Halfmann, Janet 1944-
Halfmann, Janet 1944-
Born April 18, 1944, in St. Johns, MI; daughter of a farmer and a homemaker; married Thomas Halfmann (an artist and a teacher), 1966; children: four. Education: Michigan State University, B.A. (English and Spanish education), 1967, B.A. (journalism), 1979.
Home—South Milwaukee, WI. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer. Daily newspaper reporter, Wichita, KS; Country Kids, Greendale, WI, managing editor; Golden Books, Racine, WI, manager, editor, and writer of coloring and activity books; freelance children's book author, 1997—.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
President's Award for Best Overall Book and President's Award for Best Picture Book, Florida Publishers Association, 2008, and Teacher's Choice Award, Learning magazine, 2009, all for Little Skink's Tail.
Dragonflies, photographs by Blair Nikula, Smart Apple Media (Mankato, MN), 1999.
Grasshoppers, Smart Apple Media (Mankato, MN), 1999.
Ants, photographs by Dan L. Perlman, Smart Apple Media (Mankato, MN), 1999.
(With Adele Richardson) Bugbook, Smart Apple Media (Mankato, MN), 1999.
Fireflies, photographs by James E. Lloyd, Smart Apple Media (Mankato, MN), 1999.
"DESIGNING THE FUTURE" SERIES
Mosques, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 2000.
Greek Temples, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 2000.
Theaters, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 2000.
Life in the Sea, photographs by Tom Stack & Associates, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 2000.
Life in a Garden, photographs by David Liebman, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 2000.
Life in a Tree, photographs by David Liebman, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 2001.
Life in a Pond, photographs by David Liebman, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 2001.
Life in a Tide Pool, photographs by Tom Stack & Associates, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 2001.
Life under a Stone, photographs by David Liebman, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 2001.
"LET'S INVESTIGATE" SERIES
Peanuts, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 2002.
Spiders, Creative Education (Mankato, MN), 2002.
"NATURE'S PREDATORS" SERIES
Scorpions, Kidhaven Press (San Diego, CA), 2003.
Lizards, Kidhaven Press (San Diego, CA), 2004.
Mongoose, Kidhaven Press (San Diego, CA), 2005.
"SMITHSONIAN BACKYARD" SERIES
Red Bat at Sleepy Hollow Lane, illustrated by Thomas Buchs, Soundprints (Norwalk, CT), 2004.
Canada Goose at Cattail Lane, illustrated by Daniel J. Stegos, Soundprints (Norwalk, CT), 2005.
Alligator at Saw Grass Road, illustrated by Lori Anzalone, Soundprints (Norwalk, CT), 2006.
"SMITHSONIAN OCEANIC" SERIES
Pelican's Catch, illustrated by Bob Dacey and Debra Bandelin, Soundprints (Norwalk, CT), 2004.
Dolphin's Rescue: The Story of a Pacific White-Sided Dolphin, illustrated by Steven James Petruccio, Soundprints (Norwalk, CT), 2005.
Polar Bear Horizon, illustrated by Adrian Chesterman, Soundprints (Norwalk, CT), 2006.
Hermit Crab's Home: Safe in a Shell, illustrated by Bob Dacey and Debra Bandelin, Soundprints (Norwalk, CT), 2007.
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea, illustrated by Steven James Petruccio, Soundprints Division of Trudy Corporation (Norwalk, CT), 2008.
OTHER CHILDREN'S NONFICTION
Skyscrapers, Smart Apple Media (Mankato, MN), 2003.
Plant Tricksters, F. Watts (New York, NY), 2003.
The Tallest Building, Kidhaven Press (San Diego, CA), 2004.
Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story, (illustrated by Duane Smith, Lee & Low Books (New York, NY), 2008.
Little Skink's Tail, illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein, Sylvan Dell Publishing (Mount Pleasant, SC), 2007.
Contributor to children's magazines, including Ranger Rick, Boys' Life, and National Geographic World.
Janet Halfmann started her writing career as a daily newspaper reporter, then became the managing editor for Country Kids magazine. Following that, she worked at Golden Books, creating coloring and activity books until the company relocated. At that point, she became a freelance children's author. A member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Halfmann has published dozens of children's books during her writing career.
In 2000 Halfmann published Life in the Sea. The book covers the smallest creatures in the oceans, describing their interdependence and unique concepts, such as bioluminescence. Kathryn Kosiorek, reviewing the book in School Library Journal, commented that the book is "better for browsing than for solid information." Nevertheless, Kosiorek took note of the "stunning photographs" found throughout the book.
Halfmann published Life in a Garden, with photographs by David Liebman, in 2000. Halfmann introduces the smaller creatures found in common gardens, including nematodes, fungi, beetles, slugs, snails, and aphids. In 2005 Halfmann published Dolphin's Rescue: The Story of a Pacific White-Sided Dolphin. Illustrated by Steven James Petruccio, the book follows a group of Pacific white-sided dolphins as they interact with a science vessel and their environment. Be Astengo, writing in School Library Journal, commented that "the text feels forced," but concluded that "this attractive and informative book will find an audience among marine-life enthusiasts."
Halfmann published her first work of fiction, Little Skink's Tail, in 2007. Illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein, the book introduces a skink who loses her tail to a hungry crow. She then goes on to imagine replacing her tail with that of other animals. Soon enough she realizes that her own tail has already started to grow back. Sabrina Williams, writing on BreeniBooks.com, remarked that "the story is a pleasure to read to young children," adding that "Halfmann's storyline is educational and informative." Williams also noted that the "illustrations are adorable and engaging." Mayra Calvani, writing on the Mayra's Secret Bookcase Web site, noted that "this is a colorful, engaging, beautifully illustrated book that teaches children about animals and their tails." Susan E. Murray, writing in School Library Journal, pointed out that the "nature activities in the back make it attractive" as a teaching tool.
