With Fiction & Non-Fiction Picture Book Author, Janet Halfmann
Friday, December 8, 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.
My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, an 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!
Today, we welcome Janet Halfmann to the ABC Game. She is the author of many fiction and non-fiction picture books, many of which are about animals. But not all.
[And this is timely: she has a special holiday promotion going right now and your opportunity for this ends December 15! Signed Books for the Holidays ]
Here are a few of my favorites:
Below is Janet’s category list from A – Z and her answers off the top of her head.
AUTHOR OF A RECENT BOOK YOU READ: Sandy Brehl
DAY OF THE WEEK: Monday
ICE CREAM FLAVOR: Death by Chocolate
JELLYBEANS ARE: rewards at my grandson’s school
KNOW HOW TO: use my green thumb
NON-FICTION BOOK: ‘Once Upon an Elephant’
ONOMATOPOEIA WORD: munch
QUOTE: Love your neighbor as yourself
SYNONYM FOR GREAT: amazing
TELEVISION SHOW: PBS NewsHour
UNUSUAL COMBINATION: homemade sour pickles and milk
VACATION SPOT: secluded cabin in the woods in winter
WEATHER TERM: balmy
X WORD: xylophone
YEAR AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: 1967, 1969, 1973, 1985—the years our kids were born
ZODIAC SIGN: never can remember these signs
ME: I have to ask, have you ever tried homemade sour pickles and milk?
JH: Yes, this combo was a favorite when I was a child. I would bite off a piece of pickle, take a gulp of milk, savor the two together, and then swallow the concoction. My mother and I used to can lots of pickles from our garden and also put many in a crock for eating fresh.
ME: I used to can pickles with my mom too! Our dogs hated the smell though.
Many of your books are about animals. One of my favorites happens to be about the animal in your reptile answer: skink. Have you ever held one and what were your research methods while writing this book?
JH: I have never held a skink nor would I want to because the fright would likely make the critter snap off its tail. Growing the tail back takes a lot of the skink’s energy. I had never seen a blue-tailed skink before I wrote the book, but I have seen them since when we vacationed in Florida and Mississippi, where they are more plentiful than in Wisconsin where I live. In Mississippi, we were climbing the steps of a monument when one of the people in our tour group saw a little skink and picked it up to put it out of harm’s way—and sure enough it snapped off its tail! I was heartbroken!
I decided to write “Little Skink’s Tail” after writing an educational nonfiction book about all kinds of skinks. In researching the first book, I became fascinated by skinks and their ability to snap off their tails, which kept on wiggling to distract predators. In researching both books I read a lot of books and online articles about skinks, especially those written by scientists and naturalists in the field. I also spent a great deal of time trying to come up with just the right fun phrase for Little Skink to say about each animal tail that she tried on while waiting for her tail to grow back.
ME: Awww. Poor little skink. You make a great point about dealing with wildlife. Thank you! You portray animals beautifully in your books. As you said, you read a lot of books and did immense research, which shows you are an avid reader. You wrote Sandy Brehl as the author of the last book you read. What is the title of the book and what about the book did you like?
JH: The book I read was “Odin’s Promise,” and I’m now in the process of reading the second book in this middle-grade trilogy, “Bjorn’s Gift.” I need to get busy because the third book in the set, “Mari’s Hope,” is now out.
I must admit that most of the extra time I’ve had in the twenty-one months since our newest grandson was born has been spent in playing and spending time with him—and every minute is delightful. He’s inspired several new stories, which are waiting for publishers.
To get back to “Odin’s Promise,” I liked how the book made me feel so close to eleven-year-old Mari and her family, and care so much about what happened to them. I also liked learning about the Norwegian resistance during World War II, an aspect of history I was unaware of before.
ME: I finished that trilogy two weeks ago. Like you, I learned an aspect of history I had never known about. The trilogy is amazing!
Speaking of amazing . . . you have a green thumb! Makes sense how rainwater came to mind first for the liquid category. Having the knack to grow things, to me, is a superhuman power. Therefore, you are a SuperHero! Do you have a garden (s) and what would we find in your garden(s)?
JH: I grew up on a farm and my family always had a large garden. As the only girl in the family, I spent a lot of time with my mother in the garden. I also have had a garden most of my adult life, and have one now. I have a fairly large vegetable garden with veggies for using for meals and also for making spaghetti sauce, chili, and other dishes for freezing for the winter. I also have flower gardens, and especially like to grow edible flowers, perennials, sunflowers for the birds, and plants for butterfly caterpillars.
ME: You connect with the earth, another reason we get along so well! And we have game choices in common. I love to play Scrabble! Do you play Scrabble and when you do, do you play for the most points per word or try to play unusual words?
JH: My husband and I play Scrabble to relax in the evening, and play mostly for the fun and togetherness of it rather than to be competitive. We both get excited when one of us is able to form a long word or create a play with lots of points.
ME: I like the way you play! 😊 And it’s perfect for cozy evenings in a secluded cabin in the woods in winter. Is this a vacation spot for you or is this a bucket list vacation spot? Would you choose to be connected or disconnected to internet and television while vacationing?
JH: My husband and I got married in January and usually try to go away for days or a week for our anniversary. We love to stay in cabins and the more secluded the better because it then seems like the whole world is ours. We like TV to watch movies and I like the internet to keep at least a bit up on the news and to find information on things to do around us. But mostly we enjoy the solitude of the cabin and its natural surroundings.
ME: Sounds enchanting! A wonderful way to celebrate your anniversary.
I chuckled when I read ‘frog’ as your Prince answer. I expected a name to follow that category but you delighted me with your answer. And I agree that 1967 is a great year! (I was born that year as well. :))
You have a warm sense of humor, which also shows in your books. Can you share with us your next book due to come out? Have you infused a little humor in it as well?
JH: My next book is a true story and very serious, so it doesn’t have any humor. But I am prouder of this book than perhaps any of my others. Titled “Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School,” the book will release this February from Lee & Low Books and is illustrated by London Ladd. It has been many years in the making, and is the story of an enslaved woman who ran a secret midnight school in Mississippi in the mid 1800’s under fear of being whipped for her actions, and who continued to teach after the Civil War. Her complete story has never before been told, so I feel so honored to be able to share it with the world. Plus, I recently found out that the book got a STARRED REVIEW from Kirkus Reviews, which I hope will attract lots of attention for this amazing woman’s story.
ME: Congratulations on the upcoming book and the starred review!!! I will definitely be buying this book! Many of your books have earned awards.
Thank you Janet for being this week’s contestant! It’s always a joy to connect with you.
JH: Thanks so much for asking me to be a part of this fun series. I’ve enjoyed getting glimpses into the “book” lives of those who have participated before me, and I hope others enjoy learning some unique things about me and my books.
Readers, if you would like to learn more about Janet and or/her books, please visit her website which has a special
“SIGNED BOOKS FOR THE HOLIDAYS!” promotion going on right now, which again ends December 15, 2017. http://janethalfmann.com/news-a-events
You can also find her on these social media:
Thank you for stopping by. Have a fantastic weekend everyone!
(p.s. Books make fantastic gifts for all ages because there’s a book for everyone.)