Summer is in full swing, and we don’t know about you, but we’re already enjoying the heat! One of our favourite ways to stay cool when the heat is at its worst is with a shady spot and a great book, which is why we’ve decided to bring back Hooked on Books to keep you connected with some great reads. In this post, we’ve connected with Toronto-based children’s book author Vikki VanSickle, who answered a few of our questions and has passed along some great tips on encouraging your own child’s inner author.
What inspired you to write picture books for young children?
I love art and my picture book years were so magical to me. It is a dream come true to create stories that incredible artists will then bring to life! I’ve always really loved the advice, ‘write the book you want to read,’ and that’s basically what I do; I’m writing for my younger self! On the other hand, I have a lot of experience working with children and I want to create books that they will enjoy. I hope reading my books gives them the same sense of wonder that I got as a child and that they fall in love with reading, too!
Of all your books, tell us about the one that’s your favourite.
I’ve never been good at picking a favourite anything (movie, food, colour), but this is especially hard! There are things I love about all of my books. Words That Start With B was my first published novel, so it will always have a special place in my heart. I’m also really excited about my next picture book, Anonymouse, coming in early 2021. It’s about a mouse who creates street art for the animals in the city, like a mouse version of Banksy! I love street art and I’m very concerned about animals living in urban places, and those two things just clicked fully formed in my mind one day and Anonymouse was born! The illustrator Anna Pirolli did a phenomenal job. When I first saw the art I couldn’t believe I was looking at MY story!
Do you have any kind of thinking exercise you do when you’re trying to kickstart your imagination?
I’m very inspired by objects and interesting photographs. I like to wander through flea markets or garage sales and imagine where certain objects came from and what their story is. This is also a fun exercise to do with houses in your neighbourhood! Who lives there? What do the rooms look like? Is there a secret passageway? You get the idea! If I’m working on a novel and I get stuck, I try jumping to another part of the story, or I start writing from a different character’s perspective.
How would you encourage kids to start writing down their own stories?
Keeping a writing journal is a great place to start. I jot down all sorts of ideas, potential titles, or interesting names in a journal that I can flip through when I’m looking for inspiration. When I’ve decided to work on a particular idea, I write a lot of point form notes and explore all sorts of possibilities before I dive into the actual crafting of the story. In some ways, the brainstorming (or percolating, as I like to think of it) is the best part! For some kids, it might help to draw an image first. You could draw a map of the setting, a character sketch, or an image from the story.
Tell us about your latest book!
My most recent book is Teddy Bear of the Year. It’s a modern twist on one of my favourite childhood stories (and songs!), The Teddy Bear’s Picnic. In my book, teddies gather once a year for a big picnic that includes treats, games, and a service awards ceremony that recognizes the acts of kindness and service the teddies provide for their children. In the book, we experience the picnic through the eyes of Ollie, a first-time attendee. I wanted to create a cozy, magical story that celebrates small acts of kindness. The artist Sydney Hanson created such a cozy world, and there are lots of funny things going on in the illustrations that I think kids and adults will enjoy!
If you’re excited to check out Vikki’s latest book, be sure to enter our contest on Facebook – we’ll be giving away a copy of Teddy Bear of the Year!
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