Best Pirate Reviews

Posted on June 14th, 2017 by pajamapress

Kirkus ReviewsBestPirate_Website

“A pirate lassie decides merely going from a Bad Pirate (2015) to a Good Pirate (2016) isn’t enough….Following the format she set forth in the book’s two predecessors, Winters once again fills her text with piratical lingo while highlighting three adjectives (in this case, “crafty,” “nimble,” and “fearless”), allowing her heroine to embody them in her own way. Augusta is proactive, takes charge, and even has a thing or two to say about generosity when the moment is right. Griffiths’ illustrations are in fine form here, by turns beautiful in their evocative backgrounds while also displaying an array of impressively expressive kits and pups. Best be filling yer ditty bag with more of this sort—Tuna Lubbers and Frilly Dogs ahoy!”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

“Kari-Lynn Winters follows the format of the first two pirate books, with playful, pirate language scattered throughout the story and with much of the dynamic text appearing on floating pieces of sail….And the end pages once again feature a glossary of pirate lingo and nautical talk….The buoyant text is mirrored in the dazzling artwork by Dean Griffiths. The wildly colourful and detailed drawings are expressive, action-packed and filled with humour. Griffiths’ charming illustrations have depth and pull the reader right into the story.

Using these three imaginative titles produced by this talented duo, an enterprising teacher could treat her students to a fun, pirate-themed unit. The fact that each title features an important lesson or moral, with a refreshing heroine, should make this idea even more motivating.

Highly Recommended.
Reesa Cohen

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Resource Links

“Rated: E…[Best Pirate] is full of pirate language that begs to be read aloud in your best pirate voice. In his illustrations, Griffiths has managed to create a whole collection of funny, diverse, detailed, and expressive dog and cat characters. Amid the lush setting, detailed characters, and funny language lies an adventure story with a heartwarming message. Even though Augusta is a dog and a pirate, her bravery, kindness, and desire to please her family is something that every kid can relate to and aspire to.”

Alice Albarda

Read the full review on page 14 of the October 2017 issue of Resource Links

Youth Services Book Review

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

The illustrations are fabulous, full of color, realistic, expressive – and cute….

To whom would you recommend this book? This would be a fun addition to a pirate-themed storytime.

Who should buy this book? Public and lower elementary school libraries and day-care centers”
—Katrina Yurenka, Moderator, Youth Services Book Review

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“First she was a Bad Pirate (2015) and then she was a Good Pirate (2016) but now Augusta, daughter of Captain Barnacle Garrick, is on her way to becoming an even better pirate….

Readers will certainly learn a lesson from Augusta and Kari-Lynn Winters about determination and fulfilment that comes from success without the need for accolades. She may be a dog but she’s a gutsy lassy.

Dean Griffiths, who illustrated Kari-Lynn Winters’ earlier Pirate books, continues to endow the story with colour richness and opulent textures from another time…Of course, young readers will love the dogs and cats of all species with their distinguishing features of fur and shape as well as the wide array of their expressions: friendliness, fear, surprise, dismay, anger.

Aye, blow me down but Best Pirate is a treasure of a fine tale for pirate lovers on both sea and land.”

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Pirates and Privateers

“[5 stars]…Best Pirate is a wonderful, amusing tale that shows sometimes it takes smarts, rather than fighting, to get out of a sticky situation. And sometimes an enemy may really be a friend…if you’re willing to work together. The story is beautifully illustrated with expressive characters that capture the imagination of those reading or listening to this pirate tale. To get readers and listeners into a proper frame of mind for the story, the inside front cover features examples of Pirate Talk and the inside back cover has Nautical Talk, as well as a diagram showing the parts of a ship. This is the third tale featuring Augusta Barnacle and it’s the best one yet!”

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Canadian Bookworm

“There is lots of lovely pirate language, and the end papers help define a lot of these for enchanted readers. The illustrations are wonderful, showing emotions and lovely details. The dogs are a variety of breeds, easily identifiable, and the cats range in type while still being entirely cats. And I love that the story shows how working together pays off.

Both author and illustrator are Canadian and known internationally for their great work. I’d already read and loved Kari-Lynn’s Hungry for Math poetry book, and loved Dean’s illustrations in the children’s novel The Stowaways. It’s great to see them come together in this series.”

Click here to read the full review

Booktime

“This is the second book about Augusta Garrick, a gentle, helpful pirate who has proven her worth among the more traditional pirate pups….The illustrations are beautiful in the book…”

Click here to read the full review

When the Rain Comes Teaching Guide

Posted on June 8th, 2017 by pajamapress

WhenRainComes_websiteDownload the When the Rain Comes Teaching Guide

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My Beautiful Birds Book Trailer

Posted on May 11th, 2017 by pajamapress

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Road Signs That Say West Reviews

Posted on April 27th, 2017 by pajamapress

CM Magazine

roadsignsthatsaywest_website“…In Sylvia Gunnery’s novel Road Signs That Say West, Hanna persuades her younger sisters, Megan and Claire, to join her on a parent-free road trip across Canada….With a cast of interesting yet believable characters, Road Signs That Say West gives a realistic look into the lives and relationships of three very different yet inextricably linked sisters.

Road Signs That Say West is a novel that will absolutely find its way to the shelves of the junior high library I run. In a YA world full of fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian fiction, I have a large number of readers looking for what we call people stories: complex stories about realistic characters and their lives. The sisters in this story are believable and familiar without the author’s resorting to clichés….

Road Signs That Say West reads quickly and cleanly, with simple yet engaging language. It’s broken up into sections; there are smaller passages within the chapters, and 6-8 chapters within each of the three parts. This structure makes the novel manageable for struggling readers without affecting the flow of the story or making it choppy….

On a personal note, there are few things I enjoy more than seeing my hometown mentioned in works of literature. Gunnery’s novel opens with a fitting quote from Islander Catherine McLellan’s song ‘Lines on the Road’. A few chapters in, there is a reference to the university in Charlottetown. A reader in Southern Manitoba will recognize the name Pinawa, and one in Saskatchewan might recognize Weyburn. Baddeck, Edmundston, Jasper, and Mount Robson are among the other places named as the girls travel west across Canada. The mentions of various cities and landmarks across the country is a perfect way to draw readers into the story.

