gabrielleprendergastHow did you get started in children’s books?

Back in the 90s, I wrote a screenplay for a family film called Hildegarde and worked on a couple of cartoon shows. At the time I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a “children’s writer” so I wrote a few more mature things after that. But when I had my daughter I gravitated back to writing for children and teens and started having more success. I still like writing stories for adults sometimes but I’ll never stop writing for kids and teens.

What (or who) inspires your writing or art?

I’m inspired by the kids I know — my daughter and my niece and nephews, as well as the kids I meet when I visit schools or teach workshops.  I’m also inspired by the world around us and what’s happening. Several things I’ve written have been inspired by news stories. And quite frequently dreams (or nightmares!) have inspired me.

What was your favourite book as a child? Why?

I loved The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Edwards and read it over and over when I was 8 or 9. I also loved the Narnia books. I think I loved them for the same reasons: because they were both about portals to magical worlds. I was a troubled little kid and I think the idea of escaping to another world appealed to me. As an older kid I loved Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Trilogy for similar reasons.

How can teachers use your books in the classroom?

Pandas on the Eastside is a great read-aloud book because it has short and contained chapters, each one ending in a way that will make the kids look forward to the next. It also includes a range of themes that can be developed into activities: pandas and their habitat, diet, etc., Chinese writing, The Vietnam War, Sikh culture and community action.

For older kids, my shorter books (Wicket Season, The Frail Days and Pinch Me) make great independent reading books because they’re fast and fun. And my verse novels, Audacious and Capricious, would work well in poetry units. There are a variety of poetic styles in these books such as haiku and sonnets, that students can learn about and try their hands at.

What are you looking forward to most during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week?

I’m looking forward to visiting the Sheshegwaning and Aundeck Omni First Nations Libraries. I’ve never visited a First Nations library before so that will be a first for me. And I’ve never been Sudbury! I’m going to take a photo at the Big Nickel.

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