Pajama Press

Archive for January, 2013

Manitoba Young Reader’s Choice Award

Posted on January 7th, 2013 by pajamapress

Lately there has been a good deal of pessimism about the future of the publishing industry. Many of us involved with children’s books would like to refute that. Canada is home to a vibrant community of writers, publishers, librarians, booksellers, teachers, young people, and children’s book advocates of all kinds. Pajama Party would like to highlight those invaluable programs and people that are promoting reading among Canadian kids today. Today’s featured program is the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award.

HeroesMYRCAThe Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award, or MYRCA, was begun in 1990 by the Manitoba School Library Association to promote reading among an age group that too often loses interest in books. Each year 15–18 Canadian titles are chosen to appeal to children in grades 5–8. The program is promoted across the province, and in April any student who has read at least 3 of the titles may vote for his or her favourite. An award ceremony in the fall welcomes hundreds of students to celebrate the winner and two honour books.

Students across Manitoba are busily reading MYRCA-nominated titles right now. The 2013 shortlist includes:

Screen shot 2012-12-27 at 10.17.45 AMAgainst all Odds (Natale Ghent),  The Bedmas Conspiracy (Deborah Sherman), Blood Red Road (Moira Young), Box of Shocks (Chris McMahen), The Case of the Missing Deed (Ellen Schwartz), Dragon Seer’s Gift (Janet McNaughton), The Dragon Turn (Shane Peacock), Encore Edie (Annabel Lyon), End of Days (Eric Walters), Fly Boy (Eric Walters), Ice Storm (Penny Draper), Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes (Jonathan Auxier), This Dark Endeavour (Kenneth Oppel), The Tiffin (Mahtab Narsimhan), Timber Wolf (Caroline Pignat), True Blue (Deborah Ellis), Undergrounders (David Skuy), Witchlanders (Lena Coakley).

To learn more about the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Awards, visit www.myrca.ca.

Nix Minus One is “absorbing, emotionally resonant” —Quill & Quire

Posted on January 4th, 2013 by pajamapress

Available February 15, 2013

Novels written in verse are difficult to execute well. On one hand they have a tendency toward melodrama; on the other they showcase poetry’s inherent ability to communicate flashes of thought, emotion, and experience. For YA novels in which the protagonists are often dealing with difficult situations, balance comes from allowing the characters to emerge authentically without forcing their voices to fit the format’s mould. Nix Minus One achieves this balance.

Though he’s now tall and lean, 15-year-old Nix struggles to lose his “Fatty Humbolt” elementary school identity, make friends, and prevent his older sister, Roxy, from self-destructing. Nix keeps to himself, channelling his frustrations into woodworking and caring for Twig, a neighbour’s dog. But when Twig is endangered and Roxy gets wrapped up in a toxic relationship, Nix is forced to fight against his introverted tendencies and stand up for those he loves.

Author Jill MacLean effectively crafts the verse to create Nix’s voice and uses imagery to convey emotion. Nix’s acerbic tone when faced with uncomfortable situations (such as when he receives his report card or when Roxy asks him to install a lock on her door) reveals his struggle to fit in and his frustration over the differences between the person he wishes he could be, the person people expect him to be, and the person he truly is.

While Roxy’s downward spiral feels a little contrived, MacLean tempers this with Nix’s protective feelings toward her. The novel’s strength comes from the authenticity of Nix’s emotional evolution, Twig’s parallel development from a sad and lethargic dog to an active and loveable one, and the complexity of the brother/sister relationship. This is an absorbing, emotionally resonant book.

Melanie Fishbane, an MFA student at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Click here to visit the Quill & Quire website

Canadian Materials Highly Recommends A Good Trade

Posted on January 4th, 2013 by pajamapress

coverAs educators, we often tell our young students to look at the pictures when we read. The pictures reveal clues that will help us read the story and to better understand it. The images and text of A Good Trade complement one another to the point of poetic consistency. The text and the images are both complex and simple: concept easy, content load heavy. The prose is lyrical, playful and inviting to young listeners or readers with words such as “poppy” and “rut-filled hill”. Yet, there are potential story-stopping words too: “Jerry cans”, “borehole”, and “aid worker”. For every challenging word, however, there is a corresponding image, pictures simple enough to convey meaning and yet complex in colour and perspective. One image shows only the upper portion of Kato’s face as he peeks into the back of an aid worker’s truck to find many pairs of colourful shoes.

The message of A Good Trade is equally daring. Author and illustrator have created a marvelous balance of apathy and respect. When Kato presents a rare white poppy flower to the aid worker, she honours his present with her own: shoes for all his friends. One of his friends is missing a leg. An allusion to soldiers indicates that war and trouble are constants in Kato’s village in Uganda.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story from beginning to end. It will make an excellent discussion starter in social studies classes (as a supplement up to grade seven) and as a read-aloud  in K-2.

