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Room for More Reviews

Posted on March 31st, 2022 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

“Over the objections of Scratch, the more timorous of the two, Dig invites first a fleeing wallaby and her joey, then a koala with burned paws, and, scariest of all, a venomous tiger snake into the increasingly crowded burrow to escape the flames and smoke above. The wombats’ kindness is rewarded when the rains that come to douse the fire threaten to flood the burrow and the grateful visitors pitch in to build a barricade. “Aren’t we clever,” says Scratch afterward, “to have invited the neighbors into our home?” “Yes,” agrees Dig, viewing things from a more perceptive angle. “We are very lucky.”

Click here to read the full review

Youth Services Book Review

“Rating: 4There’s a lot to think about in this picture book…readers will be able to make connections to real circumstances they may have seen in the news, with wildfires raging in Australia and the American west. Readers from outside Australia will learn some specific vocabulary:  wombat, kangaroo, koala, wallaby, marsupial, venomous, and more, all of which are described in detail in the author’s note at the back of the book…This story could be part of a classroom study of Australia, climate change, drought, or cooperation.”

Click here to read the full review

YA Books Central

“What I loved: This is a sweet story about helping others and sharing what you have. The detailed and sweeping illustrations really bring the story to life. Backmatter talking about Australia and the animals shown in the story add to the educational context. The messaging around welcoming refugees is subtle but also important, as Dig and Scratch make sure other animals are saved from the natural disasters around them only to face later troubles themselves and have others help them as well.

Final verdict: With adorable characters, important themes, and lovely illustrations, this is a cute picture book that children will enjoy. Due to text length and context, recommend for elementary school aged readers.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

“The animals learn a lesson about putting worries aside (especially Scratch), and they are all able to begin their lives anew.

We’ve seen many examples of kindness, sharing and togetherness in climate disasters all over the world. Wouldn’t it have been nice if we’d all used that approach to our neighbours consistently during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Montreal artist Maggie Zeng has drawn anthropomorphic representations of the animals to match Kadarusman’s sympathetic characters. The wombats are chubby and vulnerable-looking; even the snake has expressions on its face. Zeng uses the earth-tone browns, golds and soft mauves as well as also the reds and oranges to indicate the dangerous fires raging above the burrow. The outlines of the animals are soft, indicating their rough, undefined furry coats.

Room for More can supplement a unit about inclusiveness and friendship and is a good read-aloud. Recommended”

Click here to read the full review

Children’s Literature-CLCD

This charming story connects young readers both with real-life creatures and events found in Australia and with the universal concept of neighborliness. Digitally rendered illustrations invite readers to the Australian bush, where wombats, koalas, wallabies, and tiger snakes all reside… At the book’s conclusion, readers find both an author’s note and a glossary that provide more detailed information about the inspiration for the story and the real-life characters and events featured within it. This is an educational and uplifting story about how friendship and open mindedness can unite a community of otherwise disparate creatures, and it is a unique addition to library collections for young readers… Reviewer Rating: 4.”

Simcoe.com

“When heavy rains come the visitors leave the underground burrow, but not before building a barrier at the burrow entrance so the wombats’ home doesn’t flood. Room for More is a nice picture book about kindness and helping others and it introduces young (and old) readers to some of the fascinating animals who live in Australia.

The author, Michelle Kadarusman, was inspired to write this book by stories of animals who found shelter in wombat burrows when Australia experienced devastating fires. At the back of the book there is an “Author’s Note” along with a glossary providing information on: wombats, wallabies, koalas, tiger snakes, bushfires, floods, climate change and environmental disasters, Australian Indigenous land practices.”

Click here to read the full review

Storytime with Stephanie

Michelle Kadarusman sets her stories in the places where she grew up and places that are close to her heart. Growing up in Australia, she knows lots about the unique species that make the island their home. Inspired by stories of animals taking shelter in wombat burrows during the devastating wildfires in 2019-2020, Room for More acknowledges the devastation in a child friendly way and also encourages readers to remember to extend a hand of kindness when you see another in trouble.

I LOVED that this book included information about the animals featured at the end as well as a glossary of important terms and other information about bushfires, climate change and Australian Indigenous environmental practices. She even included a lovely author’s note.

Maggie Zeng’s illustrations are ADORABLE! Dig and Scratch are so cuddly and cute and readers will just want to bring them all home with them. I love the choice to give the illustrations during the fire a yellow/orange glow to them, emphasizing the heat and the danger. Then, when the rains come, the illustrations cool with blue and purple undertones. Readers will be drawn to the big faces and the endearing animals.”

Click here to read the full review

Book Time

“What a cute story by Michelle Kadarusman and illustrated by Maggie Zeng. In her dedication, Kadarusman thanks those “who open their hearts, homes, and borders to those in need,” which is a pretty powerful statement.

In her author’s note, Kadarusman, who grew up in Australia, said after the 2019-2020 bushfires, reports surfaced about animals finding refugee in wombat burrows. While she acknowledges it’s unlikely the wombats invited their fellow animals in, she said she would “like to think of this as a wombat bush community service.”

The book is super cute – both the story and the illustrations – and I love how, in the end, Scratch feels good about helping others in needs.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“With fire season upon us, Room for More reminds us of the fragility of habitats and the vulnerability of animals to destruction too often wrought by humans, whether by carelessness or climate change…Though the consequences of bushfires are often devastating, Michelle Kadarusman has emphasized a gentler story, that of animals surviving and by unusual means…That gentle touch to what is a heartbreaking and devastating circumstance is emulated in artist Maggie Zeng’s digital illustrations…In her colours and shapes, Maggie Zeng offers generosity and compassion.

I know teachers will love to share this story with their students whether for STEM lessons regarding habitat, characteristics of living things, different world biomes or climate change or for character education centered on empathy and goodwill but at its heart it is a sweet story that goes beyond teaching by captivating readers and transporting them to other worlds. It would seem there’s always room for another fabulous picture book on the youngCanLit shelves.”

Click here to read the full review

Mrs. Book Dragon

“Michelle Kadarusman is one of my favorite authors-her words are so beautiful and the way she develops a story and the setting is great. I am so glad she has a picture book to share with the world. She has such a passion for helping wildlife and I love it. This book has WOMBATS who are helping other animals find safety in a bushfire.”

Click here to read the full review

Rainy Days Reviews

Posted on March 3rd, 2022 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

“Rain, rain, don’t go away!

Anyone seeking a refreshing spin on rainy-day books will find it here. This delightful picture book is awash in treats for readers’/listeners’ ears and eyes, with bouncy, lively, rhythmic verses that make clever use of assonance and consonance, featuring, as examples of the latter, many apt, satisfying S sounds, so readers/listeners can “hear” soft, shushing sounds of raindrops pattering on various surfaces. The artwork suits the book’s message, with pages splashed with lovely, lively, textured illustrations created with paper collage, textiles, and embroidery silk. In addition, this charmer will help develop vocabulary, as rain is described in different ways, e.g., drizzling, freezing, drumming, misty, and sprinkling. The book also points out how rain affects nature—by forming puddles, mud, and streams; arousing snails and worms; watering trees and flowers; and “paint[ing] a work of art” in the sky. Grown-ups sharing this book with children will do well to encourage them to suggest other descriptive terms for rain and the natural changes it can bring about….Rainy days bring all sorts of pleasures; reading this book is just one of them. (Picture book. 3-6)”

Click here to read the full review

School Library Journal, Fuse 8

“I cannot resist a clever bit of paper cutting, no matter how hard I want to… This is one of those titles that have the poofy covers and then the thinner but incredibly difficult to rip or tear plasticy pages. You’ll appreciate their hearty quality since this book is bound to be a favorite each time a rainy day comes along. And, as a parent myself who indulged the outdoorsy whims of my own tots long ago, I appreciate lines like, “Freezing rain; we complain,” which shows a kid and dog INSIDE on a sleety nasty day. May it save many a fine parent from feeling obligated to tromp through that muck. Layered paper illustrations by Sato expertly provide the color you needs in a book with such gray skies.”

Click here to read the full review

Youth Services Book Review

“Simple rhymes take children through a rainy day. Starting with the rain and how that can sadden kids, to finding the joy in things that kids can still (or only) do in the rain. Taking something that might make them sad and giving them ideas to have fun is always a good lesson for all of us, kids and parents. The illustrations are neat and clear, with details that enhance without distracting the reader.”

Click here to read the full review

YA Books Central

“What Worked: Preschool children need time to explore their environment in all different weather and seasons to gain an understanding of their world and their place inside of it. This book helps young children do that by showing kids having a blast playing in the rain with all sorts of ways to explore. Some children stomped in puddles, made a mud painting, picked up worms. If the weather had lightning and thunder then they stayed cozy in their house.

Final Verdict: As an adult, it is often easy to think of the inconveniences of rainy weather even if it is essential to life on our planet. This book highlights the joy that can be found on a nice rainy day.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

The clever rhymes in Rainy Days really make for an entertaining way to teach children rhyme and rhythm. Being that the many forms of rain are something that, especially in Canada, we see in our day-to-day lives, children will be able to engage with the story because it is relatable and compelling.”

Click here to read the full review

CTV Your Morning

“This is a padded book, so it is perfect for younger kids. It is just a lovely story about the things that you do on a rainy day, from putting on your boots to looking for snails. It is lovely rhyming couplets, which is really nice for young children.”

Click here to see the full review

Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“Poetry is very important for little ones. They respond to the rhythm of the words, and begin to understand that many words sound the same. Rhyme is a very important part of the reading process. Children who know how to rhyme have a better chance of success at school.

This is the fourth in a series of padded hardcover books for our youngest readers. It follows Windy Days, Sunny Days and Snow Days. What a way to get started on a library for a new baby or a favorite toddler. Each of the books captures the magic found in nature and its many blessings.”

Click here to read the full review

The International Educator

“[A] rhyming, rhythmic romp through puddles. Fun to chant out loud, for a movement activity and for a look at how the world changes with rain. With cheerful, colourful art this board book follows Windy and Snowy Days in a series for the very youngest readers.”

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Luminous Libro

“5 out of 5 stars…The mixed-media art style is absolutely phenomenal. The bright colors are attractive, and every page is so beautiful! I love that you can see the different layers in the artwork. You can almost feel the texture of the tissue paper, cardboard, and fabric on the page…I am literally in awe of this gorgeous art!

The text is simple, but enchanting…The text flows along naturally, and is a delight to read out loud!

This is not a board book, but the pages and the cover are very sturdy and thick, just right for little hands. This charming book will remind both adults and children that there is joy to be found in simple happy things… like a rainy day.”

Click here to read the full review

Charlotte Offsay (@COffsay)

“This sweet book is a celebration of rainy weather and all its possibilities for play…it captures the playful magic of a rainy day through the eyes of a child.”

