Pajama Press

Posts Tagged ‘teen’

Quill & Quire Editor’s Choice review: The Hill by Karen Bass

Posted on February 8th, 2016 by pajamapress

“Alberta-based Geoffrey Bilson Award-winning author Karen Bass draws on the Cree legend of the Wîhtiko for her latest YA novel, which blends adventure, horror, and some good old-fashioned coming-of-age wisdom.

TheHill_WebsiteEn route to spend the summer with his mining-executive father in Yellowknife, 15-year-old Jared Fredrickson’s private jet crashes in a remote swamp in Northern Alberta. He regains consciousness as a rescuer enters the scene—Kyle Badger, a Cree teen (also 15) who happened to be nearby and saw the plane go down. After bandaging the unconscious pilot’s bleeding head (there are no other passengers or crew), Kyle helps Jared out of the wreckage, and the latter convinces the former to climb a nearby hill in the hopes of getting some cellphone reception and calling for help. Kyle is more than reluctant. His Kokum (grandmother) has always warned him to stay away from the hill, which is said to be cursed. But Jared is insistent, and the two boys set off on a quest that will lead them straight into the path of mortal danger.

Jared and Kyle could not be more different. Raised in Edmonton by extremely wealthy parents (now divorced), Jared wants for nothing. He is small in stature and obsessed with material goods; he worries more about his damaged laptop than the injured pilot. He also has zero survival skills. Kyle, on the other hand, is the size of a large adult man, shares a small home with his grandparents and younger brother, and is obviously comfortable in the wilderness.

It quickly becomes clear that Jared doesn’t stand a chance of surviving without Kyle’s help, though the two don’t exactly hit it off. Kyle sees Jared as a spoiled, oblivious white kid, while Jared considers Kyle an overbearing bully who uses his size as an intimidation tool. The racial tension runs high, with Jared making ignorant—though not necessarily ill-intentioned—comments about aboriginals and Kyle referring to Jared as Moniyaw. “[It] isn’t an insult. It just means white man,” says Kyle when Jared’s temper flares at the perceived slight. “And if I called you ‘brown man,’ you’d flatten me,” responds Jared.

The dynamic between the boys is the best part of the narrative, and will open many readers’ eyes to the issues of race, class, and privilege. Neither Kyle nor Jared are bad kids, but they both have faults, and their process of figuring those out and coming to terms with them comprises the bulk of the story not dealing with their bigger problem: the Wîhtiko.

Bass does an excellent job of bringing together the elements of her novel, successfully weaving the supernatural thread into what would be a challenging situation for the boys even without it. Their climb up the hill releases the Wîhtiko from its lair and traps them in a parallel dimension where monsters and figures from legend are real, and the boys’ world—including the crashed plane and Kyle’s family—is rendered inaccessible by a strange fog that allows them to see, but not cross over.

The mismatched pair learns to rely on each other as they scramble through the wilderness for days, trying to outrun an advancing forest fire as well as the monster that threatens to eviscerate them. The description of the beast as a “vaguely human, skeletal creature” with a gaping-hole mouth, pieces of lip flapping against its bony chin, and bloody stubs for fingers is certainly nightmarish, but Kyle and Jared’s encounters with the creature aren’t overly scary for the reader. Jared’s terror is convincingly portrayed, however…”

CBC’s 100 YA Books That Make You Proud To Be Canadian

Posted on June 29th, 2015 by pajamapress

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This Canada Day, celebrate your patriotism the literary way.

CBC Books has rounded up 100 Young Adult Books That Make You Proud To Be Canadian. How many have you read? Take the quiz on the CBC Books website.

Among the chosen 100 are Nix Minus One by Jill MacLean and Graffiti Knight by Karen Bass. We are indeed proud to have these books recognized as the great Canadian treasures we believe them to be.

Nix Minus One, a novel by Jill MacLean Graffiti Knight by Karen Bass, winner of the Geoffrey Bilson Award and the CLA Young Adult Book Award

Will this list inspire you to read more Canada? Are there any standouts you feel are missing? Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #CBCbooks100.

 

A “story of hope and fear, love and determination, and the universal significance of bearing witness”—Booklist

Posted on April 21st, 2015 by pajamapress

Dance of the Banished, a WWI novel by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch“Ali and his fiancée, Zeynep, are Anatolian Alevi Kurds facing the hardships imposed by Turkish revolutionary forces. Ali preemptively immigrates to Kapuskasing, Ontario, but is identified as an enemy alien and imprisoned in an internment camp. Zeynep’s journey to find her future with Ali takes her from 1914 to 1916, from Harput, Anatolia, to Kars, Russia, and eventually to Brantford, Ontario, where she expects Ali to be gainfully employed and living on Darling Street. Skrypuch tells their story, which is based on true events, through descriptive journal passages in which the characters address each other with courage and longing. Eventually, Zeynep’s eyewitness chronicle is discovered by the American consul and used as testimony against war crimes. The author’s somber rendering of WWI atrocities against Armenians is reminiscent of fellow Canadian author Deborah Ellis’ caring attention to modern-day Afghan refugees and Middle Eastern youth living in conflict. There are many lessons for young readers in this story of hope and fear, love and determination, and the universal significance of bearing witness.”

