Book Giveaway: KINDERGARTEN HAT by Janet Lawler

Janet Lawler has a new picture book, KINDERGARTEN HAT, illustrated by Geraldine Rodriguez and published by Little Bee on June 9th. Janet just received a Starred KIRKUS REVIEW – Congraultations Janet!

Janet has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Janet and Geraldine, especially at this stressful time when authors and illustrators need to promote their books completely online.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


Carlos Abredo is scared to start kindergarten, but a special teacher with an amazing hat helps give him the confidence to start the school year with a smile.

Carlos Abredo loves building forts, playing soccer, vrooming cars, and gardening. But after moving to a new town, he’s nervous to start his first day of kindergarten. What if the bus gets lost? What if he can’t make friends? What if he can’t find his teacher?! Starting school can be intimidating for anyone, but when you’re also the new kid, it can be downright scary.

When Carlos receives a letter from his new teacher, Mrs. Bashay, asking him to send a photo of himself doing something he loves, he starts to feel a little better. She also requests that he bring a flower for her huge hat on the first day of school. He sends a photo of him gardening. The morning school starts, he picks his biggest daisy for her and takes it on the bus. But his insecurity grows—everyone seems to know each other, and his flower is accidentally destroyed.  When he finally meets Mrs. Bashay, she greets him warmly. Carlos comes up with a clever solution to his destroyed-daisy dilemma and gains the courage to start his first day with a great big kindergarten smile.

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I don’t keep perfect records of the many drafts of my manuscripts. The earliest, but undated, version of KINDERGARTEN HAT that I can locate has a word count of 1,100—much too long! A May 2007 revision was down to 835. I continued to revise and pare the story many times, and I received quite a few encouraging and not-so-encouraging rejections over the several years it went in and out of the “active” drawer. I actually forgot about this project for a while.

Then, in 2017 Brett Duquette at Sterling acquired Mirabel’s Missing Valentines. He loved the heart and hope in that story, and we really connected throughout the editing process. Brett moved to Little Bee just shortly before that book published, and we kept in touch. My agent and I thought he’d like KINDERGARTEN HAT, and that it would be a match for Little Bee, and we were right! The polished version that I submitted was 625 words.

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Revision before and after acquisition

I agreed to do a revision of the story before Brett presented it for acquisition. I trusted his instincts when he suggested that I focus more on Carlos’s anxiety and nervousness about going to school and less about the state of his flower on the bus. Brett also wanted the bus driver and other kids to be encouraging potential friends.

When an editor recognizes the core of your story, you need to be open to his or her suggestions to better develop it to connect with readers. This is sometimes difficult to do, especially if one is wedded to a particular approach to a story, or to particular words or phrases that may be tied to one’s own personal history. I am glad that the revision process for KINDERGARTEN HAT resulted in a picture book that will better make universal connections than the one I first submitted for acquisition.


And in lieu of words and phrases I had to let go while revising this story, I now have new favorite ones. I kept gardening as a bright spot among all of Carlos’s anxieties, sharing my love of gardening in a way that hopefully will resonate with readers young and old:

But most of all, he loved gardening—the fun of his fingers in the dirt, the surprise of seeds sprouting, and the brightness of the blooms.

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Illustrations and beyond

Illustrator Geraldine Rodriguez has done a fabulous job bringing Carlos’s story and world to life with color, depth, and emotional resonance. I love her delightful depiction of his garden, complete with toy figurines and a “Carlos’s Garden” sign. And Mrs. Bashay’s hat is truly magnificent, stupendous, and tremendous!

It is likely that little ones starting school this fall following the coronavirus crisis may be struggling with messy feelings and worries. Hopefully, the humor and heart of KINDERGARTEN HAT will make them feel less alone and help each of them start their first day with a great big kindergarten smile. Thank you, Kathy, for spreading the word about my latest picture book!

At my book’s page on my website, visitors can download a free KINDERGARTEN HAT coloring sheet/craft and a CCSS Curriculum/Parent Guide.

And please stop by my blog, Janet’s Jottings and sign up for my periodic musings on writing and nature.

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Janet Lawler’s critically acclaimed fiction and nonfiction children’s books, published by major, specialty, and mid-publishers, include If Kisses Were Colors, Snowzilla, The Prehistoric Games, Love Is Real, Fright School, and Mirabel’s Missing Valentines. Ocean Counting (Nat’l. Geo.), featuring undersea photos by award-winning Brian Skerry, was named an Outstanding Trade Science Book by the Nat’l. Science Teachers Association and was followed by Rain Forest Colors.

Her coffee-table quality pop-up books include several for major holidays, as well as ones offering thematic, early non-fiction (LEAVES; SHELLS).

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Janet’s love of family, nature, and “all things silly” inspires much of her writing. Her family shares their home in Connecticut with a dog and assorted wildlife visiting the backyard.

Janet enjoys visiting schools and libraries. Visit her website at


geraldinetwo - Book Giveaway: KINDERGARTEN HAT by Janet Lawler

Geraline was born in Mexico and an artist since as long as she can remember – as a child she was always drawing (especially sketching over-the-top of Mexican cooking books). Art has always been a part of her life- colour and simple forms are the way she express herself.

She is always willing to see the good in every situation. The world around gives her the inspiration to create.
Geraldine Rodríguez is represented by Lucie Luddington at the Bright Agency.

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Janet, thank you for sharing your book and your book journey with us. I love Carlos’ teacher Mrs. Bashay. I wish every child had a smart loving teacher like her. Kids will love her hat. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,


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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.