Permalink to Back from the Rainforest of Reading

Back from the Rainforest of Reading


What an adventure being part of the Rainforest of Reading was!

Sonya White, Richard Clewes and Marlaina White (the main people behind the OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation and the creators of the Rainforest of Reading), Sylvia Gavin (owner of Ecojot) and designer Carolyn Gavin, filmmaker Mike Enns, fellow author Kari-Lynn Winters and myself travelled to Grenada and St. Lucia for one week to attend two amazing festival days in celebration of reading and literacy.

First Stop Grenada

We arrived late in the evening at our accommodation in Grenada to a concert of tree frogs and fruit bats swirling around hibiscus trees. The air was warm and humid. A strong breeze was shaking trees and bushes, as October marks the end of the hurricane season in the Caribbean. After a night of trying to get used to the sounds of the tropics, the next day unexpectedly ended-up being an organize-nearly-everything-last-minute for Richard and Sonya. Despite some real challenges in regards to the event location and transportation of children, etc they worked their magic with the help of their Grenadian connections to get everything organized for the first event on the following day.

When I entered the location on the morning of the event, I couldn’t believe that such an organizational masterpiece was even possible: The place looked great! Colourful signage and posters brightened-up the space from every wall. There was a big room with chairs indoors and plenty of space for activities outdoors.

More than 400 grade 3 students came to the event in Grenada. All of them were wearing their school uniforms. They arrived cramped into minivans and busses to participate in workshops, crafts, literacy-based games and to meet us authors. It was great to see kids so excited to meet us and to have us sign their passports (each child received a passport-booklet with questions and little tasks to help them give feedback on the 12 books they were reading and judging as part of the Forest of Reading)! What great motivation they were to us visitors to keep doing what we are doing!
The day rushed by, as there were so many of the kids’ questions to answer, characters to draw, stories to be read, hugs to give and passports to sign. I really enjoyed having quality time with some of the children and even was able to dress-up 4 young helpers in costumes of Jack the Bear, Nosy Fox, Brainy Owl and Grumpy Squirrel.
Jamal, the boy playing Jack left me no choice other than chosing him for the job when he called out loud:

I want to be Jack the Bear!

At the end of the day we were all feeling high from all the love for and excitement about reading. The event was a great success! Congrats to Dominique Demers’Today Maybe (illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard), the student’s favourite in Grenada!


Last set-up touches with Mike Enns

Last set-up touches with Mike Enns

Designer Carolyn Gavin assisting with art-making

Designer Carolyn Gavin assisting with art-making

The Banagrams were a big hit.

The Banagrams were a big hit.

Proud to be a passport-holder

Proud to be a passport-holder

Signing passports

Signing passports

Silvia Gavin of Ecojot and a little reader

Silvia Gavin of Ecojot and a little reader

Second Stop St. Lucia

After saying Bye to Kari and Mike (who had to leave us to pursuit other commitments back home in Canada) we flew over to St. Lucia. We were greeted by a very strong rain shower followed by beautiful sunshine. Our accommodation was situated right in the jungle, where Silvia, Carolyn and I spend the next day relaxing, while Sonya and Richard were setting up for the event in Castris. This event should top the event in Grenada in size and volume. The event location was a sports stadium with two big roofed stands.

Over 2000 children came! The police blocked a main street and the kids formed a parade of readers. The parade was led by the Police Marching Band and the children entered the stadium carrying flags and wearing masquerade featuring the 12 nominated books. Many people in the streets saw the kids and the media, wondering what amazing event is happening in Castris that day.
After listening to speeches of honoraries like Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy, the kids enjoyed, games, crafts and readings! There were 10 different stations with activities and big groups of children would rotate from one station to the next.
I was amazed with how much interest everything offered was received. About 100 kids at a time were listening to me read from my book without making a sound and were eager to get an autograph in their passport afterwards. Nearly each and everyone had read the nominated books and made notes on the stories and drawn little sketches in their passports. They all had noted a question for me.
The most popular question was:

Have you ever seen a bear?

Luckily I was able to answer with a Yes. When I told them that I actually know a the bear who loves to come into the backyard and eat from the garbage can, they weren’t quite sure, if they can believe me.
At the very end, when most kids were in their buses on the way home, the sky opened up and it rained heavily. To me it was like the grand finale of an exiting event in Castris! Congrats to Kerry Sather’s Be Yourself (illustrated by David Mark), the student’s favourite in St Lucia!


Is this Jack the Bear?

Is this Jack the Bear?

Waiting patiently for an autograph.

Waiting patiently for an autograph.

Jack the Bear Schools right next to (Scot Ritchie's) Look At That Building schools!

Jack the Bear Schools right next to (Scot Ritchie’s) Look At That Building schools!

Jack the Bear storytime

Jack the Bear storytime

Sonya in the midst of kids.

Sonya in the midst of kids.

Marlaina made new friends!

Marlaina made new friends!

A busy arts tent.

