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Nutcracker Night Reviews

Posted on July 2nd, 2019 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

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

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Publishers Weekly

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

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The Horn Book Magazine

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

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

Foreword Reviews

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

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

Resource Links

“Rating: E…A young girl enjoys an evening out with her dad in New York City. They are dressed up to see The Nutcracker Ballet….Highlights from the ballet include views of the nutcracker when he’s new, broken and then fixed. Children will see the Mouse King, the marching soldiers and the Sugar Plum Fairy and flamenco dancers in their beautiful outfits. Although the evening looks serene and cozy, the creators of this book added realistic things one would see at the theatre such as sleeping people in the audience and audience members who make a little too much noise. The book ends with a one page write-up about the history of the ballet and the New York theatre that appears in the story.

This is a beautiful Christmas story, with a sparkly cover (the snowflakes are glossy) but it can be read at any time of the year to introduce children to ballet, theatre, or words that are associated with fun to say sounds.”
—Tanya Boudreau

Read the full review on page 8 of the December 2019 Final Issue of Resource Links

CM Magazine

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

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The Sudbury Star

“Toronto’s Mireille Messier opts not to tell the story of the Nutcracker (although a brief author’s note at the end of the book provides a synopsis) but focuses instead on the child’s outing with an onomatopoeic series of words that capture the sensations surrounding the event. Colourfully illustrated by Quebec’s Gabrielle Grimard, this should appeal to ages three to six…”
—Bernie Goedhart

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Midwest Book Review

“An author’s note enriches the text with further information and a brief summary of the famous ballet, making it an unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-7.”

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Youth Services Book Review

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

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Though the story of the Nutcracker, that of a young girl perhaps dreaming of a nutcracker come to life, is the basis for Mireille Messier’s picture book, Nutcracker Night goes beyond a retelling of the ballet’s premise….

Gabrielle Grimard’s artwork, created with watercolour, gouache, oil, coloured pencil and digital media, evokes the magic and the affection of the experience for all participants. From the wide-eyed faces of the children to the action of the ballet, Gabrielle Grimard takes the reader into the theatre to watch, to hear and to appreciate the Christmas ballet.

Head to the ballet with Mireille Messier and Gabrielle Grimard’s Nutcracker Night for a different kind of audiovisual experience and one that is perfect for the holidays. Like the nutcracker itself, Nutcracker Night opens up a tale for the season.”

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Fab Book Reviews

“With the story’s emphasis on short, exuberant bursts of onomatopoetic language, Nutcracker Night allows for the incredibly warm, inviting and expressive illustrations by Grimard to really shine.

A great pick for the coming winter and Christmas season, Nutcracker Night’s noise-and-sound-based text in tandem with lush, cozy art makes for a joyful, perfect-for-reading-aloud experience. Readers who love picture books such as the rhythmic and sound-laden I Got the Christmas Spirit, or other charming versions of The Nutcracker by authors-illustrators such as Jack and Holman Wang (a board book version), or Valeria Docampo and New York City Ballet, might especially delight in the genuine wonder and felicity on display in Messier and Grimard’s Nutcracker Night.”

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“This lovely book is filled with the joy that occurs when a little girl and her father attend their first ballet together….The story is told with simplicity, and wonderful sound effects that make for a dramatic reading. It is a feast for the senses, with both sights and sounds….

The writing, with its perfect sound effects, gives readers a real feel for the excitement inherent in such an exceptional moment. What a delightful way to introduce young readers to the entirety of the experience. An author’s note concerning both the story and the history is welcome.”

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Canadian Bookworm

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

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Booktime

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

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Harvey Comes Home Reviews

Posted on June 20th, 2019 by pajamapress

School Library Journal ★ Starred Review

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

“[T]his gently paced, character-driven narrative captivates on every level, transforming a ‘lost dog’ story into a deeper reading experience. Present-day and historical time lines (with a few grim moments) are seamlessly interwoven and keep readers invested. Back matter reveals that the tale was inspired by Nelson’s (Finding Hope) grandfather, accounting for the book’s authentic, intimate feel. VERDICT Nelson’s first middle grade novel is heartwarming and inspirational; a first purchase.”
—Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

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Kirkus Reviews

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

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Booklist

“What begins as a story of a dog and two kids evolves into a historical look at Mr. Pickering’s much simpler, yet complicated, life. Throughout, alternating third-person chapters from Maggie, Harvey, and Austin give readers a rounded view of each prominent character….Dog lovers will drool over this multi-generational story.”
— J. B. Petty

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

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

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

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CM Magazine

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

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Resource Links

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

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

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

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

Youth Services Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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Winnipeg Free Press

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

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

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

Told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Harvey, Maggie and Austin, Harvey Comes Home is not just a story about a dog lost and found. It’s a story about the bonds between human and dog….But Harvey Comes Home is also about the power of memory to bring us home….Colleen Nelson always tells a good story (see her YA titles SadiaBlood BrothersFinding Hope, and The Fall for a great sampling) but, in her first middle-grade novel, she is able to grab the reader’s heartstrings while blending a dog story with an intergenerational relationship and embedding profound reflections on the Depression and the Dust Bowl. It’s a complete package as Harvey’s, Maggie’s and Austin’s stories converge, integrated with heart and important messages about connecting with others and forgiveness for mistakes made when scared, hurt or alone.

