November 26, 2014

Authors' Booking Service: Helping readers connect with youngCanLit authors and illustrators

Schools, libraries, book festivals and other literary functions that endeavour to enlist Canadian authors and illustrators are fortunate to have the Authors' Booking Service to help connect readers with those who produce our rich collection of youngCanLit. For those who have ever been interested in booking an author or illustrator, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch and Valerie Sherrard, youngCanLit authors in their own right (write?), created this service in 2006, and share details about it here.

HK:  What is the Authors' Booking Service?

ABS:  Since 2006, Authors' Booking Service has been assisting educators and librarians with finding young adult and children's book creators who are qualified and willing to present at schools and libraries.

We currently represent more than 100 high-profile Canadian children’s authors and illustrators who produce fiction and non-fiction in all genres of work and for all ages. Our creators range from budding writers to multiple award winners. We represent six of the original Seven series authors, a poet-songwriter, an astronomer who brings his own planetarium to visits, an artist who donates an original sketch to schools she gives workshops for, and a singer-songwriter who can workshop how to craft your own school anthem. Our creators entertain, inspire, educate and, most of all, promote literacy and creativity, each in their own unique way.

In recent years, we have partnered with the OLA Forest of Reading program to help current nominees with their bookings. This is particularly important for out of province nominees, because without a critical mass of bookings, many could not afford the trip to their own award ceremonies.

We represent seasoned creators and brand new authors. The one thing that all of our creators have in common is that they love doing school and library presentations and they're good at it!

An impressive group of youngCanLit authors, including Janet Wilson, Rona Arato, Loris Lesynski and Marsha Skrypuch (just to name a few) met with teacher-librarians in Dufferin-Peel.

HK:  Why did you start this service?

ABS:  We saw the need for a booking service that would provide educators and librarians with up-to-date information on children's and young adult authors who were willing and qualified to do school and library presentations and writing workshops. From a creator’s point of view, there was a huge need for a service that could connect with educators and librarians in a systematic way to manage creator presentations and to ease communication challenges.

We recognized that many smaller schools and libraries could not afford an author visit. We know that staff is stretched to the limit, often managing more than one library or having other roles in addition to the library. They do not have time to co-ordinate an author visit with area schools and libraries in order to minimize the cost.

We also realized that many schools and libraries were not aware of funding programs available to offset some of the costs of an author presentation. As well, many authors did not know how to access funding programs.

We knew that crises happen. What if an author or illustrator is sick or has a family emergency and cannot visit at the appointed time? For the author, it would be near-impossible for them find their own replacement at the last minute. And it is a daunting prospect for a school or library to find a last-minute replacement.

Sometimes funding approval comes so close to the deadline that a school or library is left scrambling for an appropriate author or illustrator to come in before the money disappears. Similarly, sometimes an author is in a particular city or town, their travel has already been paid for, but they’ve only been booked for part of the day. They’re biding their time in a coffee shop, waiting until the train arrives when what they’d really like to be doing is one more presentation.

We also knew how difficult it was for authors and illustrators to manage their own bookings. It takes a LOT of time to write or illustrate a book and so figuring out a way to cluster school and library presentations in a way that doesn’t interfere with the creative process (and deadlines) was essential.

HK:  Who uses your services?

ABS:  Mostly children’s librarians, and school library staff, although we’ve also helped line up presenters for government functions, clubs and cultural groups. We focus on Ontario, but we’ve also satisfied requests from across Canada and even from the US.

HK:  What are the advantages to using the Authors' Booking Service?

ABS:  When you try to book an author on your own, you’re starting from scratch. You might have a particular author in mind, but you have no idea whether you can afford them or whether they’re available. You can email them and may never hear back – it could be because of board email filters or it could be because the email you have for the author is no longer valid. Whatever the reason, it is a frustrating exercise.

We keep track of our authors’ availability. We can inform you right up front about the author’s pricing, dates available and whether they’d be a good fit for your needs. We can also recommend alternatives. Every single ABS author has an author page which lists key information like presentation costs, travel fees, recent books and awards, presentation details and audience parameters.

We also send out a weekly email newsletter with news of interest, including availability details for our members’ upcoming tours. We can help you share an author with neighbouring schools in order to minimize costs. We can let you know when there are subsidies available.

If you have an urgent need – we can get things done quickly. For example, your scheduled author comes down with chicken pox two days before the visit. We can find you a replacement – and not just any replacement but a fab one. We’ve managed situations like a municipality wanting four energetic YA authors for a noon-time gig in a busy shopping mall, and oh, the event is on Friday.

