Pajama Press

Archive for April, 2013

Namesake Book Trailer

Posted on April 30th, 2013 by pajamapress

On May 1 Pajama Press is pleased to present Namesake by debut author Sue MacLeod. This time slip novel brings together the very different lives of two girls who share a name: Jane Grey. When Jane from Halifax finds an ancient-looking prayer book, she ends up face to face with the subject of her own history project: Tudor England’s short-lived Lady Jane Grey.

Click the link below to watch the trailer!

Namesake Book Trailer

Having trouble? You can also view the trailer on YouTube.

Interview with Sue MacLeod

Posted on April 26th, 2013 by pajamapress

S.MacLeodSue MacLeod is a poet and editor living in Toronto, Ontario. Her debut novel, Namesake, is a time slip title for teens about the friendship between Jane Grey, a high school student in Halifax, and Lady Jane Grey, the short-lived Tudor queen who spent her last days in the Tower of London.

Sue joined us to talk about poetry, prose, and the magic of characters.

 You are already established as a poet, and in fact were the inaugural poet laureate in Halifax. Did you always want to write a novel as well? Where did that urge come from?

I’m not sure about the word “established,” although I did write poetry first. For me, it hinges on the subject. A subject will compel me and will seem to call for one form or another—poem, short story, or novel.

Did you find the switch to prose challenging? Exciting? Surprising in any way?

Yes, all of the above. The amazing thing is the characters—they do become real, just as I’d heard other fiction writers say. It sounds like magic, and is. But I think it’s also a writer’s reward for Sitting There … and Sitting There.

But then you have cause for worry. What if you abandon your characters for weeks or months? (As I, for one, have often needed to.) They fade, and you have to resuscitate them. You can only hope they’ll come back to life.

Why Namesake? Why Lady Jane Grey?

As a child I read a historical novel about Lady Jane Grey, and it stayed with me. Years later I decided to write about her—not just as a victim, but also as someone courageous, strong and full of life. And I wanted to write about a contemporary girl who was those things too.

What interested me most was creating the two stories—contemporary Jane’s and Lady Jane Grey’s—and intertwining them. I had to build links between the two girls, links of emotion and sensibility that would connect them despite the “culture gap” of being from different times.

I’d read about Jane when I was ten or so, but by the time I started writing, it was a teen story in my mind. She was a teen—executed not long after her 16th birthday.

I also knew, looking back, that I’d had a romantic vision of Jane Grey in my own teens, partly because I was drawn to victimhood—I identified with it somehow. That draw isn’t unique to me, I’m sure, and may be common among girls, for a whole mix of cultural and personal reasons. I wanted to write through that, to come out on the other side.

What did you enjoy the most about doing research for Namesake?

I loved learning more about how people talked—colourfully, dramatically, often in full sentences that were long and complex.

But best of all was a week I spent in London one July, visiting the British Library almost every day. I sat in quiet rooms at smooth, dark tables, reading biographies and Lady Jane Grey’s letters and other writings, and holding 16th-Century books in my hands.

Finest of all, still at the British Library, was seeing Lady Jane Grey’s prayer book. It was in a glass display case (I’m not sure anyone gets to touch it). But seeing it in person is still much different than online—its compactness, its beauty.

Namesake’s modern-day sections take place in Halifax. Can you talk about your connection to that city?

I moved to the Halifax area with my parents when I was 14, and lived in Halifax for many years.

Lots of the places in Namesake are ones I know well. I used to work at the library on Spring Garden Road; I walked our dog across the Commons, and up Needham Hill. We lived in a Hydrostone house when my daughter was a baby.

What is writing like for you? Do you love the process—or the result?

I love them both, but find the process hard. I’ve heard that there are people for whom the words flow easily. I am not one of them.

On a good day a problem gets solved, a scene takes on a nice shape, or a character says something that moves things to a new dimension. These are wonderful moments. Or I just feel—more generally—the satisfaction of knowing that I’m doing my best to tell the particular story that only I can tell.

On a bad day, I figure anyone could write a novel if they were willing to work this insanely hard. (I suspect this may be true.)

I find the first draft the worst stage, because there’s so much chaos to deal with. It’s hard to sit there writing drivel and believe something will come of it. But first drafts do have their lovely moments too, with characters forming in broad strokes and plot lines starting to be traceable.