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

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

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

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Author Sheryl McFarlane

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

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

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Kids’ Book Buzz

“We rated this book: [5/5]

I loved Harvey Comes Home because of the feeling and emotion in it….I would give this book five stars because it was so interesting. If I had to describe this book in 1 sentence I would say, ‘heartfelt and wonderful.’”
—Natalie, Age 9

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From 1 to 10 Reviews

Posted on June 19th, 2019 by pajamapress

Booklist ★ Starred Review

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

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Kirkus ★ Starred Review

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

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Foreword Reviews

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

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

Resource Links

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

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

CM Magazine

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

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

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

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

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

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Fab Book Reviews

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

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Triceratops Stomp Reviews

Posted on May 9th, 2019 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

Cover: Triceratops Stomp Author-Illustrator: Karen Patkau Publisher: Pajama Press“[D]ino fans will delight in this onomatopoeic romp. Extra information about other dinosaurs found throughout the story is appended at the end. Fill your storytime with prehistoric sound.”

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School Library Journal

“A serviceable addition for the most devoted toddler dino fan.”

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The Globe & Mail

“Young readers will find themselves stomping and romping and thudding about just like the baby dinosaurs in Patkau’s lively onomatopoeic text.”
—Jeffrey Canton

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Resource Links

“Rating: G…This picture book is an easy introduction to dinosaurs for young readers, with repetition and fun sounds to keep them entertained. The story is followed with a ‘Dino-Search’, so kids can look back throughout the book to spot a specific dinosaur and learn a few fun facts along the way.”
—Holly Rainville

Read the full review on page 6–7 of the June 2019 issue of Resource Links

Midwest Book Review

Triceratops Stomp by author and illustrator Karen Patkau will delight, entertain and charm children ages 2-5, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, kindergarten, and community library picture book collections.”

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Youth Services Book Review

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

You have to love a book where a mother triceratops scares away a t-rex — nice for a change in dinosaur stories….While reading this story, I kept thinking how perfect it would be for a toddler story time. The illustrations are adorable and there are plenty of sounds and movements for young children to mimic such as tap-tap, peck-peck, poke-poke, wriggle-wriggle, cheep-cheep, munch-munch, and roarrr, just to name a few….Also, the last page of the book illustrates seven different dinosaurs along with some interesting facts. A challenge is also presented to see if you can find these dinosaurs throughout the pages of the story….

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

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CM Magazine

“[C]hanges to the size of the font and capitalization encourage the reader to read aloud with enthusiastic vocal variation…

Extra content includes a concluding ‘Can You FIND ME in the Story’ page that invites readers to return to the book and locate the seven dinosaurs that appear somewhere in the book….The closing endpapers carry the text ‘This is how BIG we were’ and provides a size comparison of all the dinosaurs with a human family standing at the side. Recommended.”
Saeyong Kim is a public librarian who lives and works in British Columbia.

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“For children with an enduring love of all things dinosaur and of evocative text of sound and action, Triceratops Stomp will inspire countless readings with nonstop interaction. It maybe not the quietest of bedtime reads but Triceratops Stomp is certainly a picture book destined to become an action adventure of a different class….

While Triceratops Stomp is a playful read that will teach sounds that accompany actions like breaking out of an egg, eating plants, and sleeping, it goes beyond that in both text and art. It portrays the natural history of Triceratops with respect to babies, feeding, defence and family, as well as physical features….Created with digital media, Karen Patkau gives Triceratops babies cuteness and authenticity, and generates landscapes lush in greens and detailed animal morphologies sufficient to instruct but never straying from captivating and entertaining.

Whether you choose Triceratops Stomp as a science teaching tool, as a story to enhance language with its onomatopoeic foundation or as a fun read to share with young dinosaur fans, you can be sure to hear ‘Read. Read. Read. Again. Again.’”

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Booktime

“It’s a cute story and I like that the author illustrates other dinosaurs in the background on each page. The end of the book, children are asked to find the various dinosaurs throughout the book.”