HK:  Is there a charge for schools, libraries or other venues who want your help to book an author or illustrator?

ABS:  No. The service is free for schools and libraries. However, if you use our website as a resource, we ask that you book through us rather than emailing the author directly. This helps us track our bookings.

Middle-grade and YA author Sylvia McNicoll

HK:  What fee do authors/illustrators pay to use your service?

ABS:  For every presentation we book, our authors are charged a small flat fee, which goes towards maintaining the website, paying for our mailing list subscription and paper brochures. What’s left over is split between Valerie and myself.

HK:  What kinds of authors do you book through ABS?

ABS:  We’ve learned over the years what sorts of presenters are most in demand. Just writing or illustrating a great book is not enough, they must also be able to wow an audience.

We make a point of filling niches, so our presenters have specialty topics that fit in with
the curriculum. We also have speakers who can talk about the Franklin Expedition, hockey, the War of 1812, swimming across Lake Ontario and running a 100 mile marathon. Many of our authors have overcome great personal challenges and they can inspire your students to do the same.

Picture book author Lisa Dalrymple
The bulk of our authors ( live in Ontario and are usually available throughout the school year.

We also represent out of province authors ( who come to Ontario once or twice a year and need a clustering of bookings to make the trip viable.

And we provide special representation for those authors and illustrators who are current nominees for the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading (

HK:  Are there any authors that you do not work with e.g., those who live in the US?

ABS:  In order to keep our numbers manageable and still meet the needs of those using our service, it is necessary for us to be somewhat selective. We tend not to represent authors who are brand new unless they’ve garnered a significant number of awards or nominations. We have represented authors who live in the US when they’ve been shortlisted for the Forest of Reading Awards.

HK:  How do you recommend someone get in touch with you to use your services?

ABS:  Email us at or visit our website at  We would love to hear from you!

You can also subscribe to our newsletter. Email us and ask to be added, or simply enter your email address on the subscribe button that’s in the top left portion of every ABS author’s page.

Read what those who've used the Authors' Booking Service say about its service:
David Carroll came to St. George's Junior School this morning and enthralled the students (gr. 3-5) with his Ultra marathon stories. He has great messages to share with the students through his "we all have super powers" and "nothing is impossible". David kept the audience engaged with his slides, music, reading, story telling and chatting with the kids. Very personable, fun and easy going. Highly recommended! - Juli Belliveau
I saw the "Your Turn" section and had to thank you for recommending Sigmund Brouwer to us here in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario in June 2014. What a fantastic author! He shared his high energy, enthusiastic, informative and inspirational Rock and Roll Literacy Event with 6 of our schools in June then returned to visit 9 more in November. Being able to have this author has impacted our students' enthusiasm for reading, writing and improving library interest. I whole heartedly recommend inviting Sigmund Brouwer to any school, any time and be ready to have your world Rocked! - Roberta Chiarello, System Teacher-Librarian, Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board
About Marsha Skrypuch: "The feedback I have received from our students has been awesome. Everyone LOVED your presentations and are so inspired to read, and read more of your books. Bombs for Hitler copies were all gone by 8:40 a.m! There were so many inspired and motivated students." - Marla Cook
I am so grateful for Authors Booking Service. You have made the process of arranging author and illustrator visits so straightforward. The authors that we have hosted this year have been phenomenal! - Andrea Wesson
Thank you for helping me arrange Rebecca Bender's visit to our school. It was a smashing success! - Tom Holmes
Quotes from authors:
"I love the way ABS connects me with teachers, librarians and readers, without whom I'm not sure what I'd be doing." - Allan Stratton, author of Curse of the Dream Witch
Living on Prince Edward Island is a dream come true but Authors’ Booking Service makes it possible to come home again."Sharon E. McKay, author of War Brothers and Charlie Wilcox
"Authors' Booking Service has been ideal for both promotion of my services and to smooth out the booking process: it allows a one-stop shopping for bookings, thus facilitating what to me is the less thrilling part of my work as an author. Marsha and Valerie are energizer bunnies in this regard, and have done great work in promoting school visits, and authors, and literacy, and thus all the good things that happen as result." - Bill Swan, Red Maple award-winning author of Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death: The Steven Truscott Story
Picture book author/illustrator Mireille Messier
"Thanks to ABS I’ve been able to reach out and present my French picture books to immersion schools students that I would otherwise never have had a chance to meet."Mireille Messier, author of Fatima et les voleurs de clĂ©mentines
"I love the way you guys tell a school that I am a 'wise choice' as a presenter. No one in my whole life has called me wise. It makes me feel grown-up and Gandalf-y -- neither of which is my natural state." - Richard Scrimger, author of Ink Me and Zomboy
"Not only do this powerhouse duo walk on water, but they patiently lead their authors to that water. What did we do without them?”Teresa Toten, author of Governor General award-winning The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B

Please note: CanLit for LittleCanadians has received no remuneration for promoting the Authors' Booking Service.  As always, I promote youngCanLit, and its authors and illustrators, because I love it.  Without promotion, we could sadly lose the wealth of youngCanLit gracing our bookshelves.

