Greetings from Eagle River, Alaska, where I am getting to know about Musk Oxen. Every month I write a hedge-a-gram about what I'm doing in the children?s picture book world. This is a scattered time mentally for me because I have written THE TIGER SLIPPERS and am deeply involved in the illustrations. Because it is set in the olden days in India, I have many reference books, photos and guidebooks from our trip to India in 2015. We went specifically to India for this book, and I rely heavily on my memories, fieldnotes and guidebooks to reference the plants and animals in my illustrations. Because of the way the publisher presents works in progress to their sales force, I also created a jacket sketch this week. I had a meeting in New York with the editor and art director to OK the jacket idea. The jacket is the first introduction to my story. It should entice children to pick the book up with enthusiasm and look inside. A children's book is also a commercial enterprise, so I rely on the publisher's knowledge when homing in on just the right image to make my book not only attractive, but to stand out. My belief is that good art will fill those goals. It is hard to tear myself away from the world I've been exploring for my Tiger Book, but I am also getting ready for my booktour, starting the day after Thanksgiving for THE SNOWY NAP. I have just come back from Lincoln, Nebraska where I gave a talk and art demonstration at the college about THE SNOWY NAP. Concordia University has a gallery show of original paintings of about 20 titles of my books, and I was able to sign the new book for those who wanted it and sign additional titles for the host bookstore, Chapters Books and Gifts. Today I will design my stamp that I bring on my bus tour in December. It will star "Hedgie" the main character in THE SNOWY NAP.
I have just come to Anchorage and spent the morning yesterday with Sierra, a Musk Ox educator and aficionado who guided us through pictures of Musk Ox. The Musk Ox have ample pasturage, in a valley next to beautiful snowcapped mountains. It's October, so the lower temps are making them frisky. We saw sleeping Musk Ox (they are prone on their sides), Lying down Musk Ox (these were chewing their cud. They are ruminants, and this is a type of digestion where they chew their food twice, like cows) friendly cozying between best friends, playing, (king of the castle is a favorite) plus galloping and chasing. The second-best part of the tour was the older males making snorty roars. Their vocalization sounds very deep and a little like an old-fashioned lawnmower starting. The best part were the five 2018 calves. The herd is a combo of two musk ox populations. The Broken Earth Musk Ox from the large Canadian islands that lie north off the main geographic area of Canada and The Greenland Musk ox that has a whitish face. We adopted "Teal" a female showing traits from the Greenland group, named after John Teal who started the Musk Ox project in 1965, helping save them from extinction. When you adopt a Musk Ox from the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, Alaska, you receive updates on their life and photos. Since I hope to visit my daughter and her family, I will visit Teal and all the other Musk Ox friends. It was hard to choose a favorite, but because she has a lot of white on her face and saddle I would be able to pick her out from group photos. All the musk Oxen have different personalities. I hope she turns out to be as spirited and playful as some of the older ones we met. It was essential to learn about the musk ox in person in order to inform my story. Now I have to tuck away my enthusiasm and get back into the world of the tiger.
Bye for now, your friend, Jan Brett