Click here to read the full review

Becca’s Book Box

“This book is just perfect for a day like today…delicate, sweet words, and amazing illustrations bring rainy days to life in a joyful way. We especially loved how the illustrations [are] crafted. They jump off the page…Great board book for little ones!”

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Jazmin (Instagram)

“With colorful mixed-media collage art and fun rhymes, young children discover all the exciting activities that the rain provides. The thick pages are great for withstanding toddler life and there are a few ideas for experimenting in the rain as well.”

Click here to read the full review

Whistling for Angela Reviews

Posted on February 23rd, 2022 by pajamapress

 

“Whistling For Angela, is a purely wonderful adoption story by Robin Heald who was adopted, and who with her own husband, years later, became the adoptive parents of two children. The love passes down the generations of adoptees, and shines in this lyrical book.”
—Jane Yolen, author of Owl Moon the How Do Dinosaur picture books

School Library Journal

“A little boy prepares to meet his newly adopted baby sister Angela by learning how to whistle for her. Daniel loves songbirds, but has been struggling to learn how to whistle. When he arrives at the adoption center with his family, his new sister’s birth mom shows him just what to do. This sweet, informative story sheds light on a particular kind of adoption experience.”

Youth Services Book Review

“This sweet look at the constructive and loving relationship between parties in an ‘adoption triangle’ may not be the norm, as is mentioned in an author’s note at the end, but it helps to explain ‘why’ and ‘how’ to an expectant sibling. I think it’s an important story to be told, and it echoes the author’s experience when adopting her own daughter.”

Click here to read the full review

San Francisco Book Review

“There are many different kinds of adoptions these days, and open adoptions are becoming more popular. Robin Heald has written a charming story with a hook that will pull young readers through as they learn about adoption in general and open adoptions in this case. The bright and warm illustrations by Peggy Collins are the perfect complement to this story. This is a great introduction for youngsters to open adoption and the making of a new family.”

Click here to read the full review

The International Educator

“Whistling for Angela by Robin Heald, illustrated by Peggy Collins, is a beautifully executed picture book that will work on many levels. Mostly it is the story of a new big brother preparing a special gift for his new baby sister.  It is the happy story of a family adopting a baby. And it is the important but sad story of a birth mother finding a loving home for her baby.”

Click here to read the full review

YA Books Central 

“As open adoptions become more and more the standard practice, picture books about the process need to be updated…There are open lines of communication now, and Daniel’s family is very careful about giving him all of the information he needs to understand how his new sister is coming into their family. The theme of birds that runs through the books ties things together nicely.

Each adoption situation is different, so it’s a good idea to take a look at picture books that address the topic…Add Whistling for Angela to your list of books about adoption that may also include Katz’ Over the Moon, McCutcheon’s Happy Adoption Day, and Krishnaswami’s Bringing Asha Home…Overall rating 4.5″

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CM Magazine

“As she describes in her “Author’s Note”, Heald has used her own experiences with adoption to help convey those emotions to readers. There is anxiety and sadness for everyone involved, but also happiness, love, and a potential for new bonds. Heald offers an opportunity for connection and representation for readers, whether a child has been adopted themselves, or a parent has adopted or had to give their own child up for adoption. Whistling for Angela is a perfect story to share with families and in the classroom.”

Click here to read the full review

Children’s Literature 

“This tender picture presents a unique perspective inspired by true events in the author’s life. Bright, large, expressive illustrations keep the story from being too intense. Daniel’s story may appear more positive than some adoption stories but its positive tone may inspire conversations with early elementary students about family and adoption.

Reviewer Rating: 4”

Metroland Media

“Daniel is a young boy whose family is about to adopt a baby – Angela. Daniel wants to learn to whistle as a present to her…Angela’s birth mother, Jessie, shows him how! … Whistling for Angela is a nice picture book for children that was inspired by a true story. An Author’s Note is included at the end of the story about the author’s adoption experiences.”

Click here to read the full review

Little Bookworm Club

“When they arrive at the adoption center they meet Angela & her birth mother Jessie. Jessie loves birds too! She even has 3 parakeets, teaches Daniel to whistle, & leaves a letter and a pair of parakeet feather earrings as a gift for Angela someday. When they say goodbye Daniel can see how sad Jessie is & wants to help her feel better. He rushes after her and gives her a feather of his own and a promise that Angela will always be cared for and loved. This is such a sweet story inspired by events the author experienced. It examines both sides of the adoption process, the joy of growing a family and the heartache experienced when these mothers make one of the hardest decisions of their lives. This is a truly touching and necessary story.”

 Imagination Soup

A tender, heartwarming beautiful story of love and adoption. Daniel hopes to learn to whistle by the time he meets his new little sister. But, when he meets her, he still can’t whistle. That’s when, in a heart-strings-tugging moment, the baby’s birth mom named Jessie teaches Daniel how to whistle.”

Click here to read the full review

Storytime with Stephanie

“Peggy Collins’ illustrations bring to life Daniel’s family story about welcoming Angela into the flock. Written by Robin Heald, Whistling for Angela is a lovely story about adoption.

Peggy Collin’s illustrations are bold and beautiful. She includes many bold close ups of the characters inviting readers to share in the joy and the sadness of the adoption process. The eyes are so full of emotion, adding an unspoken layer to the story and making it standout against all of the other books on the shelves.”

Click here to read the full review

Mrs. Book Dragon

“5 of 5 stars…A beautiful adoption story showing an experience of a young boy meeting his new sister…I loved every part of this book. The author’s note said “What counts most is love” and I thought that was perfect.”

Clicl here to read the full review

@raisingreaderstobecomeleaders

“This is an absolutely beautiful story about welcoming a new baby through adoption. It shows how difficult the decision was for the birth mother and how truly loved the new baby is by everyone involved. It explains the process of adoption, what a birth mother is and the ending shows the connection, love and support Daniel’s family and Jessie have for each other…In her author’s note [Robin Heald] shares the inspiration for the story, which came directly from her own experiences with adoption. She also explores the increasingly common practice of building connections between all three sides of the adoption triangle: the child, the birth family, and the adoptive family.”

Click here to read the full review

 

 

Sun in My Tummy Reviews

Posted on December 16th, 2021 by pajamapress

 

 

School Library Journal★ Starred Review

“Mixed-media artwork creates striking color variation and subtle dimension, lifting the illustrations right off the page and resulting in a natural flow throughout the story. Blinick’s deliberate use of line moves the eye across the page in perfect accompaniment to the narrative, highlighting the story’s theme of interconnection. The main character and her mother both have brown skin and straight black hair. VERDICT This book is as essential as sunshine; the absolutely beautiful STEM story is as absorbing as photosynthesis itself.”

Click here to read the full review

Quill & Quire★ Starred Review

“A breakfast table conversation between a girl and her mother encompasses big concepts like energy, plant life cycles, and photosynthesis in a child-friendly manner. Toronto author Laura Alary’s poetic rumination about how the sun nourishes us all offers food for thought. The sunny and bright mixed-media illustrations from Andrea Blinick are inviting. –LL”

Find this review in the Jan/Feb 2022 edition

Booklist

“Bright, page-filling illustrations with whimsical details (a cow in an inner tube floats in a cereal bowl) align with the text and offer visual reinforcement. The text does include some technical details but always in a naive, impressed way that supports the overall magical tone. Perfect for reading out loud, this engaging tale could be used as an introduction to elementary science units and also to encourage young readers to find the magic in everyday things.”

Find this review in the March 2022 edition

Youth Services Book Review

“What did you like about the book? The unnamed main character wakes up excited to get some sun in their tummy. At first I was expecting a storyline similar to “there was an old lady who swallowed a fly”; instead, the book has a beautiful narrative about photosynthesis. Readers are first introduced to how oats are made, then how the blueberries are grown, and lastly, to the milk that goes into the bowl. Each step along the way we meet another part of the yummy bowl of oatmeal. The illustrations are brightly colored pencil-like drawings of how oats grow, how blueberries grow, and even how birds and bees help pollinate flowers. This is a great way to talk about the cycles of food and how we end up with some of the yummy dishes that become part of our family routines.”

Click here to read the full review

YA Books Central

“While there is more technical detail about photosynthesis in the author’s note at the back of the book, this is a good introduction to the concept of plants harnessing the sun to make energy for themselves, and also energy to pass on to human consumers. The idea that a bowl of oatmeal, blueberries, and milk all contain the sun is a happy way to think about nutrition, and perhaps a good way to entice reluctant eaters. Alary’s language is very poetic, and the book reads more like free verse than a science text.”

Click here to read the full review

CM: Canadian Review

“One morning a little girl wakes up and finds her mother making breakfast in the kitchen. In an effort to make her daughter understand how the sun creates the food we eat, which, in turn, gives us energy for the day, her mother begins explaining the process of photosynthesis.

As her mother explains, it all begins with the sun. Whether it’s the oats that make up the girl’s oatmeal, or the blueberries that sweeten it, or the milk that makes it taste so delicious, everything in her bowl is connected to the earth through an exceptional process that combines the sun, some air, and water. And voila, the little girl now has the sun in her tummy which will keep her going for the rest of the day.”

Click here to read the full review

Cloud Lake Literary

“I love the circular nature of each journey through the chain of photosynthesis, done in accessible and pretty language. Each turn layers beautifully on top of the other until the young protagonist—and young readers—understand the meaning of having the sun in their tummy.

Now let’s talk about the pictures, which are just adorable. They are warm and full of clever details (like cow spots on the carton of milk and a bright sun on the belly of the protagonist’s red t-shirt) alongside cozy morning rituals (mugs of tea, fuzzy slippers, and sleepy slouching at the table). Blinick is a mixed media artist, and the cut-out effect is beautifully used in this book. The palette is reminiscent of a country kitchen, with an abundance of golds and yellows interspersed with green, red, and blue. The sun is ever present, and each spread gets brighter and brighter until the protagonist is awake, energized, and ready to start her day.

For those of us that like a fictionalized feel to our nonfiction, this book delivers. It’s accessible, fun, and informative but does not scrimp on the science (there is even a one-page Author’s Note describing the process of Photosynthesis). It could just as easily be read as a bedtime story as used as a learning tool in a classroom environment. An excellent choice for parents, caregivers, or educators. Loved this read.”

Click here to read the full review

Children’s Literature-CLCD

“The final page of the book includes a scientific description of the chemistry of photosynthesis for curious young minds ready to understand the ‘magic’ referenced in the main text. A clever book to help young children understand where our food comes from and how it grows and passes energy to us: food is fuel, and sometimes that means the warm-heartedness of sunlight! The colorful, fun, and unique illustrations bring real delight to this read and absolutely enhance the book’s appeal, with lots to visually discover.”

