Category Archives: Lost on the Prairie

Novel News Round-Up

Can you find Sixties Girl in this bestseller display at McNally Robinson Booksellers?

I was so excited when teacher, writer and reviewer Spencer B. Miller chose my new book Sixties Girl as one of his top five picks for middle graders from all the new Canadian novels that have come out this spring. What a thrill to hear his endorsement of my novel and to be in the company of four other great books.

Spencer Miller talks about why he selected Sixties Girl as a Top Grade book for his Canadian Lit in the Classroom video

You can hear all the nice things Spencer said about my book here (Sixties Girl is reviewed at the 4:15 mark). One of his statements that really resonated with me was………..

Sixties Girl has this great message about the value of spending time with older generations. If we will sit down and listen to their stories there is so much they have to teach us.

Always love seeing my book on the shelf at McNally’s with other Winnipeg authors like Jodi Carmichael (The U-nique Lou Fox) and Anita Daher (Peanut Butter and Chaos)

Tessa Riggs a librarian from Toronto wrote the review of Sixties Girl for the Canadian Review of Materials. She had lots of nice things to say about the book but I really loved this paragraph.

By using a beloved grandparent’s recollections as a framing device, Driedger makes moments in local and global history real and rooted in a perspective children can understand. While the topics broached are serious, Driedger tells them with compassion and understanding, softening the subject matter for younger readers without robbing them of their significance.

My husband reads our grandson one of the books I recommend on my list of books about grandparents.

The 49th Shelf asked me to curate a list of books titled Sharing Stories Across the Generations after they read my novel Sixties Girl. It was a delight to put together this list of books about grandparents that are all connected to me in a personal way.

Outside the beautiful library in Canmore Alberta. It has a climbing wall, an art gallery and a coffee shop inside.

I was in Canmore for my niece’s wedding last weekend. My nephew Beau who was also at the wedding and is a librarian in Ontario told me how beautiful the library in Canmore was and said I should check it out. So I did.

And guess what? They have both of my novels Sixties Girl and Lost on the Prairie in their collection.

Sixties Girl had been checked out by a library patron but I found Lost on the Prairie on the shelf.

Sixties Girl has already made the bestseller list at McNally Robinson Booksellers three weeks in a row. This past week it was #1 at the top of the kids’ book list.

After reading Lost on the Prairie Kathy Kyle a rancher in Saskatchewan decided to name a cow after me. Read all about that here.

With some of the great kids I met during my visit to Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary School

I have made a couple of school visits for Lost on the Prairie recently and have two more booked for the month of May. You can see the events page of my website to find out all the places I’ll be.

If you haven’t already seen the interview I did about Sixties Girl with CTV News you can watch it here.

As you can see lots of things are happening for me as an author and if I don’t round them up and post about them it’s easy for them to get lost or forgotten. I promise I won’t always be writing about my novels in the future.

Other posts…….

Sixties Scoop

The Innocence of Childhood

Love Those Kids

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A Cow Named After Me

In the fall of 2022, I got a message from Kathy Kyle who is a regular reader of my blog. She and her husband Russ Bayliss and their family own and operate a cattle ranch near Carnduff, Saskatchewan, close to the Manitoba border. Kathy had bought my first novel Lost on the Prairie.

Kathy and her family on horseback on their farm

Kathy said during calving season, they always select some of the best female calves to join their herd of Mama cows. They nurture them and give them names. Last year they decided to name the new calves they selected after authors. They named one MaryLou Driedger.

When Kathy sent me a photo of the name tags they’d prepared for the cows I found myself in some pretty illustrious company with writers like Farley Mowat and Louis L’Amour, David Baldacci and the well-known children’s author Patricia Polacco.

Apparently, during the past year, MaryLou has grown up to be a cow with a lot of character and a really sweet personality. She loves to talk.

MaryLou was one of the cows that was given time to dally with a bull in summer and last month I got a message from Kathy that MaryLou had given birth to a baby.

Kathy said the delivery was pretty rough and after MaryLou’s calf was born it was having trouble breathing.

Kathy’s husband Russ was able to stabilize the calf and get it breathing and then MaryLou signalled that he should back off. MaryLou began to lick her calf clean and massage it with her tongue to stimulate the newborn’s muscles and circulatory system.

