Pajama Press

Archive for May, 2016

Arthur Biyarslanov discusses his Next Round

Posted on May 30th, 2016 by pajamapress

Arthur Biyarslanov came to Canada as a child after fleeing the second Chechen war with his family, now at the age of twenty-one, the “Chechen Wolf” is a champion amateur boxer who won gold for Canada in the Pan Am Games. It’s a busy time for Arthur; he is currently training for the 2016 Summer Olympics, and is looking forward to the release of his upcoming biography, Next Round: A Young Athlete’s Journey to Gold by John Spray. He dropped by the office earlier, and I sat down with him to chat about the many exciting things he’s got on the go.

Arthur&John_website2

Arthur and John holding copies of the freshly printed Next Round at the Pajama Press offices.

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S. You’re going to be representing Canada in the 2016 Summer Olympics. What are you most looking forward to about that?

A. I’m very excited because it’s my goal, and I always wanted to get to the Olympics. What I also want to do now is win another medal for Canada because it’s been so long. I always go for winning gold. I don’t like silver or bronze, so I’m going to try everything I can to get another gold medal and hear the national anthem for Canada. It’s my way of giving back. That’s what I want to do.

S. How long has it been since we’ve won in boxing?

A. The last person to win a gold medal was Lennox Lewis (Sugar Ray Leonard) in 1988.

S. Oh wow, that was before we were born.

A. It’s been many years. It’ll be nice to hear the national anthem again.

S. Will it be your first time visiting Brazil?

A. Yeah.

S. Excited?

A. Yeah, really excited.

S. What sort of training are you doing to prepare for the Olympics?

A. I’m training every day. I don’t work or anything; my job is just training. I train two or three times a day. I have two different coaches, a strength conditioning coach and a boxing coach. I work with them every day, six days a week and Sundays are my day off.

S. When you say you’re training two to three times a day, how many hours at a time are we talking about?

A. It depends what type of training, whether I’m going light or hard. It’s usually around 1 to 2 hours each session.

S. And that’s manageable, or is it very difficult?

A. I always have to take naps in between to re-energize for my next bout of training. I don’t really get much time to do anything. I just train, sleep, train, sleep.

S. If I decided I wanted to start boxing, what’s your best tip for me?

A. The hard part is staying in boxing. When I first started I didn’t want to box, I wanted to do other things. So I would say, be dedicated to what you do because when you start off, you’re obviously not going to be good. It’s going to take time to get better. You’re going to get frustrated, you’re going to hate it, but you’ll only get better and better each time you go. So just stay in the gym.

S. What inspires you to stay with it?

A. It’s how far I came, from nothing to something. I never thought I’d be a boxer. I always loved soccer. I started boxing, and I was very bad. I didn’t know how to box at all. Now I’m winning nationals, I’m winning international tournaments. I get a great feeling after every win. I get to travel to different countries and it’s very nice. It keeps me going.

S. Let’s talk about your book for a little bit. What was your favourite part of having a biography written about you?

A. It’s awesome. People always ask me about my background. I don’t like thinking about the past, so I make my answers very short. But this book shows every detail of my story, and that’s what I like most about it. It tells you about my childhood, how I grew up and how I switched from one sport to another. All the main points are in it.

S. You were a soccer player before you did boxing. What made you make the switch?

A. My brother forced me to (laughs). I didn’t want to be a boxer, but I was forced into it and then I kept winning.

S.
John Spray is the writer you collaborated with to produce Next Round. What was fun about working with him?

A. We went to a baseball game a few months back, and it was really nice. We got front-row seats and it was a great time. John’s a really good guy and I’m glad I met him.

S. John was an amateur boxer himself, for a while.

A. He told me a bunch of stories about when he used to fight. It was great knowing someone who has been in the same position as me as a boxer, and who understood what it was like to be in the ring.

S. He was definitely a good choice to write Next Round. What do you hope people will like most about the book?

A. The pictures. There are a lot of pictures from when I was young. It’s crazy how young I look, from being an innocent looking kid to becoming a boxer. I didn’t look like a boxer then, I had long hair and I looked like a cute little kid. I love that it shows the transition.

