This July 10th at 11:30 AM, Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester (65 James Street, Worcester, MA) is happy to host the “Musical Ambassador for Children” Johnette Downing for a singing story-time gone fun. Johnette is an award-winning children’s book author and musician who will be singing her How to Dress a Po’ Boy book about how to make a sandwich tummy tempting one ingredient at a time, and reading one of her beloved and cultural “pourquoi” or “why” animal stories that explains why certain animals look and live they way the do.
For those who are unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your writing and music?
My music, books and programs have been described as “Roots” because they are a celebration of my Louisiana cultural and musical heritage as well as the cultural heritage of the places I have visited around the world. My music is also called a “Louisiana musical gumbo” because it has Cajun, Creole, Zydeco, Jazz, Afro-Caribbean and Blues influences served up through songs specifically for families.
Do you have more love for writing or making music? Or are the two equal for you? What comes first: a book idea or a song?
For me, making music and writing books are intertwined; I love them equally. My parents were both musicians and singers, and we had a library in our house. My family read and sang together, so naturally music and literature go hand in hand for me. Thus, it comes as no surprise that many of my books are also songs; making the singing-reading connection for my young audiences as well.
You have a lot of food and cultural references specific to the U.S. What draws you to these topics, and how do they translate when you leave the U.S.?
As a native of New Orleans, food and music are a life-blood, which is why many of my songs and books have food references. When I travel to other places around the world, I am often asked to perform these Louisiana songs and books for families as a cultural bridge. I often use my Today is Monday in Lousiana book and song which is a culinary calendar listing a unique Louisiana dish for each day of the week. After presenting my Louisiana version, I then ask children to share the foods they eat in their culture. The book has now become a series (Today is Monday in Texas, Today is Monday in New York and Today is Monday in Kentucky), and we hope to publish books for all 50 states as well as books from the countries I have visited in the Middle East, Asia, Central America, Africa, and the Caribbean. Children are then able to contrast and compare the foods they eat with foods other children eat around the nation and the globe. For instance, children in Kentucky eat burgoo, a thick beef stew. Children in Texas eat chicken fried steak that isn’t chicken at all! Children in Korea eat duboki, a rice roll that looks like sushi. Since my fiancée lives in MA, next up is Today is Monday in Massachusetts and “chowdah” is certainly on the menu.
What are some interesting things about your writing life that may surprise people, old and new fans?
I am a haiku poet and the cofounder of the New Orleans Haiku Society.
What is a favorite performance/reading experience that you’ve had?
Every performance and book event is my favorite experience. I learn something new from children every day.
What is your most recent book/album? And what are you working on next?
I have thirteen children’s books and ten children’s audios. My latest CD is “Reading Rocks!” – a Recommended Parents’ Choice Award winner. My latest book is How To Dress a Po’ Boy. Books and CDs are available at www.johnettedowning.com and www.amazon.com. My books are also available at http://www.pelicanpub.com.
How can more people to get acquainted with you and your work?
Here is my contact information:
Web site at www.johnettedowning.com
Facebook – www.facebook.com/johnettedowning
Twitter – www.twitter.com/johnettemusic
MySpace – www.myspace.com/johnettedowning
Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/johnettedowning
Celebrate childhood one song and book at a time.