Author Tags: Kidlit & Young Adult
Born in Birmingham, England, Nikki Tate is the author of three series for young readers: The Estorian Chronicles, The Tarragon Island Series, and seven StableMates novels.
Recent projects include historical fiction for the Orca Young Readers series and a picture book with Annick Press. Tate regularly speaks at conferences on a wide range of topics, is much in demand as a writing workshop teacher, and visits with thousands of school children each year to talk about the writing process. Tate also works as a storyteller, retelling the stories of King Arthur's court and she has chaired the Victoria Children's Literature Roundtable. Her books are published under the name Nikki Tate, but her articles and reviews are credited to the name Nikki Tate-Stratton.
Tate's Take Shelter: At Home Around the World (Orca $19.95) explores how 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.
Since moving to a 2-acre farm and planting dozens of trees, Nikki Tate has come to appreciate "why trees just might be our best friends." In her educational follow-up to her children's book about housing around the globe, she celebrates and explains the universal importance of trees in Deep Roots: How Trees Sustain Our Planet (Orca 2015). We learn that six of the planet's eight species of bizarre baobab trees are in Madagascar. Clusters of branches appear only at top of enormous, smooth, white trunks that rise like 100-ft. pillars. To adapt to a very dry climate, water is stored in the massive trunks during the rainy season. The baobab trees later produce much-needed fruit in the dry season when little else grows. Hence the baobab is known as the Tree of Life. Baobab flowers bloom at night and are pollinated by bats.
CITY/TOWN: Victoria, BC
DATE OF BIRTH: May 2, 1962
PLACE OF BIRTH: Birmingham, UK
ARRIVAL IN CANADA: 1969
EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Bookseller - Bolen Books
M-Awards (Monday Magazine)
Victoria’s Favourite Children’s Author in 2002 and 2006
Honour Book for the Storytelling World Award
The Year’s Best List, Resource Links
No Cafes in Narnia
2001 Honour Book for the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize
1999 Honour Book for the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize
The Year’s Best List, Resource Links
BC 2000 Book Award
Down to Earth: How Kids Help Feed the World (Orca Footprints 2017) $12.95 9781459814127
Birthdays: Beyond Cake and Ice Cream (Orca 2017) $24.95 978-1-459812970
Deadpoint (Orca Sports 2016) 978-1-4598-13526
Deep Roots: How Trees Sustain Our Planet (Orca 2015) $19.95 978-1-4598-0582-8
Take Shelter: At Home Around the World (Orca Book Publishers 2014) $19.95 9781459807426
Down to Earth: How Kids Help Feed the World, Orca 2013
Fallout, Orca, 2011
Razor's Edge, Orca, 2009
Venom, Orca, 2009
Double Take: Karen Brain’s Olympic Journey, Sono Nis, 2007
Behind the Scenes at the Racetrack, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2007. [Non-fiction]
Jo's Journey, Orca, 2006
Trouble on Tarragon Island, Sono Nis, 2005
Grandparents' Day, Annick Press, Spring 2004
Battle for Carnillo, Sono Nis Press (Estorian Chronicles 2), Spring, 2003
Keeping Secrets at Dark Creek, Sono Nis Press (StableMates 7), Spring, 2002
Jo's Triumph at Ruby Lake, Orca Books, Spring, 2002
The Cave of Departure, Sono Nis Press, September, 2001
No Cafes in Narnia, Sono Nis Press, September, 2000
Return to Skoki Lake (StableMates 6), Sono Nis Press, December, 1999
Tarragon Island, Sono Nis Press, October, 1999
Raven's Revenge, Sono Nis Press (StableMates 5), April, 1999
Sienna's Rescue, (StableMates 4), Sono Nis Press, September, 1998
Jessa Be Nimble, Rebel Be Quick (StableMates 3), Sono Nis Press, April, 1998
Team Trouble at Dark Creek (StableMates 2), Sono Nis Press, November, 1997
Rebel of Dark Creek (StableMates 1), Sono Nis Press, September, 1997
The American Life, Tahaus Publishing, Tokyo, 1990
[BCBW 2016] "Kidlit"
Battle of Carnillo
Nikki Tate’s run as storyteller for pre-teens continues with The Battle of Carnillo (Sono Nis $8.95), subtitled Book II of the Estorian Chronicles. It’s a boy meets mythology tale, with requisite castles and heroism—a few centuries removed from Tate’s series about girls and their horses. Back on that track with Tate’s tenth juvenile novel, Jo’s Triumph (Orca $6.95) is a about a girl named Jocelyn who escapes from the Carson City Home for Unfortunate Girls by finding a job with the Pony Express and disguising herself as boy. The same readership is courted by Penny Chamberlain in The Olden Days Locket (Sono Nis $8.95) about a girl enthralled by Victoria’s historic Point Ellice House. Carnillo 1-55039-119-4; Triumph 1-55143-199-8; Chamberlain 1-55039-128-3—By Louise Donnelly
[BCBW AUTUMN 2002]
The Cave of Departure (Sono Nis)
Nicki Tate’s newest kidlit title is The Cave of Departure (Sono Nis). In Book One—The Estorian Chronicles, twelve-year-old Dominique is banished from a tribe of nomadic storytellers.