That’s when according to Kathy something highly unusual happened. Garth Brooks, another mother cow who’d just birthed a baby the night before, came up to MaryLou and helped her clean and nurture the calf. Kathy says it is an example of MaryLou’s social nature that she was willing to let another cow help her with her calf.

Kathy sent me a video her husband Russ had made of MaryLou with her calf the day after it was born. You can watch it here.

Kathy and Russ are open to me making a suggestion for a name for MaryLou’s calf. I’d welcome your ideas.

The Bayliss family this week driving the cows who will be Mama’s next year out to their summer pasture.

I have received an awful lot of much-appreciated recognition as an author in the last couple of years but having a cow named after me has to be the most unique and delightful tribute of all.

Other posts………

Dad’s Treasures- A Cow Bell

Taking a Cowboy For A Walk

Frogs That Sound Like Cows Bellowing

Cowboy’s Coffee Hour


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Love Those Kids

Yesterday morning I blogged about how being around children inspires me and gives me hope and joy.

And then yesterday afternoon I had one of those experiences with kids that left me on cloud nine.

Teacher Amelia Warkentin had invited me to visit her grade four class at The Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary School to talk about my novel Lost on the Prairie. She had just finished reading it to her students.

The kids were so attentive during my presentation and at pertinent points of course put up their hands to enthusiastically share their own personal experiences that might relate to my novel.

I was incredibly impressed with everything they remembered about the Lost on the Prairie story.

They asked me such great questions. One ten -year-old looked at me seriously before inquiring “How did it feel to write about a male protagonist when you are female?”

One boy asked about the music in the book, another wondered which things were historically true in the novel and which I’d made up, and one girl wanted to know where her parents could go to buy her a personal copy of the book as a birthday gift.

At the recess break a little girl came up and said she had just loved my book.

“Can I tell you a secret?” she asked. When I nodded she whispered in my ear, “I’m an author too.”

I asked her what she was writing and she went to her desk to get her notebook and proudly showed me the title page of her latest story, “The Magic Wish.” I found out later the girl had immigrated to Canada from Ukraine during the school year.

Another girl came up during the recess break to present me with a portrait she had made of me while I spoke.

I was packed up to leave the classroom and out in the hall already when three students came out and asked if they could give me a hug before I left. I readily agreed.

I drove home feeling inspired, happy and hopeful.


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Four Schools- Four Great Experiences- Thanks MYRCA

Since returning from Africa at the beginning of March I’ve had the privilege of visiting four different schools to connect with kids and teachers about my novel Lost on the Prairie. It’s been so much fun!

All these schools were participating in the Manitoba Young Readers Choice MYRCA program. My book is a nominee and I’m so appreciative of the way that has resulted in invitations to visit schools where teachers have organized MYRCA clubs and meet weekly with kids to talk about the books they are reading.

The second week of March I went to Clearspring Middle School in Steinbach my home town. It was my first visit to this beautiful facility that opened in 2012. I was warmly greeted in the office by Vice Principal Candace Campbell who took me to the large and brightly lit library where I was welcomed by the librarian Arlene Baldwin who helps facilitate the school’s MYRCA club of some thirty students.

Teacher Alex Nikkel is the driving force behind the club. After I had spoken to the larger group I had a chance to chat with some individual students and sign copies of the book.

Watching Alex hurry into the library on her lunch hour to greet me and the students, reminded me of my own busy years of teaching and how the public often fails to realize all the extra things teachers do to help kids explore their interests and give them personal attention.

I was so appreciative of my husband Dave who acted as my chauffeur for our trip out to Holland Elementary School in Holland Manitoba about a 90-minute drive south and west of Winnipeg.

Teacher Deanne Kuehn organized my visit. She had a special MYRCA bulletin board up in her classroom. I first spoke to all the grades 5-8 students. The younger students were about to begin Lost on the Prairie as a class read aloud.

The older students had already completed Lost on the Prairie as a class read-aloud and novel study so I spent some time with them separately since they had made a list of great questions they wanted to ask me about the book.

Since two of the characters in the book are inspired by my grandparents the kids really enjoyed looking at some of their personal effects I had brought along.

