Birds on Wishbone Street Teaching Guide

Posted on November 24th, 2021 by pajamapress

Click here to download the Birds on Wishbone Street teaching guide.

Animals Move Reviews

Posted on November 11th, 2021 by pajamapress

CM Magazine

“The pages within Animals Move consist of double-page spreads in which two-thirds of each spread is occupied by a colour photo of the young of an animal with that juvenile being engaged in some form of movement. The other third of the spread reveals a child emulating the animal’s action. As seen in the excerpt above, the simple rhyming text consists of a single noun and an action verb. The book’s animals include the familiar, like dogs, cats, horse and birds, and the unfamiliar, such as geckos, echidnas and baboons. Similarly, some of the names given to the juveniles will be familiar to young children, terms like puppy, kitten, and perhaps fawn. Most, however, will be new additions to their vocabularies (as well as to that of many adult readers). Young readers will know many of the action verbs, words such as “swim”, “hop” and “snuggle”, but others, including “dash”, “wobble” and “groove”, may be vocabulary add-ons. The photos of the children are truly a rainbow of inclusivity. A closing page offers five suggested activities that parents could undertake with their children to extend the book’s content and to increase healthy active movement, with one being: “Take photos of your child doing movements inspired by animals and work together to make your own book.”

Animals Move is a perfect book for those youngsters who are transitioning from board books to regular picture books but who still lack sufficient manual dexterity to be able to turn picture book pages without possibly causing damage. The physical size and shape of Animals Move resemble what children perceive as being a “big girl/boy” picture book while the extra-heavy paper employed by Pajama Press helps to guard against accidental page damage. The book’s padded cover and rounded corners are an added safety feature for both the reader and the physical book. A vocabulary builder and movement motivator, Animals Move belongs in home collections, day cares and public libraries.

Highly Recommended

Click here to read the full review

YA Books Central

“What I Loved: This book was made sturdy for younger audiences. The photographs feature a side-by-side comparison of animals and kids acting out the movements. The photos are fun and engaging with the kids and animals caught in the moment.
The animals featured have both common and unusual animals that would delight young readers while building their vocabulary of baby animals. One of the best things I found was the diverse background of the children featured. I love that it is inclusive.”

Click here to read the full review

Hello, Dark Teaching Guide

Posted on October 22nd, 2021 by pajamapress

Beneath a flock of imaginary sheep running across a rainbow, an Asian-presenting boy lies in bed beneath his covers smiling with the company of a friendly-looking ghostly shadow.

Click here to download the Hello, Dark teaching guide.

The Undercover Book List Teaching Guide

Posted on October 22nd, 2021 by pajamapress

A light-skinned girl with brown hair in a ponytail sits atop a cloud with a book in her lap and dozens of pieces of paper falling down from her cloud. Below her is a light-skinned boy with orange curly hair who is sitting atop some pillows, is also reading a book, and is receiving all pages that are cascading down on him.

Click here to download the The Undercover Book List teaching guide.

Birds on Wishbone Street Reviews

Posted on September 21st, 2021 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews Starred Review

“Del Rizzo illustrates with elaborate clay modeling combined with other media; the three-dimensional look ignites interest and gives the pictures a special warmth. The story centers care for others and nature as well as focusing on people’s shared humanity. While it does not detail Sami’s refugee experience or the various backgrounds of Wishbone Street’s diverse community, its content provides many possible openings for further learning and discussion. The diverse protagonists are all capable, resourceful individuals who may be sad sometimes but have an immense ability to enjoy life.

An exquisite book, in content and illustration, about love, movement, and shared humanity: a keeper.”

Click here to read the full review

Publishers Weekly

“Maureen, also known as Moe, a light-skinned Irish Canadian child, narrates this warm slice-of-life picture book, which portrays the developing friendship between Moe and Sami, a light brown–skinned new neighbor from Syria, as they bond over a shared interest in birds. Moe meets daily with young neighbors Mei, cued East Asian, and her brother Omari, who reads as Black, as well as adult residents. Del Rizzo’s colloquial prose emphasizes collective pursuits, as Moe compares bird-related treasures (“multi-colored feathers… and bird leg-bands too”) and includes Sami in wintry activities.”

Click here to read the full review

The Horn Book Magazine

“Del Rizzo’s illustrations are made with polymer clay and paint, achieving a realistic variety of skin tones and a vibrant, three-dimensional quality. She uses the clay to create lots of textures such as the knitting on hats and mittens, as well as natural elements like snowflakes and trees, and she provides varied perspectives. The story is loving and gently paced, with the two children coming together to rescue a cardinal we have already seen in several pictures, each sacrificing a treasure to do it. An author’s note includes instructions for making suet bird feeders and pouches woven from twigs for winter bird shelters.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

Birds on Wishbone Street is a heartwarming story that brings forth the importance of simple things in life, such as treating one another with kindness and embracing the treasures that nature has to offer. It ends with a simple recipe for bird suet treats and winter roosting pockets which provide birds with food and shelter during the winter months. Additionally, author Suzanne Del Rizzo provides an “Author’s Note” with the backstory of her real-life experiences leading to the inspiration for this picture book.

