Sunday, November 25, 2007

CCBC Tour - Saskatchewan 2007

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Thanks are due to the wonderful folks at the Canadian Children's Book Centre and all the volunteers, teachers, and librarians at libraries and schools all over central Saskatchewan for helping to organize such a wonderful Book Week tour! With my snazzy little red car, I tootled from town to town, visiting with students and chatting about books. Such a tough life! Even better, was able to share some of the Legends of King Arthur at a couple of schools, which made for a great change of pace!

Driving around across the wide open spaces of the region, I was reminded just how much I love the prairie landsape. So much so, I've bookmarked several 'Land for Sale' websites. How much would my horses love all that space to roam? How much would I love all that space to roam? Any rural communities out there who would like to adopt an author in residence, get in touch. About my only requirement is that the nearest town have a coffee shop and a library branch. And I suppose I would also need to be within an hour of a decent airport (don't like those teeny weeny planes too much) so I could head out and tour some of the other cool places in our amazing country!

Go Rourghriders!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Lovely Review - No Bazoongas in Sight!

This great review was posted over on the site... Note to self: Make sure these guys get sent copies of the two new books!

Celebrate Children's Book Week

... with a few of these great ideas from the Tough City Writer's blog (Friday November 16th post).
Add your own ideas to the list via the comments box...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Globe and Mail Follow-up Story

Author pleased after Sask. school drops book ban


November 15, 2007

Victoria -- A children's author is delighted that a Saskatchewan elementary school has reversed a decision to ban one of her books.

Nikki Tate had protested against a decision by the librarian at Elizabeth Elementary in Kindersley to bar Trouble on Tarragon Island, a novel for readers aged 8-13. The librarian had complained to the publisher about inappropriate scenes of bullying, one of which included the use of the word "bazoongas" to describe part of the female anatomy.

Ms. Tate's book has been nominated for a Diamond Willow Award, a prestigious prize voted on by young readers.

The book's publisher, Sono Nis Press of Winlaw, B.C., will continue to honour its offer of a free copy to every elementary pupil in Kindersley who requests one. The offer was made last week as a protest against the ban.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Quill and Quire - Blog Department

The following post from Quill Blog: Daily updates from the blog division of Quill & Quire, Canada’s magazine of book news and reviews

Kindersley school reverses ban on book

According to a release from Sono Nis Press, author Nikki Tate was relieved to learn that Elizabeth School in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, which had previously banned her children’s book Trouble on Tarragon Island, has reversed its decision and “un-banned” it after a new school principal re-evaluated the content.

Sono Nis told Q&Q Omni this summer that the book had been deemed a problem because it contains a scene of bullying and because the bullying includes words that may be offensive to women.

Tate’s book, the third in her Tarragon Island series about protagonist Heather Blake, depicts a battle in Blake’s B.C. community over clear-cut logging. Blake’s grandmother joins an anti-logging activist group, and poses naked with them for a calendar, embarrassing her granddaughter. At the beginning of the book’s first chapter, several boys in Blake’s school taunt her about her grandmother’s breasts, calling them “bazoongas” and cupping melon-shaped areas around their chests.

The scene, Tate told Q&Q Omni, “sets up the central conflict of the book, which is asking the question, ‘when you step outside the rules of society … what is the impact on your community and on your family?’” Tate said the description shows the pain experienced by Heather as a result of the bullying. “It’s pretty obvious these kids aren’t being held up as an example of fine behaviour,” she said.

Elizabeth School administrators now seem to have come around to seeing it that way too.

Trouble on Tarragon Island has been nominated for a Diamond Willow Award in Saskatchewan, and Tate is participating in a TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour in the province this month. As a part of the tour, she had planned to give away copies of her book to elementary students in Kindersley, and she says she will still go ahead with the give-away now that the ban has been reversed. She will sign copies of the book and chat with students at an informal event at the Kindersley Mall on Nov. 19.

Article in today's Times Colonist

CAP: Nikki Tate’s Tarragon Island series focus on the typical preteen tribulations.

Victoria writer’s book restored to school library shelf

— Times Colonist staff
A truce has been declared in the Battle of the Bazoongas.

Last summer, Victoria children’s author Nikki Tate cried censorship when a Saskatchewan elementary school teacher-librarian banned her novel, Trouble on Tarragon Island.

