Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Sally!

Today is author Sally Odgers' birthday! Sally is co-author, along with her husband, Darrel, of the 8-title series Jack Russell: Dog Detective and the new series Pet Vets, coming in 2009.

Happy Birthday Sally!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Giving Thanks

by Jen Kulman

Obviously, this is a big, happy week for eaters! Less so for poultry.

At our annual dinner, my mother starts out okay, but panics as the dinner hour approaches. She makes a quick visit to the wine bottle to settle her nerves, and invariably leaves a dish in the oven that won't be discovered until clean-up. "Hey, I knew I made more rolls!"

Of course, my mom will be wearing her fancy turkey hat. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without Mr.Gobble.

If your mom doesn't wear a topic inducing hat like mine, you will need to explore other avenues for stimulating conversation. Is there anything worse than trading stilted lines with Cousin Steve once a year? Presenting the ideal book for the upcoming holidays: Could You? Would You? by Trudy White.

This book is thought provoking and fun. Pepper other family members with these questions and really get them thinking. Would you like to: Bathe in a laundry sink? Wash in a river? Soap up with an octopus? You may learn more about Cousin Steve than you actually intended...

Some of the questions are very funny, and some are more run-of-the-mill, but with hilarious answers. What is the best thing about you? Snails like me. Hmmm. May want to save that gem for your office holiday party.

No matter your plans or headgear, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fathers That Read!

Discovering new blogs that focus on parenting and reading is always a good find. This morning, I spent a lot of time reading book reviews and blog posts from Book Dads: Fathers That Read!

I also signed into my GoodReads account for the first time in quite a while. There, somehow, I discovered the Never-Ending Book Quiz which is a whole lot of fun and wastes a whole lot of time too, so be careful! You can select the general quiz, or trivia based on the books in your reading list!

Please let me know about any great book sites or blogs that I may not already be aware of. I'm always on the lookout for more great reads!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Follow Up on Canned Goods

by Jen Kulman

This year marks the the 16th anniversary of
Canstruction, a construction competition that aids in the fight against hunger. Teams must assemble their structures in a single night, made entirely from full cans of food. At the end of each competition, all canned food used as building materials is donated to local food banks.

New York City's exhibits will be shown today through December 2, followed by one hundred cities across North America who will hold their own competitions in the coming year. The price of admission for the general public to view these amazing creations? Why, canned goods, of course!

The creativity in these structures knows no bounds. Yet even more amazing is their charitable impact - millions of pounds of food are donated to needy families through the food banks. Aren't these things unbelievable? Check out more photos here, including the national winners.

In related news, a local library is also doing their part to assist with local hunger. The
Fraser Public Library is accepting food donations in lieu of late fees. The Food for Fines project allows patrons to donate one can of food in exchange for having fifty cents waived from their library fines. This is a great way to get the reading community active in solving the hunger crisis.

Isn't it uplifting to read stories of the creative ways in which communities are helping their local food banks?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Interview with Jackie Morris

Interview by Marya Jansen-Gruber

I'd like you to meet Jackie Morris, the talented artist who illustrated a beautiful fairy tale called Singing to the Sun.

What did you think when you were first sent the text for Singing to the Sun?

I first heard the story of Singing to the Sun at a children’s book festival in Swansea. Viv was doing an evening event and I went along to listen. The story made pictures dance in my head, and after the event Viv asked me if I liked it. When I said yes she replied 'Good, because I wrote it with you in mind.’ And from there we began to look for a publisher together. The story was originally published in a collection of stories and the others in the collection are equally beautiful.

What do you think of the message that it imparts to young, and not so young, readers?

There are so many messages in the book if you want to look for them. For children, one message is that maybe love is better than wealth and power, but it is a thing to be freely given. For fathers, a reminder that daughters have free will and are fed up of being given away as prizes in stories. For parents, the message can be that arguing is frightening for children. For women, that it is always a good idea to keep your wolves close, if you have a wolf, and that cats are smart and music can often provide answers.

The artwork that you created for the story has a magical, ethereal quality. What inspired you to create these pictures in this way?

I love medieval manuscript, textiles, animals and birds. I suppose really the words inspired the images. Each book that I do is different, each a response to a different text.

How were the illustrations created?

The illustrations were created with watercolor on hot pressed paper, after 27 years of practice and much blood sweat and tears. Firstly, I did small thumbnail drawings and sketches trying to catch the characters, then went on to the finished work, which is larger than the published work. Some pieces flowed easily, others I had to work on a few times. I loved the wolves who are very much a side issue in the text, so I brought them down from the golden mountains to be beside the princesses, ready for when the princes get the answer wrong.

