Abbotsford Christian School interviews Kevins Sands, Author of Mark of the Plague

Mark of the Plague coverWhere 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!

A Journal of the Plague Year coverHow 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

Kathleen Cherry, Author of Everyday Hero Visits BC Schools

Kathleen Cherry at a school visitRecently 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!”

Everyday Hero bookmarksKathleen 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.

 

-Patricia

 

Important Dates for Red Cedar Readers

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 redcedaraward@gmail.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.

École South Sahali interviews Gabrielle Prendergast, Author of Pandas on the Eastside

 

Pandas on the Eastside coverHow 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.

panda

from wikipedia.org

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.

Gabrielle PredergastHow 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.

Harvest Writer

from flickr.com

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.

JK Rowling

from wikipedia.org

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

Spring Creek Community School Interviews Ellen Schwartz, Author of Heart of a Champion

What inspired you to write Heart of a Champion?

Asahi Baseball Team

Image Source: http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/edu

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.
The Secret Garden book coverMy 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?

Mr Belinsky's Bagels coverAgh, 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?

Dusty book coverWhen 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?

Word Nerd book coverFrances 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

The 2017/2018 Red Cedar nominees for Information are…

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!

-Patricia

The 2017/18 Red Cedar Nominees for Fiction are…

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!

-Patricia

2016-2017 Gala

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:

abe2

vpl

interlinkuls

The official 2017/2018 nominees will be announced soon.

-Patricia

Animal Hospital: Rescuing Urban Wildlife

​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 redcedaraward@gmail.com Hope to see you there!

Manoah Steves Elementary Interviews Tanya Lloyd Kyi

We are super excited that Tanya Lloyd Kyi, author of the fascinating book DNA Detective, will be at the Red Cedar Gala at Vancouver Public Library on May 6. Ahead of her appearance, students from Manoah Steves Elementary interviewed her and asked her some thought-provoking questions.
MSE: Did you know any of these facts before?
TLK: Before I began this project, I knew very little about DNA. And when I started my research, the science of genes and heredity seemed really complicated. It took a long time to sort through the information overload to find great stories about the way DNA affects our daily lives. Right now, DNA research is changing the way we eat, the way governments and police forces track criminals, even the way we choose our pets! Stories about these sorts of implications and changes were really what inspired me to write the book.
MSE: How long did it take to research all of these facts?
TLK: For each of my books, I spend three or four months on research. Once I’ve gathered enough information, I begin to write… and I always, always discover that there’s a lot more to learn. The first draft of DNA Detective took six to eight months of research and writing combined, then a little MORE research once the editor started asking questions and pointing out gaps. Good thing I love research — I like hunting for the best stories and the best ways to explain tricky scientific concepts.
MSE: Why did you name the DNA Scientists Genetic rock stars?
TLK: Like contestants on The Voice, the scientists who made major DNA discoveries were completely obsessed with success. One of them studied fruit flies for a decade before he discovered one teeny, microscopic mutation. And since these scientists changed the world in ways no pop song has ever done, I think they deserve the “rock star” title.
MSE: How did you come up with all the funny names on p. 23?
TLK: Once I started searching for silly names on the internet, there were zillions. Ever since the book was published, I keep stumbling across other great pun-names and thinking, “oooh… I wish I’d included that one!”
MSE: Why did you start writing books?
TLK: I’ve been writing stories since elementary school. I still have an unfinished novel from high school sitting in my crawl space. My first published book was Canadian Girls Who Rocked the World, which came out in 2000.  It was all about girls who’d accomplished amazing things before they turned 20.
MSE: Did you get to choose who did the drawings for your book?
TLK: The publisher always chooses the illustrators for my books, but I’ve never complained — they make amazing choices. Seeing the illustration sketches is one of my favourite parts of book-creation. By that time, most of my work on the project is finished, and I get to sit back and relax while someone else interprets my stories and facts in ways I might never expect. My favourite illustrations in DNA Detective are the genetic rock stars and the detective dog.
MSE: Where did you get the idea to write a non-fiction story combined with a fiction story?
TLK: The entire subject of DNA seems to lend itself to mystery solving. And when I read the story of the twins in Germany who couldn’t be charged with a robbery because the police couldn’t prove which twin committed the crime (that story’s at the back of the book)… well, then I just HAD to include the mystery.

Image credit: worth1000.com

MSE: Did you know anything about DNA before you wrote this story?

TLK: Very little! I wrote a book a few years ago called Seeing Red, which was all about blood. In that book, there was the story of two Chicago families who’d taken their babies home from the hospital only to find the babies were labelled with different last names. So, had the babies been switched, or were the labels wrong? The hospital didn’t know, and the Chicago Commissioner of Health called in a panel of experts. No one could tell which baby belonged to which family! Finally, a pathologist who understood blood types tested the blood of the babies and of all four parents, and figured out the babies had gone home with the wrong families. It was the first time blood types had been used to figure out paternity. That story — which is really about genetics and heredity — helped me get excited about the idea of a DNA book.
MSE: Is it possible to mix DNA  eg. frog and snake  – Can I make a froggy-snake?
TLK: Probably not… yet. But if scientists get that far, I’d like a pet cabbit. (You know: half cat, half rabbit.)

-Lauren Craze, Teacher-Librarian at Manoah Steves Elementary and friends

If you want to see Tanya Lloyd Kyi at the Red Cedar Gala on May 6 please RSVP to redcedaraward@gmail.com Hope to see you there!