Tag Archives: Feminist Books for Girls

Happy International Women’s Day

There’s a whole lot of buzz around International Women’s Day today. It’s exciting and I feel like there’s a new feminist wave in the making with all the discussion around empowering girls and also raising boys differently. Think “It’s All Right to Cry” from the Free to Be … You and Me album of the ’70s — an important influence on my youth.

To pay tribute to International Women’s day, I’m flagging a few noteworthy webpages and also a STEM-related video. I know it’s a bit of a “cheat” blog post, but there is so much rich content and there are many interesting perspectives to ponder. This quote on CBC’s Writers and Company webpage that features an interview with Gloria Steinem says a lot:

“We were so occupied with trying to raise our daughters more like our sons that we probably are only now seeing how much we need to raise our sons more like our daughters – so that both of them can be whole people.” – Gloria Steinem

Great facts and stats are laid out on the Because I Am a Girl‘s website. The article “Attention women: Ignore the glass ceiling (we have other problems at work)” refers to women falling into a “helper” role and often being “bogged down by menial tasks.”

Last week, in conjunction with my Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs book, I was invited to attend the launch of the Lassonde School of Engineering’s 50:50 Challenge. Entrepreneurs_web

View the video about this very exciting initiative at York University in Toronto: The Lassonde 50:50 Challenge.

It’s also great to see all the lists emerging with books featuring strong female characters:

All and all, conversations are happening and ideas are swirling; great things are happening for girls, boys, and the planet. Let’s celebrate the achievements. Happy International Women’s Day!

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Happy International Women’s Day!


I have lots to share this week. First of all, there is a great review of Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs in Children’s Materials (CM), which is published by the Manitoba Library Association at the University of Manitoba. Their reviews are lengthy and comprehensive — great for authors who want valuable feedback — and great for busy teachers and parents who want all the details. I must admit I had to chuckle once while reading the review, that is, once I calmed down. (Note: Reading a review of your work is a nail-biting, teeth-gnashing, heart-pit-a-patting, emotionally fraught event, where you jump to the end to read the concluding statement and determine if overall it’s a thumbs-up, down, or sideways critique. And through it all, you’ve got to remain somewhat detached and “be tough,” and “strong,” and “resilient.” They aren’t critiquing you, they are critiquing your work. Oh yes, but your work is what you are passionate about, so it might as well be you. But don’t take it personally, yadda yadda.)

Ehem. So, yes, it’s an impressive report and I’m really pleased at what reviewer Julie Chychota pointed out. She did such a careful read of the book and picked up some very nuanced detailed. It’s an honour to have an expert engage so thoroughly in the work you’ve created. Books take a long time to write (obviously!) and it’s appropriate when the reviewer takes time to investigate the finer points of the text. What made me laugh was that she said

“not to mention the 56 sidebars, an amount that surpasses the record of 46 previously set by Bryant in Dazzling Women Designers.”

OMG, I had no idea I was a record setter and a record breaker! It’s kind of interesting to know this about the exact number and the comparison. I had no idea. I included sidebars whenever it seemed appropriate and fitting to do so. I’m glad the reviewer appreciated that these help contextualize the content. I do love sidebars for the way they offer some fresh asides to the running text and break up the design. Also I like that they add a deeper dimension to the content, which is the contextualization part.

Chychota went on to say:

“exemplary text”
“writes cleanly and neatly”
“Bryant’s clear, coherent, and conversational style will facilitate readers’ comprehension, just as it did in Amazing Women Athletes and Dazzling Women Designers.”

The review finishes with a lovely pitch for the series as a whole:

As a 2013 video by The Representation Project counsels, “Women and girls deserve better representation in the media and in our larger culture” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NswJ4kO9uHc). With its “The Women’s Hall of Fame Series,” Second Story Press seeks to cultivate in young readers a deeper awareness of and appreciation for women leaders. School and public libraries should acquire the affordable series as part of their collections as a way to perpetuate positive representations.”

That video is well worth watching, and shows we still have lots of important work to do, people.

Click here to read the full review in CM.

OK, my next share is from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s March 2014 Newsletter. To honour International Women’s Day, the staff at the CCBC have put together an extensive list to commemorate this theme. Then, in the “Author Corner,” Kate Abrams features an interview with me. What an honour it was to be asked for my opinion on must-reads for girls today. Admittedly, that was a doozy of a question, and one I pondered over for quite some time.

The link for this CCBC interview is here.

And now I bid you adieu. Happy International Women’s Day!

