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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

My Puppy Patch Reviews

Posted on April 5th, 2019 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

Cover: My Puppy Patch Author: Theo Heras Illustrator: Alice Carter Publisher: Pajama Press“A young child is confident a new puppy will adhere to newly learned rules on a first outing beyond the backyard fence….Fundamentals of puppy training and pet ownership are the underlying themes…Carter supplies attractive illustrations done with colored pencil, watercolor, and digital media against a stark white background. The narrator presents white and Benny black; the narrator’s jewel-toned, print dress is especially attractive. The genuine love expressed between owner and pet fortifies the responsibilities Patch’s owner undertakes.”

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CM Magazine

My Puppy Patch is a wonderful story that introduces, or reinforces, how to care for and train a new puppy. It takes patience, consistency, and love on the part of the little girl to ensure that her new pet will be safe on an excursion beyond the gate. The language and pacing is perfect for the very young, and Patch’s antics throughout keep the story engaging and not overtly didactic….

Alice Carter’s illustrations are a delight….Especially cute are the puppies, whose personalities come out through the soft fur and expressive faces.

My Puppy Patch would be a great choice for a family looking to bring a new dog into the home or for any child who loves pets. Just enough tension, adorable pictures, and a sweet and simple story make it perfect for multiple read-throughs.

Highly Recommended.”
Amber Allen

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The Castle in the Sea Reviews

Posted on April 5th, 2019 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

Cover: The Castle in the Sea Author: Mardi McConnochie Publisher: Pajama Press“Will and Annalie continue the search for their dad in the middle installment of an Australian eco-thriller trilogy (The Flooded Earth, 2018)….While they quest for Spinner and his research into geo-engineering the Flood, the children avoid the wicked forces of the Admiralty and survive all manner of adventures: a storm at sea, stranding on a deserted island, capture by pirates, arrest by immigration officers, and having to eat some pretty gross bugs….A post-apocalyptic disaster story with the cozy feel of Swallows and Amazons.”

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School Library Journal

“Readers will be engrossed in this action-packed adventure story and will eagerly await the next installment. VERDICT A satisfying, high-stakes sequel. Recommended for middle grade collections that own the first novel.”
—Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ

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

CM Magazine

The Castle in the Sea continues the highly suspenseful adventure, strong characterization, and intriguing speculation on a very real-seeming future that made The Flooded Earth so satisfying. The endless variety of post-Flood nations, from the northern oasis of Norlind to the squalor of Brundisi to the crime-infested anarchy of the pirate island Dasto Puri, are described in fascinating detail, rendering them both strange and familiar. Parallels with our contemporary world are poignant, from the callous indifference to climate refugees to the materialistic world of Essie’s rich parents, yet the book is never moralizing, instead relying on constant action to propel it forward….

But again, it is the incredible and thrilling pace of the story, and the almost effortless flow for the reader, that make this book as likeable and compelling as it is profound and thought-provoking….The final installment in the trilogy cannot come too soon!

Highly Recommended.”
—Todd Kyle

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Before You Were Born Reviews

Posted on April 3rd, 2019 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

Cover: Before You Were Born Author: Deborah Kerbel Illustrator: Suzanne Del Rizzo Publisher: Pajama Press“A gorgeous, captivating, and moving story, this book will touch the hearts and mesmerize the eyes of readers both young and old. VERDICT New parents will love reading this book as they prepare for and welcome new additions to their home. Additionally, art students will relish the complexity and unique nature of the presentation.”
—Mary Lanni, Denver Public Library

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

Publishers Weekly

“Kerbel’s lullabylike verses draw allusions between moments in nature and a family’s anticipation of a new baby…Del Rizzo brings eye-catching allure to Kerbel’s wistful welcome.”

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Kirkus Reviews

“[T]he metaphors will surely strike a chord…And the ending is both beautifully illustrated and poignant…Del Rizzo’s polymer clay–and–acrylic wash artwork is the star here, adding texture and depth to the scenes, which show animals, many with babies, in their natural habitats.”

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CM Magazine

“This breathtaking weave of prose and stunning artwork pulls at the heartstrings from start to finish. Following the seasons found in nature, the reader meets several animals that live near the family’s seaside home. The text is written in the form of a love letter from expectant parents to their new arrival. A young child would rejoice in the love that oozes from this book to know that s/he was, in fact, special, loved and greatly anticipated before s/he was even born….

Suzanne Del Rizzo illustrates each animal with immaculate detail and grace….Not only are the animals displayed in great beauty, but so are the scenes in which they live, such as the forest of silver birches, fields of wildflowers, the calm waters reflecting the sunset and the mist resting on a fresh stream.

Overall, an expectant couple will relate to the many feelings of anticipation and love as they read the velvety prose and feast upon the artwork….These often-indescribable feelings are celebrated within this text and fully put into words what so many new parents are trying to explain. Beautifully, the changes in season also reflect the change coming soon for their family, yet it is not portrayed as negative or uncertain but instead shows how seasons of life come and go in unique beauty.

Highly Recommended.”
—Johanna Beaumont

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Books are wildly popular baby shower gifts and Before You Were Born will be a hit with parents and children alike so consider it your future go-to book for celebrating an upcoming birth.

