Happy November,

This is my November hedge a gram - the time I take to step back and let you know what I'm doing. Many of you write to me asking what it's like to be an author-illustrator. My time is divided into many different tasks, and that's why I like to give you a monthly update on what I'm doing.

Most of the year, I'm painting the pictures for my new children's book. I have a few more pages to paint to complete Daisy Comes Home, the story about a little girl and her lost hen, which is set in China.. My editor, Margaret Frith, and I have tried many different titles, we thought of Happy Hens, and Fine Feathered Friends, but we both like Daisy Comes Home best. I'm working on the jacket art right now, which is an extremely important part of the book. When you design the cover of a book report or your own story, I think you'll agree that the cover should not only let the reader know what to expect, but it should make them want to open up the pages with curiosity and expectation. Some people go even further and say the design should be extra bold because it must catch peoples attention when it's seen from across the room.

I've been trying hard to make time for my artwork because I've been traveling to many cities around the country to sign this fall's book, Hedgie's Surprise, for people. It has been fun and inspiring to meet young children just beginning to read and the teachers and librarians who use children's books in their classrooms. I've been very touched when big kids come to my signings and show me photos from years ago when they were first graders having their books signed. For the first time, I heard from a young woman who I signed a book for when she was eight. Now she's a young mom with her own baby boy!

One of the highlights of my travels came in Chicago when my friend, Dr. Cera, who is a veterinarian, took me backstage at the Brookfield Zoo. I was able to pat the giraffes and spent an hour just being enchanted by them. Then I meet a year old polar bear. She is too fierce to get close to, but I had plenty to observe since she was quite active and fun to watch. She was magnificent!

My next book - not next year, but the year after, is a retelling of the Cat on the Dovrefell -- a tale that was often told in Norway, Sweden, and Moravia. What the different country's versions have in common is a tame polar bear that is mistaken for a cat. If that seems hard to believe, I should mention that it is trolls that are fooled. Trolls are crafty and mischievous, but they aren't very thoughtful and are always jumping to conclusions. My husband Joe and I are planning a trip to Alta, Norway in the depths of winter. We are hoping for lots of snow, reindeer, the northern lights, and....trolls! It should be a big adventure because in January when we plan to go, the sun is only above the horizon for a short time each day. No wonder troll legends abound in Norway.

If I meet you at one of my signings this year, my sincerest thanks for coming. I may have told you this, as I signed your book, but it's really true, all year long I work hard on the book and don't have much contact with children. When I meet teachers, librarians, and children at booksignings, it makes it all worthwhile.

If you're planning on coming to a booksigning this month, I'd love to hear about your interest and all about the books that you like. It makes me want to work even harder to create the picture books children deserve!

Bye for now,

Your friend,

Jan Brett