Publishing Launch Party & Signing

Local friends: Join Us!
Toadstool Bookshop, Milford, NH 
Saturday Nov 19, 1-3 pm
If you are unable to make it, Janine and the Field Day Finish 
is available through your local bookstore or on AMAZON
Please feel free to email me at
 if you'd like a signed bookplate mailed to you!
Maryann & Janine

"Janine" Inspires Kids

At a recent school visit, a 2nd grade boy handed Janine this note.
Janine is my idol too!

Below is an interview that was posted on Albert Whitman's Blog, the publisher.  It will give you a little insight in the making of the books. 
We were lucky enough to sit down with Maryann and Janine to chat about Janine and the Field Day Finish, inspiration, and optimism.

MARYANN, what was your inspiration for Janine and the Field Day Finish?

MCL:  Janine and the Field Day Finish is the sequel to the first book, JANINE, which introduced this spunky character. Both books and the ideas behind them, were inspired by my daughter Janine, who as a child with disabilities focused on the positive while navigating life.

Being a Winner is not always about being Number One is the message in Janine and the Field day Finish. The event behind the book was actually not on a field BUT in a pool. It went like this…Janine has CP (cerebral palsy) and has difficulty with all sports. After years of physical therapy and private swimming lessons, she finally learned to swim. At the local pool “Swim Meet” she was determined to swim one length of the pool. It was a relay race. Janine was dead last and soon the only child left in the pool. Most people cheered her on…but I heard several negative comments…”Who let her on the team?” “Now they‘re going to lose”. As a parent, I was saddened by these remarks. When Janine touched the end of the pool, we were thrilled, as was Janine. She did it!  I then noticed that several kids were crying because they didn’t win. That moment stuck with me. For Janine and for many children, it is not about winning…it’s about finishing… it’s about supporting each other…it’s about trying your best.  In Janine and the Field Day Finish, I expanded the storyline and recreated this moment on a school field instead of a pool, so that all children could relate.

In both books, you never mention what exactly Janine’s disability is- WHY?

MCL:   This question was the center of many editorial discussions. From the beginning I thought it was important NOT to mention the disability. First off, every person, child or adult, wants to be seen as the person they are, not a label. Secondly- in reality, kids don’t care!…they relate to each other as KIDS.  Every child has weaknesses and strengths and everyone need help now and then.

How does using inspiration from a real person differ from a character that is imagined?

MCL: Unlike an imagined character, when I write and draw the Janine books, I need to be true to my then 8 yr old little Janine. I keep asking myself---how would “kid” Janine handle this? What would she say? What would she wear? I look to my, (now 31-year-old) daughter Janine for character guidance, but as her mom, I can bring myself back in time to visualize her spunkiness, her quirks and pay homage to this courageous, happy child. Even today, Janine has a great attitude about life, never complains and is always supportive of others, even when she doesn’t “make the team”.

JANINE- why did you give your mother permission to create a character based on you and your experiences?

JML- I hope by sharing my story I will inspire others to be more tolerant and accepting of people’s differences and to inspire children who have disabilities. In the Janine books one of the big lessons is self-advocacy; standing up for yourself and loving who you are. Another is standing up for those who are being treated unfairly. These are very important messages to share with students in any age group since bullying is such a prominent issue these days.

I grew up with various disabilities and challenges.  Instead of being down on myself, I have spent my whole life focusing on being positive and thankful.   When people had doubt in me, my faith in myself has remained strong. Someone recently asked me, “If you could erase your disabilities- would you?”  My answer is a big NO. Sure, I’d like to be able to drive, but my disabilities have made me the person I am, and I don’t want to change. In the words of “book Janine”- I LIKE ME!

I hope kids learn to love who they are and don’t feel pressure to change to fit in.

Reviews are in...

