Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 14, 2021

Book Giveaway: JUST BE CLAUS by Barbara Joosse

Barbara Joosse has written a new picture book, JUST BE CLAUS, illustrated by Kimberly Barnes and publish by Sleeping Bear Press. They have agreed to send a copy to the one lucky US winner.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Barbara and Renée.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


Even as a baby, sweet little Claus seemed different. He didn’t cry like the other babies and with his rosy cheeks and round little belly, he was a jolly soul. His grandmother declares he is precisely perfect! But as Claus grows, the little boy worries that he is different from other kids: he has a loud hearty laugh, he likes to wear red all the time, and his favorite hangout is the workshop with his grandmother. And at hockey, he helps the other team win because he doesn’t want the players to feel bad. When Claus confides to Grannie that he’d rather be more like the other kids, she tells him his differences make him special. She tells him to be himself, “Just be Claus.” Claus is sure Grannie is wrong. But then a snowstorm threatens to ruin Christmas. Can Claus figure out a way to use what makes him special to help save the holiday?


Three days at a Holiday Fare created the perfect storm: I have a fizzy little brain and for three days, I’d been sitting still for countless, ticking, mindnumbing hours. Now it was Packer Sunday and all the shoppers were home, glued to the tube, eating chips and cheese curds!! Beside me was my pal and illustrator, Renee Graef, both of us selling and signing occasionally, but mostly watching shoppers trickle by in their Santa hats.

I should have been delighted with enforced relaxation. I had tons of projects on my desk, demanding attention. It seemed I hadn’t relaxed for weeks! But relaxation is over-rated, enjoyed only in very small doses. So Page 1 of 6 my diabolical brain did what it always did with enforced relaxation: it dished up a tasty, irresistible idea.

This time, the idea was a simple phrase, “Just Be Claus.” But because I was bored, the idea seemed positively hilarious, so I yelled to Renee. “JUST BE CLAUS! GET IT? JUST BECAUSE? JUST BE CLAUS??” Renee, I’m pretty sure, groaned. She knew I couldn’t afford to pay attention to a new story. But it was too late. The story was now written on my brain in permanent marker.

For me, stories are 10% inspiration and 90% percolation. (Yeah, ok. The perspiration part is true, too. I go through many, many drafts.) So my idea silently lodged itself in the underground bunker of my subconscious where it gathered little scenes and words and situations. Two years later, it emerged, a newborn babe of an idea, all wiggly and slippery and demanding attention.

“Just Be Claus” was a clever idea, but clever is never enough. I want to write stories with heart, stories that touch kids and give them insight. So I began to think of a little Santa—Clausie!—with all the beloved traits of our hero, but in a kid. A quirky, red-clothes-wearing, ho-ho-laughing, klutzy, creative, tenderhearted kid. A kid who worried he wasn’t anything like the other kids.

I have a soft spot in my heart for oddballs. I have three quirky granddaughters, little apples that did NOT fall far from the Granna tree.
One is a book nerd. One is a science geek. One is a small goth child. I couldn’t wait to dig into this story and tell Clausie the thing I wanted my granddaughters to believe in the darkest corner of their hearts:

“You’re creative, thoughtful, and generous. The things that make you different are the best things about you. Don’t try to be like anyone else. Just be YOU. JUST BE CLAUS.”

There were a lot of drafts. It was tricky to find just the right tone. I wanted Clausie to sound real, so readers who felt weird, too (roughly, all of them), would recognize themselves in this heart-felt little guy. Because, think of it! If I could make readers recognize their own weirdness in Clausie—the hero of Christmas!—I’d give them hope that their own quirky little traits might one day be amazing!

I consulted with my granddaughter, Marina, well versed in advising her book-writing Granna. I asked her to speak for Clausie. “He’d say, ‘I’m not like the other kids. I’m weird. That makes me feel lonely, like I’ll never fit in.’”

Marina’s words were authentic. I knew it. She’d given voice to most kids’ Big Worry. So this is the way I wrote the passage:
But Clausie felt lonely. His difference made him feel out of place.

