Robert Heidbreder

Welcome to Robert Heidbreder’s Website!

Robert’s book, Song for a Summer Night: A Lullaby, has been nominated for a 2016 BC Books Prize: Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize!

Click the cover to learn more about the book!

Cover of Song for a Cummer Night

This website will be reorganized soon, but in the meantime please see below and visit these publishers for information on Robert Heidbreder and his work:

Kids Can Press, Tradewind Books, Groundwood, Fitzhenry & Whiteside and .

Crocs at Work

Cover of Crocs at work

It has been a busy time this last year. In addition to seeing Song for a Summer Night come into the world, I have had lots of fun with Rae Maté in creating a new book about those silly, busy crocodiles that many of you have already made friends with in Crocodiles say… and Crocodiles Play! We think you will enjoy seeing what the Crocs are up to now, when they go to work.

Robert Heidbreder books
Robert Heidbreder books


Robert Heidbreder

I was born in Quincy, Illinois, along the banks of the meandering Mississippi River in 1947, but I never liked to meander much myself. I preferred to hop, bop, thump and jump around, even in the Mississippi mud, and especially on my Grandma’s and Grandpa’s farm.  The barn became my secret hide-away, where Grandpa attached a swinging rope to help me hop-drop-swing-fling into my very own bale-of-hay house; the fields of corn became magical lands of “a-mazing” adventures and the farmyard mule became my stubborn, beloved pet.

Playing was easy, but reading was not. I didn’t take to books until Grade 6, but early on I embraced the invigorating bounce of poetry.  I recited the childhood rhyme ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear’, until my irritating older sister, Susie, ran around screaming in circles and I learned to spell and dance out the word Mississippi even before I could spell my last name. (No wonder with a last name like that!)

In Quincy Junior High School and High School, I finally came to love reading and writing and I became a member of the National Honour Society. The Latin Language bug bit me and I single-handedly tried to bring the dead language alive again by annoyingly speaking in Latin to my family.

In 1965 I attended Grinnell College in Grinnell Iowa, where I majored in Greek and Latin, wrote some poems for the college magazine and was elected to another national honour society, Phi Beta Kappa.

In 1970 I immigrated to Vancouver (where I still live) for graduate studies in Classics at the University of British Columbia. In 1975 I took my teaching degree from UBC and started teaching primary children, which I did for 30 years until retirement in 2005. In 2003, nominated by students, parents and staff, I won the 2002-2003 Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence. (WOW!)

The children in my first classes inspired me to write, and originally I wrote just for my classes.  I found their innate, natural love of language and language play matched my own love of language as an adult and as a child. Children helped me re-discover the childhood vision and laughter within.

My wife, Jane, whom I met in 1972 when I bought from her the Lewis and Short Unabridged Latin Dictionary, encouraged me to try getting my poems published. So I sent them off to Oxford University Press in Toronto. Three days later I was thrilled when William Toye, the first of my encouraging editors, phoned to accept the manuscript that became Don’t eat Spiders. Over the following years, I have written fifteen books and worked with wonderful illustrators and editors.

Now that I have retired from teaching – but not from writing - I spend my days cycling, reading, writing, gardening, counting crows and entertaining my own and neighbourhood cats with puppet shows in my garden. I also visit schools to get children and teachers rhyming and wriggling away. And I do talks and readings for writers’ festivals and associations devoted to children’s literature. My writing has taken me from British Columbia to Newfoundland and some places in between. My many presentations help to keep inside my rattle-prattle head the laughter, bounce and rhythm of childhood.


The Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence 2002-2003.

When I taught kindergarten and grades one and two, I was known as “Mr. H.” Here is a picture of me with one of my pupils, Spiro. He drew this for me.

Spiro's drawing

You can read more about my teaching and fun in my classroom recorded in a film, Mr. H and His Unruly Puppets elsewhere on this website.

Other bits of information that relate to me...

Profile in Canadian Who’s Who.

Visiting Fellowship, Queen’s University. Week-long fellowship in April 2004 to present to pre-service teachers—poetry, teaching and writing.

Winner of the 2002-2003 Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.
Author Profile in Something About the Author Volume 130 (Gale Publishing)

Entry about Robert Heidbreder in Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada. Ed. W.H. New (U of Toronto Press)

Entry about Robert Heidbreder in Junior Encyclopedia of Canada. 5 vols. Ed. James Marsh. Hurtig Publishers.

Elected to Phi Beta Kappa for academic excellence

1986 – present

Many presentations to children, teachers and teachers-in-training in schools and in universities (e.g., UBC, language and Literacy Education; SLAIS, Queen’s, Faculty of Education; U Saskatchewan, College of Education). Poetry readings in many schools and community events (e.g., TD Canadian Children’s Book Week, Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable). Appearances at writers’ festivals and workshops (e.g., Vancouver Writers and Readers Festival, Word Fest Calgary, Nanaimo Writers’ Festival).


