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September 12th, 2008

I’m pleased to introduce multi-published Wisconsin author, Janet Halfmann, as my special guest to KidLit Central News. Welcome! (round of applause erupts!)

 
Janet Halfmann is the author of thirty children’s books. Her most recent picture book Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story (Lee & Low Books, June 2008) received a starred review from Kirkus. Her fiction picture book Little Skink’s Tail (Sylvan Dell Publishing, Aug. 2007) is a finalist for the President’s Book Awards of the Florida Publishers Association. She also has written many nonfiction picture books for Soundprints, which publishes nature stories in association with the Smithsonian Institution. Janet also is the author of many nonfiction books for the educational market.
 
Before becoming a full-time children’s author, Janet created coloring and activity books for Golden Books in Racine, WI, was the managing editor of the national magazine Country Kids based in Greendale, WI, and was a daily newspaper reporter in Wichita, Kansas. Janet is the mother of four and the grandmother of four. She lives with her husband in South Milwaukee, WI. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, working in her garden, exploring nature, and visiting new places.
 
Tell us about your latest book, Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story, illustrated by Duane Smith (Lee & Low Books, 2008).
 

It is the true story of Robert Smalls, who was the pilot of a Confederate gunboat in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, during the Civil War. But he favored the Union side in the war. As the boat’s pilot, he learned the secret whistle signals for passing the many forts in the harbor. He and the crew planned to steal the boat while the white officers were ashore overnight. Robert’s and the crew’s families hid on a nearby boat to be picked up on the way. With Robert disguised as the captain, the ship sailed successfully to the Union fleet anchored just outside the harbor. In this way, Robert and the others won their freedom. For the rest of the war, Robert worked as a pilot for the Union and later served five terms in Congress.
 
Why did you write Seven Miles to Freedom?
 
I wanted to write a true story about a minority hero. So many of the great feats of minorities have never been told and I wanted to help change that in some small way. In researching minority accomplishments, I came across a few lines about Robert Smalls, kept digging further, and was amazed by his story. I felt that readers would be as captivated by his bravery and daring as I was. In addition, he is a wonderful role model for all children, having spent his entire life trying to make the world a better place for all people.
 
You've also had a lot of success writing books on animals and nature. Tell us where your inspiration comes from and about some of your books.

I was born and raised on a farm in mid-Michigan. My dad was what I call a farmer’s farmer. He loved animals and the land, and I think his love of nature rubbed off on me. Today, I am an avid gardener and love exploring nature.
 
My most recent nature book and also my very first fiction book is Little Skink’s Tail, illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein (Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2007). Having a fiction story published has long been my dream, so this book is very close to my heart. It’s the story of Little Skink, who snaps off her bright blue tail to escape a hungry crow, then daydreams of having the tails of other forest animals. While she’s daydreaming, her own tail grows back! It’s a fun story with quite a bit of science. The book also encourages children to be comfortable with themselves as they are.

Little Skink's Tail won a 2009 Teachers' Choice Award from Learning Magazine, and is also a finalist for the 2008 President's Book Awards of the Florida Publishers Association.

I’ve also written many animal stories for Soundprints, which publishes nature books in association with the Smithsonian Institution. The text, art, and even the stuffed animals that are sold with the books are all checked for accuracy by curators at the Smithsonian Institution. Although the books are nonfiction, they still tell a story. Some of my most recent titles are Hermit Crab’s Home: Safe in a Shell, Alligator at Saw Grass Road, and Polar Bear Horizon.
 
Books by Janet Halfmann:
Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story, Lee & Low Books 2008
 
Little Skink’s Tail, Sylvan Dell Publishing 2007
 
Soundprints (Smithsonian Oceanic Collection)
Hermit Crab’s Home: Safe in a Shell, Soundprints 2007
Polar Bear Horizon, Soundprints 2006
Dolphin’s Rescue, Soundprints 2005
Pelican’s Catch, Soundprints 2004
 
Soundprints (Smithsonian’s Backyard)
Alligator at Saw Grass Road, Soundprints 2006
Canada Goose at Cattail Lane, Soundprints 2005.
Red Bat at Sleepy Hollow Lane, Soundprints 2004
 
Plant Tricksters, Franklin Watts (imprint of Scholastic), 2003
 
The Tallest Building (The Petronas Twin Towers), KidHaven Press (imprint of Thomson Gale), 2004
 
Skyscrapers, Smart Apple Media, 2003
 
“Nature’s Predators” series, KidHaven Press
Mongoose, 2005
Lizards, 2004
Scorpions, 2003
 
“Let’s Investigate” series, Creative Education
Peanuts, 2002
Spiders, 2002
 
“LifeViews” series, Creative Education, 2000-2001
Life in a Garden; Life in a Pond; Life in the Sea; Life Under a Stone; Life in a Tide Pool; Life in a Tree
 
“Designing the Future” series, Creative Education, 2000
Greek Temples; Mosques; Theaters
 
“Bugbooks” series, Smart Apple Media, 1999
Ants; Dragonflies; Fireflies; Grasshoppers

Thank you for stopping by and spending time with us, Janet! Congratulations on all of your success.

Lisa Rondinelli Albert
Wisconsin