Category Archives: Library Life

Jeremy Tankard’s Hungry Bird Booklaunch

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing long-time friend Jeremy Tankard launch his newest creation, Hungry Bird, at Vancouver Kidsbooks. As a library tech who does storytimes with preschoolers, I’m familiar with his other books. A favourite with the kids is Grumpy Bird, as you can read the book as an interactive with the kids acting out the animals plus you can discuss how you know when someone is angry and what we can do when we’re angry.

hungry

Along comes Hungry Bird, also a familiar feeling for the young and old. “Who brought me something to eat?” is the theme of this book, and again this will be an amazing picturebook for storytimes and early education. You can buy a copy from any retailer.

Congratulation, Jeremy, on an amazing book!

 

 

tankard

Radio Interview, Culture Days, and a Free Book!

At noon today I’m doing a reading on a pop-up radio station called Leave Your Mark FM outside the Richmond Cultural Centre. In honour of the event, you can get the Kindle version of Rise of the One-Eyed King FREE.

9780993748653

For more information on the pop up radio station, follow this link!

 

James in His Jeep Getting Java-the Cloverdale Edition

20160617_144729June 17, I was invited to present a workshop at the Cloverdale branch of the Surrey Public Library on writing action scenes. Writing action is what I’m known for with paranormal fiction involving wars between werewolves and vampires (mine was out before Twilight before your mind goes there) and secret martial arts clubs in Flying Feet.

There’s a lot of violence happening in the world right now, and it may seem irresponsible for authors to write about it in fiction–especially in books where impressionable youth are involved. However, those who believe that don’t give enough credit to just how sophisticated a tale youth desire these days, nor to the power of a story to guide youth (and grown adults) through questions and concerns they may have of living in such a violent world. My main talking points were:

  • Write responsibly.
  • Violence should move the story forward, not be a plot device nor be gratuitious.
  • If you can cut the violent scene out without changing the flow or meaning of the story–cut it.

Ten teens showed up (the entire creative writing group) and they were friendly, kind, and intelligent writers. They asked questions, they supported each other, and they made me feel welcome. I have no doubt that we are in for some incredible literature from the next generation and I left feeling encouraged.

The Cloverdale library is set in a city of just over 71 thousand people close to the City of Langley. Historic Cloverdale was settled circa 1870, and is a very cute spot to get a lunch and spend an afternoon. If you remember the TV series Smallville, you will recognize this area as the spot where the show was filmed. The theme song for this post is the intro song to the TV series.

Below is the area where the library is found. There is a museum, an old clock, plus a log cabin in this square. I arrived several hours early to explore (and grab some java) and was glad that I had. Unfortunately, I found the museum too late but will certainly make my way there another day.

What I loved most about exploring this small section of a few blocks was old signage. While the buildings had that rustic “old village” feel, the signage on the side of buildings and the shingles were what really made this place worth seeing. Below are a few of my favourites.

For you Smallville fans, you may recognize the theatre (now closed) as the Talon from the TV series.

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I wound up at the Rustic Rooster for coffee, and had their blended iced coffee which hit the spot on such a hot day. They have a small patio for nice days, and a rather spacious interior with several places to sit and enjoy their food. As well, if you are interested in crafts, they sell quite a few knick knacks worth looking at.

Unfortunately, none of my photos turned out of the cafe so you’ll have to check out their website before heading down there.

The Library Storytime Guy

As a library tech, one of my duties is to do an all-ages storytime twice a week. I generally gear this towards the 3-5-year-old age group as that is most commonly who attends. However, at the drop of a hat (as has happened) I have adapted for slightly younger/older. Being a male in an industry traditionally filled by women, I tend to be a novelty to some of my audience (though I think it’s far more common these days than most think it is). Thus far, this has never been negative, and quite a few caregivers have expressed their appreciation of my maleness. Just as there is a need for children to see women in roles traditionally filled by men, there is also a need for those same children to see men filling roles traditionally filled by women. I’ll be honest — I chose this vocation, not for that reason, but because I knew it was one I would love. End of story.

However, one of the challenges I face when choosing my stories is what to do when current cultural norms have shifted from classic tales. For example, Anne McGovern’s Too Much Noise, which I love, has an old man take in many animals and then at the end he just gives them away. *Smacks head* Sixteen years ago, I worked in a rescue shelter (and was gifted with my rescue dog) where I witnessed what happens first hand when people take that cavalier an attitude towards animals. This is an easy fix: at the end of the story, he takes the time to make sure every animal is transferred to a proper home. (He keeps the cat and the dog.)

Fairy tales present their own issues. Many are misogynistic, and as a male, I am always acutely aware of the messages I may be teaching my young audience. I came across this while considering Princess and the Pea, a story about a prince who is looking to marry and tests women by having them sleep on a mattress with a pea underneath it. If they don’t notice the pea, then they are not a true princess and not worthy of his attention.

Basically, this prince has reduced these women to having no value beyond that of their status in the world. It doesn’t matter if they are good people, kind, generous, have similar interests as him. (Probably because any woman in her right mind wouldn’t consider him a suitable suitor, and he’d be turned down.)

I like a challenge. As an author, it intrigues me to rewrite age-old tales for modern audiences. And we had a felt ready-made story to go along with this fairy tale.

This particular day, my regular 20 kids showed up. Moments before beginning the story, one of my coworkers leaned into our story barn (yes, we have a story barn!) and asked me to wait as there was a preschool group coming into the library to join us. Add another 20 kids so they were seated even outside the barn. It did occur to me that not only would parents hear my revamped story, but so also would the preschool teachers.

I started the story by telling them it was “Princess and the Pea,” but one that they may not have heard before. You see, this Prince was a young boy who was playing prince but was all alone. He never had anyone to play with and wished that he did. Along came a young girl who’s mother was a friend of the family, and she would be staying with them for awhile. As a joke, the boy placed a single pea under her mattress.

This pea made her mattress quite uncomfortable, so she asked him nicely for another mattress. And then another, and another. (The kids then counted the mattresses up to ten.) Each time she asked, she said “please” and “thank you.” In fact, she was so kind that he apologized for putting the pea under her mattress.

Because she said “please” and “thank you”, and because he said “sorry” when he had done something not very nice, they became the best of friends. And they played a prince and princess who, together, had many adventures throughout the land.

Everyone in the audience enjoyed my Princess and the Pea story, and I will definitely be telling it again.