Pajama Press

Archive for July, 2016

A Year of Borrowed Men, “can teach young children to see the humanity of people at war.”—Youth Services Book Reviews

Posted on July 25th, 2016 by pajamapress

A Year of Borrowed Men | Michelle Barker & Renné Benoit | Pajama PressRating: 4

Genre:  Historical picture book

What did you like about the book? In Germany during World War II, Gerda’s family is given three French prisoners to work with them on their farm. Gerda’s mother is kind to the men, although they are required to sleep in an outbuilding . When a neighbor spies the three prisoners eating with Gerda and her family in the family’s kitchen, police take her mother away for the day to question her. Still, the family and the prisoners become friends, even though they don’t understand each other’s languages beyond a few words. Gerda shows the prisoners her new doll. When the doll gets too close to the stove and its hands melt, the prisoners bandage it up. This act of compassion remains in Gerda’s thoughts. The story is based on the wartime memories of the authors’ mother. Watercolor, colored pencil and pastel illustrations are rendered in muted tones with a sepia background, emphasizing the historical nature of the story. A simple story which can teach young children to see the humanity of people at war.  Author’s note with photographs at end.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Useful for parents and teachers seeking to explain war to children.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books or Picture books for older children

Click here to read the full review.



Interview: Going on an Elephant Journey with Rob Laidlaw Part 2

Posted on July 18th, 2016 by pajamapress

This is the second part of our interview with Rob Laidlaw, the author of Elephant Journey. Our discussion about the three Toronto Zoo elephants moves into the dangers currently faced by elephants in the wild, the current projects that Zoocheck, Rob’s not-for-profit, is working on, and a sneak preview at Rob’s next book with Pajama Press. Click here to read Part One.

ElephantJourney_WebsiteS. It’s not just elephants in zoos that are in trouble. I read a recent New York Times article that said elephants in the wild are in danger of disappearing in the next ten years because of the ivory trade. Can you speak to that?

R. I don’t know if ten years is an accurate prediction, but certainly if things continue to go the way they are now in Africa—because poaching for ivory is mainly centered in Africa—then future prospects for elephants look bleak. And it doesn’t matter whether they’re bush elephants or forest elephants, poaching for ivory is a threat to all of them. I believe the estimate is that 96-100 elephants are killed every day for ivory. One of the big problems is that it’s organized crime and militias in areas of civil conflict that are killing them in order to fund their initiatives. So it’s a very, very challenging thing to deal with. Certainly within ten years, if things continue to go as they are now, we’re going to see drastically fewer elephants in Africa. There’s about 400 thousand estimated to be in Africa today. In the past, there were several million and their populations were connected to each other throughout Africa, but today they’re in fragmented pockets that are separate from each other. I think we’ll soon see many of those fragments devoid of elephants. I doubt they’ll all be gone from the wild in ten years, but they may be restricted to a much smaller number of protected areas.

S. What efforts are in place or being established to help protect wild elephants?

R. There are all kinds of things, at the individual level, non-governmental organizational level, and at every political level from local to international. But it’s a huge, complicated web of problems to deal with. You have organized crime syndicates that see elephant tusks, rhino horn and other wildlife products as extremely lucrative and safer for them to profit from than drugs or weapons. They are extremely challenging to combat. If it were only one-off killings of elephants because of human-elephant conflict or even habitat fragmentation, it’s conceivable you could manage things like that. But organized crime syndicates and militias who obtain ivory and transport it to buyers in consumer nations through sophisticated smuggling networks are tremendously difficult to pin down. There are people, organizations and governments who are trying to address this issue, but it seems clear that far more official time, energy and resources must be allocated for intelligence gathering and for fighting this problem in a more coordinated and aggressive way. We also need additional boots on the ground protecting elephants wherever they live in the wild. And it should go without saying that the import and sale of ivory everywhere should be banned.


Ivory seized for destruction by U.S. law enforcement. Photo credit: Gavin Shire / USFWS USFWS ivory crush at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge on November 14, 2013. Sourced via the Creative Commons.

S. That makes sense, and any trade in ivory should absolutely be banned. So, that same NYT article discussed how elephant conservation is the latest hot celebrity cause in Hollywood. Do you think that sort of media attention helps or hinders the push for elephant conservation?

