Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 28, 2021

Book Giveaway: WALRUS SONG by Janet Lawler

Janet Lawler has a new picture book, WALRUS SONG, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering and published by Candlewick Press on December 1st. Janet has agreed to share a copy with one lucky 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 the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Thank you for helping Janet and Timothy!


Janet Lawler’s WALRUS SONG (Candlewick, 2021) is a lyrical narrative nonfiction picture book about a unique arctic mammal. Dive right in with busy Walrus as he plays with puffins, lounges on ice, devours clams, and makes lots of noise!

What’s the ruckus?

What’s that sound?

Walrus calls and songs astound—

Honk, honkkkk! HOOO, HOOOOT!

Squee! Squee, SQUEEE! Toot, TOOT!

WALRUS SONG celebrates the wonders of walruses in a story that’s brought to life through Timothy Basil Ering’s exuberant artwork. Curious readers will find a spread of fascinating walrus facts at the end. Did you know that a walrus can eat more than four thousand clams in a feeding frenzy?

WALRUS SONG has been named a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection.


How It All Began

Sometime during the first day that I attended Book Expo in 2017, I met with my agent. I wanted to do another nonfiction book (having enjoyed working on National Geographic titles RAIN FOREST COLORS and OCEAN COUNTING), and so we brainstormed animal ideas, and she mentioned walruses. That night, in my NYC hotel room, I began browsing and researching. When I came upon a YouTube recording of 10 Hours of Walrus Sounds, I was totally fascinated and hooked!

Coincidentally, on the train ride to and from Book Expo, I was reading In the Great Green Room by Amy Gary, a biography of the iconic children’s author Margaret Wise Brown. Brown lived such an inspiring and creative life, personally and professionally! Her writing style—spare, lyrical, playful, with an instinct for choosing perfect sounds to read aloud—has always influenced my writing. She was whispering in my ear as I began working on WALRUS SONG!

Writing Rhyme and Prose

Over the next several weeks, after a lot of research, reading, and listening to walrus sounds, I wrote a rough draft of the entire main story text in rhyme. I included parenthetical notes on the side, keying the facts (feeding, tusks, walking, sounds, babies, etc.) that I planned to develop in more detailed prose for sidebar or back matter placement.

I made a couple of changes based on my agent’s first reading of the main story (including her suggested title change from Where’s Walrus? to WALRUS SONG). I also shared multiple drafts of the poem with my critique group and tweaked it here and there based on the group’s thoughtful comments. I considered shortening the walrus noises, since I had written so many! I ultimately decided to keep it all in. The sounds are really the climax of my story and the most memorable thing about this species. And they would be SO much fun for kids to read, hear, and imitate!

The manuscript in this format (lyrical main text with parenthetical walrus fact notes) was submitted to Candlewick. After initial interest, I waited. Though I don’t know the exact acquisition route my story took over the coming months, I understand that Candlewick was evaluating where this manuscript might fit in their established lines of nonfiction titles. While waiting and hoping, I did additional research and writing to complete the kid-friendly informational back matter about walruses. In April of 2018, within a month of providing Candlewick with this additional material, I received an offer to publish!

Revising After Acquisition

Editorial revision requests were very reasonable, helpful, and few. One suggestion made a huge difference in making my story better. Of course, as is often the case, it was addressed to lines I particularly loved—in this instance, my story ending! My original final line summed up my total wonder and awe regarding this massive arctic mammal:

Walrus, by and in the sea.

Walrus—fascinating me!

I was asked to consider revising here because the unexpected interjection of a human narrator might startle a reader immersed in the story’s natural world and adventures of Walrus. So I pushed myself to look at the ending objectively. Then I went back to work and wrote the ending that I now totally love:


by and in the sea.

What will his tomorrow be?

