Pajama Press

Archive for December, 2015

In a Cloud of Dust is a Foreword Reviews Best Children’s Book of Fall 2015

Posted on December 22nd, 2015 by pajamapress

homecover-in-a-cloud“Anna is doing her homework inside during lunchtime since her walk home takes far too long, so she is the last to arrive at the pickup truck that is delivering charity bicycles to her school, and she misses out. Rather than moping, Anna helps her friends learn to ride. Mohammad returns the favor by letting her take his bike the rest of the way home since she has the farthest to go. The dusty Tanzanian countryside and the children’s joyous faces, rendered realistically in Deines’s artwork, shows how simple acts can transform a child’s life. Ages four and up.”

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Elephant Journey is a Toronto Public Library Top Pick for December

Posted on December 22nd, 2015 by pajamapress

ElephantJourney_Internet“This picture book tells the true story of Toronto Zoo’s three elephants, Toka, Thika and Iringa, who were relocated to the PAWS sanctuary in California in 2013. The gorgeous oil paintings by Brian Deines show the beauty and intelligence of these wonderful animals, but also reflect the hardship they experienced living in captivity and in a climate so different from where they were born. Toronto readers may recognize local touches in the artwork, including landmarks at the Toronto Zoo and a Toronto police cruiser. This uplifting tale has a hopeful ending and is a great introduction to elephants and animal activism for younger kids.”

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A Year of Borrowed Men shows “compassion is possible even in times of war.”—Winnipeg Free Press

Posted on December 22nd, 2015 by pajamapress

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama Press“With Remembrance Day just past, B.C. writer Michelle Barker brings young readers (six to nine years) A Year of Borrowed Men, a feel-good story that occurred in Germany in 1944. Barker’s mother, Gerda, saw three French prisoners of war arrive at the family farm as labourers. There were strict rules: no fraternizing. But Gerda found ways to make friends. While the men lived in the “pig kitchen” close to the animals, Gerda helped them celebrate Christmas by making ornaments out of catalogue pictures. Ontario artist Renné Benoit’s gentle paintings help show compassion is possible even in times of war.”
—Helen Norrie

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A Year of Borrowed Men a “valuable and touching read…on the cusp of Christmas”—CanLit for LittleCanadians

Posted on December 22nd, 2015 by pajamapress

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama Press“…Released on Remembrance Day, A Year of Borrowed Men will be a valuable and touching read for years to come in classrooms commemorating those whose lives were touched by war.  But on the cusp of Christmas–also a memorable event in the story–A Year of Borrowed Men will speak to inherent kind-heartedness and be a reminder to demonstrate our humanity even in the most challenging of circumstances.   The potential, unspoken, that the Schottke family’s adherence to the golden rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” might extend to their own family members away at war, is undeniable.  But their charity to strangers in a time of war, when others only demonstrate anger and suspicion, is a worthwhile lesson in empathy.  Michelle Barker gets the tone right for this message, telling her mother’s story simply and forthrightly, as a child might see the circumstances.  The fear and confusion is there but it is superseded by a fundamental goodness to do what is right.  Look at Renné Benoit’s unassuming illustrations of this child, this farm, the men and relive a simple though still harsh time, when war was horrific but there was a gentleness that could still be found. Thank goodness.”
—Helen Kubiw

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A Year of Borrowed Men has “a powerful message equally relevant today”—Quill & Quire

Posted on December 22nd, 2015 by pajamapress

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama Press“…The story, it turns out, is not about prisoners or the ravages of war so much as it is about kindness and humanity—a powerful message equally relevant today. Adults may have to interpret the wider framework, but at its heart, this family tale is a tender evocation of empathy, bravery, and friendship. This is Barker’s first foray into picture books, but she demonstrates that she can write fluidly and gently for young children. Renné Benoit has a particular gift for capturing another, era, and her soft, earth-toned illustrations perfectly reflect the mood of the story.”

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Victoria Times Colonist’s favourite picture books of 2015

Posted on December 22nd, 2015 by pajamapress

“I often don’t like kids’ books that are too obviously tackling a particular social issue…

By “issue” books, incidentally, I don’t mean stories with a message. Good stories often have a moral or message, and in the best ones, it never feels forced…

Here are a few of my top picks for 2015 out of the review copies the Times Colonist received this year. All have been lab-tested on my seven- and nine-year-old, are suitable for ages five and up, and combine good storytelling and clear writing with imaginative illustrations, and usually a little humour.