R. I think it helps. Will it solve the problems? I don’t know. We’ve seen lots of celebrity support for all kinds of things, but while it does generate political and public awareness, it doesn’t always result in any resolution of the issue being discussed. But obviously the first step is letting people know. The theory is that with more people knowing about it, there will then be more pressure on governments to address the issue, because more people are bringing it to their attention. In real world politics, that’s not always the case. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what people think or what the facts are. For elephants however, I think a lot of people, including many politicians, are now listening. But even if they weren’t, the alternative is to do nothing, and that’s not acceptable. So even when things seem dire there may be that particular person, group of people, or political official who takes that message to heart and decide to make it their cause. Maybe then they’ll take it to a place where real change can occur.

S. What would you most like people to know about elephants?

R. I have friends who work with and care for a diversity of animal species. One of them operates a chimpanzee sanctuary, with more than a dozen of these enormously intelligent, complex sentient apes. At the sanctuary, they don’t actually call them animals. Instead, they refer to them as, “the people in the sanctuary….” They know them as individuals and understand that in many ways they are very much like us, so they see the chimps very differently than most people would. I think elephants are similar and are far more like us than most people imagine. They have almost the same life-span as humans, and enormous brains. They’re one of the most social animals in the world, possibly even more so than humans or orcas. Females spend their entire lives in the same family group, and they all have their own quirks, personalities, desires and needs. They develop friendships! It’s thought that some elephants will know two or three hundred other elephants during their lifetimes. They may recognize old friends that they haven’t seen in ten or fifteen years, when they get together in big congregations. They appear genuinely excited to see each other again, and no doubt they are. When you look at them on an individual basis, you see they really are very much like us. Except they’re elephants. It may sound silly but I really think more people should see them as elephant-people. If they saw them that way, maybe their perspective would change and, hopefully they’d then want better treatment for all elephants.

S. Before I started my internship here, I was thinking of sponsoring a baby elephant at an orphanage in Kenya. Can you recommend any reliable elephant-focused charities for someone who might want to help out?

R. The one you’re mentioning is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and they’re known all around the world. Their program is very successful. They’ve introduced dozens of orphaned elephants back into the wild. They do the same thing with rhinos. If someone were interested in Indian elephants, there’s a group called Wildlife SOS that does fantastic work rescuing street elephants. They’re also trying to protect wild elephants and working elephants in timber camps. The Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand that also does fantastic work helping elephants in need. And a colleague of mine has just started an elephant sanctuary in Brazil to rescue elephants in captivity there. Really, it’s just a matter of getting on the internet and finding something you’re interested in. There are many wonderful, effective elephant protection organizations.


Young orphan elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya are herded by their keepers to the feeding and play area. Credit: Anita Ritenour, 2011, sourced via the Creative Commons.

S. You are also the founder of Zoocheck, a wildlife protection charity that works to protect the interests of wild animals globally. What are some of the initiatives Zoocheck is currently involved in?

R. Zoocheck always has a lot going on. As a campaigning wildlife protection organization, we’re involved in a broad range of investigative and legislative initiatives and litigations. Some of our efforts are focused on issues that affect large numbers of animals, but we also campaign to help individual animals in need as well. We’ve rescued monkeys, lemurs, big cats and, of course, elephants. We’re also trying to help Lucy, a Sri Lankan elephant that has lived at a zoo in Edmonton for almost her entire life. She’s in her early forties and all alone, and the zoo has dug in their heels about moving her. They want to keep her. We’re trying to get her out, but it’s been a long-term effort and we haven’t yet been successful. We’ve also been trying for a number of years to secure the release of a polar bear who has lived for more than two decades in a Mexican zoo, and we’re working to raise awareness about polar bears and other animals in Latin-American zoos. We also have an ongoing initiative to help animals in zoos in Ontario. We’ve worked across the country and internationally and have had tremendous success, but getting a law in place in Ontario has been a real challenge. The number of very poor zoos has dropped dramatically but there are still a number of them out there. Zoocheck also helps wildlife in the wild through a range of activities, such as funding aerial anti-poaching patrols in Africa, fighting organized culling of waterbirds in parks and reserves and campaigning to protect wild horses in western Canada. One initiative that is generating a lot of attention recently is the creation of the first cold-water sea pen sanctuary for belugas and killer whales in the world. We are part of an international collective of scientists, organizations and others who are trying to make that happen.

