Stolen Child

Stolen Child -- An OLA Best Bet!

Each year the Ontario Library Association Best Bets committee chooses the top 10 Canadian books for children and teens in the categories of picture books, junior fiction, junior non fiction and teen fiction. The titles are featured in the OLA store at the conference. I am pleased to announce that Stolen Child is on the 10 ten list for Juvenile Fiction. Yay!

Stolen Child

Blood Line


Blood Line                                                                                            photo by Miles Lowry
    stories lost, history suppressed
choreographed by Lori Hamar
featuring dance artists Brandy Baybutt, Jung-ah Chung, Nicole McSkimming and composer Dave Chokroun
The LOLA Projects
featuring choreographed works by Constance Cooke, Lori Hamar, Leah Wickes
with guest choroeography by Joe Laughlin
January 30th, 2011, 7:30 pm
The Metro Studio Theatre
1411 QUadra Street, Victoria, BC
produced by Dance Victoria
tickets by donation at the door
Stolen Child

A dance inspired by one of my books?

Just before Christmas, I had an intriguing email from Victoria contemporary dance artist Lori Hamar. She was delving into her Ukrainian roots and found out for the first time about the internment of Ukrainian Canadians in WWI. Shortly after that, she came across my anthology, Kobzar's Children: A Century of Untold Ukrainian Stories at the Ukrainian Festival in Dauphin, Manitoba. It spoke to so many of the questions she had and touched on a history she knew little about.

Inspired by the stories in the book, Lori created a 60 minute contemporary dance called Bloodline. It will be performed at the end of this month.
Here are the details (I wish I could see it!):

The LOLA Projects

Metro Studio Theatre,

1411 Quadra StJanuary 30 • 7:30 pm

Local artists Constance Cooke, Lori

Hamar and Leah Wickes will perform

the work they created under the

mentorship of Wen Wei Wang. Also,

coMOTION Dance Collective will

premiere their new work

choreographed by Joe Laughlin.

TICKETS • Teen and


Stolen Child

Authors' Booking Service holiday newsletter

In addition to being Marsha Skrypuch, I am also half of the Authors' Booking Service team. Together with Valerie Sherrard, I arrange school and library visits for 100+ of Canada's best known authors and illustrators.

Each December, we ask our members to provide us with a family recipe, story or anecdote that we can distribute in our newsletter. Pasted below is that lovely collection. Enjoy!

Whatever you celebrate this time of year,
We're wishing you happiness, peace and good cheer!


Marsha Skrypuch: Gramma Jo's Convertible Cookies

Here is my Irish grandmother's "convertible cookie" recipe. With slight variations, you can make peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies or oatmeal raisin cookies.

My grandmother died eight years ago at the age of 94. She was a wonderful no-nonsense cook and always had some nice thing for dessert. What I like about this recipe is that you don't need fancy ingredients. She made these for me all the time when I was a child, and she made them for my mother when she was a child. I made them myself when I was in university and then also made them for my son when he was little. They're very tasty:

base recipe:
1 cup shortening or margarine
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Cream together the shortening and sugar, then add the eggs, then the rest of the ingredients.


For peanut butter cookies, add a cup of peanut butter and a tbsp of vanilla extract to the base recipe.

For chocolate chip cookies, add a cup of chocolate chips to the base recipe.

For oatmeal cookies, change one of the cups of flour to oatmeal (flakes like quick oats or old fashioned, but NOT steel cut) and add an extra egg to the base recipe. You can add raisins or chocolate chips to this if you wish. Also, cinnamon (1 tsp) if you wish.

Drop from a teaspoon onto a greased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 350c oven for about 10 minutes. Don't over-bake.

Note: the peanut butter cookies should be flattened on the cookie sheet with the back of a fork before baking.


Valerie Sherrard: Snowflake card hanger

(A craft so simple that even I can make it.)

Thread a length of twine through the centre coil of wooden clothespins, one at a time. Loop and tie each clothespin so that it won’t move sideways on the string. Leave a space of 2 - 3 inches between each clothespin to allow cards to hang freely.

