Ivan and Andrew: Young Authors Launch Their Books!

ivan and andrew books

Interview With Author Ivan Sun

Written by: Andrew Li


What inspired you to write your book The Wonders of Time: Book One?

“Well what really inspired me was my passion for cars so I added a car, such as the Bugatti Veyron, for every place they went to and I chose places such as ancient Rome because first of all ancient Rome has a whole lot of history and also it has magnificent mind blowing structures such as the Colosseum.”

What was your favourite part of the book and why?

“Oh, my favourite part of the book was writing about Albert Einstein Junior Junior Junior Junior Junior Junior Junior who was evil. I liked how he fooled the characters into helping him to build evil robots to take over the world. I liked writing that part because Albert Einstein is a historical character and it was funny to make him evil.”

Why did you choose the following settings in your book:  Ancient Rome, the future on Mars and World War Two?

“Well I chose these places because they had a lot of historical meaning and then I chose the one in the future because it was really fun to imagine what it would be like in the future on different planets.   It was fun to let my imagination go wild.”

What did you find difficult while you were writing your book?

“What I found difficult was editing and paying attention and thinking of interesting ideas that would really hook the reader.  The best part of writing this book was inferring things about the past such as in Roman times and World War 2.  I liked using websites and books as research tools and to give me information.”


Interview With Andrew Li

Written by: Ivan Sun


What inspired you, Andrew, to write adventure stories and The Magical Book Part One?

“Natural events from the past such as the Titanic and different cultures from the past such as Vikings inspired me to write this book about two kids. They take this invention, this time machine, which is also a book, a magical book, and they have a great adventure where they meet the Vikings and feel what it is like to be on the Titanic just as it was sinking.”

What was the hardest barrier while writing your book?

“The hardest barrier…was coming up with ideas that would be great in a story and seeing if they worked or not. Editing was also challenging for me because when I write I usually check but it is hard for me to find mistakes.”

How did you come up with your characters?

“I have a very good friend at school. I just decided to add him into my story. My other character I called Michael. I just thought it was a pretty decent name so I chose that name.”

What did you feel when you received your book at the end?

“When I received the book I felt joy in my heart because I worked so hard to prepare for this book and I was writing for lots of hours and hours. I hope that people will really like the book.  I learned that if you work hard, great things will happen!”

Big congratulations to Ivan and Andrew on their newest books!  A year in the making!  Next year they want to write sequels!



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Brighouse Elementary’s Story Fence: Ready to Read!

After in class research and design workshops, after outdoor paint sessions, after drilling and weatherproofing (courtesy of SD38) and mounting the completed pieces of student artwork in snow, rain and sunshine, Brighouse Elementary’s Story Fence has finally been launched just in time for spring planting! Over 400 students, teachers and community members contributed to its creation and installation.

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This multi-layered project was all about community; in fact, as you walk around the garden and enjoy the words and images designed by students, the story of Richmond unfolds. It is a legacy project made with many hands, the product of many ideas and gallons of paint! It will circle the garden for generations to come.

The Story Fence combines words and images, reflecting the multicultural community that had a hand in its development. Welcome is written in many languages and is one of the first panels to greet you as you enter the school grounds. Brighouse’s school motto, “Where Everyone Counts” embraces the theme of the project. This sunny panel was designed by Brighouse’s Educational.Assistants and features the handprints of the students that they work with.


There are images from Musqueam, designs reflecting agriculture from the time when people in Richmond traveled by river not roads to the present, the city’s diverse eco-system with a full sized sturgeon depicted, the old school building and the new school which opened in 2011, connected with a rainbow of positive words that connect the two, colourful Todd Parr style portraits of students and their perceived community, and finally, symbols and triptychs of transformation that represent how we will continue to grow and change with the times.

As a writer, I am also a lover of the words that are posted: poems and single lines strung together to help tell the story of this place and what makes it unique. It warms my heart to see students pointing out the piece that they painted and reading the words aloud to their families and friends. This project has had a great impact on drawing the community together.


