Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Horse is a Horse...

Jules, over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, inspired the following post since just this morning, she's listed Seven Reasons to Go Buy or Blog About a Horse Book Today">a Horse Book Todaya Horse Book Today"> over on her site.

Kane/Miller is releasing two books featuring horses in early 2009 so here's a quick look at each:

Moonrunner, written by California native Mark Thomason is about a young boy and a horse. Taking place in the 1890s, this story features 12-year-old Casey, a boy who has moved from the U.S. to Australia. He misses his home in Montana and his friends, but most of all he misses the wild mustangs. When Casey discovers a herd of wild brumbies, he develops a bond with a stallion, Moonrunner, that changes his life, and his view on life in Australia.

With over 200 pages of outdoor adventures, school bullies and horse races, this book is filled with fast-paced, page-turning excitement for readers 9 and up.

The Mare's Tale is the second book in the new Pet Vet series by Australian husband-and-wife author team Darrel & Sally Odgers. In the new series, Trump the dog lives with her owner Dr. Jeanie behind the Pet Vet clinic. It's Trumps job to help the sick animals and her senses are so acute that she often draws conclusions before the humans have even begun to think! Trump tells the stories of the animal patients and their families and provides young readers with animal tips, vocabulary words, and a new understanding of the animal world.

Both titles will be available in March.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My (Solar) Japan

Ota City, in Japan, is one of the country's sunniest spots. According to Tree Hugger, Japan has earmarked 9 billion yen ($92 million) for solar panels for households in this year to March 2009. Its Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is seeking 24 billion yen ($246 million) for subsidies in the year starting April 2009, and estimates that about 100,000 homes would install solar panels next year, with the subsidy.

To learn more about Japanese life, you'll want to check out the non-fiction picture book, My Japan, when it is published - also in March 2009.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays!

by Jen Kulman

Do you have fun annual traditions for this time of the year? Like buying fresh new pajamas for everyone to rip into on Christmas Eve? Or using themes for each night of Hanukkah gifts?

My husband usually builds us a roaring fire for Christmas Eve, while our son careens about giddy with anticipation. This year, I put together a special S'mores kit for him. In addition to the boxed supplies, it also comes with an expandable metal stick for marshmallow roasting (hopefully not pug poking). We still in need fresh wood for our fire this year. For some reason, the wood fetcher is reluctant to face the opossum who recently claimed our woodpile as his den. No kidding.
Kane/Miller offers the perfect books for this time of year! It's Christmas by Tina Burke is a wonderful choice, featuring the sweetest illustrations. I like that the text is somewhat spare, which prompts children to give their own interpretations of what each photo represents. This is a wonderfully simple book that is a joy to read many times over.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Kane/Miller!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Life & Death

Yesterday afternoon, I learned that my maternal grandmother passed away. This did not come as a big surprise, as she had been in hospice care since Thanksgiving weekend. Still, death is never easy to deal with and being so far away from my mom and family right now is especially difficult.

Talking to my son about my grandmother's death was also something that was not easy.
Family is very important to me. I want to pass on to my son the value of relationships and the appreciation of family and respect and admiration for previous generations. How do I do that when we don't get a chance to spend time with my extended family as much as I would like to?

My grandmother was the first person to find my son's ticklish spot (under his chin) when he was just nine months old. She had seven children, fifteen grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren. Her husband died when her oldest (my mother) was just fifteen. She'd been through a lot in her 90+ years on this planet.

The book that Kane/Miller published a few years ago about death, And What Comes After a Thousand? is a beautifully illustrated and touching story about an old man and a young girl who share so much together. After his passing, Lisa must come to grips with her loss and finally recognizes that Otto will always be with her, just not in the same way.

It's one of those books that you know you'll want to share with those you love but is definitely not a bedtime story or one that you anticipate having a reason to read with a child. I'm bringing a copy home today and will set aside a special time to talk with my son about life and death.

He's got the life part down, almost. Just last night he asked me if he could have a little brother. This was followed by him trying to "see" if there was a baby in my belly. How do I explain that not everyone with a "belly" has a baby inside? I wish there were a book that spoke about that sensitive subject.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


by Jen Kulman

There is nothing quite like baking to get you in the holiday spirit! We have an annual Grandma Cookie Day where both our mothers come out to bake with the boy. The first year I spent two hours making him the perfect little apron for the event. He lost interest after fifteen minutes and buried himself in the couch. Subsequent years have been more successful, and we always make a point of trying a new recipe.
This year's cookie comes from Bunny's Warm Oven, a blog from a passionate baker. Her site is absolutely fabulous and boasts all sorts of lovely dishes, including some knockout cookies. These are an ideal choice because kids can get involved and the colorful sprinkles are guaranteed to grab their attention. Also grab your broom, because these darn sprinkles will bounce into every nook and cranny in your kitchen.
Of course, we have the perfect book to get you and your offspring into the kitchen! The Story of Cherry the Pig by Utako Yamada is about a baker pig who lives for eating. Every day she rifles though her recipes, searching for just the right dish. She bakes and devours (spoils to the cook!) one enormous dessert after another. Cherry enters the the Harvest Festival bake-off and discovers how good it feels to share her baked goods with others. Food always tastes better when you share with a friend, doesn't it?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Are you Thrifty or Creative?

by Jen Kulman

Thriftiness is especially important for many families who are feeling the financial pinch this holiday season. Instead of enjoying time spent with family, they are concerned about paying the bills. If you have the patience, a great way to save money and get into the holiday spirit is to make your own gifts.

