Happy August,

     If it's your birthday this month, you are connected with Leo the Lion. I'm not sure what that means exactly, but the two Leos in my life have lots of hair like a lion's mane and don't mind being the center of attention. Every month I write a hedge a gram about my illustrations.    My new book, which will be published this month, is called Honey...Honey...Lion!
     When my husband and I went back for our third trip to Africa, the experience I was longing for was hearing the sounds of the bush from our tent. Just at daybreak we'd hear the raucous screams of francolins, a kind of ground bird. I don't exaggerate when I say screams. They make a big fuss as they defend their territories. A loud bark would signal a troop of baboons as they passed through our camp ground. Or an impala might give a warning snort. My favorite sound was the hyenas and usually they would woop not laugh. The first time I heard it, I couldn't imagine what it was.
      Usually our camp would be by a water hole and hippos would start up sounding like loud men going, "Ha, ha, ha!" But the most spectacular call of all - you probably have guessed by now, is the  lion. The first time I heard a lion roar was about 2:00AM. Some young lions had made a kill. I thought it was a train, it was so loud and rumbling. The air vibrated it was so low. On our last trip, just as dusk fell, our guide, Ali, heard a lion miles away and turned our Land Rover toward the sound. Fifteen minutes later, we came out into a thicket and there, looking like the lions in front of the New York Public Library, as if posed, were two brother lions, side by side. It doesn't make sense that these strong hungry young lions would ignore us, but they did! As we watched, one roared, not ten feet away. Every molecule in our bodies shook as the vibrations from that sound penetrated us. We felt terrified and puny!
     Now when I sit in my studio and page through Honey...Honey...Lion! I wonder when I will hear a lion's roar again. I turn to the end of my book where there's a lift up flap that reveals the king of beasts. Then I wonder, will children feel a little bit of the wonder I felt when they see my picture? I hope so.
     Kids, you have a little time before school starts. Why not think of an experience that made your heart pound or one that caused great excitement. Maybe you could draw it. Just like an artist uses many, many colors, try telling a story with lots of your feelings shining through. You may be surprised at what creates itself from your paper and pencils.
     Good luck and happy drawing.

         Your friend,

           Jan Brett