Tag Archives: Books

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.

New book nearing completion…

My new book, 10 Ships That Rocked the World, is in the design stage at Annick Press. It’s always exciting to see the layout of the text I’ve written together with the illustrative material – in this case, some great photographs — chosen by the publisher along with illustrations by Kim Rosen, who worked on other books in this series (World of Tens). After many months of work, it’s finally looking like a book! No cover image available yet.

A guessing game! Instead of telling you which 10 ships are included, I’ll plant some clues in upcoming blogs to help you try to figure them out. So…….I toured the Maritime Museum in San Diego recently, and two of the exhibits were submarines. The Dolphin is a 1968 US sub that achieved several ‘firsts’: an operating depth record, the deepest launch of a torpedo and the first undersea email transmissions.


B-39 is a Cold War era Soviet sub. It was hard to imagine how a crew of 78 was able to work within its tight space.







Torpedo tubes

Torpedo tubes








The ‘submarine’ in my book was the great-great grandfather of both these vessels. It is remembered for a tragic ‘first’,  but is mainly important for inspiring this new class of ship. Any guesses?

Sure glad the doors in my house aren't round.

Sure glad the doors in my house aren’t round.

Ships and Shipwrecks

Ships and Shipwrecks

I’m working on a new children’s book about ships…exact title yet to be decided. It will be part of a series that began with 10 Plants That Shook the World (Annick 2013), and I hope to see it released in late summer 2015.

For now, you’ll have to guess which ships will be included. Keep in mind that the 10 plants in my first book had a lasting impact on the world. The stories about ships will inform and entertain you in a similar way, with each ship drawing attention to a significant historical event.

One detail included in the book will be ‘Where is it now?’, showing the eventual fate of the ship. That got me thinking of shipwrecks. Divers visit many worldwide, but I’ve been able to visit this one without getting my feet wet.

Little remains of the Peter Iredale

Little remains of the Peter Iredale

In 1906, the Peter Iredale, an empty cargo vessel was enroute from Mexico to Portland, Oregon. Caught in a southwest gale just south of the Columbia River, it ran aground. Masts and rigging smashed onto the deck and while the ship was a total loss, all hands survived. A salvage company from Astoria removed all but the forward section of the hull. That’s the popular landmark you now see on the beach in Fort Stevens State Park.

If the Peter Iredale had reached the Columbia River, it would have faced the dangerous Columbia Bar. This stretch of shifting sand has claimed thousands of vessels through the years. Even with dredging, the channel remains narrow and river pilots guide ships through it. Today, ocean-going freighters, like this Vehicles Carrier, can sail upriver to Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA, and barges right up to Lewiston, ID.


By the way, neither of these ships will be in the book! Keep guessing!

Book Launch

What better time to launch a book about plants than during Earth Week!


10 Plants That Shook the World …. attracted attention at Bookingham Palace Bookstore in Salmon Arm, BC on Saturday,    April 20.








Just for fun, I set up a quiz to guess the identity of the plants from several clues. A few friends dared to try it, and their reward was a chocolate pepper cookie (with sugar and potato flour, the recipe made use of 4 of the plants).

The bucket of flowers was created with reused and recycled material – in honor of Earth Day.

The bucket of flowers was created with reused and recycled material – in honor of Earth Day.

Thanks to everyone who came by, to the bookstore staff for hosting the event, and my photographer. Thanks, Judith!


What’s this?


What’s this?  We all use it!  These clues might help:

  • It was part of Edison’s first light bulb
  • It inspired amazing inventions during the 1700s
  • Over 600,000 people died in a war sparked, in part, by this
  • Weevils love to munch on its buds and flowers

Still not sure?

It’s cotton!  The shrubby plant grows puffy white flowers called bolls. The fibers are woven into a practical fabric favored for so many things from t-shirts to tablecloths. Demand for it was so high in the 1700 and 1800s, the workforce included young children in England and African slaves in the US.

My new book, 10 Plants That Shook the World (Annick Press) has just been released.  You can learn more about cotton, as well as other neat plants. Check it out at your local bookstore!


Believe it or not…

…this is a gold mine!


Okay, so it’s actually a pepper mill. But back in the Middle Ages, black pepper was used as currency. Imagine paying your bills with peppercorns! Wouldn’t work today – we can’t even use pennies in Canada anymore.

Pepper was so valued in the 15th century that explorers sailed from Europe to India, all the way around the African continent (no Suez Canal back then) in a race to gain control of the pepper trade. No wonder it was once called ‘Black Gold’!

If you are conscious of sodium in your diet, put away the salt shaker and try some freshly ground black pepper. It adds a spicy taste and is said to help digestion.

Find out more about pepper in my new book, 10 Plants That Shook the World (Annick Press)


Mystery Photo

What do you think this is?

Need some clues?

☼ The insides become something you can eat. The sweet taste is unforgettable

☼ It can be good for you – if you don’t eat too much

☼ They say ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’ but this does, and it was once used as money

☼ Children work hard to harvest it in hot, rainy climates, but many of them never get to eat it

Any guesses?

This pinkish pod is the fruit of the cacao tree. The seeds inside are dried to become cocoa beans….and they are processed to become chocolate. It’s one of the world’s favorite flavors, and it has been around for 3,000 years.

Want to learn more? You can read about cacao, and other fascinating plants soon in my new book, 10 Plants That Shook the World (Annick Press).

Watch for it early in 2013.