TALKING TO THE MOON (Red Deer Press, 2018)
It’s hard to pinpoint the charm of this book. Partly it is Katie, herself, her precision and her colour sense, her need for her personal space; partly it is Catherine Marguerite’s letters, or bits of them, that we get in fits and starts, finding out about how life was back when, and partly it is the mystery of Katie’s background that the reader will probably figure out before Katie, herself, does. All in all, Talking to the Moon is a book with a mystery, an interesting protagonist, and good background material. It also has a moral: don’t despair over information that you have only heard as an eavesdropper; you may have it, or its context, completely wrong!
Canadian Review of Materials (CM), Highly Recommended
SKY PIG (Pajama Press, 2016)
*Skypig is delightful, not only for the story and its life lesson, but also for the colourful, mixed media illustrations which help provide the depth and breadth of the book… Pre-readers will be able to tell a story from the beauty and texture of the illustrations of the pig who tries to fly and his help who cheers him on. This picture book is highly recommended for whole class reading, individual reading, as well as for students learning about and experimenting with art forms and art media.
*Award-winning Canadian author Coates spins a porcine tale of dreams, perseverance, and friendship. Del Rizzo’s colorful illustrations, made with Plasticine, polymer clay, and “other doodads,” are a good match… Ollie and light-skinned Jack are expressive, though, and they have a fey appeal. Piggie pipe dreams come to life in this agreeable book.
Kirkus Reviews, August, 2016
THE KING OF KEJI (Nimbus Publishing, 2015)
*Jacob discovers the wealth of colours and textures surrounding him in the foliage, rocks, and wildlife in the park, fondly known as Keji. Gramps provides the opportunity for Jacob to look carefully and listen quietly, and the boy comes up with his own ideas, creating a sceptre from a stick, a crown of red berries and grass, and a throne out of a boulder. Sunset on the final evening in Keji fills the sky with gold and ruby, and Jacob feels he truly has become a king on this wonderful trip.
Moments of discovery are “photographed” by Jacob and Gramps….the overall idea of the book – learning how to be a king by appreciating the riches in the world around us – is well developed and handled with an appealingly light touch.
Gwyneth Evans, Quill & Quire review, June, 2015
* What’s in a name? Pretty well everything, especially when your name is Bob but your cute little sister calls you Bobby, your perfect older brother calls you Stick-boy, the school bully calls you Blob, and the name you call yourself is Mr. Invisible. Bob Prescott wants nothing more than making the Division 1 school basketball team, but he’s not tall enough and not quite good enough. He and his family are struggling under the crushing weight of his father’s brain cancer and the painful cycle of up one day and down the next. Bob channels his desperation and sadness into his basketball training and finds a way to bring hope to his family and others living with cancer. His determination and courage on the basketball court and in the rest of his life help him grow into his new nickname: Rocket Man.
Jan. L. Coates, an accomplished and versatile writer, gets so much right in Rocket Man. Her technical descriptions of playing basketball are excellent; she goes right inside the yearning, awkward, striving and inevitably belching body of a 14-year-old boy; she nails the experience of trying to avoid a persistent bully; she captures the first flutters of boy-girl attraction and she aces the complicated family dynamics of people living with a life-threatening illness. Although the resolution and ending happen rather quickly, Rocket Man is a heartfelt, exciting read with an endearing hero who plays to his strength and wins.
Charis Cotter, The National Reading Campaign “Readerly”
*Bob’s determination and drive to succeed as a basketball player help to create and sustain his self-confidence as he ultimately becomes not only a “hoop hero” as “Rocket Man,” but a community hero as the leader of a successful charity drive. Bob’s transformation into someone he is proud to be is shown by his eventual willingness to leave “Mr Invisible” in the dust in exchange for his full-throttle and highly visible identity as “Rocket Man”. Bob’s evolution creates a satisfying conclusion to Coates’ book.
Devon Galitsky, Canadian Review of Materials (CM, Oct. 2014)
*… using the sport of basketball as a setting for a strong, emotional narrative is a great way to draw in a reading audience of young men. There’s some very cool storytelling going on here, guys!
