Sun in My Tummy Reviews

Posted on December 16th, 2021 by pajamapress

 

 

School Library Journal★ Starred Review

“Mixed-media artwork creates striking color variation and subtle dimension, lifting the illustrations right off the page and resulting in a natural flow throughout the story. Blinick’s deliberate use of line moves the eye across the page in perfect accompaniment to the narrative, highlighting the story’s theme of interconnection. The main character and her mother both have brown skin and straight black hair. VERDICT This book is as essential as sunshine; the absolutely beautiful STEM story is as absorbing as photosynthesis itself.”

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Quill & Quire★ Starred Review

“A breakfast table conversation between a girl and her mother encompasses big concepts like energy, plant life cycles, and photosynthesis in a child-friendly manner. Toronto author Laura Alary’s poetic rumination about how the sun nourishes us all offers food for thought. The sunny and bright mixed-media illustrations from Andrea Blinick are inviting. –LL”

Find this review in the Jan/Feb 2022 edition

Booklist

“Bright, page-filling illustrations with whimsical details (a cow in an inner tube floats in a cereal bowl) align with the text and offer visual reinforcement. The text does include some technical details but always in a naive, impressed way that supports the overall magical tone. Perfect for reading out loud, this engaging tale could be used as an introduction to elementary science units and also to encourage young readers to find the magic in everyday things.”

Find this review in the March 2022 edition

Youth Services Book Review

“What did you like about the book? The unnamed main character wakes up excited to get some sun in their tummy. At first I was expecting a storyline similar to “there was an old lady who swallowed a fly”; instead, the book has a beautiful narrative about photosynthesis. Readers are first introduced to how oats are made, then how the blueberries are grown, and lastly, to the milk that goes into the bowl. Each step along the way we meet another part of the yummy bowl of oatmeal. The illustrations are brightly colored pencil-like drawings of how oats grow, how blueberries grow, and even how birds and bees help pollinate flowers. This is a great way to talk about the cycles of food and how we end up with some of the yummy dishes that become part of our family routines.”

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YA Books Central

“While there is more technical detail about photosynthesis in the author’s note at the back of the book, this is a good introduction to the concept of plants harnessing the sun to make energy for themselves, and also energy to pass on to human consumers. The idea that a bowl of oatmeal, blueberries, and milk all contain the sun is a happy way to think about nutrition, and perhaps a good way to entice reluctant eaters. Alary’s language is very poetic, and the book reads more like free verse than a science text.”

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CM: Canadian Review

“One morning a little girl wakes up and finds her mother making breakfast in the kitchen. In an effort to make her daughter understand how the sun creates the food we eat, which, in turn, gives us energy for the day, her mother begins explaining the process of photosynthesis.

As her mother explains, it all begins with the sun. Whether it’s the oats that make up the girl’s oatmeal, or the blueberries that sweeten it, or the milk that makes it taste so delicious, everything in her bowl is connected to the earth through an exceptional process that combines the sun, some air, and water. And voila, the little girl now has the sun in her tummy which will keep her going for the rest of the day.”

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Cloud Lake Literary

“I love the circular nature of each journey through the chain of photosynthesis, done in accessible and pretty language. Each turn layers beautifully on top of the other until the young protagonist—and young readers—understand the meaning of having the sun in their tummy.

Now let’s talk about the pictures, which are just adorable. They are warm and full of clever details (like cow spots on the carton of milk and a bright sun on the belly of the protagonist’s red t-shirt) alongside cozy morning rituals (mugs of tea, fuzzy slippers, and sleepy slouching at the table). Blinick is a mixed media artist, and the cut-out effect is beautifully used in this book. The palette is reminiscent of a country kitchen, with an abundance of golds and yellows interspersed with green, red, and blue. The sun is ever present, and each spread gets brighter and brighter until the protagonist is awake, energized, and ready to start her day.

For those of us that like a fictionalized feel to our nonfiction, this book delivers. It’s accessible, fun, and informative but does not scrimp on the science (there is even a one-page Author’s Note describing the process of Photosynthesis). It could just as easily be read as a bedtime story as used as a learning tool in a classroom environment. An excellent choice for parents, caregivers, or educators. Loved this read.”

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Children’s Literature-CLCD

“The final page of the book includes a scientific description of the chemistry of photosynthesis for curious young minds ready to understand the ‘magic’ referenced in the main text. A clever book to help young children understand where our food comes from and how it grows and passes energy to us: food is fuel, and sometimes that means the warm-heartedness of sunlight! The colorful, fun, and unique illustrations bring real delight to this read and absolutely enhance the book’s appeal, with lots to visually discover.”

