Pajama Press

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

The Elephant Reviews

Posted on November 15th, 2019 by pajamapress

Kiss the Book Jr.

Cover: The Elephant Author-Illustrator: Peter Carnavas Publisher: Pajama Press“The imagery and simple, child view of this story are amazing. I love how Carnavas illustrates sadness and happiness in a clear and uncomplicated way….Olive is an inspiring girl, and I found the charming illustrations to be the perfect complement to her story.”
—Carolina Herdegen

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Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez Reviews

Posted on October 18th, 2019 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

Cover: Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez Author: Christiane Duchesne Illustrator: François Thisdale Publisher: Pajama Press“Children often notice things that adults do not, especially when they are out of the ordinary….The story line speaks to the reality of death in a whimsical way, introducing it by way of it occurring to someone known by the children in the book but not someone with whom they were particularly close. VERDICT Young children beginning to learn about the concept of death will find this book to be an easy introduction to this inevitability in their lives.”
—Mary Lanni, formerly at Denver Public Library

Read the full review in the November 2019 issue of School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly

“[A] surreal allegory…Acrylic and digitally altered artwork by Thisdale (Poetree) offers crisp, photographic realism, with misty skies of purple and green that suggest atmospheric otherworldliness.”

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Kirkus Reviews

“Observed by village children, an elderly man prepares for death in this misty allegory.”

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CM Magazine

“The real magic of Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez is in the illustrations by Montrealer Francois Thisdale. The blue and grey backdrops of sky and sea are at once misty and luminous, grounded by the pretty shuttered buildings and the solid human figures, emphasizing the juxtaposition of the reality of a continental town with some pretty unusual plot elements.

Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez is a rather special picture book for larger collections.”
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, British Columbia

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Though the children did not weep for their loss of Mister Rodriguez, knowing that he was happy, I wept. I wept for an extraordinary man whose time had come to pass to the other side but who eased the passage of others with him. Though there is much for young readers to interpret about Mister Rodriguez and his existence on this plane and the next, they will appreciate the richness he brought to the lives of children who took pleasure in ‘seeing’ him walk through or above the street, his cap low on his forehead, his bright red scarf a beacon of his brightness and his overcoat light billowing ‘as if he had clouds under’ it. Christiane Duchesne’s text leaves open what the children actually see and what actually happened to Mister Rodriguez but still laces it with the heartfelt emotion of a dear friend’s passing.

Because of the surreal, perhaps supernatural, texture of Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez, François Thisdale’s illustrations, created with acrylic and digital media, have the perfect blend of the ethereal and the realistic. The foggy coastal town is ghostly with its overhanging mist and crashing waves and a man who may be intangible….

Picture books about death and dying are plentiful and all aim to help children understand loss and grief. But Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez presents the concept of death in a wholly unique fashion, leaving open what happens after we leave the physical world. Mister Rodriguez, along with a lovely assortment of companions, may transition from one world to the next under the watchful of a group of children but it’s evident that his life is far greater than just a physical presence in this world.”
—Helen K

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Finding Lucy Reviews

Posted on September 17th, 2019 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

“Beautiful, bright, and fanciful illustrations using acrylics on canvas gift readers with delightful details….The prose is mainly conversational, lengthy at times, and includes entertaining adjectives such as atrocious and flabbergasting. Moreover, the careful choice of words invites children to think about the correlation between art, color, and feelings. VERDICT There are many facets to this book that will give viewers something new to discover with each reread. A real find.”
—Mindy Hiatt, Salt Lake County Library Services

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Kirkus Reviews

Cover: Finding Lucy Author: Eugenie Fernandes Publisher: Pajama Press“Everybody’s a critic. Lucy, an elementary-age white girl who appears to live alone with her cat, is an artist, painting happily in her garden until a reporter from the local paper comes by….Fernandes’ illustrations borrow both palette and a sense of vegetative lushness from Gauguin; Lucy’s creations are almost wholly abstract. She is also the only human in the story—all the carping critics are anthropomorphic animals, lending a sense of fun and softening the unkindness of their remarks. The text shares the illustrations’ whimsy, delighting in words as much as Lucy delights in her art. A valuable lesson in pursuing your own artistic star.”

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CM Magazine

“Fernandes also does not shy away from using big words and challenges her readers to expand their vocabularies; for child readers who love language, this story is a treat.