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OLA Superconference 2014

Recently I attended the Ontario Library Association’s “Superconference 2014” at the Metro Convention Centre in Toronto. I had a 10:00 a.m. book-signing gig at the Second Story Press booth. When I first walked into the lounge for authors and presenters, I saw fellow Second Story Press author/illustrator Janet Wilson and had a quick chat with her. Then I found the booth and met some very welcoming Second Story employees. There was a great turn-out for the signing. Hey, what teachers won’t line up for a free, signed copy of a book for their school library?! I enjoyed chatting with teachers and teacher-librarians. One funny moment was signing a book for a teacher from QECVI, one of the three fantastic downtown public high schools in Kingston, where I live. After about 20 minutes, the stack of give-away books were gone. I enjoyed checking out the books Second Story Press had on display. Wow! There were so many books that I wanted to read. Every Day Is Malala Day is the first book in a new series through Plan Canada. This looks like a great partnership for SSP.

DSC04724      DSC04728Later, walking through the aisles, and popping in and out of booths by various publishers and organizations, I bumped into author/illustrator Patricia Storms who I worked with at KNOW magazine, but had never met. I also had a chance to meet author Marsha Skrypuch and caught a glimpse of author Lizann Flatt while she was busy signing books. I don’t often travel into Toronto, but events like this are a lot of fun to attend, largely because of the enthusiastic, book-loving attendees and the who’s who of author, illustrators, and publishers moseying about. I bought a book called In Those Days: Collected Writings on Arctic History by Kenn Harper and picked up a catalogue for “Inhabit Media, an Inuit-owned publishing company that aims to promote and preserve the stories, knowledge, and talent of northern Canada.” After interviewing Nicole Robertson for Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs, and then the heightened media attention around Aboriginal issues during last year’s Idle No More campaign, I’ve become increasingly interested in indigenous issues and stories.


Signing book at the OLA Superconference 2014 in Toronto


About a week ago, I made the happy discovery that my book Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs is on the Resource Links Year’s Best 2013 List. A reviewer who published a December critique says, “I was impressed with the conversational tone that still conveyed a lot of information.” She added that the “writing style makes the text easy to read and understand.”

That’s all for today, folks! It’s back to preparing for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week. I’m getting very excited about travelling to Alberta!


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Leaning in with Sheryl and Naina — and a Bonus Book Review

I’ve been working on my book talks for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week 2014. I know it’s not happening until May, but time is flying these days and I don’t want to be caught short. While researching, I came across this article called “How Indian Women Are “Leaning In.” The cool thing about it is that it brings together Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook) and Naina Lal Kidwai (HSBC), both featured in my book Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs. I thought it was pretty neat that another writer linked these two women who come from such different backgrounds and work in different industries. It turns out that the article was adapted from the Indian version of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, and it was written by Naina Lal Kidwai, not a journalist. Now that is very cool, indeed. Naina, as you may know from my book, was the first Indian woman to graduate from Harvard Business School — in 1982.

On another note, I just finished reading a novel called One Year in Coal Harbour by Polly Horvath. It’s the long-awaited sequel to the Newbery Honor Book Everything on a Waffle. What a fabulous, fabulous book! I devoured it in a day. I loved the protagonist, Primrose Squarp, and the interesting adult characters, including Miss Honeycut and Miss Bowzer. The author has a great feel for her target audience. There are some serious and heavy themes: foster kids, the death of two dogs, poverty issues, problems with “friends.” But there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments to off-set the sober moments. Horvath’s images are utterly unique. She writes about a “bedrock of multiplication” (p. 2) and  waves that are “bunched up and wrinkled” (p. 3). At one point Primrose’s mom recalls a “lady who lives on the outside of town” and writes poems about cats saying that “being a writer was like being a cross between a ditchdigger and a pit pony” (p. 20). Wow.

One Year in Coal Harbour by Polly Horvath, Toronto, ON: Groundwood, 2012. Books/House of Anansi

One Year in Coal Harbour by Polly Horvath, Toronto, ON: Groundwood, 2012. Books / House of Anansi

I was continuously amazed at the range of vocabulary Horvath used. Page 7 offers up “complicit,” page 8 features the word “staccato,” and by page 25 the word “ersatz” stands out as an anomaly in books. This is a book for middle schoolers. Then — I kid you not — on “heretofore” makes a bold appearance (p. 33) and later “ululation” (p. 128). Yes, I starting collecting these lovely words, jotting them down as I read.