In gorgeous spreads of polymer clay illustrations by Suzanne Del Rizzo, animals including humans, foxes, bears, deer, whales and birds like the northern flicker are seen to make their homes but it’s all about the anticipation of new arrivals….

This is the second collaboration for Deborah Kerbel and Suzanne Del Rizzo. Their first book together, Sun Dog (Pajama Press, 2018), is charming young readers as a Blue Spruce award nominee and Before You Were Born will undoubtedly captivate young children and the parents who adore them.

Dedicate a new birth with Before You Were Born, a book that is born in a celebration of life.”

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Girl of the Southern Sea Reviews

Posted on March 13th, 2019 by pajamapress

Booklist

Book Cover: Girl of the Southern Sea Author: Michelle Kadarusman Publisher: Pajama Press

“In this contemporary tale set in the slums of Jakarta, Indonesia, a talented girl resolves to become a writer in spite of poverty, her father’s alcoholism, and grief over her mother’s death….In spare and elegant prose, Kadarusman weaves a quiet tale of survival, grit, and integrity. As Nia struggles to decide between right and wrong, she also takes care of her sibling, confronts the male figures in her life, and builds supportive relationships with female characters. Peppered throughout are stories that Nia crafts, based on Indonesian legends about the princess of the Southern Sea. With nuanced characters, this is a lovely gem for fans of irrepressible girls and contemporary stories set outside of the U.S.”
— Shelley M. Diaz

Read the full review in the April 2019 issue of Booklist

School Library Journal

“A gripping, emotional realistic novel describing the grim realities of growing up in Indonesian poverty. A glossary of Indonesian words is included at the front of the book and a map provides the location of the story’s setting. The author’s note explains how the seeds of this story were planted long ago when Kadarusman observed poverty while traveling with her family to her father’s hometown in West Java. VERDICT A riveting read featuring a determined and talented teenager.”
—Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego

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

Kirkus Reviews

“Punctuating Nia’s thoughtful, present-tense narration with her stories about Dewi, Kadarusman effectively weaves a gentle tale of love and loss and illuminates the power of storytelling. A thought-provoking peek into a culture deserving of more attention in North America.”

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Foreword Reviews

“A stark setting combines with striking characters as they struggle to survive, often engaging in dangerous or unethical activities to earn enough money to live. The choices that the characters make are reflections upon questions of right and wrong in an environment where basic needs are never guaranteed to be met. Nia’s life may not seem like it is in her own hands, but she proves to be a strong young woman, even if the challenges she faces are overwhelming. The novel does not offer simple solutions but instead wraps up Nia’s story in a way that demonstrates her willingness and ability to stand up for herself.

Girl of the Southern Sea is an uplifting novel about hope and the power of storytelling.”
—Catherine Thureson

Read the full review in the May/June 2019 issue of Foreword Reviews

CM Magazine

“Nia is a wonderful character – resilient, courageous and independent. She is self-motivated and determined to one day complete her education and become a writer….

There are important themes in the novel as the author looks at the role poverty plays in the life of a young girl. The rights of girls and women are also an important aspect of the story. As well, the importance of a good education is central to the book. Nia’s big dream is to attend high school when she can afford it. This will come as a surprise to most young Canadians who take for granted a high school education.

The setting of Jakarta is almost another character in the novel. Readers are immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the city slums. Readers also begin to understand some of the culture as they watch Nia’s daily activities at home and in the city around her….

Young adult readers in the junior grades will find Girl of the Southern Sea an entertaining and interesting novel. A glossary of Indonesian terms and a map will help with comprehension. The novel would be an excellent starting point from which to study Indonesian culture as well as the effects of poverty on young women in Indonesia and elsewhere in the world. In fact, the author will be donating a portion of her royalties to Plan International’s Because I Am A Girl campaign, and Pajama Press will match her donation.

Highly Recommended.”
—Ann Ketcheson, a retired secondary school teacher-librarian and teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

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Paula Knows What To Do Reviews

Posted on January 3rd, 2019 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

“When a young girl’s father is too sad to get out of bed, she paints him a picture and the two go on an imaginary adventure together….Author/illustrator Dufft’s watercolor illustrations skillfully combine an assured, realistic watercolor style to portray Paula and her father, with a rudimentary childlike stroke to visually highlight the imaginative adventure. Light and shadow are used to great effect to convey mood…A gentle, touching story of loss and resilience and of the beneficial role imagination plays, with visually intelligent and well-executed illustrations.”

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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 simple story about a little girl who decides to cheer up her family after the loss of her mother. In the story it says that mommy is gone so you never really know if it involves death or divorce but there is a loss that is making the father sad so it can work either way….Their adventures take them flying in the sky and then a soft landing right back into her father’s bed. This does cheer up her father and he makes coffee and hot chocolate and they sit looking at her beautiful pictures. You really have a feeling that, although they are both sad, things will be better as long as they are there for each other….

To whom would you recommend this book? Perfect for children between the ages of two and five and definitely a great book to start a conversation about dealing with a loss….

