Pajama Press

Archive for April, 2015

“Young readers…will once again be thrilled”—CM Magazine Highly Recommends Princess Pistachio and the Pest

Posted on April 24th, 2015 by pajamapress

Princess Pistachio and the Pest by Marie-Louise Gay, translated by Jacob Homel“…Young readers making the transition to chapter books will once again be thrilled to read about the adventures of intrepid Pistachio and her lovable little sister Penny. The text is easy to read, but challenging enough to engage young readers who will definitely be able to relate to the action in the story. Gay’s narration is full of dynamic descriptions: ‘Pistachio stands there, like a statue, her mouth open and her cheeks burning red.’ (p. 23)
The illustrations provide a great deal of interesting information for readers as well. Readers are able to see Pistachio’s frustration and anger, Penny’s enthusiasm and joy, and their mother’s love for her children…

This book can definitely be used as a read-aloud for early emergent readers while fluent readers can read it themselves. Young readers and their teachers or caregivers will enjoy discussing many interesting topics while reading Princess Pistachio and the Pest, including family relationships, personal responsibilities, friendships, legal issues and stereotypes. Highly Recommended.
—Myra Junyk

Click here to read the full review.

Interview with Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch: Dance of the Banished and the Armenian Genocide

Posted on April 23rd, 2015 by pajamapress

On April 24, 2015, Armenians around the world will mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a systematic campaign by Turkish leaders in the Ottoman Empire to remove the empire’s Christian Armenian population. As evidenced by recent headlines, the subject is controversial today because the Turkish government denies that these deportations and killings can be labelled “genocide.”

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, a Canadian author of books for children and teens, will also be marking the anniversary. Skrypuch is no stranger to controversial history; her picture book Enough, written about the holodomor, earned her both death threats from angry readers and a medal from the President of Ukraine: the Order of Princess Olha. She has gone on to write over twenty other books for young readers, including her recent YA novel Dance of the Banished, which takes place during the Armenian Genocide. Skrypuch’s week is filled with events commemorating the genocide’s anniversary, but she took some time to speak with us about Dance of the Banished and why she writes books for young people about difficult subjects.

Zeynep’s portion of the story takes place in a tumultuous time and place: the Ottoman Empire during the Young Turk revolution and the Armenian Genocide. What challenges did you face in your research for Zeynep’s perspective?
DanceOfTheBanished_HR_RGBI rely heavily on first person accounts to build scenes and timelines in my novels. The problem while writing Dance of the Banished was that I could find no first person account from the perspective of an Alevi Kurd, even though thousands of Alevi Kurds witnessed the Genocide and their rescue operations are well-documented in other first person accounts. The trick was to wade through first person accounts of missionaries, Genocide survivors and others and piece together what Zeynep’s life would have been like during WWI and the Armenian Genocide. I also had to read up on Alevi beliefs. After I finished writing the novel, I sent it to Suleyman Goven, who is of Alevi Kurd heritage. He gave me detailed feedback to make Zeynep more authentic.

This is not the first time you have written about controversial historical events. What draws you to tell the stories that some would rather see forgotten?
I feel a responsibility to give a voice to people whose experiences have been silenced for political or religious reasons. I need to be passionate about my subject because otherwise I’d get bored with my own words. Writing these untold bits of history is my way of honouring the survivors.

Why do you think it is important for books on these subjects to be directed at children and young adults?
If I had written this book for adults I would have had to pad it with fluff and I don’t like writing fluff. I wanted to write a short but powerful and historically accurate novel. That by definition is a young adult novel.

The experiences of Ali in Dance of the Banished were based on actual events that took place in Canada during World War I, but that were forgotten for nearly a century. How did you come across the story?
Ali is interned by Canada in WWI. I knew about this incident for quite some time as my own grandfather had been interned. What I didn’t know was that 100 men who had emigrated from the Ottoman Empire and lived in Brantford had been interned. That information was brought to me by two Brantford historians. Figuring out who these men were became a journey in itself.