Canadian Children’s Book News

“The sun is the true star of this charming picture book by Laura Alary and Andrea Blinick. Sun in My Tummy is a great supplement to any science lesson or a way to build gratitude and understanding in subtle ways for the role of nature in our lives.”

Find this review in the Spring 2022 edition

A Kids Book A Day

“Oatmeal, blueberries, and milk may seem like a ho-hum breakfast, but there is magic in the foods we eat.  The oats and the blueberries grew out of the soil, warmed by the sun, and watered by the rain.  They make food from sunlight, creating seeds which can be used to grow new plants.  The cow was able to make milk because she ate grass that grew with the help of sun and rain as well.  “Inside everything, if you look deep enough, you will find the sun. Warm-hearted. Generous. Giving.”  Includes additional information about photosynthesis.”

Click here to read the full review

Book Time

“One of my favourite pages is when she walks down the stairs in the dark, not overly pleased about having to wake up, and in the kitchen her mom is making oatmeal and the entire kitchen is bright and sunny. Readers learn how the sun, soil and rain make the plants and blueberries grow as well as provides the grass the cow eats that gives her the milk for her oatmeal.

Alary talks about the magic of how the sun allows us to live and eat and grow. In her author’s note, Alary calls the process of plants covering air, water and sunlight into food, but reminds readers it’s not really, rather it’s chemistry.”

Click here to read the full review

Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“The second-person narrative is soothing and informative as it includes instruction on plant life cycles, food webs, and photosynthesis. It provides a clear and logical explanation for a complex process, and leaves young readers with an easy awareness for the breakfast foods that sustain them during their day. Questions are asked, comparisons are made – all with the purpose of helping young children know the importance of the sun. After a filling and healthy breakfast, the girl is off to catch her school bus with sun in her tummy.

Andrea Blinick’s mixed-media artwork is filled with the sunlight that benefits all. From making its appearance at dawn to its growing brilliance as mother and daughter tuck into their nutritious meal, the sun is always in the background doing its amazing work. Many lovely details on each spread will encourage further attention and discussion. The cow literally floating in her cereal bowl will elicit tiny giggles.

An author’s note further explains photosynthesis for readers.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“What might you see in a bowl of oatmeal?…Perfect for STEM lessons about plants and life cycles, Sun in My Tummy will brighten any classroom or library and help young children understand how the sun in their tummies, whether oatmeal or another cereal, got there.”

Click here to read the full review

@ohthebookswelove

“You know one of my favorite ways to get readers into nonfiction?! Sneaking it into a picture book! There’s something about following a story, characters and all, and finding facts scattered about the pages that don’t interrupt, but complement, the story… Sun In My Tummy does just that. Readers follow a child, woken by the sun, getting ready to eat their oatmeal breakfast. The author gives background on how the sun played a factor in growing the oats when they were still in the field… We enjoyed this one!”

Click here to read the full review

@raisingalegacybookshelf

“This book is a beautiful explanation for photosynthesis creatively written in story form…I love the metaphor the author uses to describe how plants create energy from the sun. This makes it easy for children to understand…This book finds a way to turn science, which can be very logical and factual, to literature which is descriptive and imaginative. In addition, Sun In My Tummy shows the interconnectedness of life and how we are dependent on the sun. The illustrations are gorgeous.”

Click here to read the full review

@raisingreaderstobecomeleaders

“Just imagine the smell and taste of hot oatmeal with blueberries mixed in. This book takes you on a journey of that delicious home cooked meal…If you look hard enough, you’ll see the sun in everything. [Its] generosity and warmness brought that sweet girl her hot breakfast which brings her energy for her big day at school. She has the sun in her tummy. A concluding authors note shares further information about photosynthesis for young readers.”

Click here to read the full review

This is the Boat that Ben Built Reviews

Posted on December 13th, 2021 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

“Bailey’s debut puts an ecological spin on “This Is the House That Jack Built,” in a cumulative tale of a boy exploring a northern river ecosystem. Dark-haired, fair-skinned Ben heads downstream in his very own boat. Safety first as Ben, as well as the grown-up and dog watching from shore, wears a life vest, even though Ben sails solo. This is a simple and gentle introduction to northern wildlife.”

YA Books Central

“What I loved: The illustrations are really lovely and capture the river and its animals in a way that is sure to appeal to children. The buildable story is great for toddlers and preschoolers who will appreciate the repetition and understanding the way that things begin to relate to each other in the story. There is a lot of simplicity to this story that works perfectly for this age group. The backmatter is a nice addition, with some additional context and basic facts about the animals.

The font is easy to read, and I appreciated that the color changes as needed with the background to make it easier to see. Although the story builds, the amount of text on each page is relatively brief, making the pages turn quickly, which is great for the youngest of picture book readers. With the backmatter, this would work well for classrooms or at home learning about ecosystems, animals, and the ways in which we interact with them….

Final verdict: A beautifully illustrated picture book, THIS IS THE BOAT THAT BEN BUILT is a fun, buildable story that teaches about river animals and ecosystems.”

Click here to read the full review

Youth Services Book Review

“This book in rhyme borrows the scheme of ‘The House that Jack Built’, and perks it up with a nature theme. Set in the Northern Forest, the story starts with Ben putting the finishing touches on a rowboat, then setting off down the river, with his pet dog and Mom keeping apace on shore. The progressive rhyme relates how the fish, the beaver, the loon, and other animals coexist in the forest around him. When the hoot of owl startles the heron, a comedy of reactions takes place, ending with fish jumping right into Ben’s boat.

This is a sweet, rhyming early look at ecosystems in the forest. Back matter talks about keystone species, and asks readers questions about the story.”

Click here to read the full review

The International Educator

“The text uses repetition as ‘moose strolls by bear taking a swim by the goose that glides by the loon that floats by the beaver in the river that carries the boat that Ben built’. Fun to read over and over with young students and create your own story based on animals your students may spot in their own surroundings. Nonfiction information on each animal is supplied in back pages.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

“Montreal-born artist Maggie Zeng has filled the pages with digitally-produced illustrations which show a tranquil waterway flanked by inviting woodlands. Misty tones dominated by green and peach may at first seem to make the outing appear to be a child’s perfect dream. But wait: readers can see that Mom and the family pooch are following along, continually watching from the bank as Ben floats, dips a bucket, naps and uses his binoculars to spy something that needs more careful examination. (And – safety first! – he is seen to be wearing a life jacket throughout). All of the animals are brought to life by the active poses that have been employed which let readers know this a fully-realized adventure. One of the most engaging spreads shows Ben leaning over the side of the little boat with a scoop net while all around fish big and small rush through the bubbling teal water.

Extensive back matter discusses the ecosystem of a northern river and offers a page of information about each of the animals introduced in the body of the text.

This Is the Boat That Ben Built is a collaboration that exudes a sense of happiness. It is the meeting of pleasant story and informative nonfiction that will be useful in primary classroom and library collections.”

Click here to read the full review

CLCD – Children’s Literature

“What could be more amazing than experiencing an ecosystem through a story? Or floating down a river into a new world that you can explore? This tale has echoes of the traditional “The House That Jack Built” story, yet Bailey weaves a narrative that is distinctly modern, which Zeng has filled with wondrous illustrations. A young boy named Ben builds a boat and explores a world filled with a fish, a beaver, a bear, a goose, an owl, a heron, and a moose while floating down a river on a sunny afternoon. Young readers will enjoy following Ben’s adventures and encountering creatures that leap across the river and become larger-than-life within this imaginative journey.”

Click here to read the full review

Winnipeg Free Press

Ben floats through a memorable day in his hand-built wooden boat. But when an owl startles the heron and leads to a quick reversal of the creatures in the forest, Mom joins him in the boat. For readers who want to learn more there’s extra info on each of the wild creatures.”

Click here to read the full review

Metroland Media

“This Is The Boat That Ben Built is a nature, cumulative story that explores a northern river ecosystem. After building his boat, Ben sets out on a river where he sees various animals including fishes, a beaver, a loon, a moose, a heron – and more. Young readers will enjoy the fun story and quality illustrations.”

Click here to read the full review

Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“A hooting owl provides enough drama to reverse the direction the words have taken, bringing the story full circle. The lively text is just right for early readers with its repetitive language. Paired with Maggie Zeng’s luminous digital art, it is sure to be read often and soon independently. Filled with movement and humor that adds to its appeal, it will encourage talk about the way an ecosystem works, food webs, and how many animals flourish in a healthy environment.

Back matter includes an author’s note about the what makes an ecosystem.”

Click here to read the full review

Book Time

“First, Ben is going down a river and he sees some great creatures – fish of course, but also a beaver, a loon, a grinning goose, a bear and moose, among others. But just when you think you can’t read the same words any longer, an owl “whoos on a whim and startles the heron all proper and prim,” and a chain reaction of disaster follows until Ben gets a surprise in his boat. At the end of the book, Bailey talks about the Northern River ecosystem and goes into information about the creatures she featured in her book.

The pictures are adorable.”

Click here to read the full review

Canadian Children’s Book News

“Patterned on the familiar “The House That Jack Built” nursery rhyme, Jen Lynn Bailey’s text is fun and easy to read, flowing smoothly with the right cadence that pulls the reader along. Maggie Zeng’s digital illustrations are beautiful and full of detail. Gentle humour infuses the story in both text and illustrations, and readers will enjoy the sense of wonder always to be found in natural settings.”—Canadian Children’s Book News

The full review can be found in the Spring 2022 issue.

Luminous Libro

5 out of 5 stars…The text is delightful! There is a lilting rhythm as each page adds a repetitive line to the text…There are so many clever little details in this book…I love the beautiful illustrations! The artwork reflects the sunlight on the water in the most attractive way. Each scene changes as the sun begins to set and the light gets warmer. Ben is such a cute little character, and all the animals are adorable! At the back of the book, there is a section of information about ecosystems and how each animal, insect, and fish plays a part in that balance…the reader is encouraged to reimagine the story in a different way with new animals!”

Click here to read the full review

Birds on Wishbone Street Reviews

Posted on September 21st, 2021 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews Starred Review

“Del Rizzo illustrates with elaborate clay modeling combined with other media; the three-dimensional look ignites interest and gives the pictures a special warmth. The story centers care for others and nature as well as focusing on people’s shared humanity. While it does not detail Sami’s refugee experience or the various backgrounds of Wishbone Street’s diverse community, its content provides many possible openings for further learning and discussion. The diverse protagonists are all capable, resourceful individuals who may be sad sometimes but have an immense ability to enjoy life.

An exquisite book, in content and illustration, about love, movement, and shared humanity: a keeper.”

