Pajama Press

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

While You Sleep Reviews

Posted on August 12th, 2022 by pajamapress

Kirkus Starred Review

“A peek into the busy Land of Nod….Maruno narrates in flawless and immersive rhyming verse….Sato uses materials such as silk, paper, and textiles to infuse each spread with tangible, three-dimensional textures and depth. Readers will linger over each tiny, essential detail—nothing is extraneous….Like the materials on many of the spreads, the text and art are expertly stitched together, each visible and impactful on their own and interwoven into a bewitching whole. A perfect bedtime selection for eye-catching, vibrantly colorful dreams.”

Click here to read the full review

School Library Journal

“This lovely picture book shows what one parent tells her little one as she’s going to sleep. The text is written in peaceful rhyming couplets, while warmly colored collage illustrations show the tidying up that goes on while people rest….It’s a cozy, positive bedtime story sure to please parents and children alike….A comforting story for kids who wonder what they’re missing by going to bed.”

Click here to read the full review

Publishers Weekly

“In rhyming couplets, a caregiver encourages a child…to embrace bedtime so that a crew of bunny helpmeets can begin their work tidying up the world. As a child’s caregiver turns off the light and offers a bedtime kiss, lines describe the “chores,”…being completed by toy stuffed rabbits come to life: “Comb the grass, straighten the trees,/ Place a dot on the black-eyed peas.” Other imagery draws heavily on sewing metaphors, aligning with Sato’s collaged illustrations, which rely on paper, textiles, and embroidery silk: when “the woven night of black and gray” is described as being “embroidered with a Milky Way,” the child is shown yawning beneath an inky knit blanket and a purple embroidered sky. Throughout, the textured scenes remix details from the child’s waking life into suitably snuggly dreamscapes.”

Click here to read the full review

Foreword Reviews

“Rhyming couplets create a whimsical melody while the collage art illustrations will captivate children with their colorful layers and textures—until they drift off to sleep to dream of the brand new world they’ll wake up to.

Click here to read the full review

Manhattan Book Review

“Author Jennifer Maruno has tapped into childhood imagination to find this cute story of what youngsters might dream of happening while they sleep. She has written it in rhyming couplets, which little ones will like. The illustrations by Miki Sato are simply stunning. She uses a combination of drawing and collage to create wonderful illustrations that have the look of three-dimensional art. The little night-helpers really come to life with this method. She fills the backgrounds with terrific details to keep little eyes busy and engaged.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

While You Sleep was the most beautiful picture book I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing this year. Miki Sato’s illustrations pull you in and along as three little bunnies take readers through their nightly care routine. The cut paper and mixed media collages evoke a snoozy watercolored world where these stuffed rabbits mend clouds, charge rainbows and weave night….The premise of this sweet book is simply that, as a child sleeps, her three stuffed rabbits magically take care of the world. It is a fanciful little story that children will likely find peaceful and interesting in equal measure….Maruno’s story feels respectful to the young child’s developing imagination….Highly Recommended”

Click here to read the full review

Book Time

“Of the three picture books I read this week, While You Sleep might be my favourite….The collage art by illustrator Miki Sato brings the story to life. I love how she uses not only paper, but also textiles and embroidery silk to create such beautiful pages. Each double page spread is a piece of art and brings the story to life….If you are a parent who reads the same story on repeat, you’ll enjoy this one as Sato creates pages with so much to look at.”

Click here to read the full review

Storytime with Stephanie

“Are you looking for a new book to settle your little reader into a blissful sleep? Jennifer Maruno and Miki Sato have come together in their dreamy new bedtime story While You Sleep that is sure to spark restful nights and good dreams….Maruno’s lyrical, rhyming text ebbs and flows from page to page without missing a beat. While You Sleep has the qualities of the great classic bedtime stories like Goodnight Moon and Guess How Much I Love You….Maruno creates a sense of security and calm with her words Readers cannot help but have good dreams while drifting off to thoughts of flowers being painted and butterfly wings being dusted….Miki Sato’s collage style illustrations are a perfect complement to Jennifer Maruno’s text. The illustrations are soft and cuddly, soothing and comforting enveloping readers in a warm cozy visual blanket.”

Click here to read the full review

The International Educator

“[A] gentle bedtime story by Jennifer Maruno with glorious art by Miki Sato. Collage of fabrics, weavings, cotton balls, colourful paper and more create gorgeous images of a child being tucked in bed for the night while the world is being dusted and swept for a new day….A reassuring story for little ones.”

Click here to read the full review

Luminous Libro

5 out of 5 stars….This beautiful book is enchanting! The story sweeps you away into a magical land of dreams as the bunnies stitch up the clouds, polish the sun, and embroider the Milky Way with stars.

The collage art is absolutely stunning! I had to stop and stare at each page, looking for all the little details of stitching and beadwork and fabric and watercolors….Miki Sato, is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists….Something about this art is so gentle; perfect for a bedtime book.”

Click here to read the full review

Cocoa Magic Reviews

Posted on July 13th, 2022 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

“Setting the tale in the 1920s, the soft, warm-toned illustrations on a background closer to parchment than white give this an old-fashioned, historical feel, as does the classroom furniture, the students’ clothes, and the uncle’s mustache….Delicious endpapers feature 24 unique, beautifully decorated candies….The SEL element is strongly laid out, with a nice twist at the end, for a well-intentioned but likely additional purchase.”

Click here to read the full review

Kirkus Reviews

“It was magic when Daniel made his first batch of chocolates at age 4, with his Great-Uncle Lewis—“the Cocoa King of Charlottetown”—keeping his hands steady as Daniel poured the chocolate into the mold. Four years later, the duo’s chocolate-making has become routine as they melt, pour, scrape, and mold together for “one precious hour every morning” before Daniel goes to school. A new classmate’s loneliness prompts Daniel to hide a beautifully wrapped chocolate caramel in her desk to cheer her up.

When Great-Uncle Lewis goes off to a chocolatiers’ conference for five days, Daniel frets about the “cocoa magic” fading. His classmates surprise him with their own act of kindness. Drawing inspiration from her background as a clinical social worker, Bradley crafts a story laced with empathy and kindness. Grimard’s soft, mixed-media illustrations evoke a sense of coziness as well as the historical Charlottetown setting…Endpapers mimic a box of chocolates—a delicious touch…Sweet as sugar.”

Click here to read the full review

Booklist

“This sweet story follows a young boy, who, through a small act of kindness, leads a movement at his school….Grimard’s soft, muted artwork captures the old-fashioned feel of the story and its 1920s time period, but its message of giving is timeless. Bradley brings her experience as a social worker to this tale of empathy and kindness.”

Click here to read the full review

Children’s Literature

As a clinical social worker, the author has noticed that empathy can be cultivated through the power of a seemingly small act of kindness. Soft illustrations accompany the story well, and the font is clear and legible for children. While some children’s books about big topics like empathy miss the mark of a child-friendly vocabulary, this book is well-pitched to reach its intended audience and spark big themes. This could even serve as a good holiday read for young children who might struggle with the joy of gift-giving over merely gift-receiving….Reviewer Rating: 4”

CM Magazine

“Grimard particularly shines with the drawings of the sweets which are beautiful and decadent and, even on the page, drool-worthy.

