Reading Lights shining brightly in Vancouver

The ‘Reading Lights’ are all up and shining brightly.  The Vancouver Public Library had committed to a project lasting three years and we have reached that point. We can now celebrate its success.

There are 61 ‘Reading Lights’—20 completed in each year and one more from the Vancouver Library to highlight the importance of reading to young children. And what great reading they will find, in the books created by the writers and illustrators in BC.

From the feedback I have received, from authors and illustrators, parents, teachers, it is a great success.

jewish_fairy_tales_plaqueFrom an illustrator,  Sima Elizabeth Shefrin:

“I am delighted to have my illustrated images on lamp posts near schools and parks, not only because they reach so many children and adults who might not happen to stumble across my books in the library, but because they bring the world of literacy to children. As they see and play around the Reading Light plaques, these children become familiar with the partnership of words and illustrations, and this familiarity provides a path into the world of reading.  And how wonderful to have all that beautiful art displayed so accessibly around our city.”

From a writer, Debbie Hodge:

“I am thrilled and delighted to have my books included among the plaques. It is indeed a lovely honour.”


From a teacher on a field trip to the library:

“We found the story ’Binky the Space Cat’ on the corner of Homer and Robson. We then went into the library and found the book. We read the story and expanded on it: finding the animal section in the library, locating pictures of all sorts of cats, matching types of cats, drawing their own cat, and labeling all the animal parts.”

Families have reported that they enjoy using the map to locate ‘Reading Lights’ plaques around the city, checking the book on the map as they discover a new plaque.

– by Vi Hughes


Noah and Great Bear, An Adventure in the Yukon. Written by Danielle S. Marcotte, illustrated by Francesca Da Sacco. Vidacom Publications.




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Jocelyn Shipley: A sweet 16 years of writing YA

Thanks to an inspiring high school English teacher and a part-time job in the public library, Jocelyn Shipley of Parksville, BC decided as a teen she wanted to write fiction. That’s even though “I wrote a lot of bad poetry as a teenager,” she jokes.

That goal is why she never pursued another career, though she did work as a stay-at-home mom for her three kids. During that time, she co-authored and self-published two craft cook books for families, Making Your Own TraditionsChristmas and Around the Year. They are now out of print but were Canadian bestsellers, and she still gets requests for them.

It was while her kids were teens that she entered a national short story competition sponsored by Thistledown Press, and her story was chosen to be published in the contest anthology, The Blue Jean Collection. This gave her the confidence to write her first YA novel, Getting a Life, which garnered her “an uncountable number of rejections” before being published in 2002 by Sumach Press, a literary feminist press no longer in existence. She has since published 7 more contemporary YA (and the occasional middle grade) novels, as well as co-edited a collection of stories, Cleavage: Breakaway Fiction for Real Girls.

Her novels include Shatterproof, How to Tend a Grave, Seraphina’s Circle, Getting a Life, Cross my Heart, and also the River Boy series, which was never published in Canada but was translated into 5 languages and published by Stabenfeldt in Europe for their GIRL:IT book clubs. Her publishers include Orca Books, Great Plains Teen Fiction, Stabenfeldt and the former Sumach Press.

Jocelyn was the winner of the 2011 Surrey International Writer’s Conference Writing for Young People award. Her novel, How to Tend a Grave, won the 2012 US Gold Medal Moonbeam Award for YA Fiction – Mature Issues. She has won or been shortlisted for over 20 adult story contests.


“I’m very disciplined about writing,” she says. “I don’t believe in waiting for inspiration. I go and sit at my desk and work on something every day. I always have more than one project on the go, and try to work every day during the week.”

Why YA? “I think I’m still a teenager at heart. In the teen years, everything is still possible. Yet it’s so difficult these days to be a teen; it’s a really, really hard time to be growing up.”

At this point, Jocelyn has six grandkids, mostly in Ontario and BC, which has inspired her to live half the year on one side of the country, and half on the other. In fact, with one son being posted to China next year, she hopes to travel there soon. In Parksville, she also owns two cows kept at a dairy and cheese-works farm she likes to visit.