Cut silver (or luminescent white) wrapping paper into squares just large enough to cover clothespins. Fold and cut snowflake patterns into each square. Glue completed snowflakes to one or both sides of clothespins (one side if hung against the wall, both if hung in a doorway). Clip holiday greeting cards with the clothespins to hang.

You can substitute the snowflakes with any cut-out shape or design you prefer.

Happy Holidays from Brent and I!


Beryl Young: Since my father, Charlie, was a Home Child who came from England, he’d never heard of cranberry sauce until he was married and living in Canada. He took to it whole-heartedly and always ate more than his share. My mother, who was quite capable of cooking up raw cranberries into a sauce, had this very clever short-cut for a busy holiday season and my father never knew there was any other kind.

Place a tin of whole cranberry sauce in a bowl and add one or two chopped oranges (not mandarin) and some grated peel, mix and serve.

This is very quick, it tastes almost as good as the fresh berries and the chopped oranges add fresh flavour and texture.


Kathy Kacer: I grew up with a Jewish grandmother whose joy was encouraging members of my family to “Eat!” She didn’t understand portion control and never heard of the concept of “light” cooking. She made the best chicken soup. (What respectable Jewish grandmother didn’t?) My homage to her is this soup recipe. It’s a lighter version, which she might frown upon. But, as long as you eat a lot of it, I know she’ll approve.

Beef and Vegetable Pea Soup

1 lb. Stewing beef cut in one inch chunks

2 large onions, diced

4 large carrots, diced

1 potato, diced

6-8 mushrooms, chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

1 cup dry split peas

1 cup dry barley

1 tblsp vegetable oil

flour for dredging

1 tblsp. Salt

1 tsp. Pepper

2 tblsp. Chicken powder

1 quart water

Heat 1 tblsp vegetable oil in a large soup pot. Add onions and sauté until soft. Dredge the stewing beef in flour and add to pot. Saute until the meat is brown (1-2 minutes). Add all the other ingredients. Stir and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 ½ hours. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve with crusty French bread.


Gillian Richardson: Christmas craft: Holiday Placemats

We all love Christmas cards’ exquisite images. After the holidays, it’s a shame to toss them. Instead, save the memories. Placemats are easy to make, wipe clean and will last forever.

Material for each placemat:

27 cards, solid color MacTac, clear or frosted MacTac, scissors.


1. Cut a 9 cm diameter round template from back of one card.
2. Use the template to trace around the best part of each card’s image.
3. Cut out 27 circles.
4. Arrange 14 circles on the sticky side of solid color MacTac, overlapping them slightly to create an oval placemat 44 cm by 30 cm.
5. Overlap 10 circles in another oval inside the first.
6. Use the last 3 circles to cover remaining MacTac with your favorite image at the centre.
7. Easily peel/rearrange the circles to get a pleasing design of colors or pictures.
8. Once you are happy with the design, place clear or frosted MacTac over the placemat.
9. Trim around placemat following the scalloped edge, leaving a .5 cm border of MacTac.

Teachers: give your class advance notice to collect old cards from relatives for a pre-holiday craft.


Vicki Grant: Miss Canada’s Christmas Danish

This dessert really did come from Miss Canada. My dear friend, Sylvia McGuire, was Miss Canada in her twenties, a cop on Vancouver’s Lower Eastside in her thirties and a French teacher thereafter. Not bad for a girl from Windsor Junction, Nova Scotia.

The dessert isn’t as interesting as Sylvia - but they do both share a sweet nuttiness.


½ cup butter

1 cup flour

2 tablespoons water

Cut butter into flour. Sprinkle water over mixture. Form into a ball. Divide in half. With fingers, spread into two 12”x3” strips on an ungreased pan.

Almond Puff

1/2 cup butter

1 cup water

1 tsp almond extract

1 cup flour

3 eggs

Bring butter and water to a boil. Remove pan from heat. Stir in almond extract and flour. Beat in eggs all at once until smooth. Spread over pastry strips. Bake 60 minutes at 350 degrees.


