Freedom To Think

Freedom To Think is an initiative that believes (as I do) that children thrive when allowed the luxury of boredom.

In This is Sadie, it is pretty easy to draw a direct line between boredom and creativity.

                                                                       art: Julie Morstad

Here's a little about the program from Freedom To Think founder, author Jonathan Stroud:
I believe that:
All kids can and should be creative.
They need time and space to achieve it.
Unscheduled time is creative time.
We can give them this.
Our Freedom to Think website will have a rolling programme of possibilities – but it’s up to the kids to do what they want with the time. Even if nothing tangible comes out of it, they’ve been let off the mental leash for an hour or two, and this very freedom will rejuvenate them.
I hope you will join us in the campaign to give free time back to children. I would love to hear what you think and see any photographs of your children’s creations or ideas. You can upload images or videos to this tumblr site, tweet them to @iamfree2think or email them to freedomtothinksite@gmail.com.


Reader Response to This is Sadie (and a favourite reader)

This is Sadie, my latest book with the outrageously talented Julie Morstad was released this week and I thought I'd try to catch up a little on the notice it has received thus far. My very favourite review is the beautiful one that says a thousand words pasted in just below.

Publishers Weekly:

                                                                       Photo: Rosie Winstead

As in previous collaborations like When You Were Small and Where You Came From, O’Leary and Morstad put forth a playful, imagination-first portrait of childhood, introducing a girl named Sadie who is equally at home in the expanses of her mind as she is in the outside world. Striking an irreverent tone from the first page (“This is Sadie. No, not that. That’s a box. Sadie is inside the box”), O’Leary follows her raven-haired heroine as she sets sail in the aforementioned cardboard box, spends the day with friends (“Some of them live on her street, and some live in the pages of books”), and inserts herself into the stories she reads. 

✭ School Library Journal: 
This award-winning duo beautifully convey the magic that is to be found in reading or listening to a story. The appealing text is accompanied by lush drawings rendered in gouache, ink, and Photoshop that lend it a fanciful feel in the best way possible. With its leisurely pace and verdant illustrations, this book is a delight for bedtime as well as an excellent storytime choice paired with Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon and Peter Bently’s King Jack and the Dragon (Dial, 2011). VERDICT A wonderful purchase for all collections.
Huffington Post:
Sadie is a young girl who revels in the power of her imagination and is not limited by silly things like traditional gender constructs. The dynamic duo of O'Leary and Morstad have crafted a quiet but powerful celebration of childhood with a heroine that is a role model for boys and girls alike. Readers should be prepared to reserve a special place on their shelves -- and in their hearts -- for the incomparable Sadie. 
Quill and Quire:
Morstad's soft-palette illustrations engage perfectly with O'leary's text creating a whimsical kid-centred picture book that will be enjoyed by both children and adults. With something new to discover upon each encounter, This is Sadie is sure to become a favourite bedtime read. 

 Montreal Review of Books
With the picture book This Is Sadie, Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad team up to introduce us to a girl of great imagination. Rather than plotting a linear storyline for her heroine, O’Leary offers us a character sketch of a girl uninhibited by adult limitations.

Book Page
Sadie’s days are never long enough, and readers may feel the same way about this story: It doesn’t overstay its welcome, and every moment is a pleasure. And don’t forget to remove the book jacket to see the surprise waiting on the cover.
Here’s hoping for more of Sadie’s adventures in the future.
Buzzfeed: "What kind of reader is it for? This is a story for those with a deep love of stories."
Canadian Review of Materials
This is Sadie is an irresistible book filled with a charm that entrances and a heroine that is unforgettable. Sara O’Leary’s fine narrative is sublimely complemented by the exceptional and aesthetically appealing art of Julie Morstad. Don’t miss this one! It is delightful.


This is Sadie's Book Birthday

Today is publication day for This is Sadie and to celebrate I decided to buy myself a little present....
                                                                                                                                                                        Atelier Caroline

My little Sadie doll was built by the very talented Atelier Caroline. Check out her work here. I couldn't be happier!

I also couldn't be happier with this book. Julie Morstad just gets better and better and given how good she was to begin with, this is really saying something. Working with Tundra Books and its Editorial Director Tara Walker has been a dream. Her belief in the book from the very beginning has been what's brought it to glorious life.  Jackie Kaiser of Westwood Creative has been Sadie's literary godmother and I am grateful for this and all other blessings she has brought into my life. The whole Tundra Books/Random House Canada team has been fantastic to work with. 

                                                                                               Atelier Caroline

                                                                                                                                                                       Atelier Caroline
Special thanks to the book's brilliant designer Kelly Hill (that cover!) and to Sylvia Chan and Pamela Osti and Aliya Stacey for helping Sadie find her way in the larger world.  Response to the book so far has been lovely.  


This Is Sadie Book Teaser

Not long now until This is Sadie is in stores! And my brilliant son Euan has put together this little teaser trailer to celebrate.

May 12, 2015
Available to pre-order at:
Barnes & Noble Indie Bound Amazon.com McNally Robinson Indigo Powell’s Hive


Ridiculously Wonderful Books to Read With Kids

This Is Sadie is set for release next spring, but has already made a Buzzfeed list of 25 Ridiculously Wonderful Books to Read With Kids in 2015. What a ridiculously nice thing to happen.