Do you have other novels in mind you’d like to get down on paper?

Yes, about five more. Right now I’m in the early stages of my next one—a teen love story set in present-day Toronto. There are political overtones. There are clashes of values within a family.

CanLit for LittleCanadians praises Hoogie In the Middle

Posted on April 24th, 2013 by pajamapress

“…While Stephanie McLellan’s text and Dean Griffith’s illustrations ensure that Mom and Dad are seen as engaged parents who really try to be there for all their children, it’s easy to understand how overwhelming it is to meet the needs of all of them, especially if their children may not be clear on what they need.  When Hoogie finally finds her voice and demands the attention of her parents, they immediately tell her and, best of all, show her that she is “the sun in the middle of the solar system” and the “pearl in the middle of the oyster.”  Hoogie and her parents may not know it but current research (Salmon and Schumann, 2011) suggests that, as a middle monster, Hoogie is learning the skills and strategies that will help her navigate adulthood successfully.  Stephanie McLellan and Dean Griffith probably didn’t even realize how successful they’d been in delivering that little message to little monsters and their parents everywhere.”—Helen K.

Click here to read the full review.

Nix Minus One is “Meticulously-crafted…poignant” —Atlantic Books Today

Posted on April 24th, 2013 by pajamapress

“This meticulously-crafted novel-in-verse is as finely-honed as one of Nix’s own woodworking projects. MacLean tackles many serious issues, artfully weaving together the different elements of Nix’s story into a poignant portrait of one boy’s journey toward acceptance of himself and the curveballs life throws at him….While Nix struggles to find his voice, MacLean’s impeccable poetry—spare, evocative, and affecting—enables readers to enter into his mind and heart. And they will be amply rewarded by the experience.”

Find the full review here on page 20.

Jill MacLean takes Calgary

Posted on April 22nd, 2013 by pajamapress

Award-winning East Coast author Jill MacLean is taking her first official trip west this week. The lucky residents of Calgary, Alberta will be able to meet the author of Nix Minus One, Home Truths, The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy, and The Nine Lives of Travis Keating at a number of different events. These include:

Monday, April 22 6:00 pm–8:30 pm
The Calgary Children’s Literature Round Table
1817 10 Ave. SW Calgary
Tickets only

Tuesday, April 23 12:00 pm–1:00 pm
Author Meet-and-Greet
Pixie Hollow Bookshop 4
17 1 St SW  High River

Tuesday, April 23 7:00 pm
Bookstore Signing
Monkeyshines Children’s Books
2215 33 Ave SW  Calgary

Jill will also be presenting to elementary school students at two different library-hosted readings. We look forward to hearing wonderful stories about this trip!

Sarah Ellis praises Hoogie in the Middle in Quill & Quire feature review

Posted on April 20th, 2013 by pajamapress

Brothers and Sisters: Two picture books touchingly explore sibling relationships through illustrations as strong as the text, writes Sarah Ellis

“Scene: Two children stand in the late afternoon sunlight comparing shadows. The little brother says, “Look! I’m long!” His older sister replies, “I’m longer.”

Siblings give us our first experience of the tyranny of comparison. Birth order programs us for life, and, in childhood, where you fit in is as obvious as your shoe size or those marks on the doorframe. It’s no wonder our position in the family is such a rich source of material for picture books.

Hoogie in the Middle, by Stephanie McLellan and illustrated by Dean Griffiths, features a family of benevolently hairy monsters who look like a cross between a domestic long-haired cat and one of Sendak’s wild things (the horned one in the striped pullover), resplendent in My Little Pony colours. Pumpkin, the eldest child, is blue like mom. Baby Tweezle is green like Dad, but middle child Hoogie is magenta, like herself. Hoogie feels ignored and neglected, neither as cute as Tweezle, nor as competent as Pumpkin. Finally she has a meltdown, and Dad and Mom helicopter in to comfort her.

This picture book is a terrific example of words and images doing their own job. The text gives us movement (as Pumpkin skips and Tweezle toddles), melody (as Hoogie whispers, “Too big. Too small. No room for me at all”), and, most of all, metaphor (“Sometimes Hoogie feels like the hole in the middle of a donut.”

