Jill Bryant

Jill Bryant

Kingston, ON

Bank Street Book's Best Books of the Year for Children's and Young Adults (2014)

Resource Links - The Year's Best (2013)

Amelia Bloomer Project List (2012)

Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award (Short-listed, 2004)

Our Choice List (2003)

Parent's Choice, Approved Award Winner (2003)

Parent's Guide to Children's Media Award, Honours (2002)




Jill Bryant spent her fabulous childhood in Elora and Eden Mills, Ontario — climbing trees, building forts, and riding a unicycle. In grade 3, she decided she wanted to be a lumberjack. Working outdoors, rolling logs in the water, looked like an awesome job for an active kid.

When she wasn’t playing outside, Jill read voraciously. She adored Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee and Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. She wrote nonsense poems mimicking the style of Lewis Carol’s poem Jabberwocky. Jill was a big fan of books by Guelph, Ontario author Jean Little and P.E.I.’s beloved Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Drama became a venue that allowed normally quiet Jill to surprise her teachers. On stage, she would shout, yell, and act very bold. In grade five, she played mean and grumpy Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Teachers kept choosing Jill’s stories to print in the school’s newsletter. At first this caused her some embarrassment — why me? — but in time Jill realized that writing was a great skill and something she enjoyed.

At university, Jill studied English literature and drama. After earning an arts degree, she set off for Europe. Jill and her travel partner travelled by car, bus, and train from England to India, recording their adventures in journal entries and detailed letters. Ten months later, the pair continued backpacking through parts of Southeast Asia, before spending a year teaching English in Japan.

Jill established a career as an editor, but the lure of writing was strong. It wasn’t long before she started writing books for children whenever she could squeeze in some time. Jill is the author of 16 non-fiction books, including Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs, Dazzling Women Designers, Amazing Women Athletes — all from The Women’s Hall of Fame series. Jill has also written several activity books including Backyard Circus, Making Shadow Puppets, and Sew Your Own Bean Bag Friends.

She was based in Nova Scotia when some of her early books were published. Then, after several years living and working abroad, in the U.S., England, and Germany, Jill settled in Kingston, Ontario with her husband and two daughters.

Her advice to kids is: “Be bold. Be adventurous. Find your passion and go for it!”

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Backyard Circus

 Imagine the fun of creating your very own backyard circus! Let’s bring on the silly hats and the big shoes and try out some circus stunts to captivate the classroom crowd. Jill reads aloud and acts out sections from Backyard Circus, encouraging children to take part. Classroom performers walk the “tightrope,” juggle, dress up, and tell jokes. Jill stresses that practice makes perfect when it comes to polishing skills at the circus — and as a writer. A real crowd-pleaser!

Presentation type: Other

Recommended levels: Primary (1-3)

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Dig, Dig, Dig!

Using her book Phenomenal Female Entrepreneurs, Jill takes students behind the scenes to explore one of the first stages in the writing process: research. Together they compare secondary sources to primary sources and learn the value of conducting interviews to collect factual information about real people. Through a series of interactive exercises, students devise questions and practise interviewing. Looking at advice and tips gathered from successful entrepreneurs, Jill shows how students can use a similar approach in their own goal setting. Persistence and determination pay off.

Presentation type: Other

Recommended levels: Junior (4-6)

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Get Real

Can nonfiction writers borrow techniques from fiction to draw readers into a story with panache? You, bet! Jill demonstrates how to fill in the gaps that can arise in nonfiction narratives, despite meticulous research. The goal is a believable, true-to-life portrait of an individual that may just walk off the page. Then, by drawing examples from her Women’s Hall of Fame books, Jill encourages students to combine sleuth-like observational skills with memories from personal experiences to create catchy openers. This presentation also explores the importance of honesty and integrity in writing about real people’s lives.

Presentation type: Other

Recommended levels: Intermediate (7-8)

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Winning Designs

Using her book Dazzling Women Designers, Jill explores the ways in which design touches our lives. Students will learn what makes a design sustainable. Together, using PowerPoint slides and excerpts from the book, Jill and the students will examine some remarkable designers and their work. For example, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander is a renowned landscape architect from Vancouver who designed a rooftop garden long before they were popular. Canadian urban planner Jane Jacobs designed cities that put people first. Indian fashion designer Ritu Kumar supports a once forgotten livelihood by buying traditional fabric from village artisans.

Presentation type: Other

Recommended levels: Junior (4-6)

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Girl Power

Images from the media, messages from peers, parents, and others may make you feel like you have to act in certain ways. This presentation, which is geared for female students, shatters stereotypes and encourages young women to explore their interests, find their passion, and go for it. With an open, inclusive outlook, girls can aspire to holding top executive positions, breaking records in sports, and pursuing diverse fields in math, science, and design. Citing real-life examples from her Women’s Hall of Fame books, Jill shares inspiring quotes and advice from successful women.

Recommended levels: High school (9-12)