S. Oh, that’s cool!

R. We’re working on scoping out the possibilities in Canada. There are a number of sanctuaries that can accommodate dolphins from temperate or tropical climates, but nowhere yet for cold water dolphin and whale species. Hopefully, there will be soon.

S. That’s great; I know the documentary Blackfish got a lot of attention.

R. Some of the Blackfish people are involved in this initiative.

S. Whales and other large sea mammals are also animals that don’t do well in captivity. It’s good to know there are initiatives trying to find better ways to keep them safe. Speaking of, I guess it was last week that the story broke about the silverback gorilla….

R. Right. Harambe.

S. Yes. It’s an awful story, but do you have any thoughts on it?

R. Well, you know… it’s hard to second-guess the actions of the zoo staff. I have no doubt they didn’t want to kill Harambe, but felt they had to. Having said that, in the video footage I saw it looked like Harmabe was behaving naturally, like a silverback should. It didn’t look like he was being aggressive. But I understand there were about ten minutes of the incident that were not recorded on video, so I don’t know what happened during that time. Regardless, I think it’s inevitable that the animal will be killed in a situation like that, if it poses an immediate lethal threat, whether real or perceived, to a child. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tapir, elephant, gorilla, whatever… if a child gets into a cage with a potentially dangerous animal, there’s a good chance the animal will die. So Harambe’s killing was not a surprise to me. But what was surprising is that afterward, so many people, including many in the media, were asking, “why was that gorilla there in the first place, what’s the purpose?”

S. Oh!

R. Of course this was a tragedy but, if there’s anything positive about it, it’s the fact that people are now asking and trying to answer some bigger questions: What on earth was a gorilla doing in Cincinnati? What purpose does that serve, and how does being in captivity impact that animal’s life? There are many important discussions going on; all you have to do is search them out on Google. I think Harambe’s death will prove to be one of those watershed moments that help move the agenda for animals in captivity, and perhaps other animals as well, forward to a more progressive place. Ten or fifteen years ago, these kinds of discussions were exceedingly rare. But now they seem to be relatively common. Harambe’s death, the killing and public dissection of Marius the giraffe in Denmark, and the release of documentary films like Blackfish and The Cove—they are all watershed moments that generate discussion and make people rethink their positions. For animals, that is a very good thing.


Memorial in honour of Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo. Photo credit: Kyle McCarthy on Flickr, 2016, sourced via the Creative Commons.

S. I hadn’t seen that layer growing out of the story, but I’m glad to know it’s happening. It’s the discussion that should be happening.

R. It’s occurring at a level that far exceeds anything I ever thought would happen.

S. That’s good. Last question: Can you give us any hints about your next project with Pajama Press?

R. Well, I’ve always been interested in bats because exploring caves is something I’ve done for the last 15 years or so. When I’m in caves, I encounter bats, and they’re fascinating animals. They’re small, but some of them live 30 or 40 years, making them very different from other creatures of a similar size. Bats are very intelligent and have great memories. One of the things that fascinated me is: I’d often be in the back of a cave, maybe ten or twelve hours from the entrance. To get there would require hundreds of turns and squeezes, but bats fly right to the backs of these caves using their echolocation. I asked a bat biologist, “how on earth do they do that?” and he said: “well, they remember, just like we do.” They’re utterly fascinating, and today bats are facing a lot of threats. The biggest one is disease, but they’re still persecuted in various parts of the world. There’s a need for a book that isn’t just about bat biology and behaviour, but about the realities that bats are facing today. Most of my books are advocacy tools. I’m interested in their potential to educate people and to help the animals. That’s what this one is about too. I want it to help bats.

If you missed the first part of this interview, you can find it here, or download both parts in .pdf format here. You can learn more about Rob’s efforts to rescue the three Toronto Zoo elephants and get them relocated to the PAWS Sanctuary in Elephant Journey, which can be found at an independent book store near you, or at a major retailer.

