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Archive for the ‘The Hill’ Category

Forest of Reading 2017 Nominees announced: Pajama Press with FOUR titles up for nomination

Posted on October 14th, 2016 by pajamapress

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Pajama Press is excited to announce that four of our titles have been nominated for the 2017 Ontario Library Association Forest of Reading Awards.

The Hill, written by Karen Bass, is nominated for the Red Maple Award. Click here to view the The Hill classroom discussion guide.

Elephant Journey, written by Rob Laidlaw and illustrated by Brian Deines, is nominated for the Silver Birch Express Award. Click here to view the Elephant Journey classroom reading guide.

A Year of Borrowed Men, written by Michelle Barker and illustrated by Renné Benoit, is nominated for the Golden Oak Award. Click here to view the A Year of Borrowed Men reading guide.

Next Round, written by John Spray, is nominated for the Golden Oak Award.

The Forest of Reading is an initiative of the Ontario Library Association (OLA) that helps celebrate Canadian books, publishers, authors and illustrators. Every year, over 250,000 participants read a shortlist of books in their age category and vote for their favourites.

Pajama Press extends our congratulations to Karen Bass, Rob Laidlaw, Brian Deines, Michelle Barker, Renné Benoit, and John Spray. Our sincerest thanks go to the Ontario Library Association for promoting reading and Canadian books through this outstanding program.

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The Hill has “broad appeal for teens and tweens,” says School Library Journal

Posted on August 23rd, 2016 by pajamapress

TheHill_WebsiteAfter the private plane Jared is flying in crashes in the wilderness, the first person to reach him is another teen, Kyle, a member of the Cree nation. Desperate to use his cell phone, Jared insists on climbing a hill, though Kyle warns him against it. Kyle ends up going with Jared to protect him. Both boys are thrown into a spirit world; they are pursued by the Wîhtiko, a flesh-eating monster and occasionally helped by the trickster Wolverine as they attempt to find their way back to their own world with Kyle’s grandmother’s prayers as guidance. Along the way, stereotypes are confronted and the boys become tentative buddies in their fight for survival. Told mostly from Jared’s perspective, the narrative shows his personal growth as he follows Kyle’s lead to stay alive. The boys realize that in order to return to their world they must stop the Wîhtiko—or die trying. In the notes, the author explains her use of the Cree language and legends and discusses the individuals with whom she consulted when using them. Kyle often serves as a guide for Jared and helps him realize his own biases, a trope often found in literature. The writing is descriptive and fast-paced, with an impending sense of dread overshadowing everything as the boys try to outrun and outwit the Wîhtiko. VERDICT: A survival and buddy story with broad appeal for tweens and teens.
—Tamara Saarinen, Pierce County Library, WA

Canadian Children’s Book News calls The Hill “wonderfully creepy”

Posted on August 16th, 2016 by pajamapress

TheHill_Website“When the private jet that Jared is aboard crashes in Northern Alberta, Jared is “rescued” by a Cree teenager who’s spending the summer with his grandparents and younger brother at their summer camp. The plane’s pilot is badly injured and there seems to be no way for Jared to make contact with the outside world, his computer smashed beyond repair and his cellphone without reception. There’s a big hill nearby, and Jared is sure that if they can just get to the top, he’ll get a signal, but Kyle warns Jared that climbing that hill is dangerous. His Kokum, his grandmother, has warned Kyle to stay away from the hill; it is haunted by evil spirits. But Jared won’t listen and, having mounted the summit, the boys suddenly find themselves in an alternative reality faced with a Windigo, a cannibalistic evil spirit that begins to pursue them through the wilderness. And this is not just any Windigo, but the Wîhtiko.