In addition to writing the text, Fernandes also painted Finding Lucy’s illustrations, using acrylic paint on canvas which gives the illustrations vibrancy and texture. Lucy and her series of animal visitors are dynamic and interactive; in one illustration, Lucy is shown sharing a cup of tea with the elephant reporter. The illustrations are an explosion of bright colours, light, and joy. Fernandes uses a playful mix of semi-abstract solid shapes to form the background and cartoon-like animation to depict Lucy and the animals. The illustrations are every bit as energetic and cheerful as the text.

Finding Lucy is recommended for young artists finding their own artistic voices and lovers of bright and vibrant illustrations.

Recommended.”
Sabrina Wong is a librarian at Capilano University in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Eugenie Fernandes has given us a story in words and pictures that supports that idea that creativity is an expression of self and needs to be embraced rather than questioned, especially when every armchair critic feels the need to voice their personal preferences and expects the artist to accommodate those. From colour to feeling, shape and voice, creativity comes from within and Lucy knew and knows this. Sadly she is distracted by those with loud and overbearing opinions and buckles under their varied and judgemental assertions.

I hope Eugenie Fernandes, whose art work has won her a variety of awards and accolades, has always felt supported in her artistic endeavours whether she chooses to use acrylic paint on canvas as she does here in Finding Lucy or other media. If Finding Lucy demonstrates anything it’s that those who observe art derive their perceptions from their perspective and attitudes and Lucy can’t possibly give every viewer what they need to see the art’s beauty. I’m glad that she finally trusts herself, and her very wise cat, that what she brings to her art is everything it needs to be to bring her joy.”

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“Using acrylic paint on canvas, Ms. Fernandes creates bold spreads that are both textured and detailed. She brings a joy to images that will encourage young children to try their hand at creating something of their own.”

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The Skeleton Coast Reviews

Posted on September 13th, 2019 by pajamapress

Booklist

“These four kids have faced the worst their world has to offer and come through learning lessons about sticking together, the unbreakable bonds of family, and never giving up hope. The last leg of their journey adds heartwarming reunions to the regular dose of adventure and danger, with themes of starting anew, family, friendship, and courage bringing this epic tale to a satisfying end.”
—Elizabeth Konkel

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Kirkus Reviews

“The postdiluvian Flooded Earth trilogy concludes as it began, with high-seas derring-do….For all its dystopian setting, this satisfying trilogy closer is full of pluck.”

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CM Magazine

The Skeleton Coast, by continuing the highly credible adventure, moral questions, and imaginative view of a climate-ravaged future of the previous two installments in the series, brings the story to an exciting and satisfying conclusion. As always, characterization is strong, with the introduction of the superstitious and strong-willed Blossom and the naïve yet principled Lt. Cherry as strong additions to the cast….The question of ‘who are the good guys’ is deeply explored, the plight of refugees eerily prescient, and the sailing and survival skills of the kids put to thrilling test as usual….

Highly Recommended.”
Todd Kyle

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What Cats Think Reviews

Posted on September 13th, 2019 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

Cover: What Cats Think Author: John Spray Illustrator: Mies van Hout Publisher: Pajama Press

“This book perfectly encapsulates everything that is elegant and enigmatic, sinister and sassy in feline behavior. Free-verse poems provide glimpses into the minds of cats, always with a clever, subtle sense of humor. These verses will work well when teaching children that poetry comes in many forms, not just rhyming couplets…..The rhythmic text and dynamic art will delight all readers, but cat lovers will take extra pleasure in the quintessentially feline traits celebrated in this book.”
—Alyssa Annico, Youngstown State University, OH

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Publishers Weekly

“Are cats capable of poetry? They are in this volume, which imagines their interior lives through 20 short poems, some more predictable than others….Color pours off each page in van Hout’s vibrant, bold illustrations—a mix of acrylic ink, oil pastels, and gouache. Her felines expressively embody Spray’s emphatic free verse, which authentically gives voice to cats’ changeable emotions.”

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CM Magazine

“The many facets of a cat’s personality are showcased in this delightful tribute to domestic felines. An assortment of vivid, colourful cats present their feelings in free verse, each one on a separate double-page spread. The author’s use of the first person is very effective in drawing readers in. Some of the poems are of the laugh-out-loud variety while others will cause readers to commiserate with the feline narrators….

Each cat’s uniqueness is not only celebrated by the clever free verse but also by the vibrant, mixed media illustrations, rendered in acrylic ink, oil pastels and gouache, primarily in bright greens, yellows, reds and blues. The cats are shown in a variety of poses, but what makes the illustrations truly charming are the priceless facial expressions….Readers need not be cat lovers to thoroughly enjoy this book. What Cats Think is fun, imaginative and loaded with personality!

