Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess Reviews

Posted on March 29th, 2017 by pajamapress

Kirkus ReviewsMacyMacMillan_Website

“Macy, a deaf sixth-grader who attends a mainstream school with an interpreter, faces enormous challenges, as her mother will soon marry, necessitating a move to her new stepdad’s house….The verse trails down the pages in narrow bands leaving plenty of white space. Even characters that are barely sketched emerge fully realized through the spare yet poignant narrative….When one twin endearingly makes the sign ‘sister’ to Macy, it’s an affecting moment of deep promise. Macy’s life lessons are realistic and illuminating; that she is deaf adds yet another dimension to an already powerful tale. (Fiction. 9-12)”

Click here to read the full review

Two Times a Traitor Reviews

Posted on March 3rd, 2017 by pajamapress

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Two Times a Traitor is the newest endeavor by multi-nominated and celebrated Canadian author, Karen Bass.

Two Times a Traitor is a surprising departure from what YA readers have come to expect from this dynamic author….Readers will be swept up and away in this riveting middle-grade historical/time travel nail biting adventure, and into the pages of an exciting part of Canadian history!

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!! [for Junior and Intermediate readers!]

FIVE STARS!!”

Click here to read the full review

Water’s Children Reviews

Posted on February 21st, 2017 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviewswaterschildren_website

“Twelve children from different areas of the world offer lyrical reflections on what water means to them. To Delaunois’ fictive cast water invariably sparks positive feelings…Though the specific locale of each young speaker is keyed only by a watermarked version of ‘Water is life’ embedded in the illustration that is translated into his or her script and language (identified in a list at the end), Frischeteau varies the skin color and, albeit in an idealized way, facial features of his human figures. He also often adds characteristic wildlife, national dress, or other cues to each locale.…A tribute to the essential substance, washed free of preachiness or even faintly cautionary messages.”

Click here to read the full review

Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“…In this book about water in its many forms, we are introduced to twelve children of the world, quick to share what it means to them. They have been invited by the author to share their thoughts. They do so in their own language, and their answers will inspire those children who share it to voice their own thoughts and may lead to valuable discussion about its importance to every one of us.

Written in poetic form, and accompanied by light-infused illustrations that are full of life and detail, it is a book that will be appreciated in classrooms and at home. Water is our most precious resource, and each speaker honors that….”

Click here to read the full review

Raising Mom

“…DESCRIPTION: This unique title reads like a crossover between a picture book, poem(s), and a non-fiction title. The necessity of water is focused through the lens of its vital importance to twelve children from different countries….The ultimate goal of the book is to spark discussion (and hopefully a plan for conservancy) about the vital role that water plays to each of us. The illustrations are vivid and each showcases a snapshot of each of the twelve ‘narrator’s’ homelands….

MY EXPERIENCE:

My 3-yo and I spent a lot of time pouring over this title. Our eyes were drawn to the first names of the twelve narrators that are listed in the dedication at the front of the book – as I read them, she recognized that some sounded different to her ears and we explored the concept that there are a wide variety of names and pronunciations for children from around the world. My daughter was able to recognize that each two-page spread was depicting a specific locale and we discussed things that were similar and different to our surroundings in each different depiction of a homeland. What a great discussion about diversity. She easily grasped the idea that water exists all over the world and is of vital importance to everyone. We ended our reading by brainstorming ways that we can help conserve the water around us and in our household, specifically.

LIKES:

  • vibrant and eye-catching illustrations
  • lyrical and poetic text that is vocabulary-rich (a great chance to learn new words!)
  • strong conservation message without being too heavy-handed. The message is clearly sent, but beautifully conveyed
  • effective hybrid of fiction/poem/non-fiction…”

Click here to read the full review

Youth Services Book Review

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4…

What did you like about the book? Water is essential to life. This book travels around the world illustrating the different uses of water: bathing, drinking swimming, watering the plants. Sometimes it appears as snow or frost or ice. Water is the ocean where there is so much life, above which gulls soar. Water is essential to life – around the world beautifully illustrated here by Gerard Frischeteau.

Anything you did not like about this book? No.

To whom would you recommend this book? This book would work well as a storytime for kindergarteners through 2nd grade followed by discussion. It could be used as a stepping-off point for essays.”
Katrina Yurenka, Moderator, Youth Services Book Review

Click here to read the full review

Waiting for Sophie Reviews

Posted on February 17th, 2017 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviewswaitingforsophie_website

“Waiting for a little sister to be born and then waiting for her to grow up can be trying, but it eventually has its rewards….Nana-Downstairs sets the tone for this down-to-earth, sweet but never mushy story. The accompanying illustrations have a simple, gentle quality that neatly matches the story. The hand-printing-style type used for the text also complements the story and is easy for readers entering the world of early chapter books to decode. Warmth and quiet humor capture the realities of a new baby in the house.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

“Sarah Ellis is one of Canada’s most successful writer of children’s books (Back of BeyondBen Overnight, and several volumes in the “I, Canada” series). She is also a critic, a teacher and a librarian.

