July Hedge a gram
Happy July!

     This is Jan Brett, and this is my July Hedge a Gram, my newsy letter to kids and interested people that I put together so you can have a glimpse into my life as an illustrator, and picture book writer.
     Since July is the month where our country celebrates it's birthday, I would like to make sure to thank all the men and women in the armed services, and their families for their service. My daughter is a Marine, and I know how proud I am of her and her husband for their service. They joke that Marines age in dog years. Behind the joke is the truth that our Marines, Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors work very hard in areas that range from hard to unpleasant to dangerous, and although they rarely complain we have to take that extra step in our thought processes to appreciate what they do. It's very hard when a spouse or Mom or Dad is deployed, and I put some coloring pages on my website just for you. Color them and e- mail to Mom or Dad so they can admire your art skills.
     I am currently working on a picture book called The Story of Mossy. It's about a turtle that grows a garden on her back, and is taken off to a museum because she is such a marvel. She leaves behind another turtle that misses her and remains faithful while she is making headlines at the museum. A little girl talks the biologist into returning her back to her home and she is reunited with her friend.
     I've finished the book dummy, the cartoon version of the story- a mock- up of the 32 page book. I started out doing thumbnails" small versions of the pages, but ended up starting over and creating a larger dummy so I could more accurately realize all the nuances in the borders. My editor Margaret encouraged me to work it out at the dummy stage rather than going to the finished artwork too soon. It is always hard to hear that, but I have lot of trust in my editor, and now I'm glad I did. It means I'm way behind schedule.
     If you are working on a story, I can tell you it isn't always a smooth process! The most important thing is to keep a high standard in your head and keep moving. Like a lot of things, just spending all of dedicated time on the project helps.
     I'm tremendously enthusiastic about finally reaching the finished artwork stage. I have a new iPhone so I have been taking photos of local wildflowers on my runs. We're currently living in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, and there is a lot of natural beauty in the Tyringham valley.There is also a cascading brook that runs three miles down our big hill, with lots of mossy, ferny habitat to set Mossy's home in.  I especially need lots of photos of little waterfalls. Moving water is hard to capture, so I'll use the photos as my guide.
     My book takes place in two locations, Mossy's home and the natural history museum. On the museum pages I'm putting the museum collections in the borders.  The page I'm working on now is surrounded by rocks, minerals and gems. They are fun and challenging to draw. I first went to the Harvard Museum to see their collection, which is very inspiring. The different forms are out of this world, some like the meteorites quite literally are from out of this world. I will have collections of shells, fossils, beetles, orchids, bird's eggs, feathers, and arrowheads in the borders.  I'm not including any specimens of animals, although that is always my favorite part of a natural history museum. I will never forget the first time I saw a taxidermist Pangolin. A very unusual and seldom seen animal.  It looks like an anteater with a pinecone hide.
Even though my fall book tour is months away, we are finalizing our stops at stores. I will be signing Home For Christmas. At the Book Expo, the book industry's big convention, I saw the first bound copies. There is " foil" on the Jacket, a sparkley material, that I saw for the first time as well. I love the jacket. Now I just have to wait and see if people like mischievous trolls as much as I do. There is a fascination with children that live with animals, Romulus and Remus, Mogli in the Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling to name three.  I was always curious and envious.  I tried to talk my parents into letting me sleep in my horses' stall when I was in 5th grade but they wisely said no. Finally I got to live vicariously through Rollo the troll when he moves in with an owl family, bears, otters, becomes pals with a Lynx and finally a herd of moose. It's always a bit anxiety provoking to have a book you've worked on excitedly be just about released.
     One book is finished, but not published yet, it will be in September, another book is being worked on, and a third, the Turnip, is being planned for. We are planning to go to St. Petersburg in early June of next year to look at some Russian farms and rural architecture.
     I hope all that summer energy is making you want to work on your writing and art projects. I love to get out and do long distance runs and turn over ideas for books in my mind.  Happy Reading and Creating!

Your Friend, Jan Brett