Elizabeth MacLeod - Author

Elizabeth MacLeod

It's difficult to believe that Elizabeth MacLeod never took a writing course during her four years at the University of Toronto. Instead, she studied science, graduating with an honors degree in biology and botany. Her training has come in handy for researching and writing children's information books, including most recently Why Do Horses Have Manes?, What Did Dinosaurs Eat? and Monster Fliers. MacLeod was managing editor of Magazine from 1986 until 1989. Soon after, Kids Can Press asked MacLeod if she would consider authoring a book on electronic communications for kids. The result was The Phone Book: Instant Communication from Smoke Signals to Satellites and Beyond. Since then, MacLeod has risen to the challenge of creating books to fascinate and involve kids including titles in the Kids Can Do It, Snapshots: Images of People and Places in History and Kids Books Of series. She lives and works in Toronto, Ontario.

Birthplace?
Thornhill, Ontario.

Birthday?
October 21st.

Where do you live now?
Toronto, Ontario.

When did you start writing?
I wanted to be a writer, but I was scared to admit it to anyone. One day I gathered up my courage and phoned a newspaper's travel department to ask if the editor would like me to write an article about traveling through Europe. He said yes!

What is the thing you like the most about creating kids' books?
There are two things that I really like about writing for kids. One is that I get to investigate lots of different topics. The other is that I think writing for kids is a challenge. They ask really interesting and difficult questions.

What is your favorite book? Why?
I love so many books that it's really hard to choose just one. But one that I read as a kid and still re-read often is Anne of Green Gables. I was really excited when Kids Can asked me to write a book about Anne's author, Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Where do you work/write?
I write in my office, which is on the second floor of our house, overlooking our backyard --- I'm there right now. In front of me is the picture of the Pterosaur from my book about dinosaurs --- it's my favorite artwork in that book. I've got art from most of my books around the room. My two cats, Gus and Smedley, like to lie either on my desk or on the windowsill beside me.

What are your hobbies?
I like swimming, reading, tap dancing and singing.

What was your training or schooling?
At the University of Toronto I studied sciences, such as math, physics and biology --- I didn't take any writing or English courses. Later, I attended the Banff Publishing Workshop in Banff, Alberta.

How did you get involved with children's books?
I got a job as an editorial assistant at , a science magazine for kids. I worked my way up to senior editor at , then switched to book publishing and became an executive editor at Kids Can Press.

How do you research or create your stories?
I use books, magazines, newspapers and of course the Internet. They're good ways to find experts who can answer my questions. I'm always amazed at how willing people are to spend time helping me understand a topic.

Where do you get your ideas?
From newspapers, Web sites, books, things friends say, the Internet, questions kids ask me when I visit their schools, the radio, TV, magazines --- lots of places.

Do you have any tips for young creators?
Read a lot and write a lot. If you want to show someone your writing, then do it --- but you don't have to. And if the person who reads your writing suggests changes, only make them if you want to. Try writing lots of different things --- poems, stories, articles --- to figure out what you like writing most.

Do you have any special secrets or insights about one of your books or characters?
Well, I don't want to give away all my secrets, but here are a few. The dedication in my book about the telephone reads, “With all my love to Paul --- thanks for giving me a r-r-r-i-n-g!” Paul's my husband so can you figure out the two special meanings of “ring” in the dedication?

We know that you bring some kind of delectable treat whenever you visit the KCP offices. What is your favorite recipe? Why?
My favorite recipe is for Shortbread Cookies. They're super easy to make and everyone loves them --- especially when I add chocolate chunks! I also discovered when I researched my book about Lucy Maud Montgomery that she used this same recipe. She and I both have Scottish backgrounds and this recipe has been in my family forever. You'll find it in my books Bake It and Build It and Gifts to Make and Eat.

Can you tell us any of the stories behind some of your books?
One day, one of the Kids Can publishers and I were talking and we both mentioned how much we liked rhyming books and ones with puzzles. Then she said to me, “There! Now go and write a book like that!” “Huh?” I thought. But that night as I was out shopping, ideas started to come to me. I drove home in a panic, frantic that I'd forget everything before I could write it down. But I got home in time and that was how I Heard a Little Baa started.

