More Book Research

Since I had a little time on my hands, I decided to use my time wisely and take myself out on another book date. This time my target was the local independent bookstore, Book Express.
I asked the owner of the store what picture books are the most popular. No surprise, he mentioned “The Book with No Pictures” by B.J. Novak and “The Day the Crayons Quit” by Oliver Jeffries.
Then he mentioned that a third popular recently published book is the book of poems by Dennis Lee of “Alligator Pie” fame. “Melvis and Elvis” is a book of poems dedicated to the theme of discovering the joy of reading. Watch the video below to see Dennis Lee read one of the poems from “Melvis and Elvis”. To learn more about “Melvis and Elvis”, check out this interview of Dennis Lee by CBC Canada.

I was then thrilled to find that the third of Alma Fullerton’s picture books set in Africa is out! “In a Cloud of Dust” is set in Tanzania, where my father comes from, so immediately I was intrigued. In many communities in Africa, children have to walk several hours to and from school. Enter the libraries. But these are not the libraries you may envision, ones full of books, but instead bicycle libraries! Children can sign out bicycles in order to make their commute to and from school much shorter. Can you imagine? What a fabulous idea!
I first heard of Alma Fullerton when my daughter won her book called “Community Soup”. Then I attended a talk by her, where I learned more about Alma and her inspirational background.

“In a Cloud of Dust” is a winning addition to anyone’s library.

Feel free to add some recent picture books that you have discovered in the comments below.

To see some of the work of local authors, including ones from Natalie Hyde and Frank Glew, and also “Introducing Sophia Firecracker” by A. A. Riley, click here.

Book Date

I decided that I would take Tara Lazar’s advice and take myself out for a date to the bookstore. Don’t worry–it’s just for book research. Tara Lazar explains the process in this ReFoReMo post.

I have no Barnes and Nobles in my area, so I went to Chapters-Indigo.

So what grabbed me? I noticed immediately that there were a couple of books that were already mentioned as mentor text in ReFoReMo prominently displayed. “Tap the Magic Tree” was mentioned in this blog post. “Goodnight, Already” was mentioned in this blog post as well as in Tara Lazar’s post.
I also noticed that “The Hockey Sweater” was one of the books that had premiere placement. This makes sense, because it is the 30th anniversary of the book and Tundra Books has reissued the book. (If you have never seen the short film that was made from the original essay, then you are in for a treat. It is one of my favourite NFB films. Click here for some background information.)

Here are three books that were prominently displayed that jumped out at me:

1. “Sweetest Kulu” by Celina Kalluk
I had heard about this book before, and I was glad that I finally got to see it. The illustrations are fabulous! The book is written by an acclaimed Inuit throat singer and is a unique take on welcoming a baby to the world. In this case, the animals of the arctic give gifts to the new baby.

2. “If You Happen To Have A Dinosaur” by Linda Bailey
I love dinosaurs, and I know many kids do too, so I had to check out this book. It’s hard to keep a topic that is written about so much fresh, but this book does it charmingly. It did not disappoint. What do you do if you happen to have a dinosaur and you don’t know what to do with it? Well you can use it as a coffee grinder or an umbrella…Who knew? This is a hilarious book.

3. “What Forest Knows” by George Ella Lyon
I fell in love with this book immediately. The illustrations are fantastic. The language is just beautiful, so lyrical. “Forest knows snow”…”Forest knows waiting”…
The date was fun, and I am sure to do it again soon and hopefully more regularly.
Have you done a book date lately? Tell me some of your favourite new books below.

A Book with a Digital Companion

“Walking Home” by Eric Walters is a middle grade novel about two Kenyan orphans that walk 150 km from an IDP (internal displacement) camp to their grandparent’s house. The story is spectacular enough, and the website that accompanies it makes it even more spectacular.
Muchoki and his younger sister Jata have lost their father and other relatives to political violence. When their mother dies of malaria at the camp, Muchoki learns that he and his sister are to be placed in orphanages. So the two sneak out one night to walk to their grandparent’s house, although they have never before met their grandparents. They are only guided by a “string”, which comes from their mother’s stories.
The novel is a great read. It is hard to put down, a real page turner. And the ending made me cry. In a good way.
Most of all, I love the digital companion that accompanies the book. Found at, the reader can discover audio, video, images, maps or articles related to the book. What makes it so real, is that it is real. The author, accompanied by several Canadians and by several Kenyan orphans, walked the route that his main characters took in the novel! Talk about doing your research!
So on the website, you can find background information about such topics as real IDP camps and ethnic groupings in Kenya. You can find pictures of who the main characters are based on in real life. You can find videos of real displaced persons talking about their experience or of what it’s like to be in a church in Kenya.
Authors will also find a lot of valuable information on the website. Eric Walters has posted information about how his personal experience helped shape his book, about the editorial process, even alternative chapters he wrote. In chapter three, page 6, Walters has a particularly important author note on the importance of constantly engaging in dialogue with those people you are representing.
Are digital companions the wave of the future? The website certainly is a lot of added effort. Does it attract more readers? It certainly attracted me. Actually, that is why I originally decided to read the book. I heard about the digital companion and was intrigued. But the book would stand alone as a great novel.
If you have a moment, check out Eric Walter’s website and let me know what you think.

Are you doing ReFoReMo?


This March I decided to join the first annual ReFoReMo challenge.

What is ReFoReMo?

From the website:
“The ReFoReMo Challenge, or Reading for Research Month Challenge, was founded to help picture book writers reform writing by reading and researching mentor texts.” You can read the rest of the introduction by clicking here.

Picture book writers can find advice for a wide variety of manuscripts in the posts.

Some of the posts so far have been:
1. Marcie Flinchum Atkins talking about second person point of view texts.

2. Jodell Sadler on pacing in picture books.

3. Founder Carrie Charley Brown with a plot study tool.

It’s too late to sign up for this year, but it’s not too late to follow the blog posts and gain some valuable insights.

Do you have some mentor texts you would like to share?