The author, who is a social worker, includes a note…about how empathy can be something we are born with but also something that we can learn, and that empathy can be manifested as kindness….it’s a wholesome story with beautiful illustrations and a lesson that everyone can learn from.”

Click here to read the full review

The International Educator

“Cocoa Magic by Sandra Bradley, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard, is an old fashioned story of kindness and empathy….A story about doing little things for others to build empathy and compassion, with the most delicious looking end pages I’ve ever seen!”

Click here to read the full review

Let’s Add Up! Reviews

Posted on July 6th, 2022 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

“Simple math problems are lively and fun in this sweet picture book that shows all the different ways to add up to 10, then goes one step beyond, e.g., “6 pots + 4 pans = 10 dishes…or a feast!”…The children are an ability-diverse group….They have a range of hair textures and skin tones; in fact, a variety of browns, tans, and pinks are the dominant colors in the illustrations, which also feature a palette of muted primaries (red, blue, yellow). A note to adults suggests four ways to make learning foundational early math skills fun with a child….Add this book to all early childhood collections, and watch the math come out”

Click here to read the full review

Kirkus Reviews

“8 + 2 becomes more than just numbers in this invitation to think outside the worksheet. Here, as she did for shapes and for sounds in her previous entries in the Big, Little Concepts series, Allenby turns arithmetic into play…The author supplies caregivers with further enrichment activities designed to stretch counting and classification skills at the end, and Zeng’s expressively posed children are having so much fun throughout that readers will jump at the chance to join in…Teachers and parents can count on an enthusiastic response from younger audiences.

Click here to read the full review

Children’s Literature

“Join a group of young children as they add to ten in creative ways with this math-themed picture book….The illustrations are colorful and straightforward. Children with different skin colors and abilities are shown in the illustrations, as are a child in a wheelchair and one with hearing aids. Even the end pages show the numerical equations! This is a great book for introducing or reinforcing early math skills at home or in a preschool classroom….Reviewer Rating: 5”

CM Magazine

“Let’s Add Up! is a cheerful book that can teach young children counting concepts and new vocabulary. It can help instill a joy of learning which can then contribute to lifelong curiosity and a pursuit of knowledge….[Victoria Allenby] has the knack to put delight in discovery…she takes children’s thinking to another level….Montreal illustrator Maggie Zeng complements Allenby’s content with playful characters….The happy children are a diverse group, representing the current Canadian population….Let’s Add Up! can be a useful addition to a childcare centre as well as a home collection. It will create opportunities for children and adults to have many shared experiences while giving children skills and learning that will last.

Highly Recommended”

Click here to read the full review

YA Books Central

“The author uses easy, simple words that are easy for young children to understand, but not so simple that it is a chore for a parent to read aloud. The illustrations are cute and vivid, and they provide that necessary step for visual learners. I enjoyed that the author included fun activities for kids at the end of the book, perfect for kinesthetic learners. Let’s Add Up! would be a great addition to any beginner reading/counter library – whether at home or a school setting.

Good Points: Easy To Read, Vivid illustrations, Educational

Overall Rating: 5”

Click here to read the full review

Storytime with Stephanie

“[T]he perfect early learning book to get readers excited about numbers….The book, part of Pajama Press Inc’s Big, Little Concept Books line, is created especially for early readers with sturdy, heavy card pages and a soft heavy duty cover, it’s a book that will stand up to multiple readings. It also has excellent back matter to help parents and educators extend the learning in the story. There is lots of inspiration for math centers or small world exploration that will come from this simple little story.

Maggie Zeng’s illustrations are inclusive and full of joy….The art makes the story feel like a community or classroom, perfect for the theme of the book.

There are very few math focused picture books available to readers and educators to foster not only a love of reading but also a love of numbers. Victoria Allenby has found a gap in the toolkit and has filled it with Let’s Add Up! I hope there are more math focused books in the future.”

Click here to read the full review

The International Educator

“Let’s Add Up! by Victoria Allenby, with art by Maggie Zeng, is a frolicking romp counting to 10….Fun to count and read (and then have a party!) with a Kindergarten class.

Click here to read the full review

Luminous Libro

5 out of 5 stars….This is such a cute book! It really makes it fun to learn addition and see what the children will do with each type of item….It makes learning addition easy because each page is such a clear visual representation of the arithmetic that is happening.

I loved the adorable illustrations, and I really appreciated that the children on each page are from diverse ethnicities and abilities. I love the sweet smiles on all their faces, and the way each child is included in their fun activities.”

Click here to read the full review

Book Time

“Victoria Allenby’s latest picture book for two to five year olds introduces early math skills….What I like about this padded board book is that while five drums plus five tambourines do add up to 10 instruments, it also adds up to a band….It’s a fun concept that shows more than math skills.

At the end of the book, Allenby offers four ways to make learning fun.”

Click here to read the full review

Dinos Driving Reviews

Posted on June 1st, 2022 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

“Buckle up, young dino!

Eight species of dinosaurs from across geologic periods are featured, each paired with a type of motor vehicle. The nearly-all white backgrounds keep children’s full attention on the dinosaur and vehicle introduced on each double-page spread. Iguanodon drives an electric vehicle, while Triceratops and their friends prefer motorcycles. Tyrannosaurus Rex drives a monster truck, while Carnotaurus makes a living driving a limousine. Diplodocus drives a bus, while Brachiosaurus dreams of driving a Jeep—but only when she’s old enough to do so. The concept of the book is interesting and gets a big lift from four appended suggestions for caregivers on engaging readers and honing their critical-thinking skills….Young readers who sit firmly in the Venn diagram overlap of dinosaur lovers and car enthusiasts will be thrilled, and with the right guidance, those outside of that overlap will be interested as well. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Amusing fun from the “Car”-taceous era! (Picture book. 4-6)”

Click here to read the full review

Publishers Weekly

“Dinosaurs hit the road as Leitch and Ritchie pair eight species with their ideal vehicles… Set against white backgrounds, Ritchie’s cartoonlike pencil, ink, and digital art presents the subjects’ personalities with an anthropomorphized stylishness befitting their vehicle of choice: Velociraptors sit easily in a minicar, while Diplodocus less comfortably occupies a yellow school bus… a playfully tender concluding scene should fuel driving daydreams. Back matter includes facts and discussion prompts.”

Click here to read the full review

Booklist

“In a (mostly) four wheeled flight of “What If…” Leitch pairs prehistoric motorists to preferred motor vehicles and Ritchie puts pedal to the metal with windswept views of full sized dinos atop, usually, hilariously tiny cars, motorcycles, or (in the case of T. Rex) a monster truck…Sporting loud, unnatural, vigorously brushed colors the eight drivers prance on foot across a closing spread alongside identifying labels and facts, and the author tacks on a set of extension activities”

Click here to read the full review

School Library Journal

“There is a page of facts about dinosaurs at the end of the book and a list of questions prompting creative thinking about dinosaurs and vehicles.”

