Pajama Press

Archive for August, 2012

Rob Laidlaw’s Dog Tales: Visiting Hachiko

Posted on August 31st, 2012 by pajamapress

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

When I was in Tokyo, I went to see the memorial statue of Hachiko the dog just outside the Shibuya train station. While Hachiko is extremely famous in Japan, he’s not quite so famous in other parts of the world—but he should be.

In 1924 Hachiko’s “owner” would take the train to work and return each evening. Hachiko would wait for him to return, but in May 1925 his owner passed away and did not return. Hachiko waited faithfully at the train station every day for nine years. During that time he became famous. In 1932 Hachiko also passed away, but his memory lives on today. In No Shelter Here: Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs I tell the story of the Greyfriar’s Bobby, a small Skye terrier who also spent years waiting for his “owner” to return. Hachiko, Bobby and other dogs like them can teach us a lot. Perhaps we should all be a bit more like dogs.

On Writing, pets, and Puppy Mills Open Book Toronto interviews Rob Laidlaw

Posted on August 29th, 2012 by pajamapress

Just days before the paperback release of No Shelter Here: Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs, Open Book Toronto has posted an interview with author Rob Laidlaw. In the interview, Rob talks about puppy mills, reading recommendations for animal lovers, and the dogs he has rescued and loved—even if it meant kicking down a door.

Click here to see the interview.

Writing Laura Secord: Historical Fiction and the Heroine

Posted on August 27th, 2012 by pajamapress

C.B.CrookConnie Brummel Crook is the author of fifteen picture books and novels of historical fiction. Her most recent, Acts of Courage: Laura Secord and the War of 1812, tells the story of Laura Ingersoll Secord, one of the most celebrated (and sometimes controversial) figures in Canadian history. Today Connie shares what it was like to recreate the story—and the personality—of this courageous woman.

I heard tales of Laura Secord’s heroism as a child. My parents were descended from Loyalists.  My great grandfather lived with us when I was a very young child, and he sang old ballads about those days. All his songs had a story to tell. My father, too, was interested in history. I grew up with the stories about which I have written. Of course, I did do a lot of research to fill in details that I did not know or remember as a child.

I have drawn Laura’s adult character from historical sources and her youthful character partly from an interview over a pleasant lunch prepared for me and my husband by Laura Secord Dunlop, an 89-year-old lady, in the early 1990’s at Kitchener, ON. Mrs. Dunlop’s father had told her much about Laura and he, too, had lived a long life, and so could remember back directly.

Since I could not find much that had been written about Laura’s early years before she came to Upper Canada, I asked Mrs. Dunlop about Laura’a childhood. She mentioned that Laura went through a most difficult time when her father, Thomas Ingersoll, married again so soon after her stepmother’s death. After all, Laura’s own mother died when Laura was eight, then her step-mother, to whom she was adjusting nicely, died four years later. Then four months after her death, Thomas Ingersoll married yet again. From Mrs. Dunlop’s comments, it appeared to me that Laura was a strong, determined child at a time when one might think she would have been more fragile.

I began to investigate that time period in the States.  Thomas Ingersoll, who had fought for the Americans in the American Revolutionary War, was then caught into subduing the rebels of Shay’s Rebellion.  So I worked that suspenseful event into my story with Laura involved. The fact that a school teacher from a nearby school was actually killed led me to work in the school events to introduce this part of my story. Also, when I was researching, I found out that around 1990, the house that had originally been Laura Secord’s home was, in fact, the library of Great Barrington.  So I phoned them for details of the land, house, area, etc. from that earlier time period.  A few years later I was contacted by someone working in the archival materials in that library to give them my Canadian spin on some events up here. I don’t know if they ever used it.

The ruins of the De Cew house; photo by Alex Luyckx

The ruins of the De Cew house; photo by Alex Luyckx

Over twenty years ago, I was asked by a publisher to write a novel about Laura Secord.  So I read every book, article, scrap, letter etc. that I could find. I visited Niagara Falls area, where my first cousin lived, and so I was free to explore. In fact, I walked and rode (my husband beside me in the car) over her long trek as much as I could. Some places were hard to find, and many were changed. The De Cew house was only partially preserved, with the stone parts of basement coming up above the soil. Also, I spent a great deal of time at the Public Library. They would not allow me to take out the personal file of letters and such, but they gave me space to work there with these precious files. The more I read, the more I became impressed with the way Laura handled difficult times­—not all of which fit into my story about the War of 1812.

