In which we (finally!) finish Horse Mad Heroes and compare it to a great work in the history of horse books

Okay, so we’re very behind on our summer reading list. We know it’s not good. It makes us feel like we’re back in university, sitting in class in our pajamas, our fingers wrapped around a hot coffee, praying that by some miracle we’re only going to be discussing the first chapter of Bleak House in today’s seminar. We spent most of our university career in pajamas. They were so comfortable we even wore them out dancing once. We often danced alone in those years.

Today we finished Horse Mad Heroes and we loved it. One of the things we loved in particular was the fascinating horse facts that found their way into the book. Did you know that horses used to have toes?

Maybe the most interesting thing we learned was that one of the first books ever published about dressage was On Horsemanship by Xenophon, published in 350 B.C.

How could we not be curious? We love books about horses – and Horse Mad Heroes has a dressage competition in it. It turns out, many things have changed since 350 B.C.  To illustrate some of these changes, we’ve created a handy table comparing On Horsemanship to Horse Mad Heroes.

On Horsemanship

Horse Mad Heroes

When selecting a horse, choose one with large nostrils. When selecting a horse, choose an ill-treated and abandoned horse and nurse her back to health. Uncover the secrets to her past and then love her all the more for overcoming adversity.
The horse’s groom should be well-trained. The horse’s groom should know many excellent horse jokes, such as:

Q: What’s the most important part of the horse?

A: The mane part!

The main point of owning a horse is to ride it into battle. The main point of owning a horse is that it can be your best friend when you and your person best friend get in a fight.
A horse’s mane should be brushed, first against the grain to lift the dirt, and then in the direction of the grain to remove the dirt. A horse’s mane should be brushed, and then if you like you can smooth it down with a little hair gel.

Wow, Horse Mad Heroes sure was good. A huge fight between best friends, a new baby brother, a secret rescue mission, lots of great horse races.

We can barely wait for Horse Mad Western, which we’re publishing next fall. Here’s a sneak peek at the quality, quality jokes that Pree tells in Book 5.

Q: Where do you take a sick pony

A: To the horsepital!

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In which we get around a questionable metaphor with some evasive maneuvers

chickenWe were going to use this post to remind you that we’ve been reading Horse Mad Heroes as part of the Not Broccoli Summer Reading List. We were going to say how eating chicken with crispy skin is awesome like summer reading is awesome and we were going to post some photographic evidence. But it all would have been a bit of a questionable metaphor, really.  Our motivations were not pure, we see that now.  Now that we are being honest with ourselves, we can freely admit that we really just wanted to post a picture of our art director, Michelle, eating a piece of chicken. Phew, we’re glad that’s off our chests.

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In which we post the Walrus Books Not Broccoli Summer Reading List

Horse Mad HeroesDuring the school year, there’s always something you should be reading.  There’s a book report due, or you really should be researching the history of Uruguay, or it’s not exactly assigned, but why is it that everyone in your class has read the complete works of Dickens and you haven’t?  School year reading is good for you.  It’s broccoli.

The best part of summer reading is that it’s nothing but what you want to read.  Here’s a promise. If, come September, you’ve read nothing but Archie comics, we’re still going to like you.

For what it’s worth, here’s what we’re going to read this summer. Our plan is to read one book a week until we’re done and post our thoughts on this blog each Friday. We’re also going to Twitter as we go. We’re hoping maybe some of you feel like reading along with us.  Yes?  Yes?

Nine weeks of summer.  Nine Walrus Books titles.  Absolutely no broccoli.

  1. Horse Mad Heroes by Kathy Helidoniotis
  2. Coyote Canyon by Sharon Siamon
  3. Gaia Wild by Diane Haynes
  4. Canadian Girls Who Rocked the World by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
  5. Mountainboard Maniacs by Pam Withers
  6. The Lost Sketch by Andrea and David Spalding
  7. Gallop to the Sea by Sharon Siamon
  8. Secrets in the Sand by Sharon Siamon
  9. Rodeo Horse by Sharon Siamon

Let’s get reading!

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In which our designer, Mauve, takes a picture of something other than the latte she ordered with lunch.

An actual photo of a latte by Mauve.  Mauve Page is a book designer here at Whitecap. She’s the woman behind the covers on the Wild Horse Creek and Horse Mad books, which means: a) she’s awesome, and b) sometimes she walks by our desks with pictures of horses and asks things like, “Would you say this horse has a wide white blaze on his forehead?” or “Is this horse chestnut, or more sorrel?” We’re disappointingly ill-informed on these matters. Walruses, for the record, are brown.

Mauve likes cheese and shoes and typography. She also likes taking pictures of the lattes she orders at lunch. She’ll put her cup on the table, sigh, and say, “Isn’t that just beautiful?” Then she’ll take her iPhone out of her bag and snap a photo. We had this idea that at Mauve’s house there’d be a Wall of Fame, a giant surface covered in thousands of pictures of lattes, each meticulously dated. She assures us that this is not the case.

Anyway, the other day Mauve came into the office very excited because on the weekend she’d taken this picture for us:

photo

Gorgeous.  More gorgeous, even, than a latte.