Click here to read the full review

Publishers Weekly

“Maureen, also known as Moe, a light-skinned Irish Canadian child, narrates this warm slice-of-life picture book, which portrays the developing friendship between Moe and Sami, a light brown–skinned new neighbor from Syria, as they bond over a shared interest in birds. Moe meets daily with young neighbors Mei, cued East Asian, and her brother Omari, who reads as Black, as well as adult residents. Del Rizzo’s colloquial prose emphasizes collective pursuits, as Moe compares bird-related treasures (“multi-colored feathers… and bird leg-bands too”) and includes Sami in wintry activities.”

Click here to read the full review

The Horn Book Magazine

“Del Rizzo’s illustrations are made with polymer clay and paint, achieving a realistic variety of skin tones and a vibrant, three-dimensional quality. She uses the clay to create lots of textures such as the knitting on hats and mittens, as well as natural elements like snowflakes and trees, and she provides varied perspectives. The story is loving and gently paced, with the two children coming together to rescue a cardinal we have already seen in several pictures, each sacrificing a treasure to do it. An author’s note includes instructions for making suet bird feeders and pouches woven from twigs for winter bird shelters.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

Birds on Wishbone Street is a heartwarming story that brings forth the importance of simple things in life, such as treating one another with kindness and embracing the treasures that nature has to offer. It ends with a simple recipe for bird suet treats and winter roosting pockets which provide birds with food and shelter during the winter months. Additionally, author Suzanne Del Rizzo provides an “Author’s Note” with the backstory of her real-life experiences leading to the inspiration for this picture book.

The story, itself, is beautiful, but the immaculately detailed illustrations are worthy of their own praise. Del Rizzo creates exquisite, three-dimensional illustrations using polymer clay art, acrylic glaze, and other mixed media. The blending of colours, fine textured details, and other creative varieties of dimensional layers, arrangements, and perspectives are awe-inspiring.

Del Rizzo is a New York Times Notable author/illustrator who published My Beautiful Birds in 2017 and Skink on the Brink as her first picture book. A scientific researcher turned children’s book author and illustrator, she brings rich imagination to her award-winning literature.”

Click here to read the full review

BookPage

“Del Rizzo’s unique art adds dimension to the book’s warm, welcoming neighborhood scenes. She creates illustrations with polymer clay, acrylic glaze and other mixed media, giv­ing depth and texture to each page. Snowflakes truly seem to float in the winter sky, and the blanket used to swaddle the cardinal has realistic folds and wrinkles.

Del Rizzo also excels at presenting a community full of many intertwined familial and social connections while capturing the smaller details of the devel­oping friendship between Moe and Sami. She expertly balances the hustle and bustle of lively outdoor scenes with more intimate indoor moments, such as when the pair share their treasures—drawings of birds, special feathers and other trinkets—with each other. In a lovely touch, Del Rizzo depicts Moe’s and Sami’s collections of keepsakes on the book’s opening and closing endpapers.

Birds on Wishbone Street (Pajama Press, $18.95, 9781772782196, ages 5 to 8) is a bighearted book that will leave readers eager to discover the many treasures that new friendships hold.”

Click here to read the full review

YA Books Central

““‘Birds on Wishbone Street’ by Suzanne Del Rizzo is a beautifully illustrated book that shows how different people can live together and get along, all with the benefits of getting to know each other and what they have to offer. From speaking different languages to learning different aspects of others’ cultures, there is always something to gain from talking to others. It is important to learn about what other people know, have done, and want to do in order to find connections and form relationships with them. One can never know what one might have in common with someone else until a conversation occurs.

The illustrations in this book are very interesting. They have a sense of realism in them that other illustrations in other books do not have, from their bright colors, to the way the angles don’t necessarily always look directly at people, but sometimes view characters from above, or even from behind. It’s also a nice touch that there is a recipe and a craft in the back of the book for readers to take the book to a whole new level, using the themes within the story to further explore how one’s interests can foretell kindness and the birth of similarities with others.”

Click here to read the full review

The International Educator

“Based on a real street in Toronto, Canada where many immigrant families settled, Birds on Wishbone Street by Suzanne Del Rizzo is a beautiful story  of people coming from different cultures. They share their food and their stories. But newly arrived Sami is not talking much. Until a bird needs his special attention and brings back memories and stories from home. Illustrated in clay and mixed media, the glorious art is a joy to explore. The book works on many different levels and even offers instructions on how to make your own winter bird treats.”

Click here to read the full review

Canadian Children’s Book News

“Wishbone Street, an actual street in Toronto, is a welcoming neighbourhood to immigrants who have come there from all over the world. Friends with everyone of any age, Maureen, or Moe for short, is eager to meet Sami, a young boy who has just arrived with his family from Syria. She notices him bird watching in the parkette and surmises that he loves nature and birds just as she does. A friendship between the two gradually develops, although Sami is reluctant to share his past. His experience with birds comes to the fore when a cold female cardinal is discovered lying in the snow. Taking leadership to save her, Sami reveals that he raised pet pigeons in Syria and studied wild birds while at a refugee camp. Together with several neighbours, they make bird suet treats and winter roosting pockets to feed and shelter winter birds. “New friends, new treats, new homes… fresh start for Sami and for our neighborhood birds… We are all neighbors on Wishbone Street.”

Suzanne Del Rizzo has written a touching sequel to My Beautiful Birds, which relayed Sami’s experience through the Syrian refugee crisis. The life story of Sami and his family continues in Canada as readers witness his fading anxiety and gradual acceptance of his new neighbourhood, this due to simple acts of kindness and the discovery of a kindred spirit. This uplifting story will resonate with young readers, especially those who are new to Canada.

Del Rizzo’s stunning illustrations, created from polymer clay, acrylic glaze and other mixed media, introduce readers to the inhabitants and geography of Wishbone Street from a variety of perspectives. Not only are the fall and winter scenes within this book filled with a myriad of delightful details, but one can almost feel the rich textures of what is being portrayed on its pages.”

Oakville News

“Wishbone Street is a special kind of street – and yes, there is one in Toronto – everyone seems to have come from somewhere else and all manner of languages are spoken. So Moe, a friendly and curious girl, is excited when she learns a new boy has moved in.  He has come from Syria and is called Sami.  Moe wants to get to know him.  But Sami is shy and reluctant to talk although he shares Moe’s love of birds. Then winter arrives and the neighbourhood children enjoy playing in the snow at the local parkette.  When they come across a scarlet cardinal stunned by the freezing cold, who comes to the bird’s rescue but Sami using his knowledge of looking after pigeons in Syria.  By this simple act of kindness Sami begins to feel more at home.

Oakville author Suzanne Del Rizzo has certainly scored another triumph with this delightful story about kindness and how the simple act of rescuing a bird can strengthen the bonds of community as newcomers to this country share friendship and understanding.

Del Rizzo set out on a career in medical scientific research but left it when she began having children.  The urge to get back to her childhood love of getting her hands dirty resurfaced, and thus began her new career, first as a children’s book illustrator and then progressing to writing her own stories and illustrating them herself.”

Click here to read the full review

Sherylbooks

“A heart-warming story about kindness, inclusion and belonging, by the creator of My Beautiful Birds. Love the endpapers and love the value added craft activities parents or grandparents can do with their littles after reading the book…bird suet treats and winter roosting pockets.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for Little Canadians

“Wishbone Street is more than just a bunch of houses. It’s a multicultural community, welcoming and supportive of all. And when a cardinal is injured, that community brings them all, newcomers and long-time residents, together to do good….

Suzanne Del Rizzo‘s polymer clay art has always impressed, giving new textures and colours to already-strong stories. But when she illustrates her own stories, Suzanne Del Rizzo shines. There is a synergy of her words and art that elevates both into something truly extraordinary. In Birds on Wishbone StreetSuzanne Del Rizzo honours her own family and those of all immigrants to Canada, and upholds the idea that communities are based on an appreciation for our differences and acknowledgement of our commonalities. With that sense of community, great things can happen: a newcomer feels at home, a bird is helped, and important learning can happen. And with her magnificent art, created with polymer clay, acrylic glaze and other mixed media, Suzanne Del Rizzo takes us to Wishbone Street, into the parkette and into the snow, to bird-watch with Sami and Moe, to yearn for cannoli and churros shared between neighbours, and to feel those first snowflakes on our faces. We’re there on Wishbone Street, watching as a world unfolds and enfolds, making one community out of many.

There may be snow in Birds on Wishbone Street and on our streets today but this picture book will serve as inspiration year round to promoting the joys of including everyone in our communities to the benefit of all.”

Click here to read the full review

Book Time

“Moe loves birds, climbing trees and hanging out with her neighbours on Wishbone Street who come from all over the world. She is excited to meet the new boy from Syria, but shyness wins over until the children bond over a female cardinal found lying in the snow.

“Sami uses his experience taking care of pigeons in Syria to help rescue the bird, which also helps Sami feel more at home.”

Birds on Wishbone Street is by Suzanne Del Rizzo and Pajama Press. Wishbone Street, said Del Rizzo in her author’s note, is based on a real street in Toronto where her husband grew up.

“Many immigrant families settled there. Just like Moe and Sami, they know we are better together.”

I love the plasticine illustrations in this book, particularly the snowflakes.”

Click here to read the full review

Storytime with Stephanie

“Any story featuring birds and plasticine artwork is a book I want to read. The Birds of Wishbone Street by Suzanne De Rizzo is a story about birds and a special community….

We love the community feel of this story. It wraps you in a warm blanket of kindness. The people in the community are kind and generous, all from different places around the world. Collecting treasures is an important part of life on Wishbone street. Moe welcomes Sami to the community by sharing a bird’s feather with him, before even knowing about his own collecting of treasures from Syria. The treasures help the children learn more about each other and build friendships. The children of Wishbone Street are so welcoming. When a bird is in trouble, they band together to save this cherished member of the community. The support and love the members of the community feel for each other is evident on each page. It’s a story that obviously come from the heart and extends a hand to readers.

The plasticine illustrations will blow you away! The amount of detail and love placed into each spread invites readers into the community. There are not many spreads that are missing birds somewhere in the picture and readers will have a fun time trying to spot the beautiful cardinal pair throughout the book. Plasticine art is inspiring and readers will be eager to take out their own plasticine and create. Or perhaps will want to follow the instructions at the end of the story to make roosting baskets and/or bird suet treats for their feathered community members.

According to Suzanne Del Rizzo’s author’s note, Wishbone Street is inspired by a real street in Toronto where her husband grew up. A beautiful connection to her whole family and a reflection of why this story is so special.”

Click here to read the full review

Sal’s Fiction Addiciton

“Wishbone Street is a very interesting place to live for those who live there. They come from many different countries, with unique histories and languages. Their stories reflect their lives before they moved there. Maureen, called Moe, has an Irish background. When a new family moves in nearby, Moe wonders about the boy she sees outside her window….