There’s no way that I’m going to give away the ending in this review, but I really appreciated the way the author kind of left things open. There are very few things in life that we can really be certain, so I appreciated the “realistic” feeling that the book left me with. We’re all going to face different kinds of challenges, but what really matters is how we respond to them. Bob might not be able to do a whole lot about his Dad’s fight with cancer, but he is doing everything within his power to be supportive and strong. Sometimes, even when a set of circumstances might be completely beyond your control, it’s still possible to make an impact in a way that you never could have have imagined…
JamesVachowski (full review at: http://booksboyslike.blogspot.ca/
THE POWER OF HARMONY (Red Deer Press, 2013)
*i love this book! although at times its sad its always got me on the edge of my seat making me want to finish the book in one sitting. The power of harmony makes you smile tear up and want to go find the people in the book in real life and either hug them beat the up or help them. this booked is filled with emotions as sadness but at the same time happiness. I wasn’t sure that Jan Coates would be a good author but after reading this book i Know for a fact she is.
providence (review as found on Google Books)
*Simply stated, “The Power Of Harmony” is deftly written and thoroughly entertaining from first page to last. It’s sometimes said that those who teach can’t do. But clearly that is not the case with Jan L. Coates who is highly sought after with respect to her school of writing workshops given through the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia. An enduringly popular addition to community library Children’s Fiction collections, “The Power Of Harmony” is especially recommended for young readers ages 9 and older.
Midwest Book Review
*Jennifer dreams of becoming a famous singer, but she’s terrified to sing in public. Set in the late 1960’s in a former coal-mining town Jenn finds herself without a best friend by her side and the subject of a group of bullies. When a new girl moves to town, Melody, the group of bullies show their prejudice for Mi’kmaq people and taunt and tease Melody. When Jenn gets to know Melody she discovers that the two have a lot in common. Their friendship gives them both courage to face their fears. A powerful story about unjustified prejudice and disliking someone just because they are different. (Ages 9-12)
Christina Lewis, Kids BookShelf, July, 2013
*With the upcoming Miners’ Hall Concert, on the tenth anniversary of the Springhill mining disaster, Melody and Jennifer are asked to sing a song together. They heed the words of surprise guest, Anne Murray, who tells them,
“Remember – sing with your heart and soul; harmony’s a powerful thing.” (pg. 238)
*The harmony of Melody and Jenny is a powerful force, helping the two girls face extraordinary life challenges of death, shame, prejudice, grief, fear, and abuse. Together they support each other as no one else could, providing the strength needed to overcome those challenges. For two young girls, they endure much trauma, both within their families and more publicly. But Jan L. Coatesdoes not depict Melody and Jenny as anything but ordinary children, albeit more aware of how people treat each other. They are emotive (“Try to swallow the fat lump of sad in my throat.” pg. 143) without being emotional; kind without gushiness; and clever without being smart-alecky. It’s Jan L. Coates evocative text and careful plotting that elevate the girls to extraordinary while the history of Springhill, Nova Scotia, including the coal mining, the residential school and the prison, ground the story in reality. The Power of Harmony could have been a cacophony of anger, abuse and prejudice but, with Jan L. Coates’ considerate story-telling, it is a sensitive coming of age story in a socially-evolving Canadian setting.
CanLit for LittleCanadians, July, 2013
*Jan Coates has penned a superb novel for young adults that would keep them engrossed to the end. Lines such as: “Native people being good-for-nothing, is like saying all people with blonde hair are stupid,” will do much to inform young readers.
Historical Novel Society
A HARE IN THE ELEPHANT’S TRUNK (Red Deer Press, 2010)
|*Inspired by Jacob’s true story, Coates writes vividly and poetically, establishing a clear historical context for her inspirational tale. From the beginning, Jacob Deng embodied the spirit of Wadeng, the faith that tomorrow will be better, and by the end of the tale, Jacob as storyteller and writer is poised to enter a wider world, where “there are as many books in the world as there are stars in the African sky.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
*This novel, based on the life of the real Jacob Deng, provides insight into the struggles of the Sudan as well as a strong, clear voice. Coates gives an unflinching and poetic glimpse into the life of a boy who chose hope in the face of adversity.
Napthali Ferris, School Library Journal, May, 2011
*By telling the story through the eyes of a young, Dinka boy, Coates simplifies the complex and difficult political and social issues, and makes the story of the Lost Boys accessible to young readers. Her reliance on the storytelling narrative style leads to simple but memorable images. In her interview, she states: “it’s my hope that children struggling with troubles of their own will read about young Jacob, admire his determination as he worked to overcome the tremendous adversity in his life, and be inspired, and perhaps empowered, to confront and overcome their own problems.” (p. 281) She and Jacob share a wonderful dream.
Patricia Jermey, Resource Links
*An important and well-written story. Jan Coates takes the reader deep into the lives of children dealing with the uproar of war and terror – a strong reminder that the world needs to do better.