1 ½ cups icing sugar

2 Tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons almond extract

Milk if needed.

Mix ingredients together. Spread icing on cooled Danishes. Decorate with slivered almonds or candied cherries. Makes a great hostess gift – especially since it looks way harder to make that it is.


A Jolly Jurassic Christmas

By Helaine Becker

At Christmastime, in days of yore

‘Twas great to be a dinosaur

The Duckbills jingled all the way

Pulling Santa Claus’s sleigh

The Longnecks strung up all the lights

The Hadrosaurs had snowball fights

And at the Festive Fossil Bash

Apatosaurus made a splash

Spinosaurus spiked the punch

Then burped and hiccupped all through lunch

Giganta gorged on gingerbread

Got scolded and was sent to bed

The Stego-chorus sounded swell

When it sang “Noel, Noel”

But as the carolers came to greet him

T-Rex felt he had to eat them!

The Christmas tree was quite a sight

When Diplodocus took a bite

The Raptors wrapped the gifts all night

But didn’t get the name tags right!

So Allosaur got salad tongs

And CDs full of heartbreak songs

Triceratops got underwear

And whined all day, it wasn’t fair!

But all in all, they had a ball

And celebrated ‘til Last Call

And now they want to raise a toast

To all the kids they love most

So here’s to you from the Jurassic

We hope your Christmas is fantastic!

Lesley Simpson: This year it's my turn to host our annual family Chanukah party. That means I will be making about 3,000 latkes, the potato pancakes fried in oil and guaranteed to thin your thighs. My favourite part is when we light the menorahs in the window. We ask people to bring their menorot (that's the plural in Hebrew) and we line them up in the window with different coloured candles. Each night another candle is added and lit. So imagine at least 20 different menorot (from Mickey Mouse to sculptured clay to sterling silver to cast iron.) From artful to tacky and everything in between. We turn off the lights, say the blessings, and you see flames flickering like a dance in the reflection of the window. Outside it's black. And this tradition is one small way of creating more light in the world.

Val Wyatt: Here's my family tradition:

Fortunenuts: Some years ago, we started wondering what we could possibly do with all those Christmas nut shells once the nut itself has been removed. The answer is a hard-shelled version of fortune cookies. Simply insert a handwritten fortune between two walnut, pecan or other shell halves and tie, glue or tape the shell together. Put the nuts in a bowl and take turns picking and opening one before Christmas dinner.


Philip Roy: Submarine Stew

(from: Submarine Outlaw Series)

Submarine stew is wonderful for long voyages at sea, especially in the Arctic. First, you fashion a home-made desalinator to remove the salt from seawater. Alfred’s desalinator looks like a teapot from ancient Persia, with a copper tube sticking out the top to collect steam into another pot. Alfred finds that it takes two boilings and a filter to remove all the salt, but that once-boiled seawater is perfect for stew. Add: one carrot, one potato, one onion, one clove of garlic, one tablespoon butter and a pinch of pepper, sage, rosemary and thyme. Stew for at least an hour. Eat with hard biscuit and piece of cheese. Excellent for Christmas away from home. Make double batch if you’re going to share with the crew.


This year's Christmas season is proving to be a busy one for Julie Burtinshaw. As one of the judges for the 2011 Red Cedar Awards in British Columbia, she has over a hundred books to read before April, in order to select the best reads for BC elementary students. She has also has a book coming out in the spring and one more in progress. Julie wishes everyone a Happy Holiday Season.


Sharon Jennings: A Fun Recipe for Tiny Hands
Children love to help bake...but that can cause so many problems! Years ago I came across this recipe in a magazine, tarted it up a bit, and now make it only when my great nephews and nieces are around. Each child makes his or her own batch and wraps it up as a gift for mommy and daddy or grandparents or teachers or....