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” pile? Yes”
Kristin Guay, Centerville Library, Centerville, MA

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CM Magazine

“Watercolour illustrations depict the naturalistic figures of a small child in pajamas and her unshaven father who are taken from a bedroom and whirled up into an imaginary adventure. The backdrops move from the cosily domestic to open blue water to the dark, forbidding skies of the storm. The spread near the beginning which shows Paula kneeling on the floor to start her painting of the sailboat, with a wide-eyed teddy bear looking on, is especially affecting. There is a clever repetition of a large white expanse of cloth with prominent red dots which functions both as Daddy’s bedsheet and the sail of the painting-inspired boat….

Paula Knows What to Do, a gentle piece of bibliotherapy…would be useful in discussions of feelings and of the loss of a parent. Recommended.”
—Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, British Columbia

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“Gently told, visually lovely with its range of color and light, and uplifting, children will be happy to know that father and daughter can weather the storm that loss brings.”

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Penguin Days Reviews

Posted on December 11th, 2018 by pajamapress

Kirkus ReviewsCover: Penguin Days Author: Sara Leach Illustrator: Rebecca Bender Publisher: Pajama Press

“Lauren, who has autism spectrum disorder, is back for a second outing following Slug Days (2017)….A scratchy dress, a little vomit, and an accidental fall into the calves’ stall will all get in the way, although Lauren’s dislike of new situations and a bad case of stage fright are the biggest challenges. Lauren relates her prickly feelings in a believably forthright voice that offers readers welcome insight into her perspective….

Bender’s soft, gentle illustrations expand and illuminate Lauren’s narrative. Plenty of white space and short chapters make this empathetic effort extra accessible to a broad audience….

Another fine and enlightening peek into Lauren’s unique, often challenging world that displays her differences but highlights the needs she shares with all children: love, acceptance and friendship. (Fiction. 5-9)”

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Booklist

“A trip to a North Dakota farm for Auntie Joss’ wedding? That’s not easy for eight-year-old Lauren, who has autism spectrum disorder, as she must deal with unwelcome changes in her routine, as well as boisterous cousins and other unfamiliar family members. Remembering suggestions from her “special-helper teacher,” she tries to be polite while controlling the tension building within her. When she freezes before walking down the aisle as flower girl, her cousins rally to give her just the help she needs, and Lauren decides that she likes having them as relatives after all. In this sequel to Slug Days (2017), Lauren again narrates the story, offering insights into how she sees the world and what helps her cope with stressful situations. While she faces particular challenges, Lauren’s misadventures (dealing with loud relatives, letting calves out of their stall, throwing up on her flower girl dress) could have happened to any girl. Other kids will enjoy reading about them from her point of view. Bender’s winsome pencil drawings with gray shading illustrate the story with sensitivity and humor.”
— Carolyn Phelan

Read the full review in the January 2019 issue of Booklist

The Horn Book Magazine

“In Slug Days (rev. 3/18) readers met Lauren, a second grader with autism spectrum disorder; they learned about the effects her ASD had on her everyday routine and also learned some of her coping strategies. Penguin Days throws a new set of challenges at Lauren: a visit to North Dakota for her aunt’s wedding means coping with an unfamiliar rural environment, wearing a scratchy flower girl dress, and interacting with a set of relatives she isn’t used to—and who aren’t used to her, or to making adjustments when she needs them….Black-and-white pencil and digital illustrations should help early-elementary-age readers understand Lauren’s emotions and those of the people around her.”
—Shoshana Flax

Read the full review in the January 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine

Foreword Reviews

“A lighthearted story, Penguin Days follows Lauren, who is on the autism spectrum. She sometimes misreads social cues, like not understanding why others laugh; she is not always included in groups….Pencil illustrations by Rebecca Bender appear on nearly every spread. They feature Lauren and her family and are insightful in showing the way she navigates the world, including feelings that Lauren herself might not pick up on or understand. The book’s chapter breaks sometimes interrupt the flow of the story, which might imitate how Lauren sees her own world.

In Penguin Days, Lauren’s family learns to accept one another, no matter how challenging a situation might seem.”
—Rebecca Monterusso

Read the full review in the January/February 2019 Children’s Spotlight issue of Foreword Reviews

CM Magazine

“Lauren is an eight-year-old girl with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and she sees the world in her own unique way. Penguin Days is a stand-alone book that also continues a story begun in Slug Days, with Lauren encountering challenges this time beyond school that help her stretch and grow. Not only must she attend her first-ever family wedding, but she is going to be a flower girl!…

Sara Leach’s writing is finely crafted as well as highly readable for the intended age group—no small feat— and Lauren’s first-person voice is just as compelling as it was in Leach’s previous work. Ongoing mix-ups and dilemmas present themselves within a strong, plot-driven storyline, and, while the resolution is authentic and satisfying, readers will no doubt anticipate further books about this delightful character.

Adding to the hilarious escapades in the text are Rebecca Bender’s kid-friendly black-and-white illustrations. Penguin Days would make great independent-reading fare for classroom and school libraries as well as additions to units on identity and difference.

Highly Recommended.
Bev Brenna

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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 ‘must have’ for any library!…Lauren exhibits some behaviors typically found in children on the autism spectrum such as disliking loud sounds, feeling hot and cold at the same time, rocking back and forth, not liking changes or sharing, and not understanding expressions such as a child being ‘priceless’. We see Lauren handle these challenges through breathing exercises and special tricks she has learned to calm down….