This is not the first fairy tale that you have illustrated. Do you have a fondness for this genre?

I have a fondness for story. I love listening to storytellers. I love the way a really good story can live in your heart and mind and grow with you and help to make sense of the mad world we live in.

What do you think fairy tales give children?

Hope. Understanding. Courage. Insight. Pleasure. Passion. Music. A connection through history to all the people in the world who have ever told the story before, who have ever listened to it. A place in the world and in time.

Did you like to read when you were a child, and if so what did you like to read?

I struggled to read when I was a child and only persisted because I knew that what was hidden in books behind the code of the alphabet was worth knowing, worth breaking through to. What I love to read now is stories that have magic, not necessarily witches and wizards, but that magical power where an author can make you believe, make you care, for a character whose bones are paper, whose blood is the letters on a page. Discoveries this last couple of years have been Robin Hobb, The Book Thief and Stardust. Two of my favorite books I read as a child were White Fang and The Call of the Wild.

You have created illustrations for many charitable organizations. What do you like about doing this kind of work?

I like to use the work I do for good. I do not want to advertise cars, do illustrations for banks and big business. I always felt very priveleged to be able to work for Amnesty International and Green Peace and Oxfam.

You often use one of your cats as a model for your paintings. What does he think of this?

Max is a private kind of cat who likes to sleep in cupboards. He does not often come to sit on a lap and tends to keep out of the limelight, unlike the ginger brethren who dominate the house. But I think he is secretly quite pleased. He is very handsome and dark like midnight with emerald eyes.

If you could travel anywhere in the world to paint where would you go and why?

I would go to Venice in Spring. The colors of the buildings, the madness of the water-filled streets, the crumbling decay are all inspiring. I would go to the arctic where the colors play in the sky and on the land and I would wait and watch for polar bears. I would go to Bhutan or Nepal and sit quietly and watch cranes fly over high mountains and hope a snow leopard would be watching me. I would go beneath the sea where great whales sing and see them swim and leap from the water, before it is too late, before there are no more and I would go to a jungle in India and wait for a tiger to burn the emerald forest bright. And for now I will go to my studio and paint some more.

You can find out more about Jackie on her wonderful website. If you are a cat lover do take the time to visit the blog written by her cat companions. Her journal will show you what the life of an illustrator is like.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Touch of Magic

Marya Jansen-Gruber is the editor of Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Review. Recently, Marya interviewed Jackie Morris, illustrator of our new picture book / fairy tale, Singing to the Sun.

Working with reviewers over the last five years (or so), I have gotten to know many wonderful people who share a love of reading and children's books, in particular. I'm pleased to have discovered a bit more about Marya and introduce her to the Kane/Miller community:

I review children’s books for my website Through the Looking Glass Book Review. I have been a prolific reader for as long as I can remember, and for me doing this work is about as good as it gets. My only complaint is that I can never read as many books as I would like because there aren’t enough hours in the day. I also wish I had time to write my own children’s books but I am confident that, when the time is right, my stories will get written.

I live in lovely Ashland, Oregon with my husband, my eight year old daughter, three dogs and three cats. Home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, this town rests in a valley between two mountain ranges and it is full of people who appreciate the arts and who love books of all kinds. I could not have found a better place to live.

When I am not reading and writing I love to cook, to knit, to hike, to ski, and to explore my new home state. We moved to Oregon only a year ago from Virginia and there are so many places that we want to visit here on the west coast.

I grew up on the small Mediterranean island of Cyprus and, being the child of writers and journalists, I was able to travel to many countries around the world. These travels showed me that the world is full of variety and color. They also showed me that children in different countries are not that different. They have similar likes, fears, and pleasures. A little boy in England and a little boy in India will both love trains, and little girls from these countries will be delighted when someone gives them a stuffed animal to cuddle. I find this connectedness between people very interesting, and I think it is very important that children should be able to read books that come from countries other than their own. This is something that Kane/Miller gives us. Through their books we get to visit far away places and we get to see that we are more alike than we thought we were.

Read her review, below, of Singing to the Sun and be sure to come back tomorrow for her interview with Jackie Morris.

There once was a lord who thought that power mattered more than anything in the world. He did not care about love at all. His wife thought that wealth was the most important thing in the world, and she did not care about love either. Together they had a son called Thorfinn who was taught about great battles, and given books full of spells that were supposed to make people rich. One thing his parents did not give him was affection. For this, Thorfinn had to turn to the tabby cat and the jester who lived with Thorfinn and his family.

