Thursday, December 12, 2013

Another great show!

The CBC Toronto 2013 Sounds of the Season event has wrapped up, and the linocuts are almost all in the mail. Click HERE for details

I did a "live full-day doodle" this year, incorporating suggestions from everyone who stopped by. That's why Spiderman has a coffee, there's a huge cat crushing a car... chaos. And a blast. I'm posting pics in a sort of WIP format. The pics with me in them are thanks to CBC / Tanja Tiziana.

Blank canvas (about 4 feet x 6 feet)

 I started with a street, then added a dragon and huge cat

More details get added, as I drink more coffee.

10 hours later, the finished work.

Chris Hadfield was there playing guitar, so I threw him into the pic. (He even tweeted a version of the the image that I gave him on a card).

Rob Ford climbing the CN Tower, with a disapproving Santa.

And Spidey with a coffee.

And me trying to explain to Gill Deacon what the heck I was thinking about when I volunteered for this. Actually, I'd do it again next year, no question!

Monday, December 2, 2013


I got some nice feedback to a little tweet I put out last night.

"So, why doesn't CBC show women's pro hockey on Saturday nights starting in 2014?"

Twitter isn't the best outlet for a full discussion on this, so here's a little mini-essay/ rant on the idea.

I'm not kidding. Here are some of my reasons.

1. The CBC is going to need programming, 300+ hours of it. CBC rightfully prides itself on the quality of it's broadcasts. Hockey DOES belong on the CBC, as does any activity that is near and dear to the hearts of Canadians. (Take that culture snobs) So why not take the internal expertise and use it to cover the sport properly?

Will it be free? No. But the rights won't cost 5-billion. And compared to the cost of 300+ hours of drama or comedy... just saying the budget will be a bargain compared to the alternatives. (Yes, the CBC should also fund drama and comedy... this is my idea for a replacement for HNIC, not a rethink of the core mandate.)

2. There's an appetite for the women's game. There are lots of Canadians and hockey fans who are getting fed up with the violence of the men's pro game. If I have to watch one more fight replay during the opening sequence... argh! (Even during the "Nessun Dorma" opening this past week, the CBC showed George Parros fighting Colton Orr. Hmmm. how did that fight turn out again? Oh yeah, with Parros nearly dead. Nice.)

Anyway, people who love hockey are hungry for an alternative. Will they match HNIC in Canada numbers? No. But I remember a few years back when Sportsnet decided to tape-delay a women's World Cup Qualifying soccer game (because who would want to watch it live?) and then had to scramble to change the schedule when Edmonton fans bought 80,000 tickets and the national public demanded the game be shown live.

And, oh yeah, it's an Olympic sport too.

3. The women's game needs a home to grow. Women's hockey has a league with no exposure, a trophy donated by a Governor General (Clarkson, not Stanley) and great athletes. But who knows when the games are? Where the games are? If the CBC made WHNIC a destination program (Sat night? Sunday night?) then the audience can grow as the interest increases. TSN made a commitment to the CFL on friday nights, and it has become must-watch for CFL fans.

Anyway, I throw that into the mix. (I feel like I'm back at my old sports job!)

Monday, November 18, 2013

The printing has started!

In my last post I previewed the design for this year's CBC Sounds of the Season linoleum block print. The prints help raise money for food banks here in Ontario.

This year's print is the Old Toronto City Hall clock tower (feeling nostalgic for the old city I guess - I also love bells and clocks.)

This year, I cut the actual printing block alongside some amazing artists at ArtHeart Community Art Center.

I was asked to come and give a "how-to" presentation. We all sat together for about three hours, making designs on paper, transferring that to a block and then cutting into our blocks.

It was amazing to see some of the designs. There were faces, skulls, snowy landscapes and winged superheroes. Most of us even reached the point where we could pull prints off the blocks.

If you haven't done a lino-cut since high school - give it a try.

The amazing things about block prints (for me) is that the finished product always has a cool arty look - even if you are not the greatest "artist" in the world. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

2013 Lino Cut

Each year the great folks at CBC Toronto put on a big all-day holiday show - Sounds of the Season. December 6th is the date.

The doors of the CBC Broadcast Centre are thrown wide-open and there's music, great stories, and a chance to meet your fave CBC celebs.

All proceeds go to help Ontario Food Banks such as the amazing Daily Bread.

I do a lino-cut each year, as a kind of 'thanks' gift for people who donate $100+. There are usually about 300 takers or so.

Here's the rough sketch for this year's print. (I guess Toronto City Hall is on my mind these days... hmmmm....)