Utilizing the trope of “new baby – concerned older brother – problem with new baby – happy ending”, Ellis begins her story with Liam, who looks about six, being woken up by Nana-Downstairs, a hip lady in pants and designer specs. Mom and Dad have gone to the hospital because new sister Sophie is on the way.

Ellis’ trademark wry humour comes into play almost immediately…

Carmen Mok, who has many picturebook and magazine credits to her name, has graced the pages with some charming digitally-created art with the look of watercolours, mostly images of the characters in the story. The font chosen is a large, clear one, and the layout beckons new readers of ‘chapter books’ to give it a try. The book would also be appropriate for a slighter younger audience for reading aloud.

Waiting for Sophie is a fine addition to library collections, especially those requiring more easy novels with contemporary themes.

Highly Recommended.
Ellen Heaney

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Waiting can be so hard for little ones, especially when it’s for a baby sister who is taking her time being born and growing up so you can play with her. And this waiting is just about killing little Liam….

Sarah Ellis gives Liam a voice that is so filled with hope about his new sister and the promise of having a familial playmate that even his frustrations are natural and unfeigned. He speaks with his heart, never with meanness or anger, though he acknowledges the annoyance of biding his time. Sophie has a great big brother. And, although Waiting for Sophie is an early reader, rather than a picture book, the illustrations by Carmen Mok augment Sarah Ellis’ story with the innocence and family that the author’s words already convey.

Young children being challenged to read their first chapter books will appreciate this early reader as it will undoubtedly speak to them. So many know the anguish of waiting, whether for a new sibling to be born or some other significant life event, and will easily put themselves in Liam’s shoes. Maybe they’ll undertake their own DIY project, with a little help from an adult, or maybe they’ll find their own coping strategies but you can be sure that they’ll appreciate Liam’s story of Waiting for Sophie and the fun that can be had with it.”

Click here to read the full review

Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“[Sarah Ellis] constantly writes strong stories that have lasting impact for her audience. Many remain on my ‘keepers’ shelf to now be shared with my granddaughters….

In this early chapter book, she introduces us to Liam and his family. Upon meeting him we learn that his parents have gone to the hospital in hopes that baby Sophie will soon arrive. Liam is super excited, but wants everything to happen now!…

Sarah Ellis tells another timeless story with beautifully chosen text and Carmen Mok matches the tone of the story perfectly with gentle images and soft colors….”

Click here to read the full review

Mom Read It

“…Waiting for Sophie is a great older sibling book for younger school-age kids. Sarah Ellis not only captures the excitement of waiting for a new baby brother or sister, but also gives voice to the little frustrations kids can experience when dealing with a new baby in the house, and the desire to have a playmate their age. Sarah Ellis shows readers the fun side of being an older brother, like being the one to make the baby giggle. The gently colored illustrations make this a cozy reading choice for parents and kids, or educators discussing caregiving, to gather together and enjoy. This is a good book for any expectant sibling…”

Click here to read the full review

The Wolves Return: A New Beginning for Yellowstone National Park Teaching Guide

Posted on February 8th, 2017 by pajamapress

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Teaching Guide Coming Soon!

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Under the Umbrella Reviews

Posted on January 17th, 2017 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews **Starred Review**undertheumbrella_website

“A grumpy man fights a rainstorm and other pedestrians but learns a lesson when his umbrella goes flying. Pithy poetry pairs with artful illustrations in this Canadian import, translated from the French….Arbona’s fantastical illustrations play with perspective, shape, and pops of bright color that enliven scenes primarily composed of black, gray, and white. Buquet’s text is translated into well-crafted verse by Woods. Memorable and instructive without a hint of didacticism.”

Click here to read the full review

Quill & Quire **Starred Review**

“…The two strangers form an almost-instant friendship; the man buys the boy a tart, which they share as the weather magically turns from grey rain to bright yellow sunshine, through which the two soar happily.

Buquet’s prose, translated into English by Erin Woods, consists of rhyming couplets, most of which fit together and flow with satisfying precision…..

Under the Umbrella is as sweet and lovingly constructed as the brightest treat in a bakery window.”
Nathan Whitlock

Read the full review on page 29 of the March 2017 issue of Quill & Quire

CM Magazine

“I have always enjoyed reading rhyming text out loud to groups of unsuspecting story time children as the atmosphere of the story unfolds in a rhythmic manner and comes alive when I do. The pace and anticipation of the story is set through the author’s clever ability to create the mood with simple words. The dark mood of the man in the story is felt by the quick and short sentences within the rhyming text, and it seems to become more urgent with every step that he takes through the stormy streets of Paris. When the worst of all things happens and his umbrella is blown from his hands, the man encounters a young boy who transports him to a better place, a place that is bright and warm where the rhythm of the rhymes has changed the atmosphere to illustrate a luxurious longing for the treats in the shop window….

The writing and illustrations in this book complement each other well and work together to highlight the special moment that the two characters share. One could say that they are in the calm of the storm before heading back out to continue their day. This story can be read with a group or shared with one child quite successfully….