Following the story, Ms. Del Rizzo provides careful instructions for making the treats and pockets that Sami and Moe make. The illustrations, made using polymer clay and acrylics, will have readers in awe of the details, the ever-changing perspectives, and the wonders of the season as the two friends learn more about each other and how much they are alike. An author’s note about real-life events in her life adds interest.

This is a truly wonderful story about friendship, community and being kind. It should be shared in all early and upper elementary classrooms.”

Click here to read the full review

Windy Days Reviews

Posted on August 25th, 2021 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

“Kerbel follows the wind through the seasons, setting scenes with strong descriptive language in two-line verses with simple rhymes or near rhymes, all filled with movement and joy. A diverse cast of young children interact with the wind, which is depicted throughout as streaming white lines pushing through the air in Sato’s wonderfully textured mixed-media collage illustrations that seamlessly match the scenes described. Readers will want to touch the children’s sweaters, pick the luscious-looking apples hanging loosely on the tree, and jump into that beckoning pile of leaves. The concept of wind in all its varieties is explained simply and beautifully with just enough information for curious young readers.

Feel the wind in your hair and enjoy. ”

Click here to read the full review

Booklist

“Windy days come in all sorts of whimsical forms. Kerbel and Sato’s energetic picture book takes a closer look at just how alive the wind can be. Bouncy, perfectly rhyming couplets capture its varying nature, from gentle and steady to swirly and gusty; breezy enough to fly a kite or strong enough to make whistling sounds on a stormy day. Sato’s elaborate, meticulous cut-paper collage artwork depicts the motion of wind in fascinating vignettes that beautifully capture its movement, featuring cheery, softly rounded kids portrayed with just as much dynamic movement as the book’s subject. The image on each double-page spread expands on the words, helping young readers grasp the concept of each type of movement. Easy to read for beginners, this book will introduce little ones to such words as sweep, blast, blow, blister, roar, spin, dance, sway, swirl, and icy.”

Click here to read the full review

School Library Journal

“As readers have come to expect from Kerbel, rhyming text and beautiful, textured cutout collage illustrations drive this book about the wonders of windy days throughout the seasons. A cast of children of many races and skin colors marvel at the power of the wind, benefit from the power it gives, and joyfully participate in wind play. The wind, cleverly depicted as a variety of curved, straight, and “curly cued” lines, create movement throughout the pages in tandem with the weather event/season illustrated. In addition, the inclusion of various types of clouds throughout the spreads establishes the relationship among the wind, cloud movement, and weather changes. Sato’s use of various textures creates a three-dimensional, tactile vibe that is sure to pique and sustain the interest of children.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

“Wind and leaves takes centre stage in an engaging homage to our fall days in this lovely collaboration between Kerbel and Sato. A variety of leaves flying across the page will entice readers from the front flyleaf into the actual book. Preschoolers will be enchanted by this force of nature.

Delightful rhyming couplets help describe both the work and the fun that winds provide. The economy of words in the text, yet the frequency of expressive adjectives, such as “blustery, gusting, whistling, swirling, roaring”, are used to highlight the sensation of the wind. The result is a treat to all the senses.

There are many books about the concept of wind for early readers, but what makes Windy Days standout is the skillful artwork. With Sato’s using mixed media and paper collage, textiles, and embroidery silk, the illustrations fairly jump off the page with their tactile feel. Sato’s use of joyful expressions on the faces of the diverse youthful participants is another attractive feature. The depth and visual interest of the colourful drawings fit well in this sturdy book with its extra thick paper, rounded corners and padded cover.”

Click here to read the full review

Metroland Media

“Toddlers will have fun reading about wind and autumn with this nicely illustrated, rhyming story featuring a book with a padded cover, rounded corners and thick pages. The back of the book contains some experiments that young children can do on a windy day.”

Click here to read the full review

Youth Services Book Review

“Rhyming couplets describe the sensory experience of wind through the seasons. Kids with various skin tones examine milkweed seeds, fly kites and manage a blown-away umbrella. The heavy duty pages are not quite board book weight, but seem very sturdy. It’s nice to see STEM activities listed at the end which can reinforce the understanding of the science, including names for different kinds of clouds. It’s a perfect title for a science unit on weather.

The art is collage with paper, textiles and embroidery silk. The composition and vibrant colors lend themselves nicely to reading aloud to a class. A great addition to story time or classroom study of weather for the preschool and kindergarten set.”

Click here to read the full review

YA Books Central

“What I loved: This was a great poem that was perfectly paced with a couplet on each page. This rhythm is great for young ears, who will enjoy listening to it read aloud. The illustrations are really gorgeous, made out of different textures, featuring young children in different scenes, such as at a fair, on Halloween, stuck inside on a rainy day, and more. This book is perfect for fall with recognizable odes to the fall weather.

The book format is great for young readers and ideal for young toddlers and preschoolers. The pages are thicker than typical picture books as a step in between board and picture books, and the soft cover is fun to touch. Toddlers can turn the pages easily and explore this on their own, as a lead in to typical picture books. The font is easily legible, making it great for reading aloud, and the backmatter adds some educational context for at home, daycare, or preschool.”

Click here to read the full review

The Kid Lit Mama

“The companion to Snow Days and Sunny Days, this board book featuring collage art and descriptive language is a true joy.”

Click here to see the full review

Olivia (Goodreads)

“What I loved: This was a great poem that was perfectly paced with a couplet on each page. This rhythm is great for young ears, who will enjoy listening to it read aloud. The illustrations are really gorgeous, made out of different textures, featuring young children in different scenes, such as at a fair, on Halloween, stuck inside on a rainy day, and more. This book is perfect for fall with recognizable odes to the fall weather.

The book format is great for young readers and ideal for young toddlers and preschoolers. The pages are thicker than typical picture books as a step in between board and picture books, and the soft cover is fun to touch. Toddlers can turn the pages easily and explore this on their own, as a lead in to typical picture books. The font is easily legible, making it great for reading aloud, and the backmatter adds some educational context for at home, daycare, or preschool.

Final verdict: A lovely poem, WINDY DAYS is a fun way to begin to talk about the weather with toddlers and preschoolers. Intriguing textured illustrations and fun autumn scenes make this a great one for little ones to explore.”

Click here to read the full review

Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“We have experienced a lot of winds this summer and fall. Some are warm and gentle, others are cold and jarring. Then, there those that are simply bothersome and seemingly endless. Wind is inevitable through the season. As little ones are invited to share this book, they will recognize the many ways that wind helps, and hinders a variety of activties.

In the spring it scatters milkweed seeds; in summer, it powers pinwheels, and causes flags to flutter; it can also worsen powerful storms. Autumn winds inspire geese to begin their long migration to warmer places, and kites to drift in cloudy skies. Winter wind keeps children inside, or bundled up against its icy blasts.

Ms. Kerbel uses effective, rhythmic vocabulary to give her readers a real sense of the movement, power, and joy that wind provides. Miki Sato’s gorgeous, mixed-media collage artwork perfectly matches the text and provides a glorious feeling of constant motion. The textures will have readers wanting to touch the pages to feel what is shown there. Charming!”

Click here to read the full review

Fab Book Reviews

“As ever, Deborah Kerbel’s storytelling by way of sweet rhyming couplets and Miki Sato’s textured collage artwork make for a lively, tactile reading experience. Not only a lovely, gentle way to introduce concepts of weather to a young audience/young readers, but also, quite simply, a genuinely beautiful and clear rhyming story that gorgeously captures the childhood wonder in experiencing the natural world. Readers who have already read and enjoyed Snow Days and Sunny Days, other similarly short rhyming stories, or picture books about the seasons, might especially adore this. Back matter includes ideas for child-friendly wind-related science experiments, as well as a concise rundown of types of clouds.”

Click here to read the full review

Storytime With Stephanie

“Deborah Kerbel and Miki Sato have once again created a perfect preschool gem of a book in Windy Days, part of their series of weather related picture books.

What a gift to be able to share the joy of description with our youngest little readers. In Windy Days, adults and children will experience all of the fun of a windy day through the lyrical, rhyming and descriptive text. This book just rolls off your tongue making it perfect to share as a read aloud with a big group of children. Readers will then be inspired to get outside and discover all of the things they can do in the wind.

Although the age range for this book is 2-5, I would encourage parents and teachers of older readers to grab this book to inspire descriptive writing or science experiments with the wind. Deborah Kerbel includes fun experiments and activities at the back of the story to help extend the learning and fun. Also the book is incredibly durable. It has a soft, puffy cover and thick pages making is not quite a board book but more durable that a hard or soft cover book so if you have little readers who like to eat their books, this one will stand up to hours and hours of reading and play.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for Little Canadians

“When a picture book, a two-dimensional source, can evoke weather such that the reader feels the bite of the wind or the slash of the briskness of leaves against skin, it’s doing something terrific. I may be able to feel the wind by just stepping outside right now but I’d much rather experience it through the text and paper collage of Deborah Kerbel and Miki Sato‘s latest collaboration.

In Pajama Press’s Toddler Tough format of padded cover, rounded corners and thick pages, Windy Days explores children’s experiences with the wind in the autumn, from fun fall fairs to Halloween outings. There are their encounters in the natural world with gentle breezes scattering milkweed seeds and tossing leaves, to creating energy with wind turbines and flying kites. Some of those winds are soft air movements while others are blasts of cold that practically toss little ones off their feet. Whatever their form, they’re there, especially at this time of year, and reminding us of weather as our constant, bringing sound and movement and consequences.”

Click here to read the full review

Sherylbooks

“Rhythm, rhyme and alliteration make this an attractive toddler read. Illustrations that are paintings overlaid with textured layers of collage, create a sense of depth and movement to the active, expressive children depicted. The puffy cover, and rounded corners are perfect for little hands. Bonus activities and information at the story’s end will especially appeal to parents and caregivers.”

Click here to read the full review

@oliviathelibrarian

““Windy Days,” written by Deborah Kerbel and illustrated by Miki Sato, captures the magic and beauty of autumn….I absolutely adore this series of board books. As with the other installments, “Windy Days” serves as a perfect STEM primer for even the youngest of readers, with rhyming text guaranteed to keep readers engaged and curious throughout. Sato’s signature, collage-style illustrations are absolutely sensational as always….A fabulous fall frolic”

Click here to read the full review

A Sky-Blue Bench Reviews

Posted on August 3rd, 2021 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews Starred Review

“Gently but poignantly, Collins’ richly hued, cartoon-style illustrations convey Aria’s discomfort, determination, and joy; family members’ and friends’ warm eyes and sympathetic faces are reassuring. Background characters bustle in a rainbow of jewel-toned clothing, their faces bearing a variety of expressions. Though Aria’s accident is unspecified in the simple primary text, an author’s note reveals that Aria’s story, partially based on Rahman’s childhood during Afghanistan’s civil war, honors Afghan children whose lives were changed forever by unexploded ordnance. Most characters’ complexions, including Aria’s, are varying shades of brown.

