Interview with Becky Citra

We’ve got a really exciting post for you today! Students from Ecole South Sahali in Kamloops interviewed Red Cedar Award nominee Becky Citra, author of Finding Grace, and have shared their interview with us!

Finding Grace

1. How did you get the idea for your book?

I am a twin and like Hope and Grace I am very close to my twin. I have written another book about twins, so this is my second one. I also wanted to write about adoption, as my daughter is adopted.

2. Where did you get the inspirations for the characters?

I used to be a teacher and I have a daughter and a stepson, so I have met many young people over the years. I use bits of different people in all of my characters. Hope was the first character that I created and I wanted the twins to be similar but not exactly the same.

3. How did you get the idea of two sisters, not knowing the other existed?

I like to write stories with mysteries in them to keep the readers reading. Hope had to look for clues to find Grace. I have read stories in the news of twins reuniting after many years apart and that has always interested me.

4. Does the book connect to your life story?

I never write about myself exactly, but I need to write about what I know. The novel is all fiction, but it is written about a place that I know well: Harrison Hot Springs. I spent many vacations in Harrison Hot Springs as a young girl, the same age as Hope and Grace. When I was a young girl, a girl in one of my classes had polio and that’s where I got the idea for that.

5. What was the message that you wanted to tell the readers?

When I start writing, that is when the characters and the story come to life. I only re-read it when the book is published. It is then that I ask myself, “what was I trying to say?”. For Finding Grace, it is that different families exist. Grace and her aunt were a family and Hope and her mom and granny were a family. Two different families, but both happy. I also wanted to show that Hope had a lot of determination. She needed that to find her twin.

6. Are there some traits of yourself in the characters?

Yes, I am more like Hope and less like Grace. I had a happier childhood than Hope.

7. Where did you get the idea for the book cover?

The publisher picks the cover and I rarely get asked for input. I usually see the cover when I see the published book. I realize that this cover might only appeal to girls and I had some concerns about that, but I am happy with the cover. Covers are very important.

8. What inspired you to be an author?

I loved reading as a child. I had stacks and stacks of books on the go. We didn’t have as many choices back then, but I always loved reading. I also loved to write and was always writing stories. After I became a teacher, I didn’t write because I didn’t have much time, but I always kept reading. I liked to read stories to my classes and I thought that I could write one. Finally, I started a book and I would write in the early morning. It took me 3 years to write my first book. I wrote it 2 – 3 times; it was a lot of work.

9. What types of books do you like to read?

I read a lot of kids books. I also love mysteries and animal stories.

10. What made you decide to set the story in the 1950’s?

There are a few reasons. I wanted to have Hope look for Grace in a way that wouldn’t be easy like it might be today with the internet. With Grace having polio, the story had to be set in the 1950’s since polio isn’t a disease in Canada today. The third reason was that I wanted to write about Harrison Hot Springs as it would have been when I visited it as a child.

Thanks so much to Melisa Hunter, Teacher-Librarian at Ecole South Sahali, and to her amazing students for this great interview, and a special thanks to Becky Citra for sharing her thoughts with us!

Stay tuned for more great interviews with Red Cedar Award nominees coming soon!

Grown-Ups Read – The Swallow

We’ve got another great grown-up book review to share with you today! Cathy, one of our great adult volunteers, and Chair of the Red Cedar Awards, has been reading Charis Cotter’s mysterious novel, The Swallow.

The Swallow: A Ghost Story is a book about loneliness, family secrets, and the power of friendship. It centers around two twelve year old girls in 1960s Toronto. Rose and Polly are brought together when Rose moves in to the house next door to Polly’s. 

Both girls are lonely and isolated from their families, but for completely different reasons. Rose is an only child, often left alone by her career focused parents. Polly feels ignored in her busy household filled with rambunctious younger twin brothers and older foster sisters.

Their home lives are dissimilar, and so are their personalities. Both girls are very relatable, but Rose is mysterious & cautious while Polly is humorous & adventurous. The girls find common ground in their shared interest in ghosts. When they first meet, each initially believes the other IS a ghost! The friendship develops and an adventure ensues (they conveniently live across the street from a graveyard), with genuinely spooky results.

One could describe this book as a paranormal The Secret Garden. It is a beautifully written, suspense-filled book that will appeal to middle grade readers and grown-ups alike.

swallow

Besides being the fearless leader of the Red Cedar Awards, Cathy is a librarian at the West Vancouver Public Library.

Dunces Rock Contest Winners!

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 4.47.41 PMKate Jaimet, author of Red Cedar Award nominee Dunces Rock, has just announced the winners of the Dunces Rock Songwriting Contest! There were so many amazing contest entries to choose from that she’s decided to award two winners, one for best video, and one for best song lyrics.

