I just love it when kids write their own stories using Gabby and her friends as the main characters. Recently, a class of Grade 2 students at Davisville Public School wrote and illustrated some phenomenal stories. I was presented with a big binder of them, which I will cherish.
And today, a class of Grade 3 students at R.H. McGregor School each read out their Gabby stories. And what great stories they were! In one, Gabby got hit by a truck (she’s fine). In another, she was burglarized and in another she was framed for a bank robbery! She lost her magic word book a few times, and she lost her dog — only to find that Mrs. Oldham had dog-napped it! She lost her glasses, went to Africa, went missing, ended up stuck inside her magic word book, won first place in a reality-based music show, had to hunt down her neighbour, went to a baseball game, asked Roy to the prom, went to the hospital, went to the zoo — and so much more!
The kids’ writing was thoughtful and evocative and really exciting. I learned that lots of kids like “big adventures” for Gabby — hit by a car?! — and aren’t afraid of a little espionage in their picture books.
As an author, especially one who’s working on the next Gabby book, I learned a lot about the kinds of stories kids want to hear, and the ways in which Gabby can be part of them.
Thanks to all of the wonderful writers at Davisville and R.H. McGregor!
We had some exciting news recently.
Gabby has been selected as a nominee for the Rainforest of Reading award, 2014.
Created and supported by the OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation, it’s similar to Canada’s Forest of Reading festival, except it’s in St. Lucia, Granada and Montserrat.
The foundation brings much-needed literature to the region. As well, it holds a huge book festival for the area’s grade three students. The students each get a passport which they have signed every time they read one of the books.
They also get to visit some of the authors, who make the trek to St. Lucia for the festival in November.
And this year, I’m going – along with Gabby illustrator Jan Dolby. We’re so excited!
Not only is the nomination exciting, but as a long-time literacy advocate I’m really focussing on the opportunity to bring books and reading to the lovely grade 3 students in St. Lucia, Granada and Montserrat.
We’re in good company. Here are all of the books nominated for the award:
• “Don’t Laugh at Giraffe” written and illustrated by Rebecca Bender. Pajama Press.
• “Willow Finds a Way” written by Lana Button. Illustrated by Tania Howells.
Kids Can Press.
• “Skink on the Brink” written by Lisa Dalrymple. Illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo.
Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
• “Postcards from Space: The Chris Hadfield Story” written by Heather Down. Echo Books/Wintertickle Press.
• “Gabby” written by Joyce Grant. Illustrated by Jan Dolby. Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
• “And the Winner is…Amazing Animal Athletes” written by Etta Kaner. Illustrated by
David Anderson. Kids Can Press.
• “Pterosaur Trouble” written by Daniel Loxton. Illustrated by Daniel Loxton with Jim
W. W. Smith. Kids Can Press.
• “Mr. Flux” written by Kyo Maclear. Illustrated by Matte Stephens. Kids Can Press.
• “Anna Carries Water” by Olive Senior. Illustrated by Laura James. Tradewind Books.
• “Kenta and the Big Wave” written and illustrated by Ruth Ohi. Annick Press.
• “My Name is Blessing” written by Eric Walters. Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes.
I’ll be posting more information about the award and the festival. In the meantime, here’s a link to the Rainforest of Reading website (it will be updated with the new nominee list on July 31).
The Midwest Book Review published a wonderful review of Gabby: Drama Queen on its “Picturebook Shelf,” here.
Wait, wait… look at what they said:
“a delightful story filled with quirky colorful illustrations… a fantastic, fun learning resource for language, story writing, art, cooperative board games, and much more.”
You know, I love the midwest.
Here is a recent review of Gabby: Drama Queen, by “Readerly,” the blog of the National Reading Campaign.
By Gillian O’Rielly
When Gabby and her friend, Roy, decide to put on a play in the back yard, she grabs her special storybook of useful letters and throws it on the grass. Out bounce letters to help them build a S-T-A-G-E. Roy wants to be a swordfish and fashions a fine costume. Determined that the play should take place in a royal court, Gabby isn’t enthusiastic about his idea until he gathers enough letters to make her a C-R-O-W-N. From there, they continue to use the alphabet for set construction and present their brief –but grandiosely titled– play, “The Perils of Queen Gabriella,” for their neighbour, Mrs. Oldham. One last assemblage of letters results in tea and crumpets for all.
A book like this could seem didactic, but Gabby Drama Queen is definitely not. Author, Joyce Grant, has written a playful story that is a really fine read aloud and, in the process, an enjoyable way to learn a little phonics.
There are also activities at the back of the book, such as a challenge to find the bird on every page, a lesson in how to draw Roy, a board game of blended consonants, and an explanation of the medicine wheel on Roy’s t-shirt.
Illustrator, Jan Dolby, fills the pages with lively colour, goofy action, and tumbling letters in a textured digital collage. Gabby’s wild red braids, springing out at various angles, often reflect her emotions. The crazily coloured bird hides among the chaos of the back yard game. A nice touch is the cheerfully exuberant Roy with his black hair and medicine wheel shirt; it is good to see a First Nations character incorporated seamlessly into a story. (And older readers will not be surprised to learn that Mrs. Oldham with her glasses and crazy hair was inspired by the comedian Phyllis Diller.)
This is the second Gabby book from the team of Grant and Dolby. Here’s hoping we can we look forward to more fun from enthusiastic Gabby and her special storybook of useful letters.
Gillian O’Reilly is the editor of Canadian Children’s Book News and a children’s book author. This review was reprinted with permission. View it on Readerly.