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)”

Click here to read the full review


“A trip to a North Dakota farm for Auntie Joss’ wedding? That’s not easy for eight-year-old Lauren, who has autism spectrum disorder, as she must deal with unwelcome changes in her routine, as well as boisterous cousins and other unfamiliar family members. Remembering suggestions from her “special-helper teacher,” she tries to be polite while controlling the tension building within her. When she freezes before walking down the aisle as flower girl, her cousins rally to give her just the help she needs, and Lauren decides that she likes having them as relatives after all. 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

Read the full review in the January 2019 issue of Booklist

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

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

Click here to read the full review

Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life Reviews

Posted on November 30th, 2018 by pajamapress

HW Book ReviewsCover: Sapphire the Great and the Meaning of Life Author: Beverley Brenna Illustrator: Tara Anderson

“The story is told through short alternating chapters between Jeannie and Sapphire the Great (her hamster).

We join Jeannie, Alistair (her brother), and their mother three weeks after Christmas and two weeks after their father left, Harvey, left the house. Everyone is dealing with the separation in different ways. Jeannie yells everything, Alistair has turned to video games, and their mother is feeling very stressed….

This book has left me at a loss for words in a very good way. The characters are so engaging, honest, and real that you forget you are reading a book….The story is complete, satisfying, and just feels right…..

Overall rating: ♥♥♥♥♥”

Click here to read the full review

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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A World of Kindness Interviews

Posted on November 20th, 2018 by pajamapress

Cover: A World of Kindness Author: The Editors & Illustrators of Pajama Press Publisher: Pajama Press

Advance Reading Copy interview with the creators of A World of Kindness

Marmalade Books “My Interview With Children’s Author/Editor Ann Featherstone”

A Good Day for Ducks Interviews

Posted on November 20th, 2018 by pajamapress

Cover: A Good Day for Ducks Author: Jane Whittingham Illustrator: Noel Tuazon Publisher: Pajama Press

WORD Vancouver interview with author Jane Whittingham

Sun Dog Interviews

Posted on November 20th, 2018 by pajamapress

InkyGirl “Advice for young writers, debut picture book SUN DOG, deals with the universe: Deborah Kerbel answers three questions” interview with author Deborah Kerbel

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

Posted on November 20th, 2018 by pajamapress

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

Books Q&As with Deborah Kalb interview with Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Missing Mike Interviews

Posted on November 20th, 2018 by pajamapress

Cover: Missing Mike Author: Shari Green Publisher: Pajama Press

Judith L. Roth interview with Shari Green

Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb interview with Shari Green

Campbell River Mirror “Campbell River author tells story of a child’s resilience amid wildfires” interview with Shari Green

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.”

Click here to read the full review

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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The Night Lion Interviews

Posted on September 18th, 2018 by pajamapress

Cover: The Night Lion Author: Sanne Dufft Publisher: Pajama PressKidLit TV with Rocco Staino interview with Sanne Dufft (featured from 39:30–46:10 of the recorded stream)

The Theory of Hummingbirds Interviews

Posted on September 18th, 2018 by pajamapress

Cover: The Theory of Hummingbirds Author: Michelle Kadarusman Publisher: Pajama PressPublishers Weekly “News From the North: September 2017” interview with Michelle Kadarusman

Best Pirate Interviews

Posted on September 18th, 2018 by pajamapress

Read Marmalade interview with author Kari-Lynn WintersCover: Best Pirate Author: Kari-Lynn Winters Illustrator: Dean Griffiths Publisher: Pajama Press

Dragonfly Song Interviews

Posted on September 17th, 2018 by pajamapress

Cover: Dragonfly Song Author: Wendy Orr Publisher: Pajama PressThe Edmonton Sun interview with Wendy Orr

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

Posted on September 17th, 2018 by pajamapress


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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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.”

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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

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

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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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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Our New Kittens Reviews

Posted on August 14th, 2018 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

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

Click here to read the full review

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.”

Click here to read the full review

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

Click here to read the full review