Friday, December 11, 2015

A Visit With Jan Brett

Emmy and I had the pleasure of meeting Jan Brett in Portsmouth, New Hampshire during her eighteen day cross country book tour. Jan was promoting her new book The Turnip, but to Emmy and me, she was promoting the love of books and art.  Watching the tour bus pull into the parking lot was so much fun.  We imagined traveling on this large bus with the gorgeous illustrations painted on the exterior and wondered what people's reactions were when they saw it on the road.
When Jan Brett stepped up onto the stage, the excitement in the crowd was electric.  Seeing not only the children's faces light up, but also the adult's faces is a true testament to this woman's work as an artist.  Jan's depictions of animals and human cultures are full of colorful detail.  Through her extensive travels (from Scandinavia to Africa), Jan is able to vividly create artwork that makes the reader of her books feel as if they could walk right into the book page.  As a matter of fact, Jan herself has said in several interviews that she keeps on painting until she can hear the sounds, smell the smells, and feel how soft the fur of the animal is.  She has said that it takes her an hour to draw an inch!

Emmy and I were so grateful to Jan Brett for taking the time to connect with the audience through her quiet storytelling and drawing demonstration.  Watching the Badger Girl come to life right before our eyes was absolutely amazing.


It was through Jan's travels in Russia, as well as a simple carved wooden toy of three people and a bear pulling up a turnip given to her by a friend, that the retelling of the story The Turnip was realized.  For a more detailed review of this beautifully illustrated book, check out our previous post HERE.

Luckily for us, Jan brought back a pair of birch bark shoes from Russia and has been sharing them on her tour. These shoes served as a model for the shoes worn by the badger characters in the story. She also had a surprise for us...her beloved Dutch Bantams also came along on the tour ~ Rueben her rooster and Rilke her hen!   Here is something new that we learned about Jan Brett ~ she raises chickens for show!  She has been reading tons of books about poultry genetics to try to better understand the color patterns found on chickens.

There are so many wonderful retellings of this classic folk tale, some better than others.  Emmy and I enjoyed Jan's take on this story especially with the addition of the bear family under the ground.  We hope you will pick up a copy of The Turnip to see what you think of Jan's version.

Thank you, Jan Brett, for sharing your passion with us!  
Emmy will never forget your kind words to keep her creative spirit always.