 My new last line provides a deliberate double entendre to ponder. Not only am I asking readers to wonder what adventures Walrus might have the next day—will he hunt for more clams, hang around on an ice floe, fight with a rival? I am also bringing readers’ attention to survival challenges facing walruses due to hunting, poaching, and reduction of arctic ice habitat due to global warming.

Design Decision

I initially envisioned side bars on each spread to elaborate on facts touched upon in my narrative text. I’m grateful that Candlewick decided that all that information should be placed as back matter, cleverly keyed to the text to guide readers. This allows for the poem to be read and appreciated without the interruption of added information.

And with this presentation, the narrative story is short enough to engage the very young, while adults or more independent readers can learn more by reading the additional related facts at the end.

Illustrations and More

The best picture books are ones where an illustrator adds to an author’s story and elevates it to a higher level. Illustrator Timothy Basil Ering has certainly done that for my story! His fine and nuanced acrylic illustrations totally capture the power and massive beauty of Walrus and his frigid, watery world. Walrus beckons readers to join him with soulful and playful glances, and a reader can’t help but fall in love. Thank you, Tim!

At my book’s page on my website, visitors can view the book trailer and download a free WALRUS SONG MAZE activity sheet. Teacher Tips will be posted there in early December.


Award-winning author Janet Lawler writes fiction and nonfiction picture books and early readers for children. Her work has been featured in Scholastic Book Clubs and the Children’s Book of the Month Club and has been translated into several languages, including Spanish, Japanese, and Hebrew.

Her more-than-thirty published titles include FRIGHT SCHOOLWINTER CATSMIRABEL’S MISSING VALENTINES, IF KISSES WERE COLORS, and KINDERGARTEN HAT. Her nonfiction work includes WALRUS SONG and National Geographic’s RAIN FOREST COLORS and OCEAN COUNTING. Upcoming titles include OCEANS OF LOVE (Viking), Celebrate! A Happy Book of Firsts (Feiwel & Friends), and THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOPE (Farrar Straus Giroux).

Janet is fascinated by the natural world and enjoys finding humor and hope in everyday life. She loves how words make music, and she marvels at the way illustrators add depth and detail to her stories. Learn more about Janet and her books at Home – Janet Lawler

And please stop by my blog, Janet’s Jottings, and sign up for my periodic musings on writing and nature.

Janet enjoys visiting schools and libraries. Visit her website at


Timothy Basil Ering has illustrated numerous children’s books- including the New York times bestseller and Newbery Medal winning The Tale Of Despereaux written by Kate DiCamillo Which became an animated movie and remains in print around world, and his own creations including his picture book, The Story Of Frog Belly Rat Bone that now exceeds it’s 10th year anniversary in print and was adapted for the stage in Los Angeles. Other popular titles include Necks Out For Adventure!, The Almost Fearless Hamilton Squidlegger, Finn Throws A Fit!, Snook Alone, and Wild Boy; The True Story of the Savage of Aveyron- all receiving accolades from Kirkus reviews, Publishers weekly, School Library Journal, and more.

Anyone who knows Tim Ering would agree that he himself is a character, as inimitable as any that he may portray in his art. A compilation of words taken from reviews describing Ering’s work include; textural, atmospheric, ethereal, delicate, scrawly, powerful, inimitable, whimsical, light hearted, surreal, humorous, dark, beautiful, emotional, imaginative, randomness and control.

Janet, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. It makes me want to dive right in with busy Walrus as he plays with puffins, lounges on ice, devours clams, and makes lots of noise! Timothy’s illustrations make this a very special book.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. What a wonderful walrus-y book! [Newsletter subscriber]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LOVE it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. They really are amazing creatures. We’re so lucky to have them on the planet with us. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of this cool book.
    I’ve tweeted:, and shared:
    I also follow daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    Thanks again, have a great week!


    • thanks for sharing my total wonder about walruses!


  4. Putting this one on my TBR list–sounds wonderful!


    • Let me know if you have fun reading all those noises out loud!!!


  5. Reblogged this on sketchuniverse and commented:


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