At issue was the book’s reference to “bazoongas” as a slang word for breasts.

The librarian also expressed concern over the issue of bullying in the story, and speculated that children might read the bullying scene and use it as a template to harass fellow students.

Now Chris Oscar, the new principal of Elizabeth School in Kindersley, Sask., has reversed an earlier decision to ban Trouble on Tarragon Island.

“I’m so happy to hear that the school has reconsidered,” said Tate. “The book should never have been removed [from the library] in the first place.”

The move is a relief for Tate’s publisher, Sono Nis, for another reason: Trouble on Tarragon Island has been nominated for a Diamond Willow Award in Saskatchewan.

The judges are school children, who vote on which of several books they like best. If a book isn’t available in school libraries, it’s chance of getting the children’s nod is diminished. “It’s great to know that students will have access to the book through their school library,” Tate says.

Other school libraries across North America have carried the book without complaint.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Latest on The Great Bazoongas Caper

Well, right after this article ran in the Globe & Mail, I received a phonecall from As it Happens (CBC news and current events program). We were all set to record an interview when the CBC learned that Elizabeth School has reversed its position on the appropriateness of Trouble on Tarragon Island for the school library. The new principal, Chris Oscar, was instrumental in having the book go through a review process, the end result of which was to put the book back out on the library shelves. This is, of course, great news and a huge relief to know that cooler heads have prevailed in Kindersley! Many thanks to Tom Hawthorn and all the other members of the media who have so diligently followed this story. I suspect that if we had simply accepted the decision and said nothing, the book would still be gathering dust in some dark corner 'safe' from curious children.

Author protests book ban over phrase 'generous bazoongas'


Special to The Globe and Mail

November 13, 2007

VICTORIA -- Children's author Nikki Tate is taking her bazoongas to Saskatchewan.

The Victoria writer will be giving away copies of Trouble on Tarragon Island, a work of fiction banned at Elizabeth Elementary in Kindersley, Sask.

The publisher learned of the ban this summer after school librarian Debbie Wagner called to complain about scenes of bullying, one of which includes the use of the word bazoongas to describe part of female anatomy. "I feel so strongly that what's happened there is wrong," Ms. Tate said yesterday. "My message to the students is, 'If you want to read this book, here it is.' " The novel will be available free to any elementary pupil in Kindersley who requests the title. The public library in the town of 4,500 is helping with the give-away program (the Kindersley branch carries a single copy of the title, which is currently checked out). The combined student populations of Elizabeth and Westberry elementary schools is nearly 600.

The book was released in 2005 by Sono Nis Press of Winlaw, B.C. The publisher describes it as a work of juvenile fiction appropriate for ages 8 to 13. The book was one of nine nominated for a Diamond Willow Award in Saskatchewan, a reader's choice prize for works suitable for Grades 4 to 6. However, the ban prevents children at Elizabeth Elementary from having classroom access to the title. Voting by pupils ends next February.

The free copies will be distributed at a book signing to be held at the Kindersley Mall on Monday.

Trouble on Tarragon Island is the third in the series set on a fictional Gulf Island in British Columbia. It features a 13-year-old girl named Heather Blake who wrestles with her feelings about her grandmother's behaviour, which includes breaking the law to protest against clear-cut logging.

When the grandmother poses for a nude calendar as a fundraising gimmick, the girl becomes the target of schoolyard taunts.

"What they say about my grandmother is true," the girl says. "She does have generous bazoongas, and all of Tarragon Island has seen them."

Ms. Tate said she chose bazoongas over other more common but ruder slang terms.

"I was looking for something a little humorous without being obscene," she said. "The language that is used by children in schools can be quite foul."

Nikki Tate is the pen name of Nicole Tate-Stratton, a prolific 45-year-old author whose most recent release is a biography of Karen Brain, a horse rider who overcame a broken back in a riding accident to win bronze medals at the 2004 Paralympic Games.

By coincidence, the author learned of the Tarragon Island ban after having already agreed to take part in a sponsored author's tour, including a visit to a Grade 2 class at Elizabeth Elementary next week.

She will be reading from her picture book Grandparents' Day, which is based on a true story about her grandmother surviving a snake bite in the jungles of Brazil. She encourages students to use the tales told by their friends and family as inspiration for their own storytelling.

Neither the school librarian nor the principal could be reached for comment yesterday.

