“When I was a child, I made up a poem about a beautiful black and white pigeon that I longed to hold. I couldn't actually catch the bird, but I did capture it in my poem.

Juanita Havill: Children's & Middle Grade Writer, Poet

Books

Jamaica Tag-Along (2011)
Call the Horse Lucky (2010)
Just Like a Baby
(2009)
Jamaica is Thankful (2009)
Grow: A Novel in Verse (2008)
I Heard It from Alice Zucchini: Poems About the Garden (2006)
Eyes Like Willy's
(2004)
The Blue Racer
(2004)
Zox (2004)
Brianna, Jamaica, and the Dance of Spring (2002)
Jamaica and the Substitute Teacher
(2001)
Booklove: Creating Good Books for Children in an Age That Values Neither,
Editor (2000)

Jamaica and Brianna (1996)
Jennifer, Too
(1995)
Jamaica's Blue Marker
(1995)
Saving Owen's Toad
(1994)

Sato and the Elephants (1993)
Kentucky Troll
(1993)
Leona and Ike
(1991)
Treasure Nap
(1992)
The Magic Fort (1991)
I Love You More
(1990)
It Always Happens to Leona (1989)
Leroy and the Clock
(1988)
Jamaica's Find (1986)
The Wacky Rulebook
(1984 - as Jennifer Havel)

Awards
Carol D. Reiser Book Award for Children's Books – 2009
Santa Monica Public Library's Green Prize for Sustainable Literature Award for Youth Fiction – 2009
Mrs. Bush's Story Hour Selection – 1992-93

Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award – 1987
Child Study Children's Book Award, Bank Steet College – 1986 & 1989
Children's Choices Award – 1986
Children's Book of the Year, Library of Congress – 1986

We met with Juanita Havill on a warm, bright late winter day at her home in Sonoita, Arizona. We started by clearing our heads with a walk, part of Juanita's writing regimen.

As a child, Juanita was an enthusiastic reader who frequented her local library. She lamented that she could only take out three books from the library at one time, and worse, that she had to wait until her 13th birthday to visit the adult section where thicker, more interesting books could be found. Meanwhile, she began her writing career by dictating stories and rhyming poems to her mother, and began writing a novel almost as soon as she was allowed to read one at the library. But it wasn't until she visited the world of picture books as an adult with her own children that she seriously took up the art of writing.


Now, Juanita has her own books in libraries and homes around the world. Her stories, especially those in her very popular Jamaica series, deal with things that children are not only interested in, but the choices they struggle to make as they grow. She says she often starts her stories by asking, "What would Jamaica do?"

Juanita may have been inspired by the books she read to her children, but she was moved to actually write by a teacher and mentor, Emilie Buchwald. She honed her skills as part of a writers group in Minneapolis and she is still part of a writers group today. When we met with her, she was also gearing up to be part of World Book Night, handing out free books in rural Santa Cruz County to help promote literacy.

Interview Movie
(Embedded version below)

MP3 Audio File
(Note: To download the podcast,
right click on the link if you are on a PC,
or
control click if you are on a Mac. )

Location:

Sonoita, AZ

Run Time:

29:32

Genre:

Children's Picture Books, Middle Grade, Poetry

Website:

None

Raised:

Evansville, Indiana; Mount Carmel, Illinois

Youthful Influence:

Libraries, and a nice fat book on the kings of Scotland.

Adult Influence:

Reading children's books to her children; a class taken from Emilie Buchwald who later became her publisher and editor (Milkweed and Gryphon Presses).

Literary Habit:

Journal writing, a walk, tea and writing a first draft longhand. Second drafts are printed out for editing.

Ms. Havill uses journaling to practice writing, capture dreams and random thoughts, and to free up and clear her mind before getting down to the daily job of writing. She continues to be an avid reader. Although she worries about how computers and the Internet are reshaping our brains and possibly fragmenting narrative, she does not fear that we will always have stories to share.

Juanita Havill is a woman who has done a lot of thinking about the future of the narrative in light of new technologies and social media. We captured her looking ahead on a pre-interview walk.


Juanita in her writing studio holding the "Pinocchio" book she translated to English from French.

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