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 www.whatsinastory.ca and www.thetyphoonproject.org

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. “

Q&A with Dene Artist and Author Antoine Mountain

Antoine Mountain has received many awards for his art, community activism, and athletic achievement—including the NWT Premier’s Award, the Queen’s Jubilee Commemorative Medal, the Tom Longboat Award—and was recently inducted in the NWT Sport Hall of Fame. Mountain is currently completing a PhD in Indigenous Studies at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, but will always call Radelie Koe (Fort Good Hope), Northwest Territories home. From Bear Rock Mountain: The Life and Times of a Dene Residential School Survivor (Touchwood Editions, 2019) is his first book.

A Wholistic Point of View

Indigenous scholars are challenging the academic world from an Indigenous perspective. We’re redesigning the PhD so Indigenous artists can do visuals and stories, and not just written works. A wholistic point of view – much more complete.


Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail: When did you start working on From Bear Rock Mountain?

Antoine Mountain: I started five years ago – in May or June of 2014. I was at a friend of mine’s place in Calgary doing a series of paintings for an art show and somehow there was an image of a young woman that showed up in a painting of the northern lights and I just left it like that. When I woke up the following morning there was news of one of my niece’s daughters that was murdered in Fort Good Hope. So it followed along with the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s issue – the urgency of issues like MMIW really pushed me to start.

To read the whole interview, please visit the Hamilton Review of Books page

Good Night, Fort Bend: Alis the Aviator YouTube Storytime!

I was so pleased to record this story time for my son’s school district! Check out all the other terrific stories – in English AND Spanish – and share the love of books and stories with the kiddos in your life.

Alis the Aviator in Austin

Thanks so much to BookPeople in Austin, TX for the warm welcome!

Alis Goes to Alberta!

Audrey’s book store hosted the official Canadian launch!
Story time fun at the Alberta Aviation Museum

Shortlisted for Houston Readers’ Choice Award!

I was so excited to be shortlisted for this inaugural award offered by the Houston Public Library Foundation.

The city has been my literal (and literary) home for the past four years and I’ve been involved in everything from the local chapter of the SCBWI, RWA, Inprint, Brazos Bookstore, Blue Willow Bookstore, Houston Writers’ Guild, Houston Writers’ House and Writespace. While it’s a massive city that can be hard to navigate, I’ve managed to find amazing author friends, critique partners, and opportunities to grow and learn.

Libraries have been central to this. They are so important to communities – for literacy, yes, but also as a connector and place to gather – and I was thrilled to attend this fundraising gala to support Houston’s libraries.

Of course, the opportunity to hang out with local authors and bookish folks was a big draw too!

Good luck to all the finalists!

“Sure to inspire the next generation of aviators”: Reader Review of Alis the Aviator

Thanks to Storytime with Stephanie for this thoughtful review!

Oh the alphabet book…so, so many on the market so how does an author, illustrator or publisher set theirs apart from the crowd? Well first you tap the incomparable Kalpna Patel (aka @ghostfaceknitter) as your illustrator and then you choose a somewhat uncommon subject, throw in a little history lesson and you have a unique alphabet book sure to inspire the next generation of aviators. Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail choose real life pilot Dr. Alis Kennedy as her inspiration for Alis the Aviator an alphabet book full of flying machines, 26 to be exact. While this book is very interesting and will certainly appeal to those young fans of flying machines and adventure but it’s the illustrations that take it to the next level.

The incredibly talented Kalpna Patel creates the most gorgeous vignettes all made from cut paper. The detail in this book is out of this world. Each and every detail in the illustrations is intentional and precise. It’s vivid and playful and so engaging. If you want to see more of her work, you may already be familiar if you ever peak in the windows at Type Books and Type Book Junction in Toronto. Her cut paper designs grace the windows of these lovely independent bookstores and she also organizes the craftapalooza City of Craft.

Now back to the story itself, Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail gives us a lovely flowing rhyming adventure featuring different historical means of flying. This book is lovely for a read aloud or to curl up and learn more about flight. It’s the historical information and photographs of Dr. Alis Kennedy at the back that will extend the life of this book beyond the early years. Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail and designer Kelly Hill’s inspiration to include not only information about Alis, who not only a pilot but a veteran of the Canadian Navy Reserve and a humanitarian, but also information about all the modes of flight found in the book. Such an important choice to ensure this book weaves its way into readers hearts for years.

Teachers love Alis the Aviator!

It has been so heartening to hear from readers of all backgrounds. I love that teachers all over the place are using Alis the Aviator to connect their classes with aviation, history, and women’s stories!

This review just came to me from a kindergarten teacher and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

My kids love pointing out airplanes and helicopters when they see them in the sky – there’s something so magical about human flight! That’s one of the reasons Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail’s Alis the Aviator makes for such an engaging ABC book. Built around the aviation theme, this book offers kids (and parents!) a glimpse into the history of aviation in Canada.

Amazingly, there’s a different aircraft for every letter, prompting lots of potential discussion around the different types of planes and their functions. Kalpna Patel’s cut paper illustrations beautifully render the aircraft-along with landscapes around Canada-in a way that captures the child-like wonder inspired by flight; they are at once magical and accessible, pulling kids into the book and inspiring questions about the different crafts.

If that weren’t already enough, the book includes a biography of Alis Kennedy, one of the first Indigenous commercial pilots in Canada (after whom the book is titled) and a glossary that gives additional information about each of the aircraft mentioned in the book. So much fun packed in one little alphabet book! 

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.