March Hedge a gram

     I'm writing to you from Botswana Africa where I've traveled to learn about the Okavango Delta.  When I create a children's book, I try to learn about the place I set it in.   The Okavango Delta has large tracts of land where there are many birds and animals.
     My book for this year, The Umbrella, is all finished and now I'm writing a story set in Africa about the Honey Guide bird.  This week, we were traveling along a trail with our Botswana friend, Ali Tiego.  We heard a bird call that sounded like a rusty hinge closing.  Ali stopped our land rover and scanned the big trees until he looked straight up a huge Baobab tree.  This is a tree as big and smooth as an Elephant.  It wasn't hard to see the bee hive and the honeycomb peeping out of a crack.  The Honey Guide bird leads people to bee hives in the hope that the people will open the hive and share the honey.   In our case, the Honey Guide was disappointed because there was no way that Ali was going to cut the tree.  The Baobob tree was thousands of years old!
      I'm writing a story based on a Botswana folk tale about the Honey Guide and my head is bursting with information.  Botswana has over 850 different species of birds, all different from United States birds except for a very few. The trees and insects are unfamiliar too.  African mammals are famous everywhere, the Lion, the Elephant, and the Hippopotamus for example,  but there is also the African Painted Dog, the Pangolin and the Springhare, just to name a few.   The African Painted Dog is a wild dog with pointed fluffy ears.  It has long legs and blotchy spots of white, brown and black.  The Pangolin looks like a big pine cone with a slender head and long tail.  The Springhare is something like a rabbit, but it jumps up and down like a kangaroo and has a long tail.
      While I was in Botswana, I visited a school in the town of Kasane.  I drew a picture of an African Pigmy Hedgehog for the children.  The class was conducted in English.   Everyone speaks English as well as the Botswana language Setswana.   The children were very polite and welcoming.  They wore a school uniform of a white shirt and shorts for the boys and a white shirt and jumper for girls.  I told them the same thing that I tell the children I see in the United States, that children are the best audience because their minds are absorbent and vibrant, and children are ready to use their imaginations.  Perhaps the day will come in your future when you will travel to a distant place and be inspired to create a story, a picture, or music from that experience.
     One plus about traveling, it distances one from the day to day life and sometimes you glimpse what is really important.  What is important to me is to support kid's creative work.  No one can create a painting or a story just like you!
    Good luck and happy writing and drawing.
                                  Your friend,

                                      Jan Brett


Home Page