To whom would you recommend this book? I think this is an important book for just about any child; however, if a child is around another child with Autism Spectrum Disorder they would definitely benefit from reading this book. It really explains how these children are feeling and how they process all the events around them. This book is geared for the early elementary level….

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” pile? Yes”
Kristin Guay, Centerville Library, Centerville, MA

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New York Journal of Books

“The insights readers get about ASD feel authentic and, for those who aren’t familiar with someone who has ASD, unthreatening. This isn’t simple for an author to do, but Leach has taken a topic that kids are exposed to more and more and given them ways to understand why people with ASD behave the way they do. Adults learn, as well. Readers come away with more tools in their toolkit to be empathetic, patient, and nonjudgmental.

Bender’s whimsical pencil drawings on most pages contribute to comfortable reading for those just stepping into chapter books. The illustrations capture emotions and reflect a lovely childhood innocence. Along with the many illustrations, young readers will appreciate the simple sentence structure and vocabulary. Early chapter book readers will find the chapters are bite-size in the amount of text. Yet the same reader can feel a sense of accomplishment in the number of pages covered. The pages have plenty of white space, which also contributes to more comfortable reading.

Penguin Days provides learning of the most important kind, and has an added bonus of sweet humor, age appropriate text, and engaging illustrations. It belongs on the shelf of every library for young readers.”
—Janelle Diller

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Eight-year-old Lauren of Sara Leach’s Slug Days (Pajama Press, 2017) has returned and now the young child on the autism spectrum must find new coping strategies beyond the school and home situations with which she contended in her first book….

Thankfully Sara Leach shows us that Lauren can have slug days when everything goes wrong, and penguin days when she has to dress up and get along with people she rarely sees, and still have wonderful butterfly days when all is right with the world. With the addition of Rebecca Bender’s charming black-and-white illustrations that depict Lauren in all her moods, Penguin Days becomes a story of resiliency and overcoming anxiety and stressful situations for all children, with ASD and not.”

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Canadian Bookworm

“I thoroughly enjoyed the previous book about the young autistic girl Lauren, Slug Days, and was excited to have her story continue….It’s neat to watch Lauren develop here, and conquer new situations, and make new friends.

The illustrations are charming, and really bring the story to life. From penguins to cows, scratchy dresses to pug onesies, they added to the story. I particularly liked the photo style pictures at the end. I hope to see more Lauren books.”

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Lone Tree Reviews

Rating : 4 Star…

This was a short story but it shows what goes through a mind of a young girl with Autism….From acting like a sloth during the wedding rehearsal to annoying her cousins with penguin facts, this is a must read for anyone who is looking for a little something different from all the other books out there.

I can’t say much more than that because y’all need to read this short tale that will give you a glimpse of what Autism is like for the person who has it and for the people around them.

Thank You to Sara Leach for this eye-opening book that much needed in this day and age.”

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Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up Reviews

Posted on November 29th, 2018 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

“Bright, swirling, busy spreads in warm gouache colors enhance this simple tale of a family of California quails, reminiscent of Make Way for Ducklings….Whittingham adopts a slightly old-fashioned storytelling voice to tell her tale, employing rhythm and repetition to both delineate characters and propel the plot. Pedersen imbues her quail chicks with lots of personality by focusing on their wide, white faces and bouncing topknots. The moral? Slow down and smell the roses!”

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School Library Journal

“Repetitive words such as ‘tap, tap, tap’ and ‘hurry, hurry, hurry,’ printed in color, invite young readers to chime in. VERDICT The lovely illustrations and lyrical language, the pairing of curiosity and caution, and the opportunity for youngsters to join in the reading make this a great choice for group sharing.”

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Foreword Reviews

“Spring colors abound in green grass and clover, fluffy yellow chicks, and indigo-plumed parents as the quails learn a lesson from their littlest one about appreciating the beauty all around us.”
—Pallas Gates McCorquodale

Read the full review in the March/April 2019 issue of Foreword Reviews

CM Magazine

Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up is such a beautifully written story about appreciating the world around us and taking the time to stop to notice and wonder. The writing begins very whimsically and is full of descriptive words but turns to a more fast-paced, action-packed read after the orange fuzzy thing enters the scene. Pedersen’s illustrations perfectly capture Queenie Quail’s world and encourage readers to also notice the beauty around them. The details in the writing and in the illustrations, along with the repetition in the text, make Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up an excellent read-a-loud that will keep young readers engaged until the end. Highly Recommended.”
—Mallory Dawson is the Community Engagement Librarian at Whitby Public Library, Ontario.

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Youth Services Book Review

“Beautiful, bright, nature illustrations grace the pages (very appropriately) in this story about a little quail who couldn’t keep up with her hurried parents and siblings….Queenie’s curious observations saved her family from furry danger. Now, her family realizes it sometimes is necessary to stop and look around you!”
Lindsey Hughes, Marstons Mills Public Library, Marstons Mills, MA

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Celebrate Picture Books

“Jane Whittingham’s story of an adorable quail who stops to smell all the roses is a charming, charming, charming read-aloud that adults will love sharing and kids will enthusiastically chime in on during the fun repeated phrases. Whittingham’s agile storytelling shines with lyrical rhythms and alliteration…The gentle suspense will keep young listeners riveted to the story, and afterward they’re sure to join Queenie and her brothers and sisters in slowing down to enjoy the world around them.

