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Posts Tagged ‘canlit-for-littlecanadians’

Helen Kubiw reviews Next Round on CanLit for LittleCanadians, “a story like no other”

Posted on August 12th, 2016 by pajamapress

NextRound_WebsiteThe 2016 Olympics are on in Rio and the media will be trumpeting the success stories of many an athlete, but Chechen-born Canadian boxer Arthur Biyarslanov has a story like no other.  And it’s a story that John Spray, benefactor of the TD Children’s John Spray Mystery Award, tells with inspiration and appreciation in Next Round: A Young Athlete’s Journey to Gold.

Arthur Biyarslanov’s story begins as a three-year-old escaping with his mother, Alla, twelve- and eleven-year-old sisters Bariyat and Bella, and nine-year-old brother Rustam from their war-stricken village of Gudermes in Chechnya to meet up with his father, Hairuddin, in Azerbaijan.  Facing soldiers with rifles and tanks and grenade-launchers of the Russian forces attempting to seize the Chechen republic was hardly an idyllic childhood for Arthur, affectionately called Borz, Chechen for wolf.  Their harrowing escape reunites the family in the windy city of Baku, Azerbaijan where he and his brother play with a makeshift soccer ball of socks and electrical tape to escape the austere conditions of their apartment and new life amongst strangers.  Soccer becomes Arthur’s salvation, helping him to learn the Azerbaijani language and fit in.

After the death of his father, the family deals with their new poverty by moving to even small quarters in a tough neighbourhood where Arthur, the new kid and target of bullies, becomes known as a fearless fighter but competitive athlete.  Though soccer is his sport of choice, Arthur often spars with his brother and sister Bella who were both karate champions, becoming a proficient wrestler, albeit a clumsy one.  And then his mother decides a fresh start is needed for the family and Canada would be it.

In Toronto, Arthur continues with his soccer, making new friends, learning English and becoming even more athletic,  including running and basketball in his many activities, though soccer is still his first love.  But a broken leg at the beginning of Grade 7 and subsequent slow recovery has Arthur concentrating on sports that demand more from his upper-body strength, leading him to boxing.  Though he knows he has lots to learn–he gets beat up regularly at sparring sessions–his brother Rustam knew “the Chechen Wolf would be a champion boxer.” (pg. 74)

The rest of Arthur’s story, peppered with numerous photographs, documents the young man’s rise in the boxing ring under the coaching of former Olympian John Kalbhenn and working with trainer Danny Santagato, whom Arthur affectionately calls Uncle Danny. From his first bout in 2008 to a rivalry with Zsolt Daranyi Jr. and having to choose between soccer and boxing, Arthur makes boxing his vocation, training tirelessly, and focusing on getting gold at the 2015 Pan Am games.

John Spray’s intent in writing Next Round is heartfelt and clearly evident from his dedication:

For all those children who escaped the horrors of war to find peace and new beginnings…and for Arthur, who replaced the sound of gunfire with the smack of leather on a punching bag.

The purpose of the book is clear but it’s John Spray’s writing that will capture Arthur Biyarslanov’s story better than any colour commentator could ever hope to relay as the boxer reaches for gold at this year’s Olympics.  John Spray, who owns a private investigations agency and is great lover of mysteries, tells Biyarslanov’s story as the harrowing action story that it is.  From witnessing at age three the massacre by Russian soldiers of  Chechens desperately attempting to flee for Azerbaijan, to the family’s escape across the cold water of the Yujniy Gerzel River into Dagestan and Arthur’s regular conflicts with the frightening old Azerbaijani woman whose fruit tree he climbs and his contentious boxing relationship with Zsolt, Next Round: A Young Athlete’s Journey to Gold is a  gripping story whose next chapter is still untold.

But no matter what the next round in his sport may bring, Arthur’s hard work and tireless dedication to boxing will give any opponent he faces a scare when looking into the hungry eyes of the Chechen Wolf. (pg. 100)

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Read more book reviews by Helen Kubiw.

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

Posted on May 30th, 2016 by pajamapress

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

Click here to read the entire review.

CanLit for LittleCanadians calls Sky Pig “uplifting…”

Posted on April 13th, 2016 by pajamapress

SkyPig_Website“…Dreamers can dream but, with a friend like Jack, Ollie’s dream that a pig could fly comes true.  It takes a little determination, a lot of imagination and being in the right place at the right time but Ollie’s dream, courtesy of Jack’s friendship and piggy bank, becomes a reality.  Jan L. Coates’ story is uplifting like much of her previous work…and even more so with Suzanne Del Rizzo’s spectacular art…The doughy art (plasticene with polymer clay) with mixed media collage features adds the textures and colour to elevate the story even higher.”   —Helen Kubiw, CanLit for LittleCanadians

Click here to read the full review.

Elliot “something very, very special”—CanLit for LittleCanadians

Posted on March 2nd, 2016 by pajamapress

“As soon as I read Elliot, I knew it was something very, very special.  And then I learned that Elliot was a translation (capably handled by Pajama Press’ Managing Editor Erin Woods) of a 2014 French-language picture book from Les 400 coups that had already won Le Prix du livre jeunesse des Bibliothèques de Montréal for 2015.  Its subtlety and poignancy ensures its sure status as a winner in English as well!