Highly Recommended.
Allison Giggey

Click here to read the full review

Resource Links

“What starts out as a daring cross-Canada romp evolves into an important journey of discovery, personal and philosophical, with important and realistic results….

Author Sylvia Gunnery has portrayed this trip as a portrait of Canada’s better self; the onethat sees youth as something to be treasured and travel as something with purpose rather than a simple means to a destination. The people the three sisters meet on their journey are believable and real and that added dimension gives the narrative much more depth than initially expected.”

Thematic Links: Travel; Canada; Sisterhood; Conduct of Life; Adolescence; Sexual Politics
Lesley Little

Read the full review on page 24 of the June 2017 issue of Resource Links

Canadian Children’s BookNews

“…Sylvia Gunnery is able to show that the path through life has many bumps and turns along the way. She illustrates that, with good travel companions, the journey to healing and self-discovery can be very rewarding. Gunnery is sensitive, empathetic and insightful with these characters as they explore their paths.

Young teens will easily identify with the characters as they enjoy a youthful summer trip. They may also relate to the secrets the characters disclose, navigating who to trust, and the bonds of siblings and true friendship. It is an engaging story about what it means to let go of the past and align yourself with the path to your own journey in life.”
—Christie O’Sullivan

Read the full review on page 37 of the Fall 2017 issue of Canadian Children’s BookNews

Atlantic Books Today

“Despite the weight of the themes Road Signs is funny and full of heart, with skillful depiction of the hooks and barbs of sibling rivalry.”

Read the full review on page 64 of the Spring 2017 issue of Atlantic Books Today

Writing YA

“This is a quiet book, a literary book, and a difficult story to cram between two plain paper covers. A sisterly Bildungsroman is both vast and deep; it covers the happenings over a summer, but also the tendencies of a lifetime thus far, in a way. The narrative is more a series of observations from inside the mind of each girl, and isn’t always seamless. The ‘head-hopping’ can be frustrating for a reader seeking a typical narrative with a rising narrative arc, and this book might be more appropriate to an older reader. I think it crosses over well into being an adult read.

Things happen in this novel, and yet, not much does. It’s a road trip; there are long silences, periods of silent anger, spontaneous, giddy parties with strangers, and a lot of examining internal thoughts….

The novel ends with trailing threads, and for some, the end will seem jarring. But, a road is a constant, just as the narrative of sisterhood and the process of growing, maturing, and separating is a common experience, in many ways. This constantly shifting narrative means that some things aren’t resolved in this novel – bitterness remains bitter ‘til the end, losses still pain, good times are ephemeral. The road goes on, but the one thing that remains is sisterhood. Despite everything, these girls will always be related.

Conclusion: Definitely not for the common crowd, this novel is made up of the pauses between growing pains, and will find its audience among those who have wished to draw closer to their families and see them as complex and enigmatic human beings, instead of the familiar souls they’ve always known. Perfect for people transitioning through stages of life, and wondering what more is out there.”

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“The road trip scenario is an irresistible plot line, forcing the three sisters to interact (haven’t we all been trapped in cars with those we may or may not like?) while they experience life and meet new people of all backgrounds and take in the diversity of places that make up Canada. Road Signs That Say West could be a travel commentary of places east to west (I found myself looking up information about Glooscap, Weyburn, and more) but it’s really a story of family, a real family, of siblings with secrets, weaknesses, strengths and ambitions that they may or may not share. The baggage that the girls take with them is far greater than their back stories and drives them to behave in complex and justifiable ways….young adult readers will appreciate the three different personalities Sylvia Gunnery has created as well as her story which takes the three to new places in their relationships within a colourful national landscape.”

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Library of Clean Reads

“As soon as I read the book description, I was pulled to the storyline about three sisters who take a road trip. In my family we are three sisters and I like stories that center on sisterhood. I liked that the trip was across Canada from Nova Scotia to Vancouver, including a stopover in my city of Montreal….

The best part of the novel was how the sisters experienced life together and grew closer by the end of the trip, although it was in subtle ways.”

Click here to read the full review

Booktime

“I often wonder if I was brave enough to simply get in the car and drive, if I would have had the adventures sisters Hanna, Claire and Megan had in Road Signs That Say West.

That is not to say their adventures were far-fetched or unlikely, because they certainly were not, I just feel as though I am bit more like Megan – practical and responsible (but less grouchy) or Claire, up for adventure, but who likely wouldn’t do it on her own, then say Hanna, who is spontaneous and free spirited.”

Click here to read the full review

Canadian Bookworm

“This teen novel has three sisters at the center….As the girls journey across the country, they encounter other young people, some they like, others they don’t. They get invited to a wedding and find themselves offering to help paint a house. They have fights, and get scared. They get hurt, and share secrets and fears.

This is a tale of sisters, with all the messiness that relationship brings. A tale of love despite differences, as they all prepare for what the future may bring them.”

Click here to read the full review

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess Reviews

Posted on March 29th, 2017 by pajamapress

The Horn Book Magazine

MacyMacMillan_Website“Green’s free verse makes this a quick, accessible read, focusing on Macy’s realistic reluctance to share her mother and her gradual acceptance of the changes in her life (“Babysitting was actually okay / but I can’t imagine / a lifetime of it,” she comments feelingly). Macy’s deafness is a feature but not the focus of this…sympathetic rendering of a twelve-year-old’s angst.”
—Deirdre F. Baker

Read the full review in the September/October 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine

Kirkus Reviews

“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

School Library Journal

“The novel-in-verse structure is clever, engaging, and accessible. Macy’s deafness is skillfully woven into the story, adding depth and complexity to her characterization and relationships with others….With candor and angst, Macy shares her sorrow over an argument with her best friend, her desire to stop her mother from getting married, her determination not to like her stepfather, and her affection for aging Iris. VERDICT Macy’s coming-of-age anxieties, observations, and insights will resonate with middle grade readers. A strong purchase for public and school libraries.”
—Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts, NC

Click here to read the full review

Booklist

“This touching novel in verse makes clever use of space on each page, not only visually acknowledging Macy’s deafness, but inviting all readers to understand and process language in multiple ways. Green’s story confronts life’s challenges with depth and realism, creating a narrative that is sparse yet impactful, with characters that are bursting with life.”
—Rebecca Kuss

Read the full review in the June 1, 2017 issue of Booklist

CM Magazine

“…One of the striking things about the characterization of Macy is that she is profoundly deaf, communicating primarily through sign language. Green’s portrayal is highly authentic, and the various interactions Macy experiences are seamlessly introduced.