The story, itself, is beautiful, but the immaculately detailed illustrations are worthy of their own praise. Del Rizzo creates exquisite, three-dimensional illustrations using polymer clay art, acrylic glaze, and other mixed media. The blending of colours, fine textured details, and other creative varieties of dimensional layers, arrangements, and perspectives are awe-inspiring.

Del Rizzo is a New York Times Notable author/illustrator who published My Beautiful Birds in 2017 and Skink on the Brink as her first picture book. A scientific researcher turned children’s book author and illustrator, she brings rich imagination to her award-winning literature.”

Click here to read the full review

BookPage

“Del Rizzo’s unique art adds dimension to the book’s warm, welcoming neighborhood scenes. She creates illustrations with polymer clay, acrylic glaze and other mixed media, giv­ing depth and texture to each page. Snowflakes truly seem to float in the winter sky, and the blanket used to swaddle the cardinal has realistic folds and wrinkles.

Del Rizzo also excels at presenting a community full of many intertwined familial and social connections while capturing the smaller details of the devel­oping friendship between Moe and Sami. She expertly balances the hustle and bustle of lively outdoor scenes with more intimate indoor moments, such as when the pair share their treasures—drawings of birds, special feathers and other trinkets—with each other. In a lovely touch, Del Rizzo depicts Moe’s and Sami’s collections of keepsakes on the book’s opening and closing endpapers.

Birds on Wishbone Street (Pajama Press, $18.95, 9781772782196, ages 5 to 8) is a bighearted book that will leave readers eager to discover the many treasures that new friendships hold.”

Click here to read the full review

YA Books Central

““‘Birds on Wishbone Street’ by Suzanne Del Rizzo is a beautifully illustrated book that shows how different people can live together and get along, all with the benefits of getting to know each other and what they have to offer. From speaking different languages to learning different aspects of others’ cultures, there is always something to gain from talking to others. It is important to learn about what other people know, have done, and want to do in order to find connections and form relationships with them. One can never know what one might have in common with someone else until a conversation occurs.

The illustrations in this book are very interesting. They have a sense of realism in them that other illustrations in other books do not have, from their bright colors, to the way the angles don’t necessarily always look directly at people, but sometimes view characters from above, or even from behind. It’s also a nice touch that there is a recipe and a craft in the back of the book for readers to take the book to a whole new level, using the themes within the story to further explore how one’s interests can foretell kindness and the birth of similarities with others.”

Click here to read the full review

Oakville News

“Wishbone Street is a special kind of street – and yes, there is one in Toronto – everyone seems to have come from somewhere else and all manner of languages are spoken. So Moe, a friendly and curious girl, is excited when she learns a new boy has moved in.  He has come from Syria and is called Sami.  Moe wants to get to know him.  But Sami is shy and reluctant to talk although he shares Moe’s love of birds. Then winter arrives and the neighbourhood children enjoy playing in the snow at the local parkette.  When they come across a scarlet cardinal stunned by the freezing cold, who comes to the bird’s rescue but Sami using his knowledge of looking after pigeons in Syria.  By this simple act of kindness Sami begins to feel more at home.

Oakville author Suzanne Del Rizzo has certainly scored another triumph with this delightful story about kindness and how the simple act of rescuing a bird can strengthen the bonds of community as newcomers to this country share friendship and understanding.

Del Rizzo set out on a career in medical scientific research but left it when she began having children.  The urge to get back to her childhood love of getting her hands dirty resurfaced, and thus began her new career, first as a children’s book illustrator and then progressing to writing her own stories and illustrating them herself.”

Click here to read the full review

Sherylbooks

“A heart-warming story about kindness, inclusion and belonging, by the creator of My Beautiful Birds. Love the endpapers and love the value added craft activities parents or grandparents can do with their littles after reading the book…bird suet treats and winter roosting pockets.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for Little Canadians

“Wishbone Street is more than just a bunch of houses. It’s a multicultural community, welcoming and supportive of all. And when a cardinal is injured, that community brings them all, newcomers and long-time residents, together to do good….

Suzanne Del Rizzo‘s polymer clay art has always impressed, giving new textures and colours to already-strong stories. But when she illustrates her own stories, Suzanne Del Rizzo shines. There is a synergy of her words and art that elevates both into something truly extraordinary. In Birds on Wishbone StreetSuzanne Del Rizzo honours her own family and those of all immigrants to Canada, and upholds the idea that communities are based on an appreciation for our differences and acknowledgement of our commonalities. With that sense of community, great things can happen: a newcomer feels at home, a bird is helped, and important learning can happen. And with her magnificent art, created with polymer clay, acrylic glaze and other mixed media, Suzanne Del Rizzo takes us to Wishbone Street, into the parkette and into the snow, to bird-watch with Sami and Moe, to yearn for cannoli and churros shared between neighbours, and to feel those first snowflakes on our faces. We’re there on Wishbone Street, watching as a world unfolds and enfolds, making one community out of many.