The prize for best video goes to Amy Attalla, for her lovely song lovely song “Ms. Mills is the best”, which she set to the tune of Simon & Garfunkle’s Scarborough Fair.

The prize for best lyrics goes to Mia Herman and her song “Rules”, which Kate Jaimet says “exemplifies the sassy spirit of the Dunces.”

Each lucky winner will received a signed copy of either Dunces Anonymous or Dunces Rock!

Head over to Kate Jaimet’s website for a chance to watch Amy’s video and read Mia’s song lyrics.

Congratulations to our talented winners, and thank you to everyone who entered this exciting contest, well done everyone!

Grown-Ups Read – Finding Grace

We’re excited to announce a new feature here on the Red Cedar Blog – Grown-ups Read! Some of the great volunteers who help make the Red Cedar Awards possible will be sharing with us the Red Cedar Award nominees they’ve been reading. We’re kicking things off with Jane, who’s been reading Finding Grace by Becky Citra.

Imagine finding out that your imaginary friend is actually a real person! For years Hope has been pouring out her heart to her friend Grace, writing letters about all the good things and bad things in her life. Like the fact that her mom is so sad these days that she can’t even get out of bed sometimes, so the family has to keep moving because her mom can’t seem to hold a job or make the rent. Hope always thought Grace was just someone in her imagination, but when she discovers a shocking secret that her family has been hiding from her all her life, Hope realizes that Grace is a real person after all, and that nothing about her family is quite as it seems.

The story takes place in two different B.C. locations – Vancouver and Harrison Hot Springs – and although it’s set in the 1950s, readers will likely still be able to relate to Grace. A lot of her feelings and experiences will still be familiar to kids today, and readers will really get to know Grace and her family. This is definitely worth picking up for kids who like stories about friendships, family, life in the past, and gutsy girls!

Finding Grace

Jane Whittingham is a children’s librarian in Vancouver, and helps coordinate the social media content for the Red Cedar Awards.

The first Red Cedar Award nonfiction winner

We’re firing up the time machine again for a look at the winner of the very first Red Cedar Award for Nonfiction, awarded in May 1998.

The recipient of this first award was In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae, by Lisa Granfield, which has since become a Canadian Remembrance Day classic.

flandersIn this award-winning book, the lines of the celebrated poem are interwoven with fascinating information about the First World War (1914-1918) and details of daily life in the trenches in Europe. Also included are accounts of McCrae’s experience in his field hospital and the circumstances that led to the writing of “In Flanders Fields.”

Author Linda Granfield was born and grew up in the United States, but moved to Canada to study at the University of Toronto. Her books have won many awards, including Best Books selection – Ontario Library Association, Best Nonfiction for Children -Canadian Library Association, and of course the Red Cedar Award for Nonfiction. She is passionate about history, and a lot of time and research go into the making of every one of her award-winning children’s books.

The book was illustrated by award-winning Canadian artist, author and speaker Janet Wilson. Ms. Wilson has published over fifty books for children and young adults! She is passionate about social justice, and has written and illustrated several books about children around the world who are working hard to make the world a better place.

Have you read In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae? Which book do you think will take home the award in 2016? Let us know in the comments below!

Introducing the Cozy Slipper Book Club!

Today we’re thrilled to feature an enthusiastic elementary school book club here on the Red Cedar blog. The Cozy Slipper Book Club comes to us from West Point Grey Academy in Vancouver. They were interviewed by their school librarian Danielle Wing. Here’s what they had to say!

WPGA_cozyslipperbookclub

How often does your book club meet?

We meet every week on Wednesdays at lunch recess in our newly updated library.

How many people are in your club?

Our club varies from day to day depending on the different events happening in the school!

What is the name of your club?

We are The Cozy Slipper Book Club.

What kind of books do you like reading?

We like to read horror books, mystery books, adventure books and fantasy books.

…actually, we love to read all books!

Where are your favourite places to read?

  • In the library bean bag chairs

  • In my grandpa’s lazy boy chair

  • In the kitchen while cooking and eating!

…actually, we read everywhere!

What are your other interests?

Knitting, crocheting, dancing, swimming, baking and skating!

Thanks for that great interview, Cozy Slipper Book Club! We can’t wait to hear what you think of all the Red Cedar nominees.
Are you reading the Red Cedar nominees with your class or book club? We’d love to hear about it! Email us your information at redcedaraward@gmail and we’ll share it on our blog.

