Adrift at Sea is an important contribution to Vietnamese-Canadian history


Adrift at Sea by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch with Tuan Ho, illustrated by Brian Deines
Genre: Picture Books
Pages: 40
Publisher: Pajama Press
Publication Date: September 22, 2016
Review Source: Pajama Press Review Copy

Adrift at Sea is Tuan Ho’s story of how he fled Vietnam with his mother and sister when he was only 6 years old. They’re boat, with 60 people crammed aboard, sprung a leak and was adrift in the Indian Ocean for days before an American Aircraft Carrier crossed their path and saved Tuan and his family.

This picture book is one of a kind. First of all, it is absolutely stunning. Brian Deines’ illustrations are simply mesmerizing, and I know I will catch myself flipping through this book just to admire his work. Marsha Skrypuch teamed up with Tuan Ho to tell his story of escape and survival over 35 years after Tuan has comfortably started a life in Canada. There are many stories like Tuan’s–perhaps not nearly so many with such a happy ending as Tuan’s family was fortunate enough to have–but unfortunately a dismal number of them have been shared in a book made for children. The historical notes at the end of the book that provide photos of Tuan and his family, photos of Vietnam, maps, and notes on the Vietnam War offer extra context for parents to help answer young children’s questions about why Tuan had to leave his home. Adrift at Sea will be an excellent companion to help spark a discussion about the various difficulties refugees face and experience in the wake of the current refugee crisis.


Sky Pig is inventive, playful and visually mesmerizing.


Sky Pig by Jan L. Coates, illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo
Genre: Picture Books
Pages: 32
Publisher: Pajama Press
Publication Date: September 15, 2016
Review Source: Pajama Press Review Copy

I thought Sky Pig was an exceptional picture book. It shattered my expectations, it mesmerized me with it’s artwork, and the relationship between Ollie and Jack reminded me of that between Pooh and Christopher Robin.

Ollie the Pig wants to fly. Like any pet owner, Jack understands Ollie even without a shared language between them. Jack helps Ollie to create wings from branches, and just when Ollie thinks he’s flying he comes crashing down to the ground. Together they invent several flying devices, and every time they try something new they learn from their past mistakes and employ more modern technology into their attempts. Will one of those attempts help Ollie achieve his dream of flying?

Coates’ writing is clear and fun. Whether or not she intended to draw inspiration from Winnie the Pooh, she has managed to create a story about a boy and his best, non-human friend that is original and current.

The artwork by Suzanne Del Rizzo is absolutely brilliant. This book is colourful, fun, detailed, and textured. Sky Pig can be read over and over again, and each time a new detail will catch your eye as you flip through, keeping the experience fresh and exciting.

This picture book is suitable for many children. Toddlers will love the expressive faces of the clay characters, the bright colours, and the sillyness of the messes Ollie gets into. And children old enough to know the expression “when pigs fly” will also enjoy this book because the plot brings the expression to life and they may be familiar with some of the technology that Jack and Ollie use to try flying. I highly recommend it. 4 stars.

The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee Review

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The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee
Genre: Drama/Mystery
Pages: 262
Publisher: ECW Press
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Review Source: ECW Press ARC

Jen Sookfong Lee’s most recent publication, The Conjoined, is a great read that delivers suspense, emotion, and even humour in an otherwise dark and mysterious setting. Every day this book was on my mind and I couldn’t wait for my commute or the end of the day to sit down and delve further into the story.

After stumbling on two dead bodies in her late mother’s deep freezer, Jessica loses touch with herself. She questions who she thought her mother was, her relationship, and her career. Family secrets abound, love interests clash, and Jessica’s identity shatters as she tries to uncover the truth about the lives and deaths of the sisters Casey and Jamie.

Lee has a knack for drawing believable characters and evoking sympathy for the “bad guys.” The one thing I found disappointing was that the biggest mystery of the story was not resolved. It made the ending feel abrupt and so I found it to be a bit lackluster. Had I gone into the story recognizing it to be more of a literary drama I think I would have been more satisfied with the ending.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Conjoined and I definitely recommend it to others, especially if you are a fan of family drama. Readers from Vancouver will also delight in Lee’s depiction of the city. 3 stars!