
From my research. I chose 1660s London specifically because it was such a rich time of plots, conspiracies, and secrets, as enemies struggled against each other for power. Basically, it was too good a time to pass up!
How did you do your research to find out what life was like in the Middle Ages in general, and for apothecaries and The Plague specifically? [sic]
A lot of time in and out of libraries. I read many, many different books, drawing as much as I could from them. Fortunately, we have a lot of good first-hand accounts from that time, especially of the plague (the best of which is A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe). I always find doing research valuable; the details really help bring the books to life.
Did you always want to be a writer? Is it a full-time job for you?
Writing is my full-time job, yes. But I had no interest in it when I was young—if you’d have told me back then that I’d grow up to be a writer, I’d have thought you’d lost your mind! Just goes to show you never know where you’ll end up.
What does a “writing day’ look like for you?
Get up early (around 5 am). Work all morning: either reading, or doing research, or plotting, or writing. If I’m writing, then I usually have a word or page count, and I don’t stop until I’ve reached it. I’m usually finished work around lunchtime, or early afternoon.
How long does it take for you to write a book?
Every book is different. So far, the shortest took me five months, while the longest took just over a year. I have no idea why some take longer; for whatever reason, some books are harder to write than others.
Do you enjoy writing? Did you like to do it as a child? Were you good at it?
Depends on the day! When I’m stuck on something, it can be pretty frustrating. But overall, I think writing is the best job in the world.
I was pretty good at it as a child, but back then I hated doing it. Maybe that’s because I had to, rather than wanting to.
What was your favorite book to read as a child?
Probably the Belgariad series by David Eddings. Though there were many, many books—mostly fantasy—that I loved.
Did you read a lot as a child? What do you like better, reading or writing? Why?
I read every single day when I was a child, often for hours—and I still do! I still like reading better than writing…but I have to admit, nothing in the world beats that feeling of satisfaction when you finally finish writing a book.
What advice can you give us to become writers?
First, always be reading. Seeing what makes other writers effective are the best writing lessons you’ll ever get.
Second, always be writing. Just like you can’t learn to ride a bike by watching someone, you can’t learn to write just by reading. It takes years and years of practice. (So start now!)
Third, don’t get discouraged. We all write things that don’t go anywhere. I had to write three whole manuscripts, none very good, until I wrote The Blackthorn Key. In writing, you never really fail until you quit.
How many books do you have planned in this series?
As many as I can think of! As long as people want to keep reading them, and I can come up with good ideas, I’ll keep writing them. So hopefully you’ll see Blackthorn Key adventures for years to come!
-Linda Groot, Elementary Teacher-Librarian, and students from Abbotsford Christian School
Recently Kathleen Cherry, Red Cedar-nominated author of Everyday Hero had the opportunity to work with students in the Red Cedar Club at Spruceland Elementary School and also to present to several classes at Southridge Elementary School. She is very enthusiastic about the experience, saying it was “So exciting to witness the student’s enthusiasm for books and reading!”
Kathleen has kindly offered that any Red Cedar groups who schedule an interview with her by Skype or print will receive these beautiful book marks. Interested groups can contact Kathleen through us, her website, or Facebook page.
It’s almost time to vote for your winner. Children can cast their vote for the Red Cedar Book Award winner from April 19-30.
We’re very excited that the Red Cedar Awards Gala for 2018 will be Sunday, June 3 in Vancouver. Come meet other young readers, present short skits on your favorite book, listen to readings from nominated authors, show off your book trailer, and enjoy some snacks with us! We will be announcing the winners of the 2017/18 Red Cedar Awards live at the Gala, and releasing the lists of 2018/19 nominees! The Gala will take place June 3 from 2-4pm (book signing after) in the Alice MacKay Room of the Vancouver Public Library (350 West Georgia Street).
Please RSVP to attend the Gala! Just email email@example.com with the number in your group. You can see the winners announced in person!
Students attending the event are asked to bring a completed Photo Release Form with them. Please print out this form and hand it out to your students for their parent / guardian to sign.
How did you come up with your characters?
Usually I start with a situation or a premise and I slot in a character who is very much like me to start with. As I write I kind of carve away my own personality and carve in a new personality if that makes sense. Sometimes giving a character a name tells me a lot about them. What kind of parent named a child “Journey” in 1962? How does Journey feel about her name? When I add appearance details like hair color and age and size I get to know them more. Then I choose clothes for them. What kind of clothes do they like? Why? Most of my characters maintain some key characteristics of me. I love animals, for example. I love reading and learning.