Halfmann also published Hermit Crab's Home: Safe in a Shell, which was illustrated by Bob Dacey and Debra Bandelin. The account follows the life of a hermit crab, from its start as an egg, through its challenges against predators, and in its process of growing into bigger shells.
A contributor to the Midwest Book Review called the book "a fascinating children's picturebook." The same contributor commented that the "artwork adds the perfect touch."
Halfmann also published Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story in 2008. Illustrated by Duane Smith, the book tells the story of how a group of slaves managed to escape on the ship they worked on during the height of the Civil War.
Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman observed that "the strongly impressionistic art, largely in shades of brown and blue, will appeal … to older children." A critic writing in Kirkus Reviews remarked that "page turns and textual pacing combine to relate the actual escape with pulse-pounding excitement." The same critic called the book "a triumph."
Halfmann told CA: "I began writing for children when my children were young. I had some success, selling a few articles to children's magazines, such as Ranger Rick. But I wanted to make a living writing, so I went back to college and got a second degree in journalism (my first degrees were in English and Spanish with plans to become a teacher). The journalism degree led to careers as a daily newspaper reporter in Wichita, Kansas; managing editor of a national children's magazine called Country Kids in Greendale, Wisconsin; a manager, editor, and writer of coloring and activity books for Golden Books in Racine, Wisconsin. When Golden Books moved its headquarters to New York City in 1997 and I lost my job, I began my career as a full-time freelance children's writer, my original dream.
"Many of my books are on animals and nature. I grew up on a farm in mid-Michigan, and I got my love of nature from my parents, especially my dad who was what I call a ‘farmer's farmer.’ He loved animals and the land and that love rubbed off on me.
"I've always enjoyed language and playing with words. I love finding a unique and poetic way to say something. A favorite part of writing Little Skink's Tail was figuring out the fun thing Little Skink would say about each tail that she tried on.
"I do a tremendous amount of research, even for my fiction picture books. I want to know as much as possible about the person, animal, habitat, etc. that I am writing about so I can make the story come alive for the reader. I try to convey the wonder and excitement that I feel to my readers. I hope they enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoy writing them.
"When I'm not writing, I enjoy gardening, visiting new places, especially living history museums and nature centers, reading, watching movies, and spending time with my family.
"I got the idea for Little Skink's Tail while writing a nonfiction book on lizards. I was fascinated by young skinks, which often have bright blue tails. To escape an enemy, the skink can snap off its tail—and it keeps on wiggling. And the tail grows back! The inspiration to have Little Skink daydream about wearing the tails of other animals came from watching my children—and now my grandchildren—play dress-up and pretend. As I wrote the story, I pictured my granddaughter dancing about, showing off each tail.
"I was inspired to write Seven Miles to Freedom while doing research on African Americans in the Civil War. ‘What a gripping adventure!’ I thought, as I read about how Robert Smalls stole a Confederate steamboat right from under the noses of the Confederates and delivered it to the Union Navy. I was sure young readers would be as spellbound by his daring escape as I was. And at the same time, they would learn the story of an important African American hero, seldom found in history books. After his escape, Smalls worked as a civilian pilot for the Union and went on to serve five terms in Congress. He devoted his entire life to improving the lives of all people, especially African Americans.
"Plant Tricksters came about because I have always been fascinated by the amazing things plants and animals do to survive, such as an orchid looking like a female bee to attract a male bee pollinator. That fascination led me to propose a series of books on plant and animal tricksters to Franklin Watts. While I didn't get a go-ahead for the series, I did get a contract for Plant Tricksters as part of a ‘Plants and Fungi’ series. As a farmer's daughter, avid gardener, and nature watcher, researching Plant Tricksters was more entertainment than work.
"Not only do I love to write, but I feel privileged to be a children's writer because I feel reading is so important for kids. Parents and other caregivers can give children so much by reading to them from a young age. Reading opens up so many possibilities and is a wonderful bonding experience between caregiver and child. A child who is read to is more likely to become a reader. And a child who can read well is likely to have an easier time in school.
"For aspiring writers, I advise them to read, read, read; write, write, write; and revise, revise, revise until every word shines. Once the manuscript is finished, the writer should study publishers to see who does that kind of book, and send it out. After mailing the manuscript, the writer should forget about it and move on to a new project (most writers have a huge file of rejection letters). I also would strongly advise aspiring writers to join writers groups, such as the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, especially the state chapter. There is so much to be learned from other writers' experiences."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 2008, Hazel Rochman, review of Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story, p. 98.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2008, review of Seven Miles to Freedom.
Midwest Book Review, January 1, 2008, review of Hermit Crab's Home: Safe in a Shell.
School Library Journal, August 1, 2000, Kathryn Kosiorek, review of Life in a Garden, p. 199; August 1, 2000, Kathryn Kosiorek, review of Life in the Sea, p. 200; October 1, 2005, Be Astengo, review of Dolphin's Rescue: The Story of a Pacific White-Sided Dolphin, p. 115; January 1, 2008, Susan E. Murray, review of Little Skink's Tail, p. 87.
BreeniBooks.com,http://breenibooks.blogspot.com/ (July 18, 2007), Sabrina Williams, review of Little Skink's Tail.
Mayra's Secret Bookcase,http://mayrassecretbookcase.blogspot.com/ (October 22, 2007), Mayra Calvani, review of Little Skink's Tail.