Friday, August 6, 2010

Fur and Features by Janet Halfmann: Blog Tour & Giveaway

This giveaway is now closed, thank you to everyone who entered and congratulations to Staci, comment #50, who said, "I'm following on Twitter @MommaStaciA. Thanks!"
One of our favorite children's authors Janet Halfmann has a newly released book. I'm a stop on her very first book blog tour! You might remember my reviews of her titles Little Ant on Park Street and Little Skink's Tail. Today she joins us for an author interview in promotion of her new book Fur and Feathers! Please view the book trailer below to learn a little bit about it (if you're reading this via email subscription please click over to see it.)

ER liked the story right away, intrigued by the idea of giving the animals new coverings. We love crafty things around here and had a lot of fun talking about how funny a polar bear would look with things like pom poms instead of fur.

She also loved how Sophia added her own touches to the animals like little stars on the ladybug instead of just dots. In fact the next time we saw a lady bug she inspected it for stars. She was a little disappointed that it wasn't Sophia's lady bug! I thought that was really cute. The story must have really come alive to my four year old.

While this story had a big shot of fantasy and make believe in it, there were still plenty of opportunities to talk about things science concepts like classification. I was very impressed by the online Teaching Activities provided by publisher Sylvan Dell to support the title. The art scavenger hunt and the various sets of animal sorting cards were great tools to use with Fur and Feathers. A very imaginative story with beautifully detailed illustrations, I could think of many educational connections for it. It'd be a great addition to a personal or classroom library! Now it's time for an interview with author Janet Halfmann!

Can you describe the writing process that went into writing Fur and Feathers?

I noticed on Sylvan Dell Publishing’s website that they were looking for a book on “animal wraps.” Right away, that topic intrigued me, so I brainstormed possibilities. Some of my ideas:
  • A child tries to figure out what to wear by visiting various animals—such as visiting a duck and deciding to wear a raincoat and boots.
  • A little monster tries on the coverings of various animals and finally decides he likes children’s clothes best.
  • A windy storm blows off all of the animals’ coats, mixing them up in a huge pile. A little monster gives the animals his T-shirts to wear while he helps the critters find their own clothes.
In the end, I kept the windy storm, but made it a dream storm, so the story could be more fanciful. The monster became a little girl named Sophia. I thought it would be silly and fun for Sophia to share her clothes with the animals, but the story needed something more. That’s when I thought of the huge sewing box I always had handy to fix or create whatever while my kids were growing up.

Sophia could use items from the sewing box to create new coats for the animals. It took lots of imagining to figure out what items might work to create some of the coats, such as the pinecones for the snake’s dry scales.

As I was writing the story, Sophia (or perhaps the kid in me) wanted to add special touches to the coats. Coming up with these, such as the little red heart behind the polar bear’s ear, was one of my favorite parts of writing the story.
How long does it take for a book to go from idea to published?

It varies greatly. Fur and Feathers took me only a few weeks to research and write. But other books, such as Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story, which required a great deal of research, took me about two years to write, counting all the revisions.

Once a manuscript is bought by a publisher (this can take years of submitting), it usually takes eighteen months or more before the book comes out. For Fur and Feathers, the time from idea to published book was about 2 1/2 years.
Are you involved in the illustration process?

The publisher almost always chooses the illustrator. Publishers work with many different illustrators and know who will do the best job on a particular book. Usually, the illustrator and author do not even talk to one another. I think it’s done this way so that the illustrator is free to create his/her vision of the story, just as I was free to write the story.

For some books, I’ve been shown sketches, mostly to see if something was inaccurate. But for other books, I didn’t see the art until the book was published.

The illustrator of Fur and Feathers is Laurie Allen Klein, who also illustrated my Sylvan Dell book Little Skink’s Tail. I was ecstatic when I found out Laurie would be doing the pictures! She even put Little Skink in the new book (look at the bottom of the whirling storm) and Little Skink’s Tail is on the bookshelf in Sophia’s room. What fun!
What kind of research went into writing Fur and Feathers?