Readers will immediately fall in love with Queenie and her siblings as Emma Pedersen’s cute-as-can-be, tufted quail babies race and bob along the trail to keep up with Mama. With expressive eyes and tiny beaks that form a perpetual smile, they nestle next to Mama and pile on top of Papa. As they watch out for Queenie, one or two often peer out at readers, inviting them along on their excursions….Pedersen’s lovely gauche paintings are as fresh as a spring meadow and will entice kids and adults to take a nice slow walk together.

A unique and tender story that will have children entranced from the first page, Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up will be a favorite on home, school, and public library shelves.”

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Though quails are usually very quiet unless startled, Jane Whittingham gives them voice in Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up and your little ones will enjoy the repetitive chirps of the quails as they move and urge Queenie to hurry. Moreover, by boldly colouring certain phrases or words, including those repeated three times in succession, even non-readers will be able to pick up on key words and read along. Beyond the text, the story content has important embedded messages about sticking together for safety as well as taking the time to really see along the journey….

Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up is Toronto artist Emma Pedersen’s first picture book and she does Queenie and her family, as well as Jane Whittingham, proud. Though Emma Pedersen ensures that the quail are truly quail-like, with their head plumes, known as topknots, of which Queenie’s is bi-coloured, and elongated bodies for adults and rounded-bodied young, she has given them her own personal stamp of cuteness. In fact, with the adorable facial expressions on the chicks and parents, Emma Pedersen anthropomorphizes the quails just enough to help children see themselves and their families within. Similarly, the landscapes Emma Pedersen creates of stylized plants are both real and fantastical, enriching each page of the story.

While the basis of Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up may be appear to be a scolding at an errant youngster, it delightfully turns into a lesson about the value in stopping to smell the grass and the blossoms and see the amazing in our surroundings, to the betterment and safety of all.”
—Helen K

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Fab Book Reviews

Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up is great, bouyant and chirpy reading fun, filled with energy, rhythm, repetition and marvelous artwork. Emma Pedersen’s gouache illustrations are absolutely glorious and inviting (and deeply adorable), while readers familiar with Jane Whittingham’s work in A Good Day for Ducks and Wild One will recognize that the author (also a librarian!) approaches storytelling with an audience in mind, leading to stories tailor-made for reading aloud.

Overall, a beautifully cozy, heartwarming read that contains a just-right-for-the-story moment of excitement. While fresh and current, there is also something so very wonderfully nostalgic in the storytelling and visual appeal of Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up. My experience of reading this picture book made me think back to when I used to be read (or read) old favourites such as The Story of FerdinandNo Roses for Harry, or Make Way for Ducklings (also noted by Kirkus Reviews I can see!)…Readers on the lookout for a lovely new storytime read aloud to try for preschool ages and up, or for a new cuddly story to share, Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up is one to reach for!”

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Kids Make Mess

“My children instantly fell in love with little Queenie and so did I. Not just an appealing book for young readers who can relate to the protagonist, Queenie reminds parents (like me) to slow down and appreciate the natural curiosity of their children–children who have an innate ability to really see all the beauty in this world. And when push comes to shove, Queenie is able to recognize when she must hurry, and pulls through for her family….The illustrations by Emma Pedersen are gorgeous, colourful gouache paintings reminiscent of the books of my childhood. The bright and colourful pages will make it an awesome addition to your spring picture book collection.”

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Canadian Bookworm

“This engaging picture book uses word repetition, alliteration, imagery, and onomatopoeia to bring the story of this young bird and her family to life….This is a delightful story of stopping to take delight in the world around us, and valuing the contributions that we may not always recognize as being helpful. Lovely.”

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Pencil: A Story with a Point Reviews

Posted on November 12th, 2018 by pajamapress

Foreword Reviews ★ Starred Review

“Office supplies have never been more entertaining than they are in this punny tale of friendship and ingenuity. Old school and new tech go head to head when Jackson trades his longtime pal Pencil in for a shiny new Tablet. Cheerful illustrations add to the hilarity as Pencil tries a variety of toppers and innovative uses while enlisting the help of everyone from Eraser and Scissors to Sticky Notes and Flashlight in an effort to regain Jackson’s attention.”
—Pallas Gates McCorquodale

Kirkus Reviews

“Move over, Pencil; Tablet’s in town…but what happens when Tablet breaks?….Pencil tries desperately to cheer Jackson up, but nothing works…until he enlists his old companions from the drawer, Scissors, Paper Clip, Flashlight, Tape, and the rest. Jackson finally smiles again, and all the supplies end as friends, with pages full of puns….The illustrations feature expressive, googly-eyed implements and realistic children and animals interacting against a white background….An overload of fun puns will have many readers giggling through to the openly sweet moral at the end.”

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NY Journal of Books

“The whole story is a format for a bunch of silly puns. Older kids will love it when they get the double meanings of the various school supplies. When Battery says, ‘He’ll get a real charge out of that,’ the astute second grader will understand the double meaning of charge and get the joke….

The digital art with lots of white space is hilarious, the kids are likable and diverse, and the speech bubbles help each object say the right thing. The end papers are robin’s egg blue and have the various white pages of the flip book with the dog as the star.

