Ecole Heather Park Elementary Interviews Kenneth Oppel

Students from Ecole Heather Park Elementary in Prince George had the opportunity to interview the wonderfully talented Kenneth Oppel, author of The Nest. 

EHPE: What inspired you to write the book, The Nest?

KO: A whole bunch of things. I had a title, and I wishlist of creepy things I wanted in my story: a toy phone that allowed you to talk to a mysterious person; a knife grinding van that kept returning to your street again and again; a person called Mr Nobody – and a wasp nest that was growing a human baby.
 
 
EHPE: Does anything in The Nest relate to something you experienced?
 
KO: The biggest influence for The Nest was very personal: the birth of our third child 11 years ago. She was born with Down syndrome, and it really made me re-evaluate how we look at what normal is and what that means. Is it possible for anyone to be truly normal? Is it a certain model of behaviour we must all try to live up to? All of us have weaknesses, flaws, things that make us “less than.” It made me think about how we value people, and how we look at who’s worthy, who’s lovable. For sure I was drawing on my own experiences for the emotional core of this book, because at the beginning when you have a baby who’s “different,” there’s so much you don’t know. There’s surprise, there’s worry, there’s questioning about what her prospects were going to be.
 
I now had this notion of a baby born into a family with something that’s very worrying. And in the book, the oldest child in the family, Steve, who’s 12, starts having dreams about an angel creature who offers to fix the baby, offering him a perfect baby to swap for the original baby. Steve just wants things to go back to normal. He wants them to be safe. We’re all trying so hard to get perfect bodies and partners and lives, and I think sometimes it can lead us to make choices that aren’t beneficial to ourselves and to others. Kids really want to fit in. They want to be part of a pack, and they want to be accepted. It’s very lonely to feel like you’re outside of normal. I wanted to show that no one is really normal, and we’re better for admitting that we’re flawed.
 
EHPE: Why did you dedicate The Nest to Julia, Nathaniel and Sophia?
 
KO: They’re my three kids – they’ve actually had quite a few books dedicated to them over the years!
 
EHPE: You have written many different kinds of novels.  What genre of books do you prefer to write?
 
KO: I don’t have a favourite genre. I just write the idea that most excites me, whether it’s fantasy, or gothic thriller, or historical fiction, or contemporary fiction. With each of my books there was something about the idea or subject matter that grabbed hold of my imagination, and took my thoughts in all sorts of directions.
 
EHPE: How long does it take you to write a book?
 
KO: For a novel, between 12 to 24 months.
 
EHPE: Do you have a new book coming out soon?  Can you tell us something about it?
 
KO: Well, I just had one come out called Every Hidden Thing, about two teens who discover the first T-Rex fossil. And the next thing you’ll see from me is called Inkling – which is a big rollicking adventure with lots of humour and magic.
 
EHPE: Who was your favourite author when you were a kid?
 
KO: Roald Dahl!
 
EHPE: What are your hobbies?
 
KO: I like to travel, read, watch movies, spend time with friends, go for long walks, sail, go on train rides!
 

 

The Red Cedar Club (Everett, Charlotte, Nina, Jasmine, Breanna, Emily, Maya, Abby, Tayler, Braden, Morgan, Wynter, Trinity) and Maria Weisgarber, Teacher-Librarian, Ecole Heather Park Elementary, Prince George, BC

 

Seven Dead Pirates

Seven Dead Pirates by Linda Bailey

sevenLewis Dearborn is a painfully shy eleven-year-old boy in sixth grade.  On his great grandfather’s birthday, Lewis is the only one to hear him whisper two mysterious words, “Libertalia. You!”

When his grandpa dies he moves with his overbearing parents into Shornoway, a ramshackle mansion by the sea.  Lewis is quick to notice  LIBERTALIA carved into his bedroom door in the Tower room and soon discovers the room has a surprising secret.  It is haunted by Captain James Crawley and his crew who died tragically almost two centuries ago. 

The dead pirates want Lewis to help them get to the local maritime museum on the other side of town where their restored ship is.  Lewis starts reading Peter Pan to the ghostly pirates who really only want to hear the “Hook” parts.  He eventually comes up with a clever plan to reunite the pirates with their beloved ship, Maria Louisa.

