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Janan Cain

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Former Magician Pulls Smiles Out of Nowhere
How to use The Way I Feel
Parenting Press "Stuck" with Job of Keeping Janan Cain's Books in Print

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Feature Story
Former Magician Pulls Smiles Out of Nowhere

Janan Cain

Magic was one of Janan Cain's first jobs and although she's no longer pulling rabbits out of hats or levitating into thin air, she's still conjuring smiles out of nowhere with the picture books she creates for Parenting Press.

Written to help children understand and express their emotions, Cain's The Way I Feel is just as appealing to adults, who can't help but emphasize with the fierce grimace and clenched fists of the angry child or the energetic boy springing off the page in excitement. And don't most of us want to dance, prance, run, jump and spin or zoom down a curlicue slide like the characters in The Way I Act ?

If you've ever been jealous, frustrated or proud, you'll nod in agreement as Cain brings these feelings to life. There's no moralizing as the children in these vivid pastel drawings admit to being scared, angry, or jealous. And you'll cheer along with the proud kid who signals "thumbs-up," the happy one who swings into the sunshine and high-fives a cooperative teammate.

Parenting Press's most popular book ever, The Way I Feel, is available from the Press as both a large-format hardback in English (ISBN 978-1-884734-71-7,$16.95), the Spanish language edition Así me siento yo (ISBN 978-1-884734-83-0, $16.95) and a toddler board book (ISBN 978-1-884734-72-4, $7.95). The Way I Act, the company's second most popular book ever, is a large-format hardback in English (ISBN 978-1-884734-99-1, $16.95).

Created because author/illustrator Cain couldn't find word books about emotions when her two daughters were tiny, The Way I Feel is full of images of the Cain girls. The book's cover resulted from a day at the park, when preschooler daughter Emily hung upside-down and made a goofy "fish-lips" face at her mother. It was her ferocious expression that also helped Cain with the "in-your-face" image for anger.

The Cain girls are in college and graduate school now, and the values their parents wanted to nurture in them became the basis for The Way I Act, with Cain teaming up with New York author Steve Metzger on the verses about curiosity, compassion, imagination, bravery and other traits. Once again showcasing Cain's sometimes zany characters, The Way I Act creates scenarios that kids can identify with—peering at bugs with a magnifying glass, making a bed, finishing a puzzle, sweeping up a mess.

Cain has been compared to Dr. Seuss, but she avoids absurdity to ensure that readers (of all ages) can identify with her characters. The kids' attire, however, is whimsical: stripes run wild around the skinny arms and legs, hats are fancifully huge, one skirt looks like a hula hoop and almost every shoe has a pointed toe that curls up elf-style.

Cain, who worked as a magician's assistant as a high school student, is a long-time resident of the Chicago suburb of Riverside. A graduate of the Art Institute of Colorado, Denver, she worked in several package-design and graphic design firms before establishing a freelance design and illustration practice. (If her face looks familiar, you may have seen her on television talk shows or on HGTV's Dreamhouse series, which chronicled the design and construction of the Cains' new home a while back.)