Pajama Press

Archive for June, 2016

Hat On, Hat Off receives its first review!

Posted on June 28th, 2016 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews has reviewed Hat On, Hat Off by Sarah Ellis.

HatOnHatOff_1000pxWhat parent or caregiver hasn’t played the game of putting on and taking off a piece of clothing with a baby? Heras and Benoit cleverly take that experience and knit it into a story with a cute brown-skinned toddler getting ready to go outside with a pigtailed older sibling’s help with shoes and jacket sleeves. Sippy cup, pail and shovel, potty stop, and favorite stuffed animal are all required as well, but with each step the child takes one hat off and then puts another back on. The tot cycles through a hat with a bear’s face and ears, a striped hat with a pom-pom, a penguin hat with tassels, a green, knobbly hat with frog’s eyes, before returning to the bear hat—which ends up in a pile of leaves as soon as the children finally get outside. Even Bunny wears a hat (with carrots on it, of course). “Time to go out! / Need a hat. // Hats in basket / Red hat, green hat, striped hat / Which hat?” The staccato phrases are extended by the charming watercolor-and-digital illustrations that bleed off the page, creating an intimate, up-close effect. Soft colors and background patterns of knitted yarn (which only adults will notice) add a cozy feeling to the text pages. Heavyweight paper and rounded corners will help little hands to turn the pages easily. A seemingly simple story is greatly enhanced by nuanced, toddler-friendly details.

Click here to read more reviews from Kirkus.

All the World a Poem an “engaging new picture book”—Quill & Quire

Posted on June 28th, 2016 by pajamapress

All the World a Poem by Gilles Tibo with illustrations by Manon Gauthier has received its first review from Quill & Quire.

AllTheWorldAPoem_Website2Gilles Tibo was already a well-loved children’s illustrator when he turned his hand to writing, and he has been prolific and successful in both fields. In his engaging new picture book, he celebrates his love of language and particularly the pleasures of writing poetry.

Tibo’s verses and prose poems (translated by Pajama Press managing editor Erin Woods) playfully consider the experience of poetry—how poems may climb under his quilt at night and keep him awake, or how writing poetry can resemble plucking silence like a flower and gently pressing it “into a notebook made of light.” Unexpected similes and metaphors help the reader see poems in many ways, linking them to nature, feelings and the joy in life.

While there is fun in a good—or a whole string of them—the figurative language is more effective than the rhymed verses. Certain concepts—including that poems “are infinite inside”—might be difficult for kids to comprehend, but the emphasis on sensations such as flying and floating, feelings of affection and companionship will bring the poems into relief for the young child hearing them.

The poetically quirky spirit of Tibo’s text is well served by the playful collage illustrations of Manon Gauthier. The text (sometimes running on an angle across the page) and images are placed in interesting and varied relationships, and Gauthier uses earthy colours and strong contrasts between white pages and patterned or dark backgrounds. The illustrations richly reflect the poems’ celebration of nature; of night with its associations of imagination and creativity; of the pleasures of poems that float in from the sea, drop from the sky or sprout from the earth for us to hold in our hearts.

Click here to read more reviews from Quill & Quire.


Remembering Laura Secord’s Walk

Posted on June 21st, 2016 by pajamapress


“Meeting Between Laura Secord and Lieutenant Fitzgibbon, June 1813,” by Lorne K. Smith, 1920.

June 21st marks the anniversary of Laura Ingersoll Secord’s 1813 trek to warn Lieutenant James FitzGibbon of American plans to launch a surprise on British troops at Beaver Dams and seize control of the Niagara Peninsula. Laura is one of Canada’s earliest heroines and today she is near-mythologized in Canadian history; she has two monuments dedicated to her, one at her grave site at Drummond Hill Cemetary and another at Queenston Heights. Her homestead in Niagara Falls is preserved as a heritage site and museum.

Today we’d like to take the opportunity to remember and honour this remarkable women, whose bravery above and beyond the call of duty during the War of 1812 earned her the distinction “the heroine of Beaver Dams.”

Laura Secord is most known for her now-famous 32 kilometer (20 mile) walk through American-occupied territory to warn British forces of an impending  surprise attack. On the evening of the 21st of June, 1813, she became aware of the Americans’ plans. It is unclear how exactly she learned this information, though popular folklore says she overheard American soldiers discussing their plans as they ate dinner at her house. Because her husband, James Secord, was still recovering from injuries he had sustained at the Battle of Queenston Heights, Laura took it upon herself to take the long journey across back roads and dangerous, American-occupied territory to Short Hills (now Pelham, Ontario). It was there that she encountered a camp of allied Mohawk warriors who guided her the rest of the way to Lieutenant FitzGibbon’s headquarters to deliver her message. It was only by her intervention that FitzGibbon was able to stage an ambush on American troops at Beaver Dams three days later and force their surrender.

