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Archive for the ‘My Beautiful Birds’ Category

My Beautiful Birds is highly praised by Youth Services Book Review

Posted on February 8th, 2017 by pajamapress

mybeautifulbirds_websiteWhat did you like about the book? Sami, a recent Syrian refugee, explores his very powerful, personal perspective of the pain, healing and hope of his resettlement ordeal. Suzanne Del Rizzo’s incredible attention to each detail in the story line, dialogue and exceptionally detailed polymer clay and acrylic art work of the landscape and living conditions, beautifully combines to allow the reader to absorb the profound emotional loss that Sami has experienced and continues daily. The hopeful symbolism of reconnecting with his beloved birds begins his self-healing process that takes flight in the community and spreads as he welcomes his newest refugee friend. I appreciated that the book did not explain, blame or discuss any political themes, leaving these questions outside Sami’s innocent mind, allowing him to focus on reality, humanity and survival. I hope this book inspires others to realize the daily plight of refugees. I appreciated the “Author’s Note” on the last page that simply outlined facts about the refugee crisis, sadly noting that half of those displaced are innocent children like Sami.

Anything you didn’t like about it? NO, it was well thought out and executed beautifully.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Everyone that works in any small way for social justice and peace, parents that want to expose and inspire young children to social justice issues, ministers, religious education teachers., community organizers.”
Diane Neylon

Click here to read the full review

Pickle Me This says My Beautiful Birds helps us to “recognize the humanity common to all of us”

Posted on February 8th, 2017 by pajamapress

mybeautifulbirds_website“In Suzanne Del Rizzo’s picture book, My Beautiful Birds, a young Syrian boy is forced to leave his wartorn home and make the long journey to the relative safety of a refugee camp. The story is enlivened by Del Rizzo’s plasticine illustrations with their rich purple and golden hues. Of all the things that Sami has left behind, it’s his pigeons he misses the most, the birds he fed and kept and as pets….Where he finds solace, though, is in the sky, one thing that is familiar to him, ‘wait[ing] like a loyal friend for me to remember.’ In the clouds, he sees the shapes of his birds: ‘Spiralling. Soaring. Sharing the sky.’”

Click here to read the full review

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast gives a positive review to My Beautiful Birds

Posted on February 8th, 2017 by pajamapress

mybeautifulbirds_website“Coming to shelves in March is Suzanne Del Rizzo’s My Beautiful Birds (Pajama Press), a new book specifically about Syrian refugees. Rendered in bright and textured polymer clay and acrylic, it’s the story of a boy named Sami, leaving his Syrian home (with a sky full of smoke) to escape war….

Del Rizzo writes in an arresting first-person, present-tense voice, the story coming straight from the boy’s point of view and giving us a glimpse into his inner turmoil….In a closing author’s note, she summarizes the plight of Syrian refugees, singling out the work of the United Nations Refugee Agency. In her bio, she notes what prompted this story — reading about a boy who “took solace in a connection with wild birds at the Za’atari refugee camp” in Jordan and being struck by “the universality of a child’s relationship to animals.”

Click here to read the full review

“Beauty and sorrow sit side by side” in My Beautiful Birds, says The Horn Book Magazine

Posted on February 1st, 2017 by pajamapress

mybeautifulbirds_website“At the start of the emotional tale My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo, Sami and his family climb a hill while their Syrian village burns in the background below. They continue walking for a day and two nights until they reach a refugee camp: “Helpful hands welcome us in. We made it. We are safe.” But Sami is still scared, and he is heartbroken over the loss of his beloved pet pigeons, even though his father reassures him that “they escaped, too.” Healing finally comes after a quartet of birds arrive — not his birds, “but it doesn’t matter.” Del Rizzo uses polymer clay and acrylic paint to create vibrant pictures of Sami, his family, the refugee camp, and the swirling pink-and-purple sky. Most of all, she creates birds for which every feather and color looks real. Beauty and sorrow sit side by side in this compassionate and age-appropriate depiction of contemporary refugee life. (Pajama Press, 6–9 years)”

Click here to view The Horn Book Magazine’s post on books about refugee children

My Beautiful Birds is “an excellent means of explaining a difficult subject to young children” says Kirkus Reviews

Posted on December 27th, 2016 by pajamapress

mybeautifulbirds_websiteSami was feeding his pigeons when his home and his neighborhood were suddenly gone. Sami and his family, Muslims, escape, along with everyone he knows. Hes frightened by smoke and noise, and his father squeezes his hand and assures him his beautiful birds have escaped, too. Days of walking get them to a refugee camp and safety, but while the other kids play and adults try to create a sense of normalcy, Sami cannot join in. Days pass, then he sees four different birds, which land on his outstretched arms. He collects some seeds to feed them, along with paper and wool for their nests, and for the first time since leaving Syria, Sami finds some peace. He then has the strength to welcome a frightened little girl who arrives with a new group. Del Rizzo uses her considerable talent with paint, Plasticine, and polymer clay to create the colorful, highly textured illustrations for this book, which she conceived while searching for a way to explain the Syrian civil war to her young children. Based on a real refugee child who keeps birds, this story isnt about war but its effect on those who experience it and survive. This story of one frightened little boy who finds strength in caring for animals and uses that strength to comfort other kids is an excellent means of explaining a difficult subject to young children. (authors note) (Picture book. 4-10)

Click here to read the full review

A STARRED REVIEW for My Beautiful Birds from Quill & Quire

Posted on December 27th, 2016 by pajamapress

mybeautifulbirds_website“With the arrival of Syrian refugee families in many Canadian communities, parents and children alike are charged with trying to understand the harsh experiences these new classmates and neighbours have undergone. The compassionate and beautiful new picture book from Oakville, Ontario, illustrator Suzanne Del Rizzo – the first for which she has created both pictures and text – imagines a Syrian child and his family driven by war into a refugee camp.