A timely, eye-opening portrait of resilience, community, and hope.”

Click here to read the full review

Seattle Book Review Starred Review

“This is a touching and timely book that portrays the hardships many children in Afghanistan and other war-torn countries face. The author illustrates this beautifully and adds an informative and heartfelt “Author’s Note” that’ll leave a notable impression on young readers. He writes of attending a presentation in first grade in which Afghan students were taught to distinguish land mines from toys.

When youngsters read this, they’ll feel for Aria and her classmates, and they may even step away with an extraordinary feeling of gratitude. Additionally, they’ll be awed by Aria’s bravery and ingenuity. Those aged six to nine will be enlightened by this story.”

Click here to read the full review

Foreword Reviews

“Aria, a young girl in Afghanistan and an amputee, is nervous about going back to school. With all the benches being burned for warmth during the war, the girls in her school have no choice but to sit on the floor, which is unbearable for Aria and her “helper-leg.” Together with her mother and brother, Aria decides to build a bench herself, painting it skyblue: the color of “courage, peace and wisdom.” DANIELLE BALLANTYNE (November / December 2021)”

Quill & Quire

“Aria, an Afghani girl, is eager to return to school, but her new prosthetic “helper leg” makes sitting on the classroom floor far too uncomfortable. So Aria decides to build a bench for herself. Ontario-based Peggy Collins illustrates this heartwarming story about a resilient young girl who faces a barrier to her education.”

CBC Books

“In A Sky-Blue Bench, Bahram Rahman, author of The Library Bus, returns again to the setting of his homeland, Afghanistan, to reveal the resilience and resolve of young children — especially young girls — who face barriers to education. Illustrator Peggy Collins imbues Aria with an infectious spunkiness and grit that make her relatable even to readers with a very different school experience. An author’s note gently introduces an age-appropriate discussion of landmines and their impact on the lives of children in many nations, especially Afghanistan, which has the highest concentration of landmines of any country in the world.”

Click here to read the full review

Canadian Children’s Book News

“Aria, a young Afghan, is excited to return to the girls’ school following a long stay in hospital due to a land mine accident. Unfortunately, her new prosthetic “helper leg” makes sitting all day on the classroom floor extremely painful. The wooden benches and desks had been used as firewood during the war. Aria resolves to remedy her discomfort by building a bench herself. After collecting discarded wooden boards, broken pieces of furniture, and nails and screws from around the city, she seeks the advice of a carpenter, who kindly loans her some of his work tools and presents her with a can of sky-blue paint—the colour of courage, peace and wisdom. A weekend filled with construction follows. Aria’s classmates are so impressed that they too, wish to build additional benches, tables and even a bookshelf. “Aria thought about her can of sky-blue paint. There was still plenty left. ‘Yes,’ she said, with a smile as wide as the sky. ‘We can build everything we need, together!’”

Told from his personal experiences growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, Bahram Rahman has written a poignant story recognizing the resilience and determination of young children, particularly girls, living in war-torn countries. One admires the ingenuity and perseverance of Aria as she strives to improve the quality of life, not only for herself but also for her classmates. An age-appropriate Author’s Note briefly introduces readers to the danger of land mines.

Peggy Collin’ vivid artwork, created digitally, illustrates a way of life and school experience that will be unfamiliar to many young readers. Yet Aria’s courage, in the face of adversity, will resonate with children, no matter what their background, as will the significance of the colour blue, a symbol of hope.”

Metroland Toronto

“A Sky-Blue Bench is a narrative, picture book which tells the story of Aria, a young girl in Afghanistan, who due to her recent accident, is an amputee. Aria is excited to be going to school after her accident, but finds it difficult to adjust due to the pain in her leg. During the war, all of the benches had been burned to heat the residents’ homes and now everyone had to sit on the floor. Instead of giving up, Aria devises a plan to create her own bench and seeks the help of Kaka Najar, a carpenter…

A Sky-Blue Bench shares a valuable lesson of resilience and that children, specifically girls, can do anything that they put their minds to. This book also provides a simplified version of one lived experience of people living in Afghanistan. In the appendix are definitions of terms used in the book such as, “internally displaced” people, “landmines” and “unexploded ordnance” (UXO).”

Click here to read the full review

Youth Services Book Review

How beautiful and heart-breaking to read this lovely picture book about a young girl, crippled from an UXO device, who finds a way to be comfortable at school by building her own bench. The ingenuity and determination of Afghani women and girls is explored as Aria finds that she can not sit comfortably on the floor of her all-girls school. After briefly considering not going back she decides she will build her own seating. Thus, with a little help from the local carpenter, Aria and her mother build and paint the sky-blue bench.”

Click here to read the full review

My Journal-Courier

“This picture book, inspired by the author’s experiences growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, tells the story of Aria, a schoolgirl who recently has lost her leg to a landmine explosion and finally is heading back to school with a prosthesis…When a sky-blue bench appears in Aria’s usual seat, the girls are inspired to learn how to build even more furniture for their classroom in this beautiful story of resilience and determination.”

Click here to read the full review

Bookishrealm (Goodreads)

“Wow! This was a powerful book. A Sky Blue focuses on a young Afghan girl, Aria, as she attempts to go back to school after receiving a prosthetic leg due to mine explosion. When Aria gets to school she’s extremely uncomfortable finding a way to sit during class because of her “helper leg.” Not only does the author address the danger that Afghan children face due to mines left all over the country, but they also weave discussions about the barriers that young Afghan girls and women face in relation to their education. Aria knows that unless she is able to build a bench to help her feel more comfortable in class she won’t have access to the tools she needs to learn how to read and write. The narrative was powerful and impactful and drew specifically on some experiences the author had growing up in Afghanistan.”

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Little Bookworm Club

“Aria a young girl from Afghanistan is returning to school after an accident that resulted in a prosthetic leg. She is nervous about returning and having to sit on the classroom floor all day. Her fears are confirmed when she finds it extremely difficult to get up and is very uncomfortable on the ground. She decides to make a bench, like the ones that were in schools before the war. Despite her classmates skepticism, she collects discarded wooden boards, visits a local carpenter, and gets to work. The carpenter gives her a can of sky blue paint that symbolizes courage and peace. When everyone returns after the weekend they see the bench and are in awe. All the girls want to learn to build too and they make a plan to build all the furniture for their classroom. This is inspiring story of resilience, determination, and grit.”

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“The world has heard much about the unexploded weapons that were hidden during armed conflicts in world communities. Aria is one of the Afghan children whose life was forever changed when she stepped on one of those devastating weapons….

“Sky-blue is for courage, peace and wisdom.”

Peggy Collins fills her spreads and endpapers (front and back) with digital artwork that reveals the emotions felt, the support of community, and the determination of a child to make a difference for herself and others as Aria navigates a new normal following such an overwhelming event in her life. An author’s note shares his experiences growing up in Afghanistan, and writes this story to honor those whose lives have been impacted by land mines and UXO.”

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Book Time

“In this author’s note, Rahman talks about how four decades of war in Afghanistan has left a country littered with land mines or unexploded ordnances (UXO), waiting for unsuspecting children. The author remembers being taught in Grade 1 how to differentiate between a toy and a bomb. How awful.

“A Sky-Blue Bench honours the resilience of Afghan children in the face of great personal loss and injury caused by land mines and UXO…She, like many other children in  Afghanistan, confronts life as it is and solves her problems with creativity and hard work. She won’t give up until life is better for her and the people are her.”

Beautiful story, beautiful lessons and beautiful illustrations by Peggy Collins.”

Click here to read the full review

Kirin (GoodReads)

“Aria has to find a way to sit in class because she wants to learn, and lack of wood working experience, resources, and doubt that a girl can do it from her classmates, isn’t going to stop her.  Over 32 pages, early elementary age children will meet a determined young girl as she pieces together scraps to build a bench.

Aria has been in the hospital for a while after an accident took her leg.  She is excited to be back at school, but quickly realizes it is hard to sit on the floor with her new helper leg.  She tries leaning on the wall, standing even, but just getting up and down off the floor is really difficult.  At home when she mentions it to her mom, her mom reassures her that she can get through it and her little brother offers to help her carry her things.

That night Aria considers how much she would miss school if she isn’t able to figure something out.  Then she has an idea, she’ll build a bench.  At school the next morning, classmates tell her “Girls don’t build benches,” but Aria responds, “I can do anything a boy can.””

Click here to read the full review

Israa (GoodReads)

“A strong girl with a prosthetic leg in Afghanistan does not let anything prevent her from going to school. I love her determination and ingenuity. The illustrations are colorful, and the text is easy for elementary students to read and understand. I will definitely recommend this book for our school library.”

Click here to read the full review

Storytime with Stephanie

“In another love letter to his home country of Afghanistan, Bahram Rahman gives readers the story of a courageous young girl who must build a bench to make school accessible for her and other children like her. A Sky-Blue Bench illustrated by Peggy Collins provides readers with a glimpse into life in Afghanistan and especially what it’s like for young girls trying to go to school and learn….

Readers will see the lengths that children must go to ensure a comfortable learning environment. We take for granted our tables and chairs and cozy carpeted areas in North American classrooms. Readers also gain perspective about physical disabilities, like Aria’s, that require prosthetic limbs and how limiting they can be at times. Readers will see the importance of accessible spaces for everyone. They can also learn more about the country of Afghanistan and why so many children there require “helper” limbs. The story is an example of strength and self advocating.

Peggy Collins’ illustrations are bold and bright. She gives us many close ups of people’s faces and the bright shining eyes of all the people in the story. This is a vibrant beautiful story filled with vibrant beautiful illustrations that will immediately grab the readers attention and hold it through to the end.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for Little Canadians

“Though Bahram Rahman makes it clear from his notes about circumstances he and others experienced in his homeland of Afghanistan, he does not dwell on the horrors of land mines or the challenges of living with a civil war. Instead Bahram Rahman speaks to a girl’s determination to get an education, be proactive and resourceful, and to challenge herself to meet her own needs. It’s a brave commentary on focusing on what you can change, not on what you can’t, and Aria demonstrates that the possibilities can be inspiring.

While there is a brightness and a child-like quality to her art, Peggy Collins (Harley the Hero, 2021) stays firmly in realism, but without immersing her art in the adversity of the situation. Aria’s prosthetic leg is barely visible under her black dress and the challenges of the civil war are obscured by the vibrancy of the community in its activity and colour. Peggy Collins takes us into the Afghanistan of Aria’s life, not of news reports: her school, her helper-leg, her mother and little brother, and her community. Her sky-blue bench is as assured as she is.

