It seems rather cosmic that I met author and illustrator Jan Brett on International Children’s Book Day (although I wouldn’t have known Tuesday was the day except for attending her demonstration). Celebrated since 1967 on Hans Christian Andersen's birthday, this year’s theme is Imagine Nations Through Story sponsored by Ireland.
I wrote about visiting the Upcountry History Museum with my mother and the boys a few weeks ago. We really enjoyed viewing Jan Brett’s artwork in the special exhibit, but meeting her in person was a treat. I didn’t take any chances and bought a ticket a few weeks ago, and turns out this was the right decision as only 200 fans were able to attend the hour-long demonstration and were first in line to get books signed.
“I wake up, feed the chickens, eat my breakfast, and then I get to color all day.” Mrs. Brett spoke about her inspiration for her most recent book, “Cinders,” loosely based on the fairytale Cinderella but featuring chickens and more sympathetic stepsisters and stepmother. Instructing the artists in the room she described the importance of drawing the eyes to show emotion, and reinforced her point with a game; the audience had to guess her emotion (happiness, sadness, fear, etc.) by only looking at her eyes.
The highlight of the evening was watching her at work. Starting with simple shapes Mrs. Brett formed a chicken, and with a few spots shaded and the addition of color the main character from “Cinders” appeared before our eyes. Of course the illustrations in her books aren’t so quickly drawn, as the media used is different from the markers used Tuesday and the amount of detail in the average illustration is staggering. “An inch an hour” was her estimate.
I then spent an hour waiting to meet her and get a couple of books signed, during which time I marveled how she was able to spend the morning at a local school, sightsee Greenville, give an hour-long presentation and still find the energy to greet every fan with attentiveness and a smile… and the line must have numbered at least 300! Thank you again for the lovely evening, and we’ll treasure our copy of “The Mitten” even more now that it has your personal touch inscribed!
*** I urge you to visit Jan Brett’s website, full of coloring activities, videos, games and more of her beautiful illustrations - http://www.janbrett.com/index.html Maybe you will be the lucky fan to win a Jan Brett visit to your local school?