LAWSON, Julie




Author Tags: Kidlit & Young Adult

Born in 1947, Julie Lawson has emerged as one of Canada's best children's authors, having published more than twenty books for young people. Born and raised in Victoria, B.C., she spent 18 years as an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time author in 1991. Her first novel, White Jade Tiger, won the Sheila Egoff Award in 1994, and over the years she has garnered awards and nominations, critical acclaim, and much recognition.

The subjects of her books range from cougars, ghosts and Chinese dragons, to fishing adventures and tongue-twisting pirates. Her interest in the history of the Canadian Pacific Railway is evident not only in White Jade Tiger, but also in her picture book, Emma and the Silk Train and her novel, A Ribbon of Shining Steel. Her Goldstone Trilogy is based on the worst disaster in CPR history - the 1910 avalanche at B.C.'s Rogers Pass. The Halifax Explosion of 1917 is the backdrop for an orphaned girl's diary in No Safe Harbour.

White Jade Tiger (Beach Holme, 1993), based on actual events in the Fraser Canyon during the building of the CPR, describes the experiences of Chinese workers as its 13-year-old heroine Jasmine time-travels to Victoria's Chinatown of the 1880s. She befriends 16-year-old Keung and travels to the Fraser Canyon where they search for his missing father as well as a jade amulet from ancient times. Only when this jade amulet is recovered and returned to China will a curse be lifted on Keung's family. The spirit of Bright Jade appears to Jasmine in dreams and ultimately Jasmine is able to come to a clearer understanding of her own family.

For Lawson's story The Dragon's Tale, she travelled on the Yellow River to remote Buddhist caves at Bilingsi and climbed the summit of Taishan, one of China's five sacred mountains. Emma and the Silk Train is based upon the derailment of a train east of Vancouver in 1927 when some of its cargo of Oriental silk fell into the Fraser River. Lawson incorporated Native myths in The Sand Sifter and used Chinese, Greek and Native myths in My Grandfather Loved the Stars. She wrote her 20th book, Destination Gold, while writer-in-residence at the (Pierre) Berton House Writers Retreat in Dawson City, Yukon. In Ghosts of the Titanic (Scholastic, 2011) a family travels to Halifax after inheriting a house from a mystery man, and a ghost from the ill-fated ship starts haunting a young son's dreams after he discovers 1911 artifacts inside the house's walls.

Lawson divides her time between writing at home and visiting schools and libraries. She has spoken to Roundtable groups, toured for Canadian Children's Book Week, conducted writing workshops, taught university courses on writing children's literature, and been a presenter at conferences for adults and children across North America. In her spare time, she enjoys travelling the world by train or container ship, hiking, spending time with friends, and curling up with a good book. She lives in Victoria, B.C. with her husband, Patrick.

BOOKS:

Ghosts of the Titanic (Scholastic, 2011) 978-1-4431-0041-0 $8.99
Our Canadian Girl: Emily (Puffin 2010)
Where the River Takes Me: The Hudson's Bay Company Diary of Jenna Sinclair (Scholastic, 2008)
The Pirates of Captain McKee (Scholastic, 2008. Illustrated by Werner Zimmerman) $6.99 978-0-545-99766-9
No Safe Harbour: The Halifax Explosion Diary of Charlotte Blackburn, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1917 (Scholastic, 2006)
Our Canadian Girl: Emily, Summer of Gold (Penguin, 2004)
A Ribbon of Shining Steel: The Railway Diary of Kate Cameron (Scholastic, 2002). 'Dear Canada' Series.
Across the James Bay Bridge (Penguin, Our Canadian Girl series, 2001)
Destination Gold! (Orca, 2000)
The Ghost of Avalanche Mountain (Stoddart, 2000) Part Three of the Goldstone Trilogy
Bear on the Train (Kids Can, 1999. Illustrated by Brian Deines)
Midnight in the Mountains (Orca, 1998. Illustrated by Sheena Lott)
In Like a Lion (Scholastic, 1998. Illustrated by Yolaine Lefebvre)
Turns on a Dime (Stoddart, 1998)
Goldstone (Stoddart, 1997)
Emma and the Silk Train (Kids Can Press, 1997. Illustrated by Paul Mombourquette)
Whatever You Do, Don't Go Near That Canoe! (Scholastic, 1996. Illustrated by Werner Zimmerman)
Too Many Suns (Stoddart, 1996. Illustrated by Martin Springett)
Cougar Cove (Orca 1994)
Blown Away (Red Deer College Press, 1995, Illustrated by Kathryn Naylor)
Fires Burning (Stoddart, 1995; Little, Brown in the U.S. 1996 as Danger Game)
White Jade Tiger (Beach Holme, 1993; Dundurn 2006).
The Dragon's Pearl (Oxford University Press, 1992; published in the U.S. by Clarion Press, 1993, Illustrated by Paul Morin)
Kate's Castle (Oxford University Press, 1992, Illustrated by Frances Tyrrell)
My Grandfather Loved the Stars (Beach Holme, 1992, Illustrated by Judy McLaren)
A Morning to Polish and Keep (Red Deer College Press, 1992, Illustrated by Sheena Lott)
The Sand Sifter (Beach Holme, 1990)

