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Touring In: Ontario

Craft: author (bilingual presenter)

Genre: picture books, early chapter books, junior fiction, YA

Ideal Audience Size: 30-45

Maximum Audience Size: 60 for younger students; 90 for older students

Grades: 1-8

Special Equipment: LCD projector or smart board, table(s) for Diane’s laptop, books and a few props. A microphone (lapel mic would be ideal), especially for larger groups.

2016 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Award FInalist
2015 Prix Tamarac Finalist

Presentation Information

A polished presenter in both languages (English and French), Diane has toured schools and libraries in Canada and the US, since 1991. As a former French Immersion teacher, who taught every grade from Kindergarten to Grade 11, Diane can easily adapt to the different age groups.

Teachers have used her books as an introduction to Acadian history and culture, the art of Emily Carr and the study of trees. Like her books, her presentations prove that it is easier to write about what you know.

Each of her picture book presentations last an hour. Diane tells how she created the story from a personal experience. After reading the book, with projected illustrations, she has the students do a brief activity. It is followed by an interactive slide show and ends with a Q&A. The grand finale are entertaining excerpts with a wee bit of singing, from her new book, My Two Grandmothers or Mémére Soleil, Nannie Lune.

For Grades 1 to 3
Maxine’s Tree (available from author) or L’arbre de Maxine, is the mostly true story of how even a tiny person like her daughter Maxine, can make a big difference. She shares anecdotes about her family and the people of all ages who helped to save the Carmanah and Walbran Valley old-growth forests from clear-cutting. Her family’s photos of famous giants, such as the Elephant tree and the real Maxine’s tree, and of the small creatures that live in them, enthrall children.

The second choice, Emily Carr’s Attic or Le grenier d’Emily Carr, is about a lonely boy who can’t draw very well, that’s until he spends a summer in Carr’s mysterious House of All Sorts, with its attic full of pets. Diane shows photos (Courtesy of the BC Archives) of Carr’s menagerie, her attic art and paintings. Having lived in this famous house, the author has anecdotes about writing this story, illustrated by her brother Michael and about Emily Carr, who was not only a great artist, but a Governor General Award-winning author.

For Grades 5 to 6
Piau’s Potato Present or La patate cadeau ou la vraie histoire de la poutine râpée, lasts an hour. Diane speaks of how she became a writer, and delivers her dynamic interactive version of the History of the Acadians with props and projected images of some historical sites in her books such as Port-Royal, Louisbourg and Fort Beauséjour, and Île-à-Piau, NS. Her deportation activity is always very popular with students. After a Q&A, she ends with a brief reading.

For Grades 7 to 8
In her presentation, La trilogie de la butte à Pétard  à  La patate cadeau, she gives a more mature version of the Grade 5  and 6 presentation. It lasts about 70-75 minutes. Although the trilogy is only available in French, this presentation have been enthusiastically received by Anglophone students, as well.

Book List

L’Acadie en baratte (Bouton d’or Acadie, Spring 2017)
Mémére Soleil, Nannie Lune (Bouton d’or Acadie, 2016)
My Two Grandmothers (Nimbus Publishing, 2016)
Piau’s Potato Present (Bouton d’or Acadie, 2014)
La patate cadeau OU la « vraie » histoire de la poutine râpée (Bouton d’or Acadie, 2014)
Échos de la butte à Pétard (Bouton d’or Acadie, 2011)
Retour à la butte à Pétard (Bouton d’or Acadie, 2008)
Emily Carr’s Attic (Orca Book Publishers, 2008)
Le grenier d’Emily Carr (Les Éditions des Plaines, 2006)
Who’s in Maxine’s Tree? (Orca Book Publishers, 2006)
Qui est dans l’arbre de Maxine? (Les Éditions des Plaines, 2006)
La butte à Pétard (éditon augmentée) (Bouton d’or Acadie, 2004)
L’arbre de Maxine (Les Éditions des Plaines, 2004)
Cédric et le porc-épic (Chenelière/McGraw-Hill, 2002)
Charlotte et la dame aux corbeaux (Chenelière/McGraw-Hill, 2002)
Rosette and the Muddy River (Orca Book Publishers,1991)
The Attic of All Sorts (Orca Book Publishers, 1991)
Maxine’s Tree (Orca Book Publishers, 1990)

