Pajama Press

Archive for February, 2014

A Good Trade reviewed by author Andrea Mack

Posted on February 28th, 2014 by pajamapress

AGoodTrade_Jacket_Aug28.indd“This book is a good example of how spare language and imagery can highlight social issues in a way that young children can understand. I’d read this book again to study how the author uses words to create compelling images. The illustrations evoke a strong sense of atmosphere, as well as providing more to think about in showing details of Kato’s life in Africa.”

Click here to read the full post at That’s Another Story.

Resource Links rates Tweezle into Everything “Excellent”

Posted on February 28th, 2014 by pajamapress

TweezleintoEverything_MedA most beautifully written and illustrated book about a little boy monster who lives with his parents and big [sisters]. To the family Tweezle seems like a little troublemaker but in reality he only wants to help out doing big kid stuff like his siblings

Being the baby of the family, Tweezle tries to do the things big kids do but always gets into trouble because he is too little. Stuff gets broken and a lot of messes need to be cleaned up but Tweezle doesn’t mean to be a troublemaker. When he finds a baby bird in trouble and fixes a nest for it, his family realizes that Tweezle means well and that he is growing up and not just a baby.

This book would be a helpful tool to read to an older sibling in preparation of a newcomer in the family. It could help explain to small children what happens when a new smaller child tries to play with them that sometimes they cannot do the same things as they do.

Rated E: Excellent, enduring, everyone should see it!

Moon at Nine is “haunting”—Kirkus Reviews

Posted on February 26th, 2014 by pajamapress

MoonAtNine_C_Oct5.indd“In a novel based on a true story, two teen girls fall in love and face harsh political fallout in post-revolution Iran.

Readers learn the basics of 1980s Iran’s political situation from context and light exposition. Farrin’s family is wealthy, and her mother hosts Bring Back the Shah teas and parties with illicit alcohol. Farrin’s mother discourages her from making friends…When Farrin meets Sadira, however, the two become fast friends, and their bond soon grows. Then, just after the war with Iraq has ended and the new regime is cracking down at home, an officious class monitor catches the two girls kissing and reports them. The consequences are both chilling and tragic…[T]he portrait painted of 1980s Iran’s political climate—and in particular the situation of gay and lesbian people and political prisoners—is haunting.”

Noodling With Words falls hard for Community Soup

Posted on February 21st, 2014 by pajamapress

CommunitySoup_LR“This was another case of love at first sight! And I fell hard…What I like love about this book: The collage illustrations give an amazing three-dimensional sense to the story. I’ve seen other great collage work (Knock, Knock springs to mind), but the cover of this book made me want to kiss the goat! (and yes, I’m a goat-kissing kind of person) Just the right amount of fuzzy texture and playful flint in it’s eye. For me, this is a book where the illustrations grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Sticks and grass layered with colored sand. Simple items combined into exquisite illustrations. The trees, the children’s faces, everything conveyed a joyous, playful feeling. Don’t get me started on the hoof prints that pepper the text…”

Click here for the full review and suggestions for extra resources and activities.

Community Soup has “the perfect ingredients”—Canadian Children’s Book News

Posted on February 20th, 2014 by pajamapress

CommunitySoup_LR“It’s soup day at a Kenyan schoolhouse. While the teachers stir the broth, the children gather vegetables from the community garden. All except for one. Little Kioni is looking for her missing herd of goats, only to discover that they have followed her to school and are now wreaking havoc in the garden.  A frustrated Kioni announces, ‘These pesky goats make me so mad… I’d like to put them in the soup.’ This statement turns out to be a ‘eureka’ moment in that the wayward goats do make a contribution to the soup… with their milk!

Alma Fullerton has incorporated the perfect ingredients to create an engaging and charming picture book. With its conversational tone, including a dash of questions and exclamations, Community Soup makes for an excellent read-aloud. One section is similar to ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb,’ which adds to the fun: ‘Kioni has a herd of goats/with hair of calico./And everywhere Kioni goes,/those goats are sure to —/ GO!’

