Showing posts with label Brian Deines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brian Deines. Show all posts

October 23, 2018

A World of Kindness

from the Editors and Illustrators of Pajama Press
(including Ann Featherstone, Brian Deines, Tara Anderson, Wallace Edwards, François Thisdale, Kim La Fave,      Manon Gauthier, Dean Griffiths, Suzanna Del Rizzo and Rebecca Bender)
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 3-7
October 2018 

Whether a child dealing with a mean classmate, nastiness on social media, or world leaders striking out at others, it's evident that our world needs more kindness. But being kind is not always inherent; sometimes, often, it needs to be taught or even inspired. As Aesop affirmed, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is every wasted." Let us be kind.

In fourteen double-spreads of text and image, the editors and illustrators of Pajama Press spark discussions about how kindness can manifest and how we should examine our own actions for kindness. Starting with "Are you kind?", the book asks questions while suggesting ways of being kind. From "Do you wait your turn?" and "Will you help someone younger...or older?" to "Are you gentle with animals big...and small?" young readers are asked to look within for evidence of their own kindness.
From A World of Kindness, illustration by Kim La Fave

From A World of Kindness, illustration by Tara Anderson
Children see how to be kind while being asked about being kind. Ideas about saying "Please" and "Thank you" and "I'm sorry" are demonstrated as important, as are sharing, helping, being supportive and compassionate. A World of Kindness covers the simplest acts of thoughtfulness and yet makes the significant and critical point that "a little kindness grows into a world of kindness."
From A World of Kindness, illustration by Manon Gauthier
The text of A World of Kindness is endearing and straightforward, and will work well with young preschoolers and children in primary grades. But it's the illustrations, some from already published works and some original art, that will carry the message. Children will see kindness in the hugs, the sharing, and the love that seasons these pages. (There are different heart shapes throughout the book, reminding us what is at the heart of kindness.) The illustrations, like Suzanne Del Rizzo's amazing polymer clay book cover art, depict all children and are aimed at children's experiences with animals, peers, siblings, elders, and parents, and include those during all seasons in Canada and in other global locales including Sri Lanka (Kim La Fave's art from When the Rain Comes), Tanzania (Brian Deines's illustration from In a Cloud of Dust), and Jordan (Suzanne Del Rizzo's art from her My Beautiful Birds). A World of Kindness shows kindness in its own inclusivity.

A World of Kindness will undoubtedly be used as a tool for teaching and instilling kindness, especially as Pajama Press has provided a downloadable poster ( and teaching guide ( on its website. Moreover, with all royalties going to Think Kindness, a project that aspires to inspire kindness in schools and other communities, purchasing A World of Kindness is a win-win for all.  But, at its heart, A World of Kindness is a compendium of beautiful messages in words and art to help make our world, starting with our youngest readers, a place of graciousness and goodwill.  With such benevolence, this picture book will triumph with purpose.

March 01, 2017

The Vimy Oaks: A Journey to Peace

Written by Linda Granfield
Illustrated by Brian Deines
North Winds Press (Scholastic Canada)
36 pp.
Ages 7+
March 2017

On April 9th, 2017, the world will mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.  Many new books published to commemorate the anniversary will be based in the First World War and in that northern region of France.  However, though Vimy Ridge is the origin of this story, Linda Granfield takes young readers into the aftermath of the war when a soldier takes a little piece away with him and plants a world of peace and remembrance far, far away.
From back cover of The Vimy Oaks
by Linda Granfield
illus. by Brian Deines
With photographs and illustrations, Linda Granfield introduces young readers to the beginnings  of the Great War and the role of a young Canadian teacher Leslie H. Miller after his enlistment and deployment with the Canadian Signal Corps.  Along with diary observations of peoples and places and his job with the Signal Corps, Leslie Miller took note of the landscapes encountered and the trees growing within. While the battle at Vimy is noted, it is Leslie Miller’s collection of a few acorns from oak trees blasted during the attack that makes Linda Granfield’s story.  These acorns were shipped backed to his family in Ontario.  Leslie Miller returned to Canada in 1919 and, after ventures to university and teaching again, returned home to the family farm where the oak saplings from the acorns he gathered became the basis for the farm he and his new wife built, The Vimy Oaks.  The history of the farm and the trees, as well as the recognition of the importance of that battle on Vimy, complete the story of Linda Granfield’s The Vimy Oaks.
From The Vimy Oaks
by Linda Granfield
illus. by Brian Deines
The story of Vimy could be a horrific one but Linda Granfield’s text which she peppers with quotations from Leslie Miller’s diary is broad, encapsulating his experiences without embedding young readers in the horrors of his days. The Vimy Oaks is illustrated by Brian Deines, whose artwork has taken readers to different times and places in The Road to Afghanistan (2013), A Bear in War (2012), Bear on the Homefront (2014) and Adrift at Sea (2016). Here again Brian Deines is able to bring his deft oil work to giving light to dark times and shine to landscapes of war and verdant promise.