I'm extra excited this year because I'll be cutting the actual plate (using a knife to gouge into a piece of linoleum) with the crew at ArtHeart - an amazing community group in Toronto that offers art supplies and lessons to people who might not get the chance otherwise.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Some writerly advice

I did a great tour through the schools and libraries in Innisfil, Ontario last year.

They were running a writer's contest and they asked me for some of my advice.

Still valid (I think) for anyone who is taking part in NaNoWriMo.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Monday, November 4, 2013

Smiles all around!

I just got back from an amazing trip to Windsor for the Windsor book festival. I asked Margaret Atwood a question about genre fiction (which she dodged!)

(Here's a nice pic from the crew at the Public Library. A nice blog post about my visit is here.)

I had dinner (and was on stage) with one of my heroes, Ken Oppel, and we were joined by recent Man Booker winner Eleanor Catton for dinner on friday. Her dad was a philosophy prof too!

Then I got home and there was a very nice package from my publisher, Simon and Schuster, waiting for me.

Now I'm back in my attic in my grungy sweats and Sabres sweatshirt, and getting back to work.
But I'm smiling.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Great Kids, Great Reads Podcast

I've started something a little new, trying to combine my love of radio with my love of books.

So I'm launching a new podcast. Great Kids, Great Reads (click here to hear #1)

GKGR features interviews with my fave booksellers and I get their picks for must-read books - picture book, middle-grade and YA.

The amazing Melissa Bourdon-King and Michelle Gram from Mabel's Fables Bookstore are my guides for the first few episodes. Podcast #1 features some of their spooky book nods.

There's also a Facebook page for the podcast, where we will post the books (feel free to LIKE)!

And stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Where have you gone Jackie Robinson?

So, now that the big TD awards are behind us (List of amazing winners here), it's time to turn our attention back to baseball.

The World Series starts tonight. (Why the teams needed 5 days off to rest, I do NOT understand. Kind of eradicates the idea of playoff conditioning. I mean, each team is now rested and can start whomever they want as a pitcher.)

Anyway, I'm working on a book about baseball and numbers so I'm thinking about the little things in the game right now, and the not so little things.

One thing struck me as I was looking at the rosters of Boston and St. Louis. They are almost exclusively white players. This is definitely true of the starting pitching, and mostly true of the starting lineups in general.

This is worth noting, because it signals a trend in baseball, that baseball itself is trying to address - the decline of African-American players. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig launched a task force at the beginning of this season to look at the causes and some possible solutions.

When Jackie Robinson joined Brooklyn in 1947 he ushered in an era of integration. The percentage of African-American players in the game peaked around 30 years later, which is now around 30 years ago. It was about 19%. Now it's closer to 7%. (The folks at SABR have a great analysis of the numbers here. It is worth noting that there is a rise in players from Latin America and Asia.)

I won't get into all the reasons why this is important. Let's just say if baseball is "America's pastime", it needs to better reflect "America's demographics."

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Tonight is the BIG awards night for Kids Lit in Canada.

The TD Book Awards. (Full disclosure, Neil Flambe #4 is up for the John Spray Mystery Award! I'll be wearing my lucky snoopy tie.)

As my friend Helaine Becker points out, there's more money handed out tonight than at any other Canadian book awards night. I sincerely hope the media reports the results tonight and tomorrow. (hint, hint)

Will the winner of the big $30,000 TD award be mentioned/interviewed on national radio? Fingers are crossed.

I'm always perplexed by the lack of attention Canadian authors get at home, compared to children's authors in other countries. When I was hosting CBC Radio Q a few weeks back, I opened with an essay praising the incredible depth of the Canadian scene. (Full text is here)

The Canadian scene is as strong as any in the world. The quality of writing, the excellence of the images, the strength of our editors, publishers, booksellers and librarians (this is a team effort) is unrivalled, but hampered (perhaps) by the term "Canadian."

Time to jettison the idea that the term limits us. That it means we only tell stories for Canadian kids, or (worse) that we only get published here because we are Canadian. We publish and sell everywhere, and names such as Oppel, Gay, Klassen, Ellis, Nielsen, (and so many more) are debated in school yards and reading clubs around the world. (Oh, yeah, did I forget Franklin, Munsch and Scaredy Squirrel?)

Alice Munro's Nobel win proves that you can find the universal in the local. It also proves the rest of the world recognizes what we've got here.

This isn't an "us vs. them" rant about kids writers vs. adult writers. I'll be hosting the Giller Lite Bash in a couple of weeks and just like good writing, wherever it exits. We are all separate parts of an incredibly rich world.

