Sisters team up for Children’s Book Week

Ann Love pointed to a little girl sitting patiently with her arm held high in the air. The Selkirk Elementary School student was sitting…

Ann Love pointed to a little girl sitting patiently with her arm held high in the air.

The Selkirk Elementary School student was sitting cross-legged with 40 of her classmates, who lowered their hands to wait for the next question.

“What was your favourite book to write?” the girl asked.

“For me, I think it was the Kids Book of the Night Sky,” answered Love’s sister Jane Drake.

“I really enjoyed learning about the stars. I live in the city, in Toronto, and you don’t get to see the stars that often.”

The sisters had been interested in stars since their childhood, they told the class.

Once while taking a canoe trip, their father had looked up at the stars and told his girls, in an off-hand way, “This is what the sky looked like when we bombed Dresden.”

He had never talked about the war before that moment.

He told the girls how, while surrounded by enemy fire, he and his copilot had climbed above the clouds.

They were completely lost until their father had spotted the North Star.

Keeping the star on their right wing they flew west to home and safety.

“It’s hard to imagine that something could be that beautiful and still be that useful,” said Love.

The children listened attentively to the story and then shot their hands into the air to ask the next question.

Drake and Love were speaking at the school as part of the Canadian Children’s Book Week.

The bestselling authors began writing children’s non-fiction nearly 20-years-ago.

“We took courses in writing for children together before that,” said Love.

“And then we decided to write together as a team.

“We were going to have the dorky name of Write On.”

Their first book was called Take Action, an environmental book for kids that was done with the World Wildlife Fund.

“It was our toe in the door,” said Drake.

“That book led to the next which led to next.”

The pair has managed to publish 25 non-fiction children’s books to date.

Many of these books have followed that environmental lead, such as their book Trash Action: A Fresh Look at Garbage.

That makes sense considering that Love was the founder of the activist group Pollution Probe, back in the ‘60s.

“She was a real rebel,” said Drake poking fun at her sister.

“A rebel in a miniskirt.”

“We don’t want to lecture kids; we just want to invite them to get involved,” said Love.

“Kids are really with it and if you teach a child something you can bet that they’ll go back and tell their parents.”

The sisters tackle many other important issues aside from pollution.

Take their latest book, Sweet!: The Delicious Story of Candy, which tells the history of the world through candy.

What could be more important to a child than candy?

Even so, the authors have to look for hooks to catch the attention of their young audience.

“Where do sweet flavours come from?” read Love from the book.

“Would you believe bee barf, mammal secretions, aphid poop, stem sap and bean fat?”

Sounds good doesn’t it?

The Candy book was one that the sisters enjoyed themselves.

Perhaps a little too much.

“I put on 10 pounds while we were writing it,” said Drake.

“You have to keep tasting chocolate, letting it melt in your mouth, to try to find just the right word to describe it.”

It’s takes around a year to write each book and another to get it published.

The sisters first come up with an idea, sometimes getting recommendations from friends who are teachers.

They then divvy up the work and send drafts back and forth, through e-mail, editing each other as they go.

The most important phase in the process however, is testing the book out.

With three children each — Love also has four grandchildren — there’s always an attentive audience.

“My daughter’s friends used to love coming over to our house,” said Drake.

“I always had them doing arts and crafts.”

These arts and crafts were collected into the author’s bestselling book, The Kids Cottage Book.

This isn’t the sister’s first time to the territory.

After her rebel days at Pollution Probe, Love moved to Carcross to help run an alternative school.

Drake spent two summers visiting her sister in the Yukon and was published for the first time in the Whitehorse Star.

This return visit to the North was in honour of the 30th anniversary of the TD Canadian Children’s Book Week.

From November 17 to 24 authors and illustrators planned to reach more than 25,000 children in schools and libraries across Canada.

During their whirlwind weeklong visit to the Yukon, Drake and Love visited as many elementary schools as possible.

On Monday alone, they gave three readings, the one at Selkirk Elementary being the last of the day.

But before it was over, the students had one last important question.

“Do you make lots of money?”

The two sisters looked at each other and smiled before given the shortest answer of the day.