Happy November! This is Jan Brett, and this is my November Hedge-a-gram, the time I take every month to tell you what is going on in my life as an illustrator and children's book storyteller.
In a few days, my husband Joe and I will begin our fall book tour. Every weekday I talk to journalists in the cities and towns I'll be visiting about the 20th Anniversary of THE MITTEN and THE SNOWY TREASURY. One question I've been asked many times, is "Are children changing?" and are "children still interested in books?" I have been thinking about this question because I an not a parent of young children, and I have to rely on my little great nieces, Stella, Ann and Mia and my grandchildren Patrick, Gavin, Katie, Zoltan and Torynn to answer that. The two older boys love video games and videos, but they like their books too, especially ones that cater to their interest which revolve around science and adventure. The mothers and dads of Stella, Ana, Mia, and Katie have been reading books to their children before they were even aware a book was a book. There's a special interaction when a parent reads a book and makes funny voices or adds little asides about the story. I was amazed to check on Katie, who was not even old enough to speak, one night a bed time. She had her cloth book propped up, and was turning the pages solemnly, until something tickled her fancy, when she would laugh and laugh. It mad me think that we must find it natural to have that tactile book feeling, and see a story unfold, bits at a time.
Our little ones aren't old enough to tote around a favorite possession, a dog eared copy of a favorite book, but they are old enough to ask for the same story over and over again. Often they surprise us when they play the scenes over with their dolls and animals or they play the character themselves. Roll playing is an important part of childhood, we get to explore how to be different kids of people. My guess is that children still love their books, but their lives may be busier that those of children a few years ago. I always have three or four books going, and my biggest challenge is find the time to read.
When I go out on the book tour, one of the most moving experiences that I have is when a child shows me one of their drawings that is full of talent and individualism. Anybody can be taught to draw, but occasionally a child will come up with a whole new way of expressing themselves - through details, the characters they make up, unusual color choices and techniques. I remember being six of seven and being shy and tongue tied. When I drew a picture I felt I could say what I wanted to say in a much better way. When I meet a child that doesn't say a word, but has that look of being more than usually interested, I feel like I've met a kindred sole. I know many of the people who come to my booksignings come because their child is a gifted writer and artist, maybe they are even a teacher. It is a thrill to meet the future artists of our world, and what a privilege it is to be able to demonstrate with a drawing for them, and tell them about the first spark of a book idea, about fanning the flames until it's a full blown story, and then shaping and finishing that story until it has life of its own.
At my booksignings, I'll first tell a little about myself, and introduce my
husband Joe. He's a musician with the Boston Symphony, but his six foot tall
double bass is too large and fragile to carry on the bus. I will do a painting
and talk about it so it is like na art lesson, and I will give three tips that
you can use for the rest of your life. I will tell you how I got the idea for
THE HAT, because that is a story I made up. Lastly, I will talk to the kids
about their creativity. I could talk for hours, but I need to leave time for
signing books. If you can't come to my signing, there are art lessons on my
website, and videos that were taken on previous book tours.