Though there are no CWILL-BC members close enough to visit with regularly, she is impressed with the organization and all the work CWILL-BC does to promote its members. “It’s a close-knit community that proves you can exist as a writer or illustrator outside Toronto and have a very good literary feeling. BC has its own book world and CWILL-BC speaks to that. I really like the way CWILL-BC has built its own presence.”

To new writers, she has this advice: “Challenge yourself. Try to take risks. It’s too easy to keep writing the same thing. I recently started writing reluctant-reader books because they’re short and they challenge me to write a brisk plot. It has made me focus on structure a lot more. I’m really enjoying writing for reluctant readers.”

More advice: “Stick with it, and read a lot. Many people want to write but don’t read anything.”

When she’s not writing or traveling to keep up with family, Jocelyn likes hiking, biking, swimming, and singing in community choirs. In fact, the latter passion kindled the plot of an upcoming novel in Orca’s Limelights series, Raw Talent, about a girl who wants to sing but has stage fright.

Jocelyn is very excited to have a new novel, Impossible, coming out in Orca’s Soundings series in January 2018. This, her 11th book, is a long way from the countless rejections on her first one, making for a sweet sixteen years of publishing. For this CWILL-BCer, it’s all a teen dream come true.

Pam Withers has written 17 YA adventure novels.

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CWILL Authors Celebrate World Read Aloud Day on February 1st


Thursday, February 1st, 2018, is World Read Aloud Day, a holiday and literacy movement that is celebrating its tenth anniversary across the globe and has expanded from a small, grass roots program into over one hundred countries.

Its premise is simple: taking the time and having the resources to read stories aloud builds empathy and creates a sense of belonging to a reading community that exists world wide. Pam Allyn, founder of Litworld and creator of WRAD suggests that reading aloud can change the world. She says, “As we read we become stronger emotionally and academically. Reading fosters the development of  seven strengths: a sense of belonging, curiosity, friendship, hope, kindness, confidence and courage.”


WRAD puts literacy front and centre and, if even for a day, sheds light upon the fact that 750 million adults around the world lack basic reading and writing skills, two thirds of them women. Its hope is that by making books and stories more accessible, that this number will eventually diminish.

On February 1st this year, millions of teachers, parents, libraries, schools, families, authors and communities have scheduled read aloud events to celebrate our connection as humans through the power of story.

We at CWILL BC Society are WRADvocates, part of that chorus of worldwide storytellers who believe in the power of sharing our tales and fostering the right to literacy.

CWILL is celebrating WRAD with author readings at one of Richmond’s largest and most culturally diverse schools, Henry Anderson Elementary. Three authors, Lori Sherritt-Fleming, Suzanne de Montigny and G. Rosemary Ludlow will be igniting inspiration and curiosity in young audiences with selections from their prose. They are excited to be part of a movement that forges a lasting bond between readers and material and readers and listeners.


“Some of my warmest and fondest childhood memories are of times spent being read to or doing the reading myself to someone else. Read alouds are a gift that keeps on giving. My parents and grandparents read to me every night growing up, bringing sleep on under the safe and comforting blanket of stories, words and images. I have been able to give this gift back to my own nieces and nephews and to audiences of children on my travels, bringing that same sense of wonder to the imaginations of children who will not only read, but also write the future,” says Sherritt-Fleming.

People of all ages appreciate read alouds; they make them smile and foster communication and conversations; all of which are infectious. With a world of smiles in mind, how will YOU celebrate World Read Aloud Day?

For more information and resources about WRAD 2018 or to create your own read aloud event, visit or Scholastic’s official World Read Aloud Day page.

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2018 Celebration of Award Winning Children’s Authors and Illustrators

The Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable and CWILL BC invite you to their 2018 Celebration of Award Winning BC Children’s Authors and Illustrators:

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 | 7 – 9 pm
University Golf Club | Point Grey Room
5185 University Blvd | Vancouver

Jan Thornhills The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk, published by Groundwood, is this year’s Information Book Award winner!