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Fab Book Reviews

“Canadian author, illustrator, and visual artist Karen Patkau (Ecosystem series, Creatures Yesterday and Today) brings readers a lively tale perfect for toddlers and preschoolers with Triceratops Stomp….With a ‘Can You FIND Me in the Story?’ dinosaur look-and-seek as well as a ‘This is how BIG we were’ comparison spread of the dinosaurs featured in the story to humans, Patkau’s story is really tailor-made for young dinosaur enthusiasts. The digitally rendered illustrations’…slightly softer composition and green-leaning colour palette works well for this straightforward story, and for the intended audience. Perfect for fans of rambunctious and simple-to-follow dinosaur-centered picture books such as Nicholas Oldland’s Dinosaur Countdown, Jane Yolen and Mark Teague’s How Do Dinosaurs…? series, Bob Shea’s Dinosaur Vs. series, or Stephan Lomp’s MamasaurusTriceratops Stomps is solidly entertaining fare. Triceratops Stomp might work especially well as a read aloud for an under-five storytime group: the onomatopoeic lines in the story are practically calling for exuberant readers and listeners to chant and repeat!”

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Canadian Bookworm

“This picture book will be great for all the dinosaur enthusiasts….There is lots of word repetition, onomatopoeia, alliteration and fun sounds to keep a youngster interested in what’s happening. The drawings are simple, but have lots of movement and interest. I loved the proliferation of different greens here. A fun read.”

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Kids’ Book Buzz

“This story…gives additional information about different types of dinosaurs in the glossary and has a cute story that smaller children (ages two to six) will enjoy. It may even be a nice story for a big brother or sister to read to their younger sibling. The illustrations are colorful and the story is simple and easy to follow for younger readers.”
—Ania, Age 8

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Lili Macaroni Reviews

Posted on May 8th, 2019 by pajamapress

Kirkus ★ Starred Review

Cover: Lili Macaroni Author: Nicole Testa Illustrator: Annie Boulanger Publisher: Pajama Press“Self-confidence is hard to come by when classmates make fun of the things that make Lili Macaroni herself….Boulanger’s changing perspectives and use of shadows to stand in for other kids’ teasing set the mood, Lili’s exuberant brightness changing to more somber tones with her sadness. Lili and her family are white; there is one black classmate. From Québec, a wonderfully empowering message to be yourself, with a strategy to ease heartache added for good measure.”

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School Library Journal

“The resolution isn’t in the other children being kinder or abandoning their teasing. Although that is implied, the resolution that matters comes from within Lili as she draws upon her own inherent strength and resilience to overcome life’s challenges. The illustrations are colorful and engaging, with clean lines and a contemporary feeling. VERDICT A comforting tale of self-acceptance following the tradition of Kevin Henkes’s Chrysanthemum and Patty Lovell’s Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon.
—Alyssa Annico, Youngstown State University, OH

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

Foreword Reviews

“Sunny illustrations and Lili’s infectious smile stand out as she spreads positivity with honest conversations, creative solutions, and a homemade paper butterfly perched on her shoulder….Through [Lili Macaroni], children will learn the importance of spreading kindness.”

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

“Although it might not be a part of the Common Core State Standards or easy to measure, teaching our students compassion, empathy, and understanding is an important part of the curriculum. Following are some recently published books that are good choices for reading aloud to foster discussion as well as for independent reading….Lili is fortunate to have an understanding teacher in Mrs. Tamara, who hugs her when she shares her feelings and her polka dotted butterfly. Her classmates feel guilty about what they’ve done, and they come back to class after the weekend with their own butterflies.”

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Resource Links

“Rating: E…Full page illustrations show a mix of realistic and cartoon styled artwork….Her dad is shown helping her get ready for school and offering solutions ‘to fly her heartache away’.”
—Tanya Boudreau

Read the full review on page 12 of the December 2019 Final Issue of Resource Links

Midwest Book Review

“And when she explains the butterfly to her classmates, Lili discovers she has begun a powerful conversation, and that everyone has some trouble to be carried away on butterfly wings. Featuring a deftly crafted social message of individual worthwhileness, Lili Macaroni is an utterly charming and entertaining picture book story for children ages 4-7 that is especially commended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections.”

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Montreal Gazette

“For those of you with children who are about to start school, or return to class, here are some picture books — both new publications and recent noteworthy titles, generally aimed at ages four to seven — that might ease the transition. If nothing else, sharing them with your youngsters may prompt some of your own recollections and give you both something to talk about.

Lili Macaroni, by Nicole Testa and illustrated by Annie Boulanger (Pajama Press) — both Quebecers — tells the story of a cheerful, rambunctious redhead who discovers, when she starts school, that not everyone is kind….she starts to pull away from the rest of the kids and grows unhappy at school — until her father suggests she create one of the polka-dot butterflies she likes to draw. It lifts her spirits, and when she explains to her teacher and classmates why she’s wearing it on her shoulder, the results make school a much happier place for Lili.”

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CM Magazine

“Nicole Testa writes Lili Macaroni’s name in a unique orange, cursive font throughout the text. Even when Lili feels like erasing herself and reimagines her life with a new image, she still knows deep down that she must stay true to who she is—Lili Macaroni. Illustrator Annie Boulanger uses fun, playful colours to match Lili’s personality with the exception of a gloomy, grey colour palette on the pages when Lili’s heart is aching.