There may be snow in Birds on Wishbone Street and on our streets today but this picture book will serve as inspiration year round to promoting the joys of including everyone in our communities to the benefit of all.”

Click here to read the full review

On the Line Teaching Guide

Posted on September 16th, 2021 by pajamapress

Click here to download the On the Line teaching guide.

A Smile Teaching Guide

Posted on September 16th, 2021 by pajamapress

Click here to download the A Smile teaching guide.

Windy Days Reviews

Posted on August 25th, 2021 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

“Kerbel follows the wind through the seasons, setting scenes with strong descriptive language in two-line verses with simple rhymes or near rhymes, all filled with movement and joy. A diverse cast of young children interact with the wind, which is depicted throughout as streaming white lines pushing through the air in Sato’s wonderfully textured mixed-media collage illustrations that seamlessly match the scenes described. Readers will want to touch the children’s sweaters, pick the luscious-looking apples hanging loosely on the tree, and jump into that beckoning pile of leaves. The concept of wind in all its varieties is explained simply and beautifully with just enough information for curious young readers.

Feel the wind in your hair and enjoy. ”

Click here to read the full review

Booklist

“Windy days come in all sorts of whimsical forms. Kerbel and Sato’s energetic picture book takes a closer look at just how alive the wind can be. Bouncy, perfectly rhyming couplets capture its varying nature, from gentle and steady to swirly and gusty; breezy enough to fly a kite or strong enough to make whistling sounds on a stormy day. Sato’s elaborate, meticulous cut-paper collage artwork depicts the motion of wind in fascinating vignettes that beautifully capture its movement, featuring cheery, softly rounded kids portrayed with just as much dynamic movement as the book’s subject. The image on each double-page spread expands on the words, helping young readers grasp the concept of each type of movement. Easy to read for beginners, this book will introduce little ones to such words as sweep, blast, blow, blister, roar, spin, dance, sway, swirl, and icy.”

Click here to read the full review

School Library Journal

“As readers have come to expect from Kerbel, rhyming text and beautiful, textured cutout collage illustrations drive this book about the wonders of windy days throughout the seasons. A cast of children of many races and skin colors marvel at the power of the wind, benefit from the power it gives, and joyfully participate in wind play. The wind, cleverly depicted as a variety of curved, straight, and “curly cued” lines, create movement throughout the pages in tandem with the weather event/season illustrated. In addition, the inclusion of various types of clouds throughout the spreads establishes the relationship among the wind, cloud movement, and weather changes. Sato’s use of various textures creates a three-dimensional, tactile vibe that is sure to pique and sustain the interest of children.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

“Wind and leaves takes centre stage in an engaging homage to our fall days in this lovely collaboration between Kerbel and Sato. A variety of leaves flying across the page will entice readers from the front flyleaf into the actual book. Preschoolers will be enchanted by this force of nature.

Delightful rhyming couplets help describe both the work and the fun that winds provide. The economy of words in the text, yet the frequency of expressive adjectives, such as “blustery, gusting, whistling, swirling, roaring”, are used to highlight the sensation of the wind. The result is a treat to all the senses.

There are many books about the concept of wind for early readers, but what makes Windy Days standout is the skillful artwork. With Sato’s using mixed media and paper collage, textiles, and embroidery silk, the illustrations fairly jump off the page with their tactile feel. Sato’s use of joyful expressions on the faces of the diverse youthful participants is another attractive feature. The depth and visual interest of the colourful drawings fit well in this sturdy book with its extra thick paper, rounded corners and padded cover.”

Click here to read the full review

Metroland Media

“Toddlers will have fun reading about wind and autumn with this nicely illustrated, rhyming story featuring a book with a padded cover, rounded corners and thick pages. The back of the book contains some experiments that young children can do on a windy day.”

Click here to read the full review

Youth Services Book Review

“Rhyming couplets describe the sensory experience of wind through the seasons. Kids with various skin tones examine milkweed seeds, fly kites and manage a blown-away umbrella. The heavy duty pages are not quite board book weight, but seem very sturdy. It’s nice to see STEM activities listed at the end which can reinforce the understanding of the science, including names for different kinds of clouds. It’s a perfect title for a science unit on weather.

The art is collage with paper, textiles and embroidery silk. The composition and vibrant colors lend themselves nicely to reading aloud to a class. A great addition to story time or classroom study of weather for the preschool and kindergarten set.”

Click here to read the full review

YA Books Central

“What I loved: This was a great poem that was perfectly paced with a couplet on each page. This rhythm is great for young ears, who will enjoy listening to it read aloud. The illustrations are really gorgeous, made out of different textures, featuring young children in different scenes, such as at a fair, on Halloween, stuck inside on a rainy day, and more. This book is perfect for fall with recognizable odes to the fall weather.

