Kids

Category: Kids

When you write for kids, you can revisit all the exciting (or terrifying) things you did as a child.

I learned to sail as a 10-year-old, and have been lucky enough to sail now and then ever since. I love sailing, and that’s why I set much of the action of my newest book, Blackwells and the Briny Deep (book five in the award-winning Weird Stories Gone Wrong series), on a sailboat.

But there are plenty of good reasons to set a children’s horror story at sea…. 

Secrets from an author and illustrator

In a two-part series, we have a conversation between the author and illustrator of Alex and The Other. First, let’s hear from illustrator Shawna Daigle, as interviewed by author Philippa Dowding.

 

Philippa Dowding: As an “evil twin” story for middle-grade readers, our new book Alex and The Other is possibly the darkest of the four books we’ve done together so far in the Weird Stories Gone Wrong series. Were there any particular challenges you faced as the illustrator, doing a “darker” more psychological book for children?

The human-to-animal connection is a topic that never ceases to fascinate me, and one that I explore in all my novels. In connecting with animals, my characters find strength and courage, and feel less alone as they face their problems. Just because animals don’t speak our language doesn’t make them stupid, and it’s our job to translate.

          In the Saddle Creek series, I go one step further. Alberta Simms, nicknamed Bird, hears what animals say very clearly, and transmits thoughts telepathically.

Besides all the mistakes I make, what I most have in common with my character Stephen Noble in The Artsy Mistake Mystery is that I walk dogs a lot. Usually it’s my Jackapoo Mortie that I stroll with between the scenes that I write, but sometimes it’s my granddog Worf and any guest dogs, like Holly the Bichonpoo. I walk through our neighbourhood, which means I know the dogs and their owners in my community. At least I know the dogs’ names—Spike, Diesel, Akita, Princess, Bailey, Niko etc. —what they like to eat and whether they like to play.

Four children’s books have been selected by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre for its twice-yearly publication of Best Books for Kids & Teens. The titles are: Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me by Philippa Dowding; In Over Her Head by Melody Fitzpatrick; Missing Piece by Robert Priest; and White Jade Tiger (second edition) by Julie Lawson.

I love Canadian landscapes. I’ve crossed and re-crossed Canada many times on book tours, and the incredible variety of landscapes I discover at each destination always amazes me. Georgian Bay, the Arctic tundra, Newfoundland outports, and stunning sweeps of prairie all have their own feel, beauty and lifestyle, and stir my senses.

As a writer for children this awareness of landscape has massive implications. Children do not travel like adults do, therefore every story I write not only needs a credible plot and well-developed characters, but it must create a strong sense of place.

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