Happy September,
       This is my September hedge a gram.  I've stopped painting the page where Hedgie flies through outer space in order to stay in touch with you.   Some years ago, I thought it would be helpful to children, their parents, teachers and librarians to hear a month by month update from an illustrator/children's book author.  It's a wonderful profession that has lots of curious aspects.  Since I often travel to research my books, I enjoy sharing the way a new place can spark creativity.  In the back of my mind, I'm hoping that a young author someplace will say, "I'd like to do that too!"
     Getting back to the page with Hedgie flying through space.  I should add that it's for the book I wrote last winter and am now illustrating.  When I was a child and I considered myself an artist even then, I loved to draw make believe planets.  Several years ago, I saw a  friend, Bela Kalmans' photography book on succulents.   I was taken by how other-worldly these plants are.   I was so stunned, I knew I wanted to re-imagine my weird planet setting for Hedgie the hedgehog's trip to outer space.  My book is whimsical, but I did take a trip to Cape Canaveral to see the space shuttle.  Our son, Sean, is a physicist with the Sandia National laboratory in New Mexico and he has also contributed some high tech help and advice.   A lot of very different elements have gone into this book.
     I'm planning my book tour which will begin on October 7th.  I'll be going to bookstores all over the country.  At each one, I'll do a short talk and draw a picture before signing books.  We'll be giving out free tickets at each signing, so I'll be able to meet and visit with everyone who gets a ticket.  Many people like to take a photograph too.   It's always fun.  I love to see children's art, so I hope that you'll bring some of your art for me to admire.
     On this tour, I'll be introducing Honey...Honey...Lion! an African folk tale.  Every night on my tour bus, I'll do a black and white line drawing of a bird, animal or plant from the Okavango Delta of Africa to be put up on my website.  My goal will be to give you lots of material to create an African mural.  There's always room to add your own creations to the mural too!  I will be sure to include a guinea hen.  These are African birds that are covered with polka dots.   Their heads are bright blue and red.  They even have a little Woody the Woodpecker decoration on top of their heads.  This bird, which is the size of a chicken has become popular in the US because it loves to eat some harmful ticks and it is a great watchdog.  I would love to have some guineas if we had a larger property.  They like being in a flock.  Their babies are called keets.  Because they are always acting as an alarm call in the wild, I gave them a blabbermouth role in my book.  They shriek and call all the bush news to animals near and far.  If you have a poultry show near you, you can go and see them.  They come in lots of color varieties including lavender - a light purply gray and pied which is black and white patches.  My favorite is the pearl-spotted  guinea fowl.  Their feathers are so unique I've spotted them decorating ladies shoes and as earrings.  The guineas molt their feathers every year, so when you wear feathers, they probably dropped off to make room for fresh feathers.  There is lots to like about guinea fowl but tops on my list is their polka dots.
     When I was little, my parents didn't let me have comic books, but I could read them at my friend Chrissy's.  I liked Little Dot the best.   Everything around her had dots on it.  My grandmother was named Dorothy and she did not like being called "Dot" the usual nickname for Dorothy.  I always wished I had that name and could be called Dottie for short.  Maybe someday I can write a book about dots and spots.  Or...maybe you will do it first.
     As fall sets in and we all feel the energy that the cool weather and the excitement of back to school give, we're sure to feel a creative burst and come up with a great book!
     Good luck and happy reading,

                           Your friend,
                                  Jan Brett