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TIFA Blog

TIFA Kids: A Teacher’s Top 10 Picks

Published on October 12, 2021

Jeff Skrypek's headshot on a pastel rainbow background

Adventure awaits! The 42nd edition of the Toronto International Festival of Authors, coming up on October 21 to 31, 2021, will present even more free, virtual events for young people than ever before. To help young readers, educators and families navigate the expanded TIFA Kids programme, we recruited middle-grade teacher Jeff Skrypek to point out some highlights. But don’t worry, this isn’t homework, it’s fun!


My name is Jeff, and I’m a Grade 5 teacher in Mississauga, Ontario. As a life-long reader, books have always played an important role in my life; and as a teacher, I believe that a good book can change a student’s life. The following TIFA Kids events stood out to me for having an amazing and diverse range of authors and artists with such important stories to tell. Some may be familiar names, others may be new to you, but all are exceptional talents. Here are my Top 10 TIFA Kids picks, which I hope you will check out!

Welcome to the Cypher book cover10. Catch the Hip-hop Bug: Khodi Dill

Friday, October 22 at 2pm ET

As a former music teacher, hip-hop and rap have always inspired me in the classroom. The poetry and flow of hip-hop can be applied to any subject in school. That is what makes me so excited for Khodi Dill’s book, Welcome to the Cypher. Khodi’s book is a “vibrant, rhythmic, musical introduction to rap, beat-boxing and spoken word poetry for the youngest of children.” I am extremely excited to hear him read from his debut picture book and experience the power of hip-hop through reading.

Fay and Fluffy headshots9. Fay & Fluffy’s Storytime

Sunday, October 24 at 11am ET

One of the events I am most looking forward to is Fay & Fluffy’s Storytime. This is a Drag Storytime for Kids. Fay and Fluffy are renowned drag queens, and they describe their storytime as suitable for the very young, and the very young at heart, and I truly believe that everyone will enjoy this fabulous, unique and highly entertaining storytime.

Thunder and the Noise Storm book cover8. When the World is Too Loud with Jeffrey & Shezza Ansloos

Monday, October 25 at 1pm ET

Thunder and Noise Storms is a special book to me, as it helps explain coping strategies for children who are dealing with “sensory overload.” Coming back to normal routine while still coping with a pandemic has been very difficult on children, and this “story of intergenerational knowledge and mindfulness that integrates neurodiversity with Indigenous worldview” is a very important book for right now.

A drawing of a blue monster with a child's hands holding the page7. Illustrating for Children – An Artist’s Experience

Tuesday, October 26 at 1pm ET

In an event for the more mature crowd, illustrators Natasha Donovan, Eric Fan, Terry Fan and Miki Sato – all finalists for the 2021 Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Book Awards – share how the artwork in children’s books is used to unpack complex narratives for young audiences. As a fan of the creative process, I’m really looking forward to hearing these illustrators’ perspectives on the way picture books are shaped and formed. This talk is most suitable for adults.

Malaika's Costume book cover6. Malaika’s Costume with Nadia L. Hohn & Irene Luxbacher

Thursday, October 28 at 1:30pm ET

For parents of younger children, the Malaika’s Costume event is one that will awe and inspire. In their book, author Nadia Hohn and illustrator Irene Luxbacher take us through an amazing tale of Carnival, followed by a design-your-own Carnival costume activity and a dance party! Children aged 4 and up would particularly enjoy this event.

I'm Sorry book cover5. Sorry is the Hardest Word of All with Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Friday, October 29 at 1pm ET

Looking for an interactive event for children and adults? Look no further. In I’m Sorry, Flamingo is upset. Very upset. Potato is sorry. Very sorry. In fact, he is the sorriest. But how does he tell Flamingo? In an excellent book about mending relationships, Debbie Ridpath Ohi also takes viewers on a creative draw-along. Share your own artwork afterwards using the hashtag #TIFAKids. This talk will be an interactive drawing experience, and I can’t wait!

The Power of Style book cover4. The Power of Style with Christian Allaire

Saturday, October 30 at 11:30am ET

Christian Allaire, an Ojibwe writer, is passionate about fashion. He writes about how the power of style is not just the clothes on our backs – it is self-expression, representation and transformation. His powerful book The Power of Style: How Fashion and Beauty Are Being Used to Reclaim Cultures talks about the intersection of social justice and fashion. I am truly excited to hear Christian talk about his passion for fashion and how he addresses injustice and oppression using clothing. This talk is suitable for all, but would be enjoyed most by those 12+.

Frankly in Love book cover3. Love in the Afteryoon: David Yoon & Nicola Yoon

Saturday, October 30 at 4pm ET

This powerhouse event features David Yoon and Nicola Yoon. Nicola is the author of The Sun is Also a Star and will be talking about her new novel Instructions for Dancing, and David will be discussing his novel Frankly in Love, which is ALSO being made into a movie. Stop by this event for a rare look at a writing super-couple. This event would be enjoyed most by pre-teens, adults and teens. I also can’t wait for the movie Frankly in Love!

Walking in Two Worlds book cover2. Finding Their Way in New Universes: Wab Kinew & Kenneth Oppel

Sunday, October 31 at 12pm ET

One of my first truly magical reading experiences was reading Silverwing and Sunwing by Kenneth Oppel. As a result, I’m really looking forward to hearing him speak on his new book, Thrive, the final in an alien invasion trilogy. However, I am just as eager to hear about Wab Kinew’s Walking in Two Worlds. As a massive fan of Ready Player One, I personally love stories about immersive worlds and video games. This event is a must-watch!

Josephine Against the Sea book cover1. It’s a Mermaid – But Not As We Know It! With Shakirah Bourne

Sunday, October 31 at 4pm ET

One of the books I’m most excited about this festival is Josephine Against the Sea, by Shakirah Bourne. This tale, inspired by Caribbean legend, tells the story of Josephine, who suspects something is a bit off when it comes to her dad’s new love interest. Shakirah has also promised to talk about the Caribbean myths that inspired the book! This talk would be best for those 8 and up.

But wait, there’s more! To view the full 2021 TIFA Kids lineup, click here.


Jeff Skrypek headshotJeff Skrypek is a life-long book reader and current Grade 5 teacher with the Peel District School Board at Forest Avenue Public School. Jeff’s educational focus is anti-racist teaching, with an emphasis on social justice education.

Jeff Skrypek's headshot on a pastel rainbow background

TIFA Blog

TIFA Kids: A Teacher’s Top 10 Picks

Published on October 12, 2021

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