Resources Mentioned:
ZoocheckSave LucySave YupiCormorantsWild Horses
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust  (Africa)
Global Sanctuary for Elephants (Brazil)
Elephant Nature Park (Thailand)
Wildlife SOS (India)

Learn Even More:
How the Elephant Became the Newest Celebrity Cause” (NYT)
The Killer in the Pool” (Blackfish)
Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project (The Cove)
Harambe the Silverback Gorilla (Huffington Post) (Toronto Star)
Marius the Giraffe (The Guardian) (NatGeo)
Arturo, the World’s Saddest Animal (The Daily Mail)








Once Upon a Line “useful for aspiring writers”—Youth Services Book Reviews

Posted on July 15th, 2016 by pajamapress

OnceUponALine-COVER-FAKE-FOIL_RGB_500pxWhat did you like about the book?   This book consists of a series of colorful and whimsical illustrations accompanied by a few lines of text that serve as story starters. All begin with “Once Upon a Line” and most involve animals. For instance one painting depicts a pig in a suit atop a very large fish: “Once upon a line, a fisherman tried out his new fishing pole. He was admiring the fine workmanship when suddenly…” The book begins by saying that the paintings were found in an old trunk belonging to a magician and that “each picture starts with the same pen line.” Most readers will find it very difficult to find the same pen line in each drawing, but there is an answer key at the end. This is a book that would be useful for aspiring writers.

Anything you didn’t like about it? / To whom would you recommend this book?     This would be a good book to use with a creative writing class. Children who like to write stories will enjoy the “story starters.” Pair it with The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Click here to read the rest of the review.

Super Book Boy reviews Next Round by John Spray for Kids’ Book Buzz

Posted on July 14th, 2016 by pajamapress

This may be the most exciting video we have seen all month. It’s good to know that there is a Super Book Boy out there watching over the most exciting new reads!

YouTube Preview Image


“Hello everyone, I am Super Book Boy, and today I have a new book for you. This book is called Next Round: A Young Athlete’s Journey to Gold by John Spray. This book is about a Canadian athlete named Arthur Biyarslanov who, after he broke his leg during soccer practice, tried out boxing. Arthur is from Chechnya, and was only three years old during the first Chechen war. He and his family had to escape from Chechnya as refugees to find a better place to live. This is a true story, and also a very exciting one. My favourite character in this book is… Arthur, of course! And my favourite part of this book is when Arthur faced Zsolt, another boxing champion, for the first time. That was a really exciting part. So will Arthur defeat Zsolt in the book? Read the book, and you’ll find out!

I give this book FIVE STARS ‘cause it was entertaining the whole entire time. I recommend this book to kids who want to be athletes and boxers when they’re older, and kids who like action stories and sports.

For now, that’s all from Super Book Boy. Hi-yah! Hi-yah! [punching motions]”

Elephant Journey “…will appeal to young readers…who love animal stories”—The Calgary Herald

Posted on July 14th, 2016 by pajamapress

ElephantJourney_WebsiteThis is the story of Toka, Thika and Iringa, the last three surviving elephants at the Toronto Zoo. Animal protection activists, fearing for their health, appealed to the zoo to have them sent to a sanctuary in California. It follows their journey of 4,100 kilometres. This book will appeal to young readers ages eight to 10 who love animal stories.

Elephant Journey receives another review from Youth Services Book Review

Posted on July 12th, 2016 by pajamapress

ElephantJourney_InternetWhat did you like about the book? The living conditions for three elephants in a Toronto zoo are inhumane; the elephants’ enclosure is too small and conditions in the winter are too cold. Moved by the elephants’ plight, Canadian citizens campaign to move the elephants to a larger, warmer refuge located in California to live out the remainder of their lives. Despite opposition by zoo officials who prefer a move to another zoo, the citizens prevail, and the elephants are moved to the PAWS (Performing Animals Welfare Society) sanctuary.  Deines uses an attractive color palette of soft violet, saffron, and brown hues to convey the seriousness of the elephants’ plight and their (qualified) happy ending (an addendum tells us that not long after arriving at the PAWS sanctuary, Iringa, one of the elephants had to be euthanized). Five pages at the end show photos of the elephants and provide additional facts about elephants….

To whom would you recommend this book?  This serves as a gentle introduction to animal rights suitable for third grade and up. Pair with other picture books about animals in captivity whose situations were improved such as Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla.

Who should buy this book? Elementary libraries and public libraries.

Click here to read the full review.




