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Penguin Days Reviews

Posted on December 11th, 2018 by pajamapress

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

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

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

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

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Booklist

“In this sequel to Slug Days (2017), Lauren again narrates the story, offering insights into how she sees the world and what helps her cope with stressful situations. While she faces particular challenges, Lauren’s misadventures (dealing with loud relatives, letting calves out of their stall, throwing up on her flower girl dress) could have happened to any girl. Other kids will enjoy reading about them from her point of view. Bender’s winsome pencil drawings with gray shading illustrate the story with sensitivity and humor.”
— Carolyn Phelan

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The Horn Book Magazine

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

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

Foreword Reviews

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

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

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

Manhattan Book Review

“We rated this book: [5/5 stars]…

Author Sara Leach has written an excellent story told from the point of view of a young girl who has Autism Spectrum Disorder and has trouble dealing with so many things. The voice of Lauren is pitch-perfect and really expresses her specialness well. The infusion of humor makes this very accessible to all children. Charming illustrations by Rebecca Bender complete this sweet story. This book will give parents and teachers an excellent portal to difficult discussions about the Autism Spectrum and the many children affected by it.”

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CM Magazine

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

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

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

Highly Recommended.
Bev Brenna

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Youth Services Book Review

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

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

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

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

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New York Journal of Books

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

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

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

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Resource Links

“Rating: E

Penguin Days is a beautifully illustrated, very well written novel for beginning chapter book readers, and is a follow-up to the equally wonderful Slug Days….Lauren’s voice is so authentically honest, the storyline is engaging and relevant, and the pace and reading level are perfect for beginning readers to be introduced to the subject of Autism, or to simply embracing differences.

The extraordinary pencil illustrations are beautiful, and enhance the gentle emotions and narrative of the story wonderfully.”
—Nicole Rowlinson

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

Canadian Children’s Book News

“As readers get to know Lauren, they will empathize with her disappointments and smile at her honesty — a trait that seems to go hand-in-hand with her literal nature. Rebecca Bender’s black-and-white illustrations complement the storyline by conveying the emotional ups and downs of Lauren’s experience.

Overall, this book would make a great springboard for a discussion about feelings and emotions. It presents a wonderful opportunity for children to empathize with the perspectives of others.”
—Ildiko Sumegi is a reviewer from Ottawa and the mother of two young readers.

Read the full review on page 29 of the Summer 2019 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

CanLit for LittleCanadians

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

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

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Canadian Bookworm

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

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

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Lone Tree Reviews

Rating : 4 Star…

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

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

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

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Queenie Quail Can't Keep Up Reviews

Posted on November 29th, 2018 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

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

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School Library Journal

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

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Foreword Reviews

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

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

CM Magazine

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

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Youth Services Book Review

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

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Midwest Book Review

“A well crafted picture book story for children ages 3-7 in which author Jane Whittingham’s original tale is deftly supported by illustrator Emma Pedersen thoroughly charming artwork, Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, and community library collections.”

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Resource Links

“Rating: G…This is a fun read aloud because many of the pages have repeating phrases of onomatopoeia. (bob bob bob, tap, tap, tap, hurry, hurry hurry). The gouache illustrations contain suspense because the children will wonder what Queenie sees, especially at the end when all ten of her brother’s and sisters are looking up.

There are not a lot of picture books about quails, so this would be a wonderful way to introduce children to these fun birds commonly found in many forests of the world.”
—Tanya Boudreau

Read the full review on page 7 of the April 2019 issue of Resource Links Magazine

Celebrate Picture Books

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

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

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

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

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

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

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

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Fab Book Reviews

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

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

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Kids Make Mess

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

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Storytime with Stephanie

Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up makes a fantastic read aloud. Your listeners will want to join in on all the repetitious parts of the story, the hurry, hurry, hurry and the tap, tap, tap. The story is engaging and fun and so impeccably illustrated. Emma Pedersen’s illustrations just scream Spring!”

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Canadian Bookworm

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

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Book Time

Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up by Jane Whittingham and illustrated by Emma Pedersen is an adorable book in words and pictures. I love Pedersen’s illustrations and I love how Queenie stops to enjoy the little things in life, but knows when she has to hurry.”

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Kids’ BookBuzz

“We rated this book: 5/5…I really liked reading Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up….I like Queenie Quail because she is sort of like me; I sometimes can’t keep up with my family because I like to stop and look at little things in nature, like rollie pollie bugs, flowers, and butterflies. I noticed that the illustrator drew Queenie Quail to have a blue feather on her head, so you can tell the difference between her and her brothers and sisters….I was able to read it all by myself, and I am in grade three. I recommend Queenie Quail Can’t Keep Up to little kids as a bedtime story.”
—Avery, Age 8

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Pencil: A Story with a Point Reviews

Posted on November 12th, 2018 by pajamapress

Foreword Reviews ★ Starred Review

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

Kirkus Reviews

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

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NY Journal of Books

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

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

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

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ILA Literacy Daily, “Back-to-School Stories”