Both Macy and Ms. Gillan love books, and this connection offers a chance for intergenerational reading. Ms. Gillan responds to Macy’s favourite title, The Tale of Despereaux, just as Macy finds solace in a book of Ms. Gillan’s, Anne of Green Gables….

Told as a verse-novel, in a light yet poignant style similar to Green’s previous title, Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles, there is much to admire here including a clear plot line, rich character development, and sudden, incisive humour. In addition, it’s clear that Macy is a young girl living in contemporary times rather than a projection of the author’s own childhood, and the book’s details, including its school and community settings, feel modern and accurate….Choices in formatting enhance readability, extending this book to a wide age and ability range….

Highly Recommended.

Bev Brenna, a literacy professor at the University of Saskatchewan, has 10 published books for young people.

Click here to read the full review

Resource Links

“This deceptively simple novel-in-verse is a beautifully emotional, poetic treasure. Shari Green’s writing is captivating and she has created, in Macy McMillan, a complex, true-to-life, sensitive preteen girl….

This is the type of book readers will find themselves reading cover to cover in a single sitting, and since it is written in verse, that is entirely possible. Green’s writing is superbly lyrical, touching, and likely to stick with readers for a long time….

More than once, I found myself thinking of Eleanor Estes’ classic The Hundred Dresses. While the gut-wrenchingly sad undertones of that novel are quite different from this one, both invoked strong emotions in me, and both feature similar themes of a young girl coping with extreme challenges – Macy with her disability, and the other novel’s protagonist with unbearable poverty. This novel, however, is emotionally powerful without being morose. It is simply real, and its message of accepting true happiness and living life to the fullest is beautiful and inspiring.

Highly recommended for all children’s libraries.”

Thematic Links: Deaf Children; Stepfamilies; Friendship; Elderly People; Novels in Verse; Realistic Fiction; Grief; Fitting In
Nicole Rowlinson

Read the full review on page 12 of the June 2017 issue of Resource Links

Canadian Children’s BookNews

“Shari Green’s beautifully crafted and affecting novel-in-verse provides a sensitive depiction of a young girl wrestling with change and learning some important life lessons in the process. The unlikely friendship that develops between Macy and her neighbour Iris (who is facing some major life changes of her own) as they bond over books and fresh-baked cookies, is heartwarming and inspiring. Even once Macy and Olivia reconcile, both girls are increasingly struck by the need to help Iris and her friend Marjorie to remember and to tell their stories. This book is a thoughtful reflection on what makes a family, the power of friendship and the sacredness of stories (our own and others).”
—Lisa Doucet

Read the full review on page 23 of the Fall 2017 issue of Canadian Children’s BookNews

BookPage

“Shari Green brings readers a touching follow-up to her well-loved middle grade debut, Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles….

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess is brimming with charm and plenty of references to other great books to appeal to the story lover in all of us. Written in verse—a format that serves to heighten the emotional potency of the novel—this heartfelt story shines with genuine hope and the promise that, no matter what challenges lie ahead of us, there is always a bright destination if we keep ourselves open to the unexpected people and opportunities that can help us get there.”

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Kids’ BookBuzz

“I loved this book because it was written in free-verse poetry, which made it a more interesting and fun read. I felt that this book had the wonderful message that you can always find something good in life, no matter what happens! I would recommend it for kids ten and up!”

—Hannah, Age 9

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The Loud Library Lady

“⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5…Perfect middle grade free verse! I am so excited to share this with my elementary and middle school students, as I am always talking up free verse, but can’t find enough excellent examples to share with them. Macy’s story is heartwarming and thought-provoking…I especially loved the book references throughout the story, like to the books El Deafo and The Tale of Despereaux – books that kids today will know and be able to relate to….I can’t wait to read this author’s other middle grade novel Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles and order both of these titles for my libraries.”

Click here to read the full review

Winnipeg Free Press

“Written in blank verse, this pre-teen novel is easy to read with an almost poetic rhythm. Good for ages eight to 12.”

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Shari Green, author of Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles, has found her story as a writer of extraordinary middle grade novels in verse. Though I suspect she can write just about anything–middle grade, young adult, speculative fiction, non-free verse–her talent is definitely in writing insightfully poignant tales in the impassioned and crisp free verse style. As in her earlier book, Shari Green uses few words, but the right ones, to grow a story of such sensitivity for and awareness of her characters and readers that all will leave the story fulfilled. Her characters’ stories connect with us in ways we cannot put into words. I was astounded that a little girl could gain so much wisdom, courtesy of Iris and Shari Green of course, about life’s stories that she has a middle-aged woman such as myself in tears and heeding her advice.

Hearts are waiting, worrying, hurting
–in need of a message
you can send.
 (pg. 226)

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess is a message from the writing goddesses that everyone’s life is just a story or series of stories that need to be told to be fully appreciated but no worries here because one of their scribes, Shari Green, has taken on that task capably and, like Iris, with wholehearted extravagance.”

Click here to read the full review

Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“This verse novel is admirable. Its wonderful characters, memorable plot, perfectly chosen language and form, familiar settings, unwelcome changes and humor offer readers a very personal look at a young girl struggling to find her way. She does it with the help of family and friends. The stories, notes and cookies that Macy shares with her ‘rainbow goddess’ leads to a very unexpected friendship - and the heart of this very special book.”

Click here to read the full review

Middle Grade Minded

“Shari Green is first and foremost a fantastic writer. This story is told in verse and it is awe-inspiring the way the words and images roll through the story. And this story, about a young deaf girl whose life is changing thanks to her mother’s decision to marry, is heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once. There were so many scenes where I wanted to shout “No, Macy, No!” to save her from herself, which is always the sign of a good book to me!…

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess would be a welcome addition to every school library and school curriculum. Besides being a master class in verse writing, it is also a master class in telling stories about how relationships, and looking beyond the exterior, can change the way we look at the world.”

Click here to read the full review

Library Thing

“Oh my goodness, my heart is so full after reading this book (for the second time)! Yes, it is that good. I’m trying to define all my emotions but they are jumbled up together. Please read!

