Posted on May 8th, 2013 by pajamapress
“Writing in free verse from the perspective of 15-year-old Nixon ‘Nix’ Humboldt, acclaimed Canadian author MacLean (Home Truths, 2010, etc.) presents an intriguing coming-of-age story set in rural Newfoundland and centered on the love-hate relationship between siblings.
Quiet and a bit of a loner, Nix takes respite from the taunting of class bullies and from bearing the occasional brunt of his gregarious older sister Roxy’s wrath by helping out in his father’s woodworking shop, where the various boxes, frames and birdhouses he creates help to express the inner feelings he often has difficulty verbalizing. Sixteen-year-old Roxy, on the other hand, drives her teenage angst outward by pursuing the most popular (though shady) senior in high school, experimenting with alcohol and repeatedly defying her parents’ wishes. Where Nix admits “The first time / I came across the word / introversion / was the first time / I recognized myself,” Roxy struggles to come to terms with who she is, appearing at one point in Nix’s estimation both “overfed and ravenous / cranky and smug / hyper and exhausted” after blowing her curfew one night. And yet the siblings’ deep-seated love for each other cannot be denied when tested by their overprotective parents, immature classmates or in the wake of grave tragedy.
Well-crafted and intense, an engrossing family drama in which both young and old learn what it means to grow up. (Verse novel. 12 & up)”
Posted on February 13th, 2013 by pajamapress
“…Alma Fullerton has written this simple but eloquent account of how giving is a boon to both the giver and the recipient. A wise Chinese proverb says: “A lot of fragrance always clings to the hand of one that gives roses.” That is certainly true of Kato. Hats off to Fullerton and illustrator Karen Patkau for this touching African tale about generosity and kindness!” —Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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Posted on February 12th, 2013 by pajamapress
“…Nix Minus One shows off Jill MacLean’s characteristic strong plotting that helped win countless awards and nominations for her other books: The Nine Lives of Travis Keating (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008), The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2009) and Home Truths (Dancing Cat Books, 2010). She creates characters who would be considered ordinary, i.e., less than perfect, and has them deal with troubling, even tragic circumstances. Roxy, Nix, Blue, and even Mom and Dad, are more reflective of Jill MacLean’s readership than the sterile but beautiful people of popular shows and movies. By making Nix Minus One‘s characters into “real” people who make some wise decisions, some incredibly poor choices and some that fortuitously leave no permanent scars, Jill MacLean fosters understanding and empathy.
I would like to recognize Nix Minus One as Jill MacLean’s first foray into the novels-in-verse genre, heralding a new achievement in writing for her. While her writing is strong and fluid but laced with vulnerability, Nix Minus One demonstrates the one-two punch nature of novels in verse: the author’s word choice and sentence structure are now enhanced with the form of the writing. The structure of the verse can intensify the text, or suggest confusion, weakness or apathy, though Jill MacLean always chooses wisely, never overworking her form or content. So, while the title suggests a subtraction or loss, I believe Nix Minus One demonstrates that Jill MacLean has found the literary means, i.e., free verse, to add to the total experience of one of her stories. As an equation, that would read,
Nix – 1 = Jill MacLean2“
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Posted on January 11th, 2013 by pajamapress
“…Nix’s story is one of transformation. Nix is an introvert. He finds relationships difficult, and is more at home expressing himself through the things he makes. A connection he does form his to his neighbour’s neglected (and possibly abused) dog, whom he arranges to start walking every day. With Twig, Nix can do what he can’t do for his sister Roxy. Nix knows that Roxy’s relationship is toxic, but she won’t listen to him. The more out of control she becomes, the more desperate he becomes to protect Twig.
What I loved most about this book is the the way that Nix evolves.In the same way that Twig transforms from a sad and frightened animal, Nix transforms from a sad and timid boy into the knight-slaying dragon he wishes he could be. Nix finds strength he didn’t know he possessed- the strength to fight for what matters and protect what he loves no matter how difficult or at how high a cost.
…Both of these books [Nix Minus One and Counting Back from Nine] were impossible to put down, and left me thinking about them long after I finished reading. They are emotionally engaging and thought-provoking, and the verse format asks readers to read between the lines and fill in the blanks. They deal with loss, and secrets, and figuring out who you are, and are highly accessible and appealing teenage reads.”
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Posted on July 19th, 2012 by pajamapress
Animal advocate [Rob] Laidlaw has a bone to pick with the way some of the world’s 500 million dogs are treated. After identifying what all dogs need, the author takes a hard look at puppy mills, free-ranging dogs, dogs that are constantly chained, and dogs submitted to devocalizing and appearance-altering surgeries. While some dogs have healthy “careers” as dog sniffers, rescue dogs, and therapy dogs, the engaging text explains the perils for greyhound and sled-dog racers, as well as dogs used for scientific research. But not all dogs have it bad. Numerous profiles reveal how “Dog Champions” have initiated grassroots efforts to provide better services and protection to canines. For readers looking for their next best friend, Laidlaw explains how and why to adopt a dog and the various kinds of shelters available. Abundantly stocked with color photographs and supplemented with online resources and a glossary, this book invites children to pause and consider our friends who have paws.
— Angela Leeper, Booklist
Posted on July 18th, 2012 by pajamapress
…Gunnery nicely captures the way families really are, the sweet, mundane and strained interactions of everyday life.
A longtime N.S. junior and senior high school teacher, Gunnery deftly handles the interactions among Emily, her schoolmates and teachers and her best friend Jenn, as well as giving credibility to Emily as the narrator.
Emily for Real is a satisfying read for teens who will root for Emily as she faces the challenges of friendship and families and growing up.
–Pam Sword, The Chronicle Herald
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Posted on July 17th, 2012 by pajamapress
Have you ever been totally puzzled by the peregrinations, bumps and grinds that children experience in their friendships? It was always endlessly fascinating for me to watch the way children bicker and argue with those children they declare to be their best friends. Both with my own children and those I taught, it was evident that there were constant readjustments being made in the relationships that children have with each other.
With that I would like to welcome a relatively new author who is able to capture that paradox. Rebecca Bender has just two picture books in print, and is a relatively new voice in Canadian literature, but what a voice it is. She has captured this unusual nature of friendship between children in both of the picture books available.
…Giraffe and Bird…resonated so well with children that it won the 2012 Blue Spruce award voted on by thousands of children across Ontario.
This title has been followed up by a hilarious sequel, Don’t Laugh at Giraffe. In this book, Rebecca examines the delicate nature of embarrassment and friendship… How Bird handles this situation is a wonderful blueprint for friendship and problem solving.
Your children will go through many situations with their friends that they will have to grapple with and find solutions for. Having books on hand that show this as a normal process in friendships will support them in these journeys, and open the conversations with thinking about how to solve their own problems in a creative and positive way.
–Peggy Thomas, Toronto Public Library
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