“What will it take for Pencil to make his mark and win his way back into Jackson’s heart? Dean Griffiths’ digitally rendered cartoon illustrations featuring animated school supplies complement Ann Ingalls’ clever, pun-filled story which has a point to make: New tools are not always better than old ones.”
—JS

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Resource Links

“Rating: E

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

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

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

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

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

CM Magazine

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

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

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Youth Services Book Review

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

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

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

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Children’s Book & Media Review

“Rating: Excellent…

Pencil: A Story with a Point celebrates imagination, friendship, and working together. One of the major themes of the book is the value and benefit of collaborative work. Another theme is that technology is no substitute for creative play. The text is clever with kid-friendly puns throughout. The graphics are eye-catching and colorful, making this a great book for children ages three to eight. For adults, this book prompts conversation about technology and its role in children’s lives.”

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Pickle Me This

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

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

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

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Jana the Teacher

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

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

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

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

Posted on September 17th, 2018 by pajamapress

Booklist

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

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

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

Click here to read the full review

Kirkus Reviews

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

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The Horn Book Guide

“In a short and poignant narrative, Ho tells how, at age four, she was left behind in Vietnam while her family fled to Canada in 1981….The tale is filled with details about school, hard work, hunger, and the sorrow Ho felt until being reunited with her family when she was eight.”
—Cyrisse Jaffee

Quill & Quire ★ Starred Review

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

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

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full review

Resource Links

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

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

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

Youth Services Book Review

“Rating: … 5

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

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

Read the full review here

Kids’ Book Buzz

“We rated this book: 4/5…

It was very intriguing and it was amazing to me that a little girl like Van actually went through all the things she did. The characters were amazing and well described….Anyone with an interest in Vietnamese history should read this book. I’d recommend this book because it’s an interesting topic. This book was an emotional roller coaster, I loved it.
—Sophia – Age 12

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Libris Notes

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

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

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

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ASLC Litpicks

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

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

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

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

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

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

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A Year of Books

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

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

Click here to read the full review

Laura Lillibridge

“As a writer, I was particularly impressed with the strong voice. Skrypuch beautifully captured the perspective of a young child. The voice is simple and believable….

At the end of the book are interviews with both Van Ho and her mother. This was a well-deployed device to allow the adult perspective, which would be unavailable to the young narrator at the time. By structuring the book this way, we’re able to get a fuller picture of the family’s experience while remaining true to the main character’s voice and age in the story. I highly recommend this story of immigration for all middle grade readers.”

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Canadian Bookworm

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

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

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

Click here to read the full review

Our New Kittens Reviews

Posted on August 14th, 2018 by pajamapress

Booklist

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

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

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Kirkus Reviews

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

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School Library Journal

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

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

Foreword Reviews

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

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CM Magazine

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

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

Highly Recommended
—Sheryl Lee

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Youth Services Book Review

Rating: 5

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

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Resource Links

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

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

OurWindsor.ca

Our New Kittens is a good book with a simple story about the joys of having 4-legged family members.”

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Kids’ BookBuzz

“I was excited to review Our New Kittens because my family fosters cats, and I like to help take care of them. This book reminds me of when we fostered new kittens, and they can be scared at first, but you need to make them feel comfortable. It is a great book to read for kids who are getting a new kitten because it shows all the things you need to get and do to take care of a new kitten….

I love that the illustrations are colorful. I especially love the expressions on the kittens’ faces, like when they are scared, happy, or playful. I recommend Our New Kittens to kids who have cats or are thinking of getting any kind of pet.”
—Avery, Age 8

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Fab Book Reviews

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

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Canadian Bookworm

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

Click here to read the full review

Giraffe and Bird Together Again Reviews

Posted on August 14th, 2018 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

“A strength of this title is the action verbs and rich vocabulary that is introduced….The text and illustrations also work well together….This title lends itself to discussion about friendship and being open to try new things. VERDICT A strong choice for a preschool storytime or a one-on-one sharing.”
–Robin Sofge, Prince William Public Library System, VA

Click here to read the full review

Booklist

“Bender’s language is lively and poetic: Giraffe gazes and grazes, Bird swoops and soars and explores. Her illustrations focus on Giraffe’s very expressive face, which often dominates his orange-and-brown-colored pages, while Bird, when not displayed in full glory on his blue-tinged ones, is just a feather or two, leading Giraffe on his quest. More than one rescue is needed here, which adds to the tale’s tension. Savor for the warmth of the illustrations, the fun, and the read-aloud possibilities.”
— Edie Ching

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Kirkus Reviews

“The zany odd couple is back again in an exciting new adventure….Bender’s sharp wit, onomatopoeic language, and cartoon-style illustrations capture Giraffe’s exasperation, determination, and terror and, above all, the joy of his reunion with his best friend—right before they get themselves into more trouble! Bender includes a map of the locations Giraffe visits in his odyssey; inset pictures of the new animals in this book, a bush baby and an ibex, along with their Latin, scientific names offer bonus STEM material.