Canadian Children’s Book News

“The sun is the true star of this charming picture book by Laura Alary and Andrea Blinick. Sun in My Tummy is a great supplement to any science lesson or a way to build gratitude and understanding in subtle ways for the role of nature in our lives.”

Find this review in the Spring 2022 edition

A Kids Book A Day

“Oatmeal, blueberries, and milk may seem like a ho-hum breakfast, but there is magic in the foods we eat.  The oats and the blueberries grew out of the soil, warmed by the sun, and watered by the rain.  They make food from sunlight, creating seeds which can be used to grow new plants.  The cow was able to make milk because she ate grass that grew with the help of sun and rain as well.  “Inside everything, if you look deep enough, you will find the sun. Warm-hearted. Generous. Giving.”  Includes additional information about photosynthesis.”

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This is the Boat that Ben Built Reviews

Posted on December 13th, 2021 by pajamapress

School Library Journal

“Bailey’s debut puts an ecological spin on “This Is the House That Jack Built,” in a cumulative tale of a boy exploring a northern river ecosystem. Dark-haired, fair-skinned Ben heads downstream in his very own boat. Safety first as Ben, as well as the grown-up and dog watching from shore, wears a life vest, even though Ben sails solo. This is a simple and gentle introduction to northern wildlife.”

YA Books Central

“What I loved: The illustrations are really lovely and capture the river and its animals in a way that is sure to appeal to children. The buildable story is great for toddlers and preschoolers who will appreciate the repetition and understanding the way that things begin to relate to each other in the story. There is a lot of simplicity to this story that works perfectly for this age group. The backmatter is a nice addition, with some additional context and basic facts about the animals.

The font is easy to read, and I appreciated that the color changes as needed with the background to make it easier to see. Although the story builds, the amount of text on each page is relatively brief, making the pages turn quickly, which is great for the youngest of picture book readers. With the backmatter, this would work well for classrooms or at home learning about ecosystems, animals, and the ways in which we interact with them….

Final verdict: A beautifully illustrated picture book, THIS IS THE BOAT THAT BEN BUILT is a fun, buildable story that teaches about river animals and ecosystems.”

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Youth Services Book Review

“This book in rhyme borrows the scheme of ‘The House that Jack Built’, and perks it up with a nature theme. Set in the Northern Forest, the story starts with Ben putting the finishing touches on a rowboat, then setting off down the river, with his pet dog and Mom keeping apace on shore. The progressive rhyme relates how the fish, the beaver, the loon, and other animals coexist in the forest around him. When the hoot of owl startles the heron, a comedy of reactions takes place, ending with fish jumping right into Ben’s boat.

This is a sweet, rhyming early look at ecosystems in the forest. Back matter talks about keystone species, and asks readers questions about the story.”

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CM Magazine

“Montreal-born artist Maggie Zeng has filled the pages with digitally-produced illustrations which show a tranquil waterway flanked by inviting woodlands. Misty tones dominated by green and peach may at first seem to make the outing appear to be a child’s perfect dream. But wait: readers can see that Mom and the family pooch are following along, continually watching from the bank as Ben floats, dips a bucket, naps and uses his binoculars to spy something that needs more careful examination. (And – safety first! – he is seen to be wearing a life jacket throughout). All of the animals are brought to life by the active poses that have been employed which let readers know this a fully-realized adventure. One of the most engaging spreads shows Ben leaning over the side of the little boat with a scoop net while all around fish big and small rush through the bubbling teal water.

Extensive back matter discusses the ecosystem of a northern river and offers a page of information about each of the animals introduced in the body of the text.

This Is the Boat That Ben Built is a collaboration that exudes a sense of happiness. It is the meeting of pleasant story and informative nonfiction that will be useful in primary classroom and library collections.”

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CLCD – Children’s Literature

“What could be more amazing than experiencing an ecosystem through a story? Or floating down a river into a new world that you can explore? This tale has echoes of the traditional “The House That Jack Built” story, yet Bailey weaves a narrative that is distinctly modern, which Zeng has filled with wondrous illustrations. A young boy named Ben builds a boat and explores a world filled with a fish, a beaver, a bear, a goose, an owl, a heron, and a moose while floating down a river on a sunny afternoon. Young readers will enjoy following Ben’s adventures and encountering creatures that leap across the river and become larger-than-life within this imaginative journey.”