The book format is great for young readers and ideal for young toddlers and preschoolers. The pages are thicker than typical picture books as a step in between board and picture books, and the soft cover is fun to touch. Toddlers can turn the pages easily and explore this on their own, as a lead in to typical picture books. The font is easily legible, making it great for reading aloud, and the backmatter adds some educational context for at home, daycare, or preschool.”

Click here to read the full review

The Kid Lit Mama

“The companion to Snow Days and Sunny Days, this board book featuring collage art and descriptive language is a true joy.”

Click here to see the full review

Olivia (Goodreads)

“What I loved: This was a great poem that was perfectly paced with a couplet on each page. This rhythm is great for young ears, who will enjoy listening to it read aloud. The illustrations are really gorgeous, made out of different textures, featuring young children in different scenes, such as at a fair, on Halloween, stuck inside on a rainy day, and more. This book is perfect for fall with recognizable odes to the fall weather.

The book format is great for young readers and ideal for young toddlers and preschoolers. The pages are thicker than typical picture books as a step in between board and picture books, and the soft cover is fun to touch. Toddlers can turn the pages easily and explore this on their own, as a lead in to typical picture books. The font is easily legible, making it great for reading aloud, and the backmatter adds some educational context for at home, daycare, or preschool.

Final verdict: A lovely poem, WINDY DAYS is a fun way to begin to talk about the weather with toddlers and preschoolers. Intriguing textured illustrations and fun autumn scenes make this a great one for little ones to explore.”

Click here to read the full review

Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“We have experienced a lot of winds this summer and fall. Some are warm and gentle, others are cold and jarring. Then, there those that are simply bothersome and seemingly endless. Wind is inevitable through the season. As little ones are invited to share this book, they will recognize the many ways that wind helps, and hinders a variety of activties.

In the spring it scatters milkweed seeds; in summer, it powers pinwheels, and causes flags to flutter; it can also worsen powerful storms. Autumn winds inspire geese to begin their long migration to warmer places, and kites to drift in cloudy skies. Winter wind keeps children inside, or bundled up against its icy blasts.

Ms. Kerbel uses effective, rhythmic vocabulary to give her readers a real sense of the movement, power, and joy that wind provides. Miki Sato’s gorgeous, mixed-media collage artwork perfectly matches the text and provides a glorious feeling of constant motion. The textures will have readers wanting to touch the pages to feel what is shown there. Charming!”

Click here to read the full review

Fab Book Reviews

“As ever, Deborah Kerbel’s storytelling by way of sweet rhyming couplets and Miki Sato’s textured collage artwork make for a lively, tactile reading experience. Not only a lovely, gentle way to introduce concepts of weather to a young audience/young readers, but also, quite simply, a genuinely beautiful and clear rhyming story that gorgeously captures the childhood wonder in experiencing the natural world. Readers who have already read and enjoyed Snow Days and Sunny Days, other similarly short rhyming stories, or picture books about the seasons, might especially adore this. Back matter includes ideas for child-friendly wind-related science experiments, as well as a concise rundown of types of clouds.”

Click here to read the full review

Storytime With Stephanie

“Deborah Kerbel and Miki Sato have once again created a perfect preschool gem of a book in Windy Days, part of their series of weather related picture books.

What a gift to be able to share the joy of description with our youngest little readers. In Windy Days, adults and children will experience all of the fun of a windy day through the lyrical, rhyming and descriptive text. This book just rolls off your tongue making it perfect to share as a read aloud with a big group of children. Readers will then be inspired to get outside and discover all of the things they can do in the wind.

Although the age range for this book is 2-5, I would encourage parents and teachers of older readers to grab this book to inspire descriptive writing or science experiments with the wind. Deborah Kerbel includes fun experiments and activities at the back of the story to help extend the learning and fun. Also the book is incredibly durable. It has a soft, puffy cover and thick pages making is not quite a board book but more durable that a hard or soft cover book so if you have little readers who like to eat their books, this one will stand up to hours and hours of reading and play.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for Little Canadians

“When a picture book, a two-dimensional source, can evoke weather such that the reader feels the bite of the wind or the slash of the briskness of leaves against skin, it’s doing something terrific. I may be able to feel the wind by just stepping outside right now but I’d much rather experience it through the text and paper collage of Deborah Kerbel and Miki Sato‘s latest collaboration.

In Pajama Press’s Toddler Tough format of padded cover, rounded corners and thick pages, Windy Days explores children’s experiences with the wind in the autumn, from fun fall fairs to Halloween outings. There are their encounters in the natural world with gentle breezes scattering milkweed seeds and tossing leaves, to creating energy with wind turbines and flying kites. Some of those winds are soft air movements while others are blasts of cold that practically toss little ones off their feet. Whatever their form, they’re there, especially at this time of year, and reminding us of weather as our constant, bringing sound and movement and consequences.”