May this series continue with more humorous adventures that teach, ever so gently, that best friends have to let each other roam—because the reunion is that much sweeter. A sequel that delivers; may Bird soon have his own starring role in an upcoming story.”

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Resource Links

“Rating: E…[A]n exciting and warm tale. Friendship is at the heart of the story and the sentiment is worthwhile and very wise in its depiction.

The charming lush illustrations are created with acrylic and coloured pencils and endued with great humour….

Thematic Links: Friendship; Giraffes; Birds; Courage; Fear”
—Isobel Lang

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

Tulsa Book Review

“We rated this book: [4/5]

This award-winning author and illustrator has written six other books, many featuring Giraffe. The illustrations and story are wonderful….This book is around a first-grade reading level, but the pictures are sure to delight any page-turner. It is a wonderful book for adventurers and those who are more cautious: it will encourage and motivate both types.”
—Julia McMichael

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CM Magazine

“Bender’s acrylic and coloured pencil artwork is an essential part of the book’s success, and, as in the previous Giraffe and Bird books, the illustrations’ contents not only reflect the characters’ emotions but add to the book’s written text….

Bender provides foreshadowing to the contents of Giraffe and Bird Together Again via a map that occupies part of the copyright page and its facing page. There, young readers can see the route that Giraffe will follow in his quest to find Bird as well as learn the names of the two other African animals that will make cameo experiences in Bender’s illustrations.

Like the earlier two books in the series, Giraffe and Bird Together Again offers subtle lessons in the dimensions of friendship.

Grade One children all across Canada will encounter these two animal friends this autumn as Giraffe and Bird has been chosen as the 2018 TD Grade One Book Giveaway selection.

Highly Recommended.”
—Dave Jenkinson

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Youth Services Book Review

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review5

What did you like about the book? Beautiful illustrations with acrylic and colored pencil. A fun lively sequel to Giraffe and Bird. A story of friendship and trying new things. An unlikely pairing- Giraffe likes routine and Bird likes adventure….A wonderful map at the beginning of the book depicts the route Giraffe takes to find Bird and the animals he encounters along the way….

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes”
Julie Durmis, JC Solmonese Elementary School, Norton, MA

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Midwest Book Review

“A delightfully entertaining story from first page to last, Giraffe and Bird Together Again is unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections.”

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Winnipeg Free Press

“Young readers will cheer on Giraffe as he conquers clinging vines, rocky slopes and even deadly quicksand to rescue Bird. A lesson in friendship and bravery, Bender’s evocative illustrations give a feeling of endless yellow plains and hot red days. For early book-lovers.”
—Helen Norrie

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“One of the best elements of Giraffe and Bird Together Again is the artwork. Rebecca Bender’s use of colour to place the reader in the forest, on the mountain and looking out over the plain is extraordinary. It’s warm and rich in tone and evocative of a setting many of us in Canada will never experience. But, of course, it’s her characters that draw the reader back every time. Generally using only body language and eyes, Rebecca Bender lets the reader see what Giraffe and Bird are thinking and feeling. Frustration, joy, distress and relief are all there in those few elements. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Giraffe and Bird. Moreover with details like Bird hiding under a traditional Canadian work sock or Giraffe in knee pads and helmet or the weird assortment of detritus lodged in the quicksand, kids will seek and find and laugh.

Rebecca Bender’s Giraffe and Bird was recently honoured as the selection for the 2018 TD Grade 1 Book Giveaway. That means every child in Grade 1 in Canada should have received their own copy of that special first book (unless their school board sadly opted out of the program). The enduring affection between these two unlikely friends continues to endear them to young children, perhaps seeing something of themselves in Giraffe or Bird. Whether sensitive to teasing, or homebody or adventurer, there is something of everyone in these two characters, and we’re so glad that Giraffe and Bird are together again.”

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Fab Book Reviews

“An engaging story full of adventure, bursts of surprise, humour, and highlighting a sweet endearment between friends, fans of Rebecca Bender’s previous Giraffe and Bird stories will likely adore this, as may readers looking for a new and vibrant story focusing on friendship and courageousness.”

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Canadian Bookworm

“This delightful picture book is part of a series featuring Giraffe and Bird as companions in various escapades and situations….Each new place pictures an animal from that environment interacting with Giraffe in some way, giving ideas for discussion when reading. The map at the front of the book names these animals for the reader, and shows the distance that Giraffe had to follow to find Bird.

The illustrations are great, and I loved how Giraffe and Bird supported each other.”