Crocs at Work. Illus. Rae Maté. (Tradewind Books, 2015)
Song for a Summer Night. Illus. Qin Leng (Groundwood, 2015) Digital version also.
Black and Bittern Was Night. Illus. John Martz. (Kids Can Press, 2013)
Noisy Poems for a Busy Day. Illus. Lori Joy Smith. (Kids Can Press, 2012)
Shake-Awakes. Illus. Marc Mongeau. (Tradewind Books, 2012)
Crocodiles Play. Illus. Rae Maté. (Tradewind Books, 2008)
Lickety-Split. Illus. Dusan Petricic. (Kids Can Press, 2007)
A Sea-Wishing Day. Illus. Kady MacDonald Denton. (Kids Can Press, 2007)
Crocodiles say…. Illus. Rae Maté. (Tradewind Books, 2005)
Drumheller Dinosaur Dance. Illus. Bill Slavin and Esperanca Melo. (Kids Can Press, 2004)
See Saw Saskatchewan: More Playful Poems from Coast to Coast. Illus. Scot Ritchie. (Kids Can Press, 2002)
I Wished for a Unicorn. Illus. Kady MacDonald Denton (Kids Can Press, 2000)
Python Play and Other Recipes for Fun. Illus. Karen Patkau (Stoddart Kids/Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1999)
Eenie Meenie Manitoba: Playful Poems and Rollicking Rhymes. Illus. Scot Ritchie. (Kids Can Press, 1996)
Don’t Eat Spiders. Illus. Karen Patkau. (Stoddart Kids/Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1999—originally Oxford UP, 1985)

Other places you will find some of my writing...

Poems published in Do Whales Jump at Night? Ed. Florence McNeil. Toronto: Groundwood, 1990
Heidbreder, Robert. Editor. I Hate Dinosaurs and Other Poems. Illlus. David Shaw. Toronto: Houghton Mifflin (now Nelson), 1992.
Heidbreder, Robert. Editor for Waves reading series, drama and poetry stream. Houghton-Mifflin 1992-93.
Poems published in Houghton-Mifflin Math Series (1994).
Poems and author profile published in Ladybug Magazine (1995-96)
Poem published in Chirp Magazine (2008)
Poems appearing in Ladybug and Cricket, at various times &endash; most recently in Ladybug in, March 2016.

Awards and honours...

Noisy Poems for a Busy Day
2012 - Best Bets, Nonfiction, Ontario Library Association, Longlist.

Crocodiles Play
Chocolate Lily Book Awards (BC), 2009-2010. Nominee Picture Book.
Blue Spruce Award, 2010 Shortlist. Ontario Library Association.
First & Best Books for Children, 2009. Toronto Public Library.

Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, 2008. Finalist. Canadian Children’s Book Centre.
Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award, 2008. Shortlist.
Best Books for Kids and Teens, 2008. Canadian Children’s Book Centre.
First and Best (Picture Books), 2007. Toronto Public Library.
TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, Canadian Children’s Book Centre, 2008. Shortlist.

A Sea-Wishing Day
Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize, 2007 (BC Book Prizes). Winner.
Chocolate Lily Book Awards (BC), 2008-2009. Nominee Picture Book.
First and Best (Picture Books), 2008. Toronto Public Library.
Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award, 2007. Shortlist.
Ontario Library Association Best Bets Picture Book, 2007.

Crocodiles say….
Our Choice 2006, Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

Drumheller Dinosaur Dance
Blue Spruce Award, 2005. Ontario Library Association. Winner.
Chocolate Lily Book Awards (BC), 2005. Picture Books. Winner.
Canada Toy Testing Council “Great Book” Awards, 2005. Winner.
Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award, 2005. Shortlist.
Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award, 2005. Shortlist.
Shining Willow Award, 2005. (Saskatchewan Young Readers’ Choice. Shortlist.
International Reading Association’s Children’s Choices Award, 2005 (IRA-CBC). Shortlist.
Our Choice, 2004. Canadian Children's Book Centre.

I Wished for a Unicorn
Parents’ Choice Award. 2000.
Our Choice, 2002. Canadian Children's Book Centre Starred selection.

Python Play and Other Recipes for Fun
Our Choice, 2000. Canadian Children's Book Centre.

See Saw Saskatchewan: More Playful Poems from Coast to Coast
Our Choice, 2004. Canadian Children's Book Centre. 
Canada Toy Testing Council “Great Book” Awards, 2005. Recommended.

A Film

Mr. H and his Unruly Puppets
Directed and produced by Annie O'Donoghue
30:00 • 2009 • closed captioned
Available on DVD and VHS
Distributor: Moving Images Distribution.
This is a film about my teaching and working with children, created by the brilliant and thoughtful Annie O’Donoghue, when she was in Film at UBC, in 2008. Here’s a poster for the first showing of the film.

Poster from movie

About Mr. H and his Unruly Puppets

Robert Heidbreder —“Mr. H.” to his Grade One students—is a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for teaching excellence. Throughout his 30-year tenure with the Vancouver School Board, he developed a classroom where learning is challenging and fun. A cast of over 50 puppets, led by the wise wizard Alphaterwa and the unruly Stanley C. Crow, transforms the Grade One curriculum into a year-long interactive drama. Children learn to read because each puppet has a poem that is used to activate that puppet’s power.

Mr. H.’s passions as a poet and an award-winning children’s author are evident in the letters, clues and riddles written by Mr. H. and sent to the children by the puppets each morning. The children’s responses to the letters create the content, climax and resolution for their daily adventures under the watchful eye of the puppet master and teacher, Mr. H. In a climate of standardizing educational ideologies, Mr. H and his Unruly Puppets shows a refreshing counter balance, celebrating a style of collaboration with young children that truly exemplifies the art of teaching.

Still from movie