Happy July!

     This is my July Hedge a gram.  I'm working away on a new book, but like every month, I'm going to take an evening off to tell you what I'm doing in my role as an author and illustrator.
     Before I do, I'd like to salute all the men and women in our armed forces.  Every morning I raise our flags and think about how grateful I am to be living in a free country.  This month we celebrate the Fourth of July, and in the midst of all the celebration, I will be thinking of our marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen overseas, as well as their families who miss them.
     Being an author and illustrator, my schedule is on a yearly cycle, as long as I can come up with a worthy book idea.  My editor ultimately decides if Penguin Putnam my publisher, will publish my book.  I usually have three of four ideas on the back burner in case some unforeseen event happens, or if a story doesn't get off the ground.  Once I was planning on illustrating PETER AND THE WOLF, but after investigating the copyright, found it was not in public domain.  If an author is living, or has been dead less than a certain amount of years, you cannot use a story or illustrate it without permission.  One poem I illustrated that is in public domain is THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS.  The book I'm working on now is a story I wrote myself, which I'm calling THE EASTER EGG.
     Since my book is peopled by rabbits.  I've been trying to learn about as many different breeds of domesticated rabbits as I can.  I've met some very characterful ones.  There is a beautiful black rex rabbit named Tiki who lives at the feed store near my house.  She's very famous, because she was stolen and after a newspaper article was written about the theft, she was found.  Rex rabbits have very short, velvety coats, and when they are patted it feels like the softest velvet.  Tiki lets the customers at the feed store pat her.  She's a very friendly rabbit and will sit up to say hello.
     I was invited to a rabbitry near my house in the Berkshires to see ten rabbits that are kept for their fiber.  Like sheep, they grow long luxurious fur that is combed away and spun into yarn which is prized for its silky warmth and beautiful colors.  The type of rabbit used for its fiber is called an Angora.  The ten rabbits were colored grey, white, and fawn, with variations too beautiful and nuanced to describe.  Some of the rabbits had tassels on their ears made of long tufts of fur.
     Another attractive rabbit is the lop, which carries its ears in graceful downward curves.  Many of the lops I've seen have lion-like heads.  Overall, a rabbit is not an easy animal to draw.  Luckily through the rabbits I've seen are very friendly and individualistic.  Which makes them easy to turn into characters.
     Because my book is set at Easter time, I have put lots of wild flowers in it as well as two of my favorite trees, the birch, and the pussy willow.  Our family had a pussy willow tree in our back yard when I was growing up and when the catkins plumped up into soft grey balls, we knew spring had sprung.  I'm starting a collection of pussy willows near the wetlands in our yard.  So far I have a black one.  Next, I'm going to get a traditional one and a pink one.   Its a lot of work to dig the hole and prepare the soil in rocky New England.  My rule is I have to plant my new purchase before getting another.  If I decide to plant something and my chickens are loose, they always come to investigate, especially Rambling Rose, my very old mottled java hen, and Cagney, a blue white crested polish.  Blue is really gray, but it is a bluish gray.  Not only are the chickens looking for unearthed bugs, but their curiosity is satisfied.
    I will have a colorful wagon that the Easter bunny uses to deliver the Easter eggs in my book.  Who other than a regal hen would be right for the job?  I've decided to use the very majestic Cochin chicken breed to pull the wagon.  They have feather covered legs and feet, so the wagon can wind its way over hill and dale delivering eggs without anyone knowing.  I'm still trying to decide if the Cochin hens should be buff which is pumpkin colored, or white.
     You can see I'm having a great time constructing my rabbit universe.  I think that's why no matter how many books I've written, each one seems, more compelling and absorbing that the last.  Now that school is out, why not create a world of your making on paper.  You won't be sorry.  There's something about creating a story that is exhilarating.
     Until next month, happy reading and happy creating!   Bye for now.
                                  Your friend,

                                    Jan Brett