Every family has a bedtime routine and most include books. We have our stack of favorites but after the zillionth time reading certain (ahem – I’m looking at you, Good Night, Moon) it is wonderful to discover a new one. Today we’re celebrating the release of our new favorite bedtime book:
HELP WANTED: Must Love Books
by Janet Sumner Johnson (author) and Courtney Dawson (illustrator)
Capstone Editions 2020
picture book for ages 4-7
themes: bedtime, fairy tales, father-daughter relationships, reading
The book begins…
Unlike most kids, Shailey loved bedtime.
She’d shimmy into her pj’s,
brush her sparkling smile,
then raid the bookshelf for the perfect bedtime stories.
When I read this first spread, I knew I was in for a treat because I love books about books and reading!
Shailey’s dad read to her every night until his new job made him too tired to read.
Shailey posts a notice for a new bedtime storyteller and storybook characters answer her ad!
Well, there’s something wrong with each of them. The Gingerbread Boy runs off with the books, the Giant is too scary, and Goldilocks can’t decide where to sit.
Fortunately, one applicant shows up and is just right!
Why I think you need to add this to your bookshelf:
- The relationship between Shailey and her father is so sweet and they both love books
- The appearance of familiar storybook characters will have kids in hysterics
- Shailey’s personality is spunky and resourceful
- The resumes are clever and fun
- The illustrations are happy and adorable
- We all need a new bedtime book!
Janet also blogs and I enjoy reading the book reviews she posts. She was willing to answer some Field Trip Life questions:
Tell us a bit about how you came to be a writer and how long you have been submitting books?
Janet: I have always enjoyed reading and writing. I was writing for my own amusement through high school and college, but I didn’t decide I wanted to be an author until I was 25. With starting a family, and jobs, and moves, my writing progress was pretty slow. Perhaps a timeline of my writing career would be easiest:
2002: Decided I wanted to be an author. Read “Writing for Children” to learn the ropes.
2002: Completed my first ever novel (MG contemporary).
2002: Queried one agent. Rejected by one agent. Gave up writing.
2006: Joined SCBWI and Attended my first conference (the KS SCBWI conference).
2006: Joined my first critique group.
2009: Completed my second ever novel (YA Fantasy).
2010: Started a writing blog in the heyday of the kidlit blogosphere. Met so many other amazing writers and learned so much about the publishing world.
2011: Completed my third novel (MG Contemporary), which became my debut.
2012: Landed my first agent.
2015: Sold my debut MG novel.
2016: Release of my debut MG novel
2016: Break-up w/first agent; Signed w/second agent.
2018: Sold my debut picture book.
2020: Release of my debut picture book!
A timeline gives a quick overview, but it doesn’t include so much. I have been on submission with other novels and other picture books and racked up quite a bit of rejection and quite a few shelved books. There’s a lot of pushing on when I didn’t believe it would ever happen for me. There were a lot of writing friends that kept me focused. It’s a long and windy path, but I’m so grateful to be where I am. I love writing for children!
Help Wanted: Must love books includes famous fairy tale characters. How did you decide which ones to include?
Janet: Initially, I brainstormed a long list of fairy tale characters, and wrote a quick note about why they were a bad fit as a bedtime story teller. At that point, I chose who I thought was the funniest for kids.
But as I revised, I chose them based on their flaws as a bedtime storyteller, and how well their flaws fit with other character’s flaws. For example, Goldilocks and Sleeping Beauty both had sleeping issues, and so they went really well together. That process was sometimes pretty tricky!
What book is on your nightstand?
Janet: Currently, this is the stack:
The Hero is You by Kendra Levin (a writing book)
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (you never know when you might need it to plot a story idea)
Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Nielsen (I finished it, but haven’t put it away)
A Dastardly Plot (A Perilous Journey of Danger and Mayhem, #1) by Christopher Healy
What do you always carry in your backpack?
Janet: A bandage. You never know when you or someone around you is going to need it!
That’s a great idea. I think I need to add some bandages to my backpack!
What’s your favorite on-the-road travel snack?
Janet: Nuts (almonds and cashews) and peanut M&Ms. They are filling and easy to pack. Also, they don’t squash!
I know you like to travel. Is there a special place you’d like to visit?
Janet: I have so many places on my list, that it’s really hard to choose. I have a sister (she was a foreign exchange student who lived my family for years) I’d love to visit in Taiwan. I have always wanted to spend time in Ireland and Scotland and visit all the places. New Zealand is right up there. I will stop there, but I could go on for a while.
Janet: For now, it’s just writing and revising and revising and revising. Basically, keeping on even when it’s hard.
Thanks for sharing with us, Janet. I can’t wait to share Help Wanted: Must Love Books!
Take a look at Janet’s blog and learn more about her and the process of writing HELP WANTED: MUST LOVE BOOKS
I love Courtney Dawson’s illustrations! To see more and learn about this talented illustrator look here.