“For hundreds of thousands of years Great Auks thrived in the icy seas of the North Atlantic, bobbing on the waves, diving for fish and struggling up onto rocky shores to mate and hatch their fluffy chicks. But by 1844, not a single one of these magnificent birds was alive. In this stunningly illustrated non-fiction picture book, award-winning author and illustrator Jan Thornhill tells the tragic story of these birds that “weighed as much as a sack of potatoes and stood as tall as a preteen’s waist.” Their demise came about in part because of their anatomy. They could swim swiftly underwater, but their small wings meant they couldn’t fly and their feet were so far back on their bodies, they couldn’t walk very well. Still the birds managed to escape their predators much of the time … until humans became seafarers.”

Our Information Book Award Honour Book is
Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival, by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch with Tuan Ho; art by Brian Deines, published by Pajama Press.

“The first picture book to recount the dramatic true story of a refugee family’s perilous escape from Vietnam. It is 1981. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a fishing boat overloaded with 60 Vietnamese refugees drifts. The motor has failed; the hull is leaking; the drinking water is nearly gone. This is the dramatic true story recounted by Tuan Ho, who was six years old when he, his mother, and two sisters dodged the bullets of Vietnam’s military police for the perilous chance of boarding that boat. Told to multi-award-winning author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch and illustrated by the celebrated Brian Deines, Tuan’s story has become Adrift At Sea, the first picture book to describe the flight of Vietnam’s “Boat People” refugees. Illustrated with sweeping oil paintings and complete with an expansive historical and biographical section with photographs, this non-fiction picture book is all the more important as the world responds to a new generation of refugees risking all on the open water for the chance at safety and a new life.”

— Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable

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Family Sunday – Art Gallery of Greater Victoria – December 17th

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is honoured to welcome special guest Margriet Ruurs and the book Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey, which features the artwork of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr, to its next Family Sunday:

December 17th, 2017 | 2-4 pm
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria | Emily Carr Gallery
1040 Moss Street, Victoria, BC

Meet Margriet and hear about how this book was created in a collaboration between the author on Salt Spring Island and artist in Syria. Enjoy readings from the book and a range of cool art activities inspired by it. To top things off, check out an Emily Carr inspired photo booth in the mansion!

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey will be available for purchase in our Gallery shop and on Dec 17 all proceeds will be donated to a Syrian refugee family coming to Salt Spring in late summer.

This program is included with admission OR you can purchase a family membership for only $75 and receive unlimited Gallery admission, Family Sundays, and discounts! Alternatively, you can enjoy this event with your Library Family Access Pass, Warm Welcome Pass for Newcomers, and/or discounted admission with your membership to one of many partner organizations (for example, RBCM and VAG).

— Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

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Books That Won Us Back When . . . CWILL authors share their favourite childhood books

Written by Glen Huser, President of CWILL BC

Sixteen CWILL members met on December 6th in Christianne’s Lyceum upper room to share the books and stories and songs that had a special meaning for them as they were growing up. Candle light and wine, a groaning board of great snacks . . . an evening to remember.

Here are the favourites that emerged . . .

Anne of Green Gables
by L. M. Montgomery
Suzanne de Montigny chose the well-loved Montgomery series as one that inspired her to become both a teacher and a writer. She brought along the actual paperbacks she has cherished since she was a young girl.

The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Nayoung Jin recalled how she was criticized by a particular teacher for her love of fantasy and the lovable “unreal” characters of the Saint-Exupery classic—but that didn’t stop her from continuing to admire the book. A second book, Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White is another that she has continued to read—especially when she feels the need for a good cry!


King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
Mary Jane Muir told about how this book was one that helped her to heal following the untimely death of her mother. It also led to a lifelong love of horses and horseback riding.