A History of Just About Everything

2015 - Silver Birch Nonfiction, Forest of Reading, Short-listed
2014 - Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction, Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards, Short-listed
2014 - Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award, Short-listed
2014 - Best Books of the Year for Children and Young Adults, Bank Street Children's Book Committee, Winner
2014 - Information Book Award, The Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada, Long-listed
2013 - Book Award for Outstanding Youth Book Published in 2013, Canadian Science Writers' Association, Commended

Albert Einstein

2006 - Red Cedar Book Award, Short-listed
2005 - Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award, Short-listed
2004 - Information Book Award, Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada, Short-listed
2004 - Book of the Year - Bronze Medal, ForeWord Magazine, Winner
2004 - Tiny Torgi Literary Award, Audio category, CNIB Library for the Blind, Short-listed
2004 - Silver Birch Award, Ontario Library Association, Short-listed
2004 - Science in Society Book Award, Canadian Science Writers' Association, Short-listed
2003 - Best Books List, Science Books and Film, Winner
2003 - Best Bets, Ontario Library Association, Winner

Alexander Graham Bell

2008 - Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Alexander Graham Bell

2002 - Red Cedar Book Award, Short-listed
2001 - Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award, Short-listed
2000 - Information Book Award, Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada, Short-listed
2000 - Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, Children's Book Council, Commended
1999 - Our Choice - Starred Selection, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Commended
1999 - Best Books for Children, Science Books & Films
1998 - Silver Birch Award, Ontario Library Association, Short-listed

Bake and Make Amazing Cakes

2002 - Our Choice, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Canada Year by Year

2017 - Information Book Award, The Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada, Short-listed
2017 - Best Books for Kids & Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner
2017 - Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction, Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards, Short-listed
2016 - Kids Books of the Year 2016, Quill & Quire, Winner

Eleanor Roosevelt

2008 - Silver Birch Award, Ontario Library Association, Short-listed
2007 - Information Book Award, Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada, Short-listed
2006 - Best Bets - Top 10 Canadian Children's Books, Ontario Library Association, Winner

George Washington Carver

2008 - Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Harry Houdini

2007 - Alberta Children's Choice Rocky Mountain Book Award, Short-listed
2007 - Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award, Winner

Helen Keller

2005 - Information Book Award, Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada, Runner-up
2005 - Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, Winner
2004 - International Book Award, The Society of School Librarians International, Runner-up
2004 - Book of the Year Award, ForeWord Magazine, Runner-up
2004 - YA Top Forty Nonfiction, Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, Winner

Lucy Maud Montgomery

2009 - Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Lucy Maud Montgomery

2003 - Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award, Short-listed
2002 - Alberta Children's Choice Rocky Mountain Book Award, Short-listed
2002 - Silver Birch Award, Ontario Library Association, Short-listed
2002 - Our Choice, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Marie Curie

2007 - Red Cedar Book Award, Short-listed
2005 - Outstanding Science Trade Book, National Science Teachers Association and the Children's Book Council, Winner
2004 - Book of the Year Award, ForeWord Magazine, Short-listed
2004 - YA Top Forty Nonfiction, Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, Winner

Mark Twain

2009 - Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Monster Fliers

2011 - Best Books for Kids & Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Samuel de Champlain

2009 - Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

The Kids Book of Canada at War

2009 - Red Maple Award, Ontario Library Association, Short-listed
2009 - Red Cedar Award, Short-listed
2007 - Best Bets Non-Fiction, Ontario Library Association, Winner

The Kids Book of Great Canadian Women

2007 - Information Book Award, Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada, Short-listed

The Wright Brothers

2009 - Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

The Wright Brothers

2005 - Red Cedar Book Award, Short-listed
2003 - Our Choice, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner
2002 - Science in Society Book Award, Canadian Science Writers' Association, Short-listed

Thomas Edison

2009 - Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

To the Top of Everest

2003 - Silver Birch Award, Ontario Library Association, Short-listed
2003 - Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award, Short-listed
2002 - Our Choice - Starred Selection, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner
2002 - Young Adults' Choices, International Reading Association, Short-listed
2002 - Children's Literature Choice List, Winner
2002 - Information Book Award, Children's Literature Roundtables of Canada, Short-listed
- Red Cedar Book Award

What Did Dinosaurs Eat?

2002 - Our Choice, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner

Why Do Cats Have Whiskers?

2009 - Best Bet for Children and Teens, Ontario Library Association, Winner
2009 - Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Winner