Format:
The book is written in a free poem style. Do not let the format put you off from reading this fantastic book. The words are few but the story is rich and complex….

In conclusion:
Please read this book! It’s ideal for young people but adults will love it too. Age 11 and up will find the themes very relatable.. I suspect too that kids will find the book’s conclusion to be comforting. We can’t keep change from happening (as Macy attempts) but we can find a way to be a part of the change.”

Click here to read the full review

The Mystical Skeptic

“I recently got my hands on a review copy of Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green. I adored her last verse novel: Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles, so reading this one was a no-brainer.

I fell for Macy instantly….

[I]t’s no secret I adore relationships between kids/teens and the elderly. I love to read and write them. I had plenty of them when I was a kid. My favorite church small group as an adult has included women ages 26 (that was me) to 80. People of different ages learn from one another, and I love love love love that.

Everything about this book was wonderful. It’s a novel to share with your child, to read while eating warm cookies with cold milk, to pass onto a friend…”

Click here to read the full review

Booktime

“I love books about people who love books. In the words of Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables  by Lucy Maud Montgomery), the characters are kindred spirits, who understand the happiness books bring, and that the stories within its page give readers exactly what they need.

Canadian author Shari Green must be a true book lover because her characters in Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess certainly are….

The book is written in free prose, which makes it a quick read.

Macy is a wonderful character, and it’s amazing to watch her grow and come to terms with a life that is being forced on her.

Iris is also fabulous. Not only is she a book lover, she is also the believer in the power of cookies, and in her younger days delivered messages with cookies, each type telling the recipient something different – chocolate chunk cookies, Iris says, tells people everything will be OK; sugar and spice cookies (with a recipe at the end of the book) says you are loved, that you belong.

An important message in this book, and in life.”

Click here to read the full review

Bookish Notions

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green is a heartwarming middle-grade novel told in free verse….There is so much to love about this story. The cast of characters are vibrant and interesting. The free-verse feels very fluid and natural, with well-placed metaphors that build on Macy’s voice and character….

I really appreciated that Macy’s deafness is not the focus of this book; it’s a part of her story but not her whole story. While her hearing loss creates obstacles that hearing children might not have considered or ever had to deal with, Macy never felt ‘other’ to me and I think it’s important for both readers with hearing and those without to see Macy as a kid first, dealing with fear, loneliness, and new experiences….

As sweet as one of Iris’s cookies, Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess is an absolutely charming story from start to finish that encourages cross-generation friendships and getting to know someone before making judgements. I highly recommend.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (5/5 hearts)

Bonus: Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess includes a recipe for Iris’s Sugar and Spice Cookies! So of course I had to try them out. I’m always a bit skeptical of recipes in the back of novels, as so often they’re more gimmicky than good, but these are delicious! The batter didn’t spread as much as I thought it would when baking so you can go for the extravagant-sized cookies without fear of them running together. And the batter works great for freezing. I baked half and put the rest in the freezer. Just let the batter thaw a bit and it’s once again perfect for scooping and rolling in the sugar coating. The cookies tasted just as wonderful done this way. But don’t take my word for it—whip up a batch yourself!”

Click here to read the full review

The One and Only Marfalfa

“Some stories are just made for the verse novel format. This is one of them. Pacing is tight and word choice is solid. Some verse novels get so caught up in artistry that the reader isn’t clear on what is actually happening. That isn’t the case here. I also appreciated that while Macy is deaf, its not the sum total of her character. She’s your average middle grade girl who just happens to be deaf.”

Click here to read the full review

StoryWraps

“This heartwarming story unfolds a beautiful bond between the elder ‘rainbow goddess’ and the younger ‘seeker of comfort’….The book is written beautifully in free verse and the characters are well developed….I highly recommend this book. The author’s previous book, Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles is worthy of checking out also. Storywraps Rating… 5 +++ HUGS!!!!!

Click here to read the full review

The Librarian is on the Loose

“I loved that Green has chosen a deaf girl for a heroine, and the story is not about being deaf. Deafness is just part of who Macy is, like having red hair….I appreciated the reminder that, while change may be unwelcome, it can also bring wonderful things. Give this to anyone who enjoys books about intergenerational relationships, or who needs help with some unwelcome change. Recommended for grades 3-5.”
—Awnali Mills

Click here to read the full review

Two Times a Traitor Reviews

Posted on March 3rd, 2017 by pajamapress

Kirkus ReviewsTwoTimesATraitor_Website

“The past is accurately and engagingly depicted, and Laz’s reactions to the harsh conditions, especially bad food and filth, are totally believable….[T]ime travel is a thrilling concept, and the tale overflows with compelling action…”

Click here to read the full review

ILA Today, “War and Conflicts”

“Violent conflicts occur around the globe every day. History shows how small disagreements often erupt into larger conflicts that can morph into wars. Wars have long-lasting effects on the environment as well as civilians and the troops who fight in them. This week’s column features books that explore some of those wars and conflicts….

[Karen Bass] provides enough details to allow [readers] to draw their own conclusions about the battles between the French and the English and Laz’s own personal dilemma.

Ages 15+

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

Two Times a Traitor is a coming-of-age novel about a boy who inadvertently time-travels back to 1745 where he finds himself in a war. He also finds a father-figure and grows as a person….

The plot of Two Times a Traitor is carefully woven and tension-filled….

Richness of detail, the result of the author’s careful research, helps the reader suspend disbelief and be caught up in the story….

Young readers will identify with likeable Laz and will enjoy the drama and fast pace of Two Times a Traitor.

Recommended.”
Ruth Latta

Click here to read the full review

Winnipeg Free Press

“Combining time travel with swash-buckling adventure, Alberta author Karen Bass has written a sure-to-be favourite with middle readers, Two Times a Traitor….This novel has enough action to suit the most demanding reader….Highly recommended for ages 9-12.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

“To utilize a thirteen year old and place him directly in harm’s way proves to be quite a zany approach to tackling historical fiction, and a young reader will certainly relate to the main character…At the beginning of his other-worldly experience, Laz will try to conceptualize it through electronic texts he wants to send to a friend, but eventually those texts are dismissed for a more genuine attachment to the past, one where Laz will befriend the French defenders in Louisbourg and feel himself conflicted by his initial promise to betray them.