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Winnipeg Free Press

Ben floats through a memorable day in his hand-built wooden boat. But when an owl startles the heron and leads to a quick reversal of the creatures in the forest, Mom joins him in the boat. For readers who want to learn more there’s extra info on each of the wild creatures.”

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Metroland Media

“This Is The Boat That Ben Built is a nature, cumulative story that explores a northern river ecosystem. After building his boat, Ben sets out on a river where he sees various animals including fishes, a beaver, a loon, a moose, a heron – and more. Young readers will enjoy the fun story and quality illustrations.”

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“A hooting owl provides enough drama to reverse the direction the words have taken, bringing the story full circle. The lively text is just right for early readers with its repetitive language. Paired with Maggie Zeng’s luminous digital art, it is sure to be read often and soon independently. Filled with movement and humor that adds to its appeal, it will encourage talk about the way an ecosystem works, food webs, and how many animals flourish in a healthy environment.

Back matter includes an author’s note about the what makes an ecosystem.”

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Book Time

“First, Ben is going down a river and he sees some great creatures – fish of course, but also a beaver, a loon, a grinning goose, a bear and moose, among others. But just when you think you can’t read the same words any longer, an owl “whoos on a whim and startles the heron all proper and prim,” and a chain reaction of disaster follows until Ben gets a surprise in his boat. At the end of the book, Bailey talks about the Northern River ecosystem and goes into information about the creatures she featured in her book.

The pictures are adorable.”

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Canadian Children’s Book News

“Patterned on the familiar “The House That Jack Built” nursery rhyme, Jen Lynn Bailey’s text is fun and easy to read, flowing smoothly with the right cadence that pulls the reader along. Maggie Zeng’s digital illustrations are beautiful and full of detail. Gentle humour infuses the story in both text and illustrations, and readers will enjoy the sense of wonder always to be found in natural settings.”—Canadian Children’s Book News

The full review can be found in the Spring 2022 issue.

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

Youth Services Book ReviewStarred Review

“In this book, adorable baby animals frolic, jump, swim, and nibble while, in facing pages, young children do the same.  The words are minimal, following the simple format of baby animal name and then the verb (Porcupettes nibble; Tadpoles wiggle).  Cheerful color photographs illustrate the joy of movement.  The children depicted are of many ethnicities and body types, and the last page encourages the reader to think about how she or he moves.  The endpapers detail the names of the animals and what their babies are called (baboon – infant), accompanied by photos of parent-baby pairs.  The whole text gently rhymes.

This book works in all the ways books for littles should work: engaging subject, pleasing presentation, gentle introduction of new vocabulary, lack of stereotyping, and strong construction for repeated reading and handling.  There is a note to adults in the back offering several extension activities to get kids thinking and moving.”

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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

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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.”

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Sherylbooks

“Animals Move is a bright, appealing new addition to the Big, Little Concept series by author/librarian, Jane Whittingham. It’s the perfect way to get your littles wiggling. I love that the children portrayed are diverse & active & your littles will love the baby animals whose movements they can copy…that is, if you can get them past the awesome endpapers! The soft padded cover and tough pages are perfect for toddlers to turn without tearing.”

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Book Time

“In this picture book for two to five year olds, readers see all the ways baby animals move while also looking at children move the same way.

For example, Joeys hop across the page, while a little girl makes a similar move. Infants (baby baboons climb) and so to does a little boy on a ladder at a park. The bookends feature pictures and words of the adult animal and its baby, so you know, for example, baby porcupines are called porcupettes and baby enchidnas are … puggles! Adorable.”

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Storytime with Stephanie

“An adorable and durable book for young children, Animals Move by Jane Whittingham inspires little people to get up and move like their favourite animals.

Throughout the book, the simple text tells readers how different baby animals move. From kittens to puggles, each of the animals moves in a different way, just like children do.”

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Fab Book Reviews

“A warm, inviting picture book sure to entice babies and toddlers for repeated reading with its vibrant, sweet, inclusive photographs and romping fun rhymes, Animals Move is a fantastic pick for action and movement-based storytimes. End papers include a pictorial layout of all the animals featured in the picture book, as well as the names of the baby animals and their respective grownup counterpart.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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The International Educator

“Based on a real street in Toronto, Canada where many immigrant families settled, Birds on Wishbone Street by Suzanne Del Rizzo is a beautiful story  of people coming from different cultures. They share their food and their stories. But newly arrived Sami is not talking much. Until a bird needs his special attention and brings back memories and stories from home. Illustrated in clay and mixed media, the glorious art is a joy to explore. The book works on many different levels and even offers instructions on how to make your own winter bird treats.”

