Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘Janice Dean

Fox News broadcast meteorologist, Janice Dean, is back with her fourth Freddy the Frogcaster picture book. In her attempt to both entertain and educate, Dean has packed a lot of content into the forty pages of Freddy the Frogcaster and the Terrible Tornado. The resulting story feels rushed and overloaded with information. Even so, fans will enjoy revisiting Freddy and the Frog News Network as they face the latest weather emergency. The colorful and cartoonlike illustrations are a stable in the series and always a delight.

At this point in the series, Freddy has stopped needing to prove his worth to the Frog News Network crew and has instead become an accepted member of the crew. So, every weekend he heads to the TV station and delivers the weather on camera. One spring day, while studying his weather charts and forecasting tools, Freddy realized that his town of Lilypad could face some dangerous weather. But that wasn’t what caused the most excitement at the station. Instead all three felt psyched because the bad weather might mean a visit from the infamous storm chaser Tad Polar.

Dean’s created a good setup for a potentially adventurous, but then unfortunately hurries through the narration. She could have made Freddy face so many different obstacles: His parents might have refused to let him to ride along with Tad, but he could have snuck out anyway and faced danger because of it; On the ride along, the two might have initially gotten too close to the tornado and found their lives at risk because of their daredevil choice; While Freddy was out on the ride along, the tornado might have hit unusually close to his home, causing him to face guilt for not being there. Instead Freddy and Tad spot a tornado, report it, and a few minutes later are back safe at the news station. The story is simple, safe, and bland.

There are positives. First, as with other Freddy the Frogcaster books, detailed explanations of weather fill the back pages. Dean tells what tornadoes are, where they’re most likely to occur, how their measured with regards to strength, and tips to being safe during one. In addition, Dean offers up some cool trivia about the longest a tornado has traveled in the United States and the largest recorded hailstone in the United States. Second, the artwork by Russ Cox is captivating with its colorful palette. In addition, it changes to reflect the weather. When the skies are clear, pages shout with yellow, orange, and blue. When the skies are dark, pages rumble with purple and black.

Hurricanes. Blizzards. Tornadoes. Despite my disappointment with Dean’s fourth entry, I am a fan of her science-based stories. Dean has done much right. She featured animals. She wrote about weather. I’m already brainstorming a list of other types of weathers, in an attempt to figure out what the fifth entry will be.

Fox News broadcast meteorologist, Janice Dean, has done it again. Her third title in the picture book series about Freddy the Frogcaster contains all the winning elements of her earlier entries. Aside from my having a couple of minor complaints, Freddy the Frogcaster and the Huge Hurricane is an engaging and educational story. The colorful and cartoonlike illustrations also have high appeal.

Summer vacation has just started for Freddy and his friends. A trip to the shore in the upcoming week is planned. Light wind, low humidity, and clear blue skies seem to indicate perfect weather conditions. Except what’s that big swirl of clouds on the satellite images? Oh no! The first tropical storm of the season has started. What’s even worse, it’s headed straight towards Lilypad!

Hmm, if this plot setup seems familiar, that’s because storms were also headed towards Lilypad in the first two titles. In this third title, Freddy’s family and friends no longer even need his help. Instead the town has gotten good at preparing for bad weather, having previously encountered thunderstorms and then a blizzard.

But wait! There’s a twist. Someone needs to report updates on the weather and it can’t be regular broadcaster Polly Woggins who has braved the elements long enough. Who will take her place? Will it be Freddy? The mere thought makes his voice shake. “Weather watching was one thing. But talking in front of a camera? That was a different story.”

In my opening paragraph, I mentioned that I had a couple of complaints. Dean successfully overcomes a formulaic plot with her twist, but this leaves me with an issue about her style. After initially keeping her dialog tags simple, Dean falls into the error of bloating them. Characters notice, call, explain, ask, bellow, wink, yell, report, suggest, shout, cheer, and exclaim.

On the positive side, right along with relating to Freddy’s fears, readers will get educated about weather. As Sally reports the news, readers will discover the difference between tropical storms and hurricanes. When Freddy hurries home to his family, readers will learn the basics of how to prepare for natural disasters. As the hurricane descends upon Lilypad, readers will also figure out the signs for when the eye of a storm is near. When clean-up begins the next day, readers will also grasp what types of damage storms can create.

None of these details weigh down the story. Instead Dean wisely saves more detailed explanations for back pages, where Freddy talks at length about the origins of hurricanes, defines storm surges, and provides information about how hurricanes are names and what hurricane hunters are. Dean clearly knows weather!

Finally, there is the artwork. With the onset of summer, backgrounds start out bright blue and yellow. Then as the storm brews, backgrounds become a stark contrast of bold purples and even black. The characters are larger-than life in size, as well as dramatic in their vivid greens. Award-winning illustrator Russ Cox has also provided each frog with his or her own expressive face and personality. Everything works with the artwork.