The pictures carry the emotional weight. The composition of family scenes says it all: close pairings of parent and child leave Hoogie floating alone against a white background; Hoogie looks sideways across a double-page spread but nobody is looking back; her sister and brother are enclosed in circles and triangles while she’s isolated on a facing page.

Griffiths captures the body language of children (well, of childlike, horned, fanged, cat-like things) perfectly. The final spread shows Hoogie swinging between her parents’ hands, her posture a subtle combination of joy and tension, triumph and just a tiny bit of anger…”
Q&Q feature reviewer SARAH ELLIS is a Vancouver author and former librarian.

Acts of Courage shortlisted for two Word Guild awards

Posted on April 20th, 2013 by pajamapress

Pajama Press is pleased to announce that Acts of Courage: Laura Secord and the War of 1812 by Connie Brummel Crook has been shortlisted for two different 2012 Word Awards, in the categories of Young Adult and Historical Fiction.

The winners will be announced at at the 2013 gala to be held at World Vision Canada headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario on June 12, 2013. Tickets can be purchased at The Word Guild’s website.

Congratulations, Connie!

Pickle Me This Mom and Daughter Enjoying Hoogie in the Middle

Posted on April 20th, 2013 by pajamapress

“…I knew something was up when Harriet  suddenly couldn’t stop talking about it. (“You be Pumpkin, you be Tweezle, and I’ll be Hoogie,” she’d demand of whoever was in her company, or a variation on this.) I asked her why she liked the book so much: “Because Hoogie’s a monster and she’s nice,” Harriet answered, and I liked that answer…This is a good teaching book for any middle child, but also (I have a feeling!) useful for any little one suffering a bit of family displacement. Hoogie will help them to articulate their feelings and know they aren’t alone.”
Kerry Clare

Click here to read the full review.

Debut novel Namesake earns starred Quill & Quire review

Posted on April 20th, 2013 by pajamapress

“In her debut novel, Sue MacLeod successfully accomplishes a feat many more experienced writers struggle with: weaving an historical narrative smoothly into a contemporary storyline. The Toronto author uses the tried-and-true device of time travel to bring together two very different girls who share the same name: Jane Grey.

Modern Jane is a 15-year-old Halifax girl trying to navigate the first few months of high school and a host of typical teen problems, which pale in comparison when she comes face-to-face with a girl whose life is about to come to an abrupt end.

A mysterious prayer book mixed in with a pile borrowed from the library for a school history project throws Jane through a wormhole into the world of her namesake, the doomed 16-year-old who ruled England for nine days in 1553 before her cousin Mary had her imprisoned in the Tower of London and eventually beheaded for treason.

As Jane learns about Lady Jane, both through writing her history project and her friendship with the tragic figure, the reader becomes informed as well, but the knowledge is imparted in a subtle, natural manner. Likewise, MacLeod drops tidbits of Halifax history into conversations and Jane’s descriptions of her hometown. Many books for young readers attempt similar tactics, but rarely are they executed this well.

With surprising clarity, MacLeod also captures the heightened sensitivity of teen interactions. The shifting allegiances and subsequent jealousies that define female friendships and the fickle, temporary nature of teen romance are presented realistically, without the taint of adult judgment.

The real accomplishment, however, is MacLeod’s treatment of Jane’s unpredictable relationship with her (mostly) functional alcoholic mother, Analise. Will it be a good day (“Single Mother as Hero”) or bad (“A Day When Hell Broke Loose”)? Analise is needy, yet takes little interest in her daughter’s life unless it suits her. And she is mean, with a vindictive streak that plays a major role in the book’s climax. Yet she can be loving, and despite Jane’s anger and resentment, ultimately the girl just wants her mother to get help.

It sounds like a lot of ground to cover in one slim volume, and it is, but with sensitivity and some well-placed humour, MacLeod pulls it off.”
Dory Cerny, Q&Q’s Books for Young People editor.

The Worst Parts About Being a Middle Child

Posted on April 19th, 2013 by pajamapress

Pajama Press is pleased to announce the upcoming publication of Hoogie in the Middle by Stephanie McLellan and Dean Griffiths on

This is Hoogie talking. My book is coming out on May 1st, so I decided I should write the blog post this time. And I’m going to write it in pictures. Pictures that are all about:


By Hoogie.


Come back soon to see my list of:


(By Hoogie)

Oh, and you can find out about my book, Hoogie in the Middle, here.