How did you get started in children’s books?
I spent many years reviewing children’s books, selling books in book stores, and interviewing Canadian children’s writers for articles. In the late 1980s, a publisher asked when I was going to stop writing ABOUT children’s books and finally write one myself. I had a meeting with the publisher and the result was my first book, All About Niagara Falls, with Kids Can Press. 1988. The Vimy Oaks: A Journey to Peace (2017) is my latest book, No. 32.
What (or who) inspires your writing?
I am interested by the ‘story’ part of history and am challenged to present history as interesting and valuable to those who so often say they dislike history. The human story, rather than the strategy of a time period, is what I want to reveal in each book. Inspiration is found daily in what I read about the past and the people who contributed to what lives we have now.
What was your favourite book as a child? Why?
I had many favourites. My very first book was The Tawny Scrawny Lion (a Golden Book). I also liked the Snipp, Snapp, & Snurr books, Poppy Seed Cakes, the Bobbs-Merrill silhouette biography series about famous people when they were children, Moonfleet (what an adventure!) and Little Women (the book that made me want to become a writer, like Jo March.)
How can teachers use your books in the classroom?
History books like mine are very easy to use in class. Art, postcards, biography, nature, geography, time travel: there are many areas in which to conduct further research on any topic I write about. Also, a student’s individual family history can often be approached, investigated, and shared with the class based on the way my books are written. I’ve seen wonderful artwork and multi-media products resulting from my titles. So much creativity from history.
What are you looking forward to most during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week?
I am very fortunate to be part of the program during this important 40th anniversary. I have never visited with students in New Brunswick and am looking forward to hearing them share their history when I visit the schools. I might even find cousins in the classrooms—I am a descendant of two of the seven Steeves brothers who settled New Brunswick!