STEVENSON, Robin (1968- )

Author Tags: Kidlit & Young Adult

Robin Stevenson was born in England, and moved to Canada at the age of seven. In addition to writing, Stevenson is a university instructor, social worker and avid reader. She now lives in Victoria with her partner, son and their various animals.

While riding his bike through the woods, Cameron happens upon an abandoned baby in In the Woods (Orca 2009). Everyone thinks it's a miracle, but only he knows that his sister asked him to go.

Inferno (Orca 2009) follows the story of a young girl named Dante and her move to a new and difficult social environment in the suburbs.

In Impossible Things, a new friend's special powers might be the answer to all of Cassidy's problems: her dad is working in the Middle East, her mother has no time for her anymore, her brother is facing bullies at school, and her old best friend has abandoned her. If only she could learn telekenesis like her new friend Victoria, then maybe she could stop being the only "ordinary" one in her family.

In A Thousand Shades of Blue (Orca, 2008), 16-year-old Rachel feels trapped on a small boat with her family on a Caribbean sailing trip. To escape from her parents' fighting, while the boat is being repaired in a small Bahamian community, she and her brother go ashore and discover an explosive secret. This book was nominated for the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize.

Liars and Fools (Orca 2010) is the story of Fiona, a girl whose life changes forever when her mother dies in a South Pacific Sailing accident.

Outback (Orca 2011) pits young Jayden against the rugged Australian outback, when a trip to the 'Land Down Under' to help his eccentric biologist uncle goes wrong.

Robin Stevenson’s Attitude (Orca 2013) centres around a dedicated 14-year-old, Cassandra Jordan, and her four-week tryout with the Pacific Coast Ballet Company in Vancouver—far, far away from her home in Australia. Cassie arrives with her sights set high and hopeful about the prospect of making new friends, but comes to realize that some other girls will do anything to get ahead, however unkind. As she strives to be the best she can be, Cassie begins to notice that performances at the school are not restricted to the stage—and that girls can be competitive in under-handed, dastardly ways.

Robin Stevenson's seventeenth novel for teens and children is The World Without Us (Orca 2015), a serious exploration of the struggles of a young woman to prevent the love of her life from committing suicide.

In The Summer We Saved the Bees (Orca, 2015), Wolf’s mother is determined to save the world’s honeybees through a family road trip that nobody wants to take part in. Wolf has no interest in missing school or wearing a bee costume in public, his teenage stepsister can’t bear to be away from her boyfriend and one of his half sisters is so opposed she has stopped speaking. Wolf’s mother is so invested in the future of the bees that she doesn’t see the present state of her family. Only when the kids take drastic measures does she finally pay attention to their opposition to her bee-saving scheme.

Some awards and honours:

Inferno - American Library Association Rainbow List 2010; Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize finalist 2010

A Thousand Shades of Blue - Governor General’s Literary Awards finalist 2009; Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize finalist 2009

In the Woods - Junior Library Guild Selection

Impossible Things - Chocolate Lily finalist 2009; Diamond Willow finalist 2009; Canadian Children’s Book Centre Best Books


Out of Order (Orca 2007) 9781551436937 $9.95
Dead in the Water (Orca 2008) 9781551439624 $9.95
Impossible Things (Orca 2008) 9781551437361 $8.95
A Thousand Shades of Blue (Orca 2008) 9781551439211 $12.95
Big Guy (Orca Soundings) 9781551439129 $16.95
Inferno (Orca 2009) 9781554690770 $12.95
In the Woods (Orca Soundings 2009) 9781554692019 $16.95
Ben's Robot (Orca Echoes 2010) 9781554691531 $6.95
Liars and Fools (Orca 2010) 9781554692484 $9.95
Outback (Orca 2011) 978-I-55469-8 $9.95
Escape Velocity (Orca 2011) 978-1-55469-866-0 $12.95
Ben the Inventor (Orca 2011). Illustrated by David Parkins. 978-1-55469-802-8 $6.95
Hummingbird Heart (Orca, 2012). 978-1-55469-390-0 $12.95
Damage (Orca 2013) 978-1-4598-0360-2 $9.95
Attitude (Orca 2013) 978-1-45980-382-4 $9.95
The World Without Us (Orca 2015) 978-45980-6818 $12.95
The Summer We Saved the Bees (Orca, 2015) $9.95 9781459808348
Under Threat (Orca 2016) Ages 12+ $9.95 9781459811317
Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community (Orca 2016) $24.95 9781459809932
Co-authored: Blood on the Beach (Orca 2017) with Sarah Harvey. $14.95 978-1-4598-1293-2