Highly Recommended.”
—Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Kirkus Reviews

“Colorful, expressive pictures of cats are accompanied by brief text….Bright hues, scribbly lines, and high-contrast backgrounds combine to create pictures that pop, and the relatively large trim size adds to their impact.”

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“In brilliant colours of lime green and red, turquoise and purple, Mies van Hout’s art, created with acrylics, oil and gouache, startle and comfort the reader with an array of cats. They are skinny and scared, obese and wise, and playful and sneaky. They are no one’s cat and they are everyone’s cat….It is in the creation of scenarios that John Spray illustrates with words what Mies van Hout’s cats say in her art….

With What Cats Think, Mies van Hout and John Spray have given us the context for cats’ looks and sounds that will remind us of the depth of feline reasoning and expression. It’s not surprising to many that cats have been celebrated and worshipped throughout history and it’s best we not forget this.”

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Fab Book Reviews

“Mies van Hout’s acrylic ink, gouache and oil pastels artwork is typically stunning, eye-catching and vibrant: there are distinctive colour palettes for each spread; each drawn cat is unlike the one before; and I would be absolutely remiss if I did not mention that the cats are drawn with remarkably expressive faces, bodies, and tails (there are some cats that had me giggling over their expressions and thoughts!). There is much to pore over in What Cats Think and I enjoy that it doesn’t necessarily have a linear direction to it: that means that whether a reader is absorbed by the artwork, or particular cats, or particular poems- Spray’s poems are whimsical and should be hugely appealing to younger and older readers!- or whether a reader wishes to enjoy the picture book beginning to end, the story simply works. For the cat lovers, for the readers who enjoy their animal stories in verse, and for those who enjoy cat-focused stories such as I Hate My Cats (A Love Story)Mr. Pusskins: A Love Story, the Fuddles books by Frans Vischer, I Won’t Eat That, or Galia Bernstein’s I Am a Cat might especially adore What Cats Think.”

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“If you have never lived with a cat, you may not recognize the many faces they present to the world. That is decidedly not true of Mies van Hout, whose wonderful, warm and witty mixed media artwork bless the pages of this fascinating book….John Spray’s free verse text celebrates the cats presented. Each turn offers a double page spread with featured feline accompanied by tremendous variety in tone and temperament….

Verse matches art in every way. There are times when readers will laugh out loud. There are also more sombre, haughty, and frightening times. The absolutely on-point feline faces speak clearly to the emotions felt. Those who love cats will tell you that cats do have varied emotions. The 20 featured here certainly speak eloquently to that statement.

You don’t have to love cats to love this book. It’s a charmer!”

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Pumpkin Orange, Pumpkin Round Reviews

Posted on September 4th, 2019 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

Cover: Pumpkin Orange, Pumpkin Round Author: Rosanna Battigelli Illustrator: Tara Anderson Publisher: Pajama Press“Rhyming verses follow a group of cats for some pumpkin picking and carving fun before trick-or-treating….The ending is especially satisfying, one larger cat giving a smaller one a hug while three others curl up with the largest gray cat on a sofa with a book: ‘Pumpkin tired, / pumpkin fed, / pumpkin story, / pumpkin bed.’…The artwork, done with colored pencil and acrylic glaze, is both childlike and nicely textured, the six cats easily differentiated, especially the elder dark gray parental figure who wears half-moon specs….Cozy, repetitious autumn fun for toddlers and younger preschoolers.”

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Publishers Weekly

“Cats enjoy all the glories of a human Halloween in this peek at popular October traditions. In Anderson’s colored pencil and acrylic glaze illustrations, a family of smiling, scarf-wearing felines heads to a pumpkin patch…Battigelli’s text—a series of rhyming, two-word phrases each beginning with ‘pumpkin’—…possesses a jaunty rhythm and a fun-to-pronounce quality. Ages 3–6.”

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School Library Journal

“[T]he repetition and simplicity of the text make this an appealing choice for group-sharing during storytime. The art, created with colored pencil and acrylic glaze on watercolor paper, is warm and fuzzy, providing a safe, not-so-scary depiction of Halloween that is appropriate for young listeners. The book concludes with instructions on how children can carve their own jack-o’-lanterns, emphasizing the need for an adult helper. VERDICT A safe bet for libraries looking for autumnal and Halloween-themed picture books for the youngest patrons.”
—Laura J. Giunta, Garden City Public Library, NY

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Resource Links

“Rating: E…The simplicity of the text is brought to life by the perfect pairing of Tara Anderson’s warm, cosy and childlike illustration style. Rendered in a luscious and juicy palette of bright oranges and emerald greens along with warm autumnal hues and the deep, dark Halloween blacks and purples. Whimsical and energetic, the furry friends pop off the pages reeling in the reader to join in the fun!

