Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tea Collection for the Holidays

Ready or not the Holiday season is upon us! And Tea Collection is a great place to shop for kids’ clothes! Tea Collection will be having a special Black Friday sale featuring $15 dresses for girls and $15 pants for boys valid 11/25 through 11/27.

Here are some of my absolute favorite gift ideas:

For girls, I love the Pinata Stripe Dress! This dress was inspired by the brightly colored striped pinatas in Mexico. The dress is made of 100% cotton and machine washable and is sure to create tons of fun. The Ticking Stripe Pant for boys is definitely a staple item for any outfit. These stylish striped pants are 100% cotton, machine washable! Keep children dreaming with Little Citizens Pajamas. This adorable pj set is inspired by Mexico's famous Arbol del Tule. Not only are these pj's adorable but proceeds from your sale will benefit the Global Fund for Children and their work advancing the dignity of children around the world. I also love the Art To Go Deluxe Set. This is the perfect gift for the little artist whose creativity won't be contained--even on the road! Let their imaginations run wild!

Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A trio of books

I wanted to share a trio of books today by Carl R Sams II and Jean Stoick. This pair of wildlife photographers have put together charming yet educational series of picture books using photographs of a young deer and other animals in nature. The books include: Lost in the Woods, First Snow in the Woods and Stranger in the Woods. In these books you follow a young deer through it's first year from when it is just born and finding it's way too it's first winter season. It's a fun way to share the changes in the season and in life with your own little ones. My favorite is Stranger in the Woods. It's the most surprising of the three and I just love the idea of a winter snowman built to feed the animals of the woods. There's even instructions in the back for creating your own 'feeding' snowman.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Imagination Station - Books 5&6

I have been anxiously awaiting the next two books in the Imagination Station series and they are finally here. I have to admit I'm hooked on this series. Showdown with the Shepherd by Marianne Hering and Brock Eastman is book #5 of this series. Book #6 is titled Problems in Plymouth by Marianne Hering and Marshal Younger and both are illustrated by David Hohn. With this series you get to travel through time on an adventure to the unknown to find objects or people all while having fun learning history and Biblical truths. I love the balance of the fun and the educational aspects of these books, it’s a great combination. In book #5 we travel back to Biblical times and meet non-other than young David as he's heading to take food to his brothers in battle against Philistines and Goliath. This is one of my children's favorite Bible passages and I know they are going to enjoy this twist to the story. It's so enjoyable to imagine what it would be like to step back in time to experience firsthand these historical events and these books do a great job in imagining just what it might have been like. And then there’s the very timely arrival of book #6 which takes readers back through time to the first Thanksgiving celebration at Plymouth. I think I might just skip out of order and read this with my two as part of our Thanksgiving reading this month. These books of course are written as part of a series but a great feature is the prologue which can be found at the beginning of all books that sets the background storyline of the previous books in case you decide to read them out of order, making it so you can easily transition into the adventure for any of the books. It is simply an exceptional series for young readers and I am once again anxious to see where the adventure will take us too next. Here's a sneak peek at book #7 & #8.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me complimentary copies of these books.

Imagination Station Blog Tour Q&A with Maria Hering
1. The first two books focus on the Vikings and ancient Rome. The next two books focus on Kubla Khan and the War of the Roses and now books five and six take readers to the Holy Land and back to Plymouth Rock. How did you and Paul decide which historical events to write about?

Paul and I aren’t the only ones who weigh into the decision. Paul and I have a creative team that also includes Adventures in Odyssey writer Nathan Hoobler, book publishing director Larry Weeden, and marketing manager Brock Eastman. I’m fortunate to have such a well-rounded and experienced bunch helping decide on setting, cover scene, and title. All that said, I do most of the research or verify the other writers’ research for the book’s outline. I’ve written a lot of historical fiction and had many of the ideas for settings and conversations in my mind and heart for years. I try to choose moments in history that reveal a hero’s Christian character and are historically accurate. The exception is book 4, Revenge of the Red Knight, which covered the War of the Roses. Because that war was so convoluted and political, it was difficult to find a well-defined real-life hero we could hold up as a role model. The hero, Sir Andrew, in that book is 100 percent fiction. The other books all have a true-life hero as a role model.

2. How true to history are Showdown with the Shepherd and Problems at Plymouth?

Let me start by informing readers that it’s my intent to answer all of these questions on website. The historical information is already posted in the parents section for books 1 and 2, and book 7’s material will be posted momentarily. I’m working on filling in the “what’s true and what’s not true” material for books 3, 4, 5, and 6. Hopefully in the next week.