S. I’ve seen pictures of you just after fights too, and those are also great photos.

A. Yeah, those pictures are awesome.

S. So, you did come to Canada as a refugee. What would you tell other young refugees who might be coming into the country now?

A. Take advantage of it, because you get offered a lot of opportunities here like sports, education, freedoms. Life, I’d say, is a lot better here than in most of the countries in the world, so enjoy it to the max and take all the opportunities you can get!

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Next Round: A Young Athlete’s Journey to Gold by John Spray is the juvenile biography chronicling Arthur’s journey to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It will be available on June 15th, and officially published 15th, just in time for the Olympics. Order your copy today.

Good Pirate is “a hearty swashbuckling yarn…good fun and brimming with joviality.”—CanLit for LittleCanadians

Posted on May 30th, 2016 by pajamapress

GoodPirate_Website“The text is saucy and spicy and flavoured with pirate-speak, as befits a hearty swashbuckling yarn, but it’s all in good fun and brimming with joviality.  Still amidst all that merriment, so much like Kari-Lynn Winters herself, is an important message about being true to oneself and appreciating differences as strengths.  And, again, Dean Griffiths illustrates with richly detailed pirate ship sets and characters which are dogs and cats of all variety.  Kids will delight in identifying the different breeds and who’s wearing what and trying out the “pirate talk” and “nautical talk” which peppers the story and is defined in the endpapers.  Arr, Good Pirate is a good time with a hearty–both deep and enthusiastic–message packaged in the fanciest scurvyiest of art.”—Helen Kubiw

Click here to read the entire review.

“All public and elementary school libraries” should have Elephant Journey, says Youth Services Book Review

Posted on May 26th, 2016 by pajamapress

ElephantJourney_Website“In October of 2013 three African elephants, Iringa, Thika and Toka, who had lived at the Toronto Zoo for many years, were given sanctuary at PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) in California. Toka and Iringa had been wild born and stolen from their mothers when very young to be taken to a zoo in the cold clime of Toronto, Canada. Thika was born at the Toronto Zoo. Outrage at the small enclosure for these three elephants living in an unnatural climate finally lead to their being trucked all the way to sanctuary in California. Photographs and illustrations accompany the text.

To whom would you recommend this book? Put this one on display to attract a wider audience and recommend to kids and adults who like elephants and want to learn about their plight in captivity.

Who should buy this book? All public and elementary school libraries”

Click here to read the full review.

The Hill “…is impossible to stop reading” according to The Globe and Mail

Posted on May 25th, 2016 by pajamapress

TheHill_WebsiteKaren Bass’ latest survival-thriller, The Hill, has been reviewed by The Globe and Mail:

“The hills are ripe for horror: Wes Craven’s hills had eyes, and Karen Bass’s is home to a supernatural serial hunter drawn from the Cree legend of the Wîhtiko. When Jared’s plane crashes in the Alberta wilderness, he is saved by a Cree teenager named Kyle. It’s a triple-edged survival story with Jared and Kyle facing down their cultural differences, the elements and the scary Wihtiko…this Hatchet meets Lost tale is presented in a way that’s suitable for the younger end of the YA spectrum. And, really, it’s impossible to stop reading to see if anyone gets eaten.”

Click here to read the full review.

Raymond Nakamura on Family Heritage

Posted on May 24th, 2016 by pajamapress

Raymond Nakamura is a Vancouver-based educational consultant, avid science blogger and the author of Peach Girl. He explored his Japanese heritage while spending time at a marine station and teaching ESL in Southern Japan. To celebrate Asian Heritage Month, we asked him if he’d be interested in writing a short piece for us about his family’s experiences as Japanese-Canadians.
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Peach Girl - written by Raymond Nakamura, illustrated by Rebecca BenderPeach Girl is my reimagining of a well-known Japanese folk tale about a girl born from a peach, who is here to make the world a better place, one ogre at a time. Recently, a librarian at Strathcona Elementary in Vancouver invited me to read it at her school, as part of their multicultural festival. By coincidence, my mother went to that school as a young girl in the 30s and 40s. I asked the librarian if she’d be interested in my mother’s story and she encouraged me to include it.

