Authors for Indies Day – May 2, 2015

Book City Yonge and St ClairI’ll be at Book City at Yonge and St. Clair on May 2 to help raise awareness (and have some fun!) on Authors for Indies Day.

It’s a way for authors to support independent bookstores–and thank them for all that they do for us throughout the year. We will be talking about books, recommending books and doing some readings and signings.

I’ll be joining these fabulous authors aBook City logot that location:
Angela MisriElyse FriedmanStephen Smith, Michael HarrisHelaine Becker, Kathy KacerLoren EdizelMolly Peacock, Kevin Sylvester, Charmian ChristieAnna PorterRobert Charles WilsonSharry Wilson, Charmian ChristieTerry FallisI’ll be there most of the day, so please drop by!

Oh, and here’s the Authors for Indies website so you can plan your day.authorsforindies logo


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Gabby’s off to the Caribbean!

Rainforest of Reading Festival improves literacy in the Caribbean

Something amazing will be happening in the Caribbean this November, and it’s all thanks to a group of people who saw a literacy need in another part of the world, and took action to help.

GABBY final with school uniform

To help make Gabby feel more at home in the Caribbean, illustrator Jan Dolby gave her a smart new school uniform modelled after the ones worn by girls in St. Lucia and Grenada.

Thanks to the One World Schoolhouse Foundation more than 8,000 schoolchildren in St. Lucia, Grenada and Montserrat will receive books for their classrooms and get to meet eight popular Canadian kidlit authors and illustrators.

Gabby_Teachers_Guide-FINAL-CARIBBEAN-EDITION--cover-for-webDownload a free copy of the Gabby: Teacher’s Guide (Caribbean edition) here:

Gabby_Teachers_Guide Caribbean edition

The Rainforest of Reading Festival is one program the foundation puts on “to help kickstart the love of reading and nurture a generation of imaginative and creative thinkers in the Caribbean,” said executive director Sonya White.

“Natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and volcanoes, as well as a lack of funds have contributed to a serious decline in the number of libraries in the Caribbean,” she said. The number of books available to children there, including in Rainforest of reading logothe classroom, is severely limited; often there is just one textbook for the whole class.

The Rainforest of Reading program was inspired by Canada’s Forest of Reading program, which gives elementary school kids in Canada a chance to read a selection of great books and then vote for their favourites.

Here’s what’s going to be happening in the Caribbean in November:

  • Twelve books were nominated—including GABBY. Click here tBananagramso see the list of all books that were nominated for Rainforest of Reading Award.
  • 450 copies of each book were sent to the Caribbean—one set for each Grade 3 and Grade 4 classroom in St. Lucia, Grenada and Montserrat.
Many of the authors and illustrators--as well as other volunteers--helped pack the boxes with the books and materials that were then shipped off to the Caribbean.

Many of the authors and illustrators–as well as other volunteers–helped pack the boxes with the books and materials that were then shipped off to the Caribbean.

  • Each class also receives a teacher’s kit, a “Bananagrams” game, book passports and posters.

The teacher’s kit walks the teacher through the program. You can download the Rainforest of Reading Teacher’s Kit here.

  • Teachers put up posters, which feature the book covers, in their classroom. The posters also have room for each child to check off the books as they read them.
  • The children also answer questions about each book.
  • Each child gets a “passport.” After they’ve read a book, they get a sRainforest passportsticker for their passport until they’ve read all 12.
  • The teachers fill out a survey before and after the program, so they can measure how far their kids have come.


  • Eight Canadian authors and illustrators are flying to the Caribbean to participate in the festival. (They’re each travelling on their own dime; the foundation will pay for their room and board.)
  • The children vote for their favourite books in two categories: fiction and non-fiction. The teachers submit their votes via the website (by Nov. 19). There are separate winners for St. Lucia and Grenada.Rainforest Teacher's Kit
  • On Festival Day—it’s a different date depending on what city you live in—classes travel by bus or car (sometimes a long way) to the festival site. The dates are: Montserrat, Nov. 18; Grenada Nov. 25, St. Lucia Nov. 27 and 28.
  • A parade will start the festival. Just like the Olympics, the book titles are paraded in. Schools have chosen a book to champion, and the kids from that school will dress up or create floats to represent their book in the “Parade of Readers.”
  • The Canadian authors and illustrators who have travelled from Canada will each have a tent, where they’ll sign books and passports, talk to the kids and run activity centres.
  • The kids will file into the festival area and meet the authors and illustrators. They’ll also do crafts and activities.

Here’s a terrific video of us packing up the books and teaching supplies that were sent to the Caribbean in August 2014.