Elliot_WebsiteElliot is a heartfelt story about finding one’s true family, the one that will love and care for you forever. It might be a foster family, it may be the family you’re born into, or it might be the one that ultimately adopts you, as Elliot is fortunate to find.  But Julie Pearson embues the story of Elliot with an underlying sadness, for Elliot who is being a child and for his parents who try to do the best they can for him but can’t quite manage it.  And Manon Gauthier’s subtle collages of muted colours, save for Elliot’s red striped shirt, express that sadness and the grayness of tenuous family so movingly.  I defy anyone to read Elliot and not cry for the emotional hardships Elliot braves and cheer for the rosy blush of happiness (with a splash of red text) that comes when Elliot becomes part of a new family.

There are very few picture books that I want to clutch a little tighter and hold onto in my heart a little longer.  Elliot is one that has touched me so.”
—Helen Kubiw

Click here to read the full review.

 

 

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

Posted on December 22nd, 2015 by pajamapress

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

Click here to read the full review.

“Teachers will now be scrambling to use Once Upon a Line,” says CanLit for LittleCanadians

Posted on August 17th, 2015 by pajamapress

OnceUponALine-COVER-FAKE-FOIL_RGB_500px“With Once Upon a Line, Wallace Edwards has catapulted himself and his books to the status of must-haves for any home, school or public library.  The USA may have Chris Van Allsburg and most notably The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, but teachers will now be scrambling to use Once Upon a Line instead as the go-to book for story-starters and creative writing projects based on intriguingly unique illustrations that get the creative juices flowing.

Once Upon a Line is so rich in its visual effects and textual texture that it deserves all the golden stars on its cover and more.”

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Uncertain Soldier “textures [history] with humanity”—CanLit for LittleCanadians

Posted on August 11th, 2015 by pajamapress

UncertainSoldier“A book like Uncertain Soldierdoes not go down easily.  It burns in your throat with the rising bile of injustice and cowardice and the horrors of prejudice inflicted in war and out.  It churns in your gut and then sits like a heavy meal of reality and history.  Sometimes getting beyond that all is tough.  Karen Bass again, as she did in Graffiti Knight, examines an ill-fated part of our history (her author’s note is an especially enlightening and valuable read) and textures it with humanity that makes it a touching story of distressing times.  Uncertain Soldier will blow the historical fiction award juries away with its power.”

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CanLit for LittleCanadians reviews Bad Pirate

Posted on June 4th, 2015 by pajamapress

BadPirate_Internet“You know Kari-Lynn Winters will spin a great yarn, which she has, and it’s a rollicking good one of life on the high seas, living with barnacle-hardened sea dogs (literally) and a father-daughter relationship like no other.  There’s learning about being oneself and accepting others’ strengths as important, even if different. The text is salted with the voice of pirates–though nicely scrubbed for young ears and eyes–and the fluency of a sea shanty.  And Dean Griffiths makes sure that his bold illustrations transport the reader to the swaying decks of that pirate ship, embellished with detailed rigging, portholes, ratlines and masts.  And the crew of spaniels, chihuahuas, bulldogs and sheepdogs (this list is limited only by my own limited dog knowledge) is resplendent in their kerchief do-rags, breeches, buckle boots and gold earrings, the captain especially dapper in his frock coat and feathered musketeer hat.  And Augusta fits right in, truly looking like a pirate, even if Kari-Lynn Winters has to help her, and everyone else on the ship, see that when she was good, she really was a very Bad Pirate. Lucky for them.”

Click here to read the full review.

CanLit for LittleCanadians reviews In a Cloud of Dust

Posted on February 12th, 2015 by pajamapress

homecover-in-a-cloud“…In a Cloud of Dust provides a glimpse into the lives of children who must travel long distances for the chance to attend school. Alma Fullerton’s text is modest in its quantity but weighty in its simple message of compassion and support, similar to her A Good Trade (Pajama Press, 2012) and Community Soup (Pajama Press, 2013) picture books…Brian Deines’ illustrations are incomparable, effectively portraying the dusty and lengthy distances over Anna must travel to school. Because of his reliance on oils, Brian Deines’ illustrations are highly evocative of the landscape and mood of the remote areas of Anna’s Tanzanian home, providing less detail and more ambiance than other media might provide, particularly in the brush of the illustrator of Bear on the Homefront (Innes and Endrulat, Pajama Press, 2014).

In the hands of Alma Fullerton and Brian Deines, the story of Anna and her travels to and from school are never lost In a Cloud of Dust.”—CanLit for LittleCanadians

Click here to read the full review.

Princess Pistachio is Anne of Green Gables for youngest readers, says CanLit for LittleCanadians

Posted on October 17th, 2014 by pajamapress

PrincessPistachio_HR_RGB“…Children have always been taken with Marie-Louise Gay’s Stella and Sam series of books, by the wonder and wisdom of an older sister and the innocent inquiry of her little brother.  Now, these readers can enjoy Marie-Louise Gay’s signature illustrations in the more challenging stories of Pistachio, the girl who is definitely more like a pixie than an angel.  She may still have Stella’s dramatic flair but it’s wrapped up in a scampish nature that is all Pistachio.

But, what will exalt Princess Pistachio to the upper echelons of early chapter books is the voice that Marie-Louise Gay has given the little girl and the richness of the text in general.  Delightful play with words and challenging vocabulary enriches Princess Pistachio above most early readers….

With a second book, Princess Pistachio and the Pest, already scheduled, I believe that Marie-Louise Gay and Pajama Press have just created an Anne of Green Gables for the very youngest of youngCanLit readers, and one who will poke at our hearts and funny bones alike.”

Click here to read the full review.