Corny as it is, Pencil: A Story with a Point is great fun. Every librarian should make it a point to order this delightful book.”
—Susan Middleton Elya

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Resource Links

“Rating: E

Who would ever think that pencils, rulers, sticky notes, and other basic office supplies could be so much fun? In Ann Ingalls’ new book Pencil: A Story With a Point, readers discover a story of friendship and creativity, and suddenly office supplies become intriguing, comical, and enjoyable. Jackson and his best friend Pencil are inseparable, doing things together like writing, sketching, etc. When Tablet, a new friend, enters the scene Pencil is soon pushed aside for this new technological friend. One day Pencil is dropped on the floor and Bernie (dog) picks him up, starts to chew him, thus causing large dents in Pencil. Pencil then gets cast away in a dark drawer with other rejected office supplies. Pencil fears his life is over. Low and behold, one day the drawer opens and Pencil is rescued by Jasmine. But disaster strikes again and it is up to Pencil and his other office supply friends to come up with a solution to make Jackson smile again.

Through the use of personification, Ann Ingalls has created an entertaining and engaging book that is carefree, engaging and certainly a winner for young readers to enjoy….The illustrations provide a connection to the text and allow the reader to use their own imagination wondering if the objects could really talk! The use of the white background of the pages allows the illustrations to be even more powerful in their realism; the white background prevents readers from being distracted from the story and the illustrations.

Pencil: A Story With a Point is a perfect story to have readers enjoying a big belly laugh! Libraries and classrooms will certainly be filled with giggling children when this book is read during story-time read-alouds….

Thematic Links: Friendship; Computers; Puns/Wordplay; Conflict Resolution; Collaboration; Humour”
—Carmelita Cechetto-Shea

Read the full review on page 5 of the February 2019 issue of Resource Links

CM Magazine

“Veteran author Ann Ingalls has produced a book with a lightweight plot but much lighthearted play with language that will delight younger readers just learning about verbal humour as well as teachers who could use this book as a lesson on the pun as literary device.

Dean Griffiths is a British Columbia illustrator with a number of awards to his name. He has filled the pages of Pencil with familiar objects which are candy-colourful and plastic in their contours, as well as expressive images of the two dark-eyed, dark-haired children. Tooth-marked and a little off-kilter, Pencil is definitely a character in his own right in the story. The spread showing the shadowy interior of the junk drawer where a small green flashlight illuminates little but a number of pairs of eyes is especially captivating.”
—Ellen Heaney

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Youth Services Book Review

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

To whom would you recommend this book? I could see this being enjoyed by children ages four through seven. It would be a great way to introduce a craft project — especially if children were making some sort of book. It really does show the importance of simple craft activities over constant stimulation on electronic devices….

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” pile? Yes”
Kristin Guay, Centerville Library, Centerville, MA

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Pickle Me This

“…the illustrations are very appealing (including very cool endpapers) so I sat down to read this with my daughter, and told her, ‘If we’re going to like this book, it’s going to have to be really good.’

And it was. Primarily, because (as might be discerned from the book’s subtitle) Pencil is playful with language and we never got tired of the puns…

And while this indeed a pencil versus tablet story for our screen saturated age, it’s also more interesting than just that, about a boy who loved his pencil until he abandoned it for tablet pursuits, and then Pencil was rescued from the junk drawer by the boy’s sister, and was there to see it happen: the tablet crashing to the floor and breaking, the boy distraught. Is there anything that Pencil can do?…[A] warm and humorous book which demonstrates that a story with a point is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s all in the delivery, and this one is done right.”

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Jana the Teacher

“This clever picture book reminds readers that even though our world is filled with exciting technology, sometimes the best fun comes from the simplicity of pencil and paper….Humorous, pun-filled text along with terrific artwork will make this a fun book to share with young children.”

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“It takes a community to find a solution. The conversational puns that follow will have readers giggling and trying their hand at creating some of their own … perfect! The colorful, expressive digital art is humorous in all the right places.”

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Too Young to Escape: A Vietnamese Girl Waits to be Reunited with Her Family Reviews

Posted on September 17th, 2018 by pajamapress

Booklist

Cover: Too Young to Escape: A Vietnamese Girl Waits to be Reunited with Her Family Authors: Van Ho and Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch Publisher: Pajama Press

“Skrypuch continues her collaboration with the Ho family in telling the stories of their escape from Vietnam after the war. Here the youngest daughter, Van Ho, pieces together memories of being the one who was left behind at the age of four….

As a work of fragmented and painful memories from the time Van was between the ages of four and eight, the narrative is impressively credible, capturing her feelings of confused abandonment, visceral descriptions of her life in Ho Chi Minh City, and gradual adjustment to being separated from her immediate family….”
—Amina Chaudhri

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Kirkus Reviews

“With simple but engaging language, Skrypuch recounts Van Ho’s true story of her lonely and hard life in Vietnam during the years she was separated from her family. Skrypuch offers readers myriad opportunities to identify with Van, who navigates school, friendship, bullying, and poverty, while also giving them insight into less-common American experiences such as political oppression and asylum. The story covers four years of Van’s life, including her reunion with parents and siblings in Canada and the immediate culture shock of arriving….This illuminating chapter book respects an often overlooked demographic, providing transitioning readers a truthful yet age-appropriate introduction to big issues that still affect people to this day.”

