Alis the Aviator a top 19 picture book of 2019!

I was absolutely thrilled to learn that Alis the Aviator was selected as one of the top 19 Canadian picture books of 2019 by CBC Books. Just wow!

The book was so much fun to work on, and it was amazing to see it come to life in the creative hands of Sam Swenson at Tundra Books – and, of course, the incredible illustrator, Kalpna Patel.

It’s been amazing to see people connect with the words, images, and Dr. Alis Kennedy’s story at schools, libraries, and in the comfort of their own homes. The days where people send me a snapshot of the book out in the real world, I always have an extra boost and smile. Thanks to everyone who believes in this book and how important it is to tell these stories!

Shoutout to Shamrock School Library in Winnipeg, Manitoba for this amazing book mini golf they did with Alis the Aviator!
Thanks to storyteller extraordinaire Danica Lorer for snapping this pic of Alis the Aviator at a Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) public library branch.

Remembering Bill Wheeler

By John Chalmers
CAHS Membership Secretary

Wheeler 300

With the passing of William J. Wheeler, the Canadian Aviation Historical Society has lost one of its original members and one who made a great and lasting contribution to the CAHS. For 45 years from 1963 to 2008, Bill served as the original editor of the CAHS Journal, working as a volunteer in a job he regarded as a labour of love.

A talented artist, writer and editor, through his work for the CAHS, Bill came to know personally many important Canadian aviators through publishing their stories. Born November 19, 1931, Bill died at Markham Stouffville Hospital on January 21, 2020 at the age of 88.

In an article published in the Markham Economist & Sun in 2011, the year Bill was inducted as a Member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame for his contribution in editing and publishing the Journal, CAHS vice-president Gord McNulty wrote, “Wheeler’s unassuming nature belies his many accomplishments as a teacher, artist, author and encyclopedic aviation historian. His home is a virtual art gallery of fine renditions of aircraft in flight and albums of illustrations he drew for high-profile clients.”

McNulty’s article also stated, “Wheeler worked as a freelance illustrator during the early 1960s for the de Havilland Canada aircraft company, the Toronto Star Weekly and various publishers. He also illustrated a boy’s book on First World War flying – Knights of the Air – for Macmillan Canada. A bestseller, it achieved about eight printings in at least two editions. Wheeler illustrated 60 books in whole or part, often collaborating with his wife, Pat, also an Ontario College of Art graduate, and a distinguished cartoonist.”

As an author, Bill published three other books about aviation: Images of Flight, Skippers of the Sky, and Flying Under Fire. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts degree and became head of the art department at West Hill Collegiate Institute in Toronto. He held that post for 28 years until retiring in 1994. A resident of Markham, Ontario, Bill was predeceased by his son, Donald, and is survived by Pat and sons Douglas and Christopher.

License plate 5

The fifth member to join the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, Bill was active in publicizing the CAHS and encouraging fellow enthusiasts to sign up as members. Proud of his association, Bill had his membership number produced on a custom Ontario licence plate.

Bill Wheeler leaves behind a lasting contribution to Canadian aviation history in a legacy of publishing the CAHS Journal, which he developed as Canada’s premiere aviation history magazine. He is remembered and honoured with the CAHS William J. Wheeler Volunteer Service Award. His biography in the web site of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame can be seen when you click here and then click on William J. Wheeler.

CAHS chapters or individual members who wish to remember Bill with a donation can do so with a contribution to the Canadian Cancer Society or the Markham Stouffville Hospital at

Elsie MacGill Awards Honour Top Canadian Women in Aviation

Joy Parker Blackwood of the Northern Lights Foundation, award-winner
Jasmine Stevens, and Murray
Strom, VP of Flight Operations at Air Canada.

Air Canada introduced a new Indigenous award for male and female students enrolled in post-secondary aviation programs. Called the Indspire Awards. Jasmine Stevens is from Eskasoni First Nation in Nova Scotia.

Pictured here (R to L): Dr. Suzanne Kearns, Education, Maj Alexia Hannam, RCAF, Flight Operations, Kathrine Stewart, Government, Taylor Williams, accepting the Business Award for mother Wendy Taylor, Lyndsey Poynter, Engineering, Capt Mary Cameron-Kelly, RCAF, Pioneer, Lauren Egglestone, Rising Star, Dr. Joelle Thorgrimson, Rising Star, Joy Parker Blackwood, President, Elsie MacGill Northern Lights at the gala event on the evening of Sept. 28. Andy Cline Photo

The presentation began with special awards for young Indigenous women starting their careers in aviation. Jazz and Northern Lights jointly sponsor an award for two recipients, presented by Jazz vice-president of Flight Operations, Steve Linthwaite. The scholarships went to Doris Ipeelee, a student at the First Nations Technical Institute, who was inspired as a child when an RCAF helicopter landed at her elementary school on Canada Day. Another FNTI student, Zoie Michelin from North West River in Labrador, received the other award.

For more information about the organization, awards, and recipients, check out this Skies Magazine article!

Of Planes and Pilots: Guest Post by Anne Gafiuk

“Today, as I read Alis the Aviator with my cousin, Laura, and her 8-year-old nephew, Kyle, the three of us learned more about the different aircraft seen in the skies.  We took turns reading about each plane.  I told them that when I first started writing about WWII RCAF aviators, I had never heard of a Tiger Moth or a Mosquito.  I thought they were flying insects! 

As we read through the book, memories of men who I had the honour and privilege of interviewing came to mind.  I told Laura and Kyle about them.  George Hogg, Mosquito pilot.  Bob O’Connor, Mosquito navigator.  Hugh McGregor, Lancaster mid-upper gunner.  Bob Petersen, Lancaster rear gunner.  Cliff Black, Lancaster pilot.  Larry Robinson, Lancaster rear gunner.  And of course, Gordon Jones, Tiger Moth pilot instructor.

I met other World War II veterans because of Gordon and his Tiger Moth:  Rae Churchill, Albemarle and Whitley pilot.  Bob Spooner, Tiger Moth instructor then Typhoon pilot.

After reading the book and putting it aside to start the paper airplane craft I brought along with me from Danielle’s book launch at Owl’s Nest Bookstore here in Calgary, I asked Kyle what his favourite plane was from the book.  He said it was the Lancaster.  He told me that he and his family during their summer trip across the country visited the National Air Force Museum in Trenton, Ontario.  He was able to sit in a Hercules.  I suggested he visit The Hangar Flight Museum in Calgary and the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton, Alberta to see more planes featured in Alis the Aviator.

My cousin, a teacher (like I used to be), commented to me afterwards how wonderful the book was for school and she was going to recommend it to many of her colleagues who teach Grade 6 Science.  Always looking for connections, she thought about reports on each type of aircraft — and then of course, creating paper airplanes.

Alis the Aviator brought back fond memories for me — not just of the Tiger Moth and Gordon Jones, but also of the many men, most no longer with us now,  who trusted me with sharing of their wartime stories and experiences.

Gordon Jones and Anne Gafiuk (photo by Don Molyneaux)

Anne Gafiuk is a Calgary-based researcher, writer, and personal historian. Check out her work at and

Calgary Herald features Alis the Aviator!

“This ABC adventure is all about aviation. The cut paper art is part of the charm of this unique alphabet book. Young readers who love airplanes will learn the A to Z of different kinds of aircraft. A must have for future pilots. “
© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.