Illustrated by Werner Zimmerman

Winner of the CNIB's Tiny Torgi Award
International Youth Library White Ravens Notable
Governor-General's Award for Illustrations, Shortlist

This book was a rollicking, tongue-twisting delight to write! Kids love wrapping their tongues around wacky words and playing with sounds - and so do I! Making up words is a lot of fun too, and when it came to describing the various punishments the pirates cooked up for the children for taking the captain's canoe, I had fun twisting well-known pirate tortures into things that sounded threatening but silly enough for kids to enjoy. "Let's splinter their giddles and twickle their toes Let's freakle their treacly hearts!"

Original version: Whatever You
Do, Don't Go Near That Canoe!

published in 1996

Scholastic Canada, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-545-99766-9
(Also available in French)

A downright zany tale about two adventurous children who defy a grizzled captain's warning not to touch his canoe. Controlled by some magical force, the dugout whisks the children away through the night until it delivers them to an unknown shore and into the hands of pirates.

Halifax Regional Library Guide

Kids Can Press, 1997
Out of Print. To order a hardcover copy,


Julie Lawson is a fine storyteller, and her latest picture book is another winner.

Quill & Quire

The gentle softness of Lawson's lyrical style gives evidence of her love of the sounds of the language and her consummate story-telling ability. Contrasting sentence lengths and the clever use of repetition insist that the story be shared and read aloud.

School Library Journal

 Illustrated by Paul Mombourquette

International Reading Association Teachers' Choice
Sheila A. Egoff Award, Shortlist
Junior Library Guild Selection

The idea for Emma and the Silk Train came while I was peeling potatoes, half-listening to an author being interviewed on the radio. He was talking about the history of the Fraser Valley and, suddenly, something he said made me drop the potato, grab pen and paper, and scribble, Silk Train Wreck, BC, September 1927. What excited me even more was what he said next — a $5.00 reward was offered for every bale of silk found and returned to the CPR. Research into the train wreck and the history of silk trains led to the creation of my character Emma, a spunky kid who is determined to get hold of some silk — but ends up getting a lot more than she bargained for.

You never know what connections a book will have for its readers. After Emma was published, I received a call from a man in Tacoma, Washington, who told me that his grandfather had been the engineer of the derailed silk train. Another call came from a lady in Sidney, BC. She told me that her grandparents, living on the Fraser River at the time of the wreck, had found a bale of raw silk washed up on the riverbank. Instead of claiming the reward, her grandmother had used the silk as batting for a quilt she was making.

 Illustrated by Paul Mombourquette

Christie Harris Award, Shortlist

Yukon, Ho! The Klondike Gold Rush is on!
The discovery of gold in the Yukon draws Noah and his father north. Unable to leave his cat Shadow behind, Noah stows her in his pack. But is the Klondike a place for a cat? Along with thousands of other stampeders, Noah, Pa and Shadow make the arduous journey over the Chilkoot Trail, across Bennett Lake (where Shadow has kittens) and down the Yukon River to Dawson City, where Noah's father discovers that all the good sites in the Klondike have been taken. What will they do, with no money left to buy a claim? Will they have to sell off their gear and go home empty-handed? Noah's ingenuity and Shadow's kittens provide the answer.

The idea for this story was sparked by something I read while researching the gold rush for Destination Gold. Apparently, one of the stampeders had made the journey to Dawson not with mining gear, but with a scowload of cats and kittens. He was greatly ridiculed — until he sold them all to prospectors for an ounce of gold apiece.

Kids Can Press, 2002
ISBN: 55337-766-4
To order an autographed copy,

Lawson manages to introduce suspense, adventure, disappointment and, finally, elation.

Winnipeg Free Press

A wonderful historical fiction picture book filled with adventure and told with a sense of urgency and excitement. Noah's devotion to his cat and her kittens and a father's love and tenderness for his son are beautifully conveyed through a descriptive text and lively dialogue

CM Magazine

Orca Books, 2003
Out of Print. To order an autographed copy,

Lawson writes the story with empathy for Ben and adds suspense when the boy anxiously awaits his chance in the limelight Not only an enjoyable read but also a valuable literary link to a social studies unit on the Klondike gold rush.

CM Magazine

 Illustrated by Kasia Charko

Christie Harris Award, Shortlist

I "met" Arizona Charlie at the Palace Grand Theatre in Dawson City during my stay at the Berton House Writer's Retreat. He was a real person — a newspaperman and Wild West celebrity who went to Dawson City during the Klondike Gold Rush and built (in 1899) the famous Palace Grand Theatre. Today, in a beautifully restored Palace Grand, the show still goes on in the summer months (with an actor playing the flamboyant Arizona Charlie).

Ben, "the Klondike Kid," is a fictional boy who worships Arizona Charlie, and by practicing the same lasso tricks and sharpshooting routines, hopes to become just like him. When Arizona Charlie unexpectedly invites Ben to take part in his act at the Palace Grand, Ben is beside himself with excitement — until the moment of his debut. Struck by stage fright, he runs from the stage. His humiliation and dejection are short-lived, however, when he uses his lasso skills to capture a fleeing robber in the street.

This story provides a little biblio-therapy, a little history, and a lot of fun.

School Library Journal

Lawson uses her talent for marrying history with fiction to create a story that kids from any era will appreciate: Ben's dreams of fame and his devastation at failing in front of his hero and community are timeless experiences. In his cavalier treatment of Ben, Arizona Charlie also provides a good object lesson about the pitfalls of making heroes out of ordinary people, though he does redeem himself by the story's end.