Recommended.”
Tamara Opar

Click here to read the full review

Resource Links

“…Originally published in French, Under the Umbrella beautifully celebrates the gentle power of kindness to bring people of different ages together on common ground. The rhyming text is lilting and descriptive, pairing seamlessly with the book’s bold illustrations that are reminiscent of Picasso in the most delightful way. Facial features are stylized and rendered in a mix of bright colours and charcoal grey, lending the illustrations a unique contrast that adds visual interest. Young readers will feast their eyes on the array of sweet treats in the patisserie window, as a rainbow of macaroons, tarts and éclairs float by.

Under the Umbrella is a visually stunning picture book that will warm the hearts of all who read it.”

Thematic Links: Intergenerational Relationships; Generosity; Kindness; Sharing
—Chloe Humphreys

Read the full review on page 4 of the February 2017 issue of Resource Links

Winnipeg Free Press

“Anyone who dislikes rainy days would enjoy Under the Umbrella by French author Catherine Buquet and illustrated by Marion Arbona…

Arbona’s artwork, in gouache and pencil, is the real highlight of this rhyming story. She is a three-time Governor General’s Award finalist, and her unique illustrations evoke the very feeling of a rain-soaked day. For youngest readers (2-4).”
—Helen Norrie

Click here to read the full review

Geo Librarian

“…I loved the message of this book, that what we bring to the world is more important than what the world brings to us….I did appreciate the use of color and shape to convey the mood of the characters and the story. The story begins with mostly sharp angles and dark colors until the boy is introduced when light, bright, cheerful colors reign supreme. The contrast between the man’s mood and the boy’s shows brightest in the contrasting light and dark shades. And the way the light spreads into the dark demonstrates the message of the story far beyond the ability of the text to do so.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“If Under the Umbrella proves anything, it’s that there’s always a little sunshine associated with the gloominess of rain if you just open your eyes to see beyond the umbrellas….

Under the Umbrella was first published in French as Sous le parapluie (Les 400 coups, 2016) and garnered much attention for its simple but restorative story told with the pencil and gouache illustrations of Marion Arbona…Catherine Buquet’s text suggests a darkness to the man’s trek in the rain, using words like “grumbled”, “growled”, “muttered”, “attacked”, “forced”, and “With striding feet and stormy heart” (pg. 15), making it evident that the man’s mood is as foul as the weather. Yet when she introduces the boy who is “entranced” “at a warm and glowing window”…the atmosphere changes completely, though the rain continues to fall. What a great lesson in word choice for older readers and writers to witness the impact vocabulary has on atmosphere. Marion Arbona’s artwork conforms to that climate, using dusky greys and sharp angles for the dreary scenes while shining bright yellows and reds and pinks within the patisserie and then upon the two as they savour a shared treat. The interaction between the balding older man in the pin-striped suit and the little boy in cap and short pants is fleeting but colossal in its momentary importance. I’m glad the boy was taking the time to enjoy the visual display and that the man took the time to acknowledge the boy. It’s a small thing, but it’s a good thing.”

Click here to read the full review

Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“…March 1 – a ‘birth’ day of sorts for two new books from Pajama Press. The first of two new releases is about a very grumpy man. If you are one of those people who doesn’t much like wind and rain and are often in a hurry, you will know how he is feeling. His surroundings are as grey and moody as he is. His mood is aptly displayed in the rhyming text and in the dreary darkness of the artwork.

That mood is effectively changed for the reader when we note a young boy looking at the warm glow emanating from a patisserie window. Bathed in yellow light, he is standing on tiptoe to get a clear look at the sweetness on display. A turn of the page and the reader is fully aware of the warmth the boy is feeling….

Just as quickly, with the strength of a gusty wind, we are returned to the gloom as the man loses his umbrella. Luckily, the boy is there to grab it, and to bring a welcome change to the man’s day.

The artwork beautifully matches the feel of the rainy day from two clearly different perspectives. Use of color, shape, and varying perspective add to the book’s appeal. The text is filled with an invitation to look at the world from point of view, and the translation to memorable rhyming text is a real plus!”

Click here to read the full review

Pickle Me This

“A beautifully illustrated picture book that celebrates a few of my favourite things, namely light, umbrellas, and baked goods? Yes, please….

As we turn towards the season in which the rain can seem unceasing and the world still a bit too cold and grim, it becomes important to be reminded not to hurry too much, and not to miss those moments in which light and communion is possible.

The book begins with a man who’s doing battle with the wind and rain, barrelling his way along his journey, and furious at the crowds and the weather, and everything that’s offering resistance….The man doesn’t even notice the boy he passes staring into the window of the bakeshop….

When a gust of wind rips the umbrella away from the hurrying man’s clutches, the flyaway object lands at the little boy’s feet. The boy retrieves it and the man offers his thanks, and suddenly notices the world around him, the light at the window, the good things on display inside.”