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Canadian Children’s Book News

“Wishbone Street, an actual street in Toronto, is a welcoming neighbourhood to immigrants who have come there from all over the world. Friends with everyone of any age, Maureen, or Moe for short, is eager to meet Sami, a young boy who has just arrived with his family from Syria. She notices him bird watching in the parkette and surmises that he loves nature and birds just as she does. A friendship between the two gradually develops, although Sami is reluctant to share his past. His experience with birds comes to the fore when a cold female cardinal is discovered lying in the snow. Taking leadership to save her, Sami reveals that he raised pet pigeons in Syria and studied wild birds while at a refugee camp. Together with several neighbours, they make bird suet treats and winter roosting pockets to feed and shelter winter birds. “New friends, new treats, new homes… fresh start for Sami and for our neighborhood birds… We are all neighbors on Wishbone Street.”

Suzanne Del Rizzo has written a touching sequel to My Beautiful Birds, which relayed Sami’s experience through the Syrian refugee crisis. The life story of Sami and his family continues in Canada as readers witness his fading anxiety and gradual acceptance of his new neighbourhood, this due to simple acts of kindness and the discovery of a kindred spirit. This uplifting story will resonate with young readers, especially those who are new to Canada.

Del Rizzo’s stunning illustrations, created from polymer clay, acrylic glaze and other mixed media, introduce readers to the inhabitants and geography of Wishbone Street from a variety of perspectives. Not only are the fall and winter scenes within this book filled with a myriad of delightful details, but one can almost feel the rich textures of what is being portrayed on its pages.”

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.”

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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.”

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Book Time

“Moe loves birds, climbing trees and hanging out with her neighbours on Wishbone Street who come from all over the world. She is excited to meet the new boy from Syria, but shyness wins over until the children bond over a female cardinal found lying in the snow.

“Sami uses his experience taking care of pigeons in Syria to help rescue the bird, which also helps Sami feel more at home.”

Birds on Wishbone Street is by Suzanne Del Rizzo and Pajama Press. Wishbone Street, said Del Rizzo in her author’s note, is based on a real street in Toronto where her husband grew up.

“Many immigrant families settled there. Just like Moe and Sami, they know we are better together.”

I love the plasticine illustrations in this book, particularly the snowflakes.”

Click here to read the full review

Storytime with Stephanie

“Any story featuring birds and plasticine artwork is a book I want to read. The Birds of Wishbone Street by Suzanne De Rizzo is a story about birds and a special community….

We love the community feel of this story. It wraps you in a warm blanket of kindness. The people in the community are kind and generous, all from different places around the world. Collecting treasures is an important part of life on Wishbone street. Moe welcomes Sami to the community by sharing a bird’s feather with him, before even knowing about his own collecting of treasures from Syria. The treasures help the children learn more about each other and build friendships. The children of Wishbone Street are so welcoming. When a bird is in trouble, they band together to save this cherished member of the community. The support and love the members of the community feel for each other is evident on each page. It’s a story that obviously come from the heart and extends a hand to readers.

The plasticine illustrations will blow you away! The amount of detail and love placed into each spread invites readers into the community. There are not many spreads that are missing birds somewhere in the picture and readers will have a fun time trying to spot the beautiful cardinal pair throughout the book. Plasticine art is inspiring and readers will be eager to take out their own plasticine and create. Or perhaps will want to follow the instructions at the end of the story to make roosting baskets and/or bird suet treats for their feathered community members.

According to Suzanne Del Rizzo’s author’s note, Wishbone Street is inspired by a real street in Toronto where her husband grew up. A beautiful connection to her whole family and a reflection of why this story is so special.”

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Sal’s Fiction Addiciton

“Wishbone Street is a very interesting place to live for those who live there. They come from many different countries, with unique histories and languages. Their stories reflect their lives before they moved there. Maureen, called Moe, has an Irish background. When a new family moves in nearby, Moe wonders about the boy she sees outside her window….

Following the story, Ms. Del Rizzo provides careful instructions for making the treats and pockets that Sami and Moe make. The illustrations, made using polymer clay and acrylics, will have readers in awe of the details, the ever-changing perspectives, and the wonders of the season as the two friends learn more about each other and how much they are alike. An author’s note about real-life events in her life adds interest.

