Posted on October 1st, 2013 by pajamapress
“Strange things happen when Jane Grey, a high school student in Halifax, begins an assignment researching Lady Jane Grey, the “nine days queen.” Upon examining her cache of library books, she finds one she hadn’t checked out: Booke of Prayre. As Jane opens it, she is mysteriously transported to the 16th century and meets her namesake. MacLeod dexterously handles the intricacies of the time travel central to the story, and a fascinating, powerful bond develops between the two Jane Greys. It is during their encounters that this first novel is most riveting and successful. Both characters are wonderfully fleshed out. Their mutual confusion heightens the mystery about the impact they might have on each other. Both Janes have their problems with family. Historical Jane struggles to continue following her Protestantism while her Catholic cousin Mary assumes the throne of England. Modern Jane has difficulty coping with what she perceives as the three sides of her mother’s personality. The author’s skill is most pronounced when the two Janes are getting to know each other and to understand the milieu in which each lives….MacLeod’s evocative prose makes friendship across time seem possible. Though Lady Jane’s tragic life is known, readers hope for a happier outcome. This enjoyable read offers a window into an intriguing aspect of British history. It is likely to appeal to fans of Susan Cooper’s King of Shadows (S & S, 1999) and books by Margaret Peterson Haddix.”
—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
Learn more about School Library Journal here.
Posted on September 27th, 2013 by pajamapress
“While Namesake may be initially seen as a standard time-slip novel, with a contemporary character going back in time to learn something which she could apply to her own life, the book goes beyond trope by having both Janes interact and take active roles in each other’s lives, even to the point of altering history if that could save their friendship… I really think you get a sense of who Lady Jane was as as person, a girl who died for her beliefs and who couldn’t fight to change her fate. I’m really glad that the author chose a figure in the Tudor history who isn’t necessarily scandalous and who isn’t all that removed from the main character’s age, to share their lives and their stories, and developing their new friendship which both of them needed desperately. Though the ending of Lady Jane’s story is heartbreaking, it sparks a change in present day Jane…”
— Rummanah Aasi
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Posted on September 18th, 2013 by pajamapress
Last night Karen Bass launched her exciting YA novel Graffiti Knight at Audrey’s Books in Edmonton, Alberta. The author read, signed, shared German baked goods, and even got tattooed for the occasion.
Karen Bass' henna tattoo reflecting Rebecca Buchanan's cover design
Graffiti Knight tells the story of Wilm, a sixteen-year-old boy seeking freedom and self-expression in post-World War II East Germany. Watch the book trailer or learn more about the book here.
This is Karen’s fourth YA novel, and she has a long history of celebrating them with Audrey’s Books. Tomorrow she will share the evening with another group of readers at Owl’s Nest Books in Calgary, Alberta. You can read more about that event here.
Thank you to Karen Spafford-Fitz for sharing her pictures from the launch with us.
Karen signs books in character
Reading from Graffiti Knight
Posted on September 6th, 2013 by pajamapress
Award-winning author Karen Bass brings readers a fast-paced story about a real-world era of censorship and struggle too often forgotten by history: Soviet-controlled post-World War II East Germany, where one boy fights for self-expression and the freedom to build his own future.
Watch Graffiti Knight Book Trailer
Posted on August 22nd, 2013 by pajamapress
“Alberta author Karen Bass’s latest novel is a character-rich story about a 16-year-old boy struggling with anger, loyalty, and rebellion. What makes Graffiti Knight different is the setting: Soviet-occupied Eastern Germany in 1947.
Wilm and his impoverished family live in a tiny flat in war-ravaged Leipzig. His father is a crippled, bitter war veteran, his sister an emotionally paralyzed victim of the Soviet invasion, and his mother a ghost-like figure fighting to keep the family together. The only people in Wilm’s world with any power are the Soviet occupiers and the brutal collaborationist East German police; everyone else compromises and tries to get by.
Minor acts of rebellion give Wilm a thrill and offer him a sense of power that he is otherwise lacking. Unfortunately, the minor vandalism he and his friends see as a game escalates dangerously. Suddenly, Wilm finds himself dragging his family and friends into a deadly race to escape across the border into the American zone.