Lili Macaroni sends the message to children that they should be always stay true to who they are, no matter what others say or think, and that there are always solutions to help mend a broken heart. Lili Macaroni would still be a suitable addition to home collections and kindergarten classroom libraries due to the storyline. In particular, it would be a useful book to teach resilience and empathy….Recommended.”
—Andrea Boyd is an early years’ teacher in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and a graduate student at the University of Manitoba.

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Youth Services Book Review

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4…

What did you like about the book? Little red-haired Lili is happy to have hair just like her Mom’s ‘I am the way I am. I’m Lili Macaroni.’ She makes up songs and reads her favorite books out loud. She draws polka-dotted butterflies and counts stars at night. When she begins school, she is happy until other kids make fun of her name calling her Macaroni-and-cheese and then make fun of her wild red hair and her freckles….With her Dad’s help she draws a beautiful polka-dotted butterfly, cuts it out and pins it to her shoulder for the next day at school. She explains to the teacher why she has done this and then to the rest of the class. The following day many of the children come in with their own butterflies pinned to their shoulders. Lili proves herself to be strong, courageous and resilient. The artwork is wonderful in expressing the emotions of Lili and the students.”
—Katrina Yurenka, Manager, Youth Services Book Review

Click here to read the full review

Youth Services Book Review

What did you like about the book? This book definitely fits the social-emotional category of picture books….Readers would likely be able to use some of [Lili’s] strategies in their own lives. The end of the book also lists some related activities readers could try, including making their own butterfly, building positive self-esteem while creating a self-portrait, and playing ‘Follow the (Kind) Leader’ with friends….

To whom would you recommend this book? Great for teachers or families to read with children as an introduction to discuss self-esteem, bullying, and heartache. Read-alike for Chrysanthemum (by Kevin Henkes). Best for ages 4-7-ish.”
—Sarah Bickel, Greenlodge Elementary School, Dedham Massachusetts

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Teasing can be playful but it can also be bullying and very young children don’t always know when one has become the other. In the mean while, there are little ones like Lili who must endure humiliating comments about their physical appearance and then wish they were anyone other than themselves. Fortunately, author Nicole Testa surrounds Lili with some very astute adults who recognize the little girl’s need to feel good about being herself. Without hoovering up her bad feelings or demanding the school take action, they allow Lili to make her coping strategy work for her. It’s positive and it’s empowering.

Quebec illustrator Annie Boulanger, who illustrated Nicole Testa’s French-language Lili Macaroni: Je suis comme je suis! (Dominique et compagnie, 2017), gives Lili all the attributes the text imbues her with. She’s a little wild, a lot of fun, and a whole lot of smart. She’s colourful and inquisitive and enthusiastic. But when she’s sad, the light is gone from her eyes and her clothing and the page.

For young children going off to school for the first time, Lili Macaroni will help prepare them to recognize teasing that is insensitive and harmful and help them handle it for themselves as well as for others.”

Click here to read the full review

Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“I have been reading this new book almost every day since it arrived in the mail. There’s a great reason for that. My granddaughters are here to visit this month, and they love listening to it before bed each night….The colorful illustrations help children know and appreciate Lili’s personality; they only change with the sadness she feels. We talked about the changing perspectives and how seeing something from above was an interesting way to watch what the children were doing. Many small details held our attention and provided for discussion.”

Click here to read the full review

Canadian Bookworm

“This picture brings to life the issues surrounding bullying….When she considers how to feel better, her father encourages her to draw her favourite kind of butterfly, she takes her butterfly to school and tells her class why she has it, and why she felt bad before she made it. This is good, showing people how sharing feelings can make others aware of a problem they may not have noticed. Her teacher handles it well, and things get better at school. Lili now has learned one way to cope with her feelings.

The book includes some activities inspired by this story at the back, a great idea for kids struggling with negativity.”

Click here to read the full review

Kids’ Book Buzz

“We rated this book: [5/5]

I love this book! In the first few pages, Lili sounds just like me! When she went to school and people were making her feel sad, that made me feel really really sad….I really like her dad’s idea to make a butterfly! I love that this book has instructions on how to make my own butterfly!”
—Bentley, Age 5

Click here to read the full review

My Puppy Patch Reviews

Posted on April 5th, 2019 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

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

Click here to read the full review

Midwest Book Review

My Puppy Patch is a simply delightful story from author, performer, and children’s librarian Theo Heras and will prove to be a great introduction for young children about caring for and training a puppy. Complemented by Alice Carter’s warm, inviting illustrations and a sturdy format complete with padded cover, My Puppy Patch is an exceptional and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 3-6.”

