A super crime to get a super camp started

Day One of the CWC Superhero camp is in the books.

My fellow teachers are James McCann and Kallie George and we each hit the ground running with some pretty fantastic activities. James set the kids up by leading them in a workshop of “origin” stories, while Kallie helped the kids design masks . . .




As for me, I decided to start the camp by having the kids invent a super crime for their superheroes to solve. And that meant making ransom letters. This is a great art and writing project that more or less turns into a treasure hunt for letters!

Here are some of the photos of the activity in process.






As you can imagine, this workshop creates quite a bit of mess. Luckily, we were able to procure a vacuum at the end of the day to just hoover away the mess!

Tomorrow’s task? Superhero theme songs and logos!

Best books ~ as picked by my students

Every term, as part of my workshops at CWC, my students and I read and discuss a series of books. This list is from my home learner’s class, which consisted of kids aged 8-13. The books are rated out of 10, and I have presented them here, ranked from their least favourite to their most favourite. Thanks to Janna for keeping track of our scores each week.

Lunch Money

14. Lunch Money
Written by Brian Clements / Illustrated by Brian Selznik
Average rating: 4.85

Greg has had a long-time feud with his neighbour, Maura, but when the two decide to work together to start their own comic book business, they start an unlikely friendship and learn a few lessons about community, capitalism, and censorship.

* * *

The Tiger Rising

13: Tiger Rising
Written by Kate DiCamillo
One of my favourite authors delivers a compelling tale about a boy with a fascinating secret. I’m disappointed that this one didn’t rate higher with my students, but I think it didn’t quite grab the attention of the younger members of this particular class.
Average score: 4.9

* * *

Meeting MIss 405

12: Meeting Miss 405
Written by Lois Peterson
This is a beautiful book that, despite its short length, is able to tackle a number of issues including friendship, mental depression, and the power of observation. It’s a book that matches well with any discussion on writing.
Average score: 5.10

* * *

Time Cat

11: Time Cat
Written by Lloyd Alexander
I absolutely adore this book, in which a boy discovers a very special time-travelling device: his cat. Together Gareth and Jason travel through history, visiting various time periods. It’s a great fantasy adventure that teaches more than just a little about history.
Average score: 5.47

* * *

Mr. Karp's Last Glass

10: Mr. Karp’s Last Glass
Written by Cary Fagan
This book goes very well with a show-and-tell class as it’s all about collecting . . . in particular, it’s about one of the strangest collections you’ve ever heard of: water!
Average score: 5.55

* * *

The Magic Thief

9: The Magic Thief
Written by Sarah Prineas
I really love this book—and so did most of my students, so I’m surprised it didn’t rate higher. It has distinctive characters, an interesting setting, and and a well-constructed plot. But what puts this book over the top for me is the beautiful, literary language. I was hooked from the first chapter!
Average score: 6.10

* * *

Mr. Gum and the Goblins

8: Mr. Gum and the Goblins
Written by Andy Stanton
There’s many books in the Mr. Gum series, but I think this is my favourite. Author Andy Stanton makes gentle fun of the fantasy-adventure genre to produce a lot of laugh-out-loud moments.
Average score: 6.15

* * *

City of Ember

7: City of Ember
Written by Jeanne DuPrau
This book usually scores well with my students. It combines adventure and mystery against a dystopian backdrop to deliver a compelling tale about two children who are finding a way to save their world. As always, the book is better than the movie version!
Average score: 6.38

* * *

Close to Famous

6: Close to Famous
Written by Joan Bauer
Probably the most “modern” book on our list, this book seemed to connect with everyone in the class. It tells the story of twelve-year-old Foster as she and her mother move to a town and try to adjust to life after fleeing an abusive situation. They start many new friendships with the various characters in their new community.
Average score: 6.70

* * *

The Lemonade Crime

5: The Lemonade Crime
Written by Jacqueline Davies
This is the thought-provoking sequel to The Lemonade War. It’s generally for the Grade 4 set, but my older kids obviously liked it well enough, as it ranked high on our list. It’s a great doorway for a discussion on ethics, crime, and punishment.
Average score: 6.90

* * *

An Elephant in the Garden

4: An Elephant in the Garden
Written by Michael Morpurgo
One of my favourite authors tells a story with his two go-to subjects: animals and war. It is inspired by the real-life bombing of Dresden during World War II.
Average score: 7.33

* * *


3. Masterpiece
Written by Elise Broach / Illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Average rating: 7.75

A boy and a bug try to solve an art heist of miniature paintings by Albrecht Durër.  In many ways, this is the perfect sort of middle-grade read, full of strong, well-developed characters. It’s a great book to connect to art history.

