This is Jan Brett, and this is my July Hedge a gram. By this time in my year, I
am well under way at my work of creating a new children's book. I'd like to tell
you all about it, because I would like to encourage you to use your creativity
and create a book of your own. Because I work for my publisher, Penguin Putnam,
my ideas need to mesh with their schedule and their schedule in turn meshes with
the people's timetable for buying books. Many books are sold between September
and the end of December. My books have illustrations, so besides being type set,
must be reproduced and proofed. When my book is finished, it will be almost a
year before I will see it in book stores. July is when I've completed a story, a
book dummy and the first few pages. That's when I take a deep breath, step back
and look critically at what I've done so far, with the help of the editor
Margaret and the art director, Cecilia. If you are a student, the relationship
is a little like that of you with your teacher. I look to Margaret for a fresh
pair of eyes. She often offers insights that I've missed, especially when I know
the story so well that I miss some things. She is always very respectful of my
ideas and she has an amazing ability to know when to say something and when to
let me discover my own mistakes. Mistakes can be our friends - sometimes fixing
a mistake sets our progress in a different direction, which turns out to be a
Probably, the big appeal of a children's book to me is creating a brand new
world. I am beginning with a gingerbread cookie that walks and talks. He has a
flippant personality, but I want him to be lovable too. My book has two stories
in one. One story stays in the borders until the very end. I reveal just enough
to be able to guess the outcome.
If I had to explain it, the message would be - use your eyes to find clues, in
my book or in everyday life. Here's an example. One of my friends heard the
birds in his back yard get loud and rowdy. It was as if they were calling
someone names. He was curious and looked carefully into the bushes in the area
of the ruckus. Hidden in the dark dense evergreen bushes sat two little saw whet
owls. They were very small, about the same size as a milk carton from school.
Owls are predators and their prey may be insects, other birds, or mammals. The
chickadees were telling the world that the owls were hiding in that tree. It was
as if they were saying, "Watch out! Watch out!" In my book I can't make noises,
but I can make drawings that give clues to what will happen next, good or bad.
In my first drawing I wanted to show the Gingerbread Baby. He's a cookie and is
only 4" tall. Right away I placed him next to a pouch of marbles and a plant. It
was a clue to how large he is, since everyone knows that marbles and leaves have
a certain size. I made a paper cut of a gingerbread baby and taped it to the
window above my art table. No matter how hard I use my imagination, I still use
helper props to make sure I don't waver in my vision.
If you have some extra time this summer, maybe you can get a start on creating a
world with a beginning, middle and end. In other words, a book! If you are busy
at summer school or camp remember your experiences and some of the curious
things that happen. When you do have the time, you can recall them and add them
to your stories.
July is the month we celebrate our country's independence day. If you have a
family member serving our country, thank you. If your mom, dad, husband, wife,
or son or daughter is in the Armed Services in Iraq, I am grateful to them and
am sending them my prayers and good vibes every morning and night.
Happy exploring in words and pictures! Bye for now.