Did you know that it’s helpful, when speaking on the radio, to stand up? It is said to increase the energy level in the sound of your voice. I tried that out yesterday morning when I spoke with Chris on KiSS 105.3 about This is the Boat that Ben Built and the 2023 Ruth & Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award.
Loon and Goose stand up for optimal voice energy levels 🙂
The book is available through booksellers (if you’re in the Ottawa area, check out Books on Beechwood, Octopus Books, and The Spaniel’s Tale Bookstore), Tag Along Toys in Ottawa, and, just in case you missed it, I also offered local KiSS 105.3 listeners an autographed, personalized copy plus an animal sticker and bookmark for a kid in their life through @jlbaileybooks on Instagram or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re a local listener reading this here, feel free to use the contact form on my website as well.
I am so, so honored to share that Maggie and I are the 2023 recipients of the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Awards, Picture book category!
This award is especially meaningful to me as the nominating committee consisted of a youth services librarian (Brooke Windsor, Stratford Public Library) along with a bookseller and children’s literature specialist (Alison Dunn, Beggar’s Banquet Books, Gananoque), and the winning titles were chosen by a grade 4 student jury at Jesse Ketchum Junior and Senior Public School in Toronto, Ontario. It’s awesome to know that the story has resonated among librarians, booksellers, and kids alike!
Maggie and I celebrating with the student jury for the picture book category.
After meeting and chatting with the student jury, it was clear that we share a common playfulness, sense of wonder, and desire to explore interconnections in our natural world, and encourages me to keep exploring these things in my writing.
It was wonderful to meet the family of Ruth & Sylvia Schwartz, who have recognized children’s authors and illustrators through this award for 48 years! I am so grateful for this support. Thanks also so much to the Ontario Arts Foundation who administer the award and who helped us with the logistics of the ceremony (Ann Boyd (Director of Administration), Bruce Bennett (Executive Director)), the
Ontario Arts Council who managed the jury process, and specifically Carolyn Gloude, Awards Officer, who worked with the student jurors. We loved meeting the students at Jesse Ketchum Junior and Senior Public School, principal Elizabeth Holmes, and teacher/librarian Cherisse Tullett. Thank you for hosting us!
And, I got to meet the staff at Pajama Press 🙂
First time meeting the publisher, marketing, and sales team at Pajama Press in person.
What a year! Celebrating firsts, clockwise from the top:
First in-person book launch, held with family and friends, at Overflow Brewery in Ottawa
This is the Boat that Ben Built was included in the Canadian Children’s Book News publication, and later in their Best Books for Kids and Teens. This is a photo of the shelf I put up in my office to celebrate these firsts.
First time holding the book in my hands! I had gathered all the stuffed animals to celebrate with me, except for heron, who joined us a little later.
This is the Boat that Ben Built was named an Ontario Library Association Best Bet – first “sticker” for the book!
First time signing a book (I practiced a lot first!)
First time finding the book in the public library – the same one I went to when I was a child.
First time reading at a bookstore (Indigo Orleans)
First time doing a virtual school visit for World Read Aloud day
Thanks to all the readers and supporters for a fantastic year of firsts!
My first in-person book reading and signing event was a hit at Indigo Innes. Their staff was so enthusiastic and welcoming – it was a great setting to share the story with young readers.
Maggie and I met for the first time at the Holiday Book Fair in Montreal, at a booth hosted by Librairie Paragraphe Bookstore. Montreal is where Maggie is based, and it was great to have their support! (Truth be told, I photoshopped her into that picture! She took a photo of me in the booth but we didn’t get one together.)
Getting to know the booksellers and seeing our book on their shelves has been a real highlight of this year! I’m looking forward to building these relationships in years to come.
This is the Boat that Ben Built has been out in the world for one year! This is the first post in a short series to mark the occasion.
The other day, as I was getting ready to go on a school visit, I realized that I was almost out of bookmarks to hand out to the kids. I opened my email account, searched for the local company who printed that first batch*, and logged back in to my customer account to reorder. I expected that my original order had been for, maybe, 100 or 200 bookmarks. It turns out, I had ordered 500. And now, only 5 were left.
That’s what it took for me to realize that at the bare minimum, 495 kids had read my story. And that’s when I got excited, because I started thinking about the exponential impact of teachers and librarians and caregivers sharing my book in Ottawa and beyond. It really has been a great year.
Here are some of the amazing readers I know about:
It’s so motivating to have these photo memories capturing reader joy and interest. On a bulletin board in my office I’ve also pinned the names of kids who have asked me to sign a book for them at local events. (I ask them to write their names on a post-it note so I don’t misspell it, and if they leave the note behind, I add it to my collection!) It’s fun to think about how the kids in these photos and on those post-it notes might one day engage with the stories I’m drafting now.
Thanks for the great year, readers! Here’s to many more to come.
Up next, some bookstore love!
*Shout out to Newprint in Ottawa, ON for the beautiful bookmarks!
Had such fun at Elmwood School last Friday, exploring my picture book and the northern river ecosystem with the enthusiastic grade 1-5 students! Their March theme was curiosity, and they really lived up to it with their thoughtful questions about the creative process and the animals in the story.