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Quill & Quire ★ Starred Review

“Skrypuch and the now-adult Van Ho collaborate on this account of Van’s life from the morning she woke to find her mother and siblings gone to when, four years later, she was reunited with her family in Toronto….

[T]hroughout the book, the authors eschew sentimentality and sensationalism, creating a straightforward autobiography that is truthful about resilience and the often unpredictable ways children act and react.”

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CM Magazine

Rating: 5…Van’s story is necessarily informed by Skrypuch’s research and imagination in addition to Van’s memories of her distant childhood as corroborated by other members of her family. The product, is an extremely engaging account of a childhood in challenging circumstances….

Van’s story is a page-turner. Children will relate to her sense of injustice….

Too Young to Escape is a welcome reminder of the post-Vietnam War refugee crisis that saw Canada, France, the United States and Australia welcome strangers in need. Readers will appreciate hearing this personal story from a child’s perspective. The book will include an eight page colour insert of photographs of Van and her family as children plus a recent photo of Vanessa (formerly Van) with her spouse and children and a final image of Vanessa and her beloved Bà Ngoąi taken in 1997. Skrypuch includes very brief interviews with Van’s parents, Nam Ho and Phuoc Ho, that help to explain the context of the time including the reasons for their difficult decisions.

Readers may have wondered why the telephone or e-mail was not used by Van’s parents. The paucity of telephones in Vietnam in the early 1980s and censorship of physical mail by government officials are two more challenges that Van’s parents note in their interviews. Modern technology may make it easier to communicate over long distances today, but civil wars, state-sanctioned or state-sponsored discrimination and persecution are enduring reasons for normal people to be transformed into refugees in the twenty-first century. Van’s story and those of her family members remain timeless as well as time-specific.

Highly Recommended
—Val Ken Lem is a librarian at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario

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Resource Links

Too Young to Escape is a compelling story about the aftermath of war for children….The fact that this book is memoir, not fiction, leaves tantalizing gaps in the story, only partly filled by interviews with Van Ho’s mother and father in the back matter. (The pictures of Van and her family will add immediacy to the reading experience.) Sensitive readers will be moved, and possibly shocked, by the challenges Van faces – but also reassured by her resilience and compassion.

Too Young to Escape offers a piercing firsthand account of the conflict in Vietnam, which continues to resonate in popular culture decades later. The book’s plucky young protagonist adds a diverse voice to a literature that continues…to be necessary for today’s readers.”
—Leslie Vermeer

Read the full review on page 23 of the December 2018 issue of Resource Links

Youth Services Book Review

“Rating: … 5

The first-person narrative should hold readers riveted….The importance of family shines through this compelling memoir, and a series of color photographs adds to the emotional impact.

….Readers who enjoy this book might also enjoy Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. In addition, they will want to seek out Adrift at Sea, a picture book by co-author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch which tells the story of Van’s older brother, Tuan.”

Renée Wheeler, Leominster Public Library, Leominster, MA

Read the full review here

Libris Notes

Too Young To Escape is based on the true story of a Vietnamese family who came to Canada during the 1980’s. This children’s novel grew out of an earlier book authored by Skrypuch, Adrift At Sea which told about Van’s brother Tuan and his escape from Vietnam. As Skrypuch mentions in her Author’s Note at the back, she would often get questions at school presentation of Adrift At Sea about what happened to Van. Did she ever make it to Canada? So Skrypuch approached Van Ho and asked her to consider telling her story. Together they worked on telling Van’s story, as she attempted to recall as much as possible of this period of her life….

Readers will be impressed by Van Ho’s respectful kindness towards her Ba Ngoai and her obedience to her aunt and uncle who, at great risk, have taken in many family members. Van’s fortitude in dealing with being left behind, and making the best of her situation are evident in her story. But the authors also show that it was difficult for Van to come to terms with being left behind. This was especially evident when photographs began arrived from Canada of her family, happy and well settled….

Too Young To Escape is another excellent, well-written book by Canadian Ukrainian author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch that brings to light recent history in a meaningful way for young Canadians. Readers will enjoy the short interviews with Van’s mother and father and the colour family photo album at the back. A must-have book for schools, homeschoolers and anyone interested in portraying Canadian history in an engaging personal manner.”

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ASLC Litpicks

“This joint project between two Canadian authors gives readers a glimpse into the thoughts, feelings, and reactions of a child being left behind when her family becomes refugees. Interviews with her father and mother at the end of the book, as well as historical photographs, allows readers to better understand why a young child might be left behind and explains the sacrifice of every family member involved in immigration as refugees.

A companion story of her brother’s experience as a refugee, Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival, (2017) is told in picture book format and has been shortlisted for a number of awards. Both of these stories are important for both Canadian-born and foreign-born Canadians, to help young children develop a sense of identity and belonging as Canadians.”
—Fern Reirson

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“When Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch co-wrote Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival with Tuan Ho, she began a family’s story of escape from Vietnam in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and taking of power by the communists. In that picture book, illustrated by Brian Deines, a mother and her two daughters, Loan and Lan, and six-year-old son Tuan escape Vietnam by boat, hopeful of joining father and the eldest daughter Linh in Canada. But there was another story. Because four-year-old Van is left behind. Too Young to Escape is her story….