[BCBW WINTER 2001]
Tarragon Island (Sono Nis $6.95) & No Cafes in Narnia (Sono Nis $6.95)
In her six-volume Stablemates series, Nikki Tate depicts the equestrian adventures of a horse-mad, sixth-grader named Jessa who falls in love with a pony named Rebel.
But Tate is not a one-trick pony. The former Saltspring Islander has started a new West Coast series with Tarragon Island (Sono Nis $6.95) and No Cafes in Narnia (Sono Nis $6.95)—both set on a fictional Gulf Island.
In Tarragon Island we meet Heather Blake, a budding pre-teen writer. As a transplanted Torontonian she at first despairs of ever finding anything to write about on the Gulf Island to which her veterinarian mother and artist father have moved. Then she meets Alyssum, her home-schooled younger neighbour who has to wear hand-me-downs and help her family eke out a living selling homemade soap and baking at the island’s Saturday market.
Heather thinks she has found the perfect subject for her naive novel about poverty and despair. Changing Alyssum’s name to Rosie, she portrays a heroine who “tried to comfort the babies who are always crying now that their mother is dead.” But her melodramatic attempt at fiction comes to an abrupt halt when Heather discovers Alyssum is not at all under-privileged. In fact, she has her own stock portfolio, an heiress mother and her own bathroom in a spectacular, environmentally-conscious, energy-efficient, underground house.
Alyssum’s wealthy parents have insisted that she be able to discern between wants and needs. With her new friendship and understanding, Heather finds her place in the island community and makes a small, but sincere, contribution to reducing poverty for third world children.
In No Cafes in Narnia Heather, now 13, discovers there is no such thing as a private life on Tarragon Island. Everyone knows, with the unexpected death of Heather’s grandfather, that Heather’s mother has slipped into a deep, unreachable depression. Granny arrives from Ontario to help out, only to become hospitalized herself. Heather’s dad hides out in his studio and her little brother is convinced their mother is dying of cancer.
A new writing group, a motley crew of creepy girls and one conceited, aggravating boy, only makes Heather doubt her writing and feel more alone than ever. But Alyssum needs help discovering who left hundreds of valuable—and stolen—Russian stamps in her charity drop-box. When the donor—and thief—turns out to be Mr. Bell, school secretary and beleaguered father of the scariest of the writing club girls, Heather learns the benevolence of close-knit island life.
Readers are privy to Heather’s journal, her writing, her collected quotes about writing and her letters to Maggie, her best friend back home in Toronto. In this new series, Jessa’s passion for horses in Stablemates has been matched by Heather’s passion for writing.
[Louise Donnelly / BCBW 2000]
Raven’s Revenge (Sono Nis $6.95)
In the fifth in Nikki Tate’s Stablemates series, Raven’s Revenge (Sono Nis $6.95), Jessa and her friend Cheryl attend Camp Singing Waters, a horse camp near Nanaimo, where feuding campers, drafty cabins, petroglyphs, fortune telling and ghost stories around the campfire make their stay less than idyllic. 1-55039-095-3
[BCBW SUMMER 1999]
Trouble On Tarragon Island (Sono Nis $9.95)
The third volume in Niki Tate’s series featuring teenage writer Heather Blake, begins innocently enough. In Trouble On Tarragon Island, Heather’s grandmother, along with the other embarrassingly saggy and liver-spotted members of Ladies of the Forest, poses nude for a fund-raiser calendar. The Ladies of the Forest (a fictional take on the BC-based direct action group Women in the Woods) are determined to stop logging of old-growth forest and soon the “wrinkle brigade’s” weekly meetings and the painting of banners turns to confrontation with angry loggers. Then her grandmother is arrested and Heather, voicing author Tate’s conviction that kids are “perfectly capable of making up their own minds about tough issues,” must decide for herself whether breaking the law is a criminal act. 1-55039-154-2
--review by Louise Donnelly, who writes from Vernon.
[BCBW 2006] "Kidlit"
Jo’s Journey (Orca $7.95)
from Louise Donnelly
Jo’s Triumph introduced Nikki Tate’s plucky orphan Joselyn Whyte, who was left by her brothers at the Carson City Home for Unfortunate Girls. She ran away, disguised herself as a boy and joined the Pony Express riders. The sequel Jo’s Journey takes Jo and her friend Bart from San Francisco to Fort Victoria and then on a perilous trek to the Cariboo gold country of 1862. “He’s one of the lucky ones. He died right fast,” an old timer tells Jo, when a treacherous switchback out of Lillooet gives way and her pack horse tumbles down the mountainside. Horsewoman Tate, who also pens the StableMates series and rode a portion of Nevada’s old Pony Express route, delivering letters to schools from BC kids, infuses Jo’s tale with horse lore and gritty detail. 1-55143-536-5
With her bestselling StableMates series back in print, illustrated by new cover designed by Joan Larson, Nikki Tate has turned her hand to juvenile biography for Double Take: Karen Brain’s Olympic Journey (Sono Nis $12.95), a portrait of equestrian Karen Brain’s brave quest to compete for Olympic glory after doctors tell her she likely won’t recover from a shattered spine injury suffered during a fall. As a testament to her remarkable spirit, Tate chronicles Brain’s journey from her hospital bed to the Paralympic podium. 978-1-55039-162-6
Here is a brief synopsis of Karen Brain's story from her website:
"Karen Brain was an accomplished rider, coach, and trainer in the Equestrian Sport of Three-Day Eventing, representing Canada at many competitions, until an unfortunate riding accident on September 18th, 2001 left her partially paralyzed with a spinal cord injury. She spent three months in the Hospital in London, Ontario and almost four more years doing Rehab at Parkwood Hospital as an outpatient. Karen’s strengths as an Athlete, as in all athletes, were her strengths in recovery – positive attitude, self-determination, dedication, and perseverance.
"Karen started riding again, with many difficulties, about eight months after her accident. As she could not put her feet in the stirrups, she rode without them. She used two whips as her signals to the horse, in lieu of her legs. When she couldn’t do something the “usual” way, she found some other way to do it. She rode until she ached, and then she rode some more. She practiced her walking in the ring while she cooled her horse off, because she knew if she fell in the sand or hogfuel ring, it wouldn’t hurt as much. She found out later, that the movement of the horse, forced the same movement in her own body as walking would do. So riding was therapeutic to her body, as well as to her soul.
"Despite her life-altering accident in 2001, Karen has attained the highest level of competition in both able-bodied and disabled riding competitions. Karen won two Bronze Medals at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games with the mare Dasskara, and won two Silver Medals in 2005 at the Dutch Open International Dressage competition for disabled riders in Helvoirt, Netherlands with the Dutch gelding Mozart. Before her accident Karen represented Canada in 3-Day Eventing at the World Equestrian Games in Rome in 1998, with her horse Double Take, and the same year, the pair won the Advanced Canadian Championships in 3-Day Eventing.
"Karen has now set her goal to represent Canada at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, and feels that she is capable of winning gold! In 2006, Karen plans to compete in England and Belgium in International competitions for disabled riders, to qualify for the 2007 World Championships in Great Britain for Riders with a Disability.
"In late 2005, Karen moved home to BC, after living and training in Germany, the US and Eastern Canada for nine years, the past six years in London, Ontario. Karen has been fortunate to be able to train with world-renowned Coach, Conrad Schumacher, in Germany, who has helped her immensely, and with whom she plans to continue to train with. She feels honoured to have the privilege of training with him."
How Trees Sustain Our Planet (Orca $19.95)
from BCBW (Spring 2016)
Since moving to a two-acre farm and planting dozens of trees, Nikki Tate has come to appreciate “why trees just might be our best friends.” As a follow-up to her children’s book about housing around the world, she celebrates the universal importance of trees in Deep Roots: How Trees Sustain Our Planet (Orca $19.95).
Among other things, we learn that six of the planet’s eight species of baobab trees are in Madagascar. During the rainy season, water is stored in their enormous, smooth, white trunks that rise like 100-ft. pillars. The baobab is known as the Tree of Life because the trees produce much-needed fruit in the dry season when little else grows. Baobab flowers bloom at night and are pollinated by bats. 978-1-4598-0582-8
Birthdays: Beyond Cake and Ice Cream (Orca $24.95)
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.