Interview: Going on an Elephant Journey with Rob Laidlaw Part 1

Posted on July 11th, 2016 by pajamapress

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to sit down with Rob Laidlaw, the author of Elephant Journey, when he stopped by our office. He answered some of my questions about the incredible true story of three elephants’ transfer from the Toronto Zoo, and we chatted more about the welfare of animals in captivity and some of the challenges they face.

ElephantJourney_InternetS. Let’s start with your collaboration with our publisher, Gail Winskill, since you worked with her to produce Elephant Journey. What was it about the story of the three Toronto Zoo elephants that made it a good choice to adapt as a kids’ book?

R. I think there’s a number of different elements, one of them being that elephants are extremely popular animals. Everybody knows them; they’re charismatic mega-vertebrates that are extremely interesting animals when you look at them in a biological or behavioral sense. Not only that, it was a compelling story. This was the first time that I’m aware of that a city actually overrode an animal management decision of a major zoo and decided what was best for the animals. And of course, moving three elephants at any point in time to anywhere is a challenging task. A lot of different elements lent themselves to making it a compelling story for kids.

S. The book talks a lot about how the facilities in zoos aren’t adequate to support animals the size of elephants, especially because they can’t provide the space elephants need to keep them in shape. What about the elephants’ diets? Is that compromised in a zoo?

R. It can be. What you typically experience when you have animals in captivity, whether it’s elephants or naked mole rats, is a drastic alteration from what their natural diet would be to an artificial or formulated diet. In the wild an elephant or other large herbivore would be grazing on many species of plants, including grasses, bushes, flowers and trees, to name just a few. That provides them with diversity, not only in the nutritional value of the plants they eat, but it allows for a diversity of foraging behaviors. In captivity the diets for almost all animals are far simpler and more monotonous. What you see in elephants, particularly, is that their diets in captivity may not lend themselves to actually keeping their mouths and teeth healthy. And of course you get an almost complete absence of normal foraging behaviors because food is just given to them.

S. On the subject of exotic animals in zoos, would you consider the recent introduction of the giant pandas at the Toronto Zoo to be a success or a failure?

R. It depends on how you look at it. If you’re looking at it from the Zoo’s perspective, looking for a tourist attraction that will provide a short-term bump in attendance and revenues, then maybe you’d say it was a good idea. But when you look at the impact of bringing in very costly animals and how that might impact the animals that are already at the zoo, then I think you might reasonably say that it was probably not a good idea. All the resources that were put into accommodating the pandas, including millions of dollars in preparatory costs and ongoing costs while they’re here in Toronto, mean that those resources are not going to upgrades and repairs to enclosures for the animals that are already at the zoo. And in the big-picture scenario, when you’re looking at the conservation of endangered species, particularly pandas, I don’t believe having them in Toronto helps pandas in the wild in the slightest.

S. When I was researching that story I found there’s been a push by city counsellors to keep the twin panda cubs in Toronto longer. How do you feel about that?

R. I think it’s largely based on belief that they will continue to attract people to the zoo. Of course there are some people who see it as a point of pride for the city because the pandas were born here and they want to keep them. But from everything I know, it comes down to money. They believe these animals are going to generate an increased number of visitors and therefore increased revenue. It doesn’t usually work out like that, however. If you look at these panda loans over the long-term they’re often money-losing propositions.

S. Interesting…

R. In many zoos they’ve been extremely problematic and a massive burden on the facilities that have the animals. They’re not typically very good fundraisers. For the term of the loan, usually about five years, they’ll generate an increase in visitorship and revenues for the first two or three years, but then it drops off back to pretty much normal. Some zoos don’t even begin to recoup the costs associated with acquiring and displaying pandas.

