Posted on February 1st, 2017 by pajamapress
“At the start of the emotional tale My Beautiful Birds by Suzanne Del Rizzo, Sami and his family climb a hill while their Syrian village burns in the background below. They continue walking for a day and two nights until they reach a refugee camp: “Helpful hands welcome us in. We made it. We are safe.” But Sami is still scared, and he is heartbroken over the loss of his beloved pet pigeons, even though his father reassures him that “they escaped, too.” Healing finally comes after a quartet of birds arrive — not his birds, “but it doesn’t matter.” Del Rizzo uses polymer clay and acrylic paint to create vibrant pictures of Sami, his family, the refugee camp, and the swirling pink-and-purple sky. Most of all, she creates birds for which every feather and color looks real. Beauty and sorrow sit side by side in this compassionate and age-appropriate depiction of contemporary refugee life. (Pajama Press, 6–9 years)”
Click here to view The Horn Book Magazine’s post on books about refugee children
Posted on April 8th, 2016 by pajamapress
“The story is told in simple, conversational phrases that sound like someone sharing her memories, with the occasional French or German word included either with a translation or in context.
Highlighted incidents are child-centered, such as when Gerda visits the men on Christmas to show them her new doll (and accidentally melts the doll’s hands on the stove), or when Gerda invites the men in to her own kitchen on a particularly cold day and a neighbor reports the family to the authorities. Benoit’s watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations use a little pastel so that the pictures combine precise details such as the wrinkles in Gerda’s stockings at her knee with a softness and warmth that convey the tenderness of memory. She strikes a tone of gentle sweetness in her depictions of the people and farm animals that, like the text, is never sappy. Children will find many things to notice, and the book raises some interesting questions, such as the complicated idea of who is an ‘enemy.'”—Susan Dove Lempke
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Posted on June 12th, 2014 by pajamapress
“In 1988 Iran, wealthy fifteen-year-old Farrin avoids anything that could draw attention to her family; she knows her mother’s anti-Ayatollah political gatherings could bring trouble. However, Farrin’s burgeoning friendship and then romance with new girl Sadira leads her to become more inquisitive and involved in the world around her, and eventually leads to the couple’s discovery and persecution. Ellis skillfully introduces readers to the social and political backdrop, showing in troubling detail how fear, suspicion, and historical animosities fragment Farrin’s world and limit her freedom…the social struggle element is more hard-hitting [than those in Farizan’s recent If You Could Be Mine (rev. 11/13)] with a harrowing climax and a realistically bleak ending (both of which may also be a function of this title’s earlier setting). Secondary characters provide fascinating windows into other perspectives and call attention to Iran’s heterogeneity, creating a multidimensional portrait of corruption and cruelty, resistance and compassion. Set in the final days of the Iran-Iraq war and based on a true story, this novel sheds light on an important chapter in history and the people who experienced it firsthand.”
— Claire E. Gross
Posted on March 4th, 2013 by pajamapress
“Skrypuch’s Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War (rev. 9/12) told the dramatic story of eight-year-old Tuyet’s 1975 rescue from Saigon aboard a giant plane filled with babies in cardboard boxes. This sequel describes Tuyet’s adjustment to life with her adoptive Canadian family, the story’s drama this time revolving around the surgery she must have on her leg. Polio has left Tuyet with one leg that’s weak and smaller than the other: “Her ankle turned inward, making her foot useless. She had to limp on the bone of her ankle to get around.” Memories of fire, bombs, helicopters, and a hospital—things she thought she’d forgotten—come flooding back, and Tuyet is all alone in the hospital (no parents allowed) and knows no English. Readers will be just as riveted to this quieter but no-less-moving story as Tuyet bravely dreams of being able to run and play—a new concept for a girl who has spent her days caring for babies. Especially satisfying is Skrypuch’s portrayal of Tuyet’s growing trust in her adoptive family, whose love and affection never fail to amaze and thrill her. Illustrated with photos. Includes notes, further resources, and an index.”
—jennifer m. brabander
Posted on September 21st, 2012 by pajamapress
“As the North Vietnamese entered Saigon, missionaries rushed to evacuate the most vulnerable orphans: healthy ones might find new homes, but “children with disabilities—like Tuyet—would be killed.” Tuyet, eight, lame from polio, has cared for babies for as long as she can remember. With her help, fifty or so of these tiny orphans are loaded, two to a box, for what proved to be the last such flight to Canada; once there, it is Tuyet who shows their new caregivers that the wailing infants awaiting adoption could be comforted by letting them sleep together on blankets spread on the floor, as they’d always been—an emotional need she shares, as her adoptive family realizes after Tuyet spends a sleepless night alone in her new bedroom. A concluding note describes the return of Tuyet’s memories during conversations with the author, whose third-person re-creation of these transitional months in 1975 makes vivid the uncertainties of confronting a new language, climate, and family. Tuyet’s initial misapprehensions are telling (those points of light in the Canadian sky aren’t bombs but stars), as is her cautious, unfailingly coureous approach to a life that includes such unfamiliar things as play and ample food. Fortunately, her adoptive family is not only well-meaning but loving, creative, and sensitive. An excellent first step on the ladder that leads to such fine immigrant tales as Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out & Back Again (rev. 3/11). Illustrated with photos. Notes; further resources; index.”
–Joanna Rudge Long, The Horn Book Magazine, September/October 2012