ABC Game With Picture Book Author Jamie A. Swenson

Jamie Swenson

September 22, 2017

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all. Which is how I came up with my ABC game. My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will share their ‘Top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.

Feel free to play along, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy!

Our ABC game contestant today is Jamie A. Swenson, author of big hit picture books,

Big Rig               Boom Boom Boom  If you were a dog

Below is Jamie’s ABC Game sheet.

Author:  Ann Bausum

Bird:  Roller Pigeon

Color:  Purple

Day of the Week:  Monday

Exercise:  Hiking

Flower:  Daisy

Game:  hopscotch

Holiday:  Halloween

Ice Cream:  Chocolate

Jellybeans are:  hideous (except for licorice/black jellybeans and some brands of red)

Know how to:  accept personal faults and work to change them

Liquid:  water

Month:  October

Non-fiction Book:  The March Against Fear by Ann Bausum

Onomatopoeia Word:  Arrrrroooooooo!

Prince:  Purple Rain

Quote:  “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

Reptile:  Leonardo DiGeckeo (our Leopard Gecko)

Synonym for great:  Fantabulous

Television Show:  Northern Exposure

Unusual Animal:  Axolotl

Vacation Spot:  Sanibel Island, FL

Weather Term:  Turbulence

X Word:  Xylophone

Year and Why it’s important:  1986 – I met my husband

Zodiac sign:  Scorpio


ME: Welcome Jamie! As I read your answers, I smiled, I laughed, and I paused as I pondered them. In times of turbulence, author A. A. Milne, knew how to lighten our hearts. “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

I agree with Pooh. We all know how much he loves lunch, breakfast, dinner, snack time, any time he can eat honey. What is your favorite food indulgence?

JS: Easy answer – peanut butter toast. I often take a pb toast break midmorning, or midafternoon, or midnight…

ME: Great choice!

Besides being a fantabulous picture book author, you are also a fantabulous children’s librarian. You know your children’s books! You named Ann Bausum in both the author and Non-fiction category of the game. Can you give us a brief description of her book, THE MARCH AGAINST FEAR and how that title came to mind?

JS: Ann Bausum is one of my author heroes. She is the type of writer who, when faced with a challenge, not only doesn’t back down – she may help change the world so other people do not need to face that same challenge. In today’s world, I can’t help to have Ann’s amazing civil rights books on my mind. THE MARCH AGAINST FEAR covers events surrounding James Meredith’s peaceful march protest in 1966 through Mississippi that resulted not only in Meredith being shot (he lived), but planted and watered the seeds of many of today’s movements. While the book highlights our history, read without context, one might believe it was about current events. I firmly believe that we must understand our past if we are to learn from it and make the world better for everyone.

ME: I just added THE MARCH AGAINST FEAR to my mustread list. Thank you for the recommendation.

You gave me a research opportunity (YAY!). I was not familiar with the breed of roller pigeons so I looked them up. They are a domesticated breed of pigeons that are raised and sold for their ability to tumble and roll in the air. roller pigeon

[Photo credit: ‘Birmingham Roller Pigeon’.]

I am intrigued with this new knowledge. What else can you tell us about them?

JS: I can tell you they are messy eaters – seeds everywhere – as they pick through for just their favorites, my word. They are also funny, affectionate, mischievous and bold. Our birds were rescues – they never did any racing – and will one day go back to live with my college-aged daughter (I’m just the babysitter!).

ME; Wow! Lucky birds. Speaking of unique/unusual animals, you named axolotl.  Not only are they adorable and the cheeriest small aquatic animal, they are on the critically endangered list. Is there a specific reason axolotl came to mind so fast?

axolotl                                        [photo credit:]

JS: Both of my girls have dedicated their lives to animal/environmental education, welfare, and rehabilitation. Axolotls are endangered – as are many, many other amazing animals that we simply don’t think about very often. As an animal educator, my older daughter has, on occasion, cared for unusual creatures in our home. When this happens, I learn A LOT about their well-being, what it truly takes to care for them, and what we can do to help them out so they can remain in their own habitats. Namely – we need to help preserve their environments so they can continue to live in the world – instead of only in zoos or wildlife care centers – or history books. That’s why I picked axolotl. Someday I’ll tell you about the turkey vulture that spent the afternoon in my front hall while waiting to be transported to a rehabilitation facility …

ME:  Name the day for story time about the turkey vulture. 😊

You and your family inspire us. We need more people like you and your daughters in the world who care about the animals and keeping them around for the benefit of the earth, not the benefit of humans so much. Zoos and wildlife care centers are fine for short term but I believe like you do that animals belong in their natural environment. Humans need to cease taking over every piece of land.

We are fast approaching October, which coincides with three of your answers:




Are you a Scorpio and are Halloween and October favorites for you in their categories? If so, what about them makes them your favorite? (p.s. My zodiac sign is Scorpio).