A Sky-Blue Bench may be a story from Afghanistan but its lessons about self-reliance and resourcefulness will speak to all children, especially those facing their own challenges, and encourage them to find solutions. With a desire, some hard work and a little wisdom, Aria was able to build something worthwhile, with wood and with vision.”

Click here to read the full review

@alissareadsabook

“The illustrations in this one are simply charming. I also really like that there are a lot of ways that parents can use this book as intro conversations with their children. The book doesn’t go into any detail about why Aria has her “helper leg” or the inequities and barriers to education for girls in Afghanistan, but the illustrations and text give clues that parents can use to open the doors to these conversations should they desire. Or it can simply be read as a story of resiliency, community, and hope.

Note about disability rep: I really appreciated how this was addressed – the challenges that Aria faces as an amputee are shown honestly, her emotions and struggles depicted realistically but not in a way that showed her as helpless – she decided what she wanted, she solved her own problems. There was no “savior” for Aria here – she received help, but she was not treated as a fragile doll. She had agency and voice. More of this representation please.”

Click here to read the full review

The International Educator

“A Sky-Blue Bench by Bahram Rahman has beautiful art by Peggy Collins. Dedicated to the children of Afghanistan, this is the story of Aria who lost a leg to a landmine but who knows she can do anything, even carpentry. Finding it too hard to sit on the floor of her classroom, Aria collects wood and learns the skills needed to build herself a bench. A bench so beautiful that all the girls in class want to learn how to build furniture. A heartbreaking and heartwarming story all at once.”

Click here to read the full review

Mrs. Book Dragon 

“My rating: 5 of 5 stars…I love books where kids take charge…I loved the message of perseverance and hope.”

Click here to read the full review

@muslimmommyblog

“This book just clutched at my heart and I felt invested in Aria’s story and so warmed by the resolution! … This story was so sweet. Set in Afghanistan, it shows beautiful snippets into the life there and the struggles of rebuilding after war. Based partially on the experiences of the author, it inspires hope in the reader that children can come up with creative solutions, even when adults might not see any…it truly warms the reader to see Aria be empowered to make her own change. I love how it is about the importance of learning even in the face of hardship, and how it emphasizes independence for those who have a disability…A beautiful book and one that is definitely empowering and inspiring for all readers!”

Click here to read the full review

@raisingreaderstobecomeleaders

“It’s crucial to have books like [A Sky-Blue Bench] on every bookshelf. Education does not look the same everywhere in the world and it’s so important for kids to see that. The message that girls can do it all was loud and proud in this beautiful story and my kids loved the inclusion that Aria felt at the end. The illustrations are also vibrant and easily show Aria’s determination, hope and resilience.”

Click here to read the full review

@kidsreadtheworld

“Once again, with A Sky-Blue Bench, Rahman has written a compelling narrative, accessible to children, which tackles difficult concepts such as the effects of war, disability, gender equality, and the importance of education. His writing is a gift to parents and educators who are looking for ways to talk to their children about the hard stuff that comes up in life.

Aria, the spunky main character in A Sky-Blue Bench is given sky-blue paint to use on the bench she builds, and is told it is the color of courage, peace, and wisdom. I cannot think of three things I wish for more for my children, and children around the world. Courage to stand up for what is right, peace in their inner and outer lives, and wisdom to make choices that will serve them well.

The award-winning book, A Sky-Blue Bench, shows how these three traits can make a person unstoppable…I appreciate Aria’s determination, creativity, and grit as she overcomes the obstacles in her path. She is a role model for young girls.”

Click here to read the full review

 

The Undercover Book List Reviews

Posted on July 27th, 2021 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

“Two 12-year-olds confront their vulnerabilities.
A light-skinned girl with brown hair in a ponytail sits atop a cloud with a book in her lap and dozens of pieces of paper falling down from her cloud. Below her is a light-skinned boy with orange curly hair who is sitting atop some pillows, is also reading a book, and is receiving all pages that are cascading down on him.
Told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of seventh graders Jane (in the first person) and Tyson (in third-person omniscient), this story unfolds with clever aplomb. Although they are in the same class, Jane and Tyson don’t hang out together. Top-student Jane loves to read—especially mysteries—and misses her best friend, Sienna, who has recently moved across the country; underachiever Tyson pulls pranks that get him sent to the office and plays video games obsessively at home, to the detriment of his schoolwork. But when Sienna leaves an anonymous farewell note/clue in the school library for Jane, it is Tyson, hiding in the stacks, who sees Jane find the note, and he decides to jump in to the correspondence, also anonymously, as a prank.”

Click here to read the full review

Publishers Weekly

“Alternating chapters catalogue Tyson and Jane’s earnest perspectives (“It feels like people are always leaving me”) in Nelson’s (Harvey Holds His Own) gentle yet well-paced story. Featuring the duo’s interspersed missives, the narrative explores what it means to be accurately perceived, by both others and oneself, while simultaneously serving as a satisfying love letter to Louis Sachar, Rebecca Stead, Jacqueline Woodson, and other cherished authors, and emphasizing books’ transformative power. Back matter includes their Undercover Book List.”

Click here to read the full review

Booklist

“With her father posted in the Middle East and her best friend moving away, Jane’s seventh-grade year is unsettling. Still, she follows through on a suggestion for making a new friend: in a particular book at the school library, she places an anonymous note recommending her favorite titles and inviting the next reader to reply by doing the same.

Nelson, a Canadian author, offers an appealing dual narrative that switches, chapter by chapter, between the two very different classmates’ points of view. The writing is straightforward but lively. Early on, Tyson sums up Jane in this wry sentence: “Teachers probably arm-wrestled each other to get her in their classes.” Both characters are convincingly portrayed in this rewarding middle-grade novel.”

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Foreword Reviews

“The book’s narration alternates between Jane and Tyson’s points of view, exploring themes of transformation, and of the strength it takes to embrace change. Tyson and Jane learn that change brings strength, too, once it’s been embraced. Their transformations are fast: both exhibit understandings of human psychology of the sort that eludes many adults. The obstacles they face, including vandalism and illness, are handled in a straightforward manner, but without sacrificing emotion (though a story line concerning a classroom activity is unresolved). Both strong Jane and sensitive Tyson prove to be excellent role models by the book’s gratifying ending. In the diverse novel The Undercover Book List, two classmates overcome their initial antagonism to find commonalities, which lead them to unexpected solidarity.”

Click here to read the full review

Quill & Quire

The Undercover Book List, like Nelson’s Harvey novels, takes an honest look at the emotional lives of preteens. Jane is dealing with loss, fear, and loneliness, while Tyson struggles to shake off his reputation to allow his true self space to grow. Nelson approaches their inner lives with respect and empathy, using books as the healing agent that brings them together.

The plot races along, switching between Jane’s and Tyson’s points of view with each successive chapter. Jane’s chapters are in the first person, while Tyson’s are in third person, which has the effect of making Tyson’s character seem distant in comparison to Jane.

The Undercover Book List will resonate with children who feel unseen, who dream of a friend who understands them, or who are figuring out what kind of person to be. It’s an absorbing, entertaining, and sensitive story that champions reading and the love of books.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

“This is every mother’s dream situation! Confiscate your kid’s game box and have him turn to reading as a compensation? Wow! Tyson isn’t stupid, but, until now, he’s not been motivated to do anything that takes more effort than a quick joke would. The anonymity of communicating by letter is a way for him to be a different sort of person and without having to worry about being laughed at or teased. So what if the situation is a bit idealistic rather than realistic — every life can use a bit of fantasy (and it doesn’t have to be in the form of a video-game avatar)!

An added bonus is the book list at the end, giving all the titles that Jane and Tyson discuss as well as the ones that just got a mention. It would make for a wonderful display in a school library, a Tyson-path and a Jane-path, with arrows leading from one book to the next to the next; I only wish I were still working in a library. Give The Undercover Book List to a reader and open up a whole new bunch of possible authors to be enjoyed or give it to a non-reader and see what happens. You might be surprised!”

Click here to read the full review

Canadian Children’s Book News

“When her best friend Sienna moves away, Jane wonders how she will make it through seventh grade without her. But Sienna has devised a clever way of helping Jane find a new friend by leaving a note in a book in the school library. When bad-boy Tyson Flamand finds the note, he decides to play along by making book suggestions for Jane. But he soon finds himself reading and, to his tremendous surprise, enjoying the books that Jane recommends in her replies. They each become increasingly invested in this secret book club. Then, Jane’s Kid Lit Quiz team needs a new member, and she wonders if her new book friend might be the perfect person. And Tyson surprises himself, along with everyone else, when he discovers that he may truly be that perfect person… and that he is more than just the prankster that he has a reputation for being.

With emotional depth and sensitivity, Colleen Nelson captures the struggles and uncertainties that both of her protagonists wrestle with. By alternating between their two points of view, she skillfully brings readers into their minds and hearts. Jane’s loneliness and anxiety as she misses Sienna and worries about her father, who is posted overseas, are poignantly depicted. At the same time, Tyson’s sense of resignation and feeling of being misunderstood are genuine and thought-provoking. The anonymity of exchanging notes gives them a greater sense of freedom to be themselves and to be more candid, allowing them to see themselves and each other in a new light.

The story is accessible and engaging, an insightful exploration of being open to new experiences and to the wonders of self-discovery. It is also a heartfelt celebration of the power of books to heal and to bring people together.”

Youth Services Book Review

“Told in alternating chapters from each main character’s perspective, The Undercover Book List is a treat for book lovers as it recommends titles such as Harbor Me, The Book Thief, and several others.  Both characters learn and grow a great deal over the course of the book and readers will really enjoy their development.  Jane grapples with separation, from Sienna and from her military Dad, with worry about her grandfather, and anxiety about her social status at school.  Tyson wants to find his niche between his overachieving siblings and to shed his reputation as class clown without losing his cool guy friends.  The two bond over books and help each other through these challenges with humor and genuine friendship (it is noteworthy that romance between the two is never suggested), supported by a wonderful cast of secondary characters including friends, family members and school staff.  The author includes a list of the book suggestions that Jane and Tyson share.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for Little Canadians

“Readers know the richness that stories can bring into their lives. We meet new friends, travel to different places and times, and we learn.  By bringing together a reader and non-reader, Colleen Nelson, an astute writer and undoubtedly understanding teacher, has written about every child out there. The ones that love books will always find something to read but can get so much insight from the perspectives of others. Those that haven’t become readers yet often just need the scaffolding of the right book or the right person to bring them to reading. With the Undercover Book Club, Tyson and Jane both find their people among those they would have dismissed originally and enrich their lives beyond just reading.