—Gail Bush

Quill & Quire reviews Karen Bass’ Uncertain Soldier

Posted on March 23rd, 2015 by pajamapress

UncertainSoldierHow does it feel to be surrounded by people who see you as the enemy? How do you protect yourself when you aren’t sure whom to trust? The protagonists of Uncertain Soldier, Karen Bass’s wonderful new novel for young adults, are grappling with these questions.

Erich, a 17-year-old German sailor in Hitler’s navy, finds himself in Canada after his ship sinks and he is captured. Max is the 12-year-old son of German immigrants living in the fictional town of Horley, Alberta. Their stories converge in 1943, when Erich, now a prisoner of war, is working in a logging camp near Horley.

Both boys share a deep feeling of isolation. Erich does not share his fellow POWs’ Nazi beliefs, but is nonetheless hated by any Canadian with whom he comes into contact. Max was born in Canada but his stern father’s loyalty to Germany causes suspicion when war breaks out, and Max becomes a target for the townspeople.

Erich and max are well-developed characters, as is almost everyone surrounding them. Cora, a young Canadian girl whose relatives were killed in the Blitz, is torn between her hatred of the Germans and her attraction to Erich. The presence of Christmas, a young indigenous man, forces Erich and Max to realize that, despite their frustration with the blind prejudice of others, they harbor their own racial biases.

Bass does a fantastic job building and releasing tension throughout the novel. That war and violence were omnipresent in everyone’s lives during the period is made plain, despite the deceptively peaceful setting of a town far from the front lines. In the end, Erich and Max are pushed to their breaking points and have to decide how to respond. Will they refuse to engage or will they stand up and do what’s right, despite the risks? Their feelings of helplessness and struggles with conflicted loyalties should be easy for any young reader to identify with.

 

Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis an Amelia Bloomer Project selection

Posted on February 17th, 2015 by pajamapress

Moon At Nine by Deborah Ellis - the true story of two girls who fell in love in post-revolution Iran Pajama Press is proud to announce that Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis has been selected as one of the titles to be honoured on the Amelia Bloomer Young Adult Fiction list in 2015.

Part of the American Library Association Social Responsibilities Round Table’s Feminist Task Force, the Amelia Bloomer Project recommends a list of the best feminist books for young readers each year. You can view the full 2015 list here.

Moon at Nine is the powerful story of two young teenaged girls in 1980s Iran whose friendship deepens into romance. In post-revolutionary Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death—but Farrin and Sadira refuse to deny their love. Author Deborah Ellis says, “Farin and Sadira’s story, based on true events, shows the power of love, of hope, and of the determination of women around the world to make things better.”

Moon at Nine has also been honoured recently as a Quill & Quire Book of the Year and an Ontario Library Association Best Bet. School Library Journal says, “Sparse and eloquently-written, this short historical novel is both beautiful and heartbreaking.” Publishers Weekly adds, “A firm grounding in Iranian history, along with the insight and empathy Ellis brings to the pain of those whose love is decreed to be immoral and unnatural, make this a smart, heartbreaking [novel.]”

Follow the links to access full reviews, a book trailer, interviews with Deborah Ellis, and a free downloadable classroom teaching guide.

Dance of the Banished “an outstanding testament to Skrypuch’s mastery”—Canadian Children’s Book News

Posted on February 12th, 2015 by pajamapress

Dance of the Banished, a WWI novel by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch“It is June 1913, when Ali breaks the news to his fiancée Zeynep that he will be leaving their Anatolian village to go to Canada. Once there, he hopes to finally be able to save enough money to pay for her passage, and to build a new life for them there. But the world is on the brink of war and everything soon changes. The two record the events that they both witness in journal entries to each other, even though they both fear that they will never see one another again.

Alternating between these two sets of journal entries, readers learn Zeynep’s story of going to live and work with Christian missionaries. As World War I looms, she witnesses first-hand the horrors of the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Young Turks who now control the government. Conditions for her and the other Alevi Kurds are only marginally better, but that is small consolation as she watches Armenian men, women and children being cruelly treated and marched to their deaths. Meanwhile, in Canada, Ali and the other Alevi Kurds who had tried to settle in Brantford, Ontario, are falsely accused of a crime and sent to an internment camp in northern Ontario. As these two separate stories unfold, a vivid and devastating picture unfolds.

