Monday, 22 August 2016

Carter and the Curious Maze at the CNE!

I'm really pleased to say that I'll be reading from my new book, Carter and the Curious Maze, on the Kids World Stage at the Canadian National Exhibition next weekend!

A thousand thanks to the Fort York and CNE staff for all the support, and for helping me to arrange the reading.

Here are the details:

Event: Philippa Dowding at the CNE
Place: Kids World Stage (CNE, near Dufferin Gates)
Date: Saturday, August 27th
Time: 4 pm - 4:30 pm
FREE with admission to the CNE. The author and the illustrator Shawna Daigle, will be selling/signing books after the reading.

I hope you'll come and join us.

The book is a time-travel story set on the CNE grounds. Young Carter is bored with the CNE this year, until he enters the curious maze, and travels back to 3 time periods on the same spot: the CNE in 1903, the Battle of York on April 27, 1813, and then back to a fur-trading day at little-known French Fort Rouille, in 1750. The Fort Rouille monument still stands at the foot of Dufferin Street, behind the bandshell and next to Scadding Cabin. I've lived in Toronto all of my adult life, and had no idea that it existed, and that Fort Rouille was actually the first European settlement in the area.

Me signing books at Fort York, thank you for having me!
I had so much fun writing this book, although it was an incredible amount of work for 20,000 words. But as I delved further into the 3 time periods, there was more and more I wanted to say. It was tough to keep the word count for each chapter to about 1,000 words and to say what I wanted to say in 3 chapters per period. I also needed to keep the tension high, since the maze is actually another midway ride, after all, with chills, thrills and scream-inducing moments. Just like any good roller-coaster.

The next stage, the getting-the-word-out stage, has been fun, too. I was lucky enough to read at Fort York twice in August 2016 to summer camp kids, that was pretty special. Many thanks to the Fort for having me. (Note: a room of kids yelling KA-BOOM makes me laugh, apparently, every time.)

Fort York 2016
The book isn't really a history lesson, although it was my hope that the mystery of the maze will pique young reader's interest in the historical aspects of the story. And certainly it isn't didactic, it's a yarn about growing older and the infinite mysteries of the world around us as we leave childhood. I leave it to the reader to form their own impressions of the awful practice of freak shows in the last century, the terror of the Battle of York, or to recognize that the fur-trade was the sad first step in the European domination of First Nations people. The information is all there, Carter is sympathetic and curious, and it's my hope that teachers and librarians will open the conversation with their students, and use this book as a jumping off point for further inquiry and critical thinking.

I also wrote Carter and the Curious Maze because I have lived in and around Toronto most of my life, and I have the fondest memories of travelling to the CNE on the GO train from Oakville as a young teenager (one of a gaggle), and wandering through the CNE until the last train left for home. The words "Doggie Doggie" will mean something to a few readers of this piece, and send anticipatory shivers down a few spines, like they still do for me.

A trip to the CNE was, for most of my friends and certainly for me, our first taste of real freedom, through a world of wonder, strange and luminous to us. I wrote Carter and the Curious Maze to share some of that wonder with the next generation of readers, a sort of love song if you like, to Toronto. Finally, to be able to read this book at Fort York and now the CNE this weekend ... how lucky am I? Thanks to all who made it happen.

Recent reviews of Carter and the Curious Maze:

"This original take on time-travel historical fiction is a sure bet" Kirkus Reviews
"Readers will be compelled by historical tales of Toronto's past" 4/4 Stars, Highly Recommended, CM Magazine
Goodreads Reviews

Find a few more thoughts about why I wrote the book here: AUTHOR ARC LETTER

And to showcase illustrator Shawna Daigle's fantastic art, here is the BOOK TRAILER


Monday, 15 August 2016

What is it like to draw a monster made of fog ...

... or a giant's hand ... or a creepy, time-travel maze?

This week on the blog, I'm delighted to highlight the terrific work of the illustrator of my latest series, Shawna Daigle.

"I've always loved drawing creepy." Shawna Daigle interview, Aug/2016

Shawna created the fabulous covers and all the inside illustrations for the three books in the Weird Stories Gone Wrong series, that's 22 illustrations in total, and each one is a work of art. She drew giant flies for Jake and the Giant Hand, a monster made of fog for Myles and the Monster Outside, and three different time periods, including a little-known French trading fort, in 1750 for Carter and the Curious Maze.

I can't possibly pick a favourite, but I do love the illustration of Carter travelling back in time to the CNE (a large Canadian summer fair), in 1903, at left.

I was so lucky to be able to work with Shawna. It was so fun to collaborate, to pick the highlights of each story, and so hard to wait to see what she came up with. As an author, it's really interesting to see how someone else interprets your description of a scene or a character. I guess picture book authors get to experience that, but it's a new thing for me, and so much fun. She nailed it, every time. Thank you, Shawna!
Creepy Leaf Girl, Carter and the Curious Maze

Tumble chicken, Myles and the Monster Outside

Here is her interview with our publisher, Dundurn Press, on their blog this week: Creating Carter: A Q&A with Illustrator Shawna Daigle. Now I finally know which book of the three is her favourite (it's mine, too). We're a perfect match!

Check out the following book trailers that highlight more of Shawna's amazing work:

Carter and the Curious Maze Book Trailer
Myles and the Monster Outside  Book Trailer
Jake and the Giant Hand Book Trailer