Wednesday, 3 March 2021

A beautiful book launch for FIREFLY and a blog post by Helen Kubiw


Thank you to everyone who came to the virtual book launch for FIREFLY (March 2, 2021)! We had over 55 guests, and many wonderful questions from attendees after the main Q&A.

My most sincere thanks to kidlit blogger and author, Helen Kubiw, whose questions to me were so thoughtful and really teased out the main themes of the story. 

Also thank you to Another Story Bookshop for handling book sales at the event, and Thunder Thighs Costumes (where the story is set), for supporting the launch. Thanks to Rosana Khabbaz for this beautiful collage of the book and my sister-in-law, whose costume shop inspired the story.

Here is the whole interview on Helen Kubiw's blog: Canlit for Little Canadians, FIREFLY interview with Philippa Dowding 

Enjoy question seven from Helen and my answer below: 

 Q: One of my favourite characters is Aunt Gayle. She’s fierce but never heavy-handed. She’s open and protective, while giving Firefly both freedom and security. Your acknowledgement tells us Aunt Gayle is based on your sister-in-law. Is she based on her personality, her actions, or both?

PHILIPPA: Yes, the character of Aunt Gayle is inspired by my sister-in-law, who started her costume shop in Toronto’s east end in the late 1970s.

But this is a piece of fiction, so Aunt Gayle is inspired by my sister-in-law, not an exact copy of her, although people who have read the book and who knew her definitely see her personality there. And her costume shop is pretty exactly described in the book.

She was determined, successful, creative, energetic, she loved her family and friends with a fierce devotion. She was also a world champion knitter. We once took her to a baseball game at Rogers Stadium, and she sat and knit the whole time! We always had beautiful hand-knit scarves and hats and sweaters as gifts, which she whipped off for us. So, her devotion and loyalty to her family and friends, her talent as a costume designer, her smarts as a boss and business person, that’s really what I wanted to capture in the story. And her tireless knitting. I think that pretty much sums her up!"

For the whole launch interview

All posts about FIREFLY on this blog

5 Questions About My Next Book, FIREFLY!

FIREFLY is NOW AVAILABLE! It's my thirteenth book for children, and it's from DCB Young Readers, my amazing publisher. Thank you to them!

Set in a downtown Toronto costume shop, it's a story about mental health, PTSD, homelessness and poverty. BUT, it's also about the indomitable spirit of a 13-year-old girl, and her imperfect but amazing aunt, who runs the costume shop.

You can order FIREFLY now.

Whenever I have a new book coming out, I answer the top 5 questions I think people are going to ask about the book, so here they are, enjoy!

1. What is FIREFLY about?

Firefly has been sleeping in the Toronto park across from her mother's house for most of the summer.  Then the bad night happens and she gets nabbed by social services, who send her to live at The Corseted Lady costume shop with her Aunt Gayle. The costume shop has 7 million pieces in it, enough for Firefly to try all kinds of identities in grade nine at her new high school. But which one is the real Firefly?

2. What made you want to write this story?

The setting for the story is inspired by a real costume shop in Toronto, run by my extended family members. It's an amazing place, a warehouse with 7 million pieces in it! (Along with all the beautiful costumes, you'd have to include the huge collections of things like buttons, eye glasses, boots, shoes, fascinators to reach that number, though.) My sister-in-law started the shop in the 1980s, and built it into a very successful business, creating and renting costumes for the Canadian film, theatre and television industry. She made my wedding dress, for instance, which was used on at least one CBC franchise! Costumes transform us, but also reveal who we are. I wanted Firefly's story to be more about who she becomes, than who she was on the street, and costumes are a great way to achieve that.

3. Firefly and her mother don't reconcile by the end of this story. Is this a little unusual for a middle-grade book?

Without giving too much away (!), I did want to write a story that explores the long-term struggle a young person has with a parent who, for various reasons, cannot parent their child properly. There's no fast, easy way to heal and to write any other kind of ending would be untruthful. But the story isn't really focused on the past. In the indomitable spirit of a young teenager, Firefly looks forward. She's curious, loving, smart, resourceful and with help from her aunt, her friend Charlie, a good social worker and a few others, she starts a journey of self-discovery. And in a costume shop, that journey can go in some amazing and hilarious directions! 

The ending is hopeful too, and there is the suggestion that Firefly and her mother will talk again, one day. When Firefly is ready.

4. What is your favourite part of the book?

It was a real honour to write a story inspired by a family-run business, one that my kids have worked at, that I have watched grow and change for decades. I have lots of memories about it, including the year my daughter and her friends rented all the lobster costumes for Halloween. It's a family story, so I love that about it, although it is a piece of fiction. The book is also quite hilarious in places, strange things can happen in a costume shop, especially at Halloween (which is when the story is set). I really love Chapter Fourteen, "There's Always a Guy in a Gorilla Suit," which I think is one of the funniest things I've ever written!  I'll just leave that there!

5. What is the main message you want young readers to take away from FIREFLY?

I think any child, whether in a difficult home situation or not, will identify with the courage and humour in Firefly. We're all luminous, beautiful creatures, lit from within, and there are people who see that in us, too. The main message I want kids to hear: find your crew, and let them love you and help you. You're not alone.

BOOK LAUNCH Q&A on Helen Kubiw's Blog: Kidlit blogger Helen Kubiw interviews me on all things FIREFLY.

Beautiful Review from CanLit for Little Canadians

Here's a short YouTube video of ME Reading FIREFLY


More about FIREFLY on this BLOG

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Are the Kids Alright ... 10 books for I Read Canadian Day on 49th Shelf!

Today is IReadCanadian Day! That means, on February 17, each of us can read a Canadian author for 15 minutes, to support the Canadian publishing world. Read a book, tell a friend, write a review, give a gift book. Anything and everything to celebrate Canadian authors, books, and publishing.

Here's my curated list this week on the 49thShelf: Kids Coping With Crisis

These are 10 fantastic books by Canadian authors, which explore adult and parental mental health, homelessness, poverty and addiction through a kid's eyes. I was asked to curate and annotate this list by 49thShelf, as a celebration of my newest book, FIREFLY. Thank you to them!

The books are by Eric Walters, Rebecca Upjohn, Monica Kulling, Christina Kilbourne, Holly Dobbie, Natalie Hyde, Eden Robinson, Christopher Paul Curtis, E.L. Chen. All great authors you should get to know! Books links, annotations and more at the link: Philippa Dowding on the 49thShelf.

Happy I Read Canadian Day!

All posts about FIREFLY on this Blog