June Hedge a Gram

 Happy June!
     This is my June hedge a gram.  It's the time I take to tell about my life as an author illustrator.  When I was a young girl, it was my goal, but I really didn't know anything about what it was like to be a professional artist.   I'm hoping I can shed some light on my profession, and the way I work with these monthly hedge a grams!
     I've just  received my first bound book of The Umbrella.  This book is a rain forest version of The Mitten, and it will be published in the early fall.   Last January I finished the final drawings, but when the artwork is on flat paper it looks different then when it is in book form.  Also, I am able to see how the jacket looks, fitted around my book, and the end papers - which are the colored sheets of paper attached to the hard cover on one side and stuck to the signatures, or groups of pages which form the body of the book on the other.  I wanted to re-enact that feeling of stepping into the dense green alive-feeling rain forest.   The first time I went into the rain forest it felt mysterious, but not scary.  It was incredibly lush and overwhelming.  So, by painting very detailed and multifaceted end papers I hoped I've created a little of that feeling.
     At the same time, I'm beginning my African folk tale about the honey guide bird.   I made up the dummy or sketch version of my book, and discussed it's pros and cons with my editor and art director.  We revised some of the story, decided on a good trim size and talked about the possibility of a fold out page which would be something new for me.  This is probably the most difficult part of creating a children's book, because at the same time I have to leave myself open to constructive suggestions and stay true to my idea for the book.
     I finished the first spread, set in Africa, and I have to figure out if I like the way it looks because I love Africa so much, or because it's working as artwork.  If that sounds confusing, it's okay.  Part of being a craftsman is ordering the universe we've created.  If all the elements in my story were already lined up like ducks in a row, it would loose all its energy.
     One of the hardest parts of beginning a book is picking and choosing what stays in the book, and what has to go.  I am fascinated by Africa's birds and animals, but they all can't be in the story!  First, there's a lion, luckily he's in the folk tale already.  Then I had to put in warthogs.  They are humorous and characterful.  How could I paint Africa without giraffes?  I couldn't.  Giraffes are in.  Now a hyena has a bad reputation, but when we saw a pack tossing a tussock of grass back and forth like soccer players, I became intrigued.  Then there was the day we got really, really, close to one.  Their ears look like troll ears.  They have round spots.  They had to go in my book.   My favorite animal along with hedgehog and chicken is a horse.  What's a zebra, but a horse-like creature with stripes!  The zebras are dizzying at close range and far away they disappear.  So, the zebra is in my book.   Then one day I'll never forget we were near Stanley's camp in Botswana.  We spent an entire day with Doug and Sandy Grove's three semi-habituated elephants.  No contest!  These beautiful animals had to go in.  The list goes on, and I'm heartbroken about the beauties that I can't fit in.  I guess I'll leave it up to you, maybe you can write a story about rhinos, mongoose, pythons, and sables.  The more you learn about the animals that live in Africa, the more you'll want to go there someday and see them.
     I'll be working hard to get things right in my new book - and I'll be hoping you'll be hard at work at your own creative projects too.
     Bye for now.  Happy writing and drawing.
                                  Your friend,

                                      Jan Brett

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