Ms. Tate will be touring Saskatchewan as part of the TD Canadian Children's Book Week. Vancouver writer Dan Bar-el will also be on tour in the province, while British Columbia children will be visited by Teresa Toten of Toronto, Edo van Belkom of Brampton, Ont., and the illustrator Ron Broda, of Sarnia, Ont.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lovely Article in the Times Colonist

What a great article to find in today's Times Colonist! Written by Barbara Julian, it talks about our launch at Greenhawk a few weeks ago. I'm not sure if the link (above) to the story works, but you can read it here without the formatting and photo.

Horsewomen share their passion

Barbara Julian
Times Colonist

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Author, Author: Riders and writers Julie White and Nikki Tate flank medal-winning equestrian Karen Brain, whose story is the subject of Tate's book.

Double Take: Karen Brain's Olympic Journey, by Nikki Tate; Sono Nis Press; 143 pages plus Glossary and Index; $12.95

High Fences, by Julie White; Sono Nis Press; 190 pages, $9.95

- - -

Horses are responsible for turning a lot of kids into readers. Kids who catch the riding bug will devour any reading material with a horse in it, whether novels, Pony Club manuals, histories of breeds or horsemanship magazines. The canon of literary horse classics is familiar even to non-riders -- Black Beauty, National Velvet, Walter Farley's Black Stallion series, Marguerite Henry's histories -- and every year several B.C. writers add titles to the list.

Nikki Tate, already known to horse-loving youth for her StableMates series, has written for the general reader a new biography of local-born Olympic rider Karen Brain. This book recently shared a launch party with Armstrong horse breeder and author Julie White. White's story for eight- to 11-year-olds, High Fences, features characters introduced in her earlier novel The Secret Pony.

The launch for these two titles took place in an equestrian supplies store in Brentwood. The powerful smell of saddle leather greeted attendees the moment they opened the door -- a familiar smell to riders but especially evocative for those of us who connect the sport with our youth.

The horsewomen-authors sat signing books at a table among an array of horse care commodities as specialized as are health and beauty products for humans: natural body wash, "ultra fire" vitamins, and "Quietex Powder" read some of the labels.

"It just seemed logical to have the book launch in a tack shop," says Nikki Tate. Now no one remembers who first had the idea -- Glynis, the owner of Greenhawk Supplies, or the authors, who are also her customers -- but there was an excitable buzz among the kids and adults in attendance because they all agree that the next best thing after a horse is a book about a horse. As Holden Caulfield says in Catcher in the Rye (comparing horses to cars), "a horse is at least human."

That horse raising and riding is an art and a lifestyle as well as a sport is reflected in these two books. High Fences contains detail about equine physiology and daily life in the stable, as well as the relationships among the horse and human characters that make up the story. Julie White, whose husband is an ex-jockey and daughter a certified racing trainer, got the details from a life spent with horses.

"The characters come from kids I knew as a child," she says.

Her young heroine Faye suffers the anguish of having Robin, her beloved partner in the show ring, sold out of financial necessity. That loss was a high fence to clear indeed, but whenever she is in the jumping ring Faye forgets everything but the horse she is riding and the competition at hand. "Faye's world narrowed to the sand-covered ring cluttered with brightly coloured obstacles," and so does the reader's, which is the whole point of this short novel for the 10-year-old dreaming of a show jumping career.

Olympic rider Karen Brain was once just such a 10-year-old, but one of the few who did get to the top of the equestrian world. Through drive, sacrifice, hard work and help from the best coaches at top training stables (the names Mark Phillips and Gatcombe Park in England may be familiar even to the non-rider), she progressed through gruelling qualifying shows until she and her horse Double Take made the World Equestrian Games in Rome in 1998. Then the turning point occurred. Brain broke her back in a riding accident, and her next several years were spent in a long rehabilitation program. With characteristic determination, Karen recovered the ability to walk and to ride, and eventually qualified for the Canadian Para-Equestrian Team which in 2004 went to the Athens Paralympic Games, where she won two bronze medals.

As a horsewoman herself, Tate knew Karen Brain before Brain's accident, but it was while visiting her in the hospital that Tate's storyteller's instinct went on high alert. She could "smell" the story bubbling up as the iron-willed champion rebounded from what had seemed like an irrevocable setback.