As part of a research paper last year, some of my students studied storms. Freddy the Frogcaster and the Huge Hurricane would have made an entertaining reference for them. As for me, I’m happily collecting Dean’s whole series of weather picture books.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

Near the start of this year, I posted a teaser about meteorologist Janice Dean and a review of her second picture book Freddy the Frogcaster and the Big Blizzard. This week, I’m delighted to post both an interview with the author and a review of her next Freddy title.
JaniceDeanSince writing my teaser about Dean, whose nicknames are “The Weather Machine” and “The Weather Queen”, I have discovered more biographical information. For example, before starting her career in broadcasting, Dean was a Canadian By-Law Enforcement officer. Her duties included writing parking tickets and chasing dogs.

Dean began her broadcasting career in Ontario, where she served as a morning show co-host, reporter, and disc jockey. She received an honors diploma from Algonquin College in Radio and Television Broadcasting. From there, she continued her career in various American locations, where she landed positions as an on-air traffic reporter, a radio co-host, entertainment reporter, and a news editor. Dean is a member of the American Meteorological Society and was awarded the AMS Seal of Approval in 2009.

I’ll review Freddy the Frogcaster and the Huge Hurricane tomorrow. Save the date: August 18!


ALLISON: In weather terms, how would you describe your childhood?

JANICE: Plenty of sunshine. 🙂

ALLISON: How about your adolescence?

JANICE: A few strong thunderstorms, but the rainbow always came out after the storms rolled through.

ALLISON: Why did you become a meteorologist?

JANICE: I studied journalism and radio television broadcasting in college back home in Canada, but my interest in weather goes back to being a kid when we had snow piled up to our rooftops during the big Canadian winters. I remember thinking I wanted to find out why events like this happen and watching the forecasters trying to warn people.

I was a local weather presenter right out of college on the CBC while I was a radio host, and did that part time. Back then, you could do the weather without having the meteorology background. When I was hired at Fox to be their daytime weather person, I decided it was time to go back to school and meteorology classes and study the science while working full time.

ALLISON: How did you train to become a meteorologist?

JANICE: I took one of the best distance learning programs for Broadcast Meteorologists at Mississippi State University. Many of the television meteorologists have done the same thing while they are working in the field since it’s tailored for weather broadcasters to complete the required coursework for the AMS (American Meteorology Society) Seal of Approval and the certificate in broadcast meteorology.

ALLISON: How did a Canadian end up reporting for Fox News?

JANICE: The short version of the story is I have dual citizenship (my father was American) and I moved to New York for a broadcasting job in radio, and became friends with a makeup artist that worked at Fox News. I wasn’t happy with my radio job, so she brought my “tape” (an actual VHS tape which have gone the way of the dinosaur) over to FNC, and they liked me enough to bring me over for a couple of interviews…and then eventually hired me. That was almost 12 years ago.

ALLISON: What are your top five favorites about Canada?

JANICE: I miss the food (poutine anyone?), the coffee (Tim Hortons), the chocolate (Caramilk Bars). I have wonderful friends and family that still live there, and I can’t wait to someday give my kids a cross Canada tour of some of the prettiest places on earth like:

  • Banff, Alberta
  • Victoria, British Columbia
  • Montreal, Quebec
  • Calgary, Alberta
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • St Johns, Newfoundland (where my mom is from)


ALLISON: What is the most exciting part about your job as a meteorologist?

JANICE: I get to see storms form and track them as they move across the country or across oceans. Thunder snow is very cool and rare even to witness. It has the same dynamics as a thunderstorm with thunder and lightning except it happens in a snowstorm. And fog is also amazing when you see it from a tower camera above covering a big city like New York. Hurricanes are one of the most fascinating systems. At their strongest, they are incredible to look at on satellite. Of course they can be devastatingly dangerous, so I would prefer to just watch them over the water and not make landfall anywhere.

ALLISON: The scariest?

JANICE: Hurricanes and Tornadoes can be very scary and that’s why I take it very seriously when I’m doing storm coverage. I want to make sure people are aware that this could be a life threatening event but at the same time be a calm and a respectful reporter. I’ve seen EF 5 tornadoes take out entire neighborhoods and Hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy completely demolish parts of the coast line. Katrina was the biggest weather event I’ve ever forecasted or witnessed. We might not ever see a hurricane like that again in my lifetime.

ALLISON: What is the most touching moment you have experienced as a meteorologist?

JANICE: Anytime there is a devastating storm, I see communities and neighbors coming together to help one another. Weather brings us together across the world, and when a storm devastates communities, a lot of times that’s when we get to see the kindness of others.

ALLISON: The saddest?

