Thornhill has written a number of books on nature, the environment and animals. Most recently, she wrote The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk, which won the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award in November 2017.
During the nomination period for the Canadian Children’s Literature Award, kids were given the opportunity to vote in the Fan Choice Award. Teacher-librarian Lisa Hignell introduced the contest to the school as a way for kids to get more involved in Canadian books.
Yu voted for The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk, which didn’t win the Fan Choice Award — that honour went to Ian Lawrence, with his book The Skeleton Tree — but she did get a prize of her own. From more than 4,000 votes, Yu was chosen to get a visit from Thornhill, an autographed copy of the book for everyone in her class, a $2,000 donation to her school library and $500 for herself.
It was “exciting” to have Thornhill visit the school on Wednesday, Jan. 17, Yu said.
“I get to meet someone new, and she’s visiting our class for the most time,” she said.
Yu’s prize meant Thornhill would be visiting Yu’s Grade 2 classroom for much of the day to talk about her books. But Thornhill also offered to do a presentation for the Grade 4 to 7 students, focusing at the end of the presentation on The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk, as well as give a talk for the children in kindergarten to Grade 3. She also went on a nature walk with some students, shared her “museum in a bag” and a sneak-peek PowerPoint of a book that will be released in April.
“It was a completely amazing day,” Hignell said. “She has such a passion for children and for learning … helping them to be the best they can be.”
During Wednesday’s event, Thornhill said what stuck out most for her was the number of questions the elementary students had for her.
“It’s just great,” she said. “If I can have kids be asking questions, I mean, that’s part of my job.
“They were asking me questions about my work, but the books themselves will make them ask more questions too. Which hopefully will lead them to read other books,” she continued. “And I need people to be attached to books.”