Pajama Press

Archive for July, 2012

Best Books for Kids and Teens

Posted on July 16th, 2012 by pajamapress

When I was a kid I loved libraries and bookstores.  I could walk in, find the shelves of juvenile fiction, and pull off a dozen books I wanted to read. Just like that. 

It’s harder these days. I don’t know if it’s my age, or the literary snobbiness I contracted during my undergraduate studies, or the overwhelming abundance of books, but I just can’t seem to decide what I want to read anymore. Even in the juvenile fiction section, which – let’s face it – I will never outgrow.

multiLuckily, there are institutions for people like me. Literary ones, that is – not mental ones. The one that’s closest to my heart is the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, which is dedicated to promoting Canadian books for young readers. One of their projects is a publication called Best Books for Kids and Teens. It’s a guide in magazine form to the best books, magazines, and audio and video products published for kids in Canada. Here’s what you need to know about it:

  • Entries in the guide are selected, not sponsored
  • The guide is directed at parents and adults who work with small children, teenagers, and every age in between
  • The selection committee is composed of educators, booksellers, and librarians from across the country
  • New in 2012: this is now a twice-a-year publication, with both spring and fall issues

How can I get this publication?

I’m glad you asked. The easiest way is to follow this direct link to the products section of the CCBC website. There you can purchase individual copies, subscriptions, and memberships. With a membership you also get a subscription to another CCBC publication, Canadian Children’s Book News.

Best Books for Kids and Teens is also available in select stores and newsstands across the country.

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre administers a number of awards that recognize excellence in Canadian young people’s literature. Check out their links on the Amazon and Indigo online stores!

Rob Laidlaw’s Dog Tales: Bedbugs Beware

Posted on July 16th, 2012 by pajamapress

Welcome to Dog Tales, a series where author and animal advocate Rob Laidlaw shares stories and facts from his travels and work in dog advocacy.

Photo of KelseyI recently read an article about dogs checking for bedbugs at a third of Hamilton’s public libraries. That’s one I’d never heard of. I’d known about dogs sniffing out loads of other things, such as bomb making materials, drugs and endangered species products, but this one was new to me. While researching my book No Shelter Here: Makingthe World a Kinder Place for Dogs, I came across some astounding “feats of the nose,” particularly in the medical field, including dogs sniffing out cancer tumors. But I’d never heard about them being used to find bedbugs. Well, apparently they do.

For any Hamilton library-goers who might be reading this, fear not. While the bed bug sniffing dogs did pick up the scent of the little critters, no actual bedbugs or eggs were found.

Another Orphan Airlift Story

Posted on July 12th, 2012 by pajamapress

In Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch tells the story of one child who was flown out of war-torn Vietnam to find a new life and a new family in Canada. Tuyet’s story is not the only one, however. Today Thi-Mai Murphy shares her own experience. 

In April, 1975, an airplane left Saigon carrying nervous aid workers and dozens of frightened babies and children. These were orphans, many fathered by American soldiers and others with disabilities, who were not expected to survive the imminent North Vietnamese invasion.

“No one really knows how old they were,” explains Thi-Mai. Doctors estimated the ages of the children using x-rays; since some of an infant’s 350 bones fuse over time (adults have just 206), they were able to approximate the orphans’ ages by counting their bones. Thi-Mai was judged to be three.

Thi-Mai on arrival

Thi-Mai on arrival

“I don’t remember anything,” she says. “Just stories told to me. We were taken from orphanages to a house near the base, where lines of buses came to pick us up and bring us to the airport. We were rushed in and the pilots only had a small window [of time in which] to take off.”

The plane landed in Hong Kong, where a medical team came aboard to examine the children and remove the sickest ones for treatment. Some of the healthy ones were transferred to another plane bound for England. Thi-Mai continued on to Canada.

Thi-Mai’s adoptive parents didn’t know she was on her way to them. “My parents originally applied for Haiti. They were told adoptions would be halted because Vietnamese children were coming over. Then they were told there were none left (I’m thinking they were talking about the flight that landed in Montreal a week or so before us, but they were already pre-assigned parents before landing).”

When Thi-Mai’s flight landed, an adoption coordinator called her parents and asked if they still wanted a Vietnamese child. They did, and Thi-Mai became one of the family.

It wasn’t always easy for Thi-Mai to feel like she belonged in her new country. “I never really pictured myself [being] adopted until later when I started noticing family pictures. How I was the only dark one in the pictures,” she says. School bullies and the visual reminder of a nearly-all-white community didn’t help.

Thi-Mai’s early childhood will probably always be something of a mystery. A number of the orphans have gotten together for reunions as adults, but what they learn from each other is not always happy. And there are always questions that no one knows how to answer.

Thi-Mai meeting her new siblings at Surrey Place in Toronto

Thi-Mai meeting her new siblings at Surrey Place in Toronto

“There’s always the negative side that no-one delves into…Some lives were destroyed in the process, some ran from their past, some just bubble themselves.”

One concern that comes up frequently is health. “Was I affected by Agent Orange? The Napalm? Do I have cancer? Diabetes? Heart defects?…Some of us  have discovered issues within our bodies that medically we contracted when we were younger. Where and when is a mystery.”

Origin is another mystery. “Many of us don’t look Vietnamese. Some look Cambodian, some Laos, etc.” It is possible that some of them fled to Vietnam from other countries, hoping to be airlifted to safety. Most will never know whether they came as orphans or with families of their own.

