“…Based on a traditional Japanese folktale about a peach boy named Momotaro who fights demons, Raymond Nakamura updates the story with a strong female protagonist as an activist, rather than a warrior. Her no-nonsense attitude and tact are the armaments of her endeavour, ones she embodies rather than carries.
…Momoko’s disregard for rumours and the directness of her engagement with everyone, from her parents to the animals and the ogre, can certainly teach us all a lesson or two. With fortitude and respect (she never negates the animals’ stories of the ogre), and a healthy dose of trust, Momoko is able to make a start on creating a better world.”
In his engaging debut, author Raymond Nakamura puts a feminist bent on the Japanese folk tale Momotaro (Peach Boy).
In Nakamura’s version, a young girl emerges from a giant peach discovered on the doorstep of an elderly couple (who are, notably, a farmer and her husband). Momoko, which translates as “Peach Girl,” is a feisty creature determined to make the world a better place, a mission that involves ridding it of a child-eating ogre. Gently shrugging off her adoptive parents’ concerns for her safety, Momoko embarks on her quest with peach-pit armour for protection, plus a bundle of peach dumplings to eat on the way.
As with the original fable, Momoko encounters a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant who join her in her quest. Nearing the ogre’s castle, her companions become frightened, but Momoko’s courage never falters. Her good faith doesn’t waver either, and is rewarded when the ogre turns out to be kind and friendly, inviting Momoko and her friends to have tea beneath the cherry blossoms in his garden.
Rebecca Bender, known for her acclaimed Giraffe and Bird books, provides the delightful illustrations. Her people and animals are gorgeously animated, with fabulous facial expressions. The backgrounds feature beautiful spreads of the Japanese landscape, including mountains and rice fields. Such attention to detail is the highlight of the book.
…readers will appreciate the surprise ending and find the repeated language appealing—Momoko’s “Peachy” catchphrase in particular. Nakamura’s playful twists on gender tropes combined with Bender’s outstanding visuals make this a fun and important book for boys and girls alike.
—Kerry Clare, editor of The 49th Shelf
“A young girl springs forth from a giant peach declaring she is here to make the world a better place. Dressed in peach attire, she heads off with her three animal friends to confront the local ogre. Vivid pictures and fun characters remind the reader that looks can be deceiving. This quirky Japanese tale will appeal to ages five to eight.”
“This true story follows the famous painter Emily Carr as she struggles to make a living from her art. In addition to her dogs, cats, a parrot, and rat, she gets a mischievous monkey and names [her] Woo. This touching story will appeal to adults who want to share art and Canadian history with young readers ages five and up.”
“Nakamura has created an iconic figure in the dauntless Momoko. She is a force of nature who strides through the rural Japanese landscape with no hesitation, doubt or fear. Bender’s illustrations are bigger than life and saturated with exuberant colour. There is detail and depth in the pictures that will hold a child’s attention for a long time. In one spread Momoko’s beautiful, expressive face is so animated with inner light that one almost expects her to start moving and talking. In another, the ogre’s pagoda climbs majestically and mysteriously into the clouds. The simple text is vivid with drama as the ogre’s reputation grows ever more terrifying, relieved by a fine sense of comedy and repeated jokes.
As Momoko likes to say whenever she is pleased, this book is “Peachy!” in all its lush, juicy goodness.”
Nat the cat can sleep anywhere and any way—but can he sleep through the antics of a rambunctious kitten? Find out in Victoria Allenby and Tara Anderson’s award-winning book, perfect for bedtime and story time!
“This book is a good example of how spare language and imagery can highlight social issues in a way that young children can understand. I’d read this book again to study how the author uses words to create compelling images. The illustrations evoke a strong sense of atmosphere, as well as providing more to think about in showing details of Kato’s life in Africa.”
Click here to read the full post at That’s Another Story.
“It’s soup day at a Kenyan schoolhouse. While the teachers stir the broth, the children gather vegetables from the community garden. All except for one. Little Kioni is looking for her missing herd of goats, only to discover that they have followed her to school and are now wreaking havoc in the garden. A frustrated Kioni announces, ‘These pesky goats make me so mad… I’d like to put them in the soup.’ This statement turns out to be a ‘eureka’ moment in that the wayward goats do make a contribution to the soup… with their milk!
Alma Fullerton has incorporated the perfect ingredients to create an engaging and charming picture book. With its conversational tone, including a dash of questions and exclamations, Community Soup makes for an excellent read-aloud. One section is similar to ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb,’ which adds to the fun: ‘Kioni has a herd of goats/with hair of calico./And everywhere Kioni goes,/those goats are sure to —/ GO!’