A foster parent named Evie, who is wonderfully nurturing and down-to-earth, has a thing for putting mini marshmallows in everything she serves kids and teens. By the book’s end, I figured I’d never look at mini marshmallows in the same way. Interspersed through the book are recipes that hail from the 1970s: “Penuche with Mini Marshmallows,” “Gussied-Up Cinnamon Toast,” and “Polynesian Jell-O Salad,” to single out a few.

In short, One Year in Coal Harbour is a stylistic masterpiece, highly deserving of the 2013 TD Children’s Literature Award and many more. I strongly recommend this book.


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Informal Book Reviews

Book reviews are a vital part of a book’s footprint. Critical reviews can offer a stamp of approval, a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down verdict on the final, published result of a writer’s hard work. More importantly, reviews help spread the word. They can say, “Hey, look at this book! It’s really good!” Nowadays it’s easy for anyone to log into any number of online bookseller sites to give their two cents worth and their own emotive summary of what a book means to them. Certainly, the reviews can go either way — favourable or unfavourable, lukewarm or cool. The most constructive are a tempered blend of both, but, in the end, it seems that publishers agree these informal book clubs take what used to be livingroom chit chat and transform it into public, shared, and widely accessible feedback. Listen to the buzz!

Writers love to write. What outsiders to the craft may not know is that few if any writers believe writing is simple. Rather, writing, which quickly evolves to rewriting and more rewriting, is enormously challenging. The process of bringing an idea to full fruition, in book form, normally takes at least a year. The journey is fraught with seemingly insurmountable hurdles, annoying glitches, and road blocks that send you back to the drawing board. As drafts are completed, as editors step in with their professional wordsmith skills, and as all the components (e.g., design, photographs, illustrations) fall into place, hope rises that the book will make a difference, have an impact, and be noticed. Certainly, seeing the book in print and holding it your hands is one of the greatest feelings. As word spreads, the rewards can be very affirming.

As author of three of The Women’s Hall of Fame Series books — most recently Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs — my greatest wish for these books (above and beyond stellar sales fantasies) is that they have an impact on the lives of some girls’ lives, helping girls be more confident, more bold, and eager to pursue their goals, unimpeded by societal constraints. Seeing reader feedback is enormously rewarding and helpful in informing me whether I’ve succeeded in my goal. Consequently, I welcome your feedback about my books. Thoughtful comments help me grow as a writer and let me know which aspects were most effective, and which needed more finessing. Just knowing that someone has taken time out of the crazy, fast-paced life we lead to read a book and fully and critically engage with it in a well-informed, carefully considered way, is truly the greatest gift of all. It is an honour to be reviewed, formally or informally. It’s all good.

If you’ve read Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs, here are some quick links to pages where you can rate or review it:




Thank you also to Leanne Lieberman, a YA author and elementary school teacher, who reviewed Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs on her blog: http://leannelieberman.blogspot.ca/

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It’s Here! Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs

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Pub Date

Pub Date

Hello, friends. I have a date! The publishing date for Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs is September 16, 2013. After that date, you can find, or ask for, this title at your favourite local bookshop. It is possible to pre-order the book now. It is still early days in the production process, so I don’t yet have a cover to share. Keep checking in, though, because I expect to have a cover design in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I’ll be planning some publicity events. Young Kingston has a upcoming event in Picton, Ontario at Books & Company. This gorgeous and spacious bookstore, in the heart of Prince Edward County, is a favourite spot for locals, book lovers, and tourists. There, on June 15 at 2:00, I’ll be talking about Dazzling Women Designers, also in The Women’s Hall of Fame Series. Young Kingston members will be there from 1:00 until 3:30 p.m. talking about one or two of their books. The full line-up includes Mary Alice Downie, Ann-Maureen Owens, Y.S. Lee, and Christine Fader. The diversity of our group means we can target children and youths from ages 5 to 15+.

If you are a teacher and your school is within driving distance, please contact me about book talks. I have space available this spring for book talks and also in the fall. Please enquire if you would like a customized book talk, or if you have any questions about presentations. Some information is available here on my website, and also on my webpage of The Writers’ Union of Canada at this link.

F.Y.I.: My website was acting up this month and was becoming rather sluggish. This seems to be due to the large number of images. I may have to scale back on the number of images I use in future blogs, which is unfortunate. I will keep experimenting, however, and will try to find a way to retain the photo format. As a quick fix, I’ve de-activated the blog scroller at the bottom of the home page. If you experience any problems viewing my website, please let me know. I am hopeful now that this problem is behind me!

Until next time!

