Monday, October 30, 2023

More than Words: Navigating the Complex World of Communication

For more than 20 years, I've been writing fiction for young people. From picture books up to young adult novels, crafting these stories has been my niche as a writer.

But one day ... I had an idea for a non-fiction book, all about aspects of communication. I worked on various approaches for the concept for a long time. Years in fact. I even put together several samples and outlines and made some very feeble pitches. (I didn’t know they were feeble at the time, obviously.)

Eventually, I recognized what the problem was. Writing it wasn't the issue -- I needed guidance with content and structure. Fortunately, I knew people who were experts on non-fiction. It was time to find a partner.

I contacted Natalie Hyde, who has more than 100 books to her credit, the bulk of them being non-fiction for young people. (Her fiction is fantastic too, by the way.) I ran the idea by her, she liked it, and our partnership began.

We worked on an outline and sample. And we reached out to artist David Jardine He liked the project, and found room for it in his busy schedule.

Together with some sketch samples from David, we sent our pitch to DCB Young Readers Publisher Barry Jowett and in what may have only seemed like an agonizingly long time we had his answer. It was YES. (This would be a sadder story if he’d turned it down.)

And now, it’s here, and my co-creators and I think YOU should read More than Words -- especially if you’re a young person, or even just a person! 

Here's why:

Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but you are constantly communicating, and with more than just words. Body language, hand gestures, facial expressions — they all have a lot to say. Are you aware of the silent signals you may be sending? How do you read verbal and nonverbal cues from other people?

Through this illustrated book, you will learn how to communicate effectively —virtually and in person —with more confidence and fewer misunderstandings. You’ll learn about active listening, speaking skills, empathy, conflict resolution, critical thinking, and more!

Then you’ll put your newfound knowledge into practice through individual exercises and group activities that will help you master your communication superpowers!


More than Words has been reviewed by:

 Quill & Quire: "MTW gives tweens practical advice on polishing their communication and critical-thinking skills to improve personal relationships and help them to be their best selves. This book could also guide neurodivergent tweens as they learn to read verbal and non-verbal social cues, or coach those seeking to overcome social anxiety."

49th Shelf: "...a fantastic resource for teachers who want to scaffold speaking and listening lessons for the year. This book is broken down into: body language, talking tips, active listening and online communicating. My favourite part are the individual and group activities at the end of each chapter with challenges a teacher can use to specifically target skills."



Friday, March 24, 2023

Standing on Neptune


Am I pregnant?

This question shatters the peace of seventeen-year-old Brooke Palinder’s life one Monday morning when she realizes her period is late. Although shaken, she’s determined to hide her feelings and go about her daily routine as though nothing is wrong.

Brooke’s boyfriend Ryan handles the news poorly, and she can’t bring herself to confide in anyone else, not even her best friend.

In an effort to distract herself, Brooke throws herself into a school project about Neptune, which leads her to some startling discoveries and a surprising sense of connection to the distant planet.

But by Saturday, she knows she must face the answer to the question that began her week.


Standing on Neptune has been reviewed by:

Kirkus Reviews: "By situating the story in this week long moment of suspense, Sherrard focuses affectingly on the intricacy of a teenager’s scattered yet profound internal emotional experience ... A tender, intense story capturing the vast scope of a young adult’s interior universe." 

Canlit for Little Canadians:  Novels in free verse are one of my favourite genres and Valerie Sherrard, knows how to use the genre to tell gripping stories. She takes us into the thoughts of teens as they contend with issues of teen pregnancy, shaky friendships, blended families, insecurities, and self-awareness. 

5 STARS from CM MagazineThe book’s title is an unusual one and comes from a science class astronomy assignment in which Brooke drew the slip labeled “Neptune”. Though Brooke’s working on the assignment provides her with moments of respite from thinking about the consequences of her late period, she also finds the planet Neptune to be metaphor for the enormous isolation she feels...

Atlantic Books Today: This is an insightful, thought-provoking and perceptive novel, a brief but impactful exploration of the complexities of the human heart.

Standing on Neptune is a Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books Selection, 2023

Standing on Neptune was the 2023 Moonbeam Children's Book Award bronze level winner in the category for Young Adult Fiction - Mature Issues.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

A Bend in the Breeze


The people of TeJÉ have never had a visitor. Not once. Not ever.

But they have been expecting one. For a long time, they’ve believed the story of the Long Awaited, a person who will arrive on their island and tell them what their fate will be.

So when eleven-year-old Pascale’s lifeboat comes ashore, they wonder if she is the one they have been waiting for all these years.

But Pascale cannot answer their questions. She doesn’t even know how she got there.

Until strange things begin to happen and Pascale is forced to wonder: Could she be the Long-Awaited?