This is a truly wonderful story about friendship, community and being kind. It should be shared in all early and upper elementary classrooms.”

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. ”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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!”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”
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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.”

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Seattle Book Review Starred Review

“This is a touching and timely book that portrays the hardships many children in Afghanistan and other war-torn countries face. The author illustrates this beautifully and adds an informative and heartfelt “Author’s Note” that’ll leave a notable impression on young readers. He writes of attending a presentation in first grade in which Afghan students were taught to distinguish land mines from toys.

When youngsters read this, they’ll feel for Aria and her classmates, and they may even step away with an extraordinary feeling of gratitude. Additionally, they’ll be awed by Aria’s bravery and ingenuity. Those aged six to nine will be enlightened by this story.”

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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.”

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Canadian Children’s Book News

“Aria, a young Afghan, is excited to return to the girls’ school following a long stay in hospital due to a land mine accident. Unfortunately, her new prosthetic “helper leg” makes sitting all day on the classroom floor extremely painful. The wooden benches and desks had been used as firewood during the war. Aria resolves to remedy her discomfort by building a bench herself. After collecting discarded wooden boards, broken pieces of furniture, and nails and screws from around the city, she seeks the advice of a carpenter, who kindly loans her some of his work tools and presents her with a can of sky-blue paint—the colour of courage, peace and wisdom. A weekend filled with construction follows. Aria’s classmates are so impressed that they too, wish to build additional benches, tables and even a bookshelf. “Aria thought about her can of sky-blue paint. There was still plenty left. ‘Yes,’ she said, with a smile as wide as the sky. ‘We can build everything we need, together!’”

Told from his personal experiences growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, Bahram Rahman has written a poignant story recognizing the resilience and determination of young children, particularly girls, living in war-torn countries. One admires the ingenuity and perseverance of Aria as she strives to improve the quality of life, not only for herself but also for her classmates. An age-appropriate Author’s Note briefly introduces readers to the danger of land mines.

Peggy Collin’ vivid artwork, created digitally, illustrates a way of life and school experience that will be unfamiliar to many young readers. Yet Aria’s courage, in the face of adversity, will resonate with children, no matter what their background, as will the significance of the colour blue, a symbol of hope.”

Metroland Toronto

“A Sky-Blue Bench is a narrative, picture book which tells the story of Aria, a young girl in Afghanistan, who due to her recent accident, is an amputee. Aria is excited to be going to school after her accident, but finds it difficult to adjust due to the pain in her leg. During the war, all of the benches had been burned to heat the residents’ homes and now everyone had to sit on the floor. Instead of giving up, Aria devises a plan to create her own bench and seeks the help of Kaka Najar, a carpenter…

A Sky-Blue Bench shares a valuable lesson of resilience and that children, specifically girls, can do anything that they put their minds to. This book also provides a simplified version of one lived experience of people living in Afghanistan. In the appendix are definitions of terms used in the book such as, “internally displaced” people, “landmines” and “unexploded ordnance” (UXO).”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“The world has heard much about the unexploded weapons that were hidden during armed conflicts in world communities. Aria is one of the Afghan children whose life was forever changed when she stepped on one of those devastating weapons….

“Sky-blue is for courage, peace and wisdom.”

Peggy Collins fills her spreads and endpapers (front and back) with digital artwork that reveals the emotions felt, the support of community, and the determination of a child to make a difference for herself and others as Aria navigates a new normal following such an overwhelming event in her life. An author’s note shares his experiences growing up in Afghanistan, and writes this story to honor those whose lives have been impacted by land mines and UXO.”

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Book Time

“In this author’s note, Rahman talks about how four decades of war in Afghanistan has left a country littered with land mines or unexploded ordnances (UXO), waiting for unsuspecting children. The author remembers being taught in Grade 1 how to differentiate between a toy and a bomb. How awful.

“A Sky-Blue Bench honours the resilience of Afghan children in the face of great personal loss and injury caused by land mines and UXO…She, like many other children in  Afghanistan, confronts life as it is and solves her problems with creativity and hard work. She won’t give up until life is better for her and the people are her.”

Beautiful story, beautiful lessons and beautiful illustrations by Peggy Collins.”