Have you ever experienced anything like what happened to the characters?
I’m a little younger than Journey would be today, but I did live in a city in the 1970s so I remember what that was like. And I HAVE seen pandas (in a zoo). The only animals I’ve helped are my pets and occasionally a bird if it gets stunned from flying in a window.
How long have you been writing for?
I started writing my first (unfinished) novel when I was about 11. I still have it!
Are the characters based on real people?
My brother-in-law, Ben thinks David is based on him and that’s pretty much true. The rest of the characters are made up.
What inspired you to be a writer?
I’ve tried pretty much every other job and this is the only one I’m good at that doesn’t make me sad.
What difficulties did you encounter when you were writing the book and how did you solve them?
Sometimes I’m not sure what is going to happen next. Sometimes when that happens I just wait and work on something else until I get a good idea. Other times I just write any old thing and fix it later.
Do you have any tips for young writers?
Write something short enough to finish. Start with poems. Then short stories. Always try to finish. Then revise your draft to see if you can make it better. Writing is rewriting.
Did you have a plan for the novel or make it up as you went along?
I made this one up. Sometimes I use a plan because it’s faster that way.
How long did it take you to write Pandas On the Eastside?
I started writing it in 2010 and sold it to my publisher in 2015. So about five years. But I was working on a bunch of other things at the same time and published four other books.
If you could have added anything else to the book, what would it have been?
I don’t know! What a good question! Maybe Journey could have met the president or something.
Who is your favourite author?
I really admire Margaret Atwood and J.K Rowling.
-Melisa Hunter, Teacher-Librarian, and students from École South Sahali, Kamloops, BC
What inspired you to write Heart of a Champion?
I was watching TV one night and I came upon a documentary about the Vancouver Asahi baseball team. I had never heard of them, and I was amazed to hear how great they were—not
just great baseball players, but great role models through their dignity and pride in the face of
racism against people of Japanese descent. When the program was finished, I thought to
myself, “Every Canadian kid should know about the Vancouver Asahis.” So, since I write
children’s books, I decided to write a book about them.
What kind of books do you like reading and writing?
I love reading and writing all kinds of books, but I think the thing that draws me the most is
characters. I want to get inside the skin of a character and feel what that person is feeling and
learn what that character learns and grow along with the character. So I love to read and write
books where characters feel things deeply and grow and change in some way.
Most of my books are middle-grade novels, for kids 8 to 12 years old, although I have written a
few picture books and a few novels for teens. I wish I could write more picture books, but my
ideas mostly come as stories for older kids.
My favourite book when I was a kid was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The
interesting thing about that book is that the main character, Mary Lennox, is totally unlikable at
the beginning. She is a vain, selfish, spoiled brat. And yet you root for her and care about her,
and it is so wonderful when she begins to change and become a nicer, more caring person. I still read The Secret Garden every year or so to try to figure out how the author does it (and I never can).
Which of your books is your favourite?
Agh, I hate that question! It’s like asking a parent which is her favourite kid. But if I had to
choose just one, I would say Mr. Belinsky’s Bagels, one of my picture books. The character of
Mr. Belinsky is based on my grandfather. My grandfather was not a baker, but he was a sweet,
kind man just like Mr. Belinsky. And, interestingly, Mr. Belinsky looks just like my grandfather,
even though the illustrator, Stefan Czernecki, never met him or saw a picture of him.
When did you start writing books?
When I was 30. My first career was as a special education teacher. At the same time, I was very
interested in the environment and energy conservation. So I started by writing a couple of
educational stories for kids about conserving energy. I sold one of them to the Province of
British Columbia and the other one to the National Film Board. I found that I enjoyed writing
and that it came naturally to me, so I tried writing a regular story. That was Dusty, which
became my first book.
How many books have you written?
Sixteen books for kids and one for adults. I have a chapter book coming out this spring called
The Princess Dolls, for 7 to 10 year olds. That’ll be my 18th book.
Who do you look up to?
Frances Hodgson Burnett, as I mentioned above. My favourite Canadian children’s author is
Susin Neilsen. In my opinion, she is brilliant at writing stories about sad and complex subjects
but doing it in a hilarious way. Her books make me laugh and cry. That’s what I try to do, too.
What book are you working on now?
