Kids Read Local authors discuss their latest releases

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The four authors performing at our Kids Read Local event at Word Vancouver on September 24, 2017 answered some burning questions we had. Read below to learn about the stories that inspire them, what they’re currently reading, and some insight into their most recent works.

Nicola I. Campbell

A Day With Yayeh (Tradewind Books) explores our connection with the natural world as a Grandmother passes down her knowledge of herbs and plant life to her grandchildren.

What was your favourite thing to write about in A Day With Yayeh?

Gathering traditional foods with my grand auntie E.I., and spending time with my elders on our traditional territory harvesting our food.

Why did you decide to tell this story?

Because I have so many wonderful memories learning about our traditional foods and harvesting plants, food, and medicine from the land.

Why do you feel children should read A Day With Yayeh?

Because they will learn what it is like for Indigenous children growing up surrounded by the loving guidance of our grandmothers and grandfathers and extended family.

What are you currently reading?

All My Relations, edited by Thomas King.

Jen Sookfong Lee

Chinese New Year (Orca Book Publishers) is an in-depth and reflective exploration of the holiday and how it is celebrated through her family stories and traditions.

What was your favourite thing to write about in Chinese New Year?

I really loved writing about how I used to celebrate Chinese New Year with my family because it gave me the opportunity to revisit my childhood and talk to my sisters about all of our memories—which are mostly about food!

Why did you decide to write about this topic?

Chinese New Year is a holiday that’s steeped in tradition, but it also spread around the world and evolved to fit time and place. I found this fascinating and wanted to write about that evolution.

Why do you feel children should read Chinese New Year?

I think that holidays and celebrations are such a great way to teach children about culture. After all, who doesn’t like to celebrate? Taking something happy and using it as a learning tool is easily the best way to educate.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Brother by David Chariandy and it is GREAT.

David Starr

The Nor’Wester (Ronsdale Press) follows a young man’s arduous journey through Northwest Canada as he joins an expedition to find the Pacific Ocean, testing his mettle.

What was your favourite thing to write about in The Nor’wester?

I really enjoyed all aspects of writing the book but I think getting into the research to make it as historically accurate as possible was really interesting. I have a history background and even then I learned so much about British and Canadian history that I didn’t know before.

Why did you decide to tell this story?

I think it’s an important story to tell. On the surface The Nor’wester is the story of a young boy who connects with Simon Fraser, but it is more than that. The book captures the essence of the conflicts that are hallmarks of our history: conflict between rural and urban, Scottish and English, French and English, First Nations and Europeans, people against nature. My protagonist, Duncan, gets to navigate all of this. Also, when I was a social studies teacher I struggled to find great kid-friendly stories to supplement my teaching of Canada in the 19th Century. My colleagues and I joked that we should write a novel just like this. It took 20 years but it finally came out!

Why do you feel young adults should read The Nor’wester?

For several reasons. It is important for Canadian students to learn as much about our history as possible. Our history shapes who we are, it defines us. This book in particular highlights a very eventful time in our history. While the story of the journey is told through the eyes of a young Scottish boy, it doesn’t glorify the explorer myth that at one time defined our history. In truth, the early fur traders found themselves in a very conflicted place. They have this sense of European superiority, yet they all know they wouldn’t last a week without the support and the expertise of the First Nations people they met. I try to capture that in the book.

What are you currently reading?

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. I’ve been working my through all seven books for the past year or so.

MORE: Read our in-depth interview with David Starr

Irene N. Watts

Seeking Refuge (Tradewind Books) is based on Watts’s experience of living away from her family after taking the Kindertransport, a train that shipped 10,000 children out of Germany before WWII in hopes that they would evade the war.

What was your favourite thing to write about in Seeking Refuge?

I have two favorite things. First, Kathie Shoemaker’s amazing rendition of the children’s arrival, at Liverpool Street Station. Something I will always remember as a small child traveling on the train to safety. Secondly the ending, which is top secret!

Why did you decide to tell this story?

The world is in a precarious situation, more than ever, this year. As always it is the ordinary people who suffer most. So many refugees who need our help, as they search for refuge. A time to remind ourselves that history often repeats itself.

Why do you feel children should read Seeking Refuge?

To understand the present one needs to know the past.

What are you currently reading?

I am reading Mary Beth Leatherdale’s Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees (Annick Press).

Please join Read Local BC at Word Vancouver this weekend from 12-1pm to watch these authors read their work!

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