A few weeks ago I got to meet Jan Brett as she and her amazing tour bus rolled through Greensboro, NC. I featured much of the interview in the January issue of Learning magazine, but I still had lots of good information that didn’t fit into that article so I’m posting it here.
Good news, I have Jan’s newest book, The Mermaid, to give away. Post a comment to this blog to let us know what your favorite Jan Brett book is. One lucky teacher will be randomly selected to win. Send your comment by February 2 to be included in our drawing.
And now, with no further ado, here’s a little more from teachers’ favorite author, Jan Brett. To see the Learning magazine interview as well, click here.
Jan Brett lives in the moment.
“I’m so intense about the book that I’m working on, the other ones I love but they kind of go back into the mists of time.” But Jan confesses that later, once she’s been done with a book for a few years, she’ll look back and think, “That book is so beautiful, I’ll never be able to do a book like that again.” And then, of course, she does.
She’s thinking about stories all of the time.
“I usually have a couple of story ideas rattling around in my head and there may be a piece missing or it hasn’t quite jelled yet.” The idea for her super-famous story The Mitten actually came from a group of teachers.
Nature plays a part in her work.
Jan remembers as a child loving the different colors in nature–and being insulted by books that had only primary colors. She loved dumping the crayons out of her big crayon box. “I liked to pick up the crayon and smell it, they had a really good smell, and then be able to blend those colors.… It was the most freeing experience.”
Jan loves the way kids think.
“All kids have this vibrancy…. Kids don’t have that boundary between real and unreal. Their imaginations are able to be relaxed and enjoy the ride. When I’m doing my books I like to remember my six-year-old self,” she says.
Jan’s favorite childhood author challenged young readers
Beatrix Potter was Jan’s favorite. “She appreciated children for their intelligence,” Jan says—and Jan believes in doing the same. Jan likes to tuck a few words in a book that will be new to kids. As a young reader, Jan remembers feeling that new words were “like a present” when she encountered them in a story and she did like feeling that books had been “dumbed down” for children.
She feels protective of her readers—and of her characters.
“When I was little I would want to know that the characters were going to be okay, so I would always look at the last page of a book,” she says. That’s part of the reason she adds information to the margins in her books, to ease that anxiety and give readers a hint of what’s to come.
(Image courtesy of Jan Brett)
She has 40 million books in print. So is writing and illustrating easy for her now?
Nope. It takes Jan about a year to do a book. “I could dither and fool around with stuff and overwork things. So in a way it’s good to have that pressure.” And as the deadline approaches? “At the end it’s madness. I go into lockdown, I don’t do anything except for doing my work. It gets very intense.”
Jan learned early on what gives a book staying power
Jan remembers an early editor telling her, “We don’t want any pretty little books.” That advice really stuck. “You have to be in touch with the full gamut of emotion in order for a children’s book to go from an exercise in nicety to literature.” And Jan Brett certainly has mastered that!
Thanks again to Jan for being so generous with her time and taking time to say hello.
PS: We have other giveaways running right now too. Click here to see other great prizes that are waiting for you.
All artwork courtesy of Jan Brett