So, time to celebrate all of us!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bearded Bosox

I'm not a huge fan of the Red Sox, but I love those beards!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Land of the Silver Birch!

Flambé and the 
Tokyo Treasure has been nominated for the Silver Birch Award for Fiction!

Canada has such a rich and varied collection of writers and illustrators. Check out the list here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The GREAT Roy Peterson

I'm not sure how I missed the news that Roy Peterson died at the end of September but there was a glowing and much deserved tribute in today's Globe and Mail.

Sad news, but a chance to remember one of my absolute heroes.

When I was younger, I was given a copy of his book Blood, Sweat and Bears. Peterson did the cartoons, and Stanley Burke wrote the text.

Peterson's mastery of line, shadow (cross-hatching that would make angel's weep) and his sense of fun inspired me to try drawing my own cartoons. I've never even come close.

I mean, just look at how much is going on in this one!

I love the Alan Eagleson caricature, flipping the bird. If you ever read my book Shadrin Has Scored for Russia, you'll see dozens of 'homages' to this book in my drawings.

This one if possibly my fave. So simple, but so thoroughly considered. Each details is perfect, from the curve of the stick, to the way the wood of the trophy has clearly been chewed instead of sculpted. Wow.

I still have my copy of Blood, Sweat and Bears, one of my most treasured possessions. And I still pull it out and study it, and steal from it for my own work.

Roy Peterson, thanks.

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Qoodle of Margaret Atwood

Magaret Atwood was on CBC Radio's Q today.

The good folks on the show asked me to whip up a Qoodle of Ms. Atwood and her dystopian world.

Here's what I came up with.

Friday, September 20, 2013

My Q Opening Essay

I've had a few people ask for the text of my essay - pro KidsLit essay- from the September 19th episode of Q on CBC Radio.

Here it is.

It'a always nice to come sit in the Q chair.

I'm usually holed up in my attic writing books.

Kids books.

I want to talk about kids books for a second.

There are lots of stories out there right now about Gillers, Bookers, Westons... so on. Canada Reads will kick off in a few months. Books are front page news, finally.


Did you know that the big Canadian Children's book awards were also announced?

Probably not.

Did you know that Jon Klassen - Winnipeg born, Toronto trained - recently won the Caldecott medal for "This is not my Hat"... the Oscars of kids books - and that one of his other titles was a runner-up?

Probably not.

Other countries seem to do a better job of celebrating these achievements. Maurice Sendak was a national treasure in the US. In England, "kids" authors sit on shelves next to "regular" authors, and receive about the same critical attention.

Canada stacks up against these countries with our Munsch's, Oppels, Marie-Louise Gays, Jon Klassens.

Where's our Canada Reads for kids?

I know what you're saying right now. 

Kiddy Litter - Too simplistic, simplified, lots of cuteness or goofiness.

Not true.

The same things were said about graphic novels just a few years ago. But once people began accepting those as a separate genre, and not books-lite, the snobbishness disappeared.

Anyone who think kids books are simple and silly hasn't read any lately.

You should.

Go check out

Click on kids.

And see what all the fuss should be about.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

More Bookmarks!

See you all at Word on the Street Toronto this Sunday.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Postcards and more!

Gonna be a busy September.

There's the amazing Telling Tales Festival this Sunday in Rockton, ON. (I am definitely the B-list of the line-up for this year!) If you've never been, it's a blast... there are old trains, buildings, kettle corn!

Then, on Monday, there's Storybook Confidential, an event for Small Print Toronto. You can even get me to do a custom tattoo on your arm! (I think other illustrators might stretch that boundary, but I'm staying clean).

And then next Sunday it's Word on the Street Toronto. I'll have my own booth again on Kids Street (KS-19), and I've started getting this year's batch of handmade bookmarks ready.

Here's a preview.

Visit early and visit often!

Saturday, September 7, 2013


As you may have heard, Neil Flambé and the Tokyo Treasure has been nominated for the John Spray Mystery Award. This is one of the many great awards that TD Bank supports through the Canadian Children's Book Centre - although John Spray himself backs this one!

Well, it's pretty amazing to be nominated and the group of fellow nominees is top notch. (Winner is announced in October at the big TD awards night.)

The nicest thing for me was the lovely description of the book from the judges....

"Filled to the brim with humour and wit, Neil Flambé and the Tokyo Treasure is a joy to read… Characters and location make reading the book an adventure, and the dramatic cooking battles keep the pace lively as the story develops … Sylvester's prose is delicious and Flambé is a character who will never spoil."


Sunday, August 11, 2013


Just got back from an amazing cottage we rented in Georgian Bay.

I did a little sketch as a thank you present for the owners.

