Janet Morgan Stoeke is the award-winning author of the delightfully entertaining Minerva Louise books: Minerva Louise, A Hat for Minerva Louise, Minerva Louise at School, A Friend for Minerva Louise, Minerva Louise and the Red Truck, Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve, and Minerva Louise on Halloween. Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Janet grew up in Connecticut as part of an artistic family. In fact, when she and her siblings get together, they paint. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Colgate University and a Master’s from George Washington University. She and her husband, Barrett Brooks, have four children: Harrison, Colin, Elliott and Hailey. Janet wrote and illustrated Waiting for May because of her family’s experiences surrounding the adoption of her daughter from China. She and her family live in Virginia near Washington, DC.
Janet Morgan Stoeke
The three clueless chicken wonders from The Loopy Coop Hens (BCCB 1/11) have returned, and they’re ready for adventure. Or, at least, they think they are, when jumping into the farmer’s pickup for a trip is merely a plan, but when it comes to carrying it out, only Pip actually climbs aboard (“‘First we have to, um . . . ask Rooster Sam,’ says Midge”); a nervous Pip then crouches in the truck bed with eyes squeezed shut when the truck’s engine roars into life—only to find, when the sound stops, that her dramatic journey was actually a brief sojourn in a truck that never moved. There’s a touch of Stoeke’s popular poultry heroine Minerva Louise (A Friend for Minerva Louise, BCCB 1/98) in the goofy hens, but the warm and absurd barnyard friendship also recalls Cazet’s legendary cow buddies Minnie and Moo (Minnie and Moo Go to Paris, BCCB 10/99). The chapter-like divisions, big, clear print, and spare, streamlined text with subtle repetitions invite a beginning-reader audience, and youngsters will appreciate the book’s open-handed sharing of important information (such as the truck’s remaining stationary because it’s being worked on by the farmer) through art as well as text. The art emphasizes toylike red and green, with smooth black line and big digital planes of color seemingly resisting nuance and complexity, but Stoeke’s a master at eliciting humor from simple visuals. Dot dons a hunting cap for the adventure she never has but retains the headgear nonetheless, and Pip in a panic is, well, a panic, ducking beneath an old blanket and peering fearfully out over the truckbed wall to view her fate. Both readaloud audiences and new readers will be happy to join Pip, Midge, and Dot’s friendly flock. 2012, Dial/Penguin, Grades K-1, $16.99. Reviewer: Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, February 2012 (Vol. 65, No. 6)).
The Loopy Coop Hens
Janet Morgan Stoeke
The Loopy Coop is home to hens Midge, Pip, and Dot, who adore their wonderful Rooster Sam: not only is his tail “snowy white” and his toes “golden yellow,” he manages to actually fly up to the top of the barn in order to greet the day with his rooster crow. Yearning to take to the air themselves, the hens are disappointed to fail miserably at flight, so they decide to observe Rooster Sam’s technique. When they discover that he hasn’t been flying up to the top of the barn, simply clambering up to the roof via conveniently placed objects, they struggle momentarily with their idol’s weakness but eventually return to their love for their beloved–if flightless–rooster. The comedy is more poker-faced than broad here, but it’s still easily accessible to young readers, who will appreciate the chapter-like divisions and easy-reading font; touches of comic repetition (“Oh. Oh. Oh,” the narration greets the failed flying hens; “Ow. Ow. Ow”) add both entertainment value and reading ease. Stoeke’s digital illustrations provide a generous helping of humor: simple, springy black linework and vivid barnyard colors converge in a group of hens whose goofy optimism is all the funnier for being subtly portrayed on their largely vacant faces. With its picture-book-styled trim size and layout, this will also be effective as a readaloud, and repeat listeners will certainly seize the opportunity to read along even before they can read alone; fans of Stoeke’s poultry heroine Minerva Louise will flock to this one. Review Code: R — Recommended. (c) Copyright 2006, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2011, Dutton, 32p.; Reviewed from galleys, $16.99. Grades 1-2. Reviewer: Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, March 2011 (Vol. 64, No. 7)).
Minerva Louise on Halloween
Janet Morgan Stoeke
It is Halloween, and the people are getting ready for this fun fall festivity at the farmhouse. Enter Minerva Louise, a chicken who lives on the farm. She has her own innocent perspective of what is going on around the yard. She sees the farmers busy at work planting a rock garden when the children are actually placing decorative headstones in the lawn for the Halloween party. Minerva Louise thinks that the farmers are bringing feed buckets to the door, but, actually, they are children out for trick-or-treats. The text itself only reveals Minerva’s thoughts, and the simple, color illustrations provide a view of what is going on in the plot. It is the combination of text and illustration that blend to bring out the humor and laughter. This Halloween story is one that is hilarious rather than scary. Those children who previously have enjoyed other Minerva Louise stories will probably enjoy this one as well. 2009, Dutton Children’s Books/Penguin, $16.99. Ages 3 to 6. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung (Children’s Literature).
Make A Story:
Minerva Louise stars in the original program, aimed at K through 2nd graders. Janet reads from some of the books, pointing out the events in her life that prompted her to think them up. Then, asking open-ended questions, the author elicits a character, a plot (beginning, middle and end) and plenty of hilarious twists and turns from the students. Sketching quick and lively images on the board, the author pulls together their ideas, having them vote on the best ones, and tugging them toward a satisfying conclusion. In the end, they have made a story. The students see first hand that they can do it! Creating a book is not only possible, but great fun. Questions about authoring round out the session. 45 minutes.
The new program, aimed at fifth and sixth graders, focuses on writing from personal experience. It features the author’s latest book, Waiting for May, her son’s story about anticipating the adoption of his sister. Using the book as an example, Janet helps the students search for which events from their lives might be story-worthy. The focus is on the emotion the event elicits. Students are reminded to write the whole piece with that feeling in mind. Life happens in a random sort of way, but stories need some structure. I will show the students how to rethink the event and find the inherent structure, building on their central feeling throughout. Teachers can refer to this streamlined writing tactic again and again throughout the year. 45 minutes.
Janet will conduct up to 3 presentations in one day. Each presentation is 45 minutes. Her ideal group is up to 50 students at a time of similar grade level: Pre-K to grade 2, or Grades 3 to 6. The maximum number of students is 80.
Costs: Basic fee for one presentation is $550; for two presentations it is $715; and for three presentations it is $990. Discounts are provided for a second day. For four presentations the cost is $1265; for five presentations it is $1595; for six presentations it is $1925. Janet is currently making presentations only in the DC area.
To learn more about Janet and her publications please visit http://www.minervalouise.com.