May Hedge a gram
Happy May! This is Jan Brett and this is my May hedge a gram, the time I
take every month to go over what I'm doing in my work as a children's book
author and illustrator.
A curious thing happened with my just finished book, THE THREE LITTLE
DASSIES as it was on its way to the printer. Every year my publisher prints a
poster of the new book to promote it, and one of the designers at Penguin works
with me. This year Ed Scully took my artwork from the title page to feature on
the poster. When the poster came in the mail we love its sunny, buoyant feel of
the three Dassie sisters in close-up. We liked it so much that we decided to
use it for the jacket of the book, and not to use the other piece of art I
created. It's always hard to not use artwork that I've spent weeks working on,
like the first jacket, but in book publishing the jacket is extremely
important. It is an invitation to open the book and read it. It helps if it
awakens a lively curiosity in the viewer, and it needs to reflect the feeling of
the book inside. I can't give away the ending either. I'm counting on the
adorableness of the Dassie, and their unusual outfits to make kids think, "I
want to read about their adventures!" That's the way I felt when I first saw
the Dassies in the wild. I wanted to imagine what their lives were like as they
sunbathed on rocks around our camp in Namibia, Africa, and then disappeared down
their little caves in the rock crevices when an eagle flew overhead. My first
jacket pictured one of the Dassie sisters being carried away by an enormous
eagle. Even though I wanted adventure and drama in my book, the jacket looked a
little sinister, and the little Dassie looked pretty helpless. All in all, I'm
glad that designer Ed Scully's poster idea initiated a big change for the look
of my book. Joe and I have a motto, "There is no arguing with a great idea".
I just finished the news notes for THE THREE LITTLE DASSIES. There are
four African animals are illustrated in the book so in my news notes I tell
little about each one, the Dassie, the Agama lizard, the Verreaux's Eagle, and
the Tent Tortoise. There are so many startling things to discover in Namibia
that I couldn't put in my book, but I wanted kids to know about, so I described
them in my news notes. Twyfelfontain, the Rocky Mountain where my story takes
place, is the site of ancient petroglyphs. Petroglyphs are carvings in the
rock. There is also a very rare plant, found nowhere else in the world that
looks like a rosette of raggedy leaves about the size of a truck tire. It is
low to the ground, and when you look closely you can see small orange red cones
in its center. The plants are 1000 years old, that is the amazing thing. It is
the Welwichita plant.
Now that I've finished the news notes, I will give them away at my book
signings next fall in output them up on my website starting this May 20.
I'm on my way to Sweden to get ideas for HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, my book about
a runaway troll. I started the book dummy -- a simple roadmap of the future
book. It is done with quick sketches and it will help me find the materials I
need in Sweden to make their books authentic.
I'm planning to ask everyone about any troll stories they might have heard
as children. I would also like to visit an open-air museum where a farm from
the olden days has been reconstructed, so I can envision the trolls homestead.
I'll have to rough it up a bit because the characters are trolls after all!
I have to find out how Christmas is celebrated in Sweden, and what special
foods are enjoyed. At the beginning of a book there is a lot of excitement
about spending a year with my new subject, but I'm a little nervous too, just
like at the start of any adventure.