One day, Clausie told Grannie his worries. “I’m weird.”

“Wonderful!” said Grannie. “You’re one of a kind!”

“But I don’t want to be weird! I want to be like the other kids.”

A tear trickled down Clausie’s cheek. Dasher licked it off.”

When I sent my manuscript to my amazing editor, she and the copy editor
tagged the word, “weird.”

I felt pretty strongly that I wanted to keep it. Weird rang true. It may have been character correct, but my editor insisted, not sensitive. My editor wanted to change “weird” to “different.”

Authors walk a narrow, twisty little road. We want to be flexible, but we also want to defend what we think is right. I know that publishers keep a close eye on trigger words, for good reason. And especially for kids, who are so often the target of relentless teasing and bullying, “political correctness” should more accurately be termed, “emotional kindness.” While I’m sure “weird” is just what a kid would say to describe his angst, I did not want to perpetuate a word that sparked so much hurt.

So I agreed to the change, accepting the greater wisdom of the other guardians of children’s hearts—my editor and publisher.

In the end, I’m delighted with “Just Be Claus.” After all, I was able to reassure all the kids who felt different, including my own granddaughters, with my happy-ever-after ending:

Back at home Clausie felt as warm and melty as a mug of Christmas cocoa. Grannie was right! He didn’t need to be anybody but himself. His differences were the very thing that helped make others happy.


Barbara M. Joosse is an American children’s writer. She has been writing for children for over thirty years. She has published fifty-four books for children, both picture books and chapter books. Through her writing, she aspires to find the things that are the same, and the things that are different, between us all.

She has toured worldwide to promote her books, which have been translated into twenty-eight languages and attended college in Wisconsin, first at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point and received her B.A. at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She attended University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee from 1977-80, taking creative writing classes. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Council for Wisconsin Writers.


Kim Barnes is a UK based illustrator. She graduated from Lincoln University, England, She is the illustrator of the Sparkella series written by Channing Tatum (The One and Only Sparkella and The One and Only Sparkella Makes a Plan). Kimberley Barnes with a first class degree in Illustration from the University of Lincoln. She lives near the sea on the Isle of Wight, her childhood home with her fiancé and two children, two children, Leo and Cameo.

Her love of drawing began at a very young age and has lead her onto a career in illustration, specializing in children’s illustration, as she loves to relive her childhood through the stories that she creates and works with.

She is represented by the wonderful Bright Agency and has worked with clients such as Little Tiger, Top That Publishing, Igloo, Macmillan Education and more. Contact them via the link below for enquiries.
Bright Agency- Kim Barnes

Barbara thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I love Christmas picture books. What fun to read a story of Santa as a child and to see how he feels different than the other kids. I am sure this will appeal to many children and help them realize how being different can be a good thing. Barbara did a wonderful job providing the illustrations that help tell the story. Gook luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. super cute title and book –


  2. What a wonderful idea and catchy title! I love this and can’t wait to read it.


  3. Congrats, Barbara and Kim! I just adore that title and cover. (I’m signed up for the emails, too.)


  4. And yet she persisted! I enjoyed reading about your pursuit of a creative idea until it all came together, Barbara. Such inviting illustrations, too!


  5. Thanks for sharing your book’s journey, Barbara! Congratulations! What a clever idea! I can’t wait to read it. Great interview, Kathy. I receive your blog daily, and posted a link on Twitter:


  6. I love the title, the adorable illustrations, and the inspiration for this new picture book. Congratulations, Barbara & Kim! I’ll be sharing this on twitter.


  7. Thank you for sharing how you found the heart of your story. Your book has an important message for all readers and the illustrations are adorable. I’m an email subscriber and shared:


  8. This looks awfully cute. Thanks for telling me about it. I will pass on the giveaway since I just won a book from you.


  9. This looks like such a cozy, comforting story. (Kathy, I subscribe to your blog.)


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