My mother was born a few blocks from the school, around Powell Street, the largest Japanese Canadian community in Canada at that time. Her parents had come from Japan to make a new life for themselves. They ran a taxi company and an electrical appliance store.

Monday to Friday, my mom, her younger sister, and friends walked to Strathcona. After school, they walked to the Japanese school on Alexander street to study some more. And twice a week, she went to Japanese dancing lessons.

Soon after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Canadian government forced the relocation of everyone of Japanese descent on the coast of British Columbia, including my mother and her family.

While telling the story of my mother and then of Peach Girl to students at Strathcona, another librarian dug up the archived attendance cards of my mother, uncle and aunt. The last entry on each index card in May of 1942, indicated in pencil that they had moved to Minto. That was the ghost town where my mother and her family lived during World War II.

The world is now a different place from when my mother grew up. This opportunity helped me better appreciate the connection between my mother’s story and that of  Peach Girl, which deals with overcoming fear and facing the unknown with hope.

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If you’d like to see more of Raymond’s writing, consider following his website or his Twitter.

Diversity Day Interview with Karen Bass

Posted on May 21st, 2016 by pajamapress

The Hill is a supernatural survival-thriller by award-winning author Karen Bass that draws inspiration from the true story of a remote plane crash and the Cree Wîhtiko legend. For the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, I sat down with Karen to discuss The Hill’s protagonists: Jared, an affluent white teen from Edmonton, and Kyle, the Cree teenager who rescues him, and how the relationship between the two boys reflects the racial and cultural tensions existing between these two groups in Canada today.

 

TheHill_WebsiteS. The Hill was the first of the Young Adult titles I read when I started my internship at Pajama Press, and I really enjoyed it. My favourite part was the banter between two boys. Was that fun to write or was that challenging in ways you didn’t expect?

K. It was mostly fun. I grew up in a family that used sarcasm an awful lot, and we were always poking at each other. So I was able to draw on that. And it was two teenagers so they do poke, poke, poke.

S. They do read like two teenagers.

K. Well that’s good.

S. What about the racial component to that dialogue? Where did that come from? Were you influenced by people you were speaking to at the time, because I know you did a lot of research for the book, or does it from your own lived experience?

K. I grew up in rural Alberta, so like a lot of rural Canada I think you see a lot of racism that maybe isn’t apparent in the cities, at least between First Nations and white communities. So I was certainly able to draw on what I’d seen myself, and the attitudes that I see in other people. In terms of Kyle and how he feels about it, that was partly talking to First Nations friends and partly whole empathy thing that writers have to draw on. Being able to put myself into his shoes and, you know, ask “how would I feel?”

S. I really enjoyed Kyle because he was the most “in tune” fifteen-year-old boy I’ve ever seen. He initiates a lot of the conversation between himself and Jared. Some of the ideas he brings to it are concepts that I first encountered in university. Why was it coming from him?

K. It was coming from him partly because Jared was oblivious. A lot of people do live their lives that way, where they don’t even look at how they’re affecting other people in their word choices or their actions. They don’t think about anybody that isn’t within their circle. It wouldn’t have sounded right coming from Jared. He was very…what did they call it? Affluenza? I hate that term, but that was his thing.

S. I actually have a note on how oblivious Jared is, but although he’s oblivious, he doesn’t seem to be malicious about. Was that an important part of how you chose to represent his ignorance?

K. I think if he had been malicious, he and Kyle would never have been able to connect and work together. Sometimes you have to look at where you need the characters to go and make sure their personalities are such that they can shift a little bit. Otherwise you would just have them sniping at each other. It is only four days in their time, so you’re not going to necessarily make huge leaps in that time, it’s more like small shifts. Someone who was just outright mean, it wouldn’t have worked.

S. I liked that there was room for Jared to become a bit more sensitive toward issues of race and class. Whereas someone who was more malicious might have dug their feet in and been more resistant.

K. Well, I think someone like that would have had much more of an “I don’t really care” attitude. Whereas Jared, maybe partly because his life is on the line, realizes that he’s at a point of disadvantage and that does make him more open to listen to what Kyle is saying. Once it finally sinks in that this isn’t his environment and he’s in a whole lot of trouble.