[BCBW 2017] "Kidlit"

Dead in the Water by Robin Stevenson (Orca Sports $9.95)

from Louise Donnelly
Simon Drake, “five-foot-six and 120 pounds soaking
wet,” is at the helm, drenched with rain and icy salt spray, when someone shouts, “Man overboard!”
With a brain “that sort of freezes up under pressure,” it’s a long moment until the rescue procedure kicks in.

Simon cranks the wheel and the boat slowly turns sideways to the wind. There’s no sign of Joey in the storm-soaked sea but Olivia’s already thrown in the buoyant man-overboard pole with its bright orange flag.

Simon can only pray Joey’s able to swim to the pole and hang on. Jeopardy, with its huge turning
circle, takes forever to come around. Now it’s all up to Simon. He’s coming in fast, too fast. And too close! The flag disappears under the boat!
“Lucky it was a drill,” the instructor yells.
A drill?

Simon, who’d worked two “crap” jobs and saved his “ass off”

to get here, lurches to the rail to puke and wonders what made him think a sailing course was a good idea.

Robin Stevenson’s Dead in the Water pits teenage angst against foul-weather sailing and throws in a good measure of environmental concern—in this case lucrative abalone poaching—for a smart, fast-paced read.

A few years ago, Stevenson fixed up a thirty-foot sailboat and left Lake Ontario for the Bahamas. Although she knew very little about sailing, she made it to the islands and spent a year living aboard her boat before returning and settling in Victoria.

Orca has also released Stevenson’s Big Guy for their Sounding series. It’s about an overweight kid whose on-line lies catch up with him. As well, she’s recently published Impossible Things, a novel on the all-too-real pains of grade seven life.

An incessant reader “incapable of walking past a used bookstore,” she grew up reading LM Montgomery’s Emily books and has always made up stories. In the eighth grade, she recalls, “a friend and I co-wrote a mystery story about two girls who murdered their teacher. Today, that would probably have got us suspended or at least referred for counseling, but this was in the early 1980s so the teacher just gave us an A- and suggested we brush up on our knowledge of police procedures.”

Dead: 978-1-55143-962-4
Guy: 9781551439105
Impossible: 9781551437361

--review by Louise Donnelly

[BCBW 2008] "Kidlit"

Nominated for Inferno
BC Book Prizes (2010)

from BC Book Prizes catalogue
Dante thinks high school is an earthly version of hell. She hates her new home in the suburbs, her best friend has moved away, her homeroom teacher mocks her and her mother is making her attend a social skills group for teenage girls. When a stranger shows up at school and hands Dante a flyer that reads: Woof, woof. You are not a dog. Why are you going to obedience school? , Dante thinks she’s found a soul mate and is ready for a change…but some changes are more dangerous than others. Robin Stevenson is the author of several novels for teens, including Dead in the Water, Out of Order and Big Guy. Her previous novel, A Thousand Shades of Blue, was a finalist for the 2009 Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize. A former social worker, counselor and university instructor, Stevenson lives in Victoria.

The Summer We Saved the Bees by Robin Stevenson (Orca $9.95)
Review (2015)

from Alex Van Tol
There’s nothing like jamming a stocky, unwilling pre-teen boy into a bumblebee costume to generate first-rate literary tension.

Especially when said boy is being strong-armed into staging public performances in the interests of communicating a dire eco-political message.

Oh, it’s dire, all right. The bees are dying, and nobody seems able to stop it. Twelve-year-old Wolf Everett, protagonist of Robin Stevenson’s The Summer We Saved the Bees knows all about it; he did a website project on it last year. What Wolf didn’t anticipate was his activist mother exploding his project into a summer-long guerrilla-theatre-fest in an attempt to spread a distinctly alarmist message across the country.

As an environmental activist, Wolf’s mum Jade thinks it’s up to her family—her boyfriend Curtis, Wolf, his step-sister Violet, and twin half-sisters Whisper and Saffron—to save the bees. And it’s not like Wolf can argue; while he’s ticked at having been pulled out of school and crammed into a stinky, biodiesel-powered van with five other people for weeks on end, his problems pale in comparison to the epic crop failure and widespread starvation that his mother is prophesying.