I read every book I could find on animal coats and coverings, which I discovered was not many. I also looked for everything on animal coverings that I could find on the internet, which had many great resources from zoos and other educational and science organizations. I wanted to include critters from each animal group to make the book as educational as possible. Once I had chosen the animals to feature, I also researched their specific coverings.

What do you hope readers will take away or learn from your books?

I hope kids will come away with an appreciation and respect for all of nature. And I hope they will realize how every part of our world is interconnected—how the lives of people and polar bears and bats and fireflies all affect one another in so many ways.
What is the best part of writing books for young readers?

The best part is that I love what I do. I am living my dream. I love doing research, trying to make characters come alive, playing with words.

I also love seeing children enjoy the stories I write. Nothing makes me happier than when a child wants to hear one of my books again and again.

Is there something a fan of your books has told you that influenced what you write about or that was particularly meaningful to you?

Some reviewers of my books have said that they like how I make the reader care about the animals in my stories. That means a lot to me.
Janet and Laurie have personalized a hardcover copy of Fur and Feathers for one of my readers!

To win, tell me who you'd like read it to and why {or} leave a question for Janet Halfmann or the illustrator Laurie Allen Klein, in the comment section.

For Extra Entries:
I'd love it you'd like to follow me via Google Friends Connect, email, Facebook, or Twitter so you'll be the first to know about giveaway opportunties in the future! Spreading the word is also appreciated. Just let me know what you do in a separate comment for each.

Giveaway open now through August 20th to US residents. Good Luck!

For More Chances to Win:
I'm the second blog to host the Fur and Feather's Blog Tour. There will be more chances to win a copy of the book or an e-license to Sylvan Dell's books at many of the stops so check it out!


Disclosure: An reviewer's and giveaway copy of Fur and Feathers were provided. The post relates my own unbiased opinions and experinence with the book and yours may differ.

66 Friends Said:

Ticia said...

I'd love to read this to my 3 animal maniacs.

Ticia said...

I like you on FB.

Katie said...

Here's a question for Janet, left by Ticia on my other blog ABC & 123

"How do you correlate the science and the story together?"

Mozi Esme said...

I'd LOVE to read this to my daughter! She's enamored with animals of all sorts, and books with animals "that really talk" are her favorite. She loves role-playing, and it sounds like this book is perfect... :)

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

We posted about this giveaway at Winning Readings:

malia said...

Wow great feature! What a talented author. I've heard the publisher choose the illustrator and I am always amazed at what a great match it is. Thanks for the great article Katie!

Janet Halfmann: said...

Thanks, Ticia, Mozi, and Malia for stopping by.
Ticia, it must be fun reading to those 3 animal maniacs. Good question: How do I correlate the science and the story together? If there's an animal in my story, I learn every detail I can about that animal, its behavior, where it lives, etc., and then some of those sciency detais easily become part of the story. In Fur and Feathers, I started with the science because the publisher was looking for a story on animal wraps. Then I tried to think of a fun experience for kids that would feature animal coats.
Mozi, I loved your daughter's role-playing comment. For my book launch party in my hometown, an elementary class is actually going to act out Fur and Feathers!
Malia, it is amazing how wonderfully authors and illustrators work together. I have a writer friend who was thinking of child characters when she wrote her book, but when she saw it all the characters were animals—and it all worked out marvelously.
Katie, I loved how your daughter was looking for a ladybug with stars—I'd love to see one of those myself!

Diane said...

I would like the book so I can read it myself. I am a new mommy teaching myself the ropes of motherhood so that I may bring raise my baby in a loving, healthy and learning environment.

Diane said...

I like you on Facebook.

Diane said...

I follow you through Google Connect

RoS said...

As Katie's Mom and ER's Grammy, I am so excited to see the love of reading great books passed down from one generation to the next. As a child, I remember coming home from school and diving into all my wonderful books: Dr. Dolittle; Bedknobs and Broomsticks; Betsy, Tacy & Tib; Nancy Drew mysteries, etc. As a teen, I would hide in the upstairs bathroom and read til 2:00 am just to finish a great story. (Don't pass this on to ER!) Thanks to Janet Halfmann and Laurie Allen Klein for sharing their talent!!

Janet Halfmann: said...

Diane, you'll be surprised at how soon your little one will enjoy looking at this book and having you tell a simple version of the story and talk about the pictures.