The sun shone down, the band played and Elder Mary Jane Joe drummed, danced and prayed in her language to bless the land and all of the hands who nurture her. Principal Mr. Adjel-Achampong (Mr. A.) and V.P. Mr. Sala with star volunteer Susan Tanko, helped to place the final piece. Special thanks to Ms. Anderson who helped to organize the grant and the celebrations, to the PAC at Brighouse and the volunteers, to the teachers and students, to Joe, to SD 38 and especially to ArtStarts who provided funding to support this life and community enhancing, educational and artistic project. It is one of the largest I have ever worked on and certainly one I will never forget and continue to enjoy!


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Knights and Damsels: Confidence and Creativity Through Drama


Saturday marked the finale of my drama class at R.L. Education in Richmond. Since January, we have been building an original play generated directly from the imaginations of 6-9 year olds and written to reflect their needs as emerging writers, actors and English speakers. Most students are recent immigrants to Canada and their mother tongue is Chinese.

They varied in age and ability to read, write and communicate. Some were exceedingly shy, others needed to practice collaboration, awareness and control, but the environment was such that they all felt like equals in a safe, playful and creative space.

Our experience together was transformational. They challenged me to keep them engaged while teaching the basics of performance: extension, expression, levels, volume, emotion, eye contact, intention and control.

On our first day, the students wanted to be knights and princesses, so we played with how these characters would walk and talk and what they would want. We created two different kingdoms, the Lava and Water Kingdom and the Golden Kingdom. Fuelled by their interest in knights and damsels, we built a story around a conflict between them. All students chose their characters and essentially ‘wrote’ their own parts. From the outside, as dramaturge, I pulled their ideas together into a story with action, conflict and dialogue.


Magic happened almost every week through the simple process of play. One day the students found a balloon that someone had left behind and began an impromptu game of ‘Boom Ball’ that we incorporated as one of the challenges between the two kingdoms.

To help them develop language skills, one of the challenges was for them to find words to describe a ‘royal’ object. They chose, of course, a crown. The final ‘battle’ featured a recitation, where students did some choral/dramatic speaking and recited, the famed poem, “Alligator Pie”, selected by them.

We spent some time building and painting props and costumes, rehearsed a bit and it was ‘Places please…’ I thought the students did an exceptional job. The shy became less shy, the loud became less loud and more expressive, we worked as a team and created a beautiful work of art, a play that teaches as well as entertains. I look forward to the next set of sessions where we continue to develop confidence and creativity through drama at R. L. Education.


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K’s and Grade 1’s at Mitchell Elementary as Biennale Artists: We are all unique, we are all connected!

dscn6207.jpgIt is tremendous fun to work with energetic and expressive kindergartens and grade ones!  Especially the ones participating in Vancouver Biennale’s Big Ideas project!  These past few weeks, I have gotten to roll up my sleeves, don my painting clothes and paint with passion in bright, primary colours (pun intended).  I even experienced creating art ‘installations’ where I helped to design where and how the artwork would be displayed.

Art is not simply art…it crosses borders and opens boxes in the mind that cross into other areas of curriculum, that help us to develop as communicators, that provide opportunities to explore who we are.


Exploring identity, inclusiveness and community have all been themes we have been working with at Mitchell.  The process was engaging, messy and extremely satisfying!  Students thought about who they were and what they bring to their communities, read some Todd Parr books and then designed and painted their own portraits.  Afterwards, they brainstormed words that expressed who they are and pasted them around their portrait and “Ta-Da!”  Todd Parr Portrait Poetry!  Can you see any similarities and differences in these two classes?  What connects us?  What makes us unique?

In hopes that spring will soon arrive, we also used a tree as a metaphor for how we are all connected.  In this case, students used paint to draw a branch (or created one using an impression of their own arm and hand) and then used their own fingerprints to create the blossoms.  Personally, I love the idea of sharing roots and a strong trunk of values, but, still connected to those roots and that trunk, being able to express individuality, while contributing to a ‘whole, beautiful picture’.  I have seen, through art, how nurturing a sense of individuality alongside a sense of community, has made these youngsters more tolerant, expressive and collaborative…recognizing that though we come from many different cultures and places, we all belong to one big, beautiful world.


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Writing Canadian Identity:Biennale Workshops at General Currie

As part of our Big Ideas Biennale project at General Currie Elementary, grade 4-7 students have been asking big questions about who they are and who we are collectively as Canadians.

