I have been a fan of children’s author/illustrator Jan Brett for years. She draws adorable, enchanting animals, and it was her depictions of hedgehogs that led to our getting hedgehogs of our own as pets. Years ago, she visited Fort Wayne, and I brought the girls to hear her.
When I learned that she was visiting Fort Wayne, I canceled a few piano lessons and headed out to see her. Sure enough, look what was parked by the library! She always goes on tour on a bus “wrapped” with her distinctive artwork.
Once inside, I didn’t have to walk far, because the line to see her presentation reached a long, long, long way. There were teachers. Lots of teachers. Some had come from almost 2 hours away. I was glad I had come early, because only 200-some fit into the auditorium, and I’m pretty sure not everyone who wanted to attend was able to.
While we waited, Jan’s signature “hedgehog” character (along with a friend) was there to greet guests.
Soon we were in the auditorium, listening to Jan talk about her latest book, “The Animals’ Santa.” Just as a side note, I hope I look as good as her in my mid-60s.
She talked about how she got the idea for this book. She was thinking about “our” Santa, and wondered: do animals have a Santa? This book is her answer to that question. Think about it — which animal do you think would be Santa for animals? (you’ll have to read the book to find out).
She said that the animals in this book are native to northern Canada, and she talked about drawing them. She said to pay close attention to eyes when you are drawing, because they hold so much emotion, and because our eyes are drawn to eyes of others when we look at illustrations.
Oh, and Jan’s husband popped in a few times. His name is Joe Hearne, and she said that he has played bass for the Boston Symphony for the past 52 years. Wow! He seemed quiet and was always working behind the scenes, moving things that needed moving, bringing the rabbit off the stage … oh, wait …
Yes, it was a great moment for this bunny-lover when Jan brought out the inspiration for the rabbits in this book — her own pet rabbit, Little Snowshoe. She explained that the rabbits in the book were snowshoe hare, while hers is a domestic rabbit. Still, her rabbit was very calm and sweet, and she said that he loved traveling on the bus.
She did a demonstration of how she would draw a rabbit — yes, starting with a blank sheet of paper — and then autographed it and left it as a gift for the library. She said that in her books, she works on illustrations at the rate of about an “inch an hour.” For instance, she said the cover illustration would take about a week to work on. She spoke highly of Prisma markers, explaining that she loved the way they have double ends with thick and thinner tips.
Would you like to draw a rabbit? Here’s a video where Jan explains it to you.
After her talk, I headed up to the library’s gallery, which had been transformed into a special display of Jan Brett’s artwork. It was a treat to walk through …
… and the beautiful cookies were a treat too, based on various themes in Brett’s books (gingerbread boys, mittens …)
And, I had to end the fun by sneaking a peek at my own book (two copies, actually!) in the Ludwig II section of the biographies. I may not have hundreds waiting to hear my presentations, but it’s the little things, isn’t it? 🙂
Be sure to check out Jan Brett’s website. It is full of wonderful activities to do with children, and beautiful things that I think anyone would enjoy.
Thanks to information from her publicist, I’ve enjoyed learning even more about Jan in recent days:
- She and Joe live on 2 acres in Norwell, Massachusetts. They have 60 ornamental chickens, which she breeds, sells, and shows. She sounds like quite a chicken expert!
- Jan has a turtle pond which they installed at their home. This was to help as she worked on a turtle-themed book, “Mossy.”
- Jan is a runner, and has run several Boston Marathons.
- While on tour, staffers stay in hotels, but Jan and her husband sleep on the bus. I like that down-to-earth quality!
- There are over 39 million copies of Jan’s 35 books currently in print. The New Yorker wrote, “No one can render snow and winter more gorgeously than Jan Brett.” I would have to agree.