Click here to read the full review

My Beautiful Birds Teaching Guides

Posted on January 10th, 2017 by pajamapress

mybeautifulbirds_websiteDownload the My Beautiful Birds classroom reading guide

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Don’t Laugh at Giraffe Extra Content

Posted on January 9th, 2017 by pajamapress

DontLaughAtGiraffe_WebsiteDownload the Author-Illustrator Information Sheet

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Giraffe and Bird Extra Content

Posted on January 9th, 2017 by pajamapress

giraffeandbird_websiteAuthor-Illustrator Information Sheet

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Good Morning Grumple Reviews

Posted on January 6th, 2017 by pajamapress

School Library Journalgoodmorninggrumple_website

“Toddler-PreS–What to do with tots who don’t like to wake up in the morning? Do you tiptoe carefully around them, or do you wake them up with a tickle and a song? Allenby and Gauthier address this very issue with a patient mother fox who knows just how to coax her own little ‘grumple’ out of bed….Gauthier’s mixed-media and paper collage illustrations are quiet in tone, emphasizing that this is one fox who just wants to sleep. Tinges of taupe, cream, brown, and heather gray are shaded across the pages. The small size, soft padded cover, and sturdy card stock pages make this suitable for lap sharing. VERDICT Consider for medium to large picture book collections that serve a heavy toddler and preschool population.”
—Lisa Kropp, Lindenhurst Memorial Library, NY

Read the full review in the February 2017 issue of School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly

“This padded storybook with sturdy cardstock pages follows a mother’s persistent efforts to get her sleepy ‘grumple’ out of bed in the morning. Allenby’s intermittently rhyming text traces the mother’s escalating actions, which involve singing ever-louder…Gauthier’s naif collages sweetly emphasize the warmth between parent and child (they resemble a cross between a panda and a squirrel), even when the little one’s eyes are squeezed tight in a desperate attempt to hang onto sleep a little longer.”

Read the full review in the January 30 issue of Publishers Weekly

Booklist Online

“Allenby and Gauthier’s picture book opens on a scene likely familiar in many households…The grumple, a cranky bearlike creature, doesn’t want to get out of bed to greet the day…Allenby’s lilting lines encourage singing progressively louder, tickling toes, and kissing foreheads to get little grumples out of bed, but it’s the music that’s the most affirming and powerful method for urging kiddos out from under their covers and off to enjoy the great outdoors and play with friends. Gauthier’s naive-style collage illustrations, rendered in rough-cut shapes covered in thick paint and freewheeling scribbles, nicely complement Allenby’s bouncy rhymes, particularly when contrasting the mother’s singsongy cheerfulness with the grumple’s rumpled, bleary-eyed appearance….”
—Anita Lock

Click here to read the full review

Resource Links

“This book is a wonderful invitation to celebrate morning and waking up routines….

Manon Gauthier’s illustrations are very unique and appear to be photographs of drawings on paper cut out and assembled/pasted in a collage-like style. They are reminiscent of the art of childhood, without being too childish. Children will relate to them as to something they could have created and in fact, this style would be a great one to have children try as an extension to the book. This is a unique and endearing title that will be a toddler favourite, especially for the ‘Grumples’!”

Thematic Links: Daily Routines/Time of Day; Emotions; Feelings
—Erin Hansen

Read the full review on page 1 of the February 2017 issue of Resource Links

Midwest Book Review

“Thoroughly ‘kid friendly’ in tone and presentation, Good Morning, Grumple combines author Victoria Alleby’s imaginative flair for original storytelling with Manon Gautheir’s charming illustrations….Simply stated, Good Morning, Grumple is unreservedly and enthusiastically recommended for family, preschool, and community library collections.”

Click here to read the full review

Montreal Review of Books

“Not everyone is a morning person, and Good Morning, Grumple is a story in rhyme that offers a solution to those grumpy feelings that overtake many of us when forced to greet another new day. Written by Victoria Allenby and illustrated using a combination of mixed media and collage by Manon Gauthier, this picture book introduces us to Grumple at his worst….

Good Morning, Grumple is a sweet spin on what can be a stressful morning routine that is sure to please both pre-school kids and their parents.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“…In Good Morning, Grumple, a mother fox, who has obviously endured many a morning struggling to get a grumpy young one in rumpled bed clothes out of bed, attempts the near impossible feat with an established process of rhyming song and accompanying actions….

Every household must have one or two grumples, and Victoria Allenby has contrived a playful way of rousing them to waking….[L]ittle ones will delight in the role they get to play, even if it means ultimately getting out of bed.

Victoria Allenby has proven that she can write light and refreshing books for pre-readers and early readers…but now she’s bringing that novelty to helping parents parent, all without preaching about how to do it right….

Manon Gauthier lends her trademark cut paper collage…to Good Morning, Grumple, establishing evocative scenes with her artistry. Colour is limited but effective, with the neutrality of a grumple atmosphere evident throughout. No grumple would ever see much in the way of colour before deigning to open his/her eyes completely, and Manon Gauthier supports this premise wholeheartedly. But Manon Gauthier refuses to keep things stark and uninspiring. All indoor and outdoor scenes, before and after waking, are freckled with birds, flowers, and household furnishings and decorations that invite readers in. Collage art has never been so expressive and atmospheric.