Children’s Literature

“Lively dinosaurs and colorful vehicles collide, combining two preschooler-popular topics in one playful story with the imaginings of “dinos driving.” Bright, exciting illustrations on the contrasting white background will catch the attention of toddlers through school-age children; and large, multicolored text appeals to beginning readers….Bolded dinosaur names and vehicle terms aid in word recognition, and the end-of-reading picture glossary is a useful tool for a young audience. The closing page offers activity suggestions to expand children’s critical-thinking skills….Whether read aloud by an adult at home, shared by a teacher in the classroom, or selected as an independent reading choice, the title has vast appeal and will fascinate children and adults alike….Reviewer Rating: 5”

Youth Services Book Review

“Cute and cuddly dinosaurs drive a variety of vehicles, with each illustration loosely tied to an attribute of the extinct animal…The very attractive pen-and-ink drawings filled with digital color look like watercolor and the bold, irregular font changes color to match both the dinosaurs and the vehicles. I definitely liked the clean, spare, and stylish look of the book, with its boldly colored illustrations on mostly white pages. A short afterward shows pictures of the creatures and clarifies the attribute that led to their vehicle assignment. Also included: a list of interactive questions for adult readers to use with their children.”

Click here to read the full review

YA Books Central 

“Each page introduces a species of dinosaurs, such as velociraptor or brachiosaurus, and states what kind of car they would drive…I recommend this book to parents or teachers of young children in the age 3-8 range who enjoy dinosaurs and are beginning to explore repetitive beginner books with increasing independence. Overall rating 4.5″

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

“Scot Ritchie…has contributed his signature illustrations to bolster this…picture book written by first-time author Lynn Leitch. Spread by spread, one brightly-coloured dinosaur after another can be seen steering some kind of motor vehicle across the viewer’s horizon…The author has ended the book with a page directed at parents and care-givers with ideas for expanding on the use of the book through discussion and activities. Ritchie’s illustrations are definitely the star here. Dinos Driving would be an entertaining addition to picture book collections for young ones interested in both dinosaurs and things that go. Recommended

Click here to read the full review

Storytime with Stephanie

“I love the opportunity for critical and creative thinking involved in Dinos Driving…Lynn Leitch pairs a few different dinosaurs with their ideal vehicles…It’s a really cute story that dinosaur enthusiasts will love.

Throughout the book, readers have an opportunity to look at each dinosaur and their chosen preferred vehicle and make inferences as to why each dinosaur had chosen each particular vehicle. This allows readers to use their critical thinking skills and also provides the opportunity to extend the thinking to other dinosaurs not included in the book…There is also a handy parent’s guide at the end to help extend the story beyond the preschool years…Scot Ritchie’s illustrations are whimsical and fun. I love the movement on each page, signaling which dinosaurs like to go fast and which prefer a slower pace. Children will have a good laugh seeing how the different dinosaurs navigate driving their vehicles.”

Click here to read the full review

Kids Book Buzz

“I like that I can read the book by myself, and I like looking at the pictures on each page because they are bright and colorful. The book is silly because we know that most dinosaurs couldn’t even fit into cars, but fun to read about anyways! This story would be a good one for little kids to enjoy or people of any age who really like dinosaurs!

Reviewed By: Lydia – age 8”

Click here to read the full review

Storywraps

“Velociraptor, Iguanodon, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Bradchiourus ( and more )  all weigh in the kind of vehicle that they want to drive.  The illustrations animate the text and tickle kid’s imaginations.  The book is enriched with preschool- friendly facts and activities.  Eight dino-mite dinosaurs will take you on a ride of your life.  I love the whole exciting vibe of the book and I highly recommend it.”

Click here to read the full review

Book Time

“If your favourite dinosaur drives a vehicle, what kind would it drive? In this picture book, author Lynn Leitch answers just that question: Velociraptor drives a mini car, while Tyrannosaurus Rex drives a monster truck (really, what else would he drive?)….I love the illustrations by Scot Ritchie.”

Click here to read the full review

The International Educator

“[A] wild ride that will be especially exciting for little ones who like dinosaurs and cars….A fun book to share out loud.”

Click here to read the full review

Luminous Libro

5 out of 5 stars….This is such a fun book! It’s cool to imagine what the dinosaurs would drive based on their size and the characteristics we know about them. I like that the text is simple, but it really sparks your imagination!

The illustrations are adorable, and I loved the cute designs for each dinosaur character….Every page has something new and interesting!”

Click here to read the full review

Berani Reviews

Posted on June 1st, 2022 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

“A genuine and thoughtful realistic novel that focuses on protecting our animals and resources….this moving middle grade novel will keep kids interested. Readers will be putting the pieces of the plot together as they turn each compelling page. Kadarusman adeptly weaves factual information about orangutans and the rainforest into the fictional story….A recommended purchase for elementary or middle school libraries. A perfect choice to give to fans of The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, and an inspiring tale in support of environmental conservation.”

Click here to read the full review

Kirkus Reviews

“Inspired to help orangutans facing habitat destruction for palm oil agriculture, Malia disregards her teacher’s warning and circulates a petition through her private school in Surabaya, Indonesia.

The seventh grader garners peer support, but the petition falls afoul of the government’s pro–palm oil stance, resulting in both Malia’s and her teacher’s suspensions. Meanwhile, Ari has moved to the city to work in his uncle’s restaurant and attend middle school. Ari feels guilty for his good luck and even more guilty as he looks after Ginger Juice, the sad-eyed orangutan trapped in a too-small cage at the restaurant. Ari feels helpless until he learns about Malia’s petition, which offers information about rescuing captive orangutans. All the while, Ginger Juice dreams of the jungle and her lost mother. Told through alternating viewpoints, Malia’s and Ari’s chapters detail the corruption, inequities, and prejudices that are obstacles to activism as well as the differences between Ari’s village life and Malia’s privileges…the portrayal of Malia’s experiences as the biracial daughter of an Indonesian father who has passed away and a White mother from Toronto is nuanced and well integrated into the larger plot.

A stirring introduction to the plight faced by orangutans.”

Click here to read the full review

Booklist

“Seventh-graders Malia and Ari seem unlikely to cross paths. Malia has had a privileged upbringing at one of Indonesia’s best schools, and Ari is grateful to be attending a less prestigious academy in a neighboring town. But one subject binds them together: orangutans…When the kids’ lives finally overlap, a series of events change their lives—and Ginger Juice’s fate—in ways they never could’ve imagined. The expansive story, nimbly told from both human and orangutan viewpoints, gives glimpses into different class, race, and even species experiences while introducing readers to life in Indonesia and the plight of the orangutans. Ari and Malia are warm and well-intentioned guides, and it’s impossible to resist Ginger Juice’s gentle charms. A compelling call to action and a crucial reminder that, while doing what is right is not always easy, it is always worthwhile.”

CM Magazine

“Author Michelle Kadarusman deftly weaves several social justice messages through the narratives of her three protagonists while giving readers a glimpse into the standard of living for different families in Indonesia….At the end of the novel, Kadarusman includes notes to further educate her readers about orangutans and how they can be helped. Also included in the notes is a glossary that provides definitions for some of the Indonesian words found in the novel. The additional issues and storylines add richness to the narrative that brings Kadarusman’s story alive within its appropriate cultural and societal context.

I particularly appreciated how the author depicted the wide-ranging consequences of choices and activism. The author carefully suggests to readers some of the possible impacts Malia’s and Ari’s choices may have on their futures as well as on the lives of others….Kadarusman’s novel exudes the positive message that everyone can make a difference while also reminding readers that there are always consequences – good or bad – to the choices one makes and that many situations are not as black and white as we perceive….Highly Recommended

Click here to read the full review

The International Educator

“Berani by Michelle Kadarusman is a perfect book for international schools. This is a novel takes place in Indonesia and is told in 3 voices… Each one of them needs courage to stand up for their convictions and follow their hearts, despite the consequences this may have. A fantastic read that shows kids (and readers of all ages) to believe in their values and that they, too, can change the world.”

