Canadian children’s author Gisela Tobien Sherman died April 23 at the age of 69. Sherman suffered a heart attack while on one of the regular two-hour hikes she took near her home in Dundas, Ontario.
Sherman was the author of five books for middle-grade and teen readers and an active member of the Canadian kidlit community, serving as secretary, vice-president, and president of the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP). She was a two-time recipient of the Hamilton and Region Arts Council Best Children’s Book award, and her most recent YA novel, The Farmerettes (Second Story Press, 2015), was shortlisted for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People.
Born in West Germany, Sherman immigrated to Canada at the age of six, settling in Hamilton before moving to Dundas a year later. A lifelong love of reading led her to pursue a career as a teacher-librarian, though she continued to harbour literary ambitions. Leaving the classroom behind after 13 years, Sherman began writing and editing for newspapers, including The Globe and Mail, and reviewing books for the Canadian Children’s Literature journal. After taking a children’s writing course taught by Paul Kropp, Sherman became a published author when her early-reader novel King of the Class was released by Scholastic in 1994.
In recent years, Sherman discovered a love of acting, appearing first as a background actor and then in small roles in TV shows such as Blueprint for Disaster and Forensic Factor.
In an email to Quill & Quire, longtime friend and fellow author Sylvia McNicoll offered some insight into Sherman’s life: “An actor as well as a writer, she enjoyed acting and loved travel. She visited Africa through Eric Walters’s Creation of Hope project and sponsored an orphan. She liked hiking and cycling, was a passionate gardener and keen Scrabble player, but above all, she loved her family – husband Frank Sherman, daughters Becky and Jainna, and son Charlie and his wife, Alex. A volunteer Steward of Cootes Watershed, she died as she lived: a defender and lover of the environment.”