When Thorfinn was eighteen his parents decided that he needed to marry. His father wanted Thorfinn to marry someone who would make him the most powerful lord in the land. His mother wanted Thorfinn to marry someone who would give him wealth.

One day the jester came to tell Thorfinn’s parents that the King of the Golden Mountains was looking for husbands for his three daughters. One daughter would be given the king’s wealth, one would be given his power, and the third would bring her husband “nothing and everything,” “happiness and love.” Thorfinn decided to leave his home to try his luck with the daughters of the King of the Golden Mountains. Will he be able to figure out which princess is which and will he choose wisely if he guesses correctly?

All too often in our society today we admire people who are rich and powerful. We envy them their luxurious homes, their fast cars, and their fat bank accounts. What we forget to ask is if these people are happy. This book subtly shows readers what happens to people who forget to seek happiness and love. Touched with magic, and with beautifully lyrical text, this tale will resonate with readers of all ages.

Jackie Morris’ illustrations perfectly compliment this fairy-tale. Beautiful flowing colors and clever details make the paintings a joy to look at.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Let's Talk Food

by Jen Kulman

Our first house had a very small kitchen, but our current house is more generous in this respect. I accepted the extra storage space as my personal challenge. During a particularly good cereal sale, a fellow shopper saw my cart and exclaimed "
Wow! How many kids do you have?" Er, just the one. We're good eaters!
These are my cabinets for baking supplies and canned goods (with dog treats on the bottom for shameless beggars). I like being prepared for baking emergencies that pop up. Jen - we need four pans of brownies, STAT. I thought everyone stocked up like this, until some of my friends came over and made fun of me. I was going to give them each a bottle of corn syrup for quick energy, but they blew it with their snide comments.

In all seriousness, we actually stock up to save money. Our storage space and deep freeze make it possible to take advantage of store sales and coupons. When you have access to an abundance of food, it is easy to forget that others do not. Food banks across the country are asking us to help those who do not have the same resources. Our local unit, Gleaner's Community Food Bank states that one in eight families will need emergency food assistance this year. It is terrifying to think of not having food for your family.

Knowing that families across the nation are struggling with meeting their basic needs serves as a reminder of how fortunate we are. The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley by Colin Thompson is a great book for helping kids understand the importance of appreciating what you have.

Riley is immensely happy with the basics of life - food, shelter, love, and a scratching stick for his back. His life may be short, but he glows with happiness.
In contrast, humans desire more material goods, often unable to appreciate what we already have. This sweet purple rat allows us to teach our kids a valuable life lesson in a fun way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Canadian Children's Book Week

Today is the first day of Canadian Children's Book Week, the single most important national event celebrating Canadian children's books and the importance of reading. Every November, close to 35,000 children, teens and adults participate in activities held in every province and territory across the country. Hundreds of schools, public libraries, bookstores and community centres host events as part of this major literary festival.

The TD Canadian Children's Book Week program is organized by the Canadian Children's Book Centre, in partnership with the Storytellers of Canada/Conteurs du Canada, and is made possible through the generous support of our sponsors and funders.

Over a dozen Canadian authors and illustrators will tour Canada this week to highlight their books and promote reading among young readers. Find out who's touring, along with details about the week's events and ways to celebrate.

Check out Kane/Miller's Canadian title, Purple Hair? I Don't Care! written by Dianne Young with illustrations by Barbara Hartmann.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Who? What? Where? Why? When?

As a guest blogger here, I have conducted this scintillating self-interview as my introduction, accompanied by our self portrait. I'm sure it is obvious that we're super photogenic people.

Who? I am Jennifer Kulman, Children's Editor at For Immediate Release Reviews - Kids! We exist for the sole purpose of writing reviews for newly released children's books, videos, games and toys. We enjoy tracking down fun and fabulous items to share with other families. We try to move right along to keep it interesting for our readers, posting new reviews frequently, sometimes as often as daily.

Why? Because Kane/Miller is an awesome book publishing company. When they were looking for guest bloggers, I couldn't put my hand up fast enough. They put out some of the best and most interesting children's books on the market. It is an honor to be linked with a company who is committed to publishing such books with extraordinary care and attention.

Where? Physically, my husband and I live in small town Howell, Michigan; rural enough to see farm animals from our windows - not rural enough to own any ourselves. We do have an aging pug. And a four year old boy. They act like farm animals - fighting over snacks and space on the couch (not five minutes ago there was a flare up over stolen biscotti).

