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Hackmatack’s third annual Festival of Reading will bring fourteen of our shortlisted authors to classrooms and libraries across Atlantic Canada, allowing hundreds of young readers to connect with authors both virtually and in-person.

But it isn’t just our readers who get to have all the fun! We are pleased to offer the following engaging sessions for the public. We hope you will join us as we celebrate and support Canadian creators of children’s literature!

Saturday, May 13

Writing With Care, with author Andre Fenton
Writing workshop for ages 8-12
Halifax North Memorial Public Library
2:00 PM to 3:00 PM

During this versatile writing workshop facilitated by award winning writer, Andre Fenton, participants will dive deep into both fiction and poetry, and will be inspired to tell their stories with dynamic activities, feedback, and encouragement. Read Andre’s biography.

Presented in partnership with the Halifax Public Libraries.

Tuesday, May 23

Finding the Fun in Children’s Nonfiction, with author Rachel Poliquin
Online workshop, hosted on Zoom
7:30 PM to 8:30 PM ADT
Price: $14

Non-fiction is NOT fiction’s boring cousin. Join children’s non-fiction author Rachel Poliquin as she explores the use of fictional elements like character development, world-building, and dialogue in non-fiction writing and learn a few tips and techniques to create wildly entertaining and educational books for kids. Read Rachel’s biography.

Thursday, May 25

Writing Tough Topics for Young Readers
Online Panel Discussion with Laura Best, Edeet Ravel, Valerie Sherrard, and host Stephanie Domet
7:30 PM to 9:00 PM ADT

Join 2023 Hackmatack award nominees Laura Best (The Family Way, Nimbus Publishing, 2021), Edeet Ravel (A Boy is Not a Ghost, Groundwood Books, 2021), and Valerie Sherrard (Birdspell, Cormorant Books, 2021) for a discussion on writing difficult topics for middle grade readers.

In conversation with Stephanie Domet (AfterWords Literary Festival), the authors will explain how their novels tackle difficult issues such as war, racism, historical traumas, mental health, and strained family relationships. The discussion will offer advice on how to approach tough topics with sensitivity and forethought, craft an age-appropriate narrative, and navigate the publishing process.

Read the panellists’ biographies.

Saturday, May 27

Jack Wong at the Halifax Central Library
Storytime and activities
10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Linsday Children’s Room, Second Floor

A free, drop-in program to celebrate author/illustrator Jack Wong’s debut picture book When You Can Swim (Scholastic, 2023). Jack will read his new book and chat about being an author, and then lead participants in a collaborative drawing activity all about swimming! Read Jack’s biography.

Presented in partnership with the Halifax Public Libraries.

Friday, June 2

2023 Hackmatack Awards Ceremony
12:00 PM ADT

Who will be the winners of the 2023 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Awards? Tune in to find out as we broadcast live from the Charlottetown Library Learning Centre!

Saturday, June 3

Kendra Brown at the Museum of Natural History
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
1747 Summer St, Halifax
10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Museum admission by donation

Join author Kendra Brown for an engaging drop-in session all about tiny creatures! Kendra will read from her Hackmatack award-nominated book Small But Mighty: Why Earth’s Tiny Creatures Matter, and afterwards you can learn about Nova Scotia’s tiny creatures through hands-on activities. Read Kendra’s biography.

Presented in partnership with the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History.

Presenters’ Biographies

Andre Fenton is an award-winning African Nova Scotian author, spoken-word artist, screenwriter, and arts educator who has represented Halifax at seven national poetry festivals across Canada. He is a recipient of the Emerging Artist Recognition Award at the 2022 Creative NS Awards, and the author of three young adult fiction novels: Worthy of Love, which won bronze in The Coast’s 2018 Best Of Awards; ANNAKA, that was the 2022 recipient of the Community & Place Award from Digitally Lit; and The Summer Between Us, which won Gold in The Coast’s 2022 Best Of Awards. Andre has facilitated writing and performances workshops at over 50 schools across Nova Scotia. He is currently screenwriting the film adaptation of his novel ANNAKA that is being produced by Fine Devils Films. Andre is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Andre Fenton Headshot

Rachel Poliquin writes about all things orderly and disorderly in nature. She particularly likes celebrating unexpected heroes — the lumpy, the lowly, and quietly extraordinary. She has written many non-fiction books about animal and nature for children including The Museum of Odd Body Leftovers and The Strangest Thing in the Sea. She lives in Vancouver with her husband and three children.

Laura Best began her writing career at the age of ten, when she wrote her first play about a talking vegetable garden. Since then, she has written many short stories, six books for young people, and one novel for adults. Laura became interested in history when she was a kid and to this day enjoys reading up the everyday history that surrounds her. Her love of history is why she sets many of her books in the past. Laura has three grown children and four grandchildren. She lives in rural Nova Scotia, surrounded by water and trees. She likes to spend time outdoor in her garden or boating out on the lake.

Edeet Ravel is an award-winning author of books for young readers and adults. Her YA novel, Held, was nominated for the CLA Young Adult Book Award and the Arthur Ellis Crime Award, and her YA novel, The Saver, has been adapted for film by Wiebke von Carolsfeld. A Boy Is Not a Ghost was recently short-listed for the Governor General’s Award and A Boy Is Not a Bird won the Canadian Jewish Literary Award. Edeet has also been a finalist for the Giller Prize and is a recipient of the Hugh MacLennan Prize and the J.I. Segal Award. She lives in Montreal.

Valerie Sherrard first decided to become an author when she was in grade six! Her homeroom teacher that year, Mr. Alf Lower, encouraged her and helped her believe in herself. Writing for teens and children comes naturally to Valerie, mainly because she has worked with children in various jobs. She also raised her own children and has fostered about 70 teenagers over the years. She was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and has lived in a number of provinces. Miramichi, New Brunswick has been her home since 1980.

Photo by Nicola Davison

Jack Wong (黃雋喬) was born in Hong Kong and raised in Vancouver. In 2010, he left behind a life as a bridge engineer to pursue his Bachelor of Fine Arts at NSCAD University (Kjipuktuk / Halifax, NS), where he now lives with his wife and two cats and works as a children’s author/illustrator. A self-declared actual Jack-of-all-trades, Jack has also tried his hand at bookkeeping, teaching art, managing a psychology research lab, and running his own bicycle repair shop, just to name a few—a real education for creating children’s books, if you ask him! The books that Jack writes and illustrates are indelibly marked by his hodgepodge journey, as well as by a first-generation Asian Canadian experience, transposed upon the small-city living, natural beauty, and deeply rooted storytelling traditions of the Maritime east coast. He seeks to share all of this with young readers, so that they may embrace the unique amalgams of experiences that make up their own lives.

Jack’s forthcoming written-and-illustrated books include When You Can Swim (Scholastic), The Words We Share (Annick Press), and All That Grows (Groundwood); he is also the illustrator of an upcoming picture book biography of Yo-Yo Ma by James Howe (Abrams Books).

Kendra Brown is a writer and editor at the Ontario Science Centre and the former editor of OWL magazine. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, where she has worked in the children’s media and publishing industry for over 15 years. But she is probably best known for her loud laugh and love of dinosaurs. Small But Mighty: Why Earth’s Tiny Creatures Matter is her first book.