Author to sign children’s book copies at upcoming fair


Photo by Skyler Black

JaNay Brown-Wood looks forward to reading her book “Miguel’s Community Garden” to Oxford children April 22.

By Skyler Black

Award-winning author JaNay Brown-Wood will join Oxford’s F.R.E.S.H Air Fair and Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast April 22 to discuss her book “Miguel’s Community Garden” and sign copies of her children’s books. The Oxford community is invited to listen to Brown-Wood’s reading, enjoy pancakes and get free bicycle helmets at Talawanda High School that Saturday.

Brown-Wood will take the Talawanda High School stage from 11 to 11:30 a.m. during the annual fair, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon. The Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast precedes the fair, running from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets are $6 in advance and $7 at the door.

“Miguel’s Community Garden” follows Miguel and his two fathers as they hunt for sunflowers and is the Oxford Lane Library’s spring 2023 StoryWalk pick. Brown-Wood’s visit is sponsored by the Oxford Lane Library as part of their spring programming. Brown-Wood has published over 15 books with a cast of characters from diverse backgrounds. She said she prioritizes diversity in her stories to give children a chance to identify with characters in books, as that wasn’t something she grew up with. 

“What I really love about Miguel’s story is that he has two dads,” said Brown-Wood. “We get to see diversity in family structure.”

“Miguel’s Community Garden” is the second installment of her “Where in the Garden?” series, which explores children’s relationships with nature. Her inspiration came from a visit to her friend and his toddler, who roamed around their backyard garden with wonder and curiosity.

“She was just walking through the space so comfortably,” said Brown-Wood. “She knew what the produce was, and she could pick them off comfortably. That is what sparked the idea of the ‘Where in the Garden?’ series because you’ve got this diverse cast of young little preschool-aged kids moving through these gardens are different types of gardens.”

Despite her hatred of reading, writing came to Brown-Wood at a young age.

“I realized that I loved writing all the way back in elementary school,” said Brown-Wood. “I was the kid who actually hated reading. I despised it. I think a big reason for that was because I couldn’t find characters that reminded me of me or that looked like me. So instead of reading books, when I was in elementary school, I was writing my own.” 

As a child, Brown-Wood wrote her own short stories, including her unpublished “Taylor the Tyrannosaurus Rex” and a “Detective JaNay” series. It wasn’t until Brown-Wood graduated college that she began to pursue writing professionally.                                                                                                                                      
“I feel excitement on multiple levels,” said Brown-Wood. “Excitement about literacy, getting together talking about books, reading stories, getting kids excited about stories and words, but also being out in nature being outside, sun shining and talking about things like fruits and vegetables, healthy lifestyles, eating healthy.”

Brown-Wood’s book on healthy lifestyles “pairs well” with the ethos of the F.R.E.S.H Air Fair, said Amy Macechko, Talawanda district health and wellness coordinator and coalition coordinator. She notes the fair is to teach residents about local non-profit organizations that promote safety and health and provide fun activities. 24 social service agencies will participate.

“We put the fair on to give families and children in the community an opportunity to meet with other organizations that focus on family resources for safety, education and health,” said Miami senior and coalition intern Ella Bloomquist. “It’s an opportunity for them to come out and meet them in person and get any necessary information about ways to live healthier lives in the community and the events that are going on in the community.”

Free bike helmets for children are a big draw, according to Macechko. The event started 16 years ago in partnership with the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast.

Brown-Wood said the events allow Oxford to bond over health education as a community.

 “We can be healthy,” said Brown-Wood. “We can be outside, but still engage in literacy and reading and words and do this together as a family and in a very exciting, engaging way.”