November 22, 2014

Jellybean Mouse

by Philip Roy
Illustrated by Andrea Torrey Balsara
Ronsdale Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
September, 2014

I fell in love with Happy the Pocket Mouse when he first appeared in Philip Roy's Mouse Tales (Ronsdale, 2014) and I continue to delight in the tender-hearted relationship between this quirky-whiskered and curious mouse and his housemate, John.

In Jellybean Mouse, Happy is seriously bored but the only exciting adventure on their agenda that day is a trip to the laundromat to wash clothes i.e., not very exciting at all. Happy goes along with John but sees the potential for excitement all along the way: at the bowling alley, the skating rink, and the grocery store.  But, of course, John keeps them on course, regardless of Happy's relentless queries.

Ah, but the laundromat offers a wonderful new option: a jellybean machine.  And though Happy must deal with a few obstacles, his determination is interminable.  He's a curious child who asks, wonders, listens, and ponders, and looks for a way to get what he wants without being selfish or breaking the rules.  Happy's innocence and positive attitude provide him with the hope to find something good in just about anything, and Philip Roy's words share that unpretentiousness superbly.  Honestly, Happy is that precious.

Jellybean Mouse is the simple story of a guardian and his ward, albeit a man and a mouse, and the pure, uncomplicated life they lead, finding joy in the simple pleasures.  Philip Roy gives John and Happy the perfect compassionate relationship to which most of us could only aspire.  And Andrea Torrey Balsara continues to provide the only illustrations that could epitomize John and Happy: the calm, steadfastness of John and the thoughtful, inquisitive Happy.  I don't know whether it's her palette of colours (Happy has a lovely mauve hue to his fur) or the straggly nature of her lines, as in Happy's whiskers, or the softness of John's eyewear and Happy's roundish belly and massive, interested eyes.  All I know is that, courtesy of Philip Roy and Andrea Torrey Balsara, Happy is now as firmly entrenched in my heart as he wanted to be in that jellybean machine.

November 20, 2014

A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison - Book Event (Victoria)

Join co-authors

Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson

for a presentation and book-signing of 

their incredibly beautiful biography

A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison
by Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson
An Ann Featherstone Book
Pajama Press
40 pp.
All ages
September, 2014

Monday, December 1, 2014

7:30-9:30 p.m.
(Doors open at 7:00 p.m.)


Saanich Centennial Branch
Greater Victoria Public Library
3110 Tillicum Road
(by Pearkes Arena)

$5 and $4 for students

Available at School House
2014 Douglas Street
at the door
(Purchasing tickets in advance is recommended to ensure seating)

I expect that this will be a very special event and I encourage anyone who loves beautiful books, artwork, Canadian landscapes, biographies, children's books and so much more to attend.

November 18, 2014

The Fabulous World of Mr. Fred

by Lili Chartrand
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
32 pp.
Ages 5+
September 2014

The award-winning Monde fabuleux de Monsieur Fred (Dominique et Compagnie, 2012) has finally been translated into English, introducing new readers to the beautifully illustrated story of friendship, imagination and stories.

Pierrot is a daydreamer, a young boy who loves stories and using his imagination.  Coming across an older man sitting on a park bench and reading an invisible book, the boy introduces himself and joins the man, Mr. Fred.  Instead of treating the man as crazy, Pierrot encourages Mr. Fred to share the stories in his book.  Invited back, Pierrot enjoys Mr. Fred's magical stories, delighting in their mesmeric quality and the joy the story-teller derives.  Finally Mr. Fred feels comfortable to disclose his own story, revealing a tragedy that leads him to meeting Pierrot.  And, though Pierrot tries to excite other children about Mr. Fred and his book, they laugh at him.  That is, all but one little girl, Lila.  Sadly Lila never meets Mr. Fred.  But his friendship and stories become the catalyst for Pierrot and Lila's friendship and future.