Adult: Melt one large bag of dark chocolate chips.
Child: Break one large bag of Oreo cookies into bits.
Adult: "Stop eating the cookies!"
Child: Stir broken cookies into melted chocolate.
Adult: "Good job!"
Child: Stir in a handful of dried, mixed fruit (cherries, blueberries, etc.).
Adult: "Terrific!"
Child: Spread mixture on a cookie sheet lined with parchment (waxed) paper
Adult: "Wow!" Pry tray away from child (this may take some doing) and place in fridge until hardened.
Child: Break chocolate bark into small pieces. Sample.
Adult: "One is enough!"
Child: Put chocolate bark into a tin. Give to someone special!


Helene Boudreau: Snow for the Holidays

I have a large family. So large and so scattered that we usually plan a pre-holiday get-together to avoid traveling during the iffy weather of late December.

This year was our turn to host and, as it is with extended families, it was a bit tricky to settle on a date. We finally did—but in very early November. The pumpkins hadn’t even been composted yet but we were determined to make our get-together as festive as possible.

So, a fresh tree was acquired (not an easy task right after Halloween!) and copious amounts of food were prepared. Though, cooking for thirty-five guests in a small house means things can get a bit cramped and a lot hot.

As the thermostat rose, the kids began to get shack happy. I stole a crazed glance at my husband across the crowded room. What to do? It was only 3 pm! He understood, grabbed my brother, and hustled out of the house.

Twenty minutes later, they arrived with a truckload full of Zamboni snow, which they dumped on our front lawn.

Snowball fight!

A sure-fire way to cool things off AND get into the holiday spirit on a spring-like November afternoon.


Matt Beam: Christmas: The School of Hard Knocks

In the mid-1970s, I was five and had graduated to Christmas gift-giving, as had my older sister. The expectations for my gifts were low; an astral configuration made of Popsicle sticks and glue was perfect. While the parent/child gift-giving contract was very clear, the intersibling exchange hadn't exactly been hammered out.

And so: I wanted Walkie-Talkies. Desperately. The morning finally came. Stockings were emptied, toes pinched to the ceiling. Wrapping paper was removed with such efficiency it’s a wonder this wasn’t the evolutionary purpose for our articulated digits.

Finally, all that was left at the bottom of the tree was the red tree-stand and my sister’s present to me.

To my great delight, the wrapped box was exactly two Walkie-Talkies big. The devices would stretch my sister’s allowance capabilities, but this wasn’t a time for pragmatism. Christmas is a time to dream, so I went at the final present, expectations high.

The wrapping paper was shred in seconds. The box lid, to cover shoes not Walkie-Talkies, flew open.

There were no Walkie-Talkies. No shoes.

Inside was another box. Just a little smaller: a tight fit for two hand-held radio devices, but my optimism was unyielding.

Inside was an even smaller box. One Walkie-Talkie? I looked up at my sister with irritation. Who was I going to talk to?

Inside that box was another. And then another…

As each box grew smaller, so did my hopes. By the time I pulled out my sister’s macramé bracelet, I was furious and in tears, and was sharply ordered to spend the rest of the morning in my room.

Several hours later, after a long discussion, an apology, and a sister/brother hug, I had evolved, from a greedy child to an it’s-the-thought-that-counts kid.


Rosemarie Boll: My husband, daughter and I lived in Europe for five years, and we decided we would travel each Christmas. In 2003, the Foehn wind in Cadaqués, Spain nearly blew us into the Mediterranean, and then we laughed ourselves silly in England when the Christmas goose wouldn’t fit in my aunt’s oven. Snow-hushed Switzerland charmed us on New Year’s Eve 2004, when we sat on a rooftop high in the Alps and watched fireworks flower in the valley below. The next year we went tropical, and Bangkok’s Chakuchek Market – perhaps the world’s largest – elevated Christmas shopping to a whole new level. In 2006, tourists were still scarce in post-bombing Bali, but we selfishly loved having the beaches to ourselves.

But our most moving experience was 2007 in Morocco. We were catapulted back in time. On Christmas Eve, our battered taxi bumped along the road from Marrakech to Essaouira. People dressed in long hooded capes travelled on donkeys alongside the road. It could so easily have been 2000 years ago, with Mary and Joseph on the long trek to Bethlehem. Then New Year’s Eve riding camels in the Sahara Desert, more stars than I’d ever seen, the Christmas star almost close enough to touch.