Perhaps less widely known, but no less incredible, is that Laura’s famous trek was, in fact, her second act of Loyalist heroism and courage during the War of 1812. In 1812 Laura’s husband, James, fought as a sergeant in the battle of Queenston Heights where he was badly injured by a bullet wound in his shoulder and a musket ball that shattered his knee. When she didn’t receive word from him after the battle, Laura went to the battlefield to find him, where she ultimately rescued James and carried him home herself to oversee his recovery.

Although Laura Ingersoll Secord is one of Canada’s most recognizable heroes, it is important we continue to share her story because it was almost overlooked by the pages of history. Although she petitioned for it, Laura never received official recognition for her part in the victory at Beaver Dams from the British colonial government or the Canadian government in her lifetime. It is only through the tireless efforts of her descendants that her legacy was kept alive, as they were the ones to unearth key documents written by Fitzgibbon in 1820 that confirmed Laura had brought him word of the impending attack.

It wasn’t until Laura Secord was in her eighties that she received recognition from the British government. Nineteen-year-old Prince Albert (later King Edward VII) was visiting Niagara and officiating a Queenston Heights ceremony. He took an interest in Laura’s story, as she was the only woman among the veterans. When he returned home he sent her 100 pounds in gold in appreciation for her service to her country.

You can read Laura’s story in more detail in Acts of Courage, a historical fiction novel by Connie Brummel-Crook.


Learn more about Laura Secord:

Laura Secord: Fact or Fiction
Historical Narratives of Early Canada: Laura Secord
Laura Secord, A Biography
Laura Second, from the Heritage Minutes Collection
The Laura Secord Homestead
Laura Secord (Wikipedia page)




Ben Says Goodbye “…catches the rhythms of moving and of grieving…”—New York Times

Posted on June 20th, 2016 by pajamapress

The New York Times has included Ben Says Goodbye by Sarah Ellis in their “Moving Day” Bookshelf list. They write,

Ben Says Goodbye | Sarah Ellis & Kim La Fave | Pajama Press“When Peter moves away, Ben does not want to say goodbye, or do much of anything. He decides to move too — under the table, to become a cave boy. There he grunts instead of talking and draws stories about two friends on the “walls.” When he’s ready to come out, a potential new friend is settling in at Peter’s house. Ellis’s simple story catches the rhythms of moving and of grieving, while La Fave’s black crayon-like lines and minimal faces register the oversize worries a little guy can carry around.”

Click here to check out the rest of the list.




Next Round by John Spray, “holds a lot of appeal for young sports fans”—School Library Journal

Posted on June 17th, 2016 by pajamapress

NextRound_Website“Gr 4-8–An intense opening scene: on one side of a bridge, hardened Russian soldiers, on the other, a young Arthur Biyarslanov with his family and 120 other Chechen refugees, hoping to cross through Dagestan to reach Azerbaijan. This biography follows the future Pan-Am Gold Medalist and Olympic hopeful as he fled Chechnya; sought refuge in Baku, Azerbaijan; and finally settled in Toronto, Canada. A gifted athlete, Biyarslanov helped to settle this tumultuous childhood by focusing on sports—first soccer, then boxing. This title has the same emphasis, telling the stories of his athletic achievements in simple, easy to read prose. Spray does well to provide context for young Biyarslanov’s reputation as the “Chechen Wolf,” a fearless fighter (his at-times aggressive behavior is attributed to his father’s death, his experience with the Russian soldiers, and being forced into poverty). Larger, outside conflicts (such as why he, his family, and others were forced to leave Chechnya) are glossed over. Ending chapters explore Biyarslanov’s rivalry with Zsolt Daranyi Jr., his decision to pursue boxing full-time, and his performance in the Pan-Am Games, with a look toward the upcoming Olympics and the future. VERDICT This selection holds a lot of appeal for young sports fans, and its accessible and straightforward storytelling will make it especially tempting to reluctant readers.”

School Library Journal’s verdict: Elephant Journey “a great addition for lessons on wildlife and the ethics of zoos.”

Posted on June 17th, 2016 by pajamapress

ElephantJourney_WebsiteGr 2-4–The story of three zoo elephants and their journey to a new home. Toka, Thika, and Iringa were not thriving in the barren, small, and often frozen enclosure at the Toronto Zoo. When the zoo decided to send the unhappy pachyderms to another location, animal advocates spoke up and convinced officials to send the elephants to Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), a California animal sanctuary. Thus began their three-day trek across the continent. On a stormy October night in 2013, the caravan set off. Along the way, the animals encountered a number of difficulties but ultimately reached the safe haven that was their destination. Laidlaw chronicles the trip, combining key facts with absorbing storytelling. His forthright narrative is complemented by Deines’s luminous oil paintings, which expertly use color and light to track the emotional trajectory of the elephants from discomfort and misery to anxiety and fear and then, finally, to delight and contentment. The image of the newcomers being greeted by the waving trunks of the three elephants already residing at PAWS glows with golden light and reflects the joy of the occasion. A supplementary appendix includes background information and photographs of the actual trip. VERDICT A great addition for lessons on wildlife and the ethics of zoos. Pair with Sandra Markle’s The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins or Toni Buzzeo’s A Passion for Elephants: The Real Life Adventure of Field Scientist Cynthia Moss.