This year has been a time of commemoration both for the Armenian Genocide and the internment of so-called enemy aliens in Canada during World War I. You have been involved in events and speaking engagements for both. Have you had any particularly memorable experiences?
The local commemoration of the centenary of WWI internment took place on August 22, which was a Friday, and we began it at 11am. Despite it being held right before a long weekend and in the middle of a work day, the church hall was packed. Most people interned had been Ukrainian, but people from all different backgrounds came out. One woman who came out was Sharon Gashgarian, who was of Ukrainian heritage but had married an Armenian. She was blown away by the cover art on Dance of the Banished and contacted me later, asking permission to create a fabric art work based on the cover art. I contacted Pascal Milelli, the artist commissioned to create a painting for the cover, and he was fine with Sharon’s request.

I bought the original, and showed it to Sharon.

Tonight (April 21) I did a reading at the Brantford Public Library to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. This was part of a worldwide reading event to pay tribute to the many writers who have been killed for speaking out about the Genocide. Sharon attended, and she brought her fabric art. I brought Pascal’s original and we have both of them up on easels, covered with Ukrainian shawls. We revealed them both to the audience and Sharon presented me with her art work. It is breathtaking.

For the rest of the month, Sharon’s fabric art will be hanging in the front window of the Brantford Public Library, surrounded by my books and other books about the Armenian Genocide.

Click here to download this interview in PDF format.


A “story of hope and fear, love and determination, and the universal significance of bearing witness”—Booklist

Posted on April 21st, 2015 by pajamapress

Dance of the Banished, a WWI novel by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch“Ali and his fiancée, Zeynep, are Anatolian Alevi Kurds facing the hardships imposed by Turkish revolutionary forces. Ali preemptively immigrates to Kapuskasing, Ontario, but is identified as an enemy alien and imprisoned in an internment camp. Zeynep’s journey to find her future with Ali takes her from 1914 to 1916, from Harput, Anatolia, to Kars, Russia, and eventually to Brantford, Ontario, where she expects Ali to be gainfully employed and living on Darling Street. Skrypuch tells their story, which is based on true events, through descriptive journal passages in which the characters address each other with courage and longing. Eventually, Zeynep’s eyewitness chronicle is discovered by the American consul and used as testimony against war crimes. The author’s somber rendering of WWI atrocities against Armenians is reminiscent of fellow Canadian author Deborah Ellis’ caring attention to modern-day Afghan refugees and Middle Eastern youth living in conflict. There are many lessons for young readers in this story of hope and fear, love and determination, and the universal significance of bearing witness.”

—Gail Bush

Winnipeg Free Press says A+ for Big Ben will be a favourite with young children

Posted on April 20th, 2015 by pajamapress

BigBen_C_Oct16.inddVancouver author Sarah Ellis is well-known for her books for young adults and intermediate readers. In A+ for Big Ben (Pajama Press, $10, board book) she has written a delightful story for youngest readers (ages 2-5)….

B.C. artist Kim La Fave has added large, colourful illustrations that help make this a book that will be a favourite with any child who wants to be “like the big guys.”
—Helen Norrie

Click here to read the full review.

Resource Links Highly Recommends In a Cloud of Dust for discussing citizenship in the classroom

Posted on April 20th, 2015 by pajamapress

“In a Cloud of Dust demonstrates a challenge that affects a wide range of children and adults living in developing countries such as Tanzania – transportation.

homecover-in-a-cloudAnna, like many children in her country, has miles to travel to get to her school, but no transportation to help her. One day, a bicycle library truck stops outside her school dropping off bicycles to some of the students there. Unfortunately, Anna does not receive a bike, but she helps to teach other children how to ride and gets a ride in return. To Anna’s surprise, when her friend, Mohammed, stops the bike at his house, he offers Anna the bike to continue her journey onward. Anna thanks him and tells him that she will pick him up on her way to school the next day. This simple gesture helps Anna to arrive home before dark and offers her reliable transportation in the future.

Told in simplistic language in free verse, this story helps children understand some of the dilemma that exists for many children in developing countries today. An excellent resource for learning about other cultures, In a Cloud of Dust inspires children to learn about life in developing countries and about organizations who help folks by providing bicycles to children and adults, so they can go to school or their jobs, and also help to create jobs in communities. Highly recommended for classroom investigation and discussion and learning about good citizenship.”

Thematic Links: Life in Developing Countries
—Sharon Armstrong

A+ for Big Ben is “delightful”—Resource Links

Posted on April 20th, 2015 by pajamapress

BigBen_C_Oct16.inddBen is too small for most of the things older sister Robin and older brother Joe enjoy. Too small for school, too small for swimming strokes or reading the menu in a restaurant. Even too small to see out the window in the car. The sensitivity of his siblings helps lift Ben out of the funk he is in. The pair create a report card for Ben, complete with letter grades and comments. The assessment? It’s an A+ for Ben in all of the special talents he contributes to the family: feeding the cat, shoe tying, tooth brushing and making family members laugh.