Two Times a Traitoris well researched and although Bass does shift some of the events around to further her plot she does the honourable thing to mention those inconsistencies in an historical note at the end of the book….[P]erhaps the real worth in this book is in its attention to historical detail and for that it should be regarded as an excellent educational resource.”
Zachary Chauvin

Read the full review on page 34 of the October 2017 issue of Resource Links

Youth Services Book Review

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

What did you like about the book? Laz’s growth in the book is evident. Hard times often force maturity and Laz dealt with his situation well considering. The connections Laz made to those around him were especially poignant….

To whom would you recommend this book? Any child looking for regional historic fiction like Forbes’ Johnny Tremain.”
—Sadina Shawver, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“…Karen Bass knows how to seamlessly weave a bit of the unexpected into her fiction, as she did in her suspenseful The Hill (Pajama Press, 2016), and as she does in Two Times a Traitor which blends a contemporary setting with Canada’s past in Louisbourg 1745 through the use of time slip….

While taking the reader into both sides of the 1745 siege of Louisbourg, Karen Bass makes sure that Two Times a Traitor is about Laz recognizing what home is to him….Readers will adore the action adventure story of Two Times a Traitor but its story of historical events is extraordinary and not to be relegated to second place. Karen Bass does comprehensive research, providing astounding detail to setting and characters, plunging readers into the fray that was war. By allowing Laz to be part of both sides and emphasizing his confusion about which side to favour, Karen Bass allows readers to see the conflict from different perspectives and takes history away from the one-sidedness of most textbooks. Moreover, she allows us to see that conflict, whether personal or historical, always has two sides that need to be seen. Resolution may be amicable or there may be victors and those defeated, but how it plays out is all about point of view.”

Click here to read the full review

Recently Read

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

Canadian Bookworm

“This story is of a boy, moving from a rebellious pre-teen to an assured young man as he is forced to deal with his situation on his own. A wonderful read incorporating Canadian history and a great character.”

Click here to read the full review

Jill Jemmett

“This is a great story. The historical aspects are really good for middle-grade students. Canadian history isn’t taught as much as it should be in school, so this story would be a great supplement for kids.

Though Canada’s 150th anniversary is being celebrated this year, this story demonstrates how Canada’s history goes far beyond 150 years….

This is a great story for middle grade readers!”

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

School Library Connection

“This quietly engaging picture book depicts how different children around the world feel about water through the lens of what it means to their communities. The illustrations are lovely and add a bit of cultural flavor as the reader travels throughout the world….This book is a worthwhile addition to collections where there is a need for materials on a global perspective—especially on the role of water—or where primary classrooms study water and the water cycle.”
—Melinda W. Miller, PK-12 Library Media Specialist, Colton-Pierrepont Central School, Colton, New York

Read the full review in the November/December 2017 issue of School Library Connection

CM Magazine

“…Because the book is beautifully illustrated in vibrant colours, readers can vividly see how children live around the world. Gérard Frischeteau, a well-known animator, commercial artist and illustrator from Montreal, QC, is billed as a perfectionist, and it shows in the authenticity of the children and their environments on each double-page spread….Both the text and the illustrations serve to unify the world in a common theme, something that isn’t often done well in children’s books, but is done in both a matter of fact and sensitive way by Delaunois and Frischeteau.

The text is poetic and would be wonderful read-aloud with, by and for children to demonstrate that water doesn’t just flow out of a tap. Water is often taken for granted, and Water’s Children is a unique way to introduce the importance of water throughout the world. Set to be published on Earth Day 2017, it is destined to become a new classic…

The final page of Water’s Children teaches the reader the languages and regions covered in the book, and the endpapers are swirling blues, mauves and whites of water, reminding the reader of the beauty, necessity and power of water in our world.

Highly Recommended.

—Jill Griffith is the Youth Services Manager at Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.

Click here to read the full review

Resource Links

“[A] unique title that explores the vital importance of water…Written in poetic form, each two-page spread features a child from a different country who was invited by the author to share what water means to them in their life and surroundings. Each does so in their own language, and their (translated) answers are inspiring….The illustrations are gorgeous and tailored to represent a familiar depiction of each of the twelve narrators’ homeland….

This title is suitable for older toddlers through to primary school students and would be a wonderful addition to a personal, school, or public library collection. It reads like a crossover between a picture book, poetry, and a non-fiction title. Highly recommended.”

Thematic Links: Water; Conservation; Cultural Diversity
Erin Hansen

Read the full review on page 14 of the April 2017 issue of Resource Links

Midwest Book Review

“Accompanied by the glowing illustrations of Gerard Frischeteau, Water’s Children by Angele Delaunois (and ably translated into English by Erin Woods) is a celebration of our world’s most precious resource and will encourage thoughtful discussion among young readers and listeners. A unique and memorable picture book…Unreservedly and enthusiastically recommended for children ages 4 to 8, Water’s Children will prove to be an enduringly popular and appreciated addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.”

Click here to read the full review

Hakai Magazine

“Responsible stewardship is written between the lines of Water’s Children, a picture book that offers a snapshot of what water means to different children around the world….Translated from French, the simple text is beautifully illustrated by Gérard Frischeteau. The author and illustrator seamlessly show that water is, indeed, life.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“…Quebec author, visual artist and publisher Angèle Delaunois takes the reader across the world to witness the importance of water to the children of different countries….Canada is represented by two spreads, one from Quebec and one from Nunavut, both which speak in terms of what is most familiar to young Canadian readers….

While other texts and illustrations will be familiar or at least obvious such as the Russian child of a fishing village and the rain experienced by an urban child in Germany, many spreads will rouse thoughtful discussions of unfamiliar depictions of water….

The artwork of Montreal animator, graphic artist and illustrator Gérard Frischeteau rings with authenticity, depicting each global child in both personal and expansive landscapes, often providing details about daily life and family….

In fact, ‘Water is Life’ is a special touch in Water’s Children. On watermarks adorning each spread, the term ‘water is life’ is translated into a corresponding language, including French, Inuktitut, Catalan, German, Portuguese, Tamil, Arabic and Wolof with a final listing of all regions and languages represented in the book.

I know I’ve listed the reading audience as 4 to 8 years of age but don’t follow that. Water’s Children’s audience should read “All ages” or “Everyone” because it is an extraordinarily inspirational examination of the importance of water throughout the world. You can save it for World Water Day (March 22) but I recommend it for this weekend’s Earth Day (April 22) and anytime meaningful attention be paid to a global resource i.e., always.”