AWARDS:

The Pirates of Captain McKee (Scholastic, 2008. Illustrated by Werner Zimmerman)
*Governor’s General Award Nominee

Midnight in the Mountains (Orca, 1998. Illustrated by Sheena Lott)
*Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award, Shortlist, 1999

Turns on a Dime (Stoddart, 1998)
*National Chapter of Canada IODE Violet Downey Book Award, Shortlist, 1999

Goldstone (Stoddart, 1997)
*CNIB Torgi Award, Shortlist, 1999
*Regional Winner and Finalist, Silver Birch Award, 1998

Emma and the Silk Train (Kids Can Press, 1997. Illustrated by Paul Mombourquette)
*International Reading Association Teachers' Choice, 1999
*Sheila A. Egoff Award, Shortlist, 1998
*Junior Library Guild Selection, 1998

Whatever You Do, Don't Go Near That Canoe! (Scholastic, 1996. Illustrated by Werner Zimmerman)
*Winner of the CNIB's Tiny Torgi Award, 1997
*International Youth Library White Ravens Notable, 1997
*Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award, Shortlist, 1997
*Runner-up for the Governor-General's Award for Illustrations, 1996

Cougar Cove (Orca, 1996)
*Regional Winner and Finalist for the Ontario Silver Birch Award, 1997

Fires Burning (Stoddart, 1995; Little, Brown in the U.S. 1996 as Danger Game )
*Shortlisted for the Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award, 1998
*Shortlisted for the ALA Best Books for Young Adults list, 1996

White Jade Tiger (Beach Holme, 1993)
*Winner of the Sheila A. Egoff Award, 1994
*Shortlisted for the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year Award
*Shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association Silver Birch Award
*CLA Fiction Notable

The Dragon's Pearl (Oxford University Press, 1992; published in the U.S. by Clarion Press, 1993, Illustrated by Paul Morin)
*Short-listed for the Ruth Schwartz Award and the CLA Book of the Year Award
*Winner of the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Award for illustrations.
*U.S. 1993 NAPPA Award for Folklore (National Parenting Publications Award)

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2010] "Kidlit"

Arizona Charlie and the Klondike Kid (Orca $19.95)
Info



It’s the Yukon gold rush of 1899. Ben’s an ordinary kid living in Dawson City. He’s only heard of Arizona Charlie, “King of the Cowboys”: sharp-shooter, champion lasso twirler and fearless horseman.
In Julie Lawson’s Arizona Charlie and the Klondike Kid (Orca $19.95) Ben finally sees Arizona Charlie, galloping through Dawson in pursuit of a runaway horse. With flying tassels and wild hair, the King of the Cowboys lassos the beast, raises his sombrero and waves to the cheering crowd. Ben longs to be a Wild West star just like Arizona Charlie.
Arizona Charlie invites Ben to perform his lasso tricks at the Palace Grand. The boy can’t believe his luck. He’s introduced as the “Klondike Kid.” To Ben’s surprise, Charlie changes the act ten minutes before curtain. “Don’t look so worried!” Charlie says, handing Ben a glass ball. “You hold the ball, and I shoot it. My wife usually does it, but the other night a faulty bullet nicked the tip of her thumb.”
Julie Lawson learned of Arizona Charlie in 1998 when she lived in Dawson City. Arizona Charlie is illustrated by Kasia Charko. 1-55143-250-1

[SUMMER 2003 BCBW]


White Jade Tiger
Press Release



Winner of the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Award at the BC Book Prizes, White Jade Tiger is a wonderful young adult novel now taught in may schools throughout B.C. Jasmine is not sure she likes the idea of being stuck in Victoria while her father goes to China for a year. But on a field trip to Chinatown, she explores a curious shop in Fan Tan Alley and accidentally passes through a half-hidden door. She finds herself in Victoria's Chinatown of the 1880s where everyone is busy building the great Canadian Pacific Railway. Mistaken for a Chinese boy, she is soon caught up in a race through the Fraser Canyon to find a lost tiger amulet with her new friend, Keung, before its powers are revealed to the wrong owner. Julie Lawson has also included a historic chronology of the Chinese settlers in B.C.

