July Hedge a gram

Happy July!

Every month I write a hedge a gram to boys and girls, plus anyone else who's interested, describing my life as an author and illustrator. My hedge a grams reflect my interest in the children's book I'm working on - I do a new one every year. What my greatest hope is, is that one of you will say to yourself, "I can do that!" and a wonderful creative project will result.

Do you every play the game with your friends that asks, are you a cat person, or a dog person? We relate to animal personalities in a mysterious way. One person may admire the grace and independence of a cat, another will love the abilities as helpmate of a dog. When Joe and I were in Botswana, Africa, looking close-up at animals for my book Noah's Ark, we came into the realm of an animal with tremendous intelligence, that related to humans in a complicated way, but was far different in personality than a dog or cat. That is the elephant.

We stayed at Stanley's Camp in the Okavango Delta and while we were there we were invited to meet Doug and Sandi who have lived with their three elephants, Jabu, Thembi, and Mourula for over a decade. The elephants were eating trees in a field when we walked toward them. There were wild elephants all around, as well as other African animals, so our guide Juli, came with us to keep an eye on things. After spending about five hours with the elephants, walking with them, eating lunch with them (we did have different menus!) and touching and being touched by them, we came away with an awesome feeling. Elephants seems so different from any animal I had gotten to know in the past. They are like, but not like, dogs, cats, horses, and whales! For example, Doug could ask one of the elephants to make twenty eight different sounds. Doug and Sandy are devoted to these animals and rarely leave them, but I had the sense that they weren't pets like a dog would be, they had a healthy respect for them, somewhat like I had for my horse.

There is so much to learn about elephants. If you would like to go to Doug and Sandy's website the address is http//www.livingwithelephants.org

At the end of our visit, we walked about 1/4 mile with the elephants, taking turns leading them. You could either go hand to trunk (but no squeezing the trunk), or you could let the elephant rest the end of his trunk on your shoulder. If you want to see me walking with the elephant, I've added a photo to my Internet site at http//www.janbrett.com/walkingelephant.htm

Any of the visitors could get an elephant kiss if they wanted one. I did, and I got goose bumps all up and down one side. Even though the elephants were trained to give a kiss with the end of their trunk, they seemed to have an impish side. I might be wrong, but I think that the elephants enjoyed seeing us jump around and react to their tickly, mushy kisses! There's a picture of the elephant kissing my husband Joe at http//www.janbrett.com/kissingelephant.htm

I can't wait to draw elephants in my book. Their skin is so beautiful and their eyes are too. Each individual eye is very different. Every time I draw and elephant, I will think of Doug and Sandy, far away in the bush in Botswana, Africa, devoting their lives to the study of these magnificent creatures.

One last idea, try drawing an elephant using a photo. They are challenging to draw because they are so unlike the animals we see every day, at least I think so!

Bye for now, happy drawing!

Your friend,

Jan Brett

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Jan Brett 1996-2004