Nikki Tate's fluid prose takes us through the story at an easy canter, describing in detail the world of top equestrianship against which Brain's ascent, and then disastrous reversal of fortune, took place. Brain's recovery and re-dedication to ambition as a paralympian was a "double take" of another kind. Tate's account also shows us the world of international horse show bureaucracy, the costs of training and flying horses around the world, and the disturbing extent to which they too suffer pain and injury as they train to the max.

Brain wrote the introduction to Double Take. "I honestly do consider myself one of the luckiest people I know," she writes. "I have been blessed with a great family, great friends, and several great horses, and it is because of all of them that I have lived a rich life."

At Greenhawk tack shop and other venues where Tate's book was introduced, Brain delivered inspiring words to young riders which she echoes in her introduction: start now to create the memories for your own biography "by daring to live out your most heartfelt fantasies. If you can dream it, you can do it!"

At the Greenhawk store book launch, Brain's two bronze medals from Athens were on display beside the freshly printed copies of High Fences and Double Take, which looked right at home among the saddles, bridles and bags of "oat cuisine" also displayed for sale. Outside, the fall dusk was closing in and all over the Saanich Peninsula horses were being brought from hoof-churned fields into cosy barns.

Every young horse-loving, book-loving girl knows the special pleasure of reading under a tree in a field while your horse munches grass beside you: "down time" for both of you. Certain books find their way into the barn and look more at home there than in a library.

These two will be among those that belong where hay bales serve as shelves and hoof picks double as bookmarks, and where their equine subjects munch and stomp and blow their steamy breath across the stalls.

Barbara Julian is a Victoria writer who as a girl read nothing that wasn't about horses
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Double Take - Mini Documentary

This link is supposed to take you to the mini documentary about Karen and her quest for Olympic gold...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Busy Times!

Just because there hasn't been a whole lot of posting action going on here doesn't meant there hasn't been a whole lot going on here... In fact, when too much starts happening in the real world, silence falls over blog-land. Facebook doesn't help, of course. The highlights include: the week-long megalaunch of Double Take: Karen Brain's Olympic Journey. Karen and I spoke to hundreds of students at a bunch of schools (the talks continue - we have several more during the next few weeks...) and also took part in a couple of panels. One was about Living the Dream (what does it mean to live a dream life? what are the challenges/the delights?) - another focussed on the joys of publishing with a small (but mighty!) press like Sono Nis. We also enjoyed a spectacular launch hosted by Greenhawk - many, many people came... many, many books were sold... many children's crafts were made... much cake and coffee consumed... A good time was had by all!

The vet came out to our place last week - and $1400 later (and, yes, that would be in beefy Canadian funds!!) everyone has been vaccinated, wormed, palpated, ultrasounded, filed, sedated, irrigated, prodded, and extracted. They should all be good for another year. Touch wood. Saved the gnarly old teeth we had to pull from good old Emma's ancient mouth. How that pony keeps going, I don't know. I am now soaking her hay to soften it up and she's consuming (proportionately) more soft foods like soaked beet and soy pulp and softened senior horse pellets.

Travel plans are being finalized for my Saskatchewan tour. And, yes, I will be going to Kindersley! Who knew that a trip to Kindersley could elicit excited squeals!

More on that as departure day draws closer!

These days I've been alternating listening to novels (most recently, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress) on my Ipod while I muck out the paddocks... with studying Italian lessons. I've been wandering around with my manure fork repeating Italian phrases to the horses and cats and squirrels and ravens and eagles and bunnies and goats and the dog and anyone else who might care to listen... This, of course, in preparation for our trip to Bologna (children's book fair) and Tuscany (recovery from the book fair) at the end of March.

Dani is still making noises about organizing a mini-tour in Japan after I get back from Italy and I have applied for a writing residency next fall in Tasmania... Better make sure my passport is in good shape!

But before I go anywhere, several writing deadlines loom... and I've got some reading to do prior to serving on the BC Arts Council grant jury... and a course description to write for a class I'm teaching in the spring at Malaspina. And stuff. Which, taken collectively, is why I haven't been blogging much of late.

Oh, and I nearly forgot - samples (one hard cover, one soft) of Behind the Scenes: The Racehorse are en route from Toronto as I type! The full shipment should arrive at HQ during the third week of November... Which is all very exciting! Can't wait to see how the finished books look!