Laura Langston: Our family Christmas Eve buffet is a much-loved tradition, originally borne out of necessity to feed a group of people (some arriving that night) before an early church service. When the kids were young, food was selected on the basis of make-ahead ease. As they grew, it evolved to cover our ethnicity. And since we cover the gamut from Ukrainian and Polish to Russian, Turkish, French, English and Irish (and my Italian cousins often join us), we inevitably end up with a veritable feast of nations. We have smoked salmon and proscuitto; bread and olives and dips; borek and varenyky; cheese from around the globe; tourtiere and pate; tiny crepes stuffed with grilled mushrooms or fish; hot spiced wine and a glut of sweets: baklava, kutya, Bouche de Noel, fruit cake. This year, my daughter won't be joining us. She has moved east where she'll celebrate with new friends. As sad as I am, it's comforting to know that when her candles are lit and her music is cued, she'll feast on many of the same foods we're feasting on in Victoria.


Karen Bass: My mother tells a story of growing up on the farm in northern Alberta. One of her younger sisters was bedridden with a contagious disease, so none of the family could attend the annual Christmas concert, which was the highlight of the winter season. My mother was devastated. Christmas morning arrived, though it hardly felt like Christmas at all. Then a noise outside sent her to the window. She breathed a view hole on the frosty glass and peered outside. There, across the yard, was Santa Claus, stepping out from behind the chicken coop. (This part of the story always puzzled me, until I decided he had passed up the house’s steep roof and parked his sleigh on the shallow incline of the chicken coop’s roof, which would be much safer to climb down from.) He crossed the yard, sack in hand, entered the house, stomping to knock the snow from his boots, and handed out gifts to the three house-bound girls. But he didn't just leave gifts; he left the joy of Christmas with that visit, one that a little girl has carried in her heart for over seventy years.


Jeremy Tankard: My family aren’t ones to make a big deal of holidays. Call it laziness. However, we did have a tradition that revolved around books. Amongst other things we all received books at Christmas. In a nicely unspoken tradition we would open presents after attending Christmas Mass; then lunch (nothing fancy); then sitting in comfy chairs in companionable silence reading our new books and snoozing the afternoon away before getting up and making a nice dinner.

Some people have suggested that I make more of a “big deal” about Christmas. You know, for the sake of my kids. I respectfully disagree with those people. I loved my quiet family Christmases. A quiet afternoon with a good book seems the BEST way to celebrate any holiday. Holidays in the Tankard house were never stressful affairs. And really, is there a better way to pass the time than in the company of your favourite people and a couple of good books? I think not.


Larry Verstraete’s Easiest-Ever Holiday Punch

(Simple, but festive and tasty.)

I can frozen raspberry juice concentrate

1 can frozen cranberry juice concentrate

1 - 2 litre bottle of club soda

Mix ingredients. Add ice. Garnish with whole cranberries and/or raspberries. Serve and enjoy!


Jane Drake and Ann Love: Playdough for Baking -- Making Seasonal Ornaments

Using traditional cookie cutter shapes and this recipe, we made tree ornaments with kids ages 7, 5 and 3 this year. From the kitchen gadget drawer, we found that the garlic press made great hair and manes. After the first batch, the kids started free-styling shapes with a plastic knife and adult supervision. We now have a whip-tail lizard, tractor, and fossil hanging from our tree as well as bells, reindeer, and Santa faces.

You’ll Need:

1 cup salt

4 cups flour

2 oz glycerine (available at the pharmacy)

1 ½ cups water

a narrow stick such as a chopstick

water-based paints and brushes

narrow ribbon


1. Mix the salt and flour together.

2. Add the glycerine to the water.

3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix.

4. Knead on a lightly floured counter until very smooth and the dough forms a not-too-sticky ball

5. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to mould.

6. Roll out and cut as a cookie. With the stick, cut a clean hole top and center on the shape for hanging.

7. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 300 F for about 1 ½ hours or until hard.

