March Hedge a gram

Happy March,

      This is my March Hedge-a-gram.   It's the time I take every month to write about my life as an illustrator.  I hope that it will give young readers and writers some insights on what it is like to have my job.
     I have two thoughts I would like to share with you this month.   First, the video we just made in Africa is ready.   You can download and watch it for free from the Videos section of my Home Page.  Second, I thought you would like to know a bit about all of my friends in Africa.
    Have you ever had something so wonderful happen to you that you wanted to tell everyone?   That's what our trips to Africa have been like for me.  My husband Joe and I have just come back from two weeks in South Africa and Botswana.  Besides just wanting to spend time in this wonderful place, we wanted to continue our friendship with Sandy and Doug Grove and their three elephants and our friends, Ali Tiego and Comic Masarwa who have taught us so much about the flora (plants) and fauna (animals and birds) in the Okavango Delta.
     Joe and I re-traced our footsteps from our last trip and took videos of most of the animals and birds in my fall 2005 book, Honey...Honey...Lion!  We added some of the Botswanan people who have helped us, and their beautiful singing which is an expressive part of their lives.   Honey...Honey...Lion is being printed right now, and will be in bookstores this coming September.   Our video is a preview of what's to come.  I hope that you'll look at it.   It's about twenty minutes long and shows some of the wonderful African people we met.   You'll meet my friend Ali who you'll recognize in the beginning when we're coming from the airport because he has jeans on.  Later, you'll see that we all have on khaki clothes that are a tradition in the bush.   When people say "the bush", they mean a wild place where you can meet up with all sorts of birds and animals any time.   The khaki clothes are meant to blend in and not scare away the animals.  Surprisingly the animals for the most part aren't afraid of the trucks we drive in.  No one is allowed to harm the animals, so they treat the trucks as nothing unusual.  Ali told us that one pride of lions learned to use the trucks to hide behind and sneak up on impalas and zebras as it moved along.    The guides tried to prevent that, because they do not want to have an impact on the environment.  The reserve we were in on Chief's Island is a huge tract of land and only eight vehicles are allowed.
     When you see how close we are to the lions you'll be able to guess how thrilled we were to be there.  You can see every whisker.  The other important rule is, never stand up in the vehicle.  When we stand up the animals know we're people, but sitting down they just see us as part of the truck.  Also if we jumped out of the truck, the lions would start stalking us or maybe even attack.
      Except for our friend's tame elephants, we do not get too close to elephants.   We especially don't get close to mother elephants.  That's why we visited Sandy and Doug's three semi-habituated elephants, Jabu, Marula, and Thembi.   You can visit their website at http//      
      A mad elephant could spear the truck with its tusks or turn it over with its trunk and head.  The elephants let you know they're unhappy by trumpeting, snorting, flapping their ears and stamping their feet.  Their body language says, "Back off!"  We relied on our guides to protect us.   They also know every bird, animal, flower, and tree species in the Delta.   Visitors come from many countries, so the guides know the Latin names too, which is the universal language for naturalists.
     Kate who welcomed us to Baine's Camp is one of the managers along with Craig and Sharlene who we made friends with on our last trip.
     We were happy to see Lenny one of the singers again.  On our last visit, she took us to her village where her father is the chief.  Chief are representatives of the people from the villages in Botswana's government.
     The remarkable thing about Baine's Camp and Chief's Camp, the two places we stayed, is how much wildlife you can see in the camps without going anywhere.  On our first trip, I came face to face with a young bull elephant when I went to my tent to get my sweater.  Every morning we are treated to a wildlife symphony of animal and bird calls.  First francolins, chicken like birds squawk, then dove's coo.  Just as the sun rises, the hyenas woop and sometimes an impala's snort or a baboons warning bark add to the sounds.  On our last morning lions roared close by.  Since both camps are nearby water you can hear the hippos.   I loved the African animals calls so much, I describe them in my book.
     I am so grateful to the people of Botswana for welcoming us to their wildlife sanctuaries.  My husband, Joe spent much of our trip videoing our adventures so you can get a sense of this beautiful place.  When I saw the first press proofs of Honey...Honey...Lion, I knew that this is one book that was created by teamwork.  I hope you can all visit Botswana some day.
     Good luck and happy reading.   Your friend,

                                  Jan Brett


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