While the others settle into the new realities of life in the camp, sensitive Sami is unable to recover, expressing his trauma through grief for the pet pigeons he had to leave behind. He tries to paint a picture of his pigeons, but covers their coloured feathers with smears of black, then tears the painting to pieces. When four wild birds fly into the camp and respond to Sami’s attention, they break through the little boy’s isolation and misery. By the end of the book, Sami has reconnected with life, and is even able to reach out to help a new child arriving at the camp.

Del Rizzo bases her story on an account from the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan of a child finding solace in some wild birds there. She wisely focuses on what Sami sees and feels without trying to explain too much of the context, relying instead on her visuals to provide this information. The first images of the sky over his former home, glowing with flames and explosions, give way to the beauty of the desert skyscapes in which Sami sees the colourful plumage of his beloved birds. These skillful and imaginative illustrations – created with Plasticine, polymer clay, and other media – give a sense of dimension, which is enhanced by striking and unusual perspectives. My Beautiful Birds is a lovely, timely book.
Gwyneth Evans

Read the full review on page 43 of the January/February 2017 issue of Quill & Quire

My Beautiful Birds and When the Rain Comes are on School Library Journal blogger Elizabeth Bird’s list “2017 Picture Books I’m Really Looking Forward To”

Posted on December 16th, 2016 by pajamapress

9781772780109_fcPajama Press is thrilled that Elizabeth Bird has selected both My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo, and When the Rain Comes by Alma Fullerton and illustrated by Kim La Fave as books on her list “2017 Picture Books I’m Really Looking Forward To”.

WhenRainComes_websiteClick here to read the full book list

My Beautiful Birds is a Junior Library Guild 2017 Selection

Posted on December 15th, 2016 by pajamapress

9781772780109_fcPajama Press is thrilled to announce that My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo is a Junior Library Guild 2017 Selection.

The Junior Library Guild “is a book review and collection development service helping thousands of school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books, saving them both time and money….Our services help librarians with collection development and our members trust us to put only the best books into the hands of their eager young readers.” For more information, please visit the Junior Library Guild website.

Pajama Press extends our congratulations to Suzanne Del Rizzo. Our sincerest thanks go to the Junior Library Guild for promoting reading through this outstanding program.

My Beautiful Birds Extended Author’s Note

Posted on August 31st, 2016 by pajamapress

Suzanne Del Rizzo, author and illustrator of My Beautiful Birds, writes:

S.DelRizzo.websiteWith the increased news coverage about the Syrian conflict, young readers may have questions and feel distressed. Approaching the subject in an age-appropriate way to ensure they feel safe can often be difficult. Here are some website resources which feature information on the Syrian conflict and other displacement stories to begin the conversation.

This site has original news articles on today’s current events, such as the Syrian crisis, written for a school aged audience (grades 2-8).

Amnesty International

Amnesty International has compiled a list of educational resources that explain the rights of refugees.

United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

This website offers classroom resources and an interactive online game “Against All Odds” which “lets you experience what it is like to be a refugee”.

In fact, while I was researching child-friendly resources to use myself to discuss this crisis with my own children, I came across a short UNICEF article, written by Krystel Abimeri, about a boy who fled to the Za’atari refugee camp with his family, and began an incredible friendship with an assortment of wild birds. This article inspired me to create My Beautiful Birds.

Za’atari, Jordan’s largest refugee camp, has grown rapidly from a few hundred tents into a massive network of tents and self-renovated structures with public services like schools, mosques, stores, and medical buildings, making it more like a city than a camp. Now, structured activities such as therapeutic art workshops, mural painting, and sports are offered by various organizations. Volunteers engage youth to reintroduce play and ignite their self-expression to release the trauma of war. Many residents have set up small shops such as barbershops, falafael stands, clothing/household goods stores (even a wedding-dress shop), and pizza delivery, along the main street nicknamed the Champs-Elysee. Although the distribution of these services and shops is not ideal due to the quick growth of the camp, the trade and public services access helps make this semi-permanent living situation feel more like home.

More info on life in Za’atari camp:

Za’atari’s own twitter feed with tweets by the UNHCR

The Lived Zaatari Project

How can we help?

There are many Canadian and international aid agencies providing emergency assistance, supplies and resources:

The United Nations Refugee Agency

The Canadian Red Cross actively supports SARC (Syrian Arab Red Crescent) working on the frontline across Syria to provide food, life-saving health services, and household items to people in need.

UNICEF distributes clean water, vaccines, education, psychosocial support, winter supplies, and protection to refugee children and families in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, European countries, and those actively fleeing Syria.

Canada’s Response to the Refugee Crisis

Canada has welcomed over 25,000 Syrian refugees though government and private sponsorship. As of April 2016, Canadians generously donated a total of $31.8 million to charitable organizations in response to the conflict in Syria, which the Government of Canada will match through the Syria Emergency Relief Fund.