Blackies Little Ones’ Annual
At the age of five, Beryl Young went to stay for with her grandparents in Saskatchewan. When she left, Blackies Little Ones’ Annual—a huge illustrated volume of stories, poems and articles—was gifted to her by her first grade teacher who inscribed all of the names of her classmates. Well-worn and well-loved, Beryl remembers this as being a testament to the fact that she could read very well at that age.

cwill_dec2017_mushroomplanet.jpgThe Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron
Linda Bailey, with a laugh, recalls reading this popular fantasy when she was quite young and believing that it was essentially nonfiction—that there actually was a mushroom planet, a tiny habitable moon of the Earth. It had been explored by two boys—so Linda was mystified when so much fuss was made when the Russians actually landed some bit of metal on the earth’s other moon (which paled with what David and Chuck managed to achieve on their interplanetary visit).

The Bobbsey Twins
by Laura Lee Hope (a pseudonym)
Norma Charles remembers looking forward to babysitting jobs when she was a young girl, hoping that those for whom she was babysitting would be away at least four hours so that—with a salary of 25 cents an hour—she would have enough money to buy the latest Bobbsey Twin novel. The series, written by several writers, followed the adventures of two sets of fraternal twins. The young Norma loved them, but reading to her own children, she would choose something penned by the more talented Beverly Cleary.

Matilda by Roald Dahl
Illustrator Zoe Si has been a fan of Roald Dahl since childhood—and Matilda, with a strong central female character, has been a particular favourite. Quentin Blake, Dahl’s illustrator, with his deft strokes and great sense of humour has been an inspiration for her own artwork.

Christmas in Killarney

(An Irish Christmas song written by John Redmond, James Cavanaugh, and Frank Weldon)
Lori Sherritt-Fleming paid homage to her Celtic roots by singing this to us—a lovely touch in the midst of . . . well, we won’t call it a “prosaic” evening but an evening filled with prose.



Basil of Baker Street
by Eve Titus
This was Lee Edward Födi’s choice, and he went to some lengths to track down a second-hand copy exactly the same as the one he once owned and read many times. Titus’ story follows the adventures of Basil and his personal biographer Dr. Dawson, mice who live in the basement of a Baker Street house where Sherlock Holmes is a tenant. Charming illustrations by Paul Galdone.

Miss Hickory
by Caroline Sherwin Bailey
Kathie Shoemaker chose this 1946 Newbery-medal winner as a favourite from her childhood. She remembers loving stories about dolls and other diminutive characters such as The Little Fur Family series by Margaret Wise Brown with perfect illustrations by Garth Williams (the books themselves were small and originally had fur-wrapped covers). Other favourites: Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library and George Selden’s The Cricket in Times Square.



Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Janet Whyte remembers how Max’s wild rumpus appealed to her as a young catholic girl (who was definitely not encouraged to participate in a rumpus with wild things of any sort).


The Sand Lady
by Corinne M. Litzenberg
Kari Rust remembers spending a summer holiday at Crescent Beach a perfect spot for imagining how a mermaid might materialize from items assembled from beachcombing. The idea of making something from small found objects was appealing. Kari also loved Three Little Pigs retold by Fiona Carmichael with illustrations by Shosuke Takihara that tantalized with amazing perspectives and abstractions.

The Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew series
These were favourites of Nancy Hundal when she was growing up. Nancy was not the only one who noted that children are not especially critical in their reading preferences—they love book for a lot of reasons beyond how well they are written. But later, as an undergrad at UBC, she recalls enjoying the discovery of strong novels for young readers by Canadian writers—books such as Christie Harris’s You Have to Draw the Line Somewhere and Ruth Nichols’ A Walk Out of the World.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This was the book I chose as my favourite. First introduced to me as a told-aloud tale by an aunt (whom I thought had invented it), I was delighted to discover the actual book in a reclaimed small town library I operated for a couple of years as a teenager. And then I fell in love with the 1949 movie starring Margaret O’Brien (a black and white film with the restored garden sequences in colour). Comparing notes with Janet Lunn many years back, we both chose this novel as the one we loved best.



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