The heroic rescue of orphans from a war zone makes for a wonderful story.  It is much more difficult to talk about the identity struggles those orphans later experienced. Thi-Mai is a truth seeker, and she wants to know everything she can about her history—the good and the bad.

Thi-Mai with her new sister, Colleen

Thi-Mai with her new sister, Colleen

“All in all, the conclusion to most [of the orphans] is, ‘we were in an orphanage in Vietnam and adopted into loving homes,’” she says. “Silence is heard from

those who beg to differ.” (Thi grew up in a loving home. Some did not.)

Thi-Mai has never returned to Vietnam, but she plans to. In the meantime, every month she meets with others from her flight, both orphans and volunteers, for Vietnamese food—“Something most of us never had growing up, until we met.”

As for her children and future generations, Thi-Mai will make sure they grow up knowing as much as possible about their heritage—medical, biological and cultural. The connections Thi-Mai has with other orphans and with volunteers who were involved in her flight will help to answer their questions as well as her own.

“My son knows his mom’s past now and more about his background,” she says.

She adds that when friends and teachers ask him where he is from, he talks about Vietnam. “I have an extended family out there,” he says.

Rob Laidlaw’s Dog Tales: Subway Dogs

Posted on July 9th, 2012 by pajamapress

Welcome to Dog Tales, a series where author and animal advocate Rob Laidlaw shares stories and facts from his travels and work in dog advocacy.

Subway dogs editDuring the past year I’ve come across numerous articles about some amazing dogs in Russia. Apparently there are about 35, 000 stray dogs in the City of Moscow and 500 of them have learned to use the subway system. My guess is that the cold Moscow winters forced the dogs to find shelter and the subway system, being underground, was a great escape from the cold. Well that’s pretty smart, but what’s even more amazing is that about 50 dogs have learned to use the trains. They hop on in the morning—usually on the front or rear car because they’re the least busy—and then take the train downtown. They get off at their stop, go up to the surface, forage for food and then repeat the travel process in reverse later in the day. Essentially they commute to work. No one knows who was the first commuting dog or how they learned to recognize the stops, but it’s thought that they might know how long it takes to get to a particular stop or they may be triggered to get off by an odour or sound that is specific to certain stations. No matter how they do this, it’s pretty amazing. I don’t think we give dogs (or other animals) enough credit. They’re usually much smarter than we think.


Join the Pajama Party!

Posted on July 6th, 2012 by pajamapress

Pajama Party

Pajama Press has a brand new blog! Stop by for sneak peeks, extra content, author interviews, and more!

Intrigued? Here is a sneak preview of some of the posts you’ll be seeing this summer:

So put on your PJs and come on over. It’s a party!

7 Famous Authors who Wrote Outside the Box

Posted on July 2nd, 2012 by pajamapress

True Blue is a step outside the norm for Deborah Ellis, who is known for empowering stories about kids in developing nations, not psychological thrillers about two teenaged camp counsellors with a murdered charge. True Blue was such a success that it made us wonder—what other famous authors have produced works outside of their normal genres?

Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey, circa 1798-99

NorthangerPersuasionTitlePageMany passionate Austen fans are turned off by Northanger Abbey, which seems so incongruous with her other works. The incongruity makes sense, though—it’s actually a parody of gothic literature, unlike her other novels, which can be better classified as comedies of manners. 

Lewis Carroll

“The Principles of Parliamentary Representation,” circa 1870

Fans of Charles Dodgson, alias Lewis Carroll, will know that the famous nonsense writer was a mathematician by trade, and that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Jabberwocky share space in his bibliography with titles like An Elementary Treatise on Determinants, With Their Application to Simultaneous Linear Equations and Algebraic Equations. Still, it may surprise even those well-informed fans to learn that this busy writer also found time to pen a number of political pamphlets regarding fairness in political procedures—a particular concern of his.

Beatrix Potter

On the Germination of the Spores of the Agaricineae, 1897

Beatrix_Potter_wikiBeatrix Potter’s tales of rabbits, mice, hedgehogs and other animals of the British country garden began charming young readers in 1902 and are still beloved today. Less well-remembered is Potter’s passion for the natural sciences, especially mycology (the study of fungi). In 1897 she submitted a paper, On the Germination of the Spores of the Agaricineae, to the Linnean Society—although, as a woman, she was not allowed to attend the proceedings and had to present it by proxy.

J.R.R. Tolkein

Mr. Bliss, circa 1938

Tolkein’s name is irrevocably linked with Middle Earth and mythology. In the children’s book Mr. Bliss, however, he tells the story of a man’s hapless first ride in a new automobile—apparently inspired by Tolkien’s own experience.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

The First Four Years, circa 1940

Laura_Ingalls_WilderOf Laura Ingalls Wilder’s famous “Little House” books, The First Four Years is the only one that remained unpublished at her death, the only one not edited by her daughter Rose or by a professional editor, and the only one that seems to be directed at adults. The story of Laura’s trouble-fraught early years of marriage lacks the rosy glow of nostalgia that infuses the other books, where hardship is tempered with happiness and idealism overwhelms distress. The manuscript was found among Rose’s possessions at her death, and neither mother nor daughter seem to have pursued its publication.

J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye, 1951

Salinger’s most famous work is actually his greatest anomaly. The American writer began publishing short stories in the early 1940s and has several novellas and anthologized stories to his name; The Catcher in the Rye, however, is his only novel.

J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy, 2012

This still-to-come novel will be Rowling’s first adult book after her sensational Harry Potter series for children and teens—although, of course, a remarkable number of adults read those books as well.