JANICE: Katrina was the biggest weather events I’ve ever covered here in the US and it devastated parts of New Orleans, Mississippi and Alabama taking over a thousand lives, but the EF 5 tornado that ravaged Moore Oklahoma a few years ago is one I will never forget because it tore apart two schools, and several children died. Any weather stories that take our beautiful kids from us bring tremendous sadness.

ALLISON: Why did you decide to write books for children?

JANICE: Over the years colleagues and friends have come up to me and asked my recommendations for books about weather to give to their kids for Christmas and Birthdays. After doing some research I found out there really isn’t a lot out there for children that have a fun story line along with information about the atmosphere and the weather that affects our daily lives.

Freddy didn’t come out of nowhere, though. I’ve had an idea of a children’s book with a weather theme for years. Many of the characters and the story line came to me while I rocked my youngest boy Theodore to sleep at night. Getting Freddy the Frogcaster published was no easy feat. It took me several years and many storylines until I finally got it right. I think Freddy can be a great teaching tool along with parents and teachers to explain why a storm happens, what to do and how to be prepared.

ALLISON: Why animals as the core characters? Why a frog as the main one?

JANICE: Well, the groundhog was taken HAHA! Publishers have told me over the years that children connect well with animals when it comes to children’s books. I’ve always had a love of frogs and I remember reading somewhere that when a storm rolls through, frogs have a sixth sense and actually croak louder to warn other frogs. I’m not sure if that’s actually been scientifically proven, but it was enough for me to decide that frogs could be natural weather forecasters!

From Fox News broadcast meteorologist Janice Dean comes an entertaining and educational picture book about weather called Freddy the Frogcaster and the Big Blizzard. On the entertaining side, Dean has created a suspenseful enough plot to hold the attention of young readers. The bright and bold illustrations are also bound to captivate. On the educational side, not only does the text itself contain science facts, but there are seven back pages full of information about winter storms.

I’ll start with the plot. Freddy Frog and his friends taking a school trip to Frog News Network. While at the weather desk, Freddy notices a big blizzard is heading towards his little town of Lilypad and jumps into action. Will Freddy get the word out before the wind starts blowing and the snow starts falling? One course of action Freddy takes is to build blizzard kits. What will happen when not everyone shows the same enthusiasm for his kits? I predict that after reading this adventurous tale, young students will be pestering the adults in their lives to take them to a news network. Just as importantly, these students will also start creating their own emergency kits and demanding adults to keep them on hand for upcoming winter storms.

As for the science facts, Dean wisely avoids weighing down the plot with them. Instead her story includes only brief references to terms like air mass and weather satellites. Mostly, Dean focuses on how Freddy takes action to get the word out of a blizzard and to build storm kits. Herein, she also avoids falling into the cliché of narrating a story about being stuck in weather. Still, be prepared for young readers of Freddy to start watching more weather reports and tossing around terms like cold mass, warm mass, front, and water vapor. The seven back pages contain an explanation of how blizzards develop, the various types of weather precipitation, and even a winter storm checklist.


While there is much to appreciate about Freddy the Frogcaster and the Big Blizzard, I did find it lacking in some ways. For example, one of the characters pretends to do a forecast in front a green screen but for the most part is invisible. When Freddy clicks a button, the screen turns blue and his friend returns. If one is not acquainted with how screen technology works, and there is no reason young readers would be, more explanation might be needed for this scene to make sense. Then there is Freddy’s connection to news staff, Sally Croaker and Polly Woggins. To me, the latter seem to be adults knowledgeable about weather. As such, it seems a little unrealistic that Freddy would find himself having to convince them that blizzard kits are useful.

With Freddy the Frogcaster and the Big Blizzard, Dean has done much right. She featured animals. She wrote about weather. Then she combined the two into an engaging plot, accompanied by colorful artwork. Who knows? Besides encouraging ones to build blizzard kits, Dean might also inspire some young readers to become meteorologists.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

JaniceDeanFox News broadcast meteorologist Janice Dean has penned her second tale about Freddy Frog, who is an aspiring weather forecaster. I’ll review Dean’s book here tomorrow: January 8. Save the date!


According to her bio on the jacket flap of Freddy the Frogcaster and the Big Blizzard, Dean joined Fox News in 2004. Since that time, she has reported on some of the biggest weather stories in history such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, as well as the Moor and El Reno 2013 tornadoes in Oklahoma. Viewers know her as “The Weather Machine,” a nickname given her by a news anchor when introducing her on his show. She lives in New York.


In an interview with Fox News, Dean talks about how her books are educational, in teaching kids about weather. The latter is a topic which fascinates kids, including her son who at age three compared his squeezing water out of a wash cloth to clouds and rain. Dean also talks about the characters she created. Freddy Frog has been frog casting the weather since he was a tadpole. His friends Sally Croaker and Polly Wagon are always there to support him. Finally, her books have morals and themes. For example, there are characters to root for and to root against, especially when ones make questionable choices.

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