We are so excited to share our incredible lineup of presenters this year. Our selection committee has worked hard to bring you a diverse group of authors and illustrators from across Canada.

Meet Bookfest's 2020 Presenters!



Josée's Presentation:

Would you like to know how the illustrations for a picture book come to life ? Are you interested in finding out some ways to crank up your creativity and making some fun art ? Join Josée Bisaillon to learn about the wonderful world of picture book illustrations ! She'll answer those difficult questions: Where do ideas come from ? Is it easy to draw a horse ? What do I do if I want to become an illustrator ? Can we actually make a living out of drawing !?! And many more. She’ll present her travel sketchbooks, her ‘’playground sketchbooks’’ where she draws and paints everything that comes to her mind, and her ‘’picture book sketchbooks’ where the beginning of a picture book takes place. She’ll describe the steps she follows when making a picture book. You’ll see some authentic art and you’ll learn some fun ways to make your own art…Fun guaranteed!

As a young girl, Josée loved drawing cats and houses. She really enjoyed school and always returned home full of stories to tell. She liked being in the classroom so much that she pursued her education all the way to university, where she studied graphic design. It was there that she fell in love with illustration.

Since 2005, with scissors and brushes in hand, Josée has illustrated more than 30 children’s books, as well as magazines and newspapers for adults, all around the world.

Josée lives just outside of Montreal with her spouse, their 3 children one hairless cat and many paper characters.



Mike's Presentation:

Mike’s love for illustrative storytelling comes from an early love of reading and drawing while growing up on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.


Capilano College’s Commercial Animation Program in Vancouver helped Mike fine-tune his drawing skills and imagination. Work as a concept artist, texture artist and art lead in the video game industry took Mike to England and California. He has illustrated many books over the last 10 years including including the Tank & Fizz series, Scholastic Canada Biography series and most recently Shadow Island: A Sueño Bay Adventure.


Mike lives with his family on sunny Salt Spring Island.



Marianne's Presentation:

Mixing reality and fiction, using emotions as a starting point for a story... Marianne has many different ways of approaching writing (and illustrating!). From her quiet The Lion and The Bird to her wordless book The Cat and The Fish, with the details in Mr Postmouse’s Rounds and the whimsical In Front of My House, discover her books as Marianne shares her stories and her creative process. And have fun as she draws based on the children’s ideas, creating funny unusual creatures!



Jami's Presentation:

Monique Gray Smith will share her personal journey of writing three books in the last year that focus on Truth and Reconciliation. The books vary from a children’s picture book to the recently released Lucy and Lola, which is a novella for ages 9-14. Monique will also talk about and read from her Canadian Bestseller, for ages 9-90 called Speaking our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation. This will be an inspiring, positive and hope filled opportunity to hear about the journey of writing about one of the most important opportunities facing Canada. 


Monique Gray Smith is a mixed heritage woman of Cree, Lakota, and Scottish descent and is the proud Mom of twelve year old twins. Her career has focused on fostering paradigm shifts that emphasize the strength and resiliency of the First Peoples in Canada. She is well known for her storytelling, spirit of generosity and focus on resilience. In 1992, Monique was a year and half sober and a client in an Indigenous treatment centre when she received her traditional name in a Lakota ceremony called Yuweepi. The name she was gifted is Mistikwaskihkos, which when translated from the Cree language to English means Little Drum. 


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Jessika's Presentation:

Jess is very excited to share her background in animation and character design and the story of how she ended up in the world of kids books. There will be jokes, drawing, stories, and a peek at big projects she’s worked on. We’ll finish off with a reading of It’s Not All Rainbows, questions and some high-fives. She looks forward to meeting you!

 Jess is an illustrator, author and adventurous soul who loves to travel the world. She’s worked with Penguin Random House, Marvel/Disney, DC, ABRAMS, and many other clients. Her books include It’s Not All Rainbows and Why Can’t We Be Friends? releasing in 2020. When not illustrating Jess can be found long-boarding, lifting heavy things at the gym, walking her pup Charlie, sketching at a coffee house or laughing with friends. She lives in sunny Kelowna, Canada. 



Kevin's Presentation:

Join Kevin Sands, author of the bestselling Blackthorn Key adventures, and explore life as a child in the 17th century: danger, disease, work, play, the mad medicines of the apothecaries, and the secret codes they used to hide them!   

Since escaping from university with a pair of degrees in theoretical physics, Kevin Sands has worked as a researcher, a business consultant, a teacher, and a professional poker player. He lives in Ontario, Canada. He is the author of the bestselling The Blackthorn Key series. 



Spencer's Presentation:

Jordan Stratford... has been pronounced clinically dead, and was briefly (mistakenly) wanted by INTERPOL for international industrial espionage. He is an ordained priest, has won numerous sword fights, jaywalked the streets of Paris, San Francisco, and São Paulo, and was once shot by a stray rubber bullet in a London riot. He lives on a tiny windswept Pacific island populated predominantly by realtors and carnivorous gulls. He's the author of the Middle-Grade Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series from Knopf / Random Penguin, which is being adapted to a video game by Hololabs in Victoria BC, and has been optioned for television. He has been featured on c/net, io9, boing boing, WIRED, and Reading Rainbow and is represented by Heather Schroder, Compass Talent, New York.



Kathy's Presentation:

At the festival J will present a program  he calls “Saturday Morning Comic-Toons” which will consist of a handful of short comic book readings involving audience participation (similar to Reader’s Theatre).

Kathy has loved reading all her life but was almost thirty before she discovered she loves writing too. She has since become the author of over 30 books for young people and a number of short stories for adults. Mother of two, stepmother of two, and grandmother of six, she is still an avid reader. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys photography, jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, spending time with family and friends, and walking her dog in the woods near her home in Rockwood, Ontario.​

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@2019 Vancouver Island Children's Book Festival

          Original artwork by Cale Atkinson