MULDER, Michelle

Author Tags: Kidlit & Young Adult

Michelle Mulder of Victoria has cycled across Canada, taught creative writing in the Arctic and married the Argentine pen pal she'd been writing to since age fourteen.

Her first book in the Kids’ Power series, Maggie and the Chocolate War (Second Story), recalled a children’s ‘strike’ against chocolate in Canada following World War II.

In a similar vein, Yeny and the Children for Peace (Second Story $14.95) recalls the Children’s Peace Movement in Colombia. It’s the story of nine-year-old Yeny and her family who are forced to move to Bogota to escape from armed groups that have attacked their mountain village. When Yeny wants to participate in organizing a peace carnival, her parents are afraid for her. The story is based on the Colombian Children’s Movement for Peace which organized one full day without military activity or kidnappings throughout the country on October 25, 1996.

Ten-year-old Rosario Ramirez is teased for her inability to speak English when she arrives in Canada with her Mexican parents who are political refugees, so she vows not to speak the new language until she can eliminate all traces of her Spanish accent. Trouble is, when she joins her family as labourers on B.C. fruit farms for the summer, she is surrounded by other Spanish speakers, so it's hard to improve her English skills. In Michelle Mulder's After Peaches (Orca $7.95), for ages 8-11, Rosario must come to terms with her fears about raising her voice when her closest friend José becomes very ill and neither José or Rosario's parents can speak English adequately to get him the help he desperately needs. 978-1-55469-176-0

Out of the Box (Orca, 2011) is Mulder's tale of thirteen-year-old Ellie, who finds an Argentine instrument called a bandoneon in her aunt's basement, sets out to find its owner and ultimately uncovers family secrets.

The world’s landfills are overflowing, but perhaps with some revolutionary thinking the items we throw away can be transformed from garbage into a valuable resource. In Trash Talk (Orca, 2015) Michelle Mulder examines the history of garbage and how people around the world are creatively dealing with waste.

For young adults questioning the benefits of consumerism and accepting that leaning towards a more sustainable lifestyle is a good thing, Michelle Mulder wrote Pocket Change: Pitching in for a Better World (Orca 2016). She covers topics such as microlending, when the first coins were invented, can we live without money, and how to get to know your neighbours and protect the environment at the same time.


Maggie and the Chocolate War (Second Story Press $14.95) 978-1-897187-27-2 2007

Yeny and the Children for Peace (Second Story Press $14.95) 978-1-897187-45-6 2008

After Peaches (Orca Young Readers, 2009)

Out of the Box (Orca, 2011) 978-1-55469-328-3

Not a Chance (Orca, 2012)

Pedal It! How Bicycles are Changing the World (Orca, 2013). 978-1-4598-0219-3

Brilliant!: Shining a Light on Sustainable Energy (Orca 2013) $19.95 978-1-4598-0221-6

Every Last Drop: Bringing Clean Water Home (Orca 2014) $19.95 9781459802230

Trash Talk: Moving Toward a Zero-Waste World (Orca, 2015) $19.95 9781459806924

Pocket Change: Pitching in for a Better World (Orca 2016) $19.95 978-1-4598-0966-6

[BCBW 2016] "Kidlit"

Not A Chance by Michelle Mulder (Orca $9.95)
Review (2013)

from Louise Donnelly
Not A Chance by Michelle Mulder (Orca $9.95)

Every summer dian’s parents, who are both doctors, set up a clinic in the Dominican Republic, and every year thirteen-year-old Dian is forced to tag along with them, bringing the dreaded suitcases of donated, outdated clothing that they’ll leave behind for the villagers when they return to Canada. New clothing, she has learned, “exploits poor workers and impacts the environment.”

At the outset of Not A Chance, it’s the end of June and Dian is once again decked out in lame secondhand clothes — this time it’s polka dots and tie-dye — and there’s no one but her Dominican friend Aracely to get her through the endless days far from home.

But this year Dian won’t be able to count on Aracely. As the girls head down to the river — not to swim (Aracely hasn’t done that for two years, not since she became a woman) but to have some privacy — Aracely whispers a secret. She’s getting married.

Vincente — she speaks his name in the same hushed tone Dian’s best friend back in Canada uses when she talks about her boyfriend — has left to find work in a Santo Domingo mine. When he returns he’ll have money to buy a house and land. By then, Aracely will be fifteen and of legal age to marry.
This is hardly what Dian — or her parents — had planned for the gifted Aracely! After seeing her drawings of medicinal plants, Dian’s father envisioned Aracely would come to Canada, augmenting her grandmother’s teaching of traditional healing with an academic education, then return to the Dominican Republic to make a difference in her village.

Dian also had imagined Aracely thriving in Canada, discovering girls could do anything boys could, that women weren’t weak, or subject to the subservient role envisioned for them by the village church.

Dian wants Aracely to have choices. She wanted her Caribbean friend to have the freedom to choose her own path. So shouldn’t Dian and her parents respect Aracely’s dreams of having a husband who loves her, despite the childhood scars on her face. Shouldn’t the well-meaning Canadians also respect Aracely’s hopes for children, a house, some land? in her own little village?
Author Michelle Mulder is married to the Argentine pen pal she’d written to since she was fourteen. As a 19-year-old, she volunteered in the Dominican Republic digging a water pipeline. The cultural shock of witnessing the struggle there for basics such as water, education, food and clothing have now given rise to Not A Chance, in keeping with Mulder’s previous young adult novels about the challenges and benefits of cross-culturalism, including Out of the Box and After Peaches.

Her next book, Pedal It! How Bicycles are Changing the World (Orca $19.95), is a history of a mode of transportation that can power computers, reduce pollution, promote health and is perhaps still the quickest way to get a package to its destination across a busy city.

Chance 978-1-4598-0216-2;
Pedal 978-1-4598-0219-3

Pedal It!: How Bicycles Are Changing The World
Review (2013)

Four wheels bad, two wheels good.

It’s now virtuous for people to ride bicycles in the city, as well as in the country, so one can’t argue with the timing of Michelle Mulder’s Pedal It!: How Bicycles Are Changing The World (Orca $19.95).

Bikes have been changing lives since the early 1800s. When bicycles were first mass produced, suffragists soon recognized the potential for solo transportation to serve as a catalyst for the emancipation of women. Herself an avid cyclist, the great singer Sarah Bernhardt said, “The bicycle is on the way to transforming our way of life more deeply than you might think. All these young women and girls who are devouring space are refusing domestic family life.”

American’s leading feminist in her day, Susan B. Anthony wrote, “I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It provides a woman with a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can’t get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

But women represent only half a mankind; Mulder’s overview looks at the whole enchilada, showing multiple uses. At a bicycle-powered movie theatre in Vilnius, Lithuania, for example, volunteer pedalers power the projector. When they get tired, they ring the bell, and another movie watcher takes over. “These days,” Mulder writes, “bicycles represent not wealth or poverty but good thinking.”

Cargo bikes can carry enormous loads. Bikes in the developing world are being used to power computers or sharpen knives. And two-wheelers can be remarkably durable. After she bought her first bike at age fifteen, Mulder rode it for almost twenty years, including a bike trip across Canada. Then she donated it to Recyclistas, a Victoria organization that gives new life to old parts. “I like to imagine pieces of my old bicycle riding around Victoria and maybe even retracing my steps across the country,” she says.

[BCBW 2013]