Read the opening chapter by going here and clicking on the EXCERPT link! 





Imagine how thrilling it was to learn that Sheree Fitch selected A Bend in the Breeze as her favourite NB book! (Yes, there were tears!)


Awards and Accolades for A Bend in the Breeze:

Shortlisted for the Mrs. Dunster's Fiction Award  Remarks from Judge Leslie Greentree: Valerie Sherrard hits all the right notes in this beautiful story for young readers, set in an island utopia filled with gentle magic. Like all of the best children’s stories, A Bend in the Breeze is a joy for adult readers, as well. Themes of human frailty, and the importance of community are laced with compassion and humour, and brought to life through an irresistible cast of characters. Sherrard’s writing is confident, polished, and infused with warmth; the deeply satisfying twist ending deftly melds wit with redemption. This charming chapter book written for early readers is a delight for any age. 


Shortlisted for the 2023/24 Hackmatack Award in the English Fiction category. This marvellous program is operated throughout the Maritime provinces. Awards are given by readers' choice in four categories: Fiction: English and French, and Non-Fiction: English and French. Visit the Hackmatack website here!

 CanLit for Little Canadians: "You never know where a bend in the breeze can take you: here or there, away or to. And the bend in the breeze that transports 11-year-old Pascale Chardon to the island of TeJÉ might have done all those things. Think of A Bend in the Breeze as The Little Prince meets Island of the Blue Dolphin."

The Miramichi Reader: "While I was reading this book, it was as if I was on a roller coaster. I felt happy, I felt sad, and for some moments, I felt as if I had drifted away from my home and was actually on the island of TeJÉ. Then, towards the end I was hit with a message so powerful, I went back and read it again. It was then I realized that the message had been there the whole book. It was everything I think a book should be and more. Every aspect of this book was incredible, from the cover to the very last page. - Ella Breau" 

CM Magazine: Highly Recommended. There are a number of interesting topics to discuss: survival, education, community, mythology, empathy, marriage, death, friendship, envy, mindfulness, love, peace, conflict, honesty, and prophecy. Pascale leaves readers of A Bend in the Breeze with several strong messages about our society:

Chris Benjamin: My daughter and I really enjoyed reading this. The characters were quirky, fun, and interesting. The world Sherrard creates is believable, curious and joyful, yet full of human imperfection and emotion. There was magic throughout without it ever overshadowing the humanity and the ability to put ourselves in young Pascale's place. 



Please have a look!

A Bend in the Breeze


Friday, October 15, 2021


Corbin Hayes has felt alone for as long as he can remember. His mom’s illness means lost jobs, constant moves, new schools and friendships that never get to grow. There’s a gap in his life that’s been waiting to be filled.

So, when a classmate offers Corbin the talking bird she's unable to keep, he’s stoked.

But when things begin to spiral out of control, Corbin can no longer get his mom – or himself – through the dark period. At his lowest moment, he’s forced to do the one thing he fears the most. 


Honours and Awards for Birdspell

Shortlisted for the 2022-23 Hackmatack Award

Shortlisted for the 2023 Sundogs Award (MYRCA)

Shortlisted for the 2022 Red Maple Award

Shortlisted for the 2022 Diamond Willow Award

 Listed as one of CBC's Best Canadian middle-grade and YA books of 2021

An Ontario Library Association 2021 Best Bets Selection in the Junior Fiction category

Shortlisted for the 2021 Mrs. Dunster's Award for Fiction

 Reviews and Accolades:

From Quill and Quire:  "Birdspell offers remarkable insight to young readers unfamiliar with mental-health issues. At the same time, it provides rare validation for those children who struggle with it in their daily lives. Despite the gravity of the subject matter, Birdspell is a very readable book laced with humour and grace." Full review here: Quill and Quire 

From CM Magazine: "Birdspell is a deep and beautifully written title that once begun is hard to put down. Despite the tragedy of the circumstances, the novel is a compelling story of strength, hope and compassion." Full review here: CM Magazine

“... Sherrard does an excellent job of lacing humour into the story without making light of what Corbin's going through. She also keeps the story hopeful and optimistic and reminds readers that there's nothing wrong with asking for help. Highly recommended for middle-grade readers.” Rachel Seigel, Canadian Children's Book News

"Young-adult fiction has to do everything a novel for adult readers does and more: it must be accessible by and relevant to an audience that has no patience for homily. Birdspell by Valerie Sherrard succeeds beautifully in that regard, steering clear of didacticism. Corbin, the book’s teenage hero, navigates an unpredictable home-life that would sink most grownups. His pluck and optimism are inspiring.” — Mrs. Dunster's Award for Fiction jurors