Click here to read the full review

Swallow’s Dance Reviews

Posted on August 1st, 2018 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews ★ Starred Review

“Spiritual and cultural beliefs blossom into a celebration of life—at least until the darkness of fear and ruthlessness of the earthmother rip apart a homeland and a cherished way of life. This mesmerizing, aching tale explores ancient beliefs in gods and nature and their impact on an Aegean island society in the Bronze Age….Orr nimbly shows Leira’s imperiousness and her humanity alike as the girl witnesses the jarring shift in order when once-exalted priests and priestesses find themselves cast adrift. Her mixture of prose and free verse to tell Leira’s story is lyrical and magnetic—and devastating. Not for readers searching for a simple or happy journey, this is a beautiful song of a book that shows that life isn’t always fair, but change is always constant.”

Click here to read the full review

Booklist ★ Starred Review

“As she faces the demands of sheer survival, Leira gradually realizes that the privileges afforded to her, thanks to her social status, are meaningless, and she starts taking on whatever unpleasant job she must to protect herself and her family. There are no miracles and no clear answers for Leira, but she learns to love what she has and that she can cope with anything. Leira’s lyrical first-person narrative advances the story along beautifully with a fitting sense of urgency, and free-verse songs clue readers in to her emotional development. Immersive historical fiction.”
—Donna Scanlon

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School Library Journal ★ Starred Review

“Gr 5-8–Leira’s sheltered life of privilege is all she has ever known. Her biggest concern is becoming a woman so she can start her priestess rites. Her people believe the earth goddess will protect them if the proper rituals and sacrifices are carried out, but an earthquake rocks their existence. Leira’s mother is crushed inside their home and suffers severe brain damage, and eventually her family chooses to take their chances by boarding a boat to Crete. As tragedy upon tragedy befalls the sweet but naive Leira in this Bronze Age–set tale, readers will cheer for her to succeed, grow, and to find her way in this new world. Some chapters written in verse make the more emotional plot lines sing. An eye-opening look at how difficult it is when one’s status changes in life, and how attitude can shape outcome. VERDICT Beautiful writing and a fast-moving plot will give young historical fiction fans much to love.”
–Mandy Laferriere, Fowler Middle School, Frisco, TX

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

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“After her home is swallowed by the sea, Leira’s protracted fall from grace is effectively punctuated by seamless narrative shifts among prose, verse, and song, which fans of Orr’s Dragonfly Song (BCCB 01/18) will recognize. What she endures—the uncertainty of her family’s fate and becoming a servant herself—makes for a gripping exploration of privilege during her journey toward womanhood.”

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Canadian Children’s Book News

“This beautifully written story left me wanting more. It revolves around the importance of family values and the strength one must have to survive unexpected challenges. Swallow’s Dance could be used in conjunction with the grades-five-to-eight Language Arts or Social Studies curriculum and would be great to teach students how to incorporate symbolism and imagery through free verse and poetry. In addition, Swallow’s Dance could also be used to teach students about family, culture, history and the importance of the role of women in society. A fantastic novel to use as a read-aloud or novel study!”
—Michelle Snowden

Read the full review on page page 28 of the Winter 2018 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

CM Magazine

Swallow’s Dance is a sweeping tale of courage, fortitude, hardship and perseverance against all odds. It is also a coming of age story, an intimate glimpse into the life of a young girl adjusting to puberty at a time when her family, friendships and her understanding of her place in the world are brutally torn apart. Wendy Orr has crafted a sympathetic, memorable heroine whose struggles and challenges transcend time from the Bronze Age to modern day. Youth will relate to and sympathize with Leira, and readers of all ages will find hope in Leira’s resilience and ability to adapt and move forward despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Orr delves into the universal themes of family, love, loss, friendship, status and endurance within an engrossing and moving tale. As in Dragonfly Song, Orr includes some of Leira’s thoughts in segments of beautiful lyrical prose that could easily function as stand-alone poetry. While suitable for middle grade students and a wonderful introduction to mythology and discussions surrounding puberty, spirituality, class, mental health, death and disaster, Swallow’s Dance is one of those rare books that is also just a great story, an epic tale for all ages.

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

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Historical Novels Review

“Prolific children’s author Wendy Orr beckons us back 4,000 years to Minoan Greece…The ‘Isle of Swallows’ is the author’s name for Thera, which suffered a devastating volcanic eruption in 1625 BCE. This stunning middle-grade novel is poetic, lyrical, and interspersed with elegant free-verse through which readers walk in Leira’s footsteps and share her many heartaches. Nevertheless, from the residual gray ash of the goddess’ warmth, the colour of new life spring as Leira discovers a new skill. Fascinating author’s notes entice readers to seek further information about the Santorini archeological dig. Captivating throughout, this story reverberates long past the turning of its last page.”
—Fiona Alison

Read the full review on page 59 of the February 2020 issue of Historical Novels Review

Youth Services Book Review

What did you like about the book? Top notch historical fiction for those who like it ancient!…Set during the Bronze Age, the story shows that migration has been a constant since time began, and that it has never been easy to lose your home and those whom you love and start over in a new place, in this case, Crete. Leira narrates, in prose and alternating poetry, the catastrophe and the emotional toll it takes on her and her family. Lots of animal sacrifice, daily ritual worship of the gods, and intense heartbreak for a young person unused to any hardship. The poetic interludes do a good job of describing the emotional journey. The scenes of devastation – earthquake in Santorini, tsunami in Crete – are riveting to experience through the lens of a survivor….

