Tag Archives: Books

A book signing…

10 Routes that Crossed the World is in the bookstores! This past Saturday, I welcomed friends and book lovers to Bookingham Palace Bookstore in the Mall at Piccadilly, in Salmon Arm. Thanks to those who stopped by—including Sarah, Mary, Vern and Barb, Diane, Josephine, Barb, Lana and Sienna, and my ‘official’ photographer, Judith. Hope you all enjoy reading about the history of those worldwide trails.

Photo by J. Benson


A Passion for Maps

One of my best memories of my dad                                                concerns our mutual love of maps.

For him, it must have begun prior to 1928 when he signed up for a 4-year term as Apprentice with The Pacific Steam Navigation Company in Liverpool, England. This began his career as a mariner that would last into the 1950s, through steady promotions to Master and numerous global voyages. For me, in 4th or 5th grade, it began as we studied the fold-up maps that came with a subscription to National Geographic Magazine. We eagerly pored over each new arrival, and in particular those of countries which my dad had visited during his years at sea.

Then, in 1958, an Atlas Folio became available to store those maps. Once each one was inserted in the appropriate place, one would have a complete world atlas of colorful maps. That atlas represents many happy evenings of entertainment for me as a child, a life-long interest in geography, and especially for maps as an intriguing way to know the world. Not necessarily a treasure now in terms of monetary value, that atlas remains a prized possession for my family.

To this day, a paper map has a special feel for me, impossible to replace with the GPS directions favored by so many travelers. As a visual learner, I need the big picture to get the whole perspective. I like to know where I am, where I’ve been, as well as where I’m going and how I’ll get there.

During the research for a couple of recent non-fiction books, 10 Ships That Rocked the World, and 10 Routes That Crossed the World, I found myself poring over maps once again.








My appreciation for the skills I learned in those early years continues to grow. I put them to work again as I traced the historical voyages of the ships, and examined the routes laid down by people embroiled in events that shaped the history of various countries and cultures. That old atlas opened a door to unlimited learning. I think my dad would have been proud of how I’ve used the knowledge.



A New Book!


10 Routes that Crossed the World

People have always blazed trails across the land. They’ve followed them in search of power, riches, adventure, or simply a better life. In this fourth book in the World of Tens series, you’ll read about ten routes that cross countries and continents, and span time from 20,000 years ago all the way to the 20th century: the Bering Land Bridge, Roman roads in Britain, Camino de Santiago, Inca Trail, Khyber Pass, Trans-Siberian Railroad, Chilkoot Trail, Serengeti Migration Trail, Route 66 and Ho Chi Minh Trail.

As I wrote this book, I found it fascinating to learn the history of these trails, and discover the people and events that made them memorable. The research enabled me to relive people’s experiences from long ago, try to imagine what they saw, and trace the effects of their decisions and actions. Their footprints left the stories for the curious to discover. You’ll soon be able to read them in 10 Routes That Crossed the World, to be released in April.

A Different Visit to Rio…in 1787

Rio de Janeiro — people from across the world have gathered to attend the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Now it is the second largest city in Brazil. But 229 years ago, in 1787, it was the country’s capital, and a major port. Why is that year significant?

On August 6, 1787, the visitors who arrived in Rio could not have been more different from today’s Olympic athletes. In fact, they were prisoners…convicts in the “First Fleet” from Britain on their way to establish a penal colony at Botany Bay, Australia. Eleven 3-masted ships were the first in a program called “transportation” that continued until 1868, delivering about 165,000 convicts to Australia.

The fleet entered Rio’s harbor through a narrow entrance guarded by forts. Its commander, Governor Arthur Phillip, bought fresh provisions for his ships, and took aboard seeds that would grow in Australia: coffee, cotton, indigo (the tropical plant produced a much desired blue dye). After a month in Rio, the fleet continued on its way eventually reaching its destination on January 20, 1788.



Find out more about the voyage of the First Fleet—in particular the ship Lady Penrhyn—in my book 10 Ships That Rocked the World (Annick Press, 2015). It is part of the series, World of Tens.



A colleague, Judith Silverthorne, has also written about the transportation of convicts in a YA novel, Convictions (Coteau, 2016). The story follows 14-year-old Jennie, sentenced to 7 years in Australia for stealing a sack of oats to help feed her starving family. Loaded with tension through dramatic action scenes, this well-researched book will give you an authentic taste of life aboard an 18th-century convict ship.


Komagata Maru Recalled…

Today in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized for the role the Canadian government played 102 years ago in refusing entry into Canada to 376 passengers, all nonwhite British subjects, aboard the Komagata Maru. The incident revealed injustice and discrimination in Canadian immigration laws and led to eventual change, but not before the mid-1900s. In 2008, the province of BC made a formal apology, and Prime Minister Steven Harper apologized to the Sikh community at a local festival.


If you’d like to read an account of this event, check out Chapter 6 in my book, 10 Ships That Rocked the World:

On May 21, 1914, a steamship called the Komagata Maru dropped anchor not far offshore from the city of Vancouver, British Columbia. On board were 376 South Asians, many of whom were farmers, who had traveled from India, seeking jobs and a better life in Canada. Even though the countries they traveled between were both part of the British Empire, they were met with a wall of opposition: laws had been passed by the Canadian government to keep them from entering the country. “

10 Ships That Rocked the World

Here it is! My new book will be out in late summer. It will add one more title to the World of Tens series from Annick Press.


This front cover image by Kim Rosen is from Chapter 5, about H.L. Hunley, the first submarine used in battle during the US Civil War. But it didn’t attack this ship — the Lusitania was torpedoed by German U-boats in 1915. One hundred years ago! Submarines had come a long way since 1864, and they’ve continued to evolve.





Here’s the back cover blurb. Now you can see the whole list of 10 ships. Hope you will be curious to read the stories about them later this year.

Sailing Ships

Did you guess the name of the submarine in my last post? The H.L. Hunley was significant in the development of the modern submarine. In my book, 10 Ships That Rocked the World, coming out later this year, you can read about the Hunley’s exploits during the US Civil War. After its one and only attack on an enemy ship, it sank. It was raised from the sea bottom near Charleston, South Carolina after 136 years. Now it is being studied by archaeologists at Clemson University in Charleston.

Another ship in my book, the 3-masted wooden cargo vessel, Lady Penrhyn, was one of the First Fleet that transported convicts from Britain to Australia in 1788. Steamships eventually replaced sailing ships for moving cargo, but if you want to see large sailing ships, you can visit a maritime museum on the east or west coast of Canada or the US. Or watch for a festival of tall ships, held every year to offer visitors a chance to learn about the Age of Sail.

Star of India

Star of India

In San Diego, the Maritime Museum displays the Star of India, a 3-masted ship too, built of iron in 1863. Its tonnage (the weight of water displaced) is about 3 times more than the Lady Penrhyn, it’s about twice as long at 62.5 metres and a third as wide with a 10.7 metre beam.


I walked the decks of the Star of India, trying to imagine what it must have been like aboard the much smaller Lady Penrhyn for 104 convicts on an 8 month voyage from Britain to Australia.

The galley, such a small space to prepare food for so many.

The galley, such a small space to prepare food for so many.