Star-Bulletin Features

Sunday, May 12, 2002

"Just Moms" by Bonnie Louise Kuchler (Willow Creek Press, hardcover; $14.95)

Book pairs animal shots
with maternal wisdom

Review by Nadine Kam

Bonnie Kuchler spent many a slow evening in her Calendar Club store. Common sales practice is to look busy, just in case the boss walks in, except she was the boss, and she whiled away the boredom by looking at all the calendars and quote books.

"You know all those thought-of-the-day calendars? I read 'em all. The store was in the worst location of Ala Moana Center, on the third floor, and nobody came. But something wonderful came from it."

That something wonderful is her book "Just Moms," a compilation of parenting quotes coupled with photographs of mother-and-child animal pairs.

"That first little cry is mightier than the cheers of 10,000 people" is the anonymous quote running with a photo of a 10-day-old grizzly bear cub nestled in its mother's fur.

Bill Cosby offers the humorous nugget, "No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior, and I'm not talking about the kids. Their behavior is always normal." It's juxtaposed with a photo of a calm baby orangutan, over which hovers Mom, looking goofy with a branch hanging out of her mouth.

"I love mommy-and-baby animal pictures," Kuchler said. "I collect them, and I started thinking, why is there no calendar for this?"

She sent a five-book proposal to Willow Creek Press last March and got the green light seven days later. She started work on her book as soon as she closed her seasonal store, which she doesn't know whether to bring back this year.

"I solicited photos from the best wildlife photographers, and they would send me 25 to 300 slides at a time. Then I'd have to go through them to match the quotes. I read every quote book out there about children, parenting, mothers."

And she had a certain amount of experience to draw from to make sure those quotes rang true, having raised and home-schooled two children.

"There's no man -- unless he's a single parent -- or child in the world who knows what a mom goes through. It's gotta be the hardest job in the world because there are so many decisions to make and so much riding on each decision. Each one is gonna affect your child's whole life."

She credits her own mom for giving her an appreciation of photography. Both her parents are photographers. Kuchler's mother is the Elizabeth (nee Brush) of the Elizabeth and George photo studio that was in Ala Moana Center from the late '50s to '70s.

"She'd bring her work home and say, 'Look at the lighting, look at the composition,' always imparting her knowledge. Even though I never became a photographer, I was exposed to it, and I'd look for certain things while going through the animal photos."

The animal-loving author has three Jack Russell terriers, and the two females each gave birth to one litter. Although she took pictures of parents and pups, she doesn't think her skills are good enough for her book series. The newest, "Just Dads," is ready for Father's Day.

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