The Children’s Book Review Interview in partnership with Janet Morris Grimes, author of Do Your Best Tess
Meet the Author
Janet Morris Grimes may not have realized she was a writer at the time, but her earliest childhood memories were spent creating fairy-tale stories of the father she never knew. That desire to connect with the mysterious man in a treasured photograph gave her a deep love for the endless possibilities of a healing and everlasting story.
Janet is now a writer/music reviewer for Nashville Arts & Entertainment and Crossroad Magazines. She is also a devotional contributor to Christian Woman, Power for Today, Inspire a Fire, and The Christian Pulse. Janet has featured stories in several anthologies, including The Spirit of Christmas and Sweet Tea for the Soul: Real-Life Stories for Grieving Hearts.
A wife of one, mother of three, and Tootsie to four, Janet currently writes from her quiet two-acre corner of the world near Elizabethtown, KY. She has spent the last few years preparing to introduce her novels and children’s stories to the world. Stories that stretch your heartstrings. An unforgettable combination.
In this interview, Janet discusses the first children’s book in her Character is a Choice! series, Do Your Best, Tess!
An Interview with Janet Morris Grimes
As a finalist in the American Christian Writer Carol Awards for your adult debut novel, Solomon’s Porch, what inspired you to write your first book for children?
As part of my journey through publishing my debut novel, I took an online class that challenged us to write a children’s book in five days. Through that challenge, I rediscovered my ‘why’ for writing. We were asked to write the book we wish we’d read as a child. Do Your Best, Tess! is that book. It’s about a little girl who learns to finish what she starts.
Now, as an author, I’m learning to finish many projects I started years ago. It’s so rewarding and fun. I hope the experience is as much fun for the readers as it has been for me.
Do Your Best, Tess! is the first in the Character is a Choice! series. Can you share your goals for the series as a whole?
Character is a Choice! is a series of rhyming, read-a-loud, interactive books that support the six pillars of the Character Counts! Program taught in many schools. This includes character traits such as responsibility, overcoming fear, fairness, respect, trustworthiness, and citizenship. Each story focuses on diverse, relatable characters who tend to learn the hard way and need reminders from their reader friends.
Remembering rules is hard, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun! And every child can choose to possess great character traits.
As it’s a story written for children who get distracted easily, what should readers expect specifically from reading Do Your Best, Tess?
Tess is like many of us. She loves to have fun and follows her impulses no matter where they might lead. Sometimes, that leads to regret, but the readers encourage her as she learns to make better choices.
What would you like us to know about Tess? And how do you think readers will relate to her?
Tess is bothered by all the rules she must follow. She doesn’t see the point and loses interest. But when her dream is on the line, she finds out why it matters and how it feels when she knows she didn’t put forth her best effort.
The interactive elements of the book will have the reader encouraging and cheering for Tess as she learns to do her best. Can you share a little bit about the interactive elements of your book and why you think the instructiveness of these elements lends itself well to the story?
When a child or group of children become part of the story, they are more likely to remember what they’ve learned. As they encourage Tess to do her best, they are experiencing what that feels like right along with her. Better yet, they can see for themselves what happens when we don’t put forth our best effort.
What advice would you offer to parents with children who are easily distracted? And how can they use your book at home and beyond?
Young children don’t process information the way adults do. They might be able to follow directions but may not understand why it’s important. Do Your Best, Tess! is a fun way to learn to become trustworthy and responsible on their own terms.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing this story?
Since I’m a novelist, I had to learn to share a great story with very few words. In children’s books, the illustrations are such a vital part of the story. It’s a thrilling search to mix the perfect words, characters, and pictures to develop a moving, memorable story.
What should we expect next from the Character is a Choice series?
The next story will be Use Your Manners, Tanner!, which teaches children how to respect others.
For parting words, is there anything else you feel we should know about Do Your Best, Tess, the series, or yourself?
What both my novel and my children’s book have in common is deep, relatable characters that stick with you long after those pages stop turning. When a reader and an author connect through a story or through an imaginary character, a new friendship is formed. I love that we both feel the same way at the same point of the story or that we both wonder what might happen next. Leading up to the ending, we believe anything is possible. And when we’re done, we’re thankful for that united, satisfying experience.
There’s nothing more powerful than a great story, and as an author, I’m just getting started.
For more information, visit http://janetmorrisgrimes.com/.
Written by Janet Morris Grimes
Illustrated by Jake Robbins
Ages 4+ | 50 Pages
Publisher: Elk Lake Publishing Inc | ISBN-13: 9781649496409
Publisher’s Book Summary: Do Your Best, Tess! Tess is as scattered as the toys and clothes all over her floor. She flits from one activity to another and forms the habit of never finishing anything. But when her dream is on the line, she discovers the importance of not getting distracted so she can finish what she starts. Do Your Best, Tess! is a read-aloud participation book. The reader will encourage and cheer for Tess as she learns to truly do her best.
The first in the Character is a Choice! series.
Buy the Book
This interview—Janet Morris Grimes Discusses Do Your Best Tess—was conducted between Janet Morris Grimes and Bianca Schulze. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Perseverance and Picture Book.
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