You never quite can tell what’s going to happen on an in-person school visit. The projector goes out. The microphone screeches. A fire drill is called in the middle of a presentation. (We all lined up in the school yard…) But despite it all, you can usually tell when you’ve connected with them. They’re right there in front of you, and they’re responding in real time.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with my first ever virtual visits, which I arranged for World Read Aloud Day: would the kids hear me ok? Could I see them well enough to know if they were engaging with the story? Can I reach them this way?
On World Read Aloud Day, I visited three classrooms to read This is the Boat that Ben Built. The first session with Todd Elementary School in Briarcliff Manor, NY, was the one I was the most confident about, since I had tested the platform ahead of time with their tech crew. When I joined the call, I noticed that the kids were wearing crowns with their names written on them. They instantly became more than just little dots on a screen. “I’m Jen Lynn Bailey,” I said, and the first sparks of connection were born.
Todd Elementary School, Briarcliff Manor, NY
I noticed a pretty significant delay between my questions and their responses, which made interaction a bit challenging as I shared the story. I slowed down and watched the tiny little box in the bottom corner of my screen to notice their small movements and reactions. Still with me, I thought. And when it came time for them to ask questions, I knew we’d managed just fine. “What inspired you to write this story?” “How long did it take to write?” “Why did you become a writer?”
Question time – Todd Elementary School
At Miller Elementary School in Canton, MI, the kids were seated on a carpet in a lovely library, surrounded by books. Although they were tiny on my screen, I could see them engage, bringing their hands up to their eyes to mimic the binoculars and magnifying glass that Ben used to explore the animals in the northern river ecosystem. They’re with me, I knew.
Miller Elementary School, Canton, MI
At Hume Elementary School in Nelson, BC, the technical issues all came out to play. Sound. Screen sharing. Timing out. But it didn’t deter us – the teacher had my book on hand, and we both held up our copies so the kids could see the illustrations while I read. I think they joined in enthusiastically. I heard the audio cut in and out, and noticed them looking at the pictures as their teacher passed by their desks.
“Do you like to read?” one student asked me during the question time.
“I love to read,” I said. I wasn’t sure what she would say next.
“I love to read, too,” she said. She smiled to herself, considering something, and stepped away from the camera.
And so, on World Read Aloud Day, I discovered that virtual visits are an exercise in paying attention to the small, nearly imperceivable signs of connection. Thank you, grade 1s and 2s, for sharing a story and forming a small connection with me.
Thrilled to be joining Maggie Zeng at the AELAQ Holiday Book Fair tomorrow (Nov 5) for a book signing at the Librairie Paragraphe Bookstore in Montreal, starting at 1pm. More info about the fair can be found here. Hope to see you there!
Yesterday morning I was a ball of nerves getting ready for my first in-person book signing event. But when I got to read to these young explorers, the nervousness dissipated and we quickly connected about the story. They loved guessing which animal would be next, finding the animals that had already been introduced, watching what Ben was up to on his great exploration, and, of course, telling me all about which animals they had seen or learned about before!
After each reading I did, I signed books for the kids and they voted on their favorite animals. Are you surprised that the bear was the clear winner? I think it’s his friendly wave and relaxed demeanor that makes him so popular. I had a couple of votes for the butterfly and dog…. who unfortunately didn’t get their own backmatter pages!
There was also a prize wheel they could spin to win a bookmark, sticker, or small wooden owl. This was a hit with the kids and staff 🙂
Looking forward to many more events like this one! Thanks @IndigoInnes for hosting me, and thanks to all the great kids who joined me to explore This is the Boat that Ben Built!
Earth Day is just around the corner! Take a quick dip (or a deep dive!) into rivers and watersheds with these book pairing ideas that complement THIS IS THE BOAT THAT BEN BUILT.
WATERSHEDS: A PRACTICAL HANDBOOK FOR HEALTHY WATER
by Clive Dobson and Gregor Gilpin Beck
published by Firefly Books; Second Edition, Revised and Updated
This book is fully illustrated and explains the basics of the water cycle and nutrient cycles before going on to environmental issues, implications, and solutions.
AMIK by Sharon King
published by Kegedonce Press
A look at the daily endeavors of a beaver (amik) alongside other animals in the ecosystem. Text appears in both English and Anishinaabemowin.
Picture book (fiction)
MARTIN AND THE RIVER by Jon-Erik Lappano and Josee Bisaillon
published by Groundwood Books
When Martin leaves the country and the river he loves for life in the city, he discovers a way to connect with nature in the city, too.
Picture book (nonfiction)
THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF WATER by Anne-Sophie Baumann and Vanessa Robidou
published by Chronicle Books
Full disclosure: I just stumbled across this one today so I haven’t read it, but it sure looks like a comprehensive interactive book. From the publisher: “Readers can find out about the water cycle, dive into the ocean with marine animals, trace how water gets from a lake to our homes and explore ways in which water energy is used in our daily lives.”
SWEET WATER: POEMS FOR THE WATERSHED, edited by Yvonne Blomer
published by Caitlin Press Inc.
This collection from poets in Canada, the US, and the UK examines water “from every angle – the pitcher plant, the beaver and the American Bull Frog, rain, clouds, smog, the many ducks and the salmon and the last lake sturgeon.”
Have fun exploring these titles! Teacher guide and fact sheets for THIS IS THE BOAT THAT BEN BUILT are linked here.