Katie's mom—thanks so much for inspiring reading all around you!

Kathleen Rietz said...

Loved reading about the writing process, since (as an illustrator) I only get to see the process of the book come into action through the illustration process. I enjoyed the interview.

ONe PiNK FiSH said...

I would love to add this book to my Jan Brett author study and read it to my kinder kiddos. Of course, I would bring it home and read it to my kids as well.

one pink fish @ yahoo dot com

Janet Halfmann: said...

Kathleen, I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview. For the other readers, Kathleen has illustrated a book just out with the the same publisher as Fur and Feathers, titled Champ's Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too! Also, she is the illustrator of one of my books, Little Black Ant on Park Street, which Katie reviewed in an earlier blog. Kathleen is an amazing illustrator!

One Pink Fish, it's an honor just to be mentioned in the same sentence as Jan Brett. Hope all the kids in your life get to enjoy Fur and Feathers!

Latter-day Saint Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Latter-day Saint Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Latter-day Saint Mom said...

I'm a e-mail subscriber.
cparkins14 AT

Elizabeth said...

Leaving you an award on my blog today :)

Janet Halfmann: said...

Chanelle and Elizabeth, thanks for stopping by. Yes, I agree, there is nothing more fun than reading to kids. It is such a great bonding experience!

Ruth said...

My daughter would read it to me, not vice versa.

Ruth said...

e-mail subscriber

Ruth said...

facebook follower

wmmahaney said...

I would love to read this to my niece. She loves animals and dress up so she would love this.

Jodi Webb said...

I'd love to read this book to my son. I was wondering do Janet and Laurie consult each other when creating the illustrations or is it more, Janet does her part then Laurie does her part?

Janet Halfmann: said...

ruthhill74, I can just picture your daughter reading the book to you. My mom says I used to read to her all the time while she went about her work. On those busy days on the farm, there wasn't much time for her to sit and relax!

wmmahaney, I an see why your niece would love this book!

Jodi, you have it right. I write the story and then Laurie draws her own vision of it. For example, I had no idea Little Skink from my earlier Sylvan Dell book would show up in the windstorm!

Linda Kish said...

I'd read it to my DIL's niece because all kids need to experience books.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Chris T. said...

I would love to read the book to my son's class and the to let them know that I grew up and went to school with the author's daughter. I would let the chldren know that they could be anything they want to be when they grow up and use you as an example that an author can be anyone.
I would love to get some books in Spanish if that is at all possible.
Best of luck!

VS Grenier said...

What a great interview. I felt I really got to understand the process of publication and more about this great book. One I'll be putting on my list to buy my girls.

Chris T. said...

FB Friend, also forgot to leave email info, just noticed it said we should.

Chris T. said...

Google Friends Connect also added! I am adding info to my FB page too.

Nyssaneala said...

I would love to read this for my daughter! She is just starting to get into role-playing, and animals play a large role in that!

We would definitely use the online teaching activities to coincide with the book, that's how I like to teach my daughter new concepts. And she loves classification!

Unknown said...

I would love to read this book to my soon-to-be 4 year old little girl. She loves animals and from reading what I read during the interview with the author, she will love it and the illustrations are great too!

Unknown said...

I'm a Google Follower!

Jane Jeffress Thomas said...

I am a Google follower.

Jane Jeffress Thomas said...

I would give this book to my great granddaughter who loves being read to since she isn't old enough to read yet.

Misusedinnocence said...

I would love to read this to my son. He would adore it.

Misusedinnocence said...

I follow on gfc.

J Rodney said...

I would love to read this to my three boys.


Frugality Is Free

Janet Halfmann: said...

Wow, so exciting to have so many visitors stopping by.

Linda, Your DIL's niece is so lucky to have you to read to her!

Chris, so happy to find you here. I'll have to tell my daughter! You're so right that it's important to follow your dreams. You asked about Spanish books. Fur and Feathers and all of Sylvan Dell Publishing's books are also available as Spanish/English e-books. In fact, on a few other days of the tour the publisher will be giving away a prize of all 55 of its e-books for 3 months! You can find the e-books at Right now, the new e-book, Ready, Set . . . Wait, is free to listen to and view for the whole month of August!

