Available for IN-PERSON visits in: Newfoundland

Home Province: Ontario

Craft: Author

Genre: Picture Books, Teen Fiction

Target Audience: Kindergarten and up

Cost for School and Public Virtual Presentation with CCBC subsidy: $200.00, plus applicable taxes


Workshop Information:

I Love You More: So Much in Store! (45 minutes) – Junior Kindergarten – Grade 3

*Best Books for Kids and Teens 2022, Canadian Children’s Book Centre

Preferred maximum group size: 60

Preferred venue: Classroom or library

Projector and screen required

Word play. Activity sheets. A heart-to-heart game that connects pairs of students through images and words. A page-by-page treasure hunt. Wait! There’s more: a peek at how Barbara Reid made the beautiful illustrations for I Love You More, the bestselling picture book written by Emil Sher. During this 45-minute presentation for students in younger grades, Emil engages hearts and minds as he shares the back story to how this acclaimed book went from a game he played with his daughters when they were children to a “a swoon-worthy classic.”  Emil covers all the steps that went into the making of I Love You More, from his first drafts to Barbara’s rough sketches, to a last-minute change before it was published.

Emil begins his presentation by sharing the step-by-step story of how I Love You More came to be. He then walks students through the book as they accompany Des as he strolls to school through his lively, diverse neighbourhood, feasts on birthday cupcakes in his classroom, hangs out with his grandma after school, and caps the day back home by covering his snoozing mother with a blanket.

Then it’s all pencils on deck as students link more word pairs – trees and nests, mittens and hands – on activity sheets. Next up: a game called Heart 2 Heart, where each student is given an illustration (with the word that identifies it below) on a paper heart.  Their mission is to find the classmate who pairs with their word. It’s just a matter of time before ‘bun heart’ meets ‘hot dog heart.’  All you need is a few words, and a lot of love. 

How much does Emil love author visits?  More than cherries love sundaes.  More than boots love rain puddles. More than seek loves hide.


Young Man with Camera: Behind the Scenes (60 minutes) – Grades 5 and up

Preferred maximum group size: 60; willing to accommodate a larger group in a school auditorium

Preferred venue: Classroom or library

Projector and screen required

This young adult novel, featuring striking photographs by David Wyman, is about a lifelong friendship between thirteen-year-old T—and Sean, tested in ways that reveal the true depths of their bond. It’s about the connection forged between T— and a homeless woman named Lucy, a friendship unexpectedly cut short. It’s a story about photography — a passion that defines T—’s world — and questions about what a photograph doesn’t reveal.   Young Man with Camera introduces us to a trio of adolescent bullies who have made life miserable for T— because of facial burns, and to a librarian who introduces T— to a photographer whose portraits of the marginalized speak to him. This is a story about a young man who must make a moral choice about crime and punishment, a gifted photographer who stands at a crossroads and must choose between what he knows to be true and the price to be paid for staying silent. Young Man with Camera is about a boy, his camera and a singular perspective that gives him an uncommon strength.

During a 60-minute presentation, Emil takes us behind the scenes of writing this novel as he explores the creative process. Photographs from the book are projected as Emil discusses how the images were selected or orchestrated during photo shoots. Young readers are given a glimpse into the writing process and then given the opportunity to explore the book’s themes: in small groups they look at a photograph and are asked to make up a story about what might have happened beyond the frame, to consider a fundamental question about how we interpret the world: for all that we see, what goes unseen and unsaid? This leads to discussions about giving a second thought to first impressions.


Unpacking the Holocaust: A Playwright’s Journey (60 minutes) – Grades 5 and up

Preferred maximum group size: 60; willing to accommodate a larger group in a school auditorium

Preferred venue: Classroom or library

Projector and screen required

What are the challenges, the choices, the considerations when history is to be both honoured and dramatized on stage?

How far into the darkness of the Holocaust do you go, knowing young children will be watching the play?  How do you condense layered lives into ninety minutes on stage?  How can sets, costumes, masks, slides and silence give voice to an unspeakable tragedy? How much of an acclaimed book do you preserve, and what gets left behind?

These are some of the questions that are explored in Unpacking the Holocaust: A Playwright’s Journey.  In a lively, engaging talk, playwright Emil Sher offers a glimpse of the process of taking a story and retelling it on stage. The first part of his talk is a brief account of the true story at the heart of Hana’s Suitcase, the beloved children’s book by Karen Levine that has touched lives the world over.  Students are given an overview of Fumiko Ishioka’s inspiring journey, and how this Japanese educator ultimately found George Brady, a Holocaust survivor who kept his sister’s story to himself for decades. The lion’s share of the presentation is devoted to how Emil transformed a book into a stage production.  Projections that are seen during a performance of the play are shared in the classroom, so students are given a taste of the theatre-going experience.

As students hear of Fumiko’s search for any trace of Hana Brady they see the names of some who perished in the Holocaust float across a screen, then fade.  They watch a child’s colourful drawing dissolve into the stone-cold entrance of a death camp.  They learn about subtext, and how wordless gestures can speak volumes.

This 60-minute presentation is capped by a discussion where students share their responses to a handout they will have received prior to my virtual visit. They are asked to imagine they’re living in wartime. Specifically, someone knocks at their door, seeking refuge, as Hana and her family experienced during the onset of WW II.  After the choices are tallied, a conversation follows about how and why they made the choices they did.

A knock on your door as a war rages. You can provide safety to only one of these pairs. Who do you choose?

1) An elderly man and his five-year old grandchild

2) Two sisters, 15 and 19

3) A 40-year old mother and her disabled son, 11

4) A couple next door considered as close as family 


Unpacking the Holocaust offers the following potential curriculum links:

The Arts (Drama)


Writers’ Craft

Social Studies

Canadian and World Studies (Politics/Civics, Law, World Issues, History)

Family Studies (Family trauma, Identity)

Religion (Tolerance, Anti-semitism, Moral Education)


Book List

Je T’Aime Plus (Scholastic), illustrated by Barbara Reid, 2023

I Love You More (Scholastic), illustrated by Barbara Reid, 2022

Away (Groundwood), illustrated by Qin Leng, 2017

Mittens to Share (Scholastic), illustrated by Irene Luxbacher, 2016

Young Man with Camera (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine), 2015

A Pebble Story (Annick), illustrated by Cindy Revell, 2014

A Button Story (Annick), illustrated by Cindy Revell, 2014

Hana’s Suitcase on Stage (Second Story Press), story: Karen Levine, play: Emil Sher (2006)



Emil Sher’s wide-ranging works for the stage, screen and children have been honoured at home and internationally and translated into French, Italian, Hebrew, Slovak, Russian, Japanese and Turkish. Young Man with Camera, Emil’s debut young adult novel, was a 2015 Governor General’s Award finalist. His picture books include Away and Mittens to Share. His most recent picture book, I Love You More, is illustrated by Barbara Reid and was a bestseller shortly after its release in January 2002. His adaptation of Hana’s Suitcase has been staged across Canada and the U.S. Emil has had the privilege of engaging with students of all ages through school visits in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and the Yukon. His works for children have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Red Maple Award and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award.