May Hedge a gram

Happy May!

On the first of every month I stop everything and try to communicate what is happening in my life as a children’s picture book author and illustrator.

I have been hard at work on my “dummy” as they say in the book business.   It’s a 3/4 size book, sewn together by me, a sketch version of my envisioned 2013 book, CINDERS. It is 32 pages, and made out of typing paper, with the words pasted in. I am constantly cutting out and adding pieces. I use a rapidiograph ink pen and watercolors. When finished (it takes about a month), I bring it to new York to look it over with my editor, Margaret, art director, Cecilia, and designer Marikka.  My book is a Cinderella story peopled by chickens. The fairy godmother is a chicken, the prince is a chicken and Cinderella is a chicken!  Out in my barn live all the chicken models, a Phoenix pullet named Edie, a Phoenix rooster named Elof and a Silky named Britta. The musicians at the ball will all be white crested black polish. This weekend I’ll be going to a poultry show in Dayton, Ohio to view more poultry, and be inspired by all the breeds of purebred poultry. I need to finish the dummy soon so I can make up a checklist of all the images I will research and photograph when my husband and I go to Saint Petersburg, Russia next month.  I have been amassing lots of coffee table size art books on Russian traditional dress, architecture, and design that will be useful in creating the fairy tale world Cinderella lives in.

I took a break from my artwork and visited Newfoundland. The Woodland Primary School in Grand Falls-Windsor, a town centrally located on the island won last year’s contest for a school visit. There were 22,000 entries, and this small school won. The papers were calling it “The Little School that Could.”  When we arrived at Gander, the airport an hour away, a group of students , parents and teachers were there to greet us.  We were so surprised. The air smells so sweet in Newfoundland, like a million trillion spruce trees. We were warned to lookout for moose on the road,. There is one moose for every four persons in Newfoundland. There are also willow Ptarmigan, one of my favorite birds, and Puffins! In the forest there are Lynx and Wildcat, and in the bogs live Caribou. We missed going to the ocean, which is known for whales, seals and icebergs.

I loved speaking to the children, and giving them an art lesson on how to draw a Polar Bear dressed in an Inuit parka, from my book THE THREE SNOW BEARS. The kid’s drawings were better than mine, they had so much personality. I visited every class and spoke at two assemblies. The children sang me a traditional song, and decorated all their doors with images from my books. I never, ever could have imaged this when I was a young girl and dreaming of becoming a children’s book illustrator!

Later I went to a “Newfie” night. The teachers and friends all made traditional dishes.  Because Grand-Falls Windsor is near the ocean, many of the dishes were fish and shellfish. They were all delicious especially their seafood chowder, which had a flavorful fish stock base, unlike so many of the creamy chowders found in restaurants. Our family sometimes served salted cod when I was little, and I loved revisiting those nostalgic tastes. Having traveled to Scandanavia a number of times, I was introduced

to Cloudberries and Lingonberries two of my favorites.  In Newfoundland they are called Partridge berries and Bakedapples. There are alot of unique names for things in Newfoundland!  I also got to don oil skins and sing, shout out Newfie expressions, and kiss a codfish on the lips as part of my Screeching in, a ceremony to make Joe and I honorary Newfound-landers. We loved every bit of our time in Newfoundland. We have given quite a bit of thought about what makes Newfound-landers so special, but we just don’t know. The people we met seemed very happy with their lives and proud of their corner of the earth.

I don’t now if we can make it back to Newfoundland this year but I”m looking forward to visiting again and going to Saint Johns, Saint Anthony, where the Grendell Mission Museum is, and to the ancient Viking settlement in northwest Newfoundland.

I will be back to Canada in September to cape Bretton Island to run in their Fiddlers Marathon.

Now that May is here, we can join with Mother Nature and be creative. Everywhere in our town there are plants and trees flowering. The birds are arriving from the South, and the males are marking their territories with their song. I’m still waiting to hear my favorite, the eastern towhee. A woodland bird that is a dramatic white , black and russet. It’s call sounds like “drink your tea!” We also have a huge bullfrog in our turtle pond, as well as many three inch long tadpoles, some  have back legs.  From my my reading I learned that bullfrog tadpoles take several years to mature into frogs, which means the eggs need a pond that will not dry up in summer like many of the vernal pools we have in our town. I also read that bull frogs are voracious hunters, and have been known to eat the hummingbirds that feed on the pond side flowers.

I am always more energetic in spring and I hope you also have a challenging fun project to work on.  We had a visit from one of my friends from the poultry shows I attend, Julia, who brought her twenty-something year old box turtle to visit, Amelia.   I filmed a “How to draw” video and talk about Amelia.  I hope you will click on “Videos” on my home page so you can see a box turtle like Mossy (without her garden) and our turtle pond.

Be creative, and Happy May,

Jan Brett

  1. #1 by Kate on May 10, 2012 - 12:51 pm

    My name is Kate, and I am leaving this message through my teacher at school. I’m eight years old, I’m in second grade in a school in VA. We are doing an author’s study and I picked you! My favorite book of yours is “The Mitten”. I enjoyed it very much, I liked the illustrations. Do you like drawing or writing better? How many trips have you been on to research your stories? I’m looking forward to your next book. Your friend, Kate.

  2. #2 by Jean McLaughlin on May 15, 2012 - 6:49 pm

    Dear Jan,
    Your website is wonderful. As a k-5 Librarian in an urban district, I cannot thank you enough for the fantastic free resources you offer. I have been reading the Mitten to our first graders, we are coloring animals and putting them into the mittens. When they are finished they will have a puppet show to share at home. many Thanks

  3. #3 by Alison P on July 19, 2012 - 1:47 am

    I hope you enjoy your visit to Cape Breton. Another fun run you might consider in our neck of the woods is the Not Since Moses run. I’m NOT a runner but I hear its a blast to do the Not Since Moses. :oD

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