(Age 7-10) For kids beginning to get comfortable with chapter books.

Orca, 1996; new edition 2004   
ISBN: 978-1551430720   

Silver Birch Award, Finalist

Ever been really, really excited about going on a holiday? Only to get there and discover it's not what you'd expected? In fact it's worse than you could have imagined?

If so, you're like eleven-year-old Samantha (Sam). She's thrilled at the prospect of spending a month of summer holidays with relatives on the west coast of Vancouver Island, but her fourteen-year-old twin cousins do not share her feelings. They make it clear she's a nuisance and tease her relentlessly, calling her "Gullible" when she falls for one tall tale after another. Sam ends up being left to her own devices and having plenty of opportunities to explore — which gets her into more trouble than not. The day she comes face-to-face with a cougar and her two cubs proves to be a turning point, and inspires her to learn as much as she can about the elusive animals. When she and her cousins, "the Horribles," find themselves in danger, she knows exactly what to do. And later, when she's able to best them at their own game, the victory is all hers.

The Story Behind the Story

Cougar Cove began as a picture book and was initially sparked by an experience I had one night in late October when I was home alone, living in the woods on Vancouver Island. The experience was chilling, haunting and awesome! But I couldn't get it to work as a picture book. After countless revisions and rejections (about six years worth), I took the advice of an editor and decided to turn it into a chapter book.

At about the same time, a cougar wandered into Victoria and ended up in the parkade of the Empress Hotel. Intrigued, I consulted the conservation officer involved. Not only did I get the inside scoop of the Empress cougar — a story that eventually became In Like a Lion — I got reams of information and stories from the conservation officer — firsthand experiences that I could use in Cougar Cove.

Many of Sam's adventures are based on my childhood (and adulthood) summers — fishing, rowing and exploring the same area of Vancouver Island, a place that is home to a large number of cougars. When I mentioned that to an audience of primary children, a little boy said, "It should be called Van-cougar Island!"

Original cover
published in 1996

This is a very pleasant read and should appeal to animal-lovers, especially girls. It is also an excellent character study of a young, sensitive girl who has never been in wilderness country before.

CM Magazine

Julie Lawson's Cougar Cove is full of cougar lore. The most exciting part of eleven-year-old Sam's visit with her Vancouver Island cousins one summer is when she comes upon a female cougar and her cubs. Culminating in an exciting cougar hunt, this is a well-written adventure story with lots of island flavor.

Island Parent Magazine

Where to buy this book

Cougar Cove is available:

1. at your local bookstore or children's bookstore.
2. by placing an order with your local bookstore or online bookseller.
3. directly from the publisher, Orca. (1-800-210-5277)
4. as an e-book from many e-book sellers.

All four Emily books in one volume Penguin, 2010
ISBN: 9780143170853

"Credible and engaging." — Books in Canada

The four EMILY titles, part of the Our Canadian Girl series, are written for readers who are beginning to get comfortable with chapter books. Available separately or in one volume.

 Nominated for BC's Chocolate Lily Award

Nicely rounded central character ... doesn't allow facts to get in the way of good fiction.

Globe and Mail

Vivid historical characters with life, spirit and mischief-making qualities very real kids who can connect our kids to important events of our past. This is a super series, and an excellent concept.

The Daily News, Halifax

It's 1896 and Emily Murdoch lives a middle-class life in Victoria, BC with her parents and two little sisters. She becomes friends with Hing, the family's Chinese servant, and through that relationship, discovers the secret world of Victoria's Chinatown. She also begins to understand the disparity between those like herself who have so much and those who have very little, like Hing and the family he left behind in China.

Penguin, 2001
ISBN: 978-0141002507

Penguin, 2002
ISBN: 978-0143312062

Emily's favourite time of the year is coming up: the four-day celebration of Queen Victoria's birthday. Her excitement is tempered by the news of Hing's departure and by a falling-out with her best friend Alice — thanks to a snooty newcomer in their class. On the final day of celebrations, Emily boards a streetcar with her friends to take in a special event across the Gorge Waterway. As the streetcar rolls onto the Point Ellice Bridge, the centre span of the bridge collapses and the streetcar — packed with more than 120 passengers — plunges into the waters of the Gorge Waterway.

 Chocolate Lily Award, Shortlist

Hing's family arrives in Victoria and Emily finally meets Hing's daughter Mei Yuk, a girl her own age. Emily tries to teach Mei Yuk English and, after a rocky start, the two girls become fast friends. But as Emily begins to include Mei Yuk in her social life, she finds things changing between her and Alice. Inspired by her independent-minded art teacher, a young Emily Carr, Emily learns the importance of staying true to oneself. She also learns the meaning of tolerance and friendship.

Hackmatack Award, Shortlist
Chocolate Lily Award, Shortlist

Penguin, 2003
ISBN: 978-0143014614

Penguin, 2004
ISBN: 978-0143016724

Summer holds out new promise with Emily's discovery of a nearly dead dog on the beach. With no one to claim him, it doesn't take long before Emily's care restores him to health. The dog grows so strong and healthy that Emily soon worries that he may be dognapped — a real possibility with the discovery of gold in the Klondike and the thousands of would-be prospectors arriving in Victoria to buy supplies — including a good dog — before heading north.

The Story Behind the Stories

The year before I signed on for the Dear Canada series, I was asked to write for Penguin's new series, Our Canadian Girl. For my book I could pick any time period and any part of Canada I wanted. And since I was moving into Victoria at the time, I decided to use my new neighbourhood, James Bay, as the setting — a great setting for kids both then and now, being close to the waterfront, Beacon Hill Park, Victoria's Inner and Outer Harbours, and its business section. Today, though, one does not need to cross the James Bay Bridge to go downtown; one goes by the paved causeway that replaced the bridge when James Bay itself was filled in for the construction of the Empress Hotel.

I chose 1896-1898 because of the local history. The Point Ellice Bridge disaster, the children's art classes taught by a young and not-yet-famous Emily Carr, the completion of the new Parliament Buildings, the celebrations for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, the start of the Klondike Stampede, the racist treatment of the Chinese who ended up in Victoria after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway — all were possible story elements that could be integrated into the story of a ten-year-old girl. And it was fun for me, having been born and raised in Victoria, to dig deeper into some of the local history I had heard about when I was a child.

Where to Buy these books

Titles in the Our Canadian Girl (Emily) series are available:

1. at your local bookstore or children's bookstore.
2. by placing an order with your local bookstore or online bookseller.
3. directly from the publisher, Penguin. (416-925-2249)