“I always have a good time when I do my job.”
So said local author Janet Stoeke, creator of Minerva Louise, when she visited students at Waynewood Elementary School. They discussed what was hard about her job — writing the words, thinking up the story, drawing; and what was fun about her job — writing, thinking and drawing. So while it’s always challenging, she said that it’s fun, too.
Reading to students from Kelly Melvin’s, Marci Treger’s and Sue Massey’s classes, Stoeke explained how she came up with the idea for one of her books, “A Friend for Minerva Louise.”
Stoecke explained that she was getting ready to have a baby and thought it would be fun to write about all the things that accompany a baby from the eyes of her famous hen. In the book, when Minerva Louise mistakes a baby crib for a rabbit hutch, she searches for the rabbit and in the process discovers new additions around the house.
As is true in Stoeke's other books, the hen misinterprets everything, with effects that make children giggle. Stoecke told the children that by the time she drew her last page, her baby had been born, so she drew a picture of him for the book.
She then read “Minerva Louise at the Fair.”
“That’s my favorite book,” one boy said. Stoeke told the class how that was supposed to be her last Minerva Louise book, but when she ended with a picture of a red truck on the last page, she decided she needed to write one more — “Minerva Louise and the Red Truck.”
After the reading, Stoecke engaged the classes in helping her to create a new storybook. They voted on a main character, a name and a theme, and she started developing it on the board right in front of them.
Melvin said that the children talked about it for days. “Now I have lots of stories about Harry the Hamster. They voted to have the adventure that Harry went on, to be all in his imagination at the end. It was great the way she engaged them, and then at the end she showed them exactly how the illustrations were made, and the seven or eight different drawings she would create for each page. She draws and then colors each illustration with totally different colors, and then looks at them for days before deciding what feels right.”