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

Kids’ BookBuzz

“We rated this book: [5/5]

Water’s Children: Celebrating the Resource that Unites us All is a fantastic book that shows how children around the world see water….

I really liked Water’s Children. It made me think about how lucky I am to have water whenever I want. A few years ago in Texas, we were in a drought and couldn’t water our lawns and the lake was really low, but it was not as hard to get water as in other places in the world. I loved flipping to the back of the book and seeing where each child was from and what language ‘Water is Life’ was translated into. This was my favorite thing about the book. The illustrations were fantastic and gave me a good idea what it was like for the children living in the different parts of the world. I think Water’s Children would be a great book to read on Earth Day.”
—Jewel – Age 9

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

Youth Services Book Review

Rating: 4…

What did you like about the book? Each page of this book features a child or children in a different part of the world expressing what water means to him or her. There are warm climate settings, cold climate settings, town, farm, forest and desert settings. There is a balance of boys and girls depicted. Most are interacting with the water (or its products). Each page also shows how to write ‘water is life’ in the language the child would speak in that region….[A] perfect set-up for a discussion during story time, a writing activity for older elementary students, a thoughtful art activity for children of any age.

The text itself is poetic and dreamy. On repeated readings, it is almost a lullaby and could become a bedtime story.

There are different colors and moods on every page. On some, the children look happy. Some are playing and some are working. Some pages are gloomy. Young readers will understand, through the text and illustrations, that some children struggle to get the water they need to drink and produce food….

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Due to this year’s summer reading theme and the fact that drought, fracking, water access and water rights are so much in the news, yes.”
—Robin Shtulman, Athol Public Library, Athol, MA

Click here to read the full review

The Pirate Tree

Water’s Children…is a luscious picture book that celebrates the many ways water is universal to us all. Water is life – and play – and food – and beauty:

“… child of water … tell me about the water your see, the water you drink, the water that bathes you.”

Water’s Children does just that in rich colors and cerulean images of earth, sky, and sea, children from a diversity of countries around the world show us the unique importance and the joy of water in their lives….”

Click here to read the full review

Omnilibros

“The poetic text is accompanied by expressive artwork that examines the importance of water throughout the world.”

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

School Library Journal

“This early chapter book offers a relatable story for intermediate readers, who will empathize with the frustrations of waiting for a younger sibling to become old enough to be a playmate. Cartoonish character illustrations on most pages enhance the text. VERDICT A sweet and tender addition for libraries looking for more new sibling materials or titles about patience.”

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

Publishers Weekly

“The arrival of a new baby sibling conjures mixed emotions for a boy named Liam in this sweet and relatable story from [Sarah] Ellis…[Carmen] Mok’s warm digital illustrations tenderly depict Liam’s moments of adjustment…”

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

Resource Links

“…Liam loves to play with little Sophie, and everyone says that he is her favourite person. However, even after three weeks, Sophie is still just lying in her crib. It is taking much too long for little Sophie to grow up and to be able to play with him….How will Liam learn to cope?

This is a beautifully written chapter book about the relationship between Liam and his new baby sister Sophie….Young Liam is an appealing character who loves his little sister, but definitely wants her to grow up quickly so that she will not break his toys, and will be able to play with him. Throughout the story, Liam learns how to love his sister, but more importantly, learns how to be more patient with her. The illustrations are colourful and filled with lots of detail which adds to the narrative….This is a gentle story which will definitely appeal to young readers with siblings, as well as the adults who care for them!

Thematic Links: Sibling Relationships; Babies; Family Relationships; Grandparents; Building; Playing With Young Children; Patience”
—Myra Junyk

Read the full review on page 9-10 of the April 2017 issue of Resource Links

City Book Reviews

“Author Sarah Ellis has written a sweet story that will help youngsters understand the process of becoming an older sibling and how much patience is needed. This is not a typical picture book but is more like an early reader with quite a bit of text.

The soft, charming illustrations by Carmen Mok complete the story and will keep youngsters engaged. This will probably work best as a read-aloud for four- to six-year-olds, but older kids will be able to read it on their own.”

Click here to read the full review

Midwest Book Review

Waiting for Sophie is an original and heartwarming story for children ages 5 to 8. Nicely enhanced with the colorful artwork of Carmen Mok, and especially appropriate for young readers making the transition from picture books to chapter books, Waiting for Sophie is very highly recommended for family, elementary school and community library Children’s Fiction collections.”

Click here to read the full review

The Bookshelf Corner

“A cute story that teaches children about patience. It’s especially perfect for parents to read to their small (only) child when there’s another on the way.

Carmen Mok does a wonderful job with the illustrations and I love the color palette she chose….

Sarah Ellis has a way with words; I would read more books by her.”

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

Canadian Bookworm

“This book for early readers is charming….

I liked the big brother, big sister story here. Liam is a good big brother, patient and caring. I also liked how the adults didn’t fit stereotypes.

The drawings are simple, but engaging, and show the emotions of the different characters vividly. I also liked how the sometimes offered a different perspective on a scene, and used enough details to make it interesting. I also thought the endpapers were a neat touch, covered with pictures of hand tools.”

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

thewolvesreturn_websiteClick here to download The Wolves Return teaching guide

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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

Canadian Children’s BookNews

“Through lyrical rhyme, Catherine Buquet writes of a man who, by chance, finds happiness in the unlikeliest of circumstances. Out of the commonplace grows a deeper significance….

Marion Arbona’s sophisticated pencil, ink and gouache illustrations ably contrast the wet and bustling streetscape with the bright, warm colours enveloping the boy and the patisserie, as if they were in a world of their own. By the story’s end, this vibrancy surrounds the man, showing young readers that something wonderful can happen when one least expects it, even on the most melancholy of days.”
—Senta Ross

Read the full review on page 32 in the Summer 2017 issue of Canadian Children’s BookNews

49th Shelf

“Catherine Buquet’s touching debut in lyrical rhyme, accompanied by Marion Arbona’s bold and stylish illustrations, celebrates intergenerational friendship and the magic of sharing. It also reminds children and adults alike that bright moments can be found on even the gloomiest of days.”