To whom would you recommend this book?  Definitely offer this to fans of Orr’s Dragonfly Song and to fans of historical fiction, ages 10-14.”
—Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

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Winnipeg Free Press

“Could you survive an earthquake that destroys your home and your town, devastates your family and turns your place in society upside down?

Edmonton-born (now Australia-based) author Wendy Orr presents this scenario for Leira, a young teen, in the setting of an actual catastrophe that took place in the Mediterranean in 1625 BC….Both a fascinating account of a real but forgotten society, and an exploration of a young woman’s resilience and courage in the face of adversity, this is a highly recommended novel for nine- to 12-year-old readers.”
—Helen Norrie

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Brigham Young University Children’s Book & Media Review

“Rating: Outstanding…

Orr brings to life an imaginative story from the Bronze Age through prose and free verse. This creative novel would appeal to fans of Shannon Hale….Leira finds purpose and place in learning a trade and realizing she is capable of love and sacrifice. This original story weaves a tale of strength, loyalty, and resilience.”

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Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California BayViews

“Each month we post an annotated bibliography of books that were rated ‘Outstanding’ and nominated for our Distinguished List at our previous month’s meeting….

An unusual historical novel set in Minoan Greece, Swallow’s Dance used descriptive language and sections of blank verse to create the voice of its young heroine, Leira, as a series of volcanic eruptions interrupt her religious education and then completely disrupts her ordered and comfortable life.”

Click here to read the full review

Log Cabin Library

Swallow’s Dance is the fictionalized story inspired by the real events of a hurricane that occurred in 1625 BCE on the island of Thera (now known as Santorini) that resulted in a huge tsunami on Crete and the speculation of whether the people of Thera were able to flee to Crete before the city was buried.  Like Dragonfly Song, Swallow’s Dance is told through a combination of prose and free verse. It’s a wonderful mix of survival and a coming of age story.

Leira is a resilient young girl who endures so many hardships once she arrives in Crete. One of her early concerns is that she will never be able to complete her learning to become a woman….Despite everything that she endures, she is still strong, fierce and strives to improve her living situation, to one day be free. You can’t help rooting for Leira as she vows to honor her people and claim who she is.”

Click here to read the full review

Jill Jemmett

“This is a very powerful story. It was quite emotional at times. I had tears in my eyes by the end, but I was pleased with the ending. This story has a traditional Greek form because it is written partly in verse. The sections in verse are particularly descriptive and lyrical. This reinforces the Greek atmosphere of the story.

This is a beautiful and powerful story. I loved it!”

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Resource Links

“Rating: G…The story is related in a combination of prose and free verse, in keeping with the historic saga style. Leira becomes a resourceful and determined young woman, as she learns to appreciate life and family in a new and humble way.”
—Patricia Jermey

Read the full review on page 9 of the February 2019 issue of Resource Links

Kids’ BookBuzz

“This book is written in a very interesting way–the story is told both in prose and in verse. The poems seem to be Leira’s direct thoughts on what is happening around her, which made it feel like the reader was a part of the story.”
—Julia – Age 8

Click here to read the full review

A Good Day for Ducks Reviews

Posted on July 24th, 2018 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

“This charming story captures the joy of a rainy day….. The tale will resonate with many small children. The ink and watercolor artwork adds to the lighthearted mood….VERDICT A comforting and appealing choice for storytimes and one-on-one sharing.”
–Robin Sofge

Click here to read the full review

Kirkus Reviews

“Impressionistic illustrations use light, splashy washes of color with scratchy ink outlines and white backgrounds, conveying both the excitement of the rainy outdoor scenes and the familiar, cozy atmosphere inside. The simple plot, short length, and rich vocabulary make this a fine choice for toddlers just beginning to listen to real stories, but there’s enough interest and action for older preschoolers as well. Just right to enjoy after a rainy-day outing while sipping a cup of hot chocolate and perhaps wearing a pair of bunny slippers.”

Click here to read the full review

Seattle Book Review

“We rated this book:  [5/5]…Author Jane Whittingham has written a spare text filled with onomatopoeia and lyrical writing that will charm little ones and those who read to them. The gorgeous watercolor illustrations by Noel Tuazon seem to be washed by the stormy day, and they are the perfect complement to this enchanting story. This is a sweet story children will ask for over and over.”
—Rosi Hollinbeck

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CM Magazine

“A Good Day for Ducks would make for a good bedtime story as it does not contain any sort of strong plot or exciting events. However, the basic storyline is likely relatable to the intended young audience.

The author selected basic sight words and includes lots of repetition throughout the story, making the book suitable for beginning readers. Children would likely pick up the vocabulary quickly after hearing it read aloud several times.”

