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.
     Happy reading,
                                                   Your friend,
                                                     Jan Brett