Using the many tools of a writer:  repetition, similes, metaphors, descriptive language, rhythm, rhyme, voice…we wrote together this week.  Some think that writers create in isolation, but these poems reflect discussion, collaboration and many voices celebrated in one piece.

Students took the poems they had written about themselves and their identities from a former class and selected their favourite lines.  They then moved to larger groups and, using those lines, wrote them on strips of paper, laying them out to create new poems, restructured slightly to reflect the theme of ‘us as a nation’.  As a finale, students performed the poems using tableau and spoken word.

Their work is mighty and moving, insightful and inspiring.  Only a couple of examples are featured here, but the creativity shown is worthy of being shared on a national and international level.  I did suggest we bring in the Prime Minister to hear them perform these.

It would be interesting to do this activity with students in other countries and explore the similarities and differences between voices across the globe.

I hope you are as inspired as I was!  dscn6098dscn6110dscn6109

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Art Exploration: Learning From Kindergartens at Mitchell Elementary

dscn6074dscn6064dscn6061dscn6075Everything I needed to know I learned in Kindergarten. To play, to inquire, to engage, to listen, to share, to be open to new ideas, to get along with others and to create without borders or restrictions. I’ve been working with a group of K/1 students at Mitchell Elementary on a Vancouver Biennale Project
that explores identity.

While viewing and experiencing each other’s stories and traditions, we are developing an understanding of our commonalities and connection, thus building a healthier and more caring community. Last week we ‘played’ with colour and noted how it made us feel, what it made us think of and what it might mean in different places.

Students played some drama games and went to different sensory tables with different coloured objects on them and were invited to play with them.  Some made dragons under a red bathrobe, some pretended to be feeling fish scales on an ornament, some commented these remind me of jewelry that my mom wears.  Afterwards they wrote poems.  Below is a sample.  I am always so impressed that K’s and grade 1’s are so expressive with language.


Reminds me of swimming.

Makes me feel calm.  

Blue can mean sadness.

If I see it in the sky, I feel happy.

If I see it in the pool, I’m ready to play!


Ms. Lau did a particularly great exercise with them.  She put objects on a table, some connected, some not.  Then she shook the table.  The single ones broke or fell, while the connected ones stood or remained together.  The lesson, we are all stronger when we are connected.

This week we visited the Biennale installations: The Meeting by Wang Shugang and Human Structures by Jonathan Borofsky. What did we do? We played, we interacted, we ran, we touched, we ducked down and ran under things, stood on the shoulders of statues and discovered both the art in public places and the artists in ourselves.  We connected.  I look forward to exploring further the importance of connection, empathy, expression and understanding in the weeks to come!

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I Am Poems: Exploring Identity at General Currie Elementary

Some of the most difficult questions for anyone at any age to answer are:  Who am I?  Where do I fit in?  What is my culture and how do I express it?

As part of Vancouver Biennale’s Big Ideas project http://www.vancouverbiennale.com/learn/ I am working with grade 4-7 students and teachers at General Currie Elementary school in Richmond.  Our theme is exploring identity in all of its shape, sizes and disguises and the factors that influence it.  Using drama, spoken word, mask making, digital photography and technology (Book Creator on i-pads), we are mining our inner artists and discovering ways in which to share our feelings, thoughts and concerns in the hopes of finding connections in our diversity and empathy and enlightenment to bridge what may or has divided us.  These are definitely BIG IDEAS.

We will be visiting the Biennale installations A-maze-ing Laughter and Engagement in Vancouver’s West End to inspire and inform our explorations.  How do we relate to one another?  What makes us the same?  Different?  What language does laughter come in?  What is ‘relationship’ and how can we strive to improve our relations at home and abroad?

We began with who we are, the hope being that in understanding ourselves and those closest to us, we can then venture into imagining ourselves as others and tapping into their voices…the voices of immigrants, refugees, historical characters, a community of people then and now, as well as build positive visions for the future.

Using drama and the I Am Poem format, all students dove deep.  Many of the student poems struck me, many words and phrases provided perspective into the hearts of my neighbours.  The one below, in particular.  Written by a grade seven student, it captures, not only her present day experience, but what could have been the experience of those who went to residential school or those Japanese Canadians who were displaced during the war.  It speaks to feelings we all feel as humans and to hope.  So profound, moving and beautiful, this word…hope.  Enjoy.


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