Father’s Day Recommendations

Posted on June 17th, 2016 by pajamapress

This Sunday is Father’s Day, a day to appreciate and spend time with our fathers. In our opinion, there’s no better way to do that than by sharing some quiet time with a story. This Father’s Day, we’re celebrating one of the most challenging and rewarding parent-child relationships: the love between father and daughter. We’ve got some some great recommendations for the dads and daughters in your lives, and they make great gifts because the fun and quality time are built right in.

Going For a Sea Bath

GoingForASeaBath_WebsiteIs there a more contentious time between parents and kids than bath time? Leanne thinks not. Bath time is boring. It’s annoying. It’s a pain. Luckily her father might have just the right idea to make Leanne’s bath time fun, exciting and amusing. He runs down to the sea and brings back one turtle. Then two eels. Then three clown fish. But can one good idea go too far when it leads to ten octopi? This silly, lighthearted adventure highlights the the goofy, good-hearted fun of a father-daughter relationship and will surely inspire dozens of giggles!


Bad Pirate & Good Pirate

BadPirate_InternetMoving from the tub into the open sea, meet Augusta and Barnacle Garrick, a daring father-daughter pirate duo. Captain Barnacle  has firm opinions about what makes a great pirate: members of his crew must be saucy, selfish, brainy and rotten. But good-natured Augusta has ideas of her own. Will her own resourceful acts of daring prove to her father and all his mateys that she can be selfless, fancy and a great pirate?

GoodPirate_WebsiteAlthough father-daughter relationships aren’t always easy, Augusta and Barnacle demonstrate  that parents and children can disagree sometimes, but still love and appreciate each other in the end. Even if they’re scurvy rotten seadogs.

We recommend a father-daughter visit to your nearest indie bookstore to check out these, or any of our other, titles.







Midwest Book Review praises A Year of Borrowed Men as “A fine story…seldom told for this age range.”

Posted on June 16th, 2016 by pajamapress

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama PressA Year of Borrowed Men is illustrated by Renné Benoit and tells of how World War II ‘borrows’ the men in seven-year-old Gerda’s family to use as soldiers. In turn, the German government provides three French prisoners of war who must work the farm in their place. The family is ordered to treat these men as war criminals, but Gerda is not so sure. Can’t they be nice to them? A fine story of ‘borrowed men’ and their effects evolves in a story seldom told for this age range.”

Click here to read more.

The Hill’s inclusion of Cree mythology “a brilliant addition…truly frightening”—Resource Links

Posted on June 15th, 2016 by pajamapress

TheHill_Website“Jared is flying in a private jet to visit his father’s diamond mine in the NorthWest Territories when the plane crashes. In his expensive sneakers and “raw” jeans, Jared is totally unprepared for surviving in desolate Northern Alberta. Fortunately Kyle Badger, a Cree teen, is camping nearby and comes to the rescue. After providing first aid for the injured pilot, Kyle tries to get Jared to return to his grandparents’ camp. But Jared insists on climbing a nearby hill, seeking cell phone service. Kyle tells him that the hill is culturally taboo, but Jared refuses to listen. When they reach the top, there is of course no cell service. Instead the boys enter an alternate reality, a spirit world in which their action releases the Wîhtiko (aka Wendigo). The next two hundred pages are an adrenaline-filled fight for survival, where Jared and Kyle only manage to succeed due to Kyle’s wilderness training and the intervention of Wesakechak, the trickster.

This novel has many of the threats of wilderness survival fiction, including quicksand pits, forest fires, and dangerous animals. The inclusion of the indigenous mythological characters is a brilliant addition, and creates truly frightening scenarios. But the best part of this book is the interplay between the two main characters. Jared is the spoiled city kid, and Kyle the tough outdoorsy one, but they are both so much more than the stereotypes would suggest. For example, Kyle advises Jared, “Sometimes scared is the smartest thing you can be.” (p. 29) Only through the combination of their knowledge and skill, and respect for each other’s contribution, are they able to return the Wîhtiko to its lair in The Hill.”


Sky Pig highly recommended by Resource Links

Posted on June 15th, 2016 by pajamapress

SkyPig_Website“A whimsical story about a pig named Ollie, who wants to fly, and his best friend, Jack, who wants to help him succeed. Of course, pigs can’t fly, but Ollie’s determination to try and try and try sends a clear message to the reading audience—never give up on your dream and keep on trying to achieve it. Jack’s determination to help Ollie in his quest speaks to the importance of the champion who provides the support the questor needs to keep going. At the end of the story, Ollie does get to fly in a hot air balloon and complete his quest the best way he can.

Sky Pig
is delightful, not only for the story and its life lesson, but also for the colourful, mixed media illustrations which help provide the depth and breadth of the book. There is nothing flat in the story or in its presentation. Pre-readers will be able to tell a story from the beauty and texture of the illustrations of the pig who tries to fly and his help who cheers him on. This picture book is highly recommended for whole class reading, individual reading, as well as for students learning about and experimenting with art forms and art media.”