Praise for Janine and the Field Day Finish 
"With a heartening lesson about friendship, competition, and what constitutes winning, this encouraging picture book nicely demonstrates the value of confidence and generosity." -Booklist 

"Her [Cocca-Leffler] colorful illustrations liven up this touching story of a child who does not fit in, but is self-assured enough not to worry about it. Readers will agree that this optimistic little girl has a mighty big heart."  -Kirkus 

Publishes Oct 2016
Cocca-Leffler’s slouchy-socked, pigtailed character, introduced in Janine (2015), brings her characteristic self-confidence and enthusiasm to this follow-up title about field day. Janine knows she’s not as fast as other kids, but she’s ready for field day anyway, from the froufrou good-luck ribbons adorning her red sneakers to the kicky cheer she’s invented to spur everyone on. Her classmate Abby, however, is not impressed: “You’re going to need more than luck . . . because I’m going to win.” Abby’s strategy for winning the race—shoving everyone out of her way—backfires when she trips and ends up in last place with Janine, but, thanks to Janine’s good-natured attitude, she’s eager to help in spite of Abby’s earlier comments, and together they limp across the finish line. Cocca-Leffler’s expressive, colorful illustrations capture Janine’s irrepressible spirit, and while she never names her disability, she gently explains the ways Janine is a little different from her classmates. With a  heartening lesson about friendship, competition, and what constitutes winning, this encouraging picture book nicely demonstrates the value of confidence and generosity.

Young protagonist Janine excels in many ways—but not in sports. Janine wants to participate in sports even though she has to wear glasses, is uncoordinated, has an, um, interesting sense of sport attire, and has never once made it around the track in PE class. Do these things get her down? No way! Always positive and enthusiastic, Janine is determined to participate in the upcoming field-day race. Snarky classmate Abby not only criticizes Janine's choice of running clothes, but also brags that she will win the first-place ribbon. When Abby encounters a problem during the race, Janine thinks outside the box to help her and proves that kindness is more important than winning. Prolific author/illustrator Cocca-Leffler gives readers this follow-up to Janine (2015), basing the endearing character on her own daughter's experiences and can-do attitude while growing up with disabilities. Her colorful illustrations liven up this touching story of a child who does not fit in but is self-assured enough not to worry about it. Both Janine and Abby appeared to be white; their classmates are diverse in many ways, including a boy who zooms along in a wheelchair. Readers will agree that this optimistic little girl has a mighty big heart.

Publishing Soon...

JANINE is back! 
And she doesn't let her challenges stop her. 
Once again inspires others by embracing who she is.
Publishes Sept 2016
 ABOUT: Today is field day and even though Janine is not good at sports, she is ready to compete. Her body just doesn’t work like the other kids’. But no matter what, Janine cheers for everyone and tries her best. During the big race, her classmate Abby trips and falls. Janine is right there to help. But Abby is crushed that she won’t finish the race. Can Janine teach Abby and her classmates that being a winner is not always about being number one?

Wrapping up School Visits

 I visited many schools this Spring, featuring my book JANINE.  I was greeted by a Giant hand- painted JANINE made by a staff member at Main St. School Exeter, NH  and inspired JANINE DAY in Peterborough, NH where everyone celebrated their Spectacular Self!
To all my classroom friends, Happy Summer! Stay Spectacular and keep READING!
In the Fall you will get to discover a New JANINE book...
Janine and the Field Day Finish publishes in October.

A GIANT Janine, Exeter, NH 
New Book- Publishes in FALL 2016
Exeter, NH readers

A Peterborough, NH School has JANINE day.
Mr Tanen's Ties graced the walls (Exeter)

New 'Janine' book coming this Fall

A new Janine book is in the works,
Janine  Field Day Finish 
Sneak peak of Art.
It's field day and Janine is ready. 
Janine is good at lots of things, but not sports. 
Her body just doesn't work like other kids. 
Janine never won first place... ever, 
but she tries her best (and she is wearing her lucky sneakers!)
Will that be enough to win her a blue ribbon?
Find out how Janine uses her optimism and 
unique cheers to inspire her classmates.

JANINE Field Day Finish
Publishes in the Fall of 2016 by Albert Whitman & Co.