Lili Chartrand's lovely story about the healing nature of friendship and the gift of imagination is enhanced with Gabrielle Grimard's expressive illustrations. Her use of watercolours gives the images an ethereal fluidity, though the intense gouache and definition with pencil help ground the story in bright reality.  The Fabulous World of Mr. Fred easily melds intensity and lightness of text and pictures to share a story of similar depth and tenderness.

The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing

by C. K. Kelly Martin
Dancing Cat Books
256 pp.
Ages 13+
September, 2014

The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing, as a title, suggests the lightness of song and joy. But those moments are few and far between in the actual story. That's because The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing is a story of secrets, confusion, anger, and grief, with only a few bars of a sweet song that may be heard in the background, leaving you hoping the song will make its way to the forefront and be sung loud and clear and passionately.

When Serena LeBlanc's older brother, Devin, trades a life of Mensa brilliance at university for drugs and life on the street, she could never have foreseen the impact it would have on her and her family.  Having endured Devin's plunge into drugs, theft and erratic behaviour, culminating with his disappearance, Serena's parents seem to have disassociated themselves from any life without Devin.  Mom is constantly on eBay purchasing new Swarovski figurines and Dad just seems to go through the motions of life. Her eldest brother Morgan, a celebrity VJ at MuchMusic, lives with his partner Jimmy in Toronto, but still tries to offer the support they all need to remain an intact family.  Serena, not yet sixteen, loses almost thirty pounds and begins dating Jacob Westermark, leaving behind her old friendships, and enjoying a new popularity.

But recognizing an incident at a party as an attempt at sexual exploitation, Serena swears off Jacob and guys in general, finding new friends in girls Nicole and Genevieve who have been humiliated by their boyfriends too.  Bonding with the girls over their disappointment in boys provides Serena some refuge from her parents' detachment, as does a part-time job as a cashier at Total Drug Mart.  But two events change everything for Serena.

A young man who regularly drops into Total Drug Mart begins to show an interest in Serena.  But Serena is torn between being loyal to her friends and their boyfriend-less status and becoming involved with a really nice guy, Gage Cochrane.  Worse still, Serena doesn't know how to be herself around Gage.  She still sees herself as the chubby girl who would need to throw herself at a guy to keep him interested.  Gage, on the other hand, seems fairly well-adjusted and is not impressed with Serena's sexual antics.

Then, while attending one of Jimmy's art shows in Toronto, Serena spots Devin on the street.  But when he flees from her, catching a streetcar, Serena is left with more questions about who her brother has become and whether he wants to come home ever.

It's painful to read Serena's attempts to understand and find her brother, especially as she examines her relationship with him and how she sees herself.
...I can see with absolute clarity how the tangled mess of my former blubber, personal insecurities, and stupid need for some kind of male appraisal have shaped me into a person I don't want to be. (pg. 114) 
As she did in My Beating Teenage Heart, Yesterday and Tomorrow, C. K. Kelly Martin expertly weaves a story based on the typical confusion of the teen years but with an atypical, devastating situation that impacts that confusion all the more.  In The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing, she imbues the story with a grittiness and harshness about young relationships, especially in the shadow of social media exploitation, and a young man's severance from his family, and creates a series of scenarios you hope you'll never have to experience.  You won't necessarily like Serena (or at least I didn't, at the beginning) but you'll understand how she has become the person she has.  Her life is messy but it's not until she takes some responsibility for that mess and faces that she can't force things to turn out the way she wants that life begins to feel better.  She can't make Devin come home.  She can't make her parents change.  She can't make Gage act like she thinks he should.  Serena cannot make her life all sweet and lovely but she can control herself and her choices and that makes things all the sweeter.  C. K. Kelly Martin gets that very right and, without making Serena's life a Broadway musical, she allows her to find a song that is sure to become sweeter. 

November 17, 2014

Kissing Frogs: Book Launch (Toronto)



debut author 

Alisha Sevigny 

for the launch 

of her young adult book

Kissing Frogs

231 pp.
Ages 12+

Sunday, November 23, 2014

7 - 9 p.m.


College Street Bar
574 College Street
Toronto, ON

Alisha Sevigny will be reading from Kissing Frogs
and signing copies of her book which will be available for purchase (cash only).

Jon Klassen: Author/Illustrator Event (Toronto)

Jon Klassen,
author and illustrator of

award-winning picture books

I Want My Hat Back 

This is Not My Hat


illustrator of

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

will give a short presentation about his work as well as sign his books


Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 

5pm – 7pm 


Little Island Comics 
742 Bathurst Street
Toronto, ON