Easy to read yet lively, Battigelli’s Pumpkin Orange, Pumpkin Round guides us around the clock from daytime to evening transforming an orange pumpkin to something aglow! Don’t forget the ‘How to Carve a Jack-o-Lantern’ how-to guide in the back inside cover!”
—Lara Chauvin

Read the full review on page 2 of the October 2019 issue of Resource Links

CM Magazine

“The rhyming scheme is bouncy and fun…Tara Anderson’s charming, bright illustrations are created with coloured pencil and acrylic glaze on watercolour paper and have a nostalgic feeling to them….A fun, simple, festive book that families will love. Highly Recommended.”
—Andrea Zorzi is a children’s librarian at Toronto Public Library in Toronto, Ontario.

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Midwest Book Review

“What could be better than an autumn trip to the pumpkin patch with a cast of cat characters ready to celebrate Halloween? In bouncy rhyme, the folksy felines choose their pumpkins, wheel them home, and work together through all the steps of carving a jack-o-lantern. With the lanterns’ spooky and cheerful faces shining bright, now is the time to dress up and head out for trick-or-treating. The collaborative work of author Rosanna Battigelli and illustrator Tara Anderson, Pumpkin Orange, Pumpkin Round will prove to be a unique and appreciated addition to the Halloween reading lists of children ages 3-6 — as well as an enduringly popular inclusion into family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.”

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Youth Services Book Review

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5…

What did you like about the book? This is a sweet rhyming story about all the festivities that lead up Halloween night. This story features a family of cats and their brave little mouse friend….

To whom would you recommend this book? This book is perfect for ages three to five….The rhyming text is very soothing and the images are not scary so it is a perfect Halloween book for young children. Even during one scene where a scary creature appears, you can clearly see that it is a cat wearing a scary mask–younger children will not be scared by this Halloween book.”
—Kristin Guay, former youth services librarian

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Winnipeg Free Press

“Battigelli has written a series of catchy rhyming verses celebrating this beloved autumn icon….and with Anderson’s vibrant illustrations, they take the pumpkin all the way from the farmer’s field to the Halloween doorstep. Early readers and preschoolers will enjoy this one as they get ready for trick-or-treating.”

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The Girl Who Rode a Shark: And Other Stories of Daring Women Reviews

Posted on August 12th, 2019 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews ★ Starred Review

Cover: The Girl Who Rode A Shark: And Other True Stories of Daring Women Author: Ailsa Ross Illustrator: Amy Blackwell Publisher: Pajama Press“Brief biographies of 52 intrepid women, spanning the globe and all centuries, are flanked by large, full-color illustrations and by maps that show the women’s adventuring sites….The artwork, reminiscent of art deco travel posters, is a gorgeous complement to the eclectic curation. The biographies are written in a conversational style, often including a short quote from the subject….An exciting labor of love—for kids of all gender identities. (Collective biography. 8-12)”

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School Library Journal

“The subjects are fascinating, and the women come from a variety of time periods, geographic regions, socioeconomic backgrounds, and ethnicities and include women with disabilities. Yet they all shared common characteristics: the need for adventure and a desire to learn. The book also contains portraits of the women, a glossary, and information about Indigenous peoples and the world’s ever-changing political boundaries. VERDICT This colorful, delightful book is highly recommended for all history and women’s history collections.
—Patricia Ann Owens, formerly at Illinois Eastern Community College, Mt. Carmel

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Booklist

“This collection presents single-page but surprisingly detailed accounts of more than 50 notable women….The essays are engaging, and in addition to providing basic biographical information, effectively connect each woman with her designated category. Brightly colored digital-media portraits face each page of text, and double-page maps pinpoint each subject’s country of origin. Truly international in scope and ranging across centuries…this attractive collection should spark inquiry for further research.”
— Kathleen McBroom

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School Library Connection

“The title of this new nonfiction text is enough to catch any readers’ attention, but this is only one of many qualities of this book that will keep readers engaged….The diversity of the women featured allow readers of all backgrounds to find a little bit of themselves in these stories. Additionally, Ross employs language from world cultures and varies her sentence structures; the book even has a glossary at the end. Also worthy of mention are the incredible illustrations provided by Amy Blackwell….The colors, cultural aspects, maps, and quotes in the illustrations amplify Ross’ exquisite writing. This would be a strong addition to any middle grade or middle school collection.”
—Caitlin Bennett, Librarian, Londonderry (New Hampshire) Middle School