Click here to read the full review

Books + Publishing

Berani is a powerful middle-grade story about animal activism set in Indonesia, by the Indonesian-Australian author of Music for Tigers. Weaving in two interconnected stories and three voices, including that of a captive orangutan, Michelle Kadarusman creates a number of moral dilemmas for the book’s protagonists and shows them working together on an orangutan rescue…The story is exciting and engaging, with strong character development as Malia and Ari learn to take agency in their own lives, making some big decisions about the world they want to live in. Berani is ideal for animal lovers or readers interested in activism and would also be a good choice for book clubs. Highly recommended for readers aged nine to 12.”

Open Book 

“Governor General’s Literary Award-nominated children’s writer Michelle Kadarusman brings her passion for the great apes to the page in her moving new middle grade novel…A book about bravery and doing what’s right, standing up for the voiceless, and what we owe one another, Berani is a powerful, bittersweet, and engrossing story that can help blow the spark of environmentalism in young readers into a flame.”

Click here to read the full review

CBC Books

“[Michelle Kadarusman’s] novels have a compelling way of unraveling complex world issues for children and teens.

Her latest middle-grade novel, Berani, is no exception. The story is told in three voices: Malia, who is determined to risk whatever is necessary as a young environmental activist; Ari, who can tell what is right but fears what that path will cost him; and Ginger Juice, a caged orangutan whose former home was turned into a palm-oil plantation.

In Berani, Kadarusman draws on the plight of orangutans while offering up a narrative steeped in empathy and inspiration for youth.”

Click here to read the full review

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre

“From memorable, courageous characters to thought-provoking themes, Berani has it all. Set in Indonesia, the latest middle-grade novel by Governor General’s Literary Award finalist Michelle Kadarusman centres around an orangutan held in captivity and the converging efforts of two seemingly disparate seventh graders…Kadarusman expertly explores how doing the right thing isn’t always easy, and what is easy isn’t always right. Berani is a multilayered, nuanced novel with a strong message: “One person can make a difference.”

Click here to read the full review

Kathie MacIsaac

“This author was a Governor General’s Award finalist for her 2019 book, GIRL OF THE SOUTHERN SEA, and I will pick up anything she writes. Still, the stunning cover of BERANI designed by Peggy Collins will draw readers to this story told from three different points of view that focus on environmental activism in Indonesia…These three perspectives weave together into a moving and inspiring story about standing up for what you believe…Fans of THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN will especially want to add this book to their TBR shelf.”

Book Time

“Michelle Kadarusman’s latest middle grade book, Berani, was a great read…The book is told in three voices – Malia, who has had a privileged upbringing in Indonesia and uses her voice to share the plight of her country’s orangutan; Ari, who knows he is lucky to be working in his uncle’s shop so he can go to school and play on the chess club; and Ginger Juice, his uncle’s orangutan, which is being kept in a too-small cage and is growing more desolate by the day.

Each voice is unique, and each story is connected to the other…I look forward to reading it again.”

Click here to read the full review

Storytime with Stephanie

“Michelle Kadarusman always writes from the heart. The love she has for the places she writes about is evident throughout all her stories and none more than in Berani. I really appreciate how she takes readers on a journey, to the special places of her childhood and her heart but also grounds them to her current home in Canada. Readers have the opportunity to travel and learn about the wide world around them while still having the connection to home. In really enjoyed Berani’s three different voices, providing readers with three different perspectives of the lives of other living in Indonesia. Each voice was clear and it was easy to navigate the story, never forgetting who the story was centering at any given time because of each character’s clear voice.

I especially loved the discussions about Malia’s activism. There are always consequences of social activism. There is an incredible opportunity for discussion, through this story, about orangutans, habitat destruction, farming culture, livelihood and the world’s reliance on single industries. In Canada, we can link the discussions about habitat destruction and livelihood by comparing with the logging industry or the oil and gas industry.

If you enjoyed The One and Only Ivan, put Berani on your TBR list. I think you will love it even more.”

Click here to read the full review

Mrs. Book Dragon 

“What an awesome book! Multiple POVs (including an animal point of view), short chapters, student activism, and doing the right thing even when it’s the hardest thing…[Michelle Kadarusman] has such a talent for creating worlds…book was a treasure to read.”

Click here to read the full review

Jill’s Book Blog

“Rating: ★★★★★…This was a touching and emotional story…it’s important to read these types of stories because they reflect real world problems. Berani is a beautiful middle grade story.”

Click here to read the full review

@westmaplemedia

“Berani by [Michelle Kadarusman] captivates, inspires, and gives hope. This tale takes you to Indonesia through three perspectives interwoven with culture, environment, and character growth.”

Dr. Larry Recommends

“This fine novel, set in Indonesia is a story of activism and animal rights, choices and consequences…The three perspectives are woven together as readers enter the worlds of three conflicted, fearful  characters…the author builds readers’ compassion as they learn about the circumstances and choices of each character who bravely confront the odds of class, culture and climate change. This is a wonderful novel and my guess [is] it will be on several Canadian award lists in the year ahead.”

Click here to read the full review

 

If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It: How 25 inspiring individuals found their dream jobs Reviews

Posted on May 18th, 2022 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

“How does a person find a job that they enjoy doing? This inspiring book helps readers do just that. Nelson and MacIsaac profile 25 people of diverse backgrounds who love their jobs….This is a wonderful compilation sure to interest students….A solid choice for a library needing middle grade nonfiction about careers.”

Click here to read the full review

Kirkus Reviews

“When you do what you love, you never work a day in your life!

The professional lives of 25 diverse individuals are documented in this fascinating title that will spur readers to consider how their own passions may shape their futures…All individuals profiled express pride and fulfillment with their careers. Each entry spans a double-page spread with added bubbles of additional information, such as “Fun Facts,” “Spin-Off Jobs,” or a brief summary of a similar individual in a connected field. Photos of the subjects are included; Ritchie’s graceful illustrations of the individuals in action round out the book…the authors use measured vocabulary that does not assign a hierarchical value to any of these paths…Readers will delight in learning more about the range of professions available, and adults looking for a career change may be tempted to pick up the book as well.

Will inspire readers to find—and follow—their dreams.”

Click here to read the full review

School Library Journal, Fuse 8

“Colleen Nelson and Kathie [MacIsaac] … created a book where 25 people of a wide range of occupations explain precisely how they got those jobs in the first place. How cool is that? … It actually looks like something a kid would get a kick out of reading. This is so cool.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

“Some people know from a young age what it is they want to be when they grow up while others find their passion purely by accident. What the 25 individuals featured in If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It have in common is that, through hard work and overcoming obstacles, they have found success and fulfilment in meaningful professions…The book has many strengths. Firstly, the jobs featured cover a wide range of professions, many of them quite unusual…Secondly, the individuals hail from different parts of the globe and are representative of different races, genders, cultures, physical abilities and sexual orientation. Thirdly, women are often featured in non-traditional jobs. Finally, the text boxes not only add visual interest but also provide motivational stories and tips for readers…Illustrations consist of colour photographs of the 25 featured individuals and the youth who are up-and-comers in their fields and cartoon-like drawings, all of which are presented in an attractive, eye-catching layout.

