Kyo Maclear

Kyo Maclear

Author
Toronto, ON
Publications

Mr. Flux (Kids Can Press, 2013)

Virginia Wolf (Kids Can Press, 2012)

Spork (Kids Can Press, 2010)

Julia, Child (Tundra, 2014)

Biography

Kyo is a self-professed "spork" — her father is British and her mother is Japanese. She was born in England, where she enjoyed a brief theatrical career in London’s West End. Little did she know when she appeared in The King and I that her one line — “I believe in snow” — would be prophetic. At age four, in the midst of a very snowy winter, she and her parents moved to Toronto, Canada.

Later Kyo attended university, where she did not study dentistry or architecture (much to the great vexation and sorrow of her parents), but instead pursued a degree in Art History. She followed this degree with another vexing degree in Cultural Studies (her poor parents). Alas, though she acquired several useful skills as a longtime student (e.g. pencil sharpening, binder organization), neither degree led to particularly enriching employment. This is just as well because there is nothing like being hungry and bored and underemployed to fire up one’s imagination.

In addition to writing for children, Kyo is a novelist and a visual-arts writer. She resides in Toronto, where she shares a home with two children, a cat, a musician and a lot of books. In addition to writing, she likes to listen to music, watch old movies, do yoga, make art and play around in her bright, open kitchen. Spork, the story of a mixed kitchen utensil and Kyo’s debut book for children, was originally conceived with her husband to celebrate the birth of their first child. Virginia Wolf, her second collaboration with Isabelle Arsenault, is loosely based on the relationship between Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa. It was written for those with occasional-sadness and for those who love them. Mr. Flux, a collaboration with Matte Stephens, is a playful celebration of change, unlikely friendships and even-unlikelier art. Julia, Child—her latest book and first (exciting!) collaboration with Julie Morstad—is a friendship story and an homage to the spirit of Julia Child. It was partly inspired by her first job working at a French pâtisserie and also by her two (slow-moving) sons, who both love gâteaux and stories in which children are shown to be infinitely wiser than the befuddled grown-ups raising them. 

Kyo loves meeting young readers and aspiring authors in schools and libraries. What makes her day: visiting a school group of 65 of racially diverse children who don't think she looks like an author when she arrives but who think she (they, we, you) do by the time she leaves.

Presentations
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Reading

A few years ago, just after Kyo's first book Spork was published, a teacher in Toronto asked her to come and visit his elementary school class. The teacher’s name was Mr. Pruchnicky. It was one of Kyo's first children’s author visits, the first time she walked into a strange new building and had a group of children sit and listen while she read her story and talked about the writing process. Of the twenty-plus children in the class, many were first generation Canadians and most spoke a second language. Given that Kyo's story is about celebrating difference, she was delighted.

As soon as she was done, a thousand hands shot up. There was not an iota of hesitation, no awkward lull, none of the self-consciousness Kyo had encountered among grown-ups during Q&As, when she visited clubs and readings.

Kyo has done a couple of dozen school visits since, but it still feels amazing to her. She has learned so much. For example, she quickly discovered that a question can be anything. For example, “I have a pet iguana”=Question. “It’s my father’s birthday today”=Question. “Your book was rad but Robert Munsch is my favorite writer”=Question.

In her presentations, Kyo begins by talking a bit about her background, her life as a writer and particularly about how a picture book comes to be (often beginning with a tiny little seed.) She talks about the importance of not being discouraged by small starts. She illustrates this through slides and examples from her own work. She then does a reading from one her books (sometimes with a puppet), leaving time to answer questions from students and teachers. The presentation ends with an art activity based on a specific book.

Note: Kyo has experience leading art workshops for a variety of ages and using a range of media.

Her entire presentation is 50-60 minutes long.

Presentation type: Reading

Recommended levels: Primary (1-3), Junior (4-6)