This delightful short book perfectly encapsulates the trials and tribulations of being the baby of the family, all the while showing the special regard held toward him by the rest of the family.

Thematic Links: Family; Siblings; Report Cards

—Moira Kirkpatrick

Princess Pistachio and the Pest is “a big hit” with Resource Links

Posted on April 20th, 2015 by pajamapress

Princess Pistachio and the Pest by Marie-Louise Gay, translated by Jacob Homel Princess Pistachio is elated to be out of school and starting summer vacation. She has big plans with friends for the first day, all of which are dashed in an instant when her mother insists that she take her younger sister Penny to the park so that she can finish her work. An exciting day exploring a cavern in the cemetery has now transformed into a boring excursion to the park with her annoying baby sister.

The day proves to be anything but boring however. Beginning with Penny’s display of kleptomania at the grocers, followed by a disappearing act, near fatal accident and an encounter with Oldtooth, the witch in the park, Penny keeps Princess Pistachio hopping all day long. Seeing Pistachio exhausted and frustrated by the end of the day, Mom relents and offers to bring in a babysitter for the following day. When the pair hear who she has in mind however, they quickly decide they can fare better on their own.

This book is full of adorable illustrations that, along with the text, clearly capture both the frustrations and fondness older siblings have for their younger charges. Sure to be a big hit with young readers just graduating from picture books to their first chapter books.

CM Magazine “Highly Recommends” A+ for Big Ben

Posted on April 20th, 2015 by pajamapress

BigBen_C_Oct16.indd“…This sweet story will resonate with preschool age children, especially those children who have older siblings to compare themselves to and who often feel or are told that they are too young to do certain things. The activities in Ben’s day are common in the lives of many preschoolers and will feel familiar….

The text of the story is simple, approachable, and strongly supported by the illustrations. The illustrations by Kim LaFave are bright and colorful. Each illustration is focussed on the subject (usually Ben), and backgrounds are sparse (if necessary for context) or not there at all. This method of illustrating makes it easy to infer the story from what the reader sees. The illustrations are also emotionally evocative…

A+ for Big Ben is a charming story of growing up, but not necessarily as fast as one might like. In particular, it will resonate with preschool aged children who always want to grow up and be just like the big kids. This would be a good purchase for public libraries and other libraries that serve children in the preschool age group.

Highly Recommended.”

Click here to read the full review.

Marking 40 Years Since the Vietnamese Orphan Airlift

Posted on April 13th, 2015 by pajamapress

LastAirlift_Website 40 years ago this month, approximately 3,000 orphans, mostly babies, were hurried onto airplanes departing Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). The city was about to fall to the North Vietnamese forces, and humanitarian organizations worried that many orphans, especially those fathered by American soldiers or those with disabilities, would be at risk. Families in Canada, the United States, and other nations signed up to adopt the evacuated orphans.

OneStepAtATimeThe project, known as the “Orphan Airlift” in Canada and “Operation Babylift” in the United States, is not without controversy, but for Tuyet Morris, Née Son Thi Anh Tuyet, it was the beginning of a miraculous new life. Older than the other orphans and physically disabled from polio, she had never expected to be adopted. The story of her rescue on the final Canadian airlift, her adoption into the loving Morris family, and her determined struggle to walk and play like other children, is recounted in the juvenile biographies Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War and One Step at a Time: A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way. Author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch reflects on the experience of discovering Tuyet’s story:

“It was a revelation to finally discover Tuyet. I had been wanting to write about the airlift rescue for quite some time and had wanted to write the story from the point of view of one of the rescued children. But because most of those rescued were babies at the time, it meant my days were spent interviewing adoptive parents and the story from their perspective. Interesting and poignant, yes, but not the story I wanted to tell.

And then, through the grapevine, I found out that the oldest orphan on that last flight to Canada lived in my own home town. Not only that, but she lived around the corner from my old house and her kids went to the same school that my son had gone to.

I looked up her phone number and called out of the blue. She was receptive and friendly and agreed to meet. We chose a local Vietnamese restaurant.

And the rest, they say, is history.”

—Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

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