Enjoy the smaller and inviting format of Good Morning, Grumple with Pajama Press’ unique padded cover, rounded corners and heavy-duty paper that make it a pleasure to hold….”

Click here to read the full review

Raising Mom

DESCRIPTION:

This book is a delightful invitation to celebrate waking-up routines. The gentle rhyming text is engaging without being too wordy, and there is opportunity for the reader to create their own short melody to sing the mother’s songs as a way to personalize the story. Manon Gauthier’s illustrations are very unique and appear to be photographs of hand-done drawings on paper cut out and pasted in a paper collage. This is a unique and endearing title that will be a toddler favourite, especially for the ‘Grumples’!

MY EXPERIENCE:

My 3-year old was fascinated with the illustrations in this book and with the creature being called ‘Grumple’. It took her two readings to connect ‘grumple’ to grumpy and she was thrilled with herself for making the connection. She helped me make up a tune to put the mother’s songs to music, which was fun for us both. The 23-month old twins have enjoyed listening to this, too, and have excitedly pointed at the engaging illustrations – they have evoked a reaction for sure! They noticed the point in the story when Grumple’s frown turned into a smile and enjoy hearing the short songs that their sister and I set to our own tune(s). My kids most often wake up happy, but on the rare days when they don’t, I’ve coaxed smiles from them each time I’ve read them this title!…”

Click here to read the full review

My Beautiful Birds Reviews

Posted on December 27th, 2016 by pajamapress

Quill & Quire **Starred Review**mybeautifulbirds_website

“With the arrival of Syrian refugee families in many Canadian communities, parents and children alike are charged with trying to understand the harsh experiences these new classmates and neighbours have undergone. The compassionate and beautiful new picture book from Oakville, Ontario, illustrator Suzanne Del Rizzo – the first for which she has created both pictures and text – imagines a Syrian child and his family driven by war into a refugee camp.

While the others settle into the new realities of life in the camp, sensitive Sami is unable to recover, expressing his trauma through grief for the pet pigeons he had to leave behind. He tries to paint a picture of his pigeons, but covers their coloured feathers with smears of black, then tears the painting to pieces. When four wild birds fly into the camp and respond to Sami’s attention, they break through the little boy’s isolation and misery. By the end of the book, Sami has reconnected with life, and is even able to reach out to help a new child arriving at the camp.

Del Rizzo bases her story on an account from the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan of a child finding solace in some wild birds there. She wisely focuses on what Sami sees and feels without trying to explain too much of the context, relying instead on her visuals to provide this information. The first images of the sky over his former home, glowing with flames and explosions, give way to the beauty of the desert skyscapes in which Sami sees the colourful plumage of his beloved birds. These skillful and imaginative illustrations – created with Plasticine, polymer clay, and other media – give a sense of dimension, which is enhanced by striking and unusual perspectives. My Beautiful Birds is a lovely, timely book.
Gwyneth Evans

Read the full review on page 43 of the January/February 2017 issue of Quill & Quire

The Horn Book Magazine

At the start of the emotional tale My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo, Sami and his family climb a hill while their Syrian village burns in the background below. They continue walking for a day and two nights until they reach a refugee camp: “Helpful hands welcome us in. We made it. We are safe.” But Sami is still scared, and he is heartbroken over the loss of his beloved pet pigeons, even though his father reassures him that “they escaped, too.” Healing finally comes after a quartet of birds arrive — not his birds, “but it doesn’t matter.” Del Rizzo uses polymer clay and acrylic paint to create vibrant pictures of Sami, his family, the refugee camp, and the swirling pink-and-purple sky. Most of all, she creates birds for which every feather and color looks real. Beauty and sorrow sit side by side in this compassionate and age-appropriate depiction of contemporary refugee life. (Pajama Press, 6–9 years)

Click here to view The Horn Book Magazine’s post on books about refugee children

School Library Journal

“While walking one day, Sami realizes that the sky he sees from camp is the same sky as in Syria and that if his pigeons were strong enough to fly, they might be strong enough to survive. Will this insight allow Sami to open up and accept the new friends that might come his way? Or will the refugee camp be nothing more than a segue between two pieces of his life? Exquisite dimensional illustrations using Plasticine, polymer clay, and other media bring a unique, lifelike quality to the page, enriching Sami’s story to its fullest potential when paired with the often lyrical prose. VERDICT A stunning offering for libraries wishing to add to their collection of hopeful yet realistic refugee tales.”
—Brittany Drehobl, Eisenhower Public Library District, IL