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama PressOne of my favourites is A Year of Borrowed Men, by B.C. author Michelle Barker, about a German family’s complex relationship with French prisoners of war brought in to work on their farm in the Second World War. Based on a true story and illustrated by Renné Benoit (Pajama Press), A Year of Borrowed Men is told from the point of view of a young girl who likes the men and struggles to understand why they are not supposed to be “Freundes” or friends. If you like books that inspire lots of questions from your kids, this is a good one. Some of them might be hard to answer, though.

ElephantJourney_InternetElephant Journey: The True Story of Three Zoo Elephants and their Rescue from Captivity, by Rob Laidlaw with art by Brian Deines (Pajama Press), is another thought-provoking read for kids. Told in easy-to-understand language, it’s the story of a complicated effort to retire three elephants from the Toronto Zoo to an open-air animal sanctuary in California. As with Borrowed Men, this one will provide many opportunities for discussion with kids, starting with: Why would people want to keep the elephants in Toronto, even if it’s not good for them? It includes real-life photos, always a plus…”
—Patricia Coppard

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Resource Links praises Elephant Journey by Rob Laidlaw and Brian Deines

Posted on December 22nd, 2015 by pajamapress

ElephantJourney_Internet“A book that combines the true story of transporting three elephants from the Toronto Zoo to a new home in California in 2013, and factual information about elephants. The details about this removal from the zoo to a Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in Calavaras County, California are precise. Details of the death of one of the elephants from degenerative foot and joint problems eighteen months after the move are included to illustrate the potential problems of housing animals in zoos. The limited size of enclosures and artificial surfaces employed cause defects that may occur when the animal can[not] roam and keep their bodies fit.

The art of Brian Deines shows the similarities between the Californian highlands and the savannahs of Africa, in contrast to the snowy concrete world of the Toronto Zoo, which adds much to the character and enjoyment of this book.”
—Mavis Holder

Resource Links praises “sweet and simple” Kiss, Kiss

Posted on December 22nd, 2015 by pajamapress

Kiss, Kiss | Jennifer Couelle & Jacques Laplante |Pajama Press“This very sweet and simple tale describes many types of kisses in a language very young children will understand and appreciate—e.g. ‘You can do it once, or twice. 100 times is very nice.’ Each type of kiss illustrates the different varieties of relationships to parents, grandparents, pets etc., found in a small child’s life.

The carton illustrations are cheerful and warm with touches of humour. The story is good for babies and toddlers.”
—Isobel Lang

“The idea of balance is subtly shown” in Timo’s Garden—CM Magazine

Posted on December 22nd, 2015 by pajamapress

Timo's Garden | Victoria Allenby & Dean Griffiths | Pajama Press“…In reading the book aloud, the wordcraft of the author becomes more pronounced; Allenby’s use of consistent alliteration and internal rhyme throughout Timo’s Garden adds to the enjoyment of reading it.

Also noteworthy is that Timo, in his reflection on his garden, lists and describes many different types of plants and flowers. This detail could lead to informative discussions with children about different types of flora. Additionally, Timo’s friends are all familiar creatures (a hedgehog, a squirrel, a frog, for example), and each is personified with different personality traits and interests.

I like that the message of putting in effort towards a task, but not becoming overly focussed on that task such that other aspects of your life suffer, is one that can be applied to various situations (school work, sports or arts activities, etc.). The idea of having ‘balance’ in life is subtly shown…”

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Timo’s Garden “beautifully illustrated,” “timeless,” and “heartfelt”—Resource Links

Posted on December 21st, 2015 by pajamapress

Timo's Garden | Victoria Allenby & Dean Griffiths | Pajama Press“In this beautifully illustrated beginning chapter book, Victoria Allenby has introduced a lovely menagerie of animal friends, a timeless theme of the trials of friendships, and a whimsical and heartfelt text.

When Timo hears about the upcoming Toadstool Corners’ Great, Green Garden Tour, he is both excited to enter the fun contest, and concerned about the timeline. He has but one week to turn his garden from merely nice to great. Timo commits so wholeheartedly to the project that he begins to neglect his many friends, even missing his weekly tennis game with his pal Suki. In spite of this, however, when disaster strikes Timo’s nearly finished garden, his friends all pitch in to help save the day. Timo learns a valuable lesson, without the inclusion of tired moralizing, and makes sure to show all of his friends how wonderful he thinks they are.

The format of the book does an excellent job of holding interest. It incorporates lists on illustrated notebook pages, colourful half-page drawings on most pages—often across spreads—and an illustrated glossary of flowers at the end.

The text is simple enough for beginning readers for the most part, but does incorporate just the right amount of more challenging words to hone sounding-out skills. In addition, the use of some consistent rhyming text, alliteration, and onomatopoeia, adds whimsy and a lyrical tone to the story, a rarity among chapter books.

Highly recommended.”
—Nicole Rowlinson