As a book of non-fiction, The Vimy Oaks: A Journey to Peace provides an introduction to a monumental battle while intriguing readers with a little known story of Vimy on Canadian land. It’s a unique story and one that commemorates the battle with the promise of growth and majesty.  I was discouraged to hear some of the oaks were removed for the widening of a road but pleased to learn that the trees were part of the Vimy Oaks Repatriation Project that ensured the oaks would once again grow on Vimy Ridge, as well as at memorials across Canada.   It seems the oaks have come full circle, from Vimy to Canada and back to Vimy, perhaps as it should be.
From The Vimy Oaks
by Linda Granfield
illus. by Brian Deines

November 11, 2016

Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy's Story of Survival: Book launch (Brantford, ON)

award-winning author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch 
  Tuan Ho

for the launch of their collaborative non-fiction picture book

Adrift at Sea
A Vietnamese Boy's Story of Survival
by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch with Tuan Ho
Illustrated by Brian Deines
Pajama Press
40 pp.
Ages 6+
September 2016


  Tuesday, December 6, 2016

7-8 p.m.


Station Coffee House and Gallery
(at the Train Station)
5 Wadsworth Street
Brantford, ON
N3T 3V5

The authors are generously donating proceeds from the book sales 
to the Brant Anglican Churches Support for Syrian Refugees.

September 27, 2016

Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival

by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch with Tuan Ho
Illustrated by Brian Deines
Pajama Press
40 pp.
Ages 6+
September 2016

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch has a proclivity for telling stories of historical fiction that are rarely addressed in the literature:  the Armenian genocide; the airlifts from Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War; enslavement of Ukrainians during World War II; the oppression of Alevi Kurds; and the Ukrainian Holodomyr. Now she turns her literary attention to the Vietnamese “boat people” who were willing to risk everything to seek better lives far away from their new communist government.  Based on the story of Tuan Ho, a six-year-old boy whose family separated to make their way to Canada, and with Brian Deines’ formidable illustrations, Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival becomes a testimonial and an acknowledgement of those who demonstrate extraordinary courage in order to escape the horrors of their homelands.

At the onset of the story, Tuan’s father and older sister Linh have already escaped a year earlier (1980) by boat, hopeful of settling in Canada and sponsoring the family. Now Tuan’s mother tells him that they are leaving that night, though without his youngest sister Van whom Ma believes might not survive the journey and will instead remain behind with Tuan’s aunt and uncle.  In the middle of the night, Tuan, his mother, and sisters Loan and Lan, as well as another aunt and two cousins, make their way to the water, amidst gunfire and shouting soldiers.  Transported by motor boat, Tuan, Loan and their mother are reunited with Lan and the rest of his family on a larger fishing boat.

From Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy's Story of Survival 
by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch with Tuan Ho, illus. by Brian Deines

Though bullets no longer pepper the quiet of the sea, the challenges of a boat crowded with sixty people without shelter from a scorching sun and having only limited water are exacerbated when the boat starts taking on water on the second day, and the motor breaks down on the third day of their estimated four day journey.  They are now adrift and their fates unknown.   Witnessing another drifting boat setting itself on fire, hopeful that they are a rescue boat, makes Tuan wonder whether their  fate will be similar.
     The flames in the distance suddenly envelop that boat.  It overturns.  The flames and boat are swallowed by the sea.
     We sixty stare in silent horror, but there is nothing that we can do to help.
     Will this be our fate as well?
(pg. 28)
Not until the sixth day are they spotted by a massive American aircraft carrier and taken aboard, whereupon Tuan gets to partake in the glass of milk of which he has dreamed for days.  For Tuan, this would seem to be a happy ending, though the task of reuniting the whole family–father and sister Linh, with Tuan, his mother and sisters Loan and Lan, and finally little sister Van–is still to come, as Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch shares in an addendum, with family photographs.  Even beyond Tuan’s tale which is encompassed in the mere 34 illustrated pages, there is the story of the Vietnamese “boat people” and the circumstances by which they were forced to flee their country explained in Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch’s historical notes.

Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival is a big story to tell.  It’s broad in historical scope, and emotionally hefty in the distress and fear experienced by Tuan and his fellow refugees, and in its moral significance.  I’m afraid not all stories of Vietnamese refugees ended as favourably as for Tuan’s family but I am ever thankful that Tuan Ho’s story does have a happy ending and that Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch chose to share it with young readers in an illustrated book and that Pajama Press chose well to pair it with the art of Brian Deines. From the illustration of a lone boat adrift in a wash of dry heat that graces the cover of Adrift at Sea, to the dark and engrossing images of Tuan’s steps along the journey, Brian Deines’ art is evocative and integrative, resplendent in complementary colours of orange and golds and blues and purples.
From Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy's Story of Survival 
by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch with Tuan Ho, illus. by Brian Deines
By recounting Tuan’s story in the limited but succinct text of a picture book, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is able to forge a powerful connection between the emotions of the narrative and the visual i.e., the expansive oil painted art of Brian Deines. This makes Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival more than just a story about Tuan Ho.  It makes it an archive of historical importance for young readers to access.

February 03, 2015

In a Cloud of Dust

by Alma Fullerton
Illustrated by Brian Deines
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
For release March, 2015

Like so many children who live in isolated communities in Africa, Anna accepts the need to travel long hours if she is to attend school.  The opportunity for schooling is worth it.  While others may be playing football during lunch break, Anne completes her homework which she cannot do at home as she always arrives home after dark.  This day, however, she has missed the arrival of the bicycle library and all the bicycles are snatched up by her classmates.

But, Anna still recognizes the value of these donated bicycles and goes out of her way to help her friends learn how to ride, experiencing their joy vicariously.  However, by accompanying them on their rides home, she finds her own journey takes much less time,  especially when her friend Mohammad shares his with her.

In a Cloud of Dust provides a glimpse into the lives of children who must travel long distances for the chance to attend school. Alma Fullerton's text is modest in its quantity but weighty in its simple message of compassion and support, similar to her A Good Trade (Pajama Press, 2012) and Community Soup (Pajama Press, 2013) picture books.  And, while I look forward to seeing more of Alma Fullerton's own artwork in future endeavours, Brian Deines' illustrations are incomparable, effectively portraying the dusty and lengthy distances over Anna must travel to school. Because of his reliance on oils, Brian Deines' illustrations are highly evocative of the landscape and mood of the remote areas of Anna's Tanzanian home, providing less detail and more ambiance than other media might provide, particularly in the brush of the illustrator of Bear on the Homefront (Innes and Endrulat, Pajama Press, 2014).

In the hands of Alma Fullerton and Brian Deines, the story of Anna and her travels to and from school are never lost In a Cloud of Dust.

October 25, 2014

Together We Remember: A Family Remembrance event (Kleinburg, ON)

Celebrate peace
honour those who made sacrifices in war


Together We Remember
a Family Remembrance event


the team behind 

Bear on the Homefront 
(Pajama Press, 2014)

authors Stephanie Innes and Harry Endrulat
illustrator Brian Deines

Sunday, November 9, 2014

11 a.m. to 3 p.m.


in Kleinburg, Ontario 
(just north of Toronto)

The event includes:
• a presentation featuring Bear on the Homefront and its prequel A Bear in War
• an exhibit of Brian Deines' original artwork
• interactive musical performance by JUNO-nominated musician Mike Ford
• hands-on watercolour workshop promoting peace and tolerance

• Family programming activities are included in the cost of admission.
• Adults must be accompanied by a child. 
Learn more at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection website.

July 16, 2014

Bear on the Homefront

by Stephanie Innes and Harry Endrulat
Illustrated by Brian Deines
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 5+
September 1, 2014
For sale August 19, 2014

Anyone who minimizes the value of a toy during stressful times needs to read Bear on the Homefront, as well as its prequel A Bear in War (Stephanie Innes et al., 2009), not to mention the recently reviewed Soldier Doll.  In fact, any object that can lend emotional support to both children and adults during times of war is more than a toy–it's a treasure. 