Read the full review in the March 2017 issue of School Library Journal

Kirkus Reviews

Sami was feeding his pigeons when his home and his neighborhood were suddenly gone. Sami and his family, Muslims, escape, along with everyone he knows. He’s frightened by smoke and noise, and his father squeezes his hand and assures him his beautiful birds have escaped, too. Days of walking get them to a refugee camp and safety, but while the other kids play and adults try to create a sense of normalcy, Sami cannot join in. Days pass, then he sees four different birds, which land on his outstretched arms. He collects some seeds to feed them, along with paper and wool for their nests, and for the first time since leaving Syria, Sami finds some peace. He then has the strength to welcome a frightened little girl who arrives with a new group. Del Rizzo uses her considerable talent with paint, Plasticine, and polymer clay to create the colorful, highly textured illustrations for this book, which she conceived while searching for a way to explain the Syrian civil war to her young children. Based on a real refugee child who keeps birds, this story isn’t about war but its effect on those who experience it and survive. This story of one frightened little boy who finds strength in caring for animals and uses that strength to comfort other kids is an excellent means of explaining a difficult subject to young children. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-10)

Click here to read the full review

Resource Links

“…With its elegant prose and beautiful clay illustrations, this book tells a timely story through the voice of a Syrian refugee. It is important to provide readers with perspectives different than their own, and this book may be particularly relevant for Canadian readers due to the influx of Syrian refugees into Canada.

My Beautiful Birds is a very well-executed book that provides a window into the life of a refugee while also being a pleasure to read.

Thematic Links: Syrian Refugees; Birds
—Alice Albarda

Read the full review on page 5 of the February 2017 issue of Resource Links

Canadian Children’s BookNews

“Every year, more and more families find themselves forced to flee their homes and relocate. Recently, this has become more relevant than ever with the war in Syria displacing hundreds of thousands of families to nearby countries and refugee camps. My Beautiful Birds tells the story of a family escaping Syria from the perspective of a little boy named Sami. Through his anxiety and confusion, Sami’s thoughts remain focused on the pet pigeons he left behind, and whether or not they were also able to escape. Slowly, he becomes familiar with his new home and routines, and learns to move on from the loss of his most cherished pets.

This is a wonderful story for all children, as learning about the growing-up experiences of others is always helpful. The book would be especially useful, however, for children who are going through major life changes themselves. It contains not only lessons on relocation and moving, but also on making new friends, acclimatizing to new environments, moving on from the past, and much more!

Suzanne Del Rizzo weaves the story together beautifully with the help of her own illustrations done in a variety of mediums, including clay, and Plasticine. The images are multi-dimensional and seem to almost jump off the page. They are extremely captivating and add even more depth to the already engaging story that accompanies them. In addition to all of its many amazing aspects, My Beautiful Birds is a stunning tool to teach children about what goes on in the world outside their own backyards.”

Read the full review on page 29 of the Spring 2017 issue of Canadian Children’s BookNews

Youth Services Book Review

What did you like about the book? Sami, a recent Syrian refugee, explores his very powerful, personal perspective of the pain, healing and hope of his resettlement ordeal. Suzanne Del Rizzo’s incredible attention to each detail in the story line, dialogue and exceptionally detailed polymer clay and acrylic art work of the landscape and living conditions, beautifully combines to allow the reader to absorb the profound emotional loss that Sami has experienced and continues daily. The hopeful symbolism of reconnecting with his beloved birds begins his self-healing process that takes flight in the community and spreads as he welcomes his newest refugee friend. I appreciated that the book did not explain, blame or discuss any political themes, leaving these questions outside Sami’s innocent mind, allowing him to focus on reality, humanity and survival. I hope this book inspires others to realize the daily plight of refugees. I appreciated the “Author’s Note” on the last page that simply outlined facts about the refugee crisis, sadly noting that half of those displaced are innocent children like Sami.

Anything you didn’t like about it? NO, it was well thought out and executed beautifully.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Everyone that works in any small way for social justice and peace, parents that want to expose and inspire young children to social justice issues, ministers, religious education teachers., community organizers.”
Diane Neylon

Click here to read the full review

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

“Coming to shelves in March is Suzanne Del Rizzo’s My Beautiful Birds (Pajama Press), a new book specifically about Syrian refugees. Rendered in bright and textured polymer clay and acrylic, it’s the story of a boy named Sami, leaving his Syrian home (with a sky full of smoke) to escape war….

Del Rizzo writes in an arresting first-person, present-tense voice, the story coming straight from the boy’s point of view and giving us a glimpse into his inner turmoil….In a closing author’s note, she summarizes the plight of Syrian refugees, singling out the work of the United Nations Refugee Agency. In her bio, she notes what prompted this story — reading about a boy who “took solace in a connection with wild birds at the Za’atari refugee camp” in Jordan and being struck by “the universality of a child’s relationship to animals.”

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Let’s Talk Picture Books

My Beautiful Birds, written and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo, sheds a light on the ongoing Syrian Refugee crisis and its effects on its children. The narrative follows a boy named Sami who is uprooted from home, leaving behind all of the birds he’d grown to love and care for. My Beautiful Birds shows the reality of refugee camps and ultimately provides hope for people in search of a new place in life….