Quill & Quire

 Illustrated by Yolaine LeFebvre

On March 3, 1992 a cougar was spotted at dawn coming out of Victoria's Beacon Hill Park and going into a residential neighbourhood where it seemingly disappeared. An extensive search involving two tracking hounds proved fruitless. The cougar was not seen again until 11:00 that night when a taxi driver saw it going into the Empress Hotel's parkade. A true urban tale!

Like many others, I was captivated by this story when it appeared in the local newspaper. I called the conservation officer who'd been named in the article and asked for more details, thinking of a possible picture book. Not only was he delighted to tell me about the incident, he took me along as he retraced his steps — from the first sighting across from the park, up and down alleys and streets in the neighbourhood and along the waterfront. He even walked me through the Empress Hotel parkade, showing me the exact spot where the cougar was cornered and tranquilized.

To make the story accessible to young readers and listeners, I fictionalized the child narrator, making her the daughter of the real-life conservation officer. (He didn't mind.) The illustrator, who travelled from Montreal to research the setting, included some "hide-and-seek" illustrations to portray the sense of mystery surrounding the incident. Where was the cougar between the two sightings?

Scholastic, 1998
Out of Print. To order an autographed copy,

Lawson is a master of taking a small moment in time and spinning it into her own story inspired by fact but fictional in its nature.

Victoria Times-Colonist

Written in the first person, the simple text rings with the authenticity of a child's voice. Facts about cougars are well blended into the straightforward storyline. It comes to a satisfying conclusion as the narrator watches the cougar being released into the forest. An extensive author's note provides interesting information about the actual event and about cougars in general.

Winnipeg Free Press

Red Deer College Press, 1992
Out of Print. To order an autographed copy,

 Illustrated by Sheena Lott

When Amy goes fishing and loses her first big catch, the day is spoiled. Or is it? By the end of the day, Amy has a real fish story to tell as well as a lasting memory.

A Morning to Polish and Keep is a blend of fact and fiction. Find out more.

the setting presents the genuine experience of a child on a fishing trip with her family. The story comes from a memory lovingly recounted by the narrator to express the magic of a moment in time during her childhood; a surprising turn of events brings the story to a satisfying finish.

The Observer

 Illustrated by Brian Deines

Facts: My husband was photographing trains in the Rocky Mountains when he saw a bear lumber onto a hopper car of a grain train. It's not uncommon for bears and other animals to wander along the tracks eating spilled grain, especially in late Fall, and this particular bear made the most of it, climbing right onto the platform. Two crewmen were walking down the train on top of the cars, doing a routine check of some sort, when they spotted the bear. They yelled and stomped, assuming that the bear would jump off. Instead, the bear crawled into the open manhole at the end of the car. When the engineer was alerted and started moving the train (slowly but jerkily) the bear got scared and bolted. When my husband met up with me later, he said, "Have I got a story for you!"

Fiction: I took the facts as related, then started to think. "What if the bear stayed on the train?"

Kids Can Press, 1999
Out of Print. To order an autographed copy,

Lawson's words have a lovely elemental temper, spare, chiming, and timeless.

Kirkus Reviews

Julie Lawson's simple, repetitive text echoes the train's rhythmic motion and lends itself to reading aloud. She gives her story a sense of authenticity, using accurate train vocabulary like "hopper" and "siding" and describing the train's voyage west with geographical accuracy a charming, purely Canadian story that will be enjoyed by audiences aged 3 to 7.

Quill & Quire

Lawson's spare prose is filled with imagery, rhyme, rhythm, repetition, alliteration, consonance, and assonance This story is best shared as a read-aloud to appreciate fully the language and captivating illustrations.

School Library Journal

Julie Lawson has written a book that fits into many categories: trains, prairies, bears, seasons and Canadiana among them the pattern of Jeffrey's admonition duplicates the pattern of the train criss-crossing the country, and his perseverance is both frustrating and funny.

CM Magazine

Fitzhenry and Whiteside
ISBN: 07737-2882-1
ISBN: 07737-5717-1 (paperback)
To order an autographed copy,

Very likely the most beautiful picture book of the season. The language is rich and resonating, the story gripping.

Victoria Times-Colonist

[From the beginning of the book] a child's attention is captured and as the eastern tale unfolds, continues to wrap itself around the reader. Enchanting in text and illustration.

The Observer

 Illustrated by Paul Morin

Ruth Schwartz Award, Shortlist
CLA Book of the Year, Shortlist
U.S. NAPPA Award for Folklore (National Parenting Publications Award)

The story is based on a myth from the Sichuan province of China, and explains the formation of the River Min. A poor boy named Xiao Sheng works hard to provide food for himself and his mother, always hoping that his fortune will change. One day it does — and in a very dramatic way. A magic pearl, two greedy neighbours, and Xiao Sheng's transformation into a river dragon bring the story to a satisfying conclusion.

The original story, part of an anthology, was one of many dragon-related tales my fourth-grade students discovered during a unit on dragons and Chinese mythology. Of all the tales, The Dragon's Pearl was a favourite. I thought it would make a wonderful picture book, and set about retelling it, while staying true to the original version. My editor, however, rejected it. The main reason? No justice! The villains go off unpunished, the boy turns into a dragon through no fault of his own, and his mother is left to grieve. My editor had a point! So I dug deeper into dragon mythology and, without departing from the original story, allowed the beliefs associated with Chinese dragons to satisfy the readers. I also added a note about dragons at the end of the book.

Other Picture Books

Out of Print*
Orca Books, 1997
ISBN: 978-1551431130
Now available on iTunes!

Out of Print*
Red Deer College Press, 1995
ISBN: 978-0889951198

Fitzhenry & Whiteside
ISBN: 978-0773728974

Out of Print*
Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005
ISBN: 978-0773758995

Dundurn Group
ISBN: 978-0888783042

* Check online or local used bookstores or your public library for these out of print titles.