April Hedge a Gram

Happy April,
     This month, I'm hard at work on the "dummy", or simple version of my new book.  I've written the story around a South African tale that my husband and I heard around the campfire in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.  Our guides, Ali and July are extremely knowledgeable about the wildlife, not just being able to name the six hundred creatures that live in southern Africa, but how they interact together.  One of the most fascinating relationships is of the Honeyguide bird and the people that live in Africa.  The bird eats beeswax, but its hard to get at it because the bees protect their honeycomb by hiding it deep in a tree.   The bird has learned if it leads a person to the hive, he or she will very likely break it apart for the honey and the Honeyguide can have some too. In Ali's version of the story, which is told all over Southern Africa, he warns that if the person doesn't share the honeycomb, next time the Honeyguide bird will lead them to a lion!  I wanted to illustrate this story because I could re-live my trip to this beautiful place and even go back to see if I could find the Honeyguide bird.
     Once I got re-telling the story, I knew I did not want to draw some poor person being chased by a lion.  In my reading, I found that one other creature had the same relationship with the bird, the Honeybadger.   I had seen a Honeybadger in Africa and I thought it would make a good character, especially since it's low to the ground and roly-poly, and it had an over eager quality to it that makes it humorous.
     As you may know I like to put borders in my books, because I can add visual information.  It's fun for me to preview what's coming next.  I'll tell you how I got the plan for this book's borders.  It just popped in unexpectedly.
    In this unspoiled part of Africa, there are no telephones of  TV.  In one of our lodges, a snake made its home up in the thatched roof, and it was a topic of conversation because it was a Black Mambo, a very respected snake because it injects venom into its prey, so it can eat.  The guides thought up a good way to make the snake go away.  You can't bring weapons into the game reserves in Botswana, so they sprayed the area where the snake was hiding with diesel fuel from one of the land rovers.  The snake didn't like the smell and moved on.
    It turned out, that everywhere we went after that at the game lodges, the people already had heard the snake story.  Even though the lodges were so far apart that we had to travel with a small airplane.  The explanation was people had heard it through the "bush telegraph".   One person told another, who told another, who told another, and so forth.
     I decided that I wanted a bush telegraph in my book, so that's what I put in the borders.  I think my two trips to Africa will really help my book.  When I look at our photographs, I can hardly believe the beauty and excitement of being in the Okavango.  That feeling is what makes me want to paint every minute of every day.  I hope you all are able to travel to Africa one day and experience the hospitality of the Africans and see the amazing wildlife.  Then you'll just have to draw it and tell stories about it because Africa makes you want to do both those things!
     Bye for now.  Good luck and happy writing and drawing.
                                  Your friend,

                                      Jan Brett

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