Read the full review in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue of School Library Connection

CM Magazine

“Ailsa Ross’ The Girl Who Rode a Shark & Other Stories of Daring Women is a comprehensive work of middle grade nonfiction. The book is broken up into six sections, and each section includes anywhere from 7 to 10 women of historical significance. A former travel writer and student of law and women’s rights, Ross selected 50 female ‘adventurers’ to showcase, spanning the centuries from 231 BC to modern day. The final pages include a glossary of terms, such as ‘activism’, ‘emancipation’ and ‘colonialism’, as well as a listing of indigenous peoples and their geographic locations and a disclaimer about how geographical names change over time….

Ross’s book would be a useful resource for school-aged studies on topics such as women’s rights, female historical figures or biographies. The book is diverse both culturally and geographically, and the easy to navigate layout and bright engaging illustrations will quickly draw readers in. The inclusion of maps and a glossary make this book a good fit for school libraries and classroom collections. An alphabetical index by name would have been an added bonus for students looking to quickly find a particular person. The Girl Who Rode a Shark & Other Stories of Daring Women would work well coupled with Lisa Dalrymple’s book Fierce Women Who Shaped Canada to inspire and motivate young females as the two books are similar in format and scope and feature some of the same women.

Highly Recommended.
Cate Carlyle, an author and former elementary teacher, currently resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she is a librarian at Mount Saint Vincent University.

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Resource Links

“Rating: G…This book would appeal mainly to girls in the upper elementary and junior high grades who have an interest in women and the accomplishments they have achieved throughout history. The biographies are short but give a good idea of what these women did to make them outstanding in their place and time. They could lead to further research by students who have a particular interest in some of the women highlighted.

Thematic Links: Women in History”
—Victoria Pennell

Read the full review on page 37 in the October 2019 issue of Resource Links

Pickle Me This

The Girl Who Rode a Shark, by Ailsa Ross (who lives in Alberta!) and Amy Blackwell, has managed to live up to my expectations. My favourite bit is the Canadian content—we’re almost at the Roberta Bondar essay. And Indigenous hero Shannen Koostachin is included in ‘The Activists’ chapter.

The women profiled in the book come from places all over the world, include many women of colour, and also women with disabilities. Even better—while many of the profiles are of historical figures, just as many are contemporary, young women who are out there doing brave and groundbreaking things as we’re reading. A few of these figures are familiar, but more are new to us, and their stories are made vivid and compelling through the book’s beautiful artwork and smart and engaging prose.”

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Christina Ammirtai

“What an incredible compilation of fearless females who are sure to inspire anyone who reads of their bravery, strength, intelligence, and persistence. THE GIRL WHO RODE A SHARK had me in awe, not just for each of the 52 courageous, impactful stories, but also for the beautiful images and organization of the collection….THE GIRL WHO RODE A SHARK will serve as inspiration to all readers, especially female, empowering them to be their best selves and follow their hearts no matter how daunting the road—or ocean—might be.”

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Mighty Village

The Girl Who Rode a Shark & other Stories of Daring Women is an inspiring and informative collection of biographies from around the world. From artists, to pioneers, scientists, activists, athletes and seekers, this book is a must have for all kids to discover real examples of courage and perseverance….These extraordinary women will surely inspire the next generation of young readers, or readers of any age to be more brave and take action.”

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Nutcracker Night Reviews

Posted on July 2nd, 2019 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

Cover: Nutcracker Night Author: Mireille Messier Illustrator: Gabrielle Grimard Publisher: Pajama Press“A sprightly introduction to the classic Christmas ballet. The backmatter notes that ‘[The Nutcracker] is often the first ballet children attend,’ and Messier and Grimard’s collaboration does an exceptional job of distilling the ballet’s story into spare, accessible text and engaging art that could prepare children for attending the ballet, let them relive the experience, or simply give them the delight of the story in book form….Sure to elicit the storytime equivalent of ‘encore’ at Christmastime and beyond.”

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Publishers Weekly

“This vibrant tribute to a holiday tradition follows a sensory-filled adventure to a Nutcracker performance….The interpretation of the Christmas tree that grows enormous as the clock strikes midnight—always a show-stopper on stage—is particularly memorable, featuring the word Bong! in a gradually increasing font size and a glowing, candlelit evergreen towering over the heroine. A charming entrée for ballet-bound children.”

