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Trick or Treat with JaNay Brown-Wood!

Welcome to #SeasonsOfKidLit, parents, librarians, book fanatics, writers, and readers of all sorts! I'm extremely excited to present our wonderful guest today. PhD, Author, and Educator JaNay Brown-Wood is here to discuss her adorably fitting books for the season. JaNay's Where in the Garden series (illustrated by Samara Hardy) follows Amara, Linh, Miguel, and Logan on many fun and informative adventures centered around gardens. Want to know more about JaNay, her characters, and all the beautiful books she's written? Read on...

Q: Hi, JaNay. Thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit! You’re an award-winning author of 17 books (and counting!), hold a PhD, and are a literacy advocate. Needless to say, I’m thrilled you could join! Can you share more about yourself and about your mission in publishing?

A: Thank you for the kind words! I feel super lucky to be able to do this work!

Something interesting about me is that while I always loved writing, I despised reading independently as a child. I very rarely found books that captivated me and I often avoided reading when I could, unless someone was reading to me, which I did enjoy. But writing—that was something I LOVED doing. As an adult, I reflect on whether I didn’t like to read because I couldn’t find myself in books. Back then, so few books included African American female protagonists that I could connect with, and even today there just is not enough diversity included in children’s books. It’s getting better, but more is needed. And on top of that, I had an interest in child development, education, and finding ways to support children as they grow. All of these interests and self-revelations led me to writing for children, conducting research related to diversity in children’s books, and presenting about these subjects. My interests allow me to wear many hats: Author, Educator, Advocate, and so on. Thus, I strive to write stories where children from various backgrounds can find themselves on the pages of books in authentic ways and that also educate and entertain them. I also work hard to share my knowledge with adults through classes, workshops, presentations, and other means that I feel helps me advocate for children, diverse books, and literacy. Each are BIG jobs, but I feel so fortunate to be able to do them!

Q: When did you first realize you wanted to become an author for children?

A: I always knew I wanted to write. I was the crazy kid making up songs and stories and dances with my cousins and friends. I enjoyed performing and sharing my work and was encouraged by my family and teachers. No joke, but, my sixth-grade teacher made a prediction that I’d become a “best-selling author,” so it has been a part of my identity for as far back as I can remember. Then, during undergrad at UCLA, I took a few classes here and there, and when I graduated, that’s when I decided to take the plunge and try to get published. I joined SCBWI, studied children’s books and writing, wrote and revised like a mad-woman, and the rest is history.

Q: Amara’s Garden, from your Where in the Garden Series, follows Amara as she searches her garden for pumpkins - the perfect food for fall. What can readers expect to see and learn when flipping through the pages of this adorable book?

A: Ah yes, the WHERE IN THE GARDEN SERIES written by me, illustrated by Samara Hardy, and published by Peachtree Publishing. These books have been so much fun to write! They feature a cast of diverse characters in various gardens, and each are on a hunt for a specific plant or produce. These books are excellent for introducing young children to different types of plants and produce (both familiar and unfamiliar). For example, not only can you find apples and pumpkins in Amara’s book, but there is also kumquats and figs! Children get a chance to see what these produce look like, and compare and contrast them to pumpkins. That’s another great thing about these books—the compare and contrast practice. The ability to problem solve and to recognize similarities and differences are skills that are important for young learners to develop and refine, and these books give them a chance to do this in an engaging way. On top of all of this, each book includes a recipe that children can make with an adult helper AND I have created some fun “Cooking with JaNay” videos where I help two children (my daughter and nephew) prepare the same dish featured in the book. So much fun! Here’s a link to the videos if you are interested:

Q: Miguel’s Community Garden, Linh's Rooftop Garden, and Logan’s Greenhouse (coming October 25th!), are additional titles from your Where in the Garden Series. How are these the perfect companion books to Amara’s Garden?

Yes, the series includes four books and they feature lots of diversity! MIGUEL’S COMMUNITY GARDEN includes a young Hispanic American boy, his pet turtle, and his two fathers and readers help him search for his sunflowers. LOGAN’S GREENHOUSE features a young White boy who uses a wheelchair, his pet chameleon, and his mother and father, and readers help him look for his carrots. Of course, AMARA’S FARM features a young Black girl, her pet dog, and her grandparents, and readers help her search for her pumpkins. Finally, LINH’S ROOFTOP GARDEN features a young Asian American girl, her pet cat, as well as her single mother and her grandparents, and we help her find her blueberries. Each of these main characters are featured in every book, so readers enjoy spotting all four of them at the end of each book.

Q: What makes your Where in the Garden Series the perfect fall, or anytime, read?

A: The WHERE IN THE GARDEN series is really great for anytime of the year! Each book pairs beautifully with a different season of the year and produce that grows during that time (particularly, in California). For example, something that’s really nice about AMARA’S FARM is that readers can learn about pumpkins and fall treats without ever having to mention Halloween, which means it works for every month in fall and for those who do and do not celebrate Halloween.

Thanks again for joining us, JaNay! We can't wait to check out your beautiful books!

Q: Would you like to leave a Trick or a Treat for the readers?

A: Today, I would like to leave a treat! I have found that many readers love the aprons that I wear to visits, events, and in the Cooking with JaNay videos. The aprons are actually pulled right from the end pages of each of the WHERE IN THE GARDEN books. So, my treat is this: A signed copy of the newest GARDEN book to publish LOGAN’S GREENHOUSE and a matching apron!

Hopefully the winner will send me a snap shop while wearing the apron! 😊

How cool! Thanks for such a wonderful treat!

Contest Details: To enter to win a signed copy of Logan's Greenhouse AND a matching apron, comment below and let JaNay know why you can wait to check out this series! The winner will be announced on or about November 4th.

*Note: Book giveaways will be shipped in the US only.

Reminder: Those who leave a comment on all posts will be eligible to win one (1) of ten (10) Rate Your Story Speed Passes.

About JaNay Brown-Wood:

JaNay Brown-Wood, PhD, is an award-winning children’s author, poet, educator, and scholar. Her first children’s book Imani’s Moon won the NAESP Children’s Book of the Year Award and was featured on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show and Storytime with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her second book Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story! received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly and won the CELI Read Aloud Book Award, and her third book SHHH! The Baby’s Asleep received a starred review from School Library Journal. She enjoys writing, discussing the importance of authentic diversity in children’s literature, teaching about child development and literacy, and spending time with her husband, Catrayel, and her daughter, Vivian. JaNay has at least ten forthcoming picture books including the Love Puppies chapter book series (Scholastic Inc, 2023), Harriet Tubman and Simone Biles Little Golden Books (Random House, 2022 and 2023) and These Are the Seeds (Kids Can Press, 2024).

For more about JaNay:

Visit my website and subscribe to my FREE newsletter:

Follow me on Twitter: @janaybrownwood

Follow me on Instagram: @janaybrownwood

Watch the Cooking with JaNay videos (Logan’s Recipe coming soon!):

To purchase JaNay's books, or to leave a review, click here.

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