On designing the poster for TCAF 2014 – A guest post by Isabelle Arsenault

When the Toronto Comics Arts Festival contacted me asking if I was able to illustrate one of the official posters to promote its 11th year, of course I was honoured and thrilled by the invitation!


This year the festival has expanded its children’s programming, and I think they wanted to highlight this by featuring an illustrator who is associated with children’s literature.


My graphic novel, Jane, the Fox & Me (written by Fanny Britt) was the main inspiration for the concept of the poster. The book is a celebration of literature, and speaks of its importance to a pre-teen trying to find his or her place in life.


Hélène, the main character of the story, loves to escape her dull reality through reading books. She appears on the poster, next to that dog and other imaginary friends.


I’ll be at TCAF with Fanny Britt, and I think we will have lots of fun meeting young readers — and older ones — seeing friends, buying new books, eating with our publishers and shopping in TO. Can’t wait!


Meet Groundwood Creators at TCAF

Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault
Jane, the Fox and Me

Saturday, May 10th

11am-12pm: Jane, the Fox and Me read by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault
Location: Toronto Reference Library, Novella Room

 2:15pm-3:15pm: Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault present: Jane, the Fox and Me
Location: Toronto Reference Library, TCAF Kids Area – Beeton Auditorium

 3:45pm-4:30pm: Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault book signing
Location: Toronto Reference Library, Groundwood Books table

Sunday, May 11th

11:15am-12:15pm Spotlight: Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault
Location: Marriott Bloor Yorkville, High Park 2 & 3

12:30pm: Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault book signing
Location: Toronto Reference Library, Groundwood Books table

Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
This One Summer

Saturday, May 10th

12:15pm-1:15pm: Michael DeForge & Friends
Michael DeForge, Jillian Tamaki, Patrick Kyle, Moderator: Ryan Sands
Location: Marriott Bloor Yorkville, Forest Hill Ballroom

1:30pm-2:30pm: Spotlight: Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
Location: Marriott Bloor Yorkville, Forrest Hill Ballroom

2:45pm-3:45pm Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki book signing
Location: Toronto Reference Library, Beguiling Signing Area (lower level)

4pm-5pm: Queering Comics – LGBTQ identity in comics and graphic novels
Mariko Tamaki
Meet five creators who, through their stories and published projects, are queering the medium and industry of comics.
Location: The Pilot, 22 Cumberland Street

Sunday, May 11th

12pm-1pm: Canadian Reading Series: Mariko Tamaki
Location: Toronto Reference Library, Novella Room

2:30pm-3:15pm: Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki book signing
Location: Toronto Reference Library, Groundwood Books table

Just So Stories Volume II



Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories is one of the best-loved story collections ever written for children. Now Ian Wallace, one of Canada’s most accomplished children’s book illustrators, reinterprets the famous tales with his vibrant art, bringing Kipling to a whole new generation of young readers.

In this companion to Volume I, which received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Library Media Connection, acclaimed children’s book illustrator Ian Wallace once again reinterprets the famous tales with luminous art, bringing Kipling to a new generation of young readers.

Many of the tales are origin stories, explaining, for example, how an animal came to be, or the how the alphabet and writing began. They all display Kipling’s vivid imagination, inventive vocabulary and engaging word play. And once again Ian Wallace makes intriguing connections between the stories in his richly imagined illustrations. The second volume, as visually breathtaking as the first, includes “The Beginning of the Armadilloes,” “How the First Letter Was Written,” “How the Alphabet Was Made,” The Crab That Played with the Sea,” “The Cat That Walked by Himself” and “The Butterfly That Stamped.”

The first edition of Just So Stories was published in Great Britain in 1902, along with black-and-white illustrations by Kipling himself. The stories have remained in print ever since, delighting young readers in many countries. This new edition, published more than 110 years after the original, has been edited to remove a few references now understood to be offensive.

Inspired by these remarkable stories and the fact that they are set all over the world, Ian Wallace has chosen to make an annual donation to the International Board on Books for Young People’s Fund for Children in Crisis (http://www.ibby.org).

You’ll want to read this classic 101 times


Celebrating its 30th year in print, now back in hardcover, a classic picture book from renowned author and illustrator Jan Ormerod.


What do you do with a new baby? An imaginative older sister and her parents explore this question in this sweet and authentic depiction of a day in the life of a young family.