 * * *

Liesl & Po

2: Liesl & Po
Written by Lauren Oliver
This book is told in a classical style, and deals with the delicate subject of death—but in a beautiful way. When an alchemist’s apprentice named Will accidentally loses a box holding great magic, he is forced to flee his wicked master. He soon finds himself in the company of a peculiar pair, the grieving girl Liesl and the mysterious ghost named Po.
Average score: 8.75

* * *

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

1: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Written by C.S. Lewis
The classic holds up with this class! We all love Narnia. In fact, I like to call us the Narnia Nerds!
Average score: 9.0

The Emperor of Een

Even though there is a major new adversary in Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen, there are also a few returning foes as well—and none is bigger than Burdock Brown.

While Kendra, Uncle Griffinskitch, and the rest of her companions have been off seeking the City on the Storm, Burdock has become the self-appointed Emperor of Een. Of course, Een is normally ruled by a Council of Elders, but Burdock has disbanded the council, converted the Elder Stone into a sort of palace, and is gorging himself (quite literally) on all the rewards of power.

Burdock Brown on the throne of Een.

A ticket to the Jamboreen

If you lived in the Land of Een, you’d be celebrating Jamboreen today—the biggest and most exciting holiday of the year. I have always thought of it as part county fair, part Halloween, and part circus.

The Jamboreen featured prominently in Kendra Kandlestar and the Crack in Kazah, but since I will be teaching a creative writing camp in Korea this summer based on the theme of the circus, I decided to revisit the idea of the Jamboreen by creating a ticket and an invitation (or a poster, if your prefer) for the event.

These will be great activities for my students, too; they can create their own circuses or carnivals and then design all of the paraphernalia to go with them!



The final design of the snifferoo

A while back I posted some sketches of the snifferoo, the latest gadget from the inventive mind of Ratchet Ringtail. After a lot of consultation with my “trusted others” I finally decided upon a final design:

Oki and the snifferoo

Here it is, with labels.


It was actually my editor, who helped me decide upon the final design. She suggested that the one I chose looked to be the LEAST practical. To which I immediately responded, “You just described Ratchet!”

In all fairness to Ratchet, the snifferoo actually plays an important part in Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen. Indeed, it will save the skins of our intrepid heroes more than once!

The night of the Walking Read — this is how children’s authors cut loose

Last night was the twentieth anniversary part of the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrators of BC (CWILL BC) and we did it up right with a costume gala that raised money for the BC Children’s Hospital foundation. As part of the executive committee of CWILL, I put quite a bit of elbow grease into this event, so I was happy to see so many people turn out to celebrate, and to support a great cause. It’s not often that you get so many talented children’s authors, illustrators, and performers in one place—the result was quite the spectacle.

Here’s just a smattering of photos from the evening . . .

Marcie and I went as two characters from Kendra Kandlestar and the Crack in Kazah. This is me as Leemus Longbraids (with his sidekick, Prospero) and Marcie as Gayla Griffinskitch, in full Jamboreen regalia.


Here’s a close up of my ears.


And Gayla’s hair . . .


This is the Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood (he deservedly won the best costume prize).


Picture book author Dan Bar-el did it up right as Ali Baba.


Jacqueline Pearce dressed as Emily Carr’s older sister—a character from one of her own books, Emily’s Dream.


There were a few Paper Bag Princesses; this incarnation is the one created by children’s author Vi Hughes.


When world’s collide; Gayla and Leemus are joined by Indiana Jones.


And then by the dragon from Dan Bar-el’s book Not Your Typical Dragon (though that’s author and performer Lori Sherritt Fleming in the costume).


This is another prize-winning costume: Mary Poppins, as worn by author Pam Withers.


Sirius Black was rocking it as a drummer in the band.


Even Waldo was there (though we had trouble finding him most of the night.)


Books with Seoul

Many of my students in theCWC program are participating this week in theSeoul International Book Fair by presenting and launching their books that they have spent the past several months creating. The students not only wrote their own books, but also designed their own covers. In some cases they illustrated their own work, or found stock photography that they wanted to use in the designs. I helped them with the final polishing (drawing on my experience as a graphic designer), but the ideas are all theirs.

I’m really proud of them—the covers look great!















Meet Mercy Moonwing

Here’s an illustration of a new character that will appear in Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen. This is Mercy Moonwing, a hummingbird who is a leading member of the underground resistance movement known as the Knights of Winter. She is somewhat easily flustered, with a forgetful memory, but don’t take her for granted! Despite her small size, she is a swift and sneaky flyer. As such, she plays an important role in the final, epic battle that occurs at the end of the book.


Designing the snifferoo

Ratchet Ringtail is famous for his zany inventions in the Kendra Kandlestar series and in the fifth and final book, he’s come up with one of his zaniest yet. It’s the snifferoo, which is essentially like a tape recorder—but instead of recording and playing sounds, it records and plays SMELLS.

This gadget has been in the story for a long time, and I’ve been doodling concepts for its appearance for over a year . . . but nothing has really taken shape until recently. I’ve looked at phonographs, old-fashioned radios, and even tea kettles to get inspiration. I want it to look cute and dangerous at the same time (the snifferoo seems to behave like a naughty robot throughout the story). Here’s a snapshot of my workspace, showing some of my designs so far.