S. Is there one zoo anywhere in the world that does a better job than most at respecting animals’ rights?

R. There are a few examples. There’s a small zoo started by the author Gerald Durrell several decades ago called the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. It’s a very small zoo on Jersey Island in the English Channel. They don’t have many of the big, charismatic animals that most zoos feel they need to attract visitors. What makes them really different however is that they allocate a substantial proportion of their budget towards legitimate in-situ conservation of wildlife. That means they work in these animals’ countries of origin on the politics of protecting animals and their habitats, so they have stable, ecologically-intact areas where they can release the surplus from their breeding efforts and where they can monitor them to ensure there’s a chance of survival. As well, there are all kinds of non-zoo facilities that people can visit to view animals in captivity, but they’re not traditional zoo environments. Take for example, where the Toronto Zoo elephants went, to the amazing PAWS Sanctuary in California. They’re not open every day but they do have open houses several times a year. There are other sanctuaries like that, where people can go and see a different form of captivity that’s far more benign in terms of its impact on animal welfare. In sanctuaries it’s often a more equitable type of relationship between us and the animals, and often any viewing that occurs is on the animals’ terms. If you look outside of the zoo arena at sanctuaries and specialist conservation centers, you can find all kinds of wonderful, innovative ideas on how to do things better.

iringa toka_0833

Iringa and Toka at the PAWS Sanctuary in California.

S. I know I’ve seen places, probably in Kenya, where people can come have breakfast and there will be giraffes walking the grounds, or a hotel where elephants tend to walk through the lobby because that’s where they want to be at that time.

R. Throughout Africa there are a number of game reserves, they’re quite extensive in South Africa and a few other nations. Some of them will have animals that—on their own terms—will come and visit people. So you can encounter hippos, you can encounter elephants, and even some of the big cats. These reserves are very different from most captive settings because they are expansive, sometimes thousands of hectares in size, natural and the animals have the opportunity not to be seen if they don’t want to. They usually know they don’t have anything to fear from people, so they’re often moving about where they want. I believe that qualitatively the human experience of viewing animals in this kind of situation is orders of magnitude higher than seeing an animal in a cage, entirely removed from its ecological context.

S. How long did it take to get the three elephants transferred out of the Toronto Zoo and what was the most challenging part of that process?

R. The whole campaign to secure the release of the elephants took two and a half to three years. The reason for that was because the Zoo didn’t want to move the elephants where we wanted them to go. As well, a substantial number of external zoo supporters tried to stop it. It was a real challenge politically; in fact I think it was the most politicized thing we’ve ever been involved in. There were constant hurdles and delays, and it took time to address them all and to secure the release of the elephants. Right up until the elephants were driven out of the zoo on the trucks, people were trying to stop it.

S. From my understanding, now there are no elephants at the Toronto Zoo. Do you think they will ever try to acquire more?

R. No. I would be very surprised if they tried to obtain elephants again. There are not that many elephants out there. Approximately 300 elephants reside in North American zoos, and there are some in private hands as well. Importations from the wild are few and far between. Given what happened with the Toronto elephants, and the fact that their enclosure has already been refurbished, cost reasons alone would be an impediment to the Zoo getting elephants again. I think the days of northern zoos, with their relatively long winters, having elephant exhibits are gradually coming to a close.

S. That’s probably a good thing. Even before I encountered your book, or knew much at all about zoos or animals in captivity, it never sat well with me: that these animals that are native to hot climates have to sit through our winters.

R. It’s not that they can’t tolerate cool temperatures at all, because they can for short periods and there are things zoos can do to mitigate the weather concerns, at least partially. But when you get consistently cold weather over a period of weeks or months, it forces elephants and other warm-weather animals into indoor accommodations. That means they have even less space than they would in warmer weather when they can be outdoors, a less complex environment and therefore less physical and psychological stimulation. It’s compressing usually wide-ranging animals into ever-smaller conditions because of the cold that really exacerbates the problems they face from being in captivity in the first place.

S. Elephants are very smart and they have their own personalities, which is something the book makes very clear when it introduces Toka, Thika and Iringa. You got the chance to spend time with each of these elephants. Can you speak to what each of them was like in person?

R. Most of my direct exposure to them was on the trip down, because I was in the vehicle that followed the two trucks. What I saw were elephants that were just like other elephants I’ve seen. They seemed intelligent and inquisitive and they knew something was going on every time we stopped. When the doors were opened for feeding, watering and cleaning, they would extend their trunks out as far as they could. I assume they were trying to figure out what was going on. I think someone who had worked with them, or who had worked directly with other elephants, might notice a lot more than I would. But certainly you notice that when they’re looking at you, there’s somebody in there who’s intelligent and thinking. Of course moving any animal is a high-stress situation, so their normal behaviors and individual idiosyncrasies may not be as apparent in that situation, and certainly not to somebody like me who doesn’t know them well. From the sanctuary staff we now hear about their specific personality traits, like Thika’s curiousness, playfulness or boisterous behaviour. I’m sure the keepers at the zoo knew their moods, likes and dislikes, and now the sanctuary’s caretakers get to see them too, as well as how different they are from each other, just like people.