Colleen Nelson has a natural skill at giving young readers characters who are real, though not always likeable at first, and who are able to change with their experiences and perspectives. ”

Click here to read the full review

The International Educator

The Undercover Book List, Colleen Nelson is a fabulous middle grade novel. It’s a story grounded in a school library and books, focused on friendship. Jane loves to read but misses her best friend who moved away. Tyson is into video games and does not like to read. But through the secret messages left in books in their school library, both main characters change and make new friends. A great story for book worms and kids who have to move and make new friend.”

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Book Time

“I really liked this book and it’s on my to-be-read-to-my-son pile. And while I liked Jane, the main character in the book, it was Tyson I liked the most and who I saw the most change in. My heart actually broke for Tyson a couple of times. Not only do his teachers believe the worse, so too, do his parents who laughed when Tyson said he read a book; they didn’t believe him. No wonder the kid can’t be bothered. I loved how hard Tyson tried and how it changed him in the end.”

Click here to read the full review

kathiemacisaac

“I loved the idea of two kids getting to know each other through notes left in books. Tyson had a reputation as a prankster and poor student, and watching his transformation was my favourite part of the story. I also loved Jane’s willingness to stay connected with Sienna and how they supported each other through their transitions. Both Jane and Tyson have challenges at home that ring true to middle-grade experiences and add depth to the character’s stories. There are some excellent ideas to use in the classroom, such as the Other Words for Me board and starting a Kid Lit Quiz team. The short chapters and overall book-length of 258 pages will appeal to a wide range of readers, and I would recommend this story for Gr. 4-7.”

Click here to read the full review

Storytime with Stephanie

“Coming just in time for the start of the school year, Colleen Nelson’s brilliant and charming new middle grade novel, The Undercover Book List, will inspire the readers and non-readers in your life.

I love that The Undercover Book List is written from two perspectives, Jane and Tyson. They are both incredible characters, going through their own struggles which shape their outlook on life. Tyson has no self confidence and always goes for the easy laugh to protect from being vulnerable. He doesn’t realize all of his potential. Jane is the sweetest person, kind and generous and is confident. When she takes a chance on Tyson, she helps him see himself in a more positive light.

I really enjoyed Tyson. He was such a great character and it was wonderful to watch him grow in confidence and understanding throughout the story. There are many Tyson’s out there. Children who just see themselves as one thing instead of multitudes. He becomes a leader and a good friend. Jane is a character who knows what is right and fights for it. She is a fierce friend and doesn’t give up on people easily. The two of them, Tyson and Jane, teach each other a lot over the course of the story an help each other navigate the tricky middle school dynamics, unbeknownst to each other.

All of the book recommendations within the story are stellar! I loved seeing the familiar titles pop up and even got a couple to add to my list. Colleen Nelson added shout out to books written by some of our most favourite Canadian authors. Honestly, I would have loved an undercover book club when I was a middle schooler. May have made the lonely eighth grade year more tolerable. Heck, I would love to have an undercover book club now! Perhaps I will start leaving notes in my library books!

The Undercover Book List is an awesome story, fabulous for the start of a new year to inspire readers and non readers to just pick up a book and enjoy.”

Click here to read the full review

Julie (Goodreads)

“One of my favorite kind of books are books about books…and this one did not disappoint! By the end I wanted to join both an Undercover Book Club and a Kid Lit Quiz team. I particularly enjoyed the unlikely friendship and how their story revealed the power of books.

Also, this quote…”flexing their intellectual muscles by firing off the names of the Newbery Award winners in chronological order,”…I am OBSESSED with it! It’s the answer to the prompt, “Tell me you’re a reader without telling me you’re a reader.””

Laurie Hnatiuk (Goodreads)

“I love the way Colleen has tackled a friend moving away. The unique way in which Colleen Nelson sets this up is a breath of fresh air. Instead of focusing on the friend who moves away, the author focuses on the friend who isn’t moving. Ms. Nelson reminds us that the friend staying behind also faces challenges and periods of difficulty, things that sometimes we may overlook.
Readers also meet a familiar character. We all know someone like Tyson Flamand. The clever individual who acts one way because they are not confident to show us their true selves. In The Undercover Book List, readers see the growth of Tyson as he gains confidence and realizes he can contribute and doesn’t need to hide behind the elaborate pranks. I appreciated the honesty of showing how Tyson knows how to suggest relevant and current books for Jane to read when he doesn’t consider himself a reader. Some individuals will see themselves and make connections to both Tyson and Jane. What a great way to talk about how we can get around from working to fake read and know excellent books to recommend to finding books that will engage those individuals who see themselves as nonreaders.

Using the duo perspective, readers get to know Jane and Tyson individually while speculating how they will become friends without the characters knowing they will be friends. Kids will enjoy this aspect of the story and will be able to connect and share with their personal stories. Writing from this dual perspective keeps readers engaged and wanting to learn more about each character and the storyline moving.”

Click here to read the full review

Michelle Kadarusman (Goodreads)

“Book nerds unite! The Undercover Book List provides a simply wonderful premise for young book lovers – and for those who don’t think they are bookish, they will be by the end of the story. Love, love, love the depiction of friendships old and new that grow and blossom under Nelson’s deft hand. A heartwarming page turner that achieves what all exceptional literature does, it inspires the reader to read more. All the stars for this middle-grade gem.”

Click here to read the full review

Kids’ BookBuzz

“Jane and Tyson send notes to each other. At first, Tyson thinks it’s a joke, but it actually leads him and Jane to the Kid Lit Quiz team, and a possible friendship…

I liked this book a lot! At the end of the book there is a list of book recommendations, but not just any book recommendations… The Undercover Book List recommendations! If you are looking for something interesting to read, this is the book that you’re looking for!

Reviewed By: Viviane – age 9″

Click here to read the full review

Jill’s Book Blog

“In this book, the kids compete in a Kid Lit Quiz, which is a trivia competition about books. I don’t think that was around when I was a kid, but I would have loved it. I haven’t read many of the books mentioned in this story and I’m curious to read them now. I loved that the book club and quiz in this story turned Tyson, a reluctant reader, into a book lover. Whenever someone tells me they don’t like reading, I just say that they haven’t found the right book yet. That was true for Tyson in this story.

This story had two narratives, a first person narrative from Jane and a third person narrative about Tyson. It wasn’t obvious to me why Jane told her own perspective while Tyson’s narrative had a third person narrator. Jane had a more complex storyline, so maybe that’s why, but I’m curious why they didn’t have the same kind of narrator.

The Undercover Book Club is a fun middle grade story!”

Click here to read the full review

Shaunterria (GoodReads)

“A near perfect love letter to books and the kids that read them, The Undercover Book List is a well-written ode to the best middle-grade lit has to offer. Wrapped up a story of loss and self-discovery, tween readers are going to enjoy sharing this story with fellow bookworms (and it includes a ton of excellent book recommendations as well).”

Click here to read the full review

MaryLou Driedger

“I am part of a book club that meets once a month to talk with authors of recently published novels for middle-grade kids. On Thursday we chatted with Winnipeg author Colleen Nelson about her latest novel The Undercover Book List published by Pajama Press.

Colleen’s The Undercover Book List is told from the point of view of two junior high school students. Jane loves to read but she is struggling because she misses her best friend Sienna who has just moved to a new city. She also misses her Dad who is in the military and stationed far from home.

The other protagonist Tyson initially has no interest in reading and is addicted to video games. He is struggling because he is getting abysmal grades, has become a bully and prankster and has two siblings who are successful high achievers.

Tyson and Jane meet serendipitously via a secret book exchange arranged by Jane’s friend Sienna before she moves away and both their lives are impacted in all kinds of ways as a result.

I liked many things about Colleen’s story but here are three that stuck out for me…”

Click here to read the full review

A Smile Reviews

Posted on July 27th, 2021 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

In paper collage art, three children with light-coloured skin walk in a row along a cobblestone path. The eldest in front carries a parcel, the little boy in the middle carries a daisy and walks with a big smile on his face, and the girl at the end of the train carries a cake. A brown cat follows behind them, and a beaming yellow sun smiles down on the children.“Using brightly colored forms, cheerful collage illustrations provide a lively, child-centric, visual context for this uncredited English adaptation of the poem “Un sourire,” attributed to Follereau, a French humanitarian who worked with people who had Hansen’s disease. Opening with smiling parents waking their children in the morning, the simple text reminds readers “a smile costs nothing” and can be given to others.”

Click here to read the full review

School Library Journal

“Every sentence reads as truth, and Hadadi, working in a primary palette of good cheer, welcome, and bright colors, invites readers into the pages. Three joyful children go on a walk, visit a bakery, espy an older man giving someone less fortunate coffee and pastries—and more importantly, conversation—and witness how a smile given freely can change the tenor of the day. The publisher’s note explains Follereau’s philosophy, and helps anchor this airy work to serious goals. VERDICT A quiet idea, amplified, that to be kind, all children need is a smile.”

Click here to read the full review

Independent Book Reviews

“This is a gorgeous children’s picture book about smiling.
Simply perfect for anyone at anytime – it will certainly make you smile!”

North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award

“Whilst accompanying the poem, the illustrations tell their own story as well, showing the kindness, hope and joy a simple smile can bring to everyone. Each spread is bright and bursting with life, full of details to notice and enjoy. Hoda Hadadi’s pictures showing a day in the life of two smiling children would make a wonderful starting point for story telling and collage work.”

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Picture Book Snob

“This is perfect for gently introducing children to the importance of kindness and altruisim, as well as easy ways to practice what they’ve learned. It’s a fabulous bedtime story and Hoda’s art will encourage young people to be creative themselves. This is ideal for use in a classroom and for basing activities around too. This book would also make a marvellous and memorable gift, for adults as well as children. It’s sure to put a smile on the face of anyone who reads it.”

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Library Lady

“The cover depicting a trio of smiling children beneath a beaming sun and jolly smiling clouds instantly lifts your spirits and the endpapers continue the theme with a garden of flowers each of them smiling happily. The reader follows the children as they spread their smiles among the people they meet; the rich man with his downcast face, the young unemployed man lost in sadness and the little girl with the burst balloon. As we turn the pages we watch as their days are transformed by this small act of kindness.”

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@janekwhittingham

“A SMILE was gifted to us by @pajamapressbooks (with whom I work as an author). It’s an illustrated translation of a poem by French poet and humanitarian Raoul Follereau, who I must confess I knew nothing about before reading the afterword. The text is nice (the basic premise being “smile and the world smiles with you” ), but it’s the illustrations by Hoda Hadadi that really make this work shine. Each page is bursting with joy and colour, and detail, and A. just adores gazing at each page.”

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