A Bobby-Dazzler of a Book by Janet Halfmann

Ever wanted to visit Australia? Now you can travel in your imagination with the new picture book, A Bobby-Dazzler of a Pouch! by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Abira Das.

The story revolves around a real life problem:  how do joeys (baby kangaroos) find their mother’s pouch when they are in a big hurry? With the help of friends, the joey comes up with a unique solution. Along the way, the reader meets common Australian animals and plants like brush-tailed possums and beautiful box mistletoe flowers, as well as gets a brief introduction to Australian vocabulary.

The well-researched back matter includes fun facts about kangaroos, a glossary of Australian words, and a list of the Australian animals and plants introduced in the book.

Janet Halfmann has written many popular children’s books on a variety of topics, but A Bobby-Dazzler of a Pouch! is special to her because it was one of the first fiction picture book manuscripts she wrote when she started out — over twenty years ago. Read about the inspiring details of its eventual road to publication in an interview at Write Now! Coach.

A Bobby-Dazzler of a Pouch! would be perfect to accompany a trip to Australia, to pull out when doing a geography lesson about Australia, or even to prepare for a trip to a local zoo that features Australian animals. Jump into a copy today!

Related activities:

Check out another Australian animal, the adorable small kind of wallaby known as the Quokka.


Paperback: 38 pages
Publisher: Pen It! Publications, LLC (May 21, 2020)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 195126312X
ISBN-13: 978-1951263126

#Nonfiction Monday The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls


Great news for older readers:  author Janet Halfmann has developed her acclaimed 2008 picture book Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story into a new chapter book in Lee & Low’s The Story of… series, The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls, also illustrated by Duane Smith.

Born into slavery in South Carolina, young Robert Smalls worked his way up to the esteemed position as a wheelman on a wooden steamboat named the Planter that carried supplies for the Confederate army. With patience and ingenuity, he developed a plan to take his family on the boat and make a daring run for freedom. Would it work?

To help flesh out the book, Janet Halfmann delved deeply into the history of the Civil War to give background and context to the story. She added sidebars — like the one on slavery in the selection below –to extend the original story. She also  created a timeline, glossary, and recommended reading list.

Boat enthusiasts and budding engineers are going to love the sidebar about the steam-powered boat, the Planter. You can almost hear the hiss of the steam and the slap of the paddles hitting the water.

Janet Halfmann also includes a sidebar with the story of another daring escape to freedom, this time by a young woman who stowed away in wedding chest that was really no more than a large box. Readers will hold their breath waiting to see if she succeeds.

The daring escape in The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls is what will likely initially attract readers, but it is the fascinating history that will keep them reading. This book is perfect for unit on the Civil War or for Black History Month. Delve into a copy today!

Related and Activity Suggestions:

1. Check out the Teacher’s Guide for Seven Miles to Freedom, which has many ideas that can be used with this book as well.

2. Consider a science/engineering project of building a paddle boat. We have some ideas about boat propulsion at Growing with Science to get you started.

3. See Writing and Illustrating blog for an interview with Janet Halfmann about the book.

Age Range: 8 – 11 years
Publisher: Lee & Low Books (February 25, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1643790161
ISBN-13: 978-1643790169

Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

Midnight Teacher #kidlit for Women’s History Month

For Women’s History Month, let’s take a look at the fantastic new historical fiction picture book, Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by London Ladd.

What do you do if you find hints that there’s a fascinating person in history, but you can only find a few tantalizing mentions of her existence? What if the person’s name changed in the records, making it nearly impossible to get more information? If you are Janet Halfmann, you don’t give up.

Janet Halfmann followed the thread through history by tracing ancestral records. Once she contacted Lilly Ann Granderson’s descendants, she was able to pull together more of the story. This book is the result of persistent sleuthing and it paid off. Although this had to be a work of historical fiction because of the scarcity of details, Janet Halfmann built it on a solid foundation of historical fact.

Why did Halfmann want to tell this story so much? As an enslaved woman growing up in the 1820s and 1830s, Lilly Ann Granderson wasn’t allowed to learn read. Regardless, when her master’s children played school she joined in and used an old speller to teach herself. Later, she shared her learning with many other slaves. She held school at midnight so the owners wouldn’t find out, at the threat of a painful punishment if she were caught. She knew the ability to read was important enough to risk the consequences and she was dedicated to learning. She stood up and made a difference in the lives of those around her, and those who came after.

Adding tension to the story, London Ladd’s acrylic illustrations give just the right touch of drama. Check out his artistic process, starting from rough sketches. He even acts out the scenes and takes photographs of himself to help capture the mood.

Midnight Teacher would be perfect for Women’s History Month, but it also would be great for reluctant readers who might just be inspired to try harder by Lilly Ann Granderson’s dedication to education. Pick up a copy to share today!


Age Range: 7 – 10 years
Publisher: Lee & Low Books; Illustrated edition (February 13, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1620141639
ISBN-13: 978-1620141632

Disclosures: This book was provided electronically by the publisher for review purposes. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

#kidlit: Observing Nature with Grandma is a Slowpoke

Are you the type to stop and smell the roses?


I have to admit that when we go for a hike in my family, I’m the one who always gets left behind. Not only do I smell the roses, I check for insects, admire the colors and probably take a photograph or two. That’s why I really enjoyed Janet Halfmann‘s new picture book, Grandma Is a Slowpoke, illustrated by Michele Coxon.

Told in the first person from the point of view of a young girl, this sweet story takes the reader on a walk through the woods. The girl is eager to be off, but Grandma is a slowpoke. She wants to stop and observe the animals around her. They discover much as they watch squirrels, geese and even ants along the way.

Even though the story might seem simple on the surface, it actually runs deep with meaning. It is a commentary on the importance of slowing down in our fast, fast, rush, rush society. It is also a gentle commentary on what time spent with grandmothers might have to offer. With the increasing fragmentation of families, our culture may be forgetting the enormous value of a little quality time with an older relative.

The back matter includes two pages of additional animal facts about the animals encountered in the story.

Grandma is a Slowpoke is perfect for sharing at story time, at bedtime, and any time in between. With so much to discover in these pages, be prepared to read it again and again.



Where is your favorite place to take a nature walk?

Publisher: Star Bright Books (February 15, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1595727108
ISBN-13: 978-1595727107

Disclosure: This book was supplied by the author for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.