A busy arts tent.

Word Searchers

Word Searchers

This trip was a lifetime experience. 4 days after returning to Vancouver, I am still digesting.

Thank you so much Richard and Sonya for your support of literacy, for creating the Rainforest of Reading and for letting me be part of it! Also thanks to all the amazing sponsors of literacy that they found. You made a big difference in these children’s life – and in mine!

Become friends with One World Schoolhouse on Facebook! You will find more fabulous pictures of the events and the trip on their facebook page or their website.

Permalink to Rainforest of Reading

Rainforest of Reading

rainforest of reading

I mentioned it before… my book Jack the Bear is nominated for a very special book award! The RAINFOREST OF READING®
And I will be going to the Eastern Caribbean on October 20 to help celebrate!

3 days ago the RAINFOREST OF READING®, a book festival featuring 12 award-winning children’s books from Canada, planted its roots in schools throughout the Eastern Caribbean starting in Saint Lucia and Grenada. The three-week event engages 4,000 Grade 3 students in over 100 primary schools. It is the largest literacy initiative ever undertaken in a region still reeling from infrastructure damage caused by Hurricane Ivan (2006) and Hurricane Tomas (2010) and the economic impact of a global recession.
The children get to read the nominated books and will vote for their favourite. The winner will be announced at reading festivals in both Grenada and St Lucia at the end of October where I will be attending.

The RAINFOREST OF READING® Festival was created by OneWorld Schoolhouse Foundation in co-operation with the Saint Lucia Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development & Labour and the Grenada Ministry of Education & Human Resource Development. The festival is inspired by the Ontario Library Association (OLA) whose FOREST OF READING® program has been cultivating lifelong readers in Ontario schools for over 20 years.pulled together by the One Schoolhouse Foundation with The Ontario Library association and several sponsors.

I am very proud to be part of this! Learn more about the nominated authors and their books, about the festival itself and about the makers behind the festival on their really nice website here.

Permalink to One Horse a Day – last day

One Horse a Day – last day

Two weeks (10 work days) of one horse a day are over. Today is the last day of posting.
It was a good finger exercise!
I will miss the cute ponies and horses, but it wasn’t always easy to squeeze in a horse in regards to time.
I had to rein myself in and let go sooner than I normally do… Especially on the days I created the quickies I was very limited in time. The perfectionist in me would have had an easy time to just go on and on. Surprisingly I ended-up really liking the quickies!

Today’s result was a fairly fast shot as well.
Dolly and Cougar escaped from their pasture by running through the electric fencing. It was Dolly’s idea to try. Though Cougar wasn’t too sure about the project, he now is very pleased that they found a nice field of oats which resulted in their bellies being very happy!


Permalink to One Horse a Day – Day 9

One Horse a Day – Day 9

Today’s horse is a little adventurer.
Luna likes to venture out of her stable at night to look at the moon.
Since the nights are getting colder and colder, her owners have decided to have her wear a coat. She is not quite sure what to think of it…


Permalink to One Horse a Day – Day 8

One Horse a Day – Day 8

Another quicky.
Today somebody is taking a nice sand bath rolling around from one side to the other extensively!


Permalink to One Horse a Day – Day 7

One Horse a Day – Day 7

Today’s horse is little Babe.


Permalink to One Horse a Day – Day 6

One Horse a Day – Day 6

It’s Monday again. Time to post another horse!

I don’t know this particular pony. It showed-up while doing scribbles.
It looked eager to me, so I decided to give her a nice, young rider and to let them have fun out in the fields.


Permalink to One Horse a Day – Day 5

One Horse a Day – Day 5

Today’s horses are Senta and Anka.
Senta and Anka were two Fjord Horses me and a couple of my friends rode when we were about 12 or 13. When one of the saddles broke, we switched to riding bareback through the fields and hills. We used no bridles either and there were no adults, just us children. I still have a scar from when Senta stepped on my leg after I had slipped off once in full speed… I didn’t tell any adult about the injury, as I feared never to be allowed on a horse again. Thinking of Senta and Anka and the wild adventures we had, I am really thankful for the level of freedom I was able to experience as a child.


And here are a couple of sketchbook pages from the last couple of days…



Permalink to One Horse a Day – Day 4

One Horse a Day – Day 4

To get some inspirations, I went to Southlands, Vancouver’s horse-part of town this afternoon and drove around (it’s a biiig area). There were many horses and ponies on paddocks in between stables next to small cute old houses and huge, very posh looking ones. The trend seems to go towards the posh estates. They contain garages, stable buildings and main houses built in the same style and painted in a matching colour-scheme. They remind me a bit of Playmobile buildings – so perfect. Everything is so clean… Sadly I wasn’t able to find a single, simple pasture for me to just sit at the fence and sketch without being mistaken for a horse thief. I didn’t even take photos. But I saw this pony on one of the paddocks and drew him later from my memory…


After driving around for a bit, I went into a tack shop and bought some saddle soap.
Maybe I will polish my riding boots and see where this leads me.