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Kirin (GoodReads)

“Aria has to find a way to sit in class because she wants to learn, and lack of wood working experience, resources, and doubt that a girl can do it from her classmates, isn’t going to stop her.  Over 32 pages, early elementary age children will meet a determined young girl as she pieces together scraps to build a bench.

Aria has been in the hospital for a while after an accident took her leg.  She is excited to be back at school, but quickly realizes it is hard to sit on the floor with her new helper leg.  She tries leaning on the wall, standing even, but just getting up and down off the floor is really difficult.  At home when she mentions it to her mom, her mom reassures her that she can get through it and her little brother offers to help her carry her things.

That night Aria considers how much she would miss school if she isn’t able to figure something out.  Then she has an idea, she’ll build a bench.  At school the next morning, classmates tell her “Girls don’t build benches,” but Aria responds, “I can do anything a boy can.””

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Israa (GoodReads)

“A strong girl with a prosthetic leg in Afghanistan does not let anything prevent her from going to school. I love her determination and ingenuity. The illustrations are colorful, and the text is easy for elementary students to read and understand. I will definitely recommend this book for our school library.”

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Storytime with Stephanie

“In another love letter to his home country of Afghanistan, Bahram Rahman gives readers the story of a courageous young girl who must build a bench to make school accessible for her and other children like her. A Sky-Blue Bench illustrated by Peggy Collins provides readers with a glimpse into life in Afghanistan and especially what it’s like for young girls trying to go to school and learn….

Readers will see the lengths that children must go to ensure a comfortable learning environment. We take for granted our tables and chairs and cozy carpeted areas in North American classrooms. Readers also gain perspective about physical disabilities, like Aria’s, that require prosthetic limbs and how limiting they can be at times. Readers will see the importance of accessible spaces for everyone. They can also learn more about the country of Afghanistan and why so many children there require “helper” limbs. The story is an example of strength and self advocating.

Peggy Collins’ illustrations are bold and bright. She gives us many close ups of people’s faces and the bright shining eyes of all the people in the story. This is a vibrant beautiful story filled with vibrant beautiful illustrations that will immediately grab the readers attention and hold it through to the end.”

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CanLit for Little Canadians

“Though Bahram Rahman makes it clear from his notes about circumstances he and others experienced in his homeland of Afghanistan, he does not dwell on the horrors of land mines or the challenges of living with a civil war. Instead Bahram Rahman speaks to a girl’s determination to get an education, be proactive and resourceful, and to challenge herself to meet her own needs. It’s a brave commentary on focusing on what you can change, not on what you can’t, and Aria demonstrates that the possibilities can be inspiring.

While there is a brightness and a child-like quality to her art, Peggy Collins (Harley the Hero, 2021) stays firmly in realism, but without immersing her art in the adversity of the situation. Aria’s prosthetic leg is barely visible under her black dress and the challenges of the civil war are obscured by the vibrancy of the community in its activity and colour. Peggy Collins takes us into the Afghanistan of Aria’s life, not of news reports: her school, her helper-leg, her mother and little brother, and her community. Her sky-blue bench is as assured as she is.

A Sky-Blue Bench may be a story from Afghanistan but its lessons about self-reliance and resourcefulness will speak to all children, especially those facing their own challenges, and encourage them to find solutions. With a desire, some hard work and a little wisdom, Aria was able to build something worthwhile, with wood and with vision.”

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@alissareadsabook

“The illustrations in this one are simply charming. I also really like that there are a lot of ways that parents can use this book as intro conversations with their children. The book doesn’t go into any detail about why Aria has her “helper leg” or the inequities and barriers to education for girls in Afghanistan, but the illustrations and text give clues that parents can use to open the doors to these conversations should they desire. Or it can simply be read as a story of resiliency, community, and hope.

Note about disability rep: I really appreciated how this was addressed – the challenges that Aria faces as an amputee are shown honestly, her emotions and struggles depicted realistically but not in a way that showed her as helpless – she decided what she wanted, she solved her own problems. There was no “savior” for Aria here – she received help, but she was not treated as a fragile doll. She had agency and voice. More of this representation please.”

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The International Educator

“A Sky-Blue Bench by Bahram Rahman has beautiful art by Peggy Collins. Dedicated to the children of Afghanistan, this is the story of Aria who lost a leg to a landmine but who knows she can do anything, even carpentry. Finding it too hard to sit on the floor of her classroom, Aria collects wood and learns the skills needed to build herself a bench. A bench so beautiful that all the girls in class want to learn how to build furniture. A heartbreaking and heartwarming story all at once.”

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