Interview with Janet Sumner Johnson

It’s time for #ChatWithThePBLady 🥳🎉 This chat is is with the wonderful Janet Sumner Johnson. We chatted about her fantastic new book BRAVER THAN BRAVE. Illustrated by Eunji Jung.

📚 What’s your favorite ice cream topping?

Crumbled Oreo. Yum!

📚 What songs would be included on the soundtrack of your life?

Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield. It speaks to me in a big way about both my writing life, and about what we can do with our lives.

Audition (The Fools Who Dream) sung by Emma Stone from the soundtrack of La La Land. It reminds me that art inspires, and that it’s important to dream.

Human by Christina Perri because boy am I Human.

I could go on forever, but one last one . . . Warrior by Avril Lavigne. Sometimes you have to be your own advocate and stand up with all your strength. This song reminds me that I AM a warrior, and I can conquer!

📚 What’s your favorite sleeping position?

Haha! Love this question. I prefer to sleep on my side, but I’m old and have an achy body, so I sleep on my back. Sigh.

📚 If you could repeat any age, what age would it be?

Oh wow, this is a hard question!

Because I’m a time travel geek and tend to get caught up in all the questions and conundrums that presents, I’ll assume I simply get to relive that age in a separate existence, without influencing who I became in the present.

In THOSE circumstances, I would relive the age of 14. I made cheerleader just after turning 14, and our group was wacky and fun and we got to make up SNL style skits for so many assemblies. We even had a food fight in front of the whole school (administration approved!). That year was a blast! (Plus, I could spy on all the middle graders with my author’s mind for ideas for future books!)

📚 Let’s talk about your fabulous book BRAVER THAN BRAVE. Please tell us all about this book and the wonderful main character.

Aww, thanks for the kind words! In Braver than Brave, Wanda looks up to her older brother, Zane. He is the bravest kid in the world, and Wanda wants to be just like him.

The problem is that she just isn’t Brave like he is. So on a trip to the amusement park, when her friends follow Zane to the exciting new roller coaster, she has to figure out a way to find her Brave as everyone watches.

📚 How can children relate to this book?

In Braver than Brave, kids will relate to the pressure Wanda feels do things throughout the book. She feels pressure from her mom. She feels pressure from her friends, she feels pressure from her brother, and she even feels pressure from herself! Kids know what all of that feels like!

Hopefully they can see how Wanda deals with that and find their own coping strategies.

📚 This book is set over the course of a year. What was it like to write a picture book in this kind of format?

Interesting question! It’s rare to see so much time pass over the course of a picture book. But when I wrote the first draft, I honestly didn’t think about the format. It was simply what the story needed. What I especially love about the passage of time, is that it shows Wanda consistently working hard on a goal that is important to her. I hope that’s something kids will take away from the story.

But if I were giving a tip to writers about format, I’d say: Playing with format can be a lot of fun, but it should always be about showcasing the story, and not vice versa.

📚 BRAVER THAN BRAVE has a great message that there are different kinds of brave. Can you talk a little bit more about this?

When we hear the word “Brave,” we tend to think of specific actions that go along with that.

– Jumping of the Diving Board.

– Riding the Roller Coaster.

– Facing down the Scary Thing.

But no two kids are the same, so why would we assume that bravery would look the same for all of them?

For some kids, it’s hard to express how they feel, so it’s brave when they do.

For some kids, it’s scary to taste a new food, so it’s brave when they do.

For some kids, it’s hard to even go outside of their house, so it’s brave when they do.

Bravery is going to look different for everyone, and I hope this book 1) helps kids recognize how Brave they are, and 2) reminds them not to be too quick to judge someone else’s Brave.

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