Vancouver-based author inspires Chinese students to learn English through fantasy


As students eagerly search out ways to improve their English, too many of them are misdirected by programs that focus only on memorization. As renowned Harvard professor Eric Mazur points out,

Education is basically two things. One is transfer of information; the other is assimilating that information. Just one of the two is not good enough—you need both.

Queen’s and McGill-trained educational leader Gordon Allan has seen first-hand how many students are not assimilating the information they are learning. In his new novel, Edwin and the Quest for Drow, Allan presents a fantasy story in the spirit of Harry Potter that gently assimilates parts of speech, grammar, and word play.

As a former Headmaster of an international school and a current administrator at one of Canada’s leading day and boarding schools for boys — a school that is renowned for sending its students to some of the world’s best universities, Allan believes that language is something that is living and that ongoing reading and not memorization is critical to future success.

“Many parents get misled into thinking that excessive memorizing of vocabulary and grammar rules is the magic formula needed to learn English. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth,” says Allan, who has seen students who know more grammar rules than him but who can’t even put together one clear sentence.

By instilling in language-learners a love for reading while gently assimilating elements of the writing process, Edwin and the Quest for Drow incorporates what students learn into an enjoyable fantasy. Presented in both English and Chinese, Allan’s novel immerses second-language learners in the English language while providing both English and Chinese students cross-reference pages to help them confirm what they have read and enhance their overall comprehension.

Why did you decide to write this novel?

I was an English teacher for many years at a very prestigious private school in Montréal, Canada. Part of the curriculum I was required to teach included grammar and language nuance. However, most of the students were not interested in studying the mechanics of writing. I also discovered that there was little correlation between learning grammar in isolation and improved literacy. I therefore conceived of the idea of writing a fantasy novel in which the main characters were actually parts of speech and where their interaction included lots of word play.

So what exactly is Edwin and the Quest for Drow about?

It’s the story of a young boy called Edwin who is about to start his summer holidays when he is unexpectedly whisked off to an elaborate estate owned by a mysterious Uncle who is also a collector of rare books. We also learn that this uncle was a friend of Edwin’s late father who recently passed away under mysterious circumstances. When Edwin arrives at his uncle’s mansion, he soon discovers a secret room that contains ancient leather-bound books. When Edwin opens one of these books, he is transported into the book’s story where he embarks on a series of adventures to stop an evil character called Drow from re-writing the book’s story. At the end of the adventure, Edwin learns more about his magical power and what really happened to his father. He also learns that his adventure has not ended but only just begun.

How has the novel been received?

As an educator, I used draft versions of the novel with both native-English speakers and second language learners. Their feedback has been very positive and they all want to know if there will be a sequel.

Will there be a sequel?

Yes, the novel lends itself to multiple sequels so, if all goes well, I will be doing a lot of writing over the next few years.

Join Gordon C. Allan for the launch of his new children’s novel!
Where:  The Point Grey Golf Course 
When:   Sunday, October 4, 2015  
Time:    1:00 to 4:00pm.

GORDON C. ALLAN has been an educator for over 30 years. He graduated with two undergraduate degrees from Queen’s University in Canada and pursued Master’s studies in Educational Administration at McGill University. He has worked as a teacher, administrator, and Headmaster at a variety of Canada’s most famous schools. He is currently an administrator at one of Canada’s leading university preparatory schools for boys. Gordon lives with his wife in Vancouver.

“Gordon Allan’s knowledge, talent, and passion as an educator are palpable on every page of this imaginative novel. A uniquely creative book that serves a highly practical purpose. Edwin and The Quest for Drow will entertain, educate, and energize young readers and adults alike!”  

– DR. SHIMI KANG, Harvard-trained Child Psychiatrist and Bestselling Author of The Dolphin Parent: A Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy, and Motivated Kids (Without Turning Into a Tiger)

Krystele Chavez
Krystele was born and raised on the beautiful island of Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. Although from a tiny community, she was already traveling to North America at the age of 12 to compete and champion international public speaking competitions. Her global perspective has helped her branch out to discover new opportunities when she moved to BC seven years ago. At just 21, she has received a B.A. in Communications from SFU and has already worked for numerous organizations including Metro Vancouver, Canadian Cancer Society, Special Olympics BC, and the BC Non-Profit Housing Association to name a few. She is an entrepreneur, and handles social media for reputable brands. Krystele's passion is to help others find their voice and be heard, as well as inspire others to make the world a better place.