Grief and change

Please click here if you need help with this grief and trauma: Indigenous Crisis Support Lines.

This past week the remains of 215 children were found at the former grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. It was an unmarked mass grave on Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation land.

I offer my deepest condolences and heartfelt grief to the families and communities these children belonged to. Like so many in Canada, I have been in mourning myself, and trying to find ways to mark these lives and offer support to Indigenous friends, colleagues, and family members. I have been holding my children extra tight and letting the tears fall.

The reaction of many settlers in Canada has been shock. I was not, unfortunately, shocked. The TRC’s Missing Children Project says over 4000 children died at the schools. Some estimates put it closer to 6000. These 215 children in Kamloops are just the tip of the iceberg.

From the TRC’s Missing Children Project website

The work I’ve been doing on the Camsell Hospital the past seven years has also shown how easily and often Indigenous children and teens and adults could “disappear” from life and from the official record. And how hard it is to find that missing information and the remains of a loved one.

The sheer number of children in a mass, unmarked grave is what is shocking. It is once again rattling Canadians’ self-image as kind and polite. It is bringing up images of the mass graves at concentration camps in Nazi Germany during the Second World War. It is bringing up that word so many of us have danced around for decades: genocide.

We have all been through so much during this past year of COVID, and I think we’ve been cracked open by the grief and trauma of this time. We have seen and experienced firsthand in our own families and communities what it is like to not be at a loved one’s side when they are dying or attend their funeral. We have collectively experienced ambiguous grief and pain piled on pain. At many times we have gotten frustrated, upset, angry, and hopeless.

This is the experience of so many Indigenous families, communities, and Nations. Not just because of this discovery or Covid, but for decades upon decades.

When we have dried our tears, gathered up the tiny shoes, and returned the flags to the tops of the masts, let us not forget how much work we need to do as settler-Canadians. Let us stay cracked open enough to be present with this past, with this call for action from beyond the grave.

Here are some links to learn more about this discovery, the process, and the history of residential schools:

Bri Reads Alis the Aviator!

The talented Bri Reads has created a video about Alis the Aviator! First she does an animated reading, followed by a mini tour of the Palm Springs Air Museum (California), and finally a segment on making paper airplanes and testing them out!

This 25-minute video is a great virtual activity for teachers, parents, homeschoolers, librarians, and day camp counsellors. Enjoy!

Editing, writing, and publishing help is here!

I’ve always loved working with other writers and book professionals, but I had to step back a bit the past couple of years. Now my schedule has opened up again, and I’m excited to reboot my business!

This time I’m teaming up with friend and writing pal, Connie B. Dowell, over at

Need some support around the following areas? Drop me a line – I’d love to see if we’re the right fit to work together (or if Connie is your person!):

  • Copy editing and substantive editing
  • Grant writing
  • Coaching around writing and publishing
  • Query letters, synopses, and book proposals
  • Indexes and footnotes/endnotes for your nonfiction books

A little bit more about Connie:

Connie B. Dowell is an author of historical and cozy mysteries and nonfiction for writers. She is the host of the Book Echoes podcast for authors. After having two kids in less than two years, Connie developed a passion for time management and loves to chat author productivity and work-life balance. A former university writing center coordinator, she loves teaching other writers and guiding them toward success.

And me:

Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail specializes in telling hidden, inclusive histories for audiences of all ages. She is the traditionally-published author of four books, including adult narrative nonfiction, essays, and a bestselling nonfiction picture book. Danielle is also writing both contemporary and historical fiction for adult and middle grade readers. She brings empathy and encouragement to her coaching and editing clients – along with a very sharp eye.

Let’s make your writing the best it can be – then get it out into the world!

“You were of great help to me when I was just at the planning stage.   Thanks very much for your wisdom and friendly advice.” Tim Cole, author of Tight Floats and Tailwinds.

Amazing women fliers of WW2

This Remembrance Day, as I keep learning and writing about Canadian women veterans from the Second World War, I thought I’d share just a few links with you. I hope you find them as fascinating as I do!