Click here to read the full review

Resource Links

“With a large font format, plenty of onomatopoeia, and simple watercolour illustrations, this offering is a great read aloud for preschool groups or family time. The lovely depiction of a brother and sister who are close in age, and perfect companions, heartwarmingly shows a wonderful example of being content with simply playing in the rain, sharing a snuggly drink, and quietly drawing together.”
—Nicole Rowlinson

Youth Services Book Review

What did you like about the book? This is a sweet story about two young children enjoying a wonderful rainy day….The text is very simple and this will appeal to younger children. Sounds effects such as ‘drip drop’, ‘splish splash’, and ‘quack quack’ will also appeal to a younger audience and could be fun for a library story time.”
Kristin Guay, Centerville Library, Centerville, MA

Click here to read the full review

Fab Book Reviews

“A Good Day for Ducks is the wonderfully rhythmic, sing-song tale of siblings who show readers just how best to enjoy the rain- and how to make the most of cozy and fun indoor activities after the rain….Readers will likely find much to love in the lightheartedness that A Good Day for Ducks offers. The combination of effective, chanting-like text (perfect short length for toddlers and up to appreciate!) with lovely, soft watercolor and ink drawings makes for another great picture book from the Canadian author and artist duo.”

Click here to read the full review

Orange Marmalade

“This exuberant ode to the joys of rainy days is toddler perfection!

The brief, lyrical text ripples with energy…Swishy, perky watercolor illustrations amplify the sense of freedom and joy. Ages 18 months and up.”

Click here to read the full review

Canadian Bookworm

“This is a book in celebration of a rainy day, of siblings, and of the fun of experience. Like Jane’s previous book Wild One, this is a book about children enjoying nature.”

Click here to read the full review

Book Time

“In A Good Day for Ducks by Jane Whittingham we get to embrace our inner child and spend a day in the rain…This book makes me wish for rainy spring – not fall – days.”

Click here to read the full review

A World of Kindness Reviews

Posted on July 23rd, 2018 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

“Inspiration for acts of kindness, with illustrations from several artists….In a meta act of kindness, royalties from the proceeds from the book will support a nonprofit group, Think Kindness. A tool to spur kindness conversations…”

Click here to read the full review

ILA Literacy Daily, “Conflict: Awareness, Understanding, and Resolution”

“A quick glance at a newspaper or social media reveals that conflict is everywhere–within families, in the workplace, and among nations. It’s clear that the world would be a better place if we approached one another with empathy and kindness.….

The child-friendly questions posed and the scenarios depicted provide food for thought and discussion about the importance of taking action. Ultimately, young readers may realize that kindness starts with one small act, rippling outward to touch others and improve the world.”

Click here to read the full review

Resource Links

“Rating: E

Nine children’s authors and illustrators have come together to answer the question, “Are you kind?” Their illustrations show children and animals answering that question through their actions….

Every page of this book has a unique style of artwork. Realistic, cartoon, mixed media, plasticine, and pen and ink. The settings and children featured in each scene reflect a diversity of cultures….Every child (and parent) could benefit from this book.
—Tanya Boudreau

Manhattan Book Review

“We rated this book: 4.5/5…

The book gently nudges young children to be considerate of others in their actions…the illustrations are quite lovely, and they come in a range of styles using a variety of mediums, from clay to chalk to the aforementioned paper cut-outs. I appreciate the book’s simple approach to a concept that can be somewhat amorphous. The questions and illustrations give kids concrete examples of what kindness can look like and encourage them to pause to consider their own actions and the effect they have on others. All that together with the fact that the book’s proceeds benefit a good cause make this one not to miss.”
—Danielle McManus

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CM Magazine

A World of Kindness, the new collaboratively created picture book produced by the editors and illustrators of Pajama Press, offers young children aged two through five a simple introduction to the concept of kindness….

The real strength of A World of Kindness is its art….each illustration in its own way and style authentically highlights the joy of kindness….

Kindergarten teachers will find that A World of Kindness makes a lovely companion to now-classic picture books on kindness such as Have You Filled a Bucket Today?”
—Michelle Superle

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Youth Services Book Review

“This modest book is a fabulous introduction to kindness and an excellent conversation starter at the beginning of a school year. Regardless of age, color, what we look like or who we are, this book models what kindness looks like for all living creatures. Teaching good manners, accepting differences, talking about making others feel good are all exemplified here in simple text with vivid gentle pictures.”
Sandy Kelly

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Midwest Book Review

“Kids receive a fine primer on how simple acts of kindness towards each other make a difference not only in the lives of strangers and acquaintances; but in the world around them….Very simple concepts and lovely drawings excel in clarifying the concept and various ways it can empower a child, in particular, in a highly recommended survey all collections should have.”

