Enjoying a magical story time at Bellmoore

The winning photo in the 2016 Telling Tales App Photo Contest.
The winning photo!

Students at Bellmoore Elementary School in Binbrook enjoyed a magical story time filled with mythological creatures and wonder! This unique author experience was the top prize in the 2016 Telling Tales App Photo Contest.

We asked literary fans to snap and share a picture of their favourite reading spot for an opportunity to win an exclusive author visit at their school. They were asked to take a picture with the Telling Tales App, which is generously sponsored by Cogeco.

Sarah Bird was selected as the grand prize winner for the fabulous photo she took of her son enjoying Jeremy Tankard’s presentation during the 2016 Telling Tales Festival.

The contest is aimed at igniting students’ creativity by giving them an opportunity to meet an author, learn writing advice, and be inspired to create their own stories. Sarah’s son did extensive author research to find just the right presenter for his school. He selected Vikki VanSickle. She attended Bellmoore on April 4 and talked about her picture book If I Had a Gryphon.


Author Presentation

Vikki writes about what she loves: animals and magic. She knew older kids loved Harry Potter, and she wanted to introduce magical characters to younger kids. Vikki and the students talked about taking care of pets, and that bigger pets have bigger responsibilities.

Then she shared some insight into the creation of her book and how over the course of creating the book things changed. An editor chooses a writer and an illustrator, then they go back and forth between the two with changes and suggestions.

Cale Atkinson is the illustrator of If I Had a Gryphon. The illustrator helps to tell the story too. On the unicorn page, the words say what the unicorn is actually doing. This is where the illustrator demonstrates how the unicorn is shy. In order to do this, he thought about his dog and how he hides under the bed. Then Cale thought this would be a funny thing for a unicorn to do.

Vikki VanSickle 2016 App Contest

Facts and Advice from Vikki

  • Writing is a habit like anything else. You need to work at it, and make it a habit.
  • Her favourite feeling is when she completes a book and writes “the end”. It’s a reward in itself.
  • She finds novels easier to write than picture books.
  • She used to work at a book store and did story time.

Vikki VanSickle 2016 Photo App Contest

Fun If I Had a Gryphon Facts

  • If I Had a Gryphon is Vikki’s first picture book
  • There are 13 different versions of If I Had a Gryphon! One didn’t rhyme, and in one version each creature had a child.
  • Twelve publishers said no to the book
  • Cale Atkinson is the illustrator of If I Had a Gryphon. He and Vikki never met and did not work together in person.
  • The paper cover on a book is called a dust jacket, and it’s there to protect the book. Often, it’s the same picture as the book cover. For If I Had a Gryphon, they decided to put a different cover underneath. It’s green with scales and is scratched. It has a snake bookmark. If you pay close attention when reading the book, you will notice at the beginning of the story the main character is reading a mythological book that looks the same! The artist and designer thought it would be fun to put in this hidden cover.
  • Kids asked about the meaning of the ending. Vikki wanted to have a twist at the end where readers could think about it and use their own imagination. Maybe the hamster always had bat wings, perhaps it was a Halloween costume, or maybe he turned into a mythological creature. It’s up to the kids to decide!

Vikki VanSickle 2016 App Photo Contest

Author Q&A

What is your favourite animal in the book?

Her favourite is the original Hippogriff, but she loves the Phoenix because he is so beautifully drawn.

How long did it take you to make this book?

Before answering she asked the kids to guess. Their thoughts: 1-2 weeks, 23 weeks, 4 days, months, even years. But it actually took Vikki seven years from starting it to publishing the book.

How long have you been writing books?

She wrote her first story in Grade 3, and started publishing books in 2010.

Will there be a sequel?

She is considering a new book, and has been thinking about different ideas. One is: what would happen if Sam brought her hamster to school?