Whether Big Sister is feeding, entertaining or dressing her baby brother (in Mom’s hat or Dad’s shoes!), Jan Ormerod illustrates a warm, and occasionally challenging story of family, perfect for older siblings getting to know their new brothers or sisters.


Originally published in 1984, this book is a timeless depiction of family life and the important role older siblings play.

Mr. Bunny’s Lament [an Easter guest post by Polly Horvath]

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny at home.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny at home.

Mr. Bunny has always felt two ways about Easter: It is a lovely, pastel-colored holiday, full of good things to eat. It is when Mrs. Bunny loses her mind crafting.

One spring day as Easter approached, Mr. Bunny decided to scuttle Mrs. Bunny’s crafting mania by taking her on a mini-holiday in the Smart Car. They were driving along admiring the wildflowers and cherry blossoms when they hit a pothole. There was a large clanking sound from the trunk of the car.

“Oh dear,” said Mr. Bunny, whose knowledge of cars was second to everyone’s. “Is it the snozzlefizzlehelpfickit or the tenderlin I hear rattling back there?”

“It is neither,” said Mrs. Bunny as they stopped and examined the trunk. “It’s my craft basket.”

“You brought it with you?” demanded Mr. Bunny. “On a little pre-Easter jaunt? Do you not know that it was to save you from the relentless making of wooden eggs and such that Mr. Bunny has spirited you away?”

“What would Easter be without my crafts?” asked Mrs. Bunny irritably. “But never mind, I see you have not in the least ruined my supply of dried flowers, plastic pastel eggs, my Easter bonnet ribbons and bows, my pastel paint set, my wooden baskets, my reeds to weave my own baskets, my paper to shred and color, my mini herb garden in emptied egg shells, my jelly bean mountain, my…”

“Please, Mrs. Bunny,” said Mr. Bunny, “I beg of you, throw it all out before the mania takes hold! Throw it all in the … well, you might just hand over the jelly bean mountain…”

“Here,” said Mrs. Bunny, passing him as many as she thought were good for him.

“Two?” said Mr. Bunny in disappointment. “And not even a black one?”

“With jelly beans you must take what you get and wait for the Easter Bunny, the finest bunny of them all, to appear.”

“But…” protested Mr. Bunny, “I have yet to be visited by any such rabbit.”

“Well, he only appears to very good bunnies,” said Mrs. Bunny. “I have to tell you that every year.

“ Bah!” said Mr. Bunny. “I don’t believe in your Easter Bunny tales.  I think it’s all a hoax.”

“He always brings Mrs. Bunny a fine basket,” said Mrs. Bunny smugly.

“So you say,” said Mr. Bunny grumpily swallowing his green jelly bean. “I suspect you buy it yourself at the drugstore while pretending to be visited by such a mythical holiday-crazed rabbit.”

“Well, what DO you believe in?” asked Mrs. Bunny.

“Cake!” said Mr. Bunny.

“Well, then, Abracadabra,” said Mrs. Bunny and pulled from the bottom of the trunk an assortment of egg-shaped Easter cakes, hardly crushed at all by her craft supplies.

“Now that’s more like it,” said Mr. Bunny brightening visibly.

There was a peaceful quiet as Mr. Bunny crammed his mouth with them.

Mrs. Bunny did so know how to make a holiday sing. There’s no reason why you can’t be saintly and sparkly, she said to herself and hot-glue-gunned a few sequins to her latest bonnet creation.


If you would like to spend your Easter with Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, check out Mr. and Mrs. Bunny — Detectives Extraordinaire! and Lord and Lady Bunny — Almost Royalty! both written by Polly Horvath and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

On French pastries, literacy, and mother-daughter teams. [GUEST POST By Pat Mora & Libby Martinez]


Mother-daughter team Pat Mora and Libby Martinez model their custom CHICO CANTA t-shirts, which they had made to celebrate their book contract. Those are the Santa Fe hills in the background.

Mother-daughter team Pat Mora and Libby Martinez model their custom CHICO CANTA t-shirts, which they had made to celebrate their book contract. Those are the Santa Fe hills in the background.

Pat Mora and Libby Martinez, co-authors of Bravo, Chico Canta! Bravo!, chat about writing together, the literacy initiative known as Día and their shared love of French pastries.

PM: So, what shared pleasures do we enjoy as a mother-daughter duo, Libby?

LM: Let’s be honest. At the top of the list is eating! Our creative time together in Santa Fe, New Mexico is usually punctuated by many delicious meals and treats together. French Pastry Shop anyone? Two of our other biggest shared pleasures are reading and writing — especially writing together!