As beautiful as the story is, the illustrations are even more so. Del Rizzo creates her illustrations from acrylic paint and polymer clay, so the texture is out of this world. With each page flip it feels like we can reach out and touch the illustrations. We can even see Del Rizzo’s fingerprints! But of course she doesn’t stop there: each illustration also features rich colors, thoughtful composition, and a keen sense of light. I would love to talk about each and every spread (and I would love to show you more of them!) but this is a book worth seeing for yourself.”

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Geo Librarian

“I think my favorite thing about this book…are the gorgeous illustrations. Using…polymer clay, and other mixed media Del Rizzo has created illustrations that really pop out at you. The story itself really touched my heart…here we have a young boy who has lost his home, his pets, pretty much his whole world, and he grieves the loss, but when new birds fly into his life, he finds a reason to rejoice despite his humble circumstances.”

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“In My Beautiful Birds, author-illustrator Suzanne Del Rizzo offers a poignant story of a Syrian child refugee traumatized by leaving his cherished pigeons behind. It is a tale of sorrow and suffering and promise, and beautifully rendered in Suzanne Del Rizzo’s distinctive art….

The sadness and trauma in this little boy’s life is so palpable, from the family’s departure to their adjustment to the refugee camp and to the despondency that permeates Sami’s new life. Through use of colour and the texture of her art–here polymer clay with acrylics–Suzanne Del Rizzo balances the shadows of war and trauma with the bright colours of youthful exuberance and pastels of hope for a future. There’s the tumultuous skies and the ordinary days, and the anger of loss with the chirpiness of birds and children at play. I know the excellence of her art, complex in the depth of detail and its ability to evoke emotions. But Suzanne Del Rizzo has demonstrated a new depth to her writing. Perhaps it’s the tragic circumstances of the story but Suzanne Del Rizzo has put heart and hope into her words, giving breath to a staggering situation, suffusing it with some degree of optimism where there is so little. My Beautiful Birds provides a promise that all the darkness from that Syrian skyline of smoke is behind Sami and remains open to a bright sky of birds and lightness, the landscape of his future.”

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Pickle Me This

“In Suzanne Del Rizzo’s picture book, My Beautiful Birds, a young Syrian boy is forced to leave his wartorn home and make the long journey to the relative safety of a refugee camp. The story is enlivened by Del Rizzo’s plasticine illustrations with their rich purple and golden hues. Of all the things that Sami has left behind, it’s his pigeons he misses the most, the birds he fed and kept and as pets….Where he finds solace, though, is in the sky, one thing that is familiar to him, ‘wait[ing] like a loyal friend for me to remember.’ In the clouds, he sees the shapes of his birds: ‘Spiralling. Soaring. Sharing the sky.’”

Click here to read the full review

Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“…As books can do, this second release from Pajama Press today helps those who read it to see through a window into others’ experiences and to begin to understand and empathize with their journey to a new life.

Suzanne Del Rizzo imagines what it might have been like for Sami’s family. War sends them scrambling on a long trek to a refugee camp. The realities of life there are grim, especially for Sami who had to travel without his much loved pigeons….

A closing author’s note provides information for her readers concerning work being done to help refugees by the United Nations Refugee Agency. The original art was created with polymer clay and acrylic, and also includes children’s paintings on the endpapers. The inside images are colorful, textured and appealing. I found myself particularly attracted to the striking and unexpected variety in perspective. There are the dark shadows of war; there is also light-filled promise for a better future. Books like this are needed to help our students and children begin to understand the plight of refugees around the world. Heartfelt and timely, this book deserves to be shared.”

Click here to read the full review

All Booked Up Now

My Beautiful Birds written and illustrated by @suzannedelrizzo and published by @pajamapressbooks. This is a beautiful story about Sami and his family fleeing home and headed to a refugee camp….This is such a beautifully illustrated book with such a heartwarming story….Stories like these remind me how blessed I am that my children have food, clothing and shelter and don’t have to worry about adult responsibilities at such young ages. Suzanne was inspired to write this story after reading an article about a little boy who found peace with wild birds at a refugee camp in Syria….”

Read the full review on the @allbookedupnow Instagram account

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Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That Activities

Posted on December 27th, 2016 by pajamapress

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Download Nat’s Preposition Worksheet

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Download Nat’s Rhyming Worksheet

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Giraffe and Bird Activities

Posted on December 21st, 2016 by pajamapress

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Download the Giraffe and Bird Holiday Colouring Sheet

 

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My Beautiful Birds Extra Content

Posted on November 24th, 2016 by pajamapress

My Beautiful Birds Extended Author’s Note

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How Do You Feel Reviews

Posted on November 9th, 2016 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