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The Horn Book Magazine

“A good primer to complement a child’s first time seeing The Nutcracker and, for those familiar with it, a fresh take on a classic.”
—Katie Bircher

Read the full review in the November/December 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine

Foreword Reviews

“Experience Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker through the eyes of a young girl attending the ballet in this fresh rendition of the beloved classic.”
—Pallas Gates McCorquodale

Read the full review in the November/December 2019 issue of Foreword Reviews

CM Magazine

“With a diversity of audience and delightful observations, Nutcracker Night captures the magic of a young school-aged child’s visit to the ballet with her father. The Nutcracker, a classic ballet, comes to life as a true auditory experience….The pen and ink with watercolour illustrations are both detailed and energetic….The book concludes with a synopsis of the story told by The Nutcracker as well as history of the ballet and its current cultural significance. Highly Recommended.”
Christy den Haan-Veltman

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Youth Services Book Review

What did you like about the book? This is a celebration of the sights and sounds of an enchanting performance of The Nutcracker….A night at the ballet is wonderfully depicted from the arrival at the theater, the orchestra tuning, the audience clapping and then, “Voof! go the velvet curtains – Wow!” and the ballet begins. The story of the Nutcracker is wonderfully told through minimal text and the lovely illustrations. This is a wonderful introduction to the ballet for young readers and will be enjoyed by fans of the holiday classic.”
Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

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Canadian Bookworm

“This delightful picture book would make a lovely December gift for a young child….The pictures here are charming, bringing the characters, audience members, musicians, and dancers to life. We see the rosy cheeks, the children awed by the night and the ones eager for more. There are many children, as would be expected for this ballet, and lots of ages of adults. Fathers and mothers, diversity of people, and a range of festive attire. Outside the snow is falling, and inside the magic makes everything else disappear. Beautifully done.”

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Booktime

“[T]his beautifully illustrated book by Gabrielle Grimard are all the sounds a little girl hears as she attends the ballet with her dad….I haven’t had the privilege to attend a performance of the Nutcracker, but based on this book, I can imagine how beautiful it is.”

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Harvey Comes Home Reviews

Posted on June 20th, 2019 by pajamapress

School Library Journal ★ Starred Review

Cover: Harvey Comes Home Author: Colleen Nelson Illustrator: Tara Anderson Publisher: Pajama Press

“Harvey’s strong connection to Mr. Pickering sets up an emotional conclusion—expect a few tears—in which lives converge and Harvey is reunited with Maggie, his 12-year-old owner. Alternating among the perspectives of Harvey, Austin, and Maggie, this gently paced, character-driven narrative captivates on every level, transforming a ‘lost dog’ story into a deeper reading experience. Present-day and historical time lines (with a few grim moments) are seamlessly interwoven and keep readers invested. Back matter reveals that the tale was inspired by Nelson’s (Finding Hope) grandfather, accounting for the book’s authentic, intimate feel. VERDICT Nelson’s first middle grade novel is heartwarming and inspirational; a first purchase.”
—Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

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Kirkus Reviews

“Affecting, riveting, and evocative, this character-driven tale within a tale, with narrative perspective alternating among Harvey, Austin, and Maggie, believably reveals the best and sometimes the worst of human nature. The cast defaults to white. Much more than a lost-dog story.”

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Booklist

“Harvey, a Westie, loves his young owner Maggie, but while she’s away on a family vacation, Harvey’s sitter doesn’t latch the gate properly. The little white pup escapes and wanders into new parts of the city. Hungry, thirsty, and dirty, he finally rests behind a planter at Brayside Retirement Villa, where he is discovered by Austin. Austin has been working off a detention by assisting his grandfather with custodial work at Brayside. The residents, employees, and Austin fall in love with Harvey. One crotchety resident, Walter Pickering, even begins reminiscing about his 1930s childhood and a beloved dog of his own; Austin and Harvey are hooked (as are readers). What begins as a story of a dog and two kids evolves into a historical look at Mr. Pickering’s much simpler, yet complicated, life. Throughout, alternating third-person chapters from Maggie, Harvey, and Austin give readers a rounded view of each prominent character. The title clues readers into the final outcome, but it’s the middle that moves the plot along. Dog lovers will drool over this multi-generational story.”
— J. B. Petty

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ILA Literacy Daily, “Compassion, Empathy, and Understanding”

“Although it might not be a part of the Common Core State Standards or easy to measure, teaching our students compassion, empathy, and understanding is an important part of the curriculum. Following are some recently published books that are good choices for reading aloud to foster discussion as well as for independent reading….

The chapters alternate from the perspectives of Austin, Harvey, and Maggie, an effective device that allows readers to develop an understanding of the emotions and behaviors of the characters.”

