Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Q&A with Janice Law

Janice Law is the author of the new children's book Capitol Cat & Watch Dog: Succulent Sleuths Protect U.S. Botanic Garden. It's the fourth in a series. She is a retired Texas criminal court judge and the founder of the American Women Writers National Museum.

Q: Why did you choose the U.S. Botanic Garden as the location for your latest children’s book?

A: My three prior Capitol Cat & Watch Dog books, for ages 8-13, are geographically based in Washington, D.C., within the general physical area of the U.S. Capitol Building, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court of the United States—colloquially known as “the Hill.” So, continuing that theme, I selected a site down the Independence Avenue hill: the U.S. Botanic Garden.

Q: Did you need to do any research to write the book, and if so, did you learn anything surprising?

A: Yes, all of my nine books, which include the four children’s books, required months of scholarly and “in person” research. Over about 18 months, I attended free lectures at USBG, toured their exhibits, participated in Saturday Yoga classes outdoors, and ate tomatoes at a USBG cooking class. Researching books is a genuine joy derived from habits of my about 14 years as an “Old School” print journalist.

Surprises? Yes. The historic and contemporary useful contributions of medicinal plants, which the USBG features and which, with a tour guide, visitors can touch and smell.

Q: What do you think Jason Eckhardt’s illustrations add to the book?

A: For my gifted illustrator, Jason Eckhardt, visually the USBG is a shimmering, gorgeous Victorian glass building, with an interior and surrounding grounds filled with a trove of exquisite, useful and fragrant plants in mega variety and display, many of which have attributes not well known to the general public.

I receive, for Jason, many superlative comments about his artistic work. Jason draws expressions on the faces of animal and human characters, depicting their body positions to make them seem alive on the page.

Q: What do you hope kids will take away from the book?

A: Examples of people we can admire. My character, the teenage Dee, is a Native American who, although confined to a wheelchair, manages to inspire us all by being the heroine of the story. She utilizes aspects of her Navajo culture to advance the narrative. I always have a genuine plot, which attracts much favorable comment.

I strive to make my children’s books not only fun, but also educational, and not just entertaining. I include a list of vocabulary words which could be a stretch for 8-13. But they are encouraged to look up definitions.

In CC&WD books, children learn about cooperation to achieve a worthy goal, the loyalty and love of friends, and American history.  For instance, a 1796 letter from President George Washington triggered the USBG founding.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Publicity for CC&WD Succulent Sleuths Protect U.S. Botanic Garden.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: In writing the Capitol Cat & Watch Dog series, I love composing the silly rhymes, and puns. My three previous books in the Capitol Cat series are accepted for sale in the Library of Congress gift shop. They sold out immediately. Capitol Cat & Watch Dog are keeping their paws crossed that my book about their USBG adventure will be included as well.

I looked down on my desk top (today) at a news release pinging in from the USBG announcing nationally that a smaller version of the stinky plant suddenly came into bloom! If you read CC&WD you know the plants bloom rarely, and draw large crowds as well as  eature news coverage.
How lucky is an author when the unique subject of her book becomes coterminous with the same subject as a national botanic news story?

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Janice Law.

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