Posted on December 28th, 2016 by pajamapress
“A hedgehog sets out to ask how its fellow animals feel; along the way, readers will learn there is more than one meaning to the word ‘feel.’ A puffy, cheery cover framed in soft purple opens onto endpapers depicting a fresh green meadow in early summer. The tone is set for this toddler-friendly book that introduces a few animals and how they feel. On clean, uncluttered, sturdy pages with plenty of white, and using children’s acrylics and colored pencil, Bender depicts in a realistic style—though slightly anthropomorphized—a hedgehog, a toad, a snake, a duckling, a rabbit, a snail, and a kitten. The hedgehog asks the same question of each animal it encounters: ‘Toad [or Snake, Duckling, etc.], how do you feel?’ It is in the animals’ vocabulary-rich answers that this book really shines.…At the end, when all the animals ask hedgehog how it feels, readers will have a little surprise, as its answer is not one of the tactile kind: Hedgehog feels happy! A charming, smart, and attractive book. (Picture book. 2-4)”
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Posted on November 2nd, 2016 by pajamapress
“A young Vietnamese boy and his family flee Vietnam in search of a better life. Along with co-author Skrypuch, Vietnamese-Canadian Ho recounts his family’s flight from Vietnam in 1981. At the book’s outset, 6-year-old Ho returns home from school to learn that he, his mother, and his two older sisters will leave Vietnam that very night. Each hour of the Ho family’s flight is fraught with danger. Soldiers shoot at them on the beach when they make a run toward a skiff. Their boat springs a leak, and soon after, the motor dies, leaving 60 passengers adrift in the middle of the sea with little water and food. Throughout the harrowing passage, Ho’s mother is by his side, comforting him. On the sixth day of their four-day journey, an American aircraft carrier spots their boat and offers the Vietnamese passengers refuge….[D]etailed authors’ notes include history, photographs, and maps. The warm undertones in Deines’ oil paintings evoke tropical Vietnam…”
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Posted on November 2nd, 2016 by pajamapress
“The crash landing of his father’s private jet in the Canadian wilderness leaves rich white kid Jared stunned and the pilot badly injured, but it soon becomes clear that those are the very least of the 15-year-old’s problems. Kyle, a Cree boy of the same age, comes to Jared’s aid but isn’t able to stop him from climbing up a tall hill that’s forbidden for the Cree to visit in hopes of getting a cell signal. Going up there literally opens a world of trouble. That world they unwittingly step into is inhabited by Wîhtiko, a legendary Cree creature that is large, strong, terrifying-looking, and determined to eat the two boys. Thus begins a four-day chase through the deep woods, with little food and growing peril. Wesakechak, a shape-shifting Cree trickster, provides occasional help, but mostly the boys are dependent upon Kyle’s well-honed woodland skills, as Jared finds that his modern tools have little to offer away from the grid. The cultural tension between the two boys is prolonged, but eventually, after Jared uses one of his few skills to save them, they make a lasting peace. The pace is relentless, the amply creepy threat is believable, and the setting is fully realized. There is enough Native American culture to add welcome flavor and depth; Bass, not Cree herself, explains her cultural and linguistic research in an author’s note. Suspenseful, fast-paced, and hard to put down. (Adventure. 11-18)”
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Posted on August 11th, 2016 by pajamapress
The crash landing of his father’s private jet in the Canadian wilderness leaves rich white kid Jared stunned and the pilot badly injured, but it soon becomes clear that those are the very least of the 15-year-old’s problems. Kyle, a Cree boy of the same age, comes to Jared’s aid but isn’t able to stop him from climbing up a tall hill that’s forbidden for the Cree to visit in hopes of getting a cell signal. Going up there literally opens a world of trouble. That world they unwittingly step into is inhabited by Wîhtiko, a legendary Cree creature that is large, strong, terrifying-looking, and determined to eat the two boys. Thus begins a four-day chase through the deep woods, with little food and growing peril. Wesakechak, a shape-shifting Cree trickster, provides occasional help, but mostly the boys are dependent upon Kyle’s well-honed woodland skills, as Jared finds that his modern tools have little to offer away from the grid. The cultural tension between the two boys is prolonged, but eventually, after Jared uses one of his few skills to save them, they make a lasting peace. The pace is relentless, the amply creepy threat is believable, and the setting is fully realized. There is enough Native American culture to add welcome flavor and depth; Bass, not Cree herself, explains her cultural and linguistic research in an author’s note. Suspenseful, fast-paced, and hard to put down. (Adventure. 11-18)
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Posted on August 8th, 2016 by pajamapress
“A Québecois import offers a cautionary wintertime tale. In this pretty book, Mama Fox invites Little Fox out for a walk in the inviting snowy woods, warning him to stay close so that he won’t get lost. Little Fox, however, enchanted with his own game of making “pictures in the snow” with his paw prints, soon becomes discombobulated and lost. The rosy-cheeked Old Owl offers to guide him to Mama, but Little Fox remembers his mother’s admonishing rhyme: “If ever you are lost my child / Don’t let a stranger guide you. / Be still, and I will search the wild / Until I am beside you.” Various cute animals of the forest join in with Little Fox (including Old Owl after a grumble or two), and they sing this rhyme together, until the happy ending when Mama arrives, proud that Little Fox “had done exactly what he should.” Padrón’s cute animals and soft scenes of winter woods, done in muted grays, blues, and earth tones, pair well with the gentle words of this story to reach a satisfying conclusion and a gentle lesson for the very young for whom this story is intended. While the puffy cover seems to signal “gift shop book”…young ones will surely be comforted by the reuniting of Mama and Little Fox. (Picture book. 1-5)”
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Posted on July 8th, 2016 by pajamapress
A plunderin’, pillagin’ pup takes down some pretty paw-some pirates. Having already proved herself to be saucy, bold, and selfless in her previous adventure (Bad Pirate, 2015), sea pup Augusta Garrick now faces an even bigger challenge. Her father, Capt. Barnacle Garrick, has discovered his booty has been plundered by a pack of mangy sea cats. To recover the treasure undetected, the captain advises everyone to be “rotten,” “sneaky,” and “brainy.” Trouble is, Augusta has a penchant for “fancies,” and her accessorizing does not sit well with her pa. A little dab of vanilla proves her undoing, and she’s thrown in the brig to avoid botching a raid with her scent. Fortunately, brains, sneakiness, and the rotten smell of fanciness save her crewmates from those tricky kitties…once again it’s a jolly relief to see a female pirate with so much oomph and initiative. As ever, Griffiths’ art proves inventive, whether he’s rendering a seagoing whippet or a beard on the feline Capt. Fishmonger that Blackbeard himself would envy…these dogs have so much fun readers will still howl for more.