Extremely engaging, the stories in If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It are not only inspiring but will, perhaps, spark some readers to explore unique professions and, above all, to follow their dreams. Highly Recommended

Click here to read the full review

Metroland Media

“Have you ever wondered how Theresa Tam became the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada? Or, how people make a career out of playing video games? You will find these answers and much more in If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It….Whether you want to learn about Martha the Smokejumper, Blake the NHL Scout or Ismail the Documentary Photographer, this book contains several common and less heard of jobs. Which career will entice you?”

Click here to read the full review

YA Books Central

“In this well-formatted collective biography, nicely illustrated with Scot Ritche’s full color, exuberant page decorations, we meet a variety of people who set out to pursue jobs from farming to teaching to writing books. There are common jobs that young readers may see in their every day lives, as well as more exotic occupations like stuntperson, clothing designers and mathematicians, as well as the holy grail of middle school careers, professional video game player! Each biography includes basic information about what encouraged the person to go into a particular field, “pro tips” on how to get into the field as well as tangential areas, “spin-off jobs” that are similar, and a short biography of a younger person who has already started the path to a similar career. I especially liked the “Why Not Try?” feature that might suggest a web site to visit, opportunities young people might avail themselves of, or activities to try to see if they have an interest in a topic. There are also fun facts and information about inspiring individuals and how they fought through challenges, like Dav Pilkey.

Click here to read the full review

Beth Rodgers, YA Books Central 

“[T]he perfect book for anyone who wants to be inspired and learn more about a host of different career opportunities. The book lays out each person’s story very nicely, not only telling each person’s individual background and career aspirations, but also tips for how to work toward that job on one’s own, and also “spin-off jobs” that use similar skills, but are not quite the same as what the main person does.

It’s nice how the book provides practical tips and thoughts to encourage readers to delve deeper and learn not only about the people whose stories are told in the book, but about others who had similar dreams to learn how they were encouraged as well to pursue their interests…Definitely a must read…Overall rating: 5.0″

Click here to read the full review

Storytime with Stephanie

“I love this book! Kathie MacIsaac and Colleen Nelson have created a dynamic resource that will appeal to middle grade readers right now as well as in the future as jobs and work evolve. There are many things to like about this book not the least being that they have sought out diverse people in diverse careers to inspire young readers today…The authors also sought out people who perhaps would not traditionally hold such jobs, especially women in male dominated fields and vice versa. There are many opportunities throughout this book for ALL readers to see themselves reflected through the biographies of those featured…I often find that books about inspiring people are very narrowly focused. I love that this book provides readers with a very broad understanding of just what kinds of jobs are out there and the different people who are successful in their fields…It can be a difficult thing, figuring out what you want to be when you grow up, but with incredible inspiration from those featured in the book and Kathie and Colleen’s excellent way of bringing their stories to life, this book can provide a little bit of guidance.”

Click here to read the full review

The International Educator

“[A]n inspiring, in-depth look at how specific people came to their profession….This book features 25 individuals with a wide variety of interesting jobs and what it takes to get there. Complete with variations and examples. A great resource for ‘career day’.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“The completeness of this collection will be a worthwhile reference for career counsellors and kids thinking about where their passions may lead them, but it’s also just a well-organized collective biography that informs and celebrates. From info boxes and a glossary, as well as a listing of types of skills needed as a foundation for those jobs, Colleen Nelson and Kathie MacIsaac cover all the bases in a comprehensive and captivating format…with Scot Ritchie’s playful cartoons reflecting the diversity and abundance of people and jobs showcased….With a little bit of everything and everyone, Colleen Nelson and Kathie MacIsaac, with Scot Ritchie’s illustrative additions, take us into the studios, schools, labs, and outdoors to meet the doers who endeavoured to find their dream jobs and now enrich our world in countless ways.”

Click here to read the full review

Marsha Skyrpuch (Goodreads)

“This book illuminates a pile of modern careers and professions in a way that’s diverse and accessible for young readers. Each job is described with just the right amount of detail, and then on the same page spread, there are bullets about related jobs, plus interesting anecdotes. This is all enhanced with photos and vibrant illustrations…Every reader will find themselves in this book.”

Click here to read the full review

Bit About Books

“If anything was going to get me out of this blogging funk, it was Kathie’s (and Colleen Nelson’s) upcoming release If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It.   I am so proud of Kathie and her debut book, and I know that many of you are just as excited and eager to read. You will NOT be disappointed.

If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It is not your every day “Here is what you can do when you grow up” book. Instead, the authors highlight more unfamiliar jobs such as a smokejumper, a video game player, and an NHL Scout. Yes, some jobs that people may consider typical such as a carpenter or a teacher, are in the book, but the authors have put their own spin on that by ensuring it is someone you may not first envision. As a reader, I appreciated the diversity and representation of all genders when reading about the imaginative and what I would say are “cool careers.”

Click here to read the full review

Ms. Yingling Reads

“In this well-formatted collective biography, nicely illustrated with Scot Ritche’s full color, exuberant page decorations, we meet a variety of people who set out to pursue jobs from farming to teaching to writing books….Each biography includes basic information about what encouraged the person to go into a particular field, “pro tips” on how to get into the field as well as tangential areas, “spin-off jobs” that are similar, and a short biography of a younger person who has already started the path to a similar career. I especially liked the “Why Not Try?” feature that might suggest a web site to visit, opportunities young people might avail themselves of, or activities to try to see if they have an interest in a topic….There is also additional information about the different paths of education that can be taken to end up in a career, so that readers can understand that college is not necessary for everyone….The overview of skill sets that are useful for most jobs should be something that all students are required to read….In addition to being a good book to have for career studies, this book can offer a lot of scope for the imagination and open up the world of career opportunities.”

Click here to read the full review

The U-nique Lou Fox Reviews

Posted on April 19th, 2022 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

“In Lou Fox, Carmichael has created a refreshing, believable, and fun-loving protagonist who will be a welcome addition to library shelves. Her navigation of stage fright, jealousy, friendship, and schoolwork is deftly written with believable examples. Despite Lou’s anxiety about school and home life and frequent pitfalls and fresh starts, the book flows at a cheerful, bouncing pace. The very short chapters, often between two and six pages, will build confidence for emerging readers. The font was selected with readers with dyslexia in mind, with emphasized words bolded and back matter sharing information and resources about dyslexia and ADHD…Prepare to fall in love with Lou Fox and her supportive cast of family, friends, and teachers. Recommended for fiction collections.”

Click here to read the full review

Kirkus Reviews

“Louisa Elizabeth Fitzhenry-O’Shaughnessy has 36 letters in her name—and she hates spelling. She’d rather go by Lou Fox, the dream name that she plans to use when she becomes a Broadway playwright. For now, though, she is stuck in class with Mrs. Snyder, someone who seemingly doesn’t like anything about Lou and can sense her daydreaming a mile away. Lou nicknames her teacher the Shadow Phantom, after the stealthy character in her dad’s comic books. Lou attempts to control her wandering mind but nevertheless ends up regularly visiting the principal’s office. But trouble with her friends over her behavior as director of the school play and stress at home since her mother became pregnant with twins mean her level of distraction grows. Still, she is supported by a humorous, devoted father full of love for Lou just as she is. The book’s text design and font were selected with accessibility for readers with dyslexia in mind, and the author shares her own struggles with ADHD in a note to readers.”

