Family Literacy Day 2017 was celebrated with hundreds of exciting events across the Canada. I was able to connect with readers and supporters of family literacy during a live tweet chat, and was honoured to have the Kenora Public Library create Storywalk® with my book Perfect Snow. I had the pleasure to take part in storytelling and hands-on clay workshops at Toronto Public Library’s Cedarbrae and Goldhawk Park branches. Both libraries are lively community hubs, and I met kids, families and even a few teachers all excited to try their hands at plasticine artwork. As always, when I spend some time in a public library, the future looks brighter! I think the beautiful artwork samples and the smiles in this gallery tell the story best. A BIG thank you to all the organizers and participants, I’m already looking forward to FLD 2018…
Work in progress
M is for mountain
Plasticine library shelves, beautiful!
An artist and his work
January 27, 2017 is Family Literacy Day. You can learn about FLD events, or share your own plans here. Of course, we can celebrate literacy and lifelong learning anytime. Let’s play!
Learn at play every day!
I am honoured and delighted to announce that a new elementary school in Whitchurch-Stouffville will be named Barbara Reid Public School. The new school will open in September 2017.
Growing up in Toronto in the 1960’s, few of the books I found in my school and public library were written or illustrated by Canadians, or published in Canada. Books that inspired me were written by people from far away, or long ago.
Much has changed! Thanks to passionate creators, publishers, librarians, teachers, booksellers and support from organizations like The Canadian Children’s Book Centre, The National Reading Campaign and ABC Life Literacy (to name a few), bookshelves are filled with outstanding Canadian books that reflect our culture and diversity. Millions of school children have had the opportunity to meet and interact with real live authors and illustrators. Young readers find themselves in our stories and take part in award programs. Our books are winning awards at home and around the world, and reaching international audiences.
A snowball starts out small, but once it’s rolling it builds upon itself and grows in size and importance at a faster and faster rate. I am very grateful for the pioneers who started the process that has brought Canadian Children’s Literature to where it is today. I am proud to know there are schools named for Jean Little, Robert Munsch and Phoebe Gillman. I have had the good fortune to know and learn from each of these brilliant Canadian authors, and had the opportunity to visit students at the Phoebe Gilman School library. Most of all, I am thrilled to be part of the snowball effect and determined to keep the ball rolling!
Thanks to this vast community of supporters, and the York Region District School Board for their recognition and celebration of Canadian Children’s Literature. Imagine what today’s young readers will contribute!
The snowball effect; illustration from Perfect Snow
When asked if I would like to continue as Honorary Chair for Family Literacy Day 2017 the answer was a big YES! Family Literacy Day is a national awareness initiative created by ABC Life Literacy Canada and held annually on January 27 to raise awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family. It is an honour and a thrill to support this event, and the outstanding programs provided by ABC Life Literacy all year round.
This year’s Family Literacy Day theme is: “Learn at play, every day.” As a warm up, I’ve been playing with some plasticine letters. This “Y” celebrates my yes to encouraging the learning and fun. Pleased stay tuned for upcoming events and activities. YAY!
Y is for yes!
The manuscript and rough sketches for my new book have been accepted, hooray! It will be published by Scholastic Canada. I’m excited to be working on the final drawings.
At this stage I collect reference to make sure all the details are just right. Sometimes I create my own reference. For example, I may make a 3-D plasticine model of a character to see how they look from different angles. This book features a house that will be seen in several illustrations, so I had to build it. With pencil, paper, cardboard, scissors, tape and glue, the house in my imagination took shape. I’m pleased with the result, but can say I much prefer working with plasticine! Stay tuned for more work in progress…
Building a model for a new book
The 2016 Telling Tales Festival was a huge success! Thanks to the terrific organizers, dedicated volunteers, outstanding presenters and most of all, the enthusiastic audiences. The warm September sunshine perfectly matched the happy energy of the participants. The day got off to a great start with the fabulous “authorstrator” Jeremy Tankard spotting a frog making it’s way to the Festival entrance. Perhaps a prince hoping to meet up with some of the costumed princesses or book characters?
I enjoyed meeting young readers and their families at my presentations, and was most impressed by the singing talent as the audience joined in for Frere Jaques and Row Row Row Your Boat. I met many fellow plasticine artists, and was delighted to present an award to some of the winners of the Explore Your World contest. The three grand prize winning schools will receive an author visit. Fellow “prizes” are Ruth Ohi and Andrew Larsen. I’ll be visiting with artists at John T. Tuck School, who created a beautiful plasticine artwork inspired by Picture a Tree. All in all, a grand day!
The Telling Tales frog prince
A great reading and singing audience at Telling Tales
A young artist shares his work
Prize winners from John T Tuck PS
I love walking and looking at trees, so couldn’t be happier that Picture a Tree is the first of four titles to be installed as a Storywalk® by the Hamilton Public Library.
A Storywalk® features a children’s picture book, mounted page by page, throughout a park or along a trail to encourage both reading and physical literacy for kids and families. The concept originated in Vermont and typically pairs the book pages with Public Health “tips” for actions that kids will do as they move from sign to sign. With partners from the City of Hamilton’s Public Health and Parks Departments, funds were accessed through the Healthy Kids Community Challenge to create Storywalk® signs for four Canadian picture books.
You can walk Picture a Tree at Mountain Drive Park, in Hamilton Ontario – winter, spring, summer and fall. What is your favourite tree season?
Picture a Tree Storywalk®
Fox Walked Alone has been selected as a PJ Library title for September. PJ Library sends out free Jewish children’s books and music to Jewish and interfaith families on a monthly basis by subscription. Tens of thousands of Jewish children have a PJ Library book or CD mailed to them each month. The PJ Library books and music are available for children between 6 months and 8 years of age, depending on the available funding in each community.
Children that have been enrolled in PJ Library receive age-appropriate books highlighting Jewish holidays, values, Bible stories, and folklore. Books are selected by the PJ Library Book Selection Committee. Working with authors, publishers and editors, the committee strives to ensure that the finest Jewish books for children find their way each month into the mailboxes of all PJ Library families. Many of the PJ Library books have won prestigious awards, including the Caldecott Medal and the Sydney Taylor Book Award.
I’m delighted to know that Fox will be making some new friends!
Of all the tools I use to create plasticine artwork my favourite is an old Letraset burnisher that has been around since my art college days. It’s spoon shaped metal tip, originally made for transferring rub-on lettering, is just the thing for adding texture and smoothing tiny details in clay. Over the years it has been nibbled to a nub of it’s former self, and I never let it out of the studio for fear of losing it.
Recently, a mysterious brown paper package arrived in the mail. To my surprise and delight it contained a twin of my burnisher – in perfect condition. My dear OCAD friend Dawn had found it when organizing her studio. Having seen my beaten up burnisher in a post, she and graciously sent me hers. Hooray! I’m set up for a few more decades. Thanks Dawn!
Tools of the trade and vintage burninshers
You can see the original artwork of these teddy bears from Sing a Song of Bedtime at the exhibit Three Bears and Beyond: Children’s Books About Bears, on display at the Osborne Collection in the beautiful Lillian Smith Branch of the Toronto Public Library. The show runs from July 11, 2016 – September 3, 2016. Of course, there’s always something to see at the Osborne, where you can get up close to fabulous original artwork and materials from children’s books past and present.