June Hedge a gram

Happy June!

     I'm Jan Brett, and this is my June Hedge-a- gram, the time I stopped everything to give you a time capsule of this month in my life as a children's book writer and illustrator.
     In the last two weeks, I've seen my new book for the fall, THE THREE LITTLE DASSIE for the first time, and I've completed the dummy for my 2011 book, HOME FOR CHRISTMAS.
     My husband and I traveled to the Book Expo the US's premier book festival held every year in May. This year it was in New York City. Although THE THREE LITTLE DASSIES won't be sold in bookstores until next fall, the early copies were flown in to give away at the book signings at BOOK EXPO. It is the first time I've seen the book put together. I spent two weeks painting end papers, the usually solid colored paper that glues the body of the book onto the covers. In this book the end papers are decorative. We changed the jacket art just as the book was going to press which involve a lot of fast readjustments in Penguins professional and dedicated art department. The jacket has embossed or raised type face and I saw that for the first time. The goal is for the book to become greater than a semblance of its parts. We all want it to become a future classic with characters, setting, and plot all in balance, with an intriguing but warm and friendly jacket to welcome and entice readers. It was difficult to scratch weeks and weeks of work off by canceling the first jacket, but our goal is a jacket with the right tones, and a design by one of Penguin's designers, Ed Scully, leapt up off the page and compelled the change. Marikka Tamura , the Penguin designer who chooses the typeface and colors that grace the jacket hit all the perfect notes as well. It is a privilege to work with such a talented team.
     The dummy is all in my court, and after discussions about the basic plot of the story of HOME FOR CHRISTMAS and then an okay of the basic draft, I presented my dummy to Margaret Frith my editor of 20 years. I've just come back from a week and a half in Sweden, shepherded by our Swedish friends, Elof and Gudrun Eriksson. We were able to spend time on a farm abundant with wildlife in southwest Sweden and go on a guided trip above the Arctic circle. My book dummy reflected much of the impressions I got from the austere and elegant landscapes and encounters with wildlife in Sweden.
     The major achievement of our trip was encounters with habituated Moose in Kiruna, the jumping off place to Sweden's Arctic North. We met an attractive and knowledgeable Swedish moose aficionado. He had five adult Moose and one calf that lived on a huge tract of land. When we called him to arrange our Moose experience he promised to wait and feed them when we arrived. To his word, the moose ambled toward the feeding station at the sound of his whistle. They have ample grazing, so they were quite relaxed about joining us. The bulls are not approachable during breeding season in the fall, but this was spring, and they were as affectionate as horses. The antlers, which were velvety knobs, because they had just started growing, were kind of itchy and they have learned that tourists will rub them. One of the moose gave our guide a trained kiss on the cheek and I managed to get a big kiss onto their velvety cushiony noses. It made me miss having a horse. Their eyes were very intelligent and once one adjusted to their bodies not being horselike, a person can appreciate the majestic presence of this animal, with its long brindled northern fur coat, its black cloven hooves and elegant palmated antlers.
     On the day we left Sweden, traveling over a vast stretch of land with melting snow drifts revealing lichen, mosses and endless shining lingonberry bushes, we found a huge moose antler shed last winter. Hefting its heavy weight, it really felt like a fitting crown for the majestic King of the North!
     In my book, the troll boy encounters an antlered animal, and I had to decide between a moose and reindeer. After my visit to Arctic Sweden the answer was obvious.
     This month I'll work on the first finished spread - I'll design the borders and nail down the characters - father troll, mother troll, sister troll, and my main character Rollo Troll. It's always a wild ride in my imagination, and the best part of creating a children's book - is all so hopeful.
     If you're going on a trip this summer, close or far, familiar or unfamiliar, think of it as an expedition for getting ideas for your own book. Your experience may take you to an unexpected place!
    Happy reading, your friend,

        Jan Brett