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Work-Life Balance

Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance. Have you got it? Do you want it? Adrienne Montgomerie, an accomplished editor and member of Dameditors, posted a comment about what she calls “work-work-life balance.” She made a point of  stating that this was not a typo. I felt compelled to weigh in. After all, three of the ten women profiled in Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs refute the work-life balance paradigm. During my phone interview with the dynamic and highly successful Sue Chen, CEO of Nova Medical Products in California, Sue admitted that at one point she searched online at Amazon.com for books about work-life balance. Sue was amazed at the results that she said numbered in the high thousands. (I tried and came up with 13,755 books.) Sue explained this hefty number saying, “No one’s figured out you just can’t do it!” So, is work-life balance an unachievable — indeed impossible — ideal? In Sue’s case, her response is, “just throw that out the window! Don’t try to achieve this work-life balance.” Instead, Sue Chen happily immerses herself in a chaotic stream of day-to-day duties. Life is always busy, her office is often messy, but tasks get completed and business is thriving. Somehow, amidst the chaos that she willingly embraces, Sue always looks glamorous and pulled together. She even squeezes in regular pedicures and lunch dates with friends.  In fact, when I spoke with her she was looking forward to lunch with O.P.I.’s Suzi Weiss-Fischmann. Hmmm, a lunch date with a friend? Regular pedicures? I think I detect some luscious “life” creeping into her work-centred existence. That’s a good thing, of course.

Award-winning businessperson Kelsey Ramsden (CEO of Belvedere Place Development and founder of SparkPlay) acknowledges and appreciates the personal sacrifices working parents often make. About the notion that some successful women — namely entrepreneurial mothers — have it all, Kelsey says “that doesn’t exist! It’s a pipe dream.” Like Sue Chen, Kelsey says she’s “satisfied and happy with both parts of her life, but they’re never balanced. In any given moment, one requires more attention than the other.” OK, that makes sense to me.

In a video for the Makers series (produced by PBS and AOL), Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook is famously quoted saying: “So there’s no such thing as work-life balance. There’s work, and there’s life, and there’s no balance.” I love that. Sheryl has a knack for delivering wonderfully pithy, high-impact comments. It’s no wonder her words resonate with many women. Indeed, we all look to leaders, high-profile executives, and daring entrepreneurs — our role models — for guidance on how to make it all work. We want to have our cake and eat it too, but something’s gotta give.

I don’t work 60-hour weeks, but, even so, I find life gets awfully busy. I thrive off the state of being busy, however, and try to carve out personal and family time. When the going gets tough, I listen to music and take lots of hot baths. My house gets messy, papers pile up, and laundry begs to be sorted; but three times a week — rain or shine, tired or energetic, in the face of a looming deadline or not — I walk to the pool for a swim workout. I swear that the lure of the water, and this well-established routine, helps keep me sane and makes me more productive. Sometimes I focus on my stroke; other times, however, I let my mind wander and “write” in my head. How could I better express that paragraph I was wrestling with today? What am I really trying to say? How can I best connect with my readers on this issue? It’s so satisfying to have those “aha” moments in the pool, while out walking, or during life-enforced “breaks.” I understand the value of breaks. They refresh and invigorate. They restore.

It often feels like every day is a push-pull between work and life. Most days, it feels like work is winning and Adrienne Montgomerie’s “work-work-life balance” rings true. If you are passionate about your work then this isn’t so terrible. Exercise some patience. Then, on another day, in another moment, a lovely shift takes place. “Life” is the focus in all its splendour, its ups and downs, its strong emotions, its heightened “moments of being.” At that point, work slides silently into the background and life pushes to the fore. Life-LIFE balance takes over. “Live in the moment.” “Seize the day.” (Carpe diem.) We all need to eke out some peace in our busy lives. Out of those peaceful moments come great ideas.

Bee Sunflower

Sunflower and Bee Photograph by Zoe
[Banner photo showing the underside of a hosta also by Zoe]


Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs (Second Story Press) will be published in early fall 2013. It is written for children ages 9 to 13.

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I’m Back!

I’m Back!

Mmmmm. This is a celebratory apple pie that I baked. That’s A – P – P – L – E. My (almost) six-year-old helper put the letters on top. Thank you, Noah!

First, I’m very sorry for the delay in blogging. I’ve had too much going on. Ai-ya, where do I begin?

Book news

I submitted my latest book manuscript to the publisher in February — ten days early! It was an amazingly intense, but infinitely gratifying, researching and writing process. I was feeling pretty darn pleased with the final draft. I was even more pleased as I began to receive bits of very positive feedback from the publishing house.

