Weapons of Unger: New artwork from Kendra Kandlestar 5

In previous Kendra Kandlestar books I have always shown the Ungers carrying fairly traditional weapons (axes, spears, and the like). In the latest Kendra Kandlestar book, the Ungers find themselves engaged in a full-scale war, so I thought I would give them a new set of weapons to help emphasize their barbaric nature and the desperate nature of their circumstance.

A few years ago, my friend James McCann gave me an excellent book called Swords: An Artist’s Devotion by Ben Boos. Flipping through the pages of wonderful artwork, I found plenty of inspiration . . . below is just a few of the sketches I’ve produced thus far.

Unger weapons.

Kazah makes the Best Books List for 2012

Best Book for Kids and Teens 2012I just received the official press release from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) announcing the release of their Spring Edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens 2012 and—as I tweeted a couple days ago—Kendra Kandlestar and the Crack in Kazah has made the list.

I’m thrilled, especially since it’s the fourth in a series (and these are the types of things that give me fuel as I toil away on Kendra Kandlestar 5).

I’m also pleased that my friends and colleagues both have books that made the list (Vikki Van Sickle for Love is a Four-Letter Word and Dan Bar-el for Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, Where Have You Been?)

As stated in CCBC’s own press release, all of the titles in Best Books for Kids & Teens have been handpicked by expert committees of educators, booksellers, school and public librarians from across Canada. You can find out more at CCBC’s website.

Safari Camp: here we come!

CWC Safari Camp

This Friday I embark on a six-day adventure to teach the CWC Safari Camp with fellow instructors James McCann and Kallie George. If you’re coming—get ready! You will receive your very own Safari log book and you’ll earn a different stamp each day (that is, if you survive!).

There will be a host of activities, of course. We will learn how to survive all the typical traps and dangers of a Safari. We’ll map our own “Danger Island.” We’ll design our own safari “ride.” And, of course, we’ll write about it all!

Of course, if that isn’t enough for you, and you find yourself getting bored, you can always play with our camp mascot, (I call him Cocoa the Koala; I’m guessing Kallie will want to call him Koaly. As for James? He probably doesn’t like to touch wild animals!)

Concept sketch for the crazed king

I thought I would post this sketch of one of the new characters in Kendra Kandlestar 5. He is a king, but I don’t want to reveal his name at this time.

I actually showed a picture of him in an earlier post, but after writing some of the crucial scenes with him, I realized that the visual wasn’t matching his personality. Here’s the original sketch, which shows him looking rather benign:


This is the latest one and, as you can see, he looks a little more moody and perhaps not so kind. He plays a very important role in the new book.


More photos from our Safari Film shoot

Earlier in the year I posted some behind-the-scenes photos from the safari movie we are filming for our upcoming CWC summer camp. I thought our shoot was all wrapped and then I returned from Bangkok to find that we needed to some pick-ups scenes.

So we found ourselves out in the park again this past weekend, this time making use of the green screen to film a cave of spiders. The film will star myself, James McCann, Kallie George, and Marcie Nestman. But the real star of the show is Luke Spence Byrd, who wrote the script, directed us, and is doing all of the editing and post production. I can’t wait to see the final product—and either can you, especially if you want to see me besieged by lions, cannibals, spiders, snapping plants, and a rumbling volcano!

Safari filming.

Safari filming.

Safari filming.

Safari filming.

Safari filming.

Best books ~ picked by kids for kids

Every term, as part of my workshops at CWC, my students and I read and discuss fourteen books. This year I thought I would share the books that we studied in my “Junior Novel” class. We always rate the books out of 10. Here’s the list of our books, in order of preference, based on the average score. All the books are worth checking out! You’ll notice that the lowest average score was 7.0.

The Great Good Thing.

