“Meet the Publishers” Talk at the “Telling Tales” Festival

I have always wanted to go to the Telling Tales Festival, but something has always come up. However, when I heard that there would be a publisher’s panel there, I knew I had to clear my schedule and make it a priority to attend.
I wasn’t able to arrive until around 2:00, but that still allowed me to experience enough to make me want to go back.

Great crowd!

Great crowd!

The crowds were large as you can see here at Kevin Sylvester’s lecture. I attended the second half and learned a thing or two, such if you want to be an artist, make sure you study math. Why’s that? Many pictures are based on mathematical principles.

Bill Slavin ready to talk

Bill Slavin ready to talk

After his lecture, I had a little bit of time to attend the first half of Bill Slavin’s presentation. It was his first time there, but he said he definitely wanted to come back. I observed his presentation through the eyes of an author. One thing I noticed is that he had plenty of audience participation, which kept the audience engaged.
Another thing I noticed is what a great read aloud book he had just had published. “Who Broke the Teapot?” had the members of the audience–and not only the children–yelling out the repetitive line, which is, you may have guessed, “Who Broke the Teapot?” With a mystery in it, and a total twist to the ending, this book makes a great mentor text. I highly recommend it for children ages 4-7. Well actually children of all ages.
I headed on over to the publisher’s panel next. You may be wondering if it’s worth your while to attend these panels after you’ve been to several. Doesn’t the information get repetitive? Aren’t the questions and answers the same? But my take is that you will always come out with several golden nuggets that you will not get elsewhere. These publisher panels are great places to do research on publishers, and you often will find out information during them that are not to be found elsewhere.
For example, publisher Sheila Barry of Groundwood Books admitted that on their website it states they don’t accept picture book manuscripts. However, even though it states that, if you send them a picture book manuscript, they will read it. They read everything. Groundwood Books accepts unsolicited manuscripts by the way. For submission guidelines click here. But do your research to make sure that it is the right fit for your book.

Meet the Publishers

Meet the Publishers

Vikki Vansickle , author of “If I Had a Gryphon” and marketing and publicity manager at Penguin Random House Canada moderated the discussion, and the third panelist was Denise Anderson, marketing and publicity manager at Scholastic Canada. Denise Anderson did say 99% of the published manuscripts at Scholastic Canada were agented. Hmmm, I wonder about the other 1%.
Next year I hope that I can arrange my time so that I can arrive earlier. I would have loved to have seen talks by Ruth Ohi, Barbara Reid, and Helene Boudreau. And if there is another publisher’s panel, so much the better.

Five Fabulous Middle Grade Series

One thing I love about summer is the summer reading program that our local library has. It always motivates my 9-year-old daughter to read more.

One of the games at the library program

One of the games at the library program

This summer during the program we discovered several great series.

1. “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda” series by Tom Angleberger
My daughter is a big fan of “Star Wars”, so I thought she would enjoy reading this series. In fact, this turned out to be her favourite series, and one I really enjoyed too. Actually, it is the only one of the series where I read all of the books.
In the first book, which was the favourite book of both of us, the story centres around a group of sixth grade kids trying to figure out whether or not the origami finger puppet “Origami Yoda” that Dwight, a loser, brings to school is real or not. “Origami Yoda” supposedly can predict the future. But can he really?
After finishing the series, my daughter was totally into making “Star Wars” origami characters. She even spent an hour making an elaborate 6 origami character birthday card for her cousin’s birthday.
The following video will teach you how to make “Origami Yoda”.

Go to the website for more “Star Wars” origami tips.

2. “The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency” series by Jordan Stratford
I wanted my daughter to learn more about some famous females in history, so that’s why I picked this series for her. I love the fact that there is back matter telling the real life stories of the main characters, as well as the stories of the characters that they meet during their adventures.
In an alternate universe, 14-year-old Mary Shelley (author of “Frankenstein”) and 11-year-old Ada Lovelace (the world’s first computer programmer) meet and form a detective agency. It’s fabulous that they use math, science, and critical thinking to help them solve their crimes.

3. “The Imaginary Veterinary” series by Suzanne Selfors
I picked these books for my daughter, because she wants to be a vet.
Dr. Woo’s Hospital for Imaginary Creatures arrives in small town Buttonville one day. 10-year-old Ben, a visitor to the town, has befriended Petal, and both of them become apprentices to the vet, leading to a series of mysterious adventures.
To read an excerpt from the first book, “The Sasquatch Escape”, click here.

4. “The Ninja Detective” series by Octavia Spencer
My daughter is learning karate and aspires to be a black belt, and so she loved the main character.
Twelve-year-old black belt Randi Rhodes is the world’s first ninja detective. Randi solves crimes with the help of fellow ninja detectives D.C. and Pudge.

5. “The Jedi Academy” series by Jeffrey Brown
Like #1, I thought my daughter would like the series, because it is related to “Star Wars”.
Middle school aged Roan has always wanted to be a pilot, but he fails to be accepted into pilot school, and instead he finds himself in Jedi Academy. The series is an imaginative mix of text, drawings, and doodles.
My daughter is writing her own version with the main character as Tegan.

Bonus: “The Anne of Green Gables” series by L.M. Montgomery
This was one of my favourite childhood books, and I was so excited when I was finally able to read it to my daughter. I was worried that she would find it a bit old fashioned, but she loves it, although at times she finds some things weird. For example, she asked me to stop saying “bosom friend” and instead use “best friend”. We often talk about how different things were 100+ years ago.
The book is about a spirited, imaginative, talkative 11-year-old orphan called Anne, who is adopted by Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert of P.E.I., changing their lives forever.
I sometimes find that reading the book aloud is a challenge, due to Anne’s long speeches and her use of big words, so you may want to get your child to read it to herself or himself.

These books are great for both girls and boys. And if the main character is a girl, don’t discourage your boy from reading it, as you may inadvertently be doing, as explained in this article.
I am always looking for new books for us to read. One series that I have just discovered is called “The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stewart, and I am looking forward to delving into it.
What middle grade series do you recommend?