April 2009 Hedge a gram

Two cochin hens showing the round shape they are famous for.  They belong to Tom Roebuck.

Two cochin hens showing the round shape they are famous for. They belong to Tom Roebuck.


     This is my April hedge a gram – time to let you know what I’m doing in my job as a children’s book illustrator and writer.
     I finally finished my Easter book. It took a long time to finish with all the eggs, bunnies and pussy willow framing on every page. The last few pages were especially fun because I got to imagine what the Easter bunnies wagon looked like, pulled by beautiful cochin hens. Cochins are shaped like feathered globes – their tails don’t stick out, they fall in a pouf in the back, their feet are feathered and they have a roley poley look. I named them after flowers, but Roley Poley would be a good name for a Cochin hen. Despite their roundness, they are very dignified due to their very serious eyes and stately way of walking. Where I grew up in New England, it was very likely we would have snow on the ground on Easter morning. My sisters and I would be excited to see rabbit tracks, but we never thought of looking for wagon tracks!
    I am always sorry to leave the world I’ve created when it’s time to move on to my next book, but I know I can always go to the feed store and see Tikki the beautiful black “velveteen” rabbit who lives there. She always greets everyone by standing up on her haunches. I’ll miss painting the rabbits.

Euphorbia plant in Windhoek, Namibia.   It's is primarily found in the tropical regions of Africa.

Euphorbia plant in Windhoek, Namibia. It is primarily found in the tropical regions of Africa.

      My trip to Namibia, Africa was like a treasure hunt. I took photos of the rare welwichita plant and euphorbia, cactus like plants that look weird to a person from Norwell, Massachusetts with our pines, birches and maples. I brought back lots of fabric that is distinctively Namibian. I may use it in the borders of my new book, and I’ll definitely use it to create the dresses of the three little mapimbi.
      One of the first decisions I’ll make when creating my next book, THE THREE LITTLE MAPIMBI will be the size and shape it will be. My books tend to be big, because I need room for the borders. I usually tell part of the story in the borders. Every day I turn over in my mind, what kind of African animal should play the role of the big bad wolf, because it is an African version of the three little pigs. Some days I think the eagle would be perfect. There’s something scary about their wide reach from the sky. An eagle could carry the mapindi off in their talons and leave them stranded in their high nest.
Leopard in Botswana for my trip for Honey...Honey...Lion

Leopard in Botswana for my trip for Honey...Honey...Lion

     That would be exciting, and a good border story. On the other hand, the wolf character could be the leopard. We have seen many in Africa, and the sight of the yellow gold coat covered with velvet purply black rosettes (also called spots!) is arresting, and would be fun to draw. I may end up creating two book dummies, and then work it out with Joe, my husband who always gives input, and Margaret, my editor who has helped me so profoundly in the last twenty books.
    Which reminds me, THE MITTEN is having its twentieth anniversary this fall. It’s a book that always makes me smile, and this past winter I worked with the designers at Putnam to create a new jacket.
     After I finish the text for THE THREE LITTLE MAPIMBI, I’ll start on the book dummy. With the exception of the story idea itself – that is the time the book really takes shape, an exciting time it is, too!
     I hope you are all thinking of stories that are just bursting to be told. The world will be a better place from your efforts. It always amazes me to think that it only takes effort and imagination to create a new book.
Happy reading,
Jan Brett
  1. #1 by Jennifer Kirkeby on April 8, 2009 - 1:54 am

    Your blog is beautiful! It is wonderful to see where you get your inspiration. I love the pictures and hearing about how animals weave their way into your life – even when you were a youngster! Can’t wait to see your Easter book, and congratulations on the twentieth anniversary of THE MITTEN! I hope to see the musical done again!

  2. #2 by Melissa VanEssen on April 13, 2009 - 11:09 pm

    I love your blog! Ever since I was a little girl I have loved and been inspired by your work. My elementary teacher would read one of your books everyday at story time and now that I am going into teaching my book collection will be filled with a variety of your books as well. I love the fact that you actually go and travel to places and get inspiration for your books and incorporate it into your stories. Can’t wait to see your Easter book.

  3. #3 by Brianna on April 16, 2009 - 4:04 pm

    I love your books,the one I like the most is THE
    CHRISTMAS TROLLS I have read that one almost 50
    times .It is a great book.My favorite part of the book was when the little girl found out the trolls wanted to have a Christmas of there own so she helped their own Cristmas.

  4. #4 by CanCan (Mom Most Traveled) on April 18, 2009 - 11:42 pm

    How inspiring! I’m a traveler myself (I’m in Indonesia right this minute!) and I love your books. I am an aspiring children’s author but an illustrator…I will leave that to you!
    I love your blog; thanks for the little peep into your life!

  5. #5 by Judy Thomas on April 28, 2009 - 10:59 pm

    Ms. Bivona’s class thinks that they are your “biggest fans”. They said, “We are excited about your Easter story. We can’t wait to read it. Your next book sounds interesting. Have you decided which animal will be the villain? Our favorite books are “Who’s that knocking on Christmas Eve?” and “Hedgie’s Surprise”. We laughed when the little troll poked the bear with the sausage and called him “Kitty”. We also liked when the Tomten got a “Hedgie Surprise” instead of an egg.

  6. #6 by Judy Thomas on April 28, 2009 - 11:31 pm

    Ms Scofield’s class enjoyed reading your April Hedge a gram. They enjoyed reading about how you had the chickens pull the wagon for the Easter Bunny, in your next book. They can’t wait to read this book as well as the one that you are going to start writing soon. They talked about which animal could be the “villain”. Have you decided who that will be yet? Their top 3 favorite books are “The Gingerbread Baby”, “Hedgie Blasts Off” and “Hedgie’s Surprise”. They’re glad the Gingerbread Baby did’t get eaten. They loved the aliens and their coins; and they are glad that the Tomten didn’t eat Henny, but ran back to his Mommy, instead.

  7. #7 by Judy Thomas on April 28, 2009 - 11:42 pm

    Ms. Lara’s class thinks it’s great that you are going to write another book, set in Africa. Are you excited to go back there again? Many of the students want to go to Africa some day. Some of them have seen African animals in amusement parks and zoos, but would love to see them in their real habitats. We learned about you on a Smartboard computer and saw your videos too. “Hedgie Blasts Off ” is this class’ favorite. They liked when “Big Sparkler” errupted and the coins went-KA-BOOM! They aslo loved the beautiful flowers on the alien planet, Mikkop.

  8. #8 by Jan Brett on April 29, 2009 - 12:08 am

    Dear Ms. Thomas’ students,

    I think that the eagle will be the “bad guy” in The Three Little Mapimbi, but I still have time to change my mind! Thanks for asking.


  9. #9 by Mary Mueller on May 7, 2009 - 9:05 pm

    I liked the podcast last fall with you and the awards you received.

    Mrs. Bush was a wonderful speaker to honor you.

  10. #10 by Dawn on April 2, 2010 - 4:10 pm

    Thank you for coming to Dallas. It was a pleasure to meet you. My two girls were in awe of you and loved watching you draw a rabbit on stage. They are two artists that love the details in your picture book. We are also animal lovers! 🙂

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