Clearly an inspiring and restful place.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Day 6 doodling

I always doodle on my scripts when I'm working at the CBC.

I've been hosting Day 6 this week.

Grumpy Cat was one of the subjects, so I doodled the downcast feline going a little over the edge.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Love Mail!

Just got a great (surprise) package from Simon and Schuster.

Neil Flambe #4 has gone to a second printing!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Prize winner?

In my view a book is a dead thing after I'm done with writing it. It's just paper and board... until someone reads the story and created their own view of my world in their mind.

And I am always inspired by how that world comes alive.

So, this week breakfast with me was the "prize" for a group of school kids who competed in the Kids Lit Quiz Canada.

But they treated ME with a whole menu made up of Neil Flambe inspired foods!

Chai! (not poisoned... I think)
Grape and Cheese!
AND... they gave me a bag of home-made preserves!

I realized pretty quickly that I'd WON the prize!

Saturday, June 15, 2013


I'm often (always) asked at schools "where do you get your inspiration?"

With writing, it comes from the thrill of hearing and (I hope) telling an exciting story.

With drawing, it's a bit different. I try to explain to kids that my brain looks for patterns everywhere - in wood grain, in the curve of a dark hair on white tile flooring, in shadows in clothing.

I was at Hillcrest School this week, and saw a perfect example of what I'm talking about. This basketball hoop in the school gym is clearly a cat.

Here's what my brain sees... and then I just have to draw that face.

And the bars on the top could even be the antennae on an alien kitty!

It's not the only place I find inspiration, but it does illustrate the maxim that inspiration often finds you.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Neil Flambe in a pot

From today's visit to Second Street School!

Friday, June 7, 2013

daily doodles

Over on my Facebook page I'm putting up daily doodles. Little exercises to practise my computer drawing skills.

Here's today's doodle - just to show you what's up.

Feel free to LIKE my page when you are there as well.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Look what came in the mail today!

SO happy that Splinters was named a Blue Spruce Honour Book!

What makes the whole Forest of Reading program so special is that the students choose their favourites!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Festival of Hope

My buddy Steve Vernon (blog here) made a great comment at the Forest of Reading ceremony at Harbourfront this week. He called it a "Festival of Hope" because of all the great readers in the crowd.

He's 100% right, and not just about the next generation of readers and writers.

Just check out the next generation of illustrators!

Yesterday, Lois (who's just 12!) gave me this amazing present at the Silver Birch party in Whitby.

And she had a whole sketchbook full of equally great artwork.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Perhaps my fave letters ever....

I recently took a trip down through New York and New Jersey to get some buzz for the Neil Flambe books. I visited a number of schools and have previously gushed about how great Mary and Tricia at Books, Bytes and Beyond were as hosts. Wow.

After I visited Coolidge School, the kids went back to class and made (apparently of their own volition!) thank you cards for the bookstore. Look at the detail!

Inside were some amazing messages. My faves are "Dude, Kevin Sylvester is awesome!"

And "he was not boring at all"!

It was one of the best days I've ever had as an author.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The further adventures of Neil Flambe!

Just back from a whirlwind tour of New York, New Jersey, Phoenix, Saskatoon, Thunder Bay!

The "Flat Neil" I took along was posting on my twitter account the whole time (@kevinarts).

Here's a pic that we took while strolling along the banks of the River Saskatchewan. This is Neil with some trees that Beavers gnawed off completely. Neil thinks they would have tasted better with some seasoning.

And a new one from the NYC subway. Neil thinks it's named after him.

After such a long (and incredible) trip, I need sleep and Neil needs to retire... or at least be re-glued.

This week we'll be at the amazing Forest of Reading celebrations in Toronto!

Monday, April 22, 2013


One of the questions I get asked the most is "where do you get your ideas?"... 
My answer is always "from everyday things that make me wonder 'what happens next?'"
Here's a good example and a challenge for any wanna-be writers out there. 
I was walking to the great Bank Street Bookstore yesterday and passed this abandoned, and pretty expensive looking, running shoe on the sidewalk, outside a different bookstore and next to a big, black empty SUV. 

How did it get there?
Who left it? 
Didn't they notice they only had one shoe?
What happened?
What happens next?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New York City!

I'm heading to the Big Apple and will be stopping by Books of Wonder at noon on Saturday and then Bank Street Books 12:30 on Sunday.

Here's a pic I've done of Neil Flambe as some kind of statue. I will give it to the first person who visits me at the NYC bookstores (I'll do one for each day) and says the magic word. ATOMIC AVOCADO (You'll need to read Neil #4 to get the reference!)