Happy April!

     Every month I take a moment to write a hedge a gram. My goal is to give young artists an idea about how the creative process of writing and illustrating a children's book is for me, in the hopes that you will try it.
     I am beginning a new book, The Umbrella. I have a little less than a year to have it ready to go to press. So far I've written the story, it's based on the folk tale The Mitten. Two teachers wrote me saying they could imagine the story of The Mitten taking place in a rain forest. No mittens would appear, instead, I'd use an umbrella. I went to Costa Rica this past February to experience the rain forest or "cloud forest" as the Monteverde tropical forest is called. It's high in the mountains. The moisture in the air forms clouds. The forest looks different than other forests I've seen, because of the epiphytes. Epiphytes are plants that use other plants to grow on. In the cloud forest, one tree might have one thousand different plants growing on it. Some are tiny. We went to an orchid zoo where we went around with a magnifying glass to see the teeny, tiny, orchids. Some other epiphytes are large and hold puddles of water in cups formed by their leaves. In the water, live insects and amphibians, like frogs. Many of the epiphytes have beautiful flowers. Sometimes the flowers are large and fragrant in order to attract bees, birds, and even bats, because those creatures pollinate the plants.
     Scientists are discovering new plants, insects and amphibians every day. If you are interested in biology, you could learn to do it. I think sometimes the biologist gets to name the species he or she discovers. You could do that too.
     My husband, Joe, and I and our nature guide, Federico, went deep into the cloud forest. I thought, "I can draw anything I want, because when I look up I can see every design imaginable!" Now that I'm home it's much harder. I have many books and photographs but nature is complicated. I've decided to call the cloud forest I draw an "idealized" cloud forest. I was careful to choose only animals that you could find in the Monteverde area. The animals I chose are tree frog, toucan, kinkajou, quetzal, tapir monkey, jaguar, and hummingbird. I saw many animals I didn't put in the book, a coati, porcupine, eyelash viper, bat, agouti, blue crowned mot-mot, and poison dart frog. Plus at the zoo in San Jose, Costa Rica I saw many of the wild cats like the ocelot and the jaguarmundi.
     The day after I started my book I went to the art supply store and bought lots of tubes of green paint. Emerald green, oxide of chromium which is the color of a fully grown maple leaf, terre verte, that one is dull green, viridian which looks blue green like semi-precious jewelry, hookers green which looks like a Saint Patrick's day shamrock, really bright, cobalt green which is kind of a milky green with a lot of blue in it, sap green which looks like the bright green of new leaves, green gold, and olive green. Then I bought some pinks and purples for the jungle flowers, which are very bright, and for the hummingbird which is very bright purple and looks like a flying jewel.
     I hope my excitement will make you want to draw your own rain forest. Maybe your class would like to do a big mural of the rain forest. There are so many varieties of plants and animals to learn about. And you can use the many, many, many shades of green.

Bye for now.

Your friend,

Jan Brett