For too long, women’s stories were ignored or overlooked, but luckily this is changing.

In the case of the WASP in the U.S., this was an intentional forgetting at the highest levels of the government and military. It took decades for former WASP to get the recognition they deserved, and the military honours they had earned. The history is coming to light more and more, in such fascinating documentaries as Fly Girls and one in progress called Coming Home: Fight for a Legacy. And, of course, at the National WASP museum in Sweetwater, Texas, which I visited in 2019!

From the WASP Museum in Sweetwater, Texas

We’re seeing more details on the “Night Witches” of the Soviet Union as well. Thanks to Dick Pickering for sending me this link to a recent article about these pilots!

And here in Canada (and across the pond in Great Britain), we had the ferry pilots with the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). It’s mostly this history that I’ve been digging into – off and on – the past decade, most recently for the Canadian Aviation Historical Society with a small grant from the Canadian 99s.

If you’re looking to toast this history, what better way methinks than with an adult beverage from B52 Winery or Lucky Girl Brewing in Michigan! 

Also, if there are young people in your life, you might consider passing along these books to get them hooked on this history!

Alis the Aviator: More Reader Reviews!

A book on aviation to delight big and small

This ABC book is all about aviation. The cut paper art is part of the charm of this unique book, but for young readers who love airplanes they will learn the A to Z of different kinds of aircraft. A must have for future pilots.

Barbra Hesson

An Alphabet book that will grow with your reader

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 chose 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


Habitat Halloween Spooktacular

Didn’t get enough creepy stories, songs and poetry this Halloween season? Support Jasper Habitat for the Arts and get grownup story time with creators from BC to Newfoundland!

I read my debut ghost story, “Ship in a Bottle” along with Marty Chan and many other talented and best-selling Canadian creatives!

Eventbrite tickets are $5 for this spooky virtual variety show. Tickets on sale until November 8th 2020. All proceeds go to this arts space in the beautiful Rocky Mountains!

Ship in a Bottle

I have loved ghost stories since I was a little kid, and have often gone on haunted walks of cities in the different places I’ve lived and visited. From New Orleans to Vancouver to Edinburgh, every city has its tales of heartbreak, injustice, and unfinished business – and spirits that have never quite been put to rest.

Recently I was inspired to write my very own ghost story – a fictional one, mind you. But like any fiction, there are kernels of truth and the edges of true stories and people that still haunt us.

If you follow this link, you can download a free PDF of the story (it’s about a ten-minute read). If you like it, please share the link and consider leaving a small donation so that I can keep writing ghost stories of the true and made up variety.

I peeked through the woods to make sure it was still there. That it hadn’t been a figment of my imagination, a trick of the eyes in the half light. But there among the grey-brown tree trunks and rocks in the woods next to our new yard was the unmistakable shape of a building.

FREE online reading of Alis the Aviator + printable craft

Like so many of you, my family and I are practicing physical distancing here in Houston, Texas, and it can be challenging to come up with activities to fill the hours that are fun but also maybe a teensy bit educational.

Until the libraries and bookstores and schools are open again, a lot of us children’s authors are trying to find ways to connect kids to stories (and keep them occupied for parents and guardians!).

Luckily we’ve got great online ways to do that now!

In that spirit, I offer you my short FREE VIDEO READING of Alis the Aviator through Fort Bend ISD here in Texas. (Along with lots of other books, including some Spanish ones!)

The publisher has also created this FREE CRAFT you can download and print off its website:

E-book copies of Alis the Aviator are still available if you and your kids want to see the glossary and bio of Dr. Alis Kennedy. And if you’d like to have the real, hard-copy book in your hands lots of retailers are still shipping books. The first 10 people in the US and 10 people internationally who email me at for a FREE signed bookplate/sticker will get one in the mail along with a note for your kid(s)! [If you see this message, there are still some available!]

Stay safe and well!



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

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.