Publishers' Preview: Fall 2020: Five Questions for Jan Thomas

This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2020 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Fall 2020, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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He thinks of himself as The Chicken Who Couldn’t, but yes he can-can, even when there is a fox involved.

1. What’s your favorite joke or riddle about the chicken and the road?

Well, I just came up with a riddle…Why did the chicken cross the road? Because it read my book! With its newfound confidence, it realized it can cross the road. It is a strong and powerful and nice-looking chicken!

2. Where would children’s books be without talking animals?

In a much more serious place. They help soften the drama. If a child fell out of the back of a truck and was left behind, it would be tragic! When a chicken does, it’s a big adventure. Plus, talking chickens are awesome. You just can’t go wrong with a talking chicken.

3. What do you tell yourself you can’t do (but actually can)?

There are many things I tell myself I can’t do…I can’t cook (actually, my husband agrees with that)…I can’t play the drums (well, the whole neighborhood agrees with that)…but I think I truly could do those things if I were to believe in myself. I recently discovered that I’m pretty good at growing tomatoes. Who knew? Sometimes I just need to tell myself I can do something, and then go for it. Especially now, with everything that’s going on, I very much need a “can do” attitude.

4. The surprise double-page spread is a gift to storyhours. Did you know it was coming?

The whole book was a surprise, really. I never plan out a book ahead of time. I’ll just start on a page, then hope for the best. Ideas often pop into my head while I’m in the shower. After a shower, I may know what the next page should be. I’m certain that spread was a shower idea.

5. Do you talk to animals?

I talk to my two canine companions, Spotzilla and Scout, constantly! But the conversation tends to be on the simplistic side, focusing on things like: “Who’s a good boy?” and “Who wants a belly rub?” With the turtle who lives in my backyard, it’s mostly about the yummyummy ripe banana that she gets for breakfast.

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Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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