Fullerton’s colourful three-dimensional art, which integrates paper sculpture and mixed media collage, draws readers into that lovely far-away community garden where cooperation, sharing, and commitment are so very important. One can almost feel the textures emanate off the pages. And, as a bonus, a recipe for pumpkin vegetable soup is included…”
Hoogie in the Middle by Stephanie McLellan is one of three books in its age category to be chosen for TVO Parents’ “Books to Read as a Family” list this Family Literacy Day. Celebrated each year on January 27, Family Literacy Day promotes children’s success by encouraging families to read together.
“It’s a great read for the family or for the classroom. There is certainly fun involved, and excitement, and even a bit of tension. What more can we ask? Long winter nights or January afternoons at school just beg for a fitting story to share. This could be it!”
Victoria Allenby is the author of Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That, a picture book illustrated by Tara Anderson that CM Magazine has “Highly Recommended” as “a perfect choice for bedtime and storytimes for young children.” This week Victoria chatted with Pajama Press publicist Erin Woods about her own story. This transcript is part of that conversation.
[E] Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That came out in September—your first book. How has the experience been so far?
[V] It’s been surreal, really. I mean, I’m an author? Like, a real one with books on the shelves of stores where I shop? But it’s true. I really am. My mom called me one day to tell me that my hometown indie bookstore had Nat face-out on a rack, which means the owner must have really liked it. I almost stopped breathing. That’s the store that taught me what good taste in books was when I was growing up.
So that’s a pretty high commendation for you.
The highest. Absolutely.
I know this is the oldest interview question there is, but where did Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That come from? What inspired it?
Ugh, this is so embarrassing. Do I have to? Okay, alright, it was Internet pictures of cats. I know, right? Lame-o. But when someone posts a funny cat picture I can’t stop myself from clicking it. I can’t.
So you were looking at funny cat photos?
Yeah. There was a… I don’t know, a collection someone had posted. Cats sleeping in awkward poses or something. And I have a cat. I had a cat growing up and I have one now. They’re ridiculous, the way they can sleep anywhere, any way. I’m kind of really jealous of that. Anyway, I thought, who can’t relate to a poem about a cat sleeping all over the place?
Fair enough. And you’ve brought up another point I wanted to talk about: poetry.
Oh, I like poetry.
I love poetry.
It’s very important to you?
Yes. Well, I don’t think about it like that, I mean, not like a religion is very important or whatever. But it’s something I’ve always done. I can’t help it.
How long is always?
Oh, since I was five? Six? My family has some very old poems of mine somewhere.
Are they any good?
Uhhh… well. The word choice is funny. And the spelling is terrible. And the subject matter is….. Metrically, though, they’re not bad. Rhythm was easy for me. I think I was born with rhythm. Like some people are born with… with freckles. Are babies born with freckles?
…I don’t know.
Do you think it’s important for kids to learn about rhythm and rhyme?
Yes. Absolutely. It trains their ear. It makes them enjoy language. It makes reading easier. They can, you know, predict what’s coming next because of the way the sentence sounds. And they can memorize the book and pretend they’re reading, which is the first step.
Are you a big reader?
Oh, yes. Huge. Monstrous. I’m a—a—oh, what’s it’s name… Japan… Godzilla! I’m a Godzilla of a reader.
That big! What do you read?
Oh, anything. History, poetry, YA if it isn’t too full of vampires or mean girls. I’m on a fantasy kick right now. Last year it was urban homesteading.
Do you think you’ll ever try your hand at writing any genres other than picture books?
Possibly. I do have novels and partial novels scattered around from my high school years. They’re horrible, though. It’s a very different skill set to write a novel than a picture book.
So what’s next? Do you have any more picture books in the works?
Oh, I’ve written about a hundred manuscripts and I hate them all [Laughs]. No, that’s not true. I have two that I’m kind of nursing along, fixing a word here and there, getting them ready for the world. But it’s actually a scary thing, submitting your second manuscript. Way scarier than your first. Now there’s a precedent. Now you’re supposed to know what you’re doing, and what if you don’t? What if you do get it published, but then the reviewers say, “Well, it’s not bad, but it isn’t as good as the first one.”?
Do you think that will happen?
Noooo… well, I think about it happening a lot. Do you think if I worry enough I can stop it from happening? Murphy’s law?
That sounds reasonable to me.
Good. Then it won’t happen. My second book will be spectacular.
I’m glad to hear it.
Me too! What a relief.
This interview has been edited for length
To learn more about Victoria, visit her website here.