Permalink to One Horse a Day – Day 3

One Horse a Day – Day 3

I spent a lot of time in the horse stable when I was younger – a lot – and now I am having a really hard time coming up with different variations of the subject horse. I sketch, but they all look the same… I am also having trouble with the anatomy… I thought this would be so easy… If it is sunny tomorrow, I am gonna go where the horses are – to Southlands here in Vancouver.

Today meet Melvin.


Permalink to One horse a day – Day 2

One horse a day – Day 2

This is Romy. I knew her as a teenager. She was a pro in the dressage ring and belonged to Tina.


Permalink to One Horse a Day – Day 1

One Horse a Day – Day 1


Today’s horse of the day is Gregory.
Gregory was born between answering emails and planning a business trip.
He loves his summers on the pasture, especially when the sun is shining.


Permalink to “One Horse a Day” is starting next week!!!

“One Horse a Day” is starting next week!!!

One-horse-a-day-–-travelWhen I learnt that my illustration assignment for “Work/Life 3: the UPPERCASE directory of illustration” was to draw something inspired by my relationship to my 29-year-old horse “Kalle”, I felt a little uncomfortable at first…

Since I live in Vancouver and Kalle is in Germany, we lead a long-distance relationship. This relationship stands for many other relationships that became long-distance when I moved from Germany to Canada. It stands for mixed feelings, for holding on and letting go, for freedom of choice and also having responsibilities. It is a pretty personal topic.

But I also felt pure horse-drawing-excitement, an almost forgotten feeling from my childhood. Back then I never got tired to draw another mane and tail. Drawing horses was almost as good as being with them in reality and it used to make me plain happy. Eventually the excitement took over and I was able to focus on the affection Kalle and I have for each other and had a lot of fun creating my contribution.

Surprise for Work/Life 3: the UPPERCASE directory of illustration

A very simple conclusion formed in my head: Drawing horses still has the power to make me happy and therefore should be practised on a more regular basis! This is why for the next two weeks starting on Monday, I am going to draw “One Horse a Day”.
It’s simply for fun and happiness.
Watch out for the first horse here on my blog or facebook on Monday September 16…

If you like to see the complete illustrator feature from “Work/Life 3: the UPPERCASE directory of illustration”, check out this post.
If you want to learn more about the project, go here. If you would like to order your copy, you can do that through UPPERCASE’s online store here.

Permalink to “Work/Life 3: the UPPERCASE directory of illustration” is released and I am in it!

“Work/Life 3: the UPPERCASE directory of illustration” is released and I am in it!



The 3rd edition of the “UPPERCASE directory of illustration” showcases the work and life of talented illustrators from all over
the world. I am very proud to be featured as one of them…

Here is what the publisher says about the project:

With the third edition of the “UPPERCASE directory of illustration”, we are pushing the personal nature of Work/Life to a new level. This edition’s theme is “An Illustrated Life” in which we explore the ups and downs of illustration and what it takes to stay creative 24/7. Each participant offers their unique take on this theme and have created an original illustration based on a bespoke assignment specific to their interests and story given to them by UPPERCASE editor Janine Vangool.
Unlike awards annuals or traditional illustration directories, our publication is personal. One hundred artists from around the world were individually interviewed about their creative focus and artistic technique as well as their inspirations and aspirations. Additional imagery (sketchbook pages, studio shots, inspirational objects) are integral to each participant’s spread, allowing the reader to take a peek into their entire working lives.

All the assignments were inspired by answers the artists gave in an interview with questions regarding their work and private life.
I must have mentioned Kalle, so my assignment was: With your long-distance relationship with your horse in Germany as the inspiration, tell a story in a series of pictures.

It made me look back at almost 20 years of owning and loving Kalle, my big, brown, 29-year-old Hollsteiner, who lives in the green hills close to Darmstadt in Germany. I went through old pictures of him and me, remembered the good times we have had together, how our relationship has changed since I have moved to Vancouver and how, whenever I go back to Germany to see him, it seems as no time has passed for him, as he reacts to me in exactly the same excited way he did when he used to see me every day.
I had illustration ideas of mapping-out a typical day in his life on the pasture or of him surfing an airplane to get to where I am living now. Though I eneded-up discarding the idea of Kalle flying, I liked that he could come visit! I really miss him.




back then


The images below give an impression of my work in progress and show Kalle a long time ago in 1994 and now in 2013.

If you want to learn more about the project, go here. If you would like to order your copy, you can do that through Uppercase’s online store here.

Permalink to New Work 1

New Work 1

Here is some new work I just created for Chirp Magazine. I wrote the story as well, but for now I am only posting the images. The story will be out in Chirp’s Winter issue.

Illustration and layout for Chirp Magazine

Illustration and layout for Chirp Magazine

Illustration and layout for Chirp Magazine

Illustration and layout for Chirp Magazine

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