Fullerton’s colourful three-dimensional art, which integrates paper sculpture and mixed media collage, draws readers into that lovely far-away community garden where cooperation, sharing, and commitment are so very important. One can almost feel the textures emanate off the pages. And, as a bonus, a recipe for pumpkin vegetable soup is included…”
—Senta Ross

Canadian Children’s Book News ranks Rory Stowaway with Stuart Little, Arrietty

Posted on February 20th, 2014 by pajamapress

The Stowaways by Meghan Marentette

“Rory Stowaway is a young mouse yearning for adventure. He wants to explore the World Beyond like his ancestors but, ever since Grampa disappeared during one such expedition, his family feels differently. Papa believes his father was eaten by a cat and Gran insists that her travelling days are over. Rory is not so easilydisuaded and soon enough the entire Stowaway family finds itself embroiled in a mouse-sized fantasy bigger than even Rory could have imagined.

Like Arrietty of The Borrowers or Stuart Little, Rory Stowaway is a pocket-sized hero set against rather large odds…When Rory discovers evidence that his Grampa may still be alive, plenty of action ensues. Young readers will delight in Rory’s miniature mouse world and cheer on Rory, Gran and the rest of the Stowaway family as they battle against cats, escape scientists and survive a hurricane.

Meghan Marentette’s debut story is nicely paced and hearkens back to a simpler time—Rory and the ‘Weedle’ mice live in a world without Google, Xbox or iPhones. The Stowaways are thoroughly human despite being mice and young readers will easily relate to the sibling rivalry, family conflicts and Rory’s frustration with his parents as he tries to become the mouse he wants to be. The book itself will appeal to youngsters with its glossy hardcover, a red ribbon bookmark and lively illustrations by Dean Griffiths.

The Stowaways is an engaging story which would also be a wonderful read-aloud book for younger children at home or in the classroom. The book’s endearing characters, exciting plot and the central themes of family and growing up would be fertile ground for classroom discussion.”—Tracey Schindler

Graffiti Knight “a riveting page-turner”—Canadian Children’s Book News

Posted on February 20th, 2014 by pajamapress

GraffitiKnight_MedExcerpt from the article “Exploring History through Fiction” by Rachel Seigel, Canadian Children’s Book News Winter 2014

“History is the succession of events that shape our present and our future, and one of the best ways to engage children in learning history is through historical fiction. Good historical writing offers insights into people and events from the past, and helps children to understand how the world we live in has been shaped by those events…

The last book, Graffiti Knight by author Karen Bass, takes readers to Soviet-occupied Germany in 1947, and is a riveting page-turner that readers will find impossible to put down.

Sixteen-year-old Wilm and his family live in Leipzig, Germany, a town scarred heavily by WWII and now occupied by the Soviets who are brutal and oppressive. The war has also left its scars on his family, but Wilm is finding his voice, sneaking out at night to leave messages on police buildings. What he’s doing is dangerous but exciting, and Wilm feels justified considering how much his family has suffered. When one mission goes too far, Wilm finds he’s endangered the people he’s tried most to protect, and he’s forced to take drastic action to keep them safe.

The setting is detailed and richly drawn, and Bass successfully creates an atmosphere of tension and fear. Wilm’s family are no strangers to Soviet brutality, and after witnessing a group of soldiers terrorize his crippled father, he decides it’s time to act.

His minor acts of rebellion give him a sense of power and control that he lacks in his daily life. The more he succeeds in angering the police, the more his game escalates, until it culminates in one final act that puts him and his family in a life-or-death situation.

The spelling of ‘knight’ in the title is a clever play on words, as Wilm’s acts take place under the cover of night and, at the same time, implies heroism. Wilm is a complex and fascinating character and readers will be left to decide whether his actions are heroic or simply reckless.