S. On that note, you’re from rural Alberta, so you’re very familiar with the landscape that appears in The Hill.

K. Oh, yes.

S. But you’re not a First Nations person or Cree yourself. Where do you think that situates you in regards to the larger discussion that was going on in the novel?

K. I guess I would be called an ally, if anything. I’m hopefully the person who is nudging other whites to reconsider their position. I do run across a lot of casual racism. It’s not necessarily malicious, but it is very much engrained. “This is what my parents and grandparents told me, so this is what I believe,” whether it’s about First Nations people being lazy, or whatever, which is just nonsense. Stereotypes are quite often nonsense, but the perpetuation is what causes the problem.

S. In terms of words and how we use them, Kyle frequently directs the Cree word “Moniyaw” (white man) at Jared. It’s also racial term, but somehow it seems less objectionable than it would if it came from the other direction. Does that speak to the power dynamics between two groups or how racism works in our culture?

K. I think I had him doing that as a way he could poke at Jared. For sure it was the idea that terms don’t always have to be loaded. To say ‘white man,’ it’s just a fact. It’s just who Jared is, as opposed to some of the other words we use for people of other groups or that we hear in society. Those are much more loaded. I don’t think it was ever malicious on Kyle’s part. Some of these things, it’s just your character when they come alive, they decide. I hope it’s not taken maliciously, although Jared doesn’t really appreciate it when he finds out what it means.

S. No, and I think I might have taken that cue from him.

K. I think what you’ve said about power issues is very valid. There is definitely a power imbalance and you need to be aware of that and be sensitive to it. Which teenagers are never going to be.

S. Would you ever revisit these characters at all, or do you think The Hill is their story and they’re done?

K. I don’t tend to revisit characters. There’s one or two books where I could maybe write a sequel, but I haven’t looked at it enough to actually do it. They’re probably done. Sometimes it’s fun to leave it in the readers’ hands and say, “what do you think happens with them?”

S. I think you wrapped it up well. I just really liked the boys and felt like I should ask. That’s all the questions I came up with. Is there anything else you’d like to say about the boys or diversity in YA fiction?

K. I think we’re seeing a lot more diversity in Young Adult fiction, which is awesome. In terms of First Nations you’re starting to see more First Nations writers who are really good writers, and I love that. People should have the wherewithal and the skills to tell their own stories.

S. So much storytelling is involved in First Nations cultures, and it’s so important.

K. A lot of it is really just learning to take that oral tradition and put it on paper. You’re seeing more film-making and stuff too, and I love it. I think it’ll only get better.

S. That’s great. Thanks for sitting down with me and answering my questions! I enjoyed it.

 

Click here to learn more about The Hill.

Learn more about World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development (Diversity Day).

 

Six Pajama Press titles featured in the Spring 2016 edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens

Posted on May 20th, 2016 by pajamapress

We are thrilled to announce that six recent Pajama Press titles have been selected and featured in the Spring 2016 edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens:

Ben Says Goodbye | Sarah Ellis & Kim La Fave | Pajama PressBen Says GoodbyeSTARRED SELECTION
978-1-927485-79-8  Hardcover with dust jacket
Written by Sarah Ellis
Illustrated by Kim La Fave

ElephantJourney_LR_RGBElephant Journey: The True Story of Three Zoo Elephants and their Rescue from Captivity
978-1-927485-77-4  Hardcover with dust jacket
Written by Rob Laidlaw
Illustrated by Brian Deines

Kiss, Kiss | Jennifer Couelle & Jacques Laplante |Pajama PressKiss, Kiss
978-1-927485-86-6  Hardcover with laminated case
Written by Jennifer Couëlle
Illustrated by Jacques Laplante


OnceUponALine_LR_RGBOnce Upon a Line
STARRED SELECTION
978-1927485-78-1  Hardcover with dust jacket
Written and illustrated by Wallace Edwards

Timo's Garden | Victoria Allenby & Dean Griffiths | Pajama PressTimo’s Garden
978-1-927485-84-2  Hardcover with laminated case
Written by Victoria Allenby
Illustrated by Dean Griffiths

 

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama PressA Year of Borrowed Men
978-1-927485-83-5  Hardcover with dust jacket.
Written by Michelle BarkerIllustrated by Renné Benoit

 

Visit the Canadian Children’s Book Centre website to order your copy of Best Books for Kids & Teens today.