1: The Great Good Thing by Roderick Townley
Just what do characters get up to when they are not being read? This book is a must-read for anyone who likes to write!
Average score: 9.0

* * *

Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes

2: Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier
This lengthier book is told in a classical fashion—and a marvellous first line (oh, how I love good first lines). The author provides some delightful illustrations.
Average score: 8.7

* * *

An Elephant in the Garden
3: An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo

One of my favourite authors indulges in his favourit subject: animals in the midst of World War II.
Average score: 80.5

* * *

The Familiars

4: The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobsen
This book rated very high with my older students—even though I thought it would be for a younger audience (my younger class, by contrast, had some very rancorous response!).
Average score: 8.0

* * *

The Lemonade Crime

5: The Lemonade Crime by Jacqueline Davies
An engaging and thought-provoking sequel to The Lemonade War. Generally for the Grade 4 set, but my older kids obviously liked it well enough.
Average score: 7.6

* * *


6: Messenger by Lois Lowry
Another favourite author and a companion novel to The Giver. This book didn’t rate as high with the students as the other companion novel they studied last term, Gathering Blue.
Average score: 7.6

* * *

The Mystery of the Whistling Caves

7: The Mystery of the Whistling Caves by Helen Moss
In the grand tradition of the Hardy Boys comes this book told in a classical, straight-forward fashion.
Average score: 7.5

* * *

No Such Things as Dragons

8: No Such Things as Dragons by Philip Reeve
A well-told story about the thrilling hunt for an elusive beast . . . will you root for the hunter or the hunted?
Average score: 7.4

* * *

The Wee Free Men

9: Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
This is one of my personal all-time favourites; I wish my kids would have agreed! But they found the dialogue of the Feegles challenges (Ack! Crivens! Ye Ken?).
Average score: 7.3

* * *

The Unluckiest Boy in the World

10: The Unluckiest Boy in the World by Andrew Norriss
This is one of my new favourite books. I wish my students loved this one as much as me!
Average score: 7.25

* * *

The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman.

11: The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters
My students felt this book’s secret wasn’t much of a secret after all, but I loved the musical plot.
Average score: 7.2

* * *

The Edge Chronicles: Beyond the Deep Woods

12: The Edge Chronicles: Beyond the Deep Woods by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
This book was introduced to me by a student from a writer-in-residence experience I led at a school on the Sunshine Coast—I wished it would have rated higher with this class. The vocabulary is rich and the illustrations are amazing.
Average score: 7.15

* * *

The Tiger Rising

13: Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo
One of my favourite authors delivers a compelling tale about a boy with a fascinating secret.
Average score: 7.1

* * *

Project Mulberry

14: Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park
This is my favourite book by this author, as it features one of my favourite foods (kimchi). The author also uses an interesting device to take us into the heart and mind of her central character.
Average score: 7.0

New artwork for Kendra Kandlestar 5: In the belly of the beast

Here’s an illustration of an important sequence in Kendra Kandlestar 5. At one time, I had conceived of this scene as opening the book, but it kept getting pushed back. Now it doesn’t occur until Chapter 7!

Once I figured out when I wanted to happen, I did a rough sketch. You can see that I was already thinking about how it would work with the text.

Rough sketch for "Belly of the Beast."

Here’s the final illustration . . . but you still might be able to determine from this picture just exactly where Kendra is! (That’s okay; you’ll know soon enough!)

In the belly of the beast

The emperor of Een

I thought I would post this snapshot of my sketchbook, showing my musings for Burdock Brown and what he’s up to in the Land of Een while Kendra is off searching for the City on the Storm (and her family). You can see he’s given himself a promotion!

Oh, and you will also see a tiny sketch of a mouse—that’s not Oki, my friends, but one of his little sisters (he has eight of them, as you might recall!).

Emperor Burdock sketch.

Welcome to the City on the Storm

A few weeks ago, I posted sketches of the major new location, the City on the Storm, which will appear in my new Kendra Kandlestar book. I worked on this a little bit while I was in Bangkok, but never got to finish it until I returned to my home studio. I ended up doing two versions.

This was my first version:

The Big Bang approaches the City on the Storm

It was okay, but I decided I didn’t like the giant, round clouds. So I did a second version:

I hope you like it!

The Knights of Winter Woodsong

I didn’t have much time to work on my own writing and illustrating while I was on my recent trip in Thailand, but a few scribbles did find their way into my sketchbook, including two pages about the Knights of Winter Woodsong.

Well, at least that’s what I think they will be called. These are members of the underground resistance that are hiding out in the secret tunnels beneath the Land of Een and trying to survive the tyrannical rule of Burdock Brown.

Knights of Winter Woodsong - sketch

Knights of Winter Woodsong - sketch