When? I'm here every Tuesday. Let the wild rumpus of randomness begin!

What? What? Isn't that enough to start with? Or are you one of those people who has an infinite number of questions? If so, you should check out Why?, a book of fun animal facts by Lila Prap. Why do hyenas laugh? Why do hippos yawn? The author has several silly and one factual answer to every question.

If Why? Why? Why? is often heard at your house, this book is an ideal choice. Most enjoyable of all is hearing the responses these questions will elicit from your child's imagination!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Meet Jen

Jen Kulman is Children's Editor of For Immediate Release Reviews - KIDS! and will be a guest blogger every Tuesday at Kane/Miller Kidlit. Here's what she had to say when I asked her to a share a little bit about herself:
My name is Jennifer Kulman. I am a children's book enthusiast and am addicted to children's books. We believe all children deserve good books to read. The trouble is - the books just keep improving! They are funnier and way more clever than when I was a child - even the illustrations are better now! I hold Kane/Miller responsible for my shrinking bookshelf.

My husband and I live in the small town of Howell, Michigan. We are brave/foolhardy enough to lay claim to a nine-year-old pug and a four-year-old boy. They fight like brothers over snacks and space on the couch. That is no exaggeration. The boy just called "Mom! Toby won't stop looking at me!" Gosh, why do we only have two?

Even though we live in the country, I enjoy mostly indoor activities: reading, baking and decorating our old (1919) but new-to-us house. I'm a real fifties housewife type, except I work outside our home and my husband does a LOT of the housework. Possibly he does more than me, but he has not caught on. Sometimes (okay, every time) when he is out mowing the lawn, I lounge around on the Internet and leap up to vacuum when I hear him come in. Probably he has caught on and is just driving that mower about to catch a break from me. I know June would have done that to Ward, had the Internet been available then.

So that's the two minute intro to the Kulman family. I'm thrilled to be here and will be blogging at this space every Tuesday! Come back for more ramblings...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Note to Parents

Those of you reading this blog are professionals at reading aloud, whether to your own kids or the kids in your classroom or that come into your library or bookstore.

If you know of parents or individuals that might not be sure how to go about selecting books for their young readers, or how to incorporate story time into their daily routine, here are a couple of articles that you might want to pass along to them:
A How-To on Reading Aloud to Your Kids
Harder Books Aren't Always Better Books: Talking with Parents about Text Difficulty
Choice Literacy, the source for this second article, is a great website which includes many great articles for educators and literacy professionals. They offer many great tips for free, or you can sign up for an annual membership ($99 per year) to receive:
  • All site materials in an ad-free environment, including hundreds of articles, web-based videos, and workshop e-Guides

  • Continuously updated content

  • Downloadable tips, tools, and templates for literacy leaders, curriculum specialists, principals, and teachers

  • The latest writing from your favorite teacher authors before it appears in their next book

  • Dozens of videos filmed and edited by our award-winning crew of videographers and technicians

  • Discounts on products and services available only to members
  • And much, much more
If you know of more resource sites to share, please add them in the comment section.

Monday, November 10, 2008

NYPL's 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing

Two books from this season's list have been chosen to be included in this year's annual list from the New York Public Library, 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing.

Snake and Lizard
by Joy Cowley
Illustrated by Gavin Bishop

Wombat & Fox: Tales of the City

by Terry Denton

Both of these titles serve as Kane/Miller's first (and second) attempts at publishing hardcover chapter books for readers 5 - 11 years of age. The illustrations in both volumes add to the stories that are told with humor and sophisticated rhetoric that will appeal to both young boys and girls looking for adventure in a book that will challenge the readers without intimidating them (chapters in Snake & Lizard range from 2 - 5 pages).

Congratulations to our New Zealand and Australian authors and illustrators! We're pleased to be included in this annual list.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Greatest Fiction Travel Books of All Time

The November issue of the Conde Nast Traveler magazine featured an article on the 69 Greatest Fiction Travel Books of all Time. Included on this list were Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Crime and Punishment, Don Quixote, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Heart of Darkness, Lolita, Lady Chatterley's Lover, The Odyssey, One Hundred Years of Solitude, On the Road, The Shipping News, along with a host of others.

They define fiction travel books as those "in which a place is as important a character as the protagonist."

Kane/Miller has several books that we feel would fit right in with this definition, including:

Of course, we also have books coming out in the spring which would also make great additions to the list, including our middle grade fiction, Hannah's Winter and Moonrunner.