Click here to read the full review

Resource Links

“Illustrations are vibrantly joyous, done with a fun palette in watercolours, pencils, and digital art. Children will pour over the bright, fun drawings on every page, and the occasional words written in a childish hand with coloured pencil are delightfully whimsical.”
—Nicole Rowlinson

Read the full review on page 3 of the April 2019 issue of Resource Links

CM Magazine

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

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

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

Highly Recommended.”
Amber Allen

Click here to read the full review

Toronto.com “More Fun Picture Books for Kids 3+”

“Young children who have, or are planning to get, a dog will like My Puppy Patch….This simple story about children and raising canine family members touches on topics such as socialization, training and caring for a puppy. Good illustrations complement the text.”

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Getting a new pet is a great responsibility and I am delighted that this bright child takes that responsibility seriously now that Patch has joined their household….

For families getting a new dog, Theo Heras gives some excellent advice about canine care, and this little girl is doing it all right, understanding that Patch has basic needs for health and well-being but also for learning and emotional care. Their relationship is certainly one of friendship but the learning goes both ways as the child shows flexibility in her expectations and as Patch’s skills in following commands are reinforced.

Ottawa artist Alice Carter preserves the lightness of Theo Heras’s message about the interrelationship between child and puppy by keeping her illustrations bright and colourful and her characters effusive in their expressions….

For children taking on the responsibility of a puppy, My Puppy Patch emphasizes the joys and only occasional but natural missteps as part of the process of learning to cultivate a solid relationship between child and dog. It may be work, like any education, but it’s worth it.”

Click here to read the full review

Canadian Bookworm

“I liked that the story showed good ways to look after a pet, and the bond that develops between the child and the dog. I loved how the endpapers show the two along with the girl’s drawings and lists pertaining to Patch.”

Click here to read the full review

The Castle in the Sea Reviews

Posted on April 5th, 2019 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

Cover: The Castle in the Sea Author: Mardi McConnochie Publisher: Pajama Press

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

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

Kirkus Reviews

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

Click here to read the full review

Booklist

“As in the first book, this sequel offers commentary on the refugee crisis, often using humor to alleviate the tense material, but McConnochie also delivers higher stakes, daring escapes, wild storms, and pirate battles in a second adventure sure to please young thrill-seekers.”
— Elizabeth Konkel

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The Horn Book Magazine

“This equally fast-paced, action-driven sequel to The Flooded Earth (rev. 3/19), set in a post-climate-change society, begins three weeks after twins Will and Annalie, Essie, Pod, and parrot Graham escaped Little Lang Lang Island…McConnochie expands the setting of her post-Flood world, sending the characters to distant lands and introducing new cultures…The book also begins to explore the scientific and ethical challenges of climate-altering technology, leaving plenty of questions to be resolved in the next volume.”
—Sarah Rettger

Read the full review in the July/August 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine

CM Magazine

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

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

Highly Recommended.”
—Todd Kyle

Click here to read the full review

Resource Links

“Rating: E…McConnochie showcases the action filled chapters with two points of view set forty years after a massive flood that destroys most of the earth’s surface. One focuses on the crew of the Sunfish ship and the other is on the protagonist Will and his friend Essie who fall off the ship. Even though Will and Annalie are in a fight for their lives to find their father against pirates, Admiralty, castles, rocks and more, the sea, it’s vastness, mightiness and its glory is the main focus. It is an expansive depth that carries secrets and messages just like the crew and that draw parallels to impending issues affecting the world and its future from migration and climate concerns.

The Castle in The Sea will keep you diving in for more…”
—Lara Chauvin

Read the full review on page 12 of the April 2019 issue of Resource Links Magazine

Canadian Bookworm

“This is a story of resilience and determination as the four children use the resources and skills they have as they deal with new and often frightening situations. The terrible strength of water arises more than once here, and they learn to look for solutions that are not always the obvious ones. I enjoyed seeing the characters develop further. Pod comes out of his shell and Essie shows new determination. Annalie surprises the others with the things she is able to stay calm in the face of. Looking forward to the third book.”

Click here to read the full review

Jill Jemmett

“There was a lot of science in this book, but it was different from the typical science themed stories for kids. They didn’t do experiments or use technology. The kids had to solve their problems using the things they found in nature. Since they were on a boat, there were many nautical problems, such as sailing without any wind and navigating through a storm. This is a great way to teach kids how to solve their problems anywhere. I really enjoyed this story!”