Virginia, so glad my interview helped you understand the publishing process better. Have fun reading Fur and Feathers to your girls!

Nyssaneaia, I can just picture your daughter acting out this book, perhaps with some of her playmates. I'm so glad you find the online teaching activities useful. Sylvan Dell Publishing works so hard to extend the learning value and fun of all of its books. Happy Pretending!

Terra, I'm sure your soon-to-be 4-year-old would love Fur and Feathers. I agree the illustrations are amazing!

Jane, your great granddaughter is so lucky to have you to read to her. Those memories last forever!

Misusedinnocence, happy reading with your son. Children who are often read to are lucky indeed!

Deana K said...

Can't wait to see a copy of Fur and Feathers! I'd love to read this to my son. I'm teaching him the animal sounds and would love this book for him!

Janet Halfmann: said...

Deana, the animal sounds are so much fun. Whenever I can, I try to put animal sounds in my stories! Happy Reading with your son!

Kristen Laudick said...

I'd read this to my animal loving daughters!
kristenlaudick at yahoo dot com

Chris T. said...

Thanks for the Spanish info! I have known Laura since grade school.

Janet Halfmann: said...

Kristen, thanks so much for stopping by. It's great to hear we have so many animal lovers out there!

Chris, you're vey welcome.

Janet Halfmann: said...

FrugalMom, thanks for stopping by. Have fun reading with your three boys. They will hold on to these memories forever!

Janet Halfmann: said...

I've been so busy chatting with all the wonderful readers who have stopped by that I forgot to say, Thank you, thank you, thank you, Katie for your wonderful post and for interviewing me—and for also posting on your blog ABC and 123. I'm having so much fun on this blog tour!

Staci A said...

I'd love to read this with my son! He is absolutely obsessed with animal stories!
mommastaci33 at yahoo dot com

Staci A said...

I'm following on Twitter @MommaStaciA. Thanks!
mommastaci33 at yahoo dot com

MaryAnne said...

I would love to read this to Johnny and Emma - Johnny loves bears and Emma loves clothes, so it should be the perfect match ;)

MaryAnne said...

I follow with GFC

MaryAnne said...

and I'm an email subscriber

MaryAnne said...

I also like you on facebook =)

Janet Halfmann: said...

Hi, Staci and MaryAnne. Thanks for stopping by.

Staci, your son wlll find lots of animals in Fur and Feathers. Recently, the artist pointed out to me that the animal parade at the end of book has animals whose names begin with every letter from A to Z! You can find the names of all those animals in the free Teaching Activities for the book at

MaryAnne, I love your comment about Johnny loving bears and Emma loving clothes. I agree, the book seems like a perfect match!

apple blossom said...

Nieces and Nephews would love this book. Thanks

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

apple blossom said...

follower of gfc

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Janet Halfmann: said...

Thanks for stopping by, apple blossom. Your nieces and nephews are lucky to have an aunt who reads to them!

Jessica said...

I would read this to my daughters because they are obsessed with animals and fascinated with how things work. This would be perfect for my daughter who wants to be a vet/zoo keeper when she grows up!

girlygirlugh at gmail dot com

Jessica said...

I am a GFC follower. Screen name: girlygirlugh

girlygirlugh at gmail dot com

Jessica said...

I am an email subscriber.

girlygirlugh at gmail dot com

Jessica said...

I follow you on FB. Screen name Jessica Hendrickson

girlygirlugh at gmail dot com

Jessica said...

I follow you on twitter. Screen name: girlygirlugh

girlygirlugh at gmail dot com

Janet Halfmann: said...

Jessica, sounds like your children might have lots of their own ideas about what Sophia could have used to make the coats for the animals. Happy imagining!

Katrina said...

I would read it to my daughter.

ykatrina at hotmail dot com

Katrina said...

I follow

Carole Spring said...

This sounds like such an entertaining and educational story. I would love to read it to my 2 grandchildren. Thank you for the chance!

Janet Halfmann: said...

Katrina and Carole, thanks so much for stopping by and for your nice comments. The children in your lives are so lucky to have you to read to them!

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