Click here to read the full review

Publishers Weekly

“Pulling from her own experience with ADHD, Carmichael (Family of Spies: Paris) deftly captures the imaginative protagonist’s internal struggle of conflicting emotions, including perfectionism and a desire to please. Designed using fonts made with consideration for dyslexic readers, this touching book with an arc toward self-acceptance demonstrates the importance of accommodation and classroom support.”

Click here to read the full review

School Library Journal, Fuse 8 

“It would seem to me that if one were writing a middle grade novel about a girl that’s dyslexic and has ADHD, it might make complete and utter sense if said book were written in a dyslexia friendly font. So often this is just simply not the case, and it’s nice to see Pajama Press making a bit of an effort here with this publication. In this story Louisa Elizabeth Fitzhenry-O’Shaughnessy wants to be a writer, but has to deal with things like a teacher who simply doesn’t understand what having ADHD actually means. Fortunately, Lou has a lot of good coping techniques and the book takes time and attention to display these.”

Click here to read the full review

Foreword Magazine

“The books also strikes an excellent balance between acknowledging the hardships that disabilities bring and making it clear that disabilities do not define people—they can even be strengths. Though Lou has trouble concentrating in school, her active mind means she can balance the intricacies of complex plots. Her struggles encourage others to learn more about dyslexia and ADHD. In the book’s sweet ending, Lou dedicates her play to someone who she’s come to understand is not so bad after all.

Both humorous and melancholy, The U-nique Lou Fox is a touching novel about a young playwright’s self-discovery and creative triumphs.”

Click here to read the full review

Portland Book Review

“Jodi Carmichael has written a solid middle-grade novel that gives a good picture of what kids with learning disabilities have to deal with and how hard it can be and how it can affect those around them…the writing is great and the story is compelling.”

Click here to read the full review

Children’s Literature–CLCD

“The storyline is adaptable to middle school and upper elementary. Themes include family relationships, friendships, learning disabilities and school. The author also has ADHD and addresses the day-to-day difficulties of living with a learning disability”

YA Books Central

“Appreciate those close to you. The author is able to evoke empathy for Louisa, as she becomes overwhelmed by the challenges faced every day. The plot isn’t overly complicated, but the feeling of normalcy helps to make the book approachable. This book became more than I expected, and I highly recommend you give it a shot.”

Click here to read the full review

The International Educator

The U-nique Lou Fox by Jodi Carmichael is a book about a girl named Louisa, who dreams of being the youngest Broadway playwright in history, as well as the youngest Cirque du Soleil gymnast. But for now, she’s in fifth grade, with two best friends (Lexie and Nakessa), ADHD and dyslexia, and a teacher, Mrs Snyder, who seems to hate her. Then Lou’s mom delivers some bombshell news: Lou is going to be a big sister—to twins! Will she ever get to spend time with her mom after the babies are born? This book is amazing. I could really feel what Lou was feeling.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

“Probably every family, and every teacher, knows a Louisa. ‘Louisa’ in our family (the name has been changed to protect the innocent) is every bit as fun and creative and caring as author Jodi Carmichael’s Louisa. And she struggles every bit as much as Louisa to focus and function in a school environment. Carmichael, who has ADHD herself, has created a totally believable character.

Our ‘Louisa’ loves to cook, and so it is a nice bonus that Carmichael has included a recipe at the back of the book for “Mom’s Tofu Chocolate Chip Cookies”. Carmichael also includes short descriptions and resources for more information on dyslexia and ADHD, as well as a message to her readers…I hope that every Louisa in every classroom gets an opportunity to read or listen to The U-nique Lou Fox. It will be wonderful for all Louisas to have their uniqueness recognized and affirmed. Highly Recommended”

Click here to read the full review

Storytime with Stephanie

“Everything about The U-nique Lou Fox is fantastic. Pajama Press Inc has ensured the book is accessible using a font and font size to make it dyslexia friendly. Jodi Carmichael writes from personal experience. As an adult with ADHD, her writing celebrates the wonderful things that come from having such a creative, empathetic and adventurous spirit…This story exudes kindness and generosity and is a must have for classrooms and school libraries. It’s time for more stories about neuro-atypical children.”

Click here to read the full review

Jill’s Book Blog

“Rating:★★★★★ … This is a fabulous children’s novel! Not only is it written about a main character with dyslexia, but it was printed with consideration for readers with dyslexia. The text was set in Helvetica and the headers are in OpenDyslexic, so they are easier to read for children with dyslexia…I appreciated this detail in the story.

There were also parts of this story that are universal…lessons that everyone can relate to.

The U-nique Lou Fox is a great middle grade story!”

Click here to read the full review

Finding Moose Reviews

Posted on April 6th, 2022 by pajamapress

Youth Services Book Review

“A little boy narrates a walk in the woods with his grandpa. They find fresh moose droppings and walk softly in hopes of seeing a moose in person. They hear the call of a chickadee and the hammering of a woodpecker, and see a chipmunk and a beaver, but no moose. Along the way, Grandpa tells the boy the Ojibwemowin words for the animals and plants they find. Finally, just as they get home: “Mooz!”

This is a sweet tale of exploring nature with a grandparent, enriched by the grandfather’s observations and Ojibwemowin words. The boy and his grandfather present as indigenous people, adding to a growing number of children’s books which feature native cultures from around North America. Endpapers have a pictorial glossary, with English, Ojibwemowin and pronunciations.”

Click here to read the full review

Midwest Book Review

“Providing an inherently fascinating glimpse into the wondrous world of nature through the eyes of a curious child, “Finding Moose” is a thoughtful and entertaining picture book that is especially recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-7.”

Click here to read the full review

Portland Book Review

“Sue Farrell Holler has written a sweet, quiet story of a grandfather introducing his grandson to the wonders of nature and teaching him the names of flora and fauna in both English and Ojibwemowin. Charming illustrations by Jennifer Faria are painted in gentle, soft colors, and they are filled with plenty of details to keep little eyes on the pages as the story is read to them. This is a lovely story that will become a favorite at reading time.”

Click here to read the full review

Children’s Literature

“[T]his joyful book reinforces the need to listen, see, and be present in the woods so that the wonders of nature can unfold. The power of loving inter-generational relationships rests at the core of this simple story. The ability to be moved by even the most everyday aspects of nature is a sign of mindful action…The end result is a touching story that addresses important lessons at a time when environmental change is such a pressing concern…Reviewer Rating: 4”

CM Magazine

“The illustrations are serene, detailed, and convey the crisp cold of the forest on this exploratory day. Faria utilizes textures and colour to bring the audience with the grandfather and his grandson as they go on their journey and to illuminate the movement of animals in the forest. Her illustrations also hold a surprise near the end.

Holler’s Finding Moose is an excellent addition to any bookshelf, especially for helping young learners learn a bit of the Ojibwemowin language. Lovers of nature, exploring, and spending time with dear loved ones will enjoy this story – it is a gem for all ages.

