War writer presents work to schools

Chantelle MacIsaac
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Not a sound was made as author Sharon McKay read to nearly 90 students in Grades 3 and 4 at St. James Elementary on May 9.

Writer and Canadian War Artist Sharon McKay visited Port aux Basques on May 9 to give presentations to local students.

The writer and Canadian War Artist held their attention as she described to the youth some of what she does and where she has been to get all the of the information for her books.

McKay was accepted into the Canadian Forces (War) Artists in January 2008 making her the first children’s writer to hold the title.

In March 2009 she went to Afghanistan to, in the words of the program description, “capture the daily operations, personnel, and spirit of the Canadian Forces.”

She has written more than a dozen children’s books about war including Charlie Wilcox, Charlie Wilcox’s Great War, Esther, and four novels in Penguin’s “Our Canadian Girl” historical fiction series.

She asked the male students specifically if they would pick up a book with a girl in the title and on the cover to read, and only one student said he would not.

Encouraged, she read to them from one of her Canadian Girl series, and enticed them with a story of a young girl from Halifax, and her perspective of what happened during the Halifax Explosion.

When she stopped reading, she asked the youth who would like to finish the story, and every hand in the room rose.

All of the youth wanted to know what else happens. They were captivated by the story.

One child asked her how she started writing, and her answer to them was quite simple ‘by reading.’

She explained to them the only way to develop your own taste and sense of style for what you want to write, is by reading. Reading as much as you can, all different types of books, and she explained that reading out loud to others gives you a sense of rhythm.

The youth shared stories of their grandparents and great-grandparents who have served in wars and they were all very surprised to learn that Canada is the only country in the world that has women in battle.

The presentation lasted a lot longer than the scheduled half hour to McKay’s surprise, and she told the youth that in other places kids their age would be bored after a while.

The youth thanked McKay for sharing her stories, and many were prepared to visit the public library to check out her books.

Organizations: Canadian Forces

Geographic location: Afghanistan, Canada

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