Click here to read the full review

Sherylbooks

“Rhythm, rhyme and alliteration make this an attractive toddler read. Illustrations that are paintings overlaid with textured layers of collage, create a sense of depth and movement to the active, expressive children depicted. The puffy cover, and rounded corners are perfect for little hands. Bonus activities and information at the story’s end will especially appeal to parents and caregivers.”
Click here to read the full review

The Cow Said BOO! Teaching Guide

Posted on August 19th, 2021 by pajamapress

A black and white spotted cow stands on her hind legs, holding a box of tissues in one arm and a single kleenex in the other. She stands in front of a clothesline on a bright day with a jack-o-lantern pajama set on the line. Fall leaves and a pumpkin are on the ground.

Click here to download the The Cow Said BOO! teaching guide.

If Only... Teaching Guide

Posted on August 19th, 2021 by pajamapress

Cover: If Only... Author: Mies van Hout Publisher: Pajama Press

Click here to download the If Only… teaching guide.

Teaching Mrs. Muddle Book Trailer

Posted on August 12th, 2021 by pajamapress

When Elephants Listen With Their Feet: Discover Extraordinary Animal Senses Teaching Guide

Posted on August 9th, 2021 by pajamapress

An African elephant, rendered as a digital illustration, and a girl with brown skin walk side-by-side along a grassy path. The title of the book is When Elephants Listen with Their Feet. Written by Emmannuelle Grumndmann, illustrated by Clemence Dupont. Translated from the French original by Erin Woods.

Click here to download the When Elephants Listen With Their Feet: Discover Extraordinary Animal Senses teaching guide.

A Sky-Blue Bench Reviews

Posted on August 3rd, 2021 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews Starred Review

“Gently but poignantly, Collins’ richly hued, cartoon-style illustrations convey Aria’s discomfort, determination, and joy; family members’ and friends’ warm eyes and sympathetic faces are reassuring. Background characters bustle in a rainbow of jewel-toned clothing, their faces bearing a variety of expressions. Though Aria’s accident is unspecified in the simple primary text, an author’s note reveals that Aria’s story, partially based on Rahman’s childhood during Afghanistan’s civil war, honors Afghan children whose lives were changed forever by unexploded ordnance. Most characters’ complexions, including Aria’s, are varying shades of brown.

A timely, eye-opening portrait of resilience, community, and hope.”

Click here to read the full review

Foreword Reviews

“Aria, a young girl in Afghanistan and an amputee, is nervous about going back to school. With all the benches being burned for warmth during the war, the girls in her school have no choice but to sit on the floor, which is unbearable for Aria and her “helper-leg.” Together with her mother and brother, Aria decides to build a bench herself, painting it skyblue: the color of “courage, peace and wisdom.” DANIELLE BALLANTYNE (November / December 2021)”

Quill & Quire

“Aria, an Afghani girl, is eager to return to school, but her new prosthetic “helper leg” makes sitting on the classroom floor far too uncomfortable. So Aria decides to build a bench for herself. Ontario-based Peggy Collins illustrates this heartwarming story about a resilient young girl who faces a barrier to her education.”

CBC Books

“In A Sky-Blue Bench, Bahram Rahman, author of The Library Bus, returns again to the setting of his homeland, Afghanistan, to reveal the resilience and resolve of young children — especially young girls — who face barriers to education. Illustrator Peggy Collins imbues Aria with an infectious spunkiness and grit that make her relatable even to readers with a very different school experience. An author’s note gently introduces an age-appropriate discussion of landmines and their impact on the lives of children in many nations, especially Afghanistan, which has the highest concentration of landmines of any country in the world.”

Click here to read the full review

Youth Services Book Review

How beautiful and heart-breaking to read this lovely picture book about a young girl, crippled from an UXO device, who finds a way to be comfortable at school by building her own bench. The ingenuity and determination of Afghani women and girls is explored as Aria finds that she can not sit comfortably on the floor of her all-girls school. After briefly considering not going back she decides she will build her own seating. Thus, with a little help from the local carpenter, Aria and her mother build and paint the sky-blue bench.”

Click here to read the full review

Bookishrealm (Goodreads)

“Wow! This was a powerful book. A Sky Blue focuses on a young Afghan girl, Aria, as she attempts to go back to school after receiving a prosthetic leg due to mine explosion. When Aria gets to school she’s extremely uncomfortable finding a way to sit during class because of her “helper leg.” Not only does the author address the danger that Afghan children face due to mines left all over the country, but they also weave discussions about the barriers that young Afghan girls and women face in relation to their education. Aria knows that unless she is able to build a bench to help her feel more comfortable in class she won’t have access to the tools she needs to learn how to read and write. The narrative was powerful and impactful and drew specifically on some experiences the author had growing up in Afghanistan.”

Click here to read the full review

Little Bookworm Club

“Aria a young girl from Afghanistan is returning to school after an accident that resulted in a prosthetic leg. She is nervous about returning and having to sit on the classroom floor all day. Her fears are confirmed when she finds it extremely difficult to get up and is very uncomfortable on the ground. She decides to make a bench, like the ones that were in schools before the war. Despite her classmates skepticism, she collects discarded wooden boards, visits a local carpenter, and gets to work. The carpenter gives her a can of sky blue paint that symbolizes courage and peace. When everyone returns after the weekend they see the bench and are in awe. All the girls want to learn to build too and they make a plan to build all the furniture for their classroom. This is inspiring story of resilience, determination, and grit.”