Rainforest of Reading boat

The books arrived by boat in the Caribbean on Sept. 10, 2014.

Other projects
One World Schoolhouse also gathers books given to them by Canadian schools and ships them—about nine tonnes of fiction and non-fiction books as well as underutilized school textbooks—to the Caribbean.

In the future, they plan to expand their program to include computers for use in schools in the Caribbean.

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Some wonderful Gabby “fan fiction”

Fan fiction from Grade 3 students at RH McGregor.

Fan fiction from Grade 3 students at RH McGregor.

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!

Fan fiction by the Grade 2s at Davisville PS.

Fan fiction by the Grade 2s at Davisville PS.

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!

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Gabby: Drama Queen is now available in stores!

Gabby’s second quirky adventure is now on store shelves.

We haven’t officially launched the book yet, and we’ll let you know when that party will be. (Hint: you’re invited.)

In the meantime, I signed some copies of Gabby and Gabby: Drama Queen at the wonderful Playful Minds toy store on St. Clair Ave. to help them celebrate their 10th anniversary.

Joyce Grant at Playful Minds Nov 2013

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Gabby Book Launch A Success

Gabby launch, ITA Cafe

There was a terrific crowd at the launch for Gabby on Jan. 27

Thank you to everyone who joined us at the launch party for Gabby on Jan. 27.

It was held at the ITA Cafe on Bloor St., a perfect venue because the cafe funds free literacy activities for kids.

Jan Dolby and I did a reading (with the help of my son, who posted the fabric letters). The kids who attended made plasticine and crayon Gabbies, which were fantastic. We’ll post pictures in our Kids’ Art Gallery soon.

The piece de resistance was a cake made by my editor, Christie Harkin, with gorgeous

Cake for the launch of Gabby - topper by Suzanne del Rizzo
Cake for the launch of Gabby – topper by Suzanne del Rizzo

Gabby cake toppers by dimensional media artist Suzanne del Rizzo. And the cake was delicious, too!

Thanks to everyone who attended the launch!

PS: Here’s a terrific article about the launch and ITA, written by book reviewer Kerry Clare.

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Come to Gabby’s book launch party Sunday., Jan. 27

Gabby launch party evite(It’s also Family Literacy Day!)

Join us for the launch of Gabby!

Bring your kids – there will be a book reading, colouring and plasticine. Make your own “Gabby” so we can include it in our Kids’ Gallery.

Illustrator Jan Dolby and I will be available to talk to you about the book and personally sign your copy of Gabby.

The party is on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 1:00, at the Intergalactic Travel Authority Cafe (and Story Planet), 1165 Bloor St. W., in Toronto. One block west of Dufferin, on the south side of the street. (Beside Bloor Collegiate.) Hope to see you there!
Map to the ITA cafe.

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Word on the Street – had a great time!

Joyce Grant at WOTS; Image by Sue ChisholmThanks to everyone who supported me at my reading at Word on the Street.

Thanks to my high school friends, my neighbours, my family, writer’s group buddies, publisher and everyone else who came.

Just knowing you were there (either in person or in spirit) helped me get over my first-reading jitters.

Now… see you all next year?!

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My first reading of GABBY – to JK/SKs

Gabby_coverI am reading GABBY at Word on the Street this Sunday. It’s my first public book reading… ever. So naturally, I’m a bit nervous. And, naturally, I wanted to try the book out with some kids first in a smaller setting to see what I might need to tweak.

Hillcrest school was kind enough to lend me a lovely JK/SK class for 20 minutes or so. (Thank you to the teachers and the principal for setting that up!)

Here’s what I learned:

  • When you offer some kids a fabric letter to hold, you’d better have something for the other kids to hold, too. Preferably, the first letter of their name. (Or they may throw a letter at you. At your head. And have to apologize later.)
  • At the beginning of the school year, some JK kids are very young. Not everyone will know all the letters, or the sounds they make.
  • Once you’ve finished reading the book, you’d better have used up all your time… or have something else up your sleeve. The kids all turn their eyes on you and… crickets. I had to think fast! (We talked about the first letters of the children’s names.)
  • It’s great to have a “crisis” in your book. The principal suggested that I ask the kids “What will Gabby do?” And it really worked! The kids came up with some great ideas. (Where the heck were they when I was writing the book!?)
  • If your protagonist conjures up a fish for the cat to eat… it’s probably best not to dwell too much on the cute little fish.
  • Teachers are fantastic in terms of giving you feedback and ideas for next time. Thank you, Laura, Nancy and Jon!
  • If your book ends with a word like PILLOW, you’d better make two fabric Ls. (And fast, before Sunday!)

Wish me luck!


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