Monument to Laura Secord' photo by Alex Luykcx

Monument to Laura Secord’ photo by Alex Luykcx

In a published source, I found another courageous deed described.  After the war, when James was on duty at the Customs, where he had a more prosperous job than his own business had ever been, he heard rumours about an expected attack from smugglers. There was no time to bring in help, and so Laura dressed as a man and took duty with him. The camouflage helped to show there was more than one man there. The ruse worked and the smugglers did not attack because they assumed the plan was found out and probably the police were in waiting for them. Why else would a man be brought in on short notice to accompany the lone Customs Officer, James Secord, who had walked with a limp ever since the war?  Laura’s courage even in these later years stood out. Nor did she mind impersonating a man to do the task. Was she not exceptional for her time?

Though I always try to write an exciting story, it is just as important to write something accurate enough that the subject of the book would also enjoy reading it. I hope that Laura Secord would find her life honoured and accurately reflected in the books that I have written.

A Good Trade creators “inspired”–CanLit for LittleCanadians

Posted on August 24th, 2012 by pajamapress

“…Kato’s story could be a sombre one, considering that for his whole life Uganda has been in the midst of a civil war in which children were abducted and terrorized to fight for the rebel forces. But, while not ignoring the presence of armed soldiers, A Good Trade accepts the unrest and horror as only one aspect of Uganda.  There are also the gardens, hills, trails, fields with cattle, and villages with neighbours and children.  And those who offer help.

…I believe that the pairing of Alma Fullerton’s text with Karen Patkau’s art style in A Good Trade is inspired.  It’s almost as if Karen Patkau’s art was destined to evoke the landscape and story of Uganda.  Her sultry skies alone capably recreate the shimmering heat of an African day.

Whatever forces, human or supernatural, that brought together these two artists, one of words and the other of graphics, knew exactly what they were doing.  There’s gratitude all around here: from Kato, from picture book lovers, from compassionate readers.”

Click here to read the full review

Plan a Giraffe and Bird Party Part 4: Puppets

Posted on August 24th, 2012 by pajamapress

All summer we’ve been sharing ideas for a Don’t Laugh at Giraffe-themed party. We’ve talked about games, kid-made loot bags, and the oh-so-popular Muddy Puddle Slushie drink. Today we have instructions for a great kid-friendly craft that will inspire hours of fun long after the party is over:


Giraffe Puppet


One white sock

One red felt tongue

Two tan felt horns

Two tan felt ears

Brown tempera paint

A paint brush

Tacky craft glue

A picture of a giraffe or an example for kids to follow

A black fabric marker


To make this more of an independent activity at the party (freeing you up to light candles, clean up messes, or deal with crises), cut out the tongue, ears, and horns ahead of time. You will need a long, snaking red tongue, two small tan rectangles for horns, and two small, tan leaf shapes for ears.

Giraffe Puppet


1. Using the black fabric marker, draw eyes and nostrils on the foot of the sock.

2. Using the brown tempera, paint large spots on the neck of the giraffe and small spots on its face.

3. Glue down 1.5 cm (0.5 in) of the tongue just below the seam at the toe of the sock.

4. With the sock flat on the table, glue one horn so that it sticks straight up from the crest of the heel. Flip the sock over and do the same on the other side.

5. Glue each ear right over the base of a horn. Make sure the tips of the ears point backward.

Bird Puppet


One 2″ Styrofoam ball

One paperclip, cut in half with wire cutters

Three feathers

A black permanent marker

Tempera paint

A paint brush

Tacky craft glue

An arm’s length of yarn

Bird Puppet


1. Poke the half paperclip halfway into the Styrofoam ball so that it makes two holes. Remove it, dip it in glue, and replace it in the same holes. This will form a loop from which your bird will hang.

2. Using the permanent marker, draw features on your bird.

3. Paint the ball all over. You can use your paperclip loop to keep your fingers out of the drying paint.

4. Poke a feather into each side of the bird for wings, and a third at the back for a tail. As with the paperclip, you can dip them in glue for added stability.

5. Tie one end of your yarn to the loop. Your bird is ready to fly! Reviews No Shelter Here

Posted on August 20th, 2012 by pajamapress

Whether you are a young activist wanting to help dogs or a family considering adopting a canine family member No Shelter Here is a good book to read. Since it deals with issues affecting dogs, how to make things better for our four-legged friends, things to consider before adopting a dog as well as ways to ensure a good life for an adopted dog, this book should be available in libraries – including school libraries.
–Glen Perrett

Click here to read the full review.

Rob Laidlaw’s Dog Tales: Encountering Wild Dogs

Posted on August 17th, 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. 