Check out the whole list--there's lots to be excited about there. I'm looking forward to Debbie Ridpath Ohi's Where Are My Books (Simon & Schuster) about a book-loving boy.

I very much like what reviewer Mallory McInnis has to say as well: "This is a story for those with a deep love of stories." I can't think of anything nicer.

If you're looking for an independent bookseller carrying the books, it's always good to check Indiebound.  And if you really wanted to be kind, you could mention the book to your local librarian. We love libraries!


Be The Hero

The promotional poster for my forthcoming book with Julie Morstad, This Is Sadie, makes me want to cry in the best possible way.  

In our story, Sadie is a little girl who likes to imagine herself right inside a story--in Julie Morstad's beautiful illustration, she actually dives right into a book. And what I hope for is that all children--boys and girls--feel free to imagine themselves as whoever they want to be in that fictional world, because that is, after all, a stepping stone to imagining yourself as whoever you want to be in the real world.

This image of the little girl on the horse makes me think of Elizabeth I and her Prince of England speech, which I love. Here's Cate Blanchett on her white steed.

All of this got me thinking about the whole idea of princes and princesses. Over at A Chair, A Fireplace, And a Tea Cozy, Liz Burns takes on what she calls "Princess Shaming" and avows the right of every child to play princess, read about princesses, and all that.  She's writing partly in reaction to this article on Slate, The Princess Trap which basically takes the position that girls who play at being princesses will never grow up to be scientists.

Really what we want, I suppose, is a world where girls can play at being princes or princess and boys are free to do the same.

Liz Burns quotes novelist Meg Cabot as saying: "the princess thing is amazing. It’s about standing up for what you believe in, protecting the people you love, and never letting the bad guys win. It’s about rescuing yourself, and yet risking your heart when you meet someone who seems worth giving it to."

And on those terms, I do agree. Be the hero of your adventure is all I really want to say.


This Is Sadie

My new picture book This Is Sadie, co-created with the ridiculously talented Julie Morstad, and produced under the tender care of the brilliant editor Tara Walker at Tundra Books will be out in the world next spring. 

Today I saw it listed for the first time online and am so very happy to be able to share the cover!

More here.


Picture Book Friends

One of the nicest things about making picture books is the lovely people you meet along the way.  I was invited to participate in the latest blogging chain mail enterprise by Kyo Maclear (her post here) and because it was Kyo Maclear and because I admire her and pretty much everything she does, I said yes. I agreed to answer these questions:
What am I working on? Why do I write what I do? How does your writing process work?
I'll answer the last first, just to get it over with

Q: How does your writing process work? 
A: Not very well.

Really I agreed to do this blog tour as an opportunity to talk about Kyo Maclear's latest book because it is a thing of beauty and (prediction) will be a joy forever.

Julia, Child is a story about childhood and friendship and mastering the art of slowing down and enjoying life. It is only in the very loosest sense about Julia Child and in its most profoundest sense about nourishment. 

Here is a little look at the interior art.  Note all the adults rushing around and the children watching on bemused.  The text here reads: "Life was filled with far too many grown-ups who did not know how to have a marvelous time. The girls had no wish to become big, busy people--wary and worried, hectic and hurried."

Julie Morstad's illos here are a wonderful mix of spare line drawings and vibrant colour and there is great pleasure to be found in all the delightful details. It's a perfect little gem of a book and an excellent reminder to slow down and smell the petits gรขteaux. 

Okay, that's enough not about me for a bit.

Q: What are you working on?
A: Many things all at once.

     I am doing a picture book called This is Sadie with the glorious talent that is Julie Morstad. It will be published next spring with Tundra Books and I just wish I could show you the cover right now because it is perfectly swoony.
     I am also working on a series of baby books with the fine folks at Owl Books.  
     I am also at various stages with various other things which I probably shouldn't talk about. One of them is a middle grade novel about a red-headed boy that I am writing with my very own red-headed genius of a boy.  

I still intend to answer one more question but first let me tell you about who I will be handing the blog tour baton over to and let's get to the giveaway portion of this blogpost. 

Stephany Aulenback has just published her very first picture book and while I am quite sure it won't be her last it seems cause for celebration. In lieu of champagne, I've received permission from her publisher Simply Read Books to offer a copy of the book to one lucky reader. (Sorry but Canadian addresses only on this one.)  

Stephany Aulenback's  book is called If I Wrote a Book About You and it is illustrated by Denise Holmes.  It's a wonderful paean to parenting and creativity. Here's a sneaky peek for you.

To win a copy just leave a comment below telling me what you might write a book about or what your favourite book is or how much you'd like to win a book. Basically, just leave a comment. Or you can tweet something about why you love picture books to @saraoleary using the hashtag #stephka and I will enter your name.  

Last question now....

Q: Why do you write what you do?
A: Because I stumbled into writing for children and consider myself very, very lucky to write books for the very most important readers there are.

That's it. By way of a disclaimer I should mention that I am inordinately fond of both Steph Aulenback and Kyo Maclear although I have never actually met either of them in real life.  

Finally, some other blog tourists I have spotted on my travels.
Susan Juby
Sophie Blackall
Carin Berger
Vikki VanSickle

UPDATE:  We have a winner! Congratulations Carrie Gelsen. A book will be winging its way to you from Simply Read Books.