8. When cold, paint one side, then the other.

9. When the paint dries, thread a narrow ribbon through the hole (step 6) and tie in a loop.

Happy decorating, happy holiday!


Margriet Ruurs: My family and I hold on to our Dutch heritage by celebrating St. Nicolaas Day on December 5. All the origins of Santa can be found in St. Nicolaas, who was a child in Spain - giving gold coins to poor farmers and gifts to his friends on the eve of his birthday.

In our house we set a wooden shoe, with a carrot for his horse, by the fireplace, sing songs. Our (now grown) children make fun gifts for each other which are given along with a long poem, teasing the receiver with an event that happened in the past year. When we get together to exchange these gifts, have traditional cookies, hot chocolate and a LOT of fun reading poems and opening fun gifts.

The tradition has allowed us to keep the gifts away from Christmas, which is a more sober, candlelit affair with a tree and a big dinner with friends and family. For Christmas, we give each other a gift from the World Vision or UNICEF catalogues. This year it will be two goats in Kenya.


Janet Wilson: No matter what faith or culture, no one should be alone in our shared holiday season. For more than thirty years, my husband and I have kept to our rules for Christmas dinner--no family, no presents. Anyone without family to share Christmas for whatever reason, is welcome to join us. Over the years we've had guests who were recently bereaved, newly divorced, new immigrants, war refugees, ill, or just lonely. While our numbers have fluctuated from barely enough to set a table, to loaves and fishes multitudes, the menu is consistent--turkey, port cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, turnip, cauliflower pie, brussel sprouts and chestnuts, finishing with a flaming figgy pudding and a rousing chorus of "We Wish you a Merry Christmas." We wear silly paper hats, sing carols, toast absent friends, congratulate the milestones, welcome new babes, drink too much, and then I put my feet up while I listen to the happy babble while the dishes are done after dinner.


Anyone who knows Marina Cohen, knows she has a pathological obsession with gingerbread. Determined to find the absolute perfect recipe, she scoured the earth (and the internet)—even going so far as to pretend she had various food allergies in order to get the local awesome bakery to divulge their secrets. After much experimentation (several pounds gained and a few stomach aches), she has it! The absolute best ever gingerbread recipe and she is willing to share!

Best Gingerbread Ever

1 ½ sticks of butter

2/3 cup of fancy (unsulfured?) molasses

1 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 ½ tsp grated lemon peel

2 ½ cups of flour

**2 packages (2 large tablespoons equivalent!) German “lebkuchen” spice mix

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp baking powder

**if you do not have access to a German delicatessen which will sell these packages around the holidays, you can mix it yourself with the following: cinnamon, coriander, cloves, fennel, Anis, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg.

Melt butter, molasses, sugar and spices together in a sauce pan. Let cool. Mix dry ingredients. Add butter mixture and egg. Dough will be a bit sticky. Refrigerate for an hour or less (otherwise dough will get too hard and you will need to let it warm or work it hard before you can roll it!). Bake at 325 for about 13 minutes. You can ice them with a mixture made of icing sugar, lemon juice and water, if you wish or eat them plain! Now, this dough is a diva. It appears to break easily but if you press it back together the cookies will turn out in one piece--they are well worth the hassle!!!


Safe and Happy Holidsays to ALL!
We'll be back in January.

Marsha and Valerie

Stolen Child


I was surprised at last night's CANSCAIP meeting. I thought that I had been invited to speak about Private Kidcrit, my online crit group for children's writers, and I did do that, but first I was awarded the CANSCAIP pin, which is given out annually to an outstanding CANSCAIP volunteer. Here's a photo of Gillian Chan and myself with the pin:

Stolen Child

The Vagrants -- loved it

An absolutely stunning novel. Set in 1970s China during a burgeoning groundswell of anti-communist feeling that was a precursor to the Tiananmen Square uprising.

Li effortlessly slips the reader into the heads of a multitude of characters -- sometimes several within the same chapter. There is never a confusion. Instead, the tension builds as the reader realizes the intersecting wants and needs of the community of characters and how they'll ultimately crash together in unexpected ways.

This is a novel that says with the reader long after finishing.