August Hedge a Gram

Happy August, and Happy Birthday to all the Leo the Lions!

I'd like to tell you about my current book project, Noah's Ark. My book is the traditional story with a few add ins of my own. I wanted to explore this ancient story because of the diversity of the animals that I would have to draw. When I was in college at the Boston Museum School, I would often take the subway to Cambridge and visit the Agassiz Museum at Harvard. I was astounded by the animal and bird specimens. Even though the animals weren't alive, I was enthralled by how weird and wonderful some of the lesser known animals are. I saw a pangolin, an anteater like creature that has huge scales, giving it the look of a giant pine cone. Other animals that I was familiar with looked far different than my expectations when I stood next to them. The walrus was like that, it was gigantic! When I draw the animals in Noah's Ark, I try to convey some of that same mysterious feeling I felt back then that some animals may be strange but beautiful as well. Some live curious lives. Humans don't really know about them. Especially the ones that live deep in jungles and come out only at night. Wildlife biologists study how an animal lives. Every time I draw a new animal I try to find out all the details, how many toes it has, the shape of its bones underneath its muscles and the texture of its fur or skin.

My pet hedgehog is a long-eared hedgehog, its scientific name is Hemiechinus Auritus. The hedgehog in The Mitten is a western European hedgehog, called in Latin, Erinaceus Europaeus. The nice thing is that no matter what language you speak, if you know the scientific name in Latin for an animal everyone knows what it is no matter what language they speak. When we were in Africa for the research for the animals for Noah's Ark our guides, Ali and July knew the Latin names for all of the plants and animals where we were. There are a total of over 1.5 million different kinds of animals in the world. Some of these are little animals like jellyfish but each has an important place. I'm looking forward to showcasing my favorite animals in Noah's Ark.

Some day I want to write a story set on another planet so I can imagine different animals and plants. I know that nothing could be more amazing than the right here on earth. Just the same, here's my challenge to you - invent an animal! Maybe I'll see you on my book tour this fall and you can show me.

If you want to be a biologist and study animals some day, you can memorize the classifications. Your science teacher will be very impressed. They are, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. Every creature has its special place and name so we can recognise it.

Good luck, bye for now, happy drawing!

Your friend,

Jan Brett