In kidlit star Susan Hughes' newest book, young readers can travel all over the world, not to focus on what is different or surprising, but instead to find out the ways in which we are all the same.
Same Here! (Owlkids, illustrated by Sophie Casson), explores what unites us regardless of where and how we live, from the universal need for love and connection to the excitement of learning, enjoying special food, playing with friends, and more.
Hughes' extensive research is clear in the book, but the kid-friendly narrative stays light and dynamic, focusing instead on the languages of music, play, and family that cross borders and ring true for kids everywhere. Sophie Casson's playful, gentle artwork highlights Hughes' thesis perfectly, as kids are encouraged to look beyond their own backyards and develop empathy and interest in a global experience.
We're excited to welcome Susan, a former Open Book columnist, to the site today to celebrate the publication of Same Here with our Dirty Dozen challenge for writers. We ask authors to share 12 unexpected facts about themselves – and Susan did us one better, with a list of 13 fun facts that contains tears (both happy and sad), out of control fires, and a naked ravine visitor. Get to know one of Canada's bestselling kids' writers here.
The Dirty (Baker's) Dozen with Susan Hughes:
1. I don’t have a cell phone.
2. Our parents put my sister and I in ballet lessons when we were kids. After two (maybe one) lessons, the instructor advised I switch to eurhythmics classes. I endured the torture of group eurhythmics classes (with ribbons, bouncing balls, etc) every Saturday morning for about 3 million years.
3. Cool fact: apparently my eurhythmics instructor was Donald Hines, who wrote the theme song for, and was the pianist for, the long-running CBC children’s TV show Mr. Dressup.
4. I experienced altitude sickness when I entered Tibet by land from Nepal. Meanwhile, I saw Mount Everest—from a distance, but wow!
5. I have two siblings. I’m Child B. Child A (see #2) got to stay in ballet and went on to study dance at Ryerson University. Child C always complains that no one ever tells him anything and he’s mostly right.
6. I hated swimming lessons as a kid. Mom would walk me to the nearby school for my lessons, holding my hand, while big fat tears rolled down my cheeks. Today, however, I’m able to swim.
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7. I was in my early 20s, sharing a flat in a low-rise apartment building in the Toronto Annex. One evening, home alone, I decided to use our fireplace for the first time. Following my roomie’s example, I grabbed some newspapers from the tall stack handily located next to the fireplace, rolled them up as “logs,” arranged them in the fireplace, and lit them. The fire was moderately okay. Except after a while, I noticed smoke coming from the stack of newspapers beside the fireplace. Then the newspapers were on fire. Then the carpet was burning. Then the couch ignited. I had a situation going on. I tried not to panic.
8. I panicked. (See #7.) To extinguish the flames, I
a. threw flour on them.
b. hit the flames with a pillow.
c. tried to use the fire extinguisher. (Did you know the plastic thingy holding the safety release in place on an extinguisher must be cut off before you can squeeze the spray nozzle and it’s almost impossible to find scissors when furniture in your living room is on fire?)
Result: Higher flames. Smoke filling the top half of the living room. I tried not to panic.
9. I panicked. I
d. dialled 411. (Did you know the operator makes you hang up and redial 911 yourself?)
e. dialled 911.
End result: firefighters sped to the rescue and put out the fire. FYI: When my roomie got home, she was unhappy. (Do you know how much a Persian rug costs?)
10. As a child, I longed for a dog. When I was 8, my parents finally decided we could get one. I remember the moment my dad told me. I was so happy I cried.
11. A few years ago, while I was on a run through the local ravine, a naked man (wearing dress shoes) careened down the wooded hillside and onto the trail. I couldn’t persuade the only other person nearby, a tourist from Argentina, that this was unusual for Toronto (she mentioned being at the Pride Parade?) and to call emergency services but she let me borrow her cell phone so I could call 9-1-1. (See #1 and #9 above.)
12. I’m a long-time fan (mega-fan actually) of Bruce Cockburn.
13. I’m not great with directions. Or remembering dates. Or anything to do with numbers, generally. I’m really really bad at figuring out family kinship relationships. Please don’t ask me who my maternal grandmother’s eldest daughter’s eldest child’s youngest first cousin’s nephew is. (You could, however, ask Child A.)
Susan Hughes has written many books, both fiction and nonfiction, for children of all ages, including Carmen and the House That Gaudí Built, What Happens Next, and Off to Class. Susan is a freelance editor, writer, and story coach. She lives in Toronto, Canada.