Karen Bass has created a riveting novel that beautifully blends a fast-paced adventure with a wonderfully creepy horror story, using First Nations’ mythology to tie the two stories together. What is particularly striking is not only the way that Bass weaves the cannibal-hunting Wîhtiko into the story but also the one mythological figure who has defeated this creature, Wesakechak, the Cree trickster, who helps the teens out. Bass not only makes readers see the limitations of settler society’s understanding of First Nations’ cultures and traditions but she also allows her First Nations teenager to learn something from his interaction with Jared. The Hill is a novel about making connections, finding ways to work together and be mutually respectful in terms of interpersonal relationships and different cultures. Bass provides readers with a glimpse into how she approached using Cree mythology in an excellent author’s note.”
—Jeffrey Canton

Karen Bass’ The Hill “suspensful, fast-paced and hard to put down,”—Kirkus Reviews

Posted on August 11th, 2016 by pajamapress

TheHill_WebsiteThe crash landing of his father’s private jet in the Canadian wilderness leaves rich white kid Jared stunned and the pilot badly injured, but it soon becomes clear that those are the very least of the 15-year-old’s problems. Kyle, a Cree boy of the same age, comes to Jared’s aid but isn’t able to stop him from climbing up a tall hill that’s forbidden for the Cree to visit in hopes of getting a cell signal. Going up there literally opens a world of trouble. That world they unwittingly step into is inhabited by Wîhtiko, a legendary Cree creature that is large, strong, terrifying-looking, and determined to eat the two boys. Thus begins a four-day chase through the deep woods, with little food and growing peril. Wesakechak, a shape-shifting Cree trickster, provides occasional help, but mostly the boys are dependent upon Kyle’s well-honed woodland skills, as Jared finds that his modern tools have little to offer away from the grid. The cultural tension between the two boys is prolonged, but eventually, after Jared uses one of his few skills to save them, they make a lasting peace. The pace is relentless, the amply creepy threat is believable, and the setting is fully realized. There is enough Native American culture to add welcome flavor and depth; Bass, not Cree herself, explains her cultural and linguistic research in an author’s note. Suspenseful, fast-paced, and hard to put down. (Adventure. 11-18)

Click here to read more from Kirkus Reviews.

The Hill’s inclusion of Cree mythology “a brilliant addition…truly frightening”—Resource Links

Posted on June 15th, 2016 by pajamapress

TheHill_Website“Jared is flying in a private jet to visit his father’s diamond mine in the NorthWest Territories when the plane crashes. In his expensive sneakers and “raw” jeans, Jared is totally unprepared for surviving in desolate Northern Alberta. Fortunately Kyle Badger, a Cree teen, is camping nearby and comes to the rescue. After providing first aid for the injured pilot, Kyle tries to get Jared to return to his grandparents’ camp. But Jared insists on climbing a nearby hill, seeking cell phone service. Kyle tells him that the hill is culturally taboo, but Jared refuses to listen. When they reach the top, there is of course no cell service. Instead the boys enter an alternate reality, a spirit world in which their action releases the Wîhtiko (aka Wendigo). The next two hundred pages are an adrenaline-filled fight for survival, where Jared and Kyle only manage to succeed due to Kyle’s wilderness training and the intervention of Wesakechak, the trickster.

This novel has many of the threats of wilderness survival fiction, including quicksand pits, forest fires, and dangerous animals. The inclusion of the indigenous mythological characters is a brilliant addition, and creates truly frightening scenarios. But the best part of this book is the interplay between the two main characters. Jared is the spoiled city kid, and Kyle the tough outdoorsy one, but they are both so much more than the stereotypes would suggest. For example, Kyle advises Jared, “Sometimes scared is the smartest thing you can be.” (p. 29) Only through the combination of their knowledge and skill, and respect for each other’s contribution, are they able to return the Wîhtiko to its lair in The Hill.”

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The Hill “…is impossible to stop reading” according to The Globe and Mail

Posted on May 25th, 2016 by pajamapress

TheHill_WebsiteKaren Bass’ latest survival-thriller, The Hill, has been reviewed by The Globe and Mail:

“The hills are ripe for horror: Wes Craven’s hills had eyes, and Karen Bass’s is home to a supernatural serial hunter drawn from the Cree legend of the Wîhtiko. When Jared’s plane crashes in the Alberta wilderness, he is saved by a Cree teenager named Kyle. It’s a triple-edged survival story with Jared and Kyle facing down their cultural differences, the elements and the scary Wihtiko…this Hatchet meets Lost tale is presented in a way that’s suitable for the younger end of the YA spectrum. And, really, it’s impossible to stop reading to see if anyone gets eaten.”