Or so he keeps telling himself. As the family’s trip hitches and stalls its way across British Columbia, the emotional toll erodes Wolf’s belief that they’re actually doing the right thing. His friends back home think his mother’s a crazy zealot; the van breaks down almost as soon as the tires hit the road; 14-year-old Violet seethes under what she sees as a prison sentence (not even her tagalong boyfriend, Ty, can skip her out of her funk); and six-year-old Whisper—a quiet kid by nature—stops talking altogether.

After a brief performance tour of Vancouver, where the family stays with friends from Jade’s university days, the van breaks down in Chilliwack, leaving the group stranded, broke and camped out on a friendly stranger’s lawn. On the heels of their Vancouver gig, Wolf draws the line on dressing up like a bee, and defends Whisper from having to do so as well.

As his mother presses single-mindedly on with the performances, Wolf begins to doubt both her information (maybe things aren’t as bad as Jade claims?) and her motives (why does she care more about the bees than about us?). Whisper is unwell, nobody is happy, and Jade doesn’t even hear Wolf when he tries to tell her it’s not working.

The tension mounts until finally Wolf, Violet and Ty hatch a plan to better protect the twins from their mother’s blind crusade: they will catch the Greyhound to Nelson, and ferry the twins to the safety of their paternal grandmother. What they aren’t banking on is their grandmother’s unwillingness to be a co-conspirator in their plot.

While the book—Robin Stevenson’s eighteenth since her first book in 2007—is anchored in the bees’ plight, the award-winning author acknowledges it’s less about the bees than it is about families, and how we can lose sight of what’s happening right now because we’re so focused on our fears about the future.

“I think it’s easy to underestimate how much a parent’s world view can affect a child,” says Stevenson. “Kids need to feel safe, secure, and protected—not protected from the world or from learning, but protected from being overwhelmed by the concerns and fears of the adults in their lives.”

It’s important to foster a sense of hopefulness and optimism about our children’s future and the future of their world, she says, rather than constantly wringing our hands about the mess that surrounds us.

Conflicted, tender, and frustrated as hell, Wolf is a truly likable character whose heart and values are squarely in the right place. Peppered with real facts about bee depopulation—how there are no bees in one part of China and workers have to hand-pollinate plants; how the pesticides our current monoculture practices demand are decimating bee populations—the book gently educates while at the same time raising key ethical questions.

Does the threat of crop failure trump the wellbeing of a family? Is it better to save the bees, or to restore some balance to the family in order to ease Whisper’s anxiety? Sure, the twins look adorable in their bee costumes, but Wolf feels that forcing them to hand out flyers to strangers on the street is not worth Whisper’s meltdowns.
Wolf just wishes his mother could see it, too. But she’s too far gone, her head firmly in the clouds of her singular mission.

“I think adults and kids will take different things away from this book,” says Stevenson. “I hope adults will be thinking and talking about how we can support kids who are interested in activism without letting adult agendas become the driving force.”

Perfect for a class novel study, The Summer We Saved the Bees will spark conversations about family relationships as well as how to live with a lighter footprint. But it will also open the door to talking about environmental concerns in a way that supports hopefulness and a belief in human ingenuity and resilience, rather than simply adding to the fast-growing epidemic of childhood anxiety.


Alex Van Tol’s latest book is Aliens Among Us: Invasive
Animals and Plants In B.C. (Royal B.C. Museum).

Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community (Orca $24.95)
Article (2016)

from BCBW (Summer 2016)
From Alaska to Zimbabwe, people are glad to be gay. Robin Stevenson’s splashy and jubilant Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community (Orca $24.95) is a tribute to LGBTQ folks around the globe. Designed to appeal to young readers, it contains queer facts (South Africa is the only African country to have legalized same sex marriage) and an astonishing array of international images. In Uganda, we see five brave demonstrators grinning for the camera, one carrying a placard that declares KILLING GAY PEOPLE SOLVES NOTHING. In Russia, Putin’s homophobic laws engender a parade of activists. North American images veer towards celebratory. The 2015 photo (at left), is from Victoria’s annual ball game between drag queens and drag kings.