Click here to read the full review

Before You Were Born Reviews

Posted on April 3rd, 2019 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

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

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

Publishers Weekly

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

Click here to read the full review

Booklist

“There are a slew of books told from the point of view of a parent to a new baby. This differentiates itself with three-dimensional illustrations created with clay and acrylics, which gives it a distinctive look….The depth and intricate detail of the pictures invite a second look, especially when watching the seasons change from fall to winter to summer—leaves fall, snow covers branches, and butterflies appear. A sweet addition to the genre.”
—Ilene Cooper

Click here to read the full review

Kirkus Reviews

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

Click here to read the full review

Midwest Book Review

“A unique and charmingly presented picture book story for children ages 4-7, Before You Were Born will prove to be an enduringly popular and appreciated addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

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

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

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

Highly Recommended.”
—Johanna Beaumont

Click here to read the full review

Resource Links

“Rating: G…Del Rizzo’s polymer clay and acrylic paint illustrations look beautiful and realistic on the double page spreads throughout the book. The ground, the skies, the shadows, and the closeups of the animals on the land and in the sea are mesmerizing in their attention to detail….

This would make a fantastic baby shower gift or a good choice to read to a child to remind them about how much they are loved.”
—Tanya Boudreau

Read the full review on page 4 of the April 2019 issue of Resource Links

Canadian Children’s Book News

“Kerbel’s poetic text is lyrical and rhythmic, at times lifting us up and carrying us along with its joy and grace, and then settling us down in quiet reflection and love. Del Rizzo’s gorgeous illustrations, rendered in polymer clay and acrylic wash, perfectly embody the tone of the text and double-page spreads embrace us with beauty, texture and depth.”
—Ken Kilback is a writer and primary teacher in Vancouver

Read the full review in the Winter 2019 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

Kids’ BookBuzz

“We rated this book: [5/5]. Before You Were Born is the sweetest book I have ever read….The pictures are beautiful, and the message is great. I am so excited for the whole world to get to read this beautiful book….A beautiful, lovely, gorgeous, elaborate tale of the life of nature, the glory of seasons, and the beauty of human beings.”
—Alexandria, Age 7

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for LittleCanadians

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full review

Mrs. Book Dragon

“Absolutely breathtaking, stunning, gorgeous, and brought tears to my eyes….When a book keeps you thinking and makes you want to shout it from the rooftop, you know it is a good one….Once you see the descriptive language with the beautiful illustrations, you will be hooked and understand why I think this book is the most beautiful thing I have seen.”

Click here to read the full review

Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“In this welcome lullaby for a new baby, Ms. Kerbel links nature with the patience needed for parents anticipating its arrival….

The artwork is created in polymer clay, acrylic paint, and other media with the same skill that Ms. Del Rizzo has shown in her previous works. They are exceptional in color, texture and design. The double page spreads show a seaside cottage, the surrounding forest, pond, meadow, and the wide expanses of sky at night and during the day. The animals and settings are detailed, realistic and beautiful to see.”

Click here to read the full review

Fab Book Reviews

“Deborah Kerbel and Suzanne Del Rizzo, who previously collaborated on the gorgeous picture book Sun Dog, return with Before You Were Born. A poetic, poignant, and harmonious ode to new life and family…Picture books that celebrate babies and the welcome of a new family member walk a careful balance so as not to veer into the saccharine; Deborah Kerbel’s lyrical text reads as so very sweet and sincere while still feeling soft, gentle, and controlled…in other words, just right. The rhyming and appealingly melodic text reads effortlessly and allows Before You Were Born to work as a read aloud, gentle nighttime story, or as a lullaby.”

Click here to read the full review

Working Mommy Journal

“There is nothing more exciting in the world than when you are pregnant and expecting a child. It is full of excitement, worry, love, wonder and appreciation of the world around you….This beautiful book describes the wealth of emotions that you feel during the time…

The beautiful illustrations mirror the emotions and evolving seasons as the parents wait for their child to join them. I loved their texture and design, which added even more depth to the story as it holds its own story within the story.

This is a beautiful book for new parents, that will make an excellent baby shower gift for first and second time parents. It will be a gift to treasure for years to come.”

Click here to read the full review

Canadian Bookworm

“This lovely book is a perfect gift for a new mother or father, and a perfect bedtime read for a little one, sending them to sleep with lovely images and the comfort of knowing how much they are loved….

I loved this author/illustrator combination in a previous book Sun Dog, and this book was even better. The lyricism of Kerbel’s words is beautiful, each phrase of anticipation leading you on to the next page. It just flows and the words are full of love….Del Rizzo’s 3D illustrations using polymer clay bring everything to life…”

Click here to read the full review

Girl of the Southern Sea Reviews

Posted on March 13th, 2019 by pajamapress

Booklist

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

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

Read the full review in the April 2019 issue of Booklist

School Library Journal

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

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

The Horn Book Guide

“Readers will cheer Nia’s real powers—her storytelling talent and her resiliency—in this vividly set story.”

