Day 2 of my TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour was a wild one, presenting four times in three different locations. Because of that I didn’t have time to get many photos—it was go, go, go!
But here is one of me at the end of my first presentation, courtesy of one of the teachers at Carruthers Creek Public School:
A very literary day
There was a very literary theme to my day—and not just because I’m an author on tour! I stayed over night in a town called Ajax and on my way to present at the local library, drove on Achilles Road. Obviously, there is quite a Greek Mythology theme here. At one other point, I presented at a school on Byron Road (I was tempted to take out a sharpie and add “Lord” on the street sign)!
Another theme to the day was that there was a lot of variety. Doing a tour like this can sometimes feel like your trapped in a recurring dream, in which you are doing the same thing over and over again. Since becoming a published author, I now understand why touring bands get tired of playing the same old songs over and over again. After awhile, everything can blur together and I often forget if I have already said something to a group, of if that was something said I mentioned earlier in the day.
But that was not a problem today! All of my presentations were very distinctive . . .
Ajax Public Library
My first presentation was at the local public library, which means the kids were coming from a nearby school. I had 125 Grade 3 kids in attendance. Once I arrived at the library, and was “on the ground” so to speak, I realized that my usual format wasn’t going to quite the right fit. The space was excellent, but it wasn’t exactly conducive to doing a brainstorming session.
Plus, my time was really tight—I had to make sure I ended right on time so that I could jump in the car and zoom to my next school. That meant that if the kids (who were coming from offsite) were even five or ten minutes late, then the whole thing would be too rushed.
On top of all this, the library tech was in a bit of a panic because the technology and hookups weren’t working. So, with all these factors floating around, I decided that “less is more” and made the call to drop the brainstorming activity and just focus on my presentation and Q&A.
As it turned out, the tech didn’t have anything to worry about because I have a Mac. Which means I simply plugged in my computer and—as always—ta da!
It also turned out that I had made the right call with the format. By the time the last group made it into the presentation space, we were ten minutes in. I jumped to it!
As has been a common thread on this tour, the kids were fascinated by my suitcase of magic stuff! If I actually start taking the offers I’m getting to purchase all of these things, I could probably retire—because when nine-year-old kids offer me four thousand dollars for my Zoone key, I can assume they’re good for the money—RIGHT?
By the way, I keep telling everyone that they don’t have to offer to buy my Zoone key. They can make their own! Mine was 3D printed by my friend Jeff Porter and he was good enough to supply the print file, which can be downloaded off The Secret of Zoone page on my website. The direct link to the 3D print file is here.
A character in a suitcase at Hatch House Montessori School
After presenting at the Ajax Public Library, I zoomed to a Montessori School in Whitby. This was an incredible 90-year old building that looks like a castle!
The inside was just as amazing, with rich wood paneling along the narrow hallways. I simply just didn’t have time to take photos; in truth, I would have loved exploring that building for a couple of hours. (I bet there are cool doors down in the basement!)
The great thing about this presentation is that it was very intimate, with only twelve students in attendance. So, I didn’t need to set up my computer and projector; I just simple opened up my wizard’s suitcase and started showing the kids my artifacts.
Afterwards, we handed out blank paper and I had the kids design their own suitcases. The previous day, at the Children’s Book Bank in Toronto, I had provided the kids with premade templates, but that was mostly because they were younger and sometimes a bit more structure can be more helpful.
But at Hatch House, I had more time and less students, so I led them through a more organized process. As they designed their suitcases, I had them think about what characters would own them. Many of the kids chose characters such as princesses, spies, pirates, or magical animals (we even had a half-human, half-dragon—a “dragonoid”).
One impish student, however, decided that the owner of her suitcase was ME. Based on this drawing, I need some dental work—STAT!
This activity is a lot of fun because it allows students to develop character (and story) from a different perspective—by SHOWING the character’s personality by the things he or she owns. (Writing teachers? We love to harp on our students about showing not telling.)
Enchanted trees and magical markets with Immanuel Christian School
After Hatch House, I jumped in my car, set my GPS, and roared off to the next school. Unfortunately, my GPS and my Google Maps print-out (because, yes, I like to have a back-up) were both convinced that the school was in Oshawa.
It is not.
It is also in Whitby—which means I went completely the opposite direction and got lost. To be fair to everyone (including me!) the school usedto be in Oshawa. I finally pulled over, rechecked some information and got turned around in time to make it to the school in time for both lunch and my presentations.
My first workshop was with the junior grades (1-5). In this presentation, I talked about enchanted trees and showed pictures of various trees that I have “collected” during my travels (don’t worry—I don’t take snippings! My collection just involves photos).
Afterwards, we brainstormed our own trees, including what the tree looks like, what it might grow, and who might live in it!
The kids came up with their own unique designs; as for the group tree, we ended up with a donut tree.
As you can see, he is really grumpy and doesn’t want to share his donuts, even though he has such nice rainbow-coloured leaves. Thankfully, there is a donut dragon living in his foliage, ready to swoop in and help weary and hungry travellers sneak a treat!
The second group was the tweens and teens. I showed them some photos of my visits to markets in Europe, Asia, Egypt, and Guatemala then we brainstormed our own magical shops, inventing all kinds of mysterious, arcane, or enchanted items that might be for sale. As you can see, the kids took great delight in populating the shop with different sorts of EGGS (because, as soon as you tell kids you can’t stand eggs, they go to town). Also, they added dragon poop. Yep, they went there. So, if you think about it, our market features the complete cycle of life.
Favourite question of the day
My favourite question from today was one I’ve never had before: “Which book did you enjoy writing the most?”
I often get asked which book I like the most, but not which one I liked writing the most. I actually didn’t have an answer for this question! Each book involves its own unique challenges. I think I remember more of the emotional torment I feel while writing a book—not the positive stuff. There are certainly times when I’m writing that everything is flowing smoothly, but then I don’t think about it—I’m just going with that flow. But when something is going wrong—like I’ve just tumbled into a massive plot hole—that’s what I really remember!
Well, tomorrow will be a unique day on this tour. I’m spending the entire day at a single school! (Which, for those keeping track, really reduces my opportunities for getting lost.)
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.