Highly Recommended

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Finding Moose is as contemplative and instructive as Sue Farrell Holler and Jennifer Faria’s earlier picture book. Sue Farrell Holler gives Grandpa the wisdom of age and experience and the boy that of fascination and connection. Together they experience nature fully but perhaps in different ways. A walk in the woods becomes a sensory adventure without the drama and high-octane action that can be tiresome and ephemeral. Instead, the two walk and look. They are one with each other and the world. That patience and calm is carried with Jennifer Faria’s illustrations. Her acrylic paintings are often reflective of a Woodland Art style (see the flowers in the illustration above), emphasizing line and shape and keeping the story grounded in tranquility and reality. Even her choice of colour expresses that oneness with nature, playing the browns and blues with occasional flashes of red or a shamrock green.”

Click here to read the full review

Simcoe.com

“I like children’s books that are both educational and show how wonderful nature is, so I was delighted with Finding Moose written by Sue Farrell Holler and beautifully illustrated by Jennifer Faria.

The story sees a young boy and his grandfather quietly go for a spring walk in the woods where they come across some moose poop on the trail. They look for the moose and find where he ate some branches for breakfast…Children will enjoy this simple story that introduces them to some of their forest neighbours whose names are in both English and Ojibwemowin. Highly recommended.”

Click here to read the full review

YA Books Central 

“The observations about nature that the grandfather teaches the little boy to make could be a great springboard to neighborhood walks…it’s always good to help children connect to nature. [Finding Moose] fills a niche for much needed books about the natural world for children…”

Click here to read the full review

Ballewiena Reviews

Posted on March 31st, 2022 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

“For a dachshund with dancing feet, “sit” and “stay” are just so passé.

Possessed with the soul, if not the body, of a ballet dancer, Dotty would much rather pirouette and glissade down the sidewalk than heel like her polite poodle sisters Jazzebelle and Miffy—and so when her severe trainer Ms. Austere sends her to obedience school, she runs off in tears: “All I want to do is dance.” Despair is transformed to delight, however, after she meets Louis-Pierre, an acrobatic park squirrel whose offer to teach her a thing or two about training and discipline leaves her well prepared to walk onstage at the canine Golden Bow Talent Show and wow the crowd with her grand jeté and pas de chat.”

Click here to read the full review

Publishers Weekly

“Dotty meets a Balanchine-like squirrel, Louis-Pierre, who encourages her passion while demanding rigorous practice: “Look how much discipline you’ve gained, Pitou! The more focus you have, the better you dance.” This insistence on diligence and commitment propels Dotty to a triumphant performance at the dog talent show, which shows Ms. Austere the error of her ways, and infuses freshness into a familiar-feeling beat-of-one’s-own-drum story (Dotty even realizes why Ms. Austere’s other dogs practice unceasingly). The gouache, watercolor, pencil, ink, and digital illustrations brim with joie de vivre as the wiry pooch spins, leaps, and pursues her dream—readers may find themselves becoming budding balletomanes as the story unfolds.”

Click here to read the full review

Booklist

For readers who don’t speak French, the phonetic pronunciations of terms for basic ballet moves are readily available on the endpapers, along with drawings of tutu-clad dachshunds performing each action. The story is well paced, and the lively pictures, created with gouache, watercolor, ink, pencil, and digital elements, portray Dotty as a determined ballerina, performing impressive feats while balanced on her tiny yet strong back legs. A picture-book romp for children who dream of ballet.”

Click here to read the full review

Foreword Review

“In this inspiring tale, a dance-dazzled dachshund, Dotty, cannot resist mimicking the ballet moves she loves—even when her person, Ms. Austere, issues other commands; even when she’s out on walks among other, baffled dogs. Rendered in grayscale against Dotty’s colorful world, frustrated Ms. Austere boots Dotty off to obedience courses with similarly colorless rules.”

Click here to read the full review

Seattle Book Review

“What is cuter than a small dog and a ballerina? How about a dancing dachshund? Ballewiena is the story of Dotty, who dreams of being a ballet dancer, but that is not something that dogs normally do. Will her owner see Dotty’s talent?

The text is great for both the younger and older child. Thank you so much to the publisher for including the pronunciation guide in the endpapers. Adults, look at them first if ballet terms are not your “forte.” I missed them initially. I loved the potential for expanding children’s and adults’ knowledge of real ballet terms with a sweet story…it’s a great way to introduce ballet or dancing to a child who might have never thought they could do those things.

Star Count 5/5”

Click here to read the full review

Youth Services Book Review

“What did you like about the book?  A little dachshund dreams of being a ballerina, even though her owner fails to recognize her talent. Ms. Austere doesn’t appreciate Dotty’s dancing; she’s focused on training her toy poodles Jazzebelle and Miffy for their act in the Golden Bow Talent Show. Dotty’s a washout at obedience school and flees class in tears. In the park, she meets a squirrel named Louis-Pierre, who’s specialty seems to be parkour. In a Karate Kid-style sequence, he builds Dotty’s endurance so that she can shine at the Golden Bow. Ms. Austere eventually sees the little weiner dog’s true talent and signs her up for ballet classes. The delicate and detailed gouache pictures are cute and the message of following your dreams is perennially popular.”

Click here to read the full review

Children’s Literature

“This is a delightful, joyful, inspiring, and vibrant book….With beautiful, colorful, and cheerful illustrations, Bender has created a charming story sure to be relatable for everyone who has ever struggled in fulfilling their dreams. This book inspires confidence, self-love and determination. The reader will walk away feeling that even when the road to fulfilling goals can be challenging, all is possible with perseverance, discipline, training, and the support of a friend. For anyone who is new to the ballet world, the inside front and back covers provide a lovely, illustrated dictionary of ballet terms found in this book.”

CM Magazine

“Author and illustrator Rebecca Bender’s charming and engaging picture book, Ballewiena, anthropomorphizes a dachshund who struggles to be accepted by her owner and peers….Young readers will be drawn to the colourful illustrations, highlighting a dog’s perspective….This familiar story about acceptance is ideal for young readers ages 4-7 as it consists of a slightly longer narrative, with appropriate vocabulary touching on such themes as resilience, discipline, the power of friendship, and accepting differences.

Recommended

Click here to read the full review

YA Books Central

“BALLEWIENA is an adorable ballet story all about chasing after your dreams. Dotty knows dancing is in her blood and continues to do it unconsciously. It’s not that she’s trying to be rude. She just truly can’t stop herself from dancing. I like how she doesn’t allow others to push her down and suppress her talent. Even though it hurts her feelings and she gets upset about not fitting in the school, she stays true to herself and her heart. The illustrations are cutesy with soft colors and any dancer will enjoy the frequent use of ballet terms. A dog as the main character adds to the entertainment for children.

Final Verdict: Overall, BALLEWIENA holds a powerful message for young aspiring dancers and I would recommend it to fans of ballet. It’s also a cute story for children to enjoy and learn to follow their hearts.”

Click here to read the full review

Winnipeg Free Press

“Not everyone is born to follow the rules. That’s the underlying message in Ontario writer and illustrator Rebecca Bender’s picture book Ballewiena…Bender’s watercolour and gouache illustrations are comical and colourful. This book will bring smiles and attempts to replicate moves from young ballet enthusiasts.”

Click here to read the full review

Book Time

“One day, Dotty met a peculiar squirrel named Louise-Pierre, a performer in acrobatics, who invites Dotty to join him in his daily workouts. Dotty does so, practising even when she wants to give up until the day of the talent show arrives. Despite being kept on a short leash, will she be able to show people her talent? Ballewiena by Rebecca Bender and Pajama Press…is another cute book the importance of going after your dreams and to remember to just dance.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Let’s get some joy in our lives. Dance, dogs, and fulfillment will do just the trick with Rebecca Bender’s Ballewiena…Dotty may be a dog but she could be any child who feels her dream is being stifled and who wants to express herself through dance…Yes, Ballewiena is about ballet, and would make a great gift for any child who enjoys dance classes, but it has important messages about following your aspirations and being true to yourself while ensuring that you put the work in so it becomes a goal and not a pipe-dream.