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CM Magazine

“Assuming that Harvey Comes Home is a simple novel about a lost dog does not give this story enough credit. Assuming that it is a novel about a family that searches for their missing dog isn’t enough either because the author has given equal weight to Harvey’s journey and to a second story, one that is a touch more emotionally captivating, with Harvey becoming a visitor in a nursing home and an important friend to the people who live and work there….Harvey Comes Home is a gentle story about a slow build to friendship between generations that would be of interest to all readers and a wonderful choice for reading aloud. Harvey Comes Home is about so much more than a lost dog, and I can see this book being one that any reader would treasure. Highly Recommended.
—Penny McGill

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Resource Links

“Rating: E…Harvey Comes Home is a delightful tale about an amazing dog and the people who love him. The story has multiple dog-human connections, each unique in their own way, but interconnecting as well….Harvey Comes Home is not only heart-warming, but is heartbreaking as well. Please have a box of tissues ready when this one is read.

Children who love animal stories will be eager to devour this story. The narrative is simple, endearing, and gentle but is touched by some sadness at the end. The characters all have their own voice, their own personalities, and their own problems (even Harvey). The illustrations are perfect for the story…

Harvey Comes Home is a sweet, lovable and adorable story that readers will enjoy regardless of their age. Colleen Nelson’s wonderfully woven story of a dog, a boy, and some seniors deserves a place on a shelf in every school and public library.”
—Carmelita Cechetto-Shea

Read the full review in the October 2019 issue of Resource Links

Youth Services Book Review

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

What did you like about the book? While looking at the cover and the title of this book you might think this is a story about a lost dog that makes its way home — but that would be a mistake because this story is so much more than that. As a matter of fact, it is actually a story within a story….

This story flips from the present, Maggie searching for Harvey and Austin trying to keep up the ruse, and the stories of Mr. Pickering that take place in the 1930’s during some particularly challenging times. Austin becomes engrossed in these stories of life on the prairie and all the hardships and challenges the families fought against. I found it was the stories provided by Mr. Pickering that kept me turning the pages of this book. I really wanted to know what happened to him, his family, and his special friend that he rescued from the brink of death.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Nothing

To whom would you recommend this book? Perfect for children between the ages of eight and twelve. There are some topics of abuse, neglect, and a dead body so these concepts might be a little scary for younger children….

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our ‘to read’ piles? Yes”
Kristin Guay, former youth librarian

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Winnipeg Free Press

“Winnipeg’s Colleen Nelson has written a new book that will especially resonate with pet lovers….Mid-grade readers will enjoy this story of love, loyalty and endurance, in which Tara Anderson shows her versatility by supplying charming black-and-white illustrations.”

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“A scent, a touch, a colour, a voice. They can draw memories. And memories can take you places. They can take you away from the present and towards something else. They can take you to a past that needs to be remembered or give direction to follow forward. And they can take you home in more ways than one….

Told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Harvey, Maggie and Austin, Harvey Comes Home is not just a story about a dog lost and found. It’s a story about the bonds between human and dog. These are the bonds that tie us in love and gratitude, responsibility and empathy. They are the ones that give us our humanity via our benevolence for others. But Harvey Comes Home is also about the power of memory to bring us home. I will admit that Colleen Nelson’s story brought me to tears time and time again, as an aging Mr. Pickering grabs at his memories, as Bertie survives against all odds, and as Harvey and General are loved and love. Colleen Nelson always tells a good story (see her YA titles SadiaBlood BrothersFinding Hope, and The Fall for a great sampling) but, in her first middle-grade novel, she is able to grab the reader’s heartstrings while blending a dog story with an intergenerational relationship and embedding profound reflections on the Depression and the Dust Bowl. It’s a complete package as Harvey’s, Maggie’s and Austin’s stories converge, integrated with heart and important messages about connecting with others and forgiveness for mistakes made when scared, hurt or alone.

Harvey Comes Home will make dog-lovers hug their animals and children ask their grandparents to share their stories from their own childhoods, bringing all a little closer and giving life to new memories for all.”

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Toronto.com, “Good books for older children and teenagers”

Harvey Comes Home is an entertaining novel aimed at middle-grade readers (ages 8-12)….Not only will the reader enjoy learning about Harvey’s adventures and whether he will get back to his family, but also about the dust storms, droughts, poverty and difficult lives of those who lived on the prairies during the 1930s. Readers will also learn about how dogs greatly enrich our lives, including the special work done by therapy dogs, and how people often aren’t as they appear. Excellent book for middle-grade readers!”
—Glenn Perrett

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Author Sheryl McFarlane

“I have just finished the most wonderful middle grade novel, Harvey Comes Home by Colleen Nelson, illustrated by Tara Anderson and published by Pajama Press.

