Author Tags: Architecture, Kidlit & Young Adult

Graphic designer and writer, Dani Tate-Stratton is a reluctant farmer and avid traveller. Take Shelter: At Home Around the World (Orca $19.95), Tate-Stratton's first book, explores ways people live in the world and beyond. Whether houses have wings, wheels, float, are made of straw, snow or ice, societies adapt their shelters to fit their surroundings in many innovative ways.


Take Shelter: At Home Around the World (Orca Book Publishers 2014) $19.95 9781459807426

[BCBW 2014]

Birthdays: Beyond Cake and Ice Cream (Orca $24.95)
Interview (2017)

from BCBW 2017
A mother and daughter team explores a common tradition that most people take for granted in Birthdays: Beyond Cake and Ice Cream. Egyptian Pharaohs celebrated them — Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t. And if you reach 60, you’re ambivalent.

From the get-go, Dani Tate-Stratton [interviewed below] knew it was tough to make a living as an author.

Her mom, Nikki Tate, worked at Bolen Books in Victoria and has written more than thirty books.

But now, having participated in a national celebration of Adults Day in Tokyo to honour those who are turning twenty, she and her mom have co-authored Birthdays: Beyond Cake and Ice Cream (Orca $24.95).

Aimed at pre-teens, this richly illustrated investigation of how other cultures observe the rite of getting another year older is loaded with stuff to also fascinate adults.

BCBW: This is a smart and simple idea for a book. How did you come up with it?
I was lucky enough to spend my 20th birthday in Tokyo and took part in Adult’s Day, a national holiday celebrating everyone who turns 20 that year. I dressed up in a formal kimono, went to the speeches at city hall, learned about all the good luck rituals to take part in at the local shrine, and really felt a part of something significant.
I started to wonder about other countries and cultures and what their key milestone birthdays were. After just a bit of research I realized that there was more than enough to write a book about, and sharing some of those things with mom convinced her of the same.
BCBW: Did you like having birthday parties?
My birthday falls in the lee of the Christmas holidays. Sometimes it was the first day back at school after winter break; not a day my friends and I were particularly eager to celebrate! We mention it in the book. Growing up, I solved the problem by ‘time shifting’ and celebrating my half-birthday during the summer.
BCBW: What about giving them?
I have always loved planning birthday parties for others, like my mom’s 50th where we managed to surprise her with about 50 friends and family members and my grandfather’s 80th, where we arranged for him to have a letter from Prime Minister Trudeau. You can see a photo of Grampa holding his letter in our book.
BCBW: And your mom?
She has never been the type to bake fancy cakes and arrange delicate goodie bags, so her favourite birthdays for me were probably some of my favourites to attend—camping at Goldstream, building driftwood forts on French Beach, and a murder mystery where we turned the entire living room into a train car.
BCBW: Is there any place in the world where people never celebrate or recognize birthdays?
We were actually surprised just HOW prevalent birthday celebrations of one sort or another are, both all around the world and throughout history. That said, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays, as they believe it would displease God for various reasons consistent with their religious beliefs.
BCBW: Before there were calendars and people understood the lunar year, did ‘pre-history’ people ever have some ‘natural’ recognition for becoming one year older?
We found instances of birthday recognition dating back to the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, but as you imply this makes total sense—they are thought to be some of the first to have any sort of consistent and accurate calendar. Before we were able to keep track of time, it was certainly difficult to keep track of specific dates, such as birthdays.
Birthday celebrations for ‘regular’ people came awhile after calendars—initially birthdays were celebrations for Gods, Pharaohs, and other culturally-significant deities or leaders. A regular citizen might have celebrated his or her birthday on their Saint’s Name Day, so even though they could have known the day they were born, they wouldn’t necessarily have marked it.
BCBW: How did your mother and daughter collaboration work out?
Great! We have worked together on several shorter things in the past, and our first book together was Take Shelter, At Home Around the World, also with Orca. With that book, Birthdays, and our forthcoming Christmas book, we find that if one of us goes back to read the final, edited text, we can’t remember—or tell—who wrote which sections.
BCBW: Given that Nikki, your mom, has done about thirty books, were you content to play second fiddle? Or was there complete harmony throughout the process?
Ha! I’m sure it’s been thought before, but you’re the first to put it in so many words, so good on you for the honesty. But yes, it was harmonious. And I don’t think either or us thinks of us in terms of first or second fiddle. One thing I learned VERY early on from watching my mom write and have her critique my early writing, is that editing isn’t personal and that to be a writer is to have a job, one where you grind away harder than most people imagine.
BCBW: So you and your mom are co-workers.
Yes. Initially maybe she was more the general manager and I was a new hire, but that’s OK—I can learn from her and I’m sure she learned something through working with me. You’d have to ask her if she thought the division of labour was equal.
BCBW: Maybe we should do an issue of BC BookWorld devoted to other mother/daughter or father/son or father/daughter or mother/son collaborations.
I’m sure there are more of us out there! My friend Xan Shian contributed photos to her mom Marilyn Bowering’s book in the last year or two...
BCBW: Did you long harbour the notion that you would become an author?
NO! I loved growing up in the stacks at Bolen Books. My mom worked there for years while I was growing up. I was lucky enough to tour with her and hang out at the edges of the Canadian book scene. But I saw what a struggle it was for my mom and most Canadian authors. I was not at all interested!
The story in our family is that with such creative parents, mom ‘rebelled’ by getting an honours neuropsychology degree. While I wasn’t so extreme in my ‘rebellion,’ I did study both graphic design and contemporary cultural anthropology. I knew I didn’t want to be an author! Funny how the things we ‘know’ can change...
BCBW: Having done a book on birthdays, what’s next?
As someone who firmly believes that 364 days of the year are just in the way of Christmas and who starts their Christmas shopping in January, gift wrapping in July, carol listening in August, and baking in November, I couldn’t be more excited about researching a book on the origins of Christmas.