Rebecca Bender’s illustrations, created with gouache, watercolour, pen and ink, as well as digital media, carry those messages through worlds of colour, shape and attitude. Her assortment of canine and other characters conveys a depth of personality beyond the dance…Whether you’re a dancer, an appreciative fan or neither, Ballewiena reminds us to follow our passions and dance fully in our lives.”

Click here to read the full review

The International Educator

“Ballewiena by Rebecca Bender is a funny picture book to share with those kids who can’t sit still and who want others to discover their hidden talents!”

Click here to read the full review

Luminous Libro

“5 out of 5 stars…This is such a cute story! I loved the pretty art style, and all the sweet characters! The story uses all the popular French ballet terms, and there are pronunciation guides on the end papers.

Dotty is adorable, and I really liked that she had to work hard to accomplish her goals….Such a great message for kids to help them see that really great accomplishments require effort and consistent practice.”

Click here to read the full review

Karla Fasso (Instagram)

“This is a delightful, joyful, inspiring, and vibrant book…With beautiful, colorful, and cheerful illustrations Bender has created a charming story that everyone who has ever struggled in fulfilling their dreams can relate to. This book inspires confidence, self love and determination. The reader will walk away feeling that even when the road to fulfilling goals can be challenging, all is possible with the support of a friend, perseverance, discipline and training.”

Click here to read the full review

Harvey Takes the Lead Reviews

Posted on March 31st, 2022 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

“Harvey’s delightful antics wonderfully complement the good hearts of Maggie and Austin…This feel-good story told from multiple points of view, including Harvey’s, keeps readers engaged and interested…A wonderful addition to libraries where Harvey’s previous adventures, or dog stories in general, are popular.”

Click here to read the full review

Kirkus Reviews

“In the third series entry, Harvey, the West Highland white terrier; his young owner, Maggie; and her friend Austin confront drama and heartbreak.

Seventh grade pals Maggie and Austin, who volunteer at the Brayside Retirement Villa, meet Ms. Appleby, the facility’s strict new assistant director. She imposes draconian rules governing, among other things, visits by dogs. Additionally, Maggie’s dismayed she was overlooked for the lead in the school’s production of Annie, the role she coveted; she’s become the understudy instead. Besides that, Austin’s unemployed mom can’t afford his upcoming school trip. Brayside resident Mr. Kowalski faces the toughest struggle: His seriously ill wife has been hospitalized. Over time, he achieves emotional catharsis by recounting to sympathetic Austin some of his and Mrs. Kowalski’s World War II experiences. Meanwhile, Maggie puts her role in the play into perspective and befriends and supports the talented lead. In brief chapters this warm novel delivers well-realized characters and underscores connections that bind: those between animals and humans and those that unite generations.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

“Austin is embarrassed by his family’s lack of funds to enable him to attend the school trip, but he continues to channel his energies in a positive direction, particularly through his volunteering at the retirement home. Mr. Kowalski is sad that his wife of sixty years is very ill in the hospital, but Austin helps him to remember the pleasant memories and music of their earlier years. And Harvey continues to do what he does best: comforting the retirement home residents and searching for the source of the scent that he knows means mice. For the most part, the story strands move on separate tracks (chapters are narrated by Maggie, Austin, and Harvey) until the end when they are woven together in a satisfying conclusion. A welcome treat for Harvey fans and dog lovers everywhere. Highly Recommended”

Click here to read the full review

CTV Your Morning

“Harvey Takes the Lead…is the third book in a contemporary series about two middle school students, a retirement community, and the dogs that bring them all together. Author Colleen Nelson weaves relatable issues like friendship drama and economic disparities with the historical stories of the residents at the retirement centre.”

Click here to read the full review

YA Books Central

“Kindness will be rewarded. The early parts of the book share a simple tale of two kids volunteering at a retirement village, but the plot slowly evolves into an emotional journey of hope, caring, and friendship. The story unites generations in a sensitive way, and I recommend you give it a shot.”

Click here to read the full review

Children’s Literature–CLCD

“Fans of the lovable and charming Harvey (a West Highland terrier) will be thrilled with his return. Maggie (Harvey’s owner) along Austin and the residents of Brayside Retirement Villa are back with new dilemmas. There’s a new assistant director at Brayside. She begins to enforce and dictate several rules; one regulation severely limits Harvey’s visits to everyone’s dismay. The Brayside residents along with the staff are extremely disappointed with the changes instigated by the assistant director in the guise of running a tight ship.”

Book Time

“The story is fast moving and the characters are strong. I am impressed by Maggie and Austin’s mature choices and I loved getting to learn about Mr. Kowalski’s life during the Secord World War. While you do not need to read Books 1 and 2 to understand what is going in Harvey Takes the Lead, I am going to suggest you may want to: the characters are great and I think the former books will provide more details about the crews’ backstories.”

Click here to read the full review

Storytime with Stephanie

“Colleen Nelson pours so much heart onto the pages of her Harvey stories and none more than in Harvey Takes the Lead. At a time when many seniors living facilities have been locked down and seniors have been allowed very few visitors, it’s a bright light to remind grandchildren about the importance of connections with grandparents and elders. There is tremendous love and respect not just for seniors but those who care for them as well and I love seeing how important the Brayside community is to Maggie and Austin.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Harvey Takes the Lead…is a good fit for readers in grades 3-6, but can certainly be enjoyed by people of all ages. It’s a heartwarming story about balancing school, family and friends, and giving second chances. The short chapters alternate between perspectives of Maggie, Austin, and Harvey, giving you a look at each of their unique  experiences. Every single character has a vibrant personality and backstory, including Harvey and Bertie, the beloved canines!

Out of 10, I would give Harvey Takes the Lead a 9.”

Click here to read the full review

Jill’s Book Blog

“The issues at the retirement home were an important part of this story. The new assistant director thought she was doing the right thing by restricting Harvey’s visits and banning activities for the residents. However, these were things that they looked forward to, so it actually hurt their quality of life. I saw first hand at my grandmother’s nursing home how music and dogs can brighten up the residents. There were even non-verbal residents who would speak when they saw dogs or heard certain songs. I’m glad this was part of a children’s book, so they can learn about life in a retirement home.

Harvey Takes the Lead is another wonderful Harvey story!”

Click here to read the full review

MaryLou Driedger

“Although there are many things I like about middle grade author Colleen Nelson’s series of Harvey books I particularly enjoy their references to historical events. Harvey is a West Highland Terrier and he and the young people in his life Maggie and Austin are regular visitors at a retirement home where the residents’ stories bring the past alive…There are many interesting plot lines in Colleen Nelson’s Harvey Takes the Lead and readers will enjoy following them all…”

Click here to read the full review

Dr. Larry Recommends

“Harvey, the loveable West Highland Terrier returns in the third book…by award-winning author, Colleen Nelson…Harvey Takes The Lead is an engaging story with adventure, warmth and personal connections.”

Click here to read the full review