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Canadian Children’s Book News

“How can a child make the world a better place? A series of simple, yet meaningful, questions, posed by the editors of Pajama Press, ask children how they can demonstrate empathy and kindness toward others. Questions such as ‘Will you help someone younger…or older?’, ‘Will you be a friend to someone new?’ or ‘Are you gentle with animals big…and small?’ serve to open up meaningful discussions about how children can make a positive difference as they interact with others, whether they be human or animal.”
—Senta Ross

Read the full review on page 36 of the Winter 2018 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

Our Windsor

A World of Kindness is a nicely illustrated picture book that shows children how they can be kind to others….A World of Kindness is aimed at children 3 – 6 years old, but the message it contains is for everyone.”

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Pickle Me This

“In a note inside the book, Pajama Press Publisher Gail Winskill writes that the idea for the book was born when her three-year-old granddaughter asked her one day, ‘Nana, how can I be kind?’….Each page features art by Pajama Press’s acclaimed illustrators, some from previous books and others original (and my children were excited to see illustrations from books they’ve loved before!). Being gentle with animals, saying please and thank you, helping shy friends join in, watching over those who need it.

The ideas are simple, but they’re also transformative and profound, and the depth and diversity of illustrations on this book provide another layer of richness, making A World of Kindness a deeply meaningful read. Even better: royalties from the book will be donated to Think Kindness.”

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“The text of A World of Kindness is endearing and straightforward, and will work well with young preschoolers and children in primary grades. But it’s the illustrations, some from already published works and some original art, that will carry the message. Children will see kindness in the hugs, the sharing, and the love that seasons these pages….

A World of Kindness will undoubtedly be used as a tool for teaching and instilling kindness, especially as Pajama Press has provided a downloadable poster (https://pajamapress.ca/resource/a_world_of_kindness_extra_content/) and teaching guide (https://pajamapress.ca/resource/a_world_of_kindness_teaching_guides/) on its website….[A]t its heart, A World of Kindness is a compendium of beautiful messages in words and art to help make our world, starting with our youngest readers, a place of graciousness and goodwill. With such benevolence, this picture book will triumph with purpose.”

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Oregon Coast Youth Book Preview Center

Verdict: This is a simple introduction to kindness and gives children concrete examples of how they can show kindness to others. I highly recommend this beautifully illustrated book. I will be using it in my character education class. It is a valuable book for elementary school classrooms.”
—Tami Harris

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Teachers Books Readers

A World of Kindness From the Editors & Illustrators of Pajama Press is a beautiful book with simple text that reminds us all how easy it is to be kind….

Another interesting note is each page features the artwork of a different illustrator. Students enjoyed the variety and spent time analyzing the illustrations….As a mentor text, A World of Kindness provides an example of using questions to write about a subject you’ve researched.”
—Laurie Ryan

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Brigham Young University Children’s Book & Media Review

“This book illustrates small acts of kindness such as sharing a bike with another, petting a cat, or even just saying please and thank you. With each page illustrated by a different artist, the reader can enjoy many different ways of looking at the world, and this subtly shows how each person is unique as they share a kind act. Each page tells a story of kindness that can spark conversation for young readers about how they can show kindness in their own lives.”

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“I think we can all use inspiration for kindness every day in every way. So, the people at Pajama Press have created this book to inspire kindness when talking with children….

The questions are asked of young readers, and the illustrations inspire quiet conversation about the many ways we can show kindness to others. Nine artists are included, in artwork already published or pieces specifically created for this book. They show young readers some of the many ways they can be kind and helpful.”

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Fab Book Reviews

“[T]his picture book is more attuned to making its simple, important, strong messages/sentiments known, and thus would likely function well in preschool or elementary classrooms for further discussion and exploration. The themes in A World of Kindness also allow for the book to be effectively paired and examined with similarly-themed picture books such as David Ezra Stein’s The Nice Book, Pat Zietlow Miller and Jen Hill’s Be Kind, or All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman….Extras: There is a downloadable poster available through the Pajama Press website.”

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Canadian Bookworm

“This book raises funds for Think Kindness and illustrates what kindness looks like….The pictures are well chosen to convey the actions, and show diversity. A great addition to any collection.”

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Book Time

“Each page is drawn by a different Pajama Press illustrator. I enjoyed flipping through the pages and recognizing the style of each illustrator….The messages, which include being kind to animals, helping those younger than you and saying sorry when you are wrong, makes it a cute and beautiful book.”

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That’s Another Story

“I’m always on the lookout for new ways to talk about kindness with my students. This book is perfect for starting a discussion….

My Thoughts as a Writer:

Such a simple text yet so effective! It’s really a list of ways to be kind, written as a series of questions. Put together with these lovely illustrations, the text does make me think.

My Thoughts as an Educator:

This is a perfect book for reading aloud. After an initial read through, educators could talk about one page a day and have a wonderful discussion. It’s also a great book for studying different styles of illustration and what makes them effective. Or to think about how the illustration relates to the text. I also really love the cover. I definitely want this one for my personal collection!”