Some of the gifts I remember most clearly from my childhood are the ones my mom made for us. This year I sewed small pillows with appliqued wool felt animals for my son and nephew. Hmm, I swear these are much cuter in person!
Yes, I realize pillows are the marshmallow of the craft world. 'm constantly looking for bigger and better ideas online and was delighted to see that YouCanMakeThis.com is running a challenge for people to make as many presents as they can for under $50, titled Thrifty Under 50. The participants post their projects here as completed, so we can all be inspired.

One book that does a great job of using found object to make art is Half of an Elephant by Gusti. This is a humorous tale of animals losing half their bodies after an earthquake that splits the world in two. Each animal travels about, determined to either find or replace their lost half.

The illustrations are absolutely fabulous! Animals and scenery are created out all sorts of cast off items that would usually end up in the garbage can. "My idea," said Gusti, "is to show children that creativity helps us to live a better life." This story will delight and inspire the creative person in all of us!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Male Models

Gail Giles is a young adult author who recently wrote an article in School Library Journal that touched on a topic close to home. As a single mom of a young boy, I really work at trying to get my son involved in reading, sports and anything else that interests him (dinosaurs, cars, action figures). I want him to be educated, active and intellectual. He, of course, will become the young person he's meant to become but for now, his interest in reading and books in general is pretty amazing.

In September, when his Pre-K teachers asked him what he wanted to learn this year his response was, "how to make books." He makes his own books at home, from comic books to newspapers. He's into pretending right now and reading and drawing are also of high interest.

From what Gail says in her article, Wanted: Male Models, I know that won't last so I enlist my dad and other male role models to help instill a love of reading that I hope will last.
She writes:
A boy doesn't want to be a woman. He wants to do what a man does. And if he doesn't see a man reading, he won't read.
My dad is staying with us for the next three weeks and he loves to read. Both he and my mom taught me at a young age that reading can open your world and can provide you with experiences and insight that you might not be able to get elsewhere. You can explore different ways of living and get to know people unlike yourself.

I can't help but think that the type of books children are exposed to also makes a big impact on whether or not they'll continue to want to pick up a book later in life. My son, for example, enjoys non-fiction books. He likes reading books that tell him things, show him how to build things or how people invented machines or put things together. He likes numbers and facts, memorizing details like young boys used to quote baseball stats on the back of their collectible baseball cards. (Do kids still do that?)
Illustration from
Sebastian's Roller Skates
Personally, I enjoy fiction, escaping into worlds unknown and stories that I know could only be make-believe. I've grown to appreciate non-fiction books over the last few years since I see how excited my son gets when seeing real photographs or images of dinosaurs that he will never be able to see in real life. I pick up books and suggest titles that he doesn't want to read. I let him select books and I'm always amazed at what intrigues him, what captures his attention and what will keep him still - and paying attention - for twenty minutes a day.

Luckily, there are great websites that also keep me up to date with what other boys - and older men - are into reading. That way, I can get familiar with what to introduce to him as he gets older, guiding him to the perfect book that he'll grow into and stories he can share with his classmates, cousins, and Grandpa.

Here are just a few articles and sites that I found to help other parents and educators get their young boys to read:

Boys Rule! Boys Read!
Boys Read
Guys Read

Why dads should read to their children
Why dads should read aloud

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It's Officially December!

by Jen Kulman

We live in Michigan, where the snow flies thick and often. People here scramble to put up their exterior holiday decorations just as soon as the turkey carcass has been discarded. We spent the weekend doing just that. Tree in, lights up, snowflakes secured in the windows. Can you see the Christmas spirit and brotherly love here?
After all our hard work, we gathered an armload of books and plopped down in front of our cozy fire. One of our selections was Selma, by Jutta Bauer. This is a simple book about a sheep who is perfectly happy with her lot in life. Even if she had more time or a million dollars, Selma would still choose to play with her children in the afternoon and chat with her neighbors in the evenings. Reading this is a good reminder to take stock of your life and be grateful for what you have. So we did.
Taking a page from Selma's book, we slouched down in our chairs and just relaxed. I concentrated on enjoying our family instead of the list of chores that needed my attention. The laundry will wait for me, a four-year-old will not. It was wonderful to feel the fire toasty at our toes while the snow swirled wildly outside. Aaahh.

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!