Happy June!

     Africa seemed like a good place to go to see the animals that would appear in the book I'm working on, Noah's Ark. Every month, I sit down to tell you about what I'm doing as an illustrator, and I'd like to tell you about our latest trip. In the story of Noah's Ark, all the animals are taken two by two into the ark, a male and a female of each species. I wanted to see animals interact in their own habitat so I could draw them. What made Africa special was that it was an experience for all the senses. In Botswana, a country in Southern Africa, my husband, Joe, and I went on a safari. We slept in tents and awoke at dawn to the most amazing noises. We heard male lions calling to one another , once, right outside our tent! We heard weird spotted hyena calls and loud baboon barks with only the canvas of the tent walls to keep us apart. My favorite bird was the francolin and it woke us up with raucous shrieks and cackles. The francolin is like a wild chicken in its habits. We also heard impalas snorting -- a loud snort means "look out!", and one morning we heard a leopard, which sounds like someone sawing wood. And all this was before breakfast!
     During the day, we would drive around the most beautiful country spotting animals all around us. Some of my favorites were the ostrich (we don't have any bird in our country that looks like these big guys), the warthogs, which are likeable an humorous, and hippos. The hippos we saw were in a lagoon and they were very curious. When one spotted us it would say, "Ha, ha, ha, ha..." in a low gruff voice. Then the whole pod, which is the name for a group of hippos, would come over to see us. There were great big crocodiles in the water too.
     The Botswana people that helped us on the safari were extremely knowledgeable about the animals and very patient with us. Ali and July, our guides knew the Latin names of every plant bird and animal we could spot and the intricacies of how they all were inter-dependent.
     The first day I learned an important rule. We stopped the Range Rover for a cup of tea and biscuits and I thought it would be a great idea to go for a little run down the road, because I was missing my daily three mile run. "No go!", Ali explained that there were predators all around, camouflaged in the vegetation. They recognize us as super predators because our eyes are on the fount of our heads and we stand up tall. But if we run or make distress calls, or roll around in the grass that same animal, a lion, cheetah, or leopard, would look at us in a different way. It would see us as prey! After that I always walked calmly, even when I went alone back to my tent to get a jacket and came face to face with a big bull elephant.
     I left a bit of my heart in beautiful Botswana. When our hosts sang their lovely folk songs to us, I promised myself I would write in my hedge a gram about the elegant, warm, and thoughtful Africans who shared their country with us.
       I hope that you all visit Africa some day. I'm looking forward to telling you more about my trip in next month's hedge a gram.

Bye for now,

Your friend,

Jan Brett