PM: Right! We are definitely a couple of book lovers. What a delight to have our book Bravo, Chico Canta! Bravo! published in English and Spanish by Groundwood Books this April. April is such a special month of literacy and literature. It is National Poetry Month, April 2nd is Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday (International Children’s Book Day), and National Library Week and Week of the Young Child are on the calendar. April is also the month of culminating celebrations of the year-long literacy initiative known as Día — El día de los niños/El día de los libros, (Children’s Day/Book Day). We celebrate Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June. In April, we celebrate children and books in all languages.

LM: It is extra special to have our book published in a month that celebrates books, reading and children of all cultures in so many wonderful ways. A big “Bravo!” to Groundwood for being such a strong and steadfast supporter of the world of children’s literature, and for ensuring that a diversity of characters, voices and experiences are part of that world.

PM: This is my fourth Groundwood book and your first. Audiences are curious about our writing adventure. I tell them that we spend a great deal of time laughing!

LM: Laughing and eating! Did someone mention the French Pastry Shop again? I think our co-writing process is at once uber-dynamic and uber-egalitarian — with all ideas, both serious and zany, up for consideration and discussion.

PM: Given how much fun we have writing together, I know you share my hope that others — maybe other mothers and daughters…

LM: Or fathers and sons…

PM: Or brothers and sisters… try writing together. Try dreaming together. Maybe it will be a family story.

LM: Or a story that is 100% pure imagination.

PM: Either way, it will be a story that they create together, unique and special.

LM: And, when they have writer’s block, there will be someone to share a chocolate éclair.

Bravo, Chico Canta! Bravo!Chico Canta, the youngest of twelve, is a tiny, mischievous, fearless mouse who lives with his family in an old theater. They love to go upstairs to see the plays and echo the audience shouting, “Bravo, bravo!” as the curtain falls.


The story of Norman Speaks [Guest Post by Caroline Adderson]

Norman, Speak!Four years ago my friend Bob gave me a present.  Actually, he passed along a present.

Because we both had new puppies in our lives, we met up at the dog park for a canine play-date. While the dogs were chasing each other, we two humans stood around chatting. This was when Bob gave me the present.

He pointed across the field to where a Rottweiler was fetching a ball. “See that dog?” he said. “That dog speaks Chinese.”

"Ding Dongs" by Steve Teo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Ding Dongs” by Steve Teo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I said, “Pardon me?”

To a writer, the best present can’t be wrapped and tied with a bow or exchanged for a different size. The best present is a story. Bob gave me one that day. He’d heard it from the man throwing the ball, the Rottweiler’s owner.

A few weeks earlier, Bob had met the man and his dog and, noticing something unusual about them, he struck up a conversation. The owner, a Caucasian man, was calling out commands in what sounded like Chinese. Bob asked why.

And he gave the story to Bob, who gave it to me.

The Rottweiler was a rescue dog. The man had tried to train him, to no avail.  The dog seemed incapable of learning commands. Sit? Stay? Come? Nope. The Rottweiler just stood there. So his owner concluded that his new dog wasn’t very smart. He kept on believing this until one day he took the Rottweiler to the park and met a Chinese man calling out commands to his dog. The Rottweiler ran right over and did everything the man said. In Chinese!

So it wasn’t that the Rottweiler lacked intelligence. He’d simply been trained in another language. The easiest thing for Rottweiler’s owner to do would be to learn a little Chinese himself.

I worked for twelve years as an ESL teacher, so I know firsthand how difficult it can be to learn a new language. Philosophy professors, doctors, engineers and teachers have been among my students. These people immigrated to Canada from all over the world bringing with them their many accomplishments. But without English language skills, no one knew how accomplished they were. Also, they no longer felt accomplished.

“I feel stupid,” many used to tell me.

That day in the dog park, I knew Bob had given me a wonderful present — a story worth telling yet again. A story that would resonate for children learning a new language — ESL kids and immersion kids — as well as kids who have new language leaners in their classroom who perhaps have a hard time keeping up at the beginning. Learning a new language is hard, no matter how smart you are.

So Xièxie, Bob.

And Xièxie, Qin Leng who illustrated Norman, Speak! She took the story I gave her (three times a present now!) and made it her own. You’ll notice that Norman looks quite different that the real-life Norman. I love him just the same.

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