Amy’s Promise – Red Cedar Award Winner 1998

As we set off on another great Red Cedar award season, let’s fire up that time machine and take a trip back in time to where the awards began.

The very first Red Cedar Awards were handed out in May 1998. The winner of the inaugural award for fiction was Bernice Thurman Hunter’s historical novel Amy’s Promise.

amyAmy Phair’s world fell apart when her mother died. Her baby sister was taken away, and now Gramma Davis keeps her busy cooking and cleaning for three young brothers and a neglectful father. It isn’t fair . .. but Amy promised her mama she’d watch over them all. Still, Amy can dream: dreams of beautiful music, of having a sister, of a father who can love his children again. But what can a twelve-year-old do to make promises come true?

Bernice Thurman Hunter was born in Toronto in 1922, and although her childhood was difficult, and poverty meant she didn’t get a chance to pursue her dream of attending university, Bernice never lost her sense of humour or her cheerful personality. She always wanted to be a writer, and regularly wrote and told stories to entertain her children and grandchildren, but she didn’t publish her first book until she was 59 year old. Bernice eventually published more than 15 books for young people, most of them set in the past, and was made a Member of the Order of Canada in recognition of her contribution to Canadian children’s literature. She passed away in 2002.

Have you read Amy’s Promise? Which book do you think will take home the Red Cedar award for fiction in 2016? Let us know in the comments below!

Richard Scrimger is coming to town!

Richard_SwrimgerExciting news, Red Cedar Group Leaders! Richard Scrimger is coming to BC this spring.  He knows the Greater Vancouver Area best, but would certainly consider visiting other parts of the province if there is enough interest.

Richard has written 20 books for children and adults, and his work has received multiple awards and been translated into a number of different languages. His last 3 novels feature a developmentally-challenged teen, a depressed zombie, and an onion-ring fan who falls into a steam-punk comic. Plots involve a ghost-wolf grampa, school bussing, a robotic lammergeyer and a brief apocalypse. Fortunately, confusion is Richard’s natural state.

Richard’s presentations are all about story — enjoying it, understanding it, creating it. For grades JK-2, he explains a simple formula: experience + ideas = story. The group shares experiences, and the audience participates in a raucous read-along. For middle grades (3-6) Richard recounts an event from his own life to model techniques of story-building. Then he and the audience create their own story using some of those techniques.

For seniors (7-8) Richard shows how to twist dark truths inside us to make convincing stories. He and the audience put together a story from bits and pieces of truth, and discover what works, what doesn’t, and why.

zomboy

There is no maximum number of students per session: Typical would be 60-100. Fewer students means more interaction. Over a certain number (say, 150) Richard might charge more.

Richard offers Professional Development Workshops for teachers, educators, story builders. He has given key-note addresses across Canada, and conducted story workshops on 4 continents. He is comfortable in any venue – classroom, library, auditorium, gymnasium, concert hall, phone booth.

To learn more about Richard, visit his website.  www.scrimger.ca

Enter the Dunces Rock Songwriting Contest!

Start your New Year off on the right note by entering the Dunces Rock songwriting contest!

From January 1 to 31, 2016, write a song in honour of your teacher or principal and you could win your very own signed copy of Dunces Rock.

Here’s what you have to do:

First, watch the video of the Ballad of Principal Hale.

Next, download the lyrics to the Ballad of Principal Hale.

Now comes the creative part: Use the Ballad of Principal Hale as your inspiration to write a song about your own teacher or principal.

Email the song lyrics to Kate Jaimet at kjaimet@sympatico.ca, with the words “song contest” in the subject line.

Or, take a video of yourself and/or your friends singing the song you wrote, post it online and send her the link. Don’t forget to put the words “song contest” in the subject line.

Songs will be judged on the basis of originality, funniness, rhythm and rhyme. Nasty or mean songs will be immediately disqualified and fed to Boris, the Neighbourhood Dog of Slobbering Terror.

The winner will be announced on February 14, 2016. ‘Cause nothing says “Be my Valentine” like an autographed book!

Good luck!

Welcome to the Red Cedar Blog

Hello, and welcome to the Red Cedar Blog! We’ve got a lot of exciting Red Cedar content planned for this space in the months leading up to the awards, so check back often to keep up to date with all things Red Cedar.

Until then, have you checked out our social media accounts? You can find us on Twitter and Instagram, where we regularly post links to interesting articles, cool features, and interviews with your favourite Red Cedar nominees, as well as photos, quotes, and other nifty things. It’s a great way to learn more about the awards and this year’s nominees.

We’re thrilled to be here on the Red Cedar blog, and we can’t wait to connect with you.

Until next time,

The Red Cedar Award Social Media Team