Click here to read the full review

The Undercover Book List Reviews

Posted on July 27th, 2021 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

“Two 12-year-olds confront their vulnerabilities.
A light-skinned girl with brown hair in a ponytail sits atop a cloud with a book in her lap and dozens of pieces of paper falling down from her cloud. Below her is a light-skinned boy with orange curly hair who is sitting atop some pillows, is also reading a book, and is receiving all pages that are cascading down on him.
Told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of seventh graders Jane (in the first person) and Tyson (in third-person omniscient), this story unfolds with clever aplomb. Although they are in the same class, Jane and Tyson don’t hang out together. Top-student Jane loves to read—especially mysteries—and misses her best friend, Sienna, who has recently moved across the country; underachiever Tyson pulls pranks that get him sent to the office and plays video games obsessively at home, to the detriment of his schoolwork. But when Sienna leaves an anonymous farewell note/clue in the school library for Jane, it is Tyson, hiding in the stacks, who sees Jane find the note, and he decides to jump in to the correspondence, also anonymously, as a prank.”

Click here to read the full review

Publishers Weekly

“Alternating chapters catalogue Tyson and Jane’s earnest perspectives (“It feels like people are always leaving me”) in Nelson’s (Harvey Holds His Own) gentle yet well-paced story. Featuring the duo’s interspersed missives, the narrative explores what it means to be accurately perceived, by both others and oneself, while simultaneously serving as a satisfying love letter to Louis Sachar, Rebecca Stead, Jacqueline Woodson, and other cherished authors, and emphasizing books’ transformative power. Back matter includes their Undercover Book List.”

Click here to read the full review

Booklist

“With her father posted in the Middle East and her best friend moving away, Jane’s seventh-grade year is unsettling. Still, she follows through on a suggestion for making a new friend: in a particular book at the school library, she places an anonymous note recommending her favorite titles and inviting the next reader to reply by doing the same.

Nelson, a Canadian author, offers an appealing dual narrative that switches, chapter by chapter, between the two very different classmates’ points of view. The writing is straightforward but lively. Early on, Tyson sums up Jane in this wry sentence: “Teachers probably arm-wrestled each other to get her in their classes.” Both characters are convincingly portrayed in this rewarding middle-grade novel.”

Click here to read the full review

Foreword Reviews

“The book’s narration alternates between Jane and Tyson’s points of view, exploring themes of transformation, and of the strength it takes to embrace change. Tyson and Jane learn that change brings strength, too, once it’s been embraced. Their transformations are fast: both exhibit understandings of human psychology of the sort that eludes many adults. The obstacles they face, including vandalism and illness, are handled in a straightforward manner, but without sacrificing emotion (though a story line concerning a classroom activity is unresolved). Both strong Jane and sensitive Tyson prove to be excellent role models by the book’s gratifying ending. In the diverse novel The Undercover Book List, two classmates overcome their initial antagonism to find commonalities, which lead them to unexpected solidarity.”

Click here to read the full review

Quill & Quire

The Undercover Book List, like Nelson’s Harvey novels, takes an honest look at the emotional lives of preteens. Jane is dealing with loss, fear, and loneliness, while Tyson struggles to shake off his reputation to allow his true self space to grow. Nelson approaches their inner lives with respect and empathy, using books as the healing agent that brings them together.

The plot races along, switching between Jane’s and Tyson’s points of view with each successive chapter. Jane’s chapters are in the first person, while Tyson’s are in third person, which has the effect of making Tyson’s character seem distant in comparison to Jane.

The Undercover Book List will resonate with children who feel unseen, who dream of a friend who understands them, or who are figuring out what kind of person to be. It’s an absorbing, entertaining, and sensitive story that champions reading and the love of books.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

“This is every mother’s dream situation! Confiscate your kid’s game box and have him turn to reading as a compensation? Wow! Tyson isn’t stupid, but, until now, he’s not been motivated to do anything that takes more effort than a quick joke would. The anonymity of communicating by letter is a way for him to be a different sort of person and without having to worry about being laughed at or teased. So what if the situation is a bit idealistic rather than realistic — every life can use a bit of fantasy (and it doesn’t have to be in the form of a video-game avatar)!

An added bonus is the book list at the end, giving all the titles that Jane and Tyson discuss as well as the ones that just got a mention. It would make for a wonderful display in a school library, a Tyson-path and a Jane-path, with arrows leading from one book to the next to the next; I only wish I were still working in a library. Give The Undercover Book List to a reader and open up a whole new bunch of possible authors to be enjoyed or give it to a non-reader and see what happens. You might be surprised!”