4248297963_ea53a8f7c0I’m always amazed at how wild dogs can exist in the midst of heavily urbanized environments. A year ago I even saw a big coyote casually trotting down the sidewalk of a busy downtown street.  But it’s not that surprising when you think about it. Both wild dogs and feral domesticated dogs have integrated themselves into human environments for a very long time and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

One of the dogs that criss-crosses that amorphous dividing line between wild and domesticated is the dingo, a wild dog found everywhere in Australia except on the island of Tasmania. With a short, usually golden-yellow or brown coat, dingoes are stunning dogs that inhabit a wide variety of habitats. They tend to live in pairs, but can occasionally be found in small family groups.

While no one knows for sure how dingoes came to Australia, genetic testing has confirmed that they are descendents of dogs that probably came from southern China many thousands of years ago. Their scientific name is often cited as Canis lupus dingo (meaning it is a subspecies of the grey wolf) or Canis familiaris dingo (meaning it is a subspecies of the domesticated dog). There is a lot of argument about which one is right.

2829178725_491b3721e3When Europeans first arrived on the remote island continent, they discovered dingoes living in relative harmony with Aboriginal people, sometimes serving as camp sentries or as hunting assistants.

When sheep farming was brought to Australia, dingoes found a new and easy food source. Unfortunately, killing sheep led to dingoes being treated as pests and they’ve been mercilessly hunted and killed ever since.

To keep dingoes out of southeast Australia, a 5,614 km (3,488 mile) fence was erected. Construction of the 180 cm (5.9 ft) high fence began in the early 1880s and was completed in 1885. North of the fence, dingoes are treated as wildlife, while south of the fence they were killed as pests. That’s still the case today.

However, the biggest threat to the dingo now is hybridization (breeding with domesticated dogs). Pure dingoes are very rare and many wildlife experts consider them an endangered species.

Primitive dogs, often dingo-like, can be found around the world. The New Guinea Singing Dog is a primitive dog that is thought to have been brought to the island several thousand years ago. Left alone, they developed into their own breed. Other early dogs are North America’s Carolina dog, sometimes called the American dingo,  Israel’s Canaan dog and the Pariah dogs of India.

5850114465_abdd12623b_mWild and feral dogs have been with us for a long time and for much of that time they’ve been mercilessly persecuted. That’s been the history of coyotes in North America—people waging an endless war against them. But coyotes have beaten the odds and they’ve survived and prospered. I hope the other dogs do too.

Publishers Weekly reviews Don’t Laugh at Giraffe

Posted on August 15th, 2012 by pajamapress

Publishers Weekly has some delightful things to say about Don’t Laugh at Giraffe:

“Bender paints the animals against a bright savanna backdrop, emphasizing their emotional ups and downs with exaggerated facial expressions. The conversational text gracefully delivers a message about kindness and having a sense of humor.” –Publishers Weekly

Click here to see the full review.

Canadian Children’s Booknews Summer 2012

Posted on August 14th, 2012 by pajamapress

The summer edition of Canadian Children’s Booknews is here, and two Pajama Press books have made exciting appearances inside.

First, this issue announces the finalists for the 2012 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards, and True Blue by Deborah Ellis is in the running for the John Spray Mystery Award. Here’s what the magazine says about the award:

“Established in 2011 to honour excellence in the mystery book genre and sponsored by John Spray, President of the Mantis Investigation Agency, this $5,000 prize is awarded annually to a Canadian author of an outstanding work of mystery writing for young people.”

Over the page is the regular “Bookmark” feature, which highlights books on a particular theme. This issue the theme is “The Worlds of War” and A Bear in War leads the listings for “Picture Books and Early Readers for Kindergarted to Grade 3”:

“The true story of how a tiny stuffed bear named Teddy became an enduring memento of a Canadian family’s love during World War I is being re-released in September 2012. Teddy now lives in a glass display case at the Canadian War Museum and is one of its most beloved exhibits.”

You can purchase copies of Canadian Children’s Booknews on select newsstands or at

Plan a Giraffe and Bird Party Part 3: Muddy Puddle Slushies

Posted on August 13th, 2012 by pajamapress

This summer we’re having a virtual party with our favourite funny friends from Don’t Laugh at Giraffe! We’ve already given you some game ideas and a finger paint loot bag activity; today we’re sharing a cool drink inspired by poor Giraffe’s attempts to slurp up a mud puddle.

Ingredients Per Slushie

4 ice cubes

1/8 C Nestles Quick

1/2 C milk


Pour all the ingredients into a blender and frappe!

That’s it! Stay tuned for more fun ideas in weeks to come!