Next up was Ecole St. Avila in the Fort Richmond area of Winnipeg. Here my visit had been arranged by the librarian Paula Jasper Hall through the Thin Air Kids Festival which featured all the MYRCA nominees this year.

What a great bunch of kids in this thriving MYRCA club that meets over their lunch hour in the library. Their questions were fantastic. We talked right till the buzzer rang for class to start.

Paula had made them beautiful bookmarks that featured all the MYRCA nominees and I was busy autographing them. I felt like a celebrity!

My last presentation was on Thursday at École Munroe Middle School here in Winnipeg. Teacher Librarian Sylvia Scott organized my lunch hour visit with her grade six MYRCA club.

One of the students gave a lovely little speech and presented me with a gift to thank me for coming.

The students were so attentive and interested and Sylvia is such an enthusiastic supporter of the MYRCA program! How lucky writers are to have an initiative like MYRCA begun by the Manitoba School Library Association and supported by volunteer teachers and librarians from across the province. They work each year to actively promote Canadian books with young readers.

I’ve loved all my visits to schools in the last three weeks. Connecting with young people who have read a book you’ve written is so rewarding and is definitely an inspiration to keep on writing! Thanks, MYRCA!

Other posts………..

Checking Out the Competition

Sixties Girl Has Arrived

Colleen is Coming

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Filed under Education, Lost on the Prairie, Sixties Girl

Checking Out the Competition

I’ve been checking out the competition in the last while.

As many of you know I was nominated for a Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice (MYRCA) award last May. Students in schools across the province have a year to read all ten books selected by the MYRCA panel and then in May of this year, they’ll vote for their favourites.

I decided it would be fun to check out some of the books that I’m competing against so I’ve read most of them. Here are four of my competitors.

Taking the Ice by Lorna Schultz Nicholson is a story about a young boy named Aiden whose Dad, a professional hockey player has recently been killed in a car accident. Aiden loves hockey too but when his Mom decides to move back to her home town to care for Aiden’s grandfather, Aiden has to adjust to a new hockey team and prove himself worthy of being named the team captain.

I really appreciated the fact that Lorna included some of the problems facing the sport of hockey in Canada and that her hero exemplifies the best of the game. As the mother of two boys who played minor hockey for many years this novel really resonated with me.

I won’t lie. Birdspell by Valerie Sherrard was tough to read. The story about a grade six boy named Corbin is so heartbreaking. His mother has bipolar disorder and his father is largely absent so Corbin is left to essentially parent his mother and try to survive as best he can.

He tries really hard to handle all their problems himself but when his mother is hospitalized he is cared for by a kind adult friend, encouraged by his elderly neighbour, and shown a great deal of compassion by a classmate whose pet bird Corbin is keeping at his house. Corbin’s life at least for a time is more stable and there is hope for a better future.

They say it takes a village to raise a child and I was happy to see a village come together to help Corbin.

I know there are children who live with bipolar parents and this book will help them to feel less alone.

The story in Elvis, Me and Lemonade Stand by Leslie Gentile takes place in 1978. Truly Clarice is twelve and lives in a trailer park with her Mom who struggles to manage her drinking and hold down a job. She leaves Truly to fend for herself while she dates a string of boyfriends.

Luckily for Truly, a grandmotherly neighbour provides her with safety, security and love. The other trailer court residents also offer Truly support in various ways. The title references a lemonade stand Truly sets up to raise money to go to Vancouver to try to reconnect with her Dad. Elvis, Me and the Lemonade Stand Summer is a wonderful story and one I think adults born in the 70s will really appreciate too.

I’ve already reviewed Colleen Nelson’s terrific novel The Undercover Book List in a blog post and Peter Lee’s Notes From the Field in another and although I haven’t read The Great Bear by David Robertson I have read the first novel in the same series The Barren Grounds and am eager to follow up on the Narnia like adventures of the two main characters Morgan and Eli who have already found their way into my heart.

I just finished The Doll House and it’s a mystery tour through the past and the present in an old house that comes complete with an identical replica of itself in the attic – a handmade doll house. Alice has come to live in the house with her mother who is providing nursing care to the old woman that owns it. Alice is quickly swept up into a confusing world where she is no longer sure what is real and what isn’t.