Showdown with the Shepherd expands on the David and Goliath story. For readers who are not familiar with the story, we kept it as biblical as possible while adding three time travelers and a catapult. The Philistines are still gruesome and fearful and want to take the Israelites as slaves. Young shepherd boy David is mocked by his brothers. King Saul is still afraid to fight Goliath himself. David still whomps Goliath with God’s help. (I did get Goliath’s helmet wrong on the cover. The Philistine helmets had a funky topper.--I missed this because I was on vacation when the cover roughs came through and I didn’t check everything as carefully as I should have. Sorry for that. I work hard to get the details of the art to be accurate and feel bad when I overlook an important detail.) The setting was as accurate as I could make it. I did ask my boss to pay for me to fly to the Valley of Elah for “research,” but he wisely thought that would be a waste of ministry resources. :-)

Problems in Plymouth—the events all happened, just over a longer period of time than it did in the book. In reality, these events happened over about a year period. In the book it’s two days. John Billington and his family are real. John did get lost. Mr. Billington didn’t agree with William Bradford on what to do about Indian relations. Chiefs Aspinet and Yellow Feather are real. The Pilgrims did accidentally shoot some innocent Indians. The doctor is real. The issue of the stolen corn is real. The Pilgrims did fear that Squanto was kidnapped, and they set out to rescue him. The Pilgrims did bury their gun powder. The storage room did exist. The meeting house was described accurately as were the cannons. There were several types of muskets models used by the Pilgrims. The details of the first Thanksgiving were basically accurate. We depicted the traditional bell-shaped blunderbuss. However, many Pilgrims probably had muskets without the bell-shaped musket. Marshal Younger and I took some small liberties with the history (besides, of course, Hugh and the cousins). For example I’m not sure who was actually on the shallop that came to rescue John Billington. The dialogue between Bradford and Standish was based on research, but the actual words were fictionalized. We did try to quote Bradford in some places, but his language was so outdated we had to modify it a lot.

3. These books are geared towards young readers, ages 7 and up. What is the number one issue that children learning to read struggle with?

Speed processing. The kids who are slower reading learners usually need more help with sight words and fluency. That’s just practice at an accessible reading level. These are just slower readers in general—I’m not counting kids with true auditory processing issues or other learning disabilities, which represent between 3 and 10 percent. Most kids can learn to read better with one-on-one instruction and a loving atmosphere. I’ve posted reading tips on the website for each book and lists of words to practice before tackling a chapter. See

4. What kinds of books do you recommend children read?

I don’t only recommend books. There are fabulous magazines out there for this age group. Not all kids like fiction, so magazines draw them in with nonfiction and pictures. There are some good book series out there—I personally give my children the tried-and-true series written years ago, like Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books. My boys enjoyed the Horrible Harry books by Suzy Kline. My daughter was a Gertrude Chandler Warner/Boxcar Children fanatic. Parents can ask librarians to recommend books. One of my sons loves anything about animals in the nonfiction section—I don’t make him read fiction unless it’s for school. I do have to review their books first, and that can take a lot of time, but it’s worth it.

5. What are some ways that parents can help their children develop their reading skills?
(Get their vision checked for not only vision but for tracking issues as well.) Turn off the electronics and make reading a fun time. You can read to them or they can read to you. Make reading an event. Your kids will complain for about two weeks while the electronic addiction wears off. Then they will be better able to engage in literary pursuits. For free reading, let your kids read “easy” books. Don’t judge. If they want to read Hop on Pop twenty times, that means that’s where they are comfortable. If you push your kids beyond what they perceive to be the right level, they will rebel. Better a lot of fluent reading at an easy level than choppy reading at a higher level. Reading with starts and stops is a bad habit to let them get into.

6. Can you give us any “sneak peeks” into what we can expect in future books?
Here’s the not-so-sneak peek. Book 7 is advertised in book 6, and I already have material about it on Book 7 is set in ancient Egypt and involves a mummy and a scary tomb. Book 7 is at the printer right now. It’s my favorite cover so far

Book 8 is exciting because we have a new author joining our team. We’re writing this one with best-selling Christian author Wayne Thomas Batson. We wanted to tell a pirate story, and since he’s an expert and had already written some fabulous pirate stories, we asked him to help us. Book 8’s title is Mystery of Starlight Island. Look for Wayne Thomas Batson’s “Focus on the Family approved” pirate books, The Isle of Swords and The Isle of Fire (for upper elementary and tween readers). Go to and type Wayne Batson in the search box.

Book 9 sneak-peek. We’re going to the most modern setting yet. The kids will be visiting a famous person who lived during WWII.