Now White Jade Tiger can be shared with an entire class and enjoyed by students not only as fiction but as a unique way of understanding a lively period in Canadian history. A comprehensive teacher's guide, written by Anne Nilsen, provides a thoughtful and imaginative approach to Vancouver Island's rich heritage using visuals, games and exercises to explore many facets of its life and times. The guide investigates the working and living conditions while building the CPR as well as ancient cultural and mythological beliefs, the geography and transport of the 1880s and other issues relevant to the era--racism, injustice, immigration, settlement policy and much more. Nilsen uses current Language Arts curriculum from grades 5 to 8 and makes it fun with scavenger hunts, mapping games, field trips, a book project, diorama and much much more. Copies of photographs from the archives and useful supplemental reading are also included.

5.5 x 8.5 Trade paperback 198 pp ISBN 0-88878-332-9 $8.95 CDN $5.95 US


Destination Gold! (Orca $8.95)
Info



Sixteen-year-old Ned sets off for the Klondike Gold Rush, naively confident he’ll soon be home with more than enough money to pay off his widowed mother’s debts. Destination Gold! (Orca $8.95) was researched and written while Julie Lawson was writer-in-residence at Berton House Writer’s Retreat in Dawson City. 1-55143-157-2

[Louise Donnelly / BCBW 2001]


The Ghost of Avalanche Mountain (Stoddart $9.95)
Info



“Wear it at night, and you’ll see what lies ahead,” Aunt Jo writes, when she gives Ashley the goldstone pendant she’s worn since she was a girl. And Ashley begins to dream. A boy named Jonathan Silver is also dreaming, but on the other side of time, and he has vowed to reclaim the goldstone. The Ghost of Avalanche Mountain (Stoddart $9.95) completes the Goldstone Trilogy which includes Goldstone and Turns on a Dime. Prolific author Julie Lawson, a former teacher, lives on Vancouver Island and was a 1998 writer-in-residence at Berton House in Dawson City. 0-7737-6091-1

[Louise Donnelly / BCBW 2000]


Turns on a Dime (Stoddart $8.95) &Midnight in the Mountains (Orca $17.95)
Article



Having taught elementary school for twenty years, Julie Lawson of Sooke has emerged as one of Canada’s most prolific and versatile authors—at a rate of at least two new titles per year.
Set in the Fifties, Turns on a Dime (Stoddart $8.95) is the second book in Lawson’s Goldstone trilogy.
Pre-teen Jo is betrayed by a glamorous older friend, abandoned by the new kid in town and discovers she’s adopted. Only the goldstone pendant and a story she inherits from her grandmother save her from loneliness and reveal the path to inner strength.
Lawson, whose titles include White Jade Tiger and The Dragon’s Pear!, advocates the Whole Language approach. “Whole language integrates different areas of the curriculum under one umbrella,” she says.
In the second collaboration between illustrator Sheena Lott and Lawson, Midnight in the Mountains (Orca $17.95), a little girl, the only one awake, listens to the gentle sounds of a winter’s night and recalls the joys of the day.
She hears the brush of wings and thinks of snow angels. The quiet reminds her of the squeak of snow.
Lawson is a writer-in-residence at the Pierre Berton House Writer’s Retreat in Dawson City where she is working on a children’s novel set during the Klondike. Dime 0-7737-5942-5; Midnight 1-55143-113-0

[BCBW WINTER 1998]


Bear on the Train (Kids Can $15.95)
Info



Julie Lawson, author of 18 books and granddaughter of a Canadian Pacific Railway man, has always been enthralled by trains. She wrote about the 1927 derailment of a silk train in Emma and the Silk Train and now she’s produced Bear on the Train (Kids Can $15.95). It’s based on a story related to her by her husband about a bear he’d seen in northern BC. The protagonist Jeffrey, modeled on the illustrator Brian Deines’ own son, is the lone witness to a large black bear feeding in the grain hopper of a mile-long freight train. The bear, stomach full, settles in for a long winter’s nap and, for months, unknowingly travels back and forth between the coastal mountains and the prairies. Then spring arrives, and no one sees the bear rouse himself and amble for home. Except Jeffrey. 1-55074-560-3

[Louise Donnelly / BCBW 2000]


Goldstone (Stoddart $8.95)
Info



Karin wants to be a modern Canadian girl in her mountain home at the turn of the century. She shrugs off her mother's attempts to interest her in her Swedish family heritage until a stone on a necklace gives her a vision into the future in Julie Lawson's Goldstone (Stoddart $8.95).
0 7737 58917.

