Every month, I stop progress on my current children's book to write a
progress report, and reflect on my work as a children's author and illustrator.
Actually it is the other way around, it should be illustrator/author because I
am far more captivated by the illustrative side of storytelling.
I am still working on my book dummy, the cartoon version of my upcoming
book, titled THE SNOWY NAP for now. I have set the story in Denmark, and many of
the characters in THE HAT appear in the new story. The extra fun for me will be
painting Lisa, the little girl who appeared in the original story. I used my
daughter Lia as the model. In this book I am going to use my granddaughter, who
looks a lot like her mother at that age who is seven. I will show her the dummy
and we will try to act out every page. I have always admired the art of Karl
Larsson the Swedish artist who painted his family members in traditional scenes.
I am struggling with the design of the borders and keep changing my ideas.
It's helpful to do a dummy because you can see how a design looks all the way
through as opposed to a single painting. The colors will have a big impact on
the feel of the book. Since most of the scenes are snowy I can be colorful in
the border without the book getting too complicated visually. I am intrigued by
Fair Isle and Nordic knitting, and I may use it for the main element in my
border. Since the book is set in Denmark I won't be able to use the Fair Isle
designs I love, but there are some lovely Danish patterns. Fortunately, when I
visited Denmark in 1996, I was able to go to a museum that displayed knitted
garments. The borders in THE SNOWY NAP are important to the story, and I need
them to add to the humorous twist at the end of my book. Although I didn't
intend it, the story very much mirrors my story THE HAT, which was published 20
years ago. The plots of the two stories are very different, but the structures
are similar, and the characters, Hedgie and Lisa are the same.
When I finally finished the book dummy, (it is about 1/3 the size of the final
trim) I went back and changed the cast of animal characters to give the story
more authenticity. I also had a meeting in New York with the editor and art
director at Penguin Random House. They gave me valuable feedback and suggestions
about the flow of the story and refining some of my art objectives. The meeting
motivated me to try and bring the illustrations up a notch, and I ended up
changing the first page. I have always felt the first page of a book, especially
the first sentence, is very important and indelible. I'm still not quite there
yet, but I will work on it in the following months. At the editors suggestion I
start the story with a focus on Hedgie rather than the little girl, Lisa. Then,
when choosing the setting of the first page, I am able to give credence to the
ending when lisa puts Hedgie back into his burrow by showing Hedgie emerging
from his burrow with Lisa noticing. That way it doesn't come into question that
Lisa knows where to find it Hedgies burrow.
My meeting also coincided with the 2017 Book Expo where I signed advance
copies of THE MERMAID, which will be published in late August. It was a thrill
to see the bound book. I have had a chance to see the folded and gathered pages,
but I had not seen the jacket with the shimmer effect on the mermaid, Kiniro and
the "shagreen" endpapers. I work with a very talented designer, Marikka , who
created the display type. The display type brings to mind graceful seaweed and
she added a delicate shadow effect so that it appears as the letters are
floating. It is one reason I would never voluntarily retire. It is so rewarding
to work with such a talented person, in the same field, with similar ideas about
illustration. I am always excited to see what Marikka comes up with for display
type. In a time when so much art is computer generated or sampled, I appreciate
the crafted look her collaboration gives my books. One of my favorites is the
display type for CINDERS. I like to go to the children's section of a bookstore
and try to guess which titles are original and which are prefab.
I finally have started the finished art for THE SNOWY NAP. At the beginning
of my work periodI like to have long stretches of uninterrupted time to immerse
myself in the book so I can try different solutions in my mind as I work. After
a few pages I feel more at home in the setting I 've created. It is an exciting
but precarious time in the book. The best is when the book takes on a life of
its own and I feel like I'm just going along for the ride.
Good luck with all your creative endeavors!
Your friend, Jan Brett