Biography

I grew up in the Acadian village of Memramcook, New Brunswick, where everyone spoke French, except for my mother. The rest of my family spoke English and French at home, but as soon as we set foot outside, everything was in French.

I wanted to be an author in grade 5, but I knew it was a foolish dream. After all, the only authors we studied in school were dead men from France and Québec. Besides, I never heard my Acadian French the radio or television and it certainly wasn’t written in books. I believed that my French wasn’t good enough to be a writer. Nor was my English, for that matter.

When I was 10, I was intrigued by a large framed print on a neighbour’s living room wall. It depicted the Acadian deportation. Why were soldiers forcing frightened families aboard ships in 1755? When I asked my teacher about it, she said that France and England had been at war. The British shipped all the Acadians to the States. After the war, some Acadians returned to the Maritimes. I wanted to know more. But the teacher couldn’t elaborate because that part of our history wasn’t studied in schools.

Many years later, I found out what really happened in my village. In my Acadian History classes at the Université de Moncton, I learned that hundreds of Acadians, mostly in New Brunswick, escaped the deportation of 1755-1763 by hiding in the woods. In many cases they were helped by the Mi’kmaw. My own village had three hideouts, dangerously close to the English forts! Immediately, I thought, “What a great movie or story that would make!” Still, I believed that my words would not be good enough to write that story.

Ten years later, while teaching in Victoria, I asked my students if they knew what an Acadian was. Only one hand went up, and the young man said, “Wasn’t it a car from the 1960s?” He was right a Pontiac Acadian. I knew that the best way to interest my students in Acadian History would be to write about the families in hiding. I jotted down some ideas for a novel and set them aside.

Homesickness for the East Coast finally drove me to write the first 3 chapters of the story. Still, I wasn’t sure if my writing was good enough for publication. On my yearly pilgrimage home, I read the few chapters to my father and went for a nap. When I woke up, the manuscript was gone.

Without asking me, my father had taken my manuscript to his tavern, where the School Board President was having supper. He said, “Gene, you must read this!” After reading it, Monsieur Gene LeBlanc stood up and said, enthusiastically, “Raymond do you realize how much we need a book like this in New Brunswick schools? Your daughter must finish it!” On his way home to tell me this wonderful news, my father went to see an old fisherman, who was known to enjoy a drink or two. While his porcupine stew was cooking on his wood stove, he sat at the table. My father, who never took the time to read more than newspaper headlines, read the story to the illiterate man! He had to pause when the man started to cry and said, “Aw Raymond. That’s our story… our story.”  Amazed that my words had provoked such an emotional response, I asked my father, “Really Papa? He cried?”  Proudly, my father said, “Yes. And, he hadn’t even had a drink!”

Those three men from my village, my father who never took time to read, the School Board President who did a lot of reading, and the old fisherman who couldn’t read at all, gave me the confidence I needed. My first book, La butte à Pétard (the name of my village before 1755) was published and won a Mention Spéciale for the Prix-France-Acadie within the same year. Still, I thought it was a fluke. I wasn’t a real writer.

My second book, Maxine’s Tree, was published the following year. It was inspired by my family’s involvement in saving the old-growth forests of Vancouver Island and the tallest Sitka Spruce in the world. When it received the Canadian Children’s Choice Award and was endorsed by Farley Mowat, the insecure girl inside of me finally understood that my writing was good enough indeed, in both languages. My foolish dream had come true!