A hedgehog sets out to ask how its fellow animals feel; alongHowDoYouFeel_website the way, readers will learn there is more than one meaning to the word feel. A puffy, cheery cover framed in soft purple opens onto endpapers depicting a fresh green meadow in early summer. The tone is set for this toddler-friendly book that introduces a few animals and how they feel. On clean, uncluttered, sturdy pages with plenty of white, and using children’s acrylics and colored pencil, Bender depicts in a realistic style—though slightly anthropomorphized—a hedgehog, a toad, a snake, a duckling, a rabbit, a snail, and a kitten. The hedgehog asks the same question of each animal it encounters: Toad [or Snake, Duckling, etc.], how do you feel? It is in the animals vocabulary-rich answers that this book really shines….At the end, when all the animals ask hedgehog how it feels, readers will have a little surprise, as its answer is not one of the tactile kind: Hedgehog feels happy! A charming, smart, and attractive book. (Picture book. 2-4)

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Midwest Book Review

“…Award-winning author/illustrator Rebecca Bender’s How Do You Feel? will utterly charm children ages 2 to 5 with its lyrical text, endearing animals, and surprise ending. The small trim size and padded hardcover format make it perfect for little ones, who may even be inspired to find new ways of expressing how they feel in every sense of the phrase. Thoroughly ‘kid friendly’ in presentation, How Do You Feel? is very highly recommended for family, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections.”

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CM Magazine

“…The illustrations, done with acrylics and coloured pencils, are quite detailed and realistic, and children will have fun identifying the animals on each page – particularly those few that they may not have seen before, such as snails or hedgehogs.

The ending of the book is a nice surprise – switching from a focus on physical feelings (e.g., soft, gnarly) to emotional feelings. This may allow parents an opportunity to discuss the differences in what or how a child might be ‘feeling’ and that both types of feeling are important. It can often be difficult to tease out how a young child is feeling emotionally, and so having a book act as an entry point can be helpful….

Recommended.
—Mę-Linh Lę

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Resource Links

“…The uncomplicated poetic descriptive text is paired with charming colourful and whimsical illustrations rendered with acrylics and coloured pencil. An added feature for babies is padded covers.

Thematic Links: Hedgehogs; Baby Animals; Friendship; Textures; Senses; Emotions; Concepts; Happiness
—Isobel Lang

Read the full review on page 3 of the February 2017 issue of Resource Links

Canadian Children’s BookNews

“A little hedgehog sets off on a voyage of sensory discovery in the picture book, How Do You Feel?, by Rebecca Bender….

Through an elegant simplicity, the author is able to use richer language, which becomes accessible to even the youngest of readers.

This is a lovely story for young children, as it explores the complexities of the world in a simple format. Few will have experienced physically touching all the varieties of animals in the story, and Bender creates an opportunity for children to use the natural world around them to build richer experiences to add to their imaginary worlds.”

Read the full review on page 31 of the Spring 2017 issue of Canadian Children’s BookNews

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Little ones often have difficulty differentiating between feeling, the emotion, and feeling, the sense of touch, and Rebecca Bender, creator of the award-winning Giraffe and Bird books…has some fun word play with that to compare textures of a variety of animals….

Pajama Press has started putting out these lovely padded-cover books for preschoolers that are so much more inviting to hold than ordinary board books. With its soft, cushioned cover, the parade of animals within and the repetitive text, How Do You Feel? will become a popular read-aloud book for parents and teachers of preschoolers and kindergarteners. The rhythm and predictability of the text offers great opportunities for little ones to suggest answers to each question. It’s a great teaching tool. I can just imagine parents and teachers asking, just as they often play that game asking what a dog or cat says, how a snake or a kitten feels.

But, kids will see beyond the content of the book and fall in love with Rebecca Bender’s adorable creatures. Every one of them has darling eyes–all bright, some laughing, several inquisitive–and bodies of evocative textures that will delight little ones who will want to reach out and touch. They’ll be surprised to only stroke paper but Rebecca Bender’s illustrations will still give readers starting points for further discussions. It could be about the sense of touch–and the other senses as well– or about synonyms and the thesaurus or about similes and metaphors. How Do You Feel? may be targeted for the pre-reader who will be charmed by the whole package of art and text, but teachers should look beyond the cuteness and see the book as having applications far beyond the very youngest. That’s how I feel. How do you feel?”
­—Helen K

Pickle Me This

“Harriet remains a hedgehog fanatic, and therefore we have all become fond of the book, How Do You Feel?, by Rebecca Bender. I love the double meaning of the question (because anything that teaches that a single thing can have two realities is important), and that the answers to the questions are all about words and similes. The whole book is about connection, and it’s sweet and lovely, and also powerfully subversive in the most important way.”
—Kerry Clare

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Youth Services Book Review

Format: Hardcover

Rating: (1-5 5 is a starred review) 4

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book? This book is about an adorable hedgehog who asks animals how they feel. The answers speak to their physical nature. A duckling feels fuzzy like tall grass reaching for the sun. Each animal responds with an answer that also includes a simile. The cute ending is when the animals ask the hedgehog how he feels, and only negative adjectives come to mind. Finally they all tickle him and he says he feels happy.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I love everything about this book.

To Whom Would You Recommend this book? This is great for very young children and especially good for students learning English. There are lots of new adjectives and similes that students will enjoy learning.

Who should buy this book? all libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Children’s Books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Sandra Pacheco, ESL teacher, Washington, D.C.”

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