“Forest of Reading” Breakfast 2013… and some reviews from kids!


Last week, I got to eat breakfast with a room full of people celebrating the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading Program (the program that nominated Margaret and the Moth Tree for the Silver Birch Express Award!).

It was a treat to meet the librarians and to chat with some fellow nominees. And listening to the speeches about the program, it really got me thinking about what it’s like for teachers and librarians nowadays, helping to raise a generation of young readers. This is a group of people who work a lot of unpaid overtime to bring literacy to kids, whose programs often lack the funding they need, and who are always trying to reach struggling, disengaged kids.

So when a literacy program comes along that’s as popular and effective as Forest of Reading is, it makes you want to get to your feet and cheer.

As I wrote about when nominations were announced, Forest of Reading is an annual youth reading challenge, in which ten books are selected for each age category by a group of librarians. Kids read the nominated books, then they get to decide which title takes home the prize at the end of the school year, and attend a super exciting awards ceremony where they get all worked up cheering for their favourites. Usually kids will take part within their schools, with the support of their teachers, or sometimes they’ll take part through a parent-run book club.

Something I’ve heard so many times — and something I can’t wait to witness firsthand — is that kids just love this program. It gets them excited about starting the next book on the list, and it gets them to form opinions and start discussions about what they like to read.

It’s a pretty inspiring thing, especially when it comes to reluctant boy readers. I heard someone at my table say, “Usually, it’s only the girls whose hands you have to pry a book out of when reading time is over. But after taking part in Forest of Reading, it was the boys in the class who wouldn’t let go of their books.”

Let the reading games begin!

Being nominated for one of these awards is a wonderful boost for any author, but especially for a new author. It’s obviously really encouraging to know that a committee of librarians thought your book worthy enough to nominate it. But beyond that, being a Forest of Reading title means that your book gets brought into schools in a way that it otherwise wouldn’t. It means that more teachers know about it, more students read it, and (my personal favourite part)… we get to hear kids’ thoughts on our book!

The students have started posting their reactions on the Forest of Reading online community… here are some delightful bits of conversation from the Margaret and the Moth Tree forum. 🙂


“I think this book was awesome because it showed a lot of caring and it also showed how a little girls life could become spectacular, in just a little time!”

“I think that this book is a great book because it shows how teamwork works.”

“This is so cool it is about a girl who goes to an orphanage. WOW! You should read it because Margaret saves the day!”

“I didn’t like this book because it was sad that miss switch was so mean.”

“This one’s plot is terrific and some parts are funny.”

“I love this book because it is funny and it is great for all ages.”

“I like this book because it has a good ending and it makes a lot of sense so you guys should read it.”

“Such a great book! i loved how every chapter started with a saying or a lesson. And there couldn’t have been a better ending!”

“Wow, this book was both funny and terrifying at the same time (how would you like to dangle on a window sill on a blistery day). We learned that you shouldn’t judge someone by the way they look or a book by its cover. Ms. Switch is such a lovely lady………..”

“I think this is a great book because it tells you that at the loneliest times you can still make friends and make the situation better.”

On our book becoming an eBook; Or, My Luddite life


My, how the world has changed…

At the risk of sounding like an old fart at the advanced age of 29, when I was young, things were so different! We passed elaborately folded notes in class instead of texts, we used landline phones to talk for hours after school (doing three-way calls if we were really fancy), and emails were sent from the family desktop or in computer labs. Before Skype came on the scene, my now-husband and I didn’t see each other’s faces for six months when I went away on a student exchange. I know that’s nothing compared to, say, The Penelopiad — but for young people nowadays, that would be unthinkable!

On top of all the technological evolution that’s happened since I was a teenager, I’m also one of those people who’s often suspected/been told that they might have been more at home in another century altogether. Over the past decade, the comments have graduated from “It’s so annoying that you don’t text” to “We’re all on Facebook… why aren’t you?” to “It’s so annoying that you don’t have a smartphone.” (Full disclosure: I still listen to books-on-tape that are actual cassette tapes, on a cassette player that makes a ticking noise due to being dropped on the ground so many times. What can I say, it’s comforting!)

I’ve since taken one step after another into the iPad-iPod-iEverything world. But to my former Luddite self, thinking back on how Brit and I couldn’t have written “Margaret and the Moth Tree” without today’s technology is amazing. And the news that “Margaret and the Moth Tree” is now available as an e-book is pretty mind-boggling.

For those of you taking part in the reading revolution… here she be on Kobo!

“Margaret and the Moth Tree” on Kobo!


This cartoon from Debbie Ohi is true-to-life, as I observed over the holidays when I witnessed my two-year-old nephew trying to figure out why the television wasn’t a giant touch-screen. His little finger kept swiping and swiping…


Books that stay with you

“It is a great thing to start life with a small number
of really good books which are your very own.”
~Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
No matter what exhilarating, beautiful, unputdownable books you may come across as an adult, there’s something about stories you read when you were young. I think most of us have kids’ books and writers we devoured, in a way that you never quite devour books again once you’ve grown up.
Here are mine!
(I have terrible trouble with “top ten” lists.)
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
any Roald Dahl, but especially Danny, The Champion of the World
the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit
The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander
the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen
Ella, Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Swan Lake by Mark Helprin and Chris Van Allsburg
The Nine Days Queen by Karleen Bradford
Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
The Indian in the Cupboard series by Lynne Reid Banks
Jacob TwoTwo Meets the Hooded Fang by Mordecai Richler
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
I Am David by Anne Holm
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Some of these I haven’t ever re-read, but the memory of them – the way I felt when I read them – is still vivid. Others I return to every couple of years for a reunion, like a long-lost member of the family.
Because I’m always curious…
What are your “books for life”?