I have a title. My book, which profiles ten female entrepreneurs, from different countries, different times, and working in different fields, will be called Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs. The series’ name is The Women’s Hall of Fame series, and the publisher is Second Story Press in Toronto, Canada. It was challenging to find a title that worked with the press’s established alliterative pattern of Adjective + Female/Women + Descriptor [field]. The obvious choices of “Extraordinary” and “Exceptional” had already been used for previous books in the same series. Though I scoured the dictionary and flipped through the entire “E” section of my humongous Random House Dictionary of the English Language, I couldn’t find many words that had quite the right meaning. We mulled over “Excellent,” “Eminent,” “Enlightened,” and “Exemplary,” but, in the end, credit goes to the publisher herself for crafting the title as it now stands. I like it. I think it has a good balance. I admire the way “Phenomenal” and “Entrepreneurs” are equally long, look good on the page (which I think is really important), and have some heft to them. The managing editor said she likes the ring of the title. It’s true. It does have a ring to it.

And then, it got even crazier . . .

No sooner had I submitted my manuscript — no, wait — before I had even submitted my manuscript, I received an email asking if I was available to work on an editorial project. I wasn’t quite available and had heaps of papers all over my desk as I fine-tuned the final draft of Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs. But like the intrepid freelancer I am (and most of us are), I gulped, said “yes,” and jumped in. That’s what I’ve been doing since mid-February. The hours have been crazy, the work stimulating and interesting with a great balance of research, thinking, and writing. But best of all, I have to say, is to get a contract like this after taking 15 weeks off to write a book. Yes, day jobs are worth their weight in gold. I love writing books, but editorial work helps make it affordable to do so, and, thank goodness, I really enjoy the editorial work, too.

Message me

Drop me a line if there’s something you’d like me to write about on this blog. Apparently a lot of people are reading it lately and I thank you for visiting. I appreciate your feedback and thank you for your interest in my books!

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Connecting with Idle No More

Connecting with Idle No More

One morning last week, I felt compelled to look for an necklace from my childhood that I still have. It’s a piece of Aboriginal jewellery–a yellow, red, and blue beaded necklace. I found it and put it on. I wore it all day and thought about Idle No More, First Nations communities, and Nicole Robertson. This evening I heard on CBC Radio that Chief Theresa Spence will end her hunger strike, and has signed a 13-point declaration. See this breaking news story here.

In November and December, I had the honour and privilege of interviewing Nicole Robertson for my upcoming book about women entrepreneurs. Like the other books in the Women’s Hall of Fame series by Second Story Press — two others of which I’ve written — this new title will feature profiles of ten women who are excellent role models for children, especially girls. The series targets children ages 9 to 13.) Nicole is a Media Specialist and President of Muskwa Productions & Consulting in Calgary, Alberta. She’s a Rocky Cree from Sandy Bay in north-eastern Saskatchewan, but she now resides at the Tsuu T’Ina [soot-tenna] Nation, just outside Calgary.

Muskwa Productions & Consulting

Muskwa Productions & Consulting, Calgary, Alberta


Nicole is devoted to spreading good news stories about Aboriginal peoples. She is well connected with the media and this puts her in a great position to notify mainstream media about positive and inspiring stories about indigenous people. She also makes videos that educate non-Aboriginals about First Nations culture. I just love this whole idea of being a messenger of good news stories for the media. What a welcome change!

In the last six weeks, the Idle No More movement and Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike have brought Aboriginal issues into the spotlight. Concerns about poverty and the destruction of the environment are central in the movement. When I visited the remote Inuit community of Nain, Labrador, two years ago, I felt like I was in a far-away foreign country. The living conditions were closer to developing countries than they were to what I previously associated with Canadian communities. There was tremendous beauty in the land and most Aboriginal people feel this connection strongly. It’s part of their culture and something they revere.

What’s clear to me is that something HAS to change. It is not right that a disproportionate number of Aboriginal people live in poverty. How can we turn our backs to this and pretend it’s not our problem?

I think non-Aboriginals have much to learn from indigenous people. Consider the value in inviting a full-of-attitude tween to sit quietly with an elder in the community, listening to stories that the elder chooses to share, or meditating silently. This deep respect for elders is lacking in non-Aboriginal culture, and we are missing out! Our elders possess great wisdom, gained from years of living and experiencing life. Young people can learn a lot from the elders in our society, and yes, we can learn a lot from young people, too.

Let’s stop the racism and embrace the positive changes that are underway, at last.

You can read more about Nicole Robertson and other fantastic women in my fall 2013 book, Enterprising Women Entrepreneurs (working title).



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