Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Deb Ellis

I have just returned from taking Deborah Ellis to her hotel after her last presentation during the Victoria leg of her western tour. I have spent the last several days listening to Deb address the effects of war, aids, poverty, and the drug trade on the lives of children with audiences that ranged from grade four students to senior citizens. The importance of the themes that Deb’s stories bring to the forefront are especially evident in the questions the young people in her audience ask; questions like how can kids live in prisons, why can’t kids who are sick get the medicine they need, and why can’t girls go to school in Afghanistan? Many will have read The Breadwinner, Pavanah's Journey and Mud City, but Deborah Ellis has written many other books. She is no one trick pony, despite this label she so often gives to herself. She is about shaking us out of our complacency and about empowering young people to demand more of our world and it's inhabitants. She is about social justice.

Not surprisingly, I was excited to hear that Deb has turned her compassionate yet critical storyteller’s eye on North American. Jakeman will be the title of her next novel. It's about kid whose mother goes to prison. It's about poverty and the feeling of being powerless, but it's also about alter-egos and about kids taking back their power. I can hardly wait to read it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Higher Power of Lucky & Three Wishes

So what do The Higher Power of Lucky and Three Wishes have in common? Read on...

It’s unbelievable. The controversy around this year’s Newbery Award-winner, The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron is growing in leaps and bounds. The ugly head of censorship has been rearing it’s head in the New York Times, on Publisher Weekly’s Website, and in blog after blog. It seems that a lot of librarians have trouble with the word “scrotum”, and that’s enough to keep the book away from sensitive young readers! I must admit that I agree totally with Ms. Patron who explained that scrotum is a “delicious” word. Unbelievable, and of course one of the many ironies (I’m not even going to go into sex-driven advertising or music videos here) is that as the ‘ban the book frenzy’ reaches it’s peak, we are just about to celebrate Freedom to Read Week. Don’t they get it? Banned books are wildly appealing to the young and curious, as I first learned back in the 1960’s when J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye was banned from my high school. Even the kids who had an aversion to reading devoured that book (or at least key passages of it). So, congratulations Ms. Patron. You can expect to sell more books and you are in very good company!

It was only a year ago that a huge controversy developed when one school district in Ontario chose to drop Deborah Ellis’ Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak from a provincially sanctioned readers’ choice award, again just as we were heading into Freedom to Read Week!

For anyone in the Victoria, BC area, the Victoria Children’s Literature Roundtable will be hosting Deb Ellis as part of our celebration of Freedom to Read Week at Spectrum Community High School @ 957 Burnside Rd in the school library @ 7:30.

Or you can go to to find out how you can celebrate this important week in your own area. Defy the censors. Read a banned book!


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Eric Wilson was wonderful Grey Whales Ahead

Yes, I'm a little slow. It has been a couple of weeks since mystery writer Eric Wilson spoke at our Children's Literature Roundtable. With sales into the millions and publications in more than a dozen countries worldwide, you might expect him to be less humble. But, that just wouldn't be Eric. What a lovely man. Here's where you can find out more about Eric and his newest books

In upcoming news, On March 20, and 21, I'll be visiting Tofino and Uclulet during their Pacific Rim Whale Festival. If I'm lucky I'll get to see the some of the 22,000 grey whales on their annual migration-the longest of any mammal; an estimated 16,000 km return trip. Very cool! While I'm there I hope I get a chance to stop by the studio of one of my favourite west coast artists, Mark Hobson. I have one of his limited edition grey whale prints over my bed. One of the few disadvantages of being a kids' book writer as far as I can see, is that I don't have enough money to buy more art! But then, there could be far worse things couldn't there. S.