Happy July! This is my time to gather my thoughts about what I am doing in the children's book world and reflect on them. I am hoping that someone will be as taken by my profession as I was (and am) and will find them useful.

     I am in a celebratory mood because I am on to the finishes of my new book COZY. I finally finished the dummy and my editor Susan and art advisor and designer Marikka have gone over the text and artwork. The dummy is much smaller, because it would take too long to make it full size, so it makes me feel expansive to have lots of space, now that I am working same size as the book. There were some interesting challenges creating a book set in the arctic regions and adding characters that are not known by many people.  Also, my character is a Musk Ox which isn't a good name for it. The animal is not an Ox, it is more closely related to an arctic goat or sheep, and the three times I've visited herds of Musk Ox I didn?t smell any musk or any odor at all. And I was lucky to stand beside Little Man, a mature, habituated male musk Ox and I buried my face in his abundant ruff. I prefer "Oomingmak" the name first Alaskans called the imposing animal, translated as "the bearded one". On the other hand, the challenge is a good one. When I was little, I loved reading about little known creatures and their roles in nature. In the olden days, naturalists would travel to the ends of the earth, sometimes at great peril to paint rare birds, mammals, reptiles and of course the whole botany side. Now that I think of it, some of those traveling painters of nature have been muse like as I have worked on previous books. I was extremely taken by Martin Johnson Heade's paintings of Hummingbirds and orchids in rain forest settings when creating THE UMBRELLA. The art of Edward Lear, who is known for his authorship of THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT did extensive sketches of travels to India that influenced me and my latest book THE TALE OF THE TIGER SLIPPERS owes much to the incredible Mughal Court Art, when folios were commissioned to create wildlife portraits. There is a painting of a bat in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, that nearly knocked me of my feet. You can almost feel the artist's excitement on bringing this creature to life on paper, all in the 15th and 16th centuries.

     I hope I can do the Musk Ox justice. They are such an intriguing combination of ancient wildness and majesty. The Musk ox has unusual color.  Its long silky outer coat is a beaver brown, and it flows in silky waves when it gallops. The undercoat, the Qiviut is a fluffy light brown. But the best part is there is a white patch on their forehead, especially noticeable on the youngsters another light patch like a saddle on the dip of their back, creamy white legs and muzzle. Even their eye?s surrounding hair is lighter, giving the grateful artist a canvas to make "Oomingmak" expressions!

   The Musk Ox is beautifully brown and my other animal characters are stripy brown (Wolverine) Golden Brown (Sea Otter) reddish brown (Lemming) Reddish brown (Husky number 1) Black and white(Husky No2) Gray and white (Husky No 3) White (Arctic Fox) and white (Snowy Owl) make up a very earthy palette, and except for the last two pages the story takes place in winter. This gives me a chance to work with very nuanced colors. Luckily, my book is set above the Arctic circle which means, the aurora borealis!

    I am looking forward to a trip to Denali in Alaska during December to try and see the northern lights. I was lucky enough to see a spectacular, colorful display in New Hampshire when I was in college, and with every trip to Alaska I bring back hordes of cards, and calendars featuring photos of the Aurora Borealis.  I am hoping the two-color schemes will enhance each other, just like they do in nature, the white of the snow, the earthy browns of the animals and the iridescence of the aurora. I have a border idea they I hope will add to the ambience that feature Abalone shell, a beautiful shell found in the ocean of the Northwest and Alaska's southern islands.

        Happy Reading and coloring, your friend,

                 Jan Brett