This latest work is an outstanding testament to Skrypuch’s mastery as a writer of historical fiction for young readers. She has created forthright and dramatic accounts of two little-known events from that time period, inviting readers of all ages to try to understand the depth of suffering that these groups have experienced. She has put a profoundly human face on the horrors of war while also creating an insightful portrait of the Alevi Kurds. Zeynep and Ali are both forced to mature very quickly, and their development is convincing. Skrypuch skillfully captures their voices, their longing, their heartbreak and their courage.”

—Lisa Doucet

Graffiti Knight receives USBBY “Outstanding International Book” honour

Posted on February 2nd, 2015 by pajamapress

Graffiti Knight by Karen Bass has been honoured by the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) as one of six Outstanding International Books for grades 9–12 in 2015.

Chosen from among all books published outside of the United States but first distributed within that country in a given  year, the Outstanding International Books list is chosen based on the following criteria (taken from the USBBY website):

  • Graffiti Knight by Karen Bass, winner of the Geoffrey Bilson Award and the CLA Young Adult Book AwardBooks that represent the best of children´s literature from other countries
  • Books that introduce American readers to outstanding authors and illustrators from other countries
  • Books that help American children see the world from other points of view
  • Books that provide a perspective or address a topic otherwise missing from children´s literature in the U.S.
  • Books that exhibit a distinct cultural flavor
  • Books that are accessible to American readers.

Graffiti Knight has already received a number of significant awards, including the CLA Book of the Year Award, the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, the R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature, and the CAA Exporting Alberta Award. Pajama Press congratulates author Karen Bass on yet another well-earned accolade.

Click here to view the full list of 2015 selections.

School Library Journal reviews Dance of the Banished

Posted on February 1st, 2015 by pajamapress

Dance of the Banished, a WWI novel by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch“Gr 8 Up–Skrypuch continues to tell the stories of young refugees—as in The Hunger (2002), Nobody’s Child (2003, both Dundrun), and Daughter of War (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008)—in her latest historical novel. Set between 1913 and 1917, it features two Alevi Kurd teenagers in Anatolia as World War I breaks out and Turkey begins the Armenian Genocide. Ali emigrates before the war begins and gives his girlfriend, Zeynep, a journal to write in for when they meet again. While in Canada, he is locked up in an internment camp because of his nationality, though he does not identify as Turkish. Meanwhile, Zeynep is witness to the genocide of her neighbors and is called to help. The author sheds light on an often overlooked piece of history….[T]he setting is fascinating, the research is thorough, and the story is made all the more interesting due to current events in the region. The author’s note is full of source notes and historical details…In a world that continues to be violent, readers may find solace in the novel’s joyful ending. VERDICT Dance of the Banished is absolutely school assignment worthy, and a good book for teens who enjoy historical fiction.”

—Lisa Nowlain, Darien Library, CT

“History comes alive” in Dance of the BanishedVOYA

Posted on January 12th, 2015 by pajamapress

Dance of the Banished, a WWI novel by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch“Canadian author Skrypuch, who has written several other well-received historical novels about World War I and the Armenian Genocide, has created an absorbing glimpse into a dark period in world history and the human consequences of war. Most of the novel is told through letters that Zeynep writes (but does not send) to Ali; as she becomes involved in protecting the Armenian people, these letters become an eye-witness account to the atrocities being committed against them. Ali, picked up as a Turk enemy alien (he and Zeynep are actually Alevi Kurds) and sent to the Kapuskasing prison internment camp, tells less of the story, including a subplot about his involvement with a young Cree woman who wants to become a nurse.

…The history comes alive, particularly in Zeynep’s chapters, and fans of historical or war novels, who may not know much about the Canadian internment camps or the Armenian Genocide, will surely be engaged enough to do further research (this reviewer did).”

Dance of the Banished an “eye-opening exposé”—Kirkus Reviews

Posted on January 10th, 2015 by pajamapress

Dance of the Banished, a WWI novel by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch“World War I separates a betrothed Anatolian couple—leaving one to witness the Armenian genocide and sending the other to a prison camp…in Canada. Cast as letters and journal entries, the double narrative records the experiences of Zeynep, a villager transplanted to the “mighty city of Harput,” and Ali, who is swept up with other supposed enemy aliens and shipped to a remote camp in central Ontario before he can send for Zeynep. Neither is of Turkish descent: They are Kurds practicing the ancient, indigenous Alevi faith. These distinctions make no difference to Canadian authorities in Ali’s case, but they do give Zeynep some protection as she records a rising tide of atrocities committed against her Armenian (Christian) friends and neighbors…An eye-opening exposé of historical outrages committed in two countries, with intriguing glimpses of a minority group that is not well-known in the Americas”