Click here to read the full review.

Diversity Day Interview with Karen Bass

Posted on May 21st, 2016 by pajamapress

The Hill is a supernatural survival-thriller by award-winning author Karen Bass that draws inspiration from the true story of a remote plane crash and the Cree Wîhtiko legend. For the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, I sat down with Karen to discuss The Hill’s protagonists: Jared, an affluent white teen from Edmonton, and Kyle, the Cree teenager who rescues him, and how the relationship between the two boys reflects the racial and cultural tensions existing between these two groups in Canada today.

 

TheHill_WebsiteS. The Hill was the first of the Young Adult titles I read when I started my internship at Pajama Press, and I really enjoyed it. My favourite part was the banter between two boys. Was that fun to write or was that challenging in ways you didn’t expect?

K. It was mostly fun. I grew up in a family that used sarcasm an awful lot, and we were always poking at each other. So I was able to draw on that. And it was two teenagers so they do poke, poke, poke.

S. They do read like two teenagers.

K. Well that’s good.

S. What about the racial component to that dialogue? Where did that come from? Were you influenced by people you were speaking to at the time, because I know you did a lot of research for the book, or does it from your own lived experience?

K. I grew up in rural Alberta, so like a lot of rural Canada I think you see a lot of racism that maybe isn’t apparent in the cities, at least between First Nations and white communities. So I was certainly able to draw on what I’d seen myself, and the attitudes that I see in other people. In terms of Kyle and how he feels about it, that was partly talking to First Nations friends and partly whole empathy thing that writers have to draw on. Being able to put myself into his shoes and, you know, ask “how would I feel?”

S. I really enjoyed Kyle because he was the most “in tune” fifteen-year-old boy I’ve ever seen. He initiates a lot of the conversation between himself and Jared. Some of the ideas he brings to it are concepts that I first encountered in university. Why was it coming from him?

K. It was coming from him partly because Jared was oblivious. A lot of people do live their lives that way, where they don’t even look at how they’re affecting other people in their word choices or their actions. They don’t think about anybody that isn’t within their circle. It wouldn’t have sounded right coming from Jared. He was very…what did they call it? Affluenza? I hate that term, but that was his thing.

S. I actually have a note on how oblivious Jared is, but although he’s oblivious, he doesn’t seem to be malicious about. Was that an important part of how you chose to represent his ignorance?

K. I think if he had been malicious, he and Kyle would never have been able to connect and work together. Sometimes you have to look at where you need the characters to go and make sure their personalities are such that they can shift a little bit. Otherwise you would just have them sniping at each other. It is only four days in their time, so you’re not going to necessarily make huge leaps in that time, it’s more like small shifts. Someone who was just outright mean, it wouldn’t have worked.

S. I liked that there was room for Jared to become a bit more sensitive toward issues of race and class. Whereas someone who was more malicious might have dug their feet in and been more resistant.

K. Well, I think someone like that would have had much more of an “I don’t really care” attitude. Whereas Jared, maybe partly because his life is on the line, realizes that he’s at a point of disadvantage and that does make him more open to listen to what Kyle is saying. Once it finally sinks in that this isn’t his environment and he’s in a whole lot of trouble.

S. On that note, you’re from rural Alberta, so you’re very familiar with the landscape that appears in The Hill.

K. Oh, yes.

S. But you’re not a First Nations person or Cree yourself. Where do you think that situates you in regards to the larger discussion that was going on in the novel?

K. I guess I would be called an ally, if anything. I’m hopefully the person who is nudging other whites to reconsider their position. I do run across a lot of casual racism. It’s not necessarily malicious, but it is very much engrained. “This is what my parents and grandparents told me, so this is what I believe,” whether it’s about First Nations people being lazy, or whatever, which is just nonsense. Stereotypes are quite often nonsense, but the perpetuation is what causes the problem.