Highly Recommended.

A children’s author, David Ward is an assistant professor at Lewis & Clark College, Portland, OR.

Click here to read the full review.

Interview with Samaritan’s Feet

Posted on January 4th, 2013 by pajamapress

Kato, the main character in Alma Fullerton and Karen Patkau’s new picture book A Good Trade, is overwhelmed with gratitude when he receives a pair of shoes. Did you ever wonder why? What makes a pair of shoes so exciting? To answer that question, we’re interviewing representatives from organizations that have devoted themselves to shoes, kids, and changing lives. Today our featured organization is Samaritan’s Feet and our interviewee is Dr. Emmanuel “Manny” Ohonme, its founder.

What inspired you to start bringing shoes to kids in need?

Well, I’m the product of someone else’s generosity. I grew up in an underprivileged country myself; I grew up in Nigeria where people that lived in my neighborhood were living on less than a dollar a day, and shoes were a luxury.

We’ve also learned that over half the population of the world can’t afford shoes, and our conservative estimate is that over 300 million children across Africa and in different parts of the world wake up each day with no shoes. Further research showed that close to a million people worldwide are affected by sole-transmitted parasites. Many of them lead to different forms of infection. Some of them actually lead to death or amputation of feet.

And on top of that we learned that kids in different parts of the world can’t go to school because they have no shoes, and we felt like that was something that was unacceptable. We felt like that we should be able to solve that problem. So we set out with the really audacious goal to go see if we can at least inspire hope and hearts and reach the first ten million [pairs of shoes], and see where that takes us.

That journey started in 2003 and today we’ve helped over 4 million kids worldwide.

Where do your shoes come from?

Our shoes come from a lot of individuals. We only give children new shoes. 98 % of our shoes are tennis shoes and then the other couple of percent are school shoes that are more sandals or Croc-style EPA foam type of shoes. We get them donated through corporations, so we’ve had partners from Nike through Converse, to Sketchers, to Sears and K-mart and Wal-Mart, and different shoe companies are very generous in helping.

Many corporations sponsor shoe drives for us—either physical shoe drives or virtual shoe drives. Those virtual shoe drives allow us to raise funds so we can also procure shoes. We also manufacture shoes so that we can better forecast our needs in terms of gender or size mixes. That’s really grown quite significantly over the last few years with the economy the way it’s been; we haven’t been able to get as many shoe donations as we used to in years past, so now as part of our self-sustaining strategy, we ask many people to actually do virtual shoe drives for us and then those funds are used to manufacture shoes with our branded logo on them, or to purchase shoes from some of our suppliers.

Where do your shoes go?

Over 40% of our recipients are across North America. People always think that most of our recipients and customers are actually in the developing world, but we’ve found over the last four and a half years there’s been a huge increase in demand in North America. We’ve seen families having to make decisions every day: Do I pay the light bill, or buy groceries, or provide shoes for my kids to go to school? We’ve seen many families lose their jobs, so we started our Back to School national program, which this year helped over 50, 000 children.

We help children in over 86 communities across the US and then in parts all across East, West, South and even Central and Northern Africa, and into Eastern Europe, across the Caribbean, and in the Middle East. We span the globe. We’ve worked in over—I think it was 65 countries as of the last count.

Some people worry that an influx of donated shoes can disrupt local businesses and economies. Do you have any measures in place to protect or encourage sustainable economies in the places you work?

Absolutely. In Brazil, for example, all of our shoes are actually manufactured and produced within Brazil. We want a lot of our international locations to be self-sustaining. We want to make sure that the countries support their own, even if there’s such a dichotomy between the Haves and the Have-Nots. The Haves can help provide support to help meet the need of a lot of underprivileged people. We’ve helped blaze a trail and challenged a lot of the well-to-do people to help support them—because a lot of them just don’t know that there’s a need for shoes until we help open their eyes to the realities of people that are suffering because they don’t have any. And we’ve seen that be very successful.

In other parts of the developing world, places where we serve in remote, underprivileged communities, many of those people don’t even have stores, so there’s not even an option of being able to disrupt an economy that doesn’t exist. The other thing that we’re doing is really trying to create jobs. We’re looking for opportunities to actually start making and procuring shoes where they are in some of those local economies. We’ve been doing that quite a bit.

Do you have a favorite story or experience from you work with Samaritan’s Feet that you would like to share?

There are tons of stories. In the Amazon region of Brazil, where we’ve done work for many, many years, we went to this community on the other side of Igarape Mirim. Beyond that is a town called Boi Jadin—it’s actually a fishing community—where many of the folks still trade and barter. The kids have to have at least the equivalent of flip-flops to wear to school. Shoes are part of their uniform, and one of the families when we got into the town—we found out later on the father was praying that he’d have enough of an opportunity to trade enough so he could have the money to be able to buy flip-flops for his four children to go to school that year.

