Rejoicing in Reading at the Kids’ Lit Quiz

kidslitquiz_logoOne of my best experiences of 2015 so far was participating in the Kids Lit Quiz.

The Kids’ Lit Quiz is an annual reading competition for children aged ten to thirteen. It’s an international competition, with students from New Zealand, the UK, South Africa, Canada, the US, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia participating. The winning teams qualify for national and world finals!

The tournament I attended was for Western Canada, so the winning team went on to Toronto to compete for the national title. The Western Canada tournament was held at Little Flower Academy on a Friday afternoon on January 23rd. I was part of the author team. We weren’t allowed to win, but we competed just for fun and to help provide entertainment and support for the students who were playing for keeps.

Our author team was dubbed The Quizzards of Oz and consisted of myself, Kallie George, Tanya Lloyd Kyi, and Stacey Matson.

Here we are before the three-hour tournament:


Personally, I was pretty nervous about questions regarding vampire romances or young adult dystopian novels, but we ended up scoring a respectable 92.5 out of a 100. There were ten rounds of ten, with categories such as “Giants,” “Harry Potter,” “Book Knowledge,” “Classics”, “Comics”, and “The Last” (all about the last parts of books or series).


The Western Canada tournament, like all the tournaments in the world, was managed by quiz master Wayne Mills, who had travelled all the way from New Zealand to Vancouver the day before. Despite inevitable jetlag, he delivered the questions with charm and humor. Here he is with Stacey Matson. You have to love his hat!


The winner of the Western Canada heat, from Southbridge Elementary, won a very cool trophy. But there was plenty of swag to go round—every team came away with a stack of books.


It was such fun to see the kids competing. They took it SO seriously, and it was a joy to see them embrace literature.

The Kids’ Lit Quiz is not for profit and run entirely by volunteers. You can find out more at

Egg-citing description

In a recent post, I shared some photos of one of my favorite creative workshops, which for the sake of simplicity I just call Dragon Eggs. In this workshop, the students design, build, and paint their own magical creature egg and then imagine what creature will hatch out of it.

I tie this activity in with a discussion of the five senses. Since the students have an actual prop to work with, they can easily imagine the visuals of the egg and get to experience it with a tactile perspective. From that point on, it’s not too difficult to start imagining sights, sounds, and even tastes.

I recently delivered this workshop for a second time this year . . . here’s some of the students’ creations!

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Not your average eggs . . .

Creative writing demands creative ideas, so in my latest workshop, I led my students in crafting some magical creature eggs. This is a great activity for getting kids to think about the five sense. As they create their eggs, they also have to complete a worksheet that asks them to consider what the egg looks like, what it sounds like, what it smells like, what it feels like to carry, and even what it might feel like to eat (after all, there might be predators after the egg).

Of course, some of those things they have to imagine, but others, such as what it looks like, and what it feels like to touch, are right there for them to explore.

Here are some of the photos of my students’ creations . . .

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Picturing the past

I’ve had a busy start to 2015, spending a lot of time writing and prepping for all the travels, touring, and teaching that’s coming up for me in the Spring.

One of my exciting projects is to teach a picture book class for kids with the fabulous author, Kallie George. Kallie really knows her stuff when it comes to writing a picture book (she’s got several in the pipeline to come out in the next few years). As for me, I’ve never written a picture book (well, at least one that I tried to publish), but I have illustrated a few, most notably I’ll Follow the Moon and The Chocolatier’s Apprentice.

Which is all to say that my role in the class will be mostly to help the students with the design and illustration part of the picture book process.

All of this has prompted me to unearth the picture books from the various corners and bookshelves, and now my studio is awash in them! Here’s a photo of some of one of my piles . . .


In the top left is my all-time favorite, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears. Another one I found (from when I was a kid) is The King with Six Friends. I read that one COUNTLESS times. 

Of a newer vintage is The Runaway Alphabet, which you can see in the top corner. It is by my friend, Kari-Lynn Winters. It features a CD with a reading of the story and both my goddaughter and I played parts. Really, my goddaughter was the main character and I was just there to support her and ended up playing one of the smaller roles. It’s my only voice-acting gig to date. I think my official credit is “Whiny Kid”.

So many books, so many memories. It’s funny how emotionally connected people are to the books they read at such a young age. When I mentioned The King with Six Friends on social media, I was surprised by some of the response. One of my closest friends said he remembered that book from when he was a kid, but couldn’t remember the title, the author, or anything about it other than the story. He said it has driven him nuts for years. It’s pretty cool that we had such a strong love for the same book.

I can’t wait to ask my students about their favorite picture books, too. I wonder . . . what was yours?