Read the full review in the July 1, 2019 issue of The Horn Book Guide

Kirkus Reviews

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

Click here to read the full review

Foreword Reviews

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

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

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

Resource Links

“Rating: E…Author Michelle Kadarusman is Australian/Indonesian/Canadian and her insight into life in Indonesia, supplemented by her shared heritage has made this fictional story of poverty, tradition and self-determination entirely accessible and – more importantly – believable. There is a pragmatism here that transcends all the possible and imagined divisions in this story which gives it an appeal as broad as the ocean it describes.”
—Lesley Little

Read the full review on page 11-12 of the April 2019 issue of Resource Links Magazine

Shelf Awareness

“In Girl of the Southern Sea, Michelle Kadarusman (The Theory of Hummingbirds) delves gracefully into weighty subjects like poverty, slum living, and forced marriages, as well as limited access to education, healthcare and opportunities for the future, especially for girls. Upbeat, optimistic Nia is a very relatable protagonist, even for those who can’t fathom her day-to-day existence.
—Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Click here to read the full review

Quill & Quire

“Toronto-based, Australian-Indonesian-Canadian author Michelle Kadarusman (The Theory of Hummingbirds) sets her moving and dramatic sophomore novel in the impoverished villages of Jakarta….Girl of the Southern Sea is an enjoyable, brisk, and emotionally charged novel that tells difficult stories inspired by the realities of girls in Indonesia. It is a sharp and politically attuned work that will give readers further appreciation for the value of access to education, health care, and justice.”
—Nikki Luscombe

Read the full review on page 31 of the June 2019 issue of Quill & Quire

CM Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full review

Midwest Book Review

“A deftly crafted and inherently entertaining read from cover to cover, Girl of the Southern Sea by Michelle Kadarusman is unreservedly recommended for both school and community library Contemporary General Fiction collections for young readers ages 9-12.”

Click here to read the full review

Youth Services Book Review

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

What did you like about the book?…This is [a] realistically told sad story as the reader witnesses tragedy after tragedy befall Nia. What can she do to survive, to turn her life around, to be brave and courageous?

Anything you did not like about the book. No.

To whom would you recommend this book? This might be a nice teacher readaloud for middle and high school students showing them just how different things can be for teenagers in other countries.”
Katrina Yurenka, Manager, Youth Services Book Review

Click here to read the full review

Kids’ BookBuzz

“We rated this book: [5/5]

This book was extremely fantastic and super well-written. I give this book a 5/5 star rating and think it was absolutely exquisite….

If you are a person who enjoys books with content that makes you feel for the character and not want to put the book down, then you should definitely read this book. If you are a fan of choppy and dry books, well definitely do not read this book, because this book is very far from dry and choppy. It is juicy and full of color, character, and exquisite content. I liked that this book was written in the first-person because I feel that it adds more emotion and is just way better because you are able to be in the body of the character and in their head—especially with the way this author wrote this phenomenal book.”
—Savvy, Age 11

Click here to read the full review

Canadian Children’s Book News

“In this moving, ultimately hopeful tale, Michelle Kadarusman presents young readers with a window into a very different world. Jakarta’s slums, rife with crushing poverty, can be a dangerous place for girls, offering few opportunities for escape; but there is also strength, loyalty, community and kinship. Nia’s refusal to give up and her determination to write a better future for herself will stay with readers long after the book is finished.”
—Tracey Schindler is a book reviewer and former teacher living in Bethany, Ontario

Read the full review on page 31 of the Summer 2019 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

Winnipeg Free Press

“Kadarusman explores the plight of vulnerable young women in developing countries. Nia is resourceful and determined, a good role model for middle-school readers who can watch as she takes charge of her own future.

Kadarusman’s previous novels Out of It (2010) and The Theory of Hummingbirds (2014) have been praised for their ability to relate to a young person’s world.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“I cannot convey the depth of the storytelling within Girl of the Southern Sea and it’s message for girls to make their own opportunities. (A portion of the book’s proceeds go to Plan International Canada’s #BecauseIAmaGirl campaign.) Even dealing with her father’s alcoholism and weakness of character, and inherent vulnerabilities because of poverty and alarming cultural and social attitudes, Nia is driven to continue her education and write her stories….

There are so many tragedies in Nia’s story that come when others try to impose their lives on her circumstances. There are the corrupt police who assault her father; her best friend Yuli who may be involved in illicit activities as a way to improve her conditions; vigilantes who turn on Nia violently when the good luck they purported she peddled was proven to be lacking; and her father who is willing to choose his own needs over those of his children. Still Nia takes guidance from her mother, via dreams, and from Dewi Kadita, the princess cursed with disfiguring skin conditions relieved only in the Southern Sea, and begins to make a life for herself. It’s origins may be saturated in misfortune and tragedy but it will become the story she wants to write for herself and make her the Girl of the Southern Sea.”

Click here to read the full review

Literacious

“Nia is the type of character that won’t soon leave my heart. She left her mark as many characters do after opening up a world that I knew next to nothing about. I don’t know that I’ve read anything set in Indonesia and yet Michelle’s writing transported me there immediately….As Nia continues to make up stories of Dewi Kadita, the Princess of the Southern Sea, she realizes just how important it is to follow her own dreams and take her future into her own hands. This book would pair beautifully with Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz and The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman for a series of titles about children living in poverty around the world. Nia’s strength in spite of her past will not soon leave me heart and mind.”