There are ghosts and secret passageways and an element of creepiness and horror that aren’t usually my favourite in the books I read but I can see where kids will be drawn into the story and be dying to find out what is really going on.

Other posts…………..

An Amazing Birthday Present For My Novel

What a Week You’ve Had

So Much Novel News

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Filed under Books, Lost on the Prairie

A Letter From Jane

I love nothing more than hearing from young readers who have enjoyed my book Lost on the Prairie. Just before I left on my trip to Africa I got a lovely letter from one of my fans. Look she even signed her letter- your fan JANE

My novel Lost on the Prairie was a gift from Jane’s grandmother and Jane writes in her letter it is one of her favourite books! She compliments me on my detailed, action-packed writing and says she is looking forward to what I will write next.

See how Jane addressed the envelope? She found out how to spell my name in Korean, Greek and Japanese. Don’t you love the design Jane has made at the top of the envelope?

I have such a great collection of photos of readers holding my book and I am happy to add Jane’s unique pose to it.

I thought getting a book published was the best thing that could happen to me but having people, especially kids read my book and then share their excitement about its story is far and away more satisfying.

Thanks so much, Jane for reading Lost on the Prairie and for your terrific letter. I’m going to share it at the four schools I’m visiting this month to talk about Lost on the Prairie and I’m going to keep it along with all the other letters and photos and pieces of artwork I’ve received from kids who’ve read my book. I treasure them all!

Other posts…………..

Does It Get Any Better Than This?

She Believed She Could

Lost on the Prairie in Australia and Saskatoon

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Bursting With Book News

So many things have been happening with both my first book Lost on the Prairie and my upcoming novel Sixties Girl that I just had to take a wee break from writing about our Africa adventures to catch up with all the news.

Speaking of Africa I left a copy of my book at Dashir Lodge and Safaris in Tanzania, our home base for our two weeks in that country. As far as I know, my novel has now travelled to at least six different countries, Australia, India, China, England, Africa and the United States.

I was thrilled when Lost on the Prairie was chosen to be part of the 2023 Thin Air Kids Writing Festival. I was able to post a promotion of my book and a reading from it on the Thin Air Website and Thin Air is booking classroom visits for me to talk about the book. Thanks so much, Thin Air!

And how cool is it to be in the company of the other Thin Air participants great Canadian children’s writers like Colleen Nelson, David Robertson and Angela Ahn?

You don’t publish a book without the support of a huge community of people. I am totally honoured and blown away that four incredibly talented writers took the time to read an advanced copy of my novel Sixties Girl and write endorsements for it on the Heritage House website.

Huge thanks to Gabriele Goldstone whose latest book Crowstone has been receiving all kinds of accolades and recommendations. Here is what she had to say about Sixties Girl.

“In this thoughtful middle-grade novel, the past deftly intersects with the present. His grandmother’s old suitcase, stuffed with random objects, becomes eleven-year-old Will’s portal to both family and world history, and to a better understanding of himself. An empowering book about sharing stories, Sixties Girl is sure to stimulate conversation between generations.” 

Thanks to Jodi Carmichael whose latest novel The Unique Lou Fox has her doing radio interviews, visiting library conferences and receiving lots of well-deserved attention. I love Jodi’s enthusiasm for my new novel.

“MaryLou Driedger has deftly woven together a historical fiction story of a girl growing up in the fast-changing 1960s and a contemporary story of a boy dealing with bullying, making new friends, and learning how to trust. Both storylines are compelling in their own right, and together they form this beautifully written novel that lets us sink into each character’s coming-of-age journey. Sixties Girl is a captivating page-turner that I did not want to end! Fans of Driedger’s first book, Lost on the Prairie, will not be disappointed!” 

Thanks to Harriet Zaidman whose novel Second Chances recently won the 2022 Geoffry Bilson Award for historical fiction. The book has been receiving great reviews and was nominated for a Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award. Here is what Harriet had to say about my novel.

“Stories from the Swinging Sixties help friends overcome their divisions and a family bridge the generation gap in this uplifting contemporary tale. Young readers will identify with Will’s insecurities, and cheer when he realizes goodness surrounds him. When in doubt, Grandma’s story box has the answer.” 

And finally a big thank you to Larry Verstraete who has had sixteen children’s books published in a long and illustrious career that has garnered him many writing awards. Here are his comments on Sixties Girl.

