Happy December!

      I have just come back from a national book tour in our Undersea Mermaid wrapped bus, what a trip! Little did I know when son-in-law Tom beckoned to me underwater amongst Okinawa's coral reefs to show a baby octopus, that it would lead me onto a curiosity trail where I would discover much about these unique creatures. On this book tour trip I met Angelina, the aquarist at the Long Beach California aquarium who introduced me to the aquariums new resident, "Gilligan" a young female Giant Pacific Octopus. I had a 45 minute encounter with her, as she wrapped her arms around my arms, made it known that she would like a fish, and allowed petting and admiring. She even splashed me with perfect aim with her funnel so I would know she was right at home. Having spent time at the  New England aquarium with "Sy" their giant Pacific octopus, I thought I'd be ready, but each octopus is very different, and they are so astounding (strength of suckers, silkiness of skin, rascaliness of behavior, gracefulness of movement) that I felt I was having the experience for the first time all over again. I would like to slip in some book recommendations now that I've brought up octopuses, the first being The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery for adults and The Octopus scientists by Sy Montgomery for children.
     I did not know when I created my mermaid, Kiniro that many little girls loved mermaids and even had tails for swimming and walk aroundmermaid outfits. I wore my antique indigo dyed hapi coat from Japan to my signings, but underneath I chose between quite a few blue sequined tops that I thought glittered like mermaid scales. After seeing my book fans in their sparkly blue nail polish and shimmery walk around tails I think I may have underestimated my mermaid-sense, which is a little like spidey- sense but much more glamorous and of course very fish and dolphin friendly. I even found out being a mermaid could be a job! It seems mermaids are the perfect creature to educate people on land about our oceanic environment. I was glad that in my book mermaid Kiniro's best friend was Puffy the Blotched Porcupine fish, and that she helped a new friend, Eagle Ray. When I was at the aquarium I was reminded of an octopus behavior I had forgotten about. Once an octopus moves into its "lair" or hideyhole, it will reach out with an arm and prop coral pieces, rocks and shells in the entrance as if to lock the door.  Octopuses even take out their trash! After eating crabs, shellfish and shrimp, they place the leftovers outside their doors, neat and tidy.
     At each stop on my tour, I drew father octopus wearing his Japanese garb which is somewhat like the hapi coat I wore.  I was amazed at the illustrations the children drew that followed along with me.   I hope they will take up my challenge, which is to set up an art corner, put the kitchen timer on for 1 hour, ask friend and family to please not interrupt, and draw an illustration from your imagination. I use the word illustration because I described how if you make up a story about your drawing as youre doing it, sometimes it will take on a life of its own.   That is what happens to me, and the experience is so phenomenal I want everyone to try it.
     Happy drawing, writing, and creating,

                       Your friend,

                              Jan Brett