Kids will absolutely love this novel about a little West Highland Terrier who escapes when left in the care of a dog sitter….Told in alternating chapters in the voices of Harvey, Maggie and Austin, Nelson paints a moving picture of the bond between dogs and people, especially the bond between Mr. Pickering and his childhood dog, General. The power of Harvey Comes Home lies in Nelson’s skilled storytelling. Fully drawn characters, including the curious little Westie, are absolutely believable. Her ability to bring history to life for any aged reader makes this book a must read. Delightful illustrations by Tara Anderson add a touch of whimsy to an already 5-star book.”

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From 1 to 10 Reviews

Posted on June 19th, 2019 by pajamapress

Booklist ★ Starred Review

Cover: From One to Ten Author: Mies van Hout Publisher: Pajama Press“Amidst the numerous counting books available, van Hout offers a stand-out with great child (and adult) appeal. While the book only goes from 1 to 10 (and then, on the closing end pages, back again), she makes the experience of counting both joyful and imitative through the use of animal personalities and anatomies….Bold eyes engage the reader, and a final spread takes this a step beyond most counting books: practical advice for parents or caregivers explains the usefulness of counting books for early readers and includes several fun and educational activities—one of which, of course, is counting with this book again and again.”
—Edie Ching

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Kirkus ★ Starred Review

“Count different number sets on boldly drawn and vibrantly colored animals. Open this Dutch import and marvel at the rich, saturated background colors and the grinning, oversized animals….Don’t skip the backmatter on this one, as the clear and accessible instructions, ideas, and vocabulary offer caregivers easy ways to engage children in their own counting adventures within the book and beyond. The book’s neat, square trim size and padded cover are ideal for sharing with lap readers. Simplicity plus spirited art equals a counting book that you can count on.”

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Foreword Reviews

“In this delightful introduction to basic counting skills, young children are encouraged to take note of how many arms, wings, whiskers, or teeth can be found on an entertaining array of bright creatures rendered in different patterns and textures. Employ the book’s tips for more interactive learning fun or read aloud and trace the numbers, each sized for small fingers to practice shaping and identifying digits one through ten.”
—Pallas Gates McCorquodale (July/August 2019)

Read the full review in the July/August 2019 issue of Foreword Reviews

Resource Links

“Rating: E…The double page spreads contain close-up, large paintings of animals children will be familiar with (butterfly, monkey, fish, cat) but designed with a unique look that encompass unexpected colours, patterns, and features (the bear has a belly button, the alligator has polka dots and stripes)….Back material includes two pages of fun activities parents and teachers can use to extend the teachable moments contained in the book. The large format of the book makes it easy for children to point and count aloud as the book is read to them. Glossy pages will make clean-up easy if the pages get smudged with food or dirt.”
—Tanya Boudreau

Read the full review in the October 2019 issue of Resource Links

CM Magazine

“Rating: 4/5…The endpapers are not just decorative but also functional, with the opening endpapers presenting the numbers from 1-9 in a colourful 3×3 grid accompanied by a large number 10 appearing on a page by itself. The closing endpapers are a mirror repeat but with the numbers now appearing in reverse or descending order, thereby inviting youngsters to learn to count down from 10 to 1, an opportunity not usually found in most counting books….

With its padded cover, rounded corners and extra-heavy paper, From 1 to 10 is an excellent introduction to the base ten numbering system. An obvious gift or home purchase, From 1 to 10 belongs in libraries serving this audience level. Highly Recommended.”
—Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“Counting from 1 to 10 is a romp with this attractive, beautifully designed concept book. Front endpapers begin with 1 and end with 10, while the ones in the back begin with 10 and count down to 1. That is a worthwhile learning experience in itself….

The artist inspires constant touching by making the countable elements large and obvious, through text and art. Kids won’t stop at counting the named features, they will want to show off their counting prowess with counting so much more.”

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Fab Book Reviews

“Author-illustrator Mies van Hout (FriendsHappy) brings readers another joyously bright and engaging book with From 1 to 10. A wonderfully colourful, appealing, and spare counting book, van Hout draws and holds the readers’ attention with clear, highlighted numbers and descriptors, and super artwork….I love when a concept book surprises and delights with something that feels fresh and inviting, and Mies van Hout’s From 1 to 10– a recipient of a few starred reviews!- is a real standout in a busy field of early counting books.”

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