Teddy Bear, CWM 20040015-001
Image from
This little teddy bear had its simple beginnings as a good luck charm and keepsake that Aileen Rogers sent her father Lt. Lawrence Browning Rogers in 1916 when he was fighting in France.  Though her father did not return home, Teddy did, having been found in her father's jacket when he died at Passchendaele.

Now Aileen Rogers is grown up and a nurse, contributing to efforts in World War II to keep British children safe by evacuating them to Canada. The story is told by Teddy who is Aileen's keepsake now, speaking to her from the pocket of her uniform, as she accompanies children across the ocean and then to find their way to their transport and chaperones.  

Upon their arrival at Halifax, Aileen introduces herself to two of the smallest children, Grace and her five-year-old brother William, who look lost and afraid. To reassure small William, Aileen lets Teddy keep him company as they begin their train journey to Winnipeg.  Unlike many children who seem to enjoy the freedom and adventure of their travels, Grace and William quietly endure the experience, worrying about their future home.  Not surprisingly, upon their arrival and introduction to Mr. and Mrs. Dent, whose farm they would stay at, William is reluctant to leave.  But Aileen compassionately bestows Teddy on the little boy, instructing him to take good care of the children.

Fortunately, there is a happy ending for all, though five years of war keeps them separated from those they love.  Inspired by events recounted in Aileen Rogers' diary, Bear on the Homefront takes Teddy out of the war zone but still working to comfort those impacted by war. And by giving Teddy a voice, Stephanie Innes (the great niece of Aileen Rogers) and Harry Endrulat have endeared the little bear with even more heart than his simple form may suggest.  His longing for Aileen and his honest reflections are not dissimilar to the children's own, though they all recognize the value in perseverance, even if it is difficult.  

The text and atmospheric oil on canvas illustrations of Brian Deines lend an authenticity to the memories held within Bear on the Homefront.  Teddy has an important story to tell, and his voice and demeanour are appropriately not the cutesy, anthropomorphized bear of so many upbeat picture books, though the book's message is heartening. For his heroic efforts in comforting and giving voice to others when their own words and thoughts probably failed them, Teddy is now safe and treasured at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.  So, Bear at the Homefront gives us one more happy ending from a time when there weren't many.

December 19, 2011

The Circle Game

Text by Joni Mitchell
Illustrations by Brian Deines
Dancing Cat Books
32 pp.
Ages 3-6

Turning song lyrics into children's books is not unusual, especially for those tunes that were originally written for children such as nursery rhymes and camp-fire songs.  There are wonderful children's performers like Eddie Douglas who take poetry (e.g., Dennis Lee's poems from Alligator Pie (Macmillan, 1974), Garbage Delight (Macmillan, 1977),  Jelly Belly (Macmillan, 1983) and The Ice Cream Store (HarperCollins, 1991) and adapt it for children's music.  But, in Canada, we don't have a long history of taking the poetry in song or hymn lyrics and adding graphics to produce children's books. Until now, I can only think of two such songs:
  • The Huron Carol by Father Jean de Brebeuf, illustrated by Frances Tyrrell (Key Porter, 2003) 
  • The Huron Carol by Father Jean de Brebeuf, illustrated by Ian Wallace (Groundwood, 2006)
  • Canadian Railroad Trilogy by Gordon Lightfoot, illustrated by Ian Wallace (Groundwood, 2010)
Now we can add Joni Mitchell's song, The Circle Game, to that list. 

The lyrics of Canadian-born Mitchell's song describe growing up and looking forward to new experiences, apparently in response to Neil Young's lament of lost youth in "Sugar Mountain". (1) The honest but hopeful words are beautifully embodied by Deines' paintings in complementary colours of purples and oranges.  Although impossible to tell whether Deines' medium is oil or pastel on canvas, the softness of his illustrations, whether the warm joys of capturing a dragonfly or the dark tremors of thunder and falling stars, always with uniquely dotted backgrounds, capably expresses the joys with the uneasiness of new experiences.  Moreover, just as our perspective of these experiences change as we grow up (dare I say it, age), so does the view of and from the carousel, never allowing one to return but accessible in our memories.