+thika 2280 (2)

Thika enjoying a beautiful day at PAWS.

. Was the trip to California stressful for you, or was it exciting because you knew the elephants were going somewhere better suited to them? What were your feelings?

R. I was just glad they were finally out of the zoo. It had been such a long campaign and we were tired of it. When they were finally on their way, there was a bit of a sense of relief. We’d overcome all the blockades that had been put in front of us. I have to admit, there was a little bit of stress during the move. When you’re moving any animals—but particularly large animals—the biggest fear is that they might collapse and go down. If that happens all kinds of physical problems can result, and in some cases, it can be just a matter of time before the animals are dead. We knew that the elephants had some health issues, particularly Iringa, but you never know how that will affect them during transport. Once they got to the sanctuary there were various benchmarks: surviving a week, then a month, then a year, because you never know. There are no guarantees that everything will work out fine. Issues can arise after the fact, animals can not only die in transport, they can also die afterwards because of the stress and trauma of it. But Toka, Thika and Iringa did well on the journey and arrived safely at PAWS.

Check out Part Two of our interview with Rob Laidlaw for more about elephants in the wild, and animal conservation efforts around the world. You can find your own copy of Elephant Journey at an independent book store near you, or at a major retailer to learn even more about Toka, Thika and Iringa.

Resources Mentioned:
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
PAWS Sanctuary and its Resident Elephants
Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia




Kirkus calls Good Pirate “So much fun, readers will howl for more.”

Posted on July 8th, 2016 by pajamapress

GoodPirate_WebsiteA plunderin’, pillagin’ pup takes down some pretty paw-some pirates. Having already proved herself to be saucy, bold, and selfless in her previous adventure (Bad Pirate, 2015), sea pup Augusta Garrick now faces an even bigger challenge. Her father, Capt. Barnacle Garrick, has discovered his booty has been plundered by a pack of mangy sea cats. To recover the treasure undetected, the captain advises everyone to be “rotten,” “sneaky,” and “brainy.” Trouble is, Augusta has a penchant for “fancies,” and her accessorizing does not sit well with her pa. A little dab of vanilla proves her undoing, and she’s thrown in the brig to avoid botching a raid with her scent. Fortunately, brains, sneakiness, and the rotten smell of fanciness save her crewmates from those tricky kitties…once again it’s a jolly relief to see a female pirate with so much oomph and initiative. As ever, Griffiths’ art proves inventive, whether he’s rendering a seagoing whippet or a beard on the feline Capt. Fishmonger that Blackbeard himself would envy…these dogs have so much fun readers will still howl for more.

Click here to read the full review.

Skydiver by Celia Godkin, “a hopeful, upbeat success story”—Youth Services Book Reviews

Posted on July 8th, 2016 by pajamapress

Skydiver: Saving the Fastest Bird in the World  by Celia GodkinRating: 1-5:  5 (5=starred review)

Genre:  Nonfiction Picture Book

What did you like about the book? A peregrine falcon pair mates and lays eggs. Before the eggs can hatch, they are stolen by a scientist who rappels down a cliff to get them. No, it’s not an evil scientist. Rather, it shows the lengths conservationists were forced to go to prevent the extinction of a species when DDT caused birds’ shells to become fragile. Scientists knew the wild peregrines would lay a second clutch to replace the stolen one. Meanwhile, more of the stolen young survived than would have in the wild. The story shows how scientists raised the young and then released most back into the wild to help the species recover. This is a hopeful, upbeat success story told using attractive watercolor pictures in mostly blues and browns. A brief author’s note at the end provides sources of additional information about peregrine falcons and the rescue efforts.

Anything you didn’t like about it?  No.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Although the audience appears to be first to third graders, some challenging vocabulary (eg. accumulate and conservationist) makes it better suited to be read aloud by an adult.

Who should buy this book? Elementary libraries and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it?  Shelve in nonfiction in 598.9 with other books about birds of prey.

Click here to read the full review.