A skilled storyteller can bring history to life, and while the four highlighted books span different countries, cities, and historical periods, all effectively present these events through the eyes of the children living in them, and more deeply connect readers to the past.”

Hoogie and Tweezle “explore the wonder of childhood”—Canadian Children’s Book News

Posted on February 20th, 2014 by pajamapress

HoogieInTheMiddle_LRAward-winning author Stephanie McLellan has drawn inspiration from her own three children and created Hoogie in the Middle, a sneak peek into the world surrounding Hoogie, the middle child. The author playfully uses rhythm, alliteration and similes to delineate Hoogie’s character and exhibit how the middle child feels: “Pumpkin is the big, big girl,” “Tweezle is the itty, bitty baby” and “[Hoogie] feels like the hole in the middle of a donut.”

Whatever Hoogie does is not right. When Tweezle squishes food, “Everyone laughs.” When Hoogie does it, she is told to “not be such a baby.” Similarly, she is “too small” to help dad. “Too big. Too small. No room for me at all,” sums up the pain she feels. In the end just like “the sun in the middle of the solar system,” Hoogie isn’t so invisible anymore. McLellan finishes her story with a deliciously sweet simile!

Continuing in this series, TweezleintoEverything_MedTweezle into Everything follows in the footsteps of the typical baby of the household where Tweezle is the “last yummy cookie.” Charming similes and playful dialogue express Tweezle’s adorable character, constantly trying to prove he is big: “I not baby…I big boy!” He believes he is all grown up he messes his father’s tool shed, or enhances his older sister’s paintings. However, Tweezle is made to feel like the “…mud on the bottom…” of his sister’s shoes. Yet he refuses to give up: “I not bottom.” The book has an unpredictable and heart-warming ending, showing that what Tweezle unexpectedly does is indeed a “big deal.”

This loveable family comes alive with Dean Griffiths cuddly personified monsters. Vibrating hues painted in pencil crayons and watercolours evoke an expressionistic style with realistic elements. The clever use of negative space adds dimension and energy to the characters as well. Consistent rendering makes switching from each book in the series a seamless transition. The difference is the focus on the title characters, e.g. Hoogie holding a donut over one eye exaggerating the fact that she feels “like the hole in the middle of the donut” or Tweezle holding a large beach ball reinforcing his babyish stature.

Hoogie in the Middle and Tweezle into Everything explore the wonder of childhood and the average day-to-day dilemmas and real-life emotions of children with siblings. Wonderful books to read aloud that provide an opportunity for discussion among parents and children.—Lara Chauvin

CanLit for LittleCanadians reviews Deborah Ellis’ Moon at Nine

Posted on February 20th, 2014 by pajamapress

MoonAtNine_C_Oct5.indd“…Deborah Ellis is Canada’s most modest and accomplished author of social justice stories for young people, and Moon at Nine can be added to that auspicious collection.  Based on a true story, the girls’ relationship in Moon at Nine is personal and precious but never explicit, unlike the merciless response of others to it.  Prohibited love may be ill-fated, but in the 1980′s Iran of secrets, surveillance and suppression,  it was perilous.  Still, in Moon at Nine, Deborah Ellis thoughtfully embeds a sliver of chaste love into that dispiriting world and, without contriving an unrealistic happy ending, offers a glimmer of possibility.”

Click here to read the full review.

Moon at Nine is “a smart, heartbreaking” novel—PW

Posted on February 18th, 2014 by pajamapress

MoonAtNine_C_Oct5.indd“…The girls become romantically involved, a crime punishable by death. Inspired by the life of an Iranian woman Ellis met (“This story is essentially hers,” she notes), the novel powerfully depicts lives pulled apart by outside forces and the warmth of falling in love. A firm grounding in Iranian history, along with the insight and empathy Ellis brings to the pain of those whose love is decreed to be immoral and unnatural, make this a smart, heartbreaking pairing with Sara Farizan’s recent If You Could Be Mine.”—Publishers Weekly

Click here to read the full review.