Brenda Gladman channels diversity in new book

Brenda Gladman shows her book with her daughter Nyomi and dog Eevie. Photo Randy Gladman.
Brenda Gladman shows her book with her daughter Nyomi and dog Eevie. Photo Randy Gladman.

Leaside is home to a new children’s author who recently published the French book Li et le Nouvel An spectalunaire! (Li and the Spectacular New Year!) in time for the Lunar New Year on February 10.

Brenda Lee Gladman has been a French Immersion elementary teacher and a teacher-librarian at Adrienne Clarkson Public School in York Region since 2004. She and her husband, Randy Gladman, moved to Leaside in 2011 shortly after marrying because they saw it as a family-oriented area perfect for their plans to start a family. They were especially attracted to the Bayview strip and its easy access to a variety of services and amenities.

Through her years in French Immersion, Brenda often found that materials from Quebec and France were too difficult for Ontario beginners. She sometimes developed her own materials and collaborated with a colleague to create books about celebrations from their own cultures to complement the social studies curriculum. But since that work is very time-consuming, she decided to take this year off to pursue her “passion project” about Li and the Lunar New Year. She created her small business, Joy Ink Press, with the help of her family to realize the project.

The purpose of her book is to fill a “gap in the Canadian educational landscape by creating inclusive French resources that cater to students of all backgrounds.” She explains that the vision behind her company is “rooted in inclusivity and accessibility,” ensuring that learners in various French programs can access materials that resonate with their identity, support their language development needs and expose them to different cultures.

Brenda also points out that when she was growing up in Quebec in the 1980s, she never saw herself represented in the media. She wants to change that for her daughter, Nyomi, who has a Chinese mother and a Jewish father, and for others from mixed-race families like her. The main character, Li, is based on Nyomi, who is now in Grade 5 in French Immersion at Northlea. She helped Brenda with many enthusiastic suggestions as well as with creating the company logo.

Li et le Nouvel An spectalunaire! tells the story of a seven-year-old girl who loves celebrating everything, especially the Lunar New Year. But when she receives less “lucky money” than she expected, she is disappointed. Over the course of the story, however, Li “learns to reflect on the real joy of celebration and finds renewed appreciation for her diverse customs.”

The vivid and eye-catching illustrations in the book were created by Nhi Luong, a digital illustrator based in Hanoi, Vietnam. She and Brenda collaborated completely virtually despite the 12-hour time difference. The book is aimed at four- to eight-year-olds and works well with the French Language curriculum. In addition to the story, the book comes with extras such as a map of countries that celebrate the Lunar New Year, a keyword list in Mandarin and French with images, extension activities in English and free printables, like worksheets and colouring pages, to facilitate discussion and further study.

The book is currently available online at and will soon be for sale at selected book stores. Brenda will also be doing author visits to schools in Toronto and York Region. In addition, she says that Li et le Nouvel An spectalunaire is the first in their heritage collection, and she would “love to create more books that feature other celebrations” to reflect our society as well as the “very inclusive,” “amazing” and supportive neighbourhood of Leaside.

About Janis Fertuck 108 Articles
Janis Fertuck is a retired English teacher who spent the last 30 years of her career at Leaside High School. She enjoys writing about the vibrant Leaside community where she and her husband have lived for 22 years. Her other favourite pursuits include a part-time job at a boutique on Bayview and volunteering with the Bayview Pixies.