I’m writing a middle grade novel called Up in the Sky. It’s about a girl named Sophie whose
father has died in a helicopter crash. Sophie and her dad used to build remote-controlled model airplanes together, and they were in the middle of building one when her dad died. Sophie wants to finish the model, but she can’t, because she has a reading disability and she can’t read the manual. And now her mom has a new boyfriend . . .
Do you get calluses from typing? Or other injuries related to your job?
No, thankfully. I write the first draft of my books longhand with a pen and paper, so sometimes
my hand gets cramped from holding a pen for hours. But I can stretch out the sore muscles.
What’s your favourite colour?
Turquoise, followed closely by purple. Interesting question!
-Sara Leach, Teacher-Librarian, Spring Creek Community School and the Spring Creek Community School Red Cedar Book Club
5 Giraffes by Anne Innis Dagg (Fitzhenry and Whiteside)
Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch with Tuan Ho (pajamapress)
All the Dirt: A History of Getting Clean by Katherine Ashenburg (Annick)
Deep Roots: How Trees Sustain Our Planet by Nikki Tate (Orca)
Diwali: Festival of Lights by Rina Singh (Orca)
Dot to dot in the sky: Stories of the aurora borealis by Joan Marie Galat, illustrated by Lorna Bennett (Whitecap Books)
Fight To Learn: The Struggle to Go to School by Laura Scandiffio (Annick)
Half-Truths and Brazen Lies: An Honest Look at Lying by Kira Vermond, illustrated by Clayton Hanmer (OWLKIDS)
I Am Not A Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, illustrated by Gillian Newland (Second Story Press)
Level the Playing Field: The Past, Present, and Future of Women’s Pro Sports by Kristina Rutherford (OWLKIDS)
Making Canada Home: How Immigrants Shape This Country by Susan Hughes (OWLKIDS)
Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community by Robin Stevenson (Orca)
Water WOW! An Infographic Exploration by Antonia Banyard & Pula Ayer, art by Belle Wuthrich (Annick)
Congratulations to all of the nominees! And happy reading, Red Cedar readers!
Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami (Anansi/Groundwood)
The Case of the Girl in Grey by Jordan Stratford (Knopf)
Dear Canada: These Are My Words by Ruby Slipperjack (Scholastic)
Everyday Hero by Kathleen Cherry (Orca)
Heart of a Champion by Ellen Schwartz (Tundra)
Howard Wallace, P.I by Casey Lyall (Sterling)
Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts by Esta Spalding (Tundra)
Magic Animal Adoption Agency 3: The Missing Magic by Kallie George (HarperCollins Canada)
Mark of the Plague by Kevin Sands (Simon and Schuster)
Pandas on the Eastside by Gabrielle Prendergast (Orca)
Sea Change by Frank Viva (Tundra)
Yellow Dog by Miriam Korner (Red Deer Press)
Good luck to all the nominees! And happy reading, Red Cedar readers!
We had a wonderful afternoon at our Gala on May 6, and were so grateful to share the day with so many wonderful students, teachers and writers. In the end, the winners were Kevin Sands for The Blackthorn Key and Julia Coey for Animal Hospital!
We are especially grateful to our generous sponsors for the support they give us — we couldn’t do Red Cedar without you! HUGE thanks to:
The official 2017/2018 nominees will be announced soon.
Julia Coey’s Animal Hospital: Rescuing Urban Wildlife covers the easily overlooked world of wildlife rehabilitation efforts around the world. Coey focuses on city animals such as birds, squirrels, raccoons, and skunks that have been injured or orphaned, often because of human interference. Unlike zoos or wildlife sanctuaries that are long-term animal homes, the goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to help nurse animals back to health before releasing them back into the wild. The book starts with an introduction to understanding wildlife rehabilitation and its importance before we see these rehabilitation efforts in action through the eyes of the Toronto Wildlife Centre whose hotline fields tens of thousands of calls every year.
The book is filled with striking, full colour photos that filled my heart with love (a pile of baby raccoons) and heartache (a poor helpless skunk whose head got trapped in a plastic dessert lid-– but don’t worry, he was saved!). It was inspiring to read about these champions of nature and learn new wildlife facts. Did you know 20% of the time squirrels are just sneakily pretending to bury nuts to trick other squirrels or birds who might be watching? Animal Hospital was a fascinating and enlightening read that’s definitely worth picking up!
-Reviewed by Jamie Fong
Coming to the Red Cedar Gala on May 6 to see if Animal Hospital is a winner? Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org Hope to see you there!