JS: I am an October baby. My birthday is close to Halloween – and often my parties included costumes, haunted houses, and lovely fall cakes. As a children’s author and librarian, I spend an awful lot of time talking with parents about the importance of play – not only for children, but for adults as well. Young children thrive when they see their adults having fun – reading, singing, playing – especially around books! October, with its costumes and focus on kids having fun, is a natural tie-in for make-believe and playfulness. While I picked October – I believe in playing year-round. Grin.

ME:  Agreed! Year round playtime is necessary for the mind and spirit. 😊

Two of your answers surprised me and made me grin. You wrote PURPLE RAIN for the PRINCE category and NORTHERN EXPOSURE for the TELEVISION category. You thought outside of the box with your Prince answer. LOVE PURPLE RAIN AND PRINCE!  I think you get two points for that answer. 😊 And not many people would think of NORTHERN EXPOSURE off the top of their heads. Elaine Miles played Marilyn Whirlwind who was my favorite character for her wit and Native American ways. What do you remember about this show?

JS: First off, when you say Prince – I think Purple Rain and the 80s immediately! Those were my middle school years and my friends and I loved Prince so much that we even did an air guitar, lip syncing tribute to him in front of the whole school. This was a huge mistake because none of us had any actual talent. Even our air guitar was terrible. From what I was told immediately following the performance, it was painful to watch (middle schoolers are honest to a fault). In fact, people still ask me if I remember that time I did air guitar to Purple Rain … um… yes… and I sort of wish I didn’t … but hey. We loved Prince!

NORTHERN EXPOSURE was quirky. The music was amazing (I wore my cassette tape soundtrack out) – and the characters were so real (even as they were exaggerated and sometimes mystical things happened to them). That show was packed with these amazing, strong women – Marilyn knew who she was period. Maggie and Ruth Ann made their own ways in the world. Even Shelly – one of the youngest – followed her heart. IN fact, the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska was even founded by some bad-ass women. I was in college watching this crazy show with all these great women characters, and it meant something to me. I still think to myself, “It’s not the thing you fling, it’s the fling itself” that matters!

ME:  You have more guts than I did in middle school. Regarding NORTHERN EXPOSURE, it ended too soon. But I am happy it had an impact on you… clearly coolness stuck with you.

Geckos are some of the coolest animals around. We would love to hear more about Leonardo DiGeckeo (fantabulous name by the way).

JS:  Leonardo was named during my younger daughter’s Leonardo DiCaprio phase (most of us have had a Leo phase, haven’t we???) Leopard Geckos are the essence of cool, in my opinion, and Leonardo is no exception. Leonardo came to live with us around the time my younger daughter counted the creatures in our house and discovered she was two or three behind her older sister and needed to catch up. I do not mind creatures with two to four legs. Too few legs – it had better be a fish – too many – and it had better stay in its home!

ME:  Yup, anything with more than four legs is not allowed in my home either.

Thank you Jamie for playing this week! In addition to the books mentioned above, you have a big autumn coming up. MEET WOOF & QUACK and WOOF & QUACK IN WINTER both published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) come out!! And in 2018, WINDFALL BALL, published by Carolrhoda, debuts. Please share more about these books here:

meet woof & quack            woof & quack in winter

JS: I’m so excited to be working on an easy reader series with HMH. Woof and Quack are level one readers perfect for those just beginning to read on their own. As a librarian, I have always enjoyed funny easy readers with their gentle humor and just right plots. It’s important to give kids books at their level that they’ll want to read. Humor is often the key to this, so I knew that if I were to write at this level – it would need to be humorous. Then, when I thought about the characters of Woof and Quack in MEET WOOF AND QUACK, I thought about unlikely friends – and how sometimes we make assumptions about new friends and are surprised when we learn more about them. I wanted to take this concept of stereotypes and make it accessible to little people – to help them see that just because we think someone is one way – that doesn’t mean that they ARE that way. Woof is a dog who does not like to fetch things. This surprises Quack. Quack is a duck who loves to fetch – and that surprises Woof. In WOOF AND QUACK IN WINTER I play a little bit with expectation, but also with what it means to have the type of friend who is willing to stay in the cold and snow to be with you instead of flying south to the nice warm weather!

WINDFALL BALL (that’s the current title, but it may change) is basically my ode to autumn (the season I love the most). I have seen some early sketches and can say that the illustrator, Chiara Fedele, brings such beautiful movement into the book with her art – I can’t wait to see the final version and share it with everyone next year!

Thank you for inviting me to play with you, Traci – it was a lot of fun! And, hey, that Purple Rain air guitar thing – you’re not going to tell anyone about that – right??? GRIN.

ME:  Nooooooo, I’m not going to tell anyone. 😉 

Thank you reader for stopping by for this weeks’ edition of ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD. If you would like to know more about Jamie, you can find her on:


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Have a fantabulous weekend!


#justkeepwriting #justkeepwriting





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