Click here to read the full review

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

Midwest Book Review

“…Artistic, unusual drawings of this sullen man perfectly capture his dark mood and the dark day, until a little boy changes his perspective in an unexpected way.”

Click here to read the full review

Omnilibros

“Bold, fantastical illustrations that play with perspective, shape, and color accompany the rhyming text which is a delightful read-aloud.”

Click here to read the full review

Book Nerd Mommy

“This has got to be one of my favorite new releases this year! I adore everything about this book….

It is very well written (with beautiful rhyming and rhythm to swoon over) and makes for a positively lovely read aloud.

Along with the story I am obsessed with the illustrations. Marion is very selective about the colors used and in the beginning all is dark with sharp angles and a moody atmosphere. Then when you come to the bakery the light and brightness colored in simply spills out into the morose scene. Finally, when the two friends share the tart, bright, vivid happy colors burst onto the page in a celebration of joy and optimism. The use of color in this book adds a new dimension to the story and displays a visual treat of the effect and power of joy. I am in love!”

Click here to read the full review and Raspberry Rhubarb Tart recipe created by Book Nerd Mommy

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

Orange Marmalade

“What happens when a gust of wind whooshes these two people together? A smile. A kind gesture. A spilling over of sweetness. This dynamic book will gladden you, not to mention precipitating a trip to the local patisserie! Striking illustration work emotes the changing moods of this story with tremendous pizzazz. A joy for ages 2 and up.”

Click here to read the full review

Picture Book Play Date

“[Under the Umbrella] was the second book I won from Pajama Press Books and it’s another rhyming delight. If you liked RAIN! by Linda Ashman/Christian Robinson then you should add this one to your reading list….Great read that we will treasure, particularly on rainy days.”

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

Quill & Quire

“…Good Morning, Grumple is a sweet story about a sleepy fox-like creature ­­- who does not want to get up in the morning – and the patient mother who knows exactly what to do.

Author Victoria Allenby – whose debut picture books, Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That, won the 2014 Preschool Reads Award – succeeds once again in crafting a charming tale befitting the kindie set. Just as the mother in Good Morning, Grumple tries different tactics to awaken her sleepy-headed child, Allenby incorporates different narrative styles, moving deftly from rhyming couplets to sing-song lyrics to abrupt variances in rhythm that allow for recalibration and reflection….

The mixed media and paper-collage illustrations by four-time Governor General’s Literary Award nominee Manon Gauthier are rustic in appearance, but convey great depths of emotion….The child-like quality of Gauthier’s work matches the story’s sweet and tender tone, while the gradual increase in text size as the book progresses is a great representation of the experience of waking up and embracing the morning….”
—Sarah Sorensen

Read the full review on page 37 of the May 2017 issue of Quill & Quire

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

CM Magazine

“Victoria Allenby’s sweet, lyrical text is rhythmic and loving, and it includes plenty of opportunities for interaction between toddlers and their caregivers….Sweet, simple and loving, Good Morning, Grumple would be a lovely addition to a toddler’s morning wake-up routine and is sure to help start the day off with a smile.
—Jane Whittingham is a librarian in Vancouver, BC.

Click here to read the full review

Canadian Children’s BookNews

“In rhyming verse, Allenby describes just how hard it can be to wake a sleeping grumple and offers up a gentle song to soften a sometimes-tricky transition….

Manon Gauthier’s simple collage illustrations give this book a handmade feel. She has made charming use of crayon, pencil, paint and scissors. Gauthier has cast the two main characters—mother and child—as black-and-white foxes, and she has successfully (and most amusingly) captured Grumple’s resistance to waking up….

Taking time in the morning to read together in bed is a fantastic idea—grumples may even look forward to it! It might also offer the adult grumples out there a chance to slow down and reconnect before rushing out the door.”

Read the full review on page 28 in the Summer 2017 issue of Canadian Children’s BookNews

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

Midwest Book Review

“[A] story which is gently told with some fun drawings to enhance the waking-up experience.”

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

Library of Clean Reads

“My son and I thought this book was absolutely adorable….It is humorous, delightfully told and fun to read. It celebrates the love between a mother and her child. It makes difficult mornings easier to face. It made my son and I smile as we read it….

This book is perfect for little ‘grumples’ who have a hard time getting up in the morning, and a good reminder to be creative and patient for parents whose job it is to make that transition smooth in the morning.”

Click here to read the full review

My Beautiful Birds Reviews

Posted on December 27th, 2016 by pajamapress

The New York Times

“If you’ve been wondering how to mybeautifulbirds_websitepresent the refugee crisis to children without losing faith in humanity, take a look at this graceful, even uplifting book. Del Rizzo’s stunning dimensional art, made mostly of clay, can’t help feeling playful, and the story brims with hope.”

Click here to read the full review

Quill & Quire **Starred Review**

“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

Beauty and sorrow sit side by side in this compassionate and age-appropriate depiction of contemporary refugee life.

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

School Library Journal

“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 or click here to read it in the School Library Journal Spotlight “9 Refugee Stories for Kids and Teens”

School Library Journal, “Reading Around The World | Picture Books”

“Suzanne Del Rizzo’s My Beautiful Birds articulately conveys the experiences of a child displaced by war in Syria….Intricately detailed and lifelike, the polymer clay and mixed-media illustrations combine with the understated first-person narrative to communicate Sami’s circumstances, heartbreak, and healing process. Through this emotionally accessible story…readers begin to understand Sami’s plight, and to gain awareness and insight into the lives of the many children facing calamity across the globe. An author’s note provides background and a link to resources about the Syrian conflict and the refugee crisis.”
—Joy Fleishhacker

Click here to read the full review and the rest of the article

Kirkus Reviews

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

Booklist

“Using intricate sculpted-clay artwork, Canadian author-illustrator Del Rizzo tells the story of a fictional family’s escape from war-torn Syria. While war isn’t mentioned specifically in the text, readers will get an immediate sense of danger as they observe the family fleeing from a burning city…[T]his story draws attention to an important world issue without subjecting young readers to its harshest realities.”
Julia Smith

Read the full review on page 102 of the January 2017 issue of Booklist

ILA Literacy Daily, “Stories of Young Immigrants and Refugees”

“These refugee and immigrant narratives teach readers about language, culture, history, geography, and politics while providing insight into the human experience. The books reviewed in this column follow the journeys of young people and their families as they leave different parts of the world in pursuit of happiness and security.…

Illustrations in polymer clay and acrylic paint show Sami’s slow transition into in his new life. The author’s note provides context about the Syrian war and information about the refugee camps.”