 

Best Books for Kids & Teens is your guide to the best new Canadian books, magazines, audio and video for children and teens. Whether you’re stocking a bookshelf in a classroom, library or at home, every title in this guide has been given the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s stamp of approval – See more at: https://bookcentre.ca/publications/best-books-for-kids-teens/#sthash.AOfcMJ4N.dpuf
Best Books for Kids & Teens is your guide to the best new Canadian books, magazines, audio and video for children and teens. Whether you’re stocking a bookshelf in a classroom, library or at home, every title in this guide has been given the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s stamp of approval – See more at: https://bookcentre.ca/publications/best-books-for-kids-teens/#sthash.AOfcMJ4N.dpuf

A Brush Full of Colour wins the Crystal Kite Award for Canada

Posted on May 19th, 2016 by pajamapress

ABrushFullOfColour_Award_webbsiteWe are proud to announce that A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison by Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson has won the 2016 Crystal Kite Award for Canada.

The Crystal Kite Awards are given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to recognize great books from the seventy SCBWI regions around the world.  Along with the SCBWI Golden Kite Awards, the Crystal Kite Awards are chosen by other children’s book writers and illustrators, making them the only peer-given awards in publishing for young readers.

Founded in 1971, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is one of the largest existing writers’ and illustrators’ organizations, with over 22,000 members worldwide. It is the only organization specifically for those working in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia. The organization was founded by Stephen Mooser (President) and Lin Oliver (Executive Director), both of whom are well-published children’s book authors and leaders in the world of children’s literature.  For more information about the Crystal Kite Award, please visit www.scbwi.org, and click “Awards & Grants.”

 

Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles by Shari Green receives its first review

Posted on May 13th, 2016 by pajamapress

RootBeerCandyAndOtherMiracles_WebsiteRoot Beer Candy and Other Miracles by Shari Green, one of our upcoming Fall 2016 titles, has received its first review from CM Magazine.

“Told in verse-novel form, Green’s writing is captivatingly visual, with seamless inclusions of figurative language. As with many other verse-novels, a first-person narrative, told from the present tense, makes the story immediate and compelling…”Bev Brenna

Click here to read the full review.

Honouring Aileen Rogers

Posted on May 12th, 2016 by pajamapress

AileenForWeb

International Nurses’ Day is celebrated around the world on May 12 to mark the generosity and contributions of nurses everywhere, past and present. The date also marks Florence Nightingale’s birthdate; she’s the nurse many consider the founder of modern nursing.

Today we’d like to take the opportunity to honour our favourite historical nurse, Aileen Rogers, who appears in both A Bear in War and Bear on the Homefront, and who helped to safely deliver English children to guest-houses across Canada during World War 2. Aileen was also the original owner of Teddy, who resides at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa and is something of a national celebrity.

Aileen Rogers was born in Montreal in 1905. She contracted polio at a young age and it affected her walking for much of her life. When she was 10 and her father, Lawrence Browning Rogers, went to fight in World War 1, Aileen sent her beloved teddy bear overseas to keep him safe. Years later she graduated as a registered nurse from Montreal General Hospital School of Nursing. She had various nursing jobs, including her work during World War 2, and ended her career as head of McGill University’s health services. She lived in Montreal until she passed away in 1988.

Aileen’s experiences during the second world war were preserved in a diary she kept in 1940 along with hundreds of family letters and memorabilia from the wars. Her niece found these records stored in an old family briefcase in 2002.

Stephanie Innes, Aileen’s great-niece, co-wrote A Bear in War and Bear on the Homefront using her family’s war memorabilia including Aileen’s journal, photographs, hundreds of letters, and Teddy. Stephanie lives in Tucson, Arizona, where she is the senior medical reporter for the Arizona Daily Star.

Learn more about Aileen, Teddy and their family:

Ethel Aileen Rogers
It went to hell and back: Mr. Rogers’ Teddy Bear
A Bear in War (Canada’s History)