Several books followed, including many editions of my first book. La butte à Pétard has been continuously published and studied in Canadian and Cajun schools since 1989. It’s also part of a trilogy, which takes place in Louisiana and the Maritimes. Recently, it has been optioned for a movie.

My latest picture book, Mémére Soleil, Nannie Lune, and its translation, My Two Grandmothers, is a playful and gentle story about my Acadian and Scottish grandmothers in the 1960’s, who were as different from each other as the sun is from the moon.

Being a new grandmother myself, I enjoyed writing my soon to be published L’Acadie en Baratte. It is about a grandmother who takes her grandson on a rollicking road trip through Acadian communities in her Volkswagen van.

Awards

  • Memramcook’s Cultural Society’s 2015 Prix Éloi
  • The Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick’s 2014 Dr. Marilyn Trenholme-Counsell Literacy Award

La patate cadeau OU la “vraie” histoire de la poutine râpée

  • Finalist for the 2016 Hackmatack Award
  • Finalist 2015 Prix Tamarac

Échos de la butte à Pétard

  • Finalist for the 2011 Prix France-Acadie
  • Sélection 2011 Choisir-un-livre

Retour à la butte à Pétard

  • Finalist for the 2009 Prix France-Acadie
  • Sélection 2009 Choisir-un-livre-sélection

Emily’s Carr Attic

  • Selected for 2009 Best Books for Kids & Teens

La butte à Pétard (augmented edition)

  • Winner 2006 Hackmatack Award
  • Sélection 2008 Choisir-un-livre
  • Sélection 2005-2006 Communication-Jeunesse

Who’s in Maxine’s Tree?

  • Resource Links 2005 “The Year’s Best”

L’arbre de Maxine

  • Finalist for the 2005 Prix France Acadie

The Attic of All Sorts

  • 1992 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Choice Award

Maxine’s Tree

  • 1991 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Choice Award

La butte à Pétard

  • Mention Spéciale 1990 Prix France-Acadie

Praise for Diane Carmel Léger

“All comments I have for you are extremely positive. The students really enjoyed your presentation and the teachers were thrilled with the correlation to their curriculum outcomes.  Teachers thought you had a great combination of passion for your work, visuals to support and activities that engaged the students. I would like to thank you for delivering presentations that were relevant to our classes from grades 3 up to grade 8 and for sharing your experience and enthusiasm for writing. It was an amazing experience for our school!”
—Catherine Kieley, Acting Vice Principal, Riverview East School

“I received many comments from various libraries during the two tours you did in the New Brunswick Public Library system for Lire à tout vent and Hackmatack. They were all positive. Your presentation skills and great storytelling have always come up in the reports that the library would submit to me. I also had the pleasure to watch the presentation in one of our libraries in November 2015 and loved how engaged children were. They loved your small activities and were so engaged in your presentation and asked so many questions. All libraries reported to me that you can definitely capture children’s attention, which is a feat in itself. I would, without hesitation, choose you to participate in an author tour again.”
—Karine Lelièvre, Reference Librarian, Mgr-W.-J.-Conway Public Library

« Quel fut notre plaisir de faire votre rencontre!!! Les élèves ont adoré les présentations et ils en demandent encore!!!! »
—Cathy Roy, École Allain St-Cyr (Yellowknife, T.-N.-O.)

« Par votre conférence, vous transmettez le goût de la lecture, de l’histoire ainsi que de la langue française.Vous avez une habileté exceptionnelle pour simplifier l’histoire complexe de l’Acadie afin que non seulement les élèves puissent la comprendre mais également pour les interpeller au niveau du cœur.

Poursuivez votre excellent travail! Vous êtes une grande ambassadrice pour l’Acadie. Vous dégagez une passion qui rayonne et qui donne le goût aux élèves d’apprendre davantage. Je recommande fortement votre conférence dynamique, enrichissante, interactive et passionnante. »
—Sylvain Melançon, Directeur général, Conseil communautaire Beausoleil Inc. (Miramichi, New Brunswick)

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