Click here to read the full review and roundup

Worlds of Words

“Art is a key element in the telling of this story, both in the beautiful images created from plasticine, polymer clay, and paint as well as the use of art within the story. Suzanne Del Rizzo tells this refugee story with scenes that have texture, are vibrant though realistic shades of color, and occupy varying placement and perspectives on the pages. This rich illustrative setting contextualizes the role of art in the story as a means of disclosing the inward struggles of the child as he draws images of his birds only to cover them with black paint. He imagines his birds with somewhat of an artist’s eye in the clouds of the brilliant sky above him, soaring and swirling. Eventually, as he begins to find peace within his heart and bravely faces the challenges before him, readers see a brilliant artistic display of kites made by school children from scraps and bright paints.”
—Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

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.”
—Alice Albarda

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

Canadian Children’s BookNews

“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

49th Shelf

“A gentle yet moving story of refugees of the Syrian civil war, My Beautiful Birds illuminates the ongoing crisis as it affects its children. It shows the reality of the refugee camps, where people attempt to pick up their lives and carry on. And it reveals the hope of generations of people as they struggle to redefine home.”

Click here to read the full review

Midwest Book Review

“It’s unusual to find stories about the Syrian civil war geared to picture book readers; but young audiences with adult assistance will find this an excellent introduction of the experience of refugees through the eyes of a young boy who dreams for something better.”

Click here to read the full review

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.”

Click here to read the full review

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.”

Click here to read the full review

Through the Looking Glass

“…When you live in a peaceful place where there is no war or conflict, it is hard to imagine what it is like to lose everything. It is hard to imagine what it is like to be a refugee. Unfortunately, today more people have been displaced by conflict and natural disasters than ever before.

One of the places where these displacements are taking place is Syria, a country that has been ripped apart by war. In this story we meet a Syrian child whose whole life is turned upside down when his hometown is destroyed. We watch as he struggles to adjust to his new existence in a refugee camp, and as he longs for what he used to have.

Beautifully written, and illustrated using polymer clay and acrylic, this picture book serves as a tribute to all those families who have had to venture out into the unknown when their homes have been taken from them.
—Marya Jansen-Gruber

Click here to read the full review

Children’s Books Heal

“…Del Rizzo’s exquisite polymer clay illustrations add depth and a life-like dimension to Sami’s story….I appreciated that the author focused on the refugee crisis that is affecting the most innocent and vulnerable, children. She doesn’t address political themes in the book, but focuses on the humanity of the situation for children displaced from their homes in Syria….My Beautiful Birds is an excellent addition to any school library. It is age-appropriate and an introductory story about children who are displaced because of war or natural disasters.”
—Patricia Tilton

Click here to read the full review

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.”

Click here to read the full review

Omnilibros

“Rich, textured illustrations fashioned from Plasticene, polymer clay, and other mixed media complement this moving story of one young refugee’s experience in the Syrian civil war. An author’s note gives information about refugee camps and the Syrian conflict.”

Click here to read the full review

A Kids Book A Day

“A personal story about a contemporary crisis that gives readers a child narrator they can relate to. The illustrations, created from polymer clay, are unique and eye-catching. This would make a great introduction to a discussion of Syria and refugees.”

Click here to read the full review

Oregon Coast Youth Book Preview Center

“This is a gorgeous book that had me in tears- it captures the fear and grief felt by a Syrian child refugee living in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan…. There is an author’s note giving some background on the war in Syria and the particular refugee camp, and a website with further information. This link shows what the camp looks like: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-23801200. VERDICT: This is a must for all public and school libraries. The refugee situation will only get worse with time, and we need to educate ourselves and our kids about it.”
—Carol Schramm

Click here to read the full review

Ponder, Wander, Write

My Beautiful Birds is a beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated book about a young boy coping with the loss of pets and home and adapting to life in a refugee camp….Del Rizzo’s illustrations are the perfect compliments to the story. While they are detailed enough to convey emotion well, because they appear as theatrical vignettes, they provide some distance for the reader from a story which tackles a difficult subject.”
—Patricia Nozell

Click here to read the full review

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.”

Click here to read the full review

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

Library of Clean Reads

“My son and I both loved this story and the dimensional illustrations that the author created through Plasticine, polymer clay and other mixed media. The birds especially are so detailed, they come alive and seem to pop out of the pages. Every page was a delight to explore. Truly a work of art….

Although this is a story about war, it is hopeful and uplifting. It helps young ones to understand what is happening in our world and how we all have the same needs. A variety of emotions are explored in this book: sadness, fear, anger, hope and compassion. It’s a book that can open up dialogue between parent and child.

My Beautiful Birds should be included in all school libraries. It’s a keeper in our home. And has made it on our list of Best Reads of 2017.”

Click here to read Laura Fabiani’s full review

“My heart was so touched by this poignant story…It’s a gentle, moving book that parents can use to help their own children to understand the world in which they live.

This talented Canadian author has produced a sensitive, moving account of what life is like in traumatic, emotionally-wrenching events experienced by so many people.

I highly recommend My Beautiful Birds.”

Click here to read Sandra Olshaski’s 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

Getting Kids Reading

My Beautiful Birds, written and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo, is a beautiful book that will help get your child reading….This is a good book to read to your child as a bedtime story. The way language is used in the book is beautifully poetic, and even soothing….[The language use] will get your child hooked on reading, as they realize that a vivid image can be painted in their head from just a simple line or paragraph. The child won’t be able to wait until the next plot advancement or change in scenery….Also, this story tells a tale that could have taken hundreds of pages, and beautifully condenses it into 32 pages. Which brings us to the stunning clay art pictures….The emotions conveyed in just the pictures alone will further strengthen the picture in your child’s mind that has been depicted by the strong descriptive vocabulary.”­
—Bennett Duncan

Click here to read the full review

Orange Marmalade

“Based on the experiences of a young boy in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, this glimpse of the overarching as well as deeply personal, individual losses for refugee children is poignant but not too heavy. Colorful, clay-sculpted illustrations create friendly, engaging visuals as well.”

Click here to read the full review

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