“Listening to stories told by his grandmother about growing up in the 1960s compels young Will to ask hard questions about his own relationships with friends and family. Heartfelt, warm, rich in details, meticulously researched, and complete with intriguing historical notes, MaryLou Driedger’s Sixties Girl adeptly brings the era to life.” 

Way back in 2011 when I first decided I would like to try writing for children I took a correspondence course from the Institute of Children’s Writing. My instructor Peggi Shea was so encouraging and helpful as I began to learn the hundreds of things I would need to know to successfully write and sell a novel for kids. This month the Institute is featuring me as one of their published grads in the spotlight.

I will have a busy time when I return home. In March I am really looking forward to visiting Munroe School, Ecole St. Avila, Holland Elementary School in Holland Manitoba and Clearspring Middle School in Steinbach, Manitoba.

And in case you missed it- my January newsletter can be read here.

Sixties Girl is set to go on sale on April 11 and I should have news about the book launch for Sixties Girl soon! You can already pre-order your copy of Sixties Girl at my favourite bookstore McNally Robinsons Booksellers.


Filed under Lost on the Prairie, Sixties Girl

2022- A Banner Year for Lost on the Prairie

Holding my book in my hand for the first time when my author copies arrived in May 2021

Although my book Lost on the Prairie was published in May 2021 and many great things happened for my debut novel that year……… it turns out that 2022 was every bit as exciting for Lost on the Prairie.

Some highlights were………….

Being nominated for a Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award

Being nominated for the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book

Check out the classy refreshments served at one of the book clubs that invited me as a guest

Meeting with a variety of Winnipeg book clubs who had read the novel, and discovering that several other book clubs including one sponsored by the Envision Community Group in Steinbach were using Lost on the Prairie for a reading selection.

Speaking to the seniors’ group that meets at the Selkirk Library

Being a guest and doing presentations to six different senior groups about the novel.

Continuing to add to the large collection of photos I’ve been sent of people of all ages enjoying my book.

Visiting my son’s grade six class in Langham Saskatchewan

Receiving invitations to be a guest in school classes that were reading Lost on the Prairie.

Having a popular children’s book blog Bit About Books feature Lost on the Prairie as part of its summer reading challenge.

Discovering in May of 2022 that Lost on the Prairie had made the McNally Robinson Bestsellers List for the 14th time.

Receiving this photo from Beena Thomas in Dehli India in July 2022 confirming that my book had now been read in at least six different countries.

Continuing to get kind recommendations for Lost on the Prairie like this one I received just now in December from Carol Penner a poet, pastor and teacher whose daily verse I enjoy on Twitter.

I discovered my novel featured on the shelves of the Millennium Library near my home in May of this year.

Finding my book in all kinds of new places- in libraries and bookstores and people’s homes.

Learning a description of my book and teaching ideas for using it had been included in this catalogue which was sent to 2,500 British Columbia schools.

Developing an ongoing and deep appreciation for the way my publisher Heritage House and especially its brilliant marketing and publicity manager Monica Miller have continued to promote and advertise my novel in all kinds of places and spaces all through 2022.

I wasn’t quite prepared for the attention my book would continue to receive for more than a year and a half after it was published, but it’s just terrific.

I am so grateful to all the people who have shown an interest in Lost on the Prairie, who have read it, bought it, given it as a gift, talked about it with friends, discussed it in book clubs, shared it with school children and have reached out to let me know what they thought about the book.

I do hope that interest continues in 2023 and that the good fortune that has blessed Lost on the Prairie may rub off on my new book Sixties Girl which debuts this coming spring.

Other posts…………

A Bento for My Book

Does It Get Any Better Than This?

Lost on the Prairie in Australia and Saskatoon

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A Bento for My Book

Showing the students my grandfather Peter’s cufflink case

I had never heard of a book bento till I visited Lynne Smolinski’s grade six class at John W. Gunn Middle School this week. They had just finished reading my novel Lost on the Prairie and had created a book bento for it.

Bento box photo from Creative Commons

A bento is a Japanese lunch box with different compartments.

A book bento looks much the same except instead of food portions arranged artistically it takes tangible objects that connect to a book and arranges them artistically. It’s become quite a popular thing to do. Check out this Instagram page of book bentos.