Towards the end of this delightful and humorous ghost story Lewis is given a letter that reveals a very surprising long kept family secret.  Arrgggh!  I loves me a good story, I does!

-Reviewed by Sylvia Nurse

Shot in the Dark

shotinthedarkAs if being a teenager isn’t difficult enough, Micah is coping with a disability that slowly diminishes his capability to do things others take for granted.  He tries to be as normal as he possibly can:  refusing to have a guide dog believing it will limit his freedom, trying to do without his white cane as often as possible, and hiding his flare-ups in the vain hope that his disability will go away on its own.  The only place where Micah really feels in control is on the court when he plays goalball: a game designed for the visually impaired.

Young readers will relate to young Micah’s struggles: not necessarily his disability, but his anger issues, making friends, learning to be part of a team, that special relationship, and trying to become more independent of his parents.  The language and tone of the book definitely feels like a young teen is speaking to the reader.  It’s wonderful to have a book that is based locally and illustrates the pressures young people face as they juggle parental expectations, personal goals, expectations, relationships and in this case a degenerative disability.

-Reviewed by Marianne Huang

Eco Warrior

Eco Warrior by Philip Roy

Eco Warrior is a wonderful tale about a sixteen year old boy named Alfred that pulls you in right away and keeps you reading from page one to the end. Alfred is traveling to Australia in a 28413939homemade submarine with his pet seagull and dog to learn how to be an environmentalist and save the oceans. On the way Alfred learns many life lessons and meets new friends for life. After Alfred gets to Australia he gets mistakenly accused of sabotaging a tanker and has to make a daring escape with the help of a friend. Because of that Alfred makes his way over to Tasmania to see if he can help the Sea Shepherd Society battle tankers that supply Japanese whale hunters with fuel for their ships.

Eco Warrior is short book that outlines the dangers that our oceans are in and shows that it’s still possible for us to make a change. You do not need to read the previous six books in the series to enjoy this one.

Overall, Eco Warrior an engaging book that never leaves you in a dry spot.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is real! Take a look at this site to find out more: http://www.seashepherd.org

-reviewed by Johanna Ahn

Jennifer Mook-Sang will be in B.C. in Spring 2017!

speechlessJennifer Mook-Sang will be attending the Red Cedar Awards on May 6, 2017 and would love to visit area schools and libraries while she’s in B.C. She will be in the Vancouver Area from May 1-6th and on Vancouver Island in the vicinity of Nanaimo from May 8-10th.

Jennifer’s humorous middle-grade novel Speechless (Scholastic) has been nominated for many awards; and commended by the Ontario Library Association, the Canadian Childrens’ Book Centre, the CBC, and the TD Summer Reading Club. Her picture book Captain Monty Takes the Plunge (Kids Can Press) will be released in the Fall of 2017 and features a stinky pirate who won’t go near the water.

Jennifer enjoys visiting schools and libraries. She describes her life as a writer, how a story gets built, and the joys of editing and revising. Her workshops have students thinking about where inspiration comes from and gets them writing stories right away.

To learn more about Jennifer’s presentations, funding opportunities for public author readings, and to contact her for a visit, check out her website jennifermooksang.com

Speechless

Speechless by Jennifer Mook-Sang

speechlessJoe Alton Miles is a pretty average 12 year old middle school student. With the exception of his joint nickname with his best friend — Joe is known as “Jelly” (because his initials spell “J.A.M.”), and his best friend Parker Brown is known as “P.B.” (Get it? P.B. (peanut butter) & Jelly) — his ordinary life involves going to school, playing video games, & begging his parents to buy him a computer tablet.

All this changes when Jelly decides he really wants to win his school’s annual speech contest. Although Jelly fears public speaking, he does want the top prize of a new computer tablet. This puts Jelly in direct competition with a fellow student, Victoria. Victoria wants to win for the sake of winning, and she will use  any means necessary to beat Jelly from the public speaking prize.

Jelly’s reputation, friendships, and self worth are tested over the course of the speech competition. Will Jelly’s friendships survive Victoria’s sabotage and negative campaigning? Will Jelly believe in himself enough to get through the contest? Will Jelly win the speech contest and get a new tablet? Read this fast-paced book to find out!

-Reviewed by Cathy Mount, Past President of the Red Cedar Book Awards

 

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