The characters in Graffiti Knight are multi-faceted and their motivations complex. Wilm, in particular, represents an excellent portrayal of how teenage anger can sometimes lead to stupidity. In attempting to assert his individuality, Wilm is seduced by the power he feels carrying out sabotage. But does that mean he is the same as the enemies he is trying to outwit? …Wilm is a thoroughly believable character who invokes the reader’s sympathy (and a sense of frustration at his actions).
Bass has artfully recreated an historical time and place peopled by realistic, three-dimensional characters grappling with their own emotions and global forces they can only barely understand.”—John Wilson, whose latest novel is Stolen (Orca Book Publishers)
Posted on August 13th, 2013 by pajamapress
“…I thought MacLeod did a really good job of weaving the past together with the present. I always worry that books like this will get confusing with the back and forth, but I had no trouble keeping up with Namesake. I enjoyed watching Jane’s life in the present, and I eagerly anticipated each of her visits to the past, since I’ve always been fascinated with Tudor era England…Namesake is a captivating story that is sure to please fans of contemporary young adult and historic fiction alike.”
Click here to read the full review
Posted on July 30th, 2013 by pajamapress
“Karen Bass‘ thorough research, as she describes in her Historical Notes at the back of the book, provides the authentic background for Graffiti Knight,challenging all that readers might think they know about Nazi Germany and its aftermath….By seeing Leipzig and other parts of Germany through the eyes of a young man of sixteen, who lives through World War II but experiences further injustice in its aftermath, when so many were celebrating victory, Karen Bass provides enlightenment via a new perspective. Heroes are not just made in war. Courage and compassion, the virtues of heroes anywhere and anytime, can make a knight out of anyone, even Wilm.”
Click here to read the full review.
Posted on July 22nd, 2013 by pajamapress
“When Jane Grey is given the assignment to research an historic figure, she chooses her namesake, Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Day Queen who ruled England between Edward and Mary. But she doesn’t choose to be transported back in time by means of a tiny prayer book which she finds, or rather, which finds her at the public library. Lady Jane Grey is already in the Tower of London, awaiting trial. Although her namesake Jane knows how this will end, she offers her support, and travels back as often as she can. After all, Lady Jane’s faith and loyalty is a beacon of strength in comparison with Jane’s alcoholic mother and inconstant friends…
The historical details of the Tudor monarchy and everyday life in the 1500s are impressive. Kudos to MacLeod for bringing this fascinating slice of British history to Canadian teens…”
Posted on July 17th, 2013 by pajamapress
“A modern-day Canadian girl named Jane Grey travels back in time to meet the Lady Jane Grey, imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1553.
Bookish Jane is doing research for a paper about her namesake Lady Jane Grey, the 15-year-old who was queen of England for nine days and later executed by Queen Mary. Finding an old prayer book, she reads a prayer out loud and is transported to the Tower of London, where only Lady Jane, who calls her “Namesake,” can see her. Using the prayer book to time travel at will, she becomes friends with Lady Jane and tries to think of a way to save the brilliant and innocent teenager. Meanwhile in the present, Jane tries to escape her alcoholic mother’s increasingly aggressive and bizarre behavior. When the two stories collide just before Lady Jane’s scheduled execution, Jane struggles to save herself and her friend. MacLeod writes the modern sections in a heightened style that almost feels more like poetry than prose. She writes Lady Jane’s dialogue in Tudor English, modifying it only slightly for modern readers. Her vivid descriptions of the filthy turmoil of 1553 London, when even the nobility often had lice, should open some eyes. Most importantly, she strives to get the history right.
Suspenseful, emotional and powerful.”
Posted on June 21st, 2013 by pajamapress
“…In every way, this novel is a triumph. MacLeod deftly weaves the modern Jane’s contemporary story with the true-life tale of Lady Jane Grey. Both storylines are fully developed and vividly rendered, with the time-travel element simply and elegantly incorporated into the fabric of Jane’s present-day life. In so doing, the author expertly brings the history to life for her readers while concurrently crafting a poignant tale of a modern teen’s efforts to navigate the hardships of both high school and a troubled home life…Highly Recommended.”
Click here to read the full review