Glowing and warm, full of life.
— Kirkus, starred review
A story of tender care and nature’s contrasts . . .
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
A lyrically hopeful story about a young girl who learns nurturing green-thumb lessons from her patient mother.
— Shelf Awareness
Please tell us about your book.
I’d love to! WINTERGARDEN is a picture book about a young girl who learns to plant edible foods on her winter windowsill. Here’s the synopsis from Neal Porter:
“With a little bit of love and care, a few seeds nestled in pots, and a good windowsill, there’s no better time to make an herb garden with mom than in the dead of winter. Together, a young girl and her mother can grow everything you find in a spring herb garden, from oregano to parsley and baby greens, carefully tending their plants to watch them thrive, all while frigid snow falls just outside the window. The multiple harvests of fresh greens are just what they need to stay warm through the coldest and darkest season. When Spring finally arrives, there’s one thing on the girl’s mind: more seeds!
In Wintergarden, author Janet Fox’s poetic text is accompanied by the dreamy watercolor artwork of acclaimed illustrator Jasu Hu. Additional material at the back of the book includes information on how to grow your own wintergarden, to make sure you and your family can share fresh greens year-round.”
What inspired you to write this story?
I wrote this book from personal experience, during the worst part of the Covid lockdown. I’ve always loved gardening and done a lot of seed starting indoors. Here in Montana we have a short growing season, and we were craving greens. I put together a little mini “greenhouse” with grow lights.
And this story came out of my own wonder at how to make food from tiny seeds.
You’ve written young adult, middle grade, and picture books. What are some differences between writing novels and picture books? What are some similarities?
I think of picture books as poetry. Less is definitely more – few words, lots of “white space”, lots of room for interpretation. And word choice is crucial as each word has to do a lot of work. A single image or concept dominates the story.
Novel-writing is all about building the characters, especially the protagonist. Of course, the words still matter, and I still tend to lean into a more “poetic” style of writing, but I build my novels kind of like an actual structure, where the words hang on the frame of the protagonist’s interior and exterior arcs and the story’s theme.
Neal Porter Books, an imprint of Holiday House, is known for making gorgeous books. Could you give us a glimpse into your experience once the manuscript was acquired?
Oh, I am so thrilled with the art. I had no input, of course, so the first thing I saw were general sketches. The artist is Chinese, and she was trapped in China (having lived in New York) with her parents during Covid, so her experience of being in a place where the beauty of growing your own food was so much like mine was uncanny. I think that lent an air of “meant-to-be” to the story and art. When I saw the final work, and especially the double spread that flips the book (I’ll leave it at that), I cried.
Neal asked me to verify that the vegetation as she depicted was true to the vegetation I wrote about, and it was, down to every leaf and blossom.
What’s next for you?
After WINTERGARDEN comes out in November, I have 2 more books under contract. The first is another middle grade – I’m calling it The Hardy Boys meet Holes – and the second is a big nonfiction project for YA readers about the biochemist Rosalind Franklin, coauthored with Debbie Dunn.
And I’m setting up a series of courses for kidlit writers in a mentorship program (I’m calling it Fox’s Den) that opens in early 2024. I’m keeping busy!