Van Ho, who lived this story, tells it through Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch’s pen of extraordinary writing which reflects both Van’s youthful point of view and her trauma. Her story is disquieting but it’s also uplifting, focusing on Van’s resilience. Told from her perspective, from Van explaining away her family’s absence before she learns the reason to her obligation to completing chores many of our culture might deem inappropriate for one so young to finding a friend in a girl less fortunate than herself, Van’s story of being left behind is heartbreaking.

Enhancing Van Ho’s story with photographs and interviews with her father, Nam Ho, and mother, Phuoc Ho, Too Young to Escape gives a snapshot of a different time and place, one of upheaval and loss, perseverance and endurance, that ends with a reunion and a good life in Canada. It is a story of survival, even if Van Ho was Too Young to Escape.”

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A Year of Books

“This was a terrific story, written with a middle-grade reader in mind. It is a story of bravery as a family escapes Vietnam for a better life, ending up in Canada. This families’ plight should be taught in school and enable those born in Canada to understand the life and death choices that families have made to get to freedom….

I loved meeting this amazing family who were all reunited after many years apart and appreciate living in Canada…As in all her books, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch has done a fantastic job capturing the raw feelings of hope and resilience. She helps students consider the plight of others, living through war and devastation. I look forward to her next book and am thankful that the Branford Public Library held an event to launch this terrific book!”

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Canadian Bookworm

“This story brings to life the situations and circumstances that the Vietnam refugees fled, and creates some understanding for young readers of the difficulties faced by them.

The day to day reality of life in Vietnam for Van and her grandmother are shown in detail, and the photos included here allow the reader to connect with the young girl.

I remember welcoming Vietnamese refugees in my community years before this time, and still have a small gift that one young girl gave to me as I helped her adjust to her new life, so this story really hit home for me.”

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Our New Kittens Reviews

Posted on August 14th, 2018 by pajamapress

Booklist

Cover: Our New Kittens Author: Theo Heras Illustrator: Alice Carter Publisher: Pajama Press

“The illustrations, using colored pencils, watercolors, and digital media, are softly hued and charming. A good story about the anticipation and excitement of getting a pet, and of kids learning how to interact with their new charges.”
— Connie Fletcher

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Kirkus Reviews

“Illustrations in colored pencil, watercolor, and digital media feature soft lines and colors and emphasize the relationships between the boys and their pets…Endpapers list in crayon-styled hand printing things to have before bringing a kitten home and what to give your kitten each day….[will] stoke a child’s excitement about the idea of getting a pet and useful for facilitating a conversation about “pet care. (Picture book. 3-6)”

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School Library Journal

“This is a spare story about two brothers and their first experience owning kittens….The colored pencil, watercolor, and digital art has a cartoony feel to it, and the brown-skinned boys, with their oversize round heads and curly hair are appealing. The art is visually interesting, with a nice mix of points of view, as well as full pages, spreads, and spot art to add movement and encourage page turns….VERDICT Vets might find this title to be a useful tool for parents looking to add kittens to their home…”
–Amy Lilien-Harper, Greenwich Library, CT

Read the full review in the December 2018 issue of School Library Journal

Foreword Reviews

“Through this lovely introduction to pet care and responsibility—whether families are adopting an animal for the first time or reinforcing good practices—children will learn how to safely care for new furry friends: providing fresh water and food, a clean litter box, brushing, play time, gentle care, and, of course, lots of love.”

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CM Magazine

“Alice Carter’s illustrations are warmly created with colored pencil and watercolours as well as digital art. The characters and the setting are realistically represented with a slight cartoonish flair. Overall, the pictures allow the readers to infer more details in addition to the text, thereby extending the storytelling of how the relationship between the brothers and their new pet kittens develops.

Reading Our New Kittens would be a good way to inform young children of the emotional and behavioural aspects, plus accountability, of what pet ownership entails.

Highly Recommended
—Sheryl Lee

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Youth Services Book Review

Rating: 5

What did you like about the book? Simple text and vivid illustrations introduce young children to bringing home a new pet. The endpages are wonderful with a checklist and tips for caring for new kittens. Highly recommended for anyone considering adopting from an animal shelter.”
Julie Durmis, JC Solmonese Elementary School, Norton, MA

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Resource Links

Our New Kittens is a book that kids will enjoy if they are preparing for a new kitten themselves. They may even find some helpful advice, like how to behave around a new kitten and what supplies they will need….[A] great discussion starter for families who are bringing home a kitten of their own.”
—Alice Albarda

Read the full review on page 6 of the December 2018 issue of Resource Links

Fab Book Reviews

“[An] adorable and warmhearted story…Readers who clamour for sweet, realistic-leaning stories to do with kittens or cats or for picture books about taking care of pets might especially adore the sheer cuddliness of Our New Kittens. Families who may be preparing to adopt a cat into their home or families with wee ones who have welcomed a new kitten home might also enjoy reading Our New Kittens.”

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Canadian Bookworm

“This was an apt choice as we adopted two cats yesterday, although not kittens….This is a fun read for kids interested in getting a pet, preparing them for the joy and responsibility of having an animal in the home. The drawings are lovely, I loved the flyaway curls of the younger brother, and his mismatched socks.”

Click here to read the full review