Born in the middle of WWII in Northern England, my playgrounds were Emperor Hadrian’s Wall, built to keep the Scots at bay, ancient castles along the rugged coastline, similarly built to keep the marauding Vikings away, as well as wild moorlands and miles of golden sands.
Early memories include gasmasks, air-raid sirens, the theft of my pet rabbit (possibly put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor), and meeting my daddy, returned from war, when I was four years old. A particular thrill that has stayed with me was being handed my first library card by a rather fearsome Miss Mary Bell, head librarian, which granted me admittance into the utterly silent and hallowed children’s room. What a world opened up. Enid Blyton’s adventure books in which the boys were brave, the girls were wimps, there was never an adult in sight, and the children remained the same age for ever and ever. But my tastes were far-reaching. Swashbuckling heroes Jim Hawkins, Robin Hood, Rob Roy, and King Arthur. Tragic, abused orphans such as Oliver Twist and David Copperfield who survived to tell the tale. And as many historical tales as I could lay my hands on.
A later memory is of a school assignment to write and illustrate a twenty-five page story. I labored long and hard over an historical bodice ripper about a Scottish lassie named Alison. Her true love joined Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army to defeat the English, and he died tragically on the battle field in her arms. To this day I’m haunted by Miss Mowat’s scrawled comment across my ‘book’ that she hoped I didn’t intend to write for a living. Alas, my first rejection!
But of course despite this, I grew up, traveled widely, ended up in America, got married, and raised a family. Finally overcoming that long ago stinging rejection, I began to write again. I took every writing class available, attended every conference within my means, fell in love with my writing instructor, and eventually published several stories for the Cricket magazine group, two picture books, Jacob and the Polar Bears (Moon Mountain Publishing) and Muktar and the Camels (a Christy Ottaviano Book, Henry Holt), and two YA novels, Resistance (Cavendish Children’s Books) and The White Witch (Roaring Brook Press).
Awards followed, including a McKnight Artist Fellowship in Children’s Literature, The Association of Educational Publishers Distinguished Achievement Award. A Junior Library Guild Selection and a Minnesota Book Award Finalist in the Young Adult category. I teach occasionally at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, and mentor writers in my home.
A few of my favorite books through the years – Peter Rabbit, Borka, The Adventures of a Goose with no Feathers, Where the Wild Things Are, One-Eyed Cat, Stone Fox, The Giver, The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea.
And I cherish log fires, green trees, reading in bed, drifting snow, pounding surf, tea at three with ginger trifle, a dog named Blossom, and the company of good friends and family.
Fitzroy Books is delighted to bring you Janet Graber’s work of middle grade fiction, Malcolm Mouse, Explorer in 2021.