We walked into town, working through their local education program, and provided all of them brand new tennis shoes. And it was amazing—this father was just crying. They brought him to me and we talked to him, and he said, “You won’t believe this—I was just praying that I would actually have enough resources that I could sell enough fish that I could provide my children with flip-flops. And to be able to see my kids get up from the seats out there”—our volunteers wash their feet and put shoes on them and provide them with new socks and a new backpack—“and to see them wear Nike shoes, it seems like they’re walking out with a car.” He said he was watching a miracle happen in front of him. And to me that day that just struck me. Who would ever think that shoes would ever be compared in the same category as a need similar to a car? But to that fisherman that day it was like we’d given his family a Mercedes Benz. 

And to me it just reminded me why what we do matters. When we see the faces of these children lining up to receive something that they never thought they could have in their lives… We know we’ve given them good shoes, but the shoes serve as a vehicle for works of affirmation. They encourage children to believe in their dreams, and we’ve seen this come to fruition.

What is your organization’s vision for the future?

We are on a mission to help create awareness, because when we started nobody knew that footwear could be a humanitarian response and meet a real physical need. People didn’t know that people in places like Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, Peru, and Colombia, places like Cameroon, Burundi, and Uganda, are suffering from this condition called Podoconiosis. It’s a non-filarial type of elephantiasis. People didn’t know that people were suffering from this kind of condition because they have no shoes. They didn’t know that over a billion people in the world are affected by ringworms and hookworms that come in through their feet. People didn’t know that in northern Nigeria where I’m from, 40% of school-aged kids suffer from schistosomiasis [a disease caused by parasitic worms that can permanently damage internal organs].

I truly believe we’ve helped create awareness to the need for shoes. I know we’re going to reach our goal of ten million and I think after we do, we’re going to continue with one of the things that we already started doing as part of our sister organization we formed a couple of years ago, the Women Ambassador program. Beyond providing the shoes for kids to go to school, we’re actually in the process of building schools.

We built a school in the Amazon region of Brazil a few years back and now we’re trying to build a school in Burundi. We’ve teamed up with the President and the First Lady of that country. Their vision is to provide access to education to a lot of underprivileged children. During the civil war in that country they had over 300, 000 people assassinated in the genocide and over a million people displaced as refugees. Many people have come back now and education is one of the keys they’re using to unify them. The President has built over 2700 schools so we’ve committed to help keep building schools through our Women Ambassador division. We’re looking at building our first one next year and adding other ones to it as we see that grow.

We see ourselves manufacturing shoes in developing countries so we can create job opportunities for a lot of the underserved, underprivileged people, and so we can also show them that they don’t have to be dependent on the shoes coming from China—they have the resources to make their own shoes and meet their own needs locally. And we’ve started some other social enterprises and we see that growing.

At the end of the day, I think we’ve created a movement now. We have other organizations now helping to respond to the need for shoes. I was telling some of my colleagues in the nonprofit industry just a few weeks back when I was speaking at a conference, I think we should set a higher goal. You know, 300 million kids wake up each day with no shoes. I think that needs to be our goal collectively—that we can all come together and eradicate it, because that’s a problem that can be solved. No child should ever have to die because they have no shoes. No child should ever not go to school because they have no shoes. So I’m taking that as a personal challenge.

Dr. Emmanuel “Manny” Ohonme is the president and CEO of Samaritan’s Feet, which he founded in May, 2003. 

This interview has been edited for length.

To learn more about Samaritan’s Feet, visit www.samaritansfeet.org.

Last Airlift is CYBILS finalist

Posted on January 2nd, 2013 by pajamapress

Pajama Press is pleased to announce that Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is a finalist for the 2012 Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards (CYBILS) in the category of Non-fiction: Middle Grade and Young Adult.

CYBILS nominations are collected from members of the public each year for English or bilingual books for children or young adults published in Canada or the United States. Judges from the book blogging community will announce the 2012 winners on February 14, 2013.

Last Airlift has also been shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association Forest of Reading Red Maple Non-Fiction Award, the Red Cedar Information Book Award, and the Hamilton Literary Award.

Click here for more information about the CYBILS.
Click here for more information about Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War.

Last Airlift is one of The Nonfiction Detectives’ Top Ten History Books of 2012

Posted on January 1st, 2013 by pajamapress

In November 2012 The Nonfiction Detectives posted a wonderful review of Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch’s Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War. Now those two intrepid blogger-librarians have compiled a list of the “Top Ten History Books of 2012,” and Last Airlift shares the stage with titles like We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March, and Bomb: the race to build—and stealthe world’s most dangerous weapon.

Click here to view the full list.