I loved the book bento Lynne’s class had come up with for Lost on the Prairie. She said it had taken the class a fair bit of discussion to decide which were the best objects to use to convey the main ideas and message of my book.

They chose the novel Captain’s Courageous by Rudyard Kipling which my hero Peter takes on his trip and uses as a touchstone for his own adventures.

They also used a train and a horse because Peter’s adventure begins when he is riding in a box car with his family’s horses and it becomes detached from the rest of the train.

They used the magnifying glass to represent the things Peter discovers about the world and himself during the book.

Is that brilliant or what?

The class also reimagined parts of my book as a movie or video game and created artwork for that!

This young artist envisioned the roller coaster accident in my novel.

Look at this dramatic image of the scene where my hero nearly drowns

Here’s a video game called Find Your Way Out of Sica Hollow a haunted forest in my book

This young artist brought to life the copperhead snake Peter finds in his railcar.

It is so amazing for me to see how my readers imagine my characters and scenes from my book and use their artistic gifts to recreate them.

I also paid a visit to Wayne Paton’s grade six class at John W. Gunn and his students had all kinds of great questions about my book. Wayne sent me a lovely note later thanking me for coming in and talking to the students in the two classes.

He said how much the children had enjoyed reading Lost on the Prairie. He loved watching how genuinely interested and engaged they were with my presentation about the book.

I so appreciate the fact that Wayne and Lynne read my book to their students and guided their learning about it in such creative ways.

Getting a book published was certainly a dream come true for me but having the opportunity to meet its readers like I did at John W. Gunn Middle School this week is every bit as rewarding.

Thanks a million, Wayne and Lynne for reading my book to your classes and inviting me to visit with your students.

Other posts………

The Audience Makes All the Difference

My Novel is in India

An Amazing Birthday Gift For My Novel


Filed under Lost on the Prairie

The Best Way To Spend I Read Canadian Day

Did you know that exactly one week ago, November 2 was I Read Canadian Day? It’s a special day set aside to raise awareness of Canadian books for children and celebrate their richness, diversity and breadth.

I got to spend I Read Canadian Day in the best way possible. I was invited to make an author visit to John Pritchard School in Winnipeg to talk about my novel Lost on the Prairie which the grade six kids in Allison Caldwell’s room had just finished reading!

What a delight! Those students knew my novel inside and out! They had come up with twenty questions about Lost on the Prairie that really got me thinking and brought to mind all kinds of stories I could tell them about the writing of the book and my family members who inspired it.

They were so interested in the family artefacts I had brought along and when it was time to go out for recess many stayed behind to ask me MORE questions and to get my autograph.

I felt like a celebrity!

A Canadian author, visiting Canadian kids, in a Canadian classroom, in a Canadian school! What better way to celebrate I Read Canadian Day?

This week I made a pile of middle-grade fiction books by Canadians currently on my bookshelves but it really doesn’t do justice to all the amazing work by Canadian authors I’ve read over the last while.

That’s because I give away so many of the books immediately after reading them. Some go to my grandson who is ten or to my son who teaches a grade six languages arts class. I take them to our church to put in the library there so more kids will have a chance to read them. Many of the books in the stack pictured here will soon find their way to those destinations as well.

The next time you are buying a book for children why not be deliberate about buying Canadian? There are so many FANTASTIC titles out there for Canadian kids by Canadian authors.


Here are the most recent blog posts I’ve done about AMAZING books by Canadian authors!

Harvey Takes The Lead by Colleen Nelson

The U-nique Lou Fox by Jodi Carmichael

Elvis, Me and the Lemonade Stand Summer by Leslie Gentile

Sorry for Your Loss by Joanne Levy

The Undercover Book List by Colleen Nelson

Rescue At Lake Wild by Terry Lynne Johnson

Tainted Amber by Gabriele Goldstone

The Girl Who Loved Giraffes by Kathy Stinson

Show Us Where You Live Humpback by Beryl Young

The Vegetable Museum by Michelle Mulder and Peter Lee’s Notes From the Field by Angela Ahn

The Fabulous Zed Watson by Basil and Kevin Silvester

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Filed under Books, Canada, Education, Lost on the Prairie