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The Flooded Earth Reviews

Posted on June 20th, 2018 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

Title: The Flooded Earth Author: Mardi McConnochie Publisher: Pajama Press“Originally published in Australia, this adventure novel is a strong series opener with a unique and timely concept. The fast-paced story will keep readers engaged, and solid world building will draw readers into this fascinating cli-fi (climate fiction) tale. VERDICT A timely addition to most middle grade collections.”
—Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ

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

Booklist

“Set 40 years after a flood that ravages most of the earth, this series starter finds two twins on an epic adventure at sea….McConnochie covers serious topics prevalent today through the journeys of four kids who provide touches of innocence in this gritty world, each with their own tragedies and obstacles that they turn to one another for help overcoming. A bright adventure that touches upon a range of intense themes, from climate change to the refugee crisis.”
Elizabeth Konkel

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The Horn Book Magazine

“McConnochie does a fine job of world-building, creating vivid images of abandoned waterfront communities and also developing the technical and governing structures that shape that world. The plot-driven adventure is deepened by interactions and revelations that shape the characters as they make their way across the ocean.”
—Sarah Rettger

Read the full review in the March/April 2019 issue of Horn Book Magazine

Kirkus Reviews

“A high-seas adventure stars 12-year-old twins Will and Annalie, who seek their missing father in a flooded, post-ecological-collapse world….As is typical of the cli-fi genre, McConnochie explores current-world issues within her adventure. Climate refugees and strict immigration laws have created a permanent underclass and a human trafficking problem, which privileged Essie begins to understand when the adventurers are joined by a starving former slave boy….Despite the post-disaster setting, an exciting and old-fashioned sailboat quest with pirates, secret codes, storms, and cannibals.”

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Foreword Reviews

“The novel matches teenage wits against those of corrupt government officials, with the teens proving more formidable than anyone expects them to be. It somehow handles grand and troubling questions in a gentle, musing way. The magnificent capabilities of the book’s determined young leads emerge as The Flooded Earth’s dominant force. Readers of this first in the series will be eager to learn where the team’s sailboat takes them next—and whether Graham will be patient through the adventure.”

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School Library Connection

“Questions of valuing human life, responsibly caring for the environment, proactively responding to natural disasters, and thoughtfully considering governmental authority could emerge as a result of reading this book…these advanced themes makes the story richer…In a racially charged society, focusing character development on relationships, rather than physical attributes, is mentally refreshing. The first installment in this “cli-fi” series will have readers craving more adventures with Will and Annalie.

Recommended.”
—Dr. Michelle Hudiburg, Assistant Professor of School Library and Educational Technology, Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas

Read the full review in the January/February 2019 issue of School Library Connection

Tulsa Book Review

“We rated this book: [5/5]…The journey is more than just a search for their father but an uncovering of secrets and the reveal of betrayal. McConnochie explores a variety of themes including refugees, climate change, slavery, and bullying. The Flooded Earth is the journey of two siblings as they brave open waters to find their father and encounter along the way a variety of dangers in this gritty cli-fi world of water.”
—Elizabeth Konkel

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CM Magazine

“A taut, suspenseful, masterfully written ‘cli-fi’ thriller, The Flooded Earth combines the best of speculative fiction with strong characterization and moral dilemma. The post-Flood world is described in vivid detail, from the high-class world of Annalie’s boarding school to the damp, ramshackle, gang-infested world of their home neighborhood known as Lowtown….

It is interesting that the author has chosen not to set the book in recognizable geography or nations—where is Dux (whose citizens apparently speak Duxan) and the Moon Island archipelago? Yet their world seems very familiar, as if set in the near future after an enormous rupture….[R]eaders will find themselves…exhilarated, and begging for more. Highly Recommended.
—Todd Kyle

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Youth Services Book Review

What did you like about the book?…This is the first book in a planned trilogy. It was first published in Australia. I have never seen the phrase “cli-fi” (climate change-based science fiction) used before, but it definitely seems to be an emerging genre. I found this book to be well-paced, full of adventure and an exciting read. Current issues explored in this book besides climate change include immigrant issues, poverty, human trafficking and more.

To whom would you recommend this book? Students who are interested in speculative fiction, straight up adventure fiction or fiction related to climate change will like this book.”
Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, Dartmouth, MA

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Canadian Bookworm

“This is obviously the first in a series of books following the children, and I am dying to find out the next adventures for them. The author is well-known for both children’s and adult fiction in Australia, and I am pleased to discover her.”

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Angie Brand’s Classroom

“This intriguing story of friendship, family, and adventure is perfect for middle grade students, both boys and girls. Some may relate to Will, a boy who doubts himself but feels responsible for the outcome of everything around him. Annalie is an intelligent girl, who is compassionate and would rather let Will think he’s running the show than step in and take over even when she knows he’s wrong. Essie is in the midst of family turmoil, but would do anything for her best friend. Finally, Pod has never known family, happiness, or security, and when he finds these three things in his new friends he shows true loyalty and love….Thankfully, the next book in the series (The Castle in the Sea) comes out in June, and it is already on my to-read list!”

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