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Today I have the pleasure of welcoming author Janna Matthies and her delightful nighttime romp, HERE WE COME!, illustrated in bluesy, moody watercolor by Christine Davenier.

A boy sets off with his flute and his stuffed bear and a rum-pum-pum. As they make their way through the town and the woods, they ask, “Wanna come?” Soon, kids and creatures join in the fun one by one, playing instruments, singing, and dancing to the catchy tune.

But will a storm bring their fun-filled musical parade to an end?

Janna, we discuss how to brainstorm story ideas on my blog. Where did the idea for HERE WE COME come from?

Believe it or not, I wrote this manuscript nearly ten years ago, and Beach Lane Books acquired it more than five years ago. So my memory is a little foggy on the story-storming process. However, I can say that marching around singing and dancing with kids is a regular part of my life (I’m a music teacher part-time). So the subject matter was a natural for me. I do remember the phrase, “Here we come with a rum-pum-pum. Wanna come?” popping into my mind. After that, the real brainstorming began as I recognized that subsequent lines would all need to end with words that rhyme with “come.” So I jotted down a long list of every word I could think of. I believe I used everything on the list except for “plum”, “crumb” and “scum”—probably best, on that last word.

Haha! Yes, that is for the best!

This is a cumulative tale. What special tips or recommendations do you have for others creating this kind of story?

Yes, it’s cumulative and told in rhyming verse. Making the rhythm and rhyme as clean as possible is key to a rolicking read-aloud. As for the plot, each accumulated line needs to up the ante in some way. In the case of HERE WE COME!, each new line introduces a different character making a musical sound—“a pick and a strum” (dog), “Little Lu on her thumb with a swish-swish bum” (toddler in a diaper—a real crowd-pleaser, by the way), “fiddle-dee-fiddle-dum” (enormous, jaunty bear), etc.. The characters and their sounds are increasingly unexpected or funny or joyful. And then comes the line that changes everything—“a drip on a drum”. UH-OH! Something climactic is about to happen! Of course, this building excitement or tension is accomplished through the synergy of words and illustrations. I was thrilled with how illustrator Christine Davenier staged this musical parade at night and included kids as well as woodland animals. The two adorable hedgehogs paired with the words “Clap-clap with a chum” nearly steal the show!

Did you include any illustration notes for Christine, or were the characters and setting all from her imagination?

In this case, I provided no illustration notes at all. I was between agents at the time and submitted the manuscript exclusively to Allyn Johnston at Beach Lane, who I’d received a personal note from before. I knew from an interview that Allyn doesn’t like art notes—she’s since told me my wide-open text was part of the appeal for her. So yes, the setting and characters are entirely Christine’s invention.

I’m so curious—did you have anything different in mind and you just didn’t say so?

Yes. In my mind a couple of human siblings or friends were heading outdoors on a sunny day, maybe banging pots like drums, or maybe real drums. And as they moved through the neighborhood, they ran across other kids and invited them along. Some played real instruments, others made up rhythms on everyday items or played “air-instruments” (My husband likes to think he’s very good at air guitar and air drums, for instance.). Funny enough, Christine says that when she read the text and imagined the scene, it was “obviously at night”. Because she used a whimsical, dream-like mix of animal and human characters, it’s perfectly fine for them to be parading alone through the woods at night. I was completely delighted when I saw her sketches and thought, “Brilliant!”

That sincerely demonstrates the trust that author and illustrator must have with each other. Brava to you both!

Finally, what is your message to kids who pick up this book?

I hope kids feel invited into making music—any way, anyhow, anywhere. Sing! Drum on a box! Imitate the hum of a fan or the rhythm of a woodpecker. Say “yes” if the chance comes to learn an instrument. The joy of music is for all, and is especially wonderful when shared. I hope kids’ internally reply, “Yes! I wanna come!”

Blog readers, do you wanna come, too? Janna is giving away a signed copy of HERE WE COME! Just leave a comment below to enter. A random winner will be selected next month.

Good luck…and thank you, Janna!


Janna Matthies is a picture book author and early-elementary music teacher in Indianapolis. Her books include two soon-to-be-announced titles as well as HERE WE COME! (Beach Lane Books/S&S); GOD’S ALWAYS LOVING YOU (WorthyKids); TWO IS ENOUGH (Running Press Kids), THE GOODBYE CANCER GARDEN (Albert Whitman) and others. When she’s not reading, writing or making music, Janna enjoys gardening, walking her husky, and hanging out with her husband and three mostly-grown kids. Visit her at jannamatthies.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter @JannaMatthies.

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TIME FLIES
"7 ATE 9/PRIVATE I" BOOK #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
April 26, 2022

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