Today was the official start of my TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour in Toronto and surrounding areas.
Yesterday, I chronicled my long travel day. Despite that long day, and the time difference, I sprang out of bed this morning before my alarm actually went off. Always a good sign!
I had three different places to visit, so I made sure I left with extra travel time to spare. Which I needed, because I got lost twice before even arriving at my visit—the first time just trying to find my way to the hotel parking lot from the front lobby.
Do NOT underestimate my ability to get lost!
Enchanted vessels at Shaughnessy Public School
My first visit was for an audience of K-6 in a gymnasium setting. Gyms aren’t my favorite places to present because they are often so big and vacuous and, for some reason I can never fathom, schools are always keen to arrange the kids so that there is giant 100-foot gap between me and them. At Shaughnessy Public School, though, the gym is small and intimate, and I could easily interact with the kids.
Here’s a picture of me at the presentation (photo by Grace Wu).
Part of my presentation included an interactive brainstorming session based around the theme of “enchanted vessels.” I led them through the activity, asking them to consider important details for their vessels, including shape, design, decoration, and other sensory details—such as sounds that the vessel might make, or what it might feel like to touch it. Of course, they also had to decide how it could be opened and what it might contain.
Secret doorways at St. Joseph’s Catholic School
My next stop was only a short drive away. I didn’t get lost! I had plenty of time to unload my kit, drop it off to the school, then go for lunch. The school is located in the Leslie Village neighborhood and I really dug it. There were so many old doors along Queen Street! (Anyone who knows me, knows I dig doors).
Here’s a beautiful flourish I found decorating just one of the many neat doors I encountered.
After lunch, I headed back to the school and set up my space in the library. I had an enthusiastic group of Grades 3-6 who were bursting with questions about my props and approach to writing.
Similar to the morning session, I led the students in an interactive brainstorming session, but this time around the theme of—you guessed it—doors.
Here are some of the kids’ creations:
Spellbinding suitcases at the Children’s Book Bank
My final visit was at the Children’s Book Bank, which is a wonderful little hybrid between a library and a bookshop—except no one pays for the book. The Book Bank provides free books and literacy support to children living in low-income neighborhoods across Toronto.
I absolutely adored the space in its beautiful brick building with its delightful corners for curling up and reading a good book or two.
But there was no time for ME to disappear into a book during my visit. I was busy presenting to two different afternoon groups!
I was also treated to a great surprise—two representatives, Emma and Kirsti, came from the Children’s Book Centre to watch me at work and take photos. I actually like it when parents, teachers, school board trustees, and other representatives come to see my workshops and presentations because I think that’s the only true way to really get to understand what I do.
Having said that, what I delivered at the Children’s Book Bank was pretty different from what I usually do. Because of the intimate setting, I didn’t show slides, but simply sat down, and told stories using all of the items in my wizard’s suitcase as visual aids.
They were enthralled, to say the least—which was good, because the activity I had for them was decorating and designing a suitcase that might belong to a traveler who would visit Zoone. Afterwards, they got to think about what that traveler might have inside his suitcase.
It was all over in a blur!
Favorite question of the day
I get bombarded with questions during a school visit, and I always like to try and pick out one or two that really stand out. The first question that pops into my head came from Shaughnessy Public School. A girl asked, “How do you get all these names for these characters and worlds?”
But I think my true favorite question came from a little girl at the Children’s Book Bank, who asked, “Can I buy your notebook?”
The answer, of course, was “NO!” Why? Well, that brainstorming notebook is howI come up with all of those names for my characters and worlds!
You can see the brainstorming book in the photo below (photo courtesy of Emma Hunter at the Children’s Book Centre).
About Book Week
TD Canadian Children’s Book Week is the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children’s books and the importance of reading. Hundreds of schools, public libraries, bookstores and community centres host events as part of this major literary festival.