Deborah Ellis, Dec. 2010
*Author Jan L. Coates tells the true story of Deng, a former refugee who went on to establish the Wadeng foundation for displaced citizens of Sudan, in a realistic and emotional way that will appeal to young adult readers with its sympathetic young hero and his quest for a better life. Jacob’s story, as well as the plight of Sudanese refugees in general, needs to be told to inform Western audiences of the relatively recent turmoil in the nation. Coates’ book, a stirring piece of historical fiction, does this well.
Zachary Snow, Children’s Literature Reviews
*A heart-wrenching story about life, love, friendship and survival. (Ages 9-12)
KidsBookshelf, June, 2011
*Coates’s detailed narrative is ripe with a multitude of themes and lessons for us: Jacob’s strength of character despite being in the midst of unimaginable suffering; the faith of these boys in believing that tomorrow was an opportunity for a better day; and how the road to peace is paved with education, not violence. One of the most compelling aspects of this story was Jacob’s learning to read. Jacob was a natural storyteller, inspired by the stories of his grandmother. Her stories and his memories of those stories were instrumental in helping sustain Jacob and his companions at the refugee camp. The power of storytelling and of reading is a message I resonate strongly with and is one of the biggest takeaways from this amazing read.
Chris Singer, Book Dads
*Jacob’s strength of character is almost unfathomable. His struggles and hardships seem insurmountable, but against all odds he survives – one of only a few. His unwavering ambition to get to school and his memory of his mother is what keeps him going. This isn’t a book about war. It’s a book about what happens to innocents affected by war. Ms. Coates has told a story that more people should be aware of and has written it in a way that manages to keep hope alive, through unbelievable adversity. Think about our lives from the age of 7 onwards, then read this book.
The Paperback Princesses
*Jan L. Coates hits the nail on the head with the theme of education promoting peace and ridding of ignorance. The evils of war are a plague upon the earth, making so many suffer of all ages. A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk is a riveting, compelling, and fast-paced novel that allows the characters to naturally shine, many who are complex and round. Jacob’s love of storytelling comes in handy many times, and even though he learns to read and write in English, he never gives up his family and his culture.
Royal Review by high school student Sean Andres
*It’s always a risk for authors, setting a novel in a place and a culture that’s outside their own experience. But Jan Coates has succeeded wonderfully with A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk. She gives the reader an uncomfortably vivid sense of what it must be like to lose one’s home and family, to wander aimlessly through a bleak and blasted landscape, in constant danger of starving or being shot. Such desperate circumstances could have led her young protagonist, Jacob, to become bitter, to resort to violence himself. And, working with such material, Coates could have written a very dark and despairing sort of book. But both the author and her characters rise above the situation and find in it an unexpected wealth of humour and humanity and hope.
GARY L. BLACKWOOD (The Shakespeare Stealer, Wild Timothy, Shakespeare’s Apprentice and others)
Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Braille editions available.
*Rainbows in the Dark is a delightful story because it relays the message that judging by first glance you cannot always tell someone’s background. A little girl shopping in a store with her mother sees a woman looking for clothes. She also sees that she has a dog and decides to talk to her. The story promotes a sense of awareness about your surroundings and understanding how people react. In the end, the girl and lady that is blind strike up a friendship. The story does a great job at depicting what it’s like to meet someone with a disability and how they should not be treated differently. They are human beings too. The illustrations are colorful and grasp the concepts of each page.
Library Thing, December, 2014
*A visual delight… Respectfully presents disability as part of diversity. Joanna’s vocation and presence the second-hand shop defy stereotypes. Their conversation about Joanna’s guide dog is handled particularly well. There are few characters with blindness in children’s literature, and the talented, generous, child-friendly Joanna is a welcome addition.
*A delightful choice for young readers… Coates’ tale is neither too sweet nor too preachy. It is just the sort of book to help youngsters learn what it means to have a physical challenge.
The dialogue is sure, the artwork expressive and sensitive and the story is a lovely one. New friends, a surprise concert, and the assurance that blindness does not have to deter a person from great accomplishment and satisfaction with life as she leads it.
*Jan Coates gives her young readers a taste of what it is like to be blind; however, she does so in a lovely and up-beat manner. Illustrator Alice Priestley captures each moment of the story with colourful, cheerful illustrations. Rainbows in the Dark is a heart-warming read aloud and would make a nice addition to public library and elementary school library collections. Recommended.
– CM Magazine
*The book will help to educate young children about the basics of guide dogs and blindness. Author Jan Coates brings a positive and heartwarming message to children.
*A heart-warming tale… Alice Priestley’s pencil illustrations capture the Technicolour magic of this picture book.
Atlantic Books Today