Wayne Junker has added author to his already impressive resume. In collaboration with his daughter, Whitney Jansen, the two published a children’s book titled, “Oh, Paul Bunyan.” Written by Junker and illustrated by Jansen, the Redwood Falls Public Library celebrated their accomplishment by putting together an open house event in October of 2021.
Jansen is an early childhood special ed teacher at St. Francis Area Schools. Her two-year-old son, Wally, was the guest reader at the book signing event. “It was so fun to share in the excitement at our book signing in October, and I loved that my son, Wally, got to be the guest speaker too,” she said.
In the late 1970s, Junker wrote a play for his fourth-grade class called “Minnesota Hail to Thee!” Over a year ago, Jansen produced a hard copy of the play for her father’s upcoming 70th birthday. “I’m grateful that my wife and I raised a daughter that would do something like this,” said Junker.
After receiving the hard copy, Junker and Jansen agreed to publish a children’s book together. Within “Minnesota Hail to Thee!” is a clever poem that Jansen had memory of as a child about Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Jansen began illustrating the pictures in November of 2020 and the book was officially published in July of 2021. Illustrating was never on Jansen’s radar before the project came about. “To be honest, I just wanted to create this for my dad because I thought it would bring him joy, and that he has made this whole experience more than worth it to me,” Jansen said. “I consider myself the luckiest girl in the world to be Wayne Junker’s daughter.”
So far over 150 books have been purchased between the book signing and through Amazon. “I didn’t expect it to happen and 50 years later, it did,” said Junker.
From the beginning of Junker’s career, I have understood the importance of creativity and introducing youth to public speaking. When looking through the plays the library had to offer, I found there to be a shortage in main roles. Oftentimes plays would only have eight to nine roles which does not work when there are over 20 students in a class.
“You can’t have that many trees,” Junker said jokingly. He took it upon himself to write his own plays. “I couldn’t find anything that would fit my classroom. I needed to and I wanted to.”
Junker wrote a total of seven plays. He wanted to ensure that no child saw the same play twice during their time at Reede Gray Elementary School. “I’m happy with what the kids learned. Those are memories.”
“Minnesota Hail to Thee!” was created when Junker was asked to put on a Minnesota state history play for the Spring 1976 Bicentennial. Junker included characters like Father Hennepin, Paul Bunyan, the Vikings and Harriet Bishop. Surprisingly enough, the first Harriet Bishop was played by the current director of the public library, Connie Leckner.
When Junker got an idea for a play, his creativity would flow out onto the paper. “I have so many memories of my dad drawing cartoons, writing poems and making up songs,” Jansen said. It would only take him two evenings to write an entire play.
Since retiring 10 years ago, Junker has spent his time working at the public library, announcing at sporting events and traveling to incredible destinations. Junker’s passion for the youth shines through when speaking on all that he has done and continues to do for our community. It was a pleasure to reconnect after being a student of his in 2008. “Oh, Paul Bunyan” is available to purchase on Amazon.