Click here to read the full review

Youth Services Book Review

“Told in alternating chapters from each main character’s perspective, The Undercover Book List is a treat for book lovers as it recommends titles such as Harbor Me, The Book Thief, and several others.  Both characters learn and grow a great deal over the course of the book and readers will really enjoy their development.  Jane grapples with separation, from Sienna and from her military Dad, with worry about her grandfather, and anxiety about her social status at school.  Tyson wants to find his niche between his overachieving siblings and to shed his reputation as class clown without losing his cool guy friends.  The two bond over books and help each other through these challenges with humor and genuine friendship (it is noteworthy that romance between the two is never suggested), supported by a wonderful cast of secondary characters including friends, family members and school staff.  The author includes a list of the book suggestions that Jane and Tyson share.”

Click here to read the full review

CanLit for Little Canadians

“Readers know the richness that stories can bring into their lives. We meet new friends, travel to different places and times, and we learn.  By bringing together a reader and non-reader, Colleen Nelson, an astute writer and undoubtedly understanding teacher, has written about every child out there. The ones that love books will always find something to read but can get so much insight from the perspectives of others. Those that haven’t become readers yet often just need the scaffolding of the right book or the right person to bring them to reading. With the Undercover Book Club, Tyson and Jane both find their people among those they would have dismissed originally and enrich their lives beyond just reading.

Colleen Nelson has a natural skill at giving young readers characters who are real, though not always likeable at first, and who are able to change with their experiences and perspectives. ”

Click here to read the full review

The International Educator

The Undercover Book List, Colleen Nelson is a fabulous middle grade novel. It’s a story grounded in a school library and books, focused on friendship. Jane loves to read but misses her best friend who moved away. Tyson is into video games and does not like to read. But through the secret messages left in books in their school library, both main characters change and make new friends. A great story for book worms and kids who have to move and make new friend.”

Click here to read the full review

Book Time

“I really liked this book and it’s on my to-be-read-to-my-son pile. And while I liked Jane, the main character in the book, it was Tyson I liked the most and who I saw the most change in. My heart actually broke for Tyson a couple of times. Not only do his teachers believe the worse, so too, do his parents who laughed when Tyson said he read a book; they didn’t believe him. No wonder the kid can’t be bothered. I loved how hard Tyson tried and how it changed him in the end.”

Click here to read the full review

kathiemacisaac

“I loved the idea of two kids getting to know each other through notes left in books. Tyson had a reputation as a prankster and poor student, and watching his transformation was my favourite part of the story. I also loved Jane’s willingness to stay connected with Sienna and how they supported each other through their transitions. Both Jane and Tyson have challenges at home that ring true to middle-grade experiences and add depth to the character’s stories. There are some excellent ideas to use in the classroom, such as the Other Words for Me board and starting a Kid Lit Quiz team. The short chapters and overall book-length of 258 pages will appeal to a wide range of readers, and I would recommend this story for Gr. 4-7.”

Click here to read the full review

Storytime with Stephanie

“Coming just in time for the start of the school year, Colleen Nelson’s brilliant and charming new middle grade novel, The Undercover Book List, will inspire the readers and non-readers in your life.

I love that The Undercover Book List is written from two perspectives, Jane and Tyson. They are both incredible characters, going through their own struggles which shape their outlook on life. Tyson has no self confidence and always goes for the easy laugh to protect from being vulnerable. He doesn’t realize all of his potential. Jane is the sweetest person, kind and generous and is confident. When she takes a chance on Tyson, she helps him see himself in a more positive light.

I really enjoyed Tyson. He was such a great character and it was wonderful to watch him grow in confidence and understanding throughout the story. There are many Tyson’s out there. Children who just see themselves as one thing instead of multitudes. He becomes a leader and a good friend. Jane is a character who knows what is right and fights for it. She is a fierce friend and doesn’t give up on people easily. The two of them, Tyson and Jane, teach each other a lot over the course of the story an help each other navigate the tricky middle school dynamics, unbeknownst to each other.

All of the book recommendations within the story are stellar! I loved seeing the familiar titles pop up and even got a couple to add to my list. Colleen Nelson added shout out to books written by some of our most favourite Canadian authors. Honestly, I would have loved an undercover book club when I was a middle schooler. May have made the lonely eighth grade year more tolerable. Heck, I would love to have an undercover book club now! Perhaps I will start leaving notes in my library books!

The Undercover Book List is an awesome story, fabulous for the start of a new year to inspire readers and non readers to just pick up a book and enjoy.”

Click here to read the full review

Julie (Goodreads)

“One of my favorite kind of books are books about books…and this one did not disappoint! By the end I wanted to join both an Undercover Book Club and a Kid Lit Quiz team. I particularly enjoyed the unlikely friendship and how their story revealed the power of books.

Also, this quote…”flexing their intellectual muscles by firing off the names of the Newbery Award winners in chronological order,”…I am OBSESSED with it! It’s the answer to the prompt, “Tell me you’re a reader without telling me you’re a reader.””