Click here to read the full review

Blazer Tales

“This story is so full of sadness, loss, bitterness, and heartbreak but it is also so full of love, friendship, hope and determination! Nia is an inspiration to me because she has been dealt such a bad hand in life but she is intent on making a better life for herself. I am so naive when it comes to how people live outside of my little bubble in this world…It also saddens me to know that there are girls today who do not have a choice about what they do or who they marry. This is why I commend Michelle Kadarusman for donating a portion of the book’s proceeds to Plan International Canada’s #BecauseIAmaGirl campaign. This is a book that needs to be in every library and every classroom around the world! Let’s make a change!!!”

Click here to read the full review

Jill Jemmett

Rating: ★★★★★

This was a fantastic story! It was exciting and suspenseful….

This book deals with some serious issues such as child marriage and the lack of available education for young girls in certain parts of the world. I’m sure some kids in Western countries couldn’t even imagine these kinds of things happening to girls like them….

I really enjoyed this novel! I highly recommend it for middle grade readers!”

Click here to read the full review

Mrs. Yingling Reads

Strengths: I love books like Cruz’s Everlasting NoraSaeed’s Amal Unbound, or Venkatraman’s A Bridge Home; and I don’t know that I’ve ever read anything set in Indonesia! The details of housing, clothing and daily life are all good, and Nia’s fight to improve her life is admirable. This is an #ownvoices book, but since the author doesn’t currently live in Indonesia, she had a sensitivity writer. I love that attention to detail….

What I really think: Definitely purchasing. Canadian writers seem to be putting out books on more cultures than US ones? There have been a lot of great books coming out of Canada, and I’m glad that we get them.”

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Canadian Bookworm

“Since she was small, Nia has been fascinated by the legend of Dewi Kadita, a Javanese princess who was cursed by her stepmother in jealousy, and found a new home as the Princess of the Southern Sea, Queen of the Southern Ocean. Nia makes up her own stories about Dewi Kadita, giving her a pet monkey and adding more adventures to her life. She tells the stories to Rudi and other local children, and writes them down….I liked her strong character, and her unwavering ambition.

This book opens children’s eyes to another culture, the more difficult choices and situations faced by children in other countries, and an interesting legend.”

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Kiss the Book Jr.

“I love having a larger selection of books to show our students the lives of children in disparate parts of the world….[it] can help them build a larger world view.”
—Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

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Booktime

“Nia is a wonderful character forced to grow up faster than she should with a father who is unable – or unwilling – to pull himself together for the sake of his family. There are lot of Indonesian stories woven into the book, courtesy of Nia herself, and we get to learn a fair bit about this place she calls home….Nia shows readers what happens when you are brave enough to follow your dreams.”

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Paula Knows What To Do Reviews

Posted on January 3rd, 2019 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

“This poignant book is filled with love and kindness. Paula and her daddy take care of one another following the loss. Despite their sadness, this tale highlights the relationship that Paula and her daddy still have. The illustrations are filled with softly drawn pictures of Paula and Daddy, along with Paula’s paintings in bold primary colors. VERDICT A wonderfully comforting book for children who have experienced loss.”

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The Horn Book Magazine

“The text does not gloss over the different ways parents and children can grieve, or how in grief those roles may be reversed. Readers are left with thoughts about the therapeutic ability of art to express emotions and create healing spaces for the imagination to work through loss.”
—Julie Hakim Azzam

Read the full review in the July/August 2019 issue of Horn Book Magazine

Kirkus Reviews

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

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Midwest Book Review

“Written and illustrated by German children’s book author Sanne Dufft, Paula Knows What To Do is a sweet and poignant story about memory and overcoming grief, showing how a child’s imagination can find a moment of joy and a safe place to land after a loved one is gone. Unique, thoughtful and entertaining, Paula Knows What To Do is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8 years.”

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Youth Services Book Review

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

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

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

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

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Resource Links

“Because this is a book about loss and sadness it can be read to any child. The wording surrounding loss isn’t specific, (the author says Paula’s mom is gone), so gone could mean death, divorce, or that the mom went away on a trip. Children can take comfort in the fact that they can feel less sad by helping someone else when they are feeling similar feelings.”
—Tanya Boudreau

Read the full review on page 3 of the April 2019 issue of Resource Links

CM Magazine

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

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

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

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

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Canadian Bookworm

“This lovely picture book uses two styles of drawing, one to tell the story, and one to show the drawings that Paula makes, bringing them together in wonderful ways….I loved how the drawings tied into the bed covering, and how the sense of adventure that Paula instigated brought energy into the story. A great book to use to begin discussions of loss and grief.”

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