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7 Question With…Pam Withers!

pam-withers051

We work with some pretty incredible writers here at Walrus Books and we thought that a good way for you to get to know them better would be to grill them ruthlessly with 7 death-defying questions and then post their responses on this blog. Because of the extreme nature of these questions, it was obvious that our first subject should be Pam Withers, the author of the Take it to the Extreme series.

So…for your enjoyment we humbly present our inaugural 7 Questions With

***

How did your first book change your life?

It led to a series that turned into a career change. I was phenomenally lucky and I can’t think of anything more fun than being an author for young adults.

Do you have a writing routine?  If so, what is it?

When my son was young, I established the only writing routine that was possible: 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. So that’s pretty much what I stick with now. I can’t write more than six hours a day, physically or creatively. And often, that six hours includes research or interviews or outlining as well as writing.

Is there an age range that you tend to write for? Any theories about why?

Most of my books are for kids ages 11 to 13. Partly because that’s the age my son was when I began writing, but also because I spent six years running a summer camp for pre-teens learning whitewater kayaking, so I feel pretty comfortable aiming my material at that age group.

Do you have any advice for young writers? Care to share it?

Keep a journal, attend a young writers camp or workshop if you can find one (such as the  Vancouver Public Library’s summer camp for young writers) read the kind of material you like to write, check out various links on my website for young writers, and check out the books at WritersDigest.com.

What’s your favourite word?

Sinuous (to describe a river)

If you hadn’t become a writer, what profession do you think you might have tried?

A psychologist, because they also have to “get inside people’s heads,” but getting inside imaginary people’s heads is more fun.

What was your favourite book when you were a kid?

The Wizard of Oz

Be sure to check out Pam’s books, which include Mountainboard Maniacs, Adrenalin Ride and Peak Survival.

Thanks, Pam!

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In which the Wild Horse Creek series gets a great review, and we think a bit about books about horses

Sharon Siamon’s Wild Horse Creek books just received a great review in the latest issue of CM Magazine.

The reviewer remarked on the freshness and naivety of The Mystery Stallion, which caught my attention as I’d just finished reading a really interesting post from the Guardian Books Blog about horse books for girls. Imogen Russell Williams, the author of the post, writes pretty nostalgically, if a bit sarcastically, about the horse books she read as a girl. Still, when it comes to modern horse books she advises readers to, “Give them a miss”. Her reasons? Too formulaic and too full of glamorous things like belly button piercings.

So reading that, and then reading the review that praised Sharon’s books, got me thinking. What exactly makes Sharon’s books “fresh and naïve”, and how are they different from other horse books? The Wild Horse Creek books are amazing because they are adventure stories, plain and simple. Nothing weighs a good adventure down more than having to stop to deal with “teen issues” and so Liv and Sophie have the same sorts problems that girls have been having from the beginning of time, but those problems take a backseat to riding in the desert and protecting their grandparents’ heard. Because of this, the Wild Horse Creek series feels pretty timeless. No belly button piercings, but plenty of circling coyotes and underground caves.

When I was a kid, my mom gave me her copy of Misty of Chincoteague and I devoured it. That was another timeless book, I think. Looking back, I love that my mom and I both got to love that book when we were about the same age. I love that nothing in that book got in the way of both of us being able to get pulled into that story.

Anyway, this is just a small theory of mine about what makes girls love books about horses. They’re adventure stories. They’re exciting.  It’s actually a pretty simple theory.

In case you thought this post was getting too serious, I want to share something disturbing. Look! They stuffed the real Misty and she’s on display at a ranch in Virginia.

Misty

Oh my childhood heroes…

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In which Tanya Lloyd Kyi rocks the world and appears on Urban Rush and at CWILL’s Spring Book Hatching

Today, we want to send out a little Internet love to author Tanya Lloyd Kyi. Tanya has just released her latest book Canadian Girls Who Rocked the World with Walrus Books and it’s spectacular. It’s full of truly inspiring stories about girls who overcame all odds to achieve their dreams, most before they reached their twentieth birthdays. It made us tear up a little, to be honest. So first and foremost, we love Tanya for inspiring us.

We also love her because she made a trailer for her book. Check this out:

And then, just when we thought no one could rock more than Dr. Emily Jennings Stowe, we found out about a ton of exciting events that Tanya has lined up in the next few weeks. First, she’ll be a guest on Shaw TV’s Urban Rush on April 20, and then you can catch her at the Canadian Writer’s and Illustrators of BC Spring Book Hatching at the Vancouver Public Library’s Central Branch on May 2. The Spring Book Hatching features all sorts of fantastic BC children’s authors, including the wonderful Pam Withers. Students who drop by can enter a draw for a free author visit to their school.

Whew. Our hearts are now so full of love that most of us have abandoned our work and started singing show tunes with the words changed so that they’re all about Tanya. A spontaneous dance number has erupted in our hallway. I’ve been elected secretary. It’s my job to record the proceedings.

Um…step kick kick…and…jazz hands.

Thanks, Tanya.

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