Laurie Hnatiuk (Goodreads)

“I love the way Colleen has tackled a friend moving away. The unique way in which Colleen Nelson sets this up is a breath of fresh air. Instead of focusing on the friend who moves away, the author focuses on the friend who isn’t moving. Ms. Nelson reminds us that the friend staying behind also faces challenges and periods of difficulty, things that sometimes we may overlook.
Readers also meet a familiar character. We all know someone like Tyson Flamand. The clever individual who acts one way because they are not confident to show us their true selves. In The Undercover Book List, readers see the growth of Tyson as he gains confidence and realizes he can contribute and doesn’t need to hide behind the elaborate pranks. I appreciated the honesty of showing how Tyson knows how to suggest relevant and current books for Jane to read when he doesn’t consider himself a reader. Some individuals will see themselves and make connections to both Tyson and Jane. What a great way to talk about how we can get around from working to fake read and know excellent books to recommend to finding books that will engage those individuals who see themselves as nonreaders.

Using the duo perspective, readers get to know Jane and Tyson individually while speculating how they will become friends without the characters knowing they will be friends. Kids will enjoy this aspect of the story and will be able to connect and share with their personal stories. Writing from this dual perspective keeps readers engaged and wanting to learn more about each character and the storyline moving.”

Click here to read the full review

Michelle Kadarusman (Goodreads)

“Book nerds unite! The Undercover Book List provides a simply wonderful premise for young book lovers – and for those who don’t think they are bookish, they will be by the end of the story. Love, love, love the depiction of friendships old and new that grow and blossom under Nelson’s deft hand. A heartwarming page turner that achieves what all exceptional literature does, it inspires the reader to read more. All the stars for this middle-grade gem.”

Click here to read the full review

Kids’ BookBuzz

“Jane and Tyson send notes to each other. At first, Tyson thinks it’s a joke, but it actually leads him and Jane to the Kid Lit Quiz team, and a possible friendship…

I liked this book a lot! At the end of the book there is a list of book recommendations, but not just any book recommendations… The Undercover Book List recommendations! If you are looking for something interesting to read, this is the book that you’re looking for!

Reviewed By: Viviane – age 9″

Click here to read the full review

A Smile Reviews

Posted on July 27th, 2021 by pajamapress

Kirkus Reviews

In paper collage art, three children with light-coloured skin walk in a row along a cobblestone path. The eldest in front carries a parcel, the little boy in the middle carries a daisy and walks with a big smile on his face, and the girl at the end of the train carries a cake. A brown cat follows behind them, and a beaming yellow sun smiles down on the children.“Using brightly colored forms, cheerful collage illustrations provide a lively, child-centric, visual context for this uncredited English adaptation of the poem “Un sourire,” attributed to Follereau, a French humanitarian who worked with people who had Hansen’s disease. Opening with smiling parents waking their children in the morning, the simple text reminds readers “a smile costs nothing” and can be given to others.”

Click here to read the full review

School Library Journal

“Every sentence reads as truth, and Hadadi, working in a primary palette of good cheer, welcome, and bright colors, invites readers into the pages. Three joyful children go on a walk, visit a bakery, espy an older man giving someone less fortunate coffee and pastries—and more importantly, conversation—and witness how a smile given freely can change the tenor of the day. The publisher’s note explains Follereau’s philosophy, and helps anchor this airy work to serious goals. VERDICT A quiet idea, amplified, that to be kind, all children need is a smile.”

Click here to read the full review

Independent Book Reviews

“This is a gorgeous children’s picture book about smiling.
Simply perfect for anyone at anytime – it will certainly make you smile!”

North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award

“Whilst accompanying the poem, the illustrations tell their own story as well, showing the kindness, hope and joy a simple smile can bring to everyone. Each spread is bright and bursting with life, full of details to notice and enjoy. Hoda Hadadi’s pictures showing a day in the life of two smiling children would make a wonderful starting point for story telling and collage work.”

Click here to read the full review

Picture Book Snob

“This is perfect for gently introducing children to the importance of kindness and altruisim, as well as easy ways to practice what they’ve learned. It’s a fabulous bedtime story and Hoda’s art will encourage young people to be creative themselves. This is ideal for use in a classroom and for basing activities around too. This book would also make a marvellous and memorable gift, for adults as well as children. It’s sure to put a smile on the face of anyone who reads it.”

Click here to read the full review

Library Lady

“The cover depicting a trio of smiling children beneath a beaming sun and jolly smiling clouds instantly lifts your spirits and the endpapers continue the theme with a garden of flowers each of them smiling happily. The reader follows the children as they spread their smiles among the people they meet; the rich man with his downcast face, the young unemployed man lost in sadness and the little girl with the burst balloon. As we turn the pages we watch as their days are transformed by this small act of kindness.”

Click here to read the full review

@janekwhittingham

“A SMILE was gifted to us by @pajamapressbooks (with whom I work as an author). It’s an illustrated translation of a poem by French poet and humanitarian Raoul Follereau, who I must confess I knew nothing about before reading the afterword. The text is nice (the basic premise being “smile and the world smiles with you” ), but it’s the illustrations by Hoda Hadadi that really make this work shine. Each page is bursting with joy and colour, and detail, and A. just adores gazing at each page.”

Click here to read the full review