S. In terms of words and how we use them, Kyle frequently directs the Cree word “Moniyaw” (white man) at Jared. It’s also racial term, but somehow it seems less objectionable than it would if it came from the other direction. Does that speak to the power dynamics between two groups or how racism works in our culture?

K. I think I had him doing that as a way he could poke at Jared. For sure it was the idea that terms don’t always have to be loaded. To say ‘white man,’ it’s just a fact. It’s just who Jared is, as opposed to some of the other words we use for people of other groups or that we hear in society. Those are much more loaded. I don’t think it was ever malicious on Kyle’s part. Some of these things, it’s just your character when they come alive, they decide. I hope it’s not taken maliciously, although Jared doesn’t really appreciate it when he finds out what it means.

S. No, and I think I might have taken that cue from him.

K. I think what you’ve said about power issues is very valid. There is definitely a power imbalance and you need to be aware of that and be sensitive to it. Which teenagers are never going to be.

S. Would you ever revisit these characters at all, or do you think The Hill is their story and they’re done?

K. I don’t tend to revisit characters. There’s one or two books where I could maybe write a sequel, but I haven’t looked at it enough to actually do it. They’re probably done. Sometimes it’s fun to leave it in the readers’ hands and say, “what do you think happens with them?”

S. I think you wrapped it up well. I just really liked the boys and felt like I should ask. That’s all the questions I came up with. Is there anything else you’d like to say about the boys or diversity in YA fiction?

K. I think we’re seeing a lot more diversity in Young Adult fiction, which is awesome. In terms of First Nations you’re starting to see more First Nations writers who are really good writers, and I love that. People should have the wherewithal and the skills to tell their own stories.

S. So much storytelling is involved in First Nations cultures, and it’s so important.

K. A lot of it is really just learning to take that oral tradition and put it on paper. You’re seeing more film-making and stuff too, and I love it. I think it’ll only get better.

S. That’s great. Thanks for sitting down with me and answering my questions! I enjoyed it.

 

Click here to learn more about The Hill.

Learn more about World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development (Diversity Day).

 

The National Reading Campaign callsThe Hill a “…climatic tale of survival”

Posted on May 11th, 2016 by pajamapress

TheHill_Website“…Finding their common humanity despite their differences might be the hardest thing Kyle and Jared have ever done, as well as the most rewarding. Through a fantastical, yet modern and timely tale, Bass shows how the power of circumstance can bond even the most stubborn with life-changing results.”Amy Mathers

Click here to read the full review.

CM Magazine calls The Hill “…an interesting and unique” teen survival story

Posted on May 9th, 2016 by pajamapress

TheHill_Website“The blend of realism and mythology is a difficult mix to pull off, but Bass succeeds admirably. The Hill is an interesting and unique addition to the ever-expanding body of teenaged wilderness survival novels…the added elements of Cree traditional beliefs and cross-cultural tensions help Bass establish her own niche within this field.”—Dr. Gregory Bryan

Click here to read the full review.

CanLit for LittleCanadians praises The Hill as Karen Bass’ “best story yet.”

Posted on April 11th, 2016 by pajamapress

TheHill_Website“Karen Bass, the award-winning author of Graffiti Knight (Pajama Press, 2013) and Uncertain Soldier (Pajama Press, 2015), takes writing flight with The Hill, a chilling tale of endurance in northern Alberta, blending a survival story with the supernatural of Cree legends.  It’s hauntingly gripping YA and I think it’s her best story yet.
…In addition to a gripping action-rich plot of frightening circumstances, getting the voices of Jared and Kyle and the tone of the story right are Karen Bass’ greatest strengths in The Hill.  She balances the heart-pumping pace of a looking-over-your-shoulder chase with the antagonistic sparring between Jared and Kyle.  The two are so different in what they have, what they know, and who they are that it’s only fate in the form of a plane crash that could bring the two together.” Helen Kubiw

Click here to read more.