August Hedge a gram

Happy August!

     I'm Jan Brett, and this is my August Hedge a gram - my letter to friends named after my mascot, Hedgie.
     I was recently asked by Scholastic to name my favorite teacher and draw a picture of he or she. My favorite teacher was Mr. Anderson who taught us English literature in high school. I drew a picture of Hedgie to personify my affection and gratitude for Mr. Anderson. He would read aloud for hours from great works of literature, from Moby Dick to the plays of Shakespeare to poems by E.E. Cummings. He was forthright and funny and thoughtful just like I imagine Hedgie. Hedgie also serves as my alter ego. When I write my newsnotes for each new book, Hedgie often makes an appearance. His role is to make sure I don't sound like a know-it-all. One of my least favorite character traits! I got thinking about what a useful role a side-kick or alter ego character is. It's a great way to liven up a story and give it a different perspective. I am currently illustrating and retelling a folktale, THE TURNIP. It's pretty straightforward and simple. In Russia where the story originates, the fun comes with the character's names which form a tongue twister as they are repeated as the story progresses. Since I'm writing in English and couldn't use this device, I put a little rooster character in the story to make it interesting. He is looking for a new home because he was being chased by someone looking for dinner. When he appears at the farm where the turnip is being pulled out of the ground, he is the last one to try. It's funny to see the rooster go flying thought the air with his beak holding the turnip top. In the same painting you can see that a hibernating mother bear has just jettisoned the turnip from below. I've always liked stories that have a curious twist - in THE MITTEN the bear sneezes the lost white mitten into the sky where Nicki can see it. In THE TROUBLE WITH TROLLS, Teeka escapes with her dog on skis, because the trolls don't realize the skis enable her to schuss away. Normally the way I know a story is ready to become a book is when I figure out a curious twist in the plot that will solve a problem. One of my favorite ones I've never illustrated. It's an Aesop's Tale about a thirsty crow. He comes across a jug full of water that he can't reach even with his long beak. He solves the problem by dropping pebbles into the jug. The pebbles displace the water until it rises to the brim and the crow can quench his thirst.
    On my husband Joe's and my road trip across the country in June we stopped in Hot Springs, South Dakota to visit an amazing mammoth site museum. I'm fascinated by the animals that lived in the Pleistocene and I would love to write a book about a mammoth. I'm hoping I can find a good plot idea to make this happen. When I saw the incredible, tusked skeletons of the mammoths at the Mammoth site, my imagination covered them with fur and made them do all sorts of elephanty things. Baby elephants are the cutest ever.
     Right now, I'm immersed in my badger family that populates THE TURNIP. Besides the Badger family my story has a hedgehog, goat, rooster, and horse character. Luckily, on my run route, I pass a farm that has a pasture with three rams. Now that I carry my cell phone on runs, I can take photos that will give me character studies for my book. They are similar to goats I saw in Russia, and I can combine the body language of the "Berkshire" goats that live near us with the physical characteristics of my Russian goat photos. It makes for an interesting to do list.
    Good luck with your writing, drawing and creating.

Your friend, Jan Brett

- Lastly, we just got a mockup of the design they will put on our tour bus this year for THE ANIMALS' SANTA. the bus tour is planned for late November and I'll be posting all of the dates and cities soon.