April Hedge a Gram

Happy April!

This is my April hedge a gram - time to let you know what I'm doing in my job as a children's book illustrator and writer.
I finally finished my Easter book. It took a long time to finish with all the eggs, bunnies and pussy willow framing on every page. The last few pages were especially fun because I got to imagine what the Easter bunnies wagon looked like, pulled by beautiful cochin hens. Cochins are shaped like feathered globes - their tails don't stick out, they fall in a pouf in the back, their feet are feathered and they have a roley poley look. I named them after flowers, but Roley Poley would be a good name for a Cochin hen. Despite their roundness, they are very dignified due to their very serious eyes and stately way of walking. Where I grew up in New England, it was very likely we would have snow on the ground on Easter morning. My sisters and I would be excited to see rabbit tracks, but we never thought of looking for wagon tracks!
I am always sorry to leave the world I've created when it's time to move on to my next book, but I know I can always go to the feed store and see Tikki the beautiful black "velveteen" rabbit who lives there. She always greets everyone by standing up on her haunches. I'll miss painting the rabbits.
My trip to Namibia, Africa was like a treasure hunt. I took photos of the rare welwichita plant and euphorias, cactus like plants that look weird to a person from Norwell, Massachusetts with our pines, birches and maples. I brought back lots of fabric that is distinctively Namibian. I may use it in the borders of my new book, and I'll definitely use it to create the dresses of the three little Mapindi.
One of the first decisions I'll make when creating my next book, THE THREE LITTLE MAPIMBI will be the size and shape it will be. My books tend to be big, because I need room for the borders. I usually tell part of the story in the borders. Every day I turn over in my mind, what kind of African animal should play the role of the big bad wolf, because it is an African version of the three little pigs. Some days I think the eagle would be perfect. There's something scary about their wide reach from the sky. An eagle could carry the mapindi off in their talons and leave them stranded in their high nest. That would be exciting, and a good border story. On the other hand, the wolf character could be the leopard. We have seen many in Africa, and the sight of the yellow gold coat covered with velvet purply black rosettes (also called spots!) is arresting, and would be fun to draw. I may end up creating two book dummies, and then work it out with Joe, my husband who always gives input, and Margaret, my editor who has helped me so profoundly in the last twenty books. Which reminds me, THE MITTEN is having its twentieth anniversary this fall. It's a book that always makes me smile, and this past winter I worked with the designers at Putnam to create a new jacket.
After I finish the text for THE THREE LITTLE MAPIMBI, I'll start on the book dummy. With the exception of the story idea itself - that is the time the book really takes shape, an exciting time it is, too!
I hope you are all thinking of stories that are just bursting to be told. The world will be a better place from your efforts. It always amazes me to think that it only takes effort and imagination to create a new book.

Happy reading,

Jan Brett