[BCBW 1997]


Emma and the Silk Train (KidsCan $15.95)
Info



On September 21, 1927, a high speed train derailed, spilling Oriental silk into the Fraser River about 160 kilometres east of Vancouver. In Julie Lawson's Emma and the Silk Train (KidsCan $15.95), with illustrations by Paul Mombourquette, Emma's longing for a piece of silk puts her life in danger while illuminating a little known event in Canadian history.
1 55074 388 0

[BCBW 1997]


The Sand Sifter (Porcepic $5.95)
Info



ALSO NEW TO THE CHILDREN'S BOOK SCENE is The Sand Sifter (Porcepic $5.95) by Julie Lawson, illustrated by Anna Mah. This short fantasy novel for 6 to 10 year olds is Lawson's first. In The Sand Sifter, Jessica and her brother Andrew listen to stories from an ancient storyteller who lives among the sand dunes and who is "the sifter of sands. Every grain in its proper place and every grain holding a story." The sand sifter tells the children stories about Raven and the sea turtles' kingdom. -- by Allison Haupt

[BCBW 1991] “Kidlit”


Where the River Takes Me
Review (2008)



In the summer of 1849, young Jenna Sinclair writes in her diary, “I begin with an Adventure!” and then confesses to the indiscretion of “Exaggeration” and the peril of committing a “Misdemeanor of the Gravest Sort.”

Jenna’s capitalized sins reflect the admonishments of her Aunt Grace, who cares for her orphaned Scottish-Cree niece at Fort Edmonton. This “uppity” aunt has finally settled on a husband, astonishingly a mere blacksmith rather than the expected high-ranking officer, and Jenna will leave Fort Edmonton with them after they are married.

That’s the set-up for Julie Lawson’s Where the River Takes Me: The Hudson’s Bay Company Diary of Jenna Sinclair (Scholastic $14.99), the latest installment of the Dear Canada Series reflecting the lives of girls and young women in early Canadian history.

Jenna’s diary chronicles her journey to Fort Colvile—once part of the HBC’s Columbia fur trading district but now part of the United States—and her subsequent adventures during her first school year in Fort Victoria on Vancouver’s Island.

Jenna is held up as an example for her prowess in mathematics and reading but her impressive abilities arising from Fort Edmonton—setting traps, speaking Cree, doing beadwork, making dye for porcupine quills—are not considered accomplishments becoming of a “young lady.”

The droning, pebble-mouthed, whip-happy schoolmaster quickly becomes the ideal Villain for Jenna’s imagined Novel. But soon, Jenna will encounter a Real Life Villain and Danger and narrowly escape Murder.

Marriage a la facon du pays (marriage in the custom of the country) served the social and economic development of Western Canada. Early French traders and later the officers and servants of the Hudson’s Bay Company, like Jenna’s Orkney-born father, realized First Nations wives gave them companionship and family-life and better access to furs, guides and interpreters.

The women, whose relatives benefited from European trade goods, were also skilled in making moccasins, snowshoes, pemmican and the buffalo-hide sacks used to store and transport it. They also collected spruce roots and spruce gum for sewing and caulking the seams of canoes.

These mutually gainful unions became a bygone custom with the widespread arrival of missionaries, who deemed such practical liaisons immoral, and the advent of imported white wives as status symbols.

Although Fort Victoria no longer exists, Julie Lawson of Victoria can walk the perimeter of where the old stockade once stood, find the exact spot for Jenna’s school and, closing her mind’s eye to the present-day Empress Hotel, easily envision the mud flats of James Bay. Lawson has also written two other volumes in this impressive series, No Safe Harbour, The Halifax Explosion Diary of Charlotte Blackburn and A Ribbon of Shining Steel, The Railway Diary of Kate Cameron. 13-978-0-439-95620-8

--review by Louise Donnelly

[BCBW 2008]