Wise and wordy Sally Lee Baker weaves wicked words in Toni Tanager, the latest instalment in her series of alliterative children’s books. In doing so, she has also found herself the recipient of a 2019 Book Excellence Award. The Canadian-based Book Excellence Awards is an international book competition that acknowledges the work of both independent and traditionally published authors for excellence in writing, design and market appeal. This year, Lee Baker’s book was chosen.

With Toni Tanager, Lee Baker creates memorable characters, relatable situations, and introduces words that might be new or seem exotic to some readers, while teaching readers universal, valuable lessons. And, as with all the books in Lee Baker’s ABC series, searching the pages for a hidden letter (in this case, the T) is part of the fun. Recent reviews have called the book “charming,” a “read-aloud, illustrated tongue twister,” “complete with valuable messages and interesting trivial information on tanagers and tree toads; honest, clever and educational.”

Lee Baker produced her first children’s book during a writing class in college. Later, while working as a library clerk in the Yukon public school system, she found the experience of reading to children and paying attention to what “worked” for them was a huge help when it came to her own writing.

“[I have found] grade four boys to be the most interested and who would most often come up to me after and ask questions,” she said. As far as her process, Lee Baker said she doesn’t know what she’s going to write about until she has the words. “First, I go through the dictionary, Google, my own memory, then I start to write. Google is amazing!”

Another part of Lee Baker’s process involves the community in Faro, where she lives. She’s part of an arts group that gets together every Saturday afternoon to offer support and advice. “They are very encouraging, and every time I make a new book, they want one!”

Lee Baker self-publishes with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. For her illustrations, she uses a free program called Paint.net, similar to Photoshop. She said she’d encourage anyone to experiment and give it a shot because it’s free. Next up, fans can expect the 22nd instalment of Lee Baker’s series, Vinnie the Vegetarian Vulture, to be completed by September and ready for purchase this Christmas. In the meantime, Lee Baker will be the featured writer at the Stony Plain Library in Alberta during Culture Days this fall.

Toni Tanager and more in Lee Baker’s series can be found on the shelf of Mac’s Fireweed Books, or purchased online at Amazon.com. They can also be found in the communities, at the Faro Art Gallery, during the Christmas Tea in Faro and Ross River, and at the Yukon Public Library.

For more information, or to enter the Book Excellence Award competition, visit: BookExcellenceAwards.com