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Posted on June 28th, 2016 by pajamapress
Kirkus Reviews has reviewed Hat On, Hat Off by Sarah Ellis.
What parent or caregiver hasn’t played the game of putting on and taking off a piece of clothing with a baby? Heras and Benoit cleverly take that experience and knit it into a story with a cute brown-skinned toddler getting ready to go outside with a pigtailed older sibling’s help with shoes and jacket sleeves. Sippy cup, pail and shovel, potty stop, and favorite stuffed animal are all required as well, but with each step the child takes one hat off and then puts another back on. The tot cycles through a hat with a bear’s face and ears, a striped hat with a pom-pom, a penguin hat with tassels, a green, knobbly hat with frog’s eyes, before returning to the bear hat—which ends up in a pile of leaves as soon as the children finally get outside. Even Bunny wears a hat (with carrots on it, of course). “Time to go out! / Need a hat. // Hats in basket / Red hat, green hat, striped hat / Which hat?” The staccato phrases are extended by the charming watercolor-and-digital illustrations that bleed off the page, creating an intimate, up-close effect. Soft colors and background patterns of knitted yarn (which only adults will notice) add a cozy feeling to the text pages. Heavyweight paper and rounded corners will help little hands to turn the pages easily. A seemingly simple story is greatly enhanced by nuanced, toddler-friendly details.
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Posted on June 1st, 2016 by pajamapress
“Spray captures little glimpses of Arthur’s young life—stealing fruit from the tree of his next-door neighbor and the old lady who gives him a talisman (a dog biscuit) to ward off jinni—as well as the sadness, lack of language, deprivation, and fear. The story here is of Arthur’s gradual rise in the world of sports, first in Azerbaijan and then after the family moved to Toronto, Canada. Spray conjures the strange settings refugees and immigrants find themselves in. “Hey little man, whatchoo lookin’ at anyhow?” asks a tall Jamaican teenage neighbor when Arthur lands in Toronto’s St. James Town projects. “I am no to English,” Arthur replies. “All be cool. I be no English too…is no big thang.” (Dialogue is not specifically sourced, but a teeny note on the copyright page indicates that Spray relies on extensive interviews.) Arthur is a whiz at soccer but chooses boxing, where he is even whizzier, rising from his first real bout at 12 to the Canadian Olympic team. Readers will marvel at Biyarslanov’s resilience and pluck. (Biography. 10-14)”—Kirkus Reviews
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Posted on June 10th, 2015 by pajamapress
“In Tanzania, a bicycle lending library provides joy for village schoolchildren. When the truck full of bicycles arrives at Anna’s school, there aren’t quite enough for hardworking Anna to get one, at first, but she helps her friends learn to ride, and on their way home, she gets her turn. In A Good Trade, illustrated by Karen Patkau (2013), Fullerton showed how much a barefoot Ugandan boy might treasure a pair of new shoes. Here, she returns to rural southern Africa with a similarly understated story about another kind of need. The truck comes from the local bicycle repair shop, and it’s labeled “Bicycle Library.” True to the spirit of the loan, the bikes it brings are shared and offer both entertainment and relatively efficient transportation. Oil paintings in rich shades of orange show the children surrounded by clouds of dust….[T]hey show well, and the simple text reads aloud smoothly, making the book a good introduction for a discussion of different yet similar lives. An author’s note, appropriate for adults sharing this story with children, explains the need for bicycles in southern African countries and provides the names of organizations that work to fill that need. A nice addition to primary-grade “values” collections. (Picture book. 5-8)”
Posted on December 11th, 2013 by pajamapress
This gripping page-turner set in 1947 East Germany explores the aftereffects of war and occupation.
World War II is over and Germany partitioned among the victors. For most in the Soviet-occupied zone, life is grim and anything but peaceful. Hunger’s a constant companion, trust in short supply. Most despise their Russian masters and even more, the German police—Schupos—who do their bidding. With their elders embittered and broken, friendship sustains 16-year-old narrator Wilm and his friends, Karl and Georg. Pretending to spy on the Schupos blows off steam, but after the Schupos beat up Wilm’s amputee father and Wilm learns of the brutal sexual assault on his sister, Anneliese, the game turns real. Supported by Karl and Georg, Wilm starts by scrawling graffiti calling the Schupos “puppets” and vandalizing police vehicles. Risk-taking proves energizing and deeply satisfying—also addictive and eventually desensitizing. It’s at odds with his growing interest in building bridges. The engineer who mentors him lends him books and encourages his interest, but their connection weakens as Wilm’s acts of sabotage escalate. The authentic